Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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Malaria and TB are the twin scourges of the world, not AIDS

If “AIDS” is a fantasy breeding misdiagnosis across the globe, as the skeptics conclude and the best scientific literature indicates, what is the reality? What are the millions who suffer from “AIDS” actually suffering from, which is being statistically rewritten as “AIDS”? If, as Rian Molan found out about South Africa, the overall totals of illness and death are not changing to any significant extent, where does the supposed three million or so global death total in “AIDS” come from?

Two major candidates are, of course, malaria and tuberculosis. These are world wide scourges of very ancient origin which continue to kill many more millions than are claimed as “AIDS” and labeled as “AIDS” deaths. They offer a reservoir from which to pull as many “AIDS” illnesses and deaths as are required by the diagnosticians of “AIDS” and their helpmates, the fundraisers, political opportunists, do-gooders, ex-presidents, current presidents, Columbia economists, UNAIDS statisticians, UN officials, socially smart scientist charity presidents, Hollywood celebrities, ACTUP founders, health agency bureaucrats, and the rest of the million strong cast of the $10 billion annual theatrical production that is justified by this simple script rewrite.

For some reason America forgot about malaria for a long time, perhaps because it was eradicated from many countries a while back by DDT. When DDT was banned, however, malaria came back with a vengeance, and this year as many as 500 million people will contract malaria, and more than one million will die, most of them children—but not all. In fact, pace Rachel Carson and her “Silent Spring”, there is some question whether banning DDT is worth it. Eagle eggshells have been saved, but in the less developed countries there have been an estimated fifty million lives lost from malaria.

Only this week, this was literally brought home to us when a beautiful young black Staten island journalist, Akilah Amapindi, 23, returned from Namibia for the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Atlanta, where she was scheduled to speak on a panel. Instead, she was taken ill and died in a matter of five days from what was diagnosed as a “particularly severe form of malaria.”

Here is the story from a fellow young journalist writing a shocked commentary in the Oregon Daily Emerald, and also a Newsday story which suggests that one cause of death might have been trusting whoever answers the phone at the “US Embassy in Manhattan”, whatever that might be:

“Before heading to Africa, Amapindi had telephoned the U.S. Embassy in Manhattan about inoculations required for the region and was told travelers to Windhoek didn’t require anti-malarial drugs, Harper said.”

This story was printed from Oregon Daily Emerald.

Site URL: http://www.dailyemerald.com.

We must advocate for better health services

Guest Commentary

August 11, 2005

During the beginning of August, myself and other members of the National Association of Black Journalists (Oregon chapter) had the privilege of attending the NABJ national convention in Atlanta, Ga. A week of attending workshops, keynote speeches, career fairs and networking came to an unsettling close with the deaths of two outstanding journalists. Peter Jennings, former ABC news anchor died Sunday night from lung cancer that he was diagnosed with only this year.

Jennings played a key role in developing what broadcast news has become today, and will be dearly missed worldwide. But what was even more shocking was the death of 23-year old journalist, Akilah Amapindi. Amapindi was, like myself, a student member of NABJ. She arrived in Atlanta on Sunday to begin a student project at the convention, and was hospitalized early Tuesday and diagnosed with malaria. On the following Sunday at the gospel brunch, we received word of her passing.

However, it wasn’t until later that day, after two plane flights and a three-hour layover, that her death really hit me. Amapindi, was only the one-third the age of Peter Jennings. She represented a new era — a generation of journalists that represent the face of the world (she was born in Jamaica and lived in Staten Island, N.Y.), a generation of journalists using new and old media (Amapindi worked in print, broadcast and interactive Web), and a generation of journalists and people who are committed to social justice and human rights (Amapindi founded a service sorority at Kenyon College, Ohio).

Amapindi had most likely been infected with malaria during her internship at Namibian Broadcasting Corporation in southern Africa, which she had just completed in July. Her work and aspirations are an inspiration, and although I never met her, I feel close to Amapindi because we both represent that new generation.

