Throwing reason out the window: Scott Bailey’s book attacking science and environment protection

September 18, 2015

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself. A special panel of the nation’s top entomologists and biologists reported to President Kennedy in 1963 that Carson’s book was accurate, but that the problems she cited were more urgent than she said. Critics never give up. Image from Pop History Dig.

Very brief, glowing but not deep book review at PanAm Post on a new book by Scott Bailey, taking aim at environmental protection: “The apocalypse isn’t coming any time soon.”

Bailey’s book comes with a title determined to push lack of action: The End of Doom.

Such reviews bring small-but-building catastrophes much closer, alas.

Reviewer Nick Zaiac said:

The book is a great primer for someone new to environmental policy who would like to begin with a more sober look at the topic, rather than an over-dramatized introductory book like Rachel Carson’s famed Silent Spring — a book that Bailey takes pains to rebut.

What? Rachel Carson was right, in Silent Spring. Why would anyone “take pains” to refute good science?

I smell policy hoaxing here, another guy trying to sell us junk science.

I’ve not read the book. Frankly, I don’t really know much about Scott Bailey, either, other than he writes at Reason, a site for libertarians and skeptics that has, in the past decade, taken a puzzling turn against science and reason.

Anyone read the book?

At the review, I offered my alarm at the claim to have refuted Carson’s careful, and still valid science references.

Rachel Carson offered 53 pages of careful citations to science studies backing every point she made, in Silent Spring. since 1962, not a single peer-reviewed study has challenged any of that research she documented.  Quite to the contrary, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published on the topic of DDT’s effects on birds alone — every one confirming what Carson cited, or providing evidence of new and greater dangers.

Carson was careful to note that hard studies of DDT’s carcinogenicity had not been done. But now they have been done, and it turns out DDT is carcinogenic to humans, though perhaps only mildly so to those exposed directly. Since DDT is an estrogen mimic, an endocrine disruptor, its greatest cancer effects may be in the children of those exposed.

In any case, DDT was not banned as a carcinogen to humans.  It was banned as a poison that bioaccumulates and so is uncontrollable in the wild, a poison that can take down entire ecosystems of non-target species.

So, what is Bailey “refuting?” I’ll wager his research is victimized by hoax claims that Rachel Carson got it wrong, when study after study has shown she went easy on DDT.

We got bailed out of “environmental apocalypse” in the 1970s by wise policies that paid attention to what people like Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich said.  We passed laws stopping pollution of air and water from many sources, by many different pollutants — but not all. And we got lucky. Norman Borlaug’s green revolution staved off catastrophic starvation crises.

Norman Borlaug is dead, and there is nothing like a new green revolution in the works. Bailey joins forces with anti-science crusaders to block further action to clean up pollution, especially air pollution.

Were we wise, we’d not be gambling with our future and our grandchildren’s future, with claims to have “refuted” past wisdom on environmental issues.

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Especially on his birthday, don’t call Darwin racist — he wasn’t

February 12, 2013

Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and several other anti-science and historical revisionist groups come unglued every February about this time — February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday.  He was born in 1809, on the exact same day as Abraham Lincoln.

Part of creationists’ coming unglued revolves around that fact that the science behind evolution grows stronger year by year, and at this point no argument exists that creationists can make against evolution that has not been soundly, roundly and thoroughly.  This makes creationists nervous in a discussion, because even they recognize when they lose arguments.   Creationists don’t like to lose arguments about how well Darwin’s theories work, because they erroneously believe that if Darwin is right, God and Jesus are wrong.

God and Jesus cannot be wrong, in their view, but intellectually they see they are losing the argument, and they grow desperate.  In their desperation they grasp for claims that shock uneducated or unfamiliar viewers.  Since about 1970, among the more shocking arguments one can make is to claim one’s opponent is racist.

Claiming Darwin, and hence evolution, boost racism, slaps history with irony.  Creationism’s roots were in denying that Europeans and Africans are evolutionarily equal, a claim necessary to allow slave holders to enslave Africans and go to church on Sundays.  The Civil War is 150 years away, the Emancipation Proclamation 148 years old, and even die-hard creationists generally have forgotten their own history.

Creationists accuse Darwin of being a racist, they claim evolution theory is racist, and they claim, therefore, it cannot be scientifically accurate.  There are a lot of holes in that chain of logic.

This is Darwin’s birthday.  Let me deal with major wrong premise, and give creationists room to correct their views with accurate history, so we don’t have a shouting match.

Way back in 2008, nominally-liberal evangelical preacher Tony Campolo got suckered in by a conservative evangelicals claim to him that evolution and Darwin are racist.  Below is my answer to him then — I think Campolo learned his lesson — but this builds on the claims Campolo made which are really copied from creationists.

In short, Darwin is not racist, and here are some explanations why, with a few updated links and minor edits for Darwin’s birthday, and Lincoln’s birthday, in 2013:

Tony Campolo is an evangelical Christian, a sociology professor and preacher who for the past 15 years or so has been a thorn in the side of political conservatives and other evangelicals, for taking generally more liberal stands, against poverty, for tolerance in culture and politics, and so on. His trademark sermon is an upbeat call to action and one of the more plagiarized works in Christendom, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” (listen to it here). 

Tony Campolo

Rev. Tony Campolo

Since he’s so close to the mainstream of American political thought, Campolo is marginalized by many of the more conservative evangelists in the U.S. Campolo is not a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcast Network, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” nor on the white, nominally-Christian, low-budget knock-off of “Sabado Gigante!,” “Praise the Lord” (with purple hair and everything).

Campolo came closest to real national fame when he counseled President Bill Clinton on moral and spiritual issues during the Lewinsky scandal.

His opposite-editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2008, “The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism,” is out of character for Campolo as a non-conservative evangelistic thinker — far from what most Christians expect from Campolo either from the pulpit or in the college classroom. The piece looks as though it was lifted wholesale from Jerry Falwell or D. James Kennedy, showing little familiarity with the science or history of evolution, and repeating canards that careful Christians shouldn’t repeat.

Campolo’s piece is inaccurate in several places, and grossly misleading where it’s not just wrong. He pulls out several old creationist hoaxes, cites junk science as if it were golden, and generally gets the issue exactly wrong.

Evolution science is a block to racism. It has always stood against racism, in the science that undergirds the theory and in its applications by those scientists and policy makers who were not racists prior to their discovery of evolution theory. Darwin himself was anti-racist. One of the chief reasons the theory has been so despised throughout the American south is its scientific basis for saying whites and blacks are so closely related. This history should not be ignored, or distorted.

Shame on you, Tony Campolo.

