A Darwin Day Scientific Treasury

Reading Darwin's booksAnyone who has followed my writings for awhile knows that I have a thing for men of science. I adored Sir Isaac Newton at an early age, I wrote a screenplay about Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley as a teenage girl (I think it needs a second revision), I’ve dissected Charles Darwin’s mind in college, and I interviewed Professor John Lennox a couple of years ago. I’m actually working on a new script that involves a fictional scientist, but that is a story for another day.

American President Abraham Lincoln and British naturalist Charles Darwin would have both turned 204 today. As of late, I’ve seen more Americans obsessing over Darwin. Some Democrats in Congress wanted to officially designate February 12th, 2013 as “Darwin Day” to recognize “the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.” (Hmmm, as long as science has a moral check and balance, if they had the nerve to specify…)

Since I never want my academic work to go to waste, I’ve recycled some papers that readers might enjoy.

DARWIN: DEFINING THE ORIGINS DEBATE

Written for an English literature class in 2010, this essay of mine dissects the rhetorical strategies of Darwin.

FIT TO SURVIVE: DARWIN’S ACADEMIC LEGACY

Written last year for a history class on Victorian England, this term paper of mine investigates the factors behind the acceptance of Darwinism.

MY VERY OWN CHICKEN GENETICS EXPERIMENT!

“Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has been the stage of most Western thought.”
- Douglas Futuyma

Armin Cifuentes/Ronald Martinez (Getty Images)

DARWINOCRACY: THE EVOLUTION QUESTION IN AMERICAN POLITICS

Does Darwin rule the electorate? Why does a stigma surround those who are skeptical of Darwinism, and how should candidates respond?

Jan Ingenhousz

Jan Ingenhousz, Dutch physician (1730-1799)

“We might conceive a little more of the deep designs of the Supreme Wisdom in the different arrangement of sublunary beings. The stubborn atheist would, perhaps, find reason to humiliate himself before that Almighty Being, whose existence he denies because his limited senses represent to him nothing but a confused chaos of miseries and disorders in this world.” - Jan Ingenhousz, in a piece of writing I discovered in the antique book, The Beginnings of Modern Science: Scientific Writings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries.

Dr. Wiley would not approve: BP’s Corexit mythology

Harvey Wiley in his lab; heart shaped oil glob at Gulf Shores, AL (courtesy Rachel Read)

Harvey Wiley in his lab; heart shaped oil glob at Gulf Shores, AL (courtesy Rachel Read)

What part of “acute health hazard” does BP not understand? History shows why government approval doesn’t mean much.

This month Orange Beach, Ala., resident Margaret Long discovered residue of BP’s dispersant of choice – Corexit – floating by her house on Cotton Bayou. The uncomfortable proximity of toxic dispersant is not a surprise to those of us living in Gulf states.

Two months ago, I strolled along the Gulf Shores, Ala., beach to find a long, snaky boom floating across the surf and “BP mobiles” (as we dubbed them) scuttling about, scraping petroleum residue off the white sand. While examining the boom, I stepped on a sticky tar ball. Along with other beachgoers, I had to stand in line near the hose and bucket labeled “Tar Wash” to scrub the stubborn substance off my bare feet. One man present told me about a friend of his having asthmatic attacks during a beach visit. “From the petroleum in the air?” I asked. He seemed to both nod and shrug at once. The air did have a faint tarlike odor.

But, ironically, the petroleum substance causing allergic reactions probably didn’t spill out of the depths of the Gulf.

The petroleum-based dispersant employed by BP in cleaning up the worst environmental disaster on record actually may be an agent of disaster in itself.  Corexit is fast becoming an infamous name, with the toxicity of its makeup being more than suspicious. The same brand of dispersant was used during cleanup of the Exxon Valdez spill more than 20 years ago, and the average lifespan of every cleanup member exposed to it is 51 years. Nearly all of those crew members are now dead.

None of this matters to a panicking oil company, of course. Corexit is government approved.

But government approval isn’t genuinely worth much and hasn’t been for quite a while.  To figure that out, simply follow the story of Harvey Wiley (1844-1930), chief of the Bureau of Chemistry (a precursor to the FDA). He also happens to be the star of the screenplay mentioned in my silly little bio. During the Teddy Roosevelt administration, Wiley managed to bring the hazardous adulterations in the food and drug industries to the attention of Congress. After years of researching the effects of preservatives and additives used by many manufacturers, Wiley helped write the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

The law was barely enacted before a convoluted legal battle took place that manipulated the definitions of the act for the dissenting manufacturers’ benefit. The Pure Food and Drug Law was far too popular nationwide to overturn, so the companies that were sloppy in their practices managed to find scientists who produced data that made their crimes look less heinous. Their allies in Congress subsequently amended the law to suite their tastes. The result was power vested in a new board of unscrupulous scientists instead of the Bureau of Chemistry. All the substances that Wiley predicted would insidiously cause disease – from sodium benzoate to saccharin – were “government approved,” and the American public has been consuming them (plus more) for more than a century.

Thus, BP’s Corexit splurge is certainly not the first time that long-term health and safety has been sacrificed for short-term profit.

We could possibly cut the instigators at BP a little slack if no other cleanup option existed. But, in reality, there are plenty of effective, less toxic and natural methods available, such as that offered by OSEI. Corexit is actually known to be less effective than some of the other options. Furthermore, we have even more vivid historical and scientific evidence of its harmfulness than Wiley ever could have acquired about toxic preservatives through his Poison Squad: We have the chilling aftermath of the Exxon Valdez cleanup to observe!

