Science

Activists and Their "Parallel Science" Propaganda Machine

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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.

NEXT: Millennials Don't Like Either Party, Democrats Viewed as the Better of Two Bad Options

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  1. 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.

    Or citing the IPCC on, well, anything.

    1. In my mind, the mere fact that the IPCC even exists disqualifies it.

  2. I’m not sure the tobacco company example works as no one since the time of King James has thought tobacco wasn’t a health risk.

    1. I would imagine that in my lifetime there were people willing to believe some pseudo scientific entity that told them they weren’t doing themselves any harm by smoking.
      I think you’re overestimating the level of intelligence in the general population.

  3. The danger of such a postmodern approach to science is that it considers all points of views to be equally valid

    That’s not really true. Oppressed cultures and aboriginal cultures are more valid.

  4. But what do Millennials think about science?!?!

    1. She blinded me with science.

      1. Doesn’t that song predate millennials by about 2 decades?

        1. They all look the same to me 😉

          1. RAC…SOMETHINGIST!!

    2. They enjoy all it’s benefits but want someone else to pay for it?

      1. That…. that about sums it up.

  5. Once we got the government into the business of regulating everything, it was inevitable that various political groups would start corrupting science to support their agenda. And once they did that, it was also inevitable that there would be an endless supply of scientists ready to engage their confirmation bias in return for a paycheck.

    If the government didn’t have the power to tell people what kinds of crops they could grow, the greens wouldn’t have any reason to corrupt science to stop it.

    1. Is there a distinction between parallel science and intellectual elitism or are we just inventing new words so the millennials can follow along at home?

      1. whoops.

  6. Is there a distinction between parallel science and intellectual elitism or are we just inventing new words so the millennials can follow along at home?

    1. I am not seeing it. They both seem to be appeals to authority and credentialism.

      1. I think the credentialism fad is on its way out. A lot of sheepskins are worthless these days. So is the nobel peace prize, which is now awarded for speeches and factually inaccurate Power Point presentations.

        1. I think it’s more complicated than that. Progressives love love love to appeal to TOP MEN authorities. Once the college degrees mean nothing, they’ll just switch to some other credential.

        2. I wish that we’re the case, PM. But credentialism has just morphed into something more than a BS or BA. Now it means having a (costly) health certificate before opening a salon or a (costly) food handling and preparation certificate before being allowed to open a restaurant. Or a municipality having a medallion system for cabs or a limited number of liquor licenses that are worth more than the commercial properties in the area they may be used in.

          College is now extended,high school. Credentialism,is a money grab that is no longer associated with higher education.

  7. Alt Alt-text:

    Looks legit.

  8. I think it was Glenn Reynolds who pointed out that every successful system attracts parasites and pseudotypes. Snakes that look like poisonous snakes, etc. Its too bad we’re living in the epoch where both rigorous, evidence-based definitions of knowledge and limited government are being overtaken by their psuedo-forms.

    1. But there has always been sham scientists. Things like alchemy and frenology were once considered legitimate science. I don’t think science is attracting anymore or fewer parasites and frauds than it always has. The difference is that now we have these huge all powerful governments so the harm caused by these types is much greater than it once was.

    2. Pseudotypes….
      That word will be in my everyday vocabulary by beer time this evening.

      1. “Pseudotypes…”

        Are those prototypes that never quite get done?

        1. Sort of…

        2. I’ll tell you after beer time.

        3. Can we cook up a new kind of meth with them?

          1. 3 forms of ID and you have to ask the pharmacist.

      2. I think that’s how I’m going to start spelling Peter “Pseuderman’s” name….

        1. Ouch.

  9. uh, there’s no disclosure that this “article” was written by a KOCH FUNDED MONSANTO-SHILL!!?

  10. Right topic wrong venue , Ron-

    as a locus classicus of Junk Science , last weeks Heartland Climate Conference in Vegas beats this by a country mile!

