The Intersection

Check it out here. In my view, the piece is kinda all over the place. It argues that left and right are both bad when it comes to the treatment of science, but really the only case study adduced on the leftwing side of things is the attack on E.O. Wilson and sociobiology from way back when. I too agree that the left is not immune from criticism when it comes to its treatment of science; I merely ask that we keep a sense of perspective when weighing the sins from the different sides on this subject.

I appreciate that the author of the National Journal piece, Paul Starobin, cited my work. However this is rather annoying:

Climate change is a centerpiece example in science writer Mooney’s recent best-seller, “The Republican War on Science.” The book is misleading in its implication that the assault on science comes from only one quarter, when in fact it comes from a motley crew, including the Left. Nevertheless, the GOP has certainly tried to develop a position on global warming, and that position itself seems somewhat unscientific.

Nothing like attacking a strawman. The “misleading…implication” that Starobin mentions, if it exists at all, is dispelled immediately once you actually open the book and read the first chapter.

Starobin swings for the fences in his conclusion as follows:

A fascinating, if somewhat frightening, societal experiment is under way. The question is whether democracy naturally advances science, or whether modern progress in science actually has less to do with heralded forms of government than with the fruit born of a special moment in historical time, the modern European Enlightenment, from which America, courtesy of the Founders, greatly benefited.

Gosh, I don’t think things are so bad off that we have to start wondering whether science might fare better under tyranny. Obviously democracy fosters the climate of intellectual openness that in turn allows science to thrive; but at the same time, democracy also gives people the inalienable right to act like idiots and ignore science. As usual, it’s the worst possible arrangement, except for all the other ones.

Comments

  1. #1 Walter
    July 30, 2006

    I admit, sometimes I wonder if all the focus — here on this blog and others on the site — on the political right’s attacks on science downplays the significance of those coming from the political left.

    When it comes to biotech crops I think that’s certainly true, for we certainly wouldn’t have the policies we see in Europe or Pacific Rim countries if it were not, in part, from scaremongering about the alleged human health and environmental effects coming from the left (aside from a more legitimate concern about the corporate control of our food production.)

    That said, it is the Republicans in control of the federal government right now, and as you’ve made clear before, there are two forces in the GOP that have merged to silence science — the religious right and corporations. But is the left really all that much better? I’ve dealt with enough liberals on other issues where the facts were murkier to know that they can be as close-minded as conservatives when it comes to data contradicting their beliefs (it’s just a symptom of intense ideology).

    At the moment I’m of the opinion that the left is friendlier to science only because many scientific findings reaffirm their beliefs, not because they have reached those beliefs by turning to science. After all, doesn’t global warming justify stereotypes about evil corporations? And doesn’t evolution and other sciences poke holes in the teachings of organized religion?

    While I doubt we would ever see the same sort of attacks on science coming from Democrats, I’m betting the only reason we haven’t seen more of it is because the Dems as a whole tend to be a more moderate party than the GOP.

  2. #2 Chris Mooney
    July 30, 2006

    Walter,
    Thanks for these thoughtful comments. I agree with almost everything you say. But if you look at the “war on science” from the perspective of its consequences to U.S. policy today, I still don’t think there’s any comparison, even though I’m also pretty convinced that from the standpoint of consequences, the attack on GMOs has been one of the “left’s” more egregious maneuvers….

  3. #3 Lance Harting
    July 30, 2006

    Walter, I think you are spot on when you say, “I’ve dealt with enough liberals on other issues where the facts were murkier to know that they can be as close-minded as conservatives when it comes to data contradicting their beliefs (it’s just a symptom of intense ideology).”

    The leftist opposition to GM crops is just the most recent glaring example of anti-scientific emotional attacks from the left. Pesticides such as DDT are attacked on almost religious grounds rather than real science by the environmental left. Nuclear energy, which surely will be important if global warming advocates succeed in removing significant amounts of fossil fuels from the economy, is still an emotional hot button for most leftists.

    Even discussion of evidence for the genetic superiority of biochemical and muscle composition of people of West African descent is verboten because of liberal dogmatic beliefs. Check the record books for the last thirty years and you’ll find that every record for distances less than 400 meters is held by a person of West African descent. My wife is Ethiopian and they, and their East African cousins the Kenyans, dominate almost all long distance events for other genetically linked reasons. Anyone who watches sports knows this fact but no one dares talk about it because of the retributions that will be visited on you by liberals for stating such “racist” ideas. Don’t believe me ask Jimmy “The Greek” who’s career ended about ten minutes after he posited an ad hoc explanation to this obvious fact.

    Even on climate change those on the left are eager to declare the “debate over” now that they perceive a “consensus” that they hope will be politically advantageous to their cause.

    Dogmatic adherence to ideology in the face of contradictory scientific evidence knows no “left” or “right”.

  4. #4 Walter
    July 30, 2006

    Thanks, Chris, for responding. And ironically, I don’t disagree with you about the consequences of the right’s attack on science, given they’re the ones in control of the government at the moment.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the main difference in how left treats science is it exaggerates what is known about an issue or the risks associated with a problem, whereas the right plays up the doubts. For example, a pollutant with only a tiny risk to human health is an unacceptable risk in the eyes of many a liberal, whereas conservatives would deny that a problem even exists.

    With a liberal government, I don’t think you would see the same sort of silencing of scientists that you see today, but I’m betting there would be a lot of cherry-picking of scientific data to justify excessive regulations.

    Lance, I don’t know a whole lot about the issues you raised, although the effect of DDT on predatory birds and aquatic life is reasonably well established (from what I gather from a quick google search). Making the leap to human health is far trickier. I agree with you on nuclear power, although we definately need to find safer ways to transport the waste. And when it comes to nature v. nuture, I think you have to be careful to chalk up all human traits to one or the other, although you’re right — when someone suggests that some characteristic or behavior may be genetic, it’s usually the left that comes out swinging.

    And as far as Jimmy the Greek, he didn’t present his theory in the most, uh, diplomatic of ways: “The slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid.” Big black? Sorry, that’s just plain offensive.

  5. #5 Lance Harting
    July 31, 2006

    Hey Walter,

    I agree with your nuanced discussion of the way different political leaners will abuse science.

    Although I am no biochemist my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed and no link to human illness has ever been demonstrated.

    Millions of people are infected with Malaria each year. Many of them fatally and DDT was a very potent weapon in the fight against that disease. My Ethiopian brother-in-law, Bereket, suffers from Malaria.

    I find it infuriating that some environmental advocates make unsupportable links between global warming and Malaria, when many of them are the same people that fought to remove DDT from the arsenal of countries actually facing this terrible disease.

    Note that I said “discussion” of the evidence for a genetic link between athletic performance and ethnicity is verboten.

    While I find the scientific, and anecdotal, evidence compelling I also make no claim that the issue is settled. If you search “Why black athletes are faster and why we are afraid to talk about it”, you will find a very compelling and scientific summary on the subject.

    My point was that the mere discussion will get you in hot water if you happen to work at say Harvard University, a bastion of liberal thought. No subject should be “off limits” from scientific inquiry based on political biases.

    Note also that I generously referred to “The Greek’s” remarks as “ad hoc”. They were demeaning at worst and ignorantly insensitive at best, but I note that I recently heard Chris Rock, who I think is a great comedian, get away with essentially the same explanation. I think his skin color immunized him from a PC witch-hunt. Of course “The Greek” was working for CBS and they had every right to fire him.

    The interplay between science and politics is a fascinating business and that is what has drawn me to Chris’ blog.

  6. #6 Lettuce
    July 31, 2006

    OTOH, the science community is not immune from criticism either.

    When you refuse to get involved, or pretend each side is, or might be, or could be argued to be, “equally” bad; don’t be surprised when your natural allies decide, “screw you, I have things to get accomplished.”

    And your protestations when you’re left unfunded about the moral and intellectual value of your pursuits may fall on deaf ears.

    Some of us are in politics because there are people to save, lives to enrich.

    Yes, science enriches them.

    No, I can’t be bothered to go to bat for those who won’t go to bat for me.

    It’s getting really, really late in the game to be debating this stuff.

  7. #7 guthrie
    July 31, 2006

    DDT has not been banned from use in controlling malaria. It is still in use today. It is a typical right wing canard flung around with regularity online.
    For fuller details, see here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/ddt/

    As for discussion of genetic links between athletic performance and ethnicity, I must have been on a different planet when I saw those media reports about how they had found genes in I think some Kenyans that meant they were better at long distance running. (Of course, I am in the UK, which is often a more sensible place than the USA).

    Speaking as a leftie, I agree that silliness is not related to political outlook, but I do think these things come and go, and just now the most powerful widespread anti-science movements (Apart from the generic old time stuff that is still around somewhere) are from “The right”.

  8. #8 David Bruggeman
    July 31, 2006

    Chris wrote:

    “Starobin swings for the fences in his conclusion as follows:

    “A fascinating, if somewhat frightening, societal experiment is under way. The question is whether democracy naturally advances science, or whether modern progress in science actually has less to do with heralded forms of government than with the fruit born of a special moment in historical time, the modern European Enlightenment, from which America, courtesy of the Founders, greatly benefited.”

    “Gosh, I don’t think things are so bad off that we have to start wondering whether science might fare better under tyranny. Obviously democracy fosters the climate of intellectual openness that in turn allows science to thrive; but at the same time, democracy also gives people the inalienable right to act like idiots and ignore science. As usual, it’s the worst possible arrangement, except for all the other ones.”

    Given Starobin’s quote from de Tocqueville about the need for meditation for science and the lack of meditation within democracy, I think he’d agree with you. His argument is not what political system is best suited for science (there was an academic argument for democracy by Robert Merton in the WWII era), but that perhaps modern science is more a child of the Enlightenment than a child of democracy per se.

  9. #9 Fred Bortz
    July 31, 2006

    If anyone reading this thread hasn’t read Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science, you now have excellent incentive to do so. It provokes interesting debate about the way people want to see their political system operating with respect to science.

    My review of the original hardcover at http://www.scienceshelf.com/RepublicanWaronScience.htm starts by questioning both the word “Republican” in the title and the hypothesis that there is a war on science. I end by noting that Chris makes a strong case for both, but more importantly, opens the topic to discussion.

    I haven’t snagged an assignment to review the paperback yet, but I’m eager to see what changes Chris made and how people respond to them.

  10. #10 Dark Tent
    July 31, 2006

    “I believe the main difference in how left treats science is it exaggerates what is known about an issue or the risks associated with a problem, whereas the right plays up the doubts.”

    Words like “exaggerate the risks” and “play up the doubts” (as used in normal everyday life) are highly subjective and not always particularly meaningful.

    It is precisely to minimize such subjectivity that science attempts to quantify uncertainties.

    A major problem arises when people try to apply the scientific uncertainties directly to their own lives.

    These uncertainties often (usually?) do not translate particularly well from science to everyday life and because the scientists usually do not bother to translate, the public is too often left at the mercy of others (nonscientists) who would translate for them.

    I’d say the scientists need to do a much better job of translating scientific uncertainties into public risks, so that the job is not left largely to politicians and others who may neithern understand the science nor even have the public interest at heart.

    If each member of the public had a little card (and was educated to understand it) that showed relative risks (eg the chance of dying in an auto accident relative to the chance of dying in a plane accident) they would be in a much better position to judge risks for themselves.

    In such a case, terms like “exaggerate” and “doubt” would take on a much more concrete meaning than they now do and I suspect that people would not be as susceptible as they now are to real exaggeration, and to manipulation by others with regard to such risks.

  11. #11 Dark Tent
    July 31, 2006

    Lance Harting: “Although I am no biochemist my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”

    Which studies? (references?)

