Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."
The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) describes itself as "a small research institute" that studies "biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine and the molecular biology of aging." It is headed by Arthur B. Robinson, an eccentric scientist who has a long history of controversial entanglements with figures on the fringe of accepted research. OISM also markets a home-schooling kit for "parents concerned about socialism in the public schools" and publishes books on how to survive nuclear war.
The OISM website's homepage  says:
- The Institute currently has six faculty members, several regular volunteers, and a larger number of other volunteers who work on occasional projects.
The Home Page's current navigation bar lists 8 individuals under the "Faculty" heading. Two of those listed are deceased, and two are sons of OISM's head, Arthur B. Robinson. Yet even though the OISM credentials 8 persons as "Faculty", it has no classrooms, or student body.
Listed Faculty Members
- Dr. Martin Kamen - (August 27, 1913 - August 31, 2002): co-discoverer of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in 1940, University of California, San Diego emeritus professor of chemistry in 1978 and co-awardee of the Enrico Fermi Award in 1996.  Beginning in 1964, and continuing up to his death, Kamden collaborateed with OISM's head, Arthur B. Robinson. 
- Dr. R. Bruce Merrifield - (July 15, 1921 - May 14, 2006): a biochemist who won the 1984 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a method he named solid-phase peptide synthesis. Merrifield, in collaborations with John Stewart and Bernd Gutte, built and used a machine for the first synthesis of an enzyme. In 1949, he began his professional association with The Rockefeller University as a research assistant, and advanced to assistant professor in 1957, professor in 1966, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Professor in 1983, emeritus professor in 1992.  Beginning in 1964, Merrifield began collaborating with OISM's head, Arthur B. Robinson, and later with Robinson's son, Noah Robinson. 
- Dr. Fred Westall - former director of laboratory work for the Salk Institute. Founder of the Institute for Disease Research in Temecula, California. Listed as OISM's "Professor of Biochemistry". 
- Carl Boehme - B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. Presently employed as an E-Commerce Market Development manager with Information Designs, Inc.located in Boise, Idaho.  Listed as the OISM's "Professor of Electrical Engineering."
- Dr. Jane Orient - A Tucson, AZ M.D, who is Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. She is President of two OISM related Ogranizations: Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP)  and Physicians for Civil Defense  Both Organizations list the same address: 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. #9, Tucson, AZ. Dr. Orient is listed as OISM's "Professor of Medicine". 
- Noah E. Robinson - son of Arthur B. Robinson. Ph.D. in chemistry from California Institute of Technology. Works on the OISM's Oregon Petition Project, and is listed as its "Professor of Chemistry". 
- Zachary W. Robinson - son of Arthur B. Robinson. B.S. Chemistry, Oregon State University and Doctor of veterinary medicine, Iowa State University. Listed is OISM's Professor of Veterinary Medicine. 
According to the OISM's 2002 IRS form 990, the Institute also has several unpaid officers, including Robinson's sons Zachary and Noah, listed as "board members" who spend "one half hour per week" working for the institute. Other officers are: Richard McIntyre, secretary, two hours per week, and Arnold Hunsberger, vice president, two hours per week.
By all accounts, Arthur Robinson was a talented biochemist prior to founding the OISM. His early promise as a student won him a job as an assistant chemistry professor at the University of California-San Diego, where he struck up a partnership with his mentor, Linus Pauling, the only individual ever to receive two separate Nobel awards (for chemistry in 1954 and peace in 1962). Pauling and Robinson shared an initial enthusiasm for Pauling's controversial theory (which has since been rejected by most researchers) that high doses of vitamin C could ward off colds, mental illness, cancer and a host of other diseases. Robinson and Pauling formed the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine to explore Pauling's theory, but the partnership ended badly in 1978, when Robinson's research led him to conclude that high doses of vitamin C might actually be harmful instead of beneficial. Pauling's leftist leanings also clashed with Robinson's conservative political views, and other trustees at the Pauling Institute accused Robinson of poor management. Pauling forced Robinson to resign from the Institute and terminated his research, labeling it "amateurish" and inadequate. Robinson responded by suing the Institute for $64 million. After a bitter, four-year legal battle, Robinson received an out-of-court settlement of $575,000.