    1. For sure Russell. Nothing is more settled than a bunch of half assed models created by a backwater and generally C level talent field of science that have literally failed to make an accurate prediction in the entire history of the field.

      1. Climatology is a for-real science that has been corrupted by funding and politics. There’s still plenty of good science being done in the field, but you have to keep in mind the huge difficulties in trying to model and predict a hugely complex and chaotic system like global weather patterns. Not just at a point of time, either, but over years.

        It’s this obvious uncertainly that makes hard and specific predictions so hard to swallow. If I were a climatologist, I’d take extraordinary steps to distance myself and my profession from the political crap.

        1. I’d take extraordinary steps to distance myself and my profession from the political crap.

          And as a result, have to fire my entire staff as a result of the gubmint grants drying up due to my distinereted apolitical contributions to the field of science.

          FIFY

          1. Yep, funding biases can have a massively corrupting effect on any field. I’ve heard theoretical physicists bitch about all of the money going to string theory, for instance, when it comes to unification theory research.

        2. What people forget is that not all science is the same and not all scientists are equal. The fact is climatology was until the AGW hysteria a backwater field that did not attract the best talent. The biggest thing you learn from reading the climate gate emails is what mediocrities those guys are. None of them are particularly briliant and they are in way over their heads doing pretty heavy work in outside fields like computer programing and statistics that they don’t have a lot of know how.

          I think what happened is once the gravy train started rolling no one in the field would dare question the orthodoxy. And since they were all generally second rate scientists to begin with, they quickly got very paranoid and insular about oversight or any kind of input from outsiders. They are not so secretive and shrill because they are confident.

          1. It’s got to attract some decent mathematicians due to the modeling challenges. When I worked at Ohio State some of the guys I worked with talked about the use of supercomputers for modeling nuclear explosions as a substitute for testing. A little simpler than the climate, but a challenge that attracted some good talent.

            1. If you are a wizard mathematician who can build models, you go to work for insurance companies or wall street and make the big bucks. You don’t go into climatology, or at least you didn’t.

              1. Unless you want to save the world.

                And when you want to save the world…are you going to let a little thing like proof stand in your way?

                1. Ah, but what, pray tell, are you saving the world from?

                  1. Details, details . . .

      2. John, radiative forcing happens regardless of whether anyone gets paid to notice , and science began to notice decades before the climate wars began.

        Precious few people tried to deny it until K-Street got on the case.

        1. Bullshit. As recently as the 1970s the consensus was man was causing global cooling. Moreover, the proof is in the pudding. They have been making predictions for decades and none of them have ever come to reality. The models are wrong. Is AGW true? Maybe. But if it is true is it true in a the models fail to describe. That is reality.

          Lastly, even if the models were correct, it wouldn’t matter since no one has ever proposed a viable solution. The US cutting its emissions won’t do any good unless China and India and the rest of the developing world do the same. And that isn’t going to happen. So any unilateral action on the US’s part is pointless.

          The bottom line is that anyone who thinks that AGW should have any influence on policy is outing themselves as either an idiot, a socialist trying to cloak their failed ideology in scientific consensus or both.

          1. I saw something a couple of weeks ago about the cooling concerns being voiced by some climatologists. To be honest, some warming probably would be more beneficial than not, but cooling is scary shit.

            1. Cooling has always been associated with huge disruptions to civilization and warming with prosperity and growth.

              1. Yes, it’s got some bad history for the species. Of course, if we were really on track towards major warming–of the catastrophic kind–the transition to that would be very bad, too. A relatively small cooling trend, however, would likely be much worse than a relatively small warming trend.

                A much, much warmer Earth, however, is really good for the biosphere in general. I saw some NOVA about the much greater numbers of species back when the Earth was much warmer than today. So for the Humans Suck brigade, you’d think they’d be all for warming, anyway.

    2. What a sweetly reasoned column that discusses global climate trends, CO2 PPB, attempts to discredit speakers by calling them meatheads (which is of course completely relevant to their actual presentation) and appeals to anti-Korean racism (why don’t you talk about small dicks!?!?!).

