It’s numbingly cold outside. What does a frustrated activist need to do to stay warm? How about reading a book that’s going to get the blood coursing through the body, while remaining wrapped in a blanket on the sofa drinking hot chocolate?
Merchants of Doubt does just that. This is a book of highly educated and venerated scientists who fail to adhere to the need to improve society though research and hypothesis. It is a stunningly detailed account of how they have prostituted their knowledge to advance lies and myths that will ultimately harm the individual and society, all in the name of making money for themselves and the masters they serve.
Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway do a great job tracking eminent physicists and other scientists who are able to manipulate the truth. One stunning realization that I took from this is that their “truths” are perpetuated by harried journalist and opinionated bloggers. DON’T READ BLOGS! Here I said it – and you can believe me ’cause I blog everyday .
Seriously, this book has garnered tremendous respect. I think that it says a lot for their research when they unabashedly name names and have not found themselves in court. It might be a book to delve into from time-to-time rather than consumed in one sitting, but Oreskes and Conway have done us a great service. To quote Former Vice President, Al Gore:
“Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have demonstrated what many of us have long suspected: that the ‘debate’ over the climate crisis–and many other environmental issues–was manufactured by the same people who brought you ‘safe’ cigarettes. Anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America should read this book.”
I think, Mr. Gore, that it is far beyond the democracy of the US. This inconvenient truth is a global issue.
Another book that illustrates this so clearly is Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. While he does clearly state that this is a novel, he hits many of the points that Merchants of Doubt proves. He also has you laughing rather than seeking the next spaceship off of the planet.
“Buckley’s caricatures of Washington politics, corporate power plays, media spin control, Hollywood pretensions and the human foibles of self-delusion and denial are appallingly right on the money.” –San Francisco Chronicle.
See what I mean?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com