Robinson established the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in 1980. In its early years, the OISM focused much of its attention on a new theory that Robinson had developed regarding "molecular clocks" that he thought might influence aging. It also became involved in issues related to nuclear war and civil defense. It published two books, Nuclear War Survival Skills (foreword by H-bomb inventor Edward Teller), which argues that "the dangers from nuclear weapons have been distorted and exaggerated" into "demoralizing myths." Robinson also co-authored another civil defense book titled Fighting Chance: Ten Feet to Survival, in collaboration with Gary North, who like Robinson is a conservative Christian. North is also a prolific author of doomsday books with titles such as None Dare Call It Witchcraft; Conspiracy: A Biblical View; Rapture Fever; and How You Can Profit From the Coming Price Controls. Following his collaboration with Robinson, North built a web-based marketing empire built around apocalyptic predictions that the Y2K bug would make the dawn of the 21st century "the year the earth stands still." North predicted that computer failures would cause "cascading cross defaults, where banks cannot settle accounts with each other, and the banking system goes into gridlock, worldwide," in addition to disruptions of oil supplies, electricity, manufacturing and public utility systems. "We are facing a breakdown of civilization if the power grid goes down," North predicted in late 1999, boasting, "I was the only person saying this on a Web site in early 1998, although a few sites do today." (After his Y2K predictions fizzled, North retooled his website to offer internet marketing products and services.) [Note from Gary North: Dr. Robinson did not believe my Y2K predictions, and in any case is no way responsible for my writings, which should be obvious to any fair-minded reader of this article on Dr. Robinson.]
In 1988, Robinson's wife died suddenly and he took over the home-schooling of their six children, leading to a profitable side business. He assembled a set of 22 CD-ROM disks containing public-domain versions of various books and educational materials such as the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, Robinson Crusoe and McGuffey's Readers, which the family now markets as a home-schooling kit. The kits sell for $200 each, and Robinson says the curriculum has been purchased by more than 32,000 families. The OISM website markets the curriculum as a way to "teach your children to teach themselves and to acquire superior knowledge as did many of America's most outstanding citizens in the days before socialism in education." The OISM website also offers educational links to a creationist website and an online discussion group called RobinsonUsers4Christ, "for Bible & Trinity-believing, God-fearing, 'Jesus-Plus-Nothing-Else' Christian families who use the Robinson Curriculum to share ideas and to get and give support."
At the request of its founder, the late Petr Beckmann, Robinson has continued publication of Access to Energy , a "pro-science, pro-technology, pro-free enterprise monthly newsletter packed with information and comment on science, technology and energy and on those who would restrict your access to it." In collaboration with his children, he continues his research into the molecular biology of aging, which he says "has the potential to improve human nutrition and preventive medicine, increase the human lifespan, and decrease the tragic suffering and loss of early deaths."
In its IRS Form 990 form 1999, OISM reported revenues totalling $355,224, most of in the form of contributions from unspecified sources. As president, Arthur Robinson received $16,691 in salary and benefits. OISM listed $945,427 in total assets, $735,888 of which was in the form of land, buildings and equipment. By 2005, OISM reported $1.0M in revenue and $2.8M in assets. 
Case Study: The Oregon Petition
The Oregon Petition, sponsored by the OISM, was circulated in April 1998 in a bulk mailing to tens of thousands of U.S. scientists. In addition to the petition, the mailing included what appeared to be a reprint of a scientific paper. Authored by OISM's Arthur B. Robinson, Sallie L. Baliunas, Willie Soon, and Zachary W. Robinson, the paper was titled "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" and was printed in the same typeface and format as the official Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Also included was a reprint of a December 1997, Wall Street Journal editorial, "Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth", by Arthur and Zachary Robinson. A cover note signed "Frederick Seitz/Past President, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A./President Emeritus, Rockefeller University", may have given some persons the impression that Robinson's paper was an official publication of the academy's peer-reviewed journal. The blatant editorializing in the pseudopaper, however, was uncharacteristic of scientific papers.
