Respectful Insolence

I realize this is two weeks old, but I had this hanging around, making it still worthwhile to discuss, because it’s been bothering me, and last week Coulter wrote a blisteringly stupid followup to her blisteringly ignorant column from two weeks ago entitled A Glowing Report on Radiation. She wrote this article in the wake of the fears arising in Japan and around the world of nuclear catastrophe due to the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant caused by the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan on March 11. Coulter was subsequently interviewed by Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday evening:

Yes, according to Coulter, radiation is good for you, just like toxic sludge! Even more amazing, in this video Bill O’Reilly actually comes across as the voice of reason, at least in comparison to Ann Coulter. He’s very skeptical of Coulter’s claims and even challenges her by saying, “So by your account we should all be heading towards the nuclear reactor.”

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So, fellow Orac-philes, is Coulter right? Are all those scientists warning about the dangers of even low-level radiation all wrong? Should we start hanging out in radioactive mine shafts, as Coulter mentions in her column (seriously) in order to boost our health and decrease our risk of cancer?

Coulter, hormesis, and “Don’t worry, be happy!”

Actually, the scientific assessment of what levels of exposure to ionizing radiation are dangerous is, as you might imagine, a wee bit more complicated than my little sarcastic rejoinder makes it, but you’d never know that from Ann Coulter’s article and her interview with Bill O’Reilly. The reason for my sarcastic characterization of Coulter’s scientific nonsense is because her article uses many of the same tactics as any denialist. Chief among these is that Coulter takes the germ of a scientific controversy and then uses it to try to imply that the scientific consensus is fatally flawed. In this case, the scientific controversy is over how dangerous low level exposure to radiation is used to imply that the radiation from a nuclear disaster is not potentially harmful. All you former residents of Chernobyl, take note! It’s fine to move back to your homes that you were forced to abandon 25 years ago!

Here is what Coulter claims in her article:

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level — much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government — radiation is good for you. “They theorize,” the Times said, that “these doses protect against cancer by activating cells’ natural defense mechanisms.”

What Coulter is referring to is the phenomenon of radiation hormesis. This is nothing more than a biphasic dose-response curve to radiation in which the curve initially goes down with increasing dose (less risk of disease with increasing radiation exposure) and then curves upward and at some point crosses a threshold where radiation exposure is no longer beneficial but harmful with further dose increases. Basically, it’s a scientific model wherein low level exposure to radiation is not only not harmful but in fact beneficial. The reason for this effect, if it exists in humans, is hypothesized to be that low level radiation activates DNA damage repair and other protective mechanisms that are not activated in the absence of radiation; moreover, it is further hypothesized that these mechanisms are activated more than they need to be, so that low level radiation is actually protective against radiation-induced diseases such as cancer.

The radiation hormesis model is markedly different from the currently prevailing model that is used for regulatory purposes by most governments, the linear no-threshold (LNT) model, which states that there is no such thing as a “safe” dose of radiation and that radiation dammage accumulates in a linear fashion with dose. For completeness sake, I will note that there is also at least one other model for the biological effects of radiation, specifically a model in which there is a threshold dose under which radiation is not harmful. In practice, distinguishing between a threshold model and a hormesis model can be very difficult.

In order to give you an idea of what hormesis would look like in a radiation dose-response curve, I stole this graph from Wikipedia. Actually, I didn’t steal it; it’s public domain because it’s a product of a U.S. government agency. However, it illustrates the concept of hormesis quite well:

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Curve A demonstrates supralinearity, in which toxic effects are actually more intense per unit of radiation at lower doses; there is no evidence that this is indeed the case. Curve B is linear, and Curve C is linear-quadratic, in which low doses of radiation are less harmful per unit of radiation than higher doses. Curve D represents hormesis, where low doses of radiation are actually protective up to a certain threshold, where the curve shifts from a protective effect to a harmful effect with increasing radiation. The main contenders for the model that best describes radiation effects are either curve B, C, or D.

The key aspect of Coulter’s article that makes it so irresponsible is what she leaves out. What she neglects to mention is that, even if hormesis is an accurate model for radiation effects in humans, it only applies for very low dose exposures. (More on how low in the next section.) True, Coulter does at one point concede that it is “hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit,” throughout the rest of her article she presents the idea of hormesis as though it were–you guessed it!–a settled scientific fact. Indeed, Coulter’s earlier assertion that “excess radiation acts as sort of a cancer vaccine” is the sheerest exaggeration, even if hormesis is an accurate model of radiation exposure. Aside from this major exaggeration, how do Coulter’s assertions, which appear to be based largely on studies cited in a single NYT article that is nearly a decade old, stack up against science?

Not very well. Surprise! Surprise! As is the case with many denialists, Coulter takes a germ of actual science and then twists and exaggerates it beyond all recognition in order to support a preconceived notion, namely that those pointy-headed (and, of course, liberal) environmentalists are hiding the evidence that radiation at low doses is good for you. To accomplish this, Coulter cherry picks studies, failing to put them into their proper context with existing research, all for the purpose of advancing her ideological viewpoint.

Radiation hormesis: Ann Coulter’s claims versus reality

Last week, Coulter wrote a followup article entitled Liberals: They Blinded Us With Science, in which she “answers” her critics with outrageously idiotic rejoinders like:

According to Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted an entire segment to denouncing me. He called me toxic, accused me of spreading misinformation and said I didn’t care about science.

One thing Schultz did not do, however, was cite a single physicist or scientific study.

I cited three physicists by name as well as four studies supporting hormesis in my column. For the benefit of liberals scared of science, I even cited The New York Times.

Wow! Since when did Coulter accept the NYT as a definitive source? Next time she spews idiocy about science, I can simply find an NYT article that contradicts her, and I’m sure she’ll accept it and admit her error, right? As for “naming” physicists, I’m about to show you how badly Ann misrepresented the science. More than once–surprise! surprise!–Coulter completely misrepresented existing data by cherry picking older studies. Keep in mind, as you read, that Ann cites the NYT; I’ll be citing studies.

Before I discuss what the data regarding radiation hormesis actually show, it’s essential to discuss briefly why it is that the LNT model predominates when it comes to policy-making and setting limits on what is considered “safe” radiation exposure. The reason is not that biased scientists are “hiding” the evidence that radiation is good for you. Rather, it boils down to a few reasons. The first is probably that an LNT model is the simplest, most conservative model that can be fit to currently existing evidence. The problem with the LNT model is the same as the problem with the hormesis model. While at higher radiation doses, effects due to radiation are, like effects due to pretty much any other high-level environmental exposure, much more robust and reproducible, at lower radiation doses, the effects are weaker, and the scatter in the data is much greater. In other words, at low doses the signal-to-noise ratio is much lower due to a lot more “noise” and a lot less signal in the data. Moreover, the data are more difficult to collect, and variability from system to system, organism to organism, and cancer to cancer is likely to be much greater.

As imperfect as it is, the LNT model is a reasonable approximation for purposes of policy-making because it is conservative and safe. Admittedly, there are problems applying such a model when the doses get really low, as in lower than the normal background radiation that we all live in, but it’s a useful approximation. When it is very hard to distinguish between an LNT model and a hormesis model at very low radiation exposures, until better data can be gathered that clearly demonstrate the superiority of one model over another, the responsible and safe model to choose is the most conservative one that fits reasonably well. Basing public policy on a model that, if incorrect, has the potential to result in considerable harm in the form of increased radiation-induced disease prevalence is not wise policy at all, at least when the alternate model is not demonstrably wrong.

As far as Coulter’s reliance on an old NYT article, I thought I’d take a look at the article itself. As an aside, I can’t help but note that I really hate it when the online version of an article doesn’t include links to cited articles, and Coulter is no different in this regard. However, I do believe I managed to find this 2001 NYT article anyway from November 27, 2001, entitled For Radiation, How Much Is Too Much? It’s by Gina Kolata and discusses the controversy that had begun to bubble up about what doses of ionizing radiation might be considered safe. If you read it, you’ll see that it’s much more balanced than how it is portrayed by Coulter. For example, here is what Coulter writes about two studies cited by Kolata:

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

Here is what Kolata actually wrote about these studies:

Now, some scientists even say low radiation doses may be beneficial. They theorize that these doses protect against cancer by activating cells’ natural defense mechanisms. As evidence, they cite studies, like one in Canada of tuberculosis patients who had multiple chest X-rays and one of nuclear workers in the United States. The tuberculosis patients, some analyses said, had fewer cases of breast cancer than would be expected and the nuclear workers had a lower mortality rate than would be expected.

Dr. Boice said these studies were flawed by statistical pitfalls, and when a committee of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement evaluated this and other studies on beneficial effects, it was not convinced. The group, headed by Dr. Upton of New Jersey, wrote that the data “do not exclude” the hypothesis. But, it added, “the prevailing evidence has generally been interpreted as insufficient to support this view.”

Notice how the finding in “some analyses” that there were fewer cases of breast cancer than might be expected has magically morphed into “tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population” in Coulter’s words. Also note that this appears to be the NCRPM report that analyzed the data. Unfortunately, it would have cost me $40 to download the PDF; so I didn’t. But what about these studies?

The first study to which Coulter refers appears to be a study from Canada that was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1989. This study examined the mortality from breast cancer in a cohort of 31,710 women who had been treated for tuberculosis at Canadian sanatoriums between 1930 and 1952. A significant proportion (26.4%) of these women had received radiation doses to the breast of 10 cGy or more from repeated fluoroscopic examinations during therapeutic pneumothoraxes. It should be noted that these sorts of doses of radiation are far in excess of anything likely to be received using modern radiological equipment, in particular given that we no longer perform fluoroscopy and therapeutic pneumothorax to treat tuberculosis. Interestingly, this is how the abstract summarizes the results of this study:

Women exposed to ≥ 10 cGy of radiation had a relative risk of death from breast cancer of 1.36, as compared with those exposed to less than 10 cGy (95 percent confidence interval, 1.11 to 1.67; P = 0.001). The data were most consistent with a linear dose-response relation. The risk was greatest among women who had been exposed to radiation when they were between 10 and 14 years of age; they had a relative risk of 4.5 per gray, and an additive risk of 6.1 per 104 person-years per gray. With increasing age at first exposure, there was substantially less excess risk, and the radiation effect appeared to peak approximately 25 to 34 years after the first exposure. Our additive model for lifetime risk predicts that exposure to 1 cGy at the age of 40 increases the number of deaths from breast cancer by 42 per million women.

Oops! Maybe I found the wrong study! On the other hand, this is a Canadian study that looked at women with tuberculosis who received numerous chest X-rays (fluoroscopy, actually), and I can’t find another one like it. I also couldn’t find other publications with other analyses. The analysis that exists in the published literature, for better or for worse, concludes that the risk of breast cancer is elevated with exposures to radiation greater than 10 cGy. So, what are these other “analyses” that purport to claim that these patients actually had a lower risk of mortality from breast cancer? I smelled a rat.

My first hint came from an article published in the Journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (JPANDS) by Bernard Cohen entitled The Cancer Risk From Low Level Radiation: A Review of Recent Evidence. I’ve discussed JPANDS and how it plays fast and loose with science for ideological reasons before, in particular its antivaccine views and its publishing studies so bad that laughter is the only appropriate response. In his article, Cohen claims that hormesis “found for breast cancer among Canadian women exposed over longer periods of time to X-ray fluoroscopic examinations for tuberculosis (13); when appropriately evaluated, this evidence shows a decrease in risk with increasing radiation dose at least up to 20 cSv (20 rem).” Unfortunately, no evaluation of this evidence is included; Cohen simply asserts that this is so.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to find other JPANDS articles making the same argument. For example, this one by Joel M. Kauffman. In it, Kaufmann divides up the subjects into several radiation dose ranges, while rejecting data from Nova Scotia because “too few” low radiation points were included. Conveniently he fails to define what “too few” is. However, if one looks at Table I in the NEJM paper, it’s obvious that in the dose range between 10 and 99 cSv, the death rate in Nova Scotia was much higher than the other provinces. One wonders if that had anything to do with leaving out the data, rather than writing the authors for a more detailed breakdown of the data between those dose levels, one does. In any case, what Kaufmann appears to have done is what JPANDS writers frequently do: Cherry pick the data. He took the lower end of the dose ranges, used “eyeball” fitting instead of statistical fitting to models, and left out any hint of a statistical analysis. The authors of the NEJM article went to great lengths to demonstrate that a LNT model was the best fit to their data; Kaufmann expects you to “eyeball” his graph and accept his claim of hormesis. Similarly, Jerry Cuttler and Myron Pollycove, in another JPANDS article, plotted the Canadian data on a semilog scale to make a hormesis effect look far more convincing than the actual data support, all the while simply claiming that a hormesis model fit the data better than an LNT model. Unfortunately, they didn’t “show their work,” so to speak. No discussion of how they modeled the data is included. No wonder the NCRPM found these “other” analyses unconvincing. Also, while it’s not surprising that Coulter would have gotten her data on this from JPANDS, it’s rather disappointing that Kolata didn’t look deeper back in 2001.

The second study cited by Kolata and exaggerated by Coulter was a study of U.S. nuclear industry workers. Regarding this sort of data, the scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have included on their website this analysis:

The results of individual studies have been inconclusive, and to investigate the matter further a combined analysis has been carried out of seven studies-three for sites in the United States (Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Rocky Flats), three for sites in the United Kingdom, and one for Canada. A total of 95,673 workers was included, of whom 60% received effective doses above 10 mSv (1 rem). In the entire population, there were 15,825 deaths, of which 3,976 were from cancer. The comprehensive results for all cancers taken together showed a very slight decrease in cancer rate with increasing dose. However, this result had no statistical significance. Of possible greater statistical significance is a slight increase with radiation dose for some types of leukemia. Overall, the statistical uncertainties were large enough that the analysis did not rule out linearity or any of the other alternative dose-response curves indicated in Figure 15-1-although it does set an upper limit on the possible magnitude of a hypothesized supra-linearity effect.

The study being discussed it this one, which, by the way, concludes:

These estimates, which did not differ significantly across cohorts or between men and women, are the most comprehensive and precise direct estimates of cancer risk associated with low-dose protracted exposures obtained to date. Although they are lower than the linear estimates obtained from studies of atomic bomb survivors, they are compatible with a range of possibilities, from a reduction of risk at low doses, to risks twice those on which current radiation protection recommendations are based. Overall, the results of this study do not suggest that current radiation risk estimates for cancer at low levels of exposure are appreciably in error.

Coulter also makes much of a study of shipyard workers from 1991:

A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships’ nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

The reference for this is:

Matanoski, G. M. (1991) Health Effects of Low-Level radiation in Shipyard Workers, Final Report, DOE/EV/10095-T2, National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia, USA.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a hold of this report online over the weekend. I did, however, find the more recent reanalysis of the data from 2008 by Matanoski et al published in the Journal of Radiation Research. What Matanoski found wa that most of the differences in mortality and cancer rates found between shipyard workers who serviced nuclear ships and shipyard workers who did not were not significant, although there did appear to be trends towards increased risk of leukemias and other cancers with increasing dose. Overall, as far as saying anything about the association between radiation exposure and cancer, at best this study could be described as inconclusive. Certainly it’s exceedingly thin gruel to make such definitive statements about hormesis. As for the lower all-cause mortality among the nuclear workers, that is almost certainly due to phenomenon known as the “healthy worker effect“; i.e., the selective recruiting of healthier than average persons into the industry who have continued access to better than average health care.

Similarly thin gruel is this claim by Coulter:

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings’ 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum “safe” level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Not exactly. Actually, not at all. It’s not even thin gruel; it’s misrepresentation, either intentional or through Coulter’s laziness in researching the article. Coulter, as usual, is exhibiting willful ignorance by citing old data. In fact, more recent analyses of the Taiwanese population that lived in these buildings do not support her claims at all. The most recent followup study I could find was published in 2006 in the International Journal of Radiation Biology by Hwang et al. The results were:

A total of 7271 people were registered as the exposed population, with 101,560 person-years at risk. The average excess cumulative exposure was approximately 47.8 mSv (range 5 1 – 2,363 mSv). A total of 141 exposed subjects with various cancers were observed, while 95 developed leukemia or solid cancers after more than 2 or 10 years initial residence in contaminated buildings respectively. The SIR were significantly higher for all leukemia except chronic lymphocytic leukemia (n1⁄46, SIR1⁄43.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-7.4) in men, and marginally significant for thyroid cancers (n1⁄46, SIR 1⁄4 2.6, 95% CI 1.0 – 5.7) in women. On the other hand, all cancers combined, all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks in individuals with the initial exposure before the age of 30, but not beyond this age.

Hwang et al concluded:

The results suggest that prolonged low dose-rate radiation exposure appeared to increase risks of developing certain cancers in specific subgroups of this population in Taiwan.

So, basically, Coulter is completely wrong about the Taiwan incident. There is an increased incidence of cancer in young people, at least, who lived in those apartment buildings. Science is hard, isn’t it? Coulter’s also on seriously dubious footing when she cites Professor Bernard L. Cohen, whose various studies of the relationship between radon and lung cancer buck the established consensus that radon is a risk factor for lung cancer. (Yes, this is the very same Bernard Cohen who wrote the JPANDS article I mentioned earlier in this post; to me his having published in JPANDS is to me a huge hit on any credibility he might have had.) It turns out that Cohen probably didn’t control adequately for smoking in his studies because a reanalysis of his reported data demonstrated similar, strongly negative correlations between radon exposure and cancers strongly linked to cigarette smoking and weaker negative correlations between radon and cancers moderately associated with smoking. No such correlation was found for cancers not linked to smoking. These results strongly suggest that Cohen didn’t adequately control for smoking in his analysis. Another criticism points out that Cohen fell prey to the ecological fallacy and suggested that county-level data probably do not represent the best units to detect a correlation between radon and lung cancer.

Coulter’s final claims center on the Chernobyl disaster and victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In particular, she claims that only 30 people died in the plant as a direct result of the disaster and further downplays the risk of cancer in the survivors, stating:

Even the thyroid cancers in people who lived near the reactor were attributed to low iodine in the Russian diet — and consequently had no effect on the cancer rate.

