Siegfried Fred Singer is a physicist currently habitating the George Mason University, and a legend within all denialist movements. Thing is, Singer is the epitome of an expert for hire.
First of all, Singer’s credentials as a scientist are genuine. He graduated from Princeton and did much work in technology and engineering early on, such as mine detection technology, atmospheric physics, designing satellites, satellite instrumentation, and so on. He is also a recipient of the Flat Earth Award, which will raise his credentials among conspiracy theorists everywhere.
He first rose to general notability in the 80s when he presented himself as a cutting-edge researcher (false) on matters related to ozone layer depletion. In typical denialist vein, he published op-eds and testified before Congress, but avoided peer-review; he quote-mined the science and applied hardcore confirmation bias to come up with “no danger here, just a conspiracy”. Of course, he failed to mention that he was being paid large sums by the petroleum companies for his work, an observation that might have counted as ad hominem if Singer hadn’t avoided doing any real research on the topic, contradicted all evidence there was, lacked any expertise in the area, and been repeatedly caught lying and distorting the evidence. In those circumstances the observation is telling.
At the same time, he entered the second-hand smoke denial camp (an area not within his field of expertise) and quickly became a central figure in the movement denying the dangers of second-hand smoke. In typical denialist vein, he published op-eds and testified before Congress, but avoided peer-review; he quote-mined the science and applied hardcore confirmation bias (and blatant lying and ignorance) to come up with “no danger here, just a conspiracy”. Of course, he failed to mention that he was being paid by Philip Morris-backed groups for his work. See the previous paragraph.
Guess where he is now. Well, his think tank, The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), is among the many think tanks out there denying AGW. Their money comes from oil interests and, for a while, the Moonies.
Since 1995 he has been an ardent advocate of cherry-picking data, misquoting and neglecting inconvenient data, and has claimed that the satellite data shows cooling. He has produced enormous amounts of crap, and has even set up his alternative to IPCC, the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change) (yes, conspiracy theories galore, and the alleged conspiracies are notoriously without clear agendas, but hey; everyone knows the government is out to get you, so claiming a conspiracy is a surefire trick). The NIPCC and its hilariously (were it not so unfunny) over-the-top crackpottery reports (yes, you’ll find every denialist talking point in them, including this) was predictably endorsed by the Heartland Institute.
Singer is pretty good at utilizing every piece or rumor or every event he gets hold of to tweak out a denialist attack, and to get his voice picked up by mainstream media – not only Steve Milloy, who mistakes him for an expert (or Singer exploits the media’s hankering for false equivalencies). And Singer is, of course, a truly remorseless liar.
As always, this one is pertinent.
Diagnosis: It is not entirely clear whether Singer actually believes the shit his spreading, or whether he just doesn’t care anymore. He is in any case the epitome of denialist dishonesty, and extremely dangerous.
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