Naomi Oreskes - Merchants of Doubt

June 4, 2010

Host: Chris Mooney

This 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.”

Books Mentioned in This Episode:

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