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One more time: Recognizing bogus history

May 14, 2012

2012 is an election year, a time when we make history together as a nation.  Potential turning points in history often get tarred with false interpretations of history to sway an election, or worse, a completely false recounting of history.  Especially in campaigns, we need to beware false claims of history, lest we be like the ignorants George Santayana warned about, doomed to repeat errors of history they do not know or understand.  How to tell that a purported piece of history is bogus?  This is mostly a repeat of a post that first appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub six years ago.

Recognizing bogus history, 1

Robert Park provides a short e-mail newsletter every Friday, covering news in the world of physics. It’s called “What’s New.” Park makes an art of smoking out bogus science and frauds people try to perpetrate in the name of science, or for money. He wrote an opinion column for the Chronicle of Higher Education [now from Quack Watch; CHE put it behind a paywall] published January 31, 2003, in which he listed the “7 warning signs of bogus science.”

Please go read Park’s entire essay, it’s good.

And it got me thinking about whether there are similar warning signs for bogus history? Are there clues that a biography of Howard Hughes is false that should pop out at any disinterested observer? Are there clues that the claimed quote from James Madison saying the U.S. government is founded on the Ten Commandments is pure buncombe? Should Oliver Stone have been able to to more readily separate fact from fantasy about the Kennedy assassination (assuming he wasn’t just going for the dramatic elements)? Can we generalize for such hoaxes, to inoculate ourselves and our history texts against error?

Bogus science section of Thinkquest logo

Perhaps some of the detection methods Park suggests would work for history. He wrote his opinion piece after the Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in which the Court laid out some rules lower courts should use to smoke out and eliminate false science. As Park described it, “The case involved Bendectin, the only morning-sickness medication ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It had been used by millions of women, and more than 30 published studies had found no evidence that it caused birth defects. Yet eight so-called experts were willing to testify, in exchange for a fee from the Daubert family, that Bendectin might indeed cause birth defects.” The Court said lower courts must act as gatekeepers against science buncombe — a difficult task for some judges who, in their training as attorneys, often spent little time studying science.

Some of the Daubert reasoning surfaced in another case recently, the opinion in Pennsylvania district federal court in which Federal District Judge John Jones struck down a school board’s order that intelligent design be introduced to high school biology students, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Can we generalize to history, too? I’m going to try, below the fold.

Here are Park’s seven warning signs, boiled down:

Park wrote:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer encouraged trial judges to appoint independent experts to help them. He noted that courts can turn to scientific organizations, like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify neutral experts who could preview questionable scientific testimony and advise a judge on whether a jury should be exposed to it. Judges are still concerned about meeting their responsibilities under the Daubert decision, and a group of them asked me how to recognize questionable scientific claims. What are the warning signs?

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs — even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate. [I have cut out the explanations. — E.D.]

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Voodoo history

Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:

  1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
  2. The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.  Bogus history relies more on invective than investigation; anyone with an opposing view is an “idiot,” or evil.
  3. The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure, or unavailable; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.
  4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
  5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
  6. The author has worked in isolation, and fails to incorporate or explain other, mainstream versions of the history of the incident, and especially the author fails to explain why they are in error.
  7. The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation.

Any history account that shows one or more of those warning signs should be viewed skeptically.

In another post, I’ll flesh out the reasoning behind why they are warning signs.

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DDT fanatic a former Monsanto lobbyist?

August 4, 2011

Sometimes in unexpected places you stumble across a factoid that makes sense out of a lot of other factoids, turning them into enlightening, and perhaps useful, information.

Steven Milloy used to be a Monsanto lobbyist?  Is that accurate?

Among the allegations, that Monsanto aggressively protects its patents on seeds and other products sold to farmers, and that the company may not be above a bit of skullduggery to push farmers and, in this case, milk processors, to use Monsanto products.  Watch for Steven Milloy’s name to pop up in the last paragraph.  The site quotes a Vanity Fair  article on Monsanto from 2008.

Even if Monsanto’s efforts to secure across-the-board labeling changes should fall short, there’s nothing to stop state agriculture departments from restricting labeling on a dairy-by-dairy basis. Beyond that, Monsanto also has allies whose foot soldiers will almost certainly keep up the pressure on dairies that don’t use Monsanto’s artificial hormone. Jeff Kleinpeter knows about them, too.

He got a call one day from the man who prints the labels for his milk cartons, asking if he had seen the attack on Kleinpeter Dairy that had been posted on the Internet. Kleinpeter went online to a site called StopLabelingLies, which claims to “help consumers by publicizing examples of false and misleading food and other product labels.” There, sure enough, Kleinpeter and other dairies that didn’t use Monsanto’s product were being accused of making misleading claims to sell their milk.

There was no address or phone number on the Web site, only a list of groups that apparently contribute to the site and whose issues range from disparaging organic farming to downplaying the impact of global warming. “They were criticizing people like me for doing what we had a right to do, had gone through a government agency to do,” says Kleinpeter. “We never could get to the bottom of that Web site to get that corrected.”

As it turns out, the Web site counts among its contributors Steven Milloy, the “junk science” commentator for FoxNews.com and operator of junkscience.com, which claims to debunk “faulty scientific data and analysis.” It may come as no surprise that earlier in his career, Milloy, who calls himself the “junkman,” was a registered lobbyist for Monsanto.

If accurate, it’s a sort of “origins” story — I don’t think it explains Milloy’s current advocacy of DDT and almost all other things anti-environmentally-wise.  Nor does it explain Milloy’s penchant for making things up whole cloth.  Does Fox News disclose this anywhere?

It does suggest his dirty tricks chops against environmentalists and scientists get exercised more than I had imagined.

The story is an interesting and odd footnote in the debunking of the unholy War on Science that claims Rachel Carson was wrong, and DDT is harmless and right.

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Heritage Foundation urges that Africa be poisoned

May 7, 2011

Oh, not outwardly anti-Africa, but stupidly so.

The extreme right-wing Heritage Foundation lashed out at health care workers and scientists fighting malaria in Africa and Asia for World Malaria Day, April 25 (HF’s post showed up on May 5).  If these malaria fighters really were smart, HF’s Jane Abel wrote, they’d just poison Africa with DDT instead of protecting children with bednets and working to improve medical care.  According to Abel, DDT is safe for everyone but mosquitoes, and more effective than anything else malaria fighters use — so they are stupid and venal, she asserts, for not using DDT.

Here’s her post:

Environmentalists celebrated World Malaria Day last week (and Earth Day the week prior). Meanwhile, thousands of African children died of malaria.

While these activists may make themselves feel like they’re saving the world, they are ignoring the best possible solution to Africa’s malaria problem: the use of DDT to wipe out the Anopheles mosquito.

