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How does the science of Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ stand up more than 50 years later?

Carson’s detractors accuse her of misrepresenting the science. Wrong: Carson wrote that pesticides and herbicides disorder ecosystems because they kill broad swathes of their inhabitants, and predicted this would lead to entirely new problems as previously rare survivor species suddenly exploded in number. This has been borne out repeatedly. Carson also said that repeatedly applying pesticides and herbicides would cause their targets to evolve immunity to them. Alas, this, too, has been borne out repeatedly.

The latter process is one reason why the DDT ban did not, in fact, lead to many malaria deaths.

Carson’s claims about the direct risks pesticides and herbicides pose to human health do not stand up as well. Here again, she describes the science of the era accurately—problem is, the science in this area wasn’t especially good. Carson, like the researchers she reported on, thought we could accurately determine whether a substance will cause disease in the body by examining its effects on cells in test tubes. And she, like the cell biologists whose work she describes, thought we were much closer to understanding the workings of cancer than we actually were.

Read full, original post: ‘Silent Spring & Other Writings’ Review: The Right and Wrong of Rachel Carson (behind paywall)

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.
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