Melissa Leach - Autism & vaccination debate & parents
Parental Control, is it a bit of a myth? Beck calls for sub-politics and sometimes it is
interpreted as ordinary parents preventing their children for getting vaccinated. However,
Beck uses sub-politics as a response to a lack of control at a higher level (attempting to give
the lay public the ability to make judgments b/c of a lack of certainty). Leach misinterprets
Beck by stating that parental control is a form of sub-politics. With parental control the
parent believes that because they can control their child they can control risks (this is the
very think Beck says can never be done). Often parents give up some control at the smaller
level (defer to experts) because they know they cannot control the larger picture.
Leach Conclusion: P. 298
Chabris and Simons - the illusion of cause, and vaccinations
Reference case: Measles outbreak in Indiana – 500 attendees at the church, 33 members
also caught it and so did 1 hospital nurse.
Free Rider: parents often say they have the best interest of the child at heart…The free
rider program is described as the public benefiting even if they don’t participate in larger
group actions. At the same time the person benefits from a stable and well-protected
society. Parents that decided not to vaccinate their child are free riders because if everyone
is immune and to spreading diseases, chances are they are benefiting from the larger
groups decision to vaccinate.
Two forms of ethical arguments: the government shouldn’t tell me what to do (best interest
of child at heart) versus the unethical issues of being a free rider towards herd immunity.
It is because of the Illusion of Cause that parents choose not to vaccinate: our minds are
built to detect meaning in patterns, to infer casual relationships from coincidences, and to
believe that earlier events caused later ones.
1) Seeing patterns in randomness – their example is the lady who sees Jesus in a slice of
pizza. The illusion of cause arises when we see patterns in randomness. We often
interpret via expectations (known series of expected events). They often say we have
extraordinary pattern detection abilities – see patterns that are there & patterns that are
not b/c it is firing too well.
a. Kleinman’s view: criticizes experts for this b/c they miss some things (partial), he calls
for the normative view (political) that suggests we get public involved to make up for
this partiality. Collins & Evans and Chabris and Simmons say that we should expect an
expert to miss things – nature of the beast – misperceptions are part of ones ability to
2) Beware of belief becoming because – their example is the relationship between ice
cream and drowning. When two events happen together we belief one must have caused
a. How to test if an associations is causal: When you hear about association b/w two
factors, think about if people could be randomly assigned to conditions for one of
them – example: bullying harms kids. – cant be done ethically.
3) And then what happened? – The example used is the bear patrol in the Simpsons; as
well as the tiger rock that Lisa uses to mock Homer. In mere sequences of events we
assume that the earlier events must have caused the later ones
Conclusion: 1) Parents who saw no symptoms before the vaccinations noticed them afterwards
(confusing chronology with cause). Increased vaccination rates coincided with
increases in the diagnosis of autism (confusing correlations with cause; neglecting
2) Personal anecdotes often hold more weight than statistical, abstract data. J McCarty
stories travel further than statistics (people remember and recall these stories).
Collins – Wave 3– How Collins differs in opinion from Wynee/Kleinman
Wave 2: was to stress that technology policy must be more democratic, but how much
more democratic should it become? Known as the problem of extension. The difficulties
arose in setting limits – some scientists believed in the folk wisdom view: suggests that
ordinary people have more technological understanding than specialists. Wave 3 believed
this could lead to the dissolution of the very idea of expert. Wave 3 looked for a way to
regenerate some elevated points in the leveled-out cultural plain of Wave 2. Wave 3: give
extra weight to those who know what they are talking about – create foothills of expertise
without elite rule.
The MMR & Autism case:
Wynee (Kleinman) – frames the issue from the parents view: a research program to
determine if their particular child is more at risk than others.
Collins – framing is important, but does alternate framing mean better policy? Firstly, is a
medical program tailored to individuals feasible or fantasy? Secondly, the ethics of avoiding
individual harm can become unethical free riding
Beck: to manage risk you need sub-politics (give up the idea of full control)
Douglas: B/c people feel unconnected with each other they don’t realize they are free
The third wave recognizes that the framing of a problem is a vital part of the argument about
who is to be counted as an expert but does not consider that the simple proposal of an
alternative frame results in better policy. Climate Change (1)
Exam question: how have human views about our own power over the Earth changed?
Original picture: uniformitarianism: no sudden changes. Negative feedback mechanisms
provide climate stability.
First Guy Callendar claimed anthropogenic Climate Change was happening because C02
was creating an increase in temperature. Critics: nature is too big, and we are too puny.
WW2: WMDs arrive with Manthattan Project – World Wars topographically changed
the world – humans not so puny anymore
Keeling curve – graph used to calculate concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth
atmosphere – raises alarm. What was different between Callander and Keeling?
o Our power to ‘do things’ to the Earth’s surface had changed (nukes, chemicals)
o Concept that technology creates pollutions – goes against technological progressivism
o Space exploration / global interconnectedness
o Resource use/ eco-footprints
New picture: climate less stable than assumes; climate changes states very fast – positive
feedback; experts view changes from uniformitarianism to catastrophism – tipping points
Path dependency – QWERTY – some decisions will have profound effect on future effects
and decisions (we are literally building paths). Climate change relation: we built our world
on cheap fossil fuels, along with a fossil fuel based transportation industry.