It is the responsibility of our generation to concern ourselves with world-shaping news regarding politics, culture, economics, science and health. Because malaria is a parasite infection, it will be much more difficult to create a vaccine for it. And although the impact of malaria is not recognized in the Western world because of the lack of deaths here, the deaths accumulating in the developing world should be enough indication that there is a need for increased research and funding.

Malaria causes or contributes to 3 million deaths per year, the majority of them children. Children are dying at a rate of four per minute, 5,000 a day and 35,000 a week. The number of malaria-related deaths in Africa is close to that of HIV/AIDS, but the amount of funding for research and treatment is in no way comparable.

The deaths of Peter Jennings and Akilah Amapindi on August 7, 2005, send two important messages to the world, especially the developed world:

1. We need to take care of our own health; risk of lung cancer and HIV/AIDS can be eradicated or significantly reduced by the choices we make.

2. We need to voice the concerns of health and other issues to our government representatives, advocating for more funding for health services, sciences, and training. By making the changes in our lifestyle to reduce the risks, we can allow more funding to go towards health epidemics that are less preventable.

There is more information on malaria at www.malaria.org. Also, Amapindi did not have health insurance, and her family does not have finances to ship her body to Jamaica, or for memorial services. Donations can be sent to: Akilah Amapindi Memorial Fund: c/o NABJ, 8701-A Adelphi Road, Adelphi, MD 20783-1716.

Jordan Thierry is a student at the University.

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© 2005 Oregon Daily Emerald

Newsday.com

Staten Island journalist dies of malaria

Woman, 23, went to Africa to work and get to know her dad, but fell ill upon her return

BY KATTI GRAY

STAFF CORRESPONDENT; Staff writer Zachary Dowdy contributed to this story.

August 8, 2005

ATLANTA – To feed her wanderlust and launch a reporting career, Akilah Amapindi signed on in July 2004 as a Namibian Broadcasting Corp. intern, a stint that would let her get acquainted with her father in his homeland.

The 2004 graduate of Ohio’s Kenyon College wound up anchoring the network’s 5 p.m. news bulletin several times, a rare achievement for a fledgling journalist. When the African internship ended seven months later, the Staten Islander, 23, enlisted as a photographer’s assistant for a film on Samuel Nujoma.

Retracing the exile of the first Namibian president through the Mozambican bush, an unvaccinated Amapindi, it is suspected, contracted mosquito-born malaria, according to her mother.

She died early yesterday at a hospital in Atlanta, where she was attending the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention.

“She told us that they slept under those big nets, but, in the morning, they would wake up and there would be four or five big fat mosquitoes inside. They knew they had been bitten,” said her mother, Unnah Harper, who settled in Staten Island more than 13 years ago from Jamaica with her only child.

“Knowing that she is gone forever, oh, the pain of it,” Harper said.

Yesterday, in an Atlanta hotel room, Harper tended to the details of burying Amapindi. Harper said the salary she makes as a nurse’s assistant isn’t enough to pay the costs of flying her daughter’s remains back north. She didn’t want her child cremated.

Amapindi also had no health insurance, losing her mother’s coverage after graduation.

The recent graduate was eager to travel to Namibia so she could get to know her father, John Amapindi, whom she first met four years ago.

Before heading to Africa, Amapindi had telephoned the U.S. Embassy in Manhattan about inoculations required for the region and was told travelers to Windhoek didn’t require anti-malarial drugs, Harper said.

Her daughter probably didn’t consider she would risk illness in the countryside, she added.

Amapindi suffered a severe bout of diarrhea before leaving Africa. Chills and aching muscles almost kept her from going to the Georgia convention, but over-the-counter medicine brought her temporary relief, her mother said.

Her health deteriorated in Atlanta. She was admitted to Emory Crawford Long Hospital for blood tests on July 31 and discharged at 3:30 a.m. the next day without a diagnosis.

Tuesday, she again sought medical care, at Grady Hospital, where doctors concluded she had malaria. Amapindi died after five days of treatment.

