Andrew Bolt endorses Lancet study

Andrew Bolt accepts the results of a study published in The Lancet that used random sampling to estimate deaths and came up with a figure of 200,000 per year, about ten times the number you get from a direct count. Actually, there are two studies that fit my description, one on deaths from malaria in India, and another on war-related deaths in Iraq and Bolt only accepts the one that suits his beliefs -- deaths from malaria, so he can falsely accuse Rachel Carson of causing them.

Now, the studies differed in several ways, so it's possible that someone could have good reasons to reject one and not the other (see here for arguments against the malaria one), but if you look at the reasons Bolt gave for rejecting the Iraq one, he should also have rejected the malaria one. It's clear that to Bolt, the question of whether a study is acceptable or not has nothing to do with the methodology and everything to do with whether he finds the conclusions congenial.

Bolt is also wrong in his attempt to smear Rachel Carson by blaming her for malaria deaths in India. India has been using DDT against malaria continuously since the 1940's. It has lost much effectiveness due to overuse, just as Carson warned. The New Scientist article that Bolt quotes from even states:

Bob Snow, a malaria epidemiologist with the University of Oxford's research programme in Kenya, says the results suggest that some of the methods being used to fight malaria in Africa might work in India too. "Some states are not enormously different to what we see in highly malarial areas in Africa, suggesting universal coverage with insecticide-treated bed nets and access to prompt treatment will be cost-effective."

Yes, Bolt's source suggested that India perhaps should reduce its reliance on DDT spraying and use the more cost-effective insecticide-treated bed nets.

Ed Darrell has more on others making the same mistake as Bolt here and here.

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These apparently contradictory positions about the use of Lancet data are entirely consistent as long as you understand that Mr Bolt is at war. He is at war with every manifestation of environmental concern or action, and will not rest until the conservation movement is utterly destroyed. Similarly he totally supports our total support for the right of the US to invade any country any time to secure energy resources, and anything which suggests that this is not perfectly justified must be utterly discredited.

Mr Bolt is a war leader, and they are not to be held to the petty considerations of truth, facts logic, that apply to us mere mortals (all of whom, undoubtedly, have very suspect progressive politics).

Bolt is an A grade idiot. Every problem in the world would be solved if we we would listen to him.

Bolt is a moron and papers like the Herald Sun that print his rubbish have absolutely no credibility. I don't know how the man keeps his job, to be honest - even a senior high school student could pick the copious errors in his articles and yet he persists and is taken seriously. For a while I followed his writings, simply to counter his absurdities, but I simply had to stop.

Not only has India been using DDT since the 1940s, according to the WHO and reports for the Stockholm Treaty, India uses more DDT than all other nations on Earth put together.

So Bolt has this to explain: If DDT really were a panacea, pixie dust to use against malaria, why does the world's heaviest user of DDT have 200,000 annual malaria deaths?

Bolt is so certain WHO is wrong, that he sacrifices the entire case in favor of DDT to make the point?

If Bolt is right about 200,000 deaths and WHO being wrong, he is dead wrong, and far wrong, in claiming DDT works.

What's interesting is that the claims of "20 million children dead" have been dismissed as absurd:

"...Critics claim that restricting DDT in vector control have caused unnecessary deaths due to malaria. Estimates range from hundreds of thousands,[106] to much higher figures. Robert Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health said in 2007, "The ban on DDT may have killed 20 million children."[107] These arguments have been dismissed as "outrageous" by former WHO scientist Socrates Litsios. May Berenbaum, University of Illinois entomologist, says, "to blame environmentalists who oppose DDT for more deaths than Hitler is worse than irresponsible."[79] Investigative journalist Adam Sarvana and others characterize this notion as a "myth" promoted principally by Roger Bate of the pro-DDT advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM)..."


So how did this claim make into NatGeo? Of course, Bolt would select the study that fits his political views...

