Personal privilege

February 16, 2008

So, if you check the comments over at Neil Simpson’s blog, somebody asked about the post Simpson deleted, and Simpson answered:

  1. Hey, wasn’t there some environmentalist’s post here earlier? Someone defending Carson’s position? What happened?

  2. That might have been the comment I deleted. I didn’t read the whole thing. The guy must have changed his email address, because my filter usually blocks him. He was the first guy I ever had to block for repeated inane arguments and personal attacks. I gave him a lot of chances but in the end he was just not worth the time to discuss anything with.

Didn’t read the thing? Heh. Figures. The comment reveals the depths of moral difficulty of the anti-Rachel Carson position — the position Simpson takes in the blog. Simpson can’t answer any of the criticisms.  No, I didn’t change my e-mail address — Simpson’s blog was just more loving of correcting dissent than Simpson.

Personal attacks? Bullbleep. Simpson thinks any correction is “a personal attack.” If one is chronically in error about the facts, and chronically belligerent about dealing with data, one gets a lot of corrections.

Here’s a challenge to Simpson: This blog is open. I’ll edit out only your profanities if you use them. But I’ll wager you can’t defend your position. I won’t go Joe Stalin on you the way you did on me.

Neil, you’re in error about Carson’s book. You’re wrong. You have a Christian duty to fix the errors. Bet you won’t.

Marshall Art, if you’re interested, you can read the remarks Simpson won’t read, here. Now you know why, in my opinion, he’s afraid to read them.  The comment isn’t even snarky, though heaven knows there’d be a right.

Embarrassing lure of creationism

February 16, 2008

You know the syndrome: Someone is caught in a scandal relating to sex, and then they take an offer to pose nude for pornography, and end up merely as a naked embarrassment to everybody.

Same syndrome, but mercifully, without the nudism (yet): Creationists taking it just a bit too far. Two examples.

Example 1: Don McLeroy, newly appointed to the chair of the Texas State Board of Education, was embarrassed by the release of tapes of a talk he gave in a church, demonstrating for anyone who didn’t already know that he’s opposed to teaching science in biology, especially if that science involves evolution. Bad enough?

He’s posted a transcript of the tape on his own website. It almost appears he’s hoping for an appointment as a “fellow” of the Discovery Institute.

McLeroy may have posted the transcript to try to correct a statement the transcripts say he made: “”Remember keep chipping away at the objective empirical evidence.”

At McLeroy’s website, it’s listed like this: “Remember keep chipping away with the objective empirical evidence.” It’s a subtle difference, but it suggests McLeroy is ill-informed enough that he thinks there may be evidence to support creationism, rather than devious enough to urge the denial of reality. Bob, at Hot Dogs, Pretzels and Perplexing Questions, wrote:

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Was it a Freudian slip? Did he innocently misspeak? Or could it be that he edited the text after the fact? Either way, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. They have no objective empirical evidence of their own to chip away with, just the objective empirical evidence they stubbornly attempt to chip away at, and to no avail. I’ll leave the discovery of any other discrepancies as an exercise for the reader, at least for now.

McLeroy shows no desire to appear neutral, as employees of TEA are now required to be toward science — or “neutered” toward science, as one might say.

Example 2: McLeroy’s Islamist partner, Adnan Oktar ( aka “Harun Yahya”), is a continuing embarrassment. This isn’t news, but I stumbled across the actual images he pirated — and they are impressive.

The Atlas of Creation purports to show that no evolution has occurred between a few fossil forms and modern forms of animals — therefore, Oktar concludes in his book, evolution could not have occurred at all. Oktar couldn’t sell the book, so he sent copies of the thing to school libraries across Europe, and then to selected people and school libraries across North America.

The book is beautifully printed and bound, with hundreds of full color plates — it must have cost a fortune to produce.

And so, Oktar had to make economies somewhere. He chose to plagiarize photos and not bother with lawyers to procure rights to print the photos. He also chose to abandon the use of fact checkers, it appears.

And so we get embarrassments, like Oktar comparing this caddis fly, below, to one caught in amber, and concluding there’s been no evolution. The problem, as you can plainly see from the photo I borrow from Forbidden Music, is that the “living” example is actually a fishing lure; Oktar has plagiarized a photograph of one of Graham Owen’s wonderul fishing lures.

Graham Owen's caddis fly fishing lure, mistaken by Adnan Oktar for a live fly

Jesus urged his followers to become “fishers of men.” McLeroy and Oktar have confused such imprecations, horribly, with the hoax P. T. Barnum line, that there’s a sucker born every minute.

Owen’s lures are designed to fool fish. If McLeroy and Oktar have their way, Texas school children may end up as ignorant as the fish, and as easily fooled.

Sinclair Lewis on patriotism, the flag, and fascism

February 16, 2008

Oh, my.

Sun dog on US flag, Sinclair Lewis quote on fascism

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

Sinclair Lewis

You can’t purchase the actual poster anywhere. It’s a photographic political cartoon. From our friends at Hot Dogs, Pretzels, and Perplexing Questions. (Bob, in Austin)

Did Lewis actually say that?  I’ve not sourced it yet.

Wave the flag for real:

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Epidemiologists sign on to Alma DDT conference

February 16, 2008

Meanwhile, back in reality, the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology signed on to cosponsor the conference on DDT’s effects on human health and the environment at Alma College in Michigan, set for March 14.

