Walter E. Williams
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The public has become increasingly aware that the science behind manmade global warming is a fraud. But maybe Americans like bogus science in pursuit of certain public policy objectives. Let's look at it.

Many Americans find tobacco smoke to be a nuisance. Some find the odor offensive, and others have allergies or asthma that can be aggravated by smoking in their presence. There's little question that tobacco smoke causes these kinds of nuisances, but how successful would anti-smokers have been in a court of law, or public opinion, in achieving the kind of success they've achieved based on tobacco smoke being a nuisance?

A serious public health threat had to be manufactured, and in 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in to the rescue with their bogus environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) study that says secondhand tobacco smoke is a class A carcinogenic.

Why is it bogus? The EPA claimed that 3,000 Americans die annually from secondhand smoke, but there was a problem. They couldn't come up with that conclusion using the standard statistical 95 percent confidence interval. They lowered their study's confidence interval to 90 percent. That has the effect of doubling the margin of error and doubling the probability that mere chance explains those 3,000 deaths.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) said, "Admittedly, it is unusual to return to a study after the fact, lower the required significance level, and declare its results to be supportive rather than unsupportive of the effect one's theory suggests should be present." The CRS was being kind. This kind of doctoring of research results would get a graduate student expelled from a university.

In 1998, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer released the largest ever and best formulated study on ETS. The research project ran for 10 years and in seven European countries. The study, not widely publicized, concluded that no statistically significant risk existed for nonsmokers who either lived or worked with smokers.

During the late '90s, at a Washington affair, I had the occasion to be in the presence of an FDA official. I asked him whether he would approve of pharmaceutical companies employing EPA's statistical techniques in their testing of drug effectiveness and safety. He answered no. I ask my fellow Americans who are nonsmokers: Do you support the use of fraudulent science in your efforts to eliminate tobacco smoke nuisance in bars, restaurants, workplaces and hotels?

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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