Even though the World Health Organization resumed promotion of DDT in September 2006—realizing it had the best track record for saving the lives of 500 million African children—environmentalists are still emphasizing the use of bed nets instead. DDT treatments almost completely eradicated the disease in Europe and North America 50 years ago, but today an African child dies every 45 seconds of malaria.

Providing sub-Saharan Africans with bed nets has had far from acceptable success in delivering the amount of protection needed from mosquitoes. The World Bank touts the fact that 50 percent of children in Zambia are now sleeping under nets as a good thing, but what about the other half who are left defenseless against a killer disease? The Democratic Republic of the Congo had only 38 percent of children under nets in 2010.

One would question why, in the 21st century, people should have to live inside of a net in order to be safe from malaria. The world has a better solution, and it’s not the quarantine of African infants. Dr. John Rwakimari, as head of Uganda’s national malaria program, described DDT, which is nontoxic to humans, as “the answer to our problems.”

World Malaria Day 2011 had the theme of “Achieving Progress and Impact” and aims to have zero malaria deaths by 2015. If the world really wants to make progress and increase the number of lives saved from malaria, it needs to embrace for Africans the best possible technologies available today, and that means DDT.

Here’s my response, which I predict will not show up at HF’s blog in any form*:

DDT is toxic to humans — just not greatly and acutely so.  Ms. Abel should be aware of recent studies that indicate even limited, indoor use of DDT in the end produces a death toll similar to malaria.  But we digress on just one of the errors assumed by Ms. Abel.

If DDT could wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitoes, WHO would not have slowed or stopped its use in 1965, years before anyone thought about banning the stuff.  By 1965 it was clear that overuse of DDT in agriculture had bred mosquitoes that are resistant and even immune to DDTJonathan Weiner noted in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Beak of the Finch, that today every mosquito on Earth carries at least a few copies of the alleles that allow mosquitoes to digest DDT as if it were a nutrient.

DDT cannot be a panacea for malaria.

Please do not forget that malaria is a parasite disease, and that mosquitoes are only the carriers of it.  To truly eradicate malaria, we need to cure the humans — and if we do that, the mosquitoes do not matter.  With no infected humans, mosquitoes have no well of disease to draw from.  Without infected humans, mosquitoes cannot spread malaria.

Only 38 percent of children in Congo sleep under bednets?  I’ll wager that’s twice the percentage of kids that were ever protected from malaria in Congo by DDT.  In actual tests in Africa over the past decade, bednets have proven to reduce malaria by 50 to 85 percent; DDT, on the other hand, reduces malaria only 25 to 50 percent under the best conditions.  If we have to go with one and not the other, bednets would be the better choice.  Nets are much, much cheaper than DDT, too.  DDT applications must be repeated every 6 months, at a cost of about $12 per application per house.  Nets cost about $10, and they last five years.  Nets protect kids for $2 a year, better than DDT; DDT protects kids for $24 a year (that’s 12 times the cost), but not as effectively as nets.

Also, it’s important to remember that DDT has never been banned in Africa.  DDT non-use is much more a result of the ineffectiveness of DDT in many applications — why should we expect Africans to throw away hard-earned money on a pesticide that doesn’t work?

Finally, it’s also good to understand that, largely without DDT, malaria deaths are, today, at the lowest point in human history.  Fewer than 900,000 people a year die from malaria today.  That’s 25% of the death toll in 1960, when DDT use was at its peak.

Ms. Abel assumes that all Africans are too stupid to use DDT, though it might save their children.  He states no reason for this assumption, but we should question it.  If Africans do not use DDT, it may well be because the local populations of mosquitoes are not susceptible; or it could be because other solutions, like bednets, are more effective, and cheaper.

Ms. Abel has not made a case that DDT is the best solution to use against malaria.  DDT cannot improve a nation’s medical care delivery systems, to quickly diagnose and appropriately treat malaria in humans.  DDT cannot make mosquitoes extinct, we know from 66 year of DDT use that mosquitoes always come roaring back.  DDT cannot prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria as effectively as bednets.

Maybe, just maybe, as evidenced by the dramatic reductions in malaria deaths, we might assume that modern Africans and health care workers know what they’re doing fighting malaria — and they do not need, want, or call for, a lot more DDT than is currently in use.

It’s too bad Heritage Foundation fell victim to so much junk science, and that the otherwise august press release operation pushes the grand DDT hoaxes.  Just once, wouldn’t it be nice if these conservative echo chambers would, instead of recycling the old, wrong press releases of other conservatives, would do a little research on their own, and get the facts right?

_______________

*  It’ll be fun to watch.  I sent my response early, early in the morning while rushing to get a presentation ready, and I made a couple of egregious typos, including identifying Jonathan Weiner as “Stephen Weiner.”  If HF wished to embarrass me, they’d publish that one out of their moderation queue — but I’ll bet that even with my typos, they can’t allow the facts through.  Also, for reasons I can’t figure, some guy named Thurman showed as the author of HF’s piece on May 5.  So I had referred to Mr. Thurman instead of Ms. Abel.  Interesting technical glitch, or story, there.

_______________

Update, May 8:  As we should have expected, Steven Milloy’s Junk Science Side Bar also went on record as favoring the poisoning of Africa rather than the fighting of malaria.  Milloy makes claims that DDT will beat malaria (ostensibly before it kills all life in Africa), but his sources don’t support the claim.  Milloy is always very careful to never mention that, largely without DDT, the death toll from malaria is at the lowest point in human history.  Instead he notes that while malaria fighters promoted World Malaria Day, lots of African kids died of malaria.  That’s true, but misleading.  Because of the malaria-fighting efforts of those Milloy tries to impugn, far fewer African kids die.  Contrary to Milloy’s insane and offensive claims, it’s not alright that “only people” die.  Milloy asserts implicitly that, but for environmentalists, thousands or millions of children would survive that do not know.  That’s not true:  Because of the work that Milloy denigrates, millions fewer die.  It wasn’t environmentalists who overused DDT and rendered it ineffective in the fight against malaria, it was Milloy’s funders.  Follow the money.


What sort of crazy is the warming denialist?

April 21, 2011

I’ve got to stop looking over there.

Goddard’s got a post up showing the great disregard he has for the facts, and the law, and history, etc., etc., etc.  It may be an unintentional showing, but there it sits, “like a mackerel in the moonlight, both shining and stinking.”

Jerome Corsi, that serial fictionalizer of vital issues, has a book out promoting his slimy schemes besmirch President Obama.  Goddard urges people to buy it.

But they really pile on in the comments.  It’s almost as if Casey Luskin had a whole family just like himself, and they got together to whine about Judge Roberts again.

