Posted by: Dick Wesley | January 16, 2008

Manufactured Controversy: Science and Public Debate

In recent years, scientists have expressed frustration with the degree to which political actors attempt to influence how scientific research is reported and interpreted for the public.  Professor Leah Ceccarelli will discuss 3 important cases in which controversy did not exist within the scientific community, but was successfully manufactured for a public audience by political leaders, organized think tanks, and lobbying groups.  These cases include global warming and intelligent design in the US and AIDS dissent by President Thabo Mbeki in South Africa. 

Join us at the University of Washington Seattle Campus on February 7, 6:30 PM, Communication Building Room 126 (Free Admittance, RSVP  to

Please share your view of this issue with us as well.



  1. […] Charlie Petit wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  2. The role and origins of the Discovery Institute and liberal Republicans in the Intelligent Design controversy is intriguing. Our state constitutional and statutory provisions prohibiting sectarian control of the common school and prohibiting state support of religion while liberally allowing the free exercise of religion come from the Blaine Amendments and classic Republican doctrine designed to limit religious (particularly Catholic) influence in public schools and/or funding from public school funds of religious instruction. There is in Catholic Republicans a desire to limit the separation of church and state to allow funds for Catholic education. The ties of this group to a conservative protestant university such as Seattle Pacific University are very interesting.

    The Discovery Institute is not your standard right wing religious group. It is dominated by Republicans who have history of supporting liberal causes and its Cascadia Project I believe receives funding from the Gates Foundation. The board of directors does not appear at first glance to be composed of persons likely to be anti-Darwinists.

    Why in Washington, of all states, would an effort be made to introduce religion into the common schools via the Intelligent Design Doctrine seems bizarre. I’m sure the attorney advising the school districts told their school boards of the folly and potential expense of defending the actions of teachers such as Roger DeHart who promoted Intelligent Design and used “Of Pandas and People” to supplement his biology classes. Washington has the strongest anti-establishment constitution in the country and a long history of keeping religion out of the public schools.

  3. The motivations of the Discovery Institute for promoting manufactured controversy, now called “manufactroversy” are probably complex, but they can probably be understood better by considering the recent Intelligent Design vehicle, Exelled The Movie. After posturing about “big science” and “big government” suppressing the academic freedom of ID advocates, the veil is dropped. During the last half hour the movie makers simply make an emotional appeal: “darwinism”, meaning the acknowledgement of undirected selection and speciation leads to atheism, eugenics, abortion, and the worst evils of the 20th century, the Stalinist purges and the Holocaust. My hunch would be that the writers of the movie actually believe this bizarre emotional story line. It rests on the false assumption that without theism there is no basis for morality. I’d be afraid of science too if I made the same assumption.

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