Henry I. Miller

Henry I. Miller, Contributor

I debunk junk science and flawed public policy..

7/16/2014 @ 6:00AM |4,018 views

Wealthy Activist Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate For The Poor

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We endorse shopping in the marketplace of ideas, but not when is is polluted by toxic goods. Recall Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. Shiva is a seemingly endless font of bogus, made-up facts–that is to say, lies–and bizarre reasoning.

Even the way Shiva represents herself to the public at large and to potential sponsors for her lectures–variously as a “scientist,” “nuclear physicist,” or “quantum physicist”–is dishonest. She earned her doctorate not in physics, but in philosophy. Ironically, Shiva’s connection with physics illustrates not her expertise in the discipline, but her wrong-headedness. Her dissertation in the philosophy of science (not in physics) at the University of Western Ontario focused on the debate over a central notion in physics known as Bell’s Theorem, which is concerned with “testing whether or not particles connected through quantum entanglement communicate information faster than the speed of light,” and which has been called the “most profound theory in science.” The abstract of Shiva’s dissertation states, in part: “It has been taken for granted that Bell’s [theorem] is based on a locality condition which is physically motivated, and thus his proof therefore falls into a class by itself. We show that both the above claims are mistaken” [emphasis added].

Contrary to Shiva’s conclusion, however, Bell’s theorem has been proven scientifically correct. As Entine and Ryan wrote, “The main thesis of quantum mechanics that she challenged has since been confirmed by experimental physics, meaning that her thesis stands at odds with factual reality.” But factual reality has never been Shiva’s forte.

While this upper-caste Indian gets little right about science, she is clearly adept at extracting money from sponsors on the lecture circuit. According to her speakers’ agency, the Evil Twin Booking Agency (we are not making this up), Shiva’s usual fee for an American university appearance is $40,000 plus a business class round-trip ticket from New Delhi. Thus, we infer that Beloit, Wake Forest and Arizona State have probably paid Dr. Shiva close to $50,000 each for exposing their students to her mendacious, baseless attacks on modern agriculture and science.

As for the substance of Shiva’s presentations at universities, we can only imagine. . . After all, she is the author of “In Praise of Cowdung”–a paean to peasant agriculture and an attack on improved seeds and modern fertilizers in Indian agriculture. That essay and her other writings remind us of an old Peanuts cartoon in which the character Lucy van Pelt is about to embark on a writing assignment. “Write about something you know well,” the teacher instructs. Lucy begins typing, “The air hung heavy with stupidity…”

Henry I. Miller, a physician, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Drew L. Kershen is the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma College of Law, in Norman, Okla.



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