Warming denialism, creationism and birthers — is it all just three minor variations on the same brain-sucking virus?  Or could three different diseases produce the same sort of crazy on so many different issues?

I’m reminded of the old saw that you cannot reason a person out of a position he didn’t reach by reason.  These guys will never see the light.  Heaven knows, it ain’t evidence that gets ’em where they are now.

Previous posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Special kind of birther crazy:


Debunking Junk Science’s hoax “100 Things You Should Know About DDT”: #14, William Ruckelshaus’s bias

February 17, 2011

Another in a continuing series, showing the errors in JunkScience.com’s list of “100 things you should know about DDT.” (No, these are not in order.) In the summer of 2009, the denialists have trotted this error out again.

At the astonishingly truthfully-named site “Junk Science,” Steven Milloy creates a series of hoaxes with a page titled “100 things you should know about DDT.”  It is loaded with hoaxes about DDT, urging its use, and about Rachel Carson, and about EPA and the federal regulation of DDT, and about malaria and DDT’s role in the ambitious but ill-fated campaign to eradicate malaria operated by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1955, officially until 1969.  Milloy knows junk science, and he dishes it out with large ladles.

Among what must be 100 errors, Milloy makes this claim, I suppose to suggest that William Ruckelshaus was biased when Rickelshaus headed the Environmental Protection Agency:

14.  William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

This is a false statement on Milloy’s site.  After finding no credible source for the claim that Ruckelshaus was ever affiliated with EDF in any way, I contacted Ruckelshaus’s office, and got confirmation that Ruckelshaus was not and never has been affiliated with EDF.  It should be a clue that this claim appears only at sites who impugn Ruckelshaus for his action in banning DDT use in U.S. agriculture.

 

Junk Science's oddly apt logo and slogan

Hiding the truth in plain view: Junk Science is a site that promotes junk science, an unintended flash of honesty at a site that otherwise promotes hoaxes about science. Note the slogan. Does this site cover its hoaxes by stating plainly that it promotes “all the junk science that’s fit to debunk?”

It is also highly unlikely that he ever wrote a fund-raising letter for the group, certainly not while he was a public official.  The implicit claim of Junk Science.com, that William Ruckelshaus was not a fair referee in the DDT case, is a false claim.

I asked Milloy to correct errors at his site, and he has steadfastly refused.

Here is what Milloy’s point #14 would say, with the falsehoods removed:

14.  William Ruckelshaus [was] the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972[.], was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

Below the fold:  William D. Ruckelshaus’s “official” biography, if you call him today, February 17, 2011.  You should note, there is no mention of any work with EDF.

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“3 billion and counting” — the errors one makes when using Howard Stern as a science advisor

October 7, 2010

“3 Billion and Counting” premiered at a tiny New York venue a couple of weeks ago, the latest skirmish in the War on Science. Physician-to-the-stars Dr. Rutledge Taylor claims that malaria could be eradicated if only DDT had not been banned from Africa.

What?  No, no, you’re right: DDT has never been banned from Africa, not even under the 2001 Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty.  The film comes out of Hollywood, starring a Hollywood physician.  Perhaps that should clue us in that it is not a serious documentary, and not to be taken at face value.

Nor at any value.

Taylor engaged a publicist and conducted a national campaign to launch the movie.  In that campaign he someone appeared on Howard Stern’s radio show.  [There’s a guy in comments who claims it wasn’t Taylor, though Taylor wrote it in the first person.  Odd as hell.]

How silly are the claims in the movie?

A post at the movie’s blog revealed that Ronnie, Stern’s limousine driver, had a fight with bedbugs, and that Stern thinks DDT should be brought back.  That’s how bad this movie is:  Howard Stern is the science advisor.

Yes, yes, you’re right:  DDT stopped working against bedbugs in the 1950s (see Bug Girl’s recent post).  That doesn’t stop the publicists from defending the movie at the movie’s blog.  “Royce” [who claims not to be a publicist for the movie] said:

The problem with DDT is that it worked too well in stomping out malaria. The science proves that it minimally impacted the environment. But this information was suppressed. Wonder why and by whom? This movies addresses and uncovers the answers to these questions..Questions that many of us had about this issue.

I tried, without success I’m sure, to set him straight:

Royce,

First, DDT was not the weapon that eradicated malaria in the U.S.  We worked for 30 years to improve medical care, beef up the Public Health Service and county public health officers, educate people on how to drain mosquito breeding areas near their homes, be certain people with malari were fully treated to a cure, and to raise incomes to improve housing so that people could live in a home where mosquitoes could not enter at night (the times malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite).  By 1939, malaria was essentially eliminated from the U.S.  DDT was not available for use for another seven years.

Earlier we had defeated malaria and yellow fever in Panama, during the construction of the Panama Canal — long before any insecticide existed.  Beating malaria is possible with discipline, accurate information, and sustained effort.  No pesticide is necessary.

Second, DDT has never been out of use in Africa since 1946, nor in Asia.  DDT is in use right now by the World Health Organization (WHO) and at least five nations in Africa who have malaria problems.  If someone told you DDT is not being used, they erred.

Unfortunately, overuse of DDT by agricultural interests, in the early 1960s, bred mosquitoes that are resitant and immune to DDT.  DDT simply is not the effective pesticide it once was, and for the WHO project to eradicate malaria, this problem was the death knell.  WHO had to fall back to a malaria control position, because pro-DDT groups sprayed far too much of the stuff, in far to many places, mostly outside.

Third, all serious studies indicate that DDT greatly affects environment, with doses of the stuff multiplying from application through the top of the trophic levels in the ecosystem.  A minimal dose of DDT to kill mosquito larva in an estuary, for example, multiples many times as zooplankton and the mosquito larva soak it up.  The next level of consumers get about a ten-times dose from what was sprayed, and that multiplies exponentially as other creatures consume the lower-level consumers.  By the time an insect or crustacean-eating bird gets the critter, the dose is millions of times stronger, often to fatal levels for the bird.

If the dose is sub-lethal, it screws up the reproduction of the bird.  DDT in the egg kills the chick before it can fledge from the nest, often before it can hatch.  If by some miracle the chick does not die from acute DDT poisoning, the eggshells produced by a DDT-tainted female bird are often too thin to survive the growth of the embryo — either way the chicks die.  (There are a couple of studies done on plant-eating birds which showed that the chicks did not die before hatching — they died shortly after hatching.)

DDT is astoundingly effective at screwing up the reproduction of birds.

Fourth, studies show that humans exposed to DDT rarely get an acutely toxic dose, but that their children get screwed up reproductive systems, and there is a definite link from DDT exposure to the children of the mother — the cancer goes to the next generation.  DDT is not harmless to people at all — it is just not acutely toxic, generally.

