Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

Feb 23, 2015

By Joel Achenbach

There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who’s gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview—and the explanation for why he drinks “only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol”—to Lionel Mandrake, a dizzy-with-anxiety group captain in the Royal Air Force.

Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water?

Mandrake: Ah, yes, I have heard of that, Jack. Yes, yes.

Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?

Mandrake: No. No, I don’t know what it is. No.

Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

The movie came out in 1964, by which time the health benefits of fluoridation had been thoroughly established, and antifluoridation conspiracy theories could be the stuff of comedy. So you might be surprised to learn that, half a century later, fluoridation continues to incite fear and paranoia. In 2013 citizens in Portland, Oregon, one of only a few major American cities that don’t fluoridate their water, blocked a plan by local officials to do so. Opponents didn’t like the idea of the government adding “chemicals” to their water. They claimed that fluoride could be harmful to human health.

Actually fluoride is a natural mineral that, in the weak concentrations used in public drinking water systems, hardens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay—a cheap and safe way to improve dental health for everyone, rich or poor, conscientious brusher or not. That’s the scientific and medical consensus.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.

42 comments on “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

  • Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

    I assume we’re referring to SOME Americans here? I don’t think you can make this statement applicable to most western civilizations. The U.S.A definitely has a, uhm, let’s say “unique” approach to reason.



    Report abuse

  • @ ShesTheBeth

    Not too sure about that.

    To be fair GMO’s are pretty much banned across Europe and I was reading not too long ago about it being common to use Freudian psychoanalysis to treat autism in France.



    Report abuse

  • When researchers say not to feed your child peanuts to prevent allergies, then tell you to feed your child peanuts to prevent allergies, I see can why some people would start getting a little pissed off at the researchers. Same with salt, and eggs, and whatever. I’m all for science, but sometimes I wonder about the people doing the science.



    Report abuse

  • Hi, A3Kr0n,

    It seems to me that three things happen – and I’m not suggesting that your at fault, even if you recognise yourself here:

    The first thing is that scientists’ research usually reaches us or’nary folk via the media. Journalism is not a profession, it’s a semi-skilled trade. But even if we cut them the maximum slack for not knowing what they’re doing … sounds great already, right … we still receive our news via editorial, publishing, legal and political influence filters.

    The next thing is that fact-checking takes time. This is bad enough when we want to find out about what our local Town Council is up to – a situation where information ought to be straightforward an in the public domain. But when it comes to science who has the time – not to mention the cash to buy copies of papers that our taxes, in many cases, have already paid for – to search out the research and the references, and the related research done by unrelated researchers.

    The last thing is: education. From what I read and see it seems pretty clear that I have had a better than average science education. But that really isn’t anything to crow about. If I have difficulty sometimes, and I do, understanding scientific reporting in the media then my best guess is that the vast majority really struggle all the time.

    Are scientists to blame?

    My answer is: Yes.

    Science has become a victim of its own success. It is so far ahead of average people that they need scientists to understand their problem. It is increasingly my view that an integral part of any modern scientist’s job description must include spending time explaining what they have discovered and how that fits with the current scientific consensus.

    Although the RDFRS has been doing a great job of debunking pretend scientists, and daft ideas, there is still a job for someone, somewhere, to bring science to the people. The long term solution is to improve education so the RDFRS has focused on that. But, we might find that seeking a shorter term goal of educating more adults pays better political dividends to achieve that longer term aim.

    Peace.



    Report abuse

  • 7
    voiceofarabi says:

    Hi A3Kr0n,

    You have a valid point, an I agree with you but for different reasons…..

    On The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore few nights ago, they had segment on lying in sport, and they concluded that if you are telling 70% of the truth all the time, at the end no one will believe you anymore… that’s why you should be a 100% (Stay a 100)..

    Now, back to our topic… Scientist in general are too boring to lie.. they maybe mistaken at times, but they are not interested in lying. However, you have to ask yourself, who comes between scientist and the general public?? It is usually “money” that drives scientist to conduct the research, and “money” tries to capitalise on the discoveries.

