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ActivistCash Profiles Pseudo-Intellectual Jeremy Rifkin

Our newest profile of a radical activist group that wants to control your food and beverage choices is now available on the award-winning website. It exposes the Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET), a platform for anti-technology guru Jeremy Rifkin. Lacking scientific or technical background, Rifkin is a peddler of half-truths, suppositions, scare stories, and outright superstition. His real expertise is in organizing and inspiring uninformed activists, who take his science fiction as the gospel truth.

While most people think about food in terms of nutrition and taste, Rifkin proclaims that “eating is the ultimate political act” — and aims to impose his politics on the dinner plate. His primary targets are modern farming techniques, meat production and consumption, and all forms of genetic science. Rifkin warns that biotechnology threatens “a form of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust,” and has called beef a “new form of human evil.

Over the years, Rifkin’s shrill rhetoric and outlandishly wrong predictions have earned him more than his fair share of detractors. Rifkin has enjoyed outright veneration, despite being denounced again and again by respected scientists and journalists. Here are just two examples of these condemnations (more can be found in our ActivistCash profile):

The Los Angeles Times has editorialized:

Who is this Rifkin, and what are his credentials? He has a long history of opposing things, but as to credentials, he has none. Perhaps you remember Rifkin as the author of “Entropy,” which a Los Angeles Times reviewer described as “flagrant flimflam” and “logical garbage.” Or perhaps you remember him as the author of “Algeny,” described in our Book Review as “a shameless potpourri of misinformation and faulty logic.”

Somehow this man has emerged as the single most influential person in the country on genetic engineering. He has finally found an issue that he can ride. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s the wrong one. Knowledgeable scientists (Rifkin is neither) were right to worry about the potential harm of genetic engineering more than a decade ago. The government was right to insist that precautions be taken. Careful tests were done and redone. Rifkin’s scenario of disaster from an unleashed new organism is groundless.

In a 1985 Discover magazine book review, the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould described Rifkin’s Algeny as:

… a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship. Among books promoted as serious intellectual statements by important thinkers, I don’t think I have ever read a shoddier work …

Rifkin’s assertions bear no relationship to what I have observed and practiced for 25 years … Either I am blind or he is wrong — and I think I can show, by analyzing his slipshod scholarship and basic misunderstanding of science, that his world is an invention constructed to validate his own private hopes … Rifkin shows no understanding of the norms and procedures of science: he displays little comprehension of what science is and how scientists work.

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