It is a familiar story of public hysteria, advocacy, weak science, unconstrained and irresponsible regulatory overreach, and a manipulated criminal system. The core issue was allegations that silicone implants caused cancer. This allegation was refuted multiple times over many years and yet a major corporation was bankrupted, people lost their jobs, and billions of dollars were paid to lawyers and "victims" when in fact, there were no victims.
I refer to cognitive pollution as those situations where something is passionately believed to be true even though there is little empirical evidence to support its truth, much to refute it, or it is true only in very narrow circumstances.
Top of mind, I can think of half a dozen or so examples where dramatic action has been taken with little understanding of the empirical reality of the perceived problem or the likely consequences of the imposed solution. In all these cases, it has turned out that the problem did not exist in the form thought. In a couple of cases the evidence is still unresolved. In others, it is clear and counter that of the advocates. In yet others, there was no evidence but there weren't a lot of consequences.
Affirmative Action in the 1970s (continuing)I suspect we will ultimately find that the issue of Global Warming is dramatically different than has been presented to date.
Satan and Day Care Centers in the 1980s
Silicone implants and cancer in the 1990s
Anthropogenic Global Warming in the 1990s (continuing)
Cellphones and cancer in the 2000s
Anti-Vaccination paranoia of the 2000s (continuing)
War on Women and Campus Rape Crisis of the 2010s
We are a long way from evidence-based decision making and while the consequences aren't always catastrophic when we go with our emotions, too often they are.