Social And Moral Shizophrenia
In today's academic system "tainted" money must come from all sides
September 27, 2006 - Social and moral schizophrenia is clearly a landmark of our generation. In this interesting two-part posting (1, 2) Siegel analyses the problem of industries financing universities - a problem raised, of course, by the issue of research funded by tobacco companies. The implication is clear: the research is tainted - take it from mechanical-engineer-post-doc-"cardiologist" Stanton Glantz, for example, who does not seem to have any problem in being overwhelmingly tainted with pharmaceutical money himself. Mouthpieces and marionettes such as Glantz abound in antitobacco (in fact, basically that's all there is), and the issue is now hotter than ever.
Siegel's own logic shifts from a realistic pattern when he argues in his first piece: "Most of us would agree that accepting money from the drug cartel would represent a degradation of a university's integrity so severe that such money should be rejected outright. And most of us would also agree that accepting money from the National Institutes of Health would not and that such money should be accepted." The extremes represented by Siegel do not apply to realistic situations even when offered as parallel examples, for the tobacco industry is not the drug cartel and is not illegal.
Siegel concludes his support for the rejection of tobacco funding as follows: "...by making [the university] a pawn in the public relations efforts of a company that is guilty of engaging in an illegal racketeering, conspiracy, and fraud enterprise to deceive the American people about the harms of its products and which uses its funding of university research as part of its marketing of these deadly products to Americans."
The notion that tobacco is "a deadly product" is a far-fetched dogma that a champion of anti-dogmatic positions such as he is should stay away from - with a 10-foot pole - as he knows damn well that not one death can be scientifically demonstrated to be caused by smoking. Like every other substance in the universe, tobacco harms in excess. As far as the rest of his description of Big Tobacco goes, there is no discernible difference between BT and Big Pharma when it comes to racketeering, conspiracy, and fraud enterprise. My personal opinion is that, in such comparison, BT comes out with better colours. But BP's funding does not seem to be a political problem for universities - and this is where hypocrisy enmeshed with schizophrenia comes in.
Siegel, in fact, rescues his argument in the second part with this very point: "If one is going to argue that tobacco industry funding must be rejected because it taints the research, then does not one also have to argue that pharmaceutical funding must also be rejected? There is no question that pharmaceutical funding of research can, and has, resulted in tainted research."
The reality is that today there is no assurance of unbiased results even if the funding is public. With the hysterical, corrupt antismoking hurricane going on today, who can honestly believe a piece of research on smoking that is funded, for example, by CDC, EPA or even the NIH themselves? All these institutions proceed from the ideological and dogmatic postulation that (active and passive) smoking "kills" and they have given ample weight to epidemiological junk science without ever being able to demonstrate their assertions scientifically. They can only produce multifactorial, epidemiological, statistical junk - and mountains of it.
Who is the researcher that would seriously jeopardize his share of public funding (thus his livelihood) with a study showing that passive smoke does not hurt or that active smoking does not "cause" the umpteenth (attributed) disease in the book, thus displeasing fanatical, antismoking "public health"? Realistically, no one. And it is for that very reason that universities must accept funding from all sides - the same very reason why different political parties must accept funding from a multiplicity of sources to be able to represent all interested opinions and interests so that the public can choose. But science is not politics... really, today?... That may be true for astronomy, but it's certainly not so when it comes to anything at all that has to do with "public health". Only with a plurality of studies "tainted" from all sides, paradoxically, we can have a better idea of what the truth may be. We all wish it weren't so (and it's no fun facing it), but that's the way the situation stands - and glaringly so.
This is the very reason why the American Legacy Foundation, as Siegel reports, imposes a clause for which, if universities want its money, must refuse tobacco money: the ALF is afraid that the tobacco industry may help reveal the threads of the epidemiological fraud upon which the entire antitobacco enterprise is based, and thus put at risk the immense cash flow that pours into the pockets of antismoking cons because of a shift of public opinion.
One of the points that antitobacco activists make with their position (perhaps even without realizing it) is that the academic system is heavily corrupt, and that it is corruptible. And for that reason they want corruption to lean only in their direction.
-- Gian Turci