Human Population Since the late 1960s and early 1970s the ‘population problem,’ as an immediate threat to humanity, has been trumpeted by a number of ‘technological luddites,’(look-up the meaning of ‘Luddite’ ), including Paul R. Ehrlich [The Population Bomb (1968)], Garrett Hardin [“The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 162 (1968), 1243-1248], and the authors of the Club of Rome Report – Donella H. Meadow, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III [The Limits to Growth (1972)]. The following list of source materials is quite controversial, since many contemporary so-called ‘scientists’ have chosen to abandon the ‘Baconian Scientific Method,’ and have willingly substituted a ‘belief-system’ (which is one of the definitions of ‘religion’) for empirical testing of hypotheses. It would be well to look up each of the authors discussed in this course on the internet and discover their academic backgrounds and reliability as ‘scientists’ in their chosen professions.
“What is science?”
“The scientific method ,”
“In Defense of Bacon,”
Dr. Michael Crichton, M.D. 2005. “Complexity Theory and Environmental Management,”
November 6. Available under “Speeches,” at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 2005. “The Role of Science in Environmental Policy-Making.” Statement before the
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, September 28. Available @:
__________ . 2005. “The Case of Skepticism on Global Warming.” January 25. Available
under “Speeches,” at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 2003. “Environmentalism as Religion,” Speech to the Commonwealth Club, San
Francisco, CA., September 15. Available under speeches, at:
www.crichton-official.com ____________. 2003. “Aliens Cause Global Warming,” Lecture California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, CA, January 17.Available under speeches, at:
__________. 2002. “Why Speculate?” April 26. Available under speeches, at:
www.crichton-official.com __________. 1999. “Ritual Abuse, Hot Air, and Missed Opportunities: Science Views
Media,” January 25. Available under speeches, at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 1993. “Mediasaurus: The Decline of Conventional Media,” April 7. Available under
speeches, at: www.crichton-official.com
Paul Ehrlich. 1968. The Population Bomb.
Scott Gordon. 1958. “Economics and the Conservation Question,” Journal of Law and
Economics, Vol. 1, 110-
Garrett Hardin.1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 162, 1243-48.
Sir John Maddox. 1972. The Doomsday Syndrome. [Sir John Maddox (1925 - ) served as
the editor of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, for twenty-two (22) years – 1966-
73 and 1980-9].
Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William L. Behrens III. 1972.
The Limits to Growth.
Julian L. Simon. 1980. “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad
Ideas,” Science, 208 (June 27), 1431-7.
__________. 1981. The Ultimate Resource. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
__________. 1986. Theory of Population and Economic Growth. New York: Blackwell.
__________. 1990. Population Matters: People, Resources, Environment and Immigration.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Press.
__________. 1999. Hoodwinking the Nation. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
The ‘population explosion/resource depletion/global warming’ problems expressed by the ‘global doomsday’ crowd cannot be examined and/or evaluated in isolation. There are a number of social and economic issues that are all too frequently either skirted or totally ignored, and in some cases, outright denied. One of the fundamental purposes of this outline is to draw these supporting currents into full view, so that individuals can arrive at informed decisions based on ‘scientific facts’ and not sloppy research, distorted information, and biased opinion.
Posing the Issues John Stossel in Chapter Six of Give Me a Break (2004) “Junk Science and Junk Reporting,” begins by employing a quotation of a statement made by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. Senator and: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.” In his comment Moynihan comes close to expressing the view that: “There are many opinions, but, despite the feelings of their holders, only one is correct.” Stossel begins the chapter with the following example of the chapter title’s nexus – how reporters are “…supposed to double-check and get it right”:
Remember the news coverage about how schools had become much more violent?
Newspaper reports said a survey found today’s teachers’ worries were (1) drug
abuse, (2) alcohol abuses, (3) pregnancy, (4) suicide, (5) rape, (6) robbery. But in
the ‘40s, teachers worried about (1) talking, (2) chewing gum, (3) making noise, (4)
running in the halls. It was a powerful illustration of social deterioration, and reporters
loved the list. It appeared everywhere – newspapers, magazines, the Congressional
Quarterly, Ann Landers’s column.
Then Yale School of Management professor Barry O’Neill finally checked the survey
out. He poured through hundreds of references to it without finding the original study.
Instead, he found “the International Herald Tribune picking it up from the
Congressional Quarterly. They just took it from the Wall Street Journal.” O’Neill
finally traced the story back to Texas oil man T. Cullen Davis, who said he made it up.
“When he talked to me, he said, ‘I know what the problems in the ‘40s were, because I
was in school then, and I know what they are now because I read the papers. I didn’t
make these from a scientific survey.’ He had no idea that professors and government
officials were all using the list that he’d sat in his house and assembled.”
Journalists joke that some stories are ‘too good to check.’ This was one of those. (97-8)
This example may call to mind CBS Evening News and Dan Rather’s insistence on the ‘authenticity’ [since it may support and sustain preconceived ‘opinion,’ ‘hope,’ or ‘political bias’] of the so-called ‘Killian documents’ that emerged during the 2004 Presidential election. Once again, apparently: ‘…some stories are ‘too good to check,’ even for the mainstream, self-anointed ‘media elite’ on the ‘public airwaves’ (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and especially the so-called ‘Public’ Broadcasting System (PBS) which is supported by Federal tax dollars, extorted (the ultimate threat of the use of ‘force’ by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The individual my COSTLESSLY avoid the tentacles of the media elite of ABC, CBS, and NBC by not watching them (which affects their ‘ratings’ and the advertising fees that they command, but she is forced to support PBS through her taxes.
