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  • Controversy Over Manufactured Scientific Controversy: A Rejoinder to Fuller
  • Leah Ceccarelli (bio)

Since Steve Fuller begins his critique of my article on “Manufactured Scientific Controversy” with a profession of his emotional state, I will begin my reply with a profession of my own. I was delighted to read his critique! While I have written such critiques myself, this is my first time as the subject of one, allowing me to fulfill a lifelong goal of having work that warrants such an exchange.

The specific emotional state that Professor Fuller confesses in the first line of his critique is “bemusement” with my article, and after reading his critique, I can think of no better term to describe his response. The dictionary definition of bemused is “1. bewildered or confused” or “2. lost in thought; preoccupied.”1 It is possible that Professor Fuller’s confused mis-reading of my article is the result of his being lost in an ongoing preoccupation with defending his decision to align with the intelligent design movement against the mainstream scientific consensus on evolution (a decision for which I expressed disapproval in my article), or there might be another more complicated reason for it. The result is the same either way; his response exhibits confusion about the meaning of the terminology I employed, the argument I offered, and the action that I promoted. My reply will attempt to eliminate that confusion from the response of a scholar I greatly admire, a friend and colleague without whom I would not be where I am today.2 [End Page 761]

The first point of confusion appears in the second sentence of his essay, where he interprets my use of the term “manufactured” as carrying a presumption “that there is something wrong when scientific controversies have not come about in some ‘natural’ way.”3 The problem here is that Fuller mistakes an appearance/reality dissociation for an artificial/natural dissociation.4 I selected the term “manufactured” because it was a metaphor already in use in the scholarly literature to signify a controversy that does not currently exist in the scientific community but is mass-produced and marketed to the general public by politically motivated agents. Controversies about whether HIV causes AIDS, whether we are experiencing global climate change, or are intelligently designed do not currently exist in the scientific communities that once debated such issues. These matters are settled, at least as scientific questions. Fuller is right that there is a negative connotation to my use of the term “manufactured” in this context—it is, indeed, a pejorative term. But that negative connotation comes from the fact that the individuals who claim that a significant “scientific” controversy exists on these matters are not being entirely honest. There is nothing unnatural, artificial, or abnormal about this deception. It is perfectly natural for people to misrepresent inconvenient truths. But in most cases, it is not ethical, and it does not inevitably result, as Fuller suggests it does, in a situation from which “everyone will have benefited.”5 The opposite of a manufactured scientific controversy is not a naturally produced or “normal” scientific controversy,6 but a real scientific controversy, one that currently exists within a scientific community, rather than one that only appears to exist because it has been invented for public consumption by rhetors skilled at misrepresentation. I do not object to the way in which any particular scientific controversy originated; I object to claims that a controversy over a scientific theory currently exists in an expert community when it does not.

This leads to the second point of confusion in Fuller’s essay. He claims that when it comes to HIV-AIDS denial, global warming skepticism, and antievolution, nothing in my “elaborate review of the rhetoric and social studies of science literature licenses the conclusion that these positions ‘manufacture controversy’ in some objectionable sense.”7 He does not provide a counterargument that contests the evidence I offered in my elaborate review; instead, he rejects the evidence out of hand. But not only did my article identify specific objections to these manufactured controversies [End Page 762] that have been raised by other scholars, it also introduced “smoking gun documents” in which...


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pp. 761-766
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