Logo for the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology

Logo for the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology

Religionists and conservative pundits won’t boycott the conference. But they won’t be there, either, I’ll wager. They don’t want to confuse their rants with the facts, you see.

Do we know any bloggers up Alma College way (Alma, Michigan, in the heart of the peninsula) who might attend the conference and provide hourly reports? Ed Brayton, are you close? Got a day to play blog journalist for a good cause?

Dangerous, anti-science, bigoted ignorance

February 16, 2008

Anti-science and anti-environment protection advocates appear to be ramping up their campaign to poison Africa with DDT. Whether it’s related to U.S. President George Bush’s last-gasp trip to Africa or something else, is difficult to determine.

The vicious campaign is popping up everywhere. Is there too much vitriol against sanity to be more than coincidence?

Religionist Neil Simpson’s poke in the eye of reason got me going this time. In “Dangerous environmentalism” he hits just about every false claim against environmentalists and every false claim for DDT in just a few paragraphs — he got it from Steve Forbes and repeated it without bothering to consider whether Forbes was engaging in ill-informed rant.

Steve Forbes doesn't know much about the history of DDT and malaria, but that never stops him from opining that others are dead wrong in what they do know.

Steve Forbes doesn’t know much about the history, science or law of DDT or malaria, but that never stops him from opining that others are dead wrong in what they do know.

The rant hits so many of the favorite punching bags of the modern angry white male bigot: Intellectuals (those scientists and environmentalists with their college degrees), women and women’s rights (Rachel Carson didn’t marry, and fought her way to prominence in fields men dominated), history (they wish it weren’t so, and if they repeat what they want history to have been, maybe Santayana’s Ghost will leave them alone — not that they are ever bothered by repeating historical error), race (never miss a chance to accuse scientists, environmentalists, intellectuals and other “liberals” with race bigotry), foreign aid (see, we can just poison Africa back to health — if you’d just stop sending them money for bed nets and good medical care, DDT is all they need).

This is the money line from Forbes:

Yet in one of history’s more murderously myopic ongoing actions, most advanced countries and international agencies discourage its use. Why? Blame Rachel Carson’s seismically influential–and now largely discredited–book, Silent Spring, first published in 1962. In it she blames DDT for imperiling birds and people, portraying it as a blight of almost biblical proportions. It ain’t so. As Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science & Health once put it, there “has never been a documented case of human illness or death in the U.S. as a result of the standard and accepted use of pesticides.” The British medical journal The Lancet similarly notes that after 40 years of research no significant health threat from DDT has been found.

Count the errors:

  1. The treaty that regulates the phase out of long-lasting, environmentally-damaging and human-killing poisons has a carve-out provision that specifically allows the use of DDT for limited indoor use (see Annex B); this treaty was negotiated at the end of the 20th century, eight years ago [1999 taking effect in 2001]. It represents the official position of “advanced countries and international agencies.” The treaty position is exactly the opposite of Forbes’ claim. How many years behind is Forbes in his reading? one might wonder.
  2. No one has ever discredited any significant part of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. Exactly contrary to Forbes’ claim, the book was found to be scientifically solid by a specially-appointed group of science advisors to President Kennedy, in 1963 [full text of “Use of Pesticides,” here]; it was found solid by later research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Discover Magazine recently noted that there are more than 1,000 follow-up references since 1962 that verify Carson’s work.*
  3. Carson’s book accurately noted the damage to birds — not a single incident she recounts has ever been seriously questioned. The stories have been distorted and wild claims made against the distortions — but there is not a single study anywhere which contradicts Carson’s claims about damage to birds. Carson worried about human health effects, but stopped far short of saying DDT kills humans. Subsequent research has won DDT a listing as a probable human carcinogen by all of the world’s most respected and conservative health agencies, every single one.
  4. Elizabeth Whelan’s career is built on slamming scientists and science. But apart from the dubious provenance of the source, look at what Forbes quotes her as saying. Never a death in the U.S. as a result of using DDT in the limited way it’s now used in the U.S. There have been deaths outside the U.S. (and my recollection is at least one in the U.S.); and the methods that have prevented deaths are the banning of DDT for broadcast use, and extremely limited use at any time. She’s right: No deaths can be attributed to the non-use of DDT. She doesn’t say DDT isn’t a poison, or that it is not carcinogenic. She doesn’t account for deaths outside the U.S. She doesn’t get close to accounting for damage to wildlife and African food supplies from DDT. Half-truth to whole lie.

(It is often useful to remind critics that DDT was not banned because of dangers to human health, but instead because of its damage to beneficial animals outdoors.  It’s also good to remind them that DDT was specifically reinserted into disease fighting by the EPA order in 1972 that banned DDT use on crops, only in the U.S.)

Then, with no sense for the irony, Simpson extols the virtues of mosquito netting.

Mosquito nets are another inexpensive solution. See Nothing But Nets if you want to help.

The Nothing But Net drive faces implicit opposition chiefly from interests who claim poisoning with DDT is a better idea.

One wishes critics of Rachel Carson would show a bit of Christian charity, calling for bed nets, but avoiding unjustified and misinformed calumny against Carson and environmentalists, who have labored intensively for 40 years to fight malaria.

One gets the idea it’s not malaria these pundits worry about.

A few words about totalitarianism below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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