Robinson's paper claimed to show that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is actually a good thing. "As atmospheric CO2 increases," it stated, "plant growth rates increase. Also, leaves lose less water as CO2 increases, so that plants are able to grow under drier conditions. Animal life, which depends upon plant life for food, increases proportionally." As a result, Robinson concluded, industrial activities can be counted on to encourage greater species biodiversity and a greener planet:
- As coal, oil, and natural gas are used to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe, more CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. This will help to maintain and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all people.
- Human activities are believed to be responsible for the rise in CO2 level of the atmosphere. Mankind is moving the carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas from below ground to the atmosphere and surface, where it is available for conversion into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the CO2 increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life as [sic] that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution.
In reality, neither Robinson's paper nor OISM's petition drive had anything to do with the National Academy of Sciences, which first heard about the petition when its members began calling to ask if the NAS had taken a stand against the Kyoto treaty. Robinson was not even a climate scientist. He was a biochemist with no published research in the field of climatology, and his paper had never been subjected to peer review by anyone with training in the field. In fact, the paper had never been accepted for publication anywhere, let alone in the NAS Proceedings. It was self-published by Robinson, who did the typesetting himself on his own computer. (It was subsequently published as a "review" in Climate Research, which contributed to an editorial scandal at that publication.)
None of the coauthors of "Environmental Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" had any more standing than Robinson himself as a climate change researcher. They included Robinson's 22-year-old son, Zachary, along with astrophysicists Sallie L. Baliunas and Willie Soon. Both Baliunas and Soon worked with Frederick Seitz at the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank where Seitz served as executive director. Funded by a number of right-wing foundations, including Scaife and Bradley, the George C. Marshall Institute does not conduct any original research. It is a conservative think tank that was initially founded during the years of the Reagan administration to advocate funding for Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative--the "Star Wars" weapons program. Today, the Marshall Institute is still a big fan of high-tech weapons. In 1999, its website gave prominent placement to an essay by Col. Simon P. Worden titled "Why We Need the Air-Borne Laser," along with an essay titled "Missile Defense for Populations--What Does It Take? Why Are We Not Doing It?" Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the Marshall Institute has adapted to the times by devoting much of its firepower to the war against environmentalism, and in particular against the "scaremongers" who raise warnings about global warming.
"The mailing is clearly designed to be deceptive by giving people the impression that the article, which is full of half-truths, is a reprint and has passed peer review," complained Raymond Pierrehumbert, a meteorlogist at the University of Chicago. NAS foreign secretary F. Sherwood Rowland, an atmospheric chemist, said researchers "are wondering if someone is trying to hoodwink them." NAS council member Ralph J. Cicerone, dean of the School of Physical Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, was particularly offended that Seitz described himself in the cover letter as a "past president" of the NAS. Although Seitz had indeed held that title in the 1960s, Cicerone hoped that scientists who received the petition mailing would not be misled into believing that he "still has a role in governing the organization."
The NAS issued an unusually blunt formal response to the petition drive. "The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal," it stated in a news release. "The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy." In fact, it pointed out, its own prior published study had shown that "even given the considerable uncertainties in our knowledge of the relevant phenomena, greenhouse warming poses a potential threat sufficient to merit prompt responses. Investment in mitigation measures acts as insurance protection against the great uncertainties and the possibility of dramatic surprises."
Notwithstanding this rebuke, the Oregon Petition managed to garner 15,000 signatures within a month's time. S. Fred Singer called the petition "the latest and largest effort by rank-and-file scientists to express their opposition to schemes that subvert science for the sake of a political agenda."
Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel called it an "extraordinary response" and cited it as his basis for continuing to oppose a global warming treaty. "Nearly all of these 15,000 scientists have technical training suitable for evaluating climate research data," Hagel said. Columns citing the Seitz petition and the Robinson paper as credible sources of scientific expertise on the global warming issue have appeared in publications ranging from Newsday', the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to the Austin-American Statesman, Denver Post, and Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.
