Making an honest hack out of Fred Pearce in five easy steps

Image courtesy of Flickr user “bLOGOS/HA HA”, used under Creative Commons

Attempting to convince those in the grip of denialism is like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Take the case of the DDT-holocaust lie. No sooner has one false claim been thrown out (e.g. DDT ban in Malaysia in 1999 resulted in an increase in malaria) and shown to be nonsense than a new claim bearing no particular relation to its predecessor is deployed. Rather than chase down every single mutually contradictory claim made by those perpetuating the lie, I invite them to put themselves on record in a manner that makes their claims easily assessable.

In order to claim, as rubbish journalist Fred Pearce has, that anti-science environmentalism is responsible for “blanket opposition” to DDT use in fighting malaria resulting in a “virtual ban” for “more than three decades” and “millions of deaths”, one only has to satisfy a handful of conditions:

  1. Quantify how many, from where, and over what time interval the “millions of deaths” are supposed to have occurred.
  2. Demonstrate that there was a ban (actual or “virtual”), restriction, or other meaningful impediment to using DDT for malaria control (vs. for example agricultural spraying) in place for all deaths claimed in the above.
  3. Demonstrate that had DDT been implemented, all deaths claimed in the above would have been prevented (taking into consideration obvious confounding factors like the increase in resistance to DDT).
  4. Demonstrate that had DDT been implemented, the overall net result including health, economic, and environmental problems would have been positive- in other words, that using DDT would have resulted in more good than harm.
  5. Demonstrate that the cause of DDT not being implemented in all of the above cases was specifically attributable to “blanket” anti-science environmentalist opposition, rather than science-, economics-, efficacy-, and logistics-based reasons from professional science and health organizations like the World Health Organization, or implementation problems that had nothing to do with Silent Spring (such as replastering and bedbug concerns raised in places like South Africa).

Pretty simple. If you can’t satisfy the conditions, you don’t get to toss corpses at the feet of supposed anti-science environmentalist opposition arising from Silent Spring. Just how serious a case do people like Fred Pearce and Roy Spencer really believe they have?

My guess? Most won’t even  get past the first question or two.


10 responses to “Making an honest hack out of Fred Pearce in five easy steps

  1. Form the Where’s Waldo department, please spot the use of the word ‘environmentalists’ in Fred Pearce’s quote:

    “When Rachel Carson’s sound case against the mass application of DDT as an agricultural pesticide morphed into blanket opposition to much smaller indoor applications to fight malaria, it arguably resulted in millions of deaths as the diseases resurged”

    You’re pathetic, Thingsbreak.

  2. Yes, Tom IS that stupid, but, as someone a long time ago pointed out to Eli, it is no good being factual, or clever with the stupid, they can’t figure it out and they can outlast you.

    • The Good Rabbet pre-empted the comment I was about to make about pig-wrestling.

      It’s interesting though that when pushed to shape some pies with his mud, all that thomasawfuller can manage is a feeble attempt at Thimblerig. But then, actually constructing an accurate narrative using verifiable facts is a skill that far fewer ‘reporters’ possess than should.

      As for Fred Pearce, I and others have observed elsewhere that he is the reason many of us quit subs with New Scientist. I used to recommend NS as a good way for new science undergrads to broaden their general science knowledge, but I stopped doing so years ago. These days there are online fora to do the same job, with no cost and without the all-too-frequent, deplorable charade that passes for scientific objectivity.

    • When they pointed it out to you, you didn’t take the hint, did you?

  3. Discussion “encompassed” the entire blogosphere …

    It is obvious that the discussed article F.P. is “a very low level” …

    … but here, by the way, you want to say that practically everything was all right,
    … and if there are errors science and practice – the “green” …

    In my country (as in a majority of countries) there was no formal bans the use of DDT – outside agriculture. When the ban (agriculture) was introduced in 1973 … discontinued DDT for protection against insects home.


    In hundreds of articles DDT-DDE were accused of (all) possibly the worst “crimes” (carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, etc..), referring to the results of research … ”
    (when I told the students – the beginning of the nineties – about the fact that DDT has many advantages – it would continue to apply “in home”; “environmentalists” from my university …)

    Most of objections to DDT (big harmfulness for the environment) has not “survived” by “test of time” – what must to say even the EPA report (

    “Fell” (at malaria context) even the first – the main “incrimination”:
    “Anderson notes that there appears to be a threshold of one to three ppm for DDE in eggs below which there is no eggshell thinning in even sensitive bird species. Dusting DDT on the walls of houses in developing countries to control for mosquitoes seems unlikely to cross that threshold for birds.”

    If any of you (environmentalists) is “without sin among” …

  4. Pingback: Friendly Reminder: The DDT-Holocaust Hoax promoters don’t actually care about malaria deaths | The Way Things Break

  5. Pingback: Stilo ban on DDT: Treaty monitors allow DDT use to continue « Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

  6. Seems to me the most solid case against the DDT-Holocaust hoax comes from the facts: Since peak DDT use, malaria infections have been cut by half, malaria deaths have been cut by 75%. Remarkable in light of the doubling of the world’s human population in the same time, and dramatic movements of people into areas where malaria could flourish.

    When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, about 4 million people died each year from malaria; that number was down to 2 million by 1972, and under 800,000 today. Since 1972, then, Carson saved 80 million lives; since 1995, another 17 million.

    97 million lives saved is not a “holocaust” by any rational definition.

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