November 2010 Archives

keep your eye out...

This was reported by November 29th (yesterday).

Just wanted to share...

BP Sued in Ecuadorian Court For Violating Rights of Nature
A coalition of environmentalists have filed a groundbreaking lawsuit in Ecuador against the oil giant BP for violating Ecuador's constitution which recognizes "the rights of Nature" across the globe. Plaintiffs include Nnimmo Bassey, the president of Friends of the Earth International and the Indian scientist Vandana Shiva.

Vandana Shiva: "This morning we filed in the constitutional court of Ecuador this lawsuit defending the rights of nature in particular the right of the Gulf of Mexico and the sea which has been violated by the BP oil spill. We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador--it's about universal jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of Ecuador because nature has rights everywhere."

Extra Credit Film Review: Troubled Waters

I hadn't heard of the film Troubled Waters until I saw Michelle's post in the Extra Credit section, and decided to watch it. I am now really glad that I did watch it because it brings up a multitude of issues, some that came to mind because of working with the environmental justice group for presentations, and some that are important because they are happening at this university.

Some of the main points that I found really interesting that related back to the readings and research I did for the environmental justice presentation had to do specifically with farming practices and their overall effects on a larger scale. To start, the EJ group's readings mostly dealt with issues of contamination of local communities. However, the film begins by demonstrating the loss of income for fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico caused by "dead zones". This demonstrates that a group of people's income can be a cause relating to environmental justice; it is an injustice that someone who makes their living on a particular environment is financially harmed when that environment changes through no fault of their own.

Also, the film connected the "dead zone" problem with farming practices here in Minnesota that have many risky effects. The runoff from farms filled with nitrogen and phosphorus are wreaking havoc on soil and water quality, to the point that in some places new wells have been drilled because water is unsafe to drink. Also, farming practices that aren't sustainable can cause erosion of soil, which in turn can destroy lakes (example in the film is Lake Pepin). These effects of environmental degradation by irresponsible farming practices (connected to big agribusiness/corporate farming) impact our landscape, our health and our future. The film did a great job of explaining the negative aspects of current popular farming techniques and how they affect our environment. It also did a great job of showing some innovative farming technologies that work against the damage to the environment and improve the efficacy of farming practices.

However, the controversy surrounding the film demonstrates as much about the problems with current farming practices as the film itself. After spending some time reading news reports and opinion blogs (Bob Collins' News Cut) on and the Twin Cities Daily Planet I am convinced that the reasons initially proffered as substantiation for pulling the film are totally bogus. Originally, it was stated that the reasons were tied to uncertainty of the factual reliability of the film. However, in recent weeks, more and more information has come out about what was going on behind the scenes at the U of M. It seems that there are possible links to agribusiness that have created an unseemly conflict of interest between the U of M supporting the film and its relationship to agribusiness via grants and funding money. Here, it is clear to see an argument similar to that in Bill McKibben's "The Attack on Climate-Change Science." It is very possible that in the large quantity of research and fact evidenced in the film, the U of M was trying to blame a fictitious "needle-in-a-haystack" mistake that could contradict the film's content. By trying to find a small gap in the process that a film must go through to be considered verifiably factual (and this wasn't proven anyway), the U of M tried to subvert the conclusions of the film by discrediting it. However, I think it had the opposite effect of making the film seem so legitimate that its conclusions had a lot at stake. Finally the film was once again scheduled to premier and U of M President Bruininks stated its airing in support of academic freedom.

It is still upsetting to think that, especially after learning more about the construction of ignorance in "Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance," we could have been seeing an ignorance surrounding a monumental issue facing us in our own community. Minnesota has a vested interest in sustainable farming practices because farming is a livelihood of so many residents of our state. The maintenance of soil quality, the preservation of remaining wetlands, and the continued health of our lakes should be a major priority of Minnesotans. Also, Minnesota understands and experiences the importance of the Mississippi, as it affects all of our lives. A glimpse into the history of this river clearly shows the negative effects of ignoring contamination and pollution in our own community and those downstream of Minnesota. Creating and reinforcing ignorance in respect to the consequences of current mainstream farming practices is dangerous because we are already encountering these consequences and they will only continue until they are changed. Instead of this being a battle over facts and credibility, it should be an entrance into utilizing shared knowledge and working together to improve farming practices.

Erin Brockovich!

Erin brockovich is the story of a provocatively dressed, under-paid white woman who assists a law firm in the quest to bring down a giant manufacturer who has been lying to the residents living on land they pollute. In the end of the movie, it is determined that the company(PG and E) is wrong in its polluting of the ground and is forced to pay 333 million dollars in order to attempt restitution to the families who were damaged by the unethical polluting of the ground water.

The obvious reason this movie relates to our class is the environmental justice aspect. PG and E lies to the residents on the land by telling them the chemical they are dumping is a benign form of hexachromium when in fact they are dumping an incredibly malignant form. PG and E does not just hide the detrimental effects of the chemical they are exposing their residents to, they are blatantly lying. This is environmental injustice at its core. PG and E preys on the less fortunate by trying to buy their houses for much less than they are worth, not to mention the workshops they hold to lie to the residents.

The idea of untrustworthy/useless science fits into this theme. Because PG and E lied to the residents so blatantly and corruptively, it can be reasonably assumed that the trust these people have in science in shattered. It is very important that science stays trustworthy by fully informing those that are involved with the process. The idea we talked about in class regarding community-based research would have been key in this example. If the people in the community were allowed to get involved this situation never would have come to fruition. As Erin shows, all of the documents were available to the public if they went to the public water and health records building. However, PG and E was counting on the fact that no one in the community would have the time or energy to dig through the boxes and stacks of papers in order to find the information needed to show PG and E's knowledge of the dangerous chemicals that are being dumped into the water table. This is an assumed practice in the world of corporations. They are so involved in profit, that they are willing to do anything to keep their bottom line, even lying to people to make sure they don't get into any trouble.

There are many less obvious ways this movie relates to our class. One is the way Erin dresses. She dresses definitely on the provocative side. In one part of the movie, Ed (the boss of the law firm) comes up to Erin and asks her where the other girls in the office are. Erin responds that they are out to lunch and when asked why she is not out with them, she mentions that they do not like the way she dresses. The girls in the office exclude her because she refuses to conform to the social norm and because she chooses to be true to herself. The idea that all people need to fit a social norm fits well with the ideas we talk about in class. There are many of different people in this world and they all need to be accepted for who they are, regardless of what they dress like or how much money they have.

Another way that this movie relates to our class is when Erin is on trial at the very beginning of the movie. She gets hit by a doctor in an expensive car and while she is on the stand the defense attorney accuses her of setting up the whole situation. He accuses her of planning the accident in order to get money from the doctor to help pay her bills. They never question as to how this accident will affect her taking care of her children, or how it could affect her ability to find work. They jump to the conclusion that because she is less fortunate and not as wealthy as themselves that she is a bad person and that she doesn't deserve the same respect as anyone else. This goes with one of the themes in our class that all people deserve the same amount of respect. It is important to treat everyone with the same level of respect otherwise it is easier to discriminate.

Why is it that when things like this are in a movie it is easy for us to pick out the injustices and the social inequalities, but when they are happening in real time it isn't as easy?

