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 should finally put to rest the question of whether the science of climate change is settled. It is, and we ignore this message at our peril."-Elizabeth Kolbert

"Brilliantly reported andwritten with brutal clarity."-Huffington Post

Now a powerful documentary from the acclaimed director of Food Inc., Merchants of Doubt was one of the most talked-about climate change books of recent years, for reasons easy to understand: It tells the controversial story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. The same individuals who claim the science of global warming is "not settled" have also denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive. These "experts" supplied it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608193943
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/24/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 80,511
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Naomi Oreskes is a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her essay "Beyond the Ivory Tower" was a milestone in the fight against global warming denial.
Erik M. Conway is the resident historian at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Merchants of Doubt is their first book together.

Read an Excerpt

Merchants of Doubt

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

Bloomsbury Press

Copyright © 2010 Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-610-4


Ben Santer is the kind of guy you could never imagine anyone attacking. He's thoroughly moderate-of moderate height and build, of moderate temperament, of moderate political persuasions. He is also very modest-soft-spoken, almost self-effacing-and from the small size and non ex is tent décor of his office at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, you might think he was an accountant. If you met him in a room with a lot of other people, you might not even notice him.

But Santer is no accountant, and the world has noticed him.

He's one of the world's most distinguished scientists-the recipient of a 1998 MacArthur "genius" award and numerous prizes and distinctions from his employer-the U.S. Department of Energy-because he has done more than just about anyone to prove the human causes of global warming. Ever since his graduate work in the mid-1980s, he has been trying to understand how the Earth's climate works, and whether we can say for sure that human activities are changing it. He has shown that the answer to that question is yes.

Santer is an atmospheric scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison Project, an enormous international project to store the results of climate models from around the globe, distribute them to other researchers, and compare the models, both with real- world data and with each other. Over the past twenty years, he and his colleagues have shown that our planet is warming-and in just the way you would expect if green house gases were the cause.

Santer's work is called "fingerprinting"-because natural climate variation leaves different patterns and traces than warming caused by green house gases. Santer looks for these fingerprints. The most important one involves two parts of our atmosphere: the troposphere, the warm blanket closest to the Earth's surface, and the stratosphere, the thinner, colder part above it. Physics tells us that if the Sun were causing global warming-as some skeptics continue to insist-we'd expect both the troposphere and the stratosphere to warm, as heat comes into the atmosphere from outer space. But if the warming is caused by green house gases emitted at the surface and largely trapped in the lower atmosphere, then we expect the troposphere to warm, but the stratosphere to cool.

Santer and his colleagues have shown that the troposphere is warming and the stratosphere is cooling. In fact, because the boundary between these two atmospheric layers is in part defined by temperature, that boundary is now moving upward. In other words, the whole structure of our atmosphere is changing. These results are impossible to explain if the Sun were the culprit. It shows that the changes we are seeing in our climate are not natural.

The distinction between the troposphere and the stratosphere became part of the Supreme Court hearing in the case of Massachusetts et al. v. the EPA, in which twelve states sued the federal government for failing to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, arguing that there was nothing in the law to require the EPA to act-but the honorable justice also got lost in the science, at one point referring to the stratosphere when he meant the troposphere. A lawyer for Massachusetts replied, "Respectfully, Your Honor. It is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere." The justice answered, "Troposphere, what ever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to deal with global warming."

But we all have to deal with global warming, whether we like it or not, and some people have been resisting this conclusion for a long time. In fact, some people have been attacking not just the message, but the messenger. Ever since scientists first began to explain the evidence that our climate was warming-and that human activities were probably to blame-people have been questioning the data, doubting the evidence, and attacking the scientists who collect and explain it. And no one has been more brutally-or more unfairly-attacked than Ben Santer.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world's leading authority on climate issues. Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, it was created in response to early warnings about global warming. Scientists had known for a long time that increased green house gases from burning fossil fuels could cause climate change-they had explained this to Lyndon Johnson in 1965-but most thought that changes were far off in the future. It wasn't until the 1980s that scientists started to worry-to think that the future was perhaps almost here-and a few mavericks began to argue that anthropogenic climate change was actually already under way. So the IPCC was created to evaluate the evidence and consider what the impacts would be if the mavericks were right.

