Peter W. Huber

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Peter W. Huber is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute. He earned a law degree from Harvard and a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, where he served as an assistant and later associate professor for six years (apparently lecturing in 'Chemical Engineering').

(Note: Don't confuse him with Gary Huber, who also worked diligently for the tobacco industry at the same time.)

Peter Huber's legal fame rests both on his short term as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and on his invention and promotion of the term "junk science." This was to be applied to any scientific research, evidence or discovery which the big corporations didn't like, and it was initially used to denigrate scientific witnesses called by plaintiff lawyers in product liability cases. The term was first used in work Huber performed for the Chemical Manufacturer's Association in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

sound science & junk science
False accusations of junk science
Steven J Milloy, Bonner Cohen & TASSC
Peter Huber & Walter Olson
Manhattan Institute
Junk Science (Doc Index)
Fox News & K. Rupert Murdoch

Junk Science Branding

The junk-science branding of any science conducted on a small-scale (usually by independent university researchers) which had findings contrary to large-scale studies (usually funded by wealthy corporations), was remarkably successful in blocking evidence against corporate clients from being used in courts. Corporations could buy up many recognised "experts", or use their muscle with research institutes, to ensure opposing council didn't have equal access. For a few years, the labeling of prosecution science as "junk", and the corporate defense science as "sound" was chanted like a mantra in US courts.

In 1992 the term and the idea was taken upr and converted into a popular media catch-cry by Philip Morris and APCO & Associates their astroturf-creation company. The idea was exploited mainly by way of the funding control the tobacco industry exerted over The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition TASSC by way of its junkman operator, Steve Milloy who also ran the <> web pages. He boosted the idea that a flood of 'junkscience' was permiating the culture through radio and television, amplifying it to near-hysterical levels on Fox TV where he was a regular commentator/columnist and through planted op-eds in the Wall Street Journal.

Peter Huber worked with Walter Olson at the conservative corporate-funded Manhattan Institute (See <>), and he published his first book in 1988, "Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences" in which he takes a strong position on tort reform and the legal structure of corporate liability. A later, and possibly more famous book, Galileo's Revenge is where the term junk-science is first used -- and this triggered a move to give judges the power to define which "experts" would be recognised by the courts, and which wouldn't.

Sitting on the other side of the product-liability bench is plaintiff-lawyer Kenneth W Chesebro who has published a substantial analysis and overview of Huber's junk-science claims: Galileo's Retort: Peter Huber's Junk Scholarship (See Part 1 and Part 2). He attacks Huber's basic thesis:

"Huber claims to have uncovered an ongoing scheme against corporations, the public good, and science itself, carried out by seven co-conspirators:
(1) liberal, ivory-tower law professors and social engineers.
(2) injured consumers and workers looking for a quick buck
(3) rapacious attorneys
(4) out-of-the-mainstream scientists who prositute themselves
(5) trial judges
(6) ignorant jurors, and
(7) appellate judges who ignore the truth.

This long article also includes much also on Huber's associate Walter Olson. And Chesebro isn't the only one who sees corporate funding behind the claims being made by the Manhattan Institute and its two main propagandists. [[1]] The tobacco documents show that the idea of labeling as "junk science" any research finding not to your liking is a very effective ploy for corporations or industry groups under attack -- they have the cash to pay the highest price for experts to support their case, and they can fund masses of expensive (if not quality) research to counter their opponents evidence. This imbalance is especially true in court cases where corporate-funded expert are often being pitted against volunteers from anti-smoking (etc.) groups.

The tobacco industry papers also show how large corporations, trade groups and coalitions of business interests can control seminars, run scientific associations, own and manipulate scientific magazines, and use these powers to control the peer-review process, and so create or destroy scientific reputations to their own advantage.

In recent years, Huber has joined forces with ex-Reagan aide George Gilder and the American Spectator magazine in a couple of ventures. The hatchet work done on the Clintons under Scaife's Arkansas Project was over before they joined forces with this magazine. although R Emmett Tyrell was still in charge.


Huber's role in the corporate corruption of science can be divided into a number of different phases, but all share the same strongly-ideological theme -- that unregulated free-enterprise should be allowed to flourish with as little regulation as possible despite any adverse health and environmental pollution impacts.

