A letter released on Tuesday claims that the money received from philanthropists like David H. Koch, board member of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., is tainted. Koch has given billions of dollars to the museums, according to The New York Times. Koch and his family have also given money to organizations that deny the role of humans in climate change.
Climate scientist from Pennsylvania State University Michael Mann signed the letter, and according to The New York Times, said of the donors, "Cloaked in the garb of civic-mindedness, they launder their image while simultaneously and covertly influencing the content offered by those institutions."
Randall Kremer, director of public affairs for the Smithsonian, told The New York Times, "the museum director has no plans to ask any members to step down," adding, "he (Koch) signed our standard gift agreement, which prohibits donor or sponsor involvement in content."
One of the donation from Koch included the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, the dinosaur wing, at the Smithsonian. '"My first trip to New York was with my father and twin brother and what made the most impact was our visit to the American Museum of Natural History," Koch said, according to a 2012 article from The New York Times. ''When I saw those dinosaurs I was blown away and just fascinated by their enormity. This was in my sweet spot and it is such a thrill that it is almost a gift for me.''
Kremer has also stated that man-made climate change is part of the museum's belief system and directly tied into the dinosaur exhibit, and that Koch is aware of that. According to The Verge of Purge, Kemer said that Koch would not have donated if he "did not understand the science behind our public programs."
A 2010 article in The New Yorker claims that the language used in the exhibit downplays the role of humans in the evolution of the world: "At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth's temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, 'HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.' The message, as amplified by the exhibit's Web site, is that 'key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.' Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline 'OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,' is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century."
Roberto Lebron, a spokesman for the American Museum of Natural History, told The New York Times, "Donors do not determine the interpretation or presentation of scientific content."
Eric Chivian, founder of the center for health and the global environment at Harvard Medical School, also signed the letter, and told The New York Times that he isn't totally convinced donors do not have control over exhibits. "It is just human nature not to bite the hand that feeds you," he said.
Koch has also given $100 million to the Lincoln Center for renovations. "The Koch brothers have no stake in what is played at Lincoln Center," Chivian told The New York Times.
According to Right Wing News: "The Koch brother, long a liberal bugaboo, have a long history of donating vast sums of their own money to help other people and institutions out in a charitable manner. No one has been able to show any sort of association for a quid pro quo or 'self-censorship'. Rather than being lauded for their humanitarianism and philanthropy, they are insulted and assaulted. By people who a) do not give their own money to help out and b) refuse to give up their own use of fossil fuels."
Koch has not publicly responded to the petition, but Ken Spain, Koch's managing director for external relations, wrote in an emailed statement to The Washington Post: "David Koch and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation have pledged or contributed more than $1.2 billion dollars to educational institutions and cultural institutions, cancer research, medical centers, and to assist public policy organizations. Mr. Koch remains committed to supporting these causes."
The petitions will be collected and presented to the museum's boards in the spring, according to Breitbart.
What do you think? Can museums stay neutral? Would refusing donors based on political (or other) beliefs make museums look more credible or like they are pushing their own agenda? Check out the letter below and leave your thoughts in the comment section.
"To Museums of Science and Natural History:
"As members of the scientific community we devote our lives to understanding the world, and sharing this understanding with the public. We are deeply concerned by the links between museums of science and natural history with those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.
"Museums are trusted sources of scientific information, some of our most important resources for educating children and shaping public understanding.
"The Code of Ethics for Museums, adopted in 1991 by the Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums, states:
"'It is incumbent on museums to be resources for humankind and in all their activities to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited. It is also incumbent upon them to preserve that inheritance for posterity.'
"'Museums are grounded in the tradition of public service. They are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve...Museums and those responsible for them must do more than avoid legal liability, they must take affirmative steps to maintain their integrity so as to warrant public confidence. They must act not only legally but also ethically.'
"We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.
"For example, David Koch is a major donor, exhibit sponsor and trustee on the Board of Directors at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. David Koch's oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Mr. Koch also funds a large network of climate-change-denying organizations, spending over $67 million since 1997 to fund groups denying climate change science.
"When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.
"Drawing on both our scientific expertise and personal care for our planet and people, we believe that the only ethical way forward for our museums is to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.
1. James Hansen, Climatologist; former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
2. James Powell, Geochemist; former President of the Franklin Museum of Science and former President and Director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
3. Bob Corell, Climatologist; Head of US Office for the Global Energy Assessment; former Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation.
4. Kevin E Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Lead Author 2001 and 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize.
5. Danny Harvey, Professor of Geography and Climatology, University of Toronto, IPCC Convening Lead Author and Lead Author; Deputy Editor of Climatic Change.
6. Eric Chivian, founder and Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
7. Henry Pollack, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Michigan. Advisor to the National Science Foundation, IPCC member.
8. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology; Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University.
9. Joseph J. Romm, Physicist, Climatologist; former Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; founder and editor of Climate Progress.
10. George Woodwell, Ecologist; Founder and Director Emeritus, Woods Hole Research Center.
11. Calvin B. DeWitt, Environmental Scientist, Co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, President of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists, and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
12. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Climatologist; Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK
13. Jason Box, Climatologist, Professor of Glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Co-author of 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize.
14. Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute.
15. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, University of Queensland, Australia
16. Robert R. Janes, Ph.D. , Archaleologist, Museologist, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Museum Management and Curatorship
17. Matt Lappe, Paleoclimatologist, Environmental Hydrologist, Executive Director, Alliance for Climate Education.
18. Greg Laden, Paleoanthropologist, Independent Scholar, Writer at National Geographic Scienceblogs.
19. Sarah Kornbluth, Biologist; Affiliate of Bee Database Project, American Museum of Natural History and Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
20. Dr Simon L Lewis, Reader, Global Change Science, at University College London and University of Leeds.
21. Roger Fouquet, Principal Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
22. Brad Johnson, Science writer; MS geosciences, MIT
23. Emmanuel Vincent, Assistant Project Scientist at the University of California, Merced
24. Jonathan Oppenheim, Professor of Quantum Theory, University College London. Royal Society Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
25. David Webb; Emeritus Professor; Previously Professor of Engineering, Leeds Metropolitan University
26. Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick, Physicist, University College London
27. Scott A. Mandia, Asst. Chair /Professor - Physical Sciences, Suffolk County Community College
28. Mona Mehdy, Molecular biologist, faculty at University of Texas at Austin
29. Judith S. Weis, Professor Emerita, Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University
30. Jonathan Tunik, Former Evaluation Studies Associate for the American Institute of Physics.
31. Aerin Jacob, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Applied Conservation Science Lab, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
32. Shaun Lovejoy, Professor of Physics, McGill University, Canada, formerly at the Climate Diagnostics Centre of NOAA
33. Lindy Weilgart, Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada
34. Dr. Sophie Levina, MD, PhD and Doctor of Medical Sciences.
35. Dr. Susan Spencer, Solar Scientist, Founder/President of ROCSPOT.org
36. Erika Crispo, PhD, Evolutionary Ecologist and Biologist, Pace University, NYC
37. Lucky Tran, PhD, Biologist, University of Cambridge
38. Damian Alexander Stanley, Ph.D., Neuroscientist, California Institute of Technology
39. Hanah Chapman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College, CUNY
40. Dr. John Abraham, University of St. Thomas, School of Engineering
41. Mark Mason PhD, former primate evolution researcher, UC Berkeley
"To sign the letter please email info [at] thenaturalhistorymuseum.org with your full name, scientific credentials, and affiliation (past or present) as you'd like it listed."