History has shown that the world has not always been well served by scientific research that has been driven by commercial pressures. These pressures can tempt research scientists to compromise the integrity of their work in order to provide results that are favourable to the sources of the research funds. Rather than submit their research to an unbiased review by their peers, such scientists publish their opinions in the popular press, typically speculating outside of the boundaries of their research experiments.
Publishing research seems to have degenerated into a game with each group of scientists vying for the attention of the popular press with speculative opinions of what “may” be a new link to cancer or some other disease, in order to encourage behavioural change to avoid ill or attain better health. Regrettably, their actions can cause persons to think less of scientific research.
Commercial pressures can cause scientists to reject acceptable scientific research methods and become embroiled in their client’s commercial battles, which can lead to bad science. Bad science typically starts with unfounded assumptions. However, bad science can become popular if an attractive argument is built upon this bad foundation. The old adage about truth being the first casualty of war is also true in commercial battles. Scientists funded by one company can selectively present findings that support their client’s products and that identify potential deficiencies in competing products.
Scientists can resolve many commercial battles if they were more responsible rather than choosing to market deficient products or services based on the source of the research funds. In this way, science is poorly represented and mankind can be severely affected. If the marketing strategy is successful, it can take generations before the product or service becomes morally offensive enough to exert sufficient negative commercial pressure to cause a change. It will then be another lesson in history where our grand children will wonder why we were so irresponsible.
The commercial battle within the tobacco industry provides a good example where scientists representing the tobacco industry refuse to acknowledge the clear link between smoking and heart disease and lung cancer despite the mounting evidence. When scientists debate, it provides a level of comfort or acceptable risk for those most affected to justify not taking action thereby inducing a state of apathy.
Such is the case with the commercial battle being waged within the agricultural industry. There is a clear link between pesticide use and cancer, allergies and disease. Farmers acknowledge the harmful effects of pesticides on humans, yet they feel compelled to use them due to the commercial pressures. The community feels that the risk is acceptable once the scientists working for the pesticide manufacturers and those working for the health industry continue to debate safe levels. Even after pesticides were banned in Europe and North America, scientists working for the pesticide industry continue to justify their use in less developed countries.
The apparent strategy of facilitating scientific debate in order to induce apathy so that persons will not negatively affect the commercial enterprise is common and very effective. It can actually take centuries before change occurs. The scientists’ unfounded assertion that non-European people were savages helped to justify the Europeans’ general apathetic response towards slavery, and the treatment of slaves. Despite the persistent efforts of many responsible persons, it took approximately 400 years for slavery to become morally offensive enough to affect a change in the commercial enterprise.
Perhaps the most senseless commercial battle where this strategy is used is within the abortion industry. The abortion industry is build upon the assertion by scientists that the aborted material is merely tissue while it is clearly a baby. The last 25 years have seen a merciless slaughter of unimaginable proportions that makes slavery seem comparably tolerable – over 1 billion babies have been killed. Yet we sit comfortably in the mist of the horrific torture and death, much as the Europeans did during slavery. The Europeans justified their apathy with the scientists’ conclusions – they are only savages, our response is similar – it is only tissue.
Our current Minister of Health has inherited Barbados’ contribution to this carnage. He has also inherited the responsibility to stop it.
Grenville Phillips II