In 1995, the IPCC declared that the human impact on climate was now "discernible." This wasn't just a few individuals; by 1995 the IPCC had grown to include several hundred climate scientists from around the world. But how did they know that changes were under way, and how did they know they were caused by us? Those crucial questions were answered in Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change, the Second Assessment Report issued by the IPCC. Chapter 8 of this report, "Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes," summarized the evidence that global warming really was caused by green house gases. Its author was Ben Santer.

Santer had impeccable scientific credentials, and he had never before been involved in even the suggestion of impropriety of any kind, but now a group of physicists tied to a think tank in Washington, D.C., accused him of doctoring the report to make the science seem firmer than it really was. They wrote reports accusing him of "scientific cleansing"-expunging the views of those who did not agree. They wrote reports with titles like "Green house Debate Continued" and "Doctoring the Documents," published in places like Energy Daily and Investor's Business Daily. They wrote letters to congressmen, to officials in the Department of Energy, and to the editors of scientific journals, spreading the accusations high and wide. They pressured contacts in the Energy Department to get Santer fired from his job. Most public-and most publicized-was an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal, accusing Santer of making the alleged changes to "deceive policy makers and the public." Santer had made changes to the report, but not to deceive anyone. The changes were made in response to review comments from fellow scientists.

Every scientific paper and report has to go through the critical scrutiny of other experts: peer review. Scientific authors are required to take reviewers' comments and criticisms seriously, and to fix any mistakes that may have been found. It's a foundational ethic of scientific work: no claim can be considered valid-not even potentially valid-until it has passed peer review.

Peer review is also used to help authors make their arguments clearer, and the IPCC has an exceptionally extensive and inclusive peer review pro cess. It involves both scientific experts and representatives of the governments of the participating nations to ensure not only that factual errors are caught and corrected, but as well that all judgments and interpretations are adequately documented and supported, and that all interested parties have a chance to be heard. Authors are required either to make changes in response to the review comments, or to explain why those comments are irrelevant, invalid, or just plain wrong. Santer had done just that. He had made changes in response to peer review. He had done what the IPCC rules required him to do. He had done what science requires him to do. Santer was being attacked for being a good scientist. Santer tried to defend himself in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal-a letter that was signed by twenty- nine co- authors, distinguished scientists all, including the director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The American Meteorological Society penned an open letter to Santer affirming that the attacks were entirely without merit. Bert Bolin, the founder and chairman of the IPCC, corroborated Santer's account in a letter of his own to the Journal, pointing out that accusations were flying without a shred of evidence, and that the accusers had not contacted him, nor any IPCC officers, nor any of the scientists involved to check their facts. Had they "simply taken the time to familiarize [themselves] with IPCC rules of procedure," he noted, they would have readily found out that no rules were violated, no procedures were transgressed, and nothing wrong had happened. As later commentators have pointed out, no IPCC member nation ever seconded the complaint.

But the Journal only published a portion of both Santer and Bolin's letters, and two weeks later, they gave the accusers yet another opportunity to sling mud, publishing a letter declaring that the IPCC report had been "tampered with for political purposes." The mud stuck, and the charges were widely echoed by industry groups, business-oriented newspapers and magazines, and think tanks. They remain on the Internet today. If you Google "Santer IPCC," you get not the chapter in question-much less the whole IPCC report-but instead a variety of sites that repeat the 1995 accusations. One site even asserts (falsely) that Santer admitted that he had "adjusted the data to make it fit with political policy," as if the U.S. government even had a climate policy to adjust the data to fit. (We didn't in 1995, and we still don't.)

The experience was bitter for Santer, who spent enormous amounts of time and energy defending his scientific reputation and integrity, as well as trying to hold his marriage together through it all. (He didn't.) Today, this normally mild- mannered man turns white with rage when he recalls these events. Because no scientist starts his or her career expecting things like this to happen.

Why didn't Santer's accusers bother to find out the facts? Why did they continue to repeat charges long after they had been shown to be unfounded? The answer, of course, is that they were not interested in finding facts. They were interested in fighting them.

