May. 4th, 2012

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The Heartland Institute is a conservative "think tank" devoted to rebutting those findings of science that irritate the greediest and most shortsighted of the Institute's corporate funders. The focus has varied over the years, depending on the circumstances: as I outline in Denying Science, it was Heartland that, for example, told us in sequence that smoking was okay, that the science was "still out" on smoking, that passive smoking was harmless, that
the science was "still out" on passive smoking . . .

Still an' all, the Heartland Institute is supposed to be at the upmarket end -- the "think tank" end -- of science denialism: it pays people with scientific qualifications and thus a supposed measure of street cred (rather than unqualified TV presenters like Anthony Watts) to adopt the various positions that just, you know, seem to have a basis more in Exxon's or the Koch Brothers' bottom line than in actual real-life, scientifically studied evidence.

The latest series of billboard ads from Heartland must surely indicate they've given up on any notion of quasi-respectability. The ads feature a sleazy pic of either Charles Manson or Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski with the immortal strapline:

I Still Believe in Global Warming, Do You?
Let's analyze this. Either they're trying to say that, if you accept climate science, you're like Charles Manson.

Or they're saying that climate science must be wrong because Charles Manson accepts it.

Neither of these two arguments has any basis whatsoever in reason. I'm sure Charles Manson and the Unabomber accept that the non-flat earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. Does this mean it's wrong to think the earth goes round the sun? Does this mean only mass murderers think the earth goes round the sun? Does it mean it's morally shameful to know the earth goes round the sun?

Or is the real truth that the Heartland Institute has exhausted its last stores of spurious pseudoscience and has finally been reduced to hurling feces?

Well, answers on only one side of the postage stamp to that last question.

But what depresses me is that the war on rational thinking has reached such a state that the Heartland Institute clearly believes enough Americans driving past those billboards will be hoodwinked for the Institute's investment to be worthwhile. Just as depressing is the possibility that the Institute's employees -- or some of them at least -- are so educationally and intellectually bereft as to fall for this irrationality themselves.

And we should also, I think, reflect upon who are the mass murderers here. Are they scum like Manson and Kaczynski, or are they even scummier scum who, for the sake of short-term greed (the neato monthly paycheck from the Heartland Institute!), would rather many millions of people die -- quite likely including their own children -- than give up getting that new patio?

Bill McKibben's has put up a page where you can send a message to Heartland. Please do.

And then, please, subscribe to updates from and Climate Progress; there are plenty of other rational climate sites out there, and you could even subscribe to Jim Hansen's climate science updates!


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