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NEGATIVE BIOFEEDBACK

FINAL VERSION For his article on Biosphere 2, Marc Cooper did not investigate science or an ecological research project--a task he has no scientific qualifications to do in any event. Instead he set out, by his own admission, "predisposed to find an eccentric group of goofballs." What we are asked to believe in his rambling soap opera is more than even daytime television would tolerate. What we are asked to ignore are the facts.

Hundreds of scientists and journalists with scientific credentials have visited Biosphere 2, investigated its research merits and scientific bona fides, and written hundreds of articles, largely favorable. Cooper's ad hominem thesis, sources and "evidence" derive mainly from several 1985 Texas expose-type articles. Unfortunately, he fails to mention that these articles are now ignored even by the newspapers that originally published them. A Texas Monthly article which reported the allegations baseless is conspicuous in its absence from Cooper's media survey. . . . Laurence Veysey, the "most authoritative" source cited by Cooper, met SBV staff member John Allen for a few weeks 20 years ago and published his interpretations of Mr. Allen's philosophy without checking any statement with Mr. Allen. Now, not having seen nor spoken with Mr. Allen for 20 years--nor ever setting foot on the Biosphere 2 project--this "expert" extends his presumptions to anything in which Mr. Allen participates. The fact that five friends and business associates at the Santa Fe ranch described by this source continue to be friends and business associates is "proof" that subsequent endeavors are extensions of a "cult" rather than normal continuation and evolution of successful friendship and business relationships. New business associates become "recruits" who supposedly join the "cult." And so on, such that his definition is self-perpetuating and inescapable.

Undeterred by fact or reason, Cooper takes highly credentialed science journalists to task for their favorable evaluations of the Biosphere 2 project, solely because they do not uphold sensationalist articles based upon such testimony. His charge against the science writers--amazingly--is gullibility. Every evaluation contrary to his own preconception is approached as an obstacle to be discredited, usually by ad hominem accusations which proceed from his conclusion--rather than supporting his conclusion or disproving or even addressing contrary viewpoints in any way.

Thus he takes on the opinion of Biosphere 2 scientific consultants--whose expertise and credentials not only exceed Mr. Cooper's by an immeasurable degree, but who in some cases are among the leading research scientists in their fields. He equates paid and bought in his arguments to impugn their motives. (Is Mr. Cooper paid; is he therefore bought?) He disqualifies their "bought" testimony and gives copious space to critics, most with personal grudges, and the remainder of which have never even seen Biosphere 2. On this basis, he "proves" Biosphere 2 research is bad and that these scientists have sold out to questionable science. But whose conclusions of good versus bad science should we listen to: Mr. Cooper's or their own?

Balancing voices of the many unaffiliated credentialed experts of favorable opinion--also quoted in numerous media articles--have no place in Mr. Cooper's "research." Absent too is any fact-checking or research documentation from the Biosphere 2 project that would give a balanced representation of its participation and standing in the overall scientific community worldwide. A considerable body of such documentation exists in the form of published Biosphere 2 peer-reviewed research papers, reports, and scientific and professional conference presentations. Mr. Cooper received a nine-page bibliography outlining this available material; he cites none.

Mr. Cooper's blunders over another major issue. Space Biospheres Ventures (SBV) conducts the Biosphere 2 project as an enterprise. SBV does not claim to be a disinterested scientific organization like a university science department. Like any enterprise, SBV needs to focus research and development toward products that contribute to cash flow and viability. SBV aims to produce environmentally valuable products--like air treatment systems, already patented contrary to Mr. Cooper's unchecked statement--and demonstrate that ecological responsibility is also economically feasible. The Biosphere 2 project has used no public funds (again contrary to Mr. Cooper's assertions), has made no sweeping or untruthful claims, has not solicited media coverage or glory, has harmed or disparaged no one. One what grounds Biosphere 2 staff and principals deserve to be so personally and vehemently attacked is the true mystery of Mr. Cooper's piece.

SBV staff do not claim to be scientists unless they are scientists. Biosphere 2 is a complex, multidisciplinary endeavor requiring many skills. Kathelin Hoffman (artist) and Marie Allen (manager) serve on the Project Review Committee--not the "scientific review committee" as Cooper erroneously and repeatedly describes it. The Biosphere 2 crew includes ecological managers, an engineer and technicians along with scientific researchers for the simple reason that people from many different backgrounds have useful contributions to make to Biosphere 2--and the larger biosphere it models.