Heartland Institutes Anti-Science Scandal

The Heartland Institute, a right-wing propaganda machine, has just been exposed. Several days ago a few damning internal documents leaked to the press showing the institutes future plans to sow confusion within science education for political motives. Heartland is denying the authenticity of the most damning of them, but new information is pointing to the documents being real.

The person responsible for leaking the documents has come forward to help prove their authenticity. He is scientist, Peter H. Gleick, of the Pacific Institute. He claims that the documents were sent to him in an email by an anonymous source. Before revealing the documents Gleick wanted to have proof that they were authentic. So, he emailed the Heartland Institute under a fake name and coaxed them into sending him copies of the documents, proving they were, in fact, sourced from Heartland.

The documents are pretty damning. One, in particular, outlines the institutes plans for K-12 science education where you can find this little gem:

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain- two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

-Heartland, Leaked Document

These documents are still in dispute. Heartland claims that some of them are real, but that the most damning of them has been faked. While a scientist of Gleick’s stature does add some credibility to the authenticity of the documents there still is no hard evidence that they are real. Gleick says he can provide such evidence, and hopefully he will in the near future. If these documents are proven to be real it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Heartland has been all but open about it’s anti-science agenda with respect to climate change.

This scandal also reveals the two-faced nature of The Heartland Institute. In 2009, when a server was hacked at UEA and thousands of personal emails were released, The Heartland Institute was one of the groups deliberately misinforming the public. The personal emails of scientists were quote mined and cherry picked to construct a false controversy about the validity of climate science. The hacking was championed by Heartland. Now that the tables have turned and their own documents have leaked, and they are actually damning, Heartland wants “justice” to be done. They are already launching an effort to sue those involved, including people simply blogging about the scandal.

It’s fine when the personal information of others is exposed, but all hell should break loose if Heartland’s internal documents are leaked.

So, what’s with these Heartland folks anyway? Why do they appear to be so intent to destroy science education? From the about page on their website they claim that their mission is to, “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” That sounds great, but why so anti-science? It appears that The Heartland Institute’s problem here is with government regulation.

Heartland rejects government interference with the economy and other legal reactions to climate change. This is all fine, it’s a debate worth having. People should be talking about the pros and cons of government action on climate change. And, there could be few things greater than “free market” solutions to climate change. But, Heartland isn’t living up to it’s own stated goals. You can’t have a debate about how to respond to climate change if you are just going to block your ears and ignore reality. Deliberately contorting evidence to pretend there isn’t a problem doesn’t make the problem go away. The most that could be achieved if Heartland is successful at undermining science education is that future generations will just be more blindsided by the negative side effects of climate change.

Maybe The Heartland Institute should stop denying reality and look at this scandal as an opportunity to make some changes. They could, as an example, reinvest that $100,000 dollars, for attacking science education, in one of those “free market” solutions. Solar panels, maybe. The fact is, the planet is warming up. This will be faced sooner or later. If Heartland, and all the other institutions like them, succeed with confusing good science then less people will be educated enough to find good solutions. The government option will be the only one left.


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