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

I think, when it comes to Bolt the simple answer is the easist- and best.

Bolt is wrong.

I think those of you who accuse Bolt of stupidity are doing him an injustice (sort of). He's certainly not a fool, but he is deeply dishonest, and is using his considerable skills in support of what he knows to be lies.

By David Irving (… (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Mr Bolt is a war leader,

From about a million miles behind the front line, an armchair general. Bolt has never done anything of practical substance to help those he claims to be so concerned about.

Di(NR) said:

I think those of you who accuse Bolt of stupidity are doing him an injustice (sort of). He's certainly not a fool, but he is deeply dishonest, and is using his considerable skills in support of what he knows to be lies.

Stupidity comes in many forms. Ignorance or incapacity to reason coherently from evidence to a conclusion, reckleess judgements about risk and uncertainty, inability to reconcile actions and goals when neither of the two are complex -- all of these qualify as stupidity, but they don't exhaust it.

Bolt is clearly malign and while it's unlikely that he actually believes all or even most of the things he proposes that others accept as fair comment, given that what he proposes amply meets the criteria above he is clearly an advocate for systematic stupidity. Those relying on his claims would somewhat unwittingly harm their own interests and those of others. It is also the case that his pleas are crafted specifically for acceptance by the naive, the ignorant, the venal, the malign, the existentially angst-driven and thus for people who meet most of the criteria for stupidity.

Bolt is clearly a major player in the stupidity as a commodity.

It is of course possible for someone to trade in goods without personally using them. One can deal psychotropic drugs for profit without being a user. In a narrow sense if Bolt is merely dealing in stupidity for profit without believing what he says, then perhaps he is merely a stupidity merchant.

Of course, if a consequence of people relying on his stupidity redounds on him, causing him greater harm than the profit he has made by then as a stupidity merchant, then it will be clear that in the long run, his actions were stupid and thus he too was stupid, though perhaps not as stupid as those who bought his goods.

Personally, if I knew that the only people who admired me were profoundly gullible or stupid -- peiople with no standing at all to speak well of me with authority -- I'd find that really disappointing. To know that this was a result of my own dealings would invite an obvious conclusion -- that my acts were stupid. Bolt may be OK with that. Perhaps he is really so at ease with himself that he needs no affirmation from anyone he respects and is not bothered that those he might otherwise respect would think him a venal sociopath or a fool.

Fathoming the minds of others and their motivation is never easy, and delving into the murky cesspool between Bolt's ears has already caused me to feel a little dirtier.

By Fran Barlow (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Coincidentally, I just came across this British asylum court judgement from June, where the Judge said this:

The John Hopkins survey published in the Lancet in October 2006, which was based on remote supervision of locally hired researchers and estimated 450,000 more deaths from violence in Iraq than the WHO-funded study (which estimated 151,000 deaths by July 2006) has been the subject of strong criticism in a new peer-reviewed study by Professor Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway University. In January 2008 the Opinion Research Business (ORB), an independent polling agency who had surveyed Iraqi households asking for information of deaths revised its original estimate of 1.2 million deaths since 2003 down to 1,033,000 deaths. Its study has not been peer-reviewed and, by virtue of having survey methods similar to the Lancet study, does not appear to be regarded as a reliable source.…

People have said this before, and I'll say it now - courts need to employ statisticians to stop stupid statements like this being made, and miscarriages of justice based on things like the Prosecutor's fallacy.

By https://www.go… (not verified) on 04 Nov 2010 #permalink

Bolt a war leader?

Bolt's chicken. Go look at his site -- see any of my posts up there, yet? He's hiding behind the skirts of "moderation" to keep contrary views from assaulting his eyes, or embarrassing him at his own site. A few decent arguments sneak through, but I'll wager his moderation que is (or was) stuffed with clear rebuttals. Why don't they appear at his site?

Bolt is a small man on the issue of DDT.

