The Precautionary Principle In Action

Head In SandOne of the reasons given in support of implementing the Kyoto Treaty and other measures to lessen the threat of global warming is The Precautionary Principle.

“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

“The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”

Almost sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

When I blogged the other day about The God Particle, I referenced the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the very good possibility that it will be able to produce evidence of the Higgs Boson.  Indeed, it’s major purpose is to produce the Higgs Boson itself, and in doing so, go a very long way to proving the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

But let’s apply The Precautionary Principle to the LHC.  The very fact that physicists need and want it to verify the standard model shows that there are still things we don’t know about the most fundamental aspects of matter, space and time (Duh!).  Physicists are therefore, ipso-facto, abra-cadabra and ala-kazam, admitting their ignorance, and cannot show that the LHC won’t PRODUCE A FRIGGEN BLACK HOLE WITH A LASER ON ITS HEAD THAT WILL DESTROY THE UNIVERSE!

Ahem.  Yes.

Send in the clowns lawyers.

Some folks outside the scientific mainstream have asked darker questions as well: Could the collider create mini-black holes that last long enough and get big enough to turn into a matter-sucking maelstrom? Could exotic particles known as magnetic monopoles throw atomic nuclei out of whack? Could quarks recombine into “strangelets” that would turn the whole Earth into one big lump of exotic matter?Last Friday, Wagner and another critic of the LHC’s safety measures, Luis Sancho, filed a lawsuit in Hawaii’s U.S. District Court. The suit calls on the U.S. Department of Energy, Fermilab, the National Science Foundation and CERN to ease up on their LHC preparations for several months while the collider’s safety was reassessed.

“We’re going to need a minimum of four months to review whatever they’re putting out,” Wagner told me on Monday. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order that would put the LHC on hold, pending the release and review of an updated CERN safety assessment. It also calls on the U.S. government to do a full environmental review addressing the LHC project, including the debate over the doomsday scenario.

How they expect to stop CERN (which is a European consortium) and the LHC (which sits on the border between Switzerland and France) I don’t know.  I guess they expect to slow down contributions from Fermilab, which is a US concern.

That is an example of The Precautionary Principle in action. From where I stand, it’s an embrace of ignorance, and is indistinguishable from the Ostrich Position.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll stop holding back and tell you how I really feel!

Explore posts in the same categories: politics, post-modernism, Science

One Comment on “The Precautionary Principle In Action”

  1. […] filed through EU and American courts over the possibility of the creation of a black hole, some bloggers used this as ammunition to criticise the Precautionary […]

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