In addition to the bulk mailing, OISM's website enables people to add their names to the petition over the Internet, and by June 2000 it claimed to have recruited more than 19,000 scientists. The institute is so lax about screening names, however, that virtually anyone can sign, including for example Al Caruba, a pesticide-industry PR man and conservative ideologue who runs his own website called the "National Anxiety Center." Caruba has no scientific credentials whatsoever, but in addition to signing the Oregon Petition he has editorialized on his own website against the science of global warming, calling it the "biggest hoax of the decade," a "genocidal" campaign by environmentalists who believe that "humanity must be destroyed to 'Save the Earth.' . . . There is no global warming, but there is a global political agenda, comparable to the failed Soviet Union experiment with Communism, being orchestrated by the United Nations, supported by its many Green NGOs, to impose international treaties of every description that would turn the institution into a global government, superceding the sovereignty of every nation in the world."
When questioned in 1998, OISM's Arthur Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or meteorologists, "and of those the greatest number are physicists." This grouping of fields concealed the fact that only a few dozen, at most, of the signatories were drawn from the core disciplines of climate science - such as meteorology, oceanography, and glaciology - and almost none were climate specialists. The names of the signers are available on the OISM's website, but without listing any institutional affiliations or even city of residence, making it very difficult to determine their credentials or even whether they exist at all. When the Oregon Petition first circulated, in fact, environmental activists successfully added the names of several fictional characters and celebrities to the list, including John Grisham, Michael J. Fox, Drs. Frank Burns, B. J. Honeycutt, and Benjamin Pierce (from the TV show M*A*S*H), an individual by the name of "Dr. Red Wine," and Geraldine Halliwell, formerly known as pop singer Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls. Halliwell's field of scientific specialization was listed as "biology." Even in 2003, the list was loaded with misspellings, duplications, name and title fragments, and names of non-persons, such as company names. The current web page of the petition itself states "31,478 American scientists have signed this petition, including 9,029 with PhDs."
OISM has refused to release info on the number of mailings it made. From comments in Nature:
- "Virtually every scientist in every field got it," says Robert Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and spokesman for the American Physical Society. "That's a big mailing." According to the National Science Foundation, there are more than half a million science or engineering PhDs in the United States, and ten million individuals with first degrees in science or engineering.
- Arthur Robinson, president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, the small, privately funded institute that circulated the petition, declines to say how many copies were sent out. "We're not willing to have our opponents attack us with that number, and say that the rest of the recipients are against us," he says, adding that the response was "outstanding" for a direct mail shot. 
Is there a scientific basis for Robinson's claim that increased carbon dioxide levels will contribute to increased growth of some plants? Some research has gone into investigating this possibility, but the evidence does not point to the type of reassurance that the OISM is peddling. Fakhri Bazzaz, a plant physiologist at Harvard, has found that carbon dioxide-enriched air accelerates short-term plant growth, but his studies were carried out under controlled greenhouse conditions and are difficult to translate to a larger scale. Plant growth in natural systems may be constrained by a shortage of soil nutrients despite the greater availability of carbon dioxide. Moreover, Bazzaz's experiments involved carbon dioxide concentrations at levels 100% greater than those now existing in our atmosphere, whereas the greenhouse warming we are experiencing right now results from only a 20% increase in world carbon dioxide levels. Clearly, it is irresponsible to predict "benefits" from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when such "benefits" may only appear after we suffer the consequences of a five-fold increase over current anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Finally, Bazzaz found that different plant species vary dramatically in their response to increased carbon dioxide. Plants such as sugar cane and corn were not improved, but weeds were stimulated. There is not much real benefit in warming the planet by several degrees just so we can maybe make it easier for weeds to grow.
Notwithstanding the shortcomings in Robinson's theory, the oil and coal industries have sponsored several organizations to promote the idea that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is "good for earth" because it will encourage greater plant growth. The Greening Earth Society, a front group of the Western Fuels Association, has produced a video, titled "The Greening of the Planet Earth Continues," publishes a newsletter called the World Climate Report, and works closely with a group called the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.