I'd never heard of Bolt before coming across references to him on climate sites. It's no wonder! I read a couple of his blog articles out of curiosity. Such a nasty, silly little man, and a coward (he rarely publishes challenges to his tripe).

Why would anyone deliberately choose a career of writing badly in public, daily demonstrating ignorance and peddling lies? His followers are more than ignorant. You'd have to be all of stupid, hateful and paranoid to buy his bs.

I felt dirty after reading his waffle, and worse after reading comments to his blogs, that there are some who buy his trash. Thankfully not too many.

What a waste of a life. Most people try to make the world a better place. People like Bolt devote their lives to bringing out the worst in others and leaving the world a poorer place.

To those who wonder about the reasons for Dolt's continued success in publishing his rubbish in the Sun, I offer the following simple explanation: he writes what his audience wants to hear. And we should not under-estimate the number of people out there who believe what he writes because it accords with their world-view.

Thanks for the column and links, Tim. I have become more interested in the issues surrounding Carson and 'Silent Spring' since reading a recent trashing of the book in the magazine of a professional association to which I belong. I have therefore started to try and follow up some of the threads. I began here with Dolt's article, and the link in it to a critique of Silent Spring by Prof. J. Gordon Edwards. The critique, first published in 1992, is called "The Lies of Rachel Carson". It appears to be based wholly on notes made by the author in 1962 on reading Silent Spring. I began to wonder about the accuracy of some of Edwards' claims. For instance: "Pages 50-51. Carson writes that: âArsenic, the environmental substance most clearly established as causing cancer in man, is involved in two historic cases in which polluted water supplies caused widespread occurrence of cancer.â
I have seen no proof that arsenic causes cancer in humans, and it is known to occur naturally in most kinds of shellfish and other marine life."

Now, it does not take much searching on the internet to discover that there are definite links between some forms of cancer and arsenic. E.g.,:
"Ingestion of arsenic, both from water supplies and medicinal preparations, is known to cause skin cancer. The evidence assessed here indicates that arsenic can also cause liver, lung, kidney, and bladder cancer and that the population cancer risks due to arsenic in U.S. water supplies may be comparable to those from environmental tobacco smoke and radon in homes."
This was published in 1992 and the findings should have been known to Edwards, had he cared to look.

It would be interesting to know just how much of the Edwards article represents out-of-date knowledge. Has anybody responded systematically to all the criticisms made by Edwards?

> From about a million miles behind the front line, an armchair general.

He's fighting an IDEOLOGICAL war. As David put eloquently in post 1, conservationists are THE ENEMY and, since they are BAD PEOPLE, anything that gets rid of their "pernicious activities" is acceptable (see torture in Abu Ghraib for another example).

At the time Bolt is speaking of there was no mosquito resistance to DDT. If the eradication programme had been carried out properly malaria would have been history long before resistance became a problem. The majority of comments are therefore based upon a false premise. One might expect more care from science minded people.

By Tom Ardent (not verified) on 08 Nov 2010 #permalink

> If the eradication programme had been carried out properly malaria would have been history long before resistance became a problem.

A statement that has no basis in fact or supporting evidence.

> The majority of comments are therefore based upon a false premise.

Well, at least ONE comment is.

> One might expect more care from science minded people.

As you haven't stated whether you're science minded or just a troll, our expectations of you are not affected.

When did Bolt make his statement you refer to Tom Ardent?

DDT resistance in mosquitoes was known about in 1951/1952 (Knipling, in Present status of mosquito resistance to insecticides, Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 1, 1952, 389-394). DDT resistance in mosquitoes carrying malaria was known about in around the mid 1950s (Paul Russell ... quoted in Garrett, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, 1994, p. 48). DDT resistance in mosquitoes in the wild was noted in 1959 in India. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes become resistant to DDT in months now (Curtis et al. Ecological Entomology, 3, 1978, 273â287), whereas in the 50s and 60s it took 6 or 7 years.