Community Participation

The article I read HERE talks about how important it is that community members participate in medical research. It especially wants to promote the participation of African Americans and Latinos as these populations are underrepresented in medical studies. The under-representation of these groups "hampers our abilities to develop new ways to understand and treat diseases in these groups." They believe the way to increase these groups' participation is through more information and better access. They're developing a website, information line, and a public awareness campaign to spread information. Barriers need to be broken down in medical research and people of all backgrounds need to be represented. By providing people with more information, they will dispel common misconceptions and fears people have about participating in research. Although the medical field has trouble recruiting people of all populations but it is even more difficult getting people from minority groups to participate. And it is these populations which have more prevalent cases of cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. Do you think that minority groups have more cases of these diseases because they have been somewhat ignored in medical research? Why do you think minorities are less likely to participate in medical studies?

The Pregnant Man is a Hoax.

Hey guys, I'm posting this in response to the video that the Reproductive Technologies Group showed us about the pregnant man, Mr. Lee Mingwei. I was interested in his story and decided to check out more information about him. When I went to the website of RYT Dwayne Medical Center and started reading the stories on the website, I started getting really suspicious about the credibility of this institution. I further searched about Mr. Lee Mingwei and found that the entire story of his pregancy was made up. This article explains the entire story.

Also, when you search the RYT Dwayne Medical Center on Google, a note under the link reads: [Contains fictitious material.] The actual Center does not exist and does not perform the procedures that they say they do.

Just thought that I would let everyone know!

The Idea of Cosmetics- good, or bad, or in between?

The idea of cosmetics is a big one. Many movie stars and music artists all use makeup to make themselves look more beautiful, for example Julia Roberts or Rihanna.
I for one still use my makeup everyday even though there may side effects from certain brands. Many women still use these cosmetics because even though they know of the side effects they still are bought into the idea of using makeup and other cosmetic products to look quote on quote "good" or "appealing" for the public and /or themselves. Lots of women and even some men use these products all over the world. I think cosmetics are a good business, the people using these products have a choice of which one's they want to use and i think that if we do some research on what chemicals are used within these products then women and men will learn how to use better brands that aren't as destructive. For instance, I started using makeup in 8th grade, but then I stopped because I was scared of what kinds of chemicals I was putting on my face /body, but then started up again in 10th grade because I did some of my own research and discovered that even though most brands of makeup possibly hold the same side effects, some may be better for your skin and /or body. So, I think using cosmetics is a great thing if it makes you feel better about yourself, but all we have to do to keep ourselves safe is research certain brands and see if what we're using is the best product that's out there.
So my question to you all is, think about what kinds of brands of makeup or other cosmetic products you are using and question yourself on if what you are using is the best thing for you and your skin/body. Also, think about the question of do we as a society need to buy into the idea of beauty? And if you want to, how will you try to avoid being talked into by these cosmetic businesses of what it means to be beautiful?

In Cosmetics We Trust?

Re: Deadly Cosmetics by patt0037 November 21, 2010

I think the cosmetic industry is an excellent example of untrustworthiness in the science field. The reason for this is because cosmetics are deeply rooted in culture, and are seen as less along the lines of science and more along the lines of material culture. As a result, women consider their beauty products to be accessories, modes of self-expression, or natural ways of maintaining feminine perfection. The problem with the cosmetic industry is not that it is not trusted, the problem is that it is. Buzz words like organic, mineral, deep cleansing, "good for your skin" cause women to inherently trust their arsenal of cosmetics, when in reality, as detailed by the blog post and article, they can be quite harmful, even lethal. Although we have come a long way from using lead powder on our faces, we have endorsed the use of skin whiteners, and other products that are quite bad for health in the long term. The problem is that women don't know what's in their products, and have no real way to find out as a result of cosmetic companies not having to submit their products to the FDA for analysis and approval. After seeing the presentation on the cosmetic industry, my trust of these companies has gone down considerably. We need to have a mechanism of knowing what is in our products so we can trust that what we are using is safe. If there was a community of scientists and lay persons working on regulating the cosmetic industry, I think we could come a long way.

Vaccines Reveal Our Distrust


Vaccines in general and the HPV vaccine specifically are a good entry point into thinking about the general public's trust in science and medicine. Our class discussed the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, at length and a lot of issues were brought up. In the blog post "Women as a Vessel for Prevention" posted by Wagne423 on November 8th, some important issues surrounding the vaccine are highlighted, such as who is targeted as the recipient of the vaccine, who is ignored, and who is forced to be vaccinated. These questions should make us think about who is asking them and what they have to gain. There has been a lot of backlash against vaccines in our class because of the fraction of negative reactions, but less focus has been on the fact that this could veritably wipe out a majority of all cervical cancer, yet women are not mandated to get the vaccine when it could do the most good. Currently, we hear from the media about one case of a terrible side effect, we also hear about the opposition to the proposed mandate because of concerns over women's sexual morality, and then we hear from doctors about the benefits of this vaccine and its safety. Instead of trying to sift through this sea of information trying to find truth, it would vastly improve the publics' trust in science and medicine if there was more community involvement, if scrutiny from lay people was accepted along with medical professionals, and the scare tactics of the media were removed and a more nuanced understanding of benefits could be accessed.

1 step @ a time, yo

To be honest, I think that the United States is too far away from ever adapting democratic scientific processes like those we talked about in class, but in saying this I feel that I need to make the distinction between the United States as a whole and individual communities. As a whole, the U.S. will probably never demonstrate such a radical and truly democratic scientific process like we saw in Denmark, but at the community level it is much easier to obtain the financial resources and the political attitudes that are necessary for realizing such a drastically different (non-hierarchical) model of scientific practice like that seen in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.

To bring this idea of big vs. small change into the realm of animal ethics (my group project), I would say that it's far less likely that we'll ever see ethical scientific practice reform on a grand scale such as within the research networks of large pharmaceutical companies for whom ''ethical practices'' are probably far from the top of the list of princial concerns. On the other hand, however, we will sometimes see individual labs going to great lengths to ensure that their practices fall in line with their ethical convictions (Kewalo Marine Laboratory, University of Hawaii, as mentioned in Donna Haraway's ''Sharing Suffering'').

What all of this means is that these types of change in scientific practice can not happen at the institutional level, at least not overnight. They are simply not structured in a way that accomodates the asking of these types of questions, as they are usually for-profit. Change must first occur at the community level and slowly work its way up the ladder.

The commodification of humans

This blog entry is in reference to my earlier blog post on genetic engineering for week 9 titled "Brave New World". The earlier entry was about the movie Gattaca in which in a post modern world, all humans have been genetically engineered or should I say genetically enhanced and those who have not been genetically enhanced will be cast aside and marginalized because of their 'inadequacies'. I think this week's readings about trustworthiness in scientific research, building democratic science, and community participation in scientific research are certainly very relevant issues and concerns in this fictitious but plausible in the foreseeable future scenario. Already stem cell engineering has been at the forefront of scientific research for years and who knows just how far we have gone behind closed doors of the government and military? I for one do not have much trust in the government and military if a scientific breakthrough were to happen at the expense of marginalizing the worth of the human species. We have already genetically engineered just about everything that can be commoditized and turned into a profit be it cows, salmon, seeds, corn or chickens. What is left is the purity of the human race. However there is clearly no stopping in this field as there is huge money to be made, and many exploitations and advancements to be seen and we will all certainly be participants in futuristic society. Just how do we promote trust that these technologies will be used for the good of mankind and be kept in safe hands?