    Performed on which bird species? (It matters)

    Specifically, how did the later studies (references?) demonstrate that all the former ones (eg, done on falcon populations by Cade, Berger, Fyfe, Linden, Walker, Burnham, Mattox, Springer, Seeger and others) were “seriously flawed”?

    By the way, perhaps you should notify the people at the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology (one of theworld’s premier research centers for birds), because they are obvioulsy under the misguided notion (poor things) that the Peregrine Falcon was severly impacted at one time in the US by DDT use:

    “A victim of reproductive failure due to the eggshell-thinning effects of DDT contamination, by the 1960s the bird’s numbers had dwindled to the point that no nesting pairs could be found in the eastern United States, and it was fast diminishing elsewhere on the continent.”

    http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/conservation/success/peregrine_falcon

    PS Perhaps you should also notify this Cornell Professor, who is obviously very deluded, since he thinks he knows the actual mechanism involved in eggshell thinning.

  12. #12 Lance Harting
    July 31, 2006

    guthrie, while it is true that some DDT use is allowed in some third world countries it is still banned in most countries including the US. It is not a panacea but it is far from the feckless poison that your link portrays it to be. The countries and NGOs that do use DDT fought an uphill battle against political opposition not founded on legitimate science.

    Your link mentions Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring perhaps the prototypical leftist enviro-scare screed. It praises Carson for giving a “…vivid portrayal of the horrors wrought by the chemical.” Never mind that none of those “horrors” turned out to be scientifically valid.

    While there is a great deal of evidence that DDT is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, which is hardly surprising since it is designed to kill a wide range of invertebrate arthropods, its effects on birds and mammals were largely exaggerated in early studies including the one on eggshell thickness.

    Carson painted an especially frightening picture of a link to human cancers, which is completely unsupported by the science of the last forty years. She of course used that most effective, and morally underhanded, technique of playing up the fear of children being especially vulnerable which was total hogwash.

    This shows the power of these kinds of politically motivated pseudo-scientific polemics. A certain slide show by a former VP comes to mind.

    Anyway the point is that scare mongering based on political distortion of science interfered with the rational policy decisions to use DDT as part of an effective mosquito control program. While the number of lives lost can be debated there is no doubt that many were sacrificed in the name of environmental politics.

    guthrie, I’m glad to hear that a program discussing a genetic link to Kenyan’s distance running abilities was aired in the UK. Nothing of the sort has aired here in the US as far as I know.

    Oh, by the way I notice you don’t capitalize your name, as appears to be fashionable in blogs. This may sound petty but I find it distracting and of course it snags in my spell checker. Is there any reason other than fashion for the breaking with the rules of English? No offense just always wondered why some people do this.

  13. #13 Matthew C. Nisbet
    July 31, 2006

    You have to remember that National Journal is an expensive subscription print and online mag that caters to both the right and left policy audience in DC. To go against a careful balance would anger half their subscription base, and chill access to half their regular sources.

  14. #14 Lance Harting
    July 31, 2006

    OK Mr. Tent, (may I call you Dark?)

    I’ll have to find those references. I agree that I should have listed them in my post but I spend too much time writing these things as it is. Also embarrassingly, I don’t know how to make those pretty little blue html links being fairly new to this whole blogging thing.

    Anyway I notice you didn’t challenge my statements about the links to human cancer that were the most apocalyptic pronouncements in Carson’s book. Good luck finding any valid studies supporting those contentions.

  15. #15 Lance harting
    July 31, 2006

    DT (It would be ironic if your middle initial was “D”),

    Here is a link to a list of issues with the DDT-eggshell studies that were used to ban DDT.

    http://www.junkscience.com/ddtfaq.htm#ref6

    As I said I am not a biochemist but there is no doubt that politics played a large role in these studies being used to gun down DDT.

  16. #16 M1EK
    July 31, 2006

    Lance,

    You’re engaging in a stereotypical attempt at false balance. As others have noted and you have yet to refute, the supposed equivalence of “DDT science” and “climate science” is simply not true, or even truthy. If anybody here is engaging in “junk science”, it would be you.

  17. #17 Fred Bortz
    July 31, 2006

    C’mon, Lance!

    If you can’t do better than junkscience.com for your citations, then you really don’t understand the point of The Republican War on Science.

    By the way, if you prefix http-colon-slash-slash to the URL citation and leave a space or “return” on each side, it comes up as a hot link, like this

    http://www.scienceshelf.com/RepublicanWaronScience.htm

  18. #18 evolvealready
    July 31, 2006

    There is no question there are Luddites and scientifically ignorant and illiterate folks on the left and right of the political spectrum. Richard Dawkins has often criticised Greens for their attacks of GM crops. PZ Myers over at Pharyngula said something to the effect,(totally paraphrasing here.) “Yeah, we scientists have been all over the GOP of late, but that’s just because they’ve been the most anti-science of our two political parties. Democrats beware. You start acting the same way and we’ll be beating up on you too!” Chris even mentioned the irrational attacks from the left on E.O. Wilson over sociobiology. There’s no real debate regarding this.

    Now…I suppose it’d be awfully fun to talk about why blacks are faster than whites. It might even be a real hoot to discuss whether Ethiopians are not a different race of human, but a different species of human. (For the irony impared…that wasn’t a serious request!) For me, however, the GOP’s abuse of science in the latter half of the 20th century and up to today, from a political and institutional level, is of much greater concern.

  19. #19 Dark Tent
    July 31, 2006

    Lance Harting: “Anyway I notice you didn’t challenge my statements about the links to human cancer that were the most apocalyptic pronouncements in Carson’s book. Good luck finding any valid studies supporting those contentions.”

    Funny, I didn’t even realize I was referring to “Carson’s book.”

    My post was specifically in response to your statement regarding bird eggshells and DDT : “my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”.

    I visited the Cornell Ornithology lab on numerous occasions over the first 2 1/2 decades of my life and from these visits, learned something (or at least thought I had) about the link between DDT and raptor population declines.

    A scientist at that lab (Tom Cade) actually began the pergrine reintroduction program back in the early 70′s and what you said above was certainly news to me, and would undoubtedly be news to Cade and probably all the scientists who operate the Cornell lab today, as well.

    Somehow, I doubt Cornell would be claiming that the peregrine falcon “was a victim of reproductive failure due to the eggshell-thinning effects of DDT contamination”
    http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/conservation/success/peregrine_falcon
    if they thought that the studies upon which this conclusion was based were seriously flawed, as you indicated above.

    You might be right, but don’t tell me. Contact the Cornell Ornithology Lab and tell them.

  20. #20 evolvealready
    July 31, 2006

    For anyone interested, here’s a little something on Steven Milloy, the fellow Lance Harting references above at JunkScience.com regarding DDT.

    http://info-pollution.com/dangerously.htm

    Apparently, he’s a tad dishonest. I’m soooo surprised!

  21. #21 Davis
    July 31, 2006

    Anyway I notice you didn’t challenge my statements about the links to human cancer that were the most apocalyptic pronouncements in Carson’s book.

    Looking at the order or comments here, you didn’t even give DT a chance to respond before claiming this. Not to mention the fact that you’re being a bit silly asking DT to defend Carson’s cancer claim, since you’re the only one who even brought that up.

    And I can’t helped but be amused that you link to Milloy’s “Junk Science” site on Chris’s blog; in his book Chris notes (several times) Milloy’s efforts in further politicizing science.

  22. #22 evolvealready
    July 31, 2006

    And a little more:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Steve_Milloy

    Seems Mr Milloy has close ties and receives $$$$ from Phillip Morris and ExxonMobil. Oh, and he doesn’t think it important to mention this to anyone.

    Again, I’m shocked!

  23. #23 Dark Tent
    July 31, 2006

    I looked at the references on the Milloy site that you provided the address for above
    http://www.junkscience.com/ddtfaq.htm#ref6

    A couple comments:

    Not all, but certainly many (if not most) of the refernces in the section
    “VI. Egg-shell thinning :DDT was alleged to have thinned bird egg shells” on the Milloy site are studies performed on poultry.

    Not a single one of the studies in that section on “eggshell thinning” directly investigated the possible effect of DDT on falcon eggshells (which the studies I referred to above dealt with.)

    Milloy merely attempts to dismiss the finding by others (that thinning of falcon eggshells is related to DDT) by claiming that “many other substances and conditions could have been responsible” for the thinning, but that certainly does nothing to refute a study indicating that DDT leads to eggshell thinning in falcons.

    As I indicated above, if one is to refute a study done on peregrine falcons, one simply must do another study on peregrines. It is not valid to claim that a study of chickens applies to falcons, which may have quite different biochemistry.

    Given the choice between what Milloy is claiming about the lack of a link between DDT and eggshell-thinning in wild birds and what the falcon researchers that I referenced above (Cade, Berger, Fyfe, Linden, Walker, Burnham, Mattox, Springer, Seeger) and those at Cornell Ornithology lab say about the same issue — specifically, that there was such a link in pregrine falcons — there is simply no contest, as far as I am concerned.

  24. #24 Lance Harting
    July 31, 2006

    Hold on there fellers,

    I knew you guys would come unglued when you saw the http://junkscience.com link.
    Why don’t you comment on the studies mentioned by the nefarious Mr. Milloy instead of dismissing them because they are assembled at his site? Must I point out the logical fallacy in this approach? I am well aware of Mr. Milloy’s motivations and sponsors, they don’t invalidate his evidence.

    DT my apologies, as Davis rightly points out, I had written the post about Silent Spring before I noted that you hadn’t responded to it, but it hadn’t posted before your reply. Sorry but it can be difficult to remember in what order recent posts were made especially when they are awaiting review and have not been posted. Again sorry for any aggravation this may have caused.

    evolvealready you malign junkscience.com by linking to info-pollution.com and sourchwatch.com two highly political “watch dog” sites started by ideologues on the left.

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Jim Norton’s http://www.info-pollution.com is an environmental mutual admiration society / hit squad. He mostly quotes Mann and the boys over at Realclimate on climate science. Need I remind you gents about a recent congressional hearing on Mr. Mann’s work?

    http://www.soucewatch.com is quick to slander anyone that opposes their leftist ideological causes while giving a pass to any source whose heart is in the right (er left?) place. Want independent verification? Go to sourcewatch.com and enter Morris Dee’s corrupt, money grubbing Southern Poverty Law Center and see if you find any of the richly deserved criticism that has come his way even from honest sources on the left. The “watch dog” seems to snooze when scoundrels on the left creep by.

    The fact that Chris’ book also attacks http://www.junkscience.com is hardly surprising considering its premise, that the right is the main culprit in distorting science. Not to mention his own political leanings, to which he is of course entitled, but let’s not pretend he is a neutral observer or a scientist for that matter. He is first and foremost a political writer. A good one from what I have read.

    Did any of you even check out the peer reviewed studies I referenced, or are you content to let source.watch and info-pollution tell you what to think?

    Back to the original topic, I am not a Republican and will gladly agree that the Bush administration bends science to fit it’s political goals, let’s just not pretend that the other side of the isle is populated by scientific purists that are lead solely by the empirical evidence with no regard to their political agenda.

    Hehe, evolvealready, leave off the Habesha people. They are a slender, peaceful bunch until you get them riled. Just ask the Italians that tried unsuccesfully to colonize them.

    P.S. Fred thanks for the tip on posting web addresses. How do you get just a word like, here, to turn blue and link to a URL?

  25. #25 Lance Harting
    July 31, 2006

    DT,

    Perhaps you missed the study on pelicans and the one on Red Tail Hawks and Golden Eagles [Hickey, JJ and DW Anderson. 1968. Science 162: 271-273. A study need not be conducted on every species of bird to be valuable in assessing the effects of a chemical compound.

    I will try to find the other information I saw in the past critical of the studies on Falcons and Eagles. It’s not like a keep a file handy on everything I have ever read.

