David Koch and the Hall of Human Origins

by Greg Mayer

PZ noted my and Jerry’s pieces on the new Hall of Human Origins at the USNM, and one of his commenters, DavidCOG, points to this piece at Climate Progress (based in part on Jane Mayer’s (no relation) New Yorker article on the Koch brothers), which in turn points to a couple of  items at Think Progress, and this by Matt Yglesias (among others). In summary, these pieces detect a much more sinister motivation for Koch’s funding of the exhibit, flowing from his global warming denialism. As I’d noted in the comments on my piece, there is material about climate change in the exhibit, but nothing I regarded as untoward. The scale of climate change discussed in the exhibit– tens of thousands to millions of years– doesn’t seem relevant to the decade to century scale of current warming. And, there is, as far as I saw, no discussion of current warming in the exhibit.

Perhaps Koch wanted the point made that climate does change, and that this influenced human evolution– that’s true of course– and he hoped that, by non sequitur, visitors would conclude that recent rapid climate change is nothing to worry about. But that is a non sequitur, and a fairly subtle one at that, so I’m not sure he’s getting his money’s worth. I’ll let Climate Progress make the argument for its view in their video.

PZ has now commented directly on the issue.


  1. Tulse
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I dunno — this sounds like the old-school fundies complaining about satanic messages in vinyl albums played backwards. Even if the message is there, it is probably so undetectable that it won’t actually affect anyone exposed to it.

  2. Gregory James
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Koch funds Nova on PBS, too, no?

  3. Posted October 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    These suspicions seem somewhat paranoid to me. I think this accusation puts the gnu’s in a bad light.

    • nichole
      Posted October 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Every time the Koch’s come up, the topic starts getting very conspiracy theory-y sounding.

      I don’t have any insight, just an impression.

  4. Posted October 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    The Smithsonian scientists, including Rick Potts and Anna Behrensmeyer, have devoted most of their research careers to these issues of paleoenvironment, climate shifts and human evolution. The exhibit reflects their research, and does it straight. The research is peer reviewed and credible. That doesn’t mean I agree with all of it or that there is no debate about many of the topics, but they are the issues that these scientists will stand up and defend, no question.

    The Climate Progress link spreads misinformation and junk science versions of human evolution, in service of their narrative. Talk about ignoring “settled science” — why should we listen to these yahoos instead of real paleoecologists?

  5. Bob Carlson
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    But that is a non sequitur, and a fairly subtle one at that, so I’m not sure he’s getting his money’s worth.

    Yes, but even suggesting that was his purpose seems dubious, if not paranoid. And what do the people most vocal about climate change think can be done about it short of having governments that enforce birth control? And how to you get there when most countries–now including China–see growth as an economic necessity?

    • Dominic
      Posted October 14, 2010 at 3:46 am | Permalink

      There have to be limits to growth – if we do not limit ourselves, nature will do it for us.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Why Evolution Is True « David Koch and the Hall of Human Origins […]

  2. […] of Natural History (more about the funder of this exhibit and religion and other thoughts here, here, here, and here. PZ chimes in here and […]

  3. […] David Koch’s funding of the USNM’s Hall of Human Origins and the tea party (see here, here and here), so I thought I’d pass on a link to a funny and sad commentary on global warming by […]

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