Merchants of Doubt

In my philosophy of science class, we have been reading articles about values in science, financial conflicts of interest, and the commercialization of science. Next week we read Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. A forthcoming book by two historians of science looks like it would fit in with this course: Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Here is the Amazon blurb:

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers.

Merchants of Doubt tells the 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. Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly? Some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is “not settled” denied the truth of 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.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

1 thought on “Merchants of Doubt

  1. The only ones who are lying about tobacco are the anti-smokers. They are guilty of flagrant scientific fraud for ignoring more than 50 studies over a period of over 20 years, which prove that human papillomavirus infects at least a quarter of all non-small cell lung cancers. It doesn’t require a university degree to figure out that ignoring evidence is fraud! And because the anti-smokers’ studies are based on nothing but lifestyle, they’re designed to cynically exploit the circumstance that smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been infected, in falsely blame tobacco.

    Furthermore, those so-called “opponents” she denounces are nothing but phonies, because they never mention HPV, or anything else that really refutes the anti-smokers. Their real job is to drown out the real critics, with the collaboration of lying media, to create the false impression of dissent, and their weak strawman arguments are intended to provoke provoke public derision. It’s the anti-smokers themselves who give the phonies a forum, and censor the real critics, and then lie to us that they presented “both sides of the issue”!

    And she is concealing the fact that the same anti-smoker who lobbied for the EPA to take up the issue of secondhand smoke, John C. Topping Jr., subsequently went on to found the Climate Institute.

    And, the EPA’s supposed “landmark study” wasn’t even written by real EPA scientists. The real EPA scientists were against calling ETS a human carcinogen. It was written by handpicked anti-smokers, using illegal pass-through contracts, through a company which had President George H.W. Bush’s campaign manager on its board of directors.

    And she’s concealing the fact that Seitz’ association with the tobacco industry was really to monitor Stanley Prusiner’s work on prions, which was being funded by R.J. Reynolds after the Rockefeller Institute, with which Seitz had been associated, stopped doing so. (Why was smokers’ money being used to fund prion research in the first place? Apparently purely as a crony favor.) Any so-called “historian of science” who can’t ferret out the fact that Seitz was merely doing site visits on Prusiner, and had nothing to do with tobacco research, is nothing but a propagandist hack!

    Yours truly,
    Carol Thompson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s