    The link you give to the Cornell Ornithology Lab just makes casual reference to the link between DDT and Peregrine Falcon health. It conducts no research on the topic and sites no evidence on the topic.

    In any event I took your advice and sent a considerate request for information on the pertinent studies on which they base their statement of a link between DDT and the health of Peregrine Falcon populations.

    Believe it or not I am open to new information from people in the field.

    Why are none of you, other than Walter, acknowledging the fact that people on the left are also quite capable of distorting science to meet their political goals? I know I make a great foil for you liberal angst but try to address the point anyway.

  26. #26 Fred Bortz
    July 31, 2006

    Lance, when others cite the Cornell Lab and you cite junkscience.com in reply, you start looking like the troll you were when you first began posting here.

    I think DT made the point nicely when he went to those junkscience links and pointed out the fallacy. Chickens are not falcons. And you berate us for not trusting the site as a source of science? Shame on you for that!

    To make a word or phrase turn into a hotlink, you need to surround it with an html anchor. See http://htmlgoodies.com for example — although my MAC OSX and Firefox browser seem unsuccessful in creating such anchors. Other html code, like italics, works for me.

  27. #27 Fred Bortz
    July 31, 2006

    By the way, Lance, I am offended by your characterization of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Perhaps you need to look at their “Teaching Tolerance” curriculum, where some of my money has been, in your words, grubbed. I don’t approve of all their political stances, but I certainly support their message of Teaching Tolerance and their diligence at pointing out KKK and neo-Nazi cells in places too close to home for most of us.

    Shame on you for spewing such venom on an organization that places human dignity and decency at its center, just because you think they are too far left on some other issues.

  28. #28 Walter
    July 31, 2006

    Lance, I really don’t want to get drawn into this, but these guys have a point about you using Steve Milloy. He has an established record of selectively picking and distorting evidence. While I would usually agree with you about attacking the messenger rather than the message, his history of misrepresentation is so lengthy it can’t be ignored: http://skepdic.com/refuge/junkscience.html

    Plus, I have to speak up for Jim Norton, who — as far as I know — was one of the first people on the web to start documenting the distortions coming out of the anti-environmental crowd. His information has always been reliable and he keeps a pretty darn good “practical skeptism” section that’s worth checking out. Dismissing Norton as simply an ideologue is unfair.

  29. #29 evolvealready
    July 31, 2006

    Lance says: “Why are none of you, other than Walter, acknowledging the fact that people on the left are also quite capable of distorting science to meet their political goals?”

    Clearly you missed a few posts. Or you saw them and chose to ignore them. Which is it?

  30. #30 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    Fred,

    The studies listed on bird shell thickness and DDT at junkscience are peer reviewed and to the point. Besides Dark Tent’s out of hand dismissal of the studies because they don’t pertain specifically to one species of raptor I haven’t heard any valid criticism other than bad faith “poisoning the well” remarks because the studies were listed at a particular site.

    I am looking for the criticisms of the studies Dark Tent has mentioned but haven’t found them yet. As I said I don’t keep a “debunking left wing science claims” file handy so it may take me a day or so.

    Do a little research on Morris Dee’s Southern Poverty Law Center. I don’t want to start an unending string of posts with links, but it isn’t too hard to find out that his organization is greatly criticized by charity watch organizations for spending the vast majority of its expenditures on fund raising and lavish salaries and even critics on the left have disparaged his under handed practices.

    While I don’t consider Wikipedia to be the best reference, check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Dees and look at even the “Criticism from the left” if you like.

    Fred, I am not a “troll” just because I hold different opinions on some topics that are close to your heart. Sorry you didn’t like junkscience’s author but as I said the studies are legitimate peer reviewed work and they show that DDT is not linked to thinning eggshells.

    Oh and thanks again for the info on html anchors.

  31. #31 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    Etu Walter?

    I only used the link to junkscience because it had a nice round up of some of the studies that demonstrate the problems with linking DDT to eggshell thickness. Although I am not so sure that Milloy is quite the scoundrel that you and others paint him to be.

    As far as Jim Norton being an ideologue I only know what I divine from reading the things posted at his site http://info_pollution.org . One obvious sign that he is weighting the deck is that he makes no mention of the recent indictments of Mann’s work.

    While he devotes an entire page with numerous links to ridiculing and distorting McIntyre and Mc Kitrick’s work, bearing the heavily biased title “Correcting Myths from McIntyre and McKitrick”, he makes no mention that it turns out MBH98 was the myth.

    This shoddy page of disinformation is mostly links to Mann’s Realclimate, how’s that for independent verification of criticism of Mann’s work? Perhaps most telling is that he makes no mention of the recent destruction of Mann’s most famous study MBH98 by Wegman et al, virtually endorsing Messers M&M’s previous deconstruction of said study.

    That is simply dishonest from a site that claims to be unbiased and focused only on the science. Mann’s work took a pounding and yet this beacon of truth makes no mention of this fact.

    If kicking MBH98 out from under the AGW table is so minor why not post the Wegman review? Maybe because Mann’s Realclimate is his major, almost only really, source of climate science information. If you use the search feature at http://info_poluution.org and enter Wegman exactly zero entries appear. How’s that for open and honest?

    Perhaps you should read Wegman et al, http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/home/07142006_Wegman_Report.pdf and decide for yourself who is the one “polluting” the information climate.

    You seem like an honest Joe so I’ll be interested in your reply.

    Lance

  32. #32 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    evolvealready, I think I saw Walter make the point that “liberals” can be as willing to bend science to fit their ideology as the right. Chris grudgingly agreed while tossing in “I still don’t think there’s any comparison” just to point the “fickle finger of fate” back where he obviously thinks it belongs.

    Did I miss any others? I have been too busy looking up bird’s eggshell thickness studies to keep up I’m afraid.

    There certainly has been no hardy “Here! Here!” to my suggestion that parties on both sides are guilty of this offense.

  33. #33 guthrie
    August 1, 2006

    Whilst I’m glad you admit that DDT is not a panacea, Lance, it is somewhat disingenous to start talking about people calling it a feckless poison. I liked to Deltoid because the people there do not tend to get too overheated.

    I have a copy of “silent spring” at home. Whilst it has been an important book for large parts of the community, to smear it as a protoypical leftist environmental screed is far from the truth. Have you read it? Does it make any statement sbeyond “look at what has been done with these chemicals- what is likely to happen if we keep on using them?”. Can you point to any science in it that was wrong? And, where does it talk about cancer?

    Also, if your trying to smear Gore with the slide show reference, that is pretty poor. Find us some climate scientists who disagree with his slide show.

    [quote]
    “While the number of lives lost can be debated there is no doubt that many were sacrificed in the name of environmental politics.”[/quote]

    Ok, find us some mosquito control programs that were prevented from using DDT. If you can find them, let us know, since no one has presented evidence of one to date.

    Ahhh, the rules of english. I suppose I dont capitalise it because it is my middle name, and for 7 or 8 years that I have had my e-mail etc my name has been in lower case, thus i have just signed things in lower case. No particular reason. Think of it as the harbinger of further changes in English.

  34. #34 evolvealready
    August 1, 2006

    For Lance: Yes, Chris and, yes, Walter commented about the Left.

    And here’s this from ‘guthrie’ above, “Speaking as a leftie, I agree that silliness is not related to political outlook…”

    Also in this thread, from yours truly, “There is no question there are Luddites and scientifically ignorant and illiterate folks on the left and right of the political spectrum. Richard Dawkins has often criticised Greens for their attacks of GM crops. PZ Myers over at Pharyngula said something to the effect,(totally paraphrasing here.) “Yeah, we scientists have been all over the GOP of late, but that’s just because they’ve been the most anti-science of our two political parties. Democrats beware. You start acting the same way and we’ll be beating up on you too!” Chris even mentioned the irrational attacks from the left on E.O. Wilson over sociobiology. There’s no real debate regarding this.”

    Lastly, Dark Tent’s first post up there was a very even handed discussion about science and politics without attacking anything or anyone on the Right.

    Now you’ll probably come back with that’s not enough people or they aren’t vociferous enough for your taste or they don’t get up and cheer for your ideas. That seems to be your style, Lance. Make a blanket statement, and when it’s pointed out to be false you say well that’s not good enough. You simply can’t just say oops I was wrong can you? It’s hard to take you seriously buddy.

    And one last thing. How ’bout you pic the research paper you think best supports your position on DDT and link to that actual paper, maybe even post a few choice nuggets from that paper itself, and let us all have a discussion on the scientific merits. We can leave out all the middle man/websites which, clearly, nobody takes seriously anyway.

  35. #35 Fred Bortz
    August 1, 2006

    Lance, if it provokes like a troll and spews venom like a troll, I treat it as a troll.

    I will not respond to you directly any more, because you revert to troll mode when I least expect it.

    As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, I targeted my gift to Teaching Tolerance http://www.tolerance.org/ I’m sorry that you consider my contribution wasted. Perhaps others will follow my lead and waste their money fighting hatred and prejudice through that SPLCenter project.

    My objection was not to your factual statements about SPLCenter’s funding but to the tone and the ad hoc demeaning of the organization when it had nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

    That is the tactic of either a very angry, nasty person or a provocateur of negativity.

    I hope you will stop turning what could be interesting discussions into a display of your tactics. In any case, I plan to ignore you from now on.

  36. #36 Dark Tent
    August 1, 2006

    lance Harting says: “The link you give to the Cornell Ornithology Lab just makes casual reference to the link between DDT and Peregrine Falcon health. It conducts no research on the topic and sites no evidence on the topic.”

    Tom Cade, one of the very first researchers to study the effects of DDT on peregrine falcons was a Cornell scientist back in the seventies and whether or not he still is (or whether anyone else there is still doing research on falcons) detracts not one iota from the fact that Cornell Ornothology lab is one of the premier bird labs in the world.

    They were the ones who recently tracked down the Ivory bill that was thought to be extinct. I simply find it exceedingly difficult to believe that they would be perpetuating a myth about peregrines and DDT.

    Perhaps you think they know less about the effects of DDT on peregrine falcons (and other raptors) than, say, some guy with a “junk science” website?

    Perhaps those other scientists that I named who studied peregrines above are all wrong as well: Berger, Fyfe, Linden, Walker, Burnham, Mattox, Springer, Seeger.

    Or perhaps these raptor scientists(at the Santa Cruz Predatory bird research Group” at UC, santa Cruz are also all full of bunk?

    And perhaps this is bunk as well?
    http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/MU9930001.htm

    And perhaps this guy’s study on falcons in 1992 is crap?
    http://www.fws.gov/ifw2es/Documents/R2ES/FinalReportOrganoAplomado.pdf

    Or this study on peregrines in Alaska in 1995

    http://www.fws.gov/Endangered/esb/2000/01-04/18-19.pdf

    Let’s be reasonable about this, shall we?

    I have not read the long list of papers (mostly on chickens and DDT) that are reference on Milloy’s site and I would suspect that neither have you.

    Let’s assume, however, for argument these were good studies (carried out according to proper protocols, etc).

    Now, though you are certianly entitled to believe (a priori) that there is little or no biochemical difference between chickens (or some other bird species) and peregrin falcons with regard to DDT or its metabolic products, that don’t make it so.

    After all, chimpanzees are closely related to humans (more closely than chickens are to peregrine falcons, at any rate) but chimps are not affected by HIV. Why do you suppose that might be? It could not have anything to do with different biochemistry in different species, could it?

