The New Anti-Science Movement


One of the most surprising—and discouraging—developments of recent times is the revival of the anti-science movement. For a while it seemed that the attitudes which produced the Scopes trial, the Inquisition, "Aryan Science", and the like had finally passed into history. But today the attack on science has been renewed, in a new form and with amazing success. It is, as Ayn Rand has called it,[1] an anti-industrial revolution, a frontal assault on progress and civilization as such.

The incredible thing about the anti-science movement is its mere existence in modern times. To convince the people of a technological society that science—to which most of them literally owe their lives—is evil would seem an impossible task. Yet this seeming impossibility is actually an advantage—for, because of it, those who attack science are not taken seriously. What we now hear is: "Well, they don't really want to abolish technology, just limit it a little." But the basic idea has become established, and that is what counts. The time is not yet ripe for "Les savants au bucher!"—but the time is coming.

What does it mean to speak of an "anti-science" movement? We are not primarily concerned here with philosophical attacks on the validity of scientific method, nor with the occasional claim, already being heard again, that science as such is evil. Instead, we shall focus on the increasingly successful attempts to indict science by blaming it for real or imaginary evils it has allegedly created.


The anti-science movement might better be called the anti-progress movement, because actually it attacks innovation at every stage, from the laboratory to the production line. It attacks research in genetics, space exploration,[2] and automotive style changes—all on the same grounds, that progress is bad. But the basic objective is science, for the simple reason that if one shuts off the faucet, one doesn't need to worry about dealing with the hose.

It is no coincidence that a cutback in scientific research has occurred at the same time that science has become a public whipping boy. Government policies—notably in the field of patents—have made it very difficult for private industry to make a profit on basic research. As a result, most such research is now done with government funds. Over the last few years this support has been substantially reduced—and that is an impressive measure of public dislike of science, for a government program has to be very unpopular indeed before its funding will be cut.[3]


Yet the attack on science is seldom explicit. What is occurring now is the first phase of a philosophical guerrilla war: sniping, raids on outlying posts, an occasional terrorist attack. The objective at this point is to weaken the enemy's will to resist, while simultaneously building a basis for a later direct attack. Already considerable progress has been made toward both these goals. Many scientists have openly joined the attack on science. And a surprising number of libertarians, who argue confidently and competently with statists when the issue is the draft or anti-trust laws, suddenly become embarrassed and apologetic when the subject turns to "ecology".

The basic technique used in the attack on science is a familiar one: the Method of the Poisoned Antidote. Problems caused by statism, by lack of technical knowledge, or by failure to apply that knowledge when available, are simply blamed on "unrestricted technology". This can be very effective, because the average person has little if any acquaintance with even the most elementary scientific principles.


Rand identifies anti-science with the so-called "Ecology Movement". But in fact, this is only part of a wide range of attacks, which might be roughly classified as follows:

1) Attacks on basic research, particularly in genetics and nuclear physics, because it results in knowledge or capabilities that "man shouldn't have".

2) Attacks on basic or applied research (space exploration is an obvious example) because it is "useless" and "diverts resources from higher priorities".

3) Attacks on the use of technology because it is "dehumanizing".

4) Most important, attacks on science technology because, it is claimed, it is destructive.

We are going to concentrate on the fourth class of attack, because it is relatively recent and more effective than the other criticisms of science. However, a little should be said about the revival of the "traditional" objections to science.

The ancient, mystical opposition to eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge has strong support among liberals and even some libertarians, who fear the use of, say, nuclear weapons or mind-controlling drugs by the State. Convinced that technology which can be used for coercion sooner or later will be so used, they advocate avoiding the possibility by preventing research in these areas. In addition, pacifists oppose any research which could lead to military weapons, religious groups object to genetic research which usurps the prerogatives of their deities, and so on. The "hard mystic" position that knowledge as such is evil has little support now. However, the "soft mystic" argument, that knowledge (or some knowledge) is potentially so dangerous it shouldn't be known, is becoming increasingly prominent. Both positions are similar, however, in that they object to science and technology because they give man a choice—the choice to use science to do good or evil, and the responsibility to make the correct decision.

