Point of Inquiry: Naomi Oreskes – Merchants of Doubt

Via CFI’s Point of Inquiry:

Naomi Oreskes – Merchants of Doubt

Naomi OreskesThis week’s guest is Naomi Oreskes, co-author with historian Eric Conway of the new book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

Through extensive archival research, Oreskes and Conway have managed to connect the dots between a large number of seemingly separate anti-science campaigns that have unfolded over the years. It all began with Big Tobacco, and the famous internal memo declaring, “Doubt is our Product.”

Then came the attacks on the science of acid rain and ozone depletion, and the flimsy defenses of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” program. And the same strategies have continued up to the present, with the battle over climate change.

Throughout this saga, several key scientific actors appear repeatedly—leaping across issues, fighting against the facts again and again. Now, Oreskes and Conway have given us a new and unprecedented glimpse behind the anti-science curtain.

Naomi Oreskes (Ph.D., Stanford, 1990) is Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her research focuses on the historical development of scientific knowledge, methods, and practices in the earth and environmental sciences, and on understanding scientific consensus and dissent. She is the author of numerous noted books and papers, including a 2004 essay in Science entitled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” which was widely cited, debated, and referenced in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The first time I saw her speak was on one of the videos of the Beyond Belief conference where she gave a similarly themed presentation as the new book. There’s also a similar and interesting video called The American Denial of Global Warming from UCTV:

Polls show that between one-third and one-half of Americans still believe that there is “no solid” evidence of global warming, or that if warming is happening it can be attributed to natural variability. Others believe that scientists are still debating the point. Join scientist and renowned historian Naomi Oreskes as she describes her investigation into the reasons for such widespread mistrust and misunderstanding of scientific consensus and probes the history of organized campaigns designed to create public doubt and confusion about science.

Update 20100617:
Attack on climate scientist just latest in a long line (CNN)
Shadow Elite: Merchants of Doubt — Do Scientific Denialists Have No Shame? (HuffPo)

Update 20101105: A New Kind of Crime Against Humanity?: The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Disinformation Campaign On Climate Change

Update 20110419: Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed about Climate Change? (Scientific American)

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