Biosphere Part V 
Author Message
 Biosphere Part V

     Former UC  researcher Veysey, who  lived with the group  in 1971,
concluded  recently  that  the Biosphere  project  "has  all kinds  of
implications. . .  the Biosphere is a demonstration project  that fits
in with the political thinking of the right wing. A more  liberal kind
of  person might  wonder  why  you should  sink  all that  money  into
something for the survival of only a few people."

[BOLD]Science for Sale[bold]
     Who, then,  in the American  scientific community was  willing to
sign on  to such  a scientificaliy  questionable project  motivated by
apocalyptic visions? Who was willing to have his or her name listed in
promotional brochures  alongside the pseudoscientific  shell companies
and  institutes run  by John  Allen's followers?  Apart from  the Uni-
versity of Arizona's  ERL-- which  at times  has become as  much as  a
subsidiary  of the  Biospherians-- there  are at  least a  dozen other
reputable scientific institutions  that have willingly suited  up with
John Allen, in exchange, of course, for paid consultancies or research
grants. For the right amount of money, or at least for the illusion of
being  provided  with  the  freedom  to  conduct  essential  research,
otherwise  credible scientists, including many who should and actually
do know better,  have closed their eyes to who their real funders are.
The most prominent among them:

     Dr. Ghillean  Prance, director,  the Royal  Botanical Gardens  at
Kew,  England: Truly  one  of the  jewels  in  John Allen's  crown  of
consultants, Prance is  a world-class scientist  who has designed  the
Biosphere's Rainforest Biome. Having  had a brush with the  synergists
during  their [ITALICS]Heraclitus[italics]  folly of  a decade  ago, Prance  
wrote  to a
Peruvian biologist, in reference  to the Institute of  Ecotechnics: "I
hope you will disassociate my name from the operation."
     ln a 1983 press interview Prance went on to say: "I was attracted
to the Institute of Ecotechnics  because funds for research were being
cut and  the institute  seemed to  have a  lot of  money which  it was
willing to spend freely. Along with many others, I was ill-used. Their
interest in science  is not genuine.  They seem to  have some sort  of
secret agenda,  they seem to  be guided by  some sort of  religious or
philosophical system."
     When  I spoke  with  Prance  by phone  in  late winter  for  this
article, he  didn't seem to have as much a change of heart as he did a
change  of  ethical  standards. "They  are  visionaries,"  Prance said
referring to  the Biosphere  management. "And  maybe to fulfill  thcir
vision they have become-- somewhat cultlike. But they are not  a cult,

per se."
     "And is that vision a doomsday scenario?" I ask.
     "l'd say the core group still does have that vision. I think they
have expanded into other areas, but I don't think they have  lost that
original  vision.  But,  you  see,  I  am  interested  in   ecological
restoration systems.  And I think  all sorts of scientific  things can
come of this experiment, far  beyond the space goal that's  behind it.
When  they  came to  me with  this  new project,  they seemed  so well
organized,  so inspired,  I simply  decided  to forget  the past.  You
shouldn't hold their past against them."

