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The End of Science History

Delete button By Martin Walker

Last week, following the guilty verdict of the GMC Fitness to Practice Hearing in the case of Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith, the Lancet and one other journal expunged Wakefield's work from the academic record. A person's work is often their life and erasure of this work from the record under a determination of dishonesty, is very close to erasure of the subject's life. To erase scientific work from the history and progress of science, is perhaps the closest you can come to academic assassination; it is not, however, something new. It is perhaps a sign of the growing power of the chemical and pharmaceutical corporation that what was at first only threatened is now a viable option for corporate science.

Those who imagine that this liquidation of a person's work from the record is a novel technique invented solely for the use of pharmaceutical companies in relation to Dr Wakefield, should take a look at the shenanigans that surrounded the 1985 Australian Royal Commission on Agent Orange and dioxin on Australian personnel during the Vietnam War. [1] Agent Orange was a herbicide dropped by the US and their allies on forested areas of Vietnam so as to expose insurgent fighters and groups. Agent Orange contained dioxin in large quantities. Shortly after involvement in dropping Agent Orange in Vietnam, US and Australian troops and even the dogs used by the military showed serious adverse reaction to the chemical. The Vietnamese are still having to cope with familial genetic damage caused by Agent Orange forty years later.

The Australian Royal commission was from the start a 'get-up'. Two Swedish doctors, Lennart Hardell and Olaf Axelson, had some years before the commission managed to get dioxin-based herbicides banned in Sweden. Hardell gave evidence to the Royal Commission but he paid dearly for this privilege. The judge's final verdict that there was no evidence that exposure to Agent Orange, including TCDD (Dioxin), was a health hazard turned out to be an almost verbatim account of a Monsanto submission on the issue.

In the days following the verdict of the Royal Commission, Richard Doll, the 'great' epidemiologist, who unbeknown to his colleagues and fans had since the nineteen seventies been receiving $1,000 a day (later raised to $1,500) on a consultative basis for recommending the chemical products of Monsanto, [2] one of the companies manufacturing Agent Orange, wrote to Justice Evatt who had presided over the last part of the hearing. [3]. Doll’s unsolicited letter to Evatt supported the Commission’s conclusions. In the letter Doll stated:

'relating to 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T (the phenoxy herbicides in question) that there is no reason to suppose that they are carcinogenic in laboratory animals and that even TCDD (dioxin), which has been postulated to be a dangerous contaminant of the herbicides, is at the most, only weakly and inconsistently carcinogenic in animal experiments . . . I am sure, however, that it [your review] will be widely quoted and that it will come to be regarded as the definitive work of the subject. [4]

Doll’s letter goes on to question the veracity and validity of the work by Dr Hardell and his colleagues, and without one word about science, epidemiology or methodology, its very legitimacy as scientific work.

'Your Review of Hardell’s work, with the additional evidence obtained directly from him at interview, shows that many of his published statements were exaggerated or not supportable and that there were many opportunities for bias to have been introduced in the collection of his data. His conclusions cannot be sustained and in my opinion, his work should no longer be cited as scientific evidence.' (Author's italics). [5]

Some time after the Commission gave its ruling - that Agent Orange and dioxin were perfectly safe, an advert, disguised as a news feature, appeared in many of the world's leading newspapers. The main content of the advert was Doll's attack on Hardell and his suggestion that Hardell's work should 'no longer be cited as scientific evidence'.

This idea that Hardell's work is not scientific has followed him around for two decades, making him the subject of attack from a series of organised groups and individuals. Doll never retracted this attempt to liquidate Hardell's science and his bank balance was undoubtedly enhanced with the lucre deposited by Monsanto.

The writer George Orwell is often quoted in relation to contemporary battles between governments, multinational corporations and citizens. In looking at totalitarianism, Orwell seems to have had an intelligence for getting the details right, especially in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four. [6]

What strikes such a resonance, in the modern mind with Orwell's dystopian future, is the way in which information and language is separated from the material reality of society. In Nineteen Eighty Four the work of the central character, Winston Smith, involves changing newspaper reports where they do not coincide with the contemporary circumstances of the Party. Winston loves his work and reflects upon each change he makes in back copies of the Times as utilising all his journalistic skills to the maximum. While he is working Smith tells us about the philosophical principles that lie behind correcting the Times.

'As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of the Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied to not only newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, film, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs - to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute be minute the past was brought up to date. In this way, every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, every allowed to remain on record'.

The unfortunate fact is that progressive and patient-centred scientists are partially themselves to blame for the censorship and dirty tricks that are taking place in a number of scientific fields. Almost without thought, most scientists have happily pursued research for which money is seemingly available and have failed to involve themselves in the politics of science. Consequently, industry, especially the pharmaceutical industry, now has control of many aspects of science. It is becoming increasingly important that independent scientists form organisations to protect themselves from this onslaught of bias presently propagated by industrial science.

[1] Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on
Australian Personnel in Vietnam, Sweden ISSN 02808471 1986.

[2] Doll, 1986 see PP/DOL, Sir Richard Doll (b. 1912) Epidemiologist. Wellcome Library
for the History and Understanding of Medicine.

