A Lazy Night: Some thoughts about science

I’m feeling a bit lazy tonight. All the family were visiting and so the house contained:



Daughter one.

Daughter two.

Daughter three.


Daughter one’s dog.

Daughter three’s dog.

daughter two’s cat.

Absent Grandson’s gerbil.

I might well have escaped to the pub this afternoon, had it not been for the fact that the pub is now a mausoleum.

But we did have a jolly time. Nay, one might even say that we were all very gay.


Leg Iron:


published yesterday a post entitled ‘Real Science’. I suspect that LI had over-indulged in the malt a little since his post was just a tiny bit disjointed. But who of us has not?

LI opined that some ‘scientific’ sites on the net are actually trying to produce ‘real’ science. He says that you can tell that these sites are trying to produce real science because they declare that they may be wrong and that there may be other, unknown factors having unknown effects.

Anyway, since I am being lazy tonight, here is a comment that I made on that post:

Is Epidemiology in the nature of religion rather than science?

In Doll’s Doctors Study, of the 25,000 doctors who died over the 50 years duration of the study, 1,000 died from lung cancer. Some 75% of the doctors (if not more) were smokers at the beginning of the study. Doll found that most of the lung cancer deaths (per thousand were smokers; few non-smokers got lung cancer. He therefore concluded that smoking caused the lung cancer deaths of the smoking doctors.

But there are two very important questions which Doll did not address and which a ‘proper scientist’ would have concerned about:

1. If smoking caused the lung cancer, why did so few of the smoking doctors contract lung cancer? 2. What was it about the smoking doctors who did get lung cancer which caused them to get the cancer?

In ‘proper’ science’, these questions would be so serious in their implications that the proposition that smoking causes LC would be rejected out of hand without them being answered. An analogy could be drawn with Faraday’s discovery that a changing magnetic field causes an electric current in a conductor. Suppose that the changing magnetic field only produced an electric current on one occasion out of twenty five? Would it matter whether or not the electric current, on the odd occasion on which it appeared, was stronger or weaker if the magnetic field was changing more or less rapidly? Would not the overall scientific consensus be, “Erm…. Why is the electric current only being produced on one occasion in twenty five attempts?”

It seems to me that Doll’s written reports on the Doctors Study became religious texts. They were to be accepted as complete explanations, just like the gospels, which is as far away from science as you can get.

I am sure that you must have read my analysis of the McTear versus Imperial Tobacco case which was conducted in the Scottish Supreme Court and ended only in 2005. In that case, Tobacco Control failed completely to bring evidence before the court that smoking causes lung cancer. Why did TC not bring forward the evidence of the Doctors Study? Doll himself was an expert witness. I don’t think that the failure to bring the Doctors Study in as evidence was an oversight. It was because the study actually fails in every respect to prove that smoking causes lung cancer.

Had the Doctors Study been ‘proper’ science, it would have been produced as evidence. Nay, I should say, “Had the Doctors Study been SCIENCE, it would have been produced as evidence” It was not science – it was quackery.

I only became aware of the McTear case as a result of realising that the smoking ban was iniquitous and starting to investigate what on earth was going on. I am a reasonably well-read person. Had the case been extensively publicised (as it should have been), I would almost certainly have been aware of it. Somehow or other, Tobacco Control managed to hush it up very successfully.

Anyway, anyone interested in seeing what the McTear case was about can access my analysis at Bolton Smokers Club. If LI does not mind, here is the URL for the analysis:


The original ‘Judge’s Opinion’ was 600 pages in length. I reduced it to about 60 pages. It is well worth reading.


It never ceases to amaze me that Tobacco Companies have not been shouting very loudly, over and over and over again, about the McTear Case. I do not understand. The Tobacco Company involved (Imperial Tobacco) won hands down. In tennis terms, they won five sets to nil. And yet they have made no attempt whatsoever to capitalise upon it. Oddly enough, in Canada, a case is before the courts which is almost exactly the same, apart from the fact that the Complainant (the person complaining that tobacco caused his lung cancer) is older than McTear was. With respect to the McTear case, there was a quote from Tobacco Control: “The Tobacco Industry has to be lucky every time. We have to be lucky only once”. But that may be a myth – we have seen the same thought attributed to the IRA.