Fifth, as I note above, DDT is no longer highly effective in controlling mosquitoes.  Where once it killed them dead, they have developed immunity, and now digest the stuff as if it were food.  There are studies that show DDT is also weakly repellent, but there are better, less-toxic repellents, and there is no reason to use something so deadly to all other creatures in the ecosystem to get a weak repellent effect.

Because of the biomagnification, DDT kills the predators of mosquitoes much more effectively, and for a much longer period, than it kills mosquitoes.  This sets the stage for mosquitoes to come roaring back, with all the natural checks on mosquito population out of commission.

Why use a poison that is not very effective, but very deadly, when there are better alternatives available?

Malaria death rates are the lowest they have been in human history.  There is no good case to be made that more DDT could provide any benefit.

DDT is still manufactured in astonishing quantity in North Korea, for one.  DDT is used in Africa and Asia, but no one with any sense uses it to eradicate malaria — DDT screwed up that chance 50 years ago.

Rutledge’s movie appears to be sinking from release (it’s played two theaters that I can find, for less than a week at each).  It may be far underwater already.  It would be to DDT whatExpelled” was to creationism, but it lacks the cloying, gullible religious fanatics to push it.

Thank God.

Malaria-fighting pesticide sprayers in Africa - publicity still from "3 Billion and Counting"

Mystery photo: If spraying pesticides to fight malaria isn't allowed in Africa as Rutledge Taylor argues, why are these pesticide sprayers pictured in this photo? Publicity still from "3 Billion and Counting" via Rotten Tomatoes website

Also see, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Warming deniers surprised by winter

July 27, 2010

Were you writing fiction, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Another bastion of people misled by the lack of a Hemingway-brand Solid Gold Sh*t Detector™.

Another person proud as heck of her denial of global warming, points to cattle freezing in South America in July as proof that the Earth’s atmosphere is not warming.

At a blog called Frugal Café Blog Zone, “Where it’s chic to be cheap… Conservative social & political commentary, with frugality mixed in,” blogger Vicki McClure Davidson headlined the piece:

“Remember Al Gore’s “Global Warming” Hoax? People & Cattle in South America Are Dying from Extreme Cold in July”

Gee, how to break this news to her?

Vickie, sit down.  This is something you should have learned in geography in junior high:  In the Southern Hemisphere, winter starts on June 21It’s cold in South America in July, because it’s winter in South America in July.

Cold in winter.  They don’t expect it.  These warming denialists provide the evidence those crabs need, who wonder whether there shouldn’t be some sort of “common sense test” required to pass before allowing people to vote, or drive, or have children.

Oh, it gets worse:

Another site picked up the post.  No, seriously.  (Has Anthony Watts seen this yet?)

  • Voting Female [I am convinced that is a sock puppet site designed to insult women; no woman could be that stupid, could she?]
Earth at northern solstice

Earth at northern solstice - Wikimedia image


Another study on human health and DDT: ADHD linked to DDT and other pesticides

July 7, 2010

Extravagant and way-too-enthusiastic claims that DDT is “harmless” to human health keep getting marginalized by new studies on the topic.

This week the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported another study that links DDT to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, “Increased Risk of ADHD Associated With Early Exposure to Pesticides, PCBs.”

I don’t have a full copy of the report yet.  Here is what is publicly available for free:

Individuals who are exposed early in life to organophosphates or organochlorine compounds, widely used as pesticides or for industrial applications, are at greater risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to recent studies. Previous studies had linked ADHD with very high levels of childhood exposure to organophosphate pesticides, such as levels experienced by children living in farming communities that used these chemicals. But a recent study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that even children who experience more typical levels of pesticide exposure, such as from eating pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, have a higher risk of developing the disorder.

JAMA. 2010;304(1):27-28.

Many of the chief junk science promoters will ignore this study, as they ignore almost all others — Steven Milloy, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, CEI, etc., etc.  How often does the junk science apple have to hit people before they figure out these people are malificent actors, when they claim DDT is harmless and we need more?

See also:


Washington Times felled by DDT poisoning

June 9, 2010

Washington Times‘ owner, the Unification Church, put the paper up for sale earlier this year — tired of losing north of $30 million a year on the thing.  It appears that, in a cost-cutting move, the paper has laid off all its fact checkers and most of its editors.

And anyone with a brain.

DDT use in the U.S. peaked in 1959, with 70 million pounds of the stuff used in that year.  This ad comes from about that time.

DDT use in the U.S. peaked in 1959, with 70 million pounds of the stuff used in that year. This ad for a French product containing DDT comes from about that time.

How do we know?

Our old friend Stephen Milloy complains about Time Magazine’s “50 Worst Inventions” list, including, especially the listing of DDT, as discussed earlier.  It’s wrong, and silly.  Good fact checkers, and good editors, wouldn’t let such claptrap make it into print.

Milloy packed an astounding number of whoppers in a short paragraph about DDT:

From 1943 through its banning by the EPA in 1972, DDT saved hundreds of millions of lives all over the world from a variety of vector-borne diseases. Even when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (and closeted environmental activist) William D. Ruckelshaus banned DDT in 1972, he did so despite a finding from an EPA administrative law judge who, after seven months and 9,000 pages of testimony, ruled that DDT presented no threat of harm to humans or wildlife. Today, a million children die every year from malaria. DDT could safely make a tremendous dent in that toll.

Let us count the errors and falsehoods:

1.  DDT was used against typhus from 1943 through about 1946, and against bedbugs; it saved millions, but not hundreds of millions. Death tolls from typhus rarely rose over a million a year, if it ever did.  Bedbugs don’t kill, they just itch.  If we add in malaria after 1946, in a few years we push to four million deaths total from insect-borne diseases — but of course, that’s with DDT being used.  If we charitably claim DDT saved four million lives a year between 1943 and 1972, we get a total of 117 million lives saved.  But we know that figure is inflated a lot.

Sure, DDT helped stop some disease epidemics.  But it didn’t save “hundreds of millions of lives” in 29 years of use.  The National Academy of Sciences, in a book noting that DDT should be banned because its dangers far outweigh its long-term benefits, goofed and said DDT had saved 500 million lives from malaria, and said DDT is one of the most beneficial chemicals ever devised by humans.  500 million is the annual infection rate from malaria, with a high of nearly four million deaths, but in most years under a million deaths.  Malaria kills about one of every 500 people infected in a year.  That’s far too many deaths, but it’s not as many lives saved as Milloy claims.

NAS grossly overstated the benefits of DDT, and still called for it to be banned.

