Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Power of Indefinable Words

By Rich Kozlovich

*-Updated 7-2-11

Words are powerful tools, especially when those words can't properly be defined and evoke a tremendous emotional response. Safe is one such word. Everyone wants their families to be safe. Everyone wants safe products. Well, what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that there can be no margin for error? Does that mean that there must be a total amelioration of all pain? Does that mean that nothing must ever go wrong?

Approximately 50,000 people die (*It is claimed that this number has dropped signifigantly over the last 10 years, although it is still high.  The actual number seems to be in question. ) every year on America’s highways. Is driving safe? Every year people die from accidental electrocution. Is electricity safe? Every year a great many children drown. Is swimming safe?

Is it possible to show that any product is safe? NO! You can only prove something is unsafe, otherwise you are asking someone to prove a negative, a factual impossibility. We can only prove what things do, not what they don’t do. It is like asking someone to prove that they aren’t cheating on their spouse. You can only prove that someone is cheating. You cannot in any way prove that someone isn’t cheating.

Yet we are being required to show that pesticides are safe before we use them. This irrational, unscientific demand is made over and over again, and done so without protest. Worse yet it is done with support from many in and around our industry. Why? Because safe is one of those difficult to define words that can unite people in a cause that makes them feel all warm and fuzzy all over, not mention the feeling of moral superiority. After all, who is going to support un-safe products and practices?

These issues surrounding DDT demonstrate such unintended consequences of such emotional causes. Even after all the evidence has shown that most of what Rachel Carson said was inaccurate, even to the extent of misrepresenting the facts; even after everything she predicted turned out to be wrong; even after all the pain and suffering that has been, and is still being caused by the ban on DDT; people will not properly connect the ban with the disasters banning DDT caused.

There are those who will still defend the ban with fallacious arguments and demand more bans and more restrictions in the name of safety...especially "for the children". They simply refuse to admit they were wrong, in spite of all the pain and suffering, and mostly to the children. Why? It isn’t simply a matter of pride either. This refusal to admit that which should be obvious to the most casual observer is being driven by a misanthropic philosophy called environmentalism. Call it an “organic” philosophy, call it a “green” philosophy, simply call it IPM, it doesn’t matter; the goal is to eliminate products that allow more people to live longer, healthier lives; and they do it with fallacious health claims about pesticides.

Thomas Sowell, in his book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, defined logical fallacies in the following manner. Fallacies are not simply crazy ideas. They are usually both plausible and logical – but with something missing. Their plausibility gains them political support. Only after that political support is strong enough to cause fallacious ideas to become government policies and programs are the missing of ignored factors likely to lead to “unintended consequences,” a phrase often heard in the wake of economic or social policy disasters. Another phrase often heard in the wake of these disasters is, ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time.” That is why it pays to look deeper into things that look good on the surface at the moment-

Let’s take the Fallacy of composition.  It goes like this; DDT is found in birds. DDT killed the birds. Let’s ban DDT. Since DDT was a pesticide, and it was found in birds that died, all pesticides must kill birds; let’s ban all pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals and pesticides were found in dead birds so chemicals must kill birds; let’s ban all chemicals.

Our industry is so hot to be green and yet we don’t seem to have a clue as to what “going green” is going to mean to society as a whole. GO GREEN! GO GREEN! is the cry, but where is this leading? The activists never seem to have to explain their motives or ultimate goals. What are those goals? Let us have no doubts that the elimination of pesticides is one of them.

Actually it should be immaterial to intelligent, insightful, compassionate people whether they explain their goals or not. We should be able to see what their motives and goals are by the devastation they have wrought in the rest of the world.

We now know that environmentalism isn’t safe. Tell me; do you think that environmentalism should be banned?


  1. It is safe to say that the world is safe being that aparently no one with either the ability to read nor use a computer has spent the time to read your "safe" article. Most pesticides are some form of nerve toxin, so your non-scientific, fact-lacking, brain diarrhea here might be better supported by your voluntary exposure to nerve toxins. We all look forward to your next post explaining how that went.

  2. Aonymous,

    Either have something to say or don't post in the future.

  3. I completely agree. The modern idea of banning anything and everything is not even logical. the first idea that comes to mind is not always the best, in fact, it almost never is. Yet when it comes to helping society, people seem to instantly support the idea of banning and changing the law books... The motives are not what so many claim them to be, but are founded on desires that ultimately stem from political control and influence.