But money speaks louder than evidence to ticklish ears.

Nalco, the synthetics company that makes Corexit, has Rodney F. Chase among its board of directors. Before coming to Nalco, Chase worked at BP for 38 years. That leaves much financial expediency to the imagination. Furthermore, BP obviously wants to dump into the sea whatever it takes to make the oil “disappear” quickly and easily, and, thus, help keep its fines low and reputation high. The dissenting manufacturers in Wiley’s day wanted to dump into their sub-par products whatever it took to make them look fresh and nutritious and, thus, keep their profits and reputation high. Both schemes have been scorned by the American public – we the people who end up suffering the consequences.

The primary purpose of our nation’s government is to protect its people. Wiley insisted that, for the safety of the American people, the Bureau of Chemistry ought to abide by the standard that no substances are to be released to the public until first proved harmless. The Food and Drug Administration standard of today seems to have eroded to allow anything on the market until it is proved harmful.  Based on the dispersants given the green light, the Environmental Protection Agency seems no different.  I have to add here that the FDA seems to have jumped onto the Corexit bandwagon, even arguing back in May:

“As part of FDA’s effort to monitor the development of this crisis and its potential impact on the safety of seafood harvested from the Gulf of Mexico, this is an assessment of the potential toxic human health impact of the chemical dispersants as per their potential to adversely impact seafood…Though early dispersants contained agents highly toxic to marine life, manufacturers have refined formulations of more recent generations of dispersants to dramatically reduce toxicity…In conclusion, the available information indicates that dispersants have little or no effect on the bioaccumulation potential of oil contaminants, nor do they themselves accumulate in seafood.”

That argument sounds eerily similar to arguments with which Wiley was faced.  I don’t mean to make you ill, but that’s coming from the same department that approves the food and medicine on your shelves.

While researching for and writing The Crusading Chemist (which I hope to revise again), one of the historical threads I discovered and worked to incorporate into the script is the tension between government and science. Government, in this sense, can refer to the political operations of a country or company, and, by nature, it desires some sort of stable, unchanging system to rule. Science, however, is a tentative medium. In politics, tentative equals manipulative.

At the beginning of this month, federal scientists were unabashedly announcing that most of the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico was gone. In other words, “Look, our strategy is working! The dispersant is busting up the oil – who cares if it’s busting red blood cells too?”

But soon scientists in Georgia called attention to evidence that perhaps 80 percent of the spilled oil remains, merely drifting deep beneath the surface of the sea. That’s what Corexit does — mess with the oil’s molecular structure so that it sinks rather than floats. The oil spill is being swept under the rug, not cleaned up.

Reflect for a moment on the origin of this disaster. It wasn’t oil or offshore drilling alone that contributed to it.  These industries offer a great deal to our economy and should not be naively considered to only equal bizarre disaster.  Rather, notice that it was the preposterous notion of drilling in dangerously deep water that initiated the fiasco.

Meanwhile, 19 million acres of flat, empty, essentially barren land brimming with oil are sitting atop Alaska: ANWR. As Greta Van Susteren discovered while touring the enormous state with Todd and Sarah Palin, many misconceptions about ANWR exist because of misleading agendas. So, while BP is shooting itself (and the coast – and ocean life) in the foot way out at sea, there is untapped potential way out in no-man’s land that could be utilized in far safer ways.

The ruthless antics of British Petroleum are not signs of a capitalist problem or whatever-ideology-is-politically-expedient-to-attack problem. They are rooted in the human problem of careless ambition. As sources of order and information, both government and science are powerful tools. But, as human institutions, both are only a human ego away from imploding.

Powerful men can’t stand to be proved wrong.

Read more of Amanda’s column Not Your Average Read in the Communities at The Washington Times

“You Presume Everything, Professor”

Louis Agassiz

"The sad confession which every true scientific man learns to make is, 'I am ignorant; I want to learn'" - Louis Agassiz

The history of science is one of my primary interests.  What constitutes science, how scientific opinion and data has changed or appeared, and what sort of influence the whole field of science has on culture, as well as vice versa.  Despite all its glory, science is, after all, a very narrow vacuum of understanding when viewed in a historical context.  It can only tell us so much, and when the majority of society places upon it burdens and responsibilities it cannot live up to, distortion is inevitable.

Hmm, perhaps a chiseling of definitions is in order.  After all, science can apply to different things when used in a general context (i.e., historical science).  In the comments on my last article, a debate erupted over whether or not Creation and Evolution are falsifiable and therefore “real science.”  I tried to explain that Creation and Evolution are scientific worldviews whose sub-hypotheses constitute predictions, which are falsifiable, which thus constitute “real science.”  After thinking things through for awhile and looking things up, I realized why there was so much confusion over what is true science.

Empirical science, technically, is true science.  Empirical science is a system of study which deals with observable and repeatable – and therefore testable or experimental – evidence.  I suppose we could call it the “useful science,” because it is from empirical science that we get medical advancements.  Sounds like the sort of material that should be able to solve all the world’s problems, right?  Before you place your faith in it, consider this:

“These evolutionary happenings are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved, which far exceed the lifetime of any human experimenter. And yet, it is just such impossibility that is demanded by anti-evolutionists when they ask for ‘proofs’ of evolution which they would magnanimously accept as satisfactory.”

