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Science and Technology Politics
This paper explores the views that the sources used lean towards. They either lean towards...
raises the question as to what could drive a parent to deny their child a vaccine that would protect
them from such a seri...
trained to notice patterns and the belief that they know what is happening as opposed to the
ordinary persons, is more pro...
Illusion of cause has led many parents into concluding that vaccination causes harm to their
children and thus are against...
notorious ones, impossible. Wave 1 of science studies grew strong after WWII, and it was a time
during which scientists we...
The first secondary source is Blume’s ‘anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations.’
Parents in the developed cou...
which was a major consideration for the participants. The participants’ desire to protect own
children and contribute to h...
References
1. Blume, S. (21 July, 2005). “Anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations.”
SOCIAL SCIENCE & MEDICINE...
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Science and Technology Politics Essay

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Science and Technology Politics Essay

  1. 1. Science and Technology Politics This paper explores the views that the sources used lean towards. They either lean towards the Collins and Evans view or the Kleiman’s view. It will be noticed that the article ‘Jumping to conclusions’ by Chubris and Simons leans towards Collins and Evans view while article on third wave of science studies by Collins falls under Kleinman’s view. The secondary sources in this paper have Kleiman’s influence. The first primary source is Chubris and Simons’ “Jumping to conclusions.” Measles is an infectious disease characterized by diarrhea, severe dehydration, blindness, encephalitis and pneumonia. It can be spread by the particles from the sneeze of an infected person or touching unhygienic exterior. In the US, it is mandatory to have children immunized against measles prior to joining public school. The vaccine administered during immunization is called MMR (Measles Mumps and Rubella). The most probable way of a measles outbreak occurring in the United States is when an unvaccinated person visits a country where the virus is spreading, gets infected, returns home with the disease and starts getting the symptoms (Chabris & Simons). Despite MMR vaccination being mandatory in the US, a six-year-old girl contracted measles in May 2005. Her infection was traced back to a seventeen-year old with whom she had contact at a church gathering two weeks earlier. 32 two more individuals were infected with this disease later on, their infection having originated from the seventeen year old who got infected with the virus during a mission in Romania. The six-year-old girl had not been vaccinated and neither had the seventeen year old (Chabris & Simons). Further investigation revealed that of the 500 people that had gathered during that church event, 50 of them had not been inoculated with MMR. This
  2. 2. raises the question as to what could drive a parent to deny their child a vaccine that would protect them from such a serious disease. The vaccination rate in United States is 95%, yet 10% of the congregation was unvaccinated (Chabris & Simons). Had this outbreak occurred in countries where measles vaccination is less common, it most probably would have been harder to contain. In many states of the US, parents can file a personal belief exception that allows their children to forgo vaccination due to religious or other reasons. Most of these families were still unwilling to get vaccinated even after this measles outbreak had been reported and the authorities trying to contain it. The refusal of parent to vaccinate their kids is in line with Collins and Evans view that the layperson may have knowledge in some technical areas since they always give credible reasons for not doing so. The willingness of parents to expose their children to the danger of measles by not having them inoculated with MMR is attributed to the illusion of cause. This illusion of cause consists of three distinct but interrelated biases that include the human minds being meant to notice patterns in randomness, inferring causal relationships from coincidence and the belief that earlier events cause later ones. Perception of patterns is a very useful skill that is used many professions and is based entirely on the ability of the human mind to decipher an enormous diversity of important patterns. In the medical profession for example, doctors utilize patterns to diagnose the ailment of a patient, recommend a treatment and in prediction of the outcome of the treatment prescribed. Psychologists use behavior patterns to know whether their clients have mental disorders or otherwise. The ability to notice patterns allows humans to come up with conclusions in seconds that would have taken hours to calculate logically. It is easier to notice patterns when one thinks that he/she understands what is causing them. This ironically means that an expert, with an eye