The claim that science is useless also has a long and dishonorable history. One would think that the case for the utility of science has been proved beyond all doubt. Yet basic research is still vulnerable to the question "What good is it?" Benjamin Franklin's reply[4] fails to satisfy those who do not understand how the useful invention of today is based on the "useless, abstract research" of yesterday. Thus we now see strong public support for switching efforts from basic to applied research. The failure of this policy in other countries—notably the Soviet Union—is of course carefully ignored.[5]

Claims that technology is "dehumanizing"—whatever that means—can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Today there is a strong and growing "back to nature" movement—"natural foods", "organic gardening", communes, etc., are increasingly popular. Most emphasis seems to be placed on food, and for good reason: in pre-technological societies, the average man's main concern in life was averting starvation.

On a somewhat loftier level, intellectuals in the humanities have long attacked science for its alleged tendency to make people less "human" and have created the stereotype of the robotlike scientist who feels neither pleasure nor pain. This is the starting point of Snow's "two cultures"—the separation of, and hostility between, the "humanistic" and scientific cultures.[6] As Asimov has pointed out[7], this hostility is the sole responsibility of the "humanists". He discusses several possible motives for their attack on science; however, both he and Snow miss one of the major factors. Much of what passes for erudition in the humanities is sheer bluff. The average college English professor lives with the unadmitted fear of exposure as an intellectual fraud—and the man most likely to expose him is the scientist, the real intellectual.


The mainstay of the modern attack on science is the claim that technology is destructive; that progress has such dangerous side-effects that it should be abolished, or at least limited. The specific claims range from simple, "big lie" propaganda (such as the campaign against the Amchitka nuclear test) to honest, scientifically accurate studies by sincere scientists who are merely ignorant of economic or political principles. The political implementation of these claims is accomplished primarily by means of the "Environmentalist" movement.

"Environmentalism" is a political movement which has resulted from the penetration and take-over of conservationism—just as, say, syndicalism resulted from the similar take-over of the early union movement by Marxism. The pattern is the same in both cases—the exploitation of rational grievances by irrationalist groups in order to obtain political power. (In the same way, some "consumerists" cash in on the reputation of groups such as Consumer's Union.)


Now, analyzing the anti-science movement is a good deal more difficult than analyzing, say, Communism or Fascism. One cannot, for instance, say: "here are the basic principles of environmentalism; let us examine them…"—because those principles are seldom if ever explicitly admitted. The essence of the movement is the combination of vague, lofty "ideals" with very specific political demands. A further problem results from the structure of the movement. This consists of three groups: a small number of anti-science intellectuals who provide the basic ideas and set the direction of the movement; a very large group of supporters, who follow uncritically because they are ignorant of science; and finally, a considerable number of competent intellectuals, not anti-science and legitimately concerned with environmental problems. It is the purpose of this article to detach the third group from their misplaced loyalty to the first group.

Rand[1] has provided a good analysis of the fundamental premises—the "why"—of the anti-science movement. This article will focus on the "how". The examples given below were obtained simply by going over a few months' back issues of several technical magazines. They are not carefully selected exceptions, but typical cases which illustrate some of the techniques and issues which are currently being exploited in the attack on technology.


One of the most highly publicized issues of environmentalism is the use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides and herbicides. DDT and 2,4,5-T have come in for the most criticism, the latter especially because of its use in Viet Nam. This issue provides some very clear-cut examples of propaganda techniques, so we will examine it at some length.

