Friday, February 17, 2012

The Intellectual Dishonesty at the Heart of the Heartland Institute

More media have pored over leaked internal memos that expose the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the Heartland Institute, the coin-operated think tank that has made a living spreading lies in the service of corporations.

The most revealing of the memos reveals the Institute's plans to create an anti-climate change curriculum for k-12 schools nationwide. The goal, according to the memo is to show "that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain — two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science."

"There’s your smoking gun," write the editors at the Star-Ledger:

Climate change deniers use a strategy identical to those who want creationism taught alongside evolution in science classes: Ignore the science and teach the debate, as if the simple act of disagreeing with scientific fact is educationally significant.

Science deniers want you to believe theirs is honest disagreement, when, in fact, it’s deliberate ignorance ... Scientific data aren't an opinion open to debate. Scientific data can be challenged — with new scientific data. But challenging science with opinion is like challenging math. You can’t “honestly disagree” with 2+2=4 simply because you would rather believe it equals 3. Or 37.
The rejection of fact in favor of opinion and ignorance is the MO of the Heartland Institute, whether its trying to sow doubt over long established scientific evidence of global warming or spreading telco-industry myths to undermine policies designed to protect the freedoms of Internet users.

The Heartland Institute masks itself behind claims of intellectual rigor and independence in order to lend legitimacy to the dubious claims of its corporate sponsors.

It's a lucrative trade in misinformation that has served the Institute well. That Heartland has sought relentlessly to conceal the identity of the corporations and wealthy industrialists that have bought into this scam is, in its own way, an admission of guilt.

According to the Star Journal:
The danger in this culture of skepticism is that it will become a "culture of ignorance," as author Isaac Asimov described it: a "thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"
Slate recently posted this video, which concludes, if the leaked documents are accurate, Heartland is "committed to using funds reaped from coal-mining corporations to cast doubt on established science."

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