Prins and Rayner (2)
We face a problem of anthropogenic climate change but the Kyoto protocol has failed to
tackle it – there is plenty of political will, but it is driving a defective political process. Kyoto
was constructed by borrowing from CFCs, SO2’s and nukes – this was not applicable in
ways that drafters assumed because these were “tame” problems (complicated, but with
defined and achievable end-states), whereas climate change is wicked (comprising open,
complex and imperfectly understood systems). The Kyoto treaty and its narrow focus on
mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases has created a taboo on discussing other
approaches, in particular, adaptation to climate change. Furthermore the Kyoto protocol is
a silver bullet approach (a one shot deal). However, no single intervention can change such
a complex nexus – there is no simple silver bullet. Prins and Rayner believe what makes a
problem wicked is the impossibility of giving it a definitive formulation: the information
needed to understand the problem is dependent upon ones idea for solving it (so every
wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem. The anthropologist
Mary Douglas refers to these differences as ones “thought community” (these cognitive ties
help to explain why institutional responses to failure are notorious for demanding more of
what is not working. This cyclical habit, known as throwing good money at bad, is an
attempt to save face.
Ultimately a values issue.
This is why climate-talk gets some people’s backs up – mixing of technical detail
with values, assumptions What Prins and Reynar suggest should be done:
(1) Focus mitigation efforts on the big emitters; (2) Allow genuine emissions markets to
evolve from the bottom up; (3) Put public investment in energy R&D on a wartime footing;
(4) Increase spending on adaptation; (5) Work the problem at he appropriate scales; (6)
The silver buckshot approach
CC Lecture (3)
Just testing geo-engineering is controversial – b/c of the same reasons for resisting
adaptation (take off pressure to pollute)
Unintended consequences: poor usually pay price; but is this why testing should not be
Aren’t there always going to be dangers with anything? Risk vs uncertainty
o Not testing geo-engineering ignores the reality that mitigation alone is unable to
solve our dilemmas, furthermore, in doing so we are framing our actions around
uncertainties rather than facts
Douglas CC (4)
Ultimately, one’s views on how serious a problem CC is, and what should be done about it...
Is dictated by one’s views about ‘Nature’ (climate being a part of nature) and society’s
relationship to it
This is why CC is a ‘wicked problem’. What are we trying to prevent? What are our
Anthropologist Mary Douglas:
4 ‘ideal type’ thought communities. Where one sits in a community tends to shape what
one thinks about nature.
I believe the hierarchism view that we are modeling to prevent disaster – resilient with
care – outcomes can be managed and sustained.
o Douglas says you must have an honest dialogue between all 4 groups
Since people argue from different premises, they’ll never agree on a single course of
Why is that a bad thing? Why not take diverse approaches to the problem – ‘silver
buckshot’, where we experiment with approaches that work and eliminate ones that
don’t? (Kyoto is a one shot deal)
Stabilization triangle – for decarbonizing.
‘Mitigation’: break up the problem into chunks, deal with each chunk separately, as
o 8 wedges are needed to build the triangle; 1 wedge avoids 1 billion tons of carbon
emissions per year by year 2055.
o 15 wedge strategies in 4 categories: energy efficiency, from coal to natural gas, triple
nuclear power, use low/no-till agriculture
o Adopting any 8 of these strategies could hold emissions at today’s rate by 2055 Nuclear Power L (1) – Wolfson vs. Johnson Reading
Richard Wolfson Part:
A) Understand Wolfson’s reading regarding atoms, nuclei, radioactivity, & electric generators
B) Understand energy quality –thermal power plants – why is higher temp = higher quality?
Electrical Generators & Energy Quality: The principle of the electric generator is a
simple one – stating that electric current arises when an electrical conductor and a nearby
magnet move relative to each other. However, to make energy you have to spin the coil –
you cannot get something from nothing (mechanical energy must be converted into
electrical). Thermal power plants heat water into steam to turn the turbine and generate
electricity – typically dumps about two-thirds of energy into the environment as waste heat.
To understand why, we need to consider energy’s quality. The notion of energy quality is
the subject to the second law of thermodynamics: left to themselves, things get more
chaotic, not more organized. Higher temperatures represent higher energy quality, in that
you can go readily form hotter to cooler but you cannot efficiently go the other way. The
second law doesn’t say you cant go from lower quality to higher quality, it just says you
cant do it with 100 percent efficiency. This energy could be recovered (cogeneration) and
used for low-temperature steam or hot water applications.
Barbara Johnson Part: safety and strength regarding convictions of what we might know.
Non-ionizing: does not carry enough to completely remove an electron; ionizing: has
sufficient energy to interact with matter, and can eject an electron from an atom.
Linear-no-threshold hypothesis: there is no safe dose, harm increases with the dose
amount (doctors, etc.)
Hormesis hypothesis: merchants of doubt approach used by nuclear industry. Low doses
of radiation reduce the cancer incidence before elevating; these are still considerable
uncertainties about dose effects. [Principle strategy is doubt mongering: insisting that the
science was unsettled, that we don’t really know for sure if it is dangerous, there are a l