- Theodosius Dobzhansky, geneticist and evolutionary biologist

“Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus ‘outside of empirical science‘ but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training.”

- Paul Ehrlich, evolutionary biologist

Thus, the scientific worldviews of Creation and Evolution are not empirical science.  Microevolution, or change within a genome, is within the realm of empirical science, because we observe it all the time.  Macroevolution, on the other hand, is not within the realm of empirical science.  The evolutionary explanation is often just “it happens so slowly that we can’t observe it.”  Thus, there needs to be convincing historical evidence for it (such as in the realm of paleontology).   The Great Flood recorded in the Bible is, for us, an unobservable, unrepeatable event.  It is comically absurd for someone to mix up a bunch of dirt in a fish tank with some water and presume that the results from that “experiment” verify or invalidate the occurrence of a kataklysmos in the earth’s past.  If it wasn’t technically even a flood, but rather an unfathomable disaster of epic proportions that is never supposed to occur again, then it can only be studied through historical, archaeological and paleontological evidence (and hey, if you’re going to accept Archeopteryx as evidence of macroevolution, then the presence of bivalves on the tops of mountains is certainly evidence of a global flood-like disaster!).  The original Creation of life is, for us, an unobservable, unrepeatable event (which is why it is outside the realm of empirical science).  We do, however, see procreation and human abilities to design and create complex things, and we see that nothing comes from nothing.  Totally spontaneous generation from nonliving matter with no outside influence would be the only solid evidence against the scientific worldview of Creation.

In the long run, then, arguing over whether or not the scientific worldviews of Creation and Evolution are falsifiable is pointless.  Their validity depends upon MUCH more than the realm of empirical science.  So, why does anyone call Evolution indisputable fact?  Why such offense at anyone who questions Evolution?  I get the impression that skeptics gravitate toward science because they have a human desire for security, for belief in something steadfast.  From what I’ve learned, science is too tentative for such gratification.

For  your amusement, here is a scene from a screenplay about the life of a famous scientist (setting: late 19th century):

17 INT. DR. P.H. JAMESON’S HOME

In the large dining room, all a-glow with sophistication,
the dignified DR. JAMESON and charming MRS. JAMESON
introduce PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE.

DR. JAMESON
Allow me to take a moment to give our guest of honor a formal
introduction – Welcome Professor Edward S. Morse.

The guests offer a gentle applause.

MRS. JAMESON
His accomplishments ought to serve as an inspiration to us all -
though few of us have his ambidextrous talent.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
Oh, but that was almost my undoing. I got nothing out of the classroom – albeit myself -because I couldn’t quit carving pictures in the desks.

Laughter.

MRS. JAMESON
Draw us something, why not?

She hands him paper and pen.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
A portrait is what you’re
expecting, I presume?

MRS. JAMESON
You presume awfully quickly,
Professor. Do you wish to prove your hand at portraiture? I don’t mind – you’re the artist.

DR. JAMESON
As well as a scientist. How did
you ever learn to focus on
something as scholarly as
science?

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
(alternating hands while
sketching)
When you are able to keep your mind open to new knowledge constantly there isn’t as much boredom. Science came naturally.

DR. JAMESON
You even made your way into Harvard.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
I was fortunate to become the student assistant of Professor Louis Agassiz at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. Agassiz, he – he was undoubtedly a truly scientific
man, yet I left him over a disagreement. I am not dependent solely on the views of other
eminent scientists. If any of you can understand – surely it would
have been nonsense to my status in the field of science if I remained allied with someone that eventually opposed true science.

There is a brief silence as the listeners ponder what he
just said. Finally MRS. JAMESON speaks up with curiosity.

MRS. JAMESON
I’m no scientist, but I know a thing or two about common logic. Professor Morse, how can a truly
scientific man possibly oppose true science?

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
Well, now the science I referred
to is Evolution. It has been presented by Darwin and endorsed
by a great many in the scientific society.

MRS. JAMESON
(laughs)
“Presented”? “Endorsed”?
“Society”? Forgive me, but you make this “true science” sound like just a trend.

DR. JAMESON
Darling, that statement of yours sounded ruthlessly frivolous.

MRS. JAMESON
I am absolutely intrigued! Explain to me, young Mr. Wiley,
why you are intrigued by science – or what is science, for that
matter?

HARVEY WILEY
Any student of medicine can be presented with “cures” for the various ailments that afflict
mankind, but few answers as to the roots of both health and disease. Science is a tool that
is used to unearth answers to the workings of the natural world, and I am intrigued as to why no one puts more emphasis on objectivity in the field of
medicine. I am hoping that by delving into science I will see
honest answers.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
I am glad to see science so regarded by a student of
medicine, Mr. Wiley. But I would hardly say that “trend” is the
right word, Mrs. Jameson. A scientific theory should gain
more respect than that.

MRS. JAMESON
How much theoretical persistence
may be respected when truth is on the line? Something as
influential as science must demand accuracy.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
As well as not have its advancements hindered. Perhaps
the greatest age in science is yet to come – and surely there
are more discoveries to be made. My job is not to fret over the
currently indeterminable. It is to have my mind open to evidence.

HARVEY WILEY
Advancements – do you think that advancements in science will improve the trials and afflictions of humanity?