  37. #37 Jon Winsor
    August 1, 2006

    The article Chris links to seems a bit loopy. I think it’s trying to do the balance thing, trying to sound all above the fray. But it ends up sounding silly:

    In a recent Web posting on the prospect of a confrontation between the U.S. and Iran, the Union of Concerned Scientists declared that Iran “does not represent a direct or imminent threat to the United States.” That is a policy judgment, not a scientific conclusion…

    Which does sound strange, until you read the offending UCS post:

    Recent reports suggest that the Bush administration is considering using nuclear weapons against Iran.

    Well yeah, if the Bush administration is thinking of using nukes on Iran (as Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reported) that sounds like something the the UCS would be interested in. Nukes have been a longstanding concern of theirs.

    Then there’s this:

    In 15 years of polling, scientists “have always stood out as among the most Democratic of the elites,” Michael Dimock, associate director of the Pew Research Center, said in an interview.

    Thus the science community, even if at times a reluctant warrior, is itself contributing to the polarization that afflicts America’s political culture. Viewed by the Founders as part of the glue that binds American democracy, the scientist is in danger of becoming a force for its increasing fragmentation.

    If scientists have always “stood out” as progressives, possibly all the way back to Franklin, Jefferson, Voltaire, etc., as Starobin suggests, how is it that they’re now suddenly “becoming a force for polarization”? And is checking a certain box on your voter registration form a “polarizing” act? Couldn’t you just do that and go play golf or something?

    I think Starobin fails completely to make the case that the scientist is “emerg[ing] as an increasingly partisan and self-interested figure.”

    He might be onto something when he alludes back to the Enlightenment, which was about human reason versus tradition, custom, and authority. It would make sense that scientists would tend to be progressive. “Dare to know.” Use reason versus appealing to arbitrary authority. Could it be that scientists’ use of reason has not changed, but the exersize of authority has? This isn’t anything Starobin considers with any depth.

  38. #38 Dark Tent
    August 1, 2006

    Jon said: “if the Bush administration is thinking of using nukes on Iran (as Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reported) that sounds like something the the UCS would be interested in. Nukes have been a longstanding concern of theirs.”

    That is exactly right. Nuclear weapons have long been a concern of scientists in general and physicists in particular.

    Since WWI, they have had very good reason to be concerned. They have understood both the physics of the weapons and the public health issues related to use of nukes better than anyone else.

    And for some inexplicable reason (one would think 60 years would be more than enough time for the politicians to get a clue), even after so long, scientists still seem to understand the political issues surrounding nukes better than most other people as well.

    The use of nuclear weapons is both a political and a scientific issue. Even the use of tactical weapons like bunker busters has a scientific component which determines not only the potential effectiveness (for busting the bunker), but also the fallout and possible human casualties.

    Some politicans seem to consider the use of nukes as if it were one more option in the arsenal, just like all the others.

    Thank goodness for the scientists is all I can say. For a long time now, they have brought a measure of sober reality to the whole discussion about nuclear weapons that is sorely absent from most other “debating circles”.

  39. #39 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    evolvealready,

    I was wrong; there are several other comments in this thread acknowledging that the left can play games with politics. My mistake. I should have reviewed before making my wounded appeal.

    Fred,

    Did you even read the large volume of criticism of Morris Dee’s and his Southern Poverty Law Center at Wikipedia I linked to? The man, IMO, is a self-promoting charlatan. The criticisms are far too numerous to list here, not to mention off topic.

    My point was that sourcewatch doesn’t list a single problem of the many identified by charity watch groups, or mainstream newspaper and magazine investigations. This shows that sourcewatch is not an impartial “watch dog” but a leftist attack dog period, regardless of your, or my, personal opinion of Dees and his organization.

    Dark Tent,

    I said I had contacted the Cornell Ornithology Lab directly on this point. I await their reply. The studies at junkscience are certainly relevant if not conclusive. I will read all the links you so kindly provided. I continue to try to access the information I read a while back that convinced me that the studies linking DDT to bird shell thickness were flawed. It may be that I will have to admit I was mistaken again. We’ll see.

    I thought your remark asking if I had read all the studies I linked to was a bit silly. I suppose you have read all the studies supporting the position that DDT is linked to egg shell thickness? I suspect you have done just what I have, looked at the title, read maybe the abstract, and also read the analysis listed at the site where you found the study. Unless of course you just really like biochemical studies of bird’s eggshells?

    guthrie,

    Thanks for the interesting info on the lack of capitals in your name. Perhaps Microsoft will teach Word to accept this new trend. I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring when I was twelve. It was given to our seventh grade class on the first Earth Day in 1970. It scared the hell out of me. I became a very committed environmentalist joining the WWF, the Sierra Club, and Green Peace.

    I read it again about ten years ago and felt completely manipulated. Have you read it? She most certainly does claim a link between DDT and human cancers, among other unsupported doomsday claims http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Spring . She painted a bleak picture of a nightmare future where humans were overwhelmed by toxic chemicals and nature was subdued and poisoned into a “silent spring”. Of course the evil chemical companies were the villains and she advocated political environmental action to save the day.

    Al Gore is attempting to follow in her footsteps. Sorry Al, I’m not twelve any more.

  40. #40 Stefan Jones
    August 1, 2006

    There’s a lovely bit in Brave New World where World Controller Mond fesses up that he was once a physicist. When his research took a politically dangerous turn, he was given the choice between continuing his studies in exile — never to be published or allowed to influence society — or give it up and join the World State’s power structure.

    In another scene, he’s seen going through a stack of research papers, deciding which will get published and which supressed. The actual practice of science, in the science-worshipping World State, is too destabilizing to be allowed free reign.

    I can imagine something subtler but no less destructive happening in our society; perhaps a “Sound Science” initiative where loyal political appointees and industry representatives review all research spending. If you want to imagine the future, picture George Deutch III stamping “REJECTED” on grant applications, forever.

  41. #41 evolvealready
    August 1, 2006

    Lance,

    A sincere thanks for your straight forward, candid response to me.

    Regarding your comments about Rachel Carson and Al Gore. All I’ll say is Carson’s book was not received well by the majority of the scientific community. Quite the opposite with Gore’s movie and book. You can belittle them both to your heart’s content, but there is a difference. The science in Gore’s movie is backed up thoroughly by the majority of climate scientists and various other scientists and scientific organizations the world over. Carson’s supporters could never say the same.

    Just sayin’.

  42. #42 Dark Tent
    August 1, 2006

    Lance Harting says: “I thought your remark asking if I had read all the studies I linked to was a bit silly.”

    What???? Do you need glasses, by any chance?

    Here’s what I actually said:

    “I have not read the long list of papers (mostly on chickens and DDT) that are reference on Milloy’s site and I would suspect that neither have you.”

    I said that just after I had asked the folowing question:

    “Perhaps you think they [Cornell Ornithology Lab] know less about the effects of DDT on peregrine falcons (and other raptors) than, say, some guy with a “junk science” website?”

    I posed that question precisely because I put a great deal of credence in the people who have devoted their lives to studying birds and some specifically to peregegrine falcons.

    If there is one thing about this whole “argument” that is ridiculous, it is the following: to expect that we are going to somehow settle this issue here by exchanging links to and looking at a few papers.

    We could go back and forth from now until the crows come home with links to this that and the other study but it would really be essentially meaningless because I am not a raptor expert and from what I have read, I would gather that neither are you (and no disrespect is intended by this).

    For either one of us to think that we are going to be able to absorb in a matter of a few hours of internet hunting the knowledge base that has been built up on DDT and peregrine falcons over the past 45 years would be absurd.

    When it comes to birds — particularly ones like the peregrine falcon with which their scientists have been intimately involved over the years — I would guess that bird labs like that at Cornell and the one at UC santa Cruz that I linked to above most likely know what they are talking about.

    I could be wrong, but, given the choice, I’d put my eggs in Cornell Ornithology Lab’s basket over Steve Milloy’s any day of the week.

  43. #43 Lance harting
    August 1, 2006

    evolvealready,

    I’d be the first one to admit that my blowhard to temperance ratio is above one. Although I proudly note that it is approaching single digits as I age.

    As a result I have had to adopt a self-correcting strategy of occasional reassessment of my positions. Show me I’m wrong and I’ll admit it, swallow hard and move on.

    You make a good point that Gore’s recent work enjoys more scientific support than Carson’s. It should be noted that despite the AP story, written immediately after the release of An Inconvenient Truth, there is no unanimity of opinion by climate scientists on the validity of Gore’s science or the dire conclusions he implies. Here is a partial list of scientists and there criticisms of Gore’s movie (note in an attempt to further lower my BH:T ratio I did not say “scarefest”) found at the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?id=257909&party=rep .

    Now I hope that the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is acceptable as a legitimate source. I wonder what sourcewatch says about it? I think I’ll go check.

  44. #44 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    Dark Tent,

    Sorry if the word silly struck a nerve. You had just hit me with a list of links to studies, spiced with sarcastic comments like, “And perhaps this guy’s study on falcons in 1992 is crap?” that you seemed to have great confidence proved your point. You only ceded that you had not read the studies on junkscience, after heaping derision on it and its author. I assumed you were implying that you HAD read the ones you linked to.

    I was in the process of writing something very similar to your following statement, “For either one of us to think that we are going to be able to absorb in a matter of a few hours of internet hunting the knowledge base that has been built up on DDT and peregrine falcons over the past 45 years would be absurd.” when I realized you had said it much more succinctly.

    Much of this blogging on science does unfortunately degenerate into a ping-pong game of googled links that neither poster has much knowledge of other than feeling that it supports their argument.

    That doesn’t mean that I find your appeal to authority totally convincing either. It is quite possible that the studies indicating a serious and valid causal link between raptor eggshell thickness and DDT were accepted, or not, by individual scientists in the field of ornithology when those studies were relevant and not much work has been done since.

    In light of the DDT ban there would be no real reason to continue to investigate the causal link since it would be of little importance to the health of birds in a relatively DDT free environment. DDT is not persistent in the environment by organic chemical standards.

    In any regard it was a sidetrack to my contention that those on the left side of the political spectrum can misuse science to promote their agendas as well as those on the right.

    This discussion has genuinely piqued my interest. While, as you point out, the issue probably can’t be settled by a few hours on Google that doesn’t mean I have to take the relatively short and unsupported statement at the Cornell Ornithological Center as gospel. At least not without a little further investigation.

  45. #45 evolvealready
    August 1, 2006

    Lance,
    OK, without getting into the legitimacy of the source…

    Title of the Press Item (henceforth known as PI) is: “AP INCORRECTLY CLAIMS SCIENTISTS PRAISE GORE’S MOVIE.”

    That is simply not true. Scientists did praise Gore’s movie. How many? How much praise? Certainly can be discussed. But the flat out assertion that they didn’t is false.

    The PI bemoans the fact that AP doesn’t name all the scientist they talked to, just a few. Yet the PI states there are “scores of scientists” who think Gore is wrong. They name exactly four. Double standards?

    I intend to look into much more of the claims and remarks and just who the four scientists they name are in actuality, but in the mean time I think Dark Tent was correct to state, “We could go back and forth from now until the crows come home with links to this that and the other study but…”

    One other thing, you said that there was no unanimity among scientists regarding the movie and the science within. I feel that that is an obvious understatement. I don’t believe that is the point in the end, though. There is a consensus with a large majority of climate scientists and scientific organizations all around the world. They outnumber those you agree with by a large margin. So it may be true no one has a monopoly on absolute, factual truth about everything–not the left nor the right nor anything in between–based on what I know, what I’ve read, who I respect, I’m going to throw my hat in with those who feel there is a real problem and are offering up ideas to help mitigate it. Things may look different for you. That’s cool. What we do to help fix the problem will benefit you and your family as well. You can thank us later. ;^}

    Selah

  46. #46 Fred Bortz
    August 1, 2006

    I said I wasn’t going to reply to Lance, but this one is too obvious and absurd not to throw back at him.