  3. 3. trained to notice patterns and the belief that they know what is happening as opposed to the ordinary persons, is more prone to fall for illusion of cause compared to the layperson. It becomes an illusion of cause when people start noticing patterns in randomness. An example maybe that one of Diana Duyser who saw the face of the Virgin Mary etched on the surface of toasted bread (Chabris & Simons). The sight of patterns that resemble faces induce activity in a part of the brain called fusiform gyrus resulting in one convincing oneself that it actually is a face. Inferring causal relationship from mere coincidences is another form of illusion of cause. It is used a lot in conspiracy theories and the more a person believes that theory, the more he or she is likely to fall for the illusion of cause. Most of the persons that come up with conspiracy theories are themselves experts, which show that ordinary persons are likely to be more objective. An experiment maybe carried out to find out whether there is a causal relationship between two factors or events. Still, a relationship between events occurrence does not necessarily mean that they have a causal association. An example is the question whether persons at work are able to focus better if they work while listening to music or not (Chabris & Simons). The problem with this experiment is that other external factors that are unaccounted for may be playing a role in determining an individual’s level of concentration. David Foster Wallace’s’ suicide best demonstrates the illusion of cause using prior events as the cause for later ones. David was the author of Infinite Jest a book that received admiration from the New York Times but got miscellaneous reviews. He had a history of substance abuse, depression and attempted suicide. He wanted to come up with more stories but felt that he had failed at it, causing his death. The reader is led into concluding that the culmination of these events drove him into committing suicide without the writer expressing it (Chabris & Simons).
  4. 4. Illusion of cause has led many parents into concluding that vaccination causes harm to their children and thus are against it. MMR vaccine has been associated with autism, though no medical evidence has been forwarded to support it. Still, 29 percent of parents surveyed nationally stated that they believe that vaccines given to children are partly responsible for causing autism (Chabris & Simons). The fact that the parents may be deceived by illusion of cause is not enough to discredit their concerns. Medical experts are mostly of the opinion that vaccines are harmless but they too are prone to illusion of cause since they also apply the perception of patterns most of the time in their profession. This is to say that the medical experts cannot always be right, according to Collins and Evans in their article titled ‘Why Expertise?’ also in the latter part of last century there was significant growth in public distrust of science and expertise. Collins and Evans describe expertise as a social process that is gained through interaction with members of the affected group. Hence, the parents against having their children vaccinated may have gained expertise on the possible adverse effects of vaccines. This therefore requires the inclusion of the public (parents) in reframing of vaccination policies so that their concerns are taken in consideration. This would result in achievement of the herd immunity desired by the government. This is however challenged by the problem of extension, that is, difficulty in determining when, how and where to place contributory boundaries so that the line between the information of the experts and of the layperson does not vanish. The second primary source is a paper was first published in 2002 that resulted in becoming a great obstruction, attracting opposing comments as well. This paper entailed how one should approach questions dealing with science policy. It is a puzzle because social analysis of science has highlighted that reaching an agreement in some fields of science is hard and is some
  5. 5. notorious ones, impossible. Wave 1 of science studies grew strong after WWII, and it was a time during which scientists were rarely questioned and trusted to come up with timely and confident answers that were used in formulation of technology policy. Scientists and experts were regarded as mountains of truth during this period (Collins, n.d). the first wave therefore had Kleinman’s view that the expert is always right. Then the second wave followed when democracy was introduced in the field of science and technology. wave 2 ushered a period when scientific truths could only be acknowledged only after a long review, and this was not convenient as it took longer time compared to the time required to formulate policies. This came as a resulted of leveling out the pedestals upon which experts regarded and inclusion of the voice of ordinary persons in scientific discussions. The second wave had the sentiments of Collins and Evans that regarded the layman as knowledgeable as well. Wave 3 came and tried to speed up the process of policymaking that had been greatly slowed by Wave 2. It further included setting limits of democracy rights in regards to science and technology (Collins, n.d). Wave 3 subtly advocates for the restoration of expertise, which has been under threat in wave two, whilst avoiding reversion to wave 1. This article is more inclined towards Kleinman’s view in that expert opinions are differentiated from the sentiments of the layman. The words of the expert are treated as facts rendering them more reliable compared to the layman’s values. The folk wisdom experienced in wave 2 after the laymen were allowed to have a say in technological policy formulation are echoed in Kleinman’s Woburn case where the foul testing water was associated with leukemia by the locals while the authorities, were differing with them only to agree later on that the water contributed to the numerous cases of leukemia in that locality (3).
