Vandana Shiva: The Pseudoscientific Feminist Fraud

Prologue

Before leaving Alvin to prepare for a 7 p.m. lecture in Houston titled “WTO, Basmati Rice & the Stolen Harvest,” Shiva walked across the road and looked out into a shaggy field. “They look unhappy,” she said. “The rice plants. Ours at home look very happy.” “That,” RiceTec reports, “is because it’s not rice. That’s our test field, it was harvested in August. That’s weeds.”

From the Urban Dictionary:

Ecofeminism is a minor social and political movement which unites environmentalism and feminism, with some currents linking deep ecology and feminism. Ecofeminists argue that a relationship exists between the oppression of women and the degradation of nature, and explore the intersectionality between sexism, the domination of nature, racism, speciesism, and other characteristics of social inequality. Some current work emphasizes that the capitalist and patriarchal system is based on triple domination of the “Southern people” (those people who live in the Third World, the majority of which are south of the First World), women, and nature.

Intersectionality, specicism, triple domination.  If a movement requires obscure complex phrases to explain itself even on the urban dictionary, the go-to place for urban slang, you know something is wrong.

A better journalist than us has already researched the questionable credentials and “scholarly” work claimed by this shrill ecofeminist.

But those representations are incorrect. She is not a physicist let alone a prominent one. According to the University of Western Ontario, where she received her PhD, her doctorate is not in the discipline of physics, as she claims, but in philosophy. It focused on the highly technical and often politicized debate over a central notion in physics known as Bells’ Theorem, which has been called the “most profound” theory in science.

Perhaps foreshadowing her current contentious views about modern agriculture, Shiva concluded that quantum mechanics in physics was philosophically invalid and factually doubtful. 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. Independent of the quality of her philosophical research, it is a substantive leap to go from earning a PhD in the Philosophy of Science to self-identifying as a “scientist,” “nuclear physicist” or “quantum physicist”—the various ways she refers to herself.

Michael Specter, in a now-famous expose of her intellectual failures, wrote:

Like Gandhi, whom she reveres, Shiva questions many of the goals of contemporary civilization. Last year, Prince Charles, who keeps a bust of Shiva on display at Highgrove, his family house, visited her at the Navdanya farm, in Dehradun, about a hundred and fifty miles north of New Delhi. Charles, perhaps the world’s best-known critic of modern life, has for years denounced transgenic crops. “This kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone,” he wrote in the nineteen-nineties, when Monsanto tried to sell its genetically engineered seeds in Europe. Shiva, too, invokes religion in her assault on agricultural biotechnology. “G.M.O. stands for ‘God, Move Over,’ we are the creators now,” she said in a speech earlier this year. Navdanya does not report its contributions publicly, but, according to a recent Indian government report, foreign N.G.O.s have contributed significantly in the past decade to help the campaign against adoption of G.M.O.s in India. In June, the government banned most such contributions. Shiva, who was named in the report, called it “an attack on civil society,” and biased in favor of foreign corporations.

At times, Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors. When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

And she is being disingenuous when she claims to have a scientific doctorate:

Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry. She is usually described in interviews and on television as a nuclear physicist, a quantum physicist, or a world-renowned physicist. Most of her book jackets include the following biographical note: “Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.” When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.

Mark Lynas told me on the phone recently. “I don’t think Vandana Shiva necessarily knows that [she is a fraud]. But she is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous.”

“She is very canny about how she uses her power,” Lynas said. “But on a fundamental level she is a demagogue who opposes the universal values of the Enlightenment.”

Indeed.  Any scientist who is more concerned about ideology than about science is not a scientist, but an ideologue.

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