    I went to the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works link http://epw.senate.gov/pressitem.cfm?id=257909&party=rep .

    Lance writes: “Now I hope that the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is acceptable as a legitimate source.”

    This is a press release written by the majority staff of a committee chaired by Senator Inhofe, and we all know how he portrays this issue.

    It even cites a link at junkscience.com

    Scientists always consider the source, and in doing so, I conclude that is a political document written by someone with an agenda that includes distorting science.

    It also makes unreasonable demands about the AP’s revealing the names of scientists whose opinions it cites. Perhaps those scientists need to remain anonymous for professional reasons. News organizations are careful about such things, as the Senate committee well knows.

    I’m afraid Lance failed to detect a fellow blowhard this time.

  47. #47 Dark Tent
    August 2, 2006

    Lance said: “I assumed you were implying that you HAD read the ones you linked to.”

    As a matter of fact, I had read every paper that I linked to above before I linked to it.

    It should be clear that my above comment
    “I have not read the long list of papers (mostly on chickens and DDT) that are reference on Milloy’s site and I would suspect that neither have you.”

    was specific to the stuff on the Milloy site, and I didn’t link to that stuff, you did (remember?)

    You also said: “You only ceded that you had not read the studies on junkscience, after heaping derision on it and its author.’

    You either need glasses or you have a vivid imagination.

    Here’s what I actually said:

    “Perhaps you think they know less about the effects of DDT on peregrine falcons (and other raptors) than, say, some guy with a “junk science” website?”

    If that’s “heaping derision”, I’d say you have a very faint heart.

    “That doesn’t mean that I find your appeal to authority totally convincing either. It is quite possible [emphasis added] that the studies indicating a serious and valid causal link between raptor eggshell thickness and DDT were accepted, or not, by individual scientists in the field of ornithology when those studies were relevant and not much work has been done since.”

    I won’t pretend to guess what you mean my “not much”, but the fact is, studies of the effect of DDT on Peregrines have continued up till rather recently as the links that I provided above show.

    You use the word possible above, but with science, it is not that which is “possible”, but that which is “probable” that matters most. UFO’s might be possible, but they ain’t particularly probable.

    How “probable” is it that Corell ornithology lab (one of the top Ornithology labs and one whose scientists were intimately involved with studying the effect of DDT on peregrine falcons) and others like the UC Santa Cruz raptor lab that I linkesd to above are still perpetuating a “myth on DDT and eggshell thinning in peregrine falcons” 35 years later?

    Not very, I’d have to say.

    You seem to make a big deal about my “appeal to authority” on this, but I would simply say that no one can be an expert on everything and from your postings above, I’d also have to conclude that we are probably both in the same boat with regard to “appealing to authority” on falcons and DDT.

    If that were not the case you would certainly have been able to explain to me (after I questioned all the references to poultry on the junk science site) how studies done on the effect of DDT on chicken eggshells applied to peregrine falcons. I’m very dubious and I am still waiting for your explanation…

    We apparently just appeal to different authorities .
    I won’t pretend to say who yours is, but I make no bones about appealing to Cornell, because I know from firsthand experience that it is a top notch institution when it comes to birds (most other things as well — phsyics, chemistry, biology, veterinary medicine, etc but that’s beside the point).

  48. #48 Lance Harting
    August 2, 2006

    Fred,

    I am well aware of the low opinion of Senator Inhofe ’round these parts. It was an article in which Chris called Inhofe “Senator Crank” that brought me to this site. Chris was exhaling with considerable pressure himself in that article.

    I suppose that the subject of climate change really isn’t any different than other issues where politics play a role. There will be those that see it as a vehicle for advancing their political agendas on all sides of the issue.

    If the AP does not want to reveal the names of the scientists they claim support Gore’s movie then you have to question their claim. Well at least if you demand that claims be backed by verifiable evidence. If you are content to accept it because it fits well with your personal opinion that is your prerogative.

    evolvealready,

    If there is no impending disaster looming from AGW then imposing costly and restrictive policies of mitigation would be irrational. All politics aside it realy comes down to that simple point. Unfortunately I’m not sure that the politics can be totally separated from the science.

    The following conclusion by Wegman et al, in their recent Climate Change Assesment Report to the House Commitee on Energy and Commerce, expresses my reservations with the current “consensus” on climate change fairly well.

    “While the paleoclimate reconstruction has gathered much publicity because it reinforces a policy agenda, it does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change… What is needed is deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change.”

  49. #49 Lance Harting
    August 2, 2006

    Dark Tent,

    Here is the reply I received from the Cornell Ornithology Lab.

    Dear Lance,
    There is absolutely no doubt whatever that DDT has been scientifically linked to
    the thinning of egg shells in birds. The Peregrine Falcon was brought to the brink of
    extinction by this. A quick search of Google Scholar under the terms “Peregrine DDT
    damage” will bring you as many as you want. Here’s one as an example:
    http://www.jstor.org/view/03063127/ap010014/01a00020/0

    Anne Hobbs
    Public Information Specialist
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology
    http://www.birds.cornell.edu

    OK looks bad for me so far. I do note that she is a Public Information Specialist and that she suggests more Googling.

    I haven’t given up quite yet.

  50. #50 Fred Bortz
    August 2, 2006

    This really is my last reply to Lance.

    Read The Republican War on Science for documentation of the tactics of people like Inhofe and websites like junkscience.com

    Then you will understand why we give more credence to James Hansen, just to name one important scientist on this issue, than political operatives who kowtow to big money interests and try to silence Hansen.

    As for the issue of naming the scientists, I have no idea whether AP is keeping some sources anonymous because of journalistic ethics or simply that they only named those scientists whom they quote in their article. The point is that the press item you cited tried to discredit the AP for not listing all the people they talked to. That’s a sleazy bit of political posturing.

    I consider you either terribly misguided or a troll as long as you continually put Inhofe on an equal footing with Hansen on the science of this issue. Do you really believe, as Inhofe says repeatedly, that AGW is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated by scientists? Is that statement “balance” to Al Gore’s use of “planetary emergency” to sound a badly needed warning (though you call it alarmist, i.e. a false alarm)?

    And since this is my final say on this, let me add a couple of other places where you allow yourself to be taken in. You are obstinate in your ignorance of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Is that because you believe the findings about DDT are another massive fraud perpetrated by science? What possible motivation would scientists have for claiming that DDT’s risks far outweigh its benefits? Those researchers have plenty of other ways to get funding. The same is true of the leading climate scientists, like Hansen, who are sounding a warming about AGW.

    If you claim it is the money, power, and reputation, then why don’t you apply the same standard to the motivation of big oil, big coal, and big-mouth politicians and their big-pay consultants? Their motivation to distort science is clear. A scientist who distorts science for money has sold out his career and lost the respect of his professional colleagues.

    Finally, regarding the Southern Poverty Law Center, I followed your link and found an article that talks both about the accomplishments of the organization and Morris Dees as well as the criticism. You picked only one side of the issue and held it up as an example of something that Source Watch missed. I don’t know if it is even in Source Watch’s area of interest.

    Despite all the criticism, SPLCenter and its programs and publications are still among the leading forces that expose hate groups and promote the teaching of tolerance. You don’t have to support them, but inserting a gratuitous slam at them tells me you would rather provoke than discuss.

    Now, no matter how absurd you get, I will leave the responses to others. I hope they follow my lead and ignore you, so we can raise the level of discussion several notches above your trolling tactics.

  51. #51 Lance Harting
    August 2, 2006

    Fred,

    This is far from the first time you have said you were going to take your marbles and go home. You seem to enjoy taking pock shots and me, that seldom address my points, and then running off calling me a “troll”.

    I have read Chris’ book and I am aware of its criticism of both Inhofe and junkscience.com. I am also aware that his aim was to brand the Republicans as the real enemies of science. The title pretty much gives that away.

    He is hardly a neutral party as evidenced by one of the recent topics in this blog “blogging for Wesley Clark”, among other ties to organizations and publications on the left. That is of course his right and I have no problem with that. If I did I probably wouldn’t come in here at all.

    Now to regard his book as some sort of sacrosanct authority on the subject is quite another story. I happen to think that you need to look at the actual evidence being presented no matter the source.

    The fact that you can’t acknowledge that sourcewatch is playing favorites indicates to me that your political opinions are more important to you than your objectivity. This is a dangerous imbalance for someone who purports to be a science educator.

    I certainly don’t hold the Heartland Institute, for instance, up as an unassailable authority, but if I read an article that is well articulated and backed with references to verifiable evidence I tend to give it credence.

    When I go to Mann’s Realclimate and see him distort the work of others and make outright false claims I tend to cast a jaundiced eye on his work.

    You say that I made a “gratuitous slam” on Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center. I stated my opinion that he is a self-promoting charlatan. Admittedly harsh criticism, but I backed it up with links to information from multiple investigations and criticisms even from those that agree with Dees leftist politics.

    You imply that it is Dees politics that motivate my disdain. That is a “gratuitous slam” on your part. I once thought of Mr. Dees as a champion of the downtrodden and underprivileged. It wasn’t until he was exposed in multiple investigations that I formed my very negative opinion of the man and his organization.

    Again this is a distraction from my actual point that sourcewatch is not an independent “watch dog”. Were sourcewatch to be completely mum on Dees and the SPLC I wouldn’t have griped. If you go to their sight you will find that they list the SPLC as “civil rights organization”, and highlight a few blows Dees has struck against the Aryan Nation.

    No mention is made of the many negative and deceptive practices of which Dees, and his organization, have been accused. This shows obvious bias and invalidates them as an objective source. The truth is anyone that really knows the political landscape already knows this. I find your failure to acknowledge this point either charmingly naive or outright deceptive, you tell me.

    The fact that you can’t acknowledge that sourcewatch is playing favorites indicates to me that your political opinions are more important to you than your objectivity. This is a dangerous imbalance for someone who purports to be a science educator.

    As for the row with DT over the DDT/eggshell thing I have been very open about my knowledge on the subject and continue to look at the evidence. If it turns out that I have been misled and that the preponderance of evidence indicates a strong causal link between the two I will change my opinion on the matter. What more do you want from me?

  52. #52 Fred Bortz
    August 2, 2006

    I gave Lance the last word.

    He used it to blast me, to mischaracterize my remarks, and not to answer my questions about whether he believes Inhofe more than Hansen.

    I remain firm in my promise not to respond to Lance’s opinions, but I will defend myself from his misstatements about me.

    Thus I need to respond to this:

    “The fact that you can’t acknowledge that sourcewatch is playing favorites indicates to me that your political opinions are more important to you than your objectivity. This is a dangerous imbalance for someone who purports to be a science educator.”

    I simply said I didn’t know what sourcewatch said. I did not defend it, because I don’t know anthing about it other than what I have read here.

    Nor was I denying the criticisms of Dees in Wikipedia, which also lists his accomplishments and the good work that is continuing. That’s hardly a “dangerous imbalance.”

    The rest of my defense lies on my websites http://www.fredbortz.com and http://www.scienceshelf.com

    The latter includes my review of The Republican War on Science plus numerous reviews of books on weather and climate.

  53. #53 evolvealready
    August 3, 2006

    Lance,

    The following response to Wegman et al from Mann expresses my reservations of the Climate Change Assesment Report: “[The report]…uncritically parrots claims by two Canadians (an economist and an oil industry consultant) that have already been refuted by several papers in the peer-reviewed literature inexplicably neglected by Barton’s “panel”. These claims were specifically dismissed by the National Academy in their report just weeks ago.”