A few years later, Santer was reading the morning paper and came across an article describing how some scientists had participated in a program, organized by the tobacco industry, to discredit scientific evidence linking tobacco to cancer. The idea, the article explained, was to "keep the controversy alive." So long as there was doubt about the causal link, the tobacco industry would be safe from litigation and regulation. Santer thought the story seemed eerily familiar.

He was right. But there was more. Not only were the tactics the same, the people were the same, too. The leaders of the attack on him were two retired physicists, both named Fred: Frederick Seitz and S. (Siegfried) Fred Singer. Seitz was a solid- state physicist who had risen to prominence during World War II, when he helped to build the atomic bomb; later he became president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Singer was a physicist-in fact, the proverbial rocket scientist-who became a leading figure in the development of Earth observation satellites, serving as the first director of the National Weather Satellite Ser vice and later as chief scientist at the Department of Transportation in the Reagan administration.

Both were extremely hawkish, having believed passionately in the gravity of the Soviet threat and the need to defend the United States from it with high- tech weaponry. Both were associated with a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., the George C. Marshall Institute, founded to defend Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or "Star Wars"). And both had previously worked for the tobacco industry, helping to cast doubt on the scientific evidence linking smoking to death.

From 1979 to 1985, Fred Seitz directed a program for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company that distributed $45 million to scientists around the country for biomedical research that could generate evidence and cultivate experts to be used in court to defend the "product." In the mid- 1990s, Fred Singer coauthored a major report attacking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the health risks of secondhand smoke. Several years earlier, the U.S. surgeon general had declared that secondhand smoke was hazardous not only to smokers' health, but to anyone exposed to it. Singer attacked this finding, claiming the work was rigged, and that the EPA review of the science-done by leading experts from around the country-was distorted by a political agenda to expand government control over all aspects of our lives. Singer's anti- EPA report was funded by a grant from the Tobacco Institute, channeled through a think tank, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution.

Millions of pages of documents released during tobacco litigation demonstrate these links. They show the crucial role that scientists played in sowing doubt about the links between smoking and health risks. These documents-which have scarcely been studied except by lawyers and a handful of academics-also show that the same strategy was applied not only to global warming, but to a laundry list of environmental and health concerns, including asbestos, secondhand smoke, acid rain, and the ozone hole.

Call it the "Tobacco Strategy." Its target was science, and so it relied heavily on scientists-with guidance from industry lawyers and public relations experts-willing to hold the rifle and pull the trigger. Among the multitude of documents we found in writing this book were Bad Science: A Resource Book-a how-to handbook for fact fighters, providing example after example of successful strategies for undermining science, and a list of experts with scientific credentials available to comment on any issue about which a think tank or corporation needed a negative sound bite.


Excerpted from Merchants of Doubt by NAOMI ORESKES ERIK M. CONWAY Copyright © 2010 by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Doubt Is Our Product 10