As is usually the case for any scientific claims made by Coulter, this is utter rubbish. Unfortunately for Coulter, her timing in publishing her article was exquisitely bad. On the very next day after her article was published, the National Cancer Institute released the most comprehensive study yet of thyroid cancer in Chernobyl survivors. The findings indicated that radioactive iodine (131I) from the fallout from the reactor was likely responsible for thyroid cancers that are still occurring among people who lived near the reactor and that the risk of this cancer is not declining. In other words, no, Ann, the hugely elevated levels of thyroid cancer among people who live near Chernobyl when the reactor disaster occurred are not due to iodine deficiency in the Russian diet. There is some evidence that iodine deficiency might have increased the risk of 131I-induced cancers, particularly in the youngest, but that’s not what Coulter said. She implied that iodine deficiency could account for the elevated incidence of thyroid cancer among those affected by the fallout. Much more about the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster can be found here. It should also be noted that most people who lived in the area were not exposed to that much radiation according to the United Nations-sponsored team investigating. Most were exposed to about 9 mSv, about 1/3 the equivalent of a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, once the short-term doses to the thyroid were subtracted

Poor Ann. That’s what you get for not doing a bit more research. Basically, every claim she makes in her article can be shown to be either mistaken, grossly exaggerated, or based on old evidence. She even cites Tom Bethell, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, as a source. Bethell is an all-purpose right-wing science denialist, who, besides viewing scientists as attention whores who trump up alarmist findings in order to secure more research funding and castigates science for its commitment to “materialism,” also denies evolution and anthropogenic global warming. He even rejects relativity and embraces “AIDS reappraisal,” while extending his view on hormesis to argue that hormesis actually protects us from toxic chemicals in the environment that, according to him, we don’t have to worry about nearly as much as environmentalists say we do. In fact, Coulter includes a paragraph in her article that is so unintentionally hilarious that I can’t help but cite it:

Although it is hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit, there’s certainly evidence that it decreases the risk of some cancers — and there are plenty of scientists willing to say so. But Jenny McCarthy’s vaccine theories get more press than Harvard physics professors’ studies on the potential benefits of radiation. (And they say conservatives are anti-science!)

I doubt that Coulter appreciates the irony encompassed by this paragraph, given that this paragraph is further encompassed by an article that uses many of the same deceptive techniques of argumentation that the anti-vaccine movement, as epitomized by Jenny McCarthy, likes to use. Indeed, Jenny McCarthy frequently says that there are “plenty of scientists” willing to say that vaccines cause autism and a panoply of other health problems. Coulter then digs herself in deeper by correctly mentioning that Botox is a poison that is safe to use at high doses (Jenny McCarthy loves Botox, actually) and then pointing out the principle that many poisons are safe and beneficial at low doses but dangerous at high doses. If these arguments didn’t occur within the context of her spewing of misinformation, Coulter might actually be making some sense. Too bad she couldn’t resist adding:

Every day Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron — all poisons.

They get flu shots.

Perhaps Coulter has more in common with Jenny McCarthy than she would like to admit. Actually, there’s no “perhaps” about it. Coulter will also say whatever fits her political viewpoint. Last week she was ranting about how radiation is good for you. Back in November, she was complaining that the new Transportation Security Administration scanners do pose a “radiological danger.”

These scanners result in a dose of 0.001 mSv for about 5 seconds of full body exposure, and even frequent fliers would be exposed to much less radiation than Coulter is claiming to be just fine. Indeed, Ann Coulter should be lining up to be scanned. After all, that little radiation is good for you!

Is hormesis a real phenomenon?

Despite my irritation, I was rather grateful for Coulter’s article. It did remind me of a rather fascinating debate in radiobiology over what model best describes the biological effects of radiation. Hormesis might indeed be a real phenomenon in humans, but it’s been very difficult to demonstrate. Even one of the best review articles I’ve found that argues for the existence of hormesis as a phenomenon, an article by Tubiana et al entitled The Linear No-Threshold Relationship Is Inconsistent with Radiation Biologic and Experimental Data doesn’t exactly argue for hormesis. Rather, it argues that the LNT model is inconsistent with the data and needs to be modified to more of a threshold model, in which doses below a certain threshold are probably harmless but above a certain threshold start to increase the risk of disease. Arrayed against these sorts of arguments are scientists like Rudi H. Nussbaum and Wolfgang Köhnlein, who call hormesis and the zero-risk threshold dose “scientifically refuted, but stubborn myths.” They even argue that in some cases the risk of low level radiation exposure might well be underestimated. Not surprisingly, in her article Coulter used nearly every myth that Nussbaum and Köhnlein deconstruct in their paper.

Hormesis is clearly an area of science that is as yet controversial. The reason is because it’s difficult to demonstrate definitively one way or another whether hormesis occurs in humans in response to low dose radiation. As I mentioned above, the signal-to-noise ratio for studies of low dose radiation is very low. Moreover, studies of low dose radiation have been conflicting, although we can say with a fair amount of confidence, based on my review of the literature, that, if hormesis occurs, it probably occurs only below doses of 100 mSv. Remember, 30 mSv is the dose received from a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis and can be estimated to increase one’s lifetime risk of a fatal cancer by 1 in 1000 to 1 in 500 in pediatric patients, while most people receive around 3 mSv per year from background radiation. To put this all into context, XKCD has a very useful chart that describes how much radiation we receive from various sources. Another good perspective comes from a recent AP article on the topic, which takes a much more balanced perspective.

The bottom line is that we just don’t know whether hormesis is a real phenomenon for radiation response in humans. Lacking that knowledge, we do know that the LNT model is a reasonable approximation for purposes of regulation because it is simple and defensible. Even so, different professional organization bodies have started to question it. For example, the French Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine published a report in 2005 that stated:

In conclusion, this report raises doubts on the validity of using LNT for evaluating the carcinogenic risk of low doses (< 100 mSv) and even more for very low doses (< 10 mSv). The LNT concept can be a useful pragmatic tool for assessing rules in radioprotection for doses above 10 mSv; however since it is not based on biological concepts of our current knowledge, it should not be used without precaution for assessing by extrapolation the risks associated with low and even more so, with very low doses (< 10 mSv), especially for benefit-risk assessments imposed on radiologists by the European directive 97-43.

The Health Physics Society’s position statement, revised in July 2010, states:

In accordance with current knowledge of radiation health risks, the Health Physics Society recommends against quantitative estimation of health risks below an individual dose of 5 rem in one year or a lifetime dose of 10 rem above that received from natural sources. Doses from natural background radiation in the United States average about 0.3 rem per year. A dose of 5 rem will be accumulated in the first 17 years of life and about 25 rem in a lifetime of 80 years. Estimation of health risk associated with radiation doses that are of similar magnitude as those received from natural sources should be strictly qualitative and encompass a range of hypothetical health outcomes, including the possibility of no adverse health effects at such low levels.

Again, we just don’t know. My guess is that hormesis, if it occurs in humans in response to radiation, is not nearly as potent a phenomenon as its adherents claim. My further guess is that the way hormesis is invoked as a scientific explanation for homeopathy doesn’t help its reputation. Be that as it may, until science settles the question, I do know that, contrary to what Coulter claims in her nonsensical arguments, low dose radiation is not a magical “cancer vaccine.” At the very best, low dose radiation might not hurt you or might have some very slight benefits. At worst, it might actually hurt you more than the current scientific consensus accepts. That’s too wide range of possibilities and too much uncertainty to be laying down a barrage of misinformation as intense as Coulter’s.

Comments

  1. #1 James Haight
    March 31, 2011

    Why oh why does she keep saying “minimum” when I think what she means is “maximum?” Am I stupid?

  2. #2 Ktesibios
    March 31, 2011

    Since she doesn’t seem to grasp the distinction between being exposed to radiation and ingesting radioactive substances-

    I wonder if there are any surviving bottle of Radi-Thor still around somewhere. Perhaps everyone could chip in to buy her some.

    After all, it’s good for you!

  3. #3 jre
    March 31, 2011

    As you have mentioned, NCRP Report 136 is not available for download except at a hefty fee (not much of a public service, in my view). An excellent pro and con discussion by David Brenner (co-author of the report) and Otto Raabe, however, is. It’s worth a read.

  4. #4 Adam_Y
    March 31, 2011

    As you have mentioned, NCRP Report 136 is not available for download except at a hefty fee (not much of a public service, in my view). An excellent pro and con discussion by David Brenner (co-author of the report) and Otto Raabe, however, is. It’s worth a read.

    If you don’t live in the boonies its incredibly easy to get.

  5. #5 Denice Walter
    March 31, 2011

    Unlike the chipper Coulter, Mikey A. has been releasing toxic articles about the horrors of radiation nearly every day for the past two weeks ( NaturalNews). Similarly, Null has exposed his listeners to the “true dangers” of radiation( all last week; progressiveradionetwork/archives/ garynullshow).

    Unsurprisingly, both then offer up nutritional solutions ( Iodine, Chorella, Spirulina, etc.) for those whose health has been compromised by emissions**. They also happen to sell these products: how convenient!

    ** radiation in the form of radio waves can be injurious to your health if you listen to woo-meisters’ advice and then follow-through.

  6. #6 Poodle Stomper
    March 31, 2011

    I could see how it would be possible that it could work. We have similar responses to other stresses such as heat and cold shock. Exposing cells to lower levels of heat or cold allows them to temporarily adapt and be able to survive conditions that un-shocked cells can’t. On the other hand, that she would make such claims (which contradicted her prior claims of the TSA) is also not surprising.

  7. #7 MikeMa
    March 31, 2011

    Ann Coulter, wrong and stupid and sure of herself enough to shout it to the world. This may be a case where the audience will actually suffer if they listen to her. Go Ann!

  8. #8 informania
    March 31, 2011

    Toxicity does depend on the type of radiation; sunlight (UV) seems to fit the hormesis model, facilitating vitamin D synthesis and killing of micro-organisms on the skin.. But leading to serious burns and increased cancer risk at too high a dose.

  9. #9 Steven Elliott
    March 31, 2011

    Wow… what else can I say? What an evil woman!!!

  10. #10 dt
    March 31, 2011

    Rarely have I seen a better Dunning-Kruger exhibit in action.

    What Anne Coulter really needs is one of these up her butt:

    http://entrepeuner-artphoto.blogspot.com/2010/06/radium-rectal-suppositories.html

  11. #11 Liz
    March 31, 2011

    Am I the only one waiting for her to pull off the wig, reveal herself as a tranny and confess her whole career has been a satirical farce making fun of the right? Like some kind of Andy Kaufman meets Stephen Colbert?

  12. #12 squirrelelite
    March 31, 2011

    Depleted Cranium had an extensive article a few days ago explaining radiation doses and reviewing symptoms, treatment and mortality for different levels of radiation doses.

    http://depletedcranium.com/putting-radiation-exposure-in-context/

  13. #13 Joseph Satriano
    March 31, 2011

    i can only hope ms. coulter someday finds what she is looking for at the bottom of a mine tunnel.

  14. #14 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    March 31, 2011

    Liz–

    Would it make any actual difference to Coulter’s statements, or how harmful they were, if she turned out to be transgender rather than a ciswoman? Or if she’s cisgendered but wearing a wig for some other reason?

    Seriously: there are lots of real reasons to attack Coulter, including that, if it’s satire, she’s doing it wrong: she’s getting rich, but nobody is laughing. There’s no need to stoop to bigoted insults, or to compare innocent transgendered people to right-wing hate-mongers.

  15. #15 lilady
    March 31, 2011

    Coulter Never misses an opportunity for a column or a TV appearance…after a tragedy. (definition of a celebrity whore). She is the darling of the right wing nuts who are sooo impressed with her intellectual “prowess” and adds a little glam panache to the “cause”.

  16. #16 Ken
    March 31, 2011

    James Haight: “Why oh why does she keep saying “minimum” when I think what she means is “maximum?” ”

    It’s consistent with the overall pattern. Taiwan incident – Coulter says lower incidence, the study she supposedly read actually says higher. Chernobyl – Coulter says lower incidence, the next day a study says higher. I think she just can’t tell up from down, or bigger from smaller.

    (Well, no, that’s not fair. I think she can tell them apart, and Orac put his finger on the actual problem: “those pointy-headed (and, of course, liberal) environmentalists”. Coulter belongs to that large fraction of the American right who reflexively take the opposite position from what they perceive as liberal/Democratic causes. Or at least, that’s how she makes her money.)

  17. #17 The Founding Mothers
    March 31, 2011

    Hi Orac et al. Long time reader, first time poster.

    I particularly loved it when she squealed “The media refuses to talk about these results. Ya know, the results I read about in both the NY and London Times. And that I’m currently screeching about on TV.”

    And her resemblance to Cher in a blonde wig says nothing about her ability to put forward a coherent argument, nor her transgender status. Does it?

  18. #18 palindrom
    March 31, 2011

    Thanks for putting this together.

    I’ve been over at that wretched hive of scum and quackery, the Huffington post, which has been featuring the most alarmist coverage they can find about the Fukushima accident, resulting in paroxysms of self-righteous paranoia among the ill-informed commenters. It seems to me like nuclear power may well be a bad idea — it’s probably uneconomic and too dangerous (and we need to get those spent fuel rods put away somewhere less vulnerable), but there are people commenting over there who seem to be convinced that we here in the US will soon all die horribly because of this accident in Japan, that it’s way worse than Chernobyl, etc. etc. It’s been an interesting ride.

  19. #19 Alcari
    March 31, 2011

    Coulter’s “thinking” seems to be along the lines of “The government tells us radiation is bad for you, therefore, radiation is good for you.”

  20. #20 ithinktoomuch
    March 31, 2011

    it’s a tiny little quibble that doesn’t really change anything, but the TSA porno scanners are emitting 10 times the radiation previously thought. Here is a link with an embedded video (just a radio personality, I wouldn’t bother with the video): http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/21/958635/-TSA-Porno-Scanners-emitting-10-time-radiation-we-were-told

    The reason that it doesn’t really change anything, is because even at 10x the radiation dosage previously thought, we’re still talking about tiny amounts.

    However, if I had kids, they’d definitely be getting the pat-down. This article has taught me one thing: kids, teens, and anyone under 30 are more at-risk for radiation-related cancer than the rest of us, so it pays to be more conservative with them. That and, Coulter is an idiot, but I knew that already.

  21. #21 qetzal
    March 31, 2011

    Just to repeat my comment from elsewhere, it’s suspect meaningless to argue whether radiation exposure exhibits hormesis. There are different kinds of radiation, including alpha and beta particles and gamma rays. They have different effects. It’s also very different to be exposed to an external source of radiation vs ingesting it. And even if you hold all that constant, the time profile of exposure almost certainly makes a difference. Exposure at a high rate for a short time is not equivalent to exposure at one-thousandth the rate for a thousand times longer.

    Bottom line – I highly doubt you can generalize about hormesis for radiation. Even if hormesis was proven for one set of exposure conditions, it would likely be difficult or impossible to extrapolate to any other set of conditions.

  22. #22 tresmal
    March 31, 2011

    One possibility that seems likely to me is that if hormesis is a real phenomenon in humans then background radiation is more than enough to stimulate it.

  23. #23 augustine
    March 31, 2011

    ALL SBMers should watch “Toxic Sludge is Good for You.”

  24. #24 SD
    April 1, 2011

    I couldn’t sit for 5 minutes in the same room as that woman. What an annoying, rude person. I can’t stand people who won’t let anyone else get a word in, and just shout their opinion louder. I have a personal acquaintance who does this, and as a result I now refuse to engage her in any kind of debate.

    I also found this recent article on the Taiwanese buildings she mentions.

    http://oem.bmj.com/content/67/3/187.abstract

  25. #25 Dunc
    April 1, 2011

    Since she doesn’t seem to grasp the distinction between being exposed to radiation and ingesting radioactive substances

    She’s hardly the only one… That XKCD chart which everyone seems so fond of doesn’t make that distinction either. I’ve handled radioisotopes in the lab without any worry, but I washed my hands afterwards.

  26. #26 palindrom
    April 1, 2011

    alcan@19 — That’s about right; meanwhile, over at HuffPo, the thinking of many seems to be “The government tells us that the fallout level in the US is almost undetectable and of no concern, therefore it must be a horrible health problem.” It’s remarkable to me how politicized scientific issues have become (though after following global warming for a while, nothing should surprise me any more.) High levels of radiation are obviously very bad for you, but the paranoia of some in the antinuclear camp is ridiculous. This is unfortunate since it makes it so easy to caricature those who have more reasoned concerns by lumping them with the know-nothings. Not to mention the people who may be gulping potassium iodide

  27. #27 Andreas Johansson
    April 1, 2011

    Ann Coulter? Maybe I’m following the wrong media these days, but isn’t she like totally middle of the last decade?

  28. #28 healthphysicist
    April 1, 2011

    The “gold” standard on radiation health effects in the U.S. is the National Academies of Science’s BEIR VII, which concluded that the LNT model is the best model which fits the data. They considered but excluded hormesis:

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030909156X

    I wish Ms. Coulter a happy holiday today.

  29. #29 Tim Martin
    April 1, 2011

    Wow, I have never seen Bill O’Reilly look so freakin reasonable! My favorite part is where he just trails off with a long “Come ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon.”

    Anyway, thanks for this very informative rebuttal!

  30. #30 sadmar
    April 1, 2011

    Vicki:
    I believe you misread the post from ‘Liz.’ Rather than comparing a transgendered person to a right-wing pundit, it would seem to posit them as being mutually exclusive categories. The comparisons to Colbert and Kaufman are surely meant as positive. If Coulter revealed a gender masquerade, that would make the joke on the right cut even deeper, as they would have been fooled by an Other they despise. ‘Tranny’ is not necessarily an insult among the transgendered, and often more of a ‘wear-it-proud’ declaration.

  31. #31 sadmar
    April 1, 2011

    ‘Toxic Sludge is Good for You’ is a muckraking book (I mean that as a compliment, and not literally…) about the Public Relations industry by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampson. These authors have published several books on this and related topics, which might be of interest to ‘skeptics’. An Amazon list of their books: http://tinyurl.com/3k7tnhp

  32. #32 Knightly
    April 1, 2011

    You guys worry too much. This problem is self-correcting.

  33. #33 sidhe3141
    April 1, 2011

    Seen this kind of idiocy before, when I made the mistake of reading a Politically Incorrect Guide. Which also made the claim that there’s no such thing as plutonium poisoning.

  34. #34 Sas
    April 1, 2011

    Sadmar,

    The joke does not posit Ann as a positive trans figure, it relies on the bigoted idea that trans women are fake women seeking to deceive people. That idea is both insulting and the reason that trans women suffer an incredibly high murder rate. Think about it; Liz did not merely posit that Ann is playacting a fake personality like Colbert and Kaufman.