Trusting our Hand-sanitizers

| 1 Comment

The post by rieh0027 discussing the ethics of hand-sanitizers and their testing on November 11, 2010 will be referenced.

When we were discussing un/trustworthy scientific research on Monday, I recalled the discussion of the group on Biofears about hand-sanitizers and also recalled a blog post for that week about how the hand-sanitizers are tested. In rieh0027's post, they stated that "the manufacturers test these products on inanimate surfaces and this is how they come to the conclusion that 99.9% of germs are killed by their product." An associate professor at Purdue University, Barbara Almanza, (this taken from the link in the original blog post) has seen that "the research shows that hand sanitizers do not significantly reduce the number of bacteria on the hand and in some cases may potentially increase the amount of bacteria on the hand." The human hand has much more complexity than inanimate surfaces, so it would be obvious that results from tests on a human hand would be different from inanimate surfaces.
This is a prime example of the untrustworthiness of scientific research. Companies and manufacturers need to start testing on humans instead of bars of metal or a table top, if not for ensuring the 99.9% that they claim, then at least to give the correct results to the public and earn their trust (or possibly losing the trust since they're effectively lying with saying that their products are nearly perfect when they are not). In this case, scientific research has been altered so that it would benefit the companies selling the hand-sanitizers instead of benefiting the consumers who will and do use these products.

Not trusting animal research

Original Entry: Cure or Crime
By patt0337 on November 7, 2010

I think that Animal Research debates in general really show the untrustworthiness of scientific research. As patt0337 blogged that many new discoveries for vaccines and such have come about from testing on animals and have saved thousands of lives. There have also been cures and vaccines found for feline leukemia and canine distemper through testing on animals also, so it must be beneficial for humans and all other animals to test on animals. But I think the untrustworthiness of the scientific research comes in when people do not know the methods that are being used to test these animals and if the test are relevant at all (for example testing the effects of smoking on monkeys or getting them addicted to cocaine and the like), if we already know the outcome. Also patt0337 mentions the drug Vioxx that was proven to work for arthritis patients from research on animals but later was discovered to actually increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes for people who used it. I think when information like this comes out to the public and animal activists, it really just ingrains the untrustworthiness of science when testing on animals because how can people trust this research when information like that is available.

In response to "The Price of Beauty"

In reaction to olden040's week 11 post I would like to point out the statement that was made about wrinkle cream. Not only is it dangerous to our health but it doesn't work in most cases. This brings up the issue of scientific integrity and responsibility. Obviously their are scientists involved in the production of cosmetics or they simply wouldn't work as well as they do. I think the fact that scientific ventures chose to overlook safety while performing experiments or producing products is a large part of the reason that trust issues arise. The average person does not have access to the information associated with science even if it directly effects their health, as with the cosmetics. The general public puts their trust in the hands of science to conduct research in a responsible and ethical way, but often there is little or no guidance in terms of how this is done. I feel like we need some kind of executive board to ensure that products and chemicals produced are both safe and ethical. Blind trust is neither enough nor attainable. Information needs to be readily available, clear and accurate for consumers to make a healthy choice and at this point in time science is failing the community that supports it in this venture.

Eduardo Kac, changing the trustworthiness of science

Original Post: Sept 15 2010, steen118 Eduardo Kac

The posting about Eduardo Kac's piece "Natural History of Enigma" is an example of the trustworthiness of scientific research. This piece was a combination of human DNA with a petunia's DNA to produce an aesthetic piece. Kac has been known for his controversial art pieces that combine different organisms DNA in various ways to produce different effects. This piece along with the transgenic bunny, Alba, questions the intent of scientific research. His art is almost to the point of mad scientist standing. The University of Minnesota helped Kac with the production of the petunia. The University being a research institute adds another layer to the trustworthiness of this project. Is it appropriate for a public research institution to fund such a project? I originally learned about this project by working with the scientist who was developing the petunias. At the time I thought this project was amazing, something so powerful. Looking again through a new lens I am not so sure of that fact. It seems that this is an irresponsible use of science. Alba was also an example of an irresponsible way to use science. In no way is this creating a democratic science. It is reinforcing the scientist (and in this case artist as well) as the god role. Someone who can mess with nature to do whatever they want.

Trustworthiness and Biofears

The biofears entry titled "Fear of the Annual Flu Vaccine" will be discussed.

Fear is the result of a miscommunication and lack of information surrounding our bodies (or anything for that matter). This fear is exploited to help pharmaceutical and vaccine companies make a profit. Yet, the main reason for these companies' success is not the manipulation of the public, but having a good product. Vaccines do work and researchers are continually working to improve them.

Keeping this in mind, the story of Desiree Jennings is heartbreaking and distressing both in the source of development of a psychogenic disorder and in the diagnosis and cure. Jennings has been turned into an object, which represents a majority. She is no longer examined as an individual with a name (this is done through the media and even doctors).

The created situation is deprived of trustworthiness. Jennings claims that if she had had knowledge of this side effect, she would not have gotten a vaccine. If the story had not been blow out of proportion with incorrect facts (wrongly titling her psychogenic disorder: dystonia), then the media would not have incited the biofear linked with paranoia of the medical field. If the media broadcasted her recovery as much as her "contamination", then this biofear could have been controlled. If doctors had correctly diagnosed her and the media accurately informed the public, then the scare around the flu vaccine's rare-but-could-happen-to-anyone side effects.

All of these are examples of reasons for distrust that could have been assuaged by mending the rift between academic/media communities and lay communities. Fear floods the mind with emotions and blocks logic from truly assessing the situation. This concept of "Trustworthiness" is an extremely useful tool in fighting biofear when it arises and possibly from arising.

The Democracy Behind Birth Control

This post sort of bounces off of a few statements made in "Nadya Suleman (a.k.a Octomom)" submitted by fahey063 durink Week 11: Reproductive Technologies. Fahey063 discussed the ideas of in-vitro fertilization and other available reproductive technologies. They questioned whether a person should be able to have access to these technologies and stated, "But what about individuals who want to have children, should they be allowed to use these technologies even though they don't have the traditional family structure. My answer to this would be, if they can afford it, and if so then sparingly." At first I was unsure of my take on the topic, but in light of an article in the MN Daily I have begun to form more opinions. The article discusses, or moreso promotes, putting birth control on the preventive methods lists for insurance companies. Currently, the University's student insurance plan still requires a co-pay for birth control but pays about 80% of the $200. Putting birth control on the preventive methods list would have the University still paying 80% of the costs, but the other 20% would come from student fees. Without carefully reading that last sentence, it sounds as though putting birth control on the preventive list would give women more freedom in choosing birth control methods and allow them to have power over their reproductive health. However, my huge issue with this idea is that my student fees are paying for someone else's birth control. If an individual cannot afford a co-pay, which is only 20% of the original cost, then the person should re-consider their choice of having sex. Birth control is 99.9% effective (usually) but if they are unable to pay for a co-pay, then if that 0.1% chance happens where the person gets pregnant, then they certainly are in no position to have a baby. I feel that if a woman truly values her reproductive health that they would be willing to pay a small price for it.

