Medicine is not one of my specialties; hence when the physician providing these lectures spoke about the impact of the discovery of radioactive elements on Western medical practice, this was unknown territory for me. Happily, his observations were both fascinating and disturbing. Better still, they provided food for thought.
One of the things I learned was that after Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium, this substance was considered to have almost magical properties. Found to be continuously giving out invisible rays, the substance seemed like an eerie messenger from another realm.
Soon, just had earlier been the case with electricity, the assumption was made that these emissions could be medically beneficial. Obviously they could pass through human flesh, and in the process they were probably benefiting the recipient.
Not long thereafter, some doctors and a host of medical wannabes decided to profit from this supposition. They began to market pills, salves, and gamma ray emitters that promised to cure whatever ailed the customer. Were you feeling sluggish? Radium could help. Was your sex life suffering? Radium would reinvigorate it.
Then, just as now, testimonials began to appear. Sports figures, society types, and ordinary Joes swore that they never felt healthier. As for the marketers, they offered money-back guarantees. If this new wonder substance did not deliver the promised miracles, there would be no cost to the consumer.
As it happened, these promoters never had to make good on their promises. When a dissatisfied customer demanded his or her money back, their response was that the user had not taken enough of the product. Larger doses consumed over longer periods of time would surely do the trick.
Except, of course, that radium is a deadly poison. In the end, it killed Marie Curie and would do the same to anyone else who followed the required regimen. They too would long be in the grave before they could collect a dime.
All this put me in mind of Barack Obama. He too is a sort of radium salesman, albeit with a different product and an updated line of patter. He is not selling physical health, but social health. Yet he too is seeking to persuade us to take larger doses of an untested remedy.
Consider global warming. This latest scientific craze is fading fast as evidence accumulates that the supposed warming is not occurring at the predicted rate. But that does not prevent our president from forecasting doom and gloom unless we do as he recommends.
And what does he recommend? Why nothing less than destroying the coal industry and crippling the oil and gas industries. Despite touting an all-of-the-above strategy with respect to energy, it is plain that he is playing favorites.
Notwithstanding years of study that have demonstrated the Keystone pipeline will cause little, if any, environmental damage, Obama is dithering about whether to approve it. On the other hand, despite the failure of Solyndra and related solar companies, he wants to invest additional billions in such speculative ventures.
Or what about ObamaCare? It is circling the drain even as I compose this. Yet will Obama consider writing it off? No, he merely seeks to postpone its implementation. The program may ultimately fail and like green energy, cause trillions in economic damage, but he is not worried.
Why is he not worried? Because he will be gone when the worst of the mischief hits. His presidency will be over and thus he will be able to blame his successor.
We, however, although not literally dead, will be suffering from the pseudo-scientific policies of an intelligent, but ill-informed leader.
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.