“She had tears in her eyes every time they wanted to do another medical procedure,” said Bob Butler, an Infinity Broadcasting Corp. executive and student convention project volunteer. “I could see a calculator going off in her head.”

Her mother had been at her bedside since Tuesday.”I kept telling her, ‘I love you. You’re going to get better,’ but she was not responsive,” Harper said.

“We were hoping for something miraculous,” said Harper’s sister, Sybrena “Jackie” Kennedy, who flew in from Kingston.

Staff writer Zachary Dowdy contributed to this story.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

Of course, death from malaria is infrequent and in just five days seems remarkably fast, so perhaps one can be permitted to wonder (with a correspondent, medical research consultant Robert Houston) to what extent this Fierce Malaria was actually ordinary malaria helped along by whatever crash application of drugs was applied by the local hospital.

Today, however, the New York Times has a nicely reassuring, science-as-progress-in-discovery piece in the Science Section on how some intrepid researchers in Kenya found out about the ability of the malaria parasite to bend mosquitoes to its will, and make them drink more human blood from more humans when the parasite is ready to transfer by making those with malaria temporarily more attractive to mosquitoes. It is only slightly marred by the photo editor having attached a picture of a wasp and wasp pupae on top of a caterpillar, and labeling it “mosquitoe pupae and a newly emerged adult using a caterpillar as a host.”

One interesting aspect of the article relates how the scientists found out about the parasite’s ability to direct mosquitoe behavior, by setting up tents in Kenya and with the permission of the parents, experimenting on Kenyan children in the early stages of malaria as they slept in the tents and mosquitoes feasted upon their blood.

The mosquito plasmodium carried by a mosquito travels from the mosquito into the liver, where it takes time to develop offspring in the blood in the the form of gametocytes which mosquitoes can then take up again. What the study discovered was that the children with gametocytes attracted twice as many mosquitoes as the children who were uninfected or infected but not to the stage of producing gametocytes.

In case you are worried about the children, we are assured that they were all treated with anti-malarial drugs, which took two weeks to clear them of the parasites. Of course, then they were subjected to more mosquitoes feasting off their blood, but their parents were OK with this presumably in a good cause and also to ensure they were medicated.

The infected children did not show symptoms like fever, a common situation in Africa. Nevertheless, the researchers treated them with anti-malaria drugs on the day of their study. Two weeks later, after the medicine had cleared the parasites, the scientists repeated the experiments with the same three children. They found that the cured children were no more attractive to the mosquitoes than the others.

The Times Science section article, Manipulative Malaria Parasite Makes You More Attractive (to Mosquitoes) is by Carl Zimmer:

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The New York Times

August 9, 2005

Manipulative Malaria Parasite Makes You More Attractive (to Mosquitoes)

By CARL ZIMMER

Malaria is a staggeringly devastating disease, striking an estimated 300 million to 500 million people a year and killing more than a million of them. Scientists have long wondered how the parasite that causes malaria – a single-cell creature, plasmodium, carried by mosquitoes – manages to be so successful.

New research has shown an unexpected source of its success. The parasite makes infected humans smell more attractive to mosquitoes.

The research, published on Monday in the journal Public Library of Science Biology, was carried out by a team of French and Kenyan scientists led by Jacob Koella, an evolutionary biologist at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris. Dr. Koella is a leading expert on the ways in which parasites manipulate their hosts.

Beginning in the 1970’s, scientists discovered that a number of parasites can alter the behavior and physiology of their hosts for their own advantage, sometimes drastically.

Some parasitic wasps, for example, force their caterpillar hosts to eat different foods. When one species of wasp crawls out of its host, the fatally wounded caterpillar will act as the parasite’s bodyguard, defending it from predators.

Many parasites that need to live inside two different hosts during their life cycles also manipulate their hosts. A single-celled parasite called toxoplasma lives inside cats and then inside their prey, like rats. Research shows that infection with toxoplasma makes rats lose their fear of the odor of cats. Tapeworms that live in fish can turn them white and make them jump around near the surface of the water, where the fish are more likely to be eaten by birds, which the tapeworms make their new host. “It’s amazing how much manipulation is going on in parasites,” Dr. Koella said. “It would be hard to find a case where there wasn’t some manipulation.”