Putting the Humanity Back into Science

In reference to: "Where is the Humanity in Science?"
By hamid011 on September 24, 2010 2:47 PM

I think this post from Week 3: Inventing Identities, poses the question central democratizing sciences in its title alone: where is the humanity in science? From the American cosmetic companies that manufacture skin bleach with deadly amounts of mercury to sell to young Japanese girls so they can look more Euro-American; to the pharmaceutical companies that are willing to sacrifice quality control and testing to make even more money than they already have; to our own government, so obviously in bed with large agribusinesses (and likely other large corporations as well), allowing outrageously biased individuals to be our law-makers, I really did have to stop and ask where the humanity was, who are the humans behind all of this, and why aren't other humans (and for that matter, all living things) being considered in these decisions. The information disclosed over the past few weeks during our ethics of science presentations suggests ethics may really be lacking in many areas of science, and a process of democratization may be one step in the right direction. If we start gathering panels of "lay-people" to help determine, for instance, whether it's ethical to manufacture mercury-laden skin bleach to sell over-seas, or to make mandatory (or even advertise?) a vaccine whose long-term effects are scarcely known, at least we can know that the rest of the population is being at least somewhat more represented. When we read the article about the democratic process that is upheld in Denmark to make and review scientific decisions, I initially wondered if it wasn't dangerous to leave scientific decisions up to people who don't have advanced degrees. And then I thought back to our ethics presentations, and thought about how science isn't just about the "science" behind it. It's about all human beings, all animals, all living things. Science isn't just whether or not we can create a glow-in-the-dark rabbit, it's also (more importantly?) about the larger implications that rabbit and that "science" has for the rest of us--which doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, but it does mean that the rest of us should have a say.

Trusting our Scientists

Tannxx120 wrote Designer Babies... What's Next?! in week 9 on November 7, 2010. The possibilty of the wealthy being able to create a designer elite population is scary. We put our faith in the scientific community that they will realize when they cross a line. We work as a community to let the scientific community know that there are boundaries and consequences if they overstep their boundaries. A topic such as designer babies is a good example of this. We have the technology available to develop the "perfect" child. I think that the reason we have not taken steps in this direction are due to societal boundaries. Our society is afraid of the unknown. The scientific community knows that we would be unwelcome to the idea of building an "elite" species. The scientists should also know that it would be unwise to leave the diversity of the human race to us. If we reduce our genetic diversity, we could lead ourselves to the end of the human species. The reason we have been so successful as a species is because of our genetic diversity. We are so different genetically that we are able to combat so many different viruses and diseases that would have been detrimental if we were genetically similar. There is also a reason that our traits have been passed on. They were genetically favored. If we are opting for traits that are genetically unfavorable, they may not be passed on and we could end our own species. I believe that scientists are logical enough to think of these reasons for not developing easily accessible means of creating designer babies. This is why we trust our scientific community.

Trustworthiness in Science

On week 8: democratic science, rega0167 wrote a blog post called "Governmental Ties to Big Agribusiness". I think this is a perfect example for trustworthiness is science. The article talks about how members of the USDA, FDA, and EPA, who are supposed to be unbiased regulators of Monsanto and look at scientific facts, are being awarded extremely high paying jobs from huge agribusiness. This brings up an ethical question: Is the science of genetically modified food really out to help us or just to promote big business so a few higher ups can get a big paycheck? We need to stop and think about what scientists are putting into our food to make food abnormally grow faster and bigger. Should we really trust scientists who may get a big paycheck just for selling some 'research project' to a company? We should always keep an open mind and research facts for ourselves when it comes to science. I am a science major, and sometimes even I have to stop and question if a study is bogus or not. Science, of course, has flaws, but every other discipline has flaws too. We need to stop and think: Is this source trustworthy, not science itself? Science is a discipline and to say science can not be trusted, I feel is a generalization. We need to look at sources. Science should put some red flags up for anyone looking to find some untrustworthiness, but I bet if you looked somewhere in Feminism, you would find some red flags too.

Wrongly Applied.

Observations based on walte423's week 10 blog titled "The Athletic Body Mass Index."

Upon application of Friday's lesson, it seems as though the public outcry against the body mass index (BMI) seems to be the result of misinformation, or more accurately, a lack of dialogue between the scientific and lay communities. After all, how is the normal person supposed to know the proper applications of the body mass index if they are not informed by the researchers who continue to apply it? Living in the constant flux of what defines a "healthy" or even "attractive" body, it's easy to mistake an academic tool with specific applications for a general equation which can be used to calculate a person's well-being. Not so with the BMI, among countless other discrepancies. When used correctly, is the body mass index only one of many tools used to help patients achieve a healthier tool? Absolutely--any reasonable thinker can come to this conclusion. However, like any other tool, can it be used incorrectly--even abused? Again, absolutely. You wouldn't expect a screwdriver to do a hammer's job, but how would you know unless someone taught you? This is where communication between the book and street smart people of this society, the entire world is crucial--and when it does occur, the bond that forms can only help to strengthen our ties to one another, and help support bigger, better, bolder discoveries.

Agribusiness and Democratizing Science

Orginal post "Governmental Ties to Big Agribusiness" by rega0167 on October 31, under week 8.

This post illustrates how agribusinesses are tied to political agendas and economic influences and basically how government agencies also have influence over the food we currently eat. As for the question the post brings up, about the dangers of allowing these relationships to continue and whether or not they should try to be stopped, I do believe these "ties" are something of a concern. I think it is ridiculous how the food we eat is influenced by the government and how some food, such as genetically modified ones, are given more priority over true, organic food. I agree with the comment that was posted on how we as a consumer have the only option of choosing what we decide to purchase and eat, and change isn't going to occur anytime soon, unfortunately. I think education plays a big part in democratizing the role in which we play with our decisions of food production and the food industry as a whole. If more education and awareness of the problems were presented, I think more people would be of concern. Personally, I just don't think society as a whole has any regard for this problem at the moment, which is really quite unfortunate.

As far as trustworthiness in the research of the food industry, it really depends on who you are employing to do such research, and whether or not biases become a concern. It really starts to be a tricky subject.

Trusting our research methods and scientists

Original post: Designer babies...what's next? By tanxx120 in week 9

The post that I'm referring to dealt with the topic of genetic engineering. Many questions were asked such as "how can we create better ways of practicing science?" This question drives others to find new research methods. Not every method is perfect, but each kind of method does have its place in the realm of science. I understand that the community participation method is more helpful when it comes down to actually educating those who participate in the research, and it reaches them on a more personal level. However, this method has its fallbacks, such as a slower processing time and the potential for other variables to be introduced into the research/experiment. The research in the field of genetics/genetic engineering is primarily done in a laboratory setting. Community participation in genetic engineering research would be difficult to do, but that doesn't mean that scientists cannot get opinions from those in the community. An example brought up many times during discussions was the genetically engineered seeds for farmers. How would the process have been different if farming communities were given the chance to give input on the research?
With the prospect of "designer babies" in mind, this brings into light the issue of trust in scientific research. It's not always about putting trust in the actual science, but also trusting the researchers to do what we consider is morally right. A lot of research is done somewhat privately, and the results are shared with the scientific community with little snippets being shown to the public. We need to be able to trust the scientists that are trying to understand these difficult concepts for us so that we can live better lives.

