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June 10, 2007

JOHN TIERNEY:

For Rachel Carson admirers, it has not been a silent spring. They’ve been celebrating the centennial of her birthday with paeans to her saintliness. A new generation is reading her book in school — and mostly learning the wrong lesson from it.

If students are going to read “Silent Spring” in science classes, I wish it were paired with another work from that same year, 1962, titled “Chemicals and Pests.” It was a review of “Silent Spring” in the journal Science written by I. L. Baldwin, a professor of agricultural bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin.

He didn’t have Ms. Carson’s literary flair, but his science has held up much better. He didn’t make Ms. Carson’s fundamental mistake, which is evident in the opening sentence of her book.

Read the whole thing. And he's got followup posts on his TierneyLab blog, here and here.