2 Strategic Defense, Phony Facts, and the Creation of the George C. Marshall Institute 36

3 Sowing the Seeds of Doubt: Acid Rain 66

4 Constructing a Counternarrative: The Fight over the Ozone Hole 107

5 What's Bad Science? Who Decides? The Fight over Secondhand Smoke 136

6 The Denial of Global Warming 169

7 Denial Rides Again: The Revisionist Attack on Rachel Carson 216

Conclusion: Of Free Speech and Free Markets 240

Epilogue: A New View of Science 266

Acknowledgments 275

Permissions 277

Notes 279

Index 345

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Merchants of Doubt 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 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.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Paid promotion of mr. Al gore's fake science. change the title as: PROMOTING AL GORE AND HIS UNLIMITED GREED: About a SHAMELESS LIAR his smooth criminals in wall street. these liberals are fraud people in Maerica. abusing the system. one Mr Armand Hammer Jewish Oil tycoon ( friends of USSR) in the 70s and 80s. He then started Cattle farm with help from Hammer. \ Earth science is all false. the arctic and antartic expeditions results are all concealed. The earth is not some roudn spherical object in space. It is all lies. These Liberals to make $billino by promoting renewable energy are giving money to College professors also. I met many professors and one Indian American Mr Henry D'souza at UNO (A typical shameless Indian who will do anything for money including adopting illegitimate orphan kids from India and these kids have also grown up now with same culture looking for minimum wage jobs) Promoting lies: Climate science -New age Bible: Misinterpretation only. 'Risen from the dead,' 'Son of god' etc. All exaggeration. These professors like Dr Henry (alias joe or the avergae ugly kid joe) are given free trips to visit other countries to preach hypocrisy such as poverty alleviation to exotics places like Chile, peru, Austria and any pace they desire. At airport trait time these guys will open up all these fake science books and create the hype. Authors are text books scientist: Lots of people with books knowledge and absolutely no work experience are writing about God, science and quantum computing, AIDs cure. More liars: for example: other than unlimited sex with hookers does Bill Clinton know anything about Medicine? then how he got elected? hoe he is promoting AIDs medicine from India which happens to spurious also? how Fake guys like Obama elected? and more insults one day he is giving piai speech at northern trust another time giving talk to india students on all subject (FAQ) -'fk q' Mr Obuma. Ozone layers, mars mission. as if they had in the past years done some real work. How do i know climate science of al gore is fake and a hoax? EXPERIENCE IN INVESTIGATING FRAUD IN MNC'S : SOLVING PROBLEMS CREATED BY THE FAKE COE'S AND THEIR STOOGES -MBA'S TECHIES. for example how many know Bill gates has no Tech work experience. he is only 'manager' i..e like a head coach or more like the Team franchise owner. I have spent a decade working and by age 30 ( few month before 31st birthday) i packed offo fom corporate world and therefore i know how such fake science get promoted. It is all hype. How thye lie to eanr money: A simple example for banking service: Just take financial services how they lie: JP Morgan wil advertise" for you protection" we will ensure your account is safe, and then you will seee $30 protection charge in your saving and even overdraft account also. Climate science will be proved wrong and AL gore will sit in rock island prison with his bankers. and all of them will clear unlimited toxic ewaste if not eat it also.
loyolanaveenyonnex 9 months ago
Authors are Promoters of greedy merchants of Harvard and their 'malware.' After King solomon mine's Al gore has made the biggest money making industry - climate change. movies, books, academic programs, carbon trading( and associated fund raising trips to HK for sleaze unlimited) The latest of such book which so called Liberals (pro-palestine jokers) are spreading is The merchants of doubt by Naomi et al. I have no doubt about their monetary greed and intentions. In that context of this book my own experience in uSA with one such Liberal and I am ashamed of this fellow who goes by the name Mr joe dsouza. Mr Joe,omaha USA( ashamed of this guy) who was promoting Merchants of Doubt. He get free trips to LATAM and austria for his efforts. These Joe's, such as my friend( who are below average in everything and have been 'livin on prayer' and at others mercy, but economically better of now) are paid by their employers to promote Liberal agenda, pro-palestine etc. although I don't associate greed/terrorism to any particular group or party it is just that Liberals are frauds with no morals and my ugly friend Joe is a classic example of a hypocrite pretending to be holy . It is like hindu's in India for making money the impose ban on Cow beef and in the process hava made all these poor muslims even pooer nd Amde them kind of their slaves. Money money money. Case agains Climate science: these Authors are just academic people who sit in university libraires and read books. they are funded to write such books. They have no practical know the nature of weather patterns one must understand the entire earth science -biosphere and so on then some understanding will be clear about the atmosphere gases/molecules. It is unlimited gases up in the atmosphere not just hydrogen/helium in the sun. and so school chemistry Table of elements is only a indication. else every nation will be technologically advanced If science are that simple as given in text books. Things beyond those are 'up in the air' there. only practice and experimentalists are rewarded for that you dont need a policy, reforms or funds just determination and disciplined approach. that is exactly what Al gore's don't want the world to know. that is the real truth. see 40% of jews won science