Honest Dissent

“Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1847

The New York Times revealed the day before yesterday that the F.D.A. recently rid itself of disgruntled scientists who took exception to the agency’s medical review process. More specifically, the article noted that: “Moving to quell what one memorandum called the ‘collaboration’ of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and ‘defamatory’ information about the agency.”

I am disappointed by this revelation in relation to government officials that we’ve entrusted with safeguarding our public health. Modern science is hammered out upon the anvil of discussion, debate, dissent. Absent this, science becomes fanaticism.

“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

6 thoughts on “Honest Dissent

  1. Steve Ventola

    Your post brings up the need for honest dissent. As I view ways in the past where I have missed not offerring honest dissent brings a twinge of remorse and a feeling of having been weak and inadequate. Your post acknowledges a new day for me in that it is ok to offer honest dissent as the need arises. This does bring a feeling of aleluia! Thank you.


  2. Vincent

    Honest dissent is a rare quality, always calling for the greatest care and thoughtfulness. Dishonest dissent, on the other hand, is everywhere, characterized by inflamed feelings and motivations of vengefulness, anger and judgment. The latter actually feeds into the evils that are recognized to be out of place, but the former is an absolute necessity if light is to continue to shine in the world.


  3. MMc

    “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” Plato
    The longer I live the more quickly I become suspect and uneasy when someone portrays a “wall” as necessary for defense. While it can be valuable, I’ve learned it can also become a prison. I’m interested in new ideas and information that shake my presently held beliefs. If I am become afraid or feel it will somehow create a schism it makes me want to examine why I feel threatened. If all discussion is labeled as dissent there can be no evolution in fact. I’m also not so naive to believe that discussion can’t become dissent. It does go back to the hearts of those involved.
    Thanks for the informative post. Sadly I say I’m not the least bit surprised.


  4. Ricardo B.

    This is part of the reason why so many people today simply do not trust the information they receive from their doctors. Where before you simply did as your doctor told you to do – take this and call me in the morning – and you didn’t even think to question the recommendation, now people are suspicious because they are more informed and have access to the knowledge of other options available, options that are less invasive and oftentimes more effective, though not endorsed by our regulatory agencies and thus not going to be offered to them by their provider.
    It’s a sad day when agendas rule over the search for understanding as in science for it always clouds, taints and mars perspective – just the thing you don’t need when seeking truth. Let’s hope there is still enough integrity in the whole that these dilemmas are made transparent for all to see and rectified accordingly. Makes me ever more vigilant in my own life to do the same which is the way I feel like I can contribute.


  5. Zach

    It is always sad when an organization that is meant to protect the citizens is found to be all about politics and political expediency. I suspect that many of our “protectorate” organizations are like that to one degree or another. While it is disappointing to read articles like this, I would rather know the truth than not.


  6. Kolya

    Honest dissent, analysis and a willingness to defend the truth are all critical components of an effective democracy. Federal scientists should have academic freedom and support from within an organization for “whistle-blowing” or shedding light on potentially dangerous medical devices.


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