Home > Science > My letter to Paul Offit (updated)

My letter to Paul Offit (updated)

February 16th, 2017

Dear Dr Offit,

I have admired your work in support of vaccines, and your willingness to face down the anti-science attacks on vaccination. I was, therefore, greatly dismayed to read your column in the Daily Beast recently, reviving a set of discredited attacks on public health and environmental science, centred on the spurious claim of a global ban on DDT. I have linked a blog post and article covering the key points, which you can easily check for yourself

A double disaster for science and public health

Rehabilitating Carson

As I note in the post, giving credence to discredited anti-science attacks like those of Stephen Milloy is a gift to the anti-vaccination movement which they are already exploiting. I urge you to investigate this issue more carefully and publish a follow-up column setting out the real situation.

I would be happy to correspond further and send you more information if needed.

Sincerely
John Quiggin

Update 21/2/17: I received a fairly terse reply to this email, reiterating a number of spurious claims about Carson. My email in response went unanswered, as did a followup. This is disappointing, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 15 years of blogging it’s that changing anybody’s mind is very difficult. I’ve done my best to apply this lesson to myself and be more open to new evidence – long term readers can judge if that’s been successful.

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  1. HED PE
    February 16th, 2017 at 16:12 | #1

    Spot on, John.

  2. Anthony
    February 16th, 2017 at 17:05 | #2

    That is a fantastic article. I’m suspect Offit and others are too tempted by the ‘silver bullet’ of DDT given the lack of a highly effective malaria vaccine. However, most biologists should appreciate that, like bacteria, insects develop resistance when only a single molecule is used.

  3. HED PE
    February 18th, 2017 at 11:43 | #3

    The irony is that Paul Offit is one of five authors of a Scientific American November 2016 article titled “Five Things We Know To Be True”, which seeks to dispel popular myths. Offit’s contribution is to tell us that vaccines do not cause autism. It is a great pity that he dispels one harmful myth and soon thereafter promotes another.

  4. Tim Macknay
    February 21st, 2017 at 11:40 | #4

    In the light of Paul Offit’s response, what about approaching the Daily Beast with a counter-article? You could frame it as an example of the impact of ‘fake news’ even on well-intentioned people.

  5. John Quiggin
    February 21st, 2017 at 12:39 | #5

    @Tim Macknay

    I tried that before writing to Offit, and got no response. I’ll think about whether there’s another venue that might run this.

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