> Therefore the writer isn't likely to understand what's behind the
> citizen concerns--however "inadequately" they're expressed, citizens
> *are* picking up on these larger issues of policy, proof,
> epistemology, and public health.
I agree, the "larger issues" are driving public perceptions. But when I
drink a can of soda, I want to know something about the reality of aspartame
effects. Same with pesticide residues on food.
Brewster Kneen wrote:
> > Harm, however, is much more difficult to actually prove,
> > in the current ideology of 'science', than no harm.
Brewster has got it exactly backwards. If one finds adverse effects in test
subjects, there is a firm basis for estimating risk. If no effects are
found, all you can say is that the risk is below such-and-such level, it
cannot be estimated. Unless you use a very large number of test animals,
"such-and-such level" is not very low (say, one in a thousand). But people
are concerned with risk estimation at the one-in-a-million level and below.
So, in a very practical sense, it is easier to prove harmfulness.
The recourse is to estimate risk at very high doses. If the risk is small
at high doses, then it is probably much smaller still at low doses. I have
dug up a hundred or so papers on the toxicity of aspartame, and it looks
like that is what has been done. The advantage in studying aspartame is
that it is legal to administer to human subjects. You don't need animal
models. So lots of researchers have tried feeding people huge amounts of
aspartame and looking for adverse effects. They never find any. And
believe me, there are grants and careers to be built in the public sector
for researchers who are able to find adverse effects.
> You all can do your own noshings on these two pieces; I just
> wanted to raise the issue here. It was rather...uncanny...to
> have both these pieces in the same day's mail.
It might be more productive to cogitate over the published results of
aspartame research. I'll send you the abstracts if you want.
> Greg, the Urban Legends writer has already decided that the
> e-mail campaign on aspartame effects is "scarelore," so presents
> the issue as a tale of the paranoid, ranting assertions of
> Hysterical, Conspiracy-Minded Women....
This is unfair, an ad-hominum attack, the trump-card of feminine
> Allow me to submit that the Urban Legends writer is passing along
> his own version of an urban legend: the Hysterical Female whose
> irrational observations plague Henpecked Scientists and Regulators.
> One need only set up the two sides in mythic battle and say, "Lo!
> Dear Reader! Behold! And decide for yourself!" Provide enough fuel
> (quotes, links, stage-direction) to get the sizz sizzling.
Misha, I love the way you write, sizzling, but you are bypassing the rather
dull but central issue: aspartame toxicity. This isn't "rocket-science" and
it isn't primarily a social issue. What interests me is why you are so
fired up about aspartame. What do you think it is emblematic of? Let's
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