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Naomi Oreskes,Erik M.Conway

Merchants of Doubt

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  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    The game here, as before, was to defend an extreme free market ideology. But in this case, they didn’t just deny the facts of science. They denied the facts of history.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    And what about cancer? A few years ago, medical researchers realized that there was a shocking flaw in previous studies that investigated DDT exposure and breast cancer. Most of them were done after DDT use was already on the decline, or even after the ban, so the women being studied had probably been exposed only to low levels (if at all), and exposed later in life when the body is less vulnerable. To really know whether or not DDT had an effect, you’d need to study women who’d been exposed to DDT early in life, at a time when environmental exposures were high.

    In a remarkable piece of medical detective work, Dr. Barbara A. Cohn and her colleagues identified women who had been part of medical study of pregnant women in the 1960s, and therefore might have been exposed as children or teenagers when DDT use was widespread in the 1940s and ’50s. These women had given blood samples at the time, samples that could now be reanalyzed for DDT and its metabolites. In 2000–2001, they measured DDT-related compounds in these samples and compared them with breast cancer rates. The average age at the time of the original study was twenty-six; these women were now in their fifties and sixties—an age by which breast cancer might reasonably be expected to appear. The results showed a fivefold increase in breast cancer risk among women with high levels of serum DDT or its metabolites.59 DDT does cause cancer, it does affect human health, and it does cost human lives. Rachel Carson was not wrong.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    If DDT’s defenders have exaggerated its benefits, have its detractors exaggerated the harms? If DDT rarely harms people and sometimes helps, why not reintroduce it? Isn’t Bjørn Lomborg right at least that DDT saved more lives than it cost?

    The argument is a red herring. DDT was not banned on the basis of harm to humans; it was banned on the basis of harms to the environment.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    Insect resistance to DDT was first recognized in 1947, just a few years after DDT’s wartime triumphs. Mosquito control workers in Fort Lauderdale reported that “the normal application of a 5 percent DDT solution had no discernible effect on salt marsh mosquitoes ... the miraculous ‘magic dust’ had lost its efficacy against the hordes of salt marsh mosquitoes along Florida’s east coast.”44 Resistance increased rapidly during the 1950s, and soon many pest control districts were abandoning DDT for other alternatives.

    Sadly, most of the resistance that insects developed to DDT came from agricultural use, not from disease control. There is a tragedy in this story, but it is not the one that the Competitive Enterprise Institute thinks it is. It is that the attempt to grow food cheaply, especially in the United States, was largely responsible for the development of insect resistance. The failure of DDT in disease control is in part the result of its excess use in agriculture. Here’s why.

    The most efficient way to use pesticides against disease is through application to the insides of buildings—the Indoor Residual Spraying on which the World Health Organization largely relied. DDT is particularly potent in this use, as an application can last up to a year. Most important, it doesn’t produce resistance very quickly, because most insects don’t wind up in buildings and therefore aren’t subjected to the poison. Indoor Residual Spraying just affects the small percentage of the population that make it indoors, where they are likely to bite people and transmit disease, so the selection pressure on the insect population isn’t very high. It’s a very sensible strategy.

    However, when pesticides are sprayed over large agricultural areas, they kill a large fraction of the total insect population, ensuring that the hardy survivors breed only with other hardy survivors; the very next generation may display resistance. The more extensive the agricultural use, the more likely bugs are to evolve resistance rapidly, and the less effective the pesticide is likely to be when you need it for disease control.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    The stories we’ve told so far in this book involve the creation of doubt and the spread of disinformation by individuals and groups attempting to prevent regulation of tobacco, CFCs, pollution from coal-fired power plants, and greenhouse gases. They involve fighting facts that demonstrate the harms that these products and pollutants induce in order to stave off regulation. At first, the Carson case seems slightly different from these earlier ones, because by 2007 DDT had been banned in the United States for more than thirty years. This horse was long out of the barn, so why try to reopen a thirty-year-old debate?

    Sometimes reopening an old debate can serve present purposes. In the 1950s, the tobacco industry realized that they could protect their product by casting doubt on the science and insisting the dangers of smoking were unproven. In the 1990s, they realized that if you could convince people that science in general was unreliable, then you didn’t have to argue the merits of any particular case, particularly one—like the defense of secondhand smoke—that had no scientific merit. In the demonizing of Rachel Carson, free marketeers realized that if you could convince people that an example of successful government regulation wasn’t, in fact, successful—that it was actually a mistake—you could strengthen the argument against regulation in general.

    They want leverage on the bias of thinking by analogy and not by basic fundamentals considering the inner-mechanics of a single case.

