Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pesticides and Parkinson's

Maria Cone of the L.A. Times examines the link between exposure to chemicals in the environment, especially pesticides, and Parkinson's Disease. It's an issue of interest to me because of my Parkinson's, and I have no doubt that, as the story says, exposure to certain chemicals in certain quantities can trigger or help trigger Parkinson's in some people. Look at someone who's been spraying pesticides for twenty or thirty years, and you'll see how bad that shit is, and then recall the number of times your own home was sprayed or you gave a flea bath or dip to the dog. Pesticides are intended to kill; little wonder then that they also affect people.

I don't mean to belittle this research. The people doing it have been voices in the wilderness for too long. But there is not much news here, either; vague statements about percentages and speculation about multiple chemical assaults at various timess substitutes for hard science. Throw the speculation, however informed, away and what's left is a plea for more money for more research--a lot more--and not just about the role of toxic chemicals in Parkinson's. We need to learn why and how people react so differently to the same environmental insult--and that brings us to genetics, which this article tends to downplay, if not ignore.

Far from showing how much we know, stories like this one reveal our ignorance of the way the brain works and way genes interact with the environment. They also show how industry invariably looses its "biostitutes" (biologist + prostitute) to pick studies apart rather than to join the search for truth. The result is "politicized science" in which people stake out and tenaciously defend their intellectual turf instead of engaging in the free inquiry that is the sine qua non not just of science but of all critical thinking.

Still, short of any compelling evidence to the contrary, I'll blame the (Un)Intelligent Designer for Parkinson's and all other debilitating diseases. The dude clearly has a sick sense of humor and a malevolent spirit, to have turned these things loose.


faculty for workplace justice said...

i see the politicization of science as one of the most alarming signs of the times. i mean, it's not just industry's efforts to boycott the increment of knowledge on the effects of pollution and other developmental cankers on public health (an issue tackled somewhat in The Constant Gardener) that worries me, though god knows it worries me enough.

it's also, perhaps mostly, industry's disregard for what may well be the end of the planet.

i only had to mention global warming in class the other day to see in stark relief the pernicious effects of the politicization of science.

it's amazing to me how 5 years (yes, three more to go!) of bush administration have sufficed to brainwash the minds of the american people into believing that perfectly measurable scientific phenomena are in fact ideological position. i wanna grind my teeth till they become insignificant stumps.

(hope this comment makes any sense. it's kind of late in miami effe-elle-ay!)

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