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Biological Chemistry

Not Evil, No Less Human

by Robin M. Giroux
September 9, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 36

The chemical industry is not and has never been evil. I found it disturbing that, in doing a science exercise, Guy Villax’ son, Alex, got this impression of industry in the 1960s (C&EN, July 22, page 4).

Most chemists felt good about all the ingenious and potentially beneficial things that we were doing in the 1950s: developing pesticides to control disease-carrying insects, discovering chemicals and know-how enabling an ample food supply for the world, providing economical and improved input for most of the world’s products, and more.

Chemistry was and still is an exciting vocation—studying, discovering, designing, creating, and producing many interesting new and improved things with the potential for meeting many of humankind’s needs.

As human beings, we can’t help but make mistakes, and we need people like Rachel Carson to call them to our attention. Better yet, we need to begin listening to those who are already speaking out as Carson did.

We can do a better job by not looking the other way when we hear that our activities could be threatening. We must show our concern to demonstrate our resolve to minimize possible unanticipated side effects from our products. That concern should be made more obvious to the public so that it is heard over that of phony authorities and those who would resort to undermine our positive contributions and to smear legitimate scientists.

James OB Wright
Sequatchie, Tenn.


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