  54. #54 Lance Harting
    August 3, 2006

    evolvealready,

    Certainly you have to notice the disdainful tone of Mann’s reply. That Wegman et al validates M&M is hardly a case of “parroting”. Is the fact that they are Canadian some how important? Perhaps the most obvious emotional weasel words are falsely referring to Steve McIntyre as an “oil industry consultant”. He has worked in the past as a minerals industry consultant. Even if he were a dyed in the wool “oil industry consultant” that wouldn’t invalidate his work. The fact that Mann reaches for this slur shows his desperation and embarrassment.

    Here is a link to a very brief and candid article by Steve about him and his work. http://www.climatesearch.com/newsDetail.cfm?nwsId=131

    As for the NAS comment, that is false spin by Mann. Wegman did a much more thorough job of evaluating Mann’s methodology and data. Mann is just licking his wounds and making blustery statements to his pals at Realclimate.

    Look don’t take my word for it go on over to http://Climateaudit.org and ask the scientists themselves. They will answer all your questions in a much more straightforward and informed way than I can.

    They also wont patronize or insult you, or delete your posts, like Mann and the boys over at http://realclimate.org .

    Go ahead they don’t bite. There are even AGW supporters in there and the tone of conversation stays pretty civil most of the time.

  55. #55 Lance Harting
    August 4, 2006

    I want to apologize to Fred Bortz for saying, “The fact that you can’t acknowledge that sourcewatch is playing favorites indicates to me that your political opinions are more important to you than your objectivity. This is a dangerous imbalance for someone who purports to be a science educator.”

    Sometimes the rancor of the moment inspires comments that are imprudent.

  56. #56 Fred Bortz
    August 4, 2006

    Thank you, Lance.

    Apologies are never easy, and I appreciate yours.

    If I said anything that offended you personally, please accept my apologies as well.

    I intended only to criticize your tactics, which I see as disruptive to the discussion of policy responses to the urgent problem of AGW. There’s plenty of room for honest disagreement on the level of urgency and illumination of political and technological solutions, but echoes of Inhofe and other science abusers drown out reasonable voices in this badly needed discussion.

    For that reason, I still think it is better not to engage you, at least as long as you cite sources with such dubious credibility, and I encourage others to follow my lead.

    But I do thank you for apologizing, and I hold no ill-will against you.

  57. #57 Jon Winsor
    August 4, 2006

    Lance Harting seems like a genuinely smart guy. And I do think we need dissenting voices on this blog.

    But it gets hard to take his comments seriously when he’s getting his information from junkscience.com and Inhofe/Morano press releases, and then being cagey about telling us the sources of his information.

    To me that shows either a basic lack of awareness of what this blog is about (which you could easily get by reading any of the RWOS), or it shows bad faith. I say bad faith because there’s a chance that Lance is knowingly taking Marc Morano and Steve Malloy’s dishonestly cooked arguments and expecting us to waste our bandwidth with them, while concealing the sources of his arguments/information. If that’s what he’s doing, it’s not a good faith way to have discussions on this blog. It’s closer to trolling.

    So I would encourage Lance to read the RWOS. And I agree with Fred: we shouldn’t take Lance’s comments seriously and we should avoid responding to them.

  58. #58 Lance Harting
    August 4, 2006

    I have always listed my sources when making scientific assertions. Exactly one has come from the Junkscience.com website. That was in regard to DDT and birds eggshell thickness. I listed Inhofe’s site also once because he listed several climate scientists that questioned the science and dire conclusions of Al Gore’s recent movie.

    In both cases the validity of the sightings were not questioned, only that they appeared at those places. If you choose to ignore the information presented because of what you perceive to be the political bias of the source that is of course your prerogative.

    As I have mentioned, others in here often quote sources that I feel also have political biases, such as sourcewatch.com, Ross Gelbspan, Grist, NRDC, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club etc. The fact that you may agree with their positions does not alter the fact that they are advocacy groups with very specific agendas other than presenting unbiased science or public policy information.

    I have read Chris’ book, RWOS, and enjoyed it. I don’t consider it to be a completely unbiased work of peer reviewed social science however. I doubt Chris meant it to be.

    In fact scientists are human beings that also can be influenced by personal motivations that can color their conclusions. That is why ready access to scientific data and methods is so important. Ultimately this isn’t a question of whose sources are better but what evidence supports their conclusions.

    While I have been sarcastic at times I am hardly the only one that is using this tool of literary criticism. One need only read a few other posts to see this.

    I’m glad the tone is again civil and I will do my best to keep it that way. I find that most of the people that post here are reasonable and intelligent even if many of them do not hold opinions, both scientific and political, that are in total agreement with my own.

    The goal should be to listen to the arguments of others and respectfully respond in good faith to further mutual understanding. Oh, and have a little fun in the process.

  59. #59 evolvealready
    August 4, 2006

    “…sourcewatch.com, Ross Gelbspan, Grist, NRDC, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club etc.”

    “…they are advocacy groups with very specific agendas other than presenting unbiased science or public policy information.”

    Lance, any scientist, scientific organization or environmental group who doesn’t fall for the anti-global warming claptrap from conservatives of the “End Times” religious mind set or the Big Oil lusting mind set is biased, agenda promoting liberals to you. Those two sentences I quoted above (and many of your other posts) prove this. You seem perfectly incapable or (most likely) unwilling to read the science for what it is. Scientific American, National Geographic, Science mag., Nature, the vast majority of climate scientists (I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating)the world over! and all those folks you mentioned above (and more than that, even!)…all these folks recognize there is a serious problem. They are not agenda seeking freakazoids trying to rule the world. They are not pushing for a Communist styled world order in which we destroy all that democracy (and yes even capitalism) has created. With few exceptions, they are all concerned human beings. Their eyes are wide open. They see what’s happening in the arctic. In Greenland. They can do math and reason well and can hypothesize what may happen. They can be mistaken in some aspects, they may disagree with one another over this or that issue. But to blanketly(is that a word?) label them simply because they are more and better informed than the Inhofe’s of the world says much more about the “labeller” then it says about them.

  60. #60 Lance Harting
    August 4, 2006

    evolvealready,

    Each of the groups and individuals I have listed are exactly what I said they were. Do you honestly believe that the Union of Concerned Scientists, for instance, is not a politically motivated advocacy group? It began as a group of anti-war activists in the 1960′s. It condemns GM crops using pseudo-scientific scare tactics. A few minutes on Google will show you who they are, what they want and how they bend science to get it.

    As I said, whether you agree with the agendas of these groups or not, they do have political agendas. If you can’t see that then perhaps you should do a little research on each of the ones I listed.

    I didn’t say that all the information they provided was necessarily false or misleading, just that they have an agenda, much as Mr. Milloy at Junkscience. This is just a fact.

    Oh, and why the vitriolic attack? “You seem perfectly incapable or (most likely) unwilling to read the science for what it is.” How does pointing out the obvious fact that the NRDC is an environmental advocacy organization indicate that I am “incapable of or unwilling to read the science for what it is?”

    Perhaps you should step back a bit and do a little research on the groups I listed. Are you really laboring under the assumption that they are benevolent arbiters of science?

  61. #61 Fred Bortz
    August 5, 2006

    evolvealready,

    This is getting very tiresome. Perhaps you will consider following Jon W. and me and stop replying to Lance.

    Everyone has an agenda. Mine is to understand the problems that we are facing due to AGW and to figure out the best way to deal with them.

    I hope to write about this for my young readers ( http://www.fredbortz.com ), which means I am looking for a clear discussion of the various scenarios and the various policy approaches under consideration. Making the right political choices will be a challenge without the distracting back-and-forth accusations about the motives or agendas of the people who recommend something other than what you would prefer.

    There needs to be a lot more respectful listening and a lot less talking over one another.

    When a provocateur gets involved and people respond to him, the discussion that I am looking for gets drowned out. Chris, rightly, does not censor provocations. That means those of us who have better things to talk about must simply ignore them and keep the focus on productive discussion.

    Do you agree?

  62. #62 evolvealready
    August 5, 2006

    Lance said: Oh, and why the vitriolic attack?

    Really? Your sensitivities have been ruffled? You? Of all people?

    Well, to explain myself…if I really had to guess, it might simply come down to the fact that often in a debate or discussion one sometimes–unwittingly–adopts their opponents style. Please forgive me.

    As to the other stuff; you think The Union of Concerned Scientists and Steven Milloy are on the same footing. Again, that says a lot more about you than it does the Union.

  63. #63 Dark Tent
    August 5, 2006

    Lance Harting: “I have always listed my sources when making scientific assertions. Exactly one has come from the Junkscience.com website. That was in regard to DDT and birds eggshell thickness. …the validity of the sightings were not questioned, only that they appeared at those places.”

    While I did not challenge the validity of results to studies about chickens and DDT referenced on the junkscience site, I did question the validity of inferring that results found for chickens apply to peregrine falcons.

    On his junk science site, Milloy is obviously making the inference that studies done on chickens do apply to peregrine falcons (and other raptors).

    As I indicated above, there are very good reasons for questioning the validity of such an inference: different species (of birds, primates, fish, etc) may have very different biochemistry and what is toxic to or has deleteriuos effects on one species will not necessarily have the same (or any) effect on another species.

    One of the most basic rules of science is that when you do an experiment to find out how one variable effects the outcome, you try to keep as many of the other variables constant as possible. Ideally, you keep everything constant except the one thing of interst (in this case DDT).

    I’m not sure what the purpose of all those chicken DDT studies was, but if any of them was done specifically to refute studies done on peregrine falcons or other raptors (or is now being used in that manner), I’d have to say say that this violates the basic rule many times over.

    Finally, there can be two legitimate reasons for questioning the source of a posted reference (eg, a website owner).

    The obvious reason is that they might simply have fabricatedthe references themselves or possibly knowingly misrepresented the contents of the references that they posted in support of their argument.

    But less obvious is the fact that the source may have simply (possibly quite innocently) inferred things about the studies that are false — and that the original authors of the study never intended to be inferred.

    The latter is not a question of the “honesty of the source.” It is a question of their expertise and knowledge of the subject under discussion. It is quite possible that they may have no expertise on the subject that they are writing about (and posting references for) and quite honestly think that there is no difference between a chicken and a peregrine falcon with regard to eggshells and DDT.

    This is a case in which “authority” (ie knowledge and expertise relevant to the issue) has obvious relevance.

    That was precisely why I asked the question above:

    “Perhaps you think they [Cornell Ornithology Lab] know less about the effects of DDT on peregrine falcons (and other raptors) than, say, some guy with a “junk science” website?

  64. #64 evolvealready
    August 5, 2006

    Fred,

    You have a point. I even composed a post about following you and Jon in ignoring Lance. In the end I didn’t post it. I still had some lame idealistic notion that maybe he could see things reasonably. (An ideal I’m not convinced he’s incapable of…despite some of my own rhetoric!) But who knows, I could be wrong. I guess it’s a case by case thing with me.

    In any event, I do appreciate your posts. So thanks.

  65. #65 Lance Harting
    August 5, 2006

    evolvealready,

    My “sensitivities” are fairly ruffle resistant. I was just surprised that you were so worked up about my somewhat benign remarks that environmental advocacy groups would be, well advocates. You used Sourcewatch to malign junkscience.com when Sourcewatch is doing just what Milloy does; only in my opinion Milloy is more honest about his motivations.

    Sourcewatch pretends to be neutral and nonpolitical when it is a leftwing attack dog. Milloy makes no attempt to hide his pro free market politics.

    Then you throw in “…that says more about you than it does the Union.” What it says is that I am aware of the fact that the Union of Concerned Scientists is a political advocacy group not the National Science Foundation.

    Maybe you should take Fred’s advice and attempt to shun me. If you are going to indignantly infer that I am some sort of nut or ideologue, because I see the political motivations of advocacy groups on all sides of the issue, we aren’t going to make much progress towards agreement.