Scientists consider most of these examples as products of natural selection. A parasite’s reproductive success depends on its ability to be transmitted toa new host. “And manipulation appears to be an obvious way to do it,” Dr. Koella said.

In the late 90’s, Dr. Koella documented how plasmodium, the cause of malaria, manipulated its mosquito host. When the mosquitoes first take up plasmodium in a drink of human blood, they become more cautious about finding another victim. Their reluctance makes them less likely to be killed.

Dr. Koella points out that at this stage in the life cycle the parasite needs time to develop in the mosquito before it can be transmitted. “Before the parasite is transmitted to a human, its only goal is to survive, and to help the mosquito to survive,” he said.

The mosquito’s behavior changes when the parasite is ready to move on to a human. Dr. Koella found that mosquitoes carrying infective plasmodium become twice as likely as other mosquitoes to bite more than one person in a night. On top of that, they spend more time on each host drinking blood.

Dr. Koella argues that this shift in behavior raises the parasite’s odds of entering a human host.

Given its ability to control mosquitoes, scientists have wondered whether the plasmodium may also be able to manipulate humans. After it enters the human body, it needs time to develop in the liver. Those parasites then produce offspring that can invade blood cells, and eventually a few of these give rise to offspring, known as gametocytes, that can be taken up by a mosquito and survive.

Scientists have investigated whether infected hosts are more attractive to mosquitoes than uninfected ones. The results have been ambiguous.

“I think the main problem with the previous studies is that they couldn’t really tease apart the effect of infection and the intrinsic differences in attractiveness among people,” Dr. Koella said.

Mosquitoes find their victims by sniffing carbon dioxide and body odors. Some people apparently smell “better” to mosquitoes than others.

To rule out such factors, Dr. Koella and his colleagues used a new experimental plan. He and a student, Renaud Lacroix, teamed with Wolfgang Mukabana of the University of Nairobi and Louis Goagna of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya.

They set up three tents, each large enough for a person to sleep in. A fan pumped air from the tents into a central chamber swarming with about 100 mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that were attracted to one of the tents would fly toward it, only to become stuck in a trap.

The researchers asked parents in western Kenya to allow them to test their children for malaria. For each round of the experiment, they chose one uninfected child in an early stage of infection and a child who was carrying gametocytes. The children slept for a few hours in the tents, and the scientists checked the traps to measure how many mosquitoes had been attracted to each child.

After studying 12 sets of children, the scientists discovered a striking pattern. “Gametocyte-infected children attracted about twice as many mosquitoes as either uninfected ones or ones infected with nontransmissible stages,” Dr. Koella said. “The results really jump out.”

The infected children did not show symptoms like fever, a common situation in Africa. Nevertheless, the researchers treated them with anti-malaria drugs on the day of their study. Two weeks later, after the medicine had cleared the parasites, the scientists repeated the experiments with the same three children. They found that the cured children were no more attractive to the mosquitoes than the others.

“It’s a beautiful piece of science, and it’s a tremendously exciting finding,” said Andrew F. Read of the University of Edinburgh, an expert on malaria who was not involved in the research. Dr. Read cautioned that the researchers drew their conclusions from a relatively small number of trials.

“Obviously,” he said, “you’d be really pleased if another group went out and found the same thing. But it’s a logistical nightmare to do that stuff. So I’m very impressed with what they have managed.”

At this point, Dr. Koella can only speculate about how the parasite is altering its human host. Because the children carrying gametocytes in his study did not have fevers, plasmodium probably could not attract mosquitoes by making people hotter.

He suspects that the gametocytes are releasing chemicals that somehow alter the odor of human hosts, “but which aspects of the odor are changed is difficult to say.”

If future research supports his findings, that could go a long way to explain why malaria is so widespread.

