Society News Archive

20 June 2016
New Article on Epidemiology Without Biology

"Epidemiology Without Biology: False Paradigms, Unfounded Assumptions, and Specious Statistics in Radiation Science (With Commentaries by Inge Schmitz-Feuerhake and Christopher Busby and a Reply by the Authors) has been recently published in the journal Biological Theory. The authors are Bill Sacks, Gregory Meyerson, and Jeffry A. Siegel.

The abstract to the article is quoted below and addresses assertions about the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, science, and scientific literature:

Radiation science is dominated by a paradigm based on an assumption without empirical foundation. Known as the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis, it holds that all ionizing radiation is harmful no matter how low the dose or dose rate. Epidemiological studies that claim to confirm LNT either neglect experimental and/or observational discoveries at the cellular, tissue, and organismal levels, or mention them only to distort or dismiss them. The appearance of validity in these studies rests on circular reasoning, cherry picking, faulty experimental design, and/or misleading inferences from weak statistical evidence. In contrast, studies based on biological discoveries demonstrate the reality of hormesis: the stimulation of biological responses that defend the organism against damage from environmental agents. Normal metabolic processes are far more damaging than all but the most extreme exposures to radiation. However, evolution has provided all extant plants and animals with defenses that repair such damage or remove the damaged cells, conferring on the organism even greater ability to defend against subsequent damage. Editors of medical journals now admit that perhaps half of the scientific literature may be untrue. Radiation science falls into that category. Belief in LNT informs the practice of radiology, radiation regulatory policies, and popular culture through the media. The result is mass radiophobia and harmful outcomes, including forced relocations of populations near nuclear power plant accidents, reluctance to avail oneself of needed medical imaging studies, and aversion to nuclear energy—all unwarranted and all harmful to millions of people.

Forbes magazine published a commentary on the article, which gives a summary and provides additional points for reflection.