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How Capitalists are abusing science- pt 1

Slava The Ukrainian Socialist

Feb 14, 2023

#BelieveTheScience, #FactsMatter, #DoNotDoYourOwnRecearch, #TrustTheScience, and similar hashtags have filled the pages of popular social media and news outlets in the past several years. Those who dare question the mainstream agenda or scientific orthodoxy are increasingly labeled as science deniers or conspiracy theorists. The Marxist philosophy of change, known as dialectics, teaches us that things once progressive can become reactionary. Capitalism was once a contributing force to the progress of science. Today, it is starving science of necessary resources, abusing and manipulating it. We will examine how capitalism in its final stage of imperialism uses science not to benefit collective humanity but instead to exploit the working class, hold back development, and maintain dominance with a stranglehold on society. Let us begin our analysis of this scientific crisis with one critical aspect of science that impacts us all.

The Health Industry and Big Pharma

The gatekeepers of capitalist indoctrination shape science at every stage, starting with education. In his “Hypocritical Oath” series, Michael Pappas reveals how medical schools support the status quo of the capitalist class. He notes: “The medical school system does not teach us to confront the systems of power and the powerful who make decisions that affect millions. On the contrary, medical school functions as a highly efficient system of indoctrination to ensure that physicians are less likely to question or confront the systems of power.” Indoctrination is not the only way of controlling the narrative; economic coercion also plays an important role. The average medical school graduate owes $250,990 in total student loan debt. The medical education system is designed to ensure that physicians inevitably serve the capitalist class in preserving and expanding a model of for-profit healthcare. How about the researchers, you may ask? Their mantra is Publish or perish, and to publish, researchers require funding that is provided by the capitalists with strings attached. Pursuit of profits and political intrigue largely determine what research is done and by whom. The pharmaceutical industry made 1.48 trillion U.S. dollars in 2022. In lieu of reinvesting in more and better scientific research, big pharma corporations generally spend the largest portion of profits buying back shares of their own stock, to boost the share price and reap billions for CEOs and the largest shareholders. Firms can afford to do this because most research is publicly funded by tax dollars, with the final product patented and sold at a profit. The Bayh–Dole Act of 1980 allowed federal contractors acquiring inventions made with federal funding, such as pharmaceuticals, to retain the ownership. The capitalists were thus able to price-gouge Americans with new premiums for discoveries that they the taxpayers had made possible. 

We have been conditioned to perceive peer-reviewed scientific studies as unimpeachable. Unfortunately, faking scientific research is relatively easy, as John Bohannon demonstrated with a “study” that fooled millions into thinking chocolate helps weight loss. Bohannon’s chocolate weight loss trial made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper. It circulated the internet, making news in over 20 countries and half a dozen languages. The study was even discussed on television news shows. There was just one problem - it was all a joke. It turned out that its lead researcher, Johannes Bohannon, was in fact a journalist named John Bohannon, and his "Institute of Diet and Health" was little more than a website. He explained: “Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements: weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc. from 15 people. That study design is a recipe for false positives. We didn’t know exactly what would pan out, the headline could have been that chocolate improves sleep or lowers blood pressure.” It just so happened that participants of the “study” lost weight. But the results of the trial were unfounded, as were the resulting health claims, spread uncritically by the media to millions of people. Some articles are still online, long after the study was revealed to be a hoax. 

But perhaps the fake chocolate study was simply an anomaly. Would a real scientist ever do such a thing, risking their livelihood if exposed? From a young age, we are taught to believe that scientists are motivated only by their curiosity and would never publish a false result to deliberately mislead others. But the term scientific fraud exists and is well-documented. Science can be politicized and weaponized; not the scientific method itself, but politically-motivated scientism. This includes the biased peer review process, TV scientists like Bill Nye, and scientific regulators appointed to defend the interests of the capitalist class at the expense of scientific accuracy. Hence we see a reproducibility crisis in science, with more than 70% of researchers failing to reproduce other scientists' experiments, and more than half failing to reproduce even their own experiments. John P. A. Ioannidis’ 2005 article “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” rocked the scientific community in exposing how modeling errors yield false positives and other biases that taint results. Unfortunately, little has changed for the better in the world of science since this bombshell report. If anything, the capitalists have become more emboldened to subvert science to serve their interests.

Food Industry

Everyone knows that “we are what we eat.” But with our food sovereignty captured by corporate conglomerates, how can we be sure that we eat healthy and nutritious meals? Many documentaries have exposed how corporations abuse livestock, pump our food with tons of chemicals and sugar and create genetically-modified crops made to withstand strong pesticides and herbicides. The GMO giants are experts at using the media to spin or suppress negative coverage of their business, covering up dirty secrets. Our capitalist system incentivizes companies not to follow the law but to break it, then pay a fine if caught. In this way, companies like Monsanto stay in business while polluting the earth and poisoning its population.

The infamous Monsanto and its GMOs are last decade's news. Now is the era of cell-cultured meat, a product of “cellular agriculture that uses biopsied animal cells to grow sustainable, humane meat as an alternative to the traditional farming industry.” We can also turn military plastic waste into protein powder for human consumption. Ting Lu, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois who is working on the project, says that “he aims to engineer bacteria to upgrade the protein powder with maximum nutrition.” And what about the exciting development of 3D-printed food? Don’t know what to cook for dinner? Just press the button and “print” your favorite meal. Instead of plastic filament used in regular 3D printers, food 3D printers use edible filaments such as “chocolate, tomato sauce, and various other tasty flavors.” And let us not forget about Klaus Schwab’s entreaty to ‘eat ze bugs'. Cricket dumplings or Worm burgers for dinner, anyone?  School cafeterias and restaurants are starting to serve insects as healthy eco-food. Fake meats from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are also trending. In its 2023 Global Risks Report, the WEF (World Economic Forum) called for a "transition to net-zero, nature-positive food" in order to fight "food insecurity." Anything in the name of feeding humanity and saving our planet, right? Stay tuned for the second part of this series for more on how capitalists use science to manage the public perception of climate change.


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