“Scientists used to see the mosquito as a syringe that moves the parasite from one human to the other,” Dr. Koella said. “The fact that the parasite manipulates the mosquito to this extent can help to explain the incredibly intense transmission of malaria.”

“If it really is increasing attractiveness, whatever is causing that is going to be hugely interesting,” Dr. Read said.

Plasmodium’s manipulation may point to new strategies to fight the disease. “The obvious spin-off if you found the mechanism is that you could interfere with it,” Dr. Read said. “It might suggest certain kind of repellents to deactivate things coming off of people. Or whatever these parasites are doing could be used to distract mosquitoes away from people and trap them. It would suggest a lot of possibilities.”

Correction: Aug. 10, 2005, Wednesday:

A picture caption in Science Times on Tuesday with an article about ways that parasites control their hosts misidentified insects that were using a caterpillar. They were wasp pupae and a newly emerged adult wasp – not mosquito pupae and an adult mosquito.

An excellent piece of research, and the scientists that managed to pull it off deserve praise. Now we know even more about why the malarial mosquito is something to be avoided at all costs. But isn’t it another example of how the New York Times fails to cover sufficiently the important topic, which is how lives might be saved from malaria by reintroducing DDT?

If future research supports his findings, that could go a long way to explain why malaria is so widespread.

We would venture to guess that what best explains why malaria is so widespread is the absence of DDT.

At the very least, those who have read the best scientific literature and know that it has established without effective contradiction in the same peer-reviewed journals that AIDS is a global charade must hope that at least some of the funds now to be devoted to shoveling useless and dangerous HAART drugs at thousands of ignorant Africans and Asians—just as they have been administered to thousands of ignorant Americans—might be diverted to distributing anti-malarial drugs throughout the world, if not reviving the use of DDT to help wipe out this scourge of humanity.

But to argue that DDT should be used to save lives it seems we have to turn to the right wing press. In the New York Sun today (August 12 Fri) there is a zinger of a column by Alicia Colon presenting the case for bringing back DDT in malaria ridden countries.

Millions have died without DDT

Among the facts Colon mentions are that Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” led to the 1972 ban on DDT in the US and also internationally by virtue of the US warning countries they would not get foreign aid if they used it. This was the result: malaria deaths, reduced by DDT to 50,000 deaths a year, climbed back into the millions. In Sri Lanka, cases of malaria plummeted from 3 million in 1946 to just 29 in 1964. Five years after the DDT ban, the death rate climbed back to more than half a million a year.

“Silent Spring” was a most unscientific book, says Colon, quoting one critic, J. Gordon Edwards, a professor of entomology at San Jose State University who testified in defense of DDT at hearings before the ban. He wrote an editorial for 21st Century Science and technology magazine which was called “The Lies of Rachel Carson”. He pointed out that Carson quoted Albert Schweizer in the dedication of the book as saying “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth.” But Schweiser was speaking of nuclear war, not insecticides, it turns out. In his autobiography, he wrote of “how much labor and waste of time these wicked insects do cause us… but a ray of hope, in the use of DDT, is now held out to us.”

Surely we can somehow save millions of lives as well as eagles’ eggs if, as Colon writes, DDT is not a carcinogen, and does not harm humans, even if you ingest it. Its inventor, Paul Miller, was given the Nobel for it in 1948. Meanwhile, Africa and Asia are being crippled by malaria and tuberculosis, particularly Africa, as Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” book and now TV series pointed out.

Colon ends by recommending “Intellectual Morons—How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas” by Daniel Flynn. It certainly sounds relevant.

Here is her column, Junk Science’s Cataclysmic Path:

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August 12, 2005 Edition > Section: New York > Printer-Friendly Version

Junk Science’s Cataclysmic Path

BY ALICIA COLON

August 12, 2005

URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/18521

Psuedo-science can be fatal. It’s estimated that since the ban of the insecticide DDT, more than 50 million people have died of malaria. A young aspiring journalist from the Bulls Head section of Staten Island is one of the latest victims. Akilah Amapindi, 23, contracted the disease while working as a radio intern in southern Africa.