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
Why would progress not bring
improvement?

HARVEY WILEY
Would those who ignore such
advancements be considered primitive?

DR. JAMESON
I suppose so.

HARVEY WILEY
When I studied as a medical apprentice, Dr. Hampton and I
encountered many poor country folk. They were distant from
improved society and lived off their homesteads – isolated from
culture, you might say. Yet they were healthier and more resilient
than most of those living in more advanced communities that I have
witnessed. What explanation is there for that?

DR. JAMESON and PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE respond with
pondering stares. MRS. JAMESON responds with sarcasm…

MRS. JAMESON
Shame on you, Harvey Wiley, for daring to question a doctor and a
scientist on something that neither can answer!

DR. JAMESON
Well now, Wiley, all the medicine
in the world will not provide you with all the answers. Maybe a few
cures to problems, but not many answers as to their existence. I
really don’t know what else to tell you. Maybe nutrition and so
forth has something to do with it.

HARVEY WILEY
Nutrition? Then it is evident that medicine has not dealt with
that scientifically. Either that or science is actually
experiencing a decline as it increases in public interest.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
I would presume it to lie with the former.

MRS. JAMESON
You presume everything, Professor.

MRS. JAMESON
(To HARVEY WILEY
sarcastically)
What if you – young Mr. Wiley – and I decided to make a bet against these scientific
individuals? A bet that they are never quite certain as to what is
merely presumable and what is fact.

HARVEY WILEY
(amused)
Now, Mrs. Jameson, you know how dangerous it is to gamble with
the elite. I was under the impression that it is their job to challenge us.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
The ideas are challenging, as every idea presumes something.

DR. JAMESON
I think that they want to see science confirm something to be true or false, Professor Morse.

PROFESSOR EDWARD MORSE
Science is quite tentative.

MRS. JAMESON
Oh, I see. Just as long as I don’t resemble an ape in my portrait.

The room fills with laughter that gradually fades away to
the next scene.

~Amanda~

A Revision Is Underway!

I finally heard from my manager on Thursday. Four script readers provided critiquing (called “coverage”) of The Crusading Chemist and explained how it needs to be revised before they can represent it. I confirmed the contract, which states that they will receive a 15% commission of the sales price if they find a buyer for the screenplay.

What I loved about their analysis is that they were completely objective – they had no idea who I was (at least one of them thought I was a man…haha…) and had never heard of the story before. While they each had unique opinions, they all agreed that the script needs to be shortened – with less of the long biographical beginning and more focus on the heart of the story – and that the characters’ emotions and personalities need some more depth. Here are excerpts from their comments (I didn’t get to edit some of the typos):

“A major issue throughout was lack of conflict. I believe the writer possess a strong and professional ability, which is obvious within format and dialogue, however the story truly suffers throughout due to lack of conflict.
Additionally there is little to no romance involved. A female interest isn’t even introduced until page 42. Even when the characters become close, there is no development of their relationship…”

“Extremely well written dialogue. It is a very difficult thing to write a period piece and make the dialogue believable. I thought the writer achieved this feat remarkably. It was very intelligent and complex.
There is a particular character in the very beginning that I really enjoyed. DR. JOHN W. SCOTT speaks with a very philosophical and humors tone that I really enjoyed. At times however I do believe because of the very intellectual speech there were many times that I believed the dialogue to be drawn out and unnecessary. “

“The script suffers from far too many scenes where characters talk about the problem of additives and unpure [sic] drugs but beyond the talk, little action takes place.”

“This story is non-fiction, so I’m assuming, if the writer has done his research, which it seems that he has, most of if not all of the characters appear to be real people. My thinking therefore is that the writer was to concerned with detailing an accurate depiction of HARVEY’s life, including every single person that he ever came into contact with, and not enough time on focusing on the characters that truly mattered. “

“I believe the writer possess extremely talented abilities overall. The script was very professional few to no format or grammatical errors, and it is clear that the writer has an informative understanding of the story.”

“I will however reiterate the need for conflict and establishing character relationships. I want to see more emotion in this story. Where’s the love, friendship, anger, etc? As it stands right now, most of the characters a very bland and uninteresting. Again I believe a lot of this has to do with the writer staying a true to actual events and characters as told in real life. However sometimes for the sake of film we must embellish on reality. In some way the heart of this story needs to be brought out, and it just can’t be through exposition and plot alone.”

“The writer sets up scenes for good conflict, yet lets these situations go without any dramatic climax. The main character could be much more pro-active, could have more reactions toward his obstacles that would reveal more about his character. There aren’t a lot of revealing moments for him. Some moments of dialogue stand out as unique and insightful. On page 17, Louis Agassiz has an interesting shpeal about Harvard. The script would benefit from more of these moments in which the audience feels intrigued by these quirky professors.”

“The story gets rolling far too late in the script. The juiciest part of the script, in which Harvey wishes to pass this bill, but can’t, and then subsequently reaps no benefits of his labor after it is passed, comes much too late in the story. Adding more conflict to his earlier goals (getting permission from his father to go to school, learning under the professor of his choice) will also keep the audience’s attention…”

“The author has obviously spend hours researching the period in which the story takes place as well as all the chemical reasons and legal ramifications that are explained in the story.”

“Harvey Wiley played an important part in United States history and this script is a window to allow people today to look at his contribution to food and drugs. Overall, the window is too wide, however, to sustain interest or allow an audience to feel that they are inside the man and can relate to his struggles.”