Let us begin by considering an anti-DDT leaflet printed by the National Audobon Society. Now, the Audobon Society is generally considered a respectable conservationist group, so it comes as something of a shock to see how low they have fallen. They begin by asking rhetorically "What's wrong with DDT?"; they then answer their own question and go on to recommend that the reader use other pesticides—which they name—a serious mistake. For instance, they say DDT "is harmful to wildlife, killing some animals outright and inhibiting reproduction in others". In fact, DDT has a very low toxicity to mammals, but may inhibit reproduction in some birds. However, the pesticides urged by Audobon to replace DDT, which include such compounds as nicotine sulfate, do kill animals outright—including birds. Again: DDT "affects our food supply; our fisheries are particularly vulnerable…use only such sprays as…rotenone.…" Consider this recommendation in the light of a passage from an Air Force survival manual[8]: "Catching fish by poisoning them is quite practical if you have the right poison, the most common being the well-known rotenone, the active ingredient in many insecticides. If properly used, one ounce of 12 percent rotenone (also called derris) will kill every fish for half a mile downstream in a stream 25 feet wide." Or again: "while the amount of DDT now in our bodies is small and has not yet proved harmful, scientists fear possible long range effects". As one alternative to DDT, Audobon proposes malathion, an organo-phosphorus compound closely related to the nerve gases; it is responsible for numerous accidental deaths. (DDT apparently has never killed a single human being, although literally whole populations have been dusted with it to control body lice.)


This is a prime example of a very common technique, which might be called "the fallacy of the ignored alternatives". This consists of citing an evil—or alleged evil—and proposing a solution, without examining the possible consequences of implementing the solution. In the specific case of DDT, two alternatives are commonly advocated. Replacement of DDT with other pesticides (the Audobon Society solution) has a very simple drawback: other pesticides are much more toxic than DDT—and because they are less persistent, higher levels must be maintained in the local environment. The result, easily predicted[9], would be more deaths for humans and wildlife. Another possibility is simply to stop using pesticides altogether. (Yes, that has been seriously advocated.) This idea has been examined by Dr. Norman Borlaug, perhaps the only person ever to actually earn the Nobel Peace Prize (he got it for his development of high-yield wheat strains, part of the "green revolution"): "Let's get our priorities in perspective. As much as I favor wildlife, man must come first. We must feed ourselves and protect ourselves against the health hazards of the world. To do that, we must have agricultural chemicals. Without them, the world population will starve."[10]

The pesticides issue is a gold mine of environmentalist fallacies and argumentative techniques. To cover a few very briefly:

• The use of exaggerated claims and apocalyptic predictions—often based on speculation rather than research. Thus, for instance, it has been claimed that TCDD (an impurity in 2,4,5-T) has an LD100 of about 1 µg/Kg. This is an utterly ridiculous figure; it would make TCDD as toxic as batrachotoxin.[11] Yet many claims such as this are made quite casually.

• Sloppy or hasty research. A good example is eggshell thinning in birds. Newspaper publicity generally states, as an established fact, that DDT is responsible. In fact this is still an area of some controversy.[12] Not only have some experiments been poorly controlled, but the postulated mechanism for DDT intervention in eggshell formation (inhibition of carbonic anhydrase) has been shown false.[13] It has been suggested—only half in jest—that eggshell thinning is due not to DDT but to disturbance of the birds by environmentalists trampling through their nesting grounds to examine their reproduction rates.

• Failure to bother even looking up known facts. Thus it is common for environmentalists to talk about DDT being carried by runoff waters into the ocean. In fact, DDT is removed from the soil mainly by evaporation, and it is about ten times as concentrated in the air (0.1 ppb) as it is in the ocean (0.01 ppb).[14]

• Failure to consider—or even admit—facts in favor of the action under fire. For instance, DDT's low toxicity to mammals—its prime advantage—is systematically ignored in the environmentalist literature. Also ignored is the existence of "modified" DDTs which are biodegradable.[15] Furthermore, some beneficial side-effects have been claimed for chlorinated hydrocarbons. One study indicates that DDT in the diet may help prevent cancer.[16] It has also been claimed that DDT pollution of fresh water moderates mercury pollution by inhibiting the conversion of inorganic to organic mercury.[17] Perhaps most amusing is the case of the chlorinated hydrocarbon 2,4-D. Grasshoppers have adapted to it and apparently use it as starting material to synthesize 2,5-dichlorophenol, which now occurs in their defensive froth.[18]


Let us examine another case. Mercury pollution is a good example because it illustrates several points: the unity of "ecology" and "consumerism", the problem of standards, and, particularly, the danger of jumping to conclusions.