Stossel addresses the following issues in “Junk Science and Junk Reporting”:
Science Worship –
When covering what scientists say, reporters are particularly prone to getting the story
wrong. Most of us have little training in science, little understanding of how it works,
and too much faith in any one given scientist. When I started reporting, I thought
scientists were dispassionate observers, so what they published must be objective truth.
I considered the top scientific journals ironclad arbiters of fact. After all, most studies
submitted to the journals are rejected, so every study that’s accepted has to pass the
withering scrutiny of peer review.
Then my brother Tom, who had become a research scientist and worked for some of the
journals, pointed out that much of what is published turnsout, a few years later, to be
irrelevant or wrong. Science is not as precise as I thought it was. (98, emphasis added)
Scientific consensus is important. When the majority of respected scientists working within
their field of specialty …… (98, emphasis in original)
… now I realize that individual scientists reach dubious conclusions almost as often as the
rest of us do. But when scientists reach them, we reporters are less likely to question the
conclusion Have you cut down on salt because it’s bad for you? Pumped up on vitamin
C to ward off colds? Forced the kids to eat spinach because it’s uniquely healthy? Then
you’rea victim of junk science – peddled by a gullible press. (99, emphasis added)
And, just what is the cause/source of such a plethora of ‘junk science’? In part, ironically the ‘scientific method’ is itself part of the cause … all scientific principles are ‘provisional’ – subject to revision as more and better information is acquired. The history of science is rife with examples, perhaps one of the most illuminating is the curious case of Alfred Lothar Wegener – his is not a name that is well-known to most folks.
Alfred Lothar Wegener (1880 – 1930), a German scientist and the ‘father’ of ‘continental
drift theory’, earned his PhD. in astronomy at the University of Berlin in 1904. He had an
early interest in geophysics, and meteorology and climatology, and wrote a pioneering
meteorology textbook used in German schools. In 1906 he joined an expedition to
Greenland to study polar air circulation. In 1911 he read scholarly reports of ‘identical’
plant and animal fossils on both sides of the Atlantic … the prevailing ‘scientific’
explanation for this distribution was the existence of ‘land bridges’ that had facilitated the
diffusion of various life-forms across the world. Additionally, Wegener noted the close
correspondence of coastline of western Africa and eastern South America. During 1912/13
he joined another research expedition to Greenland and published his ‘hypothesis’ of
continental drift in The Origins of Continents and Oceans (1915). He continued to
gather evidence supporting his hypotheses regarding continental drift throughout his life.
Wegener was drafted into the Germany Army and was wounded during World War I, and
then served in the German Army’s weather forecasting service until the war’s end. In 1924
he accepted a professorship in meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz
(Austria). In 1930 he undertook his last expedition to Greenland.
He postulated that some 300 million years ago all of the continents formed a single ‘super
continent’ he designated a Pangaea (‘all earth’), which broke up and drifted into their
current locations. In nearly all geology and physical geography textbooks used today
accept Wegener’s views on the super-continent and continental drift.
Despite the current acceptance of Wegener’s views, when his research was originally published in 1915, it was disparaged nearly universally:
Reaction to Wegener’s theory was almost universally hostile, and often exceptionally
harsh and scathing; Dr. Rollin T. Chamberlain of the University of Chicago said,
“Wegener’s hypothesis in general is of the footloose type, in that it takes considerable
liberty with our globe, and is less bound by restrictions or ties down by awkward, ugly
facts than most of its rival theories. www.ucmp-berkeley.edu/history/wegener.html
Stossel’s second major heading in Chapter Six, is the ‘Crack Baby’ syndrome:
Crack Babies –
What could be more heart-breaking than an innocent new-born addicted to cocaine and handicapped for life:
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the media used a few small studies of babies born of cocaine-
addicted mothers to convince America that thousands of children were permanently
damaged. Dr. Ira Chasnoff, of the National Association for Families and Addiction Research
and education, after studying only 23 babies, reported that mothers were delivering babies
that ‘could not respond to them emotionally.’ He told People magazine that the infants
‘couldn’t respond to a human voice.’ This led to a frenzy of stories on ‘crack babies’. Many
people still believe ‘crack babies’ are handicapped for life.
It isn’t true. It turn out there is no proof that crack babies do worse than anyone else. In fact,
they do better, on average, than children born to alcoholic mothers …. (99-100)
In seeking answers to what went wrong, why such erroneous conclusions were accepted? Stossel interviewed Claire Coals, a psychologist at Emory University: He asked her:
How could that happen?
Well, they wanted to get published.