    If you follow the money, you will see that there are entities in the world who will lie, change the truth or do whatever it takes to make money and become powerful. it is in everything humans do; day in and day out. Science is just one victim.. look at Sports, or Arts or anything else that people will be interested in.

    So, Question is.. Who is trying to discredit sciences, and what is the benefit… Just follow the money and you will have your answer..



    Report abuse

  • It is ironic that the article is in the National (FOX) Geographic. It keeps keeps publishing supposedly scientific articles and videos to sell Christian myths as scientific truth.

    There is a natural distrust of corporations in general. Everyone has been cheated by them repeatedly. Every day they get caught in some action to improve profit at tad by hurting their customers. I think some people conflate science and corporations.



    Report abuse

  • Roedy misinforms RDF readers again. The National Geographic magazine is the publication of the National Geographic Society which is completely independent, not owned by anyone. That Society shares ownership, with the Fox News Network, of the television National Geographic Channel.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    Miserablegit says:

    Science can be its own worst enemy at times, the nature of its questioning established evidence will easily confuse those who do not understand science. Having said all that there is no doubt that so called reasonable people doubt science because it will debunk conspiracy theories and hold religious nonsense to account when necessary.



    Report abuse

  • The title begs the question while seeming to ask it: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?
    Scientists are people who implicitly fall into the category of “Reasonable People.” The question depending on context could be logically re-phrased: “Why do many scientists doubt science?” The question in this form appears to make no sense. The ambiguity arises from using the term “Science” to refer to (at least) two different entities: 1) Science as the representation of empirical truth beyond a reasonable doubt; e.g., The Earth moves in orbit around the sun. 2) Science as a process or methodology for examining natural phenomena; e.g., The dating of newly discovered fossilized remains pushes the emergence of the species back a million years.

    Measured fluoridation of water hardens enamel and helps prevent tooth decay with no harmful side effects to human health. 1) “Science” is used here to refer to a static empirical Truth beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Eggs contain high levels of plaque forming cholesterol and increase the risk of heart attacks. Here 1) “Science” also seems to refer to a static empirical truth. But wait. Further scientific research finds that egg consumption per se (up to seven a week) contributes little to blood cholesterol and does not increase the risk of heart attack. 2) Science winds up being used in the sense of a dynamic process or methodology for examining phenomena.

    Consistent with this schema, scientists are in practice taught to “doubt” science.



    Report abuse

  • I agree. Money gets in the way of science and people. And although I am aware that some people are trying to bring science to people, to be more understandable to people, I would like to see it more, and more. Unfortunately, why reasonable people doubt science is for the greater love of money.



    Report abuse

  • Fox is by far and away the largest shareholder of the various NGC entities.

    Owned by Fox Cable Networks (21st Century Fox) (67%)
    National Geographic Channel International owned by
    Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox) (73%)

    They get to call the shots.



    Report abuse

  • I think the answer to the question’s contained in the dialogue between Ripper and Mandrake, in that if a person lacks even rudimentary knowledge they’re vulnerable to having paranoid illusions foist on them.

    Witness what happens to young children when they have their implicit trust in adults betrayed by having notions based on nothing more than egocentric, superstitious blind faith laid on them.

    But of course they can’t know any better, whereas adults should, and could, if they took the trouble to think and inquire.

    It is universally acknowledged that an incurious man in possession of a narrow mind must be in need of a life.

    As a Brit I’m not really qualified to comment on matters American, but the first scene of the opening episode of the last series of The Wire is about a polygraph test, and one character says “…Americans are stupid people by and large, we pretty much believe what ever we’re told.”.

    I think that probably applies universally.

    Ducks down behind sofa.



    Report abuse

  • Melvin Feb 24, 2015 at 1:25 am

    The title begs the question while seeming to ask it: Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?
    Scientists are people who implicitly fall into the category of “Reasonable People.” The question depending on context could be logically re-phrased: “Why do many scientists doubt science?” The question in this form appears to make no sense.