Someone kindly provided me with a link to an American site which discussed the interactions between the FDA (Federal Drugs Administration) and Tobacco Companies. It seems, as far as I can understand, that the FDA and TCs came to some sort of agreement. The agreement was that the FDA would not class tobacco as a drug provided that TCs would find a way to reduce the toxicity of tobacco products. (We must always bear in mind the tax value of tobacco) It seems that there is shortly to be a meeting between the FDA and TCs about progress in ‘tobacco harm reduction’ and, specifically, about tobacco products which have, potentially, much reduced harm – snus is one such, and, I suppose, ecigs could be another. It seems that Tobacco Control is spitting feathers about such a meeting. According to Tobacco Control, the FDA should not be holding meetings with Tobacco Companies – period.

But the FDA DID meet with TCs and DID come to agreements. If the FDA fails to honour the agreements, then Government itself ceases to be honourable.

In my opinion, the honourability of Government is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the opinions of Anti-Smoking Zealots.


But you may argue that Government lost honourability long ago. Specifically, the seatbelt law was the beginning of propaganda-led legislation. It is true that a massive propaganda campaign led to the adoption of a law which FORCED free citizens to protect themselves whether they wanted to protect themselves or not. Citizens were punished if they did not protect themselves. And yet, at the same time, certain citizens were risking lives and limbs climbing mountains and swimming in the sea, and doing all sorts of stupid things!

Why were such things not banned?

The answer lies in QANTITIES. Mountaineering is not banned ONLY BECAUSE few people do it.

That idea is very, very important. The Smoking Prohibition Movement ONLY exists  because billions of people enjoy tobacco.

14 Responses to “A Lazy Night: Some thoughts about science”

  1. Rose Says:

    Specifically, the seatbelt law was the beginning of propaganda-led legislation. It is true that a massive propaganda campaign led to the adoption of a law which FORCED free citizens to protect themselves whether they wanted to protect themselves or not

    Crash Helmet Law – 32(3) of the Road Traffic Act, 1972

    We were a disliked minority and so nobody seemed to care what had happened to us.

    I don’t think that many non-motorcyclists at that time could grasp that the affront to our liberties might ever expand outwards to include them.
    We were “different” you see.

    But now I look further it seems that once again it may not have been an original idea.

    America did it first.

    “The 1966 National Highway Safety Act introduced drastic and unwelcome changes to US motorcycle culture.

    The law, which was introduced after the 1965 publication of Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader’s scathing indictment of the US auto industry’s vehicle safety standards, included a provision that withheld federal funding for highway safety programs to states that did not enact mandatory motorcycle helmet laws within a specified time frame.

    This provision was added after a study showed that helmet laws would significantly decrease the rate of fatal accidents. The National Highway Safety Act was passed without debate on the helmet law provision.

    Adoption of this measure drew upon a broader movement within public health to expand its purview beyond infectious disease to “prevention of disability and postponement of untimely death.”

  2. garyk30 Says:

    “withheld federal funding for highway safety programs to states that did not enact “………..a drinking legal age of 18.

    There were states that had a younger legal age for drinking of beer and wine.

    In America, nat’l govt arm twisting has been, in fact, running our lives for a long time.

  3. Junican Says:

    Sometimes it seems as though the Federal Government is not unlike the EU, but with a semblance of democracy.

    I was trying to think of some other law where propaganda had figured large, Rose, and I couldn’t think of anything. I had forgotten about the helmet law. As we have seen since, in these sort of laws, the people who are most affected are not permitted to have a voice, but almost everyone else is.

