Nov. 01 2016

Senator Whitehouse Decries “A Dark New Industry of Science Denial”

2016 Benrubi Lecture Galvanizes Public Health Researchers

On October 27, Senator Whitehouse delivered the ninth annual Benrubi Lecture before Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Decrying industry tactics that put profit before human health, Whitehouse described specific strategies used by paint manufacturers, tobacco companies, and the fossil fuel industry designed to mislead the public and prevent any meaningful action. Organized by the Center for History and Ethics in the Mailman School's Department of Sociomedical Sciences, the lecture series is named for Isidore Benrubi, a physician who believed that history and science are necessary to help people make informed decisions on health and human rights.

Since Rhode Islanders sent him to the Senate in 2006, Whitehouse has worked to cut carbon pollution and protect the air and water. In 2011, he founded the Senate Oceans Caucus and proposed legislation to require federal natural resource agencies to consider the long-term effects of climate change. He has delivered more than 100 speeches warning about the dangers of carbon pollution. This past July, he was among 20 Senators to introduce a resolution under the banner “Web of Denial” condemning industry efforts to mislead the public about the hazards of tobacco, lead, and climate change.

“The science denial aparatus run by the pollutors is a threat to your scientific endevor ... to science’s role to warn us in time of hazzards ahead,” Senator Whitehouse concluded in his Benrubi Lecture. “But we should not see it as just a threat to our science; it is also a threat to our American honor, to our American reputation. In defending science against that threat, we will be defending our country as well.”