    This is the technique de jour by advocates of climate disaster. Attempt to smear the scientists and advocacy groups that point out that the science supporting a climate “catastrophe” is far from convincing. Make frightening unsupported predictions, use the “precautionary principle” to rationalize sweeping public policy measures and then indignantly refuse to even discuss the possibility that you are wrong saying “the debate is over”. Label those that disagree as delusional or irresponsible and attempt to isolate them.

    Alternatively you could recognize that the UCS and the NRDC are advocacy groups and proceed with the discussion.

    Of course this would be a good spot to huff off, as Fred keeps threatening to do, and just talk to people that share your moral indignation at those of us that have reviewed the scientific evidence and decided there is no reason to believe that an environmental apocalypse is coming.

  66. #66 Lance Harting
    August 5, 2006

    Dark Tent,

    Your assertion that studies using different species of birds are irrelevant overstates the issue. I am in the process of reviewing as many studies as I can. I began with the studies you and the Cornell Ornithology Lab provided.

    The study provided by Anne Hobbs, the Public Information Specialist at the lab is,

    Science as a Guide in Regulating Technology, The Case of DDT in the United States, Thomas R. Dunlap.

    It is a social science study that uses the idea that DDT is harmful to birds as a premise. It sites other studies and anecdotal evidence to establish its premise. It is a policy study not a study of birds or DDT. This can hardly be used to make a causal link between the substance and bird shell egg thickness or anything else for that matter. Unless circular reasoning has been added to the scientific method.

    It even uses the misleading statement “Some considered it a potential human health hazard” even though many painstaking studies have been conducted and there has never been any indication that DDT poses the slightest threat to human health.

    The first study you provided is,

    Pesticide-related Eggshell Thinning in Australian Raptors
    P Olsen, P Fuller and TG Marples.

    The authors say,

    “Eggshell thickness of 32 species of Australian raptors, relative to DDT use, was investigated. Nine species showed a significant reduction in shell thickness since DDT was introduced to agriculture in 1946:…Average reductions in thickness ranged from 2% (Collared Sparrowhawk and Australian Hobby) to 10% (Peregrine Falcon).”

    Leaving aside the question of whether this conclusion is supported by the evidence for now, the only important consideration is whether this thinning is a threat to the survival of the birds. Here is what the authors say in regard to that point.

    “These levels are unlikely to be causing widespread population declines.”

    Banning DDT on the strength of either of these studies would be dubious at best.

    As I said I am still reading the many studies involved in this issue. I have found many other points that I will be discussing in a comprehensive post in the future. It is interesting stuff. It also has many parallels to the current debate on global warming.

    As to the validity of sources, it is incumbent upon the individual to check the information that is presented. You should not make blanket statements about a source and then dismiss, or blindly accept any information from them. Whether or not Milloy has misconstrued the studies he lists is easy enough to check by reading the studies.

    At this point I am far from convinced that there exists reasonable scientific evidence for the banning of DDT. As I said I will report back after further investigation of the evidence.

    There is also a very interesting political and public policy history that parallels the science literature on DDT. I will comment on that as well.

    Regards,

    Lance Harting

  67. #67 evolvealready
    August 5, 2006

    “…at those of us that have reviewed the scientific evidence…”

    Oh my god, my sides are splitting, I’m laughing so hard!

  68. #68 Lance Harting
    August 6, 2006

    “Oh my god, my sides are splitting, I’m laughing so hard!”

    Well that settles the issue. I have to admit that I was not persuaded that we face a climate catastrophe but after that devastating retort I have reevaluated my position.

  69. #69 Fred Bortz
    August 6, 2006

    It is interesting to see Lance reprising the scientific arguments about DDT, and because his latest posting is on track and productive, I will comment on it.

    I can’t respond specifically about the science, but I will start by discussing the events as I recall them. (Age has some advantages :) )

    There was naturally a lot of dispute about the connection between DDT and declining population of many raptors. The people with vested interests in DDT focused on science that disputed the conclusions of the first researchers. The discussions were often heated, but the absence of an internet echo chamber kept them from becoming a cascading free-for-all like we are seeing on AGW.

    In any case, the scientific case against DDT eventually became incontrovertable. A few industry apologists continued to spread seeds of doubt, but policy makers accepted the science and turned to policy. (The social science paper Lance cites is, I suspect, a discussion of how policy was made and implemented once the conclusion was accepted.)

    Evidence that the original conclusions were correct continues to mount. In particular, the reestablishment of several raptor populations once the DDT levels in the environment became small is very strong circumstantial evidence that the original hypothesis was on target.

    So the history of DDT is an interesting case study for those of us who are calling for policy makers to accept the AGW consensus and act. Deciding how to act is definitely the kind of thing that happens at the intersection of science and politics. Scientists need to develop a range of scenarios, preferably with estimates of their likelihood, intermediaries (journalists, writers, analysts) need to convey the essence of those findings to the decision makers and to the general public who will be called upon to live with the consequences of those decisions.

    The discussion will be raucous, but the issue is too serious to cloud with propaganda. I get very impatient with people who cite propaganda, either because they have been misled or because they intend to mislead.

    I would like to see someone tell us more about the history of the resolution of the DDT issue and how the disruptions of the vested-interest groups were overcome.

    In the AGW policy arena, the vested-interest group is probably the wealthiest and most politically powerful industry on the planet, big oil, with big coal another major factor.

    In any case the DDT story has seeds of hope for those of us who feel that the need for strong policies is urgent. DDT was ultimately banned almost completely. We are early in the process of trying to reduce burning of fossil fuels to mitigate AGW while considering the economic and political issues as well.

    Another cause for hope in history is the ozone-hole issue. It is remarkable how quickly the world was able to act to reduce CFCs. Carl Sagan’s final book Billions and Billions (reviewed at http://www.scienceshelf.com/Billions.htm ) had some interesting commentary on how scientists and religious people came together to solve that problem. He contrasted it with the apparent difficulty then (1996) of addressing global warming. I think he’d be astonished at how hard it still is to get past the disruptive tactics of big-money interests to solve this problem.

    So if we can discuss the history of DDT civilly, it might actually lead us to some useful thoughts about how to deal with AGW.

  70. #70 Dark Tent
    August 6, 2006

    Lance Harting: “Your assertion that studies using different species of birds are irrelevant overstates the issue.”

    That’s not what I said. What I actually said was this:

    “If one is to refute a study done on peregrine falcons, one simply must do another study on peregrines. It is not valid to claim that a study of chickens applies to falcons, which may have quite different biochemistry.”

    If there is something wrong with my above statement, by all means, please point it out to me. Quite frankly, I don’t think you can do it, or you would have already done so.

    As I indicated previously, I’m not going to get into a back and forth debate about this that and the other study because I’m not a raptor expert and I suspect that knowing something about birds and peregrine falcons in particular** may have some not insignifcant relevance in this case (**about biochemistry, average adult weight, “normal” thickness of eggs, dynamic force the adult bird exerts on eggs when it enter the nest, gas exchange through eggs of diffrent thicknesses, etc)

    As Hamlet said, “There [may be] More Things, Horatio, Than Are Dreamt Of In Your Philosophy.”

    Not only might the same concentration of DDT produce different amounts of eggshell thinning in different species (as some of the studies I cited actually indicate) but it is quite possible that a given percentage of eggshell thinning may not threaten some species from a reproductive standpoint while the same percentage threatens others.

    Just one example of how this might work: an egg that starts out relatively thin to begin with and gets thinned by X% may be more susceptible to brekage than one that starts out relatively thick. (In other words, there may be a greater “saftey factor” for the thicker egg.)

    Also, a bird like a falcon may (almost certainly will) exert more force on its eggs when it lights on the nest from flight than a chicken does when it sits on its eggs. And with an eagle, the force would presumably be even greater.

    I would note that your original claim was this:

    “Although I am no biochemist my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”.

    You still have not said just how they were “seriously flawed”, but Milloy certainly implied on his site that chicken studies cast doubt on the claimed link between DDT and eggshell thinning in other bird species.

    You would certainly have a very difficult time claiming that DDT has causes no eggshell thinning in peregrine falcons …and even if you claim that the thinning was not enough to affect the reproductive success of the peregrine falcons, you are still on shaky ground.

    The orginal studies done on peregrine falcons done back in the early 70′s showed 20% thinning in some cases over “pre-DDT use” thickness and the amount of thinning depends on DDT or DDE concentration, at any rate and it is quite possible that that much thinning could be a threat while a lesser percentage not a threat to the reproductive survival of the species.

    If you really think the link between eggshell thinning in peregrine falcons and DDT (claimed by Cornell and others) is imaginary or that it would have made no difference to the survival of the species, perhaps you might write up your assessment and get it published in a scientific journal.

    I can’t be sure, but that may be why some people spend years training to be wildlife biologists: to prepare them to do just that.

  71. #71 Dark Tent
    August 6, 2006

    Fred said: “I would like to see someone tell us more about the history of the resolution of the DDT issue and how the disruptions of the vested-interest groups were overcome.”

    I don’t mean to drag you back into the bird DDT dispute, Fred, but here’s a relevant bit that I read when I was looking at the peregrine falcon/DDT stuff:

    It’s a comment by peregrine falcon researcher Tom Cade, who did some of the definitive work showing the link between DDT and eggshell thinning in peregrines (notwithstanding claims to the contrary).

    “We can thank this remarkable recovery of the Peregrine to the courage and determination of the first Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckelshaus, who, against the ruling of his own hearing examiner and the intense lobbying of many pro-pesticide advocates, banned the use of DDT for nearly all purposes in 1972. This action, more than any other human intervention, made it possible for the surviving remnant populations in the wild to increase their numbers and reclaim vacated eyries throughout much of the former range. It also made possible the successful reintroduction of captive-produced falcons in southern Canada and the coterminous United States” (Cade et al., 1996)*.
    http://www2.ucsc.edu/scpbrg/peregrines.htm

    Presuming that we still have people like William Ruckelshaus in our government, I guess it boils down the following question:

    What was different about the political climate back then that allowed him to act as he did?

  72. #72 Lance Harting
    August 6, 2006

    Fred,

    I agree with at least your statements that the DDT debate can inform the discussion of AGW. I’m not sure we agree on Rucklehuas’ actions or the outcome however.

    Dark Tent,

    Be patient. I’m still collecting information.

    As for Ruckleshaus I have been accumulating information on his decision and public statements that I will also bring to the future discussion.

    As for your dismissive remarks “…perhaps you might write up your assessment and get it published in a scientific journal.

    I can’t be sure, but that may be why some people spend years training to be wildlife biologists: to prepare them to do just that.”

    It implies a false elitism to science. Truly good science is always accessible. Also I might remind you of a young patent clerk that made a little splash a few years back.

    And there was Mr. Oliver Heaviside, a telegraph operator that read Maxwell’s work on elctricity and magnetism and went on to revolutionize the science of electrodynamics.

    Not that I would put myself in the company of either of those gentlemen, but to insist that science is the exclusive realm of academically endorsed elites is a false and dangerous claim.

  73. #73 Fred Bortz
    August 7, 2006

    Dark Tent,

    Thanks for that interesting bit of information.

    It is worth noting that Ruckelshaus was a Republican. 1972 was the year of the Watergate break-in (June 17 to be precise). If the decision came post-Watergate, the President was probably distracted trying to cover up the involvement of his White House.

    You ask, “What was different about the political climate back then that allowed him to act as he did?”

    That’s a great question and worth exploring for those of us hoping for a change in the way our government is responding to AGW.

    Assuming Watergate was not a factor, I can see two significant differences in politics, both of which I noted in my earlier posting.

    First, the short news cycle and the plethora of news outlets, high-visibility talk radio, and the Internet are making strategy more important than facts. Polarization is the order of the day, and the discussion of AGW becoming an us vs. them phenomenon. (I call it a contact sport on my blog http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/blog/fred_bortz )

    Second, the industry with the greatest incentive to obfuscate the scientific consensus is big oil. That has a lot more political clout and financial resources than the pesticide industry.