Cosmetic Facade

I found the post by Patt0337 "Deadly Cosmetics" in 11:cosmetics to be of particular interest because it discusses the not only the present day usage of hazardous chemicals in cosmetics but additionally it provides a brief history of cosmetics and the hazardous components that have been utilized in the past. While I don't really find cosmetics to be terribly fascinating this ethics presentation probably elicited the most shock for me. Mostly because with other topics I found that the trustworthiness of science, research, or practices and the corresponding ethics are easy to scrutinize. Cosmetics on the other hands are common in society we either use them daily or we see them advertised in magazines or in commercials. Since they are so commonplace I think that we have been lulled in to a false sense of security where we don't question the components and we continuously purchase products assuming since they are on the shelves that of course they must have been deemed safe by some authority. What I had no idea of before this presentation was that not only do cosmetic industry products not fall under the regulations of the FDA, but instead a cosmetic "safety" board approves of products that contain carcinogens or other harmful agents. It is kind of ridiculous to think that we as consumers accept a safety green light from a board of individuals who work in tandem with the companies who stand to profit the most from selling these products. Although we as consumers may look at history and scoff at the notion that women of the past spread lead and mercury containing creams and powders on their faces, but ironically enough we still do the same thing today when we use products without understanding the risks that the components may pose to us while simultaneously putting blind trust in the cosmetic industry to take consumer safety in precedence over trade secrets.

RE: "Nutritionism" by 12345 on October 31 (in Democratic Science)

This post, featuring a video of Michael Pollan discussing his idea of "Nutritionism", explores how our society has honed in on the scientific culture of our food. Pollan notes that when you look at the vocabulary used in discussing food, biochemistry terminology runs rampant; more so than in any other part of daily life. Scientific "findings" have driven the public to be more concerned about the nutrients, antioxidants, and other microscopic elements in food than the final produced food itself. As long as the "good" nutrients are present and the "bad" ones are eliminated, no one seems to care about how they are being inserted into our food products (and often times what other, lesser-known chemicals are also being added). Pollan notes that because nutrients are microscopic, we need a 'middleman' of sorts, scientists, to tell us what elements of our food are or aren't beneficial to our health.

This is where scientific trustworthiness comes into play for me. Because the vast majority of consumers cannot independently determine the nutrient breakdowns of their foods, nutritional scientists are responsible for providing realistic information on the benefits/ detriments of our food make up. This doesn't seem to be happening currently, as the public seems to always have one specific "satanic nutrient" for a period of time, and then moves on to a new one. Our obsession with these chosen nutrients blinds us to the other aspects of our food products, like the amount of other synthesized/artificial substances we may be consuming. Assuming that we stay focused in the biochemistry lens of food, we need to trust scientists to avoid hype over specific nutrients, so that we aren't so focused on a minute aspect of the product.

Pollan also posits that our society has forgotten the other ideological reasons for why people eat, like community, spirituality, and our connection to nature. Could science provide a way for us to reconnect with these perspectives on the importance of food?


| 1 Comment

When first mentioned in class that we should relate any previous blog to untrustworthy scientific research, I immediately thought of the blog titled "Abortifacent."

I understand the student was basing his conclusion on a website he found, but it's problematic that research was not done before the conclusion was made, especially considering the source of the information given in the blog. It's really unfortunate that organizations such as these are allowed to over-ride the facts of science with their own rhetoric and personal beliefs.

I think this is a problem in the scientific field - it seems like too many times, science is twisted and misconstrued to fit individual arguments. For example, this website, Catholic News Agency, completely writes off the research the Food and Drug Administration has done about the new, revised version of the morning after pill. Although Ella has been approved by the FDA, there are many anti-reproductive health groups that are claiming the pull does something completely different then what's proven by science, which then sways public opinion. Sometimes it seems science isn't taken seriously enough and it's scary if you think about the impact websites like these have on individuals.

The article states opinions of politicians, which is another reason I think this article is a great example of untrustworthy science. I think politicians should have very little say in what's proven in the scientific field, and I think the fact this information is taken seriously is a reason why people should stay away from the opinions of politicians, and listen to those of scientists and personal research. Because politicians and religious organizations (amongst other things) influence the FDA and science- severely discredits those who work in the science fields and those who are trying to use advancements (such as Ella) to better people's lives.

Should We Trust Our Doctors?

I will be referring back to the post by djko467 called Fear of the Annual Flu Vaccine in week 10: Biofears.

This post brought up the issue of a very serious side effect of the very common flu vaccine. There was a shocking video of a woman who contracted a very serious disease, allegedly due to the flu vaccine she received prior to noticing symptoms. I think this post relates to our discussion this week about trustworthiness in science because I think that the doctor patient relationship when it comes to vaccines and other forms of treatment has a lot to do with trust. As patients the majority of us trust our doctor's wholeheartedly without thinking twice about it. After this week's discussion I can't help thinking that we should be second-guessing this trust. Should our doctors be informing us of every possible side effect of every vaccine we receive, even if they are very rare? If they don't, does this mean they are not trustworthy? Personally, I do think that we should trust our doctors but we should know that we have the right to be informed about every treatment or drug we are given. As a few people mentioned in class, I also believe that it is our job as patients to research any vaccine or treatment we receive especially since there is such a plethora of information on the web. Having our own knowledge about something allows us to participate better in the doctor patient relationship instead of relying so heavily on only the doctor's input and advice. We should trust doctors as well as science in general, but we should also know that we have the capability to research any information that we don't trust and make informed decisions for ourselves.

Response: GMO's Are Vital to Research

This post was done by bradl215 in the Democratic Science category.

I find that some of the author's points are agreeable: primarily that genetic engineering can be used to help people, such as when genetic engineering helps develop things like treatments for AIDS or other terrible diseases. I can also concede that genetic engineering does have its place in research and in science as a whole.

However, I think the point in the post where the author talks about how a research facility was destroyed by extremists brings us to the discussion of "trustworthiness" in research. I do not mean to imply that the people who destroyed the research facility were right in what they did. What I am trying to point out is a general phenomenon of people not trusting science, research, or scientific discoveries.

I think the mistrust of genetic engineering has particular origins. The first, I think is that a lot of time people don't see the point. The author of the original post gives the example of engineering plants to glow in order to determine if life is possible on Mars. Now, this sound really freaking cool to a college student -- especially a biology student -- and may have long-term scientific implications. However, the study has little impact on a person who is struggling day-to-day to make ends meet. To them, what does it matter if life is possible on Mars, when life -- for this person -- is barely possible on Earth? If genetic engineering is portrayed as being used for esoteric, purely scientific purposes (not to say that it is; I have already conceded that genetic engineering can be immensely helpful. I am merely trying to examine this from a lay person's point of view), many will either (1) not care, (2) feel angry that science is spending its time making glow-in-the-dark plants instead of doing something they feel will benefit average folks. So, mistrust in genetic engineering can come from a feeling that the research being done has no practical application, and that it is being done by academic elites who have no sense of what reality is like for working-class people.

Another source of mistrust for genetic engineering in particular can be the fact that while genetic engineering can be helpful, it has also been used to create things like genetically modified food. While the original pioneers of genetically modified food may have had the greatest intentions in the world, wishing to feed the hungry and so on, the fact is that right now, genetically modified foods are being used by agribusiness to create dependence among their "third world customers," as a mean of extorting huge profits from these already poor and struggling people. It seems logical to distrust research and researchers who work to develop such means of extortion.

So (in the eyes of the lay person), either genetic engineering is being developed by elites for no practical purpose, or genetic engineering is being used by capitalists to extort and exploit other people. No wonder people mistrust genetic engineering.

