Rachel Carson: Debunked, but Still Lionized

It has become clear to anyone with eyes and an open mind that the worldwide ban on DDT that is just now in the process of too-slowly being lifted has caused massive loss of human life over a period of decades that could, and should, have been avoided.

So you would think that the person who began the DDT scare in the early 1960s would be discredited, or her work at least shunted to the background. You would be wrong (link may require free registration; HT Instapundit):

For Rachel Carson admirers, it has not been a silent spring. They’ve been celebrating the centennial of her birthday with paeans to her saintliness. A new generation is reading her book in school — and mostly learning the wrong lesson from it.

The real "lesson" is that "Silent Spring" was perhaps the first successful use of junk science paired with corporation-bashing media hype to fool the general public:

Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass. She rightly noted threats to some birds, like eagles and other raptors, but she wildly imagined a mass “biocide.” She warned that one of the most common American birds, the robin, was “on the verge of extinction” — an especially odd claim given the large numbers of robins recorded in Audubon bird counts before her book.

..... She cited scary figures showing a recent rise in deaths from cancer, but she didn’t consider one of the chief causes: fewer people were dying at young ages from other diseases (including the malaria that persisted in the American South until DDT). When that longevity factor as well as the impact of smoking are removed, the cancer death rate was falling in the decade before “Silent Spring,” and it kept falling in the rest of the century.

Even in 1962, as New York Times writer John Tierney notes, there were attempts to debunk this junk that have, unlike Carson's work, stood the test of time. In fact, Dr. I.L. Baldwin, a professor of agricultural bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, published a review of "Silent Spring" that clinically tore it apart -- and was, apparently, ignored:

But scientists like him were no match for Ms. Carson’s rhetoric. DDT became taboo even though there wasn’t evidence that it was carcinogenic (and subsequent studies repeatedly failed to prove harm to humans).

So who will be the first bona fide member of the environmental movement to acknowledge that Rachel Carson was flat-out wrong, and that the movement's first "heroine" is, more than anyone else (with the help of an EPA director), responsible for millions of premature deaths from malaria that need not have occurred?

And will this early, tragic failure of "junk science" cause anyone in the Old Media to be at least a little skeptical about the validity of the global warming alarmists and the globaloney they are relentlessly pushing?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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