Nukes, prestige and dime-store psychology

The bang was big. In  16 July 1945, humans got to start using the power of the sun. First to fry people, but then – and this is not understood enough – with the hope (okay, maybe it was a bit of a fig-leaf) of the “peaceful use of nuclear explosions”. What’s this, you say? Yes, for tunnels, canals, artificial harbours. All covered in Scott Kirsch’s “Proving Ground”.

And in the late 1960s, after 20 plus years of prestige it started to go wrong… By 1975, the awful “environmentalists” had spoiled everything. Three Mile Island was a late kick in the teeth.

And, as Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway point out in their 2010 “Merchants of Doubt” – the big beasts behind the campaigns of denial (against ozone depletion, acid rain, the tobacco-lung disease link, let alone climate) were … nuclear physicists.

It’s covered nicely by Myanna Lahsen in (e.g.) Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist ‘‘trio’’ supporting the backlash against global warming

There’s also an examination of Swedish denialists that mentions their masculinity-
A Green fatwa? Climate change as a threat to the masculinity of industrial modernity

Basically, as Chris Freeman puts it in this article

“The prestige of science in general and of physics in particular ha[d] probably never been higher.”
(Freeman, 1996:28)

And that prestige was stolen from them. By the ozone/SST thing, by oil spills and by a loat of other “scares”.  They would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids…

For contra view, see this –

Friday, Eli wrote about recent papers by Myanna Lahsen, and Naomi Oresekes, Erik Conway and Matthew Shindell about the Marshall Institute’s founders, William Nierenberg, Robert Jastrow and Fredrick Seitz. Lahsen came to the conclusion that after retiring these three attacked climate science and scientists to make up for a loss of status. Oreskes and Conway thought not, in Eli’s word’s
But at about that time, the director of GISS, Robert Jastrow, concluded that the days of generous NASA support for planetary studies were numbered, and he thus began to direct institutional resources towards Earth applications.
The Marshall trio pushed the line that climate scientists are in it for the $$. Nierenberg, Seitz and Jastrow were simply reflecting on what they had done.


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