The question is, why is Milloy grossly inflating his figures?  Isn’t it good enough for DDT to be recognized as one of the most beneficial substances ever devised?

My father always warned that when advertisers start inflating their claims, they are trying to hide something nasty.

2.  Ruckelshaus didn’t ban DDT on his own — nor was he a “closeted” environmentalist. He got the job at EPA because he was an outstanding lawyer and administrator, with deep understanding of environmental issues — his environmentalism was one of his chief qualifications for the job.  (Maybe Milloy spent the ’70s in a closet, and assumes everyone else did, too?)  But EPA acted only when ordered to act by two different federal courts (Judge David Bazelon ordered an end to all use of DDT at one of the trials).  At trial, DDT had been found to be inherently dangerous and uncontrollable.  Both courts were ready to order DDT banned completely, but stayed those orders pending EPA’s regulatory hearings and action.

In fact, regulatory actions against DDT began in the 1950s; by 1970, scientific evidence was overwhelming (and it has not be contradicted:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency with responsibility of regulating pesticides before the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, began regulatory actions in the late 1950s and 1960s to prohibit many of DDT’s uses because of mounting evidence of the pesticide’s declining benefits and environmental and toxicological effects. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 stimulated widespread public concern over the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls.

In 1972, EPA issued a cancellation order for DDT based on adverse environmental effects of its use, such as those to wildlife, as well as DDT’s potential human health risks. Since then, studies have continued, and a causal relationship between DDT exposure and reproductive effects is suspected. Today, DDT is classified as a probable human carcinogen by U.S. and international authorities. This classification is based on animal studies in which some animals developed liver tumors.

DDT is known to be very persistent in the environment, will accumulate in fatty tissues, and can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere. Since the use of DDT was discontinued in the United States, its concentration in the environment and animals has decreased, but because of its persistence, residues of concern from historical use still remain.

3.  Judge Sweeney ruled that DDT is dangerous to humans and especially wildlife, but that DDT’s new, Rachel-Carson-friendly label would probably protect human health and the environment. EPA Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney presided at the hearings in 1971.  As in the two previous federal court trials, DDT advocates had ample opportunity to make their case.  32 companies and agencies defended the use of DDT in the proceeding.  Just prior to the hearings, DDT manufacturers announced plans to relabel DDT for use only in small amounts, against disease, or in emergencies, and not in broadcast spraying ever.  This proved significant later.

Judge Sweeney did not find that DDT is harmless.  Quite to the contrary, Sweeney wrote in the findings of the hearing:

20.  DDT can have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish and estuarine organisms when directly applied to the water.

21.  DDT is used as a rodenticide. [DDT was used to kill bats in homes and office buildings; this was so effective that, coupled with accidental dosing of bats from their eating insects carrying DDT,  it actually threatened to wipe out some species of bat in the southwest U.S.]

22.  DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.

23.  DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.

DDT use in the U.S. had dropped from a 1959 high of 79 million pounds, to just 12 million pounds by 1972.  Hazards from DDT use prompted federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior to severely restrict or stop use of the stuff prior to 1963.  Seeing the writing on the wall, manufacturers tried to keep DDT on the market by labeling it very restrictively.  That would allow people to buy it legally,  and then use it illegally, but such misuse can almost never be prosecuted.

Sweeney wrote that, under the new, very restrictive label, DDT could be kept on the market.  Ruckelshaus ruled that EPA had a duty to protect the environment even from abusive, off-label use, and issued a ban on all agricultural use.

4.  More DDT today won’t significantly reduce malaria’s death toll. Milloy fails to mention that DDT use against malaria was slowed dramatically in the mid-1960s — seven years before the U.S. banned spraying cotton with it — because mosquitoes had become resistant and immune to DDT.  DDT use was not stopped because of the U.S. ban on spraying crops; DDT use was reduced because it didn’t work.

Milloy also ignores the fact that DDT is being used today.  Not all populations of mosquitoes developed immunity, yet.  DDT has a place in a carefully-managed program of “integrated vector management,” involving rotating several pesticides to ensure mosquitoes don’t evolve immunity, and spraying small amounts of the pesticide on the walls of houses where it is most effective, and ensuring that DDT especially does not get outdoors.

To the extent DDT can be used effectively, it is being used.  More DDT can only cause environmental harm, and perhaps harm to human health.

Most significantly, Milloy grossly overstates the effectiveness of DDT.  Deaths from malaria numbered nearly 3 million a year in the late 1950s; by the middle 1960s, the death rate hovered near 2 million per year.  Today, annual death rates are under a million — less than half the death rate when DDT use was at its peak.  Were DDT the panacea Milloy claims, shouldn’t the death numbers go the other way?

Milloy gets away making wild, misleading and inaccurate claims when editors don’t bother to read his stuff, and they don’t bother to ask “does this make sense?”  Nothing Milloy claims could be confirmed with a search of PubMed, the most easily accessible, authoritative data base of serious science journals dealing with health.

Obviously, Washington Times didn’t bother to check.  Were all the fact checkers let go?

Even more lunatic

Milloy also attacked the decision to get lead out of gasoline.  Ignoring all the facts and the astoundingly long history of severe health effects from lead pollution, Milloy dropped this stinking mental turd:

As to leaded gasoline, we can safely say that leaded gasoline helped provide America and the world with unprecedented freedom and fueled tremendous prosperity. We don’t use leaded gasoline in the United States anymore, but more because people simply don’t like the idea of leaded gasoline as opposed to any body of science showing that it caused anybody any harm. It’s the dose that makes the poison, and there never was enough lead in the ambient environment to threaten health.

The U.S. found that getting lead out of gasoline actually improved our national IQ.  Lead’s health effects were so pervasive, there was an almost-immediate improvement in health for the entire nation, especially children, when lead was removed.  Denying the harms of tetraethyl lead in gasoline goes past junk science, to outright falsehood.

What is Milloy’s fascination with presenting deadly poisons as “harmless?”  Why does he hate children so?

Why do publications not catch these hallucination-like errors and junk science promotions when he writes them?

Antidote to DDT poisoning in humans:  Spread the facts:

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False claims on DDT

June 6, 2010

One wishes Rachel Carson were still alive, to sue for slander.

One of the more interesting ways claims like those of Rich Kozlovich can continue to circulate, they are not based on any scientific studies.  Had Kozlovich made such claims in a scientific journal, they would have to be retracted. The claims in favor of DDT made at that site are pure hoax, junk science, bogus science, voodoo science (pick your favorite term).

