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Science court could limit propaganda

April 08, 2007|By Robert Gary

What can be done about fake science? Fake or "junk" science is essentially an attack on civilization. It's a form of bearing false witness that most assuredly affects the neighbor, and in the case of global warming could result in the end of the human species.

Fake science arises from two broad categories: 1. Revealed religion and 2. corporate profit-seeking. I want to put aside all fake science arising from revealed religion. I think it's off-bounds unless and until the churches use their specially protected constitutional status to create teachings that directly and immediately threaten the life of one or more humans beings.

But fake science that arises from corporate profit-seeking may be quelled, and the way to do it is to withdraw recognition of corporate status from organizations that create fake science in their unbridled pursuit of profits.

The track record of corporate fake science is disgusting, deplorable and extensive. Most recently, it has taken the form of global warming denial, so it has now become lethal - not just to you and me, but also to mankind as a species, and to the Earth as a planet that supports life.

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I proffer the following modest proposal - a Federal Science Court of highly qualified federal judges with the statutory authority to order the termination of the federal recognition of the corporate, or 501(c)(3) charitable organization status of any organization fostering or creating fake science for its own corporate profit, or fostering its own agenda, in which fake science acts to the grave detriment of the citizens of the U.S.

If the fake science is a harm instead of a benefit, then the organization creating it need not have federally recognized corporate or tax-free status.

Corporations are created by the states, as a form of state license. It is a privilege, not a right, to incorporate and to operate as a corporation. The withdrawal of federal recognition of the corporate status of a given organization would have limited but significant impact.

The federal courts would no longer give the executives the protection they would have as corporate officers. The SEC would no longer allow the shares to be publicly traded. The IRS would no longer treat the organization as a corporation for federal tax purposes.

States rights would not be infringed in any way, although I also propose that Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), be explicitly repudiated by the U.S. Congress so that each state would be free to withdraw corporate status if they so chose.

That case said that a corporate charter, once granted, is a promise to the shareholders (or donors in that case) and cannot be altered by the state. The case was incorrectly decided, in my opinion, because the whole premise of a corporation is that the accumulated capital thus facilitated will be used for the benefit of society and not for its harm.

Corporation law was brought in from England because we needed to build railroads to open up the West. The bridge builders, the railroad tycoons, the people who built the water works and dams and the mills, needed a way to create large pools of capital and to limit themselves from personal liability.

If oil companies and coal companies massively fund 501 (c)(3) tax-free "think tanks" and "scholars" to generate papers showing that global warming is just a big hoax, then they are not doing as the railroad barons did - creating a benefit for society. Instead, they are tearing down the main pillars of western civilization: law and science.

Charitable organizations for tax purposes are divided into the educational and the religious. "Educational" purveyors of fake science should have their 501(c)3 status revoked because one cannot educate people by giving them fake science.

As for churches, or any religious organization, their 501(c)3 status should not be taken away unless they use the benefits of that status to harm, or conspire to harm, some human being.

It doesn't matter what they communicate to the faithful in terms of its truth, as long as it doesn't amount to a plan to hurt somebody. Most fake science created for the financial benefit of big corporations is ginned up in self-described "educational" think tanks. The big oil and big coal tax-free "donations" flow in, and the global-warming-denying research papers flow out. This is not education. It is propaganda of the most destructive sort, and it shouldn't get the tax-exempt protection afforded to the churches for their lawful spiritual work.

If we don't do something about fake science, it will surely do something about us. We should respond while we still have the capacity to fix the problem.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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