    And yes, “tranny” is used as a reclaimed term by SOME trans people. The vast majority of its use is as a bigoted slur, so it’s not something we appreciate cis people tossing around all the time.

  35. #35 Raincitygirl
    April 1, 2011

    Thank you, Vicki and Sas. I speak as a cisgender woman who has transgender friends, and none of them would find Liz’s comments to be a positive “reclaiming” of a hurtful word.

    Helpful hint for would-be reclaimers: you can only reclaim what you are. I’ve been known to refer to myself as a “dyke” but if a straight person used that word to refer to me, unless that person was a very close friend of mine, I would not be especially happy. I’ve had that word directed at me as an insult in the past, and it was hurtful. Similarly, I would hesitate to use the word “tranny” to refer to one of my aforementioned transgender friends, because that’s not my identity.

  36. #36 sadmar
    April 1, 2011

    Sas:
    Scuse me if this derails the thread, but you are simply wrong in saying “the joke does not posit Ann as a positive trans figure” because it does not posit Ann as a trans figure, period. The joke requires us to imagine an alternate reality, conjure a fantasy. “IF ‘Ann Coulter’ was a hoax constructed by a transgendered performance artist to expose the silliness of right wing ideology, wouldn’t that be cool and serve those assholes right.” (Yes, it would.) It is not a proposition about the real world.
    As it is, ‘Ann Coulter’ is not an actual person, but a calculatingly constructed celebrity image. She IS a fake seeking to deceive people. You would deny Liz her imagination that the tables might be turned, the fakery flipped to subversive ends rather than oppressive ones?
    This has nothing whatsoever to do with REAL LIFE transsexuals, or the bigotry and violence they face. (Yes, I know who Venus Xtravaganza was, and Brandon Teena.)

    And yes, “tranny” is used as a reclaimed term by SOME trans people. The vast majority of its use is as a bigoted slur

    Well, all the evidence available to me suggests otherwise. Perhaps your experience represents a different subculture. I come from the arts/humanities/pop culture world, one which is very queer positive. In fact I cannot recall any use of ‘tranny’ in a genuinely pejorative way (as opposed to a mock/ironic… well, QUEER way.) Not that I have never encountered bigotry against people who do not fit gender norms. I have, and believe me, the haters have much worse words than ‘tranny’ in their vocabularies and have no hesitation in using them.
    However, to go beyond the anecdotal, check the definitions of ‘tranny’ (http://tinyurl.com/3q7wg8w) and ‘hot tyranny mess’ (http://tinyurl.com/44cjagr) on Urban Dictionary. You will find that the ‘reclaimed’ senses (#3, #5, #8: entries by transgendered users) have far higher ratings than those that either define the term as bigoted (#7) or express bigotry (#9). You will also find that the #1 rated definition treats the whole subject as a joke in a very ‘gay’ form of camp humor.
    So really Sas, you have no business, on a web forum devoted to promoting reason over willful ignorance, projecting your own perceptions onto other people and presuming to act as some kind of definitive arbiter of what slang terms do or do not mean.
    And BTW, the whole point of Andy Kaufman’s art was that you never knew when he was acting, or more precisely where the line between playacting and being was drawn exactly.

  37. #37 Sas
    April 1, 2011

    Sadmar,

    Liz said Ann would “reveal herself as a tranny”. Yes, that DOES portray her as a trans woman no matter how you want to spin it. Whether it is a fantasy or whatever other convoluted excuse you want to use, it is still based on bigoted ideas that have impact in the real world.

    Furthermore, I am a transsexual woman. So yes, I do have business stating what slang terms are offensive to me and many other trans women and I don’t give a rat’s ass what people on urbandictionary upvoted. Seriously, you’re offering votes on a website as a “rational” proof? I think PZ Myers should have a word with you.

    Well, all the evidence available to me suggests otherwise. Perhaps your experience represents a different subculture.

    My experience represents an actual trans person who you’re lecturing on what slurs I have to accept from cis people. My experience represents someone who has been called “tranny” in the very threatening way you claim is just a camp joke.

    (Yes, I know who Venus Xtravaganza was, and Brandon Teena.)

    You want a cookie for knowing about two trans people who died over eighteen years ago? Did you expect to establish trans cred by name-dropping them? Did you know there were over 500 trans people murdered last year, and that’s just the reported cases? Did you know that many of their murderers get sympathetic treatment because of the common bigoted idea that trans people are deceivers?

  38. #38 Chris
    April 1, 2011

    I do not understand why anyone would use transgender as an insult.

    The argument should be on a person’s actions, not on their looks or even previous line of work. I believe one could discredit Jenny McCarthy just by her changing stories and stating complete falsehoods, without going into her previous career for Playboy. The same with Ms. Coulter. Her words are damning enough.

    (And it is with amusement that one troll here, Little Augie, keeps trying to insult me by saying that I think okay that some people are transexuals. It stems from his inherent sexism when finding out I was an engineer before I was a mother.)

  39. #39 mike crichton
    April 1, 2011

    Tresmal: It would not surprise me if the optimal dose of radiation turns out to be an exact match for the background radiation in the east African savannahs we evolved in.

  40. #40 Narad
    April 1, 2011

    Furthermore, I am a transsexual woman. So yes, I do have business stating what slang terms are offensive to me and many other trans women and I don’t give a rat’s ass what people on urbandictionary upvoted.

    I think I’m going to enjoy rereading this post for some time to come.

  41. #41 lilady
    April 2, 2011

    @ Sas: “Did you know that over 500 trans people were murdered last year……”

    From http://www.Transrespect/TransphobiaTDOR the number of “trans” people murdered November 20, 2009-November 19,2010 inclusive, is 179 total worldwide (includes 14 “trans” people in the United States).

  42. #42 Sasha Pan
    April 2, 2011

    Yup. That ‘Liberals: They Blinded Us With Science’ article is despicable. How dare Coulter take issue with the media obsession with Science-by-Celebrity and ‘If it bleeds (exhibits a type I error) it leads’. That stands against all the principles your weblog has embraced.

  43. #43 Sas
    April 2, 2011

    @lilady

    Oops, you’re right, I was thinking of their latest tally and (in my admittedly angry state) misremembered it as being just last year rather than the last three years. That’s still a huge amount for such a small group of people.

  44. #44 Neil Craig
    April 2, 2011

    Despite the word count you make no attempt to produce any actual evidence for LNT. That is because there is none. None whatsoever.

    It was invented by bureaucrats because it gave them a simple and overcautious rule but it is not and never has been science.

    Without going through everything – I will show the fault and clear bias in the attempted refutation of the Taiwan case. It referrs to having found a positive correlation with leukemia & then points out that it is only among people under 30. Out of a population of 7000 the number who are both under 30 and cancerous must be less than the fingers of one hand. If we are talking of 1 or 2 cases it it is not statistically viable and anybody basing their case on it must know that.

    The evidence for hormesis, on the other hand, comes from a large number of unrelated sources, some them using very large populations (the whole US population and the level of radon in homes), some repeatable (laboratory examination of plants and cultures); some over immense times (natural radiation in part of Iran and of India is 200 times normal background and has been since we lived in the trees); and some thoroughly studied accidents where exposure can be fully known (Taiwan & the radium watch dial cases). All of them strongly support hormesis.

    This is a collection of links to evidence on the subject. I offered to do a collection of links proving LNT but nobody had any. Perhaps the writer of this article can do so – the offer remains open. http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2010/03/low-level-radiation-evidence-that-it-is.html

    LNT is the basis of the entire anti-nuclear scare movement. If has deprived the human race of inexpensive nuclear electricity and probably thereby cut our wealth by about 60% and allowed millions to die in cold and poverty. If it is not scientifically proven this makes the global warming scam and perhaps even the DDT one look as small as the medieval witchburning one.

  45. #45 NJ
    April 2, 2011

    NC @ 44:

    If it is not scientifically proven this makes the global warming scam and perhaps even the DDT one look as small as the medieval witchburning one.

    …aaaand this one sentence allows us to figure out his whole comment.

    Parroting what he’s been told by people out to mislead him. Without actually understanding any of it.

    Buh-bye.

  46. #46 lilady
    April 2, 2011

    @ Sas: See, a little sleep helps. I hate to see people go off topic. I think you realize that we are a “live and let live” group of people, who pull the rug out from under the pseudo science charlatans…sometimes we even get into politics or religion…

    I confess that I compare Coulter to the Alaskan Diva, who twists everything in her mind and says the most outrageous and fallacious things…all to hang on to her “base”, but instead of saying “reload” she actually reloads her mouth. At the risk of slamming red-blooded “true” Americans far-to-the right males…there is something that attracts them to these dominatrix types.

    As I stated up-post Coulter never fails to take advantage of a tragedy to assert the contrary view (definition of a publicity whore).

    Anyone murdered for being “different” or for being perceived as “different” is a tragedy and a hate crime. Case in point: a 16 month old boy was battered to death by his babysitter because “he acted like a sissy”.

  47. #47 Sas
    April 2, 2011

    @lilady: Well, I have been lurking at RI for like three years. ;) That’s why I was so distressed to see the topic come up in connection to Coulter (though not surprised because someone makes that dumb joke in almost every thread about her everywhere online).

  48. #48 Bronze Dog
    April 2, 2011

    I roll my eyes whenever some dink bases some insult of Ann Coulter on her appearance. Yes, I think she’s unattractive, too, but it’s just stupid to bring it up when she’s spreading anti-science ideas.

  49. #49 sadmar
    April 2, 2011

    Sas:
    I am sorry people treat you badly. In my teens (I’m 57) one of my mother’s friends was an M-F pre-operative transsexual. She worked in the health field and lived in the suburbs, so her environment was not supportive. Things were very difficult for her. That’s just all kinds of wrong.
    However, my personal sympathy for your experiences does not extend to giving you a free pass on rhetorical excess, especially when your position implicitly impugns another socially marginalized group: gay men.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass what people on urbandictionary upvoted. Seriously, you’re offering votes on a website as a “rational” proof?

    Nowhere did I use the word ‘proof’. Ratings on UrbanDictionary are indicators of how a large database of users understand the meanings of slang terms. They don’t ‘prove’ anything, however they are evidence.

    So yes, I do have business stating what slang terms are offensive to me and many other trans women

    Of course you do. But by adding the qualifier ‘to me and others’ you have created a straw-man by suggesting I object to the statement phrased that way. Which I do not. What I objected to was your claim that this offensiveness is the undeniable root meaning of the term ‘tranny.’ For this, you offered no evidence at all. You have now added the anecdotal evidence of your own experience and that of other women you know. There is, as I noted, also evidence on Urban Dictionary that a fair number of other people feel the same way about the term. However, all this remains vastly outweighed by the remaining evidence, which suggests that, like most words and especially slang, the meaning of the term is highly variable, contested and context dependent.

    My experience represents someone who has been called “tranny” in the very threatening way you claim is just a camp joke.

    Another straw man. I did NOT claim that every utterance of ‘tranny’ is a camp joke. Obviously, if you have personally been called ‘tranny’ in a threatening way, that is not a joke of any kind. Any kind of threats to individuals are abhorent. The only claim I made about camp humor is that I interpret entry #1 on UrbanDictionary as expressing that. That’s clearly a subjective interpretation. By implication though, I could draw out a hypothesis to the effect of: “Utterances of ‘tranny’ in a humorous or positive sense are more common than utterances of ‘tranny’ in a threatening or genuinely derogatory sense.”
    Nothing in that hypothesis delegitimates your personal experience, or claims that anyone calling YOU a ‘tranny’ is a joke. What we are talking about is YOUR original claim: “The vast majority of its use is as a bigoted slur,” and your implied agreement with Vicki that Liz’s post was bigoted. You still have offered no evidence or argument for either of these claims.
    And if you could have offered a better interpretation of Liz’s post, supported by the text, than my “IF ‘Ann Coulter’ was a hoax constructed by a transgendered performance artist to expose the silliness of right wing ideology, wouldn’t that be cool and serve those assholes right” you would have done so, instead of just asserting that your perceptions of things are right because you say so.
    What no one has any business doing is trying to read Liz’s mind, or asserting some definitive objective connection between an Ann Coulter joke and reality.
    There would have been any number of ways for you and Vicki to express your feelings without making condemning assumptions about Liz. Vicki could have said:

    I do not understand how you mean us to read a comparison of transgendered people to right-wing hate mongers.Would it make any actual difference to Coulter’s statements, or how harmful they were, if she turned out to be transgender rather than a ciswoman? Or if she’s cisgendered but wearing a wig for some other reason? Furthermore, many transgendered people, including regular contributors to Respectful Insolence, find the term ‘tranny’ to be an offensive insult. I would hope we could critique Ann Coulter for her ludicrous misrepresentations of science and leave gender out of the discussion.

    Would that not make the point without impugning Liz’s motives, or acting like a slang-Nazi? I probably wouldn’t have replied to such a comment, and if I had, the whole context would have been different.
    I can certainly say this: if you address the language and avoid the ad hominem attacks you have a more persuasive point. Posts in these comment threads are very chippy. That’s not going to help you push back against the bad guys. This is politics. You need to have some social skills to build a movement. (And I say that as someone admittedly lacking in that area…). For example, if you said something like:

    You’re right sadmar, I can’t really know what Liz meant, or how other people use the term in their own circles. I just want people to know that there are other users here who find the term hurtful, and ask that we avoid it in the future as a gesture toward creating a more supportive community.

    you might even make some friends.
    p.s.

    Did you expect to establish trans cred by name-dropping two trans people who died over eighteen years ago?

    No. I expected to establish that I was not totally ignorant of the issue you raised, which is far short of establishing ‘cred.’ But I feel the need to drop another name, not to validate my position, but perhaps just to note that the trans community is not monolithic, and to remind folks here about the virtual part of virtual reality: Sandy Stone.

  50. #50 Chris
    April 2, 2011

    sadmar, usually it is better to put the shovel down and stop digging when you find yourself in a hole. Just remember there are plenty of things to discuss about a person’s ideas without having to go into their physical attributes.

    Here are some words you might try next time: “I am sorry I offended you. I will try to remember next time.”

  51. #51 herr doktor bimler
    April 2, 2011

    Neil Craig: If it is not scientifically proven this makes the global warming scam and perhaps even the DDT one look as small as the medieval witchburning one.

    Neil Craig’s website is good for a giggle. He describes Orac’s blog as “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards” and compares himself a lot to Galileo in his lone fight against the Linear No-Threshold model.

  52. #52 Sas
    April 2, 2011

    I’m just going to leave this and this here and bow out of this discussion because it’s already exhausted me.

    Being a “slang-Nazi” can be so much work.

  53. #53 herr doktor bimler
    April 2, 2011

    Trying again:
    Neil Craig’s website is good for a giggle. He describes Orac’s blog as “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards” and compares himself a lot to Galileo in his lone fight against the Linear No-Threshold model.

  54. #54 Narad
    April 2, 2011

    Posts in these comment threads are very chippy. That’s not going to help you push back against the bad guys.

    Where’s the Crack Emcee when you really need him?

  55. #55 Ken
    April 2, 2011

    Andreas Johansson wrote: Ann Coulter? Maybe I’m following the wrong media these days, but isn’t she like totally middle of the last decade?

    Yup, her niche has now been occupied by Sarah Palin. However, unlike unemployment benefits, wingnut welfare never expires; once you’re in, you never have to worry about honest work again, no matter how passe your act becomes.

  56. #56 sadmar
    April 2, 2011

    Ok, so I wasted bandwidth trying to reason with people who imagine they are beyond any and all critique, and think anyone who says ‘huh?’ is some kind of bigot. My bad. Let’s get back to Ann Coulter and Physics.
    The title of this thread offers a rhetorical question I would guess the author framed with some tinge of irony (at least as a possibility). But the literal answer, of course, is that Ann Coulter won.
    Now, certainly Orac has pulled Coulter’s appearance on O’Reilly into the ring of science, truth, reason etc. with the blog entry above. Here he deftly responded to Coulter’s Chuck Wepner-like flailing swings with counter-punches reminiscent of The Greatest at his best. It’s a unanimous decision. The blog entry dances around the ring, the 3-figure crowd of skeptics cheer heartily, and the Coulter video skulks away in humiliation and defeat.
    But Ann Coulter has not been fazed in the least. She is utterly oblivious to the Orac-gnat buzzing near her head, and if you could somehow make her aware of what happened in the ring of science, truth, reason etc. she would surely laugh in your face.
    Because Ann Coulter knows this: she went on Fox News, and presented her BS with enough science-like lingo combined with her usual assertiveness that most of the 3 million people watching bought it.
    That is the actual rating for that episode of the O’Reilly Factor. Three MILLION.
    Fox news whacked Physics over the head, bound it and gagged it and tossed it into a basement where Coulter re-enacted scenes from Hostel and Saw on its helpless body. Thus did Physics join a long list of victims from the science, truth, reason etc. families.
    It matters little what ultimately is ‘objectively’ true, and it matters much what counts for knowledge in society and in the formation of public and private policy. And the U.S. Congress now represents an electorate who KNOW that Angels watch over them, that ‘Global Warning’ is a tree-hugger fantasy, that the Founders ended slavery and intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation, that we are here by God’s design, that humans and dinosaurs walked the planet at the same time, that concentrating wealth fuels economic growth, that Barack Obama was born and raised in Kenya and is heading a conspiracy to establish Sharia law in a Marxist America.

    They KNOW all that stuff. Go to the comments thread on any news website and try to argue with them. They will declaim the verity of their ‘facts’, the absolute rectitude of their ‘reason’ no matter what you say.
    And the pain of this is that their ‘knowledge’ counts, because it is connected to forces of material power. It has money, guns and oil (and lawyers, for the Warren Zevon fans). They get to decide what gets funded, what gets put in the schoolbooks in Texas (which means the schoolbooks across the nation, since the publisher’s profit would fall if they had to generate different texts for different markets), what ‘scandals’ (ACORN!! PBS!!!) will be blasted from the loudspeakers and what atrocities will remain hidden. Among other things.
    So, the question, my dear skeptics, is “What is to be done?” Shall you stay inside the auditorium of science, truth, reason etc. shouting curses at all the fools, or will you seek a strategy to undermine Coulter and her kind in ways that they will feel, ways that will matter in the realm of the social, and in the rooms of power?

  57. #57 Narad
    April 2, 2011

    So, the question, my dear skeptics, is “What is to be done?”

    Actually, I think a more intriguing question is where you got the notion that condescending disquisitions about how to communicate are a good way to communicate.