Kids aren’t dying for a lack of pesticides — DDT is still available and cheap in India, China and across Africa.  Malaria is a disease, and it can’t be cured in humans by poisoning the environment.  Malaria’s spread can’t be stopped until we cure in humans so mosquitoes have no pool of disease to draw from, to spread to the next victim.

More:


Making up stuff on the internet

May 3, 2010

Here’s the Dilbert cartoon Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli should have viewed before he went fishing:

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The Curse of “Not Evil, Just Wrong” — still evil and wrong

December 10, 2009

At the first post on this material, the thread got a little long — not loading well in some browsers, I hear.

So the comments are closed there, and open here.

In fashion we wish were different but seems all too typical, so-called skeptics of global warming defend their position with invective and insult.  But they are vigorous about it.  What do you think?  What information can you contribute?

Here’s the post that set off the denialists, anti-science types and DDT sniffers, and a tiny few genuinely concerned but under-informed citizens:

AP caption: Former Vice President Al Gore, left, listens to speakers during a meeting at the Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Buckingham, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Gore visited the area that is the proposed site for a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Should be obviously silly for anyone to argue former divinity student Al Gore is evil, as this film implies despite the demurrer. It should also be obviously that it’s evil to call Gore wrong on these issues; but that doesn’t stop brown Earther critics of scientists and Al Gore.

I warned you about it earlier. Crank science sites across the internet feature news of another cheap hit on Rachel Carson and science in movie form.

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” is slated for release on October 18. This is the film that tried to intrude on the Rachel Carson film earlier this year, but managed to to get booked only at an elementary school in Seattle, Washington — Rachel Carson Elementary, a green school where the kids showed more sense than the film makers by voting to name the school after the famous scientist-author.

The film is both evil and wrong.

Errors just in the trailer:

  1. Claims that Al Gore said sea levels will rise catastrophically, “in the very near future.” Not in his movie, not in his writings or speeches. Not true. That’s a simple misstatement of what Gore said, and Gore had the science right.
  2. ” . . . [I]t wouldn’t be a bad thing for this Earth to warm up. In fact, ice is the enemy of life.” “Bad” in this case is a value judgment — global warming isn’t bad if you’re a weed, a zebra mussel, one of the malaria parasites, a pine bark beetle, any other tropical disease, or a sadist. But significant warming as climatologists, physicists and others project, would be disastrous to agriculture, major cities in many parts of the world, sea coasts, and most people who don’t live in the Taklamakan or Sahara, and much of the life in the ocean. Annual weather cycles within long-established ranges, is required for life much as we know it. “No ice” is also an enemy of life.
  3. “They want to raise our taxes.” No, that’s pure, uncomposted bovine excrement.
  4. “They want to close our factories.” That’s more effluent from the anus of male bovines.
  5. The trailer notes the usual claim made by Gore opponents that industry cannot exist if it is clean, that industry requires that we poison the planet. Were that true, we’d have a need to halt industry now, lest we become like the yeast in the beer vat, or the champagne bottle, manufacturing alcohol until the alcohol kills the yeast. Our experience with Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Clean Air Acts and the Clean Water Act is that cleaning the environment produces economic growth, not the other way around. A city choked in pollution dies. Los Angeles didn’t suffer when the air got cleaner. Pittsburgh’s clean air became a way to attract new industries to the city, before the steel industry there collapsed. Cleaning Lake Erie didn’t hurt industry. The claim made by the film is fatuous, alarmist, and morally corrupt.

    When the human health, human welfare, and environmental effects which could be expressed in dollar terms were added up for the entire 20-year period, the total benefits of Clean Air Act programs were estimated to range from about $6 trillion to about $50 trillion, with a mean estimate of about $22 trillion. These estimated benefits represent the estimated value Americans place on avoiding the dire air quality conditions and dramatic increases in illness and premature death which would have prevailed without the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act and its associated state and local programs. By comparison, the actual costs of achieving the pollution reductions observed over the 20 year period were $523 billion, a small fraction of the estimated monetary benefits.

  6. “Some of the environmental activists have not come to accept that the human is also part of the environment.” Fatuous claim. Environmentalists note that humans uniquely possess the ability to change climate on a global scale, intentionally, for the good or bad; environmentalists choose to advocate for actions that reduce diseases like malaria, cholera and asthma. We don’t have to sacrifice a million people a year to malaria, in order to be industrial and productive. We don’t have to kill 700,000 kids with malaria every year just to keep cars.
  7. “They want to go back to the Dark Ages and the Black Plague.” No, that would be the film makers. Environmentalists advocate reducing filth and ignorance both. Ignorance and lack of ability to read, coupled with religious fanaticism, caused the strife known as “the Dark Ages.” It’s not environmentalists who advocate an end to cheap public schools.
  8. The trailer shows a kid playing in the surf on a beach. Of course, without the Clean Water Act and other attempts to keep the oceans clean, such play would be impossible. That we can play again on American beaches is a tribute to the environmental movement, and reason enough to grant credence to claims of smart people like Al Gore and the scientists whose work he promotes.
  9. “I cannot believe that Al Gore has great regard for people, real people.” So, this is a film promoting the views of crabby, misanthropic anal orifices who don’t know Al Gore at all? Shame on them. And, why should anyone want to see such a film? If I want to see senseless acts of stupidity, I can rent a film by Quentin Tarantino and get some art with the stupidity. [Update, November 23, 2009: This may be one of the most egregiously false charges of the film. Gore, you recall, is the guy who put his political career and presidential ambitions on hold indefinitely when his son was seriously injured in an auto-pedestrian accident; Gore was willing to sacrifice all his political capital in order to get his son healed. My first dealings directly with Gore came on the Organ Transplant bill. Gore didn’t need a transplant, didn’t have need for one in his family, and had absolutely nothing to gain from advocacy for the life-saving procedure. It was opposed by the chairman of his committee, by a majority of members of his own party in both Houses of Congress, by many in the medical establishment, by many in the pharmaceutical industry, and by President Reagan, who didn’t drop his threat to veto the bill until he signed it, as I recall. Gore is a man of deep, human-centered principles. Saying “I can’t believe Al Gore has great regard for real people” only demonstrates the vast ignorance and perhaps crippling animus of the speaker.]

That’s a whopper about every 15 seconds in the trailer — the film itself may make heads spin if it comes close to that pace of error.

Where have we seen this before? Producers of the film claim as “contributors” some of the people they try to lampoon — people like Ed Begley, Jr., and NASA’s James E. Hansen, people who don’t agree in any way with the hysterical claims of the film, and people who, I wager, would be surprised to be listed as “contributors.”

It’s easy to suppose these producers used the same ambush-the-scientist technique used earlier by the producers of the anti-science, anti-Darwin film “Expelled!