Liability Reform Coalition (LRC)

Huber was a keynote speaker for Liability Reform Coalition conferences. This organisation was funded by big business to lobby for legislation which would require experts to be issued with a "Certificate of merit" before before appearing in court cases. [2] This coalition was an initiative of the US Chambers of Commerce and it brought together business, insurance, medical and government interest. Eventually, it joined forces with the American Tort Reform Association ATRA.

As with any good public relations project, the agenda of the LRC looks reasonable, until you analyse the implications. They included:[3]

  1. no-fault auto coverage;
  2. limits on attorney contingency fees;
  3. limits on retired/volunteer physician liability for nonprofit services;
  4. certificate of merit legislation;
  5. several liability for noneconomic damages;
  6. prejudgment interest to reduce transactional costs and to encourage more rapid settlement disputes.

The tobacco industry had pariah status with the medical members of group, so they had to keep their distance, but were kept in touch with the coalition's activities.[4] Huber's main connection with industry was directly to the umbrella organisations like the Chemical Manufacturer's Association and Tobacco Institute.

Chemical Manufacturer's Association

At the end of 1979 the Chemical Manufacturer's Association (CMA) and some parts of the health/industrial complex launched a massive campaign to counter growing evidence that Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals were causing serious health problems. These cases were reaching the courts, and as little was known about the way in which dioxins damaged health, there was enough scientific doubt for the chemical industry to mount a "no proven" argument.

However, it was important for the manufacturers to have their own scientific evidence accepted in the courts, while excluding the evidence of independent scientist. Peter Huber, among others (including Elizabeth Whelan of the ACSH) was employed by the CMA to block or discount evidence from appearing or being used. Huber's task was to write prolifically attacking any and all scientists who made claims that the products produced by CMA members could cause human disease.

Tobacco Industry

The first contact he appears to have had with the tobacco industry was following a May 1988, when Hamish Maxwell, the CEO and President of Phillip Morris records in a file note, a recommendation the tobacco executives should meet him at Manhattan Institute and discuss their product liability problems. [5]

Within a few months he was a regular consultant to Philip Morris, using grants to the Manhattan Institute as his cut-out for payments. He was then handed over to the Tobacco Institute, which provided the other tobacco companies with access to his services. One of the TI's project is listed in this 'Communications Recommendations' document as:

Peter Huber op-ed linking ET'S to "pathological science"

essay in Daedalus or attacking low risk/poor science witchhunts.
Target publication: Washington Post.

Timing: immediate.

Huber became a favourite consultant and publicist of the "junk science" idea, who was used to help promote the Heidelbert Appeal document [6] with the help of George Mason University and Fred Singer's SEPP - a joint project of the tobacco and asbestos industry. He was also working with Philip Morris in mid 1993 [7] [8]

Big Pharma

Peter W. Huber published in July 2006 in Commentary Magazine an article titled "Of Pills and Profits: In Defense of Big Pharma". He leads off with a pastiche of sentiment assembled from four recent non-fiction publications collectively termed indictments of the industry:

  • The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It by Marcia Angell, Random House
  • On the Take: How Medicine’s Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health by Jerome P. Kassirer, Oxford.
  • The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers by Katharine Greider, Public Affairs.
  • Big Pharma: Exposing the Global Healthcare Agenda by Jacky Law, Carroll & Graf.

He notes that Marcia Angell and Jerome P. Kassirer are both former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine while tossing off the (possibly irrelevant) detail that Kassirer was (at some undefined point) Angell's "boss", while failing to note that Kassirer was not just an editor, but the former editor-in-chief. His first quote from Kassirer's work consists of the single word "whore". In an online book review attributed to literary agent Theresa Park of Sanford J. Greenburger Association the original context of this word is interpreted at greater length:

"'Some physicians become known as whores.' This is strong language in Kassirer's mostly temperate but tough look at how big business is corrupting medicine — but according to Kassirer, one doctor's wife used the word 'whore' to describe her husband's accepting high fees to promote medical products.

