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It appears by challenging false claims concerning the condition of our streams, rivers, watersheds, that vineyards cause cancer and demanding scientific proof, I have offended Bill Pramuk (“Sediment continues to impair Napa River,” Jan. 23) and George Caloyannidis (“More on science and vineyards,” Jan. 24).

It is more important than ever to challenge unsupported accusations, whatever the subject, as well as specious claims that spread fear and elevate emotions. Societies must make rational decisions based on sound science and facts.

As far as is possible, science seeks to be objective. It is only through science with careful observation, creating hypotheses and then challenging those hypotheses with rigorous testing, that we can be objective in defining our environment, our problems and our solutions.

When we suspend our belief in the empirical process and substitute beliefs in pseudoscience and accept false concepts that align with our emotional view of the world, we do great harm to our society and culture. The theory that vaccinations cause autism has been debunked for a decade yet the World Health Organization ranked the growing resistance to all vaccinations as one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019.

Mr. Pramuk: Yes, the Napa River is listed for having sediments, yet in 2014 when the Water Board voted to de-list the Napa River for nutrients they stated: “improved vineyard sediment controls and cover crops have reduced sediment and nutrient runoff.”

What is an uncontested fact is that both Mr. Pramuk and Mr. Caloyannidis and every person that lives in the Napa River watershed are responsible for a large part of the sediment that ends up within the Napa River. Here’s why. By the very fact that we live here we are responsible for all the impermeable surfaces that flash off rain into the river when in the past that rain would have been absorbed into the ground and then slowly released into the river.

Now, that rain flashes off quickly into the river, creating an unnatural high-water event that incises the stream banks and then sloughs off into the River, creating the silt.

Mr. Caloyannidis: Thank you for agreeing with me that hillside vineyards are important to protecting our watersheds. While you may well be correct about the forest management in far-away lands, we should be dealing only with the reality that is Napa County.

It’s clear that you and I have very different standards for what passes as scientific proof.

Your assertion that allowing vineyards and winery tasting rooms is dangerous because the visitors may start wildland fires. Your proof is “cigarette butts along Soda Canyon Road.”

In your 2015 letter (“Grandstanding on agricultural sustainability,” Oct. 6, 2015) you state “It is indisputable that the wine industry could not be on a healthier financial footing. If nothing else, the proliferation of luxury cars in this valley is a good barometer.” We certainly did not learn the Scientific Method from the same science professor.

Stuart Smith

St. Helena

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