The whole thing began with some "common sense". It has been known for a long time that mercury is a very toxic substance. But—put a little mercury in a test tube full of water, and what happens? Why, the mercury sinks to the bottom and just sits there. So manufacturers who used mercury didn't worry too much if some escaped into the local river (although, actually, they did—mercury is extremely expensive). Clearly, it would just sink to the bottom and do no harm. However, as often happens when "common sense" is used as an excuse for not doing research, things turned out to be not so simple. Microorganisms convert elemental mercury to organic forms such as methylmercury; it then gets into the food chain.

Now, this is a relatively limited and easy-to-solve environmental problem. Why? First, because mercury is so costly that recovery of spillage tends to pay for itself. Second, because there are very few industrial plants using mercury in large amounts. Third, because it is a fresh water problem only (it would take a hundred million metric tons of mercury to double the concentration in sea-water[19]). However, when high mercury levels were found in fresh-water fish, the FDA hit the panic button. Ocean fish such as tuna and swordfish were found also to contain mercury—and the immediate conclusion was that this was due to pollution. As it turns out, it can be easily proven that mercury in tuna is due to natural biological concentration of oceanic mercury. For one thing, mercury levels are equally high in old—even prehistoric—fish which have been preserved.[20] (The feeble claim[21] that this is due to contamination by impure preservatives is easily refuted.[22]) Incidentally, tuna also concentrates selenium, an element which mitigates the toxicity of mercury.[23] The evidence suggests that the FDA restriction on mercury in food (0.5 ppm) is unreasonably high—unless the purpose is to discourage cannibalism; most Americans have body mercury levels of 0.5 to 1.0 ppm.[24]


Another informative example is the issue of food additives and food contamination. A prominent factor here is the use of "consumer safety" regulations by industry in attempts to eliminate competitors. Let us take a rather trivial case to start with. An improved macaroni with high protein content has been developed. Its appearance on the market has been blocked—the FDA, at the behest of manufacturers of regular—and inferior—macaroni, refuses to allow the new product to be called macaroni.[25]

Many similar but more substantial cases have been publicized recently. The cyclamate and fish-flour issues are so prominent as to need no discussion. In both cases, the FDA banned the use of foodstuffs of known value—the one on very poor scientific evidence, the other on none at all. More recently, saccharin has been taken off the GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe). On what basis? Well, twenty rats were fed saccharin at 5% of their diet (2.5 g/kg-day). This is equivalent to an adult human drinking 875 bottles of diet pop a day for life. Three of the rats developed bladder tumors which "appear to be malignant". Who did this research? The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Institute—financed by the International Sugar Research Fund.[26]

The key to this method of suppressing competition is the "Delaney Clause". This law requires the banning of any artificial food additive which can be linked in any way to cancer. (The requirement that the additive be artificial is very possibly the only thing protecting sugar makers from retaliation in kind.)

One might ask why studies at such high concentrations are even considered seriously. The main reason is lack of alternative. If a compound affects, say, one person in a million at normal dosages, one needs literally millions of lab animals to study the effects at that concentration. Obviously the expense would be prohibitive. The only alternative is to study very high dosages, and extrapolate one's results to normal doses.


Extrapolation, however, is notoriously unreliable. In spite of this well known fact, some scientists and most "consumerists" have adopted the "no threshold" theory. This is the concept that toxicity is never reduced to zero as long as there is any dosage—no matter how small.[27] The problem with this idea is that counterexamples are so easy to find. Take copper, for instance. Cupric sulfate is a deadly poison. Yet, as dosage is decreased, there comes a point where cupric ion is harmless. What's more, below that level, copper has a "negative toxicity"—it is one of the trace elements necessary to human life.

