Linking without Thinking part 2

Andrew Bolt should have been embarrassed with his unthinking linking, but he is unrepentant:

If someone claims to find 24 mistakes in your work and you manage to kind-of defend just three, it might be wiser to actually stay quiet. If you don’t actually have the integrity to admit and repent, that is.

I picked three representative examples from the 24 mistakes Beck alleges I made to show that not only is Beck wrong, he is obviously wrong and he won’t admit it no matter how absurd a position he ends up in. The other 21 aren’t any better and it would be extremely foolish to give Beck any credence on them.

And if you thought that Beck would admit to his mistakes in the three examples I chose, you are unfamiliar with character. Let’s look at what he came up with.

Beck goes after Chris Curtis:

Lambert sources the date to a 1994 journal article by C. F. Curtis, who writes:

The World Health Organization and many malariologists argued strongly that the ban should not be extended to its use against DDT-susceptible malaria vectors. W.H.O. (1984) recommended DDT as the insecticide of choice for such vectors. … the author considers that DDT should no longer be recommended as the insecticide of choice for malaria vector control.

The journal article is an opinion piece and everything Curtis writes about DDT is questionable because he was a WWF anti-DDT activist.

The article was not an opinion piece. It was published in support of Use of DDT in vector control: Conclusions of Study Group on Vector Control for Malaria and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases, 16-24 November 1993 Medical and Veterinary Entomology 8 (2) , 113-113 (1994). (Click on the “Prev Article” link and you’ll see that Curtis’ article was the preceding piece.) You can read a slightly revised version of the WHO Study Groups conclusions here.

This was all explained to Beck back in 2006 by a commenter at Beck’s own blog:

The curtis article was written in 1994, this is around the time that the WHO changed its policy on DDT spraying. The Curtis article was used in the informed debate that lead to that policy change. DDT was downgraded from the premier choice in the fight against malaria, this is not a ban.

I even linked to this in previous post, but it pinged off Beck’s fact shield.

Nor was Chris Curtis a WWF anti-DDT activist. He died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. From his obituary:

Chris Curtis was one of the world’s leading medical entomologists, and most of his professional life was devoted to the development of low-technology methods for mosquito control. In the field of malaria control, his work helped to establish insecticide-treated mosquito nets as the dominant technology for prevention and the control transmission. His influence as a teacher has been even greater: he gave lasting inspiration countless students, and there is still a worldwide community of students and colleagues (including the writer) who are linked by what Chris taught them about how to do science, how to value it and how to enjoy it.

And if Beck had bothered to read the first comment to my post of Curtis’ article he would have known that Curtis was a prominent supporter of continuing DDT use.

And Beck isn’t going to admit that Brent Herbert was right about bed bugs developing resistance in the 40s:

Lambert defends Brent Herbert’s supposed “DDT myth” debunking. He does this by attempting to show that I’m wrong about bed bugs’ development of DDT resistance. As evidence of my error Lambert cites a 1948 journal article: Johnson, M. S. and Hill, A. J. (1948). Partial resistance of a strain of bed bugs to DDT residuals. Med. News Letter., 12, 26-28. Unfortunately, Lambert neither links to nor quotes from the article so it’s impossible to determine the scope and significance of bed bugs’ DDT resistance.

The significance is that DDT is unlikely to be effective against bed bugs, just as Herbert says. Renee at New York vs Bed Bugs has many more cites, none of which are likely to persuade Beck of anything. Renee links to a fascinating interview with Texas A&M entomologist James W Austin, who says:

While screening multiple populations of bed bugs against various insecticides we have found virtually all populations were 100% resistant to DDT. This is not a surprise given that the first observances of DDT resistance were noted almost 50 years ago. It is a little surprising that they continue to be so completely resistant to DDT. This fact would support a “genetic bottleneck” where DDT susceptible populations were so aggressively challenged to DDT that it wiped them all out … only the highly resistant populations might have survived (a bottleneck), hence the relative freedom we have had from bed bugs for so many years.

And Beck’s not giving ground on the third point. The [word history of toady is interesting:

The earliest recorded sense (around 1690) of toady is “a little or young toad,” but this has nothing to do with the modern usage of the word. The modern sense has rather to do with the practice of certain quacks or charlatans who claimed that they could draw out poisons. Toads were thought to be poisonous, so these charlatans would have an attendant eat or pretend to eat a toad and then claim to extract the poison from the attendant. Since eating a toad is an unpleasant job, these attendants came to epitomize the type of person who would do anything for a superior, and toadeater (first recorded 1629) became the name for a flattering, fawning parasite.

Beck’s not going to concede that being called a flattering, fawning parasite might be offensive:

Lambert continues to insist that the word “toady” is abusive. The word itself is not abusive and my use of the word (in commenting at Deltoid) was not abusive. It is childish of Lambert to insist that I abused his commenters – toady might be a bit harsh I’ll admit, but his commenters should be able to handle it considering some of the treatment they dish out: toady is no more harsh than “troll’, which is regularly applied to any commenter who doesn’t toe the Deltoid line.

Andrew Bolt should be ashamed of himself for linking to Beck’s rubbish, but the man seems incapable of feeling shame.

Update: We’re well into flogging a dead horse territory here, but Beck has responded, and if you thought he would concede on any of the points, you’re not familiar with his tactics.

He is forced to concede that Curtis was not an anti-DDT activist, but after basing his argument around this falsehood, he now reckons that it doesn’t matter. He carefully ignores all the information about the relationship between Curtis’ paper and the WHO Study Group on Vector Control and pretends that there was no relationship:

Further, Lambert cannot truthfully claim that the above excerpt proves, because it’s dated to 1994, that the WHO’s insecticide of choice in 1994 was DDT, when the WHO is not mentioned in the paragraph nor in the nine preceding paragraphs.

