The Edmond Sun


February 22, 2006

It’s easy for pseudoscientists to mislead people

Why is the public flummoxed so effectively by pseudoscientific claims? Among ones that I’ve noted recently are those put forth by very august sounding organizations, such as “Discovery Institute,” of Seattle, and “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine,” of Cave Springs, Oregon (OISM).

An acquaintance sent me material published by the latter just today, as part of an ongoing debate he is promoting with me over a subject that conservative politicians have chosen to oppose because particular industries position themselves as likely to suffer harm if the body politic embraces the scientific findings in the area.

And so, I was reminded once again that the endeavors of science and the findings of science have no position on the political spectrum, but that people outside of science definitely do, and science has political meaning to them.

I’ve encountered the OISM before. Its head (and only employee) is a biochemist by training who once worked for Linus Pauling, a legitimate biochemist and the only person who has ever received two Nobel Prizes. However, both got off track, Pauling becoming enamored of vitamin C and losing his focus on how science is done in his zeal to promote it, and this fellow, Arthur B. Robinson, taking up the “cause of the day,” so long as it was anti-establishment, and likely to earn him a few dollars. They had a falling out. Robinson claims that OISM has six “faculty members” who research biochemistry and medicine (and climatology and social institutions?), but only he actually works there. The others live in other states and receive no salary. OISM’s funding sources have not been revealed, though normal publications acknowledge funding support explicitly.

Robinson has sold home civil defense shelters, has promoted home schooling as a means of keeping children from being “indoctrinated” by “socialist institutions” (and coincidentally, he sells home schooling programs), and most recently has tilted against global warming. He wrote a paper, self-published and co-authored with his stable of “faculty members,” that purported to find that contrary to what scientists were claiming, the increase in carbon dioxide that our atmosphere is experiencing is producing bountiful increases in ecological and agricultural productivity and is driving an actual increase in biodiversity, rather than causing greenhouse warming effects.

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If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

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