An exposé of (bogus) popularly reported scientific results reveals that science is often twisted to meet social, commercial, and political agendas. [Executive Producer: Victor Neufeld/ Journalist: John Stossel/ 60 min/ Documentary-Educational/ Anti-Regulation, John Stossel, Junk Science]
In the popular lexicon, science and truth are practically synonymous. But in reality, even at its best, science is just an ever improving, approximate understanding of the truth. And at its worst—well, that’s what this film is all about.
Here we see cosmetologists babbling scientific sounding mumbo-jumbo; a government bureaucrat defending his campaign to limit salt intake despite the apparently uncertain effect this is likely to have on the health of Americans; million-dollar settlements against companies based on purportedly scientific results that don’t hold up under scrutiny; people imprisoned as a result of the testimony of fake scientists; and a town destroyed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overreacting to a probably harmless exposure to dioxin.
Of course, it’s inevitable that liars will don the cloak of science when it suits their purpose. The only solution is to educate the public to take popularly reported science with a grain of salt, and to take it seriously only when results have been subjected to the ever critical scrutiny of the scientific community. For the viewer, that increased level of skepticism is just what this film achieves.
All this is important because junk science has real victims. Interviewed here is an innocent man who was sent to prison for murder on the basis of bogus testimony by a supposedly “expert” scientific witness. As it turns out, “expert” scientific witnesses will say pretty much anything for a buck. Likewise, the employees and shareholders of Dow Corning all suffered when the company was driven into bankruptcy by a barrage of successful lawsuits over the safety of Dow’s breast implants. The testimony of “expert” witnesses convinced juries that the implants were responsible for a myriad of diseases, but as told here, reputable studies have not shown any such causal connection.
As usual, John Stossel makes his case in a well-organized fashion, backing up his points with ample evidence, and allowing the subjects of his investigation to respond. This is an entertaining and informative documentary, and a useful antidote to public gullibility with respect to “junk science.”