Silent Spring

What edition are you quoting from? Did you copy/paste or type the quote?

My book spells it “anesthetics” and I failed to find anything with your spelling on the web. Is there a British edition with changes? My book also has double quotes around “safe dose”, not single quotes.

I copied and pasted it from this edition:

The dose may be relevant to the degree of unsafety. But the dose is irrelevant to the qualitative issue of whether DDT is safe or not.

I disagree with you, but let’s step back and look at the bigger picture because I’m not sure why you picked this sub-issue to focus discussion on, I’m not sure that it’s a bottleneck, I don’t know what your thesis is, and so I don’t know if resolving this sub-issue is important.

Why did you want to discuss? What is your goal in the discussion? Is there something you want to learn? Did you want to share your point of view and hear about mine? Do you have a specific claim you want to argue, like that Alex Epstein is good and there’s nothing wrong with promoting him?

Have you read Silent Spring? If so, when? What is your opinion of it? Of Epstein? Did you change your mind about any of this stuff at some point recently? Did you like some of my arguments or writing? What do you disagree with me about, and what do you agree with me about?

I take it you changed your mind and are not willing to discuss?

I’ll explain the situation as I see it. You have a whole thread of criticisms related to Epstein and said:

If you’re going to advocate Epstein’s stuff, I think you should respond to my arguments about Epstein.

I picked one and started answering it to see what would happen. After some discussion of this point you wrote a post saying you wanted to discuss the bigger picture that included thirteen questions. I would prefer to deal with one issue at a time, so is there one particular question from that list you would like an answer to?

Have you read Silent Spring?

I have read Silent Spring.

What’s your opinion of Silent Spring?

I don’t have a good opinion of Silent Spring.

On p.22 (Chapter 2) Carson wrote:

Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides’, but ‘biocides’.

On p.25 (Chapter 2) Carson wrote:

We are told that the enormous and expanding use of pesticides is necessary to maintain farm production. Yet is our real problem not one of over-production? Our farms, despite measures to remove acreages from production and to pay farmers not to produce, have yielded such a staggering excess of crops that the American taxpayer in 1962 is paying out more than one billion dollars a year as the total carrying cost of the surplus-food storage programme.

These two passages contradict one another. If pesticide use makes the surface of the Earth unfit for all life, then they make it unfit for crops. The first few chapters read like she’s willing to say anything to condemn pesticides.

There are arguments later in the book that sound plausible, but I don’t think it makes sense to grant even a minimal level of trust somebody who would write the first two chapters of this book. If I was going to use any ideas from it I would check everything that can be checked and reject anything that can’t be checked. And before doing that I would want to check if there are any other books on pesticides that might be better.

What do you think the main themes/claims of Silent Spring are? Please list them and say which you agree or disagree with.

I don’t agree with you about the detail you brought up, but more importantly I don’t think it’s the right place to begin. I’m trying to find out about your viewpoint in broad overview before determining which details are important to resolving anything and then perhaps discussing key details.

PS Please respond faster. Given your insistence to only post about one small chunk at a time, this discussion won’t work if it takes a week per chunk. You’ve given many things I could reply to in your latest post, so if you don’t speed up it would take around two months just for me to respond to what you just said in one post, before getting to reply to any of the followups or speak about some of the other high priority issues like connecting this with Alex Epstein.

The main themes and claims of Silent Spring.

Insecticides cause death and disease throughout the food chain.

Insecticides can cause disease in people even if they are only exposed to small amounts.

Insecticides have been overused by people who don’t understand how dangerous they are.

Insecticides lead to resistance in the insect species they are supposed to kill.

We can use means other than insecticides to get rid of insect pests in many cases.

Your reply didn’t provide the information I asked for. That was my ~5th time asking for introductory information that you still haven’t provided. After writing 11 posts, I still don’t know what we disagree about. I interpret this as most likely (subconscious) bad faith: you don’t want to tell me for some undisclosed reason, so you’re being difficult to talk with.

I’ll ask one last time before giving up: Provide an overview of your position, including what main issues you agree and disagree with me and Carson about, and your position on Epstein’s treatment of Carson.

In some cases insecticides have been overused but I doubt that they can be replaced by other methods. I think this would increase the cost of the resulting products. If there was another good option that could be carried out at less cost then why wouldn’t some business be using it?

Epstein shouldn’t have published the article on his website about Carson and he should take it down. I don’t hold him responsible for material posted by ARI because he left ARI.

I think that people who engage in politics often exaggerate the problems with alternatives to their chosen policy and exaggerate the benefits of their proposed solution. I think Epstein does this less than Carson so if I was going to say Epstein is so bad he can never be cited, then I would have to do the same for Carson.

This is like the idea that if people are using bad arguments, it implies there are no good arguments. I think that idea is incorrect, and I actually talked about it a few days ago. It was also discussed this year in the discussion between Justin and anonymous.

More importantly, you still didn’t provide the basic introductory information that I asked for.

You provided only one issue you partially disagree with Carson about. You didn’t provide a general overview of what you agree and disagree about.

And your argument isn’t that there’s a direct error in her reasoning. It’s more that on general principles you think her conclusion must be wrong. I read your argument as unclearly stated but meaning something like:

  • the US (or West) has a free market capitalist economy
  • if there were better options, the efficient free market would have found them
  • therefore, whatever criticisms Carson has of insecticides don’t really matter: there must not be better options

I think all 3 parts of that argument are false. It also neglects something Carson wrote about: the government is behind a lot of the “insecticide” use. And the argument seems to imply a bunch of major limits on the possibilities for reform and improvement available in the world. It seems like you have an adequate world perspective (whereas I agree with Yudkowsky that we live in an inadequate world).

Also, Carson tried to raise awareness of the (health) costs of using “insecticides”, which were (and I think still are) being underestimated. Disagreements about the costs are part of the issue. It’s also unclear which costs you were considering (like health, soil depletion, or just direct dollar costs).

Also, there are massive government subsidies, and other interventions, which primarily subsidize/favor the kind of farming that uses a lot of “insecticides”. Meanwhile, some businesses actually are successfully using alternatives.

I have other criticisms that I haven’t mentioned.

These issues about capitalism are actually very interesting to me, but I don’t want to continue this discussion because it’s too unproductive. (You’re allowed to post more but I probably won’t respond.) It’s too hard to get information from you. You’re really difficult to talk with and you act like you don’t want to talk with me. I also specifically warned that I was going to give up after my ~6th try in my previous post unless certain introductory information was provided, but it wasn’t. I’ve concluded that you’re substantively unwilling to discuss and that there is a (likely subconscious) bad faith problem involved. If anyone thinks I’m making an important error here that they’re capable of explaining effectively, see my debate policy.