“I loved the scene where the performer is singing while we see Wiley’s experiment is being set up. More devices like this should be used. Also, the dialogue is not distinct enough, between characters. Vivian Mallory is a prime example of a character in this script that is fully visualized. I get the sense that she is a stereotypical social butterfly and a bit flighty. That’s awesome. Unfortunately, the other characters come across a bit bland.”

“As well written as this was, a major issue was with establishing seemingly influential and major characters and then never hearing from them ever again. This became more and more frustrating as it continues to happen throughout the entire story. There are many great characters that are introduced that I wanted to see more of. I lost count of how many characters were introduced on one page and by the next their existence it was ancient history. “

“The script could be improved if, instead of beginning to describe his life from his college years onward, the time span was focused only on those years where the maximum controversy over the act occurred. That would also limit the number of characters and dialogue.”

Scenes that work well: The scene where Dr. Wiley resigns after being accused of writing a bicycle, the scenes when Wiley is with Anna; these give a peek that the “inner” man is not all scientist.

“I liked the concept of “The Crusading Chemist” alot. It tells a part of US history that is not well known and should be. Bio pics are hard to do because the right balance must be struck between getting everything in there and not having the script lull or drag on in places.”

“This script is ambitious in its scope and, while that is admirable, it’s causing too much to be going on and the writer has relied too much on dialogue to get the story across. As, I have mentioned, there were some shining points, but the script needs to be focused and cut down. After it is revised, I think this script could be a much needed spot light on a part of our history that has remained the dark for too long.”

I appreciate their candid critiquing and am developing some ideas for a revision.  I’m looking forward to working with them on it.  One thing I found interesting is that one of the readers said that Vivian Mallory was the best example of a fully visualized character…and to think that Vivian is a completely fictional character out of my imagination!  That illustrates an interesting point to me: if I happened to be writing a completely fictional, imaginative story of my own, it would probably satisfy them because I would take full control over the characters and really make them my own.  But since this is a history, I’ve been a bit hesitant about that.  They seemed to agree that my primary weakness is attempting to be too detailed and accurate.

The reason why I wasn’t able to get very romantic is a two fold challenge: first of all, there was a point in the story in which Harvey and Anna barely saw each other for 10 years and secondly, their personal correspondence is hidden away in the depths of the Library of Congress which I have not yet been able to access.  Hmm…there is only so much I can comfortably imagine, especially when I consider that their real life historical romance was probably far better than I can fictionalize.

Well, do you agree with their comments?  You are welcome to read the first edition of the script yourself and share some comments!

~Amanda~

The Crusading Chemist: The Story Behind The Story

Finally, I shall explain what all this research and writing and registering is really all about after all. What exactly is The Crusading Chemist about anyway? First of all, it is a biopic about a historical character already vague and yet increasingly curious to the modern audience: Harvey W. Wiley, Chief Chemist of the Department of Agriculture (specifically, of the Bureau of Chemistry – precursor to the FDA) from 1883-1912.  As for the title, I didn’t just make that up either. This man was referred to as “The Crusading Chemist” during his popular career.{You’re probably still wondering – “who?”, but you’ll figure that out later…}

A STORY OF A FORGOTTEN HERO

I learned about this fascinating forgotten hero of American history when Mom was researching nutrition four years ago. As many of you probably well know, much of the food that is manufactured, sold and consumed in our country is adulterated and leeched of the essential nutrients that our ancestors used to have access to. That is why there is such a strong emphasis on taking vitamins and finding organic whole foods in our modern day and age. But where did that ridiculous controversy start in the first place? Why isn’t everything at the store natural and wholesome like it should be? Why should we even have to worry about it?

Just a little over one hundred years ago, American citizens were outraged over such products. Back then additives, preservatives, bleached flour, etc. were freak practices of careless businessmen that were fast becoming vogue. Harvey Wiley, once just a farmer boy from Indiana (the 6th of 7 children as a matter of fact!) and eventually early 20th century America’s most famous chemist, decided that something must be done about it. {Allow me to lapse into present tense here, as drama goes} His crusade for a law banning such practices (known as the Pure Food and Drug Law) is opposed only by two main forces that are deeply personified in two actual historical characters: Walter Williams, a fiercely antagonistic businessmen that is ambitious to have a profitable industry no matter what practice – and is later sorely penitent – and Solicitor McCabe, a suave young lawyer ambitious to become the most powerful legal official in the USDA that has grudgingly observed Harvey’s success. McCabe influences the well-meaning but wavering Secretary of Agriculture (the Scottish-born James Wilson) to appoint opposing scientists to counteract the enforcement of the Pure Food and Drug Law in one of the most misunderstood and ignored crimes in American government.

A STORY OF SCIENCE AND POLITICS

As I began doing research on the historical setting, I realized that this story (though perhaps boring at first glance) is a goldmine of poignant themes. One of my favorite elements that I chose to elaborate on is that of science. The protagonist (Harvey Wiley) lives through the most shocking era of change in scientific history: the publicizing of ideas about the origin of life that were contrary to the widely accepted Biblical account of Creation. One thing that struck me most about the era of the late 19th century and early 20th century is that it became somewhat of a “second Renaissance” – a time of “enlightenment” amongst scientists, businessmen and politicians that steered the modern world towards humanism.

