Joe Bauman's article "Science or baloney" contained a quotation I have heard before, to the effect that things that can't be measured with instruments don't exist. I suppose that's where the Dark Ages got its name, since there weren't any instruments that could measure the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, there wasn't any light. (In other words, it is a bad argument, since it assumes that all possible instruments have already been invented.) Bill Clinton ought to use this argument in his defense, since there are no reliable instruments that will measure truth indicating that there is no such thing as truth, and so he can't possibly be lying.

Seriously, though, I was hoping to read something about the corrupting influence of politics on science. That's where the really dangerous stuff comes from, astrology and phrenology being fairly harmless. Politically motivated theories about global warming, ozone depletion and the causes of cancer are what we should watch out for, particularly since the popular media do not provide sufficient information to allow the average citizen to engage in critical thinking on those subjects.The method used to determine the cancer-causing effect of substances, for example, is seriously flawed. It assumes that the effect of a substance at very high measured doses can be linearly extrapolated to compute the effect at very low doses. Well, this has never been proved to be the case. In fact, many common "natural" foods (peanut butter, for example) test out to be highly carcinogenic using this method. But, of course, they aren't. A recent study of radon exposure in homes across the country, which would have verified the linear extrapolation method if it were correct, showed instead that exposure to low levels of radon resulted in fewer cancer cases than no exposure at all. While more investigation is needed, the results suggest that perhaps the immune system becomes more adept at fighting cancer when exposed to low levels of cancer-causing agents. In the meantime, efforts by the EPA to reduce radon exposure may actually cause more cancer deaths than would occur otherwise.

It is strangely fascinating that so many things attempted by government end up with an outcome opposite to the one intended.

Kerry Thompson

North Salt Lake