I found an excellent article on the website Science Progress via RichardDawkins.net. It was written by Leah Ceccarelli and is about a class of sophistry that is 2,500 years old yet is being used to great effect by anti-science elements in recent decades.
The technique manufactures a controversy where none exists to create public confusion in order to pursue an agenda. Ceccarelli gives three examples in recent years. The first is from global warming deniers. Those who have reason to delay action on global warming exaggerate the minority scientific opinion way out of proportion in order to make it appear main stream. This generated a controversy where none existed and it effectively halted political action that would have been based on good science.
A second example of the use of this tactic is from Africa. Some political leaders did the exact same thing with AIDS deniers (those who denied a link between HIV and AIDS) to forestall spending on treatment.
The final example is the ‘teach the controversy’ campaign used by the Discovery Institute and other evolution deniers. There is no controversy in the scientific community but by marketing the minute opposing view, the public has been convinced that there is. Their goal, of is to undermine science so that religion can once again become our culture’s only truth source.
The rest of the article is Ceccarelli’s hypothesis as to why this brand of ancient sophistry has been so effective at undermining science. These are her first steps in trying to find a way to combat this irrationalism from a rhetoric point of view. Please, read the article. It’s fantastic information for those of us who love and want to protect science.