Let me quote the conclusions of the WHO Study Group (linked above, and published with Curtis’ paper).

(1) At the present time there appears to be no justification on toxicological grounds for changing current policy towards indoor spraying of DDT for vector-borne disease control.

(2) Therefore DDT may still be considered on its merits as one of the a range of possible insecticides for use in vector-borne disease control.

(3) However, in view of the availability of alternative insecticides, some of which may be equivalent to DDT in epidemiological impact, in public acceptability, in logistical suitability (including ease of application) and in meeting requirements of W.H.O. quality specifications, DDT no longer merits being promoted as ‘the insecticide of choice’.

On the second point Beck reluctantly admits that some bedbug populations developed DDT resistance in the US in the 1940s. But rather than admit that Herbert was right when he wrote that “Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s”, Beck tries moving the goal posts:

If scientist Lambert can prove that DDT resistance was a problem in the general US bed bug population in the 1940s I’ll admit I’m wrong.

Herbert did not say that DDT resistance was a problem in the general US bed bug population in the 1940s but that:

Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s and Rachel Carson did not write Silent Spring until the 1960s, and by this time DDT resistance among bed bugs was so widespread that DDT was no longer the chemical of choice for treating bed bugs.

Finally, he’s reduced to straight denial (never mind what the dictionary says) that “toady” is offensive.


  1. #1 David
    June 11, 2008

    As I’ve said about others in the past, Bolt should be ashamed of continuing to steal my oxygen, let alone taking Beck seriously (or at least pretending to).

  2. #2 Marion Delgado
    June 12, 2008

    The ancients knew that it was “turtles all the way down” but they were wrong about one thing – it’s actually whores all the way down

    Andrew Bolt
    Andrew Bolt started his column in 1998, after working as a foreign correspondent. He also writes for Brisbane’s Sunday Mail, and is a regular commentator on Channel 9’s Today show, ABC TV’s Insiders, Channel 10’s Nine AM, Melbourne’s 3AW, Adelaide’s ABC, Perth’s 6PR and Brisbane’s 4BC. Andrew’s book ‘Still Not Sorry’ was released last year.

    Also, do you note the perceptiveness and calorimetric aptitude of the guy saying “Ice freezes at 0° C, it doesn’t melt at 0° C!, idiot!” to some guy named Daryl who’s wasting his time there?

  3. #3 Marion Delgado
    June 12, 2008

    Also, Tim:

    To the long list of things they don’t know, add the Monte Carlo Method.

  4. #4 James
    June 12, 2008


    Surely you are not claiming that refuting three of Beck’s charges refutes the other 21?

    Oh, you are.

  5. #5 Wadard
    June 12, 2008

    I think we all underestimate the danger posed by L. Ron Bolt.

  6. #6 melaleuca
    June 13, 2008

    Check them for yourself, James. Beck has made a fool of himself yet again.

  7. #7 Bernard J.
    June 13, 2008

    Wadard warns us of the dangers of Bolt and his doubting legions, and I definitely take his point. However, on following his link to the Bolty’s dotty deniers play with pink swirls thread on Global Warming Watch, I am once again reminded that there is no bottom to stupid, and I especially appreciate the own-goal scored by what at first appears to be a clever denialist piece of marketing.

    I just hope that this poster is widely promulgated before the anti-intellectuals who follow Bolt finally figure out that they are in fact shooting their collective feet with this attempt at smart-arsedness.

  8. #8 Chris O'Neill
    June 14, 2008

    One of Bolt’s acolytes, John Mclean, has a letter in The Age (his title absent) that very enlighteningly for The Age’s readers says:

    “The Earth is cooler this year than last.”

    His letter tells The Age readers a lot about his arguments.

  9. #9 z
    June 14, 2008

    “The Earth is cooler this year than last.”

    well yeah, in the sense that apple is bringing out a new iphone which is cooler than the old one, etc., so in the aggregate the world is getting cooler. the agw Luddites would not appreciate this obvious truth!!

  10. #10 John Mashey
    June 14, 2008

    re #8 Chris

    We non-Aussies have trouble keeping track of these folks. What’s the relationship between Bolt & McLean? Does anyone know McLean in the real world? Does he attend climate science lectures at Melbourne universities?

    I recall him from Nexus6 on credentials and I had some observations here in Deltoid, #15 & #27. As per #27, I still haven’t seen McLean use regressions or statistical significance, although I have seen a standard deviation or two show up. He is able to produce graphs and state strong interferences from eyeballing them.

  11. #11 Chris O'Neill
    June 14, 2008

    What’s the relationship between Bolt & McLean?

    I was just referring to how McLean has “helped out” Bolt in the past.

  12. #12 John Mashey
    June 15, 2008

    re: #11 Chris
    Ahh, thanks. I occasionally get curious about relationships among these folks, since odd relationships do pop up now and then.

  13. #13 Eli Rabett
    June 15, 2008

    John, it’s a circle of jerks, mostly because you have a situation with the six folk who actually know some of the background material feeding a small group of propagandists surrounded by the cheering (and not to bright) mob. Small numbers mean that the links are tight.

  14. #14 Renee
    June 22, 2008

    Hi Tim, thanks for linking to us. Though I confess I’m quite perplexed to find myself on the same side as Brent Herbert on anything! But that is another matter entirely. 🙂

    About bedbugs and DDT, people just love, love the very idea of it. It’s hopeless. But occasionally fun.


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