Monday, April 8, 2013

Education, Education, Education.

          Unfortunate and absurd reality. I feel that dedicating to my blog to this topic specifically is a waste of not only my time but the time of my readers. Instead, I would like to dedicate my blog to what I argue is the single, best way to combat sheer ignorance, education. First I will address this article in the best way that I know how to. People will always find a way, an excuse to combat what they find moral repulsive or not well understood. Homosexuality has bared the brunt of this. The article while ethically, morally, and scientifically revolting exercises its right to free speech, and if people choose to believe this non-sense I find it unlikely that they were reasonable or rationale in the first place.
          What we can do as a people to ensure that the population remains reasonable and rational is to educate them. I mean this in two distinct ways. The first is that we must educate our children to know what scientific evidence is and what is hatred and bigotry. Science has been the single best and worst argument against hundreds of thousands of people’s inferior condition. African Americans were thought to have skulls more similar to monkeys and to be inferior due to the color of their skins; all of this was “affirmed” through scientific knowledge. Really it was confirmed through the hatred of another human being. The second way is more specific to the article but being honest about homosexuality. The quote that strikes me is “homosexuality is illustrated in hundreds of species, but homophobia is only found in one.” People do not become homosexuals through a vaccination or being taken over by the devil, or whatever else society likes to say. These people are homosexual from birth and there is nothing a parent can do to avoid this “horrific” fate.
          Teaching our children to be ethical and moral creatures is so important, and in turn we teach them to be moral and ethical scientists. Who not only care about their peers but work to provide necessary research and understanding to real concerns, rather than societal constructed ones, in this case homosexuality. I will not say that we should not rally against those who produce this type of work for human consumption, but we should focus on who we can change, and that is the youth. Education, education, education, they are the future.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fox News for All

          Fox news has easily been the single most controversial news source of our time. Not only has its reliability been vigorously tested but so have their journalism ethics. Clearly, a catch phrase does not actually express the reality, meaning there is no accuracy to the statement. Fox News was developed to express a specific point of view to a single specific audience. Unfortunately, it has come at the expense of accurate information. While there is a great deal of criticism to be had for Fox News we cannot forget all the other types of media as well. Fox News may be the most guilty of dissemination of false information, but they are surely not alone.
          To argue that “fairness and balance” leads to a misinformed audience may be true, but I argue is not the case for Fox News. In order to make that argument you first have to argue that they are “fair and balanced” which seems to be not true these days. The information they provide is often in opposition of the “liberal media” and stands on the ground of America, the greatest country in the world.
          The media is both a blessing and a curse of the dissemination of information. They do have the opportunity to do what is honorable by both themselves and the information, but typically it is warped to fit their demographics. Unfortunately, most news sources, such as Fox News, are not “fair and balanced” but gimmicky and abusive of power. For instance the war in Iraq has portrayed the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as terrorists to American society. This allowed the government to pursue their own agenda with little to challenge from the public. This was the case of Fox News, and many other sources as well. I often wonder if media was not about the numbers how much truth would come about. Until the media is set to a standard that is not financial, but accurate and truthful, we will never know whole truth or “fair and balanced” media.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


          I do not believe that journalists should grant equal time to scientists who have beliefs or conceptions of scientific reality that do not match the majority. We have discussed repeatedly in class the importance of making sure that our readers are scientifically literate. Are we as science journalists doing our readers a disservice by presenting issues that are largely irrelevant? I would argue yes. We already are very aware of how little time people spend on science writing, and I think that it is important to use that time as efficiently as possible. Give the reader exactly what they need to know.
          This is not to say that it is not important to present other findings that may be conflictual with what science is saying. There are instances in which a portion of science has largely been overlooked and now new scientific evidence is refuting published work. It is important to not dismiss information because it does not coincide with what we believe, unless the majority has already proven it false. What may be important for science writers is to present the conflicts in that particular researcher rather than dismiss it as “hogwash.” Unfortunately, the challenge is when to present the other side.
          Balance in journalism, in my opinion, refers to using the data that we have to present what we know. If the data overwhelmingly supports one particular position with little to no objection I see very little need to present the other argument. Many readers cannot decipher which is the right argument if you put them both in equally. If the reader would like to find out more about the opposing opinion they are able to search through other publications. I will not lie about what the research shows by including irrelevant arguments, but I will also not deny that there is other research available if you look for it. In fact, I would not be against having an attachment or link to a website that gives the opposing opinion which would allow the reader the choice whether to look for further information.
          While balance in journalism is important, I believe honesty and integrity is superior. If we over embellish the other argument we run the risk of falsely influencing our readers and I find that to be dishonest. There are some issues that both arguments could be important, for example Hydraulic Fracturing. There are others that are just simply misleading, for example the lack of relationship between HIV and AIDS. If we are true to the science, the journalism should be simple.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Scientist