However, the author of the original post is completely right in saying that genetic engineering can be a positive force, and can create incredibly helpful research and results that will help many, many people. However, we need to restore confidence in research and researchers involved in genetic engineering. The idea of community-based research could restore this trust, not only because people would feel involved, but because people could have a say in what gets researched, insuring that genetic engineering research is aimed at producing results that will help those in need first and foremost.

After that, maybe, we can make glow-in-the-dark plants.

The Politics Game

Regarding my post, "Widespread Denial" (Week of Beyond Dualisms Oct 4/6/8)

In my post, Widespread Denial, I brought up the ever present fact that politicians and people holding, or those who have held, powerful political positions in our country have denied the concept of global warming. This denial was very prevalent during the George W. Bush administration as well as a hot topic leading up to his election. Politicians, oil executives, and scientists were attributed to changing scientific data and emitted data altogether that pertained to the occurrence of global warming. They also emphasized the "lack" of scientific data in order to downplay the trustworthiness of the data presented that supported the idea of global warming.

The article, The trustworthiness of research: The paradigm of community-based research by Scheman, Jordan and Gust, states, "Trustworthiness is what makes it rational for people to accept research findings..." If society and individuals do not trust the research that is being presented to them or the way in which the research is being presented it is highly likely that they will not accept the findings. In regards to the case of global warming, the scientists emphasizing the lack of scientific data supporting global warming created distrust among the community towards those supporting it. This put people in exactly the mindset that the politicians and scientists were hoping to achieve, that people would reject the idea of global warming not necessarily because of overwhelming "evidence" on their part but because of this lack of trust towards the opposing side.

On the other hand, the proposal alone of scientists being "paid off" to tamper with scientific data also creates distrust. How is society supposed to know which data has or has not been fabricated and how do we know what evidence is trustworthy? The fact that so many distrusts surround the issue of global warming has contributed to it being such a "talked about" issue in society, and has halted the United States in any effort to combat our negative effect on the earth. Without the assurance that every scientific finding is accurate, that all evidence is truly that, evidence, society has no way of knowing what research to accept and what to reject.

Get people involved!

In relation to the post regarding the The Great Wall of Vagina by Rachel on September 26th:

When we got read Scheman's article I immediately thought about how the community could get better involved into the sciences without scientists needing to take time to try and teach everyone the intricacies of their expertise. There is a video online somewhere that I was once showed about a Physics professor that was asked in an interview to explain how magnets worked. The professor ended up going into a ten minute long rant about how much questions like that were impossible to answer for someone that is not in the related field. His talk involved how each bit of information that he could give to the interviewer would lead to another question that would end up requiring more and more information to get a clear picture across. After seeing this video and after reading Scheman's article it made me think about HOW exactly would be the best way to get the community involved without sacrificing time and money. I decided that in my mind, the best way would be word of mouth. Get the people involved that WANT to be actively involved, and then let them relay the information. Then they have a bigger stake in the process because they are actively including other people in the community without taking up tax-payers money and precious time.

Strangely, this made me think of The Great Wall of Vagina. The idea of this art piece was to show that all vaginas are different, and that the idea that any one is better or more beautiful than the other is just ignorant. It is also to combat the idea of media power and how the things we are told are not always accurate. Forty some women posed and gave the artist access to their most private of areas to get this message across. They recognized there was a problem, and they got DIRECTLY involved. This is huge, especially when thinking about community-based research. It is the desire to get involved that is key in this issue. As a science major, and someone deeply devoted into science, the idea of community-based research scares me. I see massive losses of time due to technicalities and having to educate masses of people about the basics before being able to bring them into the project. But, I also see huge promise with the idea. The promise of a more widely spread science system. People that want to get involved can have an outlet to get involved into without having to spend thousands and thousands to get the basic education that would be required. The experience alone can help raise their abilities to get higher paying jobs, which hopefully will help them get out of the destitute areas they tend to inhabit. Those that actively get involved can then relay the message to the ones that do not have the time nor the funds to get involved themselves, and they will have more at stake with the project because they are the ones that the others will count on for the basis of their information. Because the involved have a direct correlation to the area, not only will they be more trusted because of neighborly ties, but they will be more trusted because they are affected by the problems as well. The idea of getting people involved that WANT to get involved should be the main goal of community-based research. I think if we can achieve that, then we have achieved something great.

Get people involved!

In relation to the post regarding the The Great Wall of Vagina by Rachel on September 26th:

When we got read Scheman's article I immediately thought about how the community could get better involved into the sciences without scientists needing to take time to try and teach everyone the intricacies of their expertise. There is a video online somewhere that I was once showed about a Physics professor that was asked in an interview to explain how magnets worked. The professor ended up going into a ten minute long rant about how much questions like that were impossible to answer for someone that is not in the related field. His talk involved how each bit of information that he could give to the interviewer would lead to another question that would end up requiring more and more information to get a clear picture across. After seeing this video and after reading Scheman's article it made me think about HOW exactly would be the best way to get the community involved without sacrificing time and money. I decided that in my mind, the best way would be word of mouth. Get the people involved that WANT to be actively involved, and then let them relay the information. Then they have a bigger stake in the process because they are actively including other people in the community without taking up tax-payers money and precious time.
Strangely, this made me think of The Great Wall of Vagina. The idea of this art piece was to show that all vaginas are different, and that the idea that any one is better or more beautiful than the other is just ignorant. It is also to combat the idea of media power and how the things we are told are not always accurate. Forty some women posed and gave the artist access to their most private of areas to get this message across. They recognized there was a problem, and they got DIRECTLY involved. This is huge, especially when thinking about community-based research. It is the desire to get involved that is key in this issue. As a science major, and someone deeply devoted into science, the idea of community-based research scares me. I see massive losses of time due to technicalities and having to educate masses of people about the basics before being able to bring them into the project. But, I also see huge promise with the idea. The promise of a more widely spread science system. People that want to get involved can have an outlet to get involved into without having to spend thousands and thousands to get the basic education that would be required. The experience alone can help raise their abilities to get higher paying jobs, which hopefully will help them get out of the destitute areas they tend to inhabit. Those that actively get involved can then relay the message to the ones that do not have the time nor the funds to get involved themselves, and they will have more at stake with the project because they are the ones that the others will count on for the basis of their information. Because the involved have a direct correlation to the area, not only will they be more trusted because of neighborly ties, but they will be more trusted because they are affected by the problems as well. The idea of getting people involved that WANT to get involved should be the main goal of community-based research. I think if we can achieve that, then we have achieved something great.

Vaccine good, bad or ugly?

In response to the Biofear's post about the fear and unhealthiness of the flu vaccine, this made me think about the video we watched that week about the unknown side effects of the Gardasil shot. With any shot there comes the chance of tenderness of the injection site, reddish bump at sight of injection etc; but Gardasil not only has those side effects but many others that my doctor never mentioned to me. These are such as very high fever, weakness or tingling (which may be the early signs of another health problem: Guillian Barre syndrome), Gastrointestinal problems, appendicitis, Pelvic inflammatory disease and so on. Luckily for me I never suffered from any of these, but how many women have? Are they really "rare" side effects or do your doctors not tell you in order to keep you from saying no to the vaccine? To keep my faith in our medical providers I'm going to hope that not many people, if any, have suffered from these side effects but then again, why is all this knowledge made public on the internet for us to read? In another article I found, they were discussing the connection between the vaccine and seizures. I'm not sure about you but a seizure sounds pretty life threatening and not exactly my cup of tea for a vaccine. If all this knowledge would have been available prior to me being vaccinated, I'm not sure I would have.

