Climate change is not the only place where interested obfuscation is pervasive these days.

Former energy department official David Michaels writes in the June issue of Scientific American that business groups are pursuing a broad strategy of manufacturing uncertainty around science that might hurt the bottom line. His examples include beryllium, used in nuclear weapons and linked to lung cancer (Michaels was the “chief safety officer for the nuclear weapons complex” as assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety, and health from 1998 to 2001), and the appetite suppressant and decongestant phenylpropanolamine (PPA), linked to hemorrhagic strokes.

But he makes broader indictments about the process of using industry funded “science” to contest inconvenient scientific research.

Industry have tried to manipulate science no matter which political party controls the government, but the efforts have grown more brazen since George W. Bush became president. I believe it is fair to say that never in our history have corporate interests been as successful as they are today in shaping science policies to their desires.

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Incidentally, environmentalists come in for criticism as well. Michaels says:

Furthermore, the denial of scientific evidence and the insistence on an impossible certainty are not limited to business interests. For instance, some zealous environmentalists remain adamantly opposed to food irradiation–the use of gamma rays, x-rays or electron beams to kill microbes in meats and produce–even though the benefits of the practice greatly outweigh the risks.

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