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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Hugh Bollinger
/ Categories: Uncategorized

The Merchants of Doubt

Recently, I attended a history of science lecture by Naomi Oreskes from UC San Diego after hearing a radio interview about her book, Merchants of Doubt . In her lecture, Oreskes presented how several obscure researchers, Fredrick Seitz, William Nierenberg, and S. Fred Singer. --none of whom studied atmospheric science but were rather atomic physicists --were able to cast doubts upon an entire field of scientific endeavor. To say the least, I was disturbed by what this says about our bi-polar world where real environmental inquiry is corrupted by deniers who see conspiracies behind every cloud, bush, or email. [caption id="attachment_3158" align="aligncenter" width="197" caption="Merchants of Doubt cover credit: Bloomsbury Press"][/caption] The history lecture described how secondhand smoke, strategic defense, environmental pollution, global warming, and attacks on Rachel Carson were all related. Orestes presented how three former Cold War scientists used their twisted free-market and anti-communist viewpoints to cast doubts on any environmental concerns raised by others. In the process, the three "deniers" attacked individual scientists, research organizations, and the entire process of science itself. The act of scientific inquiry and analysis is a self-correcting process where theories and conclusions are constantly being updated and modified. In this regard, atmospheric science is no different to any other scientific discipline. Just because certain research data and analysis doesn't appeal or conform to one political dogma or another doesn't make the information less correct. I was under the impression that "killing the messenger who bares the message" went out of fashion in the Dark Ages but after hearing Naomi Oreskes talk about climate deniers and the merchants of doubt, I'm not so sure. WHB
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