I get e-mail from DDT cranks . . .

I noted the errors in a post at Reformed Musings.  Then I noodled around Mr. Mattes’s site,  and I dropped this note into his “about” thread, frustrated that I couldn’t just politely note the errors at his posts, where he’s disabled comments.

I said:

I wish you’d take comments on your posts. For example, you’ve got a couple of errors dealing with DDT in your post on climate change. It looks as though you’re hoping to sneak them past readers, rather than get the science right. I hope that’s not so.  By: Ed Darrell on December 31, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Mattes held that comment in moderation (afraid to let his other readers see it?), but responded in sort by diving deeper into wankery, with a post defending the more crackpot ideas of Michael Crichton, and straying much farther from the science in his claims about DDT and environmenta protection.  Heck, he even trotted out errors about Paul Ehrlich’s writing, apparently not content to be wrong about only DDT and global warming.

So, noting Mattes’s aggravation of his errors, I wrote again on his blog, a bit more sternly:

Shame on you. If you really think DDT is safe and that there was no science behind its “ban,” open comments, let us discuss.

But to compound your errors, and then to fail to approve comments from those who offer you correct information — well, reformation only goes so far, I guess.  By: Ed Darrell on January 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

Rather than open comments to discuss, and rather than respond to the post at the Bathtub, he sent me e-mail:

Shame on me? Excuse me, but I’m a bit amazed at your arrogance. You’ll offer correct information? Why, because others have a different opinion than you they have to be wrong? What are your technical qualifications and applicable experience, besides having a blog and a keyboard? Have you been to Africa? I have. Is racial eugenics your thing? Is that why third-world inhabitants are expendable to you?

Whatever you think you know, DDT is being successfully employed in Africa and elsewhere to save lives every day. No bad effects evident.  None. Their public health officials are literally begging for more. But then, their only agenda is survival. Selective and misleading reporting doesn’t interest them, only results.

Did Mattes miss many of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade’s concerns?

For the record, I don’t share Mattes’s fascination with eugenics as applied to race (and I’ll wager Mattes has no record fighting it); that tends to be a concern of the anti-science, historical revisionists (wrong about history, too).  I said nothing disparaging about third world peoples, and there are a dozen or more posts here to confirm my concerns about health in the third world, in contrast to only the junk science, “Let’s poison the hell out of Africa” attitude from Mattes.

In his second paragraph, he contradicts one of the main points of his first post. He says DDT is being used successfully in Africa — while his first post complained that environmentalists had successfully stopped it from being used.

That’s rather the mark of the true DDT sycophant, someone who suffers seriously from internet DDT poisoning:  The only reason they mention DDT is to find a cudgel to use against brave and smart women like Rachel Carson, or otherwise to criticize people who call for an end to pollution, or the preservation of water, air, trees or animals.  Unanchored by any fact or any need or desire to be accurate, they attack environmenalists, damn the inconsistency of the attacks.


He’s followed up today with a new post that assaults science at every turn, claiming to follow science journals, but instead citing the chemical industry supporters like Richard Tren, opposing the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.  While complaining about “eco-socialism,” he approvingly cites the experts of Lyndon Larouche, the late Dr. Gordon Edwards, in all of his errors and all of the political wankery of Larouche.

Mattes has gone back to the false claims that Edmund Sweeney exhonerated DDT, and that “evil” William Ruckelshaus banned DDT anyway — completely murdering Sweeney’s analysis and the law behind it, and completely avoiding the law, the court cases, and the history behind Ruckleshaus’s actions.

In his frantic, apoplectic dance to avoid discussing whether he might be in error, Mattes has dived so deeply into the depths of tinfoil hat sourcery (no, it’s spelled as I intended it) that in the end, he’s not jus twrong, he’s not even wrong.

If someone criticized any translation of the Bible as carelessly and wildly as Mattes criticizes science, he’d be out recruiting neighbors with pitchforks and torches to march.

Mattes claims he’s done with the issue.  We can only hope.  To continue in his current trend, he’d need to deny gravity (both Newton and Einstein), atomic theory, and Linneaus.  But I also suppose it means he’ll never check here to see the facts.  Just when we thought we were making progress . . .

The real story about DDT, a few of the posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

The real story, elsewhere:

At Bug Girl’s Blog:

At Deltoid:


11 Responses to I get e-mail from DDT cranks . . .

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Eleven years later and Mattes still has my comments “in moderation.”

    No chance of honest discussion where there is no chance for discussion at all.


  2. Lyn Marcus says:

    The Larouche cult went big on being for DDT when it wanted to make a lot of money by running boiler rooms to make money from anti environmentalists. In typical cult lunacy of Larouche, the science was secondary to what ever fundrasing lists we hed. Today, the cult does the same trick by finding some angry nobody who hates global warming or Al Gore and props them up in their propaganda flow. After building their ego up, the cult tries to get whatever cash they can from a person like this before moving on to the next mark.

    This is a cult which claimed that Three Mile Island was a plot and was created by FEMA, the Rockefellers,m the CFR and Trialteral Commission to destroy the USA.

