]]]]]]]]]      CHEMISTS: TURM LEADEN PROSE INTO GOLD     [[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                         By P.J. Wingate
    From The Wall Street Journal, 6 October 1988, p. A18:4
(Mr. Wingate, retired from DuPont Co., lives in Wilmington, Del.)
              [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   The chemical industry  has been very useful  to the human race
and  has  the  potential  of  being  even  more  useful.   If the
industry, convicted  in the  court of  public opinion  of being a
menace to society, is hog-tied  into immobility by a multitude of
new laws and regulations, it will  be a shame.  But in large part
it  will  have  itself  to blame.   Not  because  it  has behaved
atrociously, but because  chemists write so  abominably that only
other  chemists  read what  they  write.  As  a  consequence, the
industry has been explained to the public by Ralph Nader [1934-],
Barry Commoner  [1917-] and  a few  hundred TV  reporters, all of
whom have scant understanding of the subject.
   T.S. Eliot [1888-1965], whose doctoral dissertation was titled
"Meinong's   Gegendstandstheorie   Considered   in   Relation  to
Bradley's  Theory of  Knowledge," [(1)]  said later  that Harvard
probably accepted it "because it  was unreadable."  So are nearly
all the papers  written by chemists.  Most  do nothing to promote
public understanding of  chemistry.  This must  be changed before
the  verdict  that  chemistry  is  a  menace  to  society  can be
successfully appealed.
   Some years after leaving Harvard, Eliot changed his style, and
his works  were so well  received that  in 1948 he  won the Nobel
Prize for literature.   Chemists will never be  able to make such
remarkable changes in  their writings, but the  time has come for
them to  try to explain  in readable English  what their industry
has been doing  since chemistry left alchemy  behind and became a
science.   The  public should  be  told that  chemistry  has been
amazingly successful in making the  world a better place, despite
a few stupid mistakes.
   Lewis    Thomas   [1913-;    physician,    educator,   medical
administrator],  in  "The Lives  of  a Cell  [1974],"  noted that
medicine was  pitifully inept in  the treatment  of many diseases
until chemistry gave it some effective drugs to work with.  Prior
to that, all a  doctor could do was hold  a patient's hand, so to
speak,  until  he  died  or  was  cured  by  his  body's  natural
resources.  Similarly, vitamins, discovered  by chemists and made
available as  dietary supplements at  relatively low  cost by the
drug and chemical industries, have  made many ailments a thing of
the past in developed countries.
   The chemical industry's contributions toward feeding the human
race are at least as spectacular. Norman Borlaug [1914-; American
agronomist], winner  of the  Nobel Peace  Prize in  1970 [for his
agricultural "Green Revolution"],  has stated these contributions
succinctly.   But he  is never  quoted on  the evening  news when
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides  and herbicides are accused
of poisoning the soil, water and air of planet Earth.  As he once
wrote:  "Had our  country tried  to  achieve the  1980 production
employing  the  yield  and  technology  of  1940,  it  would have
required the  cultivation of an  additional 437  million acres of
land." [(2)]
   Perhaps more than anything, the  public needs to get away from
the notion that everything  in nature is pure  and helpful to the
human  race,  while  everything   done  by  people,  particularly
chemists,  is  likely  to cause  cancer.   The  world  has always
contained  a  multitude  of  toxic  and  carcinogenic  materials,
ranging from arsenic and radon, which chemists did not invent, to
yeasts and other ingredients in zymurgical liquids -- beer to the
patron's  of Joe's  Tavern.   The human  race  must learn  how to
protect itself from  toxic materials because  it is impossible to
wipe them from the  face of the Earth.  But  this is no reason to
panic.
   No single paper written in plain English, or even a hundred of
them, will be able  to  get this message  across to a public that
has been fed millions of messages to the contrary during the past
30 years, but a start has to be made.
   George Bernard  Shaw [1856-1950], in  his essay "Valedictory,"
said he  would always be  regarded as  "an extraordinarily witty,
brilliant and clever  man" because he had  been dinning this idea
into the public  mind for so  many years that  his reputation had
been built up on "an  impregnable basis of dogmatic reiteration."
The case  against the  chemical industry has  been built  up on a
similar basis, and  it is time  for the chemists  to use the same
methods in their industry's defense.
                            -------------
The following is not part of the original article.
Notes:
1. From Britannica 15 (1986):
Alexius   Meinong   (1853-1920).    "Austrian   philosopher   and
psychologist  remembered for  his  contributions to  axiology, or
theory of  values, and for  his Gegenstandstheorie,  or theory of
objects."  (s.v. Meinong, Alexius)
Francis  Herbert  Bradley  (1846-1924).   "[I]nfluential  English
philosopher  of the  absolute  Idealist school,  which  based its
doctrines on the  thought of G.W.F. Hegel  and considered mind to
be a more fundamental feature of the universe than matter."
(s.v. Braley, Francis Herbert)
2. From  "Table 320.  Land Utilization,  By Type:  1959 to 1982",
Statistical Abstract of the United States 1988 (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1987):
Land use:
   Cropland used for crops:
     369 million acres (1978)
     383 million acres (1982)
   Idle cropland:
      26 million acres (1978)
      21 million acres (1982)
   Cropland used only for pasture:
      76 million acres (1978)
      65 million acres (1982).

More:
Bruce N. Ames, Renae Magaw, Lois Swirsky Gold.  Ranking Possible
  Carcinogenic Hazards.  Science, 17 April 1987, pp. 271-280.
Robert James Bidinotto, "Bhopal: The Fruit of Industrial Policy,"
  The Intellectual Activist, 19 July 1985.  (The Intellectual
   Activist, P.O. Box 582, Murray Hill Station, New York, NY
   10156; Past issues, $3.00 each)
      This is a very good  article, though I cannot recommend The
   Intellectual  Activist,  an  (Randian)  Objectivist newsletter
   published   by  Peter   Schwartz,   which  suffers   from  the
   intellectual rigidities of that philosophy.
Norman E. Borlaug.  Land Use, Food, Energy and Recreation.
   Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983. (20 pp, $5.00)
William R. Havender and Leonard T. Flynn.  Does Nature Know Best?
  Natural Carcinogens in American Food.  July 1987. (The American
  Council on Science and Health, 47 Maple Street, Summit, NJ
  07901; $2.00)
                             *     *     *


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