A LEAP INTO SCIENCE
ANN COULTER EFFECT
Conservative author Ann Coulter read an article ( Science Section of the New York Times) which, she says, shows how a certain amount of nuclear radiation’s okay. Healthy, even. She said most physicists are on board with this.
Which they’re not.
Coulter’s confusion (?) isn’t hard to understand. Science is a slippery thing.
In an interview with Bill O’reilly, Ms Coulter says “It’s not me I’m citing, it’s a stunning number of physicists”. She said that there’s science going WAY back about how low doses of radiation may be a good thing.
What IS she talking about?
Ms Coulter is referring to a “scientific” idea known as hormesis. It is the brainchild of Dr. Abraham Lessismore (Montgomery Junior College) who tried to poison some geese which were despoiling his dock. Couldn’t get rid of them. Tried everything. Finally decided it was time to stop foolin’ around.
Lessismore, a graduate student in 1998, couldn’t afford the recommended 10 bags of Gretchen’s Goose Killer so he only bought one . “I figured it might not kill ALL a those sonna bitches but even two or three would make me happy.”
Lessismore spread the Goose Killer stuff and watched the geese peck at it while he crouched behind his fake coyote to enjoy the dying paroxysms of these horrible creatures.
When they had finished eating the Goose Killer, they stood around. Lessismore, thought the fat one looked bad.
Then it turned turned toward him, locked eyes, and pooped.
It fluffed its wings, and waddled away.
After some time, it occurred to Lessismore that the poison hadn’t harmed the geese at all. If anything, the flock appeared sturdier than before. They had more energy. The one with the growth on its neck? Was he imagining it? Each day, the growth appeared smaller. Eventually, the growth disappeared and that goose turned up leading a group of new hatchlings.
Undaunted by his failure to roust the geese, Dr. L turned to the scientific implications of what he had just witnessed. Giving the geese a reduced dose of a toxin didn’t result in reduced casualties and, instead, seemed to have some kind of curative effect. This, it seemed to Lessismore, could be a new scientific principle. Thus was born the idea of “Hormesis”.
(If you don’t believe my goose story, here’s another version of the thing.)
Are things that are bad in large doses, good in small doses? Sure. That’s why medicines have labels. A truck full of aspirin would probably give you a REAL headache, wouldn’t it?
Researchers such as Edward Calabrese believe toxins in low doses stimulate some kind of protective reaction without doing real damage. The problem? The evidence is weak and confusing which isn’t surprising. There’s always a “signal to noise” issue when you’re measuring something very small.
And some of the researchers may be a little “intense”. One wore a radioactive vest around for its health benefits . Enthusiasm amok.
Here’s the deal. There IS a lot of info about hormesis. If you google it, you get the impression that hormesis is the real deal. In fact (and strangely) you don’t find much serious criticism. Not in the first 25 hits, anyway. So I don’t blame Ann Coulter.
Unfortunately, Googling isn’t always the best way to settle a scientific question. Sometimes you just need someone you trust and, yes, I do hope MISTER ScienceAintSoBad’s on your list.
The basis for hormesis is pretty sketchy. Even if it is, ultimately, confirmed, it will only apply to some stuff.
What about radiation?
Let me put it this way, most physicist do NOT walk around wearing radioactive vests.
Trust me on that.