The script illustrates the faulty thinking that comes as a result of holding such views – and what happens when our leaders allow elitism to have its way.

A STORY OF AN UNUSUAL ROMANCE

Well, romance is almost stereotypical in every genre of film, but this history happened to have a very unusual sort of spin on that theme. Harvey Wiley composed a humorous chemistry poem about his “Ideal Woman” while in a laboratory at Harvard University when he was around 30 years old. However, he soon became so absorbed in his work and research that for many years he didn’t even consider marriage an option in his busy life. In fact, he didn’t even meet his “Ideal Woman” until he was 54 years old – and she was 33 years younger! Miss Anna Kelton briefly did secretarial work in the Bureau of Chemistry and then took a position at the Library of Congress. Harvey and Anna barely saw each other during the tumultuous decade of the Pure Food and Drug Law’s passage, but they had impacted each other’s lives greatly and both had passion for the cause. When Harvey was 66 years old he proposed to her and she accepted. They married a year later and eventually had two sons.

Harvey Wiley didn’t describe much of his communication with Anna Kelton, and I was unable to access their letters which are now at the Library of Congress. Thus, I had to imagine a good deal of it. I orchestrated cordial dialogue and originally had a plan to cut directly to the end of a wedding scene in order to wrap up that plot at the end of the movie. That was fine in my mind until Mom and Rachel suggested that I write a proposal scene instead. I am hopelessly unromantic and was therefore determined to avoid such a thing.  After a few hours of thinking it over I finally brought myself to write it.  Rachel still insists that I made it too short…but there is a time constraint for movies, so I have a good excuse. The director and actors/actresses can improve where I falter.

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

The bulk of the literary work in a screenplay is dialogue. For this script, I was blessed to be provided with loads of transcripts, Congressional records and writings by direct witnesses as to what these people actually said and did. Some of my favorite scenes took place straight out of Harvey Wiley’s autobiography and New York Times archives! Of course, there are many scenes that I had to edit or invent dialogue for and quite a few scenes that I had to completely fabricate. It will be fun to ask some of you that are used to my writing and speaking style to guess which parts of the dialogue I created and which lines were actually spoken!

As for the characters, all of them are either actual historical characters or they are semi-fictional. What is semi-fictional? For instance: There were numerous young men that joined “The Poison Squad” (Harvey Wiley’s experimental team that consumed preservative-laden foods to see the effects it had on health), but many news sources never released their names. I invented a minor character that joins The Poison Squad and happens to have an older sister that is a good friend of Anna Kelton. Technically you could consider his sister a fictional character, but as it turns out, she too becomes a semi-fictional character as the story progresses, because I use her to to fulfill the role of yet another otherwise anonymous historical character.

~ CAST OF MAJOR CHARACTERS ~

HARVEY WILEY – {protagonist} The Chief Chemist that fights for the Pure Food and Drug Law

W.D. BIGELOW – his First Assistant Chemist

SOLICITOR McCABE – {antagonist} The high ranking lawyer in the Department of Agriculture that leads the undermining of the Pure Food and Drug Law

WALTER WILLIAMS – The businessman that further influences Solicitor McCabe in defeating Harvey Wiley…and later regrets it

SECRETARY WILSON – The well-meaning Secretary of Agriculture that unwittingly defeats Harvey Wiley by listening to Solicitor McCabe

THEODORE ROOSEVELT – President of the United States during the fight for the Law

ANNA KELTON {love interest} The lovely young secretary to Harvey Wiley that later becomes his wife

VIVIAN MALLORY – her fashionable friend

EDWARD MALLORY – Vivian’s brother who joins Harvey Wiley’s “Poison Squad”

FREDERICK DUNLAP – The somewhat clueless young chemist appointed due to Solicitor McCabe’s designs for thwarting Harvey Wiley

ALICE LAKEY – A strong supporter of Harvey Wiley’s movement, she endorses the Act publicly in the women’s clubs


Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley

{Harvey Wiley}

W.D. Bigelow

{The only picture I could find of W.D. Bigelow – he is actually much younger in the story}

Solicitor George McCabe

{Solicitor McCabe – picture from an article in The Hampton Magazine}

Secretary James Wilson

{Secretary Wilson – just imagine, he had a Scottish accent, you know…}

President Theodore Roosevelt

{President Theodore Roosevelt, of course}

Frederick Dunlap

{Frederick Dunlap – picture in The Hampton Magazine}

Anna Kelton

{I scanned in this photo of Anna Kelton from Harvey Wiley’s autobiography}

Alice Lakey

{There’s a better picture of Alice Lakey somewhere…I just need to find it}

THE TREATMENT

The Treatment is supposed to capture the best aspects of the screenplay and convince a producer or director that it deserves to be made into a film. It is written in present tense just like the script itself. Does it tell you what you want to know about the screenplay? Does it make you want to read the screenplay or watch the movie? Or is it too long, too dull, too much or not enough? Please offer as many suggestions as you would like! Remember that the eloquence of the Treatment may be the only chance of ever getting the screenplay even close to being produced.

