What is the Brussels Declaration?
The Brussels Declaration is a statement of ethical and scientific principles calling for the return to the Scientific Method as the guiding qualifier for the definition of a study as scientific.
It demands the setting of exacting standards for the gathering of data in epidemiological studies, the mandatory specification of the margins of error in all studies, and the public and legal rejection of expert opinions based on studies and data where the margin of error is not or cannot be specified. It demands the restoration of the concept of threshold, and calls for the rejection by governments and regulatory bodies of any scientific work that does not meet those standards. It calls for the proscription of the use of unqualified studies as the basis for public policy, regulations, obligations and prohibitions and calls for the dismantling of policies, laws, bylaws and regulations that are based on such studies while causing upheaval in the economy, the destruction of our liberty, and impoverishment through excessive administration costs. It demands a return to an overall ethical approach to science, and to a prudent public policy conservatism in the absence of conclusive experimental proof.
Finally it calls upon official institutions and media to report accurately to the public not only the conclusions of the studies, but also and especially the limitations and the uncertainties of those conclusions in respect to the public's right to complete, accurate information that does not lead to unnecessary apprehension or panic.
The Declaration will be spearheaded by a group of scientists who believe strongly in holding professional ethics and scientific integrity above financial and political gain or personal ideology. It will be open to a large spectrum of signatories, including scientists, economists, activist groups, individuals, journalists and politicians. It is intended to protect the interests of proper science as the only real tool that humanity has for advancement. It rejects junk science as a result of corruption, marketing spin and ideological promotion. It denounces junk science as an extreme danger to our liberties, our economies, and to future progress.
Finally, the Brussels Declaration on Scientific Integrity is intended to become a political pressure tool against institutional corruption and mass-media propaganda, very much like what the Manhattan Declaration, solely directed against the global warming fraud, has become. As the effect of the Manhattan Declaration begins to be felt at both the political and public opinion levels, so will that of the Brussels Declaration when it comes to scientific integrity in general. It will pave the way for the return to the veracity and reliability that is essential for the credibility of scientific institutions and for the general advancement of humanity.
How and why have we come to the point where such a declaration is needed?
Virtually every day we get news of the latest study announcing a threat to our health and the environment. The mass-media have become war bulletins of impending death, disease, and danger, trumpeting new threats and old that they support with reams of dubious studies generating an ever-growing number of deaths, projections of deaths, and poorly supported attributions of deaths.
Indeed, the old notion of “death by natural causes” has vanished not only from statistics, the media and public health institutions, but from our collective imagination, yearning as we do for immortality. We have replaced it with the notion of “premature deaths” and "unnecessary deaths," carrying with them the absurd subliminal implication that death itself can be permanently avoided through a regime of prevention, prohibition and behaviour control.
Our health is under siege; and so is that of the planet because of man-made global warming. Yet aside from undeniable improvements in infant mortality nobody can explain why the average life expectancy of people continues to go up – to the point that meeting pensions have become a significant problem in many countries – and why we need such heavy winter coats this year in North America and Europe while supposedly suffering from global warming! On global warming, the shockingly aggressive tactics used on scientists who question its science give the lie to the idea that there is a consensus on this issue.
So we have relentless calls for more regulation, control, propaganda, obligatory programs and prohibitions at all levels of government – at an astronomical cost to the industries that make the products we consume. One can safely say that a prominent part of the economic crisis we are experiencing today is due to extreme regulation, the cost of compliance, the cost of enforcement and bureaucratic administration, and the cost of banning far less expensive materials and substances that have been used for centuries, or millennia, to make things.
Why has everything turned into a threat? The main reason – perhaps the only reason – is the use of junk science, and the abuse of a once-honourable statistical discipline, epidemiology, as well as the embracing of pseudo-science by special-agenda groups and politicians – and thus governments – for political gain.
The clearest example of the above problem can be seen in the question of respecting thresholds: the concept that even very dangerous substances can be harmless or even in some cases beneficial if consumed in low doses. Such is the case is, after all, with medicinal drugs, which are often powerful poisons but beneficial enough to save lives when assumed at low dosage, and with many natural substances such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and others that are fatal in relatively small doses but are absolutely essential for life in still smaller microscopic doses.
In short, there are no poisons; or everything is a poison – it’s the dose that makes the poison. But today, governments are adopting versions of the Precautionary Principle, an extremely problematic idea that if there is some possibility of a risk, a prohibition of a technology or action can be justified even when the risk is not proved or provable. This permits, for example, interested groups to do away with a fundamental concept of toxicology and common sense whenever it is convenient for them to do so by invoking that Precautionary Principle. They will argue that what kills when there is an exposure in kilograms may be assumed to kill or harm when the exposure is in nanograms – and thus must be avoided, regulated and eventually forbidden.
Another issue is the quality of the data gathered through epidemiological studies. Studies on passive smoking, although certainly not the only instances, offer a glaring case in point. The answers given by non-smokers to questionnaires regarding their memories of exposure to passive smoking 30 or 40 years earlier – answers that, by no stretch of the imagination, can be either verified, nor can exposure be measured – become exact, reliable numbers to calculate risk with, and to be treated as if they were data coming from experimental science.
This could be called the Harry Potter's Magic Wand Principle. After these numbers have been bewitched from fiction into fact, further elaborations of imagination turn them into virtual death calculations. These set into motion alarms, fears, regulation and prohibition through the modern necromancy of the “send” button. When this is pushed and the obligatory press release is sent, the mass-media engage the panic button. Thus does “science by press release” mindlessly transform into public opinion, and the spell is complete. At this point the interest groups reappear, begging for and demanding state intervention to solve the problems they have conjured up.
That is how we often come to hear that, in the town of Sleepyville, USA, for example, 1,250-and-a-half non smokers are “killed” by passive smoking each year. The decay of science and university research which survives by public or private financing that flows only if the “right” results are produced represents one of the most fundamental ethical problems of our time.
The Brussels Declaration is seen as a small but nonetheless important step in bringing the above concerns to the public eye with the hope that governments and the media will move toward more responsible policy making and reporting.