Asbestos & Junk Science - Different Perspectives on the Internet
"Asbestos" has been linked with the perjorative term "junk science" in different ways on the internet. This web site describes four distinct areas where the term has been used to describe an asbestos issue.
What is Junk Science?
"Junk science" applies to seemingly objective, scientific statements that are really heavily biased and pseudo-scientific. Junk science has 3 characteristics.
1) Perpetrator has credentials that qualify them as "expert", usually M.D. or Ph.D. The "science" may be offered in a publication, sworn testimony, or in comments for the press.
2) Perpetrator has evident bias. Usually they are simply being paid by some attorney, company or agency that is favored by their findings. If not directly paid, they have an identifiable agenda, usually political or economic.
3) The issue is scientifically testable. The junk scientist may have studies, but tbey are "junk" -- pseudoscientific or lacking in proper controls. If properly controlled or contradicting studies aleady exist, the junk scientist ignores or disregards them.
Once junk science is recognized, the following typically occurs:
It is important to distinguish "junk science" from statements that aren't science at all, i.e., they are not offered by people with credentials, or who claim to be experts in the field. Also, a lot of what is called "junk science" is just obviously flawed logic. This distinction is made clear in Internet Bunk: The Junk Science Page.
Probably the most notorious example of junk science in the previous century was tobacco company "research" that purported to show cigarettes are safe. No properly designed study could come to this conclusion, but tobacco companies sponsored "science" to this purpose. Pure junk. More recently their junk science research is extending into the effects of second hand smoke.
Another example is provided in a brief review of junk science in the 1990s, the ban on silicone breast implants.
Below are four different categories, culled from internet web sites, where "junk science" has been applied to asbestos. At the bottom of the page you will find books on junk science linked to Amazon.com.
Keeping Junk Science Out of the Asbestos Litigation
This web site is an abstract of "Keeping Junk Science Out of the Asbestos Litigation," by David E. Bernstein, George Mason University School of Law (Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 31, p. 11, 2003). From this web site the article can be downloaded in adobe format. You can also click here to read the full article.
Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom, by Peter W. Huber
Although published in the early 1990s, its premise is quite current: the unwarranted authority of "junk science" in legal proceedings.
Judging Science: Scientific Knowledge and the Federal Courts, by Kenneth R. Foster
Discusses landmark 1993 Supreme Court handed ruling on the use of scientific evidence in federal courts, and its consequences.
Science on Trial: The Clash of Medical Evidence and the Law in the Breast Implant Case, by
Angell, a past executive editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, argues there was no medical consensus to support the premise for the ban.
Legal Alchemy : The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law, by David L. Faigman
How our legal system uses scientific knowledge in reaching decisions; includes disussion of specific cases (e.g., Dow Corning silicone breast implant lawsuit).
Phantom Risk: Scientific Inference and the Law, by Kenneth R. Foster
Editors include Foster and Huber ("Judging Science" and "Galileo's Revenge", respectively, listed above), and David Bernstein, author of the Pepperdine Law Review article quoted in 3rd asbestos category.