Last year I bought a copy of Merchants of Doubt by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. It describes how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. I was very impressed by the content, detail and citations in the book. This posting is not intended to be a complete book review but an incident in commentary at the Globe and Mail provided incentive to deal with what I call one of the “delivery boys” for the Merchants of Doubt and to explore the involvement of one of the main merchants, .
On June 24 during commentary on the Globe and Mail article “Tory axe hits ‘muscle and bone’ of climate science, Elizabeth May says” I recommended that readers have a look at “Merchants of Doubt” and another commentator using the pseudonym “Anonymous Source” responded:
You pose as a ‘scientific’ thinker, you keep promoting this kind of junk instead. Here’s another opinion on Oreskes, co-author of what appears to be your new Bible, including this, for starters:
“Oreskes is well-known from her 2004 article in Science that claimed a complete scientific consensus about manmade global warming; it launched her career as a polemicist. Her claim was based on examining the abstracts of some 900 published papers. Unfortunately, she missed more than 11,000 papers through an incorrect Internet search. She published a discreet “Correction”; yet she has never retracted her ideologically based claim about consensus.”
Well… is that true or not? Yes or no?
Every time you post your link to that NON-scientific book I will, if I am around, be sure to post this, for starters. …
Oreskes is a dishonest political hack. When you finish your move you might also want to move away from such sources and stick to the scientific arguments you claim to want to promote.
Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California in San Diego, claims to be a science historian. One can readily demonstrate that she is neither a credible scientist nor a credible historian; the best evidence is right there in her recent book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming,” coauthored with Eric Conway. Her science is faulty; her historical procedures are thoroughly unprofessional. She is, however, an accomplished polemicist, who has found time for world lecture tours, promoting her book and her ideological views, while being paid by the citizens of California. Her book tries to smear four senior physicists — of whom I am the only surviving one. I view it as my obligation to defend the reputations of my late colleagues and good friends against her libelous charges
Those are very serious allegations. Please read his article as background to this posting. He points to a number of typographical and editorial errors, claiming that they disqualify her as a scientist. They are very minor and not surprising in a book with 355 pages; the Merchants of Doubt website now has an “Errata” section correcting most of them. They are about as trivial as the fact that Singer misnamed Erik M. Conway as “Eric”. He then goes on to chastise her for failing to speak directly with him and others who are subjects of the book, claiming that she used only secondary sources and that this demonstrates that she is not a historian either. He makes an allegation of libel without documenting what he regards as libelous.
What now follows is my perception of what was said in the book, in some cases quoting small sections and citations. I believe that Singer has demonstrated through his own actions, attitudes, and behaviors that he is indeed one of the “Merchants of Doubt”.
I’ll structure this narrative using the same subjects as the book’s chapters:
Chapter 1 – Doubt Is Our Product
Chapter 2 – Strategic Defense, Phony Facts, and the Creation of the
Chapter 3 – Sowing the Seeds of Doubt – Acid Rain
Chapter 4 – Constructing a Counternarrative: The Fight over the Ozone Hole
Chapter 5 – What’s Bad Science? Who Decides? The Fight over Secondhand Smoke
Chapter 6 – The Denial of Global Warming
Chapter 7 – Denial Rides Again: The Revisionist Attack on Rachel Carson
Conclusion – Of Free Speech and Free Market