So David H. Koch, pure-market conservative par excellence, and radical anti-science when his business is concerned, gave a huge sum of money – and I mean HUGE – to the Smithsonian for a renovation of their dinosaur hall. Great! And it is by far not the first time Koch has donated immense sums for science related exhibitions.
First of all: thank you, Mr. Koch – for this and for previous donations! It is a tradition over a century old that industrial magnates sponsor science massively, especially palaeontology, and especially in the US. This donation is fully in line with Carnegie and all the other so familiar names.
The next thought that went through my mind was less positive, though. The Koch brothers, David H. and his older brother Charles G., have essentially tried (and largely succeeded) to buy the press and public opinion on topics like anthropogenic global warming and oil drilling, and in fact probably “own” more of the Washington political landscape than anyone who still believes in a working democracy can ever imagine possible. They fund, among many other obvious or thinly veiled lobbying groups and “opinion swayers”, the Cato Institute – in many respects an incarnation of evil in my eyes.
So what about this donation – will the Koch’s political stance have any direct influence on what happens to the Dinosaur Hall at the Smithsonian? Will they – either at his request, as he is on the board of directors, or in anticipating obedience – “cook” the dinosaurs? (“Koch” is the German word for “cook” [noun]). I sure hope not, and I really do not think they will. Judging by past experience in other museums (AMNH: David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing), everything will be just fine.
So let’s look forward to an updated, generously funded Dinosaur Hall in Washington – maybe someone will learn something from it. Maybe even someone who has political power in the US.