    You have picked out the key issue.

    There is a massive difference between the doubt in the open minded critical thinking of scientists, looking to up-date and refine theories, and the concocted denial in pseudo-science and conspiracy circular thinking!

    These are two very different categories of doubt.

    The latter form, is based on plausible disinformation campaigns, mental laziness, and personal incredulity.



    Report abuse

  • A3Kr0n Feb 23, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    When researchers say not to feed your child peanuts to prevent allergies, then tell you to feed your child peanuts to prevent allergies, I see can why some people would start getting a little pissed off at the researchers.

    One of the benefits of living in the UK, is that there are at least some media sources which try to give honest and competent information. (despite determined right-wing politicians trying to privatise them)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31599135
    .Peanut allergies preventable by early introduction, research says.

    *A new study has shown that eating peanut products early in life can prevent young children from becoming allergic to them.

    The trial involved more than 600 babies who were at high risk of developing a peanut allergy, and international specialists have described the results as “striking and compelling”.*

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31550816

    .Eating peanut products as a baby dramatically cuts the risk of allergy, a study suggests.

    Trials on 628 babies prone to developing peanut allergy found the risk was cut by over 80%.

    The King’s College London researchers said it was the “first time” that allergy development had been reduced.

    Specialists said the findings could apply to other allergies and may change diets around, but warned parents not to experiment at home.

    The research team in London had previously found that Jewish children in Israel who started eating peanuts earlier in life had allergy levels 10 times lower than Jewish children in the UK.

    The trial, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on babies as young as four months who had already developed eczema – an early warning sign of allergies.

    Skin-prick tests were used to identify those who had not yet developed peanut allergy or had only a very mild response.

    .Children under five should not eat whole peanuts, because of the risk of choking, so half were given a peanut-based snack. The other half continued avoiding peanuts.



    Report abuse

  • Red Dog Feb 24, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Yes, scientists should never contradict each other and should make sure they are always correct on everything so they never have to revise their findings.

    There is a very appropriate saying in relation to the media:-

    “Fools and infants, should not see an unfinished job half done!”



    Report abuse

  • Before publishing the results of any study scientists should have to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of classical statistics and be required to include estimates of the uncertainty or confidence limits associated with any conclusions. Granted the mainstream media would most likely ignore these, but it would be a step in the right direction. It might also make researches more aware of the limitations inherent in their studies.

    Some scientific disciplines, (particle physics and molecular genetics come to mind) score high marks here, but sadly the majority do not.

    For the rest of us, who are often bewildered by the contradictory nature of different reports, it is helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. Despite the poor quality of much research, science has immeasurably improved our lives. The reason is because it is self-correcting. A bad study will last only until a good one comes along to demolish it. That is science’ big strength. We are told that smoking causes cancer, and then we hear of a study that shows drinking 2 cups of coffee a day also raises cancer risk. So both smoking and drinking coffee cause cancer? Perhaps. But one is linked unequivocally, by hundreds of studies involving tens of thousands of people over many decades and with a certainty of 99.9%. The other correlation is tenuous at best.

    Unfortunately this leaves scientific studies open to abuse and misinterpretation by those with an agenda, (yes, AGW deniers, I’m pointing at you here). It’s up to the rest of us to educate ourselves and to seek out both sides to every argument. To examine carefully the data and the conclusions, to assess the level of confidence as best we can, and to form our own opinions.



    Report abuse

  • 22
    Lorenzo says:

    I read the whole piece on the NatGeo magazine -rather long one, but I think it was worth reading.

