Miami is now home to the $305 million Frost Museum of Science, a place that hopes to inspire people to “enjoy science and understand its power to positively impact our world.” Sounds wonderful. And if the website is any indication, it looks incredible too.
Here’s the problem: Phillip and Patricia Frost are the main benefactors, pledging $45 million for the building. Their names are on the building. It likely wouldn’t have opened without them. They have a say in what’s in the museum.
And Phillip Frost is a climate denier.
During an interview with local radio station WLRN yesterday, Frost talked about the “heresy” of contradicting what the experts say and questioned man’s contribution to the changing environment. In other words, he accepts that things are getting hotter, but he peddles the same-old conservative talking points about how we can’t do anything about it and the scientists freaking out are exaggerating how serious the problem is.
“I don’t question that [the climate] is changing. But what I also know for an absolute fact is that over centuries it has been changing all the time,” said Frost during a wide-ranging interview with The Sunshine Economy in which he discussed business, his philanthropy and the science museum that now bears his and his wife’s names.
“It’s become almost a religious issue rather than a scientific issue. I’d like to bring it back more to a scientific level for a serious discussion rather than a political debate.”
The science is in. Frost’s concerns have been noted, discussed, and debunked. At this point, he’s just spreading bullshit because he likes the smell of it, not because he’s following the evidence wherever it leads.
Oh. And the climate change denier doesn’t want you to call him a climate change denier.
Frost is not a climate change denier. He’s a skeptic about the role of humans in a changing climate.
The good news is that, right now, Frost doesn’t have any role in picking which exhibits are on display and what they say. But that may change very soon.
… “I think going forward we hope to play a bigger role in the selection of exhibits.” For example, Frost said he’s talking with the Smithsonian and it’s astrophysics observatory about the possibility of a traveling display exploring the search for extraterrestrial life.
His role in curating displays could get larger in the future as the focus for everyone shifts from opening the museum to changing what’s inside of it.
Listen to how the current museum chairman navigates the question of Frost’s input into what science will be presented to the public:
Though the Frosts wield considerable political clout, museum chairman Cesar Alvarez said the board hasn’t had any conversations about content and exhibits so far, with all its attention paid to getting the museum open. Alvarez — noting that the museum drew 100,000 visitors in its inaugural month — said “I’m one board member. Phil is one board member.”
“We haven’t had the discussion, number one. But I think there would be unanimity in the fact that we should present all reasonable views on any topic and not be political,” Alvarez said.
It’s possible that “reasonable” is code for “there’s no way this guy’s anti-science rhetoric is going to be displayed.” But Alvarez may also be saying they’ll “teach the controversy” in the museum. So alongside the “Climate Change As We Know It is a Hoax” display, we’ll see exhibits promoting alchemy, astrology, and Creationism.
You know what museum officials aren’t saying? That only the scientific consensus on climate change — the kind accepted by 97% of scientists who study it — will be on display instead of right-wing rhetoric. No one wants to upset the sugar daddy.
It’d be a huge mistake if they relented. Caving in to Frost’s possible demands would mean misinforming the public about what experts in the field know about the subject. I would hope the scientists working there wouldn’t be afraid to speak out if and when that occurs.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Christina for the link)