merchants of doubt sparknotes
Or, when those who opposed the Peace Process in Colombia claimed that it was the first step for Colombia to fall into a dictatorship like Venezuela. The members of these panels came to be known as “Team B.” While they were supposed to provide an objective review of the NIE, their composition ensured otherwise: the membership was composed entirely of foreign policy hawks who already believed that the CIA was underplaying the Soviet threat. The fifth weapon is also something ordinary people use very often without thinking of the implications it can have. Team B, Jastrow, and Moynihan had all overestimated Soviet capabilities, and greatly exaggerated the certainty of their claims. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. The government then took the liberty to go around the scientist in charge and assigned one of their own scientists on the panel. The study did exactly what good epidemiology should do: it demonstrated an effect and ruled out other causes. Claiming that they “could not rule out other factors … such as diet, outdoor air pollution, genetics, prior lung disease, etc.,” he charged that the EPA had “rig[ged] the numbers” by accepting the 90 percent confidence level instead of a 95 percent one. Allow me to introduce these methods before we go into the stories themselves. The central claim of the Marshall Institute report was that the warming that Hansen and others had found didn’t track the historical increase in CO2. One Jason recalls being asked by colleagues, “When you go to Washington and tell them that the CO2 will double in 50 years and will have major impacts on the planet, what do they say?” His reply? We know that smoking is bad for people. A dollar today is worth more to us than a dollar tomorrow and a lot more than a dollar a century from now, so we can “discount” faraway costs. Harold Johnston might have been right. Not only were the tactics the same, the people were the same, too. Then there was a cooling trend through 1975, and a return to warming. Most recently—over the course of nearly two decades and against the face of mounting evidence—they dismissed the reality of global warming. To acknowledge this was to acknowledge the soft underbelly of free market capitalism: that free enterprise can bring real costs—profound costs—that the free market does not reflect. When you put the stories side by side—like the book does—you start noticing that their strategies are always the same. This story goes way deeper into the foundations of our political and economic systems—even our cultural tendencies—and I’m afraid we are all partially responsible for what has happened. While not flawless, Merchants of Doubt is an immensely important and timely book. You will see these six weapons come up time and time again on each one of the stories covered in the book—and it is very easy to see their similarities in politics. But they did so not because they thought the report had overstated the case. They wanted to keep people buying their products. The merchants of doubt often highlight a very special and isolated case in order to make their dismissive argument more reliable. He insisted that nuclear winter was not science at all: it was left/liberal/environmental politics dressed up as computer code. In the 1970s, many environmental issues came to the center of US politics. The right-wing defenders of American liberty have now done the same. Some measurements are more accurate than others, but that is no reason to dismiss those with large error bars. Doubt is crucial to science—in the version we call curiosity or healthy skepticism, it drives science forward—but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved. But what makes the story so fascinating (or rather infuriating) are the methods used by the merchants of doubt. But it wasn’t until the 80’s that they even began to examine the effects of secondhand smoke. Regulation is needed to address external costs, either by preventing them or by compensating those who are saddled with them. Some decided it was appropriate to complain. Out of these, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. It was not a level playing field. However, the German scientific work was tainted by its Nazi associations, and to some extent ignored, if not actually suppressed, after the war; it had taken some time to be rediscovered and independently confirmed. Criticizing Gore’s new book, Earth in the Balance, Easterbrook sniffed indignantly that Gore had failed to mention that “before his death last year, Revelle published a paper that concludes, ‘the scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.’”94 Those were Singer’s words, not Revelle’s. Not only that, the characters of the different parts of the story are always the same too. Selling it to politicians and media outlets for one reason, and one reason only: To fight (or delay) regulation. It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research—experiments, experience, and observation—research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. It was the smoking gun they’d been waiting for.34 ClO had been detected in the stratosphere, and there was no explanation for its presence except that it was caused by CFCs reacting with ozone to produce it. The Strategic Defense Initiative and its successor, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, were approved by Congress, at a cost of more than $60 billion. As you will see, all of these issues have something in common: They’ve all been the victims of an anti-environmentalist movement that has for decades denied scientific facts and has therefore slowed down our response to these dangerous environmental situations. In 1991, Philip Morris executives outlined four objectives specifically related to secondhand smoke. This suggested an idea that climate skeptics would echo for the next three decades: that we could continue to burn fossil fuels without restriction and deal with the consequences through migration and adaptation.


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