“No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.”Jacob Bronowski
In 1928, Hermann Muller, the originator of the Linear No Threshold (LNT) theory, exposed fruit flies to 2,750 milliSieverts (mSv) of radiation in just 3 1/2 minutes, which caused gene deletions and deformities. Radiation dose, which we measure in Sieverts, is the biologically effective energy transferred to body tissue by ionizing radiation.)
Although the dose that Muller used was equivalent to receiving 1,000 mammograms in just 3.5 minutes, he called it a low dose, even though it was extremely high. (Even Japanese atomic bomb survivors didn’t receive such a large dose.)
Muller then extrapolated his results down to ZERO mSv without testing low levels of radiation and continued to promote his theory into the fifties, perhaps because he wanted to heighten fear of fallout from testing nuclear bombs. Muller argued that there is no safe level for radiation and claimed that even tiny amounts of radiation are cumulative. (According to LNT dogma, a butcher who cuts his finger fairly often will be dead in ten years from blood loss – despite his continuing to work.)
Muller’s results were disputed by several of his colleagues, one being a researcher named Ernst Caspari, whose work Muller praised. (We learned this after Muller’s correspondence became public late in the 20th century). Muller wrongly asserted that, even at low dose rates over long times, the risk is proportionate to the dose.
In the fifties, no one knew that our cells routinely repair DNA damage, whether caused by radiation or oxidation, a normal body process, so we accepted his theory. (DNA is “short” for deoxyribonucleic acid, a complex, spiral, chain-like molecule that contains our genetic codes.)
Muller’s theory is analogous to the earth-centered solar system that everyone “knew” was true for thousands of years, and it’s regrettable that so many still believe it. From its beginning, the LNT theory was based on a fraud, and it has been perpetuated by anti-nuclear fearmongers.
So why wasn’t Muller truthful? During a radio interview on IEEE SPECTRUM’s “Techwise Conversations,” Dr. Calabrese explained it this way:
“Ernst Caspari and Kurt Stern were colleagues, and Muller was a consultant to Stern. Muller provided the fruit fly strain that Stern and his coworkers used. Stern and Muller thought there was a linear dose-response relationship even at low doses….
“In the chronic study, which was done far better in terms of research methodology than an earlier study, they found that the linear relationship was not supported, and what they observed would be supportive of a [safe] threshold dose- response relationship. This created a conflict—not for the actual researchers like Caspari—but for his boss, Kurt Stern, who tried to convince Caspari that his study didn’t support the linear model because his control group values were artificially high.
As recently as September 1 2020, Edward Parsese shows National Academy of Science (NAS) panel members ignored human data that challenged their already-set conclusions. This costs our planet, and our future generations Trillions of dollars and literally the future of our planet. It needs to stop.
“So Caspari… got lots of unpublished findings from Muller and put together a case that his boss was wrong. Ultimately, he got Stern to accept his findings that supported the threshold dose response. [Which actually meant that there was a threshold below which low levels of radiation were safe.]
“They sent Caspari’s paper to Muller on Nov. 6, 1946. On Nov.12 he [Muller] wrote to Stern indicating that he went over the paper, and he saw that the results were contrary to what he thought would have happened, that he couldn’t challenge the paper because Caspari was an excellent researcher, that they needed to replicate this, and that this was a significant challenge to a linear dose response because this study was the best study to date, and it was looking at the lowest dose rate that had ever been used in such a study.
“A month later, Muller went to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize, and in his speech, he tells the scientists, dignitaries, press… that one can no longer accept any consideration of a threshold model, that all you can really accept is the linear dose- response model. …Yet Muller had actually seen the results of a study that he was a consultant on, that was the best in showing no support for the linear model – but support for a [safe] threshold model.
“He had the audacity to actually go in front of all these dignitaries and mislead the audience. He could have said, ‘This is a critical area, and we need to do more research to try to figure this out.’ It would have been intellectually honest and the appropriate thing to say, but that’s not what he says. He tries to actually mislead the audience by saying there’s not even a remote possibility that this alternative exists, and yet he has seen it.”
