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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • Rational Evil V

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    This week I conclude my discussion of the development of secular thought following the holocaust by looking at one final disturbing trend.  So far I have looked at how in the attempt to maintain a belief in Human Rights apart from a belief in God, equal in the eyes of God became merely equal; where the differences among people were equated or just ignored.  

    But Human rights was founded on another concept in addition to the belief that we are all equal in the eyes of God.  It was also based on the belief that we are special creations of God, created in his image. To remove God from the definition of Human rights mean also tossing out the idea that people are special creations of God. 

    This was the most dangerous development for as we saw, the competing view is that rather than special creations of God, we are just animals that happen to have resulted from the undirected process of evolution.  But if this is the case, why should humans have any rights at all?

    This of course would bring us right back to the thinking of Social Darwinism and Eugenics, the very thinking that led to the holocaust in the first place. No, a concept of Rights had to be maintained. But if we are nothing more than animals that resulted from the process of evolution, how could a concept of rights be restricted just to us? Wouldn’t other animals have rights as well? 

    Thus was born the belief in animal rights.  While most people are still shocked by PETA’s campaign likening eating meat to a “holocaust on your plate” it is merely the logical outgrowth of the attempt to maintain a concept of rights apart from God.

    While, extending the concept of rights to animals may be a logical step, it does not really solve the problem, but rather creates many more. If animals do have rights, how do these rights come into play when the lion kills a gazelle?  The normal answer is that the lion does not know any better, we do. But this has the effect of putting us below the animals, not equal to them.  Animals are free to do whatever they do, but our actions must be constrained by a notion of rights. 

    In short animals and in a more general sense nature, over time came to be more valued than people. Worst still, since virtually anything we do has some effect we become a problem. In its most extreme form people rather than being a part of the environment came to be seen as a disease that must be controlled, or in some cases removed, as in the case of the Texas scientist who calls for the creation of a genetically engineered version of the ebola virus, that would kill 90% of the people on the earth, so as to lessen our damaging effect.

    But these threats are not just theoretical.  One of the key aspects of the Judeo-Christian worldview is that people, as special creations of God, are more valuable than animals.  But in the new secular view people are less valuable, and for some even a problem. While rarely directly stated, it nevertheless works itself out in a myriad of ways.

    For example, the major reason energy prices such as the cost of gas, heating oil, and electricity, are so high is because concerns for the environment restrict our ability develop energy. Most of these environment concerns make no sense apart from an absolutist view that people represent a danger to the planet and that anything we do would damage to environment, often despite clear evidence to the contrary.

    Most of the real damage of this inversion of rights, are indirect and often do not appear until years later. Thus the limitation on oil drilling for the last several decades is only now beginning to have a real effect on the price of gas as the excess capacity that had existed in the system is now gone, and demand is beginning to exceed supply.

    One of the clearest examples of the valuation of nature over people is also one of the earliest; the concern over insecticide DDT during the 1960s.  During the 1960s it was alleged that DDT caused the shells of some birds to weaken making it difficult for them to reproduce.  In order to protect these birds, DDT was ban. At the time of the ban it was pointed out that DDT was very important to controlling the spread of mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as malaria. But these arguments had little effect; the birds were more important than the people, and had to be protected.  After all, at the same time over population was also seen as a major problem.

    It is now known that DDT was not the cause of the problems with birds, and in fact is really very safe. The effects of the ban are also clear.  Diseases that had been virtually eliminated in places have now returned.  Malaria alone kills between one and two million people a year. Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, for many a theoretical threat to the environment, is more important that the actual deaths of tens of millions and the ban remains in effect.

    The first attempt to reconstruct society based on science rather than God, ended in the holocaust.  The subsequent attempt of reconstruct a concept of rights apart from God has resulted in not only more pain and suffering, but millions of deaths. Just perhaps the real problem is the attempt to remove God.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    4 comments on “Rational Evil V

    1. Pingback: Todays Current Events in the Environment » Alert - environment effect

    2. Pingback: Running Toward the Goal » Blog Archive » Rational Evil V

    3. It was anti-semitism and German nationalism that created the Holocaust, not Darwin. Anyone who reads history can tell you the problems of nationalism that festered through the 19th century, erupting into World War I, which was stopped by the unworkable Treaty of Versailles — and how that led rather directly to World War II and the Holocaust. It’s in the history books. You could look it up — you’ll usually have an easy time finding The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, who witnessed the entire thing.

      But I digress.

      I think Christians need to strive for accuracy. Truth sets us free, after all — and discarding incorrect ideas, or what I call voodoo history, often leads to serious problem solving.

      You have a few errors that deserve correcting.

      One of the clearest examples of the valuation of nature over people is also one of the earliest; the concern over insecticide DDT during the 1960s.

