Not that you weren’t already–but if you want to be really, really outraged about the nefarious techniques used to undermine accepted scientific knowledge, you need to go get a book entitled Doubt is Their Product, by David Michaels. I just reviewed it for The American Prospect. By the end of the book–no, by the middle–you will be just sickened (just like so many people have been by dangerous chemicals and products defended by dubious science).
Here is part of what I say in my Prospect review:
Even most of us who have gone swimming in the litigation-generated stew of tobacco documents (you can never get the stink off of you again) don’t have a clue about the extent of the abuses. For the war on science described in Doubt is Their Product is so sweeping and fundamental as to make you question why we ever had the Enlightenment. There aren’t just a few scientists for hire — there are law firms, public-relations firms, think tanks, and entire product-defense companies that specialize in rejiggering epidemiological studies to make findings of endangerment to human health disappear.
For Michaels, these companies are the scientific equivalent of Arthur Andersen. He calls their work “mercenary” science, drawing an implicit analogy with private military firms like Blackwater. If the companies can get the raw data, so much the better, and if they can’t, they’ll find another way to make findings of statistically significant risk go away. Just throw out the animal studies or tinker with the subject groups. Perform a new meta-analysis. Conduct a selective literature review. Think up some potentially confounding variable. And so forth.
They can always get it published somewhere. And if they can’t, they can just start their own peer-reviewed journal, one likely to have an exceedingly low scientific impact but a potentially profound effect on the regulatory process.