Another obvious problem with the "no threshold" concept is that it can be used to justify banning anything—since any compound is toxic at a sufficiently high dosage. An article[28] on "Sanity in Research and Evaluation of Environmental Health" gives some examples:

If man is prohibited from consuming foodstuffs because of their content of natural toxins, where will it end? Honey contains the potent grayanotoxins (given intraperitoneally, a dose lethal to 50 percent of the animals tested is approximately 1 milligram per kilogram.) German raisins have been found to be teratogenic, while caffeine and tannin are tumorigenic; nutmeg, parsley, and dill are highly toxic because of their myristicin and apiole contents. Vitamin C has produced tumors in mice.

It seems clear that a more reasonable standard is needed for evaluating foodstuff toxicity—or at least some standard. At present, decisions concerning the use of food additives appear to be made on the basis of publicity and political rather than scientific considerations.


We may also consider some examples from the field of air pollution. The case of carbon monoxide provides an instance of the dangers of drawing conclusions from inadequate research. Enough is produced by man to double the ambient level in the atmosphere in about 5 years[29]—yet the actual level appears to be declining.[30] Why? Because carbon monoxide is taken up by soil bacteria as fast as it is formed.[31]

Sulfur dioxide affords some even more amusing results. It is presently the "leading" air pollutant in terms of publicity and removal efforts. This has occurred for two reasons: 1) it is highly "visible"—having a strong odor, high acidity, and rather high concentrations due to the widespread occurrence of sulfur in coal and oil; 2) it is relatively easy to abate by using low-sulfur fuels and scrubbing exhaust gases. It comes as rather a surprise to learn that sulfur dioxide at pollution levels is reported to be harmless to mammals[32]—and possibly even beneficial.[33] This is a prime example of a common procedure in environmentalism: pouncing on a target of convenience, often at the expense of efforts to attack really serious problems.

Consider the case of air pollution in general. We can imagine two possible extremes in measuring the degree of air pollution: in terms of pollutant concentrations in the troposphere as a whole, or in terms of pollution of the air that is actually breathed by humans. The latter is clearly more significant, but environmentalists have been much more concerned with approximating the former. A little thought shows why: the average American spends most of his time indoors, and almost certainly the major source of pollution in the air he breathes is due to cigarette smoke—if he is a nonsmoker. For smokers, of course, all other types of air pollution pale into insignificance. (Recently it was discovered that cigarettes are a major source of the very toxic heavy metal cadmium in man.[34] A single cigarette contains 1-2 micrograms, of which the smoker absorbs about half; the other people in the room with him get the rest.) But when environmentalists talk about air pollution, tobacco is never mentioned—for obvious reasons.


The detergent controversy is a typical case of environmentalists going off at half-cock and introducing a cure worse than the original evil. The first detergents were of the sulfonate type; they were adopted because of their numerous advantages over soap. Unfortunately, as detergent use increased, disadvantages became apparent. Detergents could ruin septic tanks. Moreover, the sulfonate detergents have long environmental half-lives, and thus rivers into which sewage was poured tended to become sudsy. Under heavy pressure from the proto-environmentalists, detergent manufacturers switched to phosphates, which were enthusiastically advertised as "biodegradable". However, "biodegradable" merely means "edible to microorganisms", and with all this extra nourishment, algae growth soon was getting out of hand. Eutrophication became the word of the day. It was then proposed to replace phosphates with NTA (nitrilotriacetic acid). This fortunately has been stopped by an alleged health hazard; environmentalists have ignored evidence that a switch to NTA could increase eutrophication. (It now seems likely that nitrogen has replaced phosphorus as the limiting reagent for algae growth in many waterways, and NTA contains nitrogen.)[35]

All this mess is due to the desperate desire of environmentalists to avoid naming the real source of detergent pollution: municipal governments that dump raw or partially treated sewage into their local rivers. Thus the attempts to pin the blame on industry and demand that it come up with a "non-polluting" detergent; unfortunately, there is no such thing.


