Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Michael Crichton on religion

Remarks at the Commonwealth Club, September 15, 2003:
    I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

    Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

    There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
    More here.
And that's why, he says, you can't talk anyone out of hard core environmentalism, of belief in global warming, because those are issues of faith. No one invested emotionally and financially in the faith wants the facts.
    So I can tell you some facts. I know you haven't read any of what I am about to tell you in the newspaper, because newspapers literally don't report them.

    I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn.

    I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit. I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.

    I can tell you that the Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing. I can tell you that a blue-ribbon panel in Science magazine concluded that there is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in the 21st century. Not wind, not solar, not even nuclear. The panel concluded a totally new technology-like nuclear fusion-was necessary, otherwise nothing could be done and in the meantime all efforts would be a waste of time. They said that when the UN IPCC reports stated alternative technologies existed that could control greenhouse gases, the UN was wrong.
Obama and his bevy of tax evading advisors probably don't read Michael Crichton.


Ed Darrell said...

It's nice that Crichton could tell us DDT didn't kill birds. But I wonder where he got that good news, since the research -- all of it -- indicated that DDT was deadly to seed eaters and predators, and the confirmation of damage especially to predators was confirmed with the recovery of the brown pelican, osprey, bald eagle and peregrine falcon?

I've read Crichton, and I find him woefully underinformed on the issue of DDT:

Norma said...

And Ed, I've found you terribly under concerned about sick and dead children.

Ed Darrell said...

Turns out that Rachel Carson was right, there, also.

Her methods of fighting malaria have pulled malaria deaths to the lowest point in human history. Malaria infections, even, have fallen from a half-billion a year at peak DDT use in 1959-1960, to half that number, 250 million per year, with more than a doubling of world population.

Crichton may understand some medicine, but he's woefully underinformed in history, law and entomology.

WHO's ambitious program to rid the planet of malaria had to be called off because mosquitoes targeted for temporary reduction with DDT (to allow medical workers some slack to cure malaria in humans), were found to be resistant and immune to DDT, due to overuse and abuse by DDT advocates like Michael Crichton. That was 1965.

DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, seven years later.

Crichton claims that ban induced the spread of malaria? He's bad at calendars. The end of the anti-malaria campaign came before the ban on DDT in the U.S.

Crichton's bad at geography, too. The ban on DDT covered ONLY the U.S. In fact, EPA ordered that the DDT manufacturers be left alone to keep producing the stuff for export to Africa and Asia.

Failing to spray for boll weevils in the U.S. did not cause a rise in mosquitoes nor mosquito-vectored diseases in Africa, nor Asia. Mosquitoes don't migrate that far.

In fact, DDT has never been banned in Africa, nor Asia. Since peak DDT-use, contrary to Crichton's undocumented claims, malaria incidence and malaria deaths have continued to fall.

Should we "blame" Rachel Carson for the change in the annual number of malaria deaths since 1960? 4 million died that year.

Deaths declined every year after peak DDT use, and the pace accelerated after aggressive application of Carson's no-DDT methods after the year 2000. Today about 700,000 people die annually from malaria. Malaria fighters hope to get that down to zero, mostly without DDT.

Since the "ban" on DDT in the U.S. that Crichton complains about, 96 million people have survived who would have died at peak-DDT use death rates. More than 70 million of them probably would have been children under the age of 5.

You wish death on 70 million kids, and you have the gall to complain I don't care about children?

I suspect you simply didn't have the facts.

Get the facts, you'll see things differently.

I like kids, and I think we should not condemn millions of them to death just because we're piqued at environmentalists. Rachel Carson was right.

Norma said...

In 2010 an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 660,000 people died, most (91%) in the African Region. CDC