  58. #58 herr doktor bimler
    April 3, 2011

    Condescending disquisitions on how to change peoples’ minds certainly changed my mind, but then it was changed back again by The ‘s vituperative bragging about his own superiority in changing people’s minds.

  59. #59 Chris
    April 3, 2011

    Right now I am imagining someone in a hole so deep that when he tries to throw the dirt out, it falls back in. He is now burying himself.

  60. #60 Raincitygirl
    April 3, 2011

    I’m impressed by the level of imagination displayed by Narad, Herr doktor and Chris. Me, I just imagine Sadmar is an asshole.

    I guess that makes me part of the problem instead of part of the strategy to undermine Coulter. Darn.

  61. #61 Chris
    April 3, 2011

    Thank you, Raincitygirl!

    (Don’t undermine yourself… just knowing the fallacies that Coulter uses is enough!)

  62. #62 lilady
    April 3, 2011

    Coulter is known for her outrageous views in fact she admits to being “a pot stirrer.” When she first appeared on the media stage about 15 years ago, she wasn’t so controversial and she seemed to be the darling of the Conservatives. But her occasional “clever” remarks turned into long-winded harangues and turned people off…on both sides of the aisle.

    Her spots on TV talk shows dried up because she sucks the oxygen out of the room with her overbearing rants, forgetting that you have to please, not piss-off the host. She has very effectively limited her own career; Ann who???

  63. #63 Orac
    April 3, 2011

    Actually, I think a more intriguing question is where you got the notion that condescending disquisitions about how to communicate are a good way to communicate.

    Narad for the win!

  64. #64 Liz
    April 3, 2011

    Woa – sorry I derailed the convo. I meant it as Sadmar said it, actually. I know a lot of gay people and one transgendered person. We often joke about this and call each other ‘slang’ names. Oftentimes we try to think of the most off-color thing to say to one another because it’s funny. To us, anyway.

    But sometimes I forget that no one knows me on the internet, nor can hear inflection. The word “tranny” isn’t so funny coming from some homophobe. So I apologize for offending anyone.

    How about we pretend I said “Male comedian in drag” instead?

    PS* Chris – a persons physical attributes are well worth criticizing when she says things like “It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 — except Goldwater in ’64 — the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted.”

    So this, my friend, is why I said what I did.

  65. #65 Neil Craig
    April 3, 2011

    I see that though I have stirred up a few ad hominum attacks nobody, not even the author of this piece, has made any attempt to produce actual evidence, as asked for, for the LNT theory.

    QED It is not science and those supporting it with such attacks are indeed eco-fascists. I thank them for proving the case beyond any reasonable doubt.

  66. #66 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 3, 2011

    I see that though I have stirred up a few ad hominum attacks nobody, not even the author of this piece, has made any attempt to produce actual evidence, as asked for, for the LNT theory.

    QED It is not science and those supporting it with such attacks are indeed eco-fascists.

    Yawn. Does Neil Craig know any other tricks besides trying to 606 his way to victory?

  67. #67 Rincewind'smuse
    April 3, 2011

    I see that though I have stirred up a few ad hominum attacks nobody, not even the author of this piece, has made any attempt to produce actual evidence, as asked for……

    You miss the point. If there was a reasonable person to discuss this with on the other end a serious discussion would be welcome.But it’s a waste of time and bandwidth argue with cranks.They turn everything they don’t agree with into a conspiracy theory, rather than just an alternate viewpoint and are immune to considering evidence that doesn’t fit their narrative(and yes it IS out there). It would be like engaging a climate change denialist…….oh, wait…..
    Sincerely, the eco-terrorist

  68. #68 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    April 3, 2011

    dt: “What Anne Coulter really needs is one of these up her butt:

    http://entrepeuner-artphoto.blogspot.com/2010/06/radium-rectal-suppositories.html

    too late … it’s already mutated.

    into a very inaccurate mouth!

  69. #69 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 3, 2011

    Neil Craig,
    To quote from Orac’s original statement:

    The first is probably that an LNT model is the simplest, most conservative model that can be fit to currently existing evidence. The problem with the LNT model is the same as the problem with the hormesis model. While at higher radiation doses, effects due to radiation are, like effects due to pretty much any other high-level environmental exposure, much more robust and reproducible, at lower radiation doses, the effects are weaker, and the scatter in the data is much greater. In other words, at low doses the signal-to-noise ratio is much lower due to a lot more “noise” and a lot less signal in the data. Moreover, the data are more difficult to collect, and variability from system to system, organism to organism, and cancer to cancer is likely to be much greater.

    As imperfect as it is, the LNT model is a reasonable approximation for purposes of policy-making because it is conservative and safe.

    Nowhere can I find that he – or anyone else in this stream – argued that the LNT curve was more correct than hormesis. It is simply a “conservative and safe” model that fits (some of) the observations and is easy to make policy around. Since it is more conservative than the hormesis model, it is less likely to come back to haunt someone later.

    It would be useful to have a really, really good grasp of just what level of of radiation is “good for you” – provided the hormesis model is correct – before making policies that allow a level of radioactive substances to be released into the environment. Do you have good evidence for that? The consequences should those numbers be off on the high side could be severe and long-lasting.

  70. #70 Chris
    April 3, 2011

    Liz:

    PS* Chris – a persons physical attributes are well worth criticizing when she says things like “It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact….”

    Again, no. The person’s physical attributes are not part of the argument. Criticize the person’s ideas, not their body. The statement you quoted would have been idiotic no matter who it came from and what they looked like. Also, unless you sourced that quote I could believe it came from Phyllis Schlafy or Glenn Beck, not necessarily Ann Coulter.

    Before you continue on, put down that shovel!

  71. #71 novalox
    April 3, 2011

    @neil craig

    Why should we bother arguing with a crank like you?

  72. #72 The Analyst
    April 3, 2011

    When an insane person interviews another insane person, who should I listen to?

    I know nothing about Ann Coutler, but anybody who goes on that circus show are either seeking intention or are insane.

  73. #73 lilady
    April 3, 2011

    @ David Andrews; Funny link you provided if in fact the radium suppositories did not have radium in them; the homeopathy product of their day. Back in the early to mid part of the last century, people were overly concerned with bowel health and “regularity”.

    Please, please tell me that some of you posters “remember” the fluoroscope shoe-sizing machines back in the 1950s…our young crowd would always run into the local shoe shops to line up in front of the machines. We thought it was great fun to view our foot structures with the fluoroscope.

    My mom, also a nurse, related the story of treatment of her plantar wart when she was in nursing school…a long time ago. Med students in the late night hours would fire up the X-Ray machine and irradiate the plantar wart. After dozens of “treatments”, the plantar wart problem was resolved.

  74. #74 herr doktor bimler
    April 3, 2011

    Neil Craig @65: though I have stirred up a few ad hominum attacks

    Speaking of ad hominem arguments, Neil, I noticed that on your own blog you described Respectful Insolence as “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards”.

    Skimming quickly through RI, I can find no eco-fanaticism. The proprietor is an oncologist and researcher who normally blogs about alt-med charlatans and their credulous victims. On this occasion he was blogging about the safe limits of radiation — which I think you will agree is a legitimate area of expertise for an oncologist, what with its uses in diagnosis and treatment — and about an entertainer / provocateur who had been espousing the health benefits of radiation in massive doses.

    On your own blog, you approvingly cite Jerry Pournelle and his own citation of a retired Swedish oncologist who thinks the dangers of radiation have been over-stated, so evidently you accept the authority of oncologists in this field.

    Anyway, I imagine you can find people among the commenters here who are open to a good-faith discussion of the hormesis issue.

    As a word of advice, though, I recommend sticking to one topic at a time, for some of us are boringly single-minded and do not like to gallop from one contrarian assertion to another. When your first comment talks about “the global warming scam and perhaps even the DDT one”, it does not come across as an attempt to open debate; you look more an ODD teenager trolling for reaction because the local newspaper will no longer publish his letters.

    It also has the air of crank magnetism. If you are unfamiliar with this term, it is like the Amazon website: “People who liked this crank theory also liked climate-change denialism and DDT revisionism”.

  75. #75 Liz
    April 3, 2011

    Chris – I’m not digging out of anything. I was apologizing to whomever thought my “tranny” comment was out of line. Vicky pointed something out & it needed to be addressed. I didn’t think you’d all be going mental about it and I certainly don’t care that you are offended for me criticizing her looks. She’s a man, baby.

    Shovel that & lighten up.

  76. #76 Chris
    April 3, 2011

    Sorry, I missed your apology.

  77. #77 Chris
    April 3, 2011

    Oh, sorry, all I found was “Woa – sorry I derailed the convo.”

    Oh, well. And saying “She’s a man, baby.” is still not helping.

  78. #78 Vasha
    April 4, 2011

    Wow, Liz, I won’t say you take the cake for condescension (because sadly you have lots of company) but you’re certainly aware that telling people who’re offended by your offensive jokes to “lighten up” has the opposite effect.

  79. #79 Liz
    April 4, 2011

    Chris:

    “But sometimes I forget that no one knows me on the internet, nor can hear inflection. The word “tranny” isn’t so funny coming from some homophobe. So I apologize for offending anyone.”

    Didn’t see that whole paragraph? I think you read too fast and make snap judgments. Vasha, who is condescending? I apologized and then Chris told me to stop trying to dig myself out (aka “put down that shovel!”) So basically, he was condescending me for apologizing and explaining my motives. I am not going to lay myself at the feet of someone I don’t need to apologize to.

    But honestly, if you don’t like condescending attitudes – what are you doing in the midst of Respectful Insolence’s comment threads?

  80. #80 Rory
    April 4, 2011

    Liz, I’m not sure how seriously we should take any of your statements. Please post a picture of yourself so the rest of us can decide how to properly evaluate them. Obviously if you look like a man, anything you say can be safely disregarded.

  81. #81 Chris
    April 4, 2011

    “The word “tranny” isn’t so funny coming from some homophobe.”

    Yeah, I read that part. Your brilliance, originality and humility are just so underwhelming. Have you taken lessons from Dr. Jay?

  82. #82 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 4, 2011

    The “Annie the Tranny” jokes are old and busted, as well as being rather offensive – kind of like Coulter herself.

  83. #83 Raincitygirl
    April 4, 2011

    Liz, you already offended people once. Saying, “She’s a man, baby” is NOT helping.

    Why are you so invested in the idea that because Ann Coulter is a horrible person, that entitles you to make transphobic jokes about her? You’re not hurting Ms. Coulter with your ill-informed “wit”, you’re hurting fellow commenters on this blog.

    P.S. Anybody want to bet Liz’s next trick will be to decry her fellow commenters for being too politically correct?

  84. #84 Liz
    April 4, 2011

    Rory – I am a heavy girl. No, fat, actually. I have heard it all about my looks. If I had a political opinion, someone shouldn’t disregard me because I am fat. However, if I kept attacking all the women who go to Curves or who are on Weight Watchers – by all means, call me a fat a$$. I would deserve it. She has ripped on homosexuality and women, therefore I feel it’s open season.

    I live with a gay roommate and have been his adoring hag since High School. We sling our respective “f” words at one another all day. We have a transgendered friend (more his than mine) named KT. He is always cracking jokes with us. We have all talked about how one day, Anne was going to rip off the wig and have a laugh at the right because she got many of them to follow her even though she is off this planet ridiculous. This is what I meant and thought I had explained. My apologies were mostly to Vicki and sas, just because it flew with KT doesn’t mean it would fly with them. I hope they know I am sorry & the joke was meant from a positive place. I think one or two people got it.

    However Chris is a little much. This is my last post – go ahead and hit me with all the last words you feel you must have.

  85. #85 BraselC5048
    April 5, 2011

    I had something I was wondering about for the Linier-no-threshold model, what happens at the high end of the scale? Like around 4-10 sirverts(spelling), what happens to the chance of later contracting cancer? Particularlly if it is the result of multiple acute doses, over a period of months or years. Apparently at 10 servierts, there is a 100% chance of cancer.

  86. #86 Pablo
    April 5, 2011

    Brasel – at some dose, you have to worry about dying from something else besides cancer, I suspect

  87. #87 BraselC5048
    April 5, 2011

    That level is around 3-4 sieverts. (actually grays). A 4 seivert dose of chronic raidation can corspond to only about a 1 gray acute dose. What I was wondering is what happens when you get repeated doses of a few sieverts, over a few years. I suspect that nobody has ever actually had that happen, although I am still curious.

  88. #88 Chris
    April 5, 2011

    I am not sure, but 4 Sv would cause severe radiation poisoning according to this:
    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

    The cancers are usually long exposure of lower doses. Like the young ladies who painted watch faces with radioactive paint and the Curies. See these two books: The Poisoner’s Handbook and Emperor of All Maladies.

  89. #89 squirrelelite
    April 6, 2011

    Here is a little more info on the effects of severe, prompt doses of radiation from the reference I cited before.

    Severe: 4-6 Sievert (400-600 rem)

    Symptoms: Severe nausea, vomiting, fatigue. Possible loss of consciousness. Significant damage to bone marrow. Bleeding, possibly severe in some cases. Skin ulcers. Organ failure.
    Time to onset: Less than an hour.
    Treatment: Intensive care. Antibiotics. Surgical or non-surgical intervention to stop bleeding. Blood transfusions. Possibly kidney dialysis or other treatments intended to aid in cases of organ failure. Bone marrow transplant.
    Mortality: The prognosis at this level becomes poor. Even healthy individuals have a high probability of death. With medical intervention, the likelihood of survival is less than 50%.
    Very Severe: 6-8 Sievert (600-800 rem)

    Symptoms: Severe nausea, vomiting, fatigue. Possible loss of consciousness. Significant damage to bone marrow. Bleeding. Skin ulcers and sores. Organ failure.
    Time to onset: Less than an hour, possibly as little as minutes.
    Treatment: Same as above, but with additional focus on pain management, palliative and hospice care.
    Mortality: The prognosis is grim. Although it is possible to survive this high a level of exposure, it’s unlikely. Even with medical intervention, only a small portion of those exposed to this level will survive over the long term.
    Unsurvivable: 8+ Sieverts (800+ rem)

    Symptoms: Severe nausea, incapacitation, severe internal bleeding, multiple organ failure. Death.
    Time to onset: Immediate or nearly immediate.
    Treatment: Pain management, palliative and hospice care.
    Mortality: 100% Depending on the dose and circumstances, an individual exposed to high doses may survive for a period of a few days to more than a week, but ultimately medical intervention is unlikely to result in longer term survival.

  90. #90 Neil Craig
    April 15, 2011

    “Speaking of ad hominem arguments, Neil, I noticed that on your own blog you described Respectful Insolence as “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards”

    Your point being Herr Doktor?
    You wouldn’t be trying to say that that was anything other than accurate would you?
    Looking at responses here you will note that, with one exception, all the responses have been fact free ad hominum attacks on me for dating to write. In what way is that “scientific standards”? In what way is it not fascist?
    When has the author here attempted to answer with the one or denounced the other?

    The sole exception, Mr O’Brien admitted that there is no actual evidence for the LNT theory and that it was merely that, because it is the most scary theory going it should be adopted as part of the precautionary principle. That is a defencible opinion, though I do not agree with it, but if so Ann Coulter’s opinion, that because LNT is untruthful we should not accept it, is at least equally valid and she is perfectly entitled yo put it without ad hominum atacks from lying fascists with no concern for scientific truth.

    Ann Coulter deserves a public apology from the fascist ignoramus running this blog and indeed supporters on here.

    She will only get it from those who are not literal fascists.

  91. #91 Jason
    April 21, 2011

    I have to agree with Neil. Ann Coulter, despite being flat wrong in her presentation of the hypothesis does deserve credit for brining the hypothesis and that there potentially other alternative view points to the LNT model to the attention of the (m)asses.

  92. #92 RT
    April 22, 2011

    “Science – so called”

    Attacking Ann by twisting what she said isn’t science/physics. Ann was quoting some scientists.

    another opinion.
    If scientists are so afraid of high radiation and “global warming”, then their “fears” have just proven that evolution and “carbon dating” are LIES and not science.

    Radiation & temperature were much higher long time ago – that is according to the lies – evolution.

  93. #93 Chemmomo
    April 22, 2011

    RT: Huh??????

    Oh, wait, you said it was “another opinion.” Why should I care about your opinion?
    If you want me to consider it, there are two things you need to do:
    First, explain it more clearly than you’ve done above. I have no idea what your point is.

    After that explain your opinion: why do you believe this? Please present actual facts.

  94. #94 herr doktor bimler
    April 23, 2011

    “Speaking of ad hominem arguments, Neil, I noticed that on your own blog you described Respectful Insolence as “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards”

    Your point being Herr Doktor?

    My point being the lack of eco-fascism on this blog.
    I am old-fashioned and conservative about the concept of “reading comprehension”.

  95. #95 herr doktor bimler
    April 23, 2011

    Ann Coulter deserves a public apology from the fascist ignoramus running this blog and indeed supporters on here.
    She will only get it from those who are not literal fascists.

    Here I must ask whether you or members of your family have had experience with “literal fascists”. If not, I take the liberty of suggesting that you shut your mouth.

  96. #96 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 23, 2011

    Neil Craig,
    You misrepresented or misconstrued my words.

  97. #97 Neil Craig
    April 23, 2011

    If you are not able to say specifically how Mephistopheles, then it is clear I have not.

    Doktor your remark about “reading comprehension” is clearly a silly ad hominum attack because, as your post clearly demonstrates, you have no factual argument. To attempt to suppress factual discussion by personal attacks is the substance of fascism, or at least as much so as possible without physical contact.

    I note nobody in the eco-fascist side, including the author, has felt able to discuss this factually. Nor have any of them apologised for a word. Clearly my use of the term eco-fascist is proven correct.

  98. #98 Orac
    April 23, 2011

    I note nobody in the eco-fascist side, including the author, has felt able to discuss this factually. Nor have any of them apologised for a word.

    I can’t speak for all the other “eco-fascists” out there, but the my reason is that I’m too busy laughing at your cluelessness in using such a risible term as “eco-fascist” in the first place. To bother with you, I have to take you seriously first.

  99. #99 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 23, 2011

    Neil Craig,
    You said:

    Mr O’Brien admitted that there is no actual evidence for the LNT theory and that it was merely that, because it is the most scary theory going it should be adopted as part of the precautionary principle.

    I stated:

    It is simply a “conservative and safe” model that fits (some of) the observations and is easy to make policy around. Since it is more conservative than the hormesis model, it is less likely to come back to haunt someone later.

