Torturing the data till it really scares people

From Ronald Bailey at Reason:

When environmental activists could no longer maintain with a straight face that exposure to trace amounts of synthetic chemicals is a significant cause for cancer in people, the endocrine disruption hypothesis was ginned up. The idea is that chemicals that mimic estrogen are causing epidemics of deformed penises, lower sperm counts, premature development of breasts in girls, shorter anogenital distances in men, diabetes, ADHD, and reduced cognitive function. Today, Time magazine is reporting a correlational study that claims to have sufficiently tortured the data, ah, quantified the economic harm that these estrogen-fueled epidemics is causing.

As I report in The End of Doom, the toxicologists note that during the past twenty years hundreds of millions of euros and dollars of taxpayer money have been spent on endocrine disruptor research with essentially no results. They bluntly suggest that
all this funding has likely produced “a vested interest of scientists in the endocrine disruption field to keep the endocrine disruption hypothesis on the agenda in order to stay in business.” Decades of research and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding have resulted in the publication of more than 4,000 diff erent articles. “Taking into account the large resources spent on this topic, one should expect that, in the meantime, some endocrine disruptors that cause actual human injury or disease should have been identified,” the researchers argue. “However, this is not the case. To date, with the exception of natural or synthetic hormones, not a single, man- made chemical endocrine disruptor has been identified that poses an identifiable, measurable risk to human health.” They damningly add, “Certainly, there has been much media hype about imaginary health risks from bisphenol A, parabens, or phthalates. However, no actual evidence of adverse human health effects from these substances has ever been established. To the contrary, there is increasing evidence that their health risks are absent or negligible—or imaginary.” More.

Here in the coffee room, we always say, if the hysteria has anything to do with shrinking penises, camp out in the hills until the panic is over.

It can’t be good news that things have reached the point where it is getting harder to distinguish between science and urban legend. But at least we are trying to deal with it.

See also: How science, misused, can create an epidemic

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