~ ~ ~

The story opens in 1926 at the 20th Anniversary dinner of the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Law. The storyline is woven from the accounts of Harvey Wiley, our hero, as he gives his speech and Walter Williams, the contrite businessman that originally collaborated with the scheming young lawyer, Solicitor McCabe, to oust Harvey and his Act. But where did Harvey gain such passion for this cause, and where did the businessman and lawyer get their antagonism for it? A historical character already vague and increasingly curious to the modern audience, Harvey Wiley’s story encompasses the remarkable complexities of his lifetime involving science, politics, nutrition and cultural change in the United States of America – as well as shed light on the story behind our current FDA’s major downfall in protecting the people.

ood and drug regulation in the United States is an issue that the lives of its citizens depend upon, but an entire century after its enactment, The Crusading Chemist is the first dramatized retelling of the forgotten history of the man behind it: The true story of Harvey Wiley {1844-1930}, an ambitious farmer boy from Indiana who becomes Chief Chemist in Washington, D.C. and oversees the political battle for and enforcement of the famous Pure Food and Drug Law.

“That man was ahead of his time,” the old businessman Walter Williams quips to the naive young Reporter at the back of the room. “But the more obvious it becomes that he was right, the less people listen to him.”

The chatter in the classy, sparkling dining room of the Waldorf-Astoria dies down as the audience turns its attention to a distinguished gentleman at the head table.

“It’s only been twenty years, Harvey. That’s young for a law, don’t you think?” mentions the lovely Mrs. Anna Kelton Wiley, at least thirty years younger than her husband.

Still stately at the advanced age of 82, Harvey Wiley, our hero, graciously tells his story once more…the story behind one of modern America’s most complacent tragedies.

“The events that led to that complex yet ignored history humbly came about in the beginning by simple observation,” says Harvey, his style of speaking as enrapturing as ever. “When there is so much progress, people tend to forget.”

Flash back to Kent, Indiana in year 1863. An 18-year-old Harvey Wiley sets out from his family farm to go to college. He witnesses the cultural and industrial changes of the day experiencing everything from lectures at Hanover College and Harvard University, serving in the War Between The States, apprenticing with a country doctor and finally studying over seas at the Imperial Health Laboratory with Dr. Eugene Sell.

There something dawns on him: increased industry results in a demand for a nearly mechanical production of food. The manufacturers are beginning to resort to the use of toxic preservatives (i.e., formaldehyde in milk, sodium benzoate and copper sulfate in canned goods, sulfur dioxide in dried fruits…), adulteration and misbranding. It will become slowly but surely more difficult for people to provide safely for their families as this unnatural revolution takes place. It is now that Harvey feels a calling to seize upon this pressing issue that is invading his own country. He returns to the States to resume a teaching position at Purdue University and begins informing the public of such hazards by writing for science magazines.

His experience gains him the position State Chemist at the State Board of Health. At a convention in Missouri he meets Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Loring, who is so impressed by Harvey’s work that he secures an offer for him to become Chief Chemist of the United States Department of Agriculture.

He arrives at the archaic Washington, D.C. of the late 19th century, bearing the responsibility of being a high ranking agricultural scientist challenged with maintaining diplomacy and resolve despite changing Presidential administrations. His days get busier, but he refuses to let go of his desire to reform the nation’s chaotic food and drug industries.

As the late 1890′s roll to and end, he is in his 50′s and far from family and close friends – apparently a confirmed bachelor. Surprisingly, at this wearying time in his life he meets a beautiful young woman named Anna Kelton. He is immediately smitten with her poise and dignity, which fully embody all the charms he scientifically described in a humorous poem he wrote in a Harvard Laboratory that portrayed his “Ideal Woman” – which, as a man of high standards, he previously presumed he would never find. The seeds of their romance are sown. After Anna (who happens to be 33 years younger than Harvey) leaves her secretarial post at the Bureau of Chemistry, they only occasionally see each other throughout the next decade. The script follows Anna Kelton’s life to add another dimension to the story: American society’s view of the crucial issue, including the involvement that women had in it.

Becoming restless and determined, Harvey Wiley finally decides there is ample evidence for presenting the case of the nation’s health to its leaders. “So far there has been too much argument about the effect of chemical preservatives on health,” he says, addressing a conference of delegates debating about food regulation. “I propose to find out by scientific experimentation what is the truth about a question of such vital concern to the consumers of the nation. Someday we will have a law,”

His confidence mysteriously infuriates an unimpressed audience member at the back of the room – George McCabe, a suave young lawyer ambitious to become the most powerful legal official in the USDA. How dare Dr. Wiley propose a significant law without consulting him first?

The Scottish-born Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson holds McCabe in high esteem, repeatedly following his advice in dealings with Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley, not realizing the increasing grudge he has against him.

Being the honest scientist that he is, Harvey, along with his capable and discerning assistant W.D. Bigelow, conducts experiments to further validate his convictions. A group of young men volunteer to test the consequences of consuming tainted foods. The studies of “The Poison Squad” draw much attention from the press. Harvey Wiley’s excellent analytical presentation convinces a congressional committee to approve his plan and allow him to help draft the bill – much to Solicitor McCabe’s loathing.

The politics of the scenario draw in another catalytical persona of interest: President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt has conflicted with the perfectionist Chief Chemist occasionally, but he is impressed by Harvey’s common sense and integrity. Roosevelt signs the Act into Law on June 30, 1906, drawing cheers from all the citizens except some unreasonable businessmen – one of whom is Walter Williams. Williams, ambitious and impatient to have a profitable industry no matter what practice, consults with Solicitor McCabe along with others in his clique to weaken the law.

