Manufacturing Controversy

There is an article on science progress by Leah Ceccarelli about the artificial controversies. She takes the three examples evolution, AIDS denial and global warming denialism.

I found it especially interesting that debates like these, where one group deliberately (or maybe out of ignorance) tries to confuse the public also occured in old Greece, and have been recognized (links by me):

The ancient sophists, or “wise men” (wise guys?) who taught the new art of rhetoric to those who would pay their fee in the 5th century BCE, included Gorgias, who was said to have boasted that he could persuade the multitude to ignore the expert and listen to him instead, and Protagoras, who claimed that there are always two sides to a case and it’s the sophist’s job to make the worse case appear the stronger.

Leah suggests that we engage more in rhetoric, and expose the other side for the manufactured controversy. She concludes:

Aristotle believed that things that are true “have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites,” but that it takes a good rhetor to ensure that this happens when sophisticated sophistry is on the loose. I concur; only by exposing manufactured controversy for what it is, recognizing its rhetorical power and countering those who are skilled at getting the multitude to ignore the experts while imagining a scientific debate where none exists, can scientists and their allies use my field to achieve what Aristotle envisioned for it—a study that helps the argument that is in reality stronger also appear stronger before an audience of nonexperts.

Read the whole article. To avoid the urge to bang your head against the wall try not to read this comment.



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