    It’s thesis is interesting, even though I don’t really agree with it: even among scientific literates (but I’d really like to know what the term means), the “scientific” truth of choice largely depends on, ultimately, political orientation and opinions. In short, scientific statements are treated as opinion and not evidence motivated assertions.
    This is doubtlessly true for some. But I wouldn’t call those some “reasonable” people…

    True is that access to evidence isn’t always an option -disgustingly often, it isn’t an option even access to the articles themselves, unless you have 30-ish bucks to sacrifice for the cause. That is a huge amount of money, indeed, and means that 99% of the times you are just stop at the synopsis -if you even try to look for the article in the first place. Luckily, not all research groups publish closed…
    The closed source model, I think, is destructive for science. Especially because, thus, the scientific information has to bubble through various layers of journalism and that is almost never a good thing. I’m not saying that journalists are all incompetent or subjugated, but they surely love hyperboles and other means of rhetorical inflation that exaggerate some discovery up to grotesque and ridiculous proportions. And if you’re promised the future cure for every cancer once every 5 minutes you tend to become a little deaf about the topic. And develop some suspicion.

    When evidence isn’t directly available, or/and when the knowledge to make sense of those evidence is lacking (knowing that the earth goes around the sun does not mean being able to calculate Earth orbit). This means that, at some point, everybody will have to trust an expert. Of course, critically so, with several BS filters in place and the finger ready on the question’s trigger, but trust them nevertheless.

    I think the article stressed a lot too less that the trust in experts is something that has been almost completely destroyed, especially in newer generations. The message that one’s own opinion must outweigh everybody else’s has been engrained way too deeply into society -and the admission of ignorance (or guilt) has been demonized.
    I don’t want to venture into the causes why that above happened or whose agenda it was but, from where I’m sitting, those who give their brain a chance and are capable to rely explicitly on other’s expertise are very few.

    By any mean I’m advocating a sort of “ipse dixit” revival: that is, if anything, even more pernicious that overly self assured ignorance. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should question everything, starting from the invention of the wheel, because she doesn’t have evidence -or isn’t bothered with them.



    Report abuse

  • john.wb Feb 24, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Before publishing the results of any study scientists should have to demonstrate an adequate knowledge of classical statistics and be required to include estimates of the uncertainty or confidence limits associated with any conclusions.

    I think anyone who didn’t have a sound basis would find that in reputable journals at least, their reviewers and critics would have!

    Granted the mainstream media would most likely ignore these, but it would be a step in the right direction.

    Unfortunately in the popular media, many journalists would fail basic school science, and cannot even competently read scientific studies.

    However! Whatever they cannot understand, they can make up and sensationalise! – Often with patronising airs of superiority!!

    You will often see headlines a few days after misleading sensationalised “news” items, “Scientists got XXXX wrong!”
    when truthfully they should read:
    “Air-head tabloid reporters misreport scientific study on XXXX”!



    Report abuse

  • Lorenzo Feb 24, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I read the whole piece on the NatGeo magazine -rather long one, but I think it was worth reading.
    >

    It’s thesis is interesting, even though I don’t really agree with it: even among scientific literates (but I’d really like to know what the term means), the “scientific” truth of choice largely depends on, ultimately, political orientation and opinions. In short, scientific statements are treated as opinion and not evidence motivated assertions.

    the PSEUDO-“scientific” truth of choice largely depends on, ultimately, political orientation and opinions. In short, scientific statements FROM POLITICIANS AND SALESPEOPLE are treated as opinion and not evidence motivated CONCLUSIONS.

    Fixed!



    Report abuse

  • Science is the technique used by the most invasive species on the planet to further its dominance. The same technique is revealing the many ways that invasion can be self-destructive.



    Report abuse

  • I have noticed that our media, specifically ” Hollywood “, portrays scientists as either evil or naive, with the noble god fearing American riding to the rescue, ie ” Independence day ” etc
    I think this is why we hear shit like ” ..well, scientists don’t know everything ! ”
    I agree also that science has progressed to the point there is a huge gap between science and the general public, giving snake oil salesmen a lot of room to operate.



