hats, and if we can teach young people early on these good habits, we have a better chance of facing down melanoma in the future.
The point of telling the story about the atomic explosion was that exploding the atmosphere was something that seemed necessary during the Cold War, but we now know that exposure to strontium-90 and other noxious radiation from atmospheric testing could eventually kill us all. In 1963, led by President John F. Kennedy, we signed the first test ban treaty. For many years, nearly no country has tested in the atmosphere and we are healthier because of it. What is important about this story is that there was such broad agreement in the scientific community about the health effects of such testing that it was impossible for policymakers to ignore the evidence.
Let me just tell you at this point what you already know about those of us in the news media. We look for the people who are the “odd steppers”—who march to different drummers. If you think about it, you really want us to do that. In many areas, it is the odd steppers—Copernicus, Galileo—who turn out to be right. If the news media ignores such people because conventional wisdom contradicts them, then a lot gets lost. For the media to do its job, we must seek out all opinions, even if they are unpopular and unconventional.
I recognize that in science this works against you. For example, in 1964 I was at a press conference when Dr. Luther Terry presented his first great Surgeon General’s report on smoking. As a smoker and a reporter, I had to pay attention. So, I actually studied the graphs and looked at the charts and supporting documents and was almost instantly converted into a believer. Of course, it took me seven more years before I could finally kick the habit and not smoke another cigarette. However, during that period and long after, there were many other voices saying that the link between smoking and cancer had not yet been proven. Of course, many of these voices were coming from the tobacco industry’s “smoking and health” divisions, even into the 1990s. Today, to a large extent, those voices have been discredited. Even so, the fact that they existed and came from platforms that seemed to give them standing, helped dilute the message that smoking can kill you.
I recently moderated a panel on global warming, during which young people were asking questions. One young lady asked this distinguished panel whether global warming was really occurring. She asked, “Is it true? Does everybody agree on this?” One of the scientists gave a very good answer, telling her that several years ago an international panel of scientists developed a consensus statement that the global temperature will rise anywhere from 3.5 to 9 degrees within 100 years if nothing is done about present carbon dioxide emissions and other causative factors. He also responded that the news media would always be able to find one scientist who will say, “No, it is not true.” He lamented that the media would then report that some scientists say global warming is a fact and others say it is not, which will confuse the issue. He was quite right.
In another example, in the mid-1970s the House Select Committee on As-