prize and before that many english experminatalsrt only discovered -faraday etc. was there computer scince those day? About acid rain: How can you blame Coal fired thermal plants? what about the industrial effluents leaking into various rivers. ask walmart and ll of those leakers. firstly is there sufficient proof the acid rain is only from coal plants? some aerosols formation cannot be detected. these barbarians including Al gore will all pay a dear price for harassing poor nations. Have they gone on Artic expeditions or gone through the report? do the know we cant circumnavigate the earth north-sout-north. Have you seen mon or star north south movement? Lairs. North and south the educated guess is just ice till eternity. have these proponents gone up in rockets and visited and reviewed ozone layer and the hole etc..what a joke. have they seen satellites in the skies? these are fake science. is earth round or what? that is the ultimate question all must ask. I wont tell what I know. Becasue one day i will go for the 'kill' and that is called the big 'chill' in the liberal world an inevitable rendevouz 'party' wid the grizzilest of grizzly bear.
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Contrary to all appearances, there is not a scientific debate going on about global warning. There was no scientific debate about smoking, there was no scientific debate about second-hand smoke, there was no scientific debate about acid rain, there was no scientific debate about the ozone hole, and there is no scientific debate about global warning. What there is, in each of these cases, is a huge body of scientific fact that is being fought with obfuscation and misdirection.Merchants of Doubt lays out this argument in exacting detail, going through each of these scientific issues, providing the support for why science (and 90+% of scientists) provide the support that it is true, and laying out the case that there is a dedicated group of people ¿ a group of people that seem to show up in every one of these arguments ¿ that confuse the issues rather than enlighten them.There is no doubt this book has an agenda. (It is up to the reader to determine if that agenda has merit.) And the last couple of chapters suffer because of this agenda, hashing over much of the same territory as the previous chapters. But read around that agenda and you will find a greatly enlightening examination of how environmental science continues to tell a bleak story, and how the spin doctors make the world believe things will only get better.No matter which side of these ¿debates¿ you are on, you should read this book to gain an understanding of the battle that is occurring.
mitchellray on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The authors, both historians of science, carefully document the intentional disinformation campaigns waged by free market fundamentalists to discredit the scientific findings identifying the harmful affects of smoking, ozone depletion, acid rain, the Star Wars weapons system, DDT, and global warming. A handful of scientists have collaborated with business executives and government insiders over the past fifty years to manufacture doubt in the public mind about established scientific evidence. The reason, argue the authors, is to thwart government regulation. The strategy employed by these merchants of doubt is to spread disinformation through media outlets so as to mislead the public and government policy makers into denying established scientific knowledge.This is an important book to be read by those who seek to be informed citizens. The authors reveal in detail the strategies used by those who would confuse the public discourse about critical issues confronting society. The authors make it clear that we all need to be discriminating readers of media reports. What is missing are explicit instructions about how the ordinary citizen may discern the reliability of what is reported in the media. The authors spent five years meticulously conducting research for their book. How are the rest of us, with limited time and expertise, to identify what is valid scientific evidence and what is deliberate misinformation? Nonetheless, simply reading this book will raise the reader¿s awareness about how some in our society are selling us a bill of goods.
Nulla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you've ever wondered why it seems so difficult for the United States to implement environmental protections to deal with issues such as acid rain, ozone depletion, or global warming, to name a few, then definitely read Merchants of Doubt. In painstaking detail, the authors, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, document the dance performed by scientists and politicians in the federal administration when environment meets the free market. Science states the facts and offers hypotheses, the free market responds with delaying tactics for "doing the the right thing" because it is costly. The free market then appeals to the administration and it, in turn, attempts to ameliorate the impact of scientific reports by soliciting countering opinion from other scientists.Industrial and business interests have great lobbying power in the halls of government and, for the last few decades, have brought this to bear in Washington. The result is that environmental progress is lurching forward at a snail's pace. It is interesting that the scientists whom the government has consulted over the years, and who justify delaying and "more study," consist of the same cast of characters: S. Fred Singer, Frederick Steitz, William Nierenberg and Robert Jastrow. Their expertise, which is notable, lies in physics and weaponry; none are biologists, geologists, chemists, or oceanographers - fields that might be more appropriate for debating environmental concerns.There appears to be a disconnect between what is good for people and what is good for corporate pocketbooks. Definitely read this book and pass it on!