    • Rose Says:

      Wearing a crash helmet is commonsense, I always wore one, but it is still MY head, not the government’s, a fact they chose to ignore.

      • Junican Says:

        And when the Government have got away with taking ownership of your head, what is to stop them taking ownership of the rest of your body and those of your children? Is this philosophical idea not the root of all the anti-tobacco laws?
        But there is a more serious point. When we say ‘The Government’, we are actually speaking about Society as a whole. In other words, your body and the bodies of your children have become the property of everyone.
        That cannot be accepted.

  4. beobrigitte Says:

    I remember ignoring the motorcycle helmet law for as long as I could and I remember taking driving lesson with an instructor who did not think much of seat belts, less even a law to force people to strap themselves in.

    Somebody somewhere decided that seat belts “save lives” and that some people have to be collateral damage.
    At my size any seat belt will get my jugular vein.
    But this was not enough. Air bags, too, “save lives”. Again, people my size are filed under acceptable collateral damage.

    What was wrong with OPTIONAL????? Survival and PROGRESS has always been closely associated with risk taking.
    Isn’t currently a Billionaire looking for a middle aged couple to fly to Mars? Hell, that would be an adventure!!! I’d be up for that, providing I can make myself comfortable in the little tin. Pity I am not part of a middle aged couple. Sure, there is a HIGH RISK that it goes wrong, but it would be MY decision.
    If this adventure goes right there will be people with priceless memories and information!!!

    When we say ‘The Government’, we are actually speaking about Society as a whole. In other words, your body and the bodies of your children have become the property of everyone.
    We may as well take daily dumbification pills and cease to exist.

    • Junican Says:

      Isn’t the number of people taking ‘dumbification’ pills already in the millions? They are called ‘anti-depressants’, aren’t they?
      My first ‘vehicle’ was a scooter. After a few years, I moved up to a car. I suppose that, had a survey come my way asking if I thought that the Government should make a law requiring the wearing of helmets for motorcyclists, I would have said, “Yes. Of course!” However, if I had been asked to agree that smoking in cars should be outlawed, I would have said, “Don’t be stupid! Whose car is it?”

      It depends upon who you ask, doesn’t it? That is another clever trick which Tobacco Control uses – ask non-smokers for their opinions about smoking, and then claim overwhelming support.

  5. legiron Says:

    The Tobacco Company involved (Imperial Tobacco) won hands down. In tennis terms, they won five sets to nil. And yet they have made no attempt whatsoever to capitalise upon it.

    Up until now, nothing tobacco control has done has really adversely affected the tobacco companies.

    The ban on advertising, since it applied to all, merely meant that all tobacco companies saved on advertising and sponsorship costs. It also meant that no new competition could arise – there is no point trying to set up a company if you can’t even tell people it exists. I suspect the companies did the ‘oh dear, oh what shall we do?’ bit in public and then went home, cracked open a beer and had a good laugh.

    It was Ecclestone who went to Blair for an exemption for ads on his racing cars. The one who stood to lose out asked for an exemption, not the tobacco companies who stood only to save a lot more money.

    Tobacco companies don’t care about patches, gum or Electrofag because they supply the nicotine for those things. They profit either way. it’s the Pharmers who are trying to get Electrofag banned because it’s so much better than their useless products. The tobacco companies supply nicotine to both sides. they cannot lose. Even if you switch entirely to Electrofag, the tobacco companies still make money.

    Banning smoking, in increasing numbers of places, is advertising smoking to a degree that would have cost the tobacco companies millions if they were allowed to advertise at all. They have no need to advertise. ASH, the NHS and all the rest are doing it for free, every day.

    The bans and the ‘what’s behind the mystery door’ game merely enhance tobacco’s naughtiness factor and make it even more attractive, especially to rebellious youth.

    So far, the tobacco companies have been rubbing their hands in glee. Every single move made by their opponents has backfired. Every single one.