Wow! Facts don’t matter, just getting ‘published’ … the more papers that an individual publishes in the Academy, the sooner they get promoted, the higher their pay, the fewer the number of hours you’re forced to spend in the classroom (so-called ‘release time’ to support research), the grander their ‘reputation’ among other scholars! Now that’s REAL science! All of this is taking place on the taxpayers’ dime, at Universities’ which profess that their goal is educating the taxpayers’ children! Stossel continues by noting:
It is easier to get your work published, and, more important, funded, if you find something
If you go to an agency and say: ‘I don’t think there’s a big problem here, I’d like you to give
me $ 1 million,’ the probability of getting the money is very low. (101)
We’ve been taught to expect certain levels of fraud from the business community, degrees of dishonesty from politicians, but the ‘self-serving,’ intellectually misleading, and in many cases intellectually dishonest, behaviors by members of the academic community largely have been ignored … despite the costs that they impose on others – students and taxpayers alike! Stossel maintains that:
It’s also easier to get funded if what you conclude feeds someone’s political agenda. (101)
Vitamin C –
Stossel’s second target of opportunity is the vitamin C mythology created by the Nobel Prize (in chemistry) winning Linus Pauling, that megadoses of the vitamin will help ward-off colds! He notes:
… the press reported his claim enthusiastically, and the public believed. …. No matter that
Pauling’s Nobel was in chemistry, not biology; no matter that dozens of follow-up studies
found no evidence that vitamin C prevents colds. The pills still fly out of stores. (102)
*N.B.: There is a ‘hidden’ explanation for the ‘popularity’ and ‘prevalence’ of so much false bad news and
misinformation – the silliness of the unquestioned acceptance that expertise in one field (chemistry or entomology) qualifies an individual to speak with authority on issues in all or other fields that also demand their own unique levels of expertise (biology or economics). While I have a PhD., that degree does note qualify me to practice law or perform surgery, let alone teach chemistry.
Stossel explains the source of misinformation in the media by reporting the comments made by his scientist brother:
As my brother explains it, ‘You reporters have trouble ascertaining whether arrogance, bias,
or money has colored a scientist’s opinion. You gravitate to scientists considered the ‘elite.’
But the irony is that elitism fosters arrogance and does not immunize against error. Pauling,
was wrong about the structure of DNA, as well as about vitamin C.’
Stossel, then observes ironically:
Scientific communication is very stilted, as if to convey impartiality. Scientists are happy to
have nonscientists view them as uniquely unbiased, and reporters fall into the trap of believing
them. But supposedly ‘dispassionate’ scientists are as passionate about their ideas as an
As far as he goes, Stossel is correct, when he writes ‘… scientists are as passionate about their ideas as an entrepreneur.’ There is a major difference between ‘scientists’ and ‘entrepreneurs’ – scientists are ‘intellectuals’ that live in the world of ideas (the inner world of the mind), while entrepreneurs are ‘businessmen’ and live in a world of products, services, and customers (the external world of people and things). These distinctions are significant … First and foremost, scientists and their ideas must please other scientists in a controlled ‘market place’ overseen by other ‘intellectuals’ with no explicit prices; in contrast, businessmen and their products and services, must please customers in a ‘free competitive market place’ with explicit prices.
Empire Building –
According to Stossel, ‘empire building’ “… is another corrupter of science.” As an example, he points to the emerging bureaucracy:
The U.S. government now has an antisalt bureaucracy that churns out thousands of pamphlets
and run public service announcements that warn Americans to cut back on salt.
‘We should eat ‘no more than 2,400 milligrams a day,’ says Dr. Jeffrey Cutler, the official who
runs the government’s antisalt campaign. ‘It should probably be lower, but that’s a reasonable
interim goal.’ ….
Cutler decided that Americans should eat less salt because high blood pressure can lead to heart
disease, and eating less salt can lower blood pressure. It’s a plausible theory, but it doesn’t prove
that less salt leads to less heart disease. Too many other things may be going on. (103, emphasis
in the original)
Those with even a simple working knowledge of introductory statistics know that ‘correlation is not causation’ and that there are ‘spurious correlations.’ So, Stossel continues:
Experts on blood pressure told us there isn’t enough scientific research to justify the govern-
ment’s antisalt campaign, and there definitely isn’t enough to justify Cutler’s 2,400-milligram
limit. … (103)
‘I can’t imagine how they came up with that number. I mean, there isn’t a single bit of evidence
that suggests that 2,400 milligrams is better than 2,100 or 3,700,’ says Dr. Michael Alderman,
who headed the American Society of Hypertension, America’s biggest organization of specialists
in high blood pressure. (104)
I confronted Dr. Cutler at his office at the government’s huge National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute (the institute’s recent budget was ($ 2,569,794,000).
John Stossel: In the Journal of the American Medical Association, [it says] reducing salt in diet
has little effect on blood pressure.
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: My study has not concluded that.
John Stossel: We just called up ten leading cardiologists, major hospitals. Nine out of ten said
they don’t think this is a reasonable program. I mean, nine out of ten.
