“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”
—The Wizard of Oz
Having just suffered a major court defeat in 1987, the major players in the “Intelligent Design” creationism movement were trying to recover their momentum. They decided to transform and disguise their attacks on science by hiding their religious roots, and changing their creationist textbooks to remove overt references to God. They planned a subterfuge to get their unconstitutional dogmas taught in public schools in the form of “intelligent design” (ID), and claimed to be non-committal about the “designer” (even though every one of them was a devout evangelical Protestant, and open about their creationism when they spoke to religious groups). Behind the scenes, however, their intentions were very clear all along: drive a “wedge” of “intelligent design” to separate evolutionary biology and materialistic philosophy from its support in the United States, defeat not only evolutionary science but also materialism, and replace them with their own theistic dogmas. For public consumption, the ID creationists and the Discovery Institute in Seattle refused to admit that they were any more than scientists who wanted ID to get a legitimate chance of being heard and taught, since on the face of it they made no reference to a specific deity or designer.
But their cover was blown when a document which described their “wedge strategy” was leaked over the internet, and is now available to anyone who wants to read it. The “Wedge Document” describes their true intent: not new and important scientific research on evolutionary topics, but to win the battle by a concerted PR campaign to influence the public and political officials. Unlike all other legitimate scientific ideas that must pass muster of scientific peer review to persuade the scientific community that their approach was superior and truly scientific, the ID creationists planned an “end run” around the legitimate scientific community through PR and political pressure.
Once it was leaked, everyone at Discovery Institute tried to deny it was real, or that they had written it, but enough people have come forward to expose that lie. When ID creationism came up for trial in Dover, Pennsylvania, in 2005, their case was weakened not only by the long trail of documents that showed their true religious motivations (as well as those of the creationists on the Dover School Board), but even by their textbook “Of Pandas and People” which was hastily transformed in 1989 from an originally young-earth creationist book into an ID book. The early drafts were discovered and were full of old-fashioned creationism; the published book had just replaced “intelligent design” for “creationism”. In one crucial case, there was even a draft of the book where careless use of the “Replace” command had resulted in the weird combination “cdesign proponentsists” (“creationists” incompletely overprinted with the words “design proponents”), a true palimpsest which revealed the slipshod job they had done turning a religious book into an ID book. Since 2005, ID creationism seems to have vanished from the creationist political playbook, replaced by “teach the controversy” and other subterfuges.
Those who follow the news know that a “Wedge Document” of the climate deniers has just been revealed. As described by The New York Times and in Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” blog and many other blogs, someone managed to obtain and leak documents from climate denialist Heartland Institute. These documents expose the fact that climate denialism is all about PR and propaganda, not about science. The head of the Heartland Institute does not deny most of the documents (except one, which reads just like the rest). According to the reporters at the Associated Press and The New York Times, so far everything checks out. It is amazing how much the language reads just like the Wedge Document (which was also denied by the Discovery Institute before they could no longer hide behind lies). The documents clearly show a strategy to create a smokescreen of doubt about climate change, insinuate their ideas into the school curriculum, and to win the battle by PR and propaganda, not by doing good science that would debunk the major evidence for climate change. One quote is particularly revealing:
The “effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.”
Not much ambiguity there. Reading the context of the entire quote, it’s still clear. There it is in black and white: climate denialism is about preventing teachers from teaching science and focusing on “teach the controversy” and promoting doubt and uncertainty—not doing good science which would show that global warming isn’t real. You couldn’t ask for a clearer example of the similarity of strategies of the ID creationists and the climate deniers.
[The Heartland Institute may have bigger problems than just embarrassment at this exposure. Some of the documents show that they contributed to political efforts to aid Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, influence his recall election, and attack the Wisconsin unions, in direct violation of laws that prevent non-profits from direct involvement in political campaigns.]
But this isn’t really surprising, actually. Both Oreskes and Conway (2010) and Hoggan (2009) carefully unearthed the paper trail, and showed that the entire climate denial movement arose, not as a spontaneous scientific dissenting movement from within climate science, but as a PR campaign paid for by the energy companies through their “conservative foundations”. For example, Oreskes and Conway revealed from memos leaked to the press that in April 1998 the right-wing Marshall Institute, SEPP (Fred Seitz’s lobby that aids tobacco companies and polluters), and ExxonMobil, met in secret at the American Petroleum Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. There they planned a $20 million campaign to get “respected scientists” to cast doubt on climate change, get major PR effort going, and lobby Congress that global warming wasn’t real and was not a threat. [The infamous Koch brothers were donors to Heartland, as they are for many right-wing causes].
Or how about the recent revelation that the Heartland Institute has regularly been paying off Anthony Watts, a well-known American blogger and denier, and Bob Carter, an Australian denier, with sizable stipends each year as they continue to write anti-global warming diatribes? Instead of the “Climategate” scandal, we now have what is being called the “Cash for Climate” scandal. Another expose showed that 9 out of 10 of the top climate deniers who write on the subject were funded by ExxonMobil.
The right-wing institutes and the energy lobby beat the bushes to find scientists—any scientists, no matter whether they were qualified or not—who might disagree with the scientific consensus. As investigative journalists and scientists have documented over and over again, the climate denialists essentially paid for the testimony of anyone who could be useful to them. The day that the 2007 IPCC report was released (Feb. 2, 2007), the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the American Enterprise Institute (funded largely by energy companies and conservative think tanks) had offered $10,000 plus travel expenses to scientists who would write negatively about the IPCC report. So much for the scientific credibility of witnesses who could be bought and paid for with just a bribe plus travel expenses!
The irony in all this is that the Heartland Institute was one of the loudest voices in trumpeting the phony “Climategate” story, which has become accepted dogma in the denialist community—even though those quotes are clearly out of context and do not mean what they denialists claim they mean (just as creationists dishonestly quote-mine scientists to distort their meaning). You can see that for yourself if you read the original documents. There was nothing amiss in those stolen emails except for poor choice of words. Six different investigations in the U.K. and U.S. have cleared Philip Jones and the East Anglia Climate Research Unit of any wrongdoing, yet none of this pierces the “bubble” of the right-wing climate deniers. But now the Heartland Institute itself is the subject of unflattering documents leaked from their own files. And this time there is no quoting out of context, since there is no ambiguity in what they have said and done for years now. This quote is particularly clear:
Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as [Peter] Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out.
So much for “fair and balanced” and “listening to both sides of the argument”!
I had never heard the term “warmist” before—but it strikes me as exactly parallel to the way creationists (and only creationists) use the term “Darwinist” to describe anyone who accepts evolution. As many people have shown, using the term “Darwinist” is a deliberate attempt to make the opponent seem to be a member of a political cult, like a “Marxist” or “socialist”, not a legitimate scientist—even though scientists have gone a long way past Darwin in over 150 years. The parallels between the science deniers, both creationists and AGW denialists, go on and on…