     Yale  University: After  Mark Nelson  told me  the Biosphere  was
involved in  a joint  project with  the Yale  School  of Forestry  and
Ecological   Science,  I  phoned  Dr.  Gordon  Geballe,  the  school's
assistant dean. "I  want to  say this  up front,"  Dr. Geballe  began,
"Yale University  is connected to  the Biosphere Project in  two ways.
One direct  was  which is  the  research project  you  ask about.  The
indirect way,  which I want to communicate to you is
[ITALICS]entirely[italics] separate
is that we got  a major gift of $20  million from Edward Bass of  Fort
Worth, Texas,  a Yale  graduate, who  is also  a major  funder of  the
Biosphere. And both things are completely separate."
     Is  it  a research  chair  that Bass  has  endowed  with the  $20
million, I ask?
     "Frankly, we are not quite sure  how we are going to utilize  the
gift,"  Geballe answers.  "Right now  it's something  called the  Yale
Institute of Biospheric  Studies, and it is  something that we are  in
the process of discussing."
     Meanwhile, the Yale School of Forestry has at least three faculty
members and six students working  with Biosphere 2 in a  joint $40,000
project on  "carbon budgeting." I  asked Geballe if there  was concern
from Yale that it might have associated itself with a group  that some
say is a cult of nonscientists.
     "It's certainly not  a cult," he answers. "They  are sort of. . .
um. . . um. . .  let's see. . . they  are not organized  typically the
way  scientists are  organized now.  They are  more organized  the way
industrial research is. We don't call GE a cult. This is a for-profit,
venture  capital site and they have every right  to hold on to as much
information as they want."
     But one difference,  I continue, is that GE  is staffed with bona
fide researchers, whereas the group you're associated  with appears to
have  evolved  from  a  theater  troupe and  its  top  scientists  are
essentially  "self-credentialed" from an on-paper institute run by the
group itself.
     "I won't answer  that question directly," Assistant  Dean Geballe
responds. "But  I will tell  you how I  weasel around it.  I interpret
them  as  inventors.  And  there  is no  credential  for  a  bona fide
inventor. The question is do they get  something done? And the fact is
there is a reality  out there which means they do. Yale  itself is not
part of  the invention process.  We are only studying  what's going on
and we are grateful they feel this is important to do at this time."

     The   National   Center    for   Atmospheric   Research   (NCAR):
Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, with a staff of 800 including more
than  100 scientists,  NCAR is  funded primarily  by U.S.  tax dollars
appropriated through the  National Science Foundation. About  $100,000
of that taxpayer money  is now being sunk into  the Biosphere project,
matched with an equal sum put  up by the synergists. One NCAR  staffer
closely connected  to the project  said he has "serious  doubts" about
the viability of the  Biosphere "but if you were to  publish them with
my name it  could seriously affect the possibility  of [NCAR] carrying
out the collaborative research.
     "My understanding is that the whole project got off the ground as
part of an eco-cult intent on surviving the next holocaust. It's clear
that  the   original  idea   and  the  impetus   behind  it   are  not
scientifically  directed toward making the  projcct work. They have an
unrealistic notion  based on  the so-called  Gaia Hypothesis  but what

they are doing is really a distortion of that theory."
     NCAR is finally  going ahead with its project, even though it was
delayed for months when the  synergists gave them non-disclosure forms
for  their  work  that  the  Center's  lawyer  found  to  be  "totally
unacceptable."  John Allen can  now list the  U.S.-government financed
NCAR as a consulting agency to Biosphere 2.

     The  Smithsonian   Institution:  This   taxpayer-funded  national
institution  has two intimate links with  Biosphere 2. The Smithsonian
is being  paid up  to $400,000  in exchange  for the  services of  its
Marine Systems Lab director Dr. Walter Adey-- and, of course,  the use
of the prestigious Smithsonian name.  Further, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, the
Smithsonian's  assistant secretary for  external affairs, sits  on the
Biosphere's  Project Review  Committee and  chairs  its newly  created
Research Review Committee.
     Smithsonian  spokesperson Bill Schulz  says he has  "heard what's
been passed around"  regarding the  possible cult  connections of  the
Biosphere group  but that  "even if  it were  a cult  it would  not be
damaging to the Smithsonian. What  Dr. Adey does is legitimate science
and that's what  the Smithsonian endorses. We got  involved with Space
Biospheres Ventures because,  I understood, Dr. Adey thought  it was a
worthy scientific  venture and  we were  joining other  well-respected
scientists."
     The Smithsonian's  Tom Lovejoy, a tropical wcologist, sits on the
Biosphere Scientific Reviww Committee not only with Dr. Prance, former
astronaut Rusty Schweikert, and a sprinkling of other consultants, but
also  with  John  Allen  himself  and  several  of  his  nonscientific
groupies:  Mark Nelson, Marie  Allen, Kathelin Hoffmann,  and Ed Bass.
"There's more  than one way to do science and I believe that this is a
legitimate exercise in learning by  doing," Lovejoy tells the
[ITALICS]Voice[italics] in
an interview.
     "And is it a concern they might be a cult?" I ask.
     "All I can say is they llsten to me, says the assistant secretary
for External Affairs of the Smithsonian. "What they did before doesn't
really bother me. As long as  there is something orderly and  valuable
in what they are doing now."
     "And how did Lovejoy get involved wilh the Biosphere?"
     "Ed  Bass asked me to join,"  he answers. "I have a long-standing
relationship, a friendship with him."

