How Sun Myung Moon ‘Digested the Scientists’ and Fueled Climate-Change Denial

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IF THERE WERE A DENIAL Mt. Rushmore the two biggest heads would be S. Fred Singer and Frederick Seitz. Dishonesty’s Lincoln, lying’s Washington. Together, the two graybeard prophets launched a movement.

Frederick Seitz’s slab would be the larger and more solemn. Most decorated scientist ever to slip over to the dark side, the non-truth side. With just about the grandest possible resume entry: former President of the National Academy of Sciences.

He did it for the old man reasons. Because the new politics made him nervous. Because the new generation made him feel vulnerable and defensive, rickety. (Seitz called students “the youth.”) There are accomplished people who fear any change to the order that once promoted them is really a portent of chaos and doomsday. When Seitz was a university president, one student said hello — and he coolly explained college presidents are not people you say hello to. Fifty years later, climate denial’s most coveted honor is the Frederick Seitz Memorial Award. Its first statuette was delivered by Dr. S. Fred Singer.

Singer’s Rushmore head would smaller, sneakier, giving visible side-eye. He is the man responsible for all of it. There was a big denier convention a decade ago. (Held in Las Vegas; because denial is classy.) The president of a denial think tank raked his eyes across the denial ballroom, took in the denial faces at the denial tables making up his denial audience. “Fred Singer is the most amazing and wonderful person participating in the global warming debate today,” this president explained. “If there’s any person in the world responsible for the development of a skeptics movement on global warming, it’s Dr. S. Fred Singer… Fred is a giant. He is a hero.” Singer is the origin of denial. And here is his origin as a denier.

At this stage of the denial story — end of the eighties, that John Hughes decade — Frederick Seitz is already a denier. This is a story about how and where S. Fred Singer joined him. Singer began as a straight scientist — an environmentalist. Did not attain promotion at the EPA. (HR Departments: be careful who you disappoint.) So he quit. And came back changed. Served briefly in Washington as the Department of Transportation’s chief scientist. And then the surprising part, the historical part of Fred Singer’s journey — his real travels and adventures — began.

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