Thomas Sowell Defends the Practice of Paying for Spin

Thomas Sowell asks “What exactly does John Kerry think a think tank does?” What was the context:

AEI has planned a roundtable discussion of global warming, attended by people with differing views on the subject. That was their fundamental sin, in the eyes of the global-warming crowd. They treated this as an issue, rather than a dogma … These senators express “our very serious concerns” about reports that AEI “offered to pay scientists up to $10,000 for questioning the findings” of other scientists.

I’d have no problem if scientists were paid to offer up their opinion – regardless of which way it went. So what was AEI expecting from those scientists who reviewed this “major climate change report”? If they paid $10,000 to each scientist independent of what the scientist was going to say on this issue, I can see Sowell’s point. In other words, would the AEI have paid $10,000 to a scientist who agree with the finding of the report? If the payments were only offered to those who agreed with the rightwing global warming deniers, however, then this is academic prostitution.

Update: Jonathan Adler gave the folks over an AEI to defend themselves and then concludes:

If there were evidence that AEI was trying to get individual scientists to change their tune in return for large honoraria, there would undoubtedly be a story here. But there is no evidence this occurred. The general views of Professors Schroeder and North are well knowm to those who work in this area, and were unlikely to be swayed by ths offer (and they were not). More broadly, just as there may be financial incentives to write analyses desired by corporate funders, there are also financial incentives to tailor research projects and findings to increase the likelihood of receiving government grants. This is why I believe scientific studies should be analyzed on their merits, not the source of funding. In the end, some may wish AEI was not sponsoring critical research and analysis of the IPCC report and current climate policy proposals, but it’s hardly a scandal that they do.

I wasn’t saying that AEI bribed Steve Schroeder to change his views. What I was saying was the AEI was only invited those who agreed with their position, such as Steve Schroeder, to present. Now if they did pay for those scientists whose research suggests global warming is occurring and is due to human activity – I’ll apologize for this post.