Pollution of the sea by petroleum is another focus of environmentalist concern. It is generally casually assumed that accidental oil spills are the chief culprit. In fact, in 1969, accidental spills accounted for only about one percent of oceanic oil pollution. The major contributor (53%) was atmospheric fallout from industrial and auto exhausts.[36] It is again a case of attacking the visible rather than the dangerous foe—major oil spills create spectacular, but local and temporary effects.

A related problem goes virtually unmentioned by environmentalists: each year in the U.S., over a billion gallons of used motor oil is dumped or burned. Rerefining is discouraged by a special tax on the process.[37]


Let us take one more example. The attack on the use of nuclear power provides a graphic example of the effects of scientific ignorance. One would expect, since fossil fuel power plants are major polluters, that environmentalists would be strong supporters of atomic energy. In fact, they have concentrated some of their most energetic efforts against the building of power reactors. Why? Because the weapon—the public's superstitious fear of atomic energy—is convenient to hand.

The actual motives of the anti-nuclear crusade become clear when we consider the professed motives. What specific objections could be raised to nuclear power?

• Thermal pollution: A nuclear reactor, because of its lower operating temperature, produces about twice as much waste heat as a fossil fuel power plant of the same output. However, this could actually be an asset rather than a liability, because this heat can be put to use. For instance, in London there is a reactor whose excess heat is used to provide hot water for local homes. It has also been proposed to use a reactor's thermal output to produce an upward blast of hot air which could break up atmospheric inversions and thus alleviate smog. But most such schemes require locating the reactor in the city—and people are afraid it will explode. (It can't—but most people don't know that.)

• Release of radioactivity: Well, some simple figures[38]: humans in the United States are exposed to 2 x 107 rems/year due to medical X-rays alone; one power reactor results in a total exposure of about 40 rems/year. Yet Paul Ehrlich, a prominent environmentalist, has claimed that radioactive effluents into the sea from an unspecified reactor have made some oysters so radioactive they glow in the dark.[39] (His reaction when told the statement was false: "It doesn't make any difference."[40])[41]

• Disposal of radioactive wastes: This is the one presently unsolved problem with nuclear power. There is, however, a long-term solution on the horizon: rocketing the long-lived wastes into the sun. In the meantime, storage problems appear capable of solution.

• Accidental release of radioactivity: Most attacks are based on a simple principle—nobody can prove that an accident won't happen someday. Atomic energy's excellent safety record so far is simply ignored; of course.[42]

These are the real issues involved in the use of nuclear power. When we consider them in the context of the typical anti-reactor campaign, it is clear that so much uncontrollable hysteria could not be aroused by such minor threats. It isn't—it is aroused by simple superstitious fear of the unknown, and the alleged issues merely provide face-saving pretexts. As a final piece of evidence, one might consider the attitude of systematic apathy displayed by most environmentalists toward the development of thermonuclear (fusion) power, which would be even cleaner than fission reactors.


Now, what has been the point of giving all these examples? First, to illustrate the techniques by which it is possible to attack science and still be listened to by sane men. Second, to attempt to demolish the prevalent belief that "the environmentalist movement is basically good, we just have to correct a few excesses." Irrationalist movements of all sorts have repeatedly been protected by this sort of attitude. The Bolsheviks, the Weathermen, the Syndicalists, etc.—all have benefited by preempting a valid goal and then smearing their opponents as enemies of that goal. The environmentalist movement should not simply be reformed—it is rotten at the core, based on an implicitly anti-science ideology. This vital center should be abolished, and replaced with a rational approach.

What is a rational approach? A libertarian position on ecological—and consumer—questions should be based on the following principles:

First: Objectives must be defined. Nobody as yet really knows what constitutes an ideal environment for man, for instance. Environmentalists have deliberately avoided tackling such questions—for obvious reasons. Libertarians, however, should begin by defining terms and establishing principles and standards, rather than using the traditional ad hoc approach.

