Daylight Is The Best Disinfectant

by Dick Puddlecote

Daylight Is The Best Disinfectant Brace yourself for some world class hypocrisy.

A remarkable essay turned up in a psychological science publication this month which is both hilarious and jaw-dropping in equal measure. Written in doom-laden hyperbolic terms, policy-led researchers in differing areas clubbed together to have a collective whinge. Its intro is dramatic.

Science denial kills.

Instantly the climate change “denier” put-down is invoked, which is not surprising seeing as Michael Mann – yes, he of the much-challenged hockey stick graph fame – was one of the authors. Of the other four, two are Linda Bauld and Gerard Hastings (yes, them).

Say what? Hastings is a market researcher, and Bauld a sociologist. I thought this was about ‘science’.

In fact, the whole article is a conspiracy theory of epic proportions (for which they get rightly trashed in the comments). The general message being “leave us alone to say what we want without debate or millions will die”.

A common current attribute of denial is that it side-steps the peer-reviewed literature and relies on platforms such as internet blogs or tabloid newspapers to disseminate its dissent from the scientific mainstream.

By “side-steps the peer-reviewed literature”, they presumably mean that we who object should do so by producing articles in the BMJ and getting them approved by Hastings and Bauld’s chums, or not object at all. This stands alone as dictatorship of opinion, but is reduced to comedy when you consider that the BMJ only last month barred any input from those they don’t want to listen to.

So how sciencey are these two? Well, they are part of a public health movement described neatly today thus.

Purpose of public health research – to investigate ways to shift public policy says Prof Colin Butler #climatehealthforum
— Kristine Olaris (@kristineolaris) November 5, 2013

That’s not science at all, it is lobbying and should most definitely be challenged.

And what of peer review? Well, the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, described it well earlier this year.

Peer review and journals – I couldn’t agree with you more, absolutely. I mean peer review is an utterly corrupt, ignorant stupid, mad system that we’ve created it’s just that we haven’t come up with anything better.

But let’s understand what peer review is:

Peer review is not about checking the validity of data
Peer review is not about reproducibility of data
Peer review is a check on acceptability, acceptability in the scientific community

That’s right. A scam to make sure that anything which is published is acceptable to people like Bauld and Hastings. How convenient.

So, for example, Bauld producing utter cockwaffle for a fee on the effects of the smoking ban on pubs is acceptable to Bauld’s chums, but my pointing out what I think is wrong with it is not and should be silenced.

Not only that. Even if you were silly enough to play by their deliberately corrupt and impenetrable rules and attempt to be published, they don’t want to reveal their workings and are crying like babies that anyone wants to try.

Another common tool of harassment involves FOI requests.

Harassment? No. It’s just we jewel robbers asking valid questions, you precious flowers, you.

The third and fourth authors’ research center on tobacco control has been subject to a number of extensive FOI requests from a tobacco giant, Philip Morris International, for confidential interview records involving teenaged participants. Notably, the identity of Philip Morris was disguised during the first FOI request, which was launched with a law firm serving as a front group (Hastings, MacKintosh, & Bauld, 2011). The information requested included “all primary data,” “all questionnaires,” “all interviewers’ handbooks and/or instructions,” “all data files,” “all record descriptions,” and so on.

What bastards, eh? How dare they want to check that Bauld and Hastings aren’t lying through their teeth? But then, if the ‘third and fourth authors’ had nothing to be ashamed of, why did they resist so much that they were rebuked by the Information Commissioner for breaking the law? Especially since their own BMJ reported that they should release the data in the interests of transparency.

Oddly enough, Bauld and Hastings didn’t see fit to reference those links in their little tantrum. One could almost call that lazy and deliberately selective.

Which is ironic because they continue …

Another tactic to discredit “inconvenient” peer-reviewed results involves publishing alternative versions of “the evidence” using different sources that proport (sic) to be equally legitimate. For example, the third author’s review of the impact of smoke-free legislation in England, published by the UK government (Bauld, 2011) was the subject of a report by Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest tobacco company. Entitled “The Bauld Truth”* as a play on the third author’s name (Imperial Tobacco, 2011), it presented alternative, non peer-reviewed evidence as more viable and opened with the statement that the third author’s review was “lazy and deliberately selective”. Anyone familiar with climate disinformation on the internet will recognize those rhetorical tools as the standard fare of dismissal of inconvenient science.

Opposing views, you see, are not to be tolerated. Only evidence that Bauld and Hastings produce – peer-reviewed by their mates, natch – is the true scripture. Debate is so tiresome, isn’t it?

In light of the above, it’s clear that the entire point of this piece – entitled The Subterranean War on Science – is to persuade their friends in politics and the media to ignore any dissent. Yet here is the stunning finale.

How should the scientific community respond to the events just reviewed? As in most cases of intimidation and bullying, we believe that daylight is the best disinfectant. This article is a first step in this effort towards transparency.

Huh? After a one-sided exhortation for privacy; a plea for information to be denied to anyone outside of their acrid circle of bansturbators; and for bias and selective sourcing of evidence to be protected, these people are seriously talking about transparency?

You really can’t make this type of stuff up.

Daylight is, indeed, the best disinfectant, which is precisely why light should be shone into the grimy, tax-sponging corners where the likes of Bauld and Hastings reside so we can see what garbage they are producing instead of what they’d prefer, which is:

Finally, this knowledge is particularly important for journal editors and professional organizations to muster the required resilience against illegitimate insertions into the scientific process.

Yep, you got it. For anything which challenges their junk science to be ignored.

Do go read the whole thing and be amazed at their chutzpah.

* If you haven’t read The Bauld Truth, by the way I highly recommend it. Do go have a gander by clicking hereoI1BZc4f5xQ

Leave a Reply