April 5, 1985

The Apocalyptics: Cancer and the Big Lie

Author Affiliations

University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson


by Edith Efron, 590 pp, $19.95, New York, Simon & Schuster Inc Publishers, 1984.

JAMA. 1985;253(13):1939. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350370135046

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Both literal and metaphorical cancers are the subject of this book, which begins as a detective story and ends with an indictment of American science: "When most serious scientists remain silent while... untruths are told to the public for a decade, that is cultural cancer" (p 474). Efron believes that "regulatory science" is an oxymoron and exemplifies Lysenkoism.

The investigation begins with Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring and traces what Efron terms the Apocalyptic movement to its present influential position. The Apocalyptics assert that a cancer epidemic will result from the pollution of benign nature by industrial capitalism. The evidence for this supposition is nonexistent, as its proponents admit in material quoted by Efron. Nevertheless, they believe that the establishment of policy is so urgent that there is not even time to determine whether any peril actually exists. Science has become subservient, in her view, to politics, which promises salvation