      You win teh internet today for creating your own shitty geocities webpage for trolling.

      1. Anti-Koreanism? Oh, I wouldn’t do that. Chiun comments here.

    3. Without commenting on the AGW issue, which I generally don’t involve myself in…

      LIKE THE IDIOTARIAN SNL RIPOFF …BUT WITH REAL CLIMATE SCIENCE

      “What’s Up with That?” is a recurring sketch on the NBC television series Saturday Night Live which first aired in 2009.

      Watts Up With That? (WUWT for short) is a weather and climate commentary site (blog), created in 2006

      …checks out

      1. Well, applying the science of post hoc ergo propter hoc, the blog clearly is owed millions by the evil NBC company.

    4. Gee! Look! Russel can gin up a web site as lacking in intelligence as he is!

  11. …”and Gurian-Sherman himself.”

    And he did this without giggling?

  12. Bill Cosby – *hypnotizes Russell*

    Bill Cosby – “Russell – go upstairs and smack dad in the face….”

    Russell – *walks upstairs, into bedroom where dad is sleeping*

    SSSSSSSSSSMAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!

    Dad – WHAT THE HELL’S WRONG WITH YOU, BOY???!!!

    Good to see Russell’s moved on from the days when Bill Cosby was PWNing him.

    1. Russell’s like school in the summertime!

    2. For the first time I ever, I recently saw a picture of Russell Cosby. I looked him up after reading an article talking about the album, “To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.” These days, with every relative of any sort of a major celebrity getting their time in the limelight, it’s a little surprising to see one who just does his own thing.

      1. I work with Eddie Murphey’s cousin. You know the classic bit from Delirious about the aunt who looked like Big Foot and the cousins with the big afros? This guy is one of the said cousins. Extremely nice guy. We only found out who he was by accident. But when you see him and realize who he is, he looks just like a heavier set Eddie Murphy.

        1. I miss Charlie Murphy from “Chappelle”. “I had to check Rick James” – that dude was fuckin’ FUNNY!

          1. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

            1. I’m Wayne Brady, bitch.

              Funniest. Sketch. EVAR!

              “So you think I make Bryant Gumbel look llike Malcolm X?”

            2. No comment

      2. We used to sneak Bill Cosby records in to elementary school and listen to them on the record players used to play the SRT English lessons.

        Later, it was Cheech and Chong and George Carlin – I think that was more like middle school, cause I don’t remember them being around when I was still in Elem school.

        Good times….

        1. Amazing how there are no more great comics out there. I am sure there are some good ones. But nothing of the quality and numbers that there were in the 70s. Think about it, Carlin, Pryor, Newhart, Cheech and Chong, Cosby, were all in their primes over about a fifteen year span. That is remarkable when you think about it.

          1. There was a generation after that which was good, though different, but it’s been fading a lot since. No idea why that would be.

            1. Political correctness. Those people were fearless. Hard to be funny and also worry about offending people.

              1. I’d like Sam Kinison to not be dead and to come back right about now. Just to see how he’d be received.

                1. Personal faves now are Anthony Jeselnick (just rude as FUCK…but soooooo funny), Amy Schumer (pretty goddamned rude) and Key and Peele (In Living Color for the 2010’s – RACIST).

  13. It’s pronounced Koooooontz!

  14. The essence of post-modernism is that there is no such thing as “pseudo”-science, because there is no objective basis for declaring one methodology (the “scientific method”) as superior to another (“feelz”, “social justice”, or whatever).

    1. This denial of objective reality is incredibly dangerous, and I fear it’s more widespread than just the politically obsessed.

  15. I just realized that Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s article on reporters/”journalists” not knowing their subjects couldn’t be trusted, cause she’s a journalist, so SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE’S WRITING ABOUT WHEN SHE’S WRITING ABOUT OTHER JOURNALISTS!

    *mind blown*

  16. Shorter Russell: derp

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