In June 2010 a highly instructive book appeared in the USA on the way a handful of influential scientists have managed, over the last 50 years, to spread confusion within public opinion on a number of scientific questions, with the sole aim of serving specific economic or political interests. André Lebeau has read this book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010) for Futuribles. He outlines its argument here, showing the extent to which these few scientists have manipulated opinion and, at times, cast discredit on scientifically established facts, without any real scientific legitimacy, but merely because they knew how to handle the media machine and could harness it to their “cause”.
Whether acting for tobacco magnates, for the producers of fertilizers or other pollutants, or simply for ideological ends (e.g. anti-communism), it is the logic of denial that drives them. It is essential to understand this logic, particularly as these types of pseudo-scientists are now tending to focus on the debate on global warming (over which there is a virtual consensus among scientists) and they must not be allowed to delay regulation, which is both essential and, even as things stand, complicated to organize on an international scale.