    Differences:
    1. You said “no evidence”, I said “fits (some of) the observations”.
    2. Nowhere did I use the term “most scary”.

  100. #100 herr doktor bimler
    April 23, 2011

    First, Mr Craig, let me correct you on the spelling of “ad hominem”.

    Second, let me correct you on the meaning. If I were to say, for instance, that “Neil Craig is a daft eejit bawheid with paranoid ideation who probably supports Celtic; therefore his argument is invalid”, that would be an ad hominem response. Instead, if I were to say that “Neil Craig is a daft eejit bawheid with paranoid ideation who probably supports Celtic”, that would merely be entertainment. See the distinction? One day you will thank me for this explanation.

    No-one is arguing with you, you see; it would be futile, for you seem happy to make up your own facts (videlicet your insistence that smoking does not cause lung cancer).

    Another useful distinction (introduced by David Hume IIRC) is that between ‘ignoramus’ and ‘ignorabimus’. The former is part of the human condition; the latter requires wilful effort.

    As for Orac being an “eco-fascist”, I call your attention to the side-bar on this page. Notice the absence of any links to ecological or environmental causes. The blogger may well care about these issues but patently he does not blog about them.

    What you will find on the side-bar, however, are links related to Holocaust denial. It appears that Orac cares about the victims of real fascism, and is determined that they not be forgotten… as opposed to your personal concept of ‘fascism’, which seems to mean “People disagreeing with me”.

  101. #101 Neil Craig
    April 30, 2011

    Mephistopheles yopur point would be valid if you had said what exactly these “observations” that provide evidence of LNT are. You have, now repeatedly, failed to do so but to be fair to you, so has evertbody else. What is it?

    Orac thank you for demonstrating that you are totally incapable of producing any factual basis for your diatribe against Coulter. Worse – you are incapable of even attempting logical debate and simply descend to insults when faced with facts. Clearly my use of the term “one of those eco-fascist blogs which pretend to scientific standards” was ni the mark.

    Doktor the only reasons you were discussing me were that I had made these assertions and you had been unable to factually dispute any of them (only Meph had made any attempt to). That is the background to you relying on personal attacks and must be taken in context. In any case the term “ad hominem” is an abreviation for “argumentum ad hominem”- Latin for argument against the man” therefore any instance of you choosing to argue against me personally rather than what I said is, by definition, a hominem.

    I will not accuse you of being daft, small, idiotic, or having a circular head, as you have me since 2 of these are irrelevent ad homs and I think your ability to write proves you are somewhat above the intellectual level of “idiot” – I suggest you look it up and if you decide it is not facyually true and of course if you posses the most remote trac of personal honesty, you will wish to apologise you corrupt, lying, fascist (look those up too).

    Your defence that Orac does not blog about eco issues, such as global warming can be proven a lie by anybody using the search facility here where they will find Orac does so. And does so, not so much on the facts, as by calling any sceptic a “denialist”. A term which has no meaning except among eco-fascists who deny scepticism as the scientific virtue, indeed necessity, it is.

  102. #102 Orac
    April 30, 2011

    Orac thank you for demonstrating that you are totally incapable of producing any factual basis for your diatribe against Coulter.

    Thank you for giving me a hearty chuckle at your ignorance and obvious attempt to change the topic from Ann Coulter’s cluelessness to charges of “eco-fascism.”

    Neil, baby, here’s a hint: I’m more than happy to engage in serious discussion and debate with people whom I take seriously, even when they are strongly opposed to my point of view. Draw your own conclusions regarding why I do not engage in discussion with you.

  103. #103 The Christian Cynic
    April 30, 2011

    Neil Craig:

    In any case the term “ad hominem” is an abreviation for “argumentum ad hominem”- Latin for argument against the man” therefore any instance of you choosing to argue against me personally rather than what I said is, by definition, a hominem.

    Ironically, this is a perfect example of a non sequitur. (Hint: Insults aren’t arguments.)

  104. #104 novalox
    April 30, 2011

    @neil craig

    Thanks for your utterly foolish, ad hominem filled, ignorant rant. It has given me a good laugh for the day.

  105. #106 Krebiozen
    April 30, 2011

    Here’s a whole book full of evidence that the LNT hypothesis is flawed, in the opposite direction to that claimed by Neil Craig. If anyone can point me to a refutation of Gofman I would be grateful. I find his arguments very convincing. Neil Craig simply dismisses any evidence he doesn’t like as propaganda from the anti-nuclear lobby.

  106. #107 Laura
    April 30, 2011

    Whatever you think of Ann Coulter’s analysis, it is an excellent truth to get out to the public: that a small amount of radiation might even be good for you and help to prevent cancer. It would help to defuse a popular misconception: people are afraid of radiation out of all proportion to the dangers of it. Many other hazards – like cars, or smoking, or smog, or eating saturated fat or barbecued meat (has heterocyclic amines that are carcinogens) don’t much bother people. Yet they get freaked out about absolutely tiny amounts of radiation. And the radiation from the Fukushima reactors, for all the crisis that the media has made of it, is likely not to kill anyone, except possibly cause some excess cancers among some of the workers there – since the Japanese government is being very careful to shield people from radioactivity, by evacuating people, taking radioactive food off the market, warning people about small amounts of radioactivity in the water.
    The LNT model actually encourages paranoia about radiation, because it implies that small amounts of radiation cause cancer. Only a small amount of cancer according to the model, but “cause cancer” is frightening and many people don’t really hear the “small amount” part.
    I read that governments set acceptable limits for radiation in food etc. really low “to reassure people”. Seems like it does the opposite, and if there’s really no evidence of extra risk just above their acceptable level, maybe the acceptable level is too low and is causing unnecessary fear.

  107. #108 Composer99
    April 30, 2011

    Laura: people are exposed to small amounts of radiation constantly in the background; heck, eating a banana causes a tiny exposure (from radioactive potassium isotopes).

    But absent better evidence, there is little reason to believe low-dose radiation is actually good for you, in the way that, say, potassium as a nutrient is good for you in properly-regulated doses.

    Certainly the evidence presented by Coulter and reviewed by Orac does not qualify as good enough evidence.

  108. #109 Neil Craig
    May 3, 2011

    Orac, having decided it is unwise to actually discuss the issue here has gone to play on another thread where, despite Doktor’s defence that this blog never (well except for anti nuclear stuff) engages in eco-scares, Orac has posted a presumably non-existent post on catastrophic global warming.

    Eco-fascism and a pretence at science then.

    Kebreozin you clearly don’t know that Gohman, your further yhan LNT scare teller, is actually the man who invented the LNT theory, without the inconvenience of first looking for evidence.

    He also predicted, on the basis of it, half a million deaths and half a million non-fatal cancers as a result of Chernobyl. The total death toll is actually 56 whuch is strong evidence his theory is wrong.

    Composer99 your case against Coulter would be viable is (A) you had not had to admit the ansence of actual evidence for the “official” theory; (B) there were not a vast amount of evidence for LNT, none of which has been disputed here; (C) you had confirmed that, Coulter getting hundreds of times less reportage than those who, for years, have pushed LNT, you had shown that you have spent 100s of times longer denouncing the eco-fascists. including Orac, who have pushed LNT as, somehow, factual. I assume, your criticism being sincere not pure eco-fascist hypocrisy, you will now point to where you have done so.

  109. #110 Krebiozen
    May 5, 2011

    Neil, I do know that it was Gofman who proposed the LNT. I don’t see why that means he was wrong. He based it on experimental evidence and on epidemiological evidence. The National Academy of Sciences agreed with him.

    Here’s an article published by the National Academy of Sciences about the LNT that explains why I think Coulter’s and your arguments are nonsense. It concludes:

    In summary, given our current state of knowledge, the most reasonable assumption is that the cancer risks from low doses of x- or γ-rays decrease linearly with decreasing dose. In light of the evidence for downwardly curving dose responses, this linear assumption is not necessarily the most conservative approach, as sometimes has been suggested, and it is likely that it will result in an underestimate of some radiation risks and an overestimate of others. Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology.

    Please note the reference to, “experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments”.

    As for your claim that only 56 people died as a result of Chernobyl, even the IAEA estimates that “several thousand” people are likely to die. Other estimates are considerably higher. Given changes in the former USSR, and the background noise of deaths due to other causes, it is difficult to know which estimates are more accurate.

  110. #111 Neil Craig
    May 5, 2011

    Neither they, you, nor Gohman have produced this alleged experimental evidence, which is not how one does science. Extrapolating from high dosages is ridiculous and would lead you to say that because there is a 100% chance of dying id a dalling elephant lands on your head there is a 0.1% chance of geath every time you put a hat on. Science doesn’t work on such assumptions either.

    The 4,000 predicted (not actually happening) is predicted from the LNY theory (as indeed was Gohmans 1 million which obviously didn’t happen). Justifying a prediction by saying the predictor predicted it and predicts that he is right is silly for reasons which will be obvious to anybody capable of logical thought. The failure of the 1 million prediction to be realised in real life, or even a tiny measurable fraction thereof, is, on the other hand, proof positive that LNT is wrong.

    Be it noted that, after all these days, and all the ad homs, nobody has actually produced any actual evidence of the LNT theory. The conclusion is obvious.

    And neither Orac nor any other eco-fascist has let evidence, or lack thereof, move them 1 millimeter. The accuracy of my assertion that Orac is running an eco-fascist blog merely pretending to respect for science is equally obvious.

  111. #112 Krebiozen
    May 6, 2011

    Neil, have you actually read any of the material I have linked to? The National Academy of Sciences paper has 64 references, most of them to primary research papers. Gofman has copious references to primary research that supports his arguments. Just because you refuse to acknowledge or respond to this evidence doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki data cited in the NAS paper seems very convincing to me.

    Your elephant analogy demonstrates how little you understand this subject. The minimum possible dose of radiation is a single electron track, which can potentially hit and damage DNA, thus causing cancer. This has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments. The more electron tracks, the higher the chances that one of them will damage DNA. As DNA repair mechanisms are not 100% effective even a single electron track can induce cancer.

    A better analogy might be someone firing a shotgun at you with a varying number of pellets in the cartridge. A single piece of shot is unlikely to hit and kill you, but it is possible it might. The more shot in the cartridge, the higher the chances of death.

    Just because it is difficult or impossible to demonstrate with statistical significance how many people have died or will die as a result of Chernobyl does not mean that no one has died. Even a million excess deaths over 25 years in the whole of Europe would be very difficult to measure against background mortality from other causes. To suggest that it is certain there have not been 4000 excess deaths is ridiculous.

    Scientists from the former USSR have published several papers suggesting that the death toll from Chernobyl is much higher than WHO and IAEA estimates. See ‘Chernobyl: 20 Years On – Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident’ published by the European Committee on Radiation Risk and A. Yablokov’s ‘Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment’ published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

    Incidentally, the European Committee on Radiation Risk has just released a report using two different methods that estimates between 489,500 and 2.45 million excess cancers caused by Chernobyl over 50 years.
    http://euradcom.org/2011/chernhealthrept3.pdf

    I don’t pretend to know for sure which of the many estimates is correct, but until we do know, it is sensible to apply the precautionary principle. I think you are suffering from premature certainty.

  112. #113 Neil Craig
    May 7, 2011

    At the very least you are acknowledging that you are not relying on scientific evidence but on the “precautionary principle”.

    In which case Ann Coulter has at least as much right to rely on the ecience.

    And Orac & supporters owes her a public apology for accusing her of opposing “physics”. An apology which would obviously have been given days ago by Orac & supporters had any of them not been corrupt eco-fascists merely pretending to have a respect for the rules of science. QED.

    If you don’t like my elephant example here is another. The LNT theory says that risk is wholy proportional to exposure. Therefore the risk is proportional to both the amount of “shots” (ie radiation) and the numebr of targets (cells). Thus multicellular anumals like elephants are, if the theory is not crap, a billion times more susceptible than small ones and elephants drop like flies, from cancer whereas flies don’t.

    Obviously this is not how the real world works hence the theory is crap QED. As I have pointed out there is a vast amount of other evidence and it is clear that, had science been involved rather than politics, LNT would have been dumped generations ago.

  113. #114 Scottynuke
    May 7, 2011

    @Krebiozen:

    I think Neil’s several dimensions shy of reality, but please realize the NYAS has distanced itself from Yablokov’s dated collection of anecdotes:

    http://www.nyas.org/aboutus/MediaRelations/Detail.aspx?cid=16b2d4fe-f5b5-4795-8d38-d59a76d1ef33

    Science does just fine supporting LNT without Yablokov.

  114. #115 Krebiozen
    May 7, 2011

    @Scottynuke
    I’m aware that the NYAS only published Yablokov’s book and doesn’t stand behind his findings. I wasn’t meaning to suggest the NYAS endorse his work (it is available free through a link on the llrc.org website BTW). I still wonder a bit when Gofman’s estimates seem to supported by the findings of Soviet scientists. I’m a bit uneasy about dismissing all their work too easily. I wonder if the dangers of low dose radiation might be greater than the LNT suggests.

    In essence the radiation dose response curve disappears at the low end into a mush of noise and confounding factors sufficient to hide a very large number of deaths. We don’t know if the curve is linear or if it curves up or down for any or all types of exposure to any or all types of isotopes. Any population big enough to calculate a statistically significant increase in deaths suffers from a lack of a suitable control group.

    The increases in mortality from various causes documented in the former USSR may or may not be due to Chernobyl. Several of the studies I looked at found a greater increase in mortality where dose was greater. I don’t know what other evidence we might hope to find.

    Neil – what you seem to be referring to about cancer in different sized animals is known as Peto’s paradox. http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/content/47/2/317.full

    It’s an interesting point, but I don’t think it’s a good argument against the LNT. We have no idea how many cancerous cells arise in elephants but fail to develop into observable tumors, as compared to those in smaller animals. Less external radiation would get through an elephant’s thick skin to damage vulnerable dividing cells than in a mouse, for example. External and internal radiation have different effects. It’s not as simple as you suggest.

    I’m intrigued by the “vast amount of evidence” you mention that the LNT is wrong. All the evidence I have seen for radiation hormesis in humans has been effectively debunked, in the same way that Orac has demonstrated that Coulter’s claims are nonsense, above. Can you point out where he is incorrect in his analysis? Or where this article is wrong?

    It seems to me it is the pro-nuclear lobby that has the money and power to manipulate public opinion and policy in this area, not the “eco-fascists”, whoever they are.

  115. #116 Neil Craig
    May 8, 2011

    Krebiozen if you haven’t seen the “vast amount of evidence” you haven’t looked at the link I put in my first post. There is a saying that one can lead a horse to water but cannot make it drink. In the same way one can lead an ecofascist to information but cannot make them read the facts and think.

    Your defence to the elephant example is to say that there is a mechanism whereby the body can fight radiation in the same way that there is a mechanism whereby the body can fight low doses of poison or infection. This is the medical explanation for the hormetic effect in everything else, or as traditionally stated “the dose makes the poison”. Thus your “defence” of LNT is to acknowledge it is likely to be entirely wrong.

    In any case your claim that “Orac has demonstrated that Coulter’s claims are nonsense” is clearly totally untrue. The very worst that anybody could honestly say is that Coulter’s position can be described, if you ignore the proof, as having no more proof than the LNT theory, which has no positive proof (ignoring the vast amount to the contrary). The more honest alarmists here have acknowleged that there is no actual proof for LNT but defended it on the “Precautionary Principle”, which is not the same as scientific evidence. Orac, of course, never reaches or even aspires to the heights of “more honest”.

    If the balance of lobbying power were, as you state, then with the Fukishima earthquake/tsunami having caused 25,000 deaths and the reactor damage zero the balance of media coverage would be 25,000 hours of TV time on the real tragedy and zero, or less, on the reactors. Have you some evidence to support this curious assertion, or alternately would you like to withdraw it?

  116. #117 Krebiozen
    May 9, 2011

    Neil, I have looked at most of the links and studies you refer to on your (horribly laid out) blog many times. This has been a subject I have studied over the past 30 years since I first worked with radioactive materials. I first came across your blog a couple of years ago, but I have learned nothing new from it.

    I have systematically gone through the first 17 of the links on the page you suggested before tiring of it. Here’s what I found (I have cut out all links for ease of reading and to prevent this getting caught up in moderation but can supply them if necessary). If this is your “vast amount of evidence” I’m not at all impressed so far.

    1. A radiation consulting services company with a simple “what is radiation hormesis” page.

    2. A pro-hormesis site that supports the ideas of naturopaths and links to a site that sells radioactive stones for “healing”

    3. An article about a lecture given by a doctor who questions the LNT.

    4. An article about radiation hormesis that concludes,”Until such time that the health risks are authoritatively re-evaluated, it seems reasonable to continue to be wary of the health risks of low-level ionizing radiation”.

    5. A blog post about the Taiwan cobalt 60 exposure. As Orac pointed out above, the most recent study of the incident found an increased risk of both leukemia and solid cancers in the exposed population. Initial studies compared cancer rates in the young people living in the contaminated apartments with the older general population, and obviously found lower rates.

    6. An article by Dr Gerald L. Looney, MPH supporting, without any references, radiation hormesis. No longer there, had to track down Google cache.

    7. An article by Dr Donald Miller about radiophobia, with no references, but with the usual discredited tales, like the Taiwan incident. No longer available except in a cache.

    8. A comment by Neil Craig on a blog post.

    9. A dating site with nothing about hormesis?

    10. A paper by Dr L. E. Feinendegen that is part of a debate about the effects of low level radiation published in The British Journal of Radiology and that argues on theoretic grounds that other carcinogenic processes are far more active than radiation, so by stimulating repair mechanisms radiation prevents these. Several other papers published in the same journal disagree. The result of the debate was, “The substantive motion ‘‘That this house believes there is no radiation risk to health at low doses’’ was defeated (For the motion 30%; against the motion 54%; abstaining 16%).”

    11. A website that is no longer available.

    12. A link to a site selling a book by Thomas Luckey who is the main proponent of radiation hormesis.

    13. An unidentifiable report that gives some results on radiation exposure in mice and rats. There seems to be a general misunderstanding of hormetic effects in animals, as though they show short term positive health effects, they often develop cancer later. For example one study found that, “the exposed animal population experienced a high incidence of myeloid leukemia and related myeloproliferative disorders”.

