"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 that link smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole.
Industrial and business interests have great lobbying power in the halls of government and, for the last few decades, have brought this to bear in Washington. The result is that environmental progress is lurching forward at a snail's pace. It is interesting that the scientists whom the government has consulted over the years, and who justify delaying and "more study," consist of the same cast of characters: S. Fred Singer, Frederick Steitz, William Nierenberg and Robert Jastrow. Their expertise, which is notable, lies in physics and weaponry; none are biologists, geologists, chemists, or oceanographers - fields that might be more appropriate for debating environmental concerns.
There appears to be a disconnect between what is good for people and what is good for corporate pocketbooks. Definitely read this book and pass it on!
This is a powerful book, it details the methods used by a group of scientists, physicists to be exact, manipulated the press, the public, and politicians to fit their agenda. To say they were a group of bitter old men is an oversimplification, but that is the feeling I am left with.
These scientists accused others of the very same things they were doing, cherry picking data and results, and molding the research to fit their conclusions.
Tobacco, secondhand smoke, acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, global warming/climate change and the scientists that researched them were all attacked. They also attacked Rachel Carson and the ban on DDT, claiming millions of African children died of malaria, conveniently leaving out that many may have died because of their work with the tobacco companies convincing people that the connection between smoking and cancer was ‘not proven’.
As I said this is a powerful book, well researched, with quotes that actually name a source. Everyone who lives on the planet earth should read it.
I believe this is a book that many people should read, and by keeping it in my library (collecting dust) doesn't help. I have passed the book on to a friend, who will continue to pass it on after he has read it.
This is an important book to be read by those who seek to be informed citizens. The authors reveal in detail the strategies used by those who would confuse the public discourse about critical issues confronting society. The authors make it clear that we all need to be discriminating readers of media reports. What is missing are explicit instructions about how the ordinary citizen may discern the reliability of what is reported in the media. The authors spent five years meticulously conducting research for their book. How are the rest of us, with limited time and expertise, to identify what is valid scientific evidence and what is deliberate misinformation? Nonetheless, simply reading this book will raise the reader’s awareness about how some in our society are selling us a bill of goods.
Merchants of Doubt lays out this argument in exacting detail, going through each of these scientific issues, providing the support for why science (and 90+% of scientists) provide the support that it is true, and laying out the case that there is a dedicated group of people – a group of people that seem to show up in every one of these arguments – that confuse the issues rather than enlighten them.
There is no doubt this book has an agenda. (It is up to the reader to determine if that agenda has merit.) And the last couple of chapters suffer because of this agenda, hashing over much of the same territory as the previous chapters. But read around that agenda and you will find a greatly enlightening examination of how environmental science continues to tell a bleak story, and how the spin doctors make the world believe things will only get better.
No matter which side of these “debates” you are on, you should read this book to gain an understanding of the battle that is occurring.
I was amazed at how the "controversies" over tobacco, acid rain, ozone depletion and climate change have been orchestrated by the same group of charlatans. This group includes, among others, William Nierenberg, director of Scripps while I was there as a grad student.
One thing the book does not mention is that similar controversies have been ginned up over other issues, like cell phone radiation, power lines, and vaccines.
The book is very clear on the issues and well laid out -- a scientific ignoramus like myself had no difficulty following along -- but was incredibly frustrating to read because I kept expecting a happy ending. There is none. They are going to win.
I recieved a free review copy from the publishers before I wrote this review.
It is a book I have wanted to read and a subject I care deeply about.
This book is about greed. At all costs all that matters to corporatists is money in their pockets. I cannot imagine anyone with children wanting to hand down the world they are creating to their future generations.
It is disheartening. They have the money and the power and that nowadays that means they have the loudest voice.
I am saddened and pessimistic that they can be silenced and reason can prevail.
It is truly disturbing that throughout the second half of the 20th Century, the same people kept turning up using the same tactics to discredit the "Inconvenient Truths" of scientific discovery. From the link of smoking to cancer, to second hand smoke, to the agricultural overuse of pesticides, to nuclear winter, to climate change, to ozone depletion, to the fantasy of SDI, the same, small group of pro-industry science advisers have cropped up again and again to push a political (and business) agenda in defiance of overwhelming evidence.
It's not just a laundry list of fallacious arguments, either. Each of the historical cases is given in context, and the counters to the "Merchants" are explained.
I'm not sure how well this book will do in convincing people one way or another, I suspect that most people reading it will already have made up their minds.
Beyond exposing Fred Seitz, Robert Jastrow, William Nierenberg, and Fred Singer (and a few others) for the despicable disgraces to the scientific world that they are, Ms. Oreskes and Mr. Conway do an excellent job explaining what true peer review and true science really consist of. From defense of smoking, an indefensible Star Wars program, acid rain, ozone depletion, second-hand smoking to denial of climate science, these guys have had devastating effects on US policy. And that was before Fox"News". Now they don't even need to use the pseudo-science bait-and-switch tactics; the right-wing media has devolved to simple gainsaying - and their viewers/listeners don't have a critical thought in their heads to question their confirmation biases.
My one complaint about the book is that the authors more than not used the term "skeptics" (they did also use "deniers"). All science is about skepticism, but these disruptors, obfuscators, ... liars ... are not "skeptics". Singer is lower than low, and still at it.
I'm disgusted. At the "scientists".