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How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth

Science historian refutes climate change-doubting scientists

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April 26, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- An internationally known science historian whose work refuting skeptics of climate change was featured in Al Gore’s popular documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” will give a public talk Friday, May 4, at Northwestern University.

Naomi Oreskes, co-author with Erik M. Conway of “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming,” will deliver a lecture of the same name at 4:30 p.m. Organized by Northwestern’s Science in Human Culture Program, the free lecture will take place in Room 107 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, on the Evanston campus.

In “Merchants of Doubt,” Oreskes argues that the campaign of doubt and confusion surrounding global warming has parallels to earlier, politically motivated controversies questioning the hazards of smoking and acid rain.

Oreskes, who is a professor of history and science studies at the University of California San Diego, has been critical of journalists’ attempts to cover science issues with “balance,” even when the scientific community is in substantial agreement about a particular topic.

In “Merchants of Doubt,” she details how a “loose-knit group of high level scientists, with extensive political connections” ran effective campaigns that misled the public and denied well-established scientific knowledge for four decades. “Anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America should read this book,” Gore said of the work.

Oreskes’ remarks are the keynote address opening a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Science in Human Culture conference that continues Saturday, May 5, titled “Facts, Artifacts and the Politics of Consensus.”

For further information about the May 4 lecture and the May 5 panels, call (847) 491-3525 or visit http://www.shc.northwestern.edu/events/may2012conference.html.
Topics: Campus Life