  6. 6. The first secondary source is Blume’s ‘anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations.’ Parents in the developed countries have in the last two to three decades steadily declined to have their children vaccinated. This trend has been attributed to the activities of anti-vaccination ‘movements.’ A question arises as to whether it makes sense to attribute the declining rates of vaccination to anti-vaccination movements in light of the studies of (new) social movements carried out in the last three decades. Data drawn from the UK and Netherlands has been reviewed to give insight into the claims, actions and discourse of anti-vaccination movement and into the mindset of parents with regards to vaccination as well. It is unclear whether it makes theoretical sense to view anti-vaccination groups as (new) social movements distinguishing them from pressure groups and self-help groups (Blume, 2005). Viewing them as organized opponents of vaccination may appear appealing to public health authorities since it is bound to make health professionals get viewed positively as the voice of reason. This in line with Kleinman’s view that the expert is right, the experts being the health professionals. The drawback in considering them as social movements would be that this would divert attention from the issue at hand, that is, the potentially disruptive critique of vaccination practices that many parents identify with. Identifying anti-vaccination groups with other social movements in light of the ongoing theoretical discussion of ‘scientific citizenship’ may have unintended effects (Blume, 2005). The second secondary source is an analysis of online chat forum by Skea and company. The intention of vaccination against infectious diseases is to benefit individuals by preventing them from getting the disease and to eliminate the disease from the population as a whole. The MMR vaccine is widely commended to protect young children from getting measles, mumps, and rubella. There is however, a great controversy over its safety in the UK. A study of a UK online forum discussing MMR revealed that most of the participants were females having young children and lived in the UK. The leading topic of discussion was ‘avoiding harm to others’
  7. 7. which was a major consideration for the participants. The participants’ desire to protect own children and contribute to herd immunity was also expressed. The distinction between healthy and vulnerable children was articulated by these parents and influenced their views about who should bear the burden of vaccination. Those against vaccination were criticized and requested to do so on grounds of social responsibility (Skea et al, n.d). These findings were suggestive that a social scientist having an interest in vaccination should expound on herd immunity as a public good and on views about obligation to others in the society. The arguments put forward by the findings of this analysis seem to agree with the experts’ view on vaccination and immunity, making it more inclined towards Kleinman’s view. More emphasis should be put on vaccination promotions by policy makers while paying attention to the ways in which parents distinguish between healthy and vulnerable children. The discussion above has shown the views into which each source falls. On top of that, it is observed that the science and technology of vaccination is given priority in describing the connection between science and politics. This may be due to the fact that immunization affects not only the experts or a group of the population, but everyone. Hence, it is bound to raise concerns from both the experts and ordinary persons as well.
  8. 8. References 1. Blume, S. (21 July, 2005). “Anti-vaccination movements and their interpretations.” SOCIAL SCIENCE & MEDICINE 62 (2006) 628–642. 2. Chabris, C. & Simons, D. (n.d). “Jumping to Conclusions.” 3. Collins, H. (n.d). “The Third Wave of Science Studies: Developments and Politics.” 4. Collins, H. & Evans, R. (n.d). “Why Expertise?” 5. Kleinmann, D. L. (n.d). “Why is thinking about Science and Technology so hard?” 6. Skea, Zoe C., Entwistle, V. A., Watt, I. & Russell, E. (n.d). “‘Avoiding harm to others’ considerations in relation to parental measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination discussions—An analysis of an online chat forum.”

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