    14. A non peer reviewed paper presented at a conference on nuclear engineering. Written by Zbigniew Jaworowski who is also a well-known AGW skeptic (or denialist some would say). He is also a member of Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures which is funded by industries incuding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. COI?

    15. Radiation hormesis increasing longevity in small mammals may be due to increasing levels of glucocorticoids. It is difficult to extrapolate from small mammals to humans. Humans live longer, and solid tumors can take several decades to develop. Increasing levels of corticosteroids isn’t a great idea, from what I understand about the human immune system.

    16. An article about “radon therapy”, the deliberate inhalation of radon for its health effects. Since the dangers of radon are well understood, and it is undoubtedly a major cause of lung cancer, this seems very unwise to me, expect perhaps in elderly people who are unlikely to live long enough for adverse effects to manifest.

    17. An article about high background radiation in Ramsar Iran. Studies of cancer in this area have found elevated rates, but only in women, but study size and duration were very low. No evidence of hormesis at all there. A recent review of background radiation health effects concluded:
    “This review leads to the unavoidable conclusion that, with one exception, any assertions on studies of detrimental or protective effects from HNBR exposure appear premature. The only real conclusive evidence is that indoor radon studies indicate an elevation of lung cancer risk even for levels of exposure as low as 200 Bqm−3″.

  117. #118 Neil Craig
    May 10, 2011

    Systematically huh?

    The For Hormesis links are actually:

    #1 is http://www.alamut.com/proj/98/nuclearGarden/bookTexts/Rad_hormesis.html a short overview with no connection to the company you mention.

    #9 is Professor Cohen detailing his study, the largest on the subject since it involves statistics on the entire US population and has found, despite your claim radon “is undoubtedly a major cause of lung cancer” that in fact there is a negative correlation with lung cancer half as strong as the positive correlation with smoking. http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm

    Anyone who cares to look can see your listing is totally false which I will, once again, put up. http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2010/03/low-level-radiation-evidence-that-it-is.html The titles for the first group are:

    One of the first studies in radiobiology (1898) found that X-irradiated algae grew faster than unirradiated control groups. Stimulated growth was noted in trees (1908) and increased life span in invertebrates (1918) and insects (1919). X-Rays stimulated seedlings (1927), plant growth (1937), along with guinea pigs, rabbits and mice (1940′s). Increased life span was the rule in low dose irradiated rats, dogs, and even house flies (1950′s) + University of Kyoto summary + Taiwanese apartments contaminated by Cobalt 60 for 20 years where the cancer rate among thousands of people was reduced by 96.4% + summary article + summary article by Donald Miller MD + Radon study in Massachusetts + “There is very likely an optimum dose rate of radiation for good health just as there are optimum levels for essential vitamins & trace elements in our diet … the recommended average dose (RAD) of radiation will be significantly higher than the annual dose most humans receive from background” Professor John R Cameron in a paper also summarising the evidence that British radiologists had better longevity than other doctors + history article + Professor Cohen’s study of hundreds of thousands of homes across the USA proving lung cancer has an inverse relationship with radioactive radon “the importance of smoking for determining variations in lung cancer rates among counties is less than twice that of radon” + Cows exposed to 150 rads for experimental purposes in 1946 put to sleep in 1964 due to their refusal to die as expected – plus other evidence + angelfire radioadaption articles home + “There is no evidence to support the LNT model for chronic exposures, such as those due to natural background radiation – which ranges around the world from less than 1 to more than 200 mSv per year. Cancer instances are, if anything, lower in areas of high background radiation” – 15th Pacific basin Nuclear Conference + “cases are now known where average Rn levels are very high, and in all of these cases lung cancer rates are well below average … they indicate at least a factor of 4 disagreement with linear, no-threshold predictions” + Low Doses of Very Low-Dose-Rate Low-LET Radiation Suppress Radiation-Induced Neoplastic Transformation In Vitro and Induce an Adaptive Response + Society of Nuclear Medicine & American College of Nuclear Medicine submission to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission “Clear and reproducible data show effects known as “hormesis” + Australian Radiation Protection Soc “Low doses of radiation induce adaptive responses that can reduce, rather than increase risk. These protective effects have both upper and lower dose thresholds” “The problem with a lot of these discussions is that you eventually get to the point where you don’t have any more data,” said Professor Gillies McKenna of Oxford University, Cancer Research UK’s expert on radiation oncology. “Even the data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki — there weren’t enormous numbers of cancers created in those cases, so we have to extrapolate what we think would happen at low dose.” said defending the LNT theory from criticism by Prof Wade Alison (in fact, as can be seen here, there is plenty of evidence, just none for LNT. + “The linear hypothesis is unsupported by any direct evidence, and there is a lot of evidence against it” Professor John McCarthy, Stanford + “The author shows how proponents of the LNT assumption consistently reject, manipulate, and deliberately ignore an overwhelming abundance of published data and falsely claim that no reliable data are available at doses of less than 100 mSv” + “Several statistically significant epidemiologic studies contradict the validity of this concept [LNT} by showing risk decrements, i.e., hormesis, of cancer mortality and mortality from all causes in populations exposed to low-dose radiation + “..person living in Ramsar for one year can be in excess of 260 mSv … There are more than nine hot springs in the area with different concentrations of radioisotopes, and these are used as spas by locals and tourists. This high level of radiation does not seem to have caused ill effects on the residents of the area and even possibly has made them slightly more radioresistant, which is puzzling and has been called “radiation paradox” + Paradox – A politically incorrect result of observation + My letter in New scientist – I am entitled to a little boasting – actually they only published it on the online edition & only then because they owed me for having published an extremely stupid letter disputing what I said about nuclear & getting the figures wrong by several thousand times + Google search

    I can understand why you “have learned nothing new from it” since you are clearly making it up as you go along. Those who are actually interested in facts will find them.

  118. #119 Neil Craig
    May 10, 2011

    Krebiozen it seems that in some mysterious way my reply to you has been … er .. well not put up.

  119. #120 Neil Craig
    May 10, 2011

    Still censoring to protect Kreb whom you clearly know is lying, I see Orac.

  120. #121 Orac
    May 10, 2011

    You’re a very clueless man, Neil. Some of us have day jobs. Here’s a hint: I’m not sitting there waiting for your every post that might get caught in the spam filters because of too many links or terms that automatically trigger it. Between OR cases, I just happened to see your most recent comment and was so amused by it that I had to release your comment.

    So much for “censorship,” O Clueless One.

  121. #122 Neil Craig
    May 10, 2011

    Kreb anybody who checks what you say about my link http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2010/03/low-level-radiation-evidence-that-it-is.html will see that you are lying

    #1 of the For Hormesis links is an overview wholly unrelated to what you say http://www.alamut.com/proj/98/nuclearGarden/bookTexts/Rad_hormesis.html
    #9 is Professor Cohen on his research which found precisely the beneficial connection between radon and cancer which you assure “undoubtably” cannot be claimed by anybody. It appears doubt is indeed possible, indeed statistucally proven.
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm

    I can, of course, understand why you have “learned nothing” that disturbs you prejudices in “30 years” since you clearly never allow facts to interfere with them.

    I ask you to acknowledge that my reading of these links is correct and your contention that the latter is a “dating agency” is non-factual.

  122. #123 Krebiozen
    May 10, 2011

    Perhaps I made a mistake somehow as the links I copied and pasted a couple of days ago are now half way down the page. Neil wouldn’t have changed the page since I copied and pasted those links would he? Let’s see, I know a useful bit of Javascript that tells you when the page was last modified. Just go to the page, put “javascript:alert(document.lastModified)” without the quotes in the address bar and hit Enter. The page was last saved on “05/10/2011 18:24:01″. Why that’s today!

    Give me a little time and I’ll take a look at the links currently at the top of the page. Maybe they are more impressive than the ones now further down. I have saved a copy of the page in case of any further misunderstandings.

    Neil – while you are waiting, why don’t you take a look at the links in the NAS article I linked to here? You might learn something.

  123. #124 Krebiozen
    May 10, 2011

    Since I have been accused of dishonesty I will post the original comment I wrote which still has the links I copied from Neil’s website, and some other links that are relevant. If I have misrepresented any of these links, please let me know. I originally removed the links to prevent the comment being held up in moderation.

    http://www.iem-inc.com/prhor.html
    A radiation consulting services company with a simple “what is radiation hormesis” page.

    http://radiationhormesis.com/category/radiation-hormesis/
    A pro-hormesis site that supports the ideas of naturopaths and links to a site that sells radioactive stones for “healling”

    http://www.ansto.gov.au/home/left_column/latest_news_item/news_items/a_little_radiation_might_be_good_for_you
    An article about a lecture given by a doctor who questions the LNT.

    http://jnm.snmjournals.org/cgi/reprint/32/2/350.pdf
    An article about radiation hormesis that concludes,”Until such time that the health risks are authoritatively re-evaluated, it seems reasonable to continue to be wary of the health risks of low-level ionizing radiation”.

    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail311.html#hormesis
    A blog post about the Taiwan cobalt 60 exposure. As Orac pointed out above, the most recent study of the incident found an increased risk of both leukemia and solid cancers in the exposed population. Initial studies compared cancer rates in the young people living in the contaminated apartments with the older general population, and obviously found lower rates.

    http://www.sepp.org/Archive/NewSEPP/Hormesis-Looney.htm
    An article by Dr Gerald L. Looney, MPH supporting, without any references, radiation hormesis. No longer there, had to track down Google cache.

    http://www.sepp.org/Archive/NewSEPP/Radiation%20-%20Miller.htm
    An article by Dr Donald Miller about radiophobia, with no references, but with the usual discredited tales, like the Taiwan incident. No longer available except in a cache.

    http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=12266243#post12266243
    A comment by Neil Craig on a blog post.

    http://www.idatepage.info/article/radiation-hormesis/
    A dating site with nothing about hormesis?

    http://bjr.birjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/78/925/3
    A paper by Dr L. E. Feinendegen that is part of a debate about the effects of low level radiation published in The British Journal of Radiology and that argues on theoretic grounds that other carcinogenic processes are far more active than radiation, so by stimulating repair mechanisms radiation prevents these. Several other papers published in the same journal disagree. The result of the debate was, “The substantive motion ‘‘That this house believes there is no radiation risk to health at low doses’’ was defeated (For the motion 30%; against the motion 54%; abstaining 16%).” http://bjr.birjournals.org/cgi/reprint/78/925/1.pdf

    http://www.radscihealth.org/rsh/Docs/Radon/Index_RadSpas.htm
    No longer available

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FK7EayQN9dYC&pg=PP9&lpg=PP1&dq=radiation+hormesis&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html
    A link to a book by Thomas Luckey who is the main proponent of radiation hormesis.

    http://www.radiationhormesis.com/RadiationHormesis/Verifying_Radiation_Hormesis_in_Laboratory_Animals.pdf
    An unidentifiable report that gives some results on radiation exposure in mice and rats. There seems to be a general misunderstanding of hormetic effects in animals, as though they show short term health effects, they often develop cancer later. For example, “the exposed animal population experienced a high incidence of myeloid leukemia and related myeloproliferative disorders”
    http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/52/6/1469.full.pdf

    http://www.tinyvital.com/Misc/NukeLinearDoseEffectRelationship.htm
    A paper presented at a conference on nuclear engineering. Written by Zbigniew Jaworowski who is a well-known AGW skeptic. He is also a member of Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures which is funded by industries incuding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. COI?
    http://www.belleonline.com/advisory.htm
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Zbigniew_Jaworowski

    http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/medicine_health/report-39005.html
    Radiation hormesis increasing longevity in small mammals may be due to increasing levels of glucocorticoids. It is difficult to extrapolate from small mammals to humans. Humans live longer, and solid tumors can take several decades to develop.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477705/
    An article about “radon therapy”, the deliberate inhalation of radon for its health effects. Since the dangers of radon are well understood, and it is undoubtedly a major cause of lung cancer, this seems insane to me, expect perhaps in elderly people whjo are unlikely to live long enough for adverse effects to manifest.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853156/?tool=pubmed

    http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/ramsar.html
    An article about high background radiation in Ramsar Iran. Studies of cancer in this area have found elevated rates, but only in women, but study size and duration were very low. No evidence of hormesis at all there.

    A recent review of high natural background radiation (HNBR) health effects concludes: “This review leads to the unavoidable conclusion that, with one exception, any assertions on studies of detrimental or protective effects from HNBR exposure appear premature. The only real conclusive evidence is that indoor radon studies indicate an elevation of lung cancer risk even for levels of exposure as low as 200Bqm−3″.
    http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/29/2A/S03/pdf/0952-4746_29_2A_S03.pdf

  124. #125 Krebiozen
    May 11, 2011

    Neil, I am hurt that you have accused me of lying. Which of the links I have listed above are not on this page?

    Squabbling about the “dating agency” link seems foolish. I actually wrote “A dating site with nothing about hormesis?” because when I clicked on the link what came up appeared to be just that, with the domain name idatepage.info which looked like a dating site to me. Are you suggesting there is no link to http://www.idatepage.info/article/radiation-hormesis/ It is now a dead domain for sale, but are you suggesting that idatepage.info was once a reputable source of scientific data?

  125. #126 Neil Craig
    May 11, 2011

    You know perfectly well no change in the ordering was made. Squabbling about the difference between “dating site” & “dating agency” is sily but clearly the best you can do.

    If you would be willing to say where, in a real order, not the one you gave, they are I will be willing to say if you are correct. There are, of course, many many other links which you have not chosen to selectively quote or answer at all (for example the Prof Cohen you previously described as “dating site”.

    By comparison I have asked, repeatedly, here for any actual evidence of the LNT theory and, apart from a couple who acknowledged there was no evidence but it could be defended on the “precautionary principle”, have obviously been given no actual such evidence merely ad hom attacks, which, if you were a scientist, you would know are the antithesis of science.

    You are perfectly entitled to criticise the evidence against LNT, though you should not use the enormous amount of it as an excuse for purely selective criticism. Just as I am entitled to point to the total lack of evidence for it.

    Orac if the evidence for LNT does not enormously outweigh that against it Ann Coulter was not being unscientific in pointing it out and you were being anti-scientific in claiming she was “versus” physics. Again I ask you to provide such overwhelming evidence that LNT is proven physics or to apologise to her.

    Finally if it was a spam filter rather than censorship you would have been able to put up my posts when you noticed.

  126. #127 Krebiozen
    May 11, 2011

    Neil, you are the one who is squabbling. The order of the links on your blog is irrelevant, as is the dead link page I mentioned in passing. If I have made a mistake in thinking that you have moved the links around, I apologize, I’m sure you had some other reason for editing the page yesterday. The links I have criticized are still there on the page. I don’t really care if they are at the top, the middle or the bottom. You seem to be focusing on these irrelevancies to distract from the criticisms I have made of the evidence you have provided.

    You told me to look at the overwhelming evidence on your blog, and I looked at some of it. There are several dead links, some links to blog posts, articles by known cranks, and a lot of outdated information that is factually wrong, like Cohen’s work on radon and lung cancer, and the Taiwan cobalt 60 incident. Some links to interesting and good quality information are also buried in there.

    I’m working my way through the links in order as they are now and I will post what I think of them when I am done, for what that is worth. I suspect you are hoping that by ignoring the evidence and shouting that you are right you hope I will give up and go away. I won’t, as I have some free time at the moment and this interests me.

    As for Coulter, she has made a serious error in claiming that people given radiotherapy have “much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population”. The paper she cited, and others, found that the risk of cancer was lower than predicted, but still much higher than in someone who was not exposed to radiation at all. The Taiwanese cobalt 60 data she cited are now known to be wrong. The conclusions she cited about nuclear shipyard workers are also now known to be wrong. Repeatedly citing old studies that have been refuted with more up to date information is a tired old trick that only fools the ignorant.

    Please look at the National Academy of Science paper I keep citing, and at the 64 references it gives. That is the evidence that you keep claiming does not exist. I don’t see the evidence for hormesis, or for a threshold as any more convincing than that for the LNT.

  127. #128 Neil Craig
    May 12, 2011

    Kreboizen I have no intention of giving up (god willing and the censorship don’t rise). I have actively been looking for somebody willing to debate the LNT/hormesis cases without dropping the subject and changing to ad homs and, unless you object, expect to put up a summary of any sensible discussion on my own blog. On those grounds I would like to acknowledge that you have not been involved in ad homs – that was going on long before you got here.

    On the particular points you raise I think you are wrong to say that Professor Cohen’s work and that of Professor Chen (Taiwan) are “known to be wrong”. They have both been disputed. It would be astonishing if they hadn’t since they go against the official paradigm. But that is not the same as being disproven. Professor Cohen has, in turn, vigorously criticised the criticism. I do not know if Chen has done the same but have seen no evidence that he has acknowledged being wrong.

    I don’t know if you are right about Coulter exagerating mammogram evidence but it is a minor point and certainly does not justify Orac’s “versus science” allegation. If we required that popularisations of science were always 100% accurate I doubt that any of them would pass muster.

    On the paper you cite http://www.pnas.org/content/100/24/13761.full – I have read it (well the abstract) and it does not disprove, indeed barely touches on hormesis. It says there is evidence to support LNT down to 50-100 mSv (a remarkably unspecific amount for science), for non-instant exposures, but nothing below this, allegedly because of the difficulty of finding a large enough statistical population to be affected by lower levels). This conflicts with evidence from areas, such as south India where there is a background radiation of up to 200 mSv with no visible damage. It is also not entirely compatible with the radium paint experience where, as Professor Wade Allison has pointed out, there appears to be a cut off point at 10 gray (100,000 mSv) for a whole life exposure, causing no damage. Nonetheless it is irrelevent for any case of a hormetic effect under 50 mSv – 3 times the official danger level and one most hormesis supporters are willing to accept as a first approxiamation.

    In fact the paper is clearly wrong about it being impossible to find larger populations exposed to lower levels. The entire world is exposed to levels of natural radiation, varying in easily measurable ways by region and the much higher exposure of people in Colorado than Missisippi is undisputable. This is the basis of Professor Cohen’s work and that of the Swedish oncologist mentioned. Why the paper should make such an untrue assertion we can only speculate on.

    I look forward, Kreboizen, to your assessment of the various links to evidence I have provided. I realise it may take some time since the evidence for hormesis is so extensive.

  128. #129 Neil Craig
    May 12, 2011

    Kreboizen I have no intention of giving up (god willing and the censorship don’t rise). I have actively been looking for somebody willing to debate the LNT/hormesis cases without dropping the subject and changing to ad homs and, unless you object, expect to put up a summary of any sensible discussion on my own blog. On those grounds I would like to acknowledge that you have not been involved in ad homs – that was going on long before you got here.

