Summary of Merchants of Doubt

How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

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Merchants of Doubt book summary
Brilliant investigation of right-wing scientists who fight against scientific truths about tobacco, acid rain, ozone depletion and global warming

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Review

“As recently as 2007, 40% of Americans believed that scientific experts were still arguing about the realities of global warming.” And, of course, they were not; global warming is a long-acknowledged, scientific fact, say science professor Naomi Oreskes and science writer Erik M. Conway. They present their case that “merchants of doubt” – a dedicated cabal of conservative scientists on the payrolls of industries and right-wing think tanks – have labored successfully over the decades to convince a broad spectrum of the public that the truth is not true, that scientific fact is merely opinion, that secondhand smoke will not kill you, that industrial pollution did not cause acid rain, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) did not deplete the ozone layer and that global warming does not exist. In this jaw-dropping, meticulously researched work of science, politics and investigative journalism, Oreskes and Conway track the shockingly long history of widespread, willful dissemination of scientific fiction in the service of politics and profits. getAbstract recommends this sure-to-be classic to all those interested in the environment, in the processes of politics, science and media, and in learning the hard facts that underlie so much propaganda.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How a determined cabal of conservative scientists sought to undermine scientific fact
  • How their campaigns of disinformation operated
  • How the mass media, politicians and the public responded to their efforts
 

Summary

“The Merchants of Doubt”
During the Cold War, “extremely hawkish” physicists Frederick Seitz and S. Fred Singer feared the Soviet Union and became prominent backers of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense system. Their outspoken politics brought them into a network of right-wing...
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About the Authors

University of San Diego history and science studies professor Naomi Oreskes wrote “Beyond the Ivory Tower,” a global warming study in Science. Erik M. Conway has written four books, among them Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History.


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    Koni Gebistorf 4 years ago
    In the news today: Globally, 2010 was the third warmest year on record since 1850.
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    James McAllister 5 years ago
    Great work, more is needed to be done to understand the methodology of this type of concerted effort to misrepresent facts as in doubt when they in fact are not. Both to understand and identify when this is happening and to use as a potential tactic in business. To suggest that industry and government have not wilfully mislead the public on a variety of topics directly affecting the health and safety of the public is naive at best.

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