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Manufactured Ignorance


Dr Proctor's editorial, thinly disguised as a book review, is out of place in a magazine ostensibly devoted to impartial science.

Just two of many observations:

He writes:

"Oreskes and Conway lay part of the blame on the Internet, which they describe as “an information hall of mirrors” where disinformation can flourish without hindrance—“pluralism run amok.”"

That's ironic, considering that some years back, Dr Oreskes was cited by Al Gore, in "Inconvenient Truth", noting that her research showed that there was a "unanimous, scientific consensus on the anthropogenic causes of recent global warming".

Unfortunately, she used the wrong search term. Using a more appropriate term, only a small percentage of the 1117 abstracts "explicitly endorsed the 'consensus view'".

Perhaps that's why she describes the Internet as “an information hall of mirrors”.

For the rest of us, though, a generous application of critical thinking gets us through that hall.

Second, I note an excessive use of pejorative terms. "Denial" (in various forms) occurs nine times. Other examples: "left-wing hoax", "small band of right-wing scholars steeped in Cold War myopia", "powerful corporate polluters", "Cold Warrior physicist", "crew of Cold Warrior colleagues ", "steeped in Cold War oppositions", "extremist scientists", "polluter-friendly media outlets", "doubt-mongers", "revisionist attacks", "antienvironmentalist screeds, "their corporate paymasters".

He also shows his progressive bias by attacking Reagan and Bush, and libertarians in general.

Because his own opinion is so tightly bound into the review, it's difficult to know which opinions are his, and which the authors'.

Compare this review with any of the others in that issue. The other reviews tell us what the authors wrote, they tell us the reviewer's judgment of the merits of the work, and its strengths and shortcomings.

Michael Zorn
Santa Ana CA

posted by Michael Zorn
September 3, 2010


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