In response to: : Fear of the Annual Flu Vaccine by djk0467, Week 10: Biofears

The Menstruation Disease?

After reading "PMS: The Disease" posted by Pinky&theBrain under the Inventing Identities I section of our blog it got me thinking more about birth control products more in depth. There is a huge market for birth control pills or medication to help with menstruation cycles for women, but how much do we really know about what goes on in the body when someone is one these medications. Yes each of these medications lists the possible side effects they may cause, but what happens to people hormonally? Can the intake of excess hormones to stop or delay a woman's period be actually health? The clip post on the original blog post really opened my eyes as to how we, as a society, view menstruation. I have always been taught that menstruation is something that just happens naturally but now we are mainly focused on the possible reaction women may have on their periods. We think that all women have the same reaction: aches, irritability, pain, ect., but this is the case? I have never read or heard about a study done to ask the women from a very diverse population of their symptoms, if any, they have when they are menstruating. This also leads me back to my original point of have there been any research done to see the adverse affects of hormone medicine besides what is listed by the company? Do woman really need to be taking these products? Now I'm not saying that there are not any type side effects or illnesses that come with menstruation because I would be wrong in saying so. What I am trying to get at is now it has become a social norm for women to have the least amount of periods possible due to how we receive women who are menstruating. Like I said before, menstruation is not an illness, it is just something that happens natural in life.

Waste Center: Community and Science coming together

Artna001's article in Week 9 (Environmental Justice) about "Chester, PA's fight for justice" is a perfect example of community and science coming together to build not only a healthier environment but creating a democratic scientific society.

In any society, trust is important in allowing any action to occur. The waste plant is a good example of that: society and science had to be on the same footing in the first place in order to put those plants up. It showed that there was trust between the two parties, believing that no harm would come to any member of either society. However, lack of communication on the scientist's side as well as their ignorant ear led to the outrage of the community it was affecting as well as society as a whole.

Social class played a major part. Who is to say that the poor people do not deserve healthcare? The poor people often don't have the opportunity to fully understand what is happening, therefore not being able to respond to any of the input. It's safe to say that scientists knew that burning waste would cause some sort of negative effect on the environment (and, by extension, negatively affecting the members of that society). The uproar that resulted from this really dealt a major negative blow to the waste company's image, which, in time, will negatively affect the economy in general. The government of that area may have seen the economic benefits, but in order to make it justifiable, it would have to reach out to everyone in the society and try to come to an equal solution for everyone. What kinds of issues do you guys think could have come up if the waste company in Chester, PA was a scientific democracy?


In reference to: The Athletic Body Mass Index By walte423 on November 14, 2010 8:59 PM under Health Body and Diet.

In class I found this topic very interesting. Many athletes have BMI's that say they are indeed overweight. Athletes have very toned bodies and most people would say they are very healthy. Look at the U.S. Olympic teams. How many people would say that an Olympian needs to lose weight to be more healthy? Doctors are always checking patient's BMI's and telling them to lose more weight to be conceded a healthy weight and not obese or over weight. This post describes the trends in some U.S. Olympic athletes and shows that a decent percent of them would be considered over weight on a BMI scale. I think this relates to Monday's class discussion of trustworthiness in scientific research, building democratic science, and/or community participation in scientific research because patients learn to trust their doctors, although in this case, doctors may not be totally correct.
First I'd like to point out that every time I go to the doctor, I look at the poster on the back of his door that shows the chart for BMI. While waiting a seemingly long time, I usually get up and place my finger on the height and my other index finger on the weight and bring them together to find my BMI. These posters are everywhere and I used to trust them when I went to the doctor because it was in a doctor's office and well, my doctor should know more than me. This is a great example of democratic science. As Naomi Scheman points out in her article, "As we see it, the primary issue is power" (44). Power is one thing that separates us. Should doctors have the power over their patients? They don't really know everything about a specific patient. Everyone is different. Everyone's body's and lifestyles are completely different, and the person who should know more about there own bodies is themselves.
Secondly, I think that the idea of community participation in scientific research can be incorporated in different ways. I love the idea of getting everyone on the same level. I've pointed out many times in this class that one main goal I think we are trying to get from this class is that we all have to think critically about everything and that nothing has a solid answer. We should be discussing and analyzing everything because one answer could mean something completely different to someone else. I think that some people are under educated due to a lack of resources and funds in this world, and therefore should have the chance to think critically just like everyone else. So I really think that community participation in scientific research is a great idea.

The Search for Truth

In reference to "The Price of Beauty" posted by olden040 during week 11.

Who deserves our trust? How do we determine what we place our trust in? When thinking about the ethics presentations that we have had over the past couple of weeks, there have been numerous instances and reasons for people to distrust the government, science, and big business. Whether rightly criticized or not, we often blame those in power for problems which they may have no control over. However, when these institutions abuse the power that they have, then it is right for them to lose the trust of the people.

The presentation that struck me the most when it comes to trust is the Cosmetics Industry. While I was familiar with all of the debates in the other presentations, I had no idea that the make-up that I put on my face could put me at a higher risk for cancer. In reference to a post by olden040, "cosmetics and other body products bring us in contact with more than 120 chemicals daily and many of them are hazaradous to our health." Learning that I have exposed my skin to so many harmful toxins and chemicals was not easy for me to handle.

Although the Cosmetic Industry has not blatantly lied to me or any of their customers because they do not put all of the ingredients on their products, I still feel betrayed. I trusted them to provide me with make-up that would not harm me. I TRUSTED them and they lied not only to me, but are continuing to lie to the millions of other women in the world who are continuing to use their product without the slightest idea that they may be seriously harming their health.

I love where the author of The Price of Beauty states, "cosmetics are hazardous to our health, and we know it." I now know that cosmetics are dangerous, but what has changed in my life because I now possess this knowledge? I've changed my make-up, but that's about it. I no longer trust these companies, but I don't take action against them. I think it is up to us as knowledgeable consumers to take a stand for what we believe in and fight back against industry instead of just complaining about how we have been wronged. Only then will change be possible.

Reproductive technologies and multiple births

"Reproductive technologies and multiple births" by hans3002 11: Reproductive Technologies (Nov. 17)

I believe that mondays discussion can apply to reproductive technologies. On monday we discussed the trustworthiness of science and community involvement in science. Reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilizations utilizing multiple embryos may raise some questions. They are much more risky than single embryo transfers but are still far more common. How trustworthy is this science if it consciously can be harmful to mothers and their infants? Doctors can have hidden motives such as wanting to increase success rate of fetal development and successive birth than the mother's and infant's health and safety. I would like to argue that science is trustworthy, it's the people practicing science that may be untrustworthy, exhibiting alterer motives that may not be beneficial to everyone. This brings me to my second point regarding mondays discussion on community involvement in the sciences. I believe that there should be a community of people unrelated to the sciences that can overlook these practices and come to hopefully "unbiased" conclusions as to what the best options are for patients looking into in-vitro fertilizations. Science has an impact on the community and therefore the community, especially the people unrelated to the sciences, should have a voice in the sciences. It wouldn't be fair for a very small portion of people to have all of the power. The power should be distributed throughout everyone.

Whats Natrual.