    On the particular points you raise I think you are wrong to say that Professor Cohen’s work and that of Professor Chen (Taiwan) are “known to be wrong”. They have both been disputed. It would be astonishing if they hadn’t since they go against the official paradigm. But that is not the same as being disproven. Professor Cohen has, in turn, vigorously criticised the criticism. I do not know if Chen has done the same but have seen no evidence that he has acknowledged being wrong.

    I don’t know if you are right about Coulter exagerating mammogram evidence but it is a minor point and certainly does not justify Orac’s “versus science” allegation. If we required that popularisations of science were always 100% accurate I doubt that any of them would pass muster.

    On the paper you cite http://www.pnas.org/content/100/24/13761.full – I have read it (well the abstract) and it does not disprove, indeed barely touches on hormesis. It says there is evidence to support LNT down to 50-100 mSv (a remarkably unspecific amount for science), for non-instant exposures, but nothing below this, allegedly because of the difficulty of finding a large enough statistical population to be affected by lower levels). This conflicts with evidence from areas, such as south India where there is a background radiation of up to 200 mSv with no visible damage. It is also not entirely compatible with the radium paint experience where, as Professor Wade Allison has pointed out, there appears to be a cut off point at 10 gray (100,000 mSv) for a whole life exposure, causing no damage. Nonetheless it is irrelevent for any case of a hormetic effect under 50 mSv – 3 times the official danger level and one most hormesis supporters are willing to accept as a first approxiamation.

    In fact the paper is clearly wrong about it being impossible to find larger populations exposed to lower levels. The entire world is exposed to levels of natural radiation, varying in easily measurable ways by region and the much higher exposure of people in Colorado than Missisippi is undisputable. This is the basis of Professor Cohen’s work and that of the Swedish oncologist mentioned. Why the paper should make such an untrue assertion we can only speculate on.

    I look forward, Kreboizen, to your assessment of the various links to evidence I have provided. I realise it may take some time since the evidence for hormesis is so extensive.

  129. #130 Krebiozen
    May 12, 2011

    Neil, here’s what I found when I looked at the first 23 links on your blog. I hope it’s clear which are my comments and which is the material linked to. I’m sorry I repeat myself in places. I have found some interesting bits of information that I think have been misinterpreted to mean hormesis, which I will write about separately.

    1. http://www.alamut.com/proj/98/nuclearGarden/bookTexts/Rad_hormesis.html
    An article dated 1988 “scavenged from the net” that proposes a conspiracy theory among health physicists and seems to be based on the work of Marshall Brucer who was employed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Has 4 links, 3 of which go nowhere, and one links to the article written by Javad Mortazavi mentioned below. There are no useful references and some very dubious claims.

    2. http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/inthorm.html
    An article written by an Iranian scientist, S. M. Javad Mortazavi arguing that “the existence of radiation hormesis and adaptive response are not deniable”.

    Experiments with mice found that if they were exposed to 2 Gy 60Co gamma-rays 46% of them developed thymic lymphoma, but if they were repeatedly given doses of radiation, lower rates of cancer were observed (17%). What were the cancer rates in mice that were not irradiated at all?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8946029

    Another study found that low dose pre-irradiation of mice before a mid-lethal dose improved survival (from 486 to 578 days), but mice not irradiated at all lived much longer (727 days).
    http://www.wmsym.org/archives/2001/2/2-2.pdf

    The rest of the article talks of atom bomb survivors, background radiation studies and nuclear power workers. I have mentioned all these areas before, noting that there is no agreement about what they prove or don’t prove. Javad Mortazavi does not appear to have published anything in peer-reviewed journals – nothing on Pubmed I can find anyway.

    3. http://www.jpands.org/vol9no1/chen.pdf
    A 2004 article about the Taiwan apartment contamination with cobalt 60.
    The article states that, “the age distribution of the exposed population has not yet been determined, and it was assumed that the age distribution of the exposed population is the same as that of the general Taiwan population” which was an erroneous assumption. In a more recent study, “cancer risks were compared with those populations with the same temporal and geographic characteristics in Taiwan by standardized incidence ratios (SIR), adjusted for age and gender.” and concluded, “all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks” in those exposed before the age of 30.
    http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09553000601085980

    4. http://radiationhormesis.vpinf.com/index.html
    Vinny Pinto’s website. Pinto is a mystic and healer with some very peculiar beliefs. Interesting, but not what I would call a reliable source. His site links to a site selling “healing” radioactive stones. http://www.vinnypinto.us

    5. http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller12.html
    An article by a Dr Donald W. Miller who trots out the same old “evidence” as other sites. Miller has some unusual ideas, judging by his website: http://www.donaldmiller.com/

    6. http://enochthered.wordpress.com/category/radiation-hormesis/
    A blog post about radon and lung cancer. An interesting blog generally, worth a read. More recent larger studies show that radon undoubtedly is a major cause of lung cancer. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853156

    7. http://www.blogger.com/
    Dead link. Is supposed to link to an article by Prof. John Cameron, who was a proponent of radiation hormesis, that discusses how British radiologists live longer than other doctors, but doesn’t. The longevity of British radiologists disappears when they are compared to other medical specialists. “We conclude that the low mortality of British radiologists who were registered in the period 1955–1997, in comparison with that for all medical practitioners, is attributable to the factors that cause a relatively low mortality in doctors in all medical specialties. There is no reason to attribute it to a specific benefit from exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation.” http://bjr.birjournals.org/cgi/content/full/78/935/1057
    An American study concluded:
    “Radiologists had an excess in all-cause mortality rates compared to the other specialists for all cohorts who entered the Radiological Society of North America before 1940; the excess remained even when the cancer deaths were removed from the rates. These data are consistent with the concept of accelerated aging due to radiation. The cancer mortality rates for radiologists were higher than those of other specialists for an additional decade through 1949. The 1950-1959 cohort had not aged sufficiently to demonstrate the expected peak cancer mortality in the 60-64 year age group”.
    http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/101/3/188.full.pdf+html

    8. http://209.85.129.132/search?q=cache:2zihJJNPX90J:http://209.85.129.132/search?q=cache:2zihJJNPX90J:www.webpal.org/b_recovery/1_radiation_in_food/radiation_risk_and_ethics.htm+cold+war+peak+arsenal+megatonnage&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk
    Dead link – seems to be a survivalist website. Supposed to be a history article.

    9. http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/1998/cohen.htm
    An interesting article by Bernard Cohen, but somewhat undermined by more recent and better data on radon and lung cancer.

    10. http://www.alamut.com/proj/98/nuclearGarden/bookTexts/Rad_hormesis.html
    The same as the first link above. The claim that cows were euthanized to cover up the positive effects of radiation because they refused to die from radiation poisoning is hilarious (sorry Neil). There is no primary source for the existence of these cows, the dose they got, if or when they were euthanized. I have spent a long time searching but failed. Neil still manages to squeeze a conspiracy theory out of this. Even if a few cows did survive, we don’t know how many other cows succumbed to radiation poisoning or cancer.
    http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2010/03/radiation-hormesis-they-worlds-oldest.html

    11. http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/
    The same S. M. Javad Mortazavi website linked to above. He seems to be affiliated with the nuclear industry through the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the IAEA.

    12. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/24368147/Introduction-to-Low-Level-Radiation-Effects-for-15PBNC
    A document that requires a paid membership to docstoc.com to access it, and that I cannot find elsewhere.

    13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3570800?dopt=Abstract
    Cohen’s 1987 paper on radon and lung cancer, refuted by more recent, better designed and much larger studies. For example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853156/?tool=pubmed

    14. http://pinnacle.allenpress.com/doi/abs/10.1667/RR1199.1
    A study on HeLa cells that found a small dose of radiation (1.4-4 mGy/day) given before a larger dose (3-Gy) reduced neoplastic changes in the cells induced by the larger dose. Claiming this adaptive response as evidence of hormesis seems ridiculous to me.

    15. http://interactive.snm.org/docs/SNM_ANMC_Comment_Letter_to_NRC_Feb_2010.pdf
    A letter from the American College of Nuclear Medicine (which promotes the use of nuclear medicine) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission objecting to proposals to lower the annual limit of radiation exposure for workers from 50 mSv to 20 mSv. The ICRP (which is an independent non-governmental organization) explains the reasons for the proposed changes here: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/rulemaking/potential-rulemaking/opt-revise/icrp-pub-103-free-extract.pdf

    16. http://www.arps.org.au/?q=content/sa-branch-seminar-march-2010
    An advert for a seminar titled ‘Low Dose Radiation Effects: A Biological Reality Check’. I found a transcript of what I think is the whole talk here: http://www.wmsym.org/archives/2001/2/2-2.pdf
    Cell culture studies seem to show hormesis, but studies on mice found that mice exposed to 1.0 Gy dose lived 486 days, but of they were exposed to 0.1 Gy 24 hours before the 1.0 Gy dose, they lived for 578 days. However, mice not exposed to radiation at all lived for 727 days. If I was a mouse, I would stick with getting no radiation at all.

    17. http://gulfnews.com/life-style/health/radiation-exposure-benefits-of-a-risk-1.590944
    A newspaper article about a particle physicist who thinks that low dose radiation does no harm, but also talks to three other scientists, Professor Gillies McKenna of Oxford University, Cancer Research UK’s expert on radiation oncology, Richard Wakeford, an epidemiologist specializing in the health effects of radiation at the University of Manchester who disagree with him, and think the LNT is the best approach.

    18. http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/linear.html
    A short piece on the LNT by Professor John McCarthy of Stanford that claims there no direct evidence for the LNT and a lot of evidence against it. It is at least 10 years old (page last modified in 2000), and is out of date – most of the links on the page are dead. The evidence against the LNT mentioned is:

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors – others interpret the data differently, pointing out that those who survived the initial radiation may be more resistant to disease, and not be a representative population. Gofman has pointed out several changes in the data sets made retrospectively which is problematic with a prospective study.

    Natural background radiation and high radon in some areas does not lead to increased cancer, it claims. More recent studies suggest this is incorrect (sorry to keep repeating myself).
    http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/29/2A/S03/pdf/0952-4746_29_2A_S03.pdf

    19. http://www.environmental-expert.com/books/radiation-hormesis-and-the-linear-no-threshold-assumption-30922
    A link to a book ‘Radiation Hormesis and the Linear-No-Threshold Assumption’ by Charles L. Sanders which costs over $200. “The author shows how proponents of the LNT assumption consistently reject, manipulate, and deliberately ignore an overwhelming abundance of published data and falsely claim that no reliable data are available at doses of less than 100 mSv” Most of the abundant data I have seen doesn’t seem to support this, and I have no inclination to cough up $200 for this book.

    20. http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/1998/Suppl-1/363-368pollycove/full.html
    A 13 year old article by Myron Pollygrove who worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Based on a 1996 presentation at a BELLE conference. BELLE is a government and industry based group formed to promote the safety of low level radiation.

    21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#Radioactivity
    A Wikipedia article about Ramsar which has a very high background radiation in some areas. Only about 1000 people live in the high background radiation areas which is not enough to estimate whether cancer risk is increased. Mean annual dose in Ramsar is 6 mSv which would only lead to an expected 0.06% increase in cancer, or less than 1 additional cancer in 1000 people. In fact small increases in cancer have been observed in Ramsar.
    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/C/CancerRisk.html
    http://iopscience.iop.org/0952-4746/29/2A/S03/pdf/0952-4746_29_2A_S03.pdf
    http://tinyurl.com/6c45qar

    22. http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/vocabulary.htm
    A humorous redefinition of some words.

    23. http://www.ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/taiwan-cobalt-60-apartmt-04.htm
    A letter written to New Scientist magazine by Neil Craig. It is about the Taiwan cobalt 60 incident, again. I have explained above why this is wrong. Neil concludes, “there can no longer be any intellectual doubt whatsoever. Radioactivity in low doses is good for us”. I’m sure he has changed his mind based on the better information now available i.e. “all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks”. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09553000601085980

  130. #131 squirrelelite
    May 12, 2011

    @Krebiozen,

    Thanks for all your hard work digging into Neil Craig’s assertions.

    I saved your last comment for future reference.

  131. #132 Neil Craig
    May 13, 2011

    An extensive piece of work Kreboizen. Lets go through it.

    1 – intended to be an overw=view and that is what it is.

    2 – That he is Iranian may be less important, in scientific terms, than the extensive evidence given. The link you introduce shows that even at 2 Gy (200,000 mSv) living organisms can be acclimatised to radiation. It is irrelevant to whether there is a hormesis effect at under 50 mSv

    3 – Your article disputing the Taiwan results looks rather like a data dredge. The quote you give extended says “all solid cancers combined were shown to exhibit significant exposure-dependent increased risks in individuals with the initial exposure before the age of 30, but not beyond this age”. Not only is this confirming no LNT effect above 30 but if you divide a population into a large number of small groups (e.g. those under 30 in an initial population of 10,000) you are statistically certain to get more than one showing an above average effect. As I have said I would like to see Professor Chen’s response to this or the results being verified by somebody without a preconceived view.

    4 – Indeed. Such stuff is anecdotal and I would never rely on it alone. On the other hand the fact that, for several thousand years, people have been “taking the waters”, usually fairly radioactive waters from springs deep underground, is as strong as anecdotal gets.

    5 – Orac won’t like his ideas. I do. He is certainly well qualified to have medical opinions.

    6 – I agree that the evidence given is “interesting”. Your link “disproving” hormesis doesn’t actually produce any research of its own it merely refers to other published claims. A major problem with meta studies is that the studies aggregated are selected both by the new author and by the original ones – scientific studies which produce “anomalous” results are more likely to be done again than published.

    7 – I will correct that link thanks. Your counter links disputing this effect is normal scientific discussion. I note that the British dispute is based on saying that all British doctors are more than aversely healthy while the American one says that most American ones are below average.

    8 – If I can’t find it I will delete.

    9 – As I said Cohen has vigorously disputed his disputants. I think the evidence is clear.

    10 – I don’t know what you mean about there being no primary source. My post you give links to both that the cattle were irradiated by the trinity A-Bomb test in 1946 and that they were put to sleep in 1964. That means that statistically some of them must have reached or exceeded the maximum age of cattle, 22 years. Killing this evidence was clearly a scientific crime.

    11 – As above.

    12 – No comment needed

    13 – The alleged refutation is the same link discussed in #6.

    14 – 3 Gy is as previously discussed, far higher than hormesis is claimed at. What this does do, however, is disprove that there is a consistent Linear No Threshold effect even at such high levels.

    15 – No comment needed.

    16 – As you acknowledge “Cell culture studies seem to show hormesis”. If i were a mouse i would not want a Gy scale exposure either.

    17 – Of course the newspaper will cover itself by asking for a soundbite of the official view. How is this unexpected or more important than what the article is about.

    18 – If 10 years ago is to long to listen to Professor McCarthy (I don’t think it is) then LNT, as a 60 year old theory adopted without evidence at the time is surely further away. Your link does not mention “hormesis” and is simply about the difficulties of research. “Nevertheless, the risk of exposure to radon
    indoors in the domestic environment has long been questioned. About 20 ecological studies
    have been performed since the 1980s, but due to methodological limitations these studies
    proved unable to answer the question.” (by which they mean they keep coming up with the wrong answer) is typical of the “there is no evidence so trust us” line of thought.

    19 – So no further comment required.

    20 – So ” ” ” ”

    21 – Your first link says “In some houses in Ramsar, Iran, the inhabitants are exposed to an annual dose of background radiation of as much as 130 mSv per year — over 70 times that in Colorado. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Ramsar are just as healthy as — or even healthier than — control populations exposed to far lower levels of radiation.” The 2nd has already been dealt with in 18. The 3rd link isn’t working.

    22 – No further comment.

    23 – Your link has already been dealt with in #4

    What seems undeniably clear is that there is no actual evidence for the LNT theory and indeed that its supporters rely on it being allegedly impossible to prove it at the low end, because of the large size of population needed. You will be aware that a key requirement of any scientific theory is that it be “falsifiable” i.e. proven wrong. Personally I think most unfalsifiable theories (LNT, catastrophic warming, withcraft, creationism, flat earth are indeed falsifiable it just thaty their supporters are to stubborn to look). However, if the LNT supporters are correct then LNT cannot be counted as science.

    I would welcome any suggestion of what would provide falsifiability for LNT.

    Hormesis supporters do not claim unfalsifiability and point to the natural background radiation, which can be determined and show Colorado not to have a higher cancer rate than Mississippi. The experimental statistical evidence for it in plants & cultures seems undisputed.

  132. #133 Krebiozen
    May 13, 2011

    I want to answer an earlier comment from Neil. To be honest, I have read so much about radiation exposure over the past few days it’s starting to drive me crazy. I’ll post a summary of what I think I have learned about this in the next day or two, as it may be of use to someone.

    I think you are wrong to say that Professor Cohen’s work and that of Professor Chen (Taiwan) are “known to be wrong”. They have both been disputed. It would be astonishing if they hadn’t since they go against the official paradigm. But that is not the same as being disproven. Professor Cohen has, in turn, vigorously criticised the criticism. I do not know if Chen has done the same but have seen no evidence that he has acknowledged being wrong.

    Well I think Professor Cohen has fallen foul of the ecological fallacy, averaging cancer rates and radon exposure in US counties and expecting to find a meaningful result. This is not how epidemiology should be done and the negative correlation he found between radon exposure and cigarette smoking both demonstrates this and explains his findings.

    As for Chen, I don’t see how you can continue to defend a study of cancer rates that failed to take age demographics into account, when a study that used matched controls is available.

    I don’t know if you are right about Coulter exagerating mammogram evidence but it is a minor point and certainly does not justify Orac’s “versus science” allegation. If we required that popularisations of science were always 100% accurate I doubt that any of them would pass muster.

    It wasn’t mammogram evidence, it was high dose chest x-rays of patients with TB that did not cause as much cancer as you would expect from such high doses. The original paper concluded, “the risk of breast cancer associated with radiation decreases sharply with increasing age at exposure and that even a small benefit to women of screening mammography would outweigh any possible risk of radiation-induced breast cancer.” In other words if you dose older women with x-rays, the increased risk of cancer is outweighed by the benefits of early detection of breast cancer. The article by Kolata that Coulter gives as a source of the information says, “the tuberculosis patients, some analyses said, had fewer cases of breast cancer than would be expected.” Coulter misinterprets this, writing, “tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population”. This is not a minor point. Coulter has not bothered to track down the original source and has written something that is opposite to the truth. At a minimum this is sloppy and irresponsible journalism.