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: I don’t know what kind of sample you…
John Stossel: People at Stanford, Johns Hopkins. It suggests you’re just trying to build a
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: I don’t accept that……
Now isn’t that an example of the pursuit of the Scientific Method … the use of hypothesis testing … “My study…” and “I don’t accept …”
… If he finds that Americans ‘eat more than twenty times the salt your body needs,’ he may be
on Good Morning America, and his supervisors may assign more people to work for him. He’s
If he finds no threat, he is just another bureaucrat. (105)
The ‘Facts’ vs. the Truth –
Perhaps one of the more disturbing elements of the entire abandonment of the Baconian Scientific Method – the search for ‘truth’ – substituting for it an intensified search for ‘facts’ to substantiate a preconceived conclusion. Now that is really ‘junk science’ – unsubstantiated ‘facts,’ discovered using spurious relationships (correlation), and testified to by ‘expert’ opinion! Stossel opens this segment of the chapter provocatively:
One good thing about science is that in the long run the truth usually comes out. The media may
be gullible, but other scientists are skeptical. They keep testing – questioning – so gradually we
keep moving closer to the truth. (105, emphasis added)
He continues more starkly, and even more shockingly:
When I began reporting, I assumed America’s courts would help this process along. But now I
realize lawyers are more concerned with winning than with truth. If the lawyers have money on
the line, truth may not matter much at all. (105, emphasis in the original)
Notice Stossel’s wording: “If the lawyers have money on the line, truth may not matter much at all.”
With a former tort lawyer, Senator John Edwards, who made millions of dollars suing corporate America, lives in a multi-million dollar, 20,000 ft2 home, and is running for the Presidency of the United States, can anything that he says during the political campaign be trusted as TRUTHFUL?
Stossel then continues, observing:
Since reporters pay so much attention to court decisions, a lawyer who can sell junk science to
a few judges and juries can get reporters to sell junk science to the world.
That’s what happened with silicone breast implants. Lawyers used the mediato terrify the nation.
In the 1990s, lawyers told women that Dow Corning, an evil chemical company that made silicone,
was responsible for their ‘being poisoned by their own bodies’! Silicone from their breast implants
was probably leaking into their breasts and would soon give them cancer and autoimmune diseases.
One lawyer got on a TV news show and told women they had ‘time bombs’ in their breasts. (105, all
One question leaps immediately to mind and looms large: “Where is the ‘epidemiologic’ evidence (fr. Gk., epi + dēmos – on + the people) for such claims?” Epidemiology is a science – a science that deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population. It may be diseases in humans, in plants, or in animals. Such claims made by the purveyors of ‘junk science’ are irresponsible, and dangerous in the extreme. This ‘junk science’ approach is designed to transfer ‘income’ and ‘wealth’ from those that have produced it to alleged victims and their ‘tort-lawyers’ (who ‘earn’ a third of the final judgment, plus costs … ‘several’ dollars for each photocopied page of ‘documentation’ and the so-called ‘expert witnesses’ testifying to the ‘potential’ physical damages to health and ‘potential’ economic losses to earning power.
John Stossel next observes that:
The women’s fear and anger were palpable. At least one was so desperate to remove her implant,
she took a razor to her own breasts. At an anti-implant demonstration, an ABC cameraman
captured the fury of the women when a skeptical reporter dared ask, ‘Where’s the evidence that
the implants cause these diseases?’ (105-6, emphasis added)
The reporter asked a very reasonable and ‘scientifically appropriate’ question, but the answers he/she received from the ‘demonstrators’ reflect the rejection of the ‘Baconian scientific method’!
Demonstrators: We are the evidence! We are the evidence! We are the evidence!
Woman with breast implants: It’s in throughout my body. And it’s eating at my muscle tissue.
Demonstrators: We are the evidence. (emphasis in the original)
…. While some women had complaints…most were satisfied.
Then doctors reported that about 1 percent of women who have breast implants – 10,000 American
women – had connective-tissue disease. To reporters, that was evidence that implants caused the
disease. But 10,000 illnesses didn’t prove anything. It turns out that the same percentage of women
without implants got the disease. (106, emphasis added)
Once again confusion over the issues of ‘correlation’ and ‘causation’ arises. It is necessary to constantly keep in mind that “Correlation is not causation.” In a well-known statistics book, the authors cite a newspaper article that describes a correlation between the Dow-Jones stock index and the number of whales killed over a given period – the correlation coefficient [r] was high (r = 0.94), but this does notmean that the buying and selling of shares of stock on the Dow Jones kills whales in the Arctic or the South Atlantic! A little knowledge of basic statistical techniques and their appropriate use, say the χ2 (Chi-Square) Testof Independence, should be sufficient to ‘prove’ this nonsense is false!
Stossel reports another anti-scientific aspect of the breast-implant situation – the fact that the same proportion of women, with or without implants acquires ‘connective tissue diseases’:
That fact wasn’t publicized. Instead, lawyers ran ads on TV like ‘Your breast implants may be
making you sick! Call us, Kind Lawyers Who Protect Women, 1-800…..’ (106)
Have you seen recent examples of such advertisements by ‘tort’ lawyers? For injured drivers seeking claims against insurance companies – ‘Fast’ Eddie Ferrah or Harrell and Harrell? For Mesothelioma?
Women called; the lawyers brought them into court. With the help of ‘expert’ witnesses who said
implants caused the disease, they convinced juries that Dow Corning had recklessly poisoned
‘Juries’? Do the jurors have degrees in medicine or advanced degrees in the biological sciences? Are they ‘qualified’ to understand the ‘scientific issues’ at hand? Then, there’s the issue of ‘expert’ witnesses! Consider:
Two of the most influential experts on breast implants were Drs. Nir Kossovsky of Los Angeles
and David Smalley of Memphis. Both had teststhat they saiddetected whether a woman’s immune
tested the ‘experts’ tests. Young sent Dr. Smalley blood from women who didn’t have breast
implants – and they tested positive. The tests were bunk.
