Protection from the News

There’s been a considerable amount of churn in scientific journals recently about tainted science. For example, a study about how articles in leading medical journals influence doctors’ decisions in light of several studies showing how pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers influence the research that appears in those journals along with studies showing how corporations invent and promote diseases for which they just so happen to have the cure. As another example, a study looked at how industry influences medical journalists and a related report on how industry sponsorship of CNN’s science segment borders on censorship.
I am so used to seeing news items that are the effluent of this pipeline that I was shocked to see an article on the front page of this Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle opinion section that was better than good. And skillfully written as well.
The article, by Jonathan Curiel, is titled “Worries cell phones could damage your cells.” The context is the hoo-hah around the MacWorld Expo and Apple’s release of the iPhone, a next generation wireless communications device. Curiel’s article even sports a photo Apple CEO Steve Jobs holding this new, improved, more-than-a-cell-phone, stay-connected-constantly device.
Honestly, I saw the title and braced myself. The article opens with the story of an anti-cell phone activist. I prepared myself for “lunatic fringe.” But it didn’t come. Half way in, Curiel cited a recent Danish study that made the news with its finding that no connection could be found between cell phone use and cancer. I prepared myself for “the real science that undercuts the lunatic fringe.” But it didn’t come. Instead, Curiel quotes a critic who undercut the validity of the Danish study. And he concludes the article with the right question. Not “Who knows?” but “The iPhone or any other fancy cell phone may look alluring, but what if these devices are ultimately ruinous to your health?”
Despite the influence of money and power, there are honest people, doing honest work, trying to make sure that it is evidence and not influence that determines the information to which you have access. I await the happy day when information like that reported by Jonathan Curiel appears as news on the front page. Heck, I’d settle for page 2 or 3. Because it certainly wasn’t contained in the original news about the Danish study.
But you can demand that kind of reporting. Please do.