Was Willie Soon Paid For Science...Or Anti-Science?

Read time: 5 mins
Willie Soon speaks to Doctors for Disaster Preparedness

Willie Soon has been in the news lately, but the recent 131p FOIA shines even more light on climate anti-science.  It details tax-exempt tactics that use a sciency facade to promote anti-science to the public. It includes some grant proposals and results for 2008-2012. These are quite enlightening, but cover only a fraction of Soon's history of fossil funding, about which he told DeSmog UK's Brendan Montague amazing tales.

Funding Science versus Funding Anti-Science
In real science, scientists:
1. propose a research topic for grant funding,  often to government agencies via open, fiercely-competitive processes peer-reviewed by experts who include past performance. Awards are usually publicly visible, as seen at the National Science Foundation(NSF)or National Institutes of Health (NIH).

2. do research, whose outcomes are not predetermined, present results at science meetings and publish in credible science journals, regularly acknowledging funding sources. They may do some outreach for general public, and may even get public exposure, but to be successful they must convince other field experts of their work's merit.  Scientists comprise their primary audience.

3. provide one or more reports to the funding agency listing the papers, talks or other relevant accomplishments.  Such reports are usually public, often online.

Anti-science is a PR effort aimed to cast doubt on science, not among scientists, but among the public and policymakers.
Here, people:

1. talk to someone with whom they are connected, directly or indirectly, thought likely to be a potential funder. Discussions are often not recorded.  If people are within some institution, they create a written proposal as formal as needed to be sent to the funder, who may well lack relevant science expertise.  Do fossil energy companies really know or care much about astrophysics?  Although they sometimes fund and publicize real research efforts, this kind of proposal is rarely public.

2. do research, publish papers, even if poor ones in obscure journals, sometimes via friendly editors, with little concern that experts read them. Some may get refuted quickly, but many are mostly ignored except by associates who often cross-cite each other.  They can be referenced and quoted endlessly in OpEds, articles in non-science channels and talks for general public. They rarely cite funding. They succeed if they confuse people or reinforce existing anti-science views.  Any science audience is mostly secondary, although they always claim to want a hearing from real scientists.

3.  write report of the achievements for funder, who may well care much more about the audiences and PR effects than the science. Such reports are not normally public. Funders also evaluate the next request on basis of past performance.  Begging letters from think tanks to tobacco companies are often seen in the Legacy Tobacco Document Library.  Did Soon's funders evaluate his work for science quality or for visibility? For instance, he claimed work on Congressional testimony for both Charles Koch Foundation and Southern Company.

Now, it is instructive to see what Soon tells the general public, and a fine set of examples is provided by DDP.

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness and Willie Soon

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness's tax-free, Primary Exempt Purpose is “To distribute scientific and defense related information on public health, safety and security issues.”  However, DDP's main activity seems to be an annual meeting that offers an odd collection of talks. Some indeed cover disaster preparedness, some seem interesting, but not obviously relevant. Even odder, it does not seem relevant in this forum to attack climate and environmental sciences and renewable energy, as have about half the talks in recent years. It is unclear why even legitimate policy arguments about these would fit DDP's charitable purpose.

In the attached spreadsheet, Chron lists talks chronologically and Speakers is sorted by name, putting Willie Soon near the end. Most agendas 1999-2014 are complete, offering hours of videos for dedicated viewers. Year 2013, #31 is a good example of a complete meeting. Soon was their favorite outside speaker, every year 2000-2014. His sessions often follow this pattern:

Art Robinson introduces Soon with great praise, as in #25 and #26.  Soon says how honored he is to speak to such a distinguished audience and sometimes says he is no expert at the topic, akin to Fred Singer's “How would I know?”  He then speaks for most or all of the alloted time, using a style that might be called Gish Gallop with Graphs Galore, interspersed with jokes about scientists and Al Gore. 

If the audience has time to comment, they frequently express admiration. Other viewers may assess differently the quality of science and the suitability of presentation to a (supposed) audience of doctors.

Readers may see for themselves and perhaps post comments here, as I have not yet watched all of them entirely.  Willie Soon gets credit for these with funders.  Are they science or anti-science? Viewers can decide.

Willie Soon at DDP 2000-2014, #18-#32.
18f The Sun Also Warms: the Sun-Climate Link.
19f Identifying Mankind's Fingerprint: Why Is the Task So Difficult?
20e An Orbital Icehouse in 100,000 A.D.?
21c Level with Me: the Sea, the Sun, and Climate Change.
22f 20th Century Temperature Change: Facts, Dangerous Fictions, and Spin.
23e The Science of Mercury Behind the Headlines: Fiction, Misunderstanding, & Reality
24c Hurricanes, Global Warming, and the Sun
25c Global Warming 101: Al Gore's Carbon Dioxide Theory
26l Endangering the Polar Bear: How Environmentalists Kill.
27h The View From Galileo's Window: The Sun, The CO2 Monster, and Earth's Climate
28o Acid Oceans, Osteoporosis of the Sea: the Failed Global Warming Scare
29d Solar Radiation, Indian Summer Monsoon, and Dragonfly Migration.
30c Mercury Air Toxics Standards and the Extreme Punishment Agency (EPA)
31c Five or More Failed Experiments in Measuring Global Sea Level Change
32c False Rejection of Sun-Climate Connection by IPCC’s “Gangster Science.”

The last is a short version with same title from another source.

UPDATE 02/29/15: Update spreadsheet with 2015 talks

Update 07/08/16: In 2015, I endured watching these, but sometime later, the videos were made Private.

Image Credit: Willie Soon at left  spoke for “Cool Dudes” at 2011 Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP).

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