  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    The authors conclude that this “balanced” coverage is a form of “informational bias,” that the ideal of balance leads journalists to give minority views more credence than they deserve.

    This divergence between the state of the science and how it was presented in the major media helped make it easy for our government to do nothing about global warming. Gus Speth had thought in 1988 that there was real momentum toward taking action. By the mid-1990s, that policy momentum had not just fizzled; it had evaporated. In July 1997, three months before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized, U.S. senators Robert Byrd and Charles Hagel introduced a resolution blocking its adoption.168 Byrd-Hagel passed the Senate by a vote of 97–0. Scientifically, global warming was an established fact. Politically, global warming was dead.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    Whatever the reasons and justifications of our protagonists, there’s another crucial element to our story. It’s how the mass media became complicit, as a wide spectrum of the media—not just obviously right-wing newspapers like the Washington Times, but mainstream outlets, too—felt obligated to treat these issues as scientific controversies. Journalists were constantly pressured to grant the professional deniers equal status—and equal time and newsprint space—and they did. Eugene Linden, once an environment reporter for Time magazine, commented in his book Winds of Change that “members of the media found themselves hounded by experts who conflated scientific diffidence with scientific uncertainty, and who wrote outraged letters to the editor when a report didn’t include their dissent.”166 Editors evidently succumbed to this pressure, and reporting on climate in the United States became biased toward the skeptics and deniers because of it.

    We’ve noted how the notion of balance was enshrined in the Fairness Doctrine, and it may make sense for political news in a two-party system (although not in a multiparty system). But it doesn’t reflect the way science works. In an active scientific debate, there can be many sides. But once a scientific issue is closed, there’s only one “side.” Imagine providing “balance” to the issue of whether the Earth orbits the Sun, whether continents move, or whether DNA carries genetic information. These matters were long ago settled in scientists’ minds. Nobody can publish an article in a scientific journal claiming the Sun orbits the Earth, and for the same reason, you can’t publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal claiming there’s no global warming. Probably well-informed professional science journalists wouldn’t publish it either. But ordinary journalists repeatedly did.

    In 2004, one of us showed that scientists had a consensus about the reality of global warming and its human causes—and had since the mid-1990s. Yet throughout this time period, the mass media presented global warming and its cause as a major debate. By coincidence, another study also published in 2004 analyzed media stories about global warming from 1988 to 2002. Max and Jules Boykoff found that “balanced” articles—ones that gave equal time to the majority view among climate scientists as well as to deniers of global warming—represented nearly 53 percent of media stories. Another 35 percent of articles presented the correct majority position among climate scientists, while still giving space to the deniers.167
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    We take it for granted that great individuals—Gandhi, Kennedy, Martin Luther King—can have great positive impacts on the world. But we are loath to believe the same about negative impacts—unless the individuals are obvious monsters like Hitler or Stalin. But small numbers of people can have large, negative impacts, especially if they are organized, determined, and have access to power.

    Seitz, Jastrow, Nierenberg, and Singer had access to power—all the way to the White House—by virtue of their positions as physicists who had won the Cold War. They used this power to support their political agenda, even though it meant attacking science and their fellow scientists, evidently believing that their larger end justified their means. Perhaps this, too, was part of their professional legacy. During the Manhattan Project, and throughout the Cold War, for security reasons many scientists had to hide the true nature of their work. All weapons projects were secret, but so were many other projects that dealt with rocketry, missile launching and targeting, navigation, underwater acoustics, marine geology, bathymetry, seismology, weather modification; the list goes on and on.165 These secret projects frequently had “cover stories” that scientists could share with colleagues, friends, and families, and sometimes the cover stories were true in part. But they weren’t the whole truth, and sometimes they weren’t true at all. After the Cold War, most scientists were relieved to be freed of the burdens of secrecy and misrepresentation, but Seitz, Singer, and Nierenberg continued to act as if the Cold War had not ended.
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    MIGHT DISMISS this whole story as just infighting within the scientific community, except that the Marshall Institute claims were taken seriously in the Bush White House and published in the Wall Street Journal, where they would have been read by millions of educated people. Members of Congress also took them seriously. Proposing a bill to reduce climate research funding by more than a third in 1995, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher called it “trendy science that is propped up by liberal/left politics rather than good science.”162 In July 2003, Senator James Inhofe called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”163 As late as 2007, Vice President Richard Cheney commented in a television interview, “Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that’s part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera”—exactly the question Santer had answered a decade before.164 How did such a small group come to have such a powerful voice?
  • Alberto Galvanцитує3 роки тому
    In her 1999 analysis, Myanna Lahsen pinned Singer’s efforts to “envelop the IPCC in an aura of secrecy and unaccountability” to a common American conservative rhetoric of political suppression.156
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