Activists and Their "Parallel Science" Propaganda Machine



The folks over at the Genetic Literacy Project are featuring an insightful article on how activists gin up junk science to support their predetermined views. The article, "'Parallel science' of NGO advocacy groups: How post-modernism encourages pseudo-science" is by Marcel Kuntz, who is the director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research. From the article:

Political ecologists–commentators in the media and among NGO advocacy groups–like science…when it confirms their views. When it contradicts them, rather than changing their minds, they often prefer to change the science to fit their ideology. They have thus created a "parallel science." Which should not be confused with pseudo-sciences (e.g. astrology, false medicine, the paranormal, ufology, etc.).

Pseudo-sciences may harm naive believers, parallel "science" is harming democracy. It is a component of a predetermined political project to the exclusive benefit of the ideological views of a minority. "Parallel science" seemingly resembles science, but it differs from science since its conclusions precede experimentation.

Parallel "science" has been created to replace scientists, especially in risk assessment, by "experts" (often self-proclaimed) supportive of a political project. This parallel "science" is hidden behind positive-sounding terms, such as "citizen science" or "independent" or "whistleblower", while mainstream scientists are accused of having "conflicts of interest" or having ties with "industry". In order to further propagate distrust in current risk assessment, parallel "science" will invoke unrelated past health problems or environmental damages, but never to the way science has solved problems. …

Why is parallel "science" not discredited and why is it represented so uncritically by the media? The answer partly lies in the current dominance of a relativist ideology. The danger of such a postmodern approach to science is that it considers all points of views to be equally valid and thus raises the value of "independent" (in fact ideological) views to the same level as scientific ones.

Let me give an example of how "parallel science" manufactures propaganda for activist groups with which they can mislead the credulous. In March, 2014, Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist in Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, stated in no less a place than MIT's Technology Review:

It's also worth noting that there's no real consensus on GMO crop safety.

As evidence that there's "no real consensus," to what website did Gurian-Sherman link? A declaration issued by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. ENSSER is a collection of long-time foes of agricultural biotechnology. The disingenuous statement has so far been signed by fewer than 300 scientists, including such anti-biotech luminaries as Charles Benbrook, Vandana Shiva, Gilles-Eric Seralini, and Gurian-Sherman himself.  Referring to this declaration as evidence against biotech crop safety is akin to citing a statement from tobacco company scientists asserting that cigarette smoking isn't a risk factor for lung cancer.

See also my earlier post today on Seralini's anti-biotech junk science.