    Report abuse

  • You are partly right. Is not applicable to most western civilizations. Nevertheless and unfortunately, is still aplicable outside of US. OK, maybe some countries in UE doesn’t really part of th western civilizations…



    Report abuse

  • Can you show that large numbers of people who understand the science doubt the science? If not then couldn’t the simplest answer to the question of why reasonable people doubt science be that they don’t understand it? It seems we’re really answering a different question here, “Why do people hold firm opinions about things they know little about?” and yes, it makes sense to say that probably because their tribe is important to them. That also explains why the same answer works for things other than mistrust of science.



    Report abuse

  • Sorry, the statement is incorrect. Reasonable People doubt Science when Science fails to prove it’s case. You state in the article that “reasonable” people accept anthropogenic climate change as a proven case, this is the same level of indoctrination we see from the religious who all claim that reasonable people believe in their brand of the Iron age sky demon myth.

    I like to think I am a reasonable person, I hold a degree in Astronomy and a PhD gained in the Evolution of Planetary Atmospheres. This is science I understand and whilst I wholly agree we should not be polluting out atmoshpere or environment as a whole, the case for ACC is only a theory, it is not proven. The oft cited statement that the majority of scientists believe in it is misleading as this only really applies to those in climate science, not that they have a vested interest in holdiong onto their jobs…ahem…

    There is a lot we do not know, and a lot we suspect we know, only to be proved wrong tomorrow. Reasonable people question the world they live in, reasonable people question when people tell them they must accept an idea because they are in the mninority and reasonable people make up their own minds based on available evidence. It is only the lazy, indifferent or stupid that accept what they are told without question.



    Report abuse

  • David Feb 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I have noticed that our media, specifically ” Hollywood “, portrays scientists as either evil or naive, with the noble god fearing American riding to the rescue, ie ” Independence day ” etc

    . . . ..and frequently, the untrained teenage know-it-all American kid (or overgrown kid)!



    Report abuse

  • James Feb 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Sorry, the statement is incorrect. Reasonable People doubt Science when Science fails to prove it’s case.

    … . . and also of course, when they have accepted misleading information without checking it.

    You state in the article that “reasonable” people accept anthropogenic climate change as a proven case,

    Well yes! The evidence, the measurements, and the scientific consensus is overwhelming.

    this is the same level of indoctrination we see from the religious who all claim that reasonable people believe in their brand of the Iron age sky demon myth.

    Ha! ha! ha!

    I like to think I am a reasonable person,

    Don’t we all!

    I hold a degree in Astronomy and a PhD gained in the Evolution of Planetary Atmospheres.

    And you can’t add up the world tonnage of combusted fossil carbon, or interpret the mass of satellite data?

    This is science I understand and whilst I wholly agree we should not be polluting out atmoshpere or environment as a whole, the case for ACC is only a theory, it is not proven.

    A PhD? . . . . . and you use unscientific terms like “only a theory”?
    Do you know what a scientific theory is?

    On this site arguments stand on their merits.
    Claimed badges of authority carry no weight without evidence and a well reasoned case demonstrating the claimed expertise.

    The oft cited statement that the majority of scientists believe in it is misleading as this only really applies to those in climate science,

    Ah! the THOUSANDS of people world-wide with expertise in the subject across a huge range of sciences, and an international collection of space agencies all of whom have published studies in reputable scientific journals!

    not that they have a vested interest in holdiong onto their jobs…ahem…

    Ahem! – Do I detect conspiracy “theory” pseudo-science doubt-mongering, in place of scientific evidence?



    Report abuse

  • 33
    Lorenzo says:

    Well… the change in temperature and the modification of climate following that change are not theories: they are observations.
    And there is a large amount of “coincidences” between the swelling of anthropic activity and the onset of the present climate change. It seems to me. It might not be proven (?) that the present climate change is anthropogenic, but the likelihood of humans having something to do with it is really not negligible -even dialling out our stubborn tendency to overestimate our own importance: we are burning a heck of a lot around the world; burning produces carbon dioxide, because you’re burning carbon based fuels in an oxygen atmosphere. If all this CO2 doesn’t go anywhere, it stays in the atmosphere, where it’s bound to contribute, at least to some extent, to the so-called greenhouse effect. The observable effect of an increased IR opacity is a rise in temperature.