Second: Problems must be attacked with serious research. The typical technique now is to conduct a cheap, hasty series of experiments, then seize on the incomplete results as justification for a corrective action which often results in even worse problems. Sometimes no research at all in done.[43] In most environmental issues, considerable research is needed just to determine the nature of the problem; even more research is required to identify the cause and find a solution. In short, a rational environmentalist should insist on knowing the facts before taking action.

Third: The present legal and ideological grounds for assigning responsibility for ecological—and consumer—problems must be changed. Courts at present apply the "balancing of interests" test and refuse to consider indirect destruction of another's property by pollution as trespass or arson.[44] Libertarians must insist on the enforcement of property rights as a means of attacking pollution. In most cases, this will result in putting the ultimate blame back squarely where it belongs—on the State.

Fourth: Libertarians must fight the growing politicization of science. This subject deserves an article in its own right. One of the unpleasant by-products of a technological society is the close interaction of science and politics, as technical issues become politically relevant. This is gradually bringing the "real" sciences down to the level of, say, economics—where a Paul Samuelson gets the Nobel Prize, and a Ludwig von Mises is an unknown. There is a growing tendency for scientists to receive recognition and funding on the basis of the political acceptability of their research results—just as is already the case for economists, sociologists, etc. The following process has become familiar: Scientist A concludes, on the basis of massive dosage experiments, that food additive X (or contraceptive Y, or pesticide Z) "may possibly cause cancer". Senator S seizes on this—he is an enemy of the X (or Y or Z) industry—and holds massively publicized hearings. Scientist A's claims appear in the front-page headlines, except that now it's "X (or Y or Z) CAUSES CANCER, SAYS NOTED SCIENTIST". (Scientists B, C, and D, who testified that they couldn't duplicate A's results and don't think his conclusions are correct, are unmentioned by the media.) The Administration, fearful of embarrassment, orders the FDA to ban X (or Y or Z) regardless of the scientific data. The National Science Foundation (who know which side their appropriations bread is buttered on) give Scientist A a $100,000 grant to make further studies. (Scientists B, C, and D may find that they can no longer get grants—or tenure.) The result of all this is that scientists—most of whom are directly or indirectly dependent on the government—tend to become careful not to make public statements contradicting the environmentalist establishment.

This is a disastrous trend; it could lead to an American Lysenkoism and the end of science in this country. It can only be fought by removing science—and scientists—from the control of the federal government. Basic research must be returned to private funding. This would require extensive changes in tax, patent, and education policies.

The lead should be taken—now—by libertarians—nobody else is doing it. What science needs today is not apologists, but defenders.

Mr. Merrill graduated from MIT in 1968 with a BS in Chemistry and is currently doing graduate work in the same subject at University of Oregon. He expects to receive his Ph.D. in June 1973.