But juries didn’t know that.
… Facing thousands of lawsuits, Dow Corning declared bankruptcy.
But where was the science? Studies by the Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Brigham and Women’s Hospital,
and others concluded that women with implants were no sicker than those without. It didn’t matter.
The ‘doesn’t cause connective-tissue-disease stories’ got much less media attention. People still
think implants cause disease.
And the lack of scientific evidence didn’t stop the lawyers. Even after America’s top scientists
concluded that implants did not cause disease, the lawyers kept suing, and winning. After all, they
didn’t have to convince a majority of scientists – they just had to convince a jury. (107)
Scientifically Clueless –
How is it that the reporters and the media can be manipulated by ‘tort’ lawyers into perpetuating ‘myths, lies, and downright stupidity’ (the title of Stossel’s latest book: 2006. Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong) that permits lawful theft – transfers of wealth and income from producers to lawyers and their clients? Note: these ‘tort’ lawyers may be responsible for doing great harm to the rest of society by destroying incentives for the development of new and better products, including life-saving drugs!
Those familiar with basic economic principles understand the phrase written by Gwartney, Stroup and Lee: “Incentives Matter.” [James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup & Dwight R. Lee. 2005. Common Sense Economics:What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity.] In simple terms, if you want more of a certain activity or behavior, reward it, if you want less, then penalize it. The ‘reward’ may be profits (sales), an ice cream cone (a child minding his/her parents), or a kindly word (a ‘Thank you’) for a good deed done. The penalty may be a higher tax on the activity, a spanking, or deprivation of a pleasurable activity (watching a favorite TV program for a naughty child) or a rebuke for bad behavior. Responses are not instantaneous, but require time for behavioral adjustments (a ‘lagged effect’). Since the effects are ‘lagged’ there is a general tendency by ‘economic illiterates’ to fail to make the connection between ‘cause’ and ‘effect.’ This failure provides politicians with the opportunity to avoid responsibility for their actions, and, then blame the free market, in general (so-called ‘market-failure,’ à la A.C. Pigou), ‘greedy businessmen’ who place ‘profits’ above all other things, or member of the opposing political party! Perhaps the classic example of such dishonest posturing may be found an early article written by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan:
That Act [the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887] was not necessitated by the ‘evils’ of the free
market. Like subsequent legislation controlling business, the Act was an attempt to remedy
the economic distortions which prior government interventions had created, butwhich were
blamed on the free market. The Interstate Commerce, in turn producednew distortions ….
[1961. “Antitrust,” paper presented at the Antitrust Seminar of the National Association of
Business Economics (September 25); printed in Ayn Rand. 1967. Capitalism: The Unknown
Ideal. New York: Signet Books, 65, emphasis added.]
Stossel argues that the source of reporters succumbing to the guile of the ‘tort’ lawyers is their LACK of training and understanding of how science really works:
Reporters are easy to convince, too. Most of us are so clueless about science, we assume
unusual numbers of cancer cases near a chemistry plant means the chemicals caused the
cancer, but association is not causation. There is no more reason to blame the chemicals
than to blame diet soda for making people fat because you see lots of fat people drinking it.
The cluster of cancers may have been caused by a hundred other factors, or it may be
‘statistical noise.’ (107)
A perfect example of the media’s (journalists’) lack of understanding, bureaucrats’ desire (lust) for power and influence OVER other people and their lives (since they know better and need to have their weak egos built-up), and ‘special-interest-group’ lobbying for government regulations that may help them, EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS, USUALLY THE MAJORITY IN SOCIETY … is to be found on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal for August 17, 2007 – ‘DDT for Health,’ A12. The editorial was written by Henry I. Miller, M.D., a Fellow of the Hoover Institution and former official at the NIH (National Institute of Health) and the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) from 1977 through 1994. Miller exposes the consequences of the environmental movement’s regulatory legacy for the poor in many tropical countries and for many in the subtropics – the increased incidence of PREVENTABLE diseases, especially malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, and West Nile Virus (WNV). Dr. Miller has written:
The eight-year-old outbreak of West Nile virus shows no signs of abating. Last year, there
were 4,300 serious cases and almost 200 deaths. And though it is still early in the season,
statistics release by the CDC [Center for Disease Control] on Tuesday are alarming: The
insect-borne virus has been found in animal hosts (primarily birds) in 39 states, and in
humans has caused about 450 serious infections and at least 15 deaths. The numbers have
been increasing exponentially.
To confirm Dr. Miller’s figures, the data in the following table have been compiled from CDC sources, including MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report), available on the net):
Human Incidence of West Nile Virus, 1999 to 2006 YearCasesDeaths 1999-2001 149 18
2002 4,156 284
2003 9,862 264
2004 2,539 100
2005 3,000 119
2006 4,261 174
Summary statistics of West Nile virus during 2006 are available from CDC’s MMWR (“West Nile Virus Activity – United States, 2006,” @ www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ mm5629a4.html.) [June 8, 2007, 56 (22), 556-9] Four thousand two hundred and sixty-one human cases of West Nile virus, with three deaths, were reported from 731 counties in forty-three states, with major clusters occurring astride the Mississippi (River) Valley. The disease affected more than 23 percent of the 3,142 counties of the United States.
