Paul Jacob

The end is near. Well, the end of the year is near. So it's time to ape Dave Letterman's favorite bit and construct a Top Ten list. I'm working on mine: a Top Ten List of The Year's Top Ten Lists. And I've found a contender for the Number One spot, courtesy of a website dedicated to "All the junk that's fit to debunk." just published this year's list of Top Ten Most Embarrassing Moments. The list spotlights individuals and organizations that use the mantle of science to provide intellectual cover for exaggerated claims, bad judgments, or hidden agendas that have "most egregiously undermined public confidence in the scientific community's capacity to conduct sound and unbiased research."

Here are just a few of its "embarrassing moments":

  • Polar bears, we were told, face extinction because of global warming. The claim, however, underplayed the cyclical nature of warming and cooling in the Arctic. It also ignored the inconvenient fact that polar bear populations have increased, rather than decreased, during the recent warming.
  • A leading scientist successfully plugged stem cell research to California voters. The research may or may not be a promising avenue to achieve the promised results. But it certainly was the most promising way for said scientist's troubled company to make millions off of taxpayers ? the scientist's economic ties to the company were of course not disclosed to the public.
  • Four years ago, those in charge of public water in Washington, D.C. stopped using chlorine. They abandoned the world's most effective disinfectant for something more expensive and less effective. Why? On undocumented fear that chlorine causes cancer. Unfortunately, the substitute was more corrosive. So this year they detected increased levels of lead in the water, corroded from old pipes.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.