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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

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

Erik Conway photo by Paul Alers Emanagement Consultants

ERIK CONWAY tells an important story about the misuse of science to mislead the public on matters ranging from the risks of smoking to the reality of global warming. The people he accuses are themselves scientists — mostly physicists, former cold warriors who now serve a conservative agenda, and vested interests like the tobacco industry. And he name names, documenting their involvement in such issues as acid rain, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, the ozone hole, global warming, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the banning of DDT. These scientists aimed to sow seeds of public doubt on matters of settled science by casting aspersions on the science and the scientists who produce it. Science writer Conway also emphasizes how journalists and internet bloggers uncritically repeat these charges. Erik Conway is the resident historian at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

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