Welcome, refugees and truth-seekers from WUWT: If this site seems a little unusual to you, you should know that at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we try to stick to science, and we don’t censor opposing opinions. Genuinely interested in the DDT/Malaria issue? See this collection.
A couple of physicists get together in a podcast from the Ayn Rand Institute,
Poke in Your Eye to Eye, and demonstrate that they don’t know biology well, they know less about history, but they don’t hesitate to tell whoppers about Rachel Carson and the value of DDT: “Silent Spring 50 Years Later [a special Earth Day podcast].“
Earth Day must be coming up. The usual suspects trot out their usual disinformation and hoax campaigns — and it will continue through Earth Day on April 22, International Malaria Day on April 25, through Rachel Carson’s birthday, and probably all summer.
Mencken warned us that hoaxes, once out of the bottle, can’t be put back. Twain (and others) remind us that whopping falsehoods travel around the world “while truth is getting its boots on.” Amanda Maxham, who is listed as an astrophysicist at the Rand site, interviewed physicist Keith Lockitch — and they repeat almost all the hoary old false fables invented by Gordon Edwards and Steven Milloy about malaria, DDT, and Rachel Carson.
A few of the errors committed by the polemicists at the Ayn Rand Institute:
- ‘DDT doesn’t breed mosquitoes more resistant to the stuff, but instead weakens the population through reducing diversity.’ Absolutely wrong. Turns out the new alleles mosquitoes pick up that makes them resistant and immune to DDT, are ALSO the alleles that make mosquitoes resistant to the whole class of chemicals, and thereby foul up efforts to develop new pesticides.
- ‘Rachel Carson didn’t account for the value of DDT in eradicating malaria.’ They start out claiming DDT ended malaria in the U.S. (it didn’t; CDC had won the fight will just mop up operations left, by 1939; DDT wasn’t even available for another seven years), and run through the false claim that DDT alone had almost eradicated malaria from Sri Lanka, but listening to Rachel Carson, the nation stopped spraying and malaria roared back (the nation stopped ALL of its malaria fighting efforts due to costs and civil war; when the fight was taken up again, DDT was not useful; largely without DDT, Sri Lanka has once again nearly wiped out malaria).
- ‘Because of a lack of DDT use, malaria continues to ravage the world killing a million people a year.’ Actually, malaria is at the lowest level in human history, killing less than a million a year, with great progress being made against the disease using the methods Rachel Carson urged in 1962. Had we listened to Carson earlier, we could have saved a few million more lives, and perhaps have eradicated malaria already. Also, it’s important to remember that DDT was never banned in Africa nor Asia; the ban on use of DDT on cotton crops in the U.S. did not cause any increase in malaria anywhere; since the ban on DDT use in the U.S. malaria has constantly declined in incidence and deaths.
- ‘DDT is very effective because it’s ALSO repellent to mosquitoes, after it ceases to kill them.’ So in the end, they urge the use of a poisonous-to-wildlife, mildly carcinogenic substance, because it repels mosquitoes? Bednets are more effective, cheaper, not-poisonous to wildlife, and they aren’t even suspected of causing cancer.
Rachel Carson’s life is a model for budding scientists, aspiring journalists, and teachers of ethics. That so many people spend so much time making up false claims against her, in favor of a deadly toxin, and against science, tells us much more about the subrosa intentions of the claim fakers than about Rachel Carson.
Want the facts about Rachel Carson? Try William Souder’s marvelous biography from last year, On a Farther Shore. Want facts on DDT? Try EPA’s official DDT history online (or look at some of the posts here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub). Want the facts about malaria? Check with the world’s longest running, most ambitious malaria fighting campaign operated by the good people at the World Health Organization, Roll Back Malaria, or see Sonia Shah’s underappreciated history, The Fever: How malaria has ruled mankind for 500,000 years.
- Ode to (Silent) Spring (theamericanscholar.org)
- Prenatal exposure to pesticide DDT linked to adult high blood pressure (sciencedaily.com)
- First day of the conference celebrating Rachel Carson’s and Ruth Harrison’s books – 50 years on (cabiblog.typepad.com)
- The Silent History of Rachel Carson (misbehavedwoman.wordpress.com)
- Pertpetuating Crichton’s version of the DDT hoax (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Global Environment Facility: “Countries move toward more sustainable ways to roll back malaria”
Wall of Shame (hoax spreaders to watch out for this week):
- Michael Mann now a DDT expert; Defends indefensible Rachel Carson – Rachel lied, millions died (and are still dying) (junkscience.com)
- Green Luddites (possil.wordpress.com)
- 20 Years Ago: 4-18-93 – Feds designate Rachel Carson home as national landmark (junkscience.com)