[3] Doll R. 1985. Letter from Richard Doll, Green College, December 4, 1985 to The Hon. Mr. Justice Phillip Evatt, DSC, LLB [ref: 40-X-016]

[4] Doll 1985. ibid.

[5] Doll 1985. ibid

[6] George Orwell, Ninteeen Eighty-Four. Penguin Modern
Classics. 1987.

Martin J Walker is an investigative writer who has written several books about aspects of the medical industrial complex. He started focusing on conflict of interest, intervention by pharmaceutical companies in government and patient groups in 1993. Over the last three years he has been a campaign writer for the parents of MMR vaccine damaged children covering every day of the hearing of the General Medical Council that is tried Dr Wakefield and two other doctors. His GMC accounts can be found at www.cryshame.com, and his own website is, www.slingshotpublications.com.


Jim Thompson

“nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, every allowed to remain on record”

Thank you Martin. This connection to recent “industrial science” history is indeed another nightmare come true. The parallel arbitrary censorships by pharmaceutical corporations and by Monsanto are a clear threat to the integrity of science and a devastating loss for our children.


The unjust prosecution of pioneers in the field of medicine just continues. And many of us must have thought this practice ended after Dr. Ignaz P. Semmelweis, Hungarian Physician (July 1, 1818 – August 13, 1865) encouraged his colleagues to wash their hands before delivering a child. Now it seems nearly 145 years later, journalists, medical writers and prosecutors need to wash their hands of ignorance and take their thoughts to wherever intelligent discourse leads. Sadly, such discourse is absent in writing about Wakefield. A brilliant scientist, his work has been disparaged NOT because he's done anything wrong, but because special interests don't like what he says.

Einstein was right: "Great Spirits Have Always Encountered Violent Opposition from Mediocre Minds." I just didn't realize how many such minds were still with us, EVEN at places like Lancet and the courts.

Tom, Nutritionist


Thank you for the important insights.

I read 1984 3 times in a row when I was fourteen. Part of what drew me was just Orwell's writing voice, but maybe I somehow sensed I'd need it for future reference.


Sometimes these things happen so incrementally. Take, for instance, Common Core State Standards, a school movement at the national/federal level, in which some organization has determined what national minimum education requirements should be. One by one, states are joining. I think Texas bypassed it for very good reasons (albeit financial.) But from what I can see, once you place things like that at a national level, its almost impossible to reverse, so I don't think it's a good idea and removes choice. Right now, if one doesn't like the system in one state, one can move to his or her state of choice. Now, I see that in North Carolina, someone has decided that teaching US History in the junior high school year should be changed only to include US history dating back to 1877. Gee, what kind of ideology is going to be lost by not educating our children about how small groups can move mountains, how moral considerations are important (how about that civil war and slavery), and other minor points like that. I suspect, then, after a generation or so, the rest of the history, rewritten according to the new politics, will look very different from the old, when it's reintroduced. I wonder if a literature, science, and history section can be eaked out of the ice next to that seed repository up north?

michael framson

Sense the "unfounded and unjust" decisions
were announced, I have felt profound anguish. With the Lancet actions, I have been internalizing, perhaps sharing the pain and grief that Wakefield and his colleagues must be feeling.

Such an ugly and profoundly cruelty towards men who are on all accounts modern day "Oscar Schindler's". THE LIST of children that Wakefield and his colleagues have helped, will help, will be so extensive, well beyond the imagination and comprehension of the bigoted small minds of his persecutors.

I cannot help in seeing the historic parallels, first in denying Legal Aid to MMR litigants, then the persecution of Wakefield that the words of German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller come to mind:

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.


Thank you from "across the pond," Mr. Walker, for all your writings here at AoA.

From what I've read and watched on Monsanto, I'm not sure any product they've marketed does not make the world a more dangerous place. While many of their employees, I'm sure, have worked with good intentions, has this corporation made any contribution to the world that has not been negated by their continued history of unprincipled actions and greed at the executive level? The same could also be asked of some other "big industry players" that bring shame upon the country of their origin.

Raymond Gallup

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign


Ray Gallup, RM3, USNR

Joan Campbell

An excellent article by Martin Walker. He tells it how it is. We are living in a very corrupt world.


I'd always thought there was something chilling, a sinister something, in the name Monsanto.


Touche, Mr. Walker. I would add, also, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", with its soma and epsilons. Let us hope that our story ends more happily.



Alli Edwards UK

Excellent, and thought provoking Martin.
These days we have the internet.....watch how government make it the next place to target a clampdown.

On Wakefield's retracted paper, I am galled by how industry has manipulated the jealous and ignorant into bringing down the intelligentsia, getting someone else to do their dirty work. Toyota seem incredibly honest to me right now!

Deborah Nash

I remember hearing on the radio, some years ago, a scientist said - "people believe that science is done so that we can increase our knowledge. In fact science is done when someone is willing to pay to get the answers they want. " Without honest researchers/scientists, like Dr Wakefield, we are lost.
My cousin fought in the Vietnam war for Australia. He was on an army disability pension, suffering from post traumatic stress but died a few years ago of Motor Neurone Disease. (He was only in his 50s).

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