Remember when Bernie Sanders passionately attacked budget office nominee Russell Vought because Vought believes salvation comes only by faith in Jesus Christ—something Christianity has taught for two millennia?
It looks like it’s open season for anti-Christian bigots to hunt down and destroy any Christian nominated to public office—especially if that Christian doesn’t toe the line of environmental political correctness. Forget Article 6 of the Constitution insisting “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Michael Dourson, whom Trump has nominated to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office, is taking the same kind of fire. Dourson is an environmental health professor in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine. He’s a “board-certified toxicologist with an international reputation for excellence in environmental risk assessment.” He’s co-published more than 150 papers on risk assessment methods and chemical-specific analyses.
But he’s also a Christian who, like any serious Christian, tries to integrate his faith with all his life. That just doesn’t sit well with some folks.
Cue the Outrageous Outrage
Raymond Barfield, a professor of pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke University, is upset. It seems Dourson wrote that chemical analysis provides some evidence that the Shroud of Turin—which allegedly wrapped Jesus in his burial—might be authentic. Dourson’s not sure. Sounds like the attitude of a good scientist to me.
But there’s more. Dourson isn’t convinced that the chemical risks from flame-retardant fabrics outweigh the fire-prevention benefits. He points out that “exposures from consumer products were much lower” than those involved in a study claiming significant risk. That’s a fairly typical weakness of many environmental risk studies. They expose laboratory animals to extremely high levels of a suspect chemical, discover ill effects, then try to extrapolate to human risk at much lower exposure levels.
Barfield disagrees, and seeks to discredit Dourson because he made $10,000 consulting for a flame retardant industry group. Dourson had questioned a study warning of potential harm from flame retardant chemicals because it hadn’t been replicated yet. That’s confusing, because replication is the hallmark of good science.
As a professor of philosophy, which usually requires some knowledge of logic, Barfield should know that attacking Dourson’s motives because of money commits the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem circumstantial. He further labeled Dourson’s argument that the risks from fires are higher than the risks from fire-retardant chemicals as “pure utilitarianism.” That label’s red meat for Christians.