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Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming Paperback – 6 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; UK open market ed edition (6 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408824663
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408824665
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 682,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America should read this book (Al Gore)

Brilliantly reported and written with brutal clarity (Huffington Post)

It is tempting to require that all those engaged in the business of conveying scientific information to the general public should read it (Science)

A hard-hitting thriller ... also a meticulously researched history book and a portal into the world of real science ... A fascinating story (West Australian)

Excellent, important (Choice) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The troubling story of how a cadre of influential scientists have clouded public understanding of scientific facts to advance a political and economic agenda. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. K. Lowell on 29 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Recently there has been a growth in contrarian claims that major environmental problems just aren't real. If you read the Mail, Telegraph and, sadly, even the Times in recent years you might think there was a debate about whether or not global warming/climate change was really happening.
There is no debate: the basic principles were established long ago. Science is never complete, there is always scope for debate about the details, the rate at which various things will occur, models can always be improved. And this is where confusion is spread. 'Free market fundamentalists' as this book ends up defining the main players in this story use the nature of science; that there is always some uncertainty and more needs to be researched to deliberately confuse issues; to suggest that not knowing precisely how pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will affect the climate in minute detail is the same thing as not knowing that it will cause the world to heat up overall.
This book shows how an anti-science movement began when the tobacco industry recruited scientists to help obscure the harm cigarette smoking caused. (Oddly most of the scientists in this story began as cold war rocket scientists.) There was a calculated strategy of distortion and misleading the public about the harm caused by cigarettes, and the same people went on to argue against almost every ecological threat and for nuclear weapons right up to the present day. It's the same people, the same "think" tanks, the same techniques, the same funders (though in recent years the fossil fuel corporations have played an increasingly large role.)
And it all stems from wishful thinking. 'The invisible hand of the market' will create the 'best of all possible worlds' and any regulation is a bad thing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barry Coley on 5 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A history of the disinformation campaign against the facts regarding smoking and health, the hole in the ozone layer and climate change science. How unfair arguments, lies and deceit have been employed to support big business and governments who don't want to do anything to protect people and the planet. This book is clear and well argued -- but its opponents will not be deterred by the truth. Anyone who wants to understand the way irrational ideas become acceptable should read this book.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By J. A. R. Willis on 28 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
In 1988 the United States was on course to take remedial action to slow the pace of man-made global warming. But by the mid 1990s the issue was dead. This change was brought about by a small, loosely connected group of individuals, who used skills and techniques they had honed during earlier campaigns:
> on behalf of tobacco companies to deny the adverse health effects of smoking (when the tobacco companys' own scientists had known the truth for decades);
> on behalf of chemical companies to deny the existence of the ozone hole, and when that was established beyond doubt, to pretend that it was not caused by the release of CFCs;
> on behalf of the fossil fuel industry to deny that the burning of coal was the principle cause of acid rain;
> and other issues.
And again and again the same names, Singer, Seitz and Nierenberg in particular, keep cropping up.

This extraordinarily important book describes the history of each campaign in turn, and exposes the techniques of disinformation which proved, and continue to prove, so devastatingly effective, especially when people were being fed things they wanted to hear which allowed them to continue irresponsible behaviour. The power of a few determined mavericks to successfully undermine the combined expertise and authority of mainstream scientific bodies at the highest level is chillingly apparent.

The authority of the book, with its moderate, scholarly tone and its 64 pages of references, is all too evident. Indeed the reader can only wish that its appalling story were not so obviously true.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
"As recently as 2007, 40% of Americans believed that scientific experts were still arguing about the realities of global warming." And, of course, they were not; global warming is a long-acknowledged, scientific fact, say science professor Naomi Oreskes and science writer Erik M. Conway. They show how "merchants of doubt" - a dedicated cabal of conservative scientists on the payrolls of industries and right-wing think tanks - have labored successfully over the decades to convince a broad spectrum of the public that the truth is not true, that scientific fact is merely opinion, that secondhand smoke will not kill you, that industrial pollution did not cause acid rain, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) did not deplete the ozone layer and that global warming does not exist. In this jaw-dropping, meticulously researched work of science, politics and investigative journalism, Oreskes and Conway track the shockingly long history of widespread, willful dissemination of scientific fiction in the service of politics and profits. getAbstract recommends this sure-to-be classic to all those interested in the environment, in the processes of politics, science and media, and in learning the hard facts that underlie so much propaganda.
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