Ludicrously Uneducated Anti-Environmentalists

Angela Logomasini works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has written articles appearing in major newspapers and is a go-to quotable source for people who want to demonize Rachel Carson.

She also thinks malaria is caused by a virus.

We used a lot of DDT in the environment and we eradicated the mosquitoes that carried the virus and the way the virus works is they’re saying … the human is the host and so as long as there are humans with the virus in them and other mosquitoes bite them, those mosquitoes bite somebody else; those people end up getting sick. But once you break that cycle, you keep the humans away from the bad mosquitoes — the virus dies out and that’s what we were able to do using DDT.

I can’t tell you exactly how young I was when I learned that malaria is caused by a one-celled, eucaryotic parasite. It might have been in sixth grade, when I read a friend’s copy of Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery from cover to cover. When I reached 1880 — and starting at 4,000,000 BCE, that took a couple weeks — I learned that a French physician named Charles-Louis-Alphonse Laveran (1845–1922) isolated the germ responsible for malaria and found that it was not a bacterium, as everyone had suspected, but a protozoan. Laveran won the Nobel Prize for this work in 1907.

Incidentally, viruses — the quasi-living things which are smaller and simpler than bacteria and much simpler than protozoa — were not discovered until 1898, by the Dutch botanist Martinus Willem Beijerinck (1851–1931). You can read his report on the “mosaic or leaf-spot disease of the tobacco plant” here; Beijerinck discovered that the unknown quantity which caused tobacco mosaic disease could pass through porcelain filters which stopped all bacteria, and that it could reproduce itself indefinitely, just like a living thing, although only within the living tissue of the plants. He called the unknown disease factor a virus, from the Latin word for “poison.”

As we know today, malaria is caused by several species of protozoan parasites, all of which are classified in the genus Plasmodium. The species P. falciparum causes the most severe form of the disease, followed by P. vivax. These parasites are complete cells with nuclei and internal organelles; they are most emphatically not viruses.

MORAL: Get your grade-school science straight before criticizing people about medicine and environmentalism.

For the ongoing story of people attacking Rachel Carson with bad science, see Deltoid and Bug Girl’s Blog.