Mechanisms and science denialism: explaining the global lung cancer epidemic

Saúl Pérez-González
Universitat de València, Spain | saul.perez@uv.es

Received: 15-March-2019 | Accepted: 4-July-2019 | Published Online: 24-November-2019
Disputatio [Dec. 2019], Vol. 9, No. 13, pp. 00-00 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3567206
Article | [EN] | Full Text | Statistics | Copyright Notice [sp] | Vol. 9 No. 13

How to cite this article:
Pérez–González, Saúl (2020). «Mechanisms and science denialism: explaining the global lung cancer epidemic». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 9, no. 13: pp. 00–00.


Abstract | Explanation is one of the main aims of science. Scientists frequently seek to explain scientific phenomena. This paper addresses the relationship between scientific explanation and science denialism. In it, explanatory wars are introduced. An explanatory war is a situation in which the standard scientific explanation of a phenomenon is systematically denied by a group of people. It is argued that the mechanistic account of scientific explanation is helpful in order to face this kind of science denialism. Mechanistic explanations are resistant to the arguments usually raised by denialists. The relevant role of mechanistic explanations is illustrated by the case of tobacco disease denialism during the second half of twentieth century.
Keywords |
Science Denialism · Mechanism · Explanation · Tobacco · Lung Cancer.

Mecanismos y negacionismo de la ciencia: explicando la epidemia global de cáncer de pulmón

Resumen | La explicación es uno de los principales objetivos de la ciencia. Los científicos frecuentemente tratan de explicar fenómenos científicos. Este artículo aborda la relación entre la explicación científica y el negacionismo de la ciencia. En él, se introduce la noción de guerra de explicación. Una guerra de explicación es una situación en la cual la explicación científica estándar de un fenómeno es sistemáticamente negada por un grupo de personas. Se argumenta que la concepción mecanicista de la explicación es de ayuda para hacer frente a este tipo de negacionismo de la ciencia. Las explicaciones mecanicistas son resistentes a los argumentos habitualmente esgrimidos por los negacionistas. La relevancia de las explicaciones mecanicistas es ilustrada mediante el caso del negacionismo de las enfermedades causadas por el tabaco en la segunda mitad del siglo veinte.
Palabras Clave | Negacionismo de la ciencia · Mecanismo · Explicación · Tabaco · Cáncer de pulmón.


References

Bechtel, William, and Adele Abrahamsen. 2005. “Explanation: a mechanist alternative.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36: 421-441. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.03.010

Denissenko, Mikhail F., Annie Pao, Moon-shong Tang, and Gerd P. Pfeifer. 1996. “Preferential Formation of Benzo[a]pyrene Adducts at Lung Cancer Mutational Hotspots in P53?” Science 274: 430-432. doi: 10.1126/science.274.5286.430

Diethelm, Pascal, and Martin Mckee. 2009. “Denialism: What is it and how should scientists respond?” European Journal of Public Health 19: 2-4. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckn139

Fisher, Ronald A. 1957. “Dangers of Cigarette-smoking.” British Medical Journal 2: 297-298. doi: 10.1136/bmj.2.5039.297-b

Fisher, Ronald A. 1958. “CIGARETTES, CANCER, AND STATISTICS.” The Centennial Review of Arts & Science 2: 151-166.

Glennan, Stuart. 2005. “Modeling mechanisms.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36: 443-464. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.03.011

Glennan, Stuart. 2017. The New Mechanical Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oso/9780198779711.001.0001

Hansson, Sven Ove. 2017. “Science denial as a form of pseudoscience.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 63: 39-47. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2017.05.002

Hansson, Sven Ove. 2018a. “Dealing with climate science denialism: experiences from confrontations with other forms of pseudoscience.” Climate Policy 18: 1094-1102. doi: 10.1080/14693062.2017.1415197

Hansson, Sven Ove. 2018b. “How connected are the major forms of irrationality? An analysis of pseudoscience, science denial, fact resistance and alternative facts.” Mètode Science Studies Journal 8: 125-131. doi: 10.7203/metode.8.10005

Harré, Rom. 1972. The Philosophies of Science: An Introductory Survey. London: Oxford University Press.

Hedström, Peter. 2005. Dissecting the Social: On the Principles of Analytical Sociology. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511488801

Hedström, Peter, and Petri Ylikoski. 2010. “Causal Mechanisms in the Social Sciences.” Annual Review of Sociology 36: 49-67. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102632

Hedström, Peter, and Richard Swedberg. 1998. “Social mechanisms: An introductory essay.” In Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory, edited by Peter Hedström and Richard Swedberg, 1-31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511663901

Hempel, Carl Gustav. 1965. Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. New York: The Free press.

