I’ve been meaning to write a little note on a talk by Naomi Oreskes, available on YouTube, ever since it came to my attention via the comments on a blog (probably The Intersection or Pharyngula, though I regrettably don’t remember). Now the perfect excuse to do so has come up.
Two recent posts (one, two) at The Panda’s Thumb discuss contrarian views regarding global warming. The most interesting aspect is not the details of those views. No, the most interesting aspect is the person who holds those views: the intelligent design creationist William Dembski. He is a fellow at a thinly veiled Christian think tank, the Discovery Institute, mostly known for its opposition to good education about evolution and natural history.
About 28 minutes into the YouTube clip Oreskes talks about another think tank, the Marshall Institute, originally formed to lobby in support of military project against the consensus recommendations from the American scientific community. Afterwards it continued live on but shifted focus to contrarian global warming, with side projects including misinformation on the link between smoking and cancer, chlorofluorocarbons and depletion of ozone layer, etc. Its modus operandi is to create a false impression of uncertainty surrounding scientific results by exaggerating the uncertainty of scientific conclusions and providing a venue for contrarian views to make it appear to the general public as if the scientific community as a whole is undecided on the matter. According to Oreskes, the Marshall Institute has under the past 20 years been “the major, single largest and most significant source” for global warming contrarian views.
The similarity between the Marshall Institute’s and the Discovery institute’s modi operandi is so striking that I can only congratulate the global warming contrarians in getting a new ally well-versed in inflating impressions of scientific disunity.