    On the paper you cite http://www.pnas.org/content/100/24/13761.full – I have read it (well the abstract) and it does not disprove, indeed barely touches on hormesis. It says there is evidence to support LNT down to 50-100 mSv (a remarkably unspecific amount for science), for non-instant exposures, but nothing below this, allegedly because of the difficulty of finding a large enough statistical population to be affected by lower levels).

    The article is not about hormesis, I never said it was. It is about why the LNT is accepted as the safest assumption to make about low level exposure.

    This conflicts with evidence from areas, such as south India where there is a background radiation of up to 200 mSv with no visible damage.

    How do you know how much damage there is there? What control population do you use to establish this? Where is the matched control study of this exposed population? The one case control study I could find found that lung cancer was 2.3 times more common where the external dose was greater than 10 mGy per year, though this was not statistically significant. The study, which I can’t find on-line, is this:
    Binu VS, Gangadharan P, Jayalekshmi P, Nair RRK, Nair MK, Rajan B and Akiba S 2005 The risk of
    lung cancer in HBR area in India—a case–control study High Levels of Natural Radiation and Radon Areas: Radiation Dose and Health Effects ed T Sugahara and Y Sasaki. It is cited in this study.

    It is also not entirely compatible with the radium paint experience where, as Professor Wade Allison has pointed out, there appears to be a cut off point at 10 gray (100,000 mSv) for a whole life exposure, causing no damage. Nonetheless it is irrelevent for any case of a hormetic effect under 50 mSv – 3 times the official danger level and one most hormesis supporters are willing to accept as a first approxiamation.

    Even assuming this is correct, and the data collected several decades ago is reliable, exposure to radium may not be typical of other exposures to radiation. The number of exposed workers examined (less than 3000) may be too small to find a statistically significant effect consistent with the LNT against a background of normal cancer rates. The cut-off below which there is no measurable effect is between 4 and 11 microcuries radium according to this paper. I’m not sure how that translates into mSv. By the way, I can’t find any information about “the 30 year followup of 1155 low dose radium dial painters who had fewer cancers than the general population and lived longer”.

    If you look at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, >50% of them had a dose of less than 50 mSv. Even those with a dose of 34 mSv showed a statistically significant increase in cancer risk.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/100/24/13761/F2.expansion.html

    In fact the paper is clearly wrong about it being impossible to find larger populations exposed to lower levels. The entire world is exposed to levels of natural radiation, varying in easily measurable ways by region and the much higher exposure of people in Colorado than Missisippi is undisputable. This is the basis of Professor Cohen’s work and that of the Swedish oncologist mentioned. Why the paper should make such an untrue assertion we can only speculate on.

    The problem with that approach is that there are confounding factors. There may be many reasons why cancer rates in Colorado and Mississippi are different. You have to take age, smoking and socioeconomic status into account for a start. You need a control group matched for all those factors. That’s where it gets messy, and small changes in corrections for age, or other factors can have major effects on the results.

    I still maintain that the evidence for hormesis or a threshold dose of radiation in humans is far from overwhelming.

  133. #134 Neil Craig
    May 14, 2011

    The difficulty of assessing statistics, “ecological fallacy” or otherwise cuts both ways and is inherently as likely to lead to an understimate of hormesis. For example your 2nd link says:

    “Population density is strongly positively associated with lung cancer. It follows that aggregate residential radon and lung cancer rates should be negatively associated for reasons having nothing to do with the possibility of radon being carcinogenic to the lung.”

    It is not inherently likely that population density would cause lung cancer. A more likely reason would be that areas where high populations develop tend to be flat fertile soil rather than mountains but mountains contain more radioactive rock. This does not seem to have been noticed.

    As your paper accepts there is no real evidence for LNT below 50 mSv it is simply an assumption.

    On the evidence for south India that is why I said there is “no VISIBLE dasmage”. Since 200 mSv is 10 or more times above “official” danger levels if that is justified one would expect some noticeable effect.

    Exposure to radium being seriously different from all other sorts of radiation is an assumption without evidence. Moreover if it were the case there would be a 50:50 chance that it underestimated the hormetic effect rather than overestimated it. A lot of countering of hormesis seems to rely on the possibility of there being ubnknown confounding factors which (A) becomes increasingly statistically less credible the more times it is invoked and (B) is not evidence for the counter theory, but for more research.

    I would welcome more research on the subject & I think we would agree on that. Scientific questions can be opened by debate but are closed by enough good research. More good research would find if there are enough confounding factors or not. It would either raise the level of evidence for hormesis to “overwhelming” or reduce it.

    I believe that the acceptance of LNT, on grounds of bureaucratic convenience, the general failure to do the research and particular instances such as killing the exposed cattle when they embarrassed the LNT theory indicates that the science has been driven by political conclusions rather than the other way round.

  134. #135 Krebiozen
    May 18, 2011

    As promised, here’s a summary of what I think I have learned about low dose radiation, hormesis and the linear no threshold theory. I’m no expert, but the links supporting my conclusions are above. Any new links I have included below.

    Evidence for and against hormesis and the LNT

    Theoretical evidence

    There are arguments for both that seem equally persuasive to me. It seems self-evident that DNA repair mechanisms cannot be 100% effective as otherwise radiation even in high doses would not cause cancer, but it does (Gofman). However, if protective mechanisms induced by radiation repair more damage from other sources than is caused by the radiation, then hormesis may occur (Pollycove and Feinendegen).

    Experimental evidence

    Plants, trees algae etc
    Some evidence show that low level radiation stimulates the growth of plants, fungi, algae, protozoans, insects, and nonmammalian vertebrates. It is not clear if that is true at all levels of exposure, all types of exposure and with all isotopes. Anyway, this does not mean that the same is true for humans.

    Cell cultures – human and animal
    Some studies show a protective effect of a small dose of radiation before a larger one is given, the radioadaptive response. Some studies show that cells have fewer cancerous changes with low doses of radiation than those with no radiation. Other studies find that even small doses of radiation cause damage in line with the LNT. Low-dose hypersensitivity has also been demonstrated.

    As Dr. Luckey states:
    “Except for cytology and cells in culture, artificial systems which lack participation from whole body faculties (particularly the immune system), there is no reasonable or scientific proof of LNT at low doses of ionizing radiation.” http://www.radpro.com/641luckey.pdf

    In other words Luckey is saying that there is reasonable scientific proof of the LNT at low doses of ionizing radiation in cytology and cells in culture. As he says, whether this translates to humans is not known.

    So the evidence in cell culture is equivocal. The important thing is whether it translates into real effects in humans.

    Animal studies
    Some animal studies show short term health benefits from low dose radiation, especially in infected animals, but later a higher risk of cancer. Radioadaptive responses occur in mice, but mice not dosed with radiation at all live longer. Very low dose studies require too many animals to get statistically significant results. Data are equivocal.

    Luckey http://www.radpro.com/641luckey.pdf gives several examples of radiation hormesis in animals, but these are all animals with diptheria, vesicular stomatitis virus or other infections.

    To quote Luckey: “This graph exposes the misinterpretation to conclude that control mice have longer average life-spans than the exposed mice when the median value was used instead of mean or average. The disbelief spread when major laboratories were misled by repeating the Lorenz protocols with specific pathogen-free (SPF) animals. Since SPF animals have no pathogens to cause infection, controls lived as long as irradiated mice and no hormesis was found.”

    In these sorts of experiments the median (middle value of values arranged in order) is often used as it is not distorted by an abnormal distribution, In a normal distribution (bell-shaped curve) the median and the mean are the same. If the mean and the median are very different, there is not a normal distribution. Median survival is a very fair way of expressing results, as half the animals lived for fewer days, and half lived for more days.

    Notice that Luckey states that in normal uninfected mice, “controls lived as long as irradiated mice and no hormesis was found”. This is what the LNT would predict, as you would have to irradiate many thousands of mice to see the small increase in mortality predicted after such a small dose (1.1mGy/d or 40 rad per year about 100 times average background).

    However, another experiment does show a significant increase in lifespan in mice exposed to 7 or 14 cGy/year (7-14 rad) which is around 20 times background radiation. This is the only experiment I can find that shows an increase in animal lifespan with low dose radiation. http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowAbstract&ProduktNr=224091&Ausgabe=225830&ArtikelNr=22024

    Which of these studies is right? Can they both be right? Maybe 20 times background is beneficial, but 100 times background is not. Anyway, humans are not mice, and we cannot extrapolate directly from mice to humans.

    Another study using mice that are hypersensitive to whole body x-rays found a very low dose (1 micro Gy or 0.0001 Rad or 0.1 mRad) that caused damage, a higher dose that was hormetic, and a higher dose than that which caused damage. This may explain some of the conflicting evidence. By the way, some humans are also hypersensitive to radiation.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3581207

    High background radiation studies
    These are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal apart from radon, which recent studies strongly suggest is a major cause of lung cancer in line with LNT predictions. Combined figures from the whole of Europe, the USA and China give a large population which generates considerable statistical power.

    Occupational exposure to low dose radiation
    These studies are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal.

    Atomic bomb survivors
    Except for higher dose studies, these are plagued by confounding factors, limited populations and difficulties matching exposed and control populations. The data are equivocal, though statistically significant increased risk of cancer has been found at levels as low as 34 mSv.

    There are eminent scientists who are convinced that radiation is good for us. There are equally eminent scientists who believe that radiation in low doses is harmless. There are equally eminent scientists who believe we have the safety regulations about right (the majority, apparently). There are equally eminent scientists who believe that low dose radiation is far more dangerous than we currently think. This disagreement suggests that the data are equivocal, and that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty.

    I tend to agree with the National Academy of Science study which suggests that in the face of such uncertainty we should be cautious. Though we know that low levels of radiation must have a very small (if any) positive or negative effect on individuals, when large populations are exposed large numbers of people may be affected. The costs of maintaining current safety regulations must be balanced against the possibility of thousands of excess cancers if they are relaxed.

    There are scientists who think that hardly anyone has died as a result of Chernobyl, and those who believe that hundreds of thousands have died.

    A word on epidemiological studies
    There are populations that have been exposed to relatively large doses of radiation. For example the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following these survivors should give us a good idea of the long term effects of radiation, you might think. For large doses it does, and this is part of the data used to construct the LNT curve. However, there are potential problems with the data. Firstly, these are survivors. It is not unreasonable to suggest that more of those vulnerable to radiation would have died shortly after the bombs were dropped. The survivor population may or may not be comparable to the control population. Which brings me to the next problem – what control population do you use? The Japanese population not within range of the atom bombs is usually used, but is this a fair control group? Was the population of Japan exposed to radioactive fallout? Are we comparing one exposed population to another? I don’t know the answer to that question. Sternglass claims that leukemia rates in Japan increased by a factor of 5 after 1945, but I can’t find the primary data, and Sternglass is not considered a reliable source by many.

    Parts of Ramsar in Iran have very high background radiation (55-200 times average background), and 10,000 people live in the high radiation area so it should be simple to determine if there is an increased cancer (or other disease) rate in this area. In practice it doesn’t seem so straightforward. If you go to http://www.sciencedirect.com/ and type “Ramsar” into the search box, you will get several studies, some of which find lower cancer rates, some that find no effect and one that finds an increased rate. Who do you believe?

  135. #136 Neil Craig
    May 19, 2011

    OK I am glad you accept the experimental evidence of hormesis in plants, cultures and animals. Once it is accepted an effect exists the rest is measurement of degree and where, if anywhere, the effect stops both in radiation level and complexity of the organism (I realise how much of a simplification that is). If it is found in one in one part of the living world the default assumption is that we would expect it elsewhere, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

    My reading of Luckey is not yours. I suggest that what that phrase means is that he had not searched for hormesis in cells which “lack participation from whole body faculties” ie lack an immune system, because it an immune system is essntial for the hormesis theory rather than that he had investtigated and found it missing. If he, or anybody else, had investigated I submit it would have been published properly not as an arguable implication in a throw away line.

    I think it reasonable to believe 20 times (app 40 mSv) background is hormetic but 100 times (app 200 mSv) not. That latter figure is about 50% above the Ramsar background. Both are above official danger levels from which we are assured government regulation is “protecting” us.

    You are exaggerating in describing the possibility of “thousands” of extra cancers if regulations are relaxed. Nobody is suggesting a relaxation that would allow nuclear plants to normally emit even 1/10th as much as coal plants currently do (50 times more than nuclear ones http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2009/05/menace-of-radioactivity-released-by.html) , let alone TMI or Fukushima, both of which have killed nobody. So, even were LNT true, a relaxation would be unlikely to kill as many as a handful (in fact if it replaced coal plants it would, assuming the LNT theory, be directly beneficial). Of course if it provides heat for people through the winter it would save millions worldwide.

    I cannot agree with your assertion that radon has unequivocally been proven harmful. There have been many studies on this precisely because they kept coming up with the “wrong” answers. It is unsurprising that somebody has managed to come up with the “right” answer but Cohen’s, which found a hormetic effect half of the damaging effect of smoking seems to have been professionally conducted. This is another on radon http://enochthered.wordpress.com/category/radiation-hormesis/ “described by their own authors as “surprising” and “stunning”: Clear evidence of radiation hormesis”

    On your surprise that some studies show hormesis and some are consistent with LNT may I suggest this answer from Richard Feynman’s speech on cargo cult science.

    “Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It’s a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the
    viscosity of air. It’s interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan’s, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

    Why didn’t they discover that the new number was higher right away? It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of–this history–because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong–and they would look for and find a reason why
    something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.”
    http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

    The entire speech should be read by anybody interested in scientific integrity.

    In this case LNT is, like Millikan’s case but very very much stronger because it is so heavily politically backed, the official theory which any experiment must conform to. It is to their considerable credit that such a significant number of scientists have found – and published – the evidence for the non-official theory.

  136. #137 Neil Craig
    May 20, 2011

    Thanks Kreboizen, I am pleased to see the result of an intelligent evidence based debate on the subject. I have extracted it from the morass and republished it here http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2011/05/low-level-radiation-is-it-dangerous.html You are welcome to comment if you feel it would be productive.

  137. #138 Neil Craig
    May 23, 2011

    Orac’s note: Moved out of a comment thread where this rant was off-topic. Mr. Craig was warned that his posting about this topic in unrelated threads would result in either deletion with extreme prejudice or moving his comment over to an appropriate thread. I was nice this time. Next time, it’s deletion with extreme prejudice.

    Since Orac consistently shows his refusal to even contemplate evidence based science I think his hypocrisy is showing.

    In one of Orac’s recent threads which he described as a “tribute” to me personally he described my request for evidence to support what he claims to be proven science as “nonsense”

    Evidence is a basic requirement of science. Only religions rely on faith.

    He has continued to refuse to even attempt to produce any evidence for his claims of catastrophic global warming and the linear no threshold theory (LNT) of radiation.

    And indeed no other contributor or reader of this blog has been able to produce any good evidence of either either.

    Clearly nobody could ever try to justify what they know to be religious assertions by wrapping themselvesin the stolen mantle of “science” if they had any actual respect for it.

    As of now the warming alarmists have accepted that in scaring the populace into paying vast amounts of money to fight catastrophic global warming the warming alarmists have been lying. None of the alarmists are now claiming any warming catastrophe claims they have supported to be credible.

    The radiation alarmists have been reduced to trying to downplay the large amount of evidence for hormesis, that at low levels radiation is good for you) rather than actually trying to produce evidence for the politically approved scare. Even if that were true it would only mean Ms Coulter’s position was not much more scientific than Orac’s.

    I had previously asked Orac to apologise to Ann Coulter, the target of his LNT tirade for saying she was “against physics” when the alleged physics in question is simply politics without evidential support.

    I now think he should also apologise to me for describing, against all the evidence, what I wrote and the 7 questions about alleged catastrophic warming as “nonsense” and encouraging numerous ad hominem attacks on me in his thread “tributing” me.

    Were Orac or his followers actually on the side of science it would not have been necessary for me to point this out. The only common difference between the pseudoscience Orac supports and that which he opposes is that he is always in support of whatever the state supports, indded in some cases, such as Wakeman, his opponents show a far greater respect for scientific principles.
    If the state supported eugenics, as it used to, he would support it; if it supported the Earth centred universe he would be denouncing Galileo; if the state said Jews were subhuman, as one state used to, he would be denouncing anybody who questioned it as “unscientific”. That is why taking on people like him is important.

    Science, from the control of fire onwards, has been responsible for all human progress. Those who oppose scientific principles are opposed to truth and ultimately to humanity and the very worst of them are those who wrap themselves in the, deservedly, good name of science to attack it. Such people must be opposed without reservation.

    Orac I suggest that being willing to admit being wrong is a major and necessary step towards being right. Make the admissions and apologies.

    I will leave the last word to Orac on yet another thread “it’s easier to lampoon a person than it is to address the science”. Said in defence of Al “smoking is a major cause of global warming/ 2 miles down the Earth’s core is millions of degrees” Gore who he says “usually got the science mostly right”. Clearly Coulter & indeed I have attained a considerably higher standard of scientific accuracy.
    Make the apologies Orac and start addressing the science.

  138. #139 srobi
    July 8, 2011

    As someone who is against nuclear power in its current state, I want to clarify something. I’m not as fearful of radiation in itself as I am of having health and safety issues decided by people with obvious political or financial agendas. Show me that you can treat the technology with the respect and I’ll back building new plants. But the industry, govt agencies and “experts” alike have an ability to gloss over the risk and play down bad outcomes. THAT is where the danger lies. Fixing it will take a lot more than lip service by people on committees [Murkowski]. You can’t sell me by saying more emphatically that it can’t happen here or by trying to show how Fukushima Daichi was not on the scale of Chernoble. Fortunately, the Coulter’s and Malkin’s will paint themselves into a corner.

  139. #140 johnk
    February 8, 2012

    I am a retired college professor who recently found a basement radon level of 22 picocuries/L. My remediation project was featured in our local newspaper (The Columbian, Vancouver, WA) I was able to remediate my radon level to below the action levels of EPA (4 pCi/L) and WHO (2.7 PCi/L). However, in letters to the editor, the “radon is good for you and the more the better” hormesis crowd came back with its load of junk science to suggest my project (which involved digging a hole beneath the cement floor in my basement and venting through a chimney) was a fearmongering conspiracy to generate more radon research funding.