      My participation in this particular blog was quite bias as I have written previous blogs on who I define as a scientist. I just drew two different people, one “average” looking woman and one “average” looking man. I thoroughly believe that anyone and everyone is a scientist in their own way. The experiences in our everyday life are not only scientific in method but in action, examining action and reaction. Similarly to mine a friend drew a picture of a woman in the jungle. She has long hair and she is examining a monkey. There were no real defining traits besides being a woman. I think this is commentary about either about the changing perception of science or the similar type of thinking between my friends.
          I do not think that the stereotypes are to blame for disconnect between science and the public. Truthfully, I do not think most people think about the people who are performing the experiment, unless they are challenging their accountability, and then they seem to know every detail of the individual. However, stereotypes continue feelings of apprehension and pretension. Science writers struggle to simply get an audience as the general public is alienated and therefore less interested. There needs to be a reformation in the way that the public thinks about science, a revolution if you will.
          I generally have a hard time believing that people are as ignorant to say that they distrust science because of the disposition of another individual. I also believe that most people are intelligent enough to discount Jenny McCarthy’s arguments of vaccine related Autism. We live in a society of diverse thought and opinion and if Jenny McCarthy did exist I am sure there would be someone else to fill the role. What I mean is that I think overall people trust science, and in my opinion too trusting. If people did not trust science there would be a higher readership of science related articles and ideally more people becoming involved in the search for the truth. When homosexuality was part of the DSM there was an outrage by the society, which eventually led to its removal. People did not believe that being gay or a lesbian was a medical phenomenon and therefore challenged scientists to further examine what it means to be homosexual. A distrust of science keeps the entire field moving forward and continuously testing “facts,” and unfortunately I believe the citizens are largely apathetic.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Is all "truthiness" bad? Science using "truthiness" as a help rather than a hinderance.

            The extent that we rely on science to make decisions varies on the amount of both general and scientific knowledge we have about the scenario. I vividly remember my mother making the decision not to go forth with an autonomous stem cell transplant. She ultimately decided to forgo the treatment as she “felt” in her “gut” that she would not survive the harm done to her body. An autonomous stem cell transplant filters and cleans the blood, decreasing her ability to fight potential infection, and is incredibly damaging to the body. The procedure required my mother to go to Washington D.C. for three months with contact limited to doctors and my father. The truth was that they could not guarantee success in the procedure, and her risks were real. Physicians advised my mother that her decision to forgo this treatment would mean there are no other options, only hospice. My mother’s decision to forgo the procedure gave her one more year to spend with her children, and we will never know if what she “felt” in her “gut” was real.
            We know very little about the emotional experience of “feeling” something in your “gut” for all we know it could be one of the best ways to make decisions. Is the inclusion of the emotional experience make science “truthy”? I believe that “truthiness” is part of the human experience and cannot be denied from the information that we share to the public. To say that science can only convey the “truth” defies what we know about the human influence of science.  I argue that as hard as we try to tell only the truth it is nearly impossible, and that nearly all scientific information is “truthiness.” I am sure some scientists would resent the idea that they influence their work but as we discussed in class we try to find the information we think we know. When we write science it is important to be responsible and ethical about how much we influence what is written and shared with the public. It is equally important that we look at the way in which science is conducted, and evaluate it for potential confounding ideas and opinions.  
            “Truthiness” is necessary to appeal to different parts of the population. We saw in “Gasland” that appealing to the emotional side of people can change the way that individual, popular, and corporate decisions are made. It can allow others to do further research in to a topic by questioning the ideas and values that are presented. Unfortunately, this can also influence people to believe that vaccines are still causing Autism Spectrum Disorders. There is an extent to which I can argue that “truthiness” is acceptable, as our job as science writers is to present the best and most accurate information. I imagine that “truthiness” is on a spectrum one side telling the truth with emotional appeal the other telling blatant lies to gain emotional support. I believe that we have a role as science writers to challenge science’s “truthiness” but to appeal to public interest as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's NOT Lose Them

            To call vaccine-autism advocates scientifically illiterate or ignorant is entirely inaccurate. In fact, many vaccine-autism advocates are probably more aware of scientific research than many other populations. Unfortunately, I believe most vaccine-autism advocates have an emotional/rational conflict. When someone falls ill the first response is to have them diagnosed and hopefully “treated” or “cured.” Autism does not have the same progression. In fact, everything seems quite normal in the beginning but as your child fails to meet developmental milestones parents instantaneously want options on how to “fix” their child. Given that research has been unable to provide any other answers, these parents will hold on to any option that would prevent this from happening not only to their future children but other children as well.
            I personally believe a large part of this conflict can be contributed to psychology. As humans we tend to seek out information that we know to be the truth. Even though all research that has pointed to vaccines has been proven to be completely false, they will continue to build on what they think they know. Another part of the conflict is that no other options have been put forward as to why we are experiencing such a surge in Autism. Parents have a difficult time coping with the idea that their genetic information caused such a conflict in their child’s life. People do not want to be the cause of Autism, and when they feel responsible they also feel that they must find the solution.
            Jenny McCarthy represents an emotional relationship with someone who has the resources, access, and experience in dealing with Autism. Jenny McCarthy provides an answer that they feel science is simply not providing, even if she is not a reliable source. Research is a slow, methodical process which requires many years and definitely does not provide immediate answers. Today’s society wants the answer now and we simply do not have it. Rather than harp over what cannot be understood we should be working towards creating a more accepting and accessible society for all individuals who fall on the Autism spectrum. I would argue that Autism is almost as much of a social disease as it is a biomedical. Society should not treat those with Autism as though their life is over before it started because they simply have Autism. Many who do have Autism found ways to live full and happy lives, regardless of what society dictates as “successful.” I do not argue that we should not continue to look for the causes of Autism, but we should not treat people as though they are worth nothing because they do not function “normally.” Together the population can improve the lives of those with Autism not only through acceptance but through social action.
            As science writers we need to make sure that information that we do know is distributed as clearly and efficiently as possible, while acknowledging that circumstances are subject to change. We need to respect that people are not always going to agree with what you are distributing but you should remain as unbiased and professional as possible. In my opinion, the most important thing that we can do is try to gain the support of those vaccine-autism advocates. Alienation will not educate the population but providing accurate information and distributing it quickly will gain the trust of people from varying organizations, and hopefully those who still believe vaccines to be the cause of Autism will come to terms with the truth.