As of August 14, 2007 twenty-seven (27) states reported ‘human disease case(s)’ of West Nile virus. (“West Nile Virus Update – United States, January 1 – August 14, 2007.” www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ mmwrhtml/mm5632a4.htm) The states with the largest number of case were:
Human Incidence of West Nile Virus, 2007 (through August 17) Number of
StateCases California 86
South Dakota 62
North Dakota 52
It might be noted that according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for July 27th (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ mmwrhtml/mm5629a4.htm) has reported that nineteen (19) states had reported 122 cases of West Nile virus (WNV) to the CDC between January 1 and July 24 of 2007.
Since West Nile virus is, one of a number of mosquito-borne diseases (malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever), it must be noted the WN virus has been detected in sixty-two (62) of the 175 mosquito species found in the United States. The virus is most prevalent in Culex mosquitoes. (www.cdc.gov/ mmwr/preview/ mmwrhtml/mm5622a3.htm)
Dr. Miller continues his observations:
Many of these illnesses and deaths could have been avoided. Thanks to flawed, politically
correct federal regulatory policy, however, the available tools are limited and largely
By now, you must be saying to yourself, “Well, here we go again!” And, you would be correct to be saying this. Dr. Miller continues:
West Nile virus is transmitted mainly between avian hosts and mosquitoes, and until the
mid-1990s was associated with only mild infections of humans in Africa and the Middle
East. Then more severe outbreaks of encephalitis and other serious manifestations were
reported in Romania in 1996, and subsequently in Israel, Tunisia, Russia and North
An excellent entry for ‘West Nile virus’ on Wikipedia reports that:
… it was initially believed that direct human-to-human transmission was only caused by
occupational exposure or conjunctival [mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the
eyelids] exposure to infected blood.
Later, it was revealed that infection with WNV was associated with blood transfusions, organ transplantation, intrauterine exposure, and breast-feeding. It has also been revealed that a genetic mutation (CCR5) provides some protection to HIV, but, also leads to more serious complications for WNV.
Perhaps more alarmingly Dr. Miller reports:
In the current issue of Nature Genetics, researchers at several American universities and
the National Institutes of Health reported the apparent reason for this worrisome trans-
formation [‘more severe outbreaks of encephalitis’]: A single mutation in a gene that
encodes a viral enzyme can transform a low-virulence strain of the virus to one that is
highly virulent. Ominously, the research also provides evidence that the mutated virus
enjoys an evolutionary advantage that enables it to adapt rapidly to changing environ-
ments, to spread, and to cause disease outbreaks.
Just how does the CDC recommend the WNV threat be handled? Let me see: “For humans to escape infection the avoidance of mosquitoes is key….” “Fight the Bite.” (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/ westnile/index.htm) And, how are humans to avoid mosquitoes – “use insect repellant – with EPA-registered active ingredients”, “dusk-to-dawn wear long sleeved shits and long pants”, “consider staying indoors dusk to dawn”, ‘have good screens”, and “get rid of mosquito breeding sites … saucers for potted plants and emptying birdbaths”!!! [See: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/ wesrnile/wnx_factsheet.htm] Wow! These are certainly welcome strategies derived from the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars! Responding to such nonsense, Dr. Miller states one of the obvious solutions:
In the absence of a vaccine, eliminating the carrier – the mosquito – should be the key to
preventing an epidemic. But in 1972, on the basis of data on toxicity to fish and migrating
birds (but not to humans), the Environmental Protection Agency banned virtually all uses of
DDT, an inexpensive and effective pesticide once widely used in the U. S. to kill disease-
Once again you may be asking you self, “How can this happen?” “How is it that the possibility of harming “fish and migrating birds” is sufficient to prevent certain human actions?” These questions have been addressed and commented upon many times. One of the earliest direct comments was made by William Baxter. People of Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution, a book rarely cited by members of the Environmental Movement. There are two summaries of his work on the internet that may be consulted for a ‘philosophical’ summary of his views, see, for example:
William Baxter. “People or Penguins: The Case for Optimal Pollution,” January 25, 2005 @
www.cofc.edu/hettinger/Enviornmental _Ethics/ www.home.myuw.net/himma/phil102/baxter.htm.
Notice that these reviews and commentaries on Baxter’s book involve issues of ‘ethics’ and introductory philosophy. Those unfamiliar with these areas of inquiry might want to review a short pamphlet by Ayn Rand. 1982. Philosophy: Who Needs It? She calls attention to the role of philosophy in human society and observes:
The third branch – ethics – may be regarded as its [philosophy] technology. Ethics does not
apply to everything that exists, only to man, but it applies to every aspect of man’s life: his
character, his actions, his values, his relationship to all of existence. Ethics, or morality, defines
a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions – the choices and actions that determine
the course of his life. (3, emphasis in original)
… you cannot know what you should do until you know the nature of the universe you deal
with, the nature of your means of cognition – and your own nature. Before you come to ethics,
you must answer the questions posed by metaphysics and epistemology: Is man a rational
being, able to deal with reality – or is he a helplessly blind misfit, a chip buffeted by the universal
flux? Are achievement and enjoyment possible to man on earth -- or is he doomed to failure and
disaster? Depending on the answers, you can proceed to consider the questions posed by ethics:
What is good or evil for man – and why? Should man’s primary concern be a quest for joy – or an
escape from suffering? Should man hold self-fulfillment – or self-destruction – as the goal of his
life? Should man pursue his values – or should he place the interests of others above his own?
