The Naomi Oreskes Interview: A Play-by-Play

By Chris Mooney | June 7, 2010 4:27 pm

Merchants-of-DoubtOver at the Point of Inquiry forums, a commenter named citizenschallenge has done something very, very useful. He (or she) has basically listed all the different parts of my interview with Naomi Oreskes–idiosyncratically, at points, but nevertheless pretty comprehensively and also at times memorably.

So I think I’ll repost; it is not often that one has such a handy roadmap:

7:00 Naomi explains why she doesn’t like the term “manufacturing doubt” since doubt is actually an integral part of science.

7:50 Strategy for delaying legislative action & legislation

9:10 Chris: “How do we know historically that these tactics are without precedent…?” Defending claim that 1953 ushered in an entirely new era in attacking science:

10:10 Interesting phenomena fighting the evidence though you appreciate it is correct.

13:00 The balance between what we know & what we don’t know.

Getting to the point were we can say that “This knowledge is secure, this knowledge is robust, It is based on tremendous amounts of evidence that add up to a consistent picture and that it is rational and appropriate to move forward and take action on the basis of that knowledge.”

14:15 Strategy of undermining people’s small errors

15:00 The challenge is to tell a coherent story and present the evidence.

15:20 George Marshall Institute . . . and strategic defense system (unsaid the military industrial complex)

18:00 Acid Rain, Ozone depletion

19:00 the dress rehearsal

20:30 Keyworth & Reagan White House. . .  manipulating final drafts of reports

21:45 Attacks on Rachel Carlson & DDT

23:00 False on too many levels

24:30 “We do know that DDT was very harmful and we do know that it was not a magic bullet to cure malaria that its advocates are claiming.”

24:45 “The whole story is false from top to bottom.”

25:00 Why would they do that???

25:45 “It’s not about corporate profits, its about a deep seated political ideology”

26:00 There’s no free lunch.
global warming is the bill for our great prosperity.
everything has a price.

27:00 … great story scientists as society’s waiters.

29:50 Reviewing the attacks on Ben Santer
The detection and attribution science. . . IPPC

34:00 Corporate news media ignoring scientists who are trying to defend themselves.

35:00 Creating an unlevel playing field
Mega coverage of the accusation, minimal coverage of the exoneration

35:50 Failure of America’s Fourth Estate, the f’n tratiors….my words!
“Media acting as gatekeeper”. . . their words.

36:15 We The Sad (disappointed) People. . .

36:30 The lesson being scientists can not rely on journalists anymore and must find new avenues for presenting their knowledge.

The sad truth being if scientist don’t defend their own findings ~ who will?


37:15 Scientists need to figure out alternative venues to defend their work!

38:00 Appreciating a different view of science – considering the concept of “certainty.”

39:10 Grappling with the dichotomy of “either their is absolute truth on the one hand or their is absolute collapse into relativism on the other hand. . .”

Again, you can stream the Naomi Oresks episode here, and download/subscribe here. I hope you like it–in many ways it is the best show yet, I think….


Comments (2)

  1. Deech56

    Chris, I thought the interview was very well done. Dr. Oreskes was able to get her major points across, and I thought it was important for her to be able to explain some of the subtleties in science, such as the fact that uncertainty is always a part of science, but that science does allow us to make conclusions with a high degree of probability.

  2. Nullius in Verba

    Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are greater and lesser degrees of uncertainty, depending on the complexity of the problem, and the maturity of the science.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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