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Understanding Manufactroversies

Creating Scientific Controversies: Uncertainty and Bias in Science and Society. By David Harker. Cambridge university press, Cambridge, 2015. ISBn 978-1-107-69236-7. 260 pp. Softcover, $28.99.

Do you remember the term manufactroversy? A portmanteau of manufactured and controversy, it appeared in 2008 as the intentional product of a marketing and advertising agency to characterize the supposed controversy over evolution that Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed— the execrable creationist propaganda film fronted by Ben Stein—sought to promote.

As part of the agency’s campaign, Leah Ceccarelli of the University of Washington, a specialist in scientific and anti-scientific rhetoric, defined manufactroversy as “a manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute” and offered as examples “global warming skepticism, AIDS dissent in South Africa, and the intelligent design movement’s ‘teach the controversy’ campaign.”

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