Scholars For Hire?

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OPEN UNIVERSITY FEBRUARY 4, 2007

Scholars For Hire?

by Alan Wolfe
Did the American Enterprise Institute try to "buy" scholars to challenge the
findings of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as reported by The Guardian?

Two bloggers I greatly respect, Andrew Sullivan and Eugene Volokh say no. I say the matter is
more complicated.

In an internal memo written to dispute The Guardian's charge, Chris DeMuth,
AEI's president, says that "a $10,000 fee for a research project involving the review of
a large amount of dense scientific material, and the synthesis of that material into an
original, footnoted and rigorous article is hardly exorbitant or unusual; many
academics would call it modest." I love that "modest." The commissioned paper was
to be 7,500-10,000 words, longer if necessary. $10,000 for 7,500 words is, I submit,
anything but modest. The five-figure number, as I read it, sends the message that
someone with deep pockets is pretty interested in what you might have to say, and it
is not all that hard to figure out that money like this does not come from those who
believe that global warming is a crisis that must be addressed with strict curbs on
business activity.

In addition, the invitation letter calls for the scientists involved to dissent
from the IPCC findings. "As with any large-scale 'consensus' process, the IPCC is
susceptible to self-selection bias in its personnel, resistant to reasonable criticism
and dissent, and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the
analytical work of the complete Working Group reports," the letter states, before
going on to ask for an "independent" review. "Independent" here clearly means that
AEI is looking for those who will break with the consensus, as if breaking with a
consensus is itself a good thing, irrespective of the scientific evidence that might
have produced that consensus in the first place.

I've spoken at the AEI and was recently invited to speak there again (by the
very person who sent the letter I just discussed). The AEI often goes out of its way to
promote discussion from a variety of ideological viewpoints, and for this it is to be
praised. But it also has its own agenda, as Volokh points out, and the effort by
DeMuth to claim that AEI is the victim of a witchhunt led by The Guardian is pretty
lame. The Guardian's efforts to publicize how much AEI pays for this kind of work
and what it expects is a more than appropriate subject for journalism.

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