Should man seek happiness – or self-sacrifice? (4, emphasis added)
I do not have to point out the different consequences of these two sets of answers. You can see
them everywhere – within you and around you.
The answers given by ethics determines how man should treat other men, and this determines
the fourth branch of philosophy: politics, which defines the principles of a proper social system.
As an example of philosophy’s function, political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed
gas you should be given and on what day of the week – it will tell you whether the government
has the right to impose any rationing on anything. (4, emphasis added)
The banning of DDT, a synthetic pesticide, for mosquito control, as well as for the control of insect pests in agriculture, has enabled the resurgence globally of many mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, yellow-fever) which had been held in check by DDT.
An extremely significant discussion of the increases in ‘preventable’ deaths attributable to the banning of the use of DDT to control disease carrying mosquitoes may be found on a September 24, 2006 entry written by Gary Becker entitled “DDT and Deaths from Malaria.” This commentary may be found on the blog-site of Gary Becker (a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics) and Richard Posner, two University of Chicago economists [www.becker-posner-blo.com/archives/2006/09/ ddt_and_deaths.html] Becker has commented on the disparity in concerns over AIDs and malaria, noting that there are 3 million deaths worldwide from AIDs each year. He then writes:
Malaria receives far less attention, even though it too is very deadly, causing 11/2 million
deaths per year.
Deaths from malaria have been increasing, not falling…
Rising, despite a World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) [sic. corrected World Health Organization or WHO, September 30, 2006] declared ‘war on malaria’ announced in 1998. This sounds a lot like America’s so-called ‘war on drugs’! Devastatingly, Becker observes:
The reason for the failure of this malaria war is mainly that in the name of environmentalism,
he WTO and other international organizations rejected the use of an effective technique,
namely the spraying DDT on the walls of homes in malaria infected areas.
What is especially disheartening about the huge number of deaths from malaria, and a fact
that sharply distinguishes malaria from Aids, is that malaria deaths could be greatly reduced
in a cheap way without requiring any fundamental changes in behavior. A small amount of
DDT sprayed on the walls of homes in vulnerable malaria regions is highly effective in
deterring malaria-bearing mosquitoes from entering these homes. Finally, recognizing this, a
couple weeks ago the WTO [WHO] relaxed its support of the ban on DDT, and instead
supported spraying of DDT on house walls in malaria-ridden areas. The decision is likely to
influence the position on DDT spraying of the World Bank, USAID, and other relevant
organizations. Some African countries like Zambia and South Africa, which are not
dependent on international support for their efforts at fighting disease, had already started
to use DDT as a fundamental malaria-fighting weapon prior to the new WTO [WHO] guide-
lines. South Africa decided to use DDT in the face of EU opposition after suffering a deadly
malaria outbreak. DDT apparently helped that country greatly reduce its incidence of
Henry Miller continues his WSJ editorial:
The effectiveness and relative safety of DDT was underplayed, as was the distinction
for controlling carriers of human disease. There is a world of difference between
applying large amounts of it in the environment – as American farmers did before it was
banned – and using it carefully and sparingly to fight mosquitoes and other disease
carrying insects. A basic principle of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison.
The regulation who banned DDT also failed to consider the inadequacy of alternatives.
Because of its persistence, DDT works far better than many pesticides now in use, some
of which are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. With DDT unavailable, many local
jurisdictions are depleting their mosquito-control budgets by repeated spraying with short-
acting, marginally effective insecticides. (emphasis added)
Hummm? Is it better for the environment to use DDT once or some other pesticide multiple times over some specified period of time? What are the longer-term consequences of multiple-dose-applications? Miller, appropriately, adds a cautionary note:
Of course, spraying any pesticide -- let alone DDT – has been greeted by hysteria from
environmental activists, who have attacked the killing of mosquitoes as ‘disrupting the food
chain.’ New York’s Green Party literature declared several years ago, ‘These diseases only
kill the old and people whose health is already poor.’ (emphasis added)
Now let me get this right, ‘the old and people in poor health,’ according to the Green Party (read, wealthy, elitist environmentalists), are expendable. It seems to me that this was the same stance adopted in Nazi Germany by Adolf Hitler in his drive to create the ‘Master Race,’ by eliminating ‘defective’ beings – both physically and mentally – described as “Life unworthy of life!” What is the Green Party’s stance regarding those with AIDs and compromised immune systems. [See: the Eugenics movement on the internet.]
Miller points out that after the removal of DDT from the market, deaths from mosquito-borne diseases reversed their declining trends and began, once again, to rise:
Since countries around the world began to ban DDT in the 1970s, insect-borne diseases
such as malaria and dengue, and now West Nile virus, have been on the rise. The World
Health Organization estimates that malaria kills about a million people annually, and that
there are between 300 and 500 million new cases each year.