Solicitor McCabe influences the well-meaning but wavering Secretary Wilson to appoint a board of elite conflicting scientists – “The Remsen Board” – to counteract the enforcement of the Pure Food and Drug Law in one of the most misunderstood and ignored crimes in American government. McCabe ultimately constructs a nemesis of convoluted bureaucracy that drives a schism between Harvey, the President and Secretary Wilson, ultimately making himself the superior authority over the law. Once McCabe gains this power, he discards and manipulates prosecutions in order to allow the illegal practices that the careless food and drug industries prefer. Thus begins the complex friction that will haunt Harvey Wiley and the nation forever.

When a court in Harvey’s home State of Indiana begins hearings on a case regarding their manufacturers and the State Board of Health, Harvey and Bigelow are among the government chemists summoned to clarify the dangers of preservatives. Solicitor McCabe issues an order preventing them to testify, which results in the case being brought to the Supreme Court. When Bigelow and one of the manufacturers that abolished sodium benzoate in his products testify the truth, Walter Williams suddenly realizes that he has been on the wrong side. When he withdraws his prosecution and admits that Harvey is right, Solicitor McCabe is furious. Though he could retreat from his lost and sickening cause, McCabe has for so long fought against Harvey Wiley that his most ambitious desire now is to defeat him.

The climax is reached when the Association of Food and Drug Officials convention takes place in Denver, Colorado. Elections are held to determine leaders that will be influential in upholding the Pure Food and Drugs Law. When the wrong candidates are elected due to Solicitor McCabe’s campaigning, the Remsen Board’s faulty science is upheld and support for the Law is undermined.

The worst has arrived for the Pure Food and Drug Law and its staunch founder, Harvey Wiley. The leaders that have gained the most power over the issue have practically silenced the debate in front of the outraged public without a hint of remorse. Perhaps the only vindication left is the Moss Committee Investigation during which Solicitor McCabe is forced to admit that his decisions have been deliberately antagonistic towards the Chief Chemist.

The honest investigation clearly favors Harvey, but to no avail at the time. It will all be a preserved but untouched record of history as time goes on. Just as Harvey has decided that his service in Washington is dwindling, he happens to run into Anna on a streetcar. He asks to call and proposes that very afternoon.

In 1912, Harvey Wiley resigns from the Bureau of Chemistry. With his new bride, Anna, at his side he moves to the countryside of Virginia where they will raise two sons in the years to come.

Return to the Waldorf-Astoria Dining Room in 1926. Harvey Wiley’s speech is ending.

“If the Bureau of Chemistry had been permitted to enforce the law as it was written and as it tried to do, what would have been the condition now?”

At the back of the room, Walter Williams, remorseful, turns away from the Reporter and leaves.

“The health of our people would be vastly improved and their life greatly extended…” Harvey continues. The indomitable Harvey’s battle has not ended, but the battleground has changed. He bears his frustration with the understanding and warning that neither industry nor government nor science can save a nation. It is the family that must preserve health, strength and values for the future generations.

Now his conviction is understood. Foreseeing the demise of the nation’s health, he continues to write voraciously. Among his many writings is his story of the Pure Food Law in which he portrays one of the elements in history that contributes to the mystery of how the most blessed nation in the world has unnecessarily suffered under its own indulged weakness. Harvey Wiley closes his book with the compassionate hope that one day its audience will remember its responsibility and be moved to action.

~ ~ ~

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief history lesson, if nothing else.  There are lots of exciting things that I’ve been busy with that I hope to write about soon.

Take care and May the LORD Bless!

~Amanda~

Comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by BlogBoy
Drat! I want to see the movie! Lol. Well I guess I’ll have to wait for a while on that one :( For real though, looks like you’ve done a great job on this.

RYC: Yes, I totally agree with you. Chaos is the worst problem. If you watch a disaster happen you will note that the disaster does a lot of damage, but the looting and rioting do more.

Eric
• Permanent Link • Edit • Delete

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by GraceElizabeth
That is very interesting! I’m quite fascinated; it sounds like you had a great plot to develop as a screen-writer! I hope someone does produce your movie, a successful film about truly relevant issues is something we could use in our culture, to show that it’s not only the cheap, thrown-together soap operas that make money!
Thank you for letting us in on the story!

I awarded you if you wish to accept; come over to my blog and see!

Have a great evening!
~Grace
• Permanent Link • Edit • Delete

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by BlogBoy
RYC: Oh, tell your mom happy birthday for us. ;)

I saw the screenplay in my inbox, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I really want to though :P

I’m ready on the website when you are. Just say when.

Yes! I did get the package. I totally forgot to email you about that. I’ll do that soon also. Ah, life is busy. Lol.

Eric
• Permanent Link • Edit • Delete

Sunday, April 20, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by BlogBoy
Can you pray?

Eric
• Permanent Link • Edit • Delete

Sunday, April 20, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by BlogBoy
It starts at 7PM CST tonight.

Eric
• Permanent Link • Edit • Delete

Sunday, April 20, 2008 – Untitled Comment

Posted by BlogBoy
Ok, I added you to the 7:30 slot.

Those are all the prayer requests that we have right now, but if anymore come in I will post them. T

he Rebelution forum is really hard to get into. You have to fill out a ton of stuff to get on there. Then they have to process it. It would probably take a few weeks to get on there.

Thanks for praying!

Eric