Wings3496 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oreskes' and Conway's "Merchants of Doubt" is an excellent look into a world were science has less to do with data, and much more to do with business and politics. The book outlines the progression of professional scientific denialism from the initial tobacco industry backlash of the seventies to S.D.I., acid rain, the ozone, secondhand smoke, and global warming. Well researched and thoroughly cited, the book demonstrates that the small related cadre of individuals and organizations responsible for originally denying tobaccos deadly side effects are the same groups casting doubt on current science (such as on climate change). The book avoids any preaching, relying instead on strong research and facts to demonstrate clear links and allowing the reader to make the connections themselves. A highly recommended book for anyone interested in science, politics, or both.
pwagner2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was thrilled when I was picked to receive this book thru librarything early reviewers. It is a book I have wanted to read and a subject I care deeply about. This book is about greed. At all costs all that matters to corporatists is money in their pockets. I cannot imagine anyone with children wanting to hand down the world they are creating to their future generations. It is disheartening. They have the money and the power and that nowadays that means they have the loudest voice. I am saddened and pessimistic that they can be silenced and reason can prevail.
BellaFoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I work for an environmental agency, during a conference on Climate Change, the speaker recommended this book. I immediately downloaded it. It took me a while to get to it and a while to finish reading it.This is a powerful book, it details the methods used by a group of scientists, physicists to be exact, manipulated the press, the public, and politicians to fit their agenda. To say they were a group of bitter old men is an oversimplification, but that is the feeling I am left with.These scientists accused others of the very same things they were doing, cherry picking data and results, and molding the research to fit their conclusions.Tobacco, secondhand smoke, acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, global warming/climate change and the scientists that researched them were all attacked. They also attacked Rachel Carson and the ban on DDT, claiming millions of African children died of malaria, conveniently leaving out that many may have died because of their work with the tobacco companies convincing people that the connection between smoking and cancer was `not proven¿.As I said this is a powerful book, well researched, with quotes that actually name a source. Everyone who lives on the planet earth should read it.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is a great book about the origins and ongoing impetus of what is commonly referred to as the "anti-science" wing of the conservative political class. Oreskes and Conway have done a great deal of research on the subject, some of which is a bit tiresome (especially the back-and-forth academic wrangling over scientific papers) but all of which is relevant and enlightening. This is fundamentally the story of a tactic - the tactic of capitalizing on scientific doubt. It is the story of how specific members of the scientific community galvanized opposition to the dangers of smoking, second-hand smoke, SDI, acid rain, DDT and global warming. It is well written and ruthless.
FredB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Subtitle: How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warmingI was amazed at how the "controversies" over tobacco, acid rain, ozone depletion and climate change have been orchestrated by the same group of charlatans. This group includes, among others, William Nierenberg, director of Scripps while I was there as a grad student.One thing the book does not mention is that similar controversies have been ginned up over other issues, like cell phone radiation, power lines, and vaccines.
Anome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My one problem with this book is that it is all to repetitive. This is not a fault on the part of the authors, but rather on the part of their subject matter.It is truly disturbing that throughout the second half of the 20th Century, the same people kept turning up using the same tactics to discredit the "Inconvenient Truths" of scientific discovery. From the link of smoking to cancer, to second hand smoke, to the agricultural overuse of pesticides, to nuclear winter, to climate change, to ozone depletion, to the fantasy of SDI, the same, small group of pro-industry science advisers have cropped up again and again to push a political (and business) agenda in defiance of overwhelming evidence.It's not just a laundry list of fallacious arguments, either. Each of the historical cases is given in context, and the counters to the "Merchants" are explained.I'm not sure how well this book will do in convincing people one way or another, I suspect that most people reading it will already have made up their minds.
nzwaneveld on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book. Read it with interest. Well written. Along the way I wondered how this knowledge could help me in business... not in an attempt to repeat it, but to be able to better recognize attempts by others to delay certain developments. It does make me curious about what other topics (such as Electro smog) are still under a shadow of doubt. What really hit me is that what matters in science is not what matters in politics. Scientists have been afraid to get involved because they have seen what happens when they do.I believe this is a book that many people should read, and by keeping it in my library (collecting dust) doesn't help. I have passed the book on to a friend, who will continue to pass it on after he has read it.
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.