As of the Fall of 2007, OISM continued to mail petition cards along with a reprint of "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide," now cited as having been published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (2007) 12, 79-90, with Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon listed as the authors. The journal is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeonswhose director is Jane Orient (see above), a professor at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Also included in the mailing is a copy of a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed article entitled "Global Warming is 300-Year-Old News" authored by Arthur and Noah Robinson and dated January 18, 2000.
The OISM is located on a farm about 7 miles from the town of Cave Junction, Oregon (population 1,126). Located slightly east of Siskiyou National Forest, Cave Junction is one of several small towns nestled in the Illinois Valley, whose total population is 15,000. Best known as a gateway to the Oregon Caves National Monument, it is described by its chamber of commerce as "the commercial, service, and cultural center for a rural community of small farms, woodlots, crafts people, and families just living apart from the crowds. ... It's a place where going into the market can take time because people talk in the aisles and at the checkstands. Life is slower, so you have to be patient. You'll be part of that slowness because it is enjoyable to be neighborly." The main visitors are tourists who come to hike, backpack and fish in the area's many rivers and streams. Cave Junction is the sort of out-of-the-way location you might seek out if you were hoping to survive a nuclear war, but it is not known as a center for scientific and medical research.
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
2251 Dick George Road
Cave Junction, Oregon 97523
Phone: (541) 592-4142
Email: info At oism.org
Web site: http://www.oism.org
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) Website Homepage (accessed on June 14, 2008)
- Pearce Wright, "Obituary: Martin Kamen", The Guardian , September 9, 2002
- "Martin D. Kamen-Professor of Chemistry", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed June 14, 2008)
- Rachel Petkewich, "Nobel Laureate R. Bruce Merrifield Dies At 84", Chemical and Engineering News, May 23, 2006
- "R. Bruce Merrifield-Adjunct Professor of Chemistry", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed June 14, 2008)
- "Fred Westall-Professor of Biochemistry, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (Accessed June 14, 2008)
- "Carl R. Boehme - Home Page", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed on June 14, 2008)
- "Carl Boehme-Professor of Electrical Engineering, Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed on June 14, 2008)
- "AAPS Officers and Directors 2004-2005", Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. website, (accessed June 14, 2008)
- Doctors for Disaster Preparedness website
- Physicians for Civil Defense website
- "Jane Orient-Professor of Medicine", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed on June 14, 2008)
- "Noah E. Robinson-Professor of Chemistry", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed June 14, 2008)
- "Zachary W. Robinson-Professor of Veterinary Medicine", Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine website, (accessed June 14, 2008)
- "Global Warming Petition Project"
- OISM is profiled in the "Impropaganda Review" section of the PR Watch web site. The Impropaganda Review is a non-wiki project of the Center for Media & Democracy that has been phased out with the introduction of the SourceWatch.
- Tom Bethell, "A Scientist Finds Independence," American Spectator, February 2001, gives a flattering overview of Arthur Robinson's life and work.
- Arthur B. Robinson, Sallie L. Baliunas, Willie Soon, Zachary W. Robinson, "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide," The paper distributed with the Oregon Petition.
- Robinson vs. Pauling Case Files. Documents related to the four-year-long lawsuit that Robinson brought against Pauling are archived at the University of California in San Diego.
- Richard L. Hill, "Iconoclastic Researcher Warms Up the Debate," The Oregonian, May 10, 1998, gives another flattering profile of Robinson, this one from an Oregon newspaper. Robinson admits, "We're not specialists in climate change," and declines to say who financed his petition drive.
- The apocalyptic Y2K predictions of Gary North have been largely scrubbed from the web, but many of them can still be found on the Internet Archive. See, for example,the following:
- Prominent British botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy has cited the OISM petition to support his disbelief in anthropogenic global warming (Daily Mail, July 2004) 
- Original Petition Project Site
- Current Petition Project Site
- "Oregon Petition," Wikipedia
The OISM is not related or affiliated in any way with Oregon Health and Science University