Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway
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Merchants of Doubt 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
mbob More than 1 year ago
In a well documented account, this book portrays the difference between peer-reviewed science and unsubstantiated but well publicized claims which argue that the science is wrong. It covers issues including tobacco, second hand smoke, the ozone hole, acid rain and global warming. The amazing disclosure here is the small handful of the same people at the core of the contrarian groups. The effect of this small, vocal group on popular opinion and in delaying action by our leaders is very disturbing
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
When science meets up with the policy application of scientific output, the deciding issue often becomes one of consensus - Which of the proposed actions is based on sound science as understood and advocated by the best scientists? In Merchants of Doubt, authors Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway present a meticulously researched but sometimes flawed account of decades of attempts (some successful, some not) to obfuscate and derail the political response to one of several environmental and environmental-health threats. Focusing primarily on the careers of three protagonists - Frederick Seitz, Siegfried 'Fred' Singer and William Nierenberg - the book details their campaigns to forestall active response to one of several issues, some of which involved sowing doubt about a developing scientific consensus: 1. The link between smoking and cancer apparent by the 1950s and fought over for the following three decades; 2. The potential deployment of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) most closely associated with the Reagan administration years; 3. The recognition, also starting back in the 1950s and debated into the Reagan years, that rainfall in both the U.S. and Europe was becoming unacceptable acid as a consequence of the sulfur content of coal used in electric generation and also of nitric oxides emitted by automobiles; 4. The discovery during the 1960s that chemical aerosols (primarily CFCs) were a threat to the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer; 5. The follow-up tobacco-related issue of the 1980s and 90s of second-hand smoke and its health risks; 6. The continuing struggles over global warming that began in the 1970s; and, 7. The resurrection of hyperbolic attacks on Rachel Carson, the EPA and the links between chemicals in the environment and human and ecological health. This is not a simple tale of conspiracy among the three principle characters noted above - roles change as do the players. Neither, despite the sub-title, does the book reveal a single strategy employed by one side of these "debates" against the other. Certainly, for the cigarette smoking/cancer link, somewhat for acid rain, ozone depletion and, at least initially, global warming, sowing doubt was the strategy of choice employed to discredit environmental threats and the scientists who came to represent those threats. However, for Star Wars, the shoe was basically on the other foot with government-independent scientists questioning the validity of conclusions held members of the administration in power. Also, doubt, despite its predominance among the amateur global-warming-denial community and certain politicians, is not the only means by which the primary actors (such as B. Lomborg and Michaels in the political, global-warming-denial community) are operating - they have shifted the game almost entirely toward economic arguments reflecting an overall shift in the political scene toward economic concerns. Despite these limitations, Merchants of Doubt does shine some light on aspects of debates (and malfeasance on the part of the powerful) on environmental issues that were hitherto undocumented, and, as such, is well worth the read. Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
"As recently as 2007, 40% of Americans believed that scientific experts were still arguing about the realities of global warming." And, of course, they were not; global warming is a long-acknowledged, scientific fact, say science professor Naomi Oreskes and science writer Erik M. Conway. They show how "merchants of doubt" - a dedicated cabal of conservative scientists on the payrolls of industries and right-wing think tanks - have labored successfully over the decades to convince a broad spectrum of the public that the truth is not true, that scientific fact is merely opinion, that secondhand smoke will not kill you, that industrial pollution did not cause acid rain, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) did not deplete the ozone layer and that global warming does not exist. In this jaw-dropping, meticulously researched work of science, politics and investigative journalism, Oreskes and Conway track the shockingly long history of widespread, willful dissemination of scientific fiction in the service of politics and profits. getAbstract recommends this sure-to-be classic to all those interested in the environment, in the processes of politics, science and media, and in learning the hard facts that underlie so much propaganda.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Erick Nonway and Naomi Oreskes brilliantly tie together how science has been strategically attacked and hidden by special interests groups (notably big businesses) with a lot of money on their hands, trying to protect it at all costs. It was always a wonder how so many people distrust science these days, and rather treat it as opinion that they can agree or disagree with. It is quite concerning and I hope this book will help more people have their eyes opened to all the manipulation taking place. There is a lot at stake after all, and ultimately I really appreciate the efforts of the authors and their mission to provide clearity in these times. Highly suggest this read for anyone who follows corruption of both information and the environment.
WillettKempton More than 1 year ago
This is a very thorough analysis of seemingly diverse science policy issues.  
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minority_report More than 1 year ago
I know this is pretty good book. But I will NOT pay the price that B&N wants to charge for this ebook. B&N need to seriously re-evaluate their ebook pricing structure. First I see that this ebook actually costs .28 more than the paperback edition. Sounds silly but this is an ebook and it should be priced closer to 10 or 11 bucks for a paperback that is under 15 dollars! Then when you compare the B&N price to the Kindle price and see that we are being charged 3.55 more for the same ebook, you get the idea that we Nook owners are being gouged and not saving any money at all. I'll be dumping my Nook and looking elsewhere if this ridiculous cost structure for ebooks continues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a waste of time reading this liberal rant. Character assassination on almost ever page. Insults to good men and women who work in and run our businesses. If you are a Smoker, an Engineer, or businessman you can expect to be insulted in every single chapter.