      The science was quite clear by 1955 that DDT was killing birds. By 1962, when Rachel Carson wrote a popular book about the issue relying heavily on research done over the previous 20 years, there was no doubt that DDT, while a miracle bug killer, could be misused. Overuse was the key problem. DDT probably did more to spread the territory of the deadly imported Argentine fire ant than anything else, killing off all competing and predatory species in insects, arachnids and vertebrates, and driving evolution of the fire ants to resist DDT and develop strategies for colonies to survive despite DDT. It did the same thing to bedbugs, which were resistant to DDT as early as 1952, and to mosquitoes, who mutated to develop immunity to the stuff.

      Under U.S. law, DDT was not allowed to be a residue on foods for human consumption (a law still in effect, by the way).

      DDT had some good effects. The Presidents Council of Science Advisors noted those good effects in a report in May 1963, saying that the risks outweighed the benefits, and DDT should be phased out quickly. Several courts ruled on the basis of science that DDT could not be used in broadcast spraying, and by 1970, two federal courts ordered the federal government to enforce laws that required DDT to be de-listed as a broadcast pesticide. In all those court cases, advocates of DDT, especially the DDT manufacturers, were parties who had full opportunity to make the case for DDT. They failed, on the science. The National Academy of Sciences said in 1980 that DDT might be the most beneficial artifical chemical ever devised, but it needed to be eliminated from use because the risks outweigh the benefits.

      Do you see a trend there? There is no science agency on Earth that has ever said DDT is safe, nor that DDT does no harm.

      During the 1960s it was alleged that DDT caused the shells of some birds to weaken making it difficult for them to reproduce. In order to protect these birds, DDT was banned.

      Broadcast spraying of DDT for agricultural use was restricted. DDT has never been banned for use to protect human health. Never. However, as noted above, DDT ceased to be effective in many applications.

      At the time of the ban it was pointed out that DDT was very important to controlling the spread of mosquitoes, which spread deadly diseases such as malaria. But these arguments had little effect; the birds were more important than the people, and had to be protected. After all, at the same time over population was also seen as a major problem.

      That’s incorrect. By 1972 the World Health Organization had abandoned its campaign to “eradicate” malaria by suppressing mosquitoes long enough for the disease to die. Too many African governments, especially, never got aboard the bandwagon — only three African nations used DDT or otherwise joined that campaign. WHO had rolled the dice, knowing that if they couldn’t eradicate malaria by 1965 or so, mosquito resistance to DDT would cause the mosquitoes with the disease to come roaring back.

      DDT was banned for broadcast agricultural use in the U.S. because it was, by then, causing the spread of malaria-carrying, and other disease-carrying mosquitoes. The mosquitoes would be suppressed for a short time — but DDT killed of insect predators of mosquitoes, and it killed all other animals climbing up the food chain (“trophic levels” in biological terms). No benefit, much damage. Surely you don’t argue for doing ineffective things that cause harm.

      It is now known that DDT was not the cause of the problems with birds, and in fact is really very safe.

      That’s exactly wrong. Ms. Carson’s book has 53 pages of references to the science that demonstrate handily the harmful effects. The President’s Council of Scientific Advisors said a year later (1963) that Ms. Carson was optimistic, and action needed to come quickly. Every court that has ruled on the issue found DDT harmful, on the basis of scientific evidence. The evidence for damage to birds, fish, bats, lizards and amphibians in the EPA hearings of 1971 are lengthy, voluminous, and not contested by any scientific study. Two appellate courts found the weight of scientific evidence against DDT to be overwhelming in 1973, when the DDT manufacturers challenged EPA’s restrictions on use — under U.S. law, had the evidence of harm not been there, the restrictions would be illegal. The restrictions are still in effect today, which tells us there are no significant data against the harms of DDT today. The National Academy of Sciences in 1980 noted that DDT was a great benefit, but a greater harm. Discovery Magazine counted the studies, and in their November 2007 issue they noted more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies showing the harmful effects of DDT on birds. There is no study contradicting the harms found, not one.

      Worse, we know now that DDT is an endocrine disruptor. It mimics estrogen once loosed in the wild. This causes sexual development problems in insects, fish, lizards, amphibians, birds, and mammals, including humans. In humans and other mammals it causes testicle shrinkage and mammary swelling in men, and premature puberty in women. Most endocrine disruptors are carcinogenic, as indeed are most of the other organophosphate chemicals related to DDT. Fortunately, DDT is not highly acutely toxic to humans, due to the size of most humans (less than an ounce killed a five-year-old kid, but the case was not well documented, and the DDT was ready for spraying, which meant it was mixed with kerosene; kerosene is rarely fatal at that small amount, however, and the kids clearly had DDT poisoning symptoms). Also fortunately, DDT appears to have only weak carcinogenic effects for direct exposure. Unfortunately, as an endocrine disruptor, DDT appears to cause cancers in the offspring of children exposed — the same sorts of difficulties DDT shows in birds, lizards, amphibians, fish and insects. A recent study showed a solid correlation to breast cancer in daughters of women exposed to DDT. DDT is listed by every cancer fighting organization as a “probable human carcinogen.”