[BOLD]So What?[bold]
     "I'm  not surprised  that  the Smithsonian  is  involved in  this
project,  the  whole  place  is   one  big  {*filter*}house,"  says  Drexel
University  professor David  Noble.  "I  worked there  10  years as  a
curator and  the thing  they got  most e{*filter*}d  about was  when I  got
Lucasfilms to  donate R2D2  and C3PO to  an exhibit.  I mean  here was
Lucasfilm,  just so  honored  to be  asked to  participate  in such  a
prestigious forum.  That is  until they became  horrified to  see with
what  frenzy the Smithsonian was pursuing  them trying to work out all
sorts of  merchandising and  commercial licensing  deals with  related
products." After his stint at the Smithsonian, Noble went on to found,
with  Ralph Nader,  the  National Coalition  for  Universities in  the
Public Interest. As one of the nation's experts on privately sponsored
research, Noble is totally nonplussed that such an impressive array of
scientific institutions has  allowed itself to front for  what appears
to be a cult of space nuts.
     "The   hunger  for  money  is  real,"  Noble  says.  "Ecologists,
especially, are  having  a hard  time  getting money,  they're  losing
ground to  bioengineering types.  And  the problem  is not  individual
corruption, but rather systemic.  When you want something bad  enough,
you make it look like something else."
     As to claims like those of Prance that he can carry on legitimate
scientific  research in spite of the  Biosphere's more ethereal goals,
Noble only scoffs.  "The miracle of our society is  that everyone gets
bought but everyone claims to  be independent. The funding source, the
money, always shapes the scientific agenda. In the end, the funder has

[ITALICS]complete[italics] control over your scientific work if for no other
reason than
he can pull  the funding plug at  any time. So no matter  what you are
doing, you  are constantly shaping  and recasting your work  to please
the guy with the bucks."
     "In the case of publicly funded institutions like the  University
of Arizona,  or the  Smithsonian, the buyer  is getting  more than  he
bargained for. The Biosphere doesn't  just get Adey, but they  get his
[ITALICS]whole[italics] institution and lab  and infrastructure and prestige,
 which are
all  underwritten through  public  largess. They  are buying  not just
propaganda value, but the whole taxpayer supported structure. A public
resource becomes a  private one. Why  don't [ITALICS]you[italics] go to  the
Smithsonian
and ask them to loan [ITALICS]you[italics]  or lease you Adey, his lab, his  
experience.
Y'know what they'll tell you? They'll tell you, `{*filter*} you!"'

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Brian Siano,                                Delaware Valley Skeptics
Rev. Philosopher-King of The First Church of the Divine Otis Redding

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Sun, 06 Feb 1994 08:17:40 GMT
 
 [ 1 post ] 

 Relevant Pages 

1. Biosphere Articles Part 1

2. Biosphere Articles Part 3

3. Biosphere Articles Part 2

4. Biosphere Articles Part 5

5. Biosphere Articles Part 4

6. Biosphere Articles Part 6

7. Biosphere Articles Part 7

8. Biosphere Articles Part 8

9. Biosphere Part II

10. Biosphere Part III

11. Biosphere Part IV

12. Biosphere Part VI


 
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