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Merchants Of Doubt

Naomi Oreskes

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.


The Bottom Line

Right-wing ideologues — all scientists — have perverted U.S. policy for decades, delaying government action on life-and-death issues from cigarettes to acid rain and now climate change.

I. Introduction

In 2010, before climate change was the topic of dinner table conversations, science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway released Merchants of Doubt to critical acclaim. Reviewers praised the thoroughness with which Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies in the University of California system, and Conway, a historian at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, exposed how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.

Why? Because this segment of the American scientific community, united in their free market ideology, funded by businesses and conservative foundations, and aided by a compliant media, chose to skew public understanding of some of the most pressing dangers of the time — from tobacco and acid rain to the ozone hole, global warming and DDT.

II. Tobacco’s Strategy: Use Scientists to Sow Doubt

III. From Cigarettes to Strategic Defense

IV. Denying the Damage of Acid Rain

V. The Ozone War and the Aerosol Industry

VI. Pesticides, Pushback and a Scientific Smear Campaign

VII. Silencing the Early Alarm on Global Warming

The Takeaway


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