Thursday, June 12, 2008


Rather than address his numerous errors and manipulations of the facts computer scientist Tim Lambert continues to hammer away at three of my supposed errors. Unfortunately for all those many thousand who rely on me as a reliable source of information, Lambert has indeed uncovered one of my mistakes. (There could be more, so I suggest the anti-DDT types go a hunting.)

I earlier referred to the author of this journal article as a WWF anti-DDT activist. This is incorrect – the WWF anti-DDT activist I had in mind is a different C. Curtis (Clifton, not Chris). The flow-on effects of this error are minimal, however.

In a post titled Politically Based Medicine at the WHO Lambert links to the Curtis article in attempting to discredit a WHO press release which says:
WHO actively promoted indoor residual spraying for malaria control until the early 1980s when increased health and environmental concerns surrounding DDT caused the organization to stop promoting its use and to focus instead on other means of prevention. Extensive research and testing has since demonstrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans.
Lambert links to the 1994 Curtis article – an opinion piece – because its year of publication contradicts the date given in the WHO press release:
... the author considers that DDT should no longer be recommended as the insecticide of choice for malaria vector control.
Since this recommendation is made in "1994" it is "proof" that DDT was, as of that year, still the WHO's anti-malaria insecticide of choice. Thus the WHO press release stating that it stopped promoting DDT use in the early 1980s is a lie. This lie is, of course, not unexpected coming from then new Global Malaria Programme head Arata Kochi, who was given the job in order to placate right-wing tobacco company dupes who, according to Lambert, were pressuring the WHO to change its anti-malaria personnel and policies.

Curtis's journal article also says the following, however:
W.H.O. (1984) recommended DDT as the insecticide of choice for such vectors.
The 1984 date lines up with the WHO press release's early 1980s date much more closely than does the 1994 date assumed by Lambert from the year of publication of Curtis's article.

In the cosmic scheme of things this date difference is of no practical importance whatever. It is important within the context of the ongoing DDT debate, however, because Lambert is widely regarded on the left as a reliable source of information. In fact, Lambert's DDT posts are full of errors and manipulations. Errors are excusable but manipulation of the truth by a scientist is simply unacceptable.

So, yes I was wrong about Curtis's links to the WWF and his anti-DDT activism and I was silly to emphasize the importance of the incorrectly assumed link and activism. That said, Lambert is incorrect in saying that Curtis's article is "not an opinion piece". Curtis is clear that the article is his opinion:
With due regard to the above seven cautions, but in view of the facts that: (i) it can no longer be confidently stated that DDT anti-malarial spraying is harmless to human health, and (ii) affordable alternatives are becoming available, the author considers that DDT should no longer be recommended as the insecticide of choice for malaria vector control.
Further, Lambert cannot truthfully claim that the above excerpt proves, because it's dated to 1994, that the WHO's insecticide of choice in 1994 was DDT, when the WHO is not mentioned in the paragraph nor in the nine preceding paragraphs.

Lambert says I should admit that Indymedia amateur entomologist Brent Herbert is right about bed bugs developing DDT resistance in the 1940s. This one's a bit tricky because at the time of DDT's introduction some bedbugs were already naturally resistant to DDT. When DDT was introduced some of these naturally resistant bugs would have survived, gradually spreading resistance through the local bed bug population. So the real question is: how DDT resistant was the general bed bug population in the 1940s? I cannot answer this question and neither can Lambert. According to links supplied by Lambert, US bed bugs were generally DDT resistant as of 1980 – go here and copy and paste accession:112924 in the search field. When the general US bed bug population became DDT resistant is not addressed, however. If scientist Lambert can prove that DDT resistance was a problem in the general US bed bug population in the 1940s I'll admit I'm wrong.

Brent Herbert is nonetheless a dubious source of DDT information. Herbert claims (as originally quoted by Lambert but not mentioned in his latest post):
Since I discovered that I have bed bugs I have been touring around the internet doing research right from day one and what I have discovered is that the media is doing a terrible job of covering the bed bug story, and as a result many of the bed bug blogs I have read are full of misinformation which echoes this bad reporting in the media. One of the most common themes in the media stories you will read if you do a search for news articles on bed bugs is that we have bed bugs because DDT was banned, thus forcing us to use 'weak chemicals' against bed bugs. This is false. Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s and Rachel Carson did not write Silent Spring until the 1960s, and by this time DDT resistance among bed bugs was so widespread that DDT was no longer the chemical of choice for treating bed bugs. The chemicals that replaced DDT were not 'weaker' chemicals forced upon the country by environmental extremists. The proof of this fact is that it took bed bugs that latter half of the twentieth century to develop resistance to these toxic chemicals, with the end result being that entire generations of people, such as myself, have lived their entire lives to this point in time without even thinking about a bed bug. The chemicals have not changed, and they remain as toxic as they ever were, only the bed bug has changed.
Lambert claims Herbert debunks DDT myths but does not specify which DDT myths are debunked. Regardless, Herbert is an unusual source for someone of the scientific stature of Lambert.

Finally, Lambert continues to insist that "toady' is abusive. Here's the relevant definition of toady from the Oxford English Dictionary: A servile parasite; a sycophant, an interested flatterer; also, a humble dependant; TOAD-EATER

There are four cited usages going back to an 1826 Disraeli quote, none abusive. If you look at the context of my use of the word at Deltoid, it’s obvious I intended it to mean sycophant. I used toady rather than sycophant because the word is not commonly encountered today so its use would naturally cause controversy. And so it did.

Lambert deleted my comment because he was worried toady might upset the delicate sensibilities of his readers. He needn't have worried, however: his readers did not panic (and Lambert did not intervene) when "fuckwit" and "snotty dickhead asshole" appeared.

Okay, I've addressed Lambert's points and have admitted my error. It's now time for Lambert to do the same.

The background for this post is here and here. And yes, I realize that many people might consider this tit for tat posting pretty silly. The thing is, Lambert needs to be debunked but there's no guarantee he'll post my comments, so I have no choice but to respond here.


Anonymous Bob said...

Lambert got you on a highly technical point. At least you were big enough to admit it.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Cryptandra said...

Why have you defamed Chris Curtis by dismissing him as a WWF activist? Did you really think you could get away with a lie like that?

10:11 AM  

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