A few years ago, I learned that the boyfriend of a neighbor of mine had died of malaria while abroad. I am ashamed to admit that when I heard the sad news, my first instinct was to doubt the cause of death, subconsciously suspecting that drugs were the real culprit.

At the Martin Luther King Jr. dinner the Congress of Racial Equality held earlier this year, I heard CORE’s chairman, Roy Innis, speak of the senseless devastation wreaked on Africa due to the lack of modern technology in agriculture. CORE then held a conference at the United Nations to discuss the efficacy and realistic necessity of using DDT to control and minimize the damage done by malarial mosquitoes in developing countries.

The more one reads about the havoc wrought by agenda-driven environmentalists, the more one is astounded by how easily Americans can be frightened by speciously researched enviro-babble. Is global warming real? Sure. It’s been warming and cooling off for millions of years, and guess what? We humans have very little to do with it and it’s sheer arrogance to think that we can cure it.

In the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” generated worldwide interest in the environment and raised an alarm about the damage caused by chemical pesticides. Her book and the subsequent demonizing of the insecticide led to the 1972 ban on DDT in the United States. DDT was not banned internationally, but countries were warned that they would not get foreign aid if they used it. According to statistics from the United Nations, malaria before the ban had become a relatively minor disease, with about 50,000 deaths a year worldwide. A few years later, that figure had climbed into the millions.

DDT was not a carcinogen. It did not harm humans. Indeed, it could be ingested. It was one of the most effective killers of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

Dr. Paul Muller, its inventor, was honored with the Nobel Prize in 1948. When it was introduced in Sri Lanka, cases of malaria dropped from 3 million in 1946 to just 29 in 1964. Five years after the DDT ban, the death rate had climbed back to more than a half-million a year.

I was still a teenager when “Silent Spring” was published, and all I knew at the time was that it was about bugs, so my interest level was nonexistent. But Rachel Carson has been lauded over the years as the matriarch of today’s militant environment movement. What is interesting to note is that many legitimate scientists have always condemned her book as a tissue of cleverly told lies designed to exclude any argument that challenged Carson’s conclusions.

J. Gordon Edwards was a professor of entomology at San Jose State University who testified in defense of DDT at hearings before the ban. He wrote an editorial in 1992 for 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine that was called “The Lies of Rachel Carson.” In it he pinpointed all of Carson’s deliberate obfuscations and faulty research, from the very beginning of “Silent Spring” to its end.

For example, Carson quotes the famed Albert Schweitzer in the dedication of the book this way: “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth.” But Schweitzer was speaking of nuclear warfare, not insecticides. In reality, he wrote in his autobiography, “How much labor and waste of time these wicked insects do cause us … but a ray of hope, in the use of DDT, is now held out to us.” Funny how Carson left that out.

Perhaps the best explanation for why junk scientists have so much success in promoting their hokum theories is that there are so many “intellectual morons” in the world of academia. An author, Daniel Flynn, in his latest nonfiction work, “Intellectual Morons – How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas,” coined that term.

The tragic death of a young woman in our city due to a disease that would have been eradicated had not hysterical, bone-headed lemmings fallen for flawed data should be our wake-up call. Before blindly accepting scientific hypotheses as fact, we should be cognizant of where that research is coming from and what group is financing it. Science and a personal political agenda are a very bad mix.

August 12, 2005 Edition > Section: New York > Printer-Friendly Version


The tragic death of a young woman in our city due to a disease that would have been eradicated had not hysterical, bone-headed lemmings fallen for flawed data should be our wake-up call. Before blindly accepting scientific hypotheses as fact, we should be cognizant of where that research is coming from and what group is financing it. Science and a personal political agenda are a very bad mix.

Very true, it would help if officials make sure that their science is accurate before formulating policy, especially if millions of lives are at stake. Why is it that the right wing seem to nail the liberal-progressive-left wing so often on this point?

Perhaps Daniel Flynn has the answer. Unfortunate his Intellectual Morons—How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas is not out till the end of September.

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