Hickey, Richard J., David E. Boyce, Evelyn B. Harner, and Richard C. Clelland. 1970. “Ecological Statistical Studies Concerning Environmental Pollution and Chronic Disease.” IEEE Transactions on Geoscience Electronics 8: 186-202. doi: 10.1109/TGE.1970.271390

Holman, Bennett. 2017. “Philosophers on drugs.” Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-017-1642-2

Hopkins, Emily J., Deena Skolnick Weisberg, and Jordan C.V. Taylor. 2016. “The seductive allure is a reductive allure: People prefer scientific explanations that contain logically irrelevant reductive information.” Cognition 155: 67-76. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.06.011

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Michael E. Mann, Nicholas J. L. Brown, and Harris Friedman. 2016. “Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism.” Journal of Social and Political Psychology 4: 537-533. doi: 10.5964/jspp.v4i2.604

Lewandowsky, Stephan, and Klaus Oberauer. 2016. “Motivated Rejection of Science.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 25: 217-222. doi: 10.1177/0963721416654436

Liu, Dennis W. C. 2012. “Science denial and the science classroom.” CBE-Life Sciences Education 11: 129-134. doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-03-0029

Machamer, Peter, Lindley Darden, and Carl F. Craver. 2000. “Thinking about Mechanisms.” Philosophy of Science 67: 1-25. doi: 10.1086/392759

Pearl, Judea, and Dana Mackenzie. 2018. The book of why: the new science of cause and effect. New York: Basic Books.

Proctor, Robert N. 2001. “Tobacco and the global lung cancer epidemic.” Nature Reviews Cancer 1: 82-86. doi: 10.1038/35094091

Proctor, Robert N. 2004. “The Global Smoking Epidemic: A History and Status Report.” Clinical Lung Cancer 5: 371-376. doi: 10.3816/CLC.2004.n.016

Proctor, Robert N. 2006. “‘Everyone knew but no one had proof”: tobacco industry use of medical history expertise in US courts, 1990-2002.” Tobacco Control 15: iv117-iv125. doi: 10.1136/tc.2004.009928

Proctor, Robert N. 2011. Golden holocaust: origins of the cigarette catastrophe and the case for abolition. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Proctor, Robert N. 2012. “The history of the discovery of the cigarette—lung cancer link: evidential traditions, corporate denial, global toll.” Tobacco Control 21: 87-91. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050338

Prothero, Donald. 2013. “The Holocaust Denier’s Playbook and the Tobacco Smokescreen. Common Threads in the Thinking and Tactics of Denialists and Pseudoscientists.” In The Philosophy of Pseudoscience, edited by Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry, 341-358. Chicago: Chicago University Press. doi: 10.7208/chicago/9780226051826.003.0019

Ranney Michael Andrew, and Dav Clark. 2016. “Climate Change Conceptual Change: Scientific Information Can Transform Attitudes.” Topics in Cognitive Science 8: 49-75. doi: 10.1111/tops.12187

Rosenau, Joshua. 2012. “Science denial: a guide for scientists.” Trends in Microbiology 20: 567-569. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2012.10.002

Russo Federica, and Jon Williamson. 2007. “Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21: 157-170. doi: 10.1080/02698590701498084

Salmon, Wesley C. 1984. Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Schnitzer, Stefan A. 2005. “A Mechanistic Explanation for Global Patterns of Liana Abundance and Distribution.” The American Naturalist 166: 262-276. doi: 10.1086/431250

Scriven, Michael. 1959. “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory.” Science 130: 477-482. doi: 10.1126/science.130.3374.477

Steel, Daniel. 2004. “Social Mechanisms and Causal Inference.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34: 55-78. doi: 10.1177/0048393103260775

Steel, Daniel. 2008. Across the Boundaries: Extrapolation in Biology and Social Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331448.001.0001

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2010. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

Wynder Ernest L., and E. Cuyler Hammond. 1962. “A study of air pollution carcinogenesis. I. Analysis of epidemiological evidence.” Cancer 15: 79-92. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(196201/02)15:1<79::AID-CNCR2820150112>3.0.CO;2-3


© The author(s) 2020. This work, published by Disputatio [www.disputatio.eu], is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [BY–NC–ND]. The copy, distribution and public communication of this work will be according to the copyright notice. For inquiries and permissions, please email: boletin@disputatio.eu.