A Science Denier at the Natural History Museum? Scientists Rebel


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Such questions had been raised lately in reference to reviews linking the Sackler household, distinguished cultural donors, to the corporate that produces OxyContin, the highly effective painkiller that has been concerned in opioid overdoses. And a few objected to the renaming of the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork’s fountain plaza after the conservative philanthropist David H. Koch in 2014 (he gave $65 million).

“A political litmus check for who ought to serve will be very harmful to a nonprofit establishment,” mentioned Reynold Levy, the previous president of Lincoln Middle. “So long as the mission and necessary parts of this system are supported by the trustee, what they do within the political world shouldn’t be related.”

An analogous effort by scientists, in 2015, referred to as on the museum to chop ties with Mr. Koch, then a trustee. Lower than a yr later, having served on the board for 23 years, Mr. Koch resigned. On the time, each Mr. Koch and the museum mentioned that the resignation was unrelated to the stress marketing campaign.


Ms. Mercer in Washington final yr. She has been on the board of the American Museum of Pure Historical past since 2013.

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Oliver Contreras for The Washington Submit, through Getty Pictures

In March final yr, a gaggle of staff filed complaints with the museum’s human sources division in an try and spur an inner dialog about Ms. Mercer’s function on the board, however nothing got here of it, in response to one particular person concerned within the effort who declined to be recognized for worry of repercussions.

The museum emphasised that scientists and educators on the museum make choices about scientific and academic content material, not trustees and donors.

“We imagine that human-induced local weather change is well-supported by scientific proof and is among the most severe points at present dealing with our planet,” the assertion mentioned. “We’re deeply dedicated to presenting evidence-based, scientific details about local weather change to a broad public.”

The newest push to oust Ms. Mercer from the museum board was spearheaded by the Pure Historical past Museum, a nonprofit touring museum that additionally led the 2015 drive to take away Mr. Koch.

“Museums are among the many most trusted sources of data in society,” the group’s co-founder and director, Beka Economopoulos, mentioned in an electronic mail. “Having a science denier and prime funder of local weather science denial campaigns in a management place at a science museum undermines the establishment’s credibility.”

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Ms. Mercer, a daughter of the hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, has been on the museum’s board since 2013. The Mercer Household Basis has lengthy supported a wide range of conservative causes, together with Breitbart Information, the influential right-wing web site based by Andrew Breitbart and till lately run by Stephen Ok. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist.

The Mercer household publicly distanced itself from Mr. Bannon this month after Mr. Bannon’s provocative remarks about Mr. Trump had been reported in Michael Wolff’s guide, “Fireplace and Fury: Contained in the Trump White Home.”

Tax information present that the Mercers have given just a little over $19 million to a wide range of conservative teams, together with at the least three that reject the scientific consensus round fossil fuel-driven local weather change: the Heartland Institute in Illinois, in addition to the CO2 Alliance and the Middle for the Examine of Carbon Dioxide and World Change. The muse has given practically $5.9 million to the Heartland Institute since 2008, in comparison with about $four million to the museum since 2012.

The Mercer Household Basis has additionally donated to New York Metropolis hospitals in addition to the Nationwide Youth Science Basis, which runs summer time camps. However most of its cash goes to conservative causes.

The muse’s 2016 return is just not but accessible on the Inner Income Service web site. It was shared with The Instances by the Local weather Investigations Middle, which tracks funding for organizations that reject established local weather science. It’s primarily based in Washington and is supported by nameless donors in search of to restrict the dangers of local weather change.

Correction: January 26, 2018

An earlier model of this text misstated the stance of the Becket Fund, a non secular freedom group, on abortion. Whereas the fund has litigated on behalf of teams that oppose abortion, it doesn’t take a proper place on the follow.

Correction: January 26, 2018

An earlier model of this text referred incorrectly to the Mercers’ assist for Breitbart Information. Though the Mercers have backed each Breitbart and the Authorities Accountability Institute, they didn’t fund the information web site via a $2 million donation to the institute.

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