Jack Trevors is a distinguished scientist at the University of Guelph. He’s had a decorated career in microbiology research, and unlike many scientists, has pursued research into more broader topics such as the question of the origin of life and the genetic code.
But, Trevors drew the attention of climate skeptics with one of his editorials titled ‘A vaccine against ignorance?’ at the journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, where he is editor-in-chief. A quick perusal of the editorial co-authored with Milton Saier, would reveal its several unpleasant aspects, centred around a suprisingly fact-free venting of pet political peeves on human population and capitalism. ClimateQuotes dissected it, so did JunkScience.
A while later, William Briggs wrote about it in his characteristic fashion. Replying to Briggs’ invitation to write a rebuttal, Trevors wrote back, dismissing him thus: “simply publish your papers in peer reviewed journals and then you can interact with the science community”.
At the time the strangely hypersensitive and virulent rhetoric in Trevors’ intrigued me. Digging back into Trevors’ previous editorials, I stumbled into a veritable cornucopia of Trevors’ opinions – all arrayed against the scource of ‘humans’ and the ‘planet’. The underlying theme was constant in all these editorials – human and the growth of their numbers as the source of all ‘planetary ills’.
Full excerpts from the comments I submitted to Briggs follow (highlights mine):
Human males are the cause of virtually all of our major problems on the Earth. Most past and present dictators, elected political officials, military officials and terrorists have been or are males who inflict immense human suffering by their actions. Rarely have females been responsible for comparable degrees of destruction. In fact, men have consistently cast tremendous suffering not only upon themselves, but also on women and children.
Trevors J, Saier M. Testosterone: The Cause of Our World’s Problems? Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2009;200(1):1-2.
The total planetary abuse is the extraction of hydrocarbons from the Earth and depositing the gasses and particulates in the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and bodies of animals. This form of abuse is the total pollution of our biosphere. To complicate the situation, add about 6.6 billion humans to the planet with an increase of 75 million humans annually. This is also abuse of our common shared biosphere.
Trevors J. Total Abuse of the Earth: Human Overpopulation and Climate Change. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2010;205(0):113-4.
We must succeed in decreasing the human population if we are to slow the assault on the Earth’s biosphere. Only if we do so, will we have sufficient time, energy, and capability to meet the challenges of global climate change, human and animal pandemics, and conflicts at international, national, communal, and personal levels.
Managing humans requires short-term action and long-term education, particularly on how to manage our reproductive activities. This would be the first and most important step toward becoming responsible world citizens. Progress toward resource consumption limitation will be thwarted if the numbers of humans on Earth continue to increase. Education can provide a dual knowledge–value system that allows people to think globally—long-term—instead of only considering the short-term individual desires for immediate gratification. Everyone must recognize the consequences of unwanted pregnancy and birth.
Humans are on a direct and fast collision course with global environmental disaster, and we are doing little to avoid the consequences. We must provide the means for fertility restriction so women can choose their family sizes and never be forced into unwanted pregnancy and motherhood. Universal women’s rights and human rights must be guaranteed. Remember, women are the victims of assaults, incest, and male domination. In every country where free birth control methods become available, birth rates drop to near replacement levels. This means that high fertility rates are not wanted by the citizens of underdeveloped countries; high fertility is forced upon women everywhere when free contraception and safe abortion services are not available.
Trevors J, Saier M. Manage Humans, not the Environment. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2010;205(0):93-5.
Some people believe that more credit must be made available to fuel consumption of renewable and nonrenewable resources in order to stimulate economic growth. Yet, the human population is now marching towards seven billion people, and we are already living painfully unsustainably. The planet is infected with too many humans.
It would take an annual 30–40 billion dollars, a trifling really, to provide universal birth control for the entire human population. This would be by far our best investment, but the USA, for one, or its current governmental officials, does not seem willing to even provide a tiny fraction of this meager sum. It would rather devote trillions for war and destruction, trillions for “home security”, and trillions for an untested rescue plan that allows billions to be pocketed by its planners.