Here, see the hysteria, error and alarmism for yourself:

Ann McElhinney is one of the film’s producers. Her past work includes other films against protecting environment and films for mining companies. She appears to be affiliated with junk science purveyors at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an astro-turf organization in Washington, D.C., for whom she flacked earlier this year (video from Desmogblog):

Remember, too, that this film is already known to have gross inaccuracies about Rachel Carson and DDT, stuff that high school kids could get right easily.

Anyone have details on McElhinney and her colleague, Phelim McAlee?

More:

Related posts, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


New junk science movie: “Not evil, just wrong”

August 16, 2009

I warned you about it earlierCrank science sites across the internet feature news of another cheap hit on Rachel Carson and science in movie form.

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” is slated for release on October 18. This is the film that tried to intrude on the Rachel Carson film earlier this year, but managed to to get booked only at an elementary school in Seattle, Washington — Rachel Carson Elementary, a green school where the kids showed more sense than the film makers by voting to name the school after the famous scientist-author.

The film is both evil and wrong.

Errors just in the trailer:

  1. Claims that Al Gore said sea levels will rise catastrophically, “in the very near future.”  Not in his movie, not in his writings or speeches.  Not true.  That’s a simple misstatement of what Gore said, and Gore had the science right.
  2. ” . . . [I]t wouldn’t be a bad thing for this Earth to warm up.  In fact, ice is the enemy of life.”  “Bad” in this case is a value judgment — global warming isn’t bad if you’re a weed, a zebra mussel, one of the malaria parasites, a pine bark beetle, any other tropical disease, or a sadist.  But significant warming as climatologists, physicists and others project, would be disastrous to agriculture, major cities in many parts of the world, sea coasts, and most people who don’t live in the Taklamakan or Sahara, and much of the life in the ocean.  Annual weather cycles within long-established ranges, is required for life much as we know it.  “No ice” is also an enemy of life.
  3. “They want to raise our taxes.”  No, that’s pure, uncomposted bovine excrement.
  4. “They want to close our factories.”  That’s more effluent from the anus of male bovines.
  5. The trailer notes the usual claim made by Gore opponents that industry cannot exist if it is clean, that industry requires that we poison the planet.  Were that true, we’d have a need to halt industry now, lest we become like the yeast in the beer vat, or the champagne bottle, manufacturing alcohol until the alcohol kills the yeast.  Our experience with Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Clean Air Acts and the Clean Water Act is that cleaning the environment produces economic growth, not the other way around.  A city choked in pollution dies.  Los Angeles didn’t suffer when the air got cleaner.  Pittsburgh’s clean air became a way to attract new industries to the city, before the steel industry there collapsed.  Cleaning Lake Erie didn’t hurt industry.  The claim made by the film is fatuous, alarmist, and morally corrupt.

    When the human health, human welfare, and environmental effects which could be expressed in dollar terms were added up for the entire 20-year period, the total benefits of Clean Air Act programs were estimated to range from about $6 trillion to about $50 trillion, with a mean estimate of about $22 trillion. These estimated benefits represent the estimated value Americans place on avoiding the dire air quality conditions and dramatic increases in illness and premature death which would have prevailed without the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act and its associated state and local programs. By comparison, the actual costs of achieving the pollution reductions observed over the 20 year period were $523 billion, a small fraction of the estimated monetary benefits.

  6. “Some of the environmental activists have not come to accept that the human is also part of the environment.”  Fatuous claim.  Environmentalists note that humans uniquely possess the ability to change climate on a global scale, intentionally, for the good or bad; environmentalists choose to advocate for actions that reduce diseases like malaria, cholera and asthma.  We don’t have to sacrifice a million people a year to malaria, in order to be industrial and productive.  We don’t have to kill 700,000 kids with malaria every year just to keep cars.
  7. “They want to go back to the Dark Ages and the Black Plague.”  No, that would be the film makers.  Environmentalists advocate reducing filth and ignorance both.  Ignorance and lack of ability to read, coupled with religious fanaticism, caused the strife known as “the Dark Ages.”  It’s not environmentalists who advocate an end to cheap public schools.
  8. The trailer shows a kid playing in the surf on a beach.  Of course, without the Clean Water Act and other attempts to keep the oceans clean, such play would be impossible.  That we can play again on American beaches is a tribute to the environmental movement, and reason enough to grant credence to claims of smart people like Al Gore and the scientists whose work he promotes.
  9. “I cannot believe that Al Gore has great regard for people, real people.”  So, this is a film promoting the views of crabby, misanthropic anal orifices who don’t know Al Gore at all?  Shame on them.  And, why should anyone want to see such a film?  If I want to see senseless acts of stupidity, I can rent a film by Quentin Tarantino and get some art with the stupidity.  [Update, November 23, 2009: This may be one of the most egregiously false charges of the film.  Gore, you recall, is the guy who put his political career and presidential ambitions on hold indefinitely when his son was seriously injured in an auto-pedestrian accident; Gore was willing to sacrifice all his political capital in order to get his son healed.  My first dealings directly with Gore came on the Organ Transplant bill.  Gore didn’t need a transplant, didn’t have need for one in his family, and had absolutely nothing to gain from advocacy for the life-saving procedure.  It was opposed by the chairman of his committee, by a majority of members of his own party in both Houses of Congress, by many in the medical establishment, by many in the pharmaceutical industry, and by President Reagan, who didn’t drop his threat to veto the bill until he signed it, as I recall.   Gore is a man of deep, human-centered principles.  Saying “I can’t believe Al Gore has great regard for real people” only demonstrates the vast ignorance and perhaps crippling animus of the speaker.]

That’s a whopper about every 15 seconds in the trailer — the film itself may make heads spin if it comes close to that pace of error.

Where have we seen this before?  Producers of the film claim as “contributors” some of the people they try to lampoon — people like Ed Begley, Jr., and NASA’s James E. Hansen, people who don’t agree in any way with the hysterical claims of the film, and people who, I wager, would be surprised to be listed as “contributors.”

It’s easy to suppose these producers used the same ambush-the-scientist technique used earlier by the producers of the anti-science, anti-Darwin film “Expelled!

Here, see the hysteria, error and alarmism for yourself:

Ann McElhinney is one of the film’s producers.  Her past work includes other films against protecting environment and films for mining companies.  She appears to be affiliated with junk science purveyors at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an astro-turf organization in Washington, D.C., for whom she flacked earlier this year (video from Desmogblog):

Remember, too, that this film is already known to have gross inaccuracies about Rachel Carson and DDT, stuff that high school kids could get right easily.

Anyone have details on McElhinney and her colleague, Phelim McAlee?

More:

Related posts, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Please spread the word:

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