    The usual formula is to take a little bit of science and add a lot of Larouche to create another hysterical, end of the world delusion to both keep the cult going and to make Larouche the Saviour of the universe.

    If anyone needs info how this cult operates, check out



    factnet.org under “discussions”



    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Cosmos magazine says DDT saved 25 million lives, penicillin saved 200 million lives. Did they use the same methodology on both molecules?



  4. Ed Darrell says:

    No, there are no reliable estimates of lives saved by DDT, nor of lives lost to DDT, either one.

    Perhaps the best assessment would be in the book the National Academy of Sciences published in 1970 on needs for chemical research. They said that DDT clearly is one of the most valuable chemicals ever discovered, but so dangerous as to negate its positive value. They called for research to find a safer replacement, since it needs to be phased out.

    But NAS bobbled death assessments. They said DDT had been responsible for saving 500 million lives, an assessment that is a mathematical or citation error (the death toll approached 3 million a year in the 20th century, which would mean DDT would have had to have been used for more than 100 years to have saved 500 million lives, stopping all malaria — clearly that’s not what happened).

    Trying to count DDT’s contribution to the end of various disease problems is difficult. Remember, the Panama Canal was built, yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria beaten, a quarter century before DDT’s deadliness to insects was discovered. The malaria eradication campaign in the U.S. is counted as mostly successful by 1939, the year DDT was first discovered to be effective as a pesticide. DDT was used in the U.S. against mosquitoes between 1939 and the official end of malaria in the late 1940s or early 1950s. But CDC histories talk about the rise of incomes, the improvements in screening of houses, the draining of mosquito breeding areas, and the improvements in medical care. Interestingly to anyone concerned about fighting malaria, those things are counted as necessary against malaria today, too.


  5. By Penicillin, I meant just Penicillin, not anti-biotics in general. I realise there’s no real reason to compare Penicillin to DDT, the question is only really interesting due to the iconic status of the two chemicals.

    Are there any reliable estimates of how many lives have been saved by DDT?


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    That’s fascinating, Dash. It’s a documentary that demonstrates, “clearly” as you say:

    1. Stopping the spraying of DDT in Texas caused a rise in malaria in Africa?
    2. A ban on agricultural use of DDT in the U.S., in 1972, caused African nations to slow and stop their use of DDT, in 1965?
    3. Despite despotic rule by Idi Amin in Uganda, for example, despite a lack of health care delivery systems in many places, incompetent governments and both sides of civil wars stopped and read Silent Spring, and chose to withstand the ravages of malaria in order to save robins in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the American bald eagle?

    It’s difficult, but I’ll try to keep an open mind about it.


  7. Dash says:

    There is a new film coming out in 2009 that clearly demonstrates the link between environmentalists’ efforts to prevent DDT from being used in developing nations and an increase in malaria related deaths. The film’s title is Not Evil Just Wrong.

    To view a preview of the film, visit the following website and click on link on the
    link that says “Must See Film of 09.”


    Documentary films such as this usually do not get the publicity they deserve. There are concerns that environmentalist will attempt to have this film banned in many area. Please help us get the word out. Thank You!

    The Hooterville News


  8. kindlingman says:

    It is convenient that we can re-hash established science. The world is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, the moon is made of cheese, and the woman determines the sex of babies. Truths that are held by authorities are no more than opinions that can be changed as the authorities are changed.
    We all know this, yes?
    In the land of the religious, beliefs are more important than facts and scientific observation. Ask Galileo, he knows.

    But to be serious for a moment, we are in danger if there is a war on science. Like others, I scoff at the idea that religious persons could attain so much power that the truth could be suppressed. But it has happened before.

    In Niger, there is a small Tamacek village near Niamey in which one of the elders has a newspaper article stuck on a wall inside his hut. The article speaks of men who feed babies to crocodiles because the myth is that crocodiles that eat babies and are then killed will be found with gold coins inside their belly. In that part of Niger, there are no crocodiles. Yet the villagers believed the story because they do not know anything about crocodiles. In the same village, they believe they can walk to America. This was 2003.

    Where the truth is unknown, the man with the best story wins.

    We should fear a war on science. For the babies’ sake.


  9. Bug Girl says:

    I agree. Penicillin by a wide margin.


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Penicillin, hands down.

    I’m not sure how there could be a comparison between a still-useful curative antibiotic, and a poison.

    I’m also not familiar with any good estimates of how many lives have been saved by penicillin — and I wonder if you’re thinking of penicillin specifically, or antibiotics in general. Just SWAGging, I’d guess antibiotics save 5 million to 10 million annually, maybe more.


  11. arrogantscientist says:

    Interesting read. I wonder what your thoughts are on this question – Which has saved more lives – DDT or Penicillin?

    I realise that’s a potentially pro-DDT sort of question, but I’m asking from an objective standpoint as persoanlly I don’t know enough about the issue to come down on either side. I only ask as it came up in a pub discussion ;)


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