Humanitarian organizations, the wealthy nations of the world, and everyone everywhere need to contribute to a well thought out, comprehensive, environmental rescue plan. We all need to contribute until it hurts, because the alternative is loss of our biosphere and species extinction with Homo sapiens being one of the casualties. Before humans disappear from the face of the Earth, human civilization will go by the wayside, resulting in incessant warfare, suffering, and destruction. We desperately need proper education, especially in the areas of human fertility, birth control, and global pollution.
Trevors J, Saier M. Where Is the Global Environmental Bailout? Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2009;198(1):1-3.
Democracy is not an idea on paper or in people’s minds. Democracy must be enacted internationally so humans can protect and preserve our common, shared, singular biosphere, mostly by controlling human population growth, reducing resource depletion, conservation, ending conflicts, cooperation, research, and education.
A priority national and international challenge will be to engineer actual stable democratic states, in sufficient time to deal with human population growth and the immense amount of pollution contributing to global climate change. Engineering the correct democracies has been an immense challenge for all countries and some have totally failed to make any progress. …
Trevors J. Global Pollution, Climate Change, and Democracies. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2010;205(0):125-6.
Briggs et al respond
With Trevors’ basic theme so publicized, Briggs with his co-authors Willie Soon, David Legates and Robert Carter responded to Trevors’ challenge: publish in the peer-reviewed literature. It is titled: ‘A vaccine against arrogance’.
Briggs et al’s response takes up one of the two major lines evident in the Trevors editorials: how has a pollution science journal’e editorial column become a ‘soap box’ for politicized venting by its custodian? They write:
Scientists acting in the name of science must remain mute on morality. They must remain agnostic, and should not preach. It is, thus, obvious that professional journals have no business publishing poorly written and naively argued political tracts which are only loosely associated with their stated purpose. Further, the forums available for scientists who feel utopian urges and the need to agitate politically are as multitudinous as they are for any citizen.
Trevors and Saier have followed up with their ‘rebuttal‘. Contained in it, is the weakest of possible replies to qualify for a rebuttal to Briggs et al’s central objection:
Providing a perspective in a science journal is not preaching or arrogant. It is a perspective. People reading the perspective can also choose to not read it or simply ignore it afterwards. They can also choose to disagree with some or all of the perspective. Professional journals can choice[sic] to publish what they want. If some people disagree, then they should not read the journals and choose to read and publish elsewhere.
It is indeed the right of every citizen to question political decisions and activities in democratic countries. This is not a form of agitation but central to evolving modern democratic states. If citizens of a country disagree with this, they have the option of leaving their evolving democracy and becoming a citizen of any non-democratic country who will grant them citizenship.
In other words, Trevors and Saier say: Don’t read us if you don’t like what we have to say. We view publishing of our views at a venue of which one of us is editor-in-chief, as a ‘democratic right’, and if you don’t like it, you can emigrate to any non-democratic country.
It is clear that Trevors has failed to uphold his original offer: inviting participation in the peer-reviewed literature, Trevors fails to engage and explain why a science journal should perform as a platform for political views, however well-founded they may be (as he claims). Instead, defensively, he deems to shoo away those who question him.
Indeed, Briggs et al can be assured: publication of political tracts in science journals is not a democratic function. There are other venues for such expression: newspapers, the electronic media, blogs, magazines and published books in the popular press. Indeed, Trevors’ actions as editor reflect the capturing of an otherwise open scientific forum, a position offered to him no doubt for his scientific merit for the promulgation of his personal opinions. It is patently anti-democratic. As noted previously it is Trevors who is in error if he thinks his opinion pieces emanating from his safely ensconced position as editor constitutes ‘interaction’ with the ‘scientific community’. In reality, the bizzare opinions he holds wouldn’t survive two minutes outside his ivory tower, in the sunlight of the wide world.
Trevors and Saier conclude their ‘rebuttal’ by singing further paeans to the virtue of ‘education’. But as clearly evident from the above quoted passages, Trevors views “education”, as nothing more than an euphemism for inhibition of reproductive and procreative impulses.