After dispatching Kassirer with a single word, Kassirer is not mentioned again by name, whereas Angell is mentioned by name a total of thirteen times in the main text. In his assembled "bill of particulars", as he terms it, he strings out a series of eleven fragmentary quotes from the four sources named concerning research, marketing, and price [trailing punctuation removed, two longest quotes omitted]:

  • “the few innovative drugs that do come to market”
  • “nearly always stem from publicly supported research”
  • “trolling small companies all over the world for drugs to license”
  • “mythology spun by the industry’s immense public-relations apparatus”
  • “primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit”
  • “[T]ruly good drugs don’t have to be promoted very much”
  • “A genuinely important new drug . . . sells itself”
  • “price their drugs much higher here than in other markets”
  • “as uniform as possible for all purchasers”

And eight select color phrases:

  • “research-based industry”
  • “waiting for Godot”
  • “serious shortages”
  • “supremely uninterested”
  • “yawning chasm”
  • “commercial imperatives”
  • “reasonable”
  • “public utility”

Few of these quotes are attributed to a specific member of his select four-horsemen of industry-indictment. Apparently the desired effect is to convey the impression that we've all heard the standard Big Pharma-indictment-litany before to such an extent that it all blends together anyway. Huber, in any case, is not concerned to engage the litany in substantive terms.

Huber then transitions to his own agenda with the segue "So runs the indictment. Now for a story." The article continues to relate not just one story, but many.

  • Maurice Hilleman's contribution to vaccine formulation "by farming eggs".
  • eflornithine-sleeping sickness-Vaniqa
  • thalidomide-leprosy
  • Cutter company tragedy

The main thrust of the article concerns "price discrimination" and the Vaniqa story serves as the primary argumentative vehicle:

Then Bristol-Myers-Squibb discovered that eflornithine impedes the growth of women’s facial hair, and began marketing it in a beauty cream called Vaniqa. The company that still controlled the rights gave the WHO $25 million—enough for a five-year supply, at last-pill prices, plus research, surveillance, and training of health-care workers. Yes, the rich get Viagra, and Vaniqa too. The poor still get malaria, but they can now beat trypanosomiasis.

$25 million in this instance seems to have also bought Bristol-Myers-Squibb a powerful and compelling win-win-win anecdote. Huber positions this anecdote in support of an implied tort reform as it pertains to pharmaceutical concerns, without venturing to complete the argument that tort reform--or any other reform which he neglects to clearly spell out--would necessarily lead to more of the same.

It takes a lot of branding, packaging, peddling, and flacking to make one thing look like two (or more) different things. The no-name box in the supermarket contains exactly the same cereal, but you pay extra for Wheaties in order to partake in the Breakfast of Champions.

Big Pharma does Wheaties all the time, which infuriates the critics.

Yet Huber again fails to complete the circle: his own application of the Vaniqa story in support of pharmaceutical tort reform brings to question whether the Vaniqa anecdote is best viewed as a means or an outcome.

The five-year agreement between Aventis, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, and the WHO expires in 2006. The WHO is actively pursuing a proposal from ILEX Oncology to to develop a novel synthetic route for eflornithine production, and clinical trials of an oral formulation by the same company in treatment of African trypanosomiasis. Huber frequently mentions "first pill", "second pill", "pill-in-hand" and "last pill" costs without ever mentioning that a great portion of the present cost structure associated with the impoverished-Africa application of Eflornithine in the treatment of sleeping sickness is that no oral delivery exists, and that it must be administered intravenously over a 14-day hospitalization. In fact, the word "intravenous" appears not once in his discussion.

Writings on Climate Change

On page 157 of “The Bottomless Well” Huber says: "the best (and only practical) policy for limiting the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air is burn more hydrocarbons, not fewer". This is like saying “the best practical way to stay dry is to jump in the pool.” He also denounces the work of every major scientific society on the planet his views on climate change.

On page 158 he says "Carbon dioxide levels were half as high 50,000 years ago, but they were almost as high 150,000 years ago". This has nothing to do with reality.

Writings on Alternative power

He brings up the limitless supply of fusion and says "Nothing very fundamentally new will be required to unlock it". Commercial fusion from the ITER project isn't expected until 2040. So that's like him saying neither the Apollo program nor the manhattan project was anything new.

Further reading

External links

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