In the 17th century the church was the dominant institution, while in the 21st century the corporation is the dominate institution. In 17th century Europe, the church was the main place where ordinary citizens got their information and were handed down opinions on what was right or wrong. Any established church was an effective form of thought control. The churches of this time were natural enemies of new ideas.
During the Age of Enlightenment people believed that the reasoning of men could free them of their ills, and lead to peace security and good government. It was believed that reason would ensure the progress of humanity, and change the corrupt environment of the 18th century. Human reason could be used to combat misguided traditional thinking, customs, and old ideas that kept people subjugated in ignorance, superstition and tyranny. Truth and freedom would enable individuals to build a better world. The Enlightenment introduced critical thinking to replace the dead weight of tradition, and challenge the blind faith in institutions.
The legacy of the enlightenment is the scientific method, which includes knowledge that observations are prone to error and bias, so experiments need to be replicated by independent researchers. In addition, there is a peer review process to ensure proper documentation of procedures available for scrutiny. These processes ensure the steady advance of new ideas.
Corporations have adopted misinformation programs developed by the tobacco industry over the past five decades. The process clouds scientific understanding of the of the issue, which enables corporations to work behind the scene to gain access to key decision makers. The tobacco industry used this effectively to undermine tobacco legislation and hold back anti-smoking legislation for decades.
These tactics include introducing manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts about the most indisputable scientific evidence . This confuses individuals and legislators and prevents and delays action or mitigation on the issue. For change to occur, there is a need to know with certainty that information is correct.
The freedoms identified for individuals during the enlightenment are now threatened. Corporations undermine movements for change, not by rejecting science, but by selectively funding it. This includes manipulating the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments with respect to specific agendas. Now reason is used to undermine principles of the enlightenment. In addition, deregulation involves underfunding agencies that require science to monitor the safety of the environment, and products available for public consumption.
At time when evidence based decision-making is considered a standard, global corporations have processes in place to undermine science and hold back change. The mantra of minimal government and regulations favour these processes. Today, it is necessary to factor industry-funded denial and skepticism in when evaluating many issues, including climate change, environmental reforms, and financial reform.