Author(s): 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. 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.
HOT PLANET, HOTTER SUBJECT: Denialism sends reviewers, writers, and science journalists into conniptions. Lots of headlines and lots of debate. DETECTIVE NON-FICTION: The research and reporting underpinning Merchants of Doubt is awe-inspiring, and the resulting narrative of smart guys gone bad is riveting. AUTHORITATIVE AUTHORS: Oreskes is a decorated researched and academic with connections around the world. Both authors are academic researchers at leading institutions (CalTech and UCSD). Their credentials are unimpeachable.
Naomi Oreskes is Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her essay "Beyond the Ivory Tower" was a milestone in the fight against global warming denial. Erik Conway is the resident historian at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Merchants of Doubt is their first book together.