Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway 2010. - Merchants of Doubt. New York: Bloomsbury Press Press, 355 pp.

Not much of the scientific evidence here was new to me, but the extent of the political power brought to the task of distorting doubting and falsifying science was.

A book with simple messages, supported by a compelling mass of evidence (60+ pp. of endnotes):

  • That the heart of denialism and disinformation is anti-communist agenda of a handful of individuals in science who were and are cultivated by companies protecting their commercial interests in the face of overwhelming evidence that their products cause harm: tobacco, carbon pollution, pesticides.
  • That a few powerful and committed people can have a disproportionate impact. The main two being products of the Manhattan Project, by the by.
  • That those ideologues at heart see capitalism and “freedom” are under threat even though it should now be clear to even them that unchecked free markets, growth and capitalism will cause the death of billions of humans (pp. 248-255). Environmentalists, and “big government” are modern communists, in the eyes of the powerful interests profiting most from free markets.

Nice to see Lomborg, also supported by Heartland et al, dismissed so easily and concisely (pp. 258-260).

Along the way the authors provide a useful summary of the basic science behind tobacco and lung cancer, CO2 and climate, pesticide harm and pest resistance. For example I hadn’t known that the stratosphere is cooling and getting thinner while the troposphere is getting warmer and extending higher, just as would be expected if a local cause rather than changes in solar radiation was the cause of global warming.