    Even the transfer of mass amounts across borders by Man with a Van and legitimate shoppers makes no difference to the tobacco companies. Their profit is the same whether you buy it in Brussels or Bristol. The difference in price is all tax.

    The plain packaging is different. That’s where the tobacco companies tried to stop the rot, but too late. As you have pointed out before, Junican, it’s not just colour, but size, they will have control over. No more Superkings and no more short two-puffers for those who like a quick smoke. Once it’s in place, the filters will get bigger and the packs will get smaller.

    The other part of plain packaging is that it’s the only way for a customer to differentiate between products in little boxes stacked behind the counter staff. It’s not about ‘advertising to new customers’ because non-smokers pay as much attention to the cigarette display as the averagely-constructed male pays to the sanitary towel display.

    The tobacco companies are in competition with each other and they don’t want people switching to other companies. The branding is all they have left.

    They didn’t resist the other measures because there were advantages in letting tobacco control win. Pity, because now it’s too late to speak out.

    (And yes, I had been at the whisky).

    • Rose Says:

      The Ecclestone Affair: Labour’s first funding scandal

      “In January 1997 Mr Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, donated £1million to Labour – a donation only made public in early November after the government had announced F1 would be exempt from a ban on tobacco advertising which was a key plank of the party’s election manifesto. Mr Ecclestone lobbied for the exemption at a meeting at Number 10 with Mr Blair on 16 October.

      In the political and media storm that followed, Mr Blair and the government repeatedly downplayed the link between the donation and the decision to exempt Formula 1.

      The crisis only abated when the former prime minister used an interview with John Humphrys on BBC 1′s “On The Record” to apologise for the government’s handling of the issue.
      Wearing too much make up and sweating under powerful TV lights Mr Blair resembled, according to one contemporary observer, a “pantomime dame” as he insisted he was a “pretty straight sort of guy,” a phrase which was to come to haunt him down the years.”

    • Rose Says:

      Labour Government’s tobacco spin spins them off track

      The Lancet -15 November 1997

      “Smoking is the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK. We will therefore ban tobacco advertising”—Labour Party manifesto, 1997

      That pre-election message could not have been plainer. On Nov 5, the Labour public-health minister, Ms Tessa Jowell, astonished everyone with the news that the Government would exempt Formula One motor racing from a ban on sponsorship by the tobacco industry. That change of policy amounted to a faster U-turn than the power spins F1 cars make after skidding.

      The European Social Affairs Commissioner, Padraig Flynn, a leading campaigner against tobacco, looked fit to burst when interviewed on television. A Council of Ministers meeting on Dec 4 would probably have agreed a tobacco-advertising directive, given that Britain’s Labour Government had been thought to be about to end years of stalemate.

      Flynn says the Europe-wide deal has been undermined and that the European Commission may withdraw the directive.”

      • Junican Says:

        I should imagine that Eccleston bypassed all the Zealots. He might have met Blair and showed him the figures. The figures might have shown that, without tobacco company support, the F1 circuit would fold – period. Would Blair want that?
        I wonder if Tobacco Companies in Australia could have done something similar? Bypass Health and go direct to the Australian chancellor and tell him that if plain packaging goes ahead, then they would have to withdraw from Australia. Too chicken, I suppose…

  6. garyk30 Says:

    “as the averagely-constructed male pays to the sanitary towel display”

    My wife used to delight in taking me shopping and then spending what seemed, to me, to be hours making a decision in front of such displays. 🙂

    • Junican Says:

      Mine used to pick up a packet of sausages and examine it carefully. She then put that packet down and picked up another identical one and examined it carefully. She then put that down and picked up another identical one and put it in the trolley without examining it. It was then that I realised that I did not understand the female mind.

      No offence intended, ladies.

      • Rose Says:


        Your wife was probably looking at the sell by dates.
        The supermarkets move the perishable goods with the shortest shelf life to the front of the display.

        I am rather lax about this and tend to grab the first one, but my husband is meticulous in going through several packs of sausages to find the one that will last longest in the fridge.

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