      Perhaps most tellingly, the recovery of raptors at the top of food chains in the wild correlates exactly with the decrease in residual DDT in their tissues. The bald eagle came off the endangered species list this year, thanks to the ban on broadcast use of DDT. Peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, and osprey have similarly recovered, as have many other fish-eating and estuary-preying birds. There is no study I’ve ever found that contradicts the finding that these recoveries correlate exactly with the drop in DDT in the parents’ bodies.

      The effects of the ban are also clear. Diseases that had been virtually eliminated in places have now returned. Malaria alone kills between one and two million people a year. Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, for many a theoretical threat to the environment, is more important that the actual deaths of tens of millions and the ban remains in effect.

      Malaria killed 1 million to 2 million people a year with DDT being used, too. Check with WHO and malaria experts. Malaria charged back when the pharmaceuticals used to treat the parasitic infection in humans ceased being effective — the parasites also develop resistance and immunity to the things that kill them, and they did. DDT was never used IN humans, and there is no evidence it works against the parasite. DDT can’t bring back the effectiveness of the old drugs, nor can its used speed development of new ones. DDT use also was implicated in massive fish kills in Africa that starved tens of thousands of people.

      So, given that DDT is largely ineffective in broadcast use, given that it causes damage when used in the wild, especially killing the food of people who need it badly, given that there are other more effective pesticides, given that there are other things to do to fight malaria that are more important, like developing and distributing to those in need the more effective pharmaceuticals, and given that DDT is available for uses where it is effective, especially Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) — which is what Rachel Carson urged in 1962! — there is no pressing need for much change in DDT policy today.

      Also, since it turns out that Ms. Carson was exactly right about the dangers of DDT and her advice would have saved millions of lives, it is both unfair and inaccurate to say that a DDT ban was unthinking, or that it caused more harm than it stopped. There is no credible case to be made from history that DDT’s restrictions were harmful.

      There is much evidence that malaria is a perniciously difficult disease to fight. Complaining about DDT restrictions hampers the fighting of malaria because it misleads people into thinking there is an easy, cheap solution that they don’t have to lift a finger to enact.

      In the meantime, the NBA’s “Nothing But Nets” program, in conjunction with several other organizations including the Methodist Church, is cutting malaria rates by half where the nets can be delivered. Won’t you consider sending $10.00 to save a kid’s life?

    4. Ed,
      Thank you for your comments.

      To be clear, I did not say, and do not believe that Darwin caused the Holocaust, nor do I deny the role played by anti-Semitism, much of it sadly grounded in Christianity. As for German Nationalism, the Treaty of Versailles, etc, I think you are conflating the holocaust with WWII in general. While obviously linked, there are different and one does not automatically lead to the other.

      Still none of this changes the key point that I made which was the Eugenics and Social Darwinism also play, not only roles, but key roles, and these were based on Darwin. To call this voodoo history is to simply ignore what these people said and the justifications they themselves gave for their actions.

      As for your comments on DDT, in many ways you make my point. You claim that DDT has never been banned for use to protect human health. Then how is it that in places where DTT was used to virtual eliminate diseases like malaria, it is no longer used and Malaria is now a major problem again?

      As for it not being known that DDT was important to controlling diseases, I have a problem, for at the risk of revealing my age, I was alive and aware at the time. I remember the debates, I remember the claims that many people would die as a result of the ban, and sadly this has since come to pass.

      You said, “The restrictions are still in effect today, which tells us there are no significant data against the harms of DDT today.”

      Hardly, for that at best that would be an argument from silence. In any event, it does not refute what I think is a more likely explanation, i.e., the one I made in my post.

      I suggest you look up the debate that occurred about the year 2000 when the UN sought to restrict DDT even further, (sorry I do not have access to my references at the moment, and am on a slow internet connect, but it should be easy to find. Here is one link on DDT in general that supports my view: http://www.jpands.org/vol9no3/edwards.pdf).

      The simple facts are this: DDT was used to prevent malaria and had virtually eliminated it in some countries. In counties that stopped using it, malaria returned, in countries that did not ban DDT, malaria continued to be controlled. Ecuador had a problem with malaria that in the early ninety and used DDT to bring it under control.

      In short DDT was banned and human deaths greatly increased. Frankly, you make the point of my article: Theoretical threats of DDT are more important than actual deaths caused by the ban.

      Oh, and as for nets. While a good step that should be taken, they really only work at night when people are sleeping under them. Perhaps the mosquitoes are different elsewhere, but ours here in Wisconsin, bite at other times as well, which is why we are at threat from West Nile Virus… a real threat that people have died from; just another result of the ban on DDT.

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