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A world-renowned science historian, Naomi Oreskes has written a landmark book, Merchants of Doubt, revealing how a small, industry-financed group of spin-doctors has been trying to muddle the public discourse on phenomena ranging from tobacco smoke to climate change. She visited Orcas Island on Sunday, March 15, 2015, to counter this misinformation and address today’s pressing question in her lecture on “Why Should We Trust Climate Science?”

In this Orcas Currents event, Oreskes drew on historical examples to demonstrate how science works in actual practice and why we should trust the widespread consensus that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change. It is derived from a popular TED talk she presented in New York City, “Why We Should Trust Scientists.”

Orcas Currents Presentation Audio

Oreskes earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University in the history of science, specializing in earth and environmental sciences. Before coming to Harvard in 2013, she served as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, examining the history of plate tectonics and the theory of continental drift. She is particularly interested in trying to understand scientific consensus and dissent.

Naomi Oreskes is among the best-known and most-respected historians of science in the world. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Nature and Science. Her book Merchants of Doubt won the coveted Watson-Davis Prize of the History of Science Society.

In March 2015, SONY Pictures released a feature-length documentary, “Merchants of Doubt,” inspired by the book and starring Oreskes in a lead role. It focused a glaring light on fossil-industry attempts to obfuscate climate science. View trailer.

Cosponsored by the Orcas Island Public Library, Friends of the San Juans, and Coates Vineyards, the lecture began at 4:00 p.m. in Orcas Island Community Church, Eastsound, with an audience of about 185 enthusiastic listeners in attendance. The subsequent question-and-answer session lasted over half an hour. Afterward, the Orcas Island High School Environment Club hosted a reception and book-signing for Oreskes.

This was the first in a series of three events involving science, technology, and culture that Orcas Currents presented in the Spring of 2015.