What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 20, 2010

My Gawd!

How did this get onto the pages of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review?

It's an essay by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, authors of "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" and it describes how conservative think-tanks seek to undermine science. It begins with:
If some of the attacks on the credibility of climate science feel familiar, there's a reason. With their unattributed claims downplaying the severity of the problem and their vague allegations of scientific impropriety, the assaults are the latest in a long tradition of organized efforts by industry and free-market enthusiasts to undermine the credibility of science they don't like.
Yea, I know - on the pages of Richard Mellon Scaife's "news" paper.

So let's fast forward a little:
The strategy was expanded beyond the cigarette industry in part because of the efforts of physicist Frederick Seitz, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences who went on to direct R.J. Reynolds' biomedical research program. In 1984, he joined forces with astrophysicist Robert Jastrow and nuclear physicist William Nierenberg to establish the George C. Marshall Institute.
That would be the same George C. Marshall Institute that:
  • received $230,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2009.
  • received $255,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2008.
  • received $155,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2007.
  • received $200,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2006.
  • received $200,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2005.
  • received $155,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation in 2004.
By my count that's $1.165 million.

Mediamatters goes further (and let's be honest, they have more time to plow through this stuff). They're reporting that since 1985, the Scaife controlled Carthage Foundation has given $707,500 to the George C. Marshall institute and the equally Scaife controlled Sarah Scaife Foundation has given $2,785,000 to the institute between 1986 and 2007.

That's about $3.5 million to fund free market/conservative science skepticism.

Then there's this from the essay:
The network of institutions attempting to undermine science (with funding from industry) is vast. The top tier of the network is a set of political think tanks dedicated to promoting free markets and advocating for limited government.

They include the Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. In turn, they are linked to myriad smaller groups. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, for example, organized the Cooler Heads Coalition, which describes itself as "focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis."
I'll just take the numbers from Media Matters, just to expedite things.By my count that's a skosh over $36 million for institutes or foundations dedicated (among other things) to pushing free market/conservative "skepticism" of science.

The piece ends with this:
As science found more and more evidence of the environmental and health effects of industrial activity, which suggested the need for regulation, market fundamentalists increasingly turned against that science. In the name of "freedom," the American public has been deliberately misinformed about important issues of human health and environmental protection.

But it remains difficult to imagine how lies can set us free.
Again this is on Richard Mellon Scaife's editorial page?? Have we shifted into an alternative reality while I was asleep? A backwards universe where Sarah Palin has an engaging intellect? Where Simon Cowell is a nice guy? Where Spock has a beard?

I'm so confused.

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