[1] Ayn Rand, THE OBJECTIVIST, January 1971.
[2] Although space exploration might be legitimately opposed to the extent it is financed by government taxation, this is not the issue raised by the vast majority of its opponents.
[3] Actual figures for amounts spent on scientific research are very difficult to find. Both government and industry routinely release only figures for "Research and Development" expenditures. Since "R&D" can cover anything from the cost of building a particle accelerator to the salary of the stylist who designs a new tail-fin, support for actual research can only be guessed at.
[4] "What good is a new-born baby?"
[5] This is not to imply that there is anything wrong with applied research. But it is important to realize that applied research, without a strong basis in fundamental research to draw on, is a short-term investment. It can improve an old product, but it can't give you a new product.
[6] C.P. Snow, THE TWO CULTURES: AND A SECOND LOOK (New York: Mentor, 1963).
[7] Isaac Asimov, "Battle of the Eggheads", in FACT AND FANCY (New York: Pyramid, 1963), p.195.
[8] P.H. Nesbitt, A.W. Pond, and W.H. Allen, THE SURVIVAL BOOK (New York: Funk & Wagnalis, 1959), p.50.
[9] See, for instance, CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 9 Aug. 1971, p.17. During the writing of this article, the use of DDT was banned by the Federal Government—which admits that it will be replaced for most purposes by parathion, an exceptionally deadly organophosphate pesticide.
[10] U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 1 Nov. 1971, p.93.
[11] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 15 Nov. 1971, p.6;24 Jan. 1972, p.24.
[12] This subject has been briefly reviewed in CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 16 Aug. 1971, p.6.
[13] Y. Pocker, W.M. Beug, & V.R. Ainard, SCIENCE 174, 1336 (1971).
[14] G.M. Woodwell, P.P. Craig, & H.A. Johnson, ibid. 174, 1101 (1971).
[15] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 2 Aug. 1971, p.7. The use of these virtually ideal pesticides is being held up by FDA clearance.
[16] Ibid., 6 Sept. 1971, p.16.
[17] Ibid., 5 July 1971, p.33.
[18] T. Eisner, L. B. Hendry, D.B. Peakall, & J. Meinwald, SCIENCE 172, 277 (1971).
[19] The HANDBOOK OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS gives mercury concentration in sea-water as 0.3 ppb and total ocean area as 3.6 x 108 km2. Assuming an average depth of 1 km, total mercury is on the order of 1011 kg.
[20] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 30 Aug. 1971, p.14; 3 Jan. 1972, p.14.
[21] Ibid., 10 Jan. 1972, p.48.
[22] G.E. Miller, P.M. Grant, R. Kishore, F.J. Steinkruger, F.S. Rowland, & V.P. Guinn, SCIENCE 175, 1121 (1972).
[23] H.E. Ganther, C. Goudie, M.L. Sunde, M.J. Kopecky, P. Wagner, Sang-Hwan Oh, & W.G. Hoekstra, ibid. 175, 1122 (1972).
[24] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 18 Oct. 1971, p.52.
[25] Ibid., 17 Jan. 1972, p.3.
[26] Ibid., 7 Feb. 1972, p.4.
[27] For a good critique of this theory, see B.D. Dinman, SCIENCE 175, 495 (1972).
[28] H.E. Stodkinger, SCIENCE 174, 662 (1971).
[29] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 10 May 1971, p.24.
[30] M. Eisenbud & L.R. Ehrlich, SCIENCE 176, 193 (1972).
[31] It is also dissolved in the sea, being much more soluble than oxygen or nitrogen. See note 29, supra.
[32] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 5 Aug. 1971, p.10.
[33] Ibid., 15 Dec. 1969, p.15.
[34] Ibid., 21 Feb. 1972, p.16.
[35] Ibid., 14 June 1971, p.26.
[36] Ibid., 13 Dec. 1971, p.35.
[37] Ibid., 11 Oct. 1971, p.9.
[38] A.P. Hill, SCIENCE 174, 1280 (1971).
[39] Some plants and animals are capable of concentrating radioactive material in their tissues.
[40] CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING NEWS, 19 Aug. 1971, p.52.
[41] I have read that a nuclear power plant releases less radioactivity into the atmosphere than a comparable fossil plant (fossil fuels contain radioactive minerals, which are released on burning). Unfortunately, I was unable to relocate the documentation for this claim.
[42] It should be pointed out, however, that some very serious questions have been raised about the safety of one type of power reactor, the circulating metal variety of the liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor (LMFBR). Although objective reporting on this issue is virtually nonexistent, it appears that the scientists who have raised these questions remain staunch supporters of nuclear power.
[43] Another example: Environmentalists strongly promote recycling paper. It has been suggested, however, that this is a poor idea because it saves on renewable resources (notably trees and labor) at the expense of using more nonrenewable mineral resources. Again, I have lost the documentation.
[44] See discussion in "Legal Remedies for Pollution Abatement", SCIENCE 175, 1085 (1972).