David Koch, Climate Change, and Human Evolution

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Lee Fang has a post about how David Koch, one of the ten richest men in America and a major source of financing for right-wing attacks on climate science, also likes to portray himself as a friend of science and uses his money to get glowing reviews from the likes of the Smithsonian Institution Human Origins Program director Rick Potts: “What we find in David Koch is a person who’s committed to doing things for the American public that has no relationship to politics.”

The reality, of course, is that Koch is intensely political, funding, among other things, the “Hot Air Tour” aimed at misleading the public about climate science and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is one of the leading denialist institutions out there.

That said, as best I can tell Koch is also genuinely interested in research into human evolution. He helped underwrite NOVA’s excellent recent three-part series “Becoming Human.” It seems to be available online and I recommend people watch it. That said, if you watch the end of Episode One you can see Koch the Paleoanthropology Enthusiast collide with Koch the Global Warming Crank as it concludes with an oddly upbeat description of the positive role cataclysmic shifts in climate have played in human history. What the research is saying, basically, is that climate swings led to a lot of death, destruction, and extinctions thus opening up new ecological niches that our ancestors filled but the material is presented in a weird “change is good!” kind of way that avoids mentioning all the death.