    So, summarizing:
    -The rise in temperature has been observed.
    -The rise in CO2 concentration has been observed.
    -I’m not aware of any giant bottle of fizzy water opened near the Earth, nor I see any causes for the increase of CO2 concentrations other than what we are up to (which is both burning a lot and chopping down a lot of trees). If you can think of those causes, please list them here, so we can all check.
    -It’s been also measured the distribution of tropospheric CO2 and the gas seems to be found in higher concentrations over Western countries.

    I know doubt is healthy and checking and cross checking is good practice, but you really have to make a huge effort to say that the rise of CO2 is not anthropogenic or, worse, non existent. This higher concentration compels you to expect an increase in IR absorption, if the other concentrations are kept stable. This means more energy in the atmosphere and, consequently, you’d expect to observe an increase in the average temperature. An increase has been measured.
    I do not have enough numbers to crunch -and not enough time, anyway- but, if I were asked to bet, I’d put my money on a positive match rather than a miss, given the facts that are around.



    Report abuse

  • 34
    Jonathan says:

    Perhaps one of the problems are the rogue scientists who are fixated on one required outcome. Who, no matter how much work is done to prove they are wrong, still pedal falsehoods as gospel truths.

    This isn’t a new problem, lead in petrol anybody? but it is now easier to get your views accepted via poor reporting and political agendas across the internet, vaccinations anyone?

    As it is most deadly when large corporations are leading the charge, as with lead in petrol in the past, and quite probably climate change now, perhaps the best approach would be to use money against them. How the company that lied for years supplying lead in petrol haven’t been sued out of existence bewilders me. Perhaps if California had sued for the clean up costs of removing the lead, big business might be a little more circumspect on climate change.

    I also think that the USA (and most of the world as well) is very poorly served by its news channels. Making good choices about a contentious science topic requires the consumer to know all sides of a subject, and the relative importance to attach to the arguments, something that the networks in the USA (and elsewhere, anywhere Fox is it seems) no longer feel they have to supply.



    Report abuse

  • Jonathan Feb 24, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Perhaps one of the problems are the rogue scientists who are fixated on one required outcome. Who, no matter how much work is done to prove they are wrong, still pedal falsehoods as gospel truths.

    Frequently it is not even rogue scientists. (Such as ex-Dr.Wakefield) With AGW denial, PR departments were ignoring their own scientists and spreading lies and disinformation.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dark-money-funds-climate-change-denial-effort/

    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/koch-industries/

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/bigoil.html

    Big Oil and the Demise of Crude Climate Change Denial
    Posted on 26 October 2012 by Andy Skuce

    From 1989 to 2002, several large US companies, including the oil companies Exxon and the US subsidiaries of Shell and BP, sponsored a lobbying organisation called the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), to counter the strengthening consensus that human carbon dioxide emissions posed a serious threat to the Earth’s climate. As has been documented by Hoggan and Littlemore and Oreskes and Conway, the GCC and its fellow travellers took a leaf out of the tobacco industry’s playbook and attempted to counter the message of peer-reviewed science by deliberately sowing doubt through emphasizing uncertainties and unknowns. The climate scientist Benjamin Santer accused the GCC of deliberately suppressing scientific information that supported the IPCC consensus.

    In the late 1990s, the oil industry’s response to the climate question started to change, when BP and Shell decided to abandon the GCC and instead embrace the scientific consensus. According to the account by ex-BP geologist Bryan Lovell in his book Challenged by Carbon, BP’s change of mind was triggered by a memo sent in 1997, by then Chief Geologist David Jenkins, to the managing directors of the company that maintained that it was time for BP to be prepared to respond to the climate crisis in a constructive manner. Jenkins’ argument—which is detailed in Lovell’s book—was framed to appeal to BP’s corporate self-interest; pointing to future opportunities to employ the company’s subsurface expertise for carbon sequestration, and also to shift the climate mitigation focus away from the oil industry onto the coal-fired power sector. (Experienced corporate insiders know that appeals to ethics gain less traction than appeals to self-interest.) Jenkins’ recommendation was well received and over the following years the company changed its name to “BP plc”, changed to a new sunflower logo (at a cost of $211 million) and adopted the slogan “Beyond Petroleum”. In 2002, the chief executive of BP, Lord John Browne gave a speech in which he said:

    ”Climate change is an issue which raises fundamental questions about the relationship between companies and society as a whole, and between one generation and the next.”

    and

    ”Companies composed of highly skilled and trained people can’t live in denial of mounting evidence gathered by hundreds of the most reputable scientists in the world.”

    Not every big oil company responded as deftly. Exxon, under the leadership of CEO Lee Raymond, remained a sponsor of several climate-change-skeptic organizations until the mid-2000s. In 2006, Raymond was replaced by Rex Tillerson, who took a more enlightened view, accepting the scientific consensus. However, recently Tillerson has downplayed the global warming threat, claiming that it is just an engineering problem with engineering solutions and assuring us that no matter how bad things get, “we’ll adapt to that”.

    The recent PBS documentary Climate of Doubt showed how Exxon was motivated into its new strategy on climate science, not so much out of virtue, but out of corporate self-interest as a result of pressure from activist shareholders and threats of customer boycotts.

    Big Oil on emissions and climate change in 2012

    Below are some quotes from the big four oil companies’ websites:

    Exxon: “Rising greenhouse gas emissions pose significant risks to society and ecosystems.”

    Shell: “…CO2 emissions must be reduced to avoid serious climate change. To manage CO2, governments and industry must work together. Government action is needed and we support an international framework that puts a price on CO2, encouraging the use of all CO2-reducing technologies.”

    BP: “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warming of the climate system is happening and is caused mainly by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Results from models assessed by the IPCC suggest that to stand a reasonable chance of limiting warming to no more than 2˚C, global emissions should peak before 2020 and be cut by between 50-85% by 2050.”

    Chevron: “At Chevron, we recognize and share the concerns of governments and the public about climate change. The use of fossil fuels to meet the world’s energy needs is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs)—mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane—in the Earth’s atmosphere. There is a widespread view that this increase is leading to climate change, with adverse effects on the environment.”

    These companies no longer easily fit the stereotype of “Merchants of Doubt”, at least when it comes to the basic science of climate change.



    Report abuse

  • quarecuss Feb 25, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Taking “James” apart piece by piece.
    Nicely done.

    As someone with a background in planetary sciences, I await an “expert” response, illustrating a PhD level of competence in the Evolution of Planetary Atmospheres!

    It might take some time!



    Report abuse

  • It’s my opinion that there are people who need to believe in things that cannot be proved, (people of faith) and those who do not. When things happen it’s natural for people to wonder why, but some wonder how they happen. This is a crucial difference. I also submit that there has to be some genetic component to devising brains that can ignore facts and compartmentalize thinking, but still do their business.



    Report abuse

  • My complaints have mainly been with videos which claim to have been produced by the National Geographic Society. The magazine also does this. I think it a bit naive to presume an association with FOX does not contaminate everything. But thanks for the correction. It is a bit like expecting your mother’s marriage to a gangster will have no effect on her personal business dealings. Eventually I got annoyed after writing several times without effect and cancelled the subscriptions to my niece and nephew.



    Report abuse

  • Consider that Svante Arrhenius (the guy who invented ion theory) back in the 1800s worked the relationship between CO2 and temperature. We know how much CO2 we have emitted. We have the receipts for the fuel.

    We have been measuring temperature for quite a while. We can see the graphs.

    With satellite photos we can can see the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps.

    Why are those facts alone not sufficient to convince you?

    Let’s say we cleaned up the air and converted to clean energy, and it turned out projections of global warming turned out to be overly alarming. What is the downside? What if we procrastinated until a tipping point and we had run-away global warming. What is the downside?



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.