On suspicion – of scientists and corporations

I am an ex-scientist and some of my best friends are still scientists. Perhaps this is why I find it odd that so many people are convinced that scientists are always conspiring to pursue their own agenda. But there is another, much more important reason I find it odd.

The most damaging paranoia about science at the moment is in relation to climate science. Millions of people seem convinced that tens of thousands of scientists are conspiring to convince the world of the reality of climate change.

Another paranoia is the idea that mainstream medicine is a conspiracy against public health and that alternative medicine is always going to be better than mainstream medicine.

This latter case is an interesting one because I think it has an element of truth. That element of truth relates to drugs and drug companies. People have begun to cotton onto the fact that the purpose of drug companies is not to increase public health but to make a profit. This should not have been a surprise, since every corporation has one and only one goal, but I’m glad people are finally catching on anyway.

Many drugs should be viewed with suspicion. It recently emerged that a lot of studies of SSRIs were suppressed when they didn’t give the right result. The influence of the drug industry on medical science as a whole should also be viewed with suspicion. It is bullshit that you can go to a GP, say you are depressed, and they’ll shove drugs at your without attempting to get you into some form of therapy that might deal with the issues.

However, to leap from suspicion of drugs and drug companies to dismissal of all mainstream medicine, as many people do, is not a logical step, and many millions of people will testify that mainstream medicine has helped them. If we want to increase its effectiveness then rather than dismissing it all as nonsense why not put public money into non-profit research so we don’t have to be so suspicious of the results?

But back to climate science. I am not aware of any conspiracy of misinformation among scientists in the whole history of science *except* those that were funded by corporations (tobacco industry, oil industry etc).  I’d love it if someone could point me in direction of such a precedent, but I don’t think they can.

Until then, I’ll view corporations – who have a track record of conspiracy – with much more suspicion than I view scientists, and I find it odd that it is the scientists who are accused of conspiring.

Which side are the corporations on in the climate change debate? From wikipedia:

“The British Royal Society conducted a survey that found ExxonMobil had given US$ 2.9 million to American groups that “misinformed the public about climate change,” 39 of which “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence”.

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