Manufactured Scientific Controversy
“Manufactured Scientific Controversy”, it might be said, when a debate about a scientific claim does not actually exist inside the scientific community, but due to special interests of the public audience, the controversy is successfully created. According to Ceccarelli (2011), the manufactured scientific controversy can be seen as a special type of “public scientific controversy”. If the debate concerns the public welfare, then it would result in an increased scholarly attention to the phenomenon. Such controversy appeals to have democratic values, because a culture that identifies itself as a democracy invokes sharing among the scientific community and the public forums.
The Purposes of Scientific Controversy
One might say controversy can be manufactured to maintain or change a status of public policy that is warranted by current scientific findings. Others say scientific controversy is brought up to share two equally strong sides on a scientific matter and individuals choose which side to agree to.
When we review a dispute on a controversial subject, it is best that we can respect both sides of a scientific debate, not just the one that provide formality, logic facts and statistics. This is why we have “controversy” in the first place. In a perspective of science, scientific process is considered with evidence and the logical way of doing things. However, public audience requires more than just logic, but also “emotion”.
Taking immunization controversy as an example, scientists, doctors and public health officers feel that they have robust evidence on their sides to support vaccination. Meanwhile, parents who believe their children have been harmed by certain vaccines are strongly against vaccination.
Obviously, there must be a highly ritualized process why science adopted the vaccination. However, we cannot blame parents for questioning the process, because parents want the best for their children and sure they don’t want anything to harm their kids. Therefore, many scientific controversies are driven with emotion factor as well.
I believe that by discovering, presenting and sharing the means of “manufactured scientific controversy”, each individual can have their choice to adequately respond to a scientific dispute in public forums.
So what is your perspective on “manufactured scientific controversy”?
Reference: Ceccarelli, L. (2011). Manufactured scientific controversy: Science, rhetoric and the public debate. Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 14(2)