Because Muller had also strongly (and appropriately) opposed the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and because he wanted to persuade Congress and the American public to oppose the expansion of nuclear energy, he seems to have concluded that the end would justify his lie, even if it compromised his integrity.
In November, 2014, Dr. John Boice, president of the National Council on Radiation Protection, stated, ”…the reason they were concerned about the risk of radiation doses all the way to zero was because they used a theory [LNT] for genetic effects that assumed that even a single hit on a single cell could cause a mutation, and they did not believe there was any such thing as a beneficial mutation.”
When the LNT model was adopted by the National Academy of Sciences in 1956, its summary stated: “Even small amounts of radiation have the power to injure.” The report, which was published in the New York Times, inflated the fear of radiation, even at extremely low levels.
However, newly discovered letters between some of the members of the National Academy of Science committee indicate that the reason for adopting the LNT model was not that small amounts of radiation might be dangerous, but that Muller’s deception (and possibly self-interest), had trumped science – with one individual writing, “I have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the dangers of irradiation. Let us be honest—we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it, we are willing to stretch a point when necessary… the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare and a consequent interest in and recognition of the importance of genetics. This is good, since it may lead to the government giving more money for genetic research.”
In 2015, while reading Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, a Pulitzer Prize winner about our long battle with cancer, I came upon the following passage:
“In 1928, Dr. Hermann Muller, one of Thomas Morgan’s students, discovered that X-rays could increase the rate of mutations in fruit flies…” [Morgan, by studying an enormous number of fruit flies, had discovered that the altered genes and mutations could be carried from one generation to the next.]
“Had Morgan and Muller cooperated, they might have uncovered the link between mutations and malignancy. But they became bitter rivals Morgan refused to give Muller recognition for his theory of mutagenesis…
“Muller was sensitive and paranoid; he felt that Morgan had stolen his ideas and taken too much credit. In 1933, having moved his lab to Texas, Muller walked into a nearby woods and swallowed a roll of sleeping pills in an attempt at suicide. He survived, but was haunted by anxiety and depression.”
Knowing this, I wonder if Muller’s need for recognition and his resentment of Morgan, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on fruit fly genetics in 1933, might have caused him to hide the work of Ernst Caspari and others because it would have jeopardised his “fifteen minutes of fame.”
Muller received his Nobel Prize in 1946, but his deception has promoted the fear of all forms of radiation, however feeble. In addition, it has caused the deaths of millions and accelerated Climate Change by stunting the growth of CO2-free nuclear power, which has required us to burn huge amounts of polluting,health-damaging coal, oil and natural gas.
(Muller’s claim that tiny amounts of radiation are cumulative is like arguing that 50 jumps off of a one-foot step will be as damaging as one jump from a 50-foot cliff.)
For the great enemy of the truth is often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.US President John F Kennedy 1960-1963
“To overturn orthodoxy is no easier in science than in philosophy or religion.” Ruth Hubbard
Due largely to LNT, only a few new nuclear power plants have been designed and built since the NRC was created. There are at least 1,000 papers that prove LNT wrong—all of them ignored by NRC and EPA. On average the NRC creates one new regulation per day, and it can cost a billion dollars just to get approval for a test reactor of a new design.
Coming up next week, Episode 7 – Beer and Bananas.
Links and References
1. Next Episode – Episode 7 – Beer and Bananas
2. Previous Episode – Episode 5 – The Big Melt and the Acid Bath
3. Launching the Unintended Consequences Series
4. Dr. George Erickson on LinkedIn
5. Dr. George Erickson’s Website, Tundracub.com
6. The full pdf version of Unintended Consequences
19. National Academy Of Sciences ‘Misled The World’
21. US Risk Assessment Policy: A History of Deception” by Edward Calabrese
32. Molly Cheshire Interviews Scientist on Radon and LOW Cancer Rates!
#ClimateChange #UnintendedConsequences #GeorgeErickson #FissionEnergy #NuclearEnergy #FossilFuels #LinearNoThreshold