Philosophical Society of Washington

Who will Speak for the Truth? The Case of Nuclear Radiation

Theodore Rockwell

2124th Meeting Abstract
Friday, December 8, 2000 at 8:15 p.m.


Science is often equated, in the public mind, with Truth. But scientific truth can be ignored, misinterpreted, distorted, suppressed and defunded. And a simple statement of scientific truth, without context, or in the wrong context, can be as misleading as a flat lie. The case of nuclear radiation will be used to illustrate and explore these difficulties.

We have chosen to characterize nuclear radiation as an unnatural phenomenon, presenting an unprecedented and terrifying threat to humanity and to the future of the planet. This picture has been painted as scientific truth, but in fact it is flatly contradicted by scientific evidence. Life evolved on this planet bathed in radiation from the earth, the seas and the galaxies beyond. Deprived of this radiation, living organisms die. Virtually all threats to organisms—disease germs, heavy metals, solvents, neurotoxins, physical exertion—which can kill in large doses, create just the opposite effect in tolerable doses. They stimulate the body's defenses, leaving the system stronger and healthier. We use this principal in nutrition supplements, vaccination, exercise therapy—and radiation is no exception. Biological evidence at all levels—theoretical, molecular, cellular, small organisms, and human clinical data and epidemiological studies—all show that moderate doses of nuclear radiation are beneficial.

We will explore the reasons that advocates of nuclear technologies have been reluctant to proclaim these truths, and instead cling to the message that present policy is "conservative." What this means in practice is that people are being scared away from life-saving medical procedures, smoke detectors, food irradiation, and pollution-free electricity generation, all because they involve radiation. We will explore why this situation continues, and some of the bizarre measures people have taken to convince themselves and others that Truth is not ravished by their doing so.

About the Author:

Theodore Rockwell is a founding officer of the engineering firm MPR Associates, Inc., and a founding director of Radiation, Science, and Health, Inc., an international organization of independent radiation experts committed to bringing radiation policy into line with the best scientific theory and data. He received the first ANS Lifetime Contribution Award, now known as the Rockwell Award, and received Distinguished Service Medals from both the Navy and the Atomic Energy Commission. He is author of several books, technical papers, and articles on radiation and nuclear power. He was Technical Director of Admiral Hyman Rickover's program to build the nuclear Navy and the world's first commercial atomic power station at Shippingport, Pennsylvania.

He has several patents, including one listed in "a selection of [27] landmark US atomic energy patents from all the patents issued to date." He was the only non-medical member of the Advisory Group on the National Artificial Heart Program (1966) and a member of the Advisory Council, Princeton University Department of Chemical Engineering (1966-72). From 1965 to 1968, he was a Research Associate with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (in connection with nuclear proliferation research). He was Chairman of the Atomic Industrial Forum's Reactor Safety Task Force (1966-72) and Consultant to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (1967). He was co-founder of the Princeton Engineer in 1941 and is listed in: Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, World Who's Who in Science from Antiquity to Present, International Who's Who in Engineering, American Men and Women of Science, The Blue Book, World Who's Who of Authors, Who's Who in Theology and Science, Contemporary Authors, etc.

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