    So I ask, is polarization a necessary outcome of the current climate, and can scientific consensus break through the muddling of the special interests?

    I believe there are still courageous politicians who will ignore the static and act in the best interest of the public they serve. Let’s hope enough of them grab hold of AGW and move it to the front of their agendas.

  74. #74 Davis
    August 7, 2006

    Truly good science is always accessible. Also I might remind you of a young patent clerk that made a little splash a few years back.

    I’d actually disagree with this statement. Most modern science requires huge amounts of background study in order to understand the current state of knowledge. The days of the “common man” scientist are, for the most part, behind us (sadly). And Einstein actually obtained his doctorate prior to publishing his big papers, so he’s not an especially good example of what you’re getting at.

    You would be hard-pressed to find many examples of published work from people lacking a solid academic background these days, let alone major contributions to any field.

  75. #75 Dark Tent
    August 7, 2006

    Lance harting: “As for your dismissive remarks
    remarks “…perhaps you might write up your assessment and get it published in a scientific journal…I can’t be sure, but that may be why some people spend years training to be wildlife biologists: to prepare them to do just that.”

    I see, it’s somehow dismissive to ask that people who challenge scientific studies publish their challenge in a scientifc journal? And dismissive to ask that they have significant knoweldge about — and clearly state what it is they are challenging?

    My comments have little if anything to do with what you term “false elitism” and everything to do with the observation that possessing substantial knoweldge of a subject is (in the vast majority of cases) a prerequisite to overturning the accepted science in an area.

    Some may have the dream that, like Einstein, they are going to come out of nowhere and set the scientific world on edge. What they forget (or simply choose to ignore,) is that while Einstein was a patent clerk, he clearly thoroughly understood the physics of what he was talking about. He also published his results in the scientific journals.

    Though you pointed out that you are “Not a biochemist”**, it does not take a biochemist (or even much more than a rudimentray knowledge of biology) to see that biochemistry just might have a bearing on the subject of DDT and birds.

    **”Although I am no biochemist my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”.

  76. #76 Dark Tent
    August 7, 2006

    Fred.

    Your statement that “the short news cycle and the plethora of news outlets, high-visibility talk radio, and the Internet are making strategy more important than facts” is exactly right.

    For many groups within our society, the internet has become a “giant cherry tree”, ripe for the picking of the particular variety of cherry to their liking.

    With regard to science, specifically, the internet has been both good and bad. In most regards, it has been great for the scientists themselves because it allows them to share information with their scientific peers.

    But it has also allowed all the wild claims and conspiracy theories to take on an air of respectability and prominence that they never had in the past.

    In the past, if someone had a new idea or wished to overturn the current sceintific thinking on a subject, they had to actually go through the scientific publication process. But now, it seems that anyone with a “web site and a theory” can get the attention of powerful members of congress and there is basically no “hogwash filter” (quality control) on such “Science by website”.

    There are very valid reasons for the way science has traditionally worked and the mere existence of the internet is hardly a good argument for jettisoning that process.

    People have abused science for some time, but the internet just makes it a lot easier. The ironic thing, of course, is that when science is abused, the inclination of scientists is to stop sharing information with just anyone because they are afraid that the information will be misconstrued, misrepresented and/or misused.

  77. #77 Dark Tent
    August 7, 2006

    Lance Harting: here’s something you may want to read that is relevant to the peregrine DDT issue.

    In the “summary” section of the “Notice to remove the American Peregrine falcon from the list of threatened and endangered species” (1995), the US Fish and Wildlife Service gives a succinct summary of the evidence supporting the link between DDT and the declining populations of peregrine falcons in the US and of the link between the later ban on DDT and the subsequent rebound in populations.

    Before you dismiss the Fish and Wildlife Service as unqualified, unknowleagable and/or biased, I would note that they have a large number degreed biologists working for them and that the Service serves both Republican and Democractic administrations.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing (to me at least) is how (according to Fish and Wildlife Service) the “crash” of the peregrine falcon population followed the introduction and subsequent heavy use of DDT following WWI — and how (again according to FWS) the reproductive rate increases in peregrine falcons followed the banning of DDT in 1972 (and the resulting decline in DDT/DDE levels in peregrines).

    Coincidence? Perhaps, but as I indicated above, it’s not what is possible, but what is probable that matters in science. The circumstantial evidence adds to eggshell thinnning and other evidence in this case.

    So, while you are about showing that the studies that show eggshell thinning in falcons due to DDT are flawed, you might want to see if you can come up with a plausible explanation for why the “Peregrine falcons declined precipitously in North America following World War II (U.S. Fish and Wildlife, 1993)” soon after DDT was introduced. As the Fish and Wildlife Service said, “Research implicated organochlorine pesticides…”

    You are also going to have to provide a plausible explanation for why the reproductive success of the surviving peregrine wild populations began to increase after DDT was banned in the US and Canada. (Note: “increase in reproductive success rates” of surviving wild populations is different from “reintroduction of captive raised birds”, which obviously also had a large effect on the overall recovery).

    One can never be 100% certain about anything in science, particuarly when it comes to living things, but when the “preponderance of evidence” points in one direction, one really has to wonder.

    Is it probable that the crash and subsequent recovery of the pregrine falcon just happened to closely follow the heavy use and then outright ban on DDT in the US and Canada?

    You tell me. If you dismiss the claims of the Fish and wildflife service, it seems to me that at the very least, you have to back up those dismissals (with something better than a link to junk science.)

    From the above US Fish and Wildlife report:
    “Peregrine falcons declined
    precipitously in North America
    following World War II (U.S. Fish and
    Wildlife, 1993). Research implicated
    organochlorine pesticides, particularly
    the pesticide DDT (dichloro diphenyl
    trichloroethane) applied in the United
    States and Canada during this same
    period as causing the decline (for a
    review, see Risebrough and Peakall
    1988).

    “Use of these chemicals peaked in
    the 1950′s and early 1960′s and
    continued through the early 1970′s.
    Organochlorines can affect peregrine
    falcons either by causing direct
    mortality or by adversely affecting
    reproduction by causing egg breakage,
    addling, hatching failure, and abnormal
    reproductive behavior by the parent
    birds (Risebrough and Peakall 1988).
    DDE, a metabolite of DDT, prevents
    normal calcium deposition during
    eggshell formation, resulting in thin-shelled
    eggs that are susceptible to
    breakage during incubation.

    During the period of DDT use in
    North America, shell thinning and
    nesting failures were widespread in
    peregrine falcons, and in some areas
    successful reproduction virtually ceased
    (Hickey 1969). As a result, there was a
    rapid and significant decline in the
    number of peregrine falcons in many
    areas of North America. The degree of
    exposure to these pesticides varied by
    region, and peregrine falcon numbers in
    more contaminated areas suffered
    greater declines. Those that nested
    outside of agricultural and forested
    areas where DDT was heavily used were
    affected less, although some individuals
    wintered in areas of pesticide use and
    presumably all individuals ate some
    migratory prey containing
    organochlorines (for reviews, see Hickey
    1969; Kiff 1988). Peregrine falcons
    nesting in the agricultural and forested
    areas east of the Mississippi River in the
    United States and in eastern Canada
    south of the boreal forest were the most
    heavily contaminated and were
    essentially extirpated by the mid-1960′s
    (Berger et al. 1969).”

    Recovery Implementation
    The most significant event in the
    recovery of the peregrine falcon was the
    restriction placed on the use of
    organochlorine pesticides.
    Use of DDT
    was restricted in Canada in 1970 and in
    the United States in 1972 (37 FR 13369,
    July 7, 1972). Restrictions that
    controlled the use of aldrin and dieldrin
    were imposed in the United States in
    1974 (39 FR 37246, October 18, 1974).
    Since implementation of these
    restrictions, residues of the pesticides
    have significantly decreased in many
    regions where they were formerly used.
    Consequently, reproductive rates in
    most surviving peregrine falcon
    populations in North America
    improved, and numbers began to
    increase (Kiff 1988).

  78. #78 Dark Tent
    August 7, 2006

    My statement above:

    “the “crash” of the peregrine falcon population followed the introduction and subsequent heavy use of DDT following WWI

    should have read

    “the “crash” of the peregrine falcon population followed the introduction and subsequent heavy use of DDT following WWII (1946)

  79. #79 Lance Harting
    August 7, 2006

    I have no interest in publishing research in biochemistry or ornithology. I do have an interest in reviewing the literature on DDT and birds eggshells. I don’t believe I have to hold degrees in either discipline to be able to understand the published research.

    While it may be necessary to consult with experts in those fields to gain insight into specific issues, the work should be accessible to non-experts.

    Otherwise you have to accept the idea of a science priesthood where the opinions of authorities can never be questioned, except by another of the priesthood.

  80. #80 Dark Tent
    August 7, 2006

    I just noticed the link to the Fish and Wildlife document I quoted extensively from above does not work.

    “Advance Notice of a
    Proposal To Remove the American
    Peregrine Falcon From the List of
    Endangered and Threatened Wildlife” (1995, USFWS)


    Here’s
    the link again.

    Annd here’s a link to the same document in pdf format.
    http://www.fws.gov/endangered/federalregister/1995/p950630.pdf

  81. #81 Lance Harting
    August 7, 2006

    Thanks Dark Tent,

    I’ll check those out. I have researched some information that points to a decline in Peregrine falcon populations, and other raptors, BEFORE the introduction of DDT.

    I’ll be summing this up hopefully in the next few weeks. I plan on being fair and open with the information and my sources. I am not emotionally attached to my opinion that the studies linking DDT to raptor population decline are flawed despite my confident first statement, “Although I am no biochemist my Google expeditions on DDT show that actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed” that began this somewhat off topic debate. Even though you are found of tossing it back in my face (hehe).

    I must prepare for teaching my classes as the semester begins in about three weeks. Also, I am flying to Addis Ababa in a bout a week, to join my wife who has been there visiting her family for more than a month. (In case you might have wondered why I have so much time to blog.)

    Dark Tent, If you have been searching for these links you no doubt have come across some of the studies and evidence that question the DDT raptor eggshell thickness connection. I have pointed out evidence that is not supportive of my position when I have found it. You seem to be a bit selective in your presentations.

    Are you more interested in crushing a “skeptic” than a balanced discussion?

    Just asking.

  82. #82 Lance Harting
    August 8, 2006

    In an ironic twist I found a study that links the decline in Peregrine falcon populations in the Rockies to climate change!

    “Changes in climate (higher temperatures and decreasing precipitation) were blamed for the gradual disappearance of peregrines from the Rocky Mountains.”

    [Nelson, MW. 1969. Peregrine Falcon Populations, pp 61-72]

    You guys can’t lose on that one. Of course it didn’t say anthropogenic climate change, hehe. You had to know that was coming.

  83. #83 Dark Tent
    August 8, 2006

    Lance Harting:

    Why do I keep repeating your original claim that “actual studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”?

    Making such a claim effectively rejects the entire body of accepted science in the area, built up over 50 years!

    It is hardly presumptuous on my part to ask that you specify just how the studies were flawed and to provide evidence to back up the claim.

    I’m still waiting…

    “You seem to be a bit selective in your presentations.”

    You are entitled to believe whatever you want to believe. You have also made other unsubstantiated claims (“studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed”)

  84. #84 Lance Harting
    August 8, 2006

    “You have also made other unsubstantiated claims (‘studies of bird eggshell thickness, the supposed smoking gun that killed DDT, are seriously flawed’)”

    That would appear to be the same claim. As I said I am collecting and formatting the information to present as a whole.

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