In seeking answers to the question: “If DDT was effective and safe, why and how was it banned for use?” Looking back, it becomes clear that a pattern begins to emerge that is parallel with many of the issues that John Stossel has raised in Chapter 6 “Junk Science and Junk Reporting,” in his book, entitled Give Me a Break and Chapter 1 “Clueless Media,” in Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. First, a shocking and ‘fear-inducing’ claim is made by an apparently qualified individual; before the claim can be rigorous inform ‘the people’; a campaign is organized by the ‘people’ to demand action from politicians to ‘protect them’ from whatever the threat may be; legislation is passed and the apparent, immediate danger is past! But, the ‘Baconian Scientific Method’ – independent testing of a hypothesis employing a time-tested, rigorous stipulated procedure has been aborted by ‘individual’ or ‘group self-interest’ – a career advancement for the scientist, a Pulitzer Prize for the news reporter, donations for ‘political-action-groups’ (PACs), campaign contributions for politicians, and potential lawsuits for ‘tort lawyers – everyone benefits, except the ordinary working citizen! When the scientific process is pushed aside because of the immediacy of the perceived dangers there are always unintended consequences! (usually the result poorly thought through governmental policies, which need additional governmental intervention to correct; See: Alan Greenspan. 1961. “Antitrust,” reprinted in Ayn Rand’s, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 63-71).
What was the initial ‘shocking and fear-inducing’ claim? It was the publication of Rachael Carson’s book, Silent Spring. I would be well to do extensive research into Carson’s background, her claims, subsequent research by reputable and qualified scientists on those claims. But perhaps more important is a dispassionate evaluation of the ‘unintended outcomes’ that have resulted from Carson’s book, the induced fears and governmental actions. As a preliminary overview, Chapter 1, “Clueless Media,” [Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity, 1-27] provides an illuminating starting- point! He begins his analysis by quoting Thomas Jefferson on the media or ‘the Fourth Estate:’
‘Where the press is free, and every man able to read,’ said Jefferson, ‘all is safe.’
However, thirty-six years working in the media has left me much more skeptical of its product….
But when is comes to science and economics, and putting life’s risks in perspective, the media do
a dismal job.
MYTH: The media will check it out and give you the objective truth.
TRUTH: Many in the media are scientifically clueless, and will scare you to death. (1)
We know that the scarier and more bizarre the story, the more likely it is that our bosses will
Give us more air time or a front-page slot. … Fear sells. …
Also raising alarms makes us feel important.
In their small book, Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth andProsperity (2005), Gwartney, Stroup, and Lee have addressed the economic factors responsible for many of these issues, as well as the consequences for individual and social welfare.
Stossel continues his evaluation of the media, science and the complete lack of understanding of the basic principles and processes by the media elite:
If we bothered to keep digging until we found the better scientific experts, rather than the ones
who send out press releases, we’d get the real story. But reporters rarely know whom to call.
And if we did, nay real scientists don’t want to be bothered. Why get involved in a messy debate?
It might upset someone in government and threaten the scientist’s grant money. ‘I’d rather be left
Alone to do my work, and not have to babysit dumb reporters,’ one told me.
One real scientist, Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, did make the effort.
He urges a skeptical reporter (me) to be more skeptical of pseudologic from pseudoscientists: ‘The
Number of storks in Europe has been going down for years, the birth rate’s going down for years,’
Dr. Ames pointed out. ‘If you plot one against the other, it’s a beautiful correlation. But it doesn’t
mean storks bring babies.’
We’ve been swallowing the storks-bring-babies kind of logic for years. … For instance, stories
about pesticides making food carcinogenic would fill several pages of a Google search. To the
scientifically illiterate, the stories are logical. After all, farmers keep using new pesticides, we
consume them in the food we eat, and we keep hearing more people are getting cancer. It must be
cause and effect! Get the shovel.
MYTH: Pesticide residues in food cause cancer and other diseases.
TRUTH: The residues are largely harmless. (2) Ames laughs at the claims of chemically induced caners, and he should know – he’s the one who
invented the test that first frightened people about a lot of those chemicals, It’s called the Ames
Test, and its first use in the 1970sraised alarmsby revealing there were carcinogens in hair dye,
and in flame retardants in children’s pajamas. Ames helped get the chemicals banned. (3)
Stossel continues to lay-out the key issues involved in ‘contemporary science,’ the scientific ignorance of reporters (print and broadcast), the substitution of individual self-interest for consumer interest, and the utter disregard for the ‘Baconian Scientific Method.’ He continues his report on and interview with Dr. Bruce Ames:
Before the Ames Test, the traditional way to test a substance was to feed big doses of it to
animals and wait to see if they got cancer or had babies with birth defects. But those tests took
two to three years and cost $ 100,000. So Dr. Ames said, ‘Instead of testing animals, why not
test bacteria? You can study a billion of them on just one Petri dish and you don’t have to wait
long for the next generation. Bacteria reproduce every twenty minutes.” (3)
The test proved successful. It was hailed as a major scientific break-through, and today, the
Ames Test is one of the standards used to discover if a substance is carcinogenic.
But after getting the hair dye and the flame retardants banned, Dr. Ames and other scientists
continued testing chemicals. “People started using our test,” he told me, “and finding mutagens
everywhere – in cups of coffee, on the outside of bread, and when you fry your hamburger!” (3,
emphasis in original)
This made him wonder if his tests were too sensitive, and led him to question the very bans he’d
advocated. A few years later, when I went to a supermarket with him, he certainly didn’t send out