The past three weeks of group presentations has raised I didn't watch it of course because I thought it was joke, but WOW when the group played it in class I was totally speechless. Now that we are open to talk about the trustworthiness in scientific research, building democratic science, and/or community participation in scientific research. Is this possible? Is it ethical? Has Science crossed the line? I really appreciated when a Nutrition student spoke up and put in his two cent a lot of ethical questions and concerns in my mind; I was very much drawn to the Reproductive Technologies and Genetic Engineering presentations, however the key topic that really caused me to think and wonder" hmm, is this right?" was the topic of the Pregnant man. I remember passing by the clip the Reproductive Technology group presented- The Pregnant Man, on YouTube, s and expressing how he thought that there are things that we just can't cross, like enabling a man to become pregnant, when it is very much a woman's role to be the carrier the 'mother.' The Reproductive Tech. group's presentation was a great debate topic because it really allowed me to see and witness how people are so different. A classmate spoke during the presentation debate and said that "we need this change, it's going to be a revolution," I was definitely shocked that a woman would say that the revelation we need today is for a man to carry a fetus/ to become impregnated. Have the roles of a family and humans changed so drastically that this is the revelation we need? I stumbled upon a blog The Pregnant Man By 12345 on October 24, 2010 6:31 PM | and the blogger wrote about the pregnant man, and the reaction of women and how it has become such an uproar and change that many people still can't believe. Can it be that science has gone too far? Can we trust that these discoveries are going to help our world? I don't know where people stand on this topic but I feel that science has gone too far; you can't change what is natural and meant to be.

RE: Gas from Prairie Grass

Schm2146 brought up a good point in his article Gas from Prairie Grass during the democratic science week. Also, the question was asked in class "can research really be considered reliable when it comes from the corporate/business sector?" Since the main goal of a company is to sell more of their product, they seem a bit biased when it comes to actually determining how well/efficient their product(s) works. Also, in terms of a democratic science, instead of the public determining what topics are important to research, businesses decide. For instance, in today's world most, if not all, manufacturing companies have a research and development department where they try to improve upon their existing products and/or come up with new products; however, rarely ever do companies just scrap one of their products in hope of finding an alternative, or attempt to develop a product that would directly compete with one of their existing products. Which is why, in schm2146's post, the corn industry hasn't looked into using prairie grass as a form of biofuel. If they did want to start selling/producing prairie grass it would drastically change their business model and depreciate one of their main sources of revenue; a rather drastic and unneeded gamble in their eyes. Therefore, if we as consumers want a change, whether it be for a better/greener source of fuel or some other cause, we need to voice our opinions, because the only way to get through to companies is mass public, or stockholder, demand for change. My question to the readers then is what are some other research topics that could be researched, but aren't due to corporate interference?

Cosmetics: Hazardous to Health

Cosmetic Dangers- Forseen?
By gopherit06 on November 20, 2010
Categories: 11: Cosmetics (Nov 15)

This post has a lot to do with the community's lack of participation in scientific research. The author brings up the 1989 film Batman and how the Joker takes over a chemical company and creates a line of cosmetic products and when used in mixture can cause the user to die laughing. Ironically enough cosmetics ARE hazardous just not in this particular way. While Batman protected the citizens of the Gotham City, currently our society doesn't have anyone to really protect us in this same way. As the cosmetics group mentioned, many people are unaware of the chemicals used in their hygienic and cosmetic products due to a variety of reasons. This proves that the community lacks any participation in the scientific research aspect of cosmetics as consumers. While sites like the Cosmetic Database are trying to make the ingredients in everyday products more accessible to the public, more effort needs to be put into informing people that beauty products may have harmful chemicals. If this is done then the public may participate more in informing themselves, but if there continues to be little talk about this issue the community will go on with an absent role in the scientific research on cosmetics. If the issue gains attention I believe that the people can then choose to buy safe products, thus starting to control the industry and forcing companies to make safer products.

But Google Says it's a Tumor!

On Monday in class we spent a lot of time talking about the public's perception of science and how the level of trust has steadily declined between the two in recent years. I felt that pete7909's post "According to GOOGLE I have mono" (posted November 13 in Week 10: Biofears) was actually a pretty good representation of this relationship. Pete7909 talks about how the public's unlimited access to health information has led to many patients walking into an appointment with their doctor "knowing" what is wrong with them. Many patients even will insist that their doctor, the person who has spent roughly ten years of their life learning what is and isn't healthy, is wrong in favor of the internet. Patients no longer trust their doctors as the knowers for a myriad of reasons, including the new-ish availability of information online, but also including the fact that doctor's are sometimes wrong and sometimes can't "fix" their patient on the first try. Even I must admit to losing some faith in my personal doctor after being told that a growth on my ear was "just a mole" only to find out five months later that it was nearly cancerous. The public is not only able to get their information from more than one source suddenly, but any mistake by those who probably know what they're doing more than the rest of us is immediately viewed with distrust. Of course, physician-ship is not exactly the same as scientific research, but at the same time where would doctors be without their research? And in doubting our doctors, are we not also doubting the decades of research that they are basing their knowledge on?

Revisiting Green Porno

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog article concerning Isabella Rossellini's "Green Porno" as a basis for a new way to educate people. I want to revisit it in light of this week's topic, which discusses trustworthiness in scientific research, building democratic science, and community participation in scientific research. If scientific researchers and creative minds were to work together, they could create ways to introduce new scientific findings and educate others about them effectively in a way that will stick in a person's mind. Democratic science could arise from this new found alliance between scientists and artists. Perhaps a new form of science could emerge: science art, where science is presented in ways that could encourage community participation in scientific research. Say a mural on the side of a building dedicated to new scientific research, worked on by scientists, artists, and people in the community. Making such a piece would promote and foster good feelings between communities and science, and thus science would become more for the benefit of the community rather than harming it. But could such an alliance be possible? Are scientific researchers too proud to ally themselves with artists, even if a partnership would stimulate growth, interest, and well-being of scientific research? Would artists be willing to work with them? Would communities work to foster a better environment for science?

Blog referenced: "Green Porno- New Way to Educate?"
Author: Jason Hendrix
Week Category: Queer Natures


Response: "Thalidomide" by patto337 on November 14, 2010 8:51pm

Trustworthiness. Deserving of trust or confidence. We as individuals each make a choice on who and what we trust. In the post "Thalidomide", the author discusses the untrustworthiness of our scientific field. The author discusses how the drug Gardasil appears to be more than slightly untrustworthy. Gardasil has only been on the market for a couple of years now, but we know little about its long term side effects. We are already starting to see that Gardasil has some short term side effects that we previously had not known about, case in point, the girl who developed a severe immune deficit disorder shortly after receiving the Gardasil vaccine. Scientists had not, from my point of view, predicted that one. As the "Thalidomide" post discusses it to closes resembles the thalidomide drug prescribed to pregnant mothers for morning sickness. Scientists had not predicted, or at least had not disclosed, that their drug could lead to such disfiguring side effects. The point that the author is trying to make in this post is that the trustworthiness of products like Gardasil is fragile at best. How are consumers expected to put their trust in products like these if they are so grossly uninformed? More to the point, what have these companies manufacturing done to deserve our trust in their products.

Untrustworthiness of Designer Babies

Tanxxx120 post Designer Babies... What's Next?! during week 9 speaks to an article written on that explains the new technology where parents can design their babies. By saying this scientific research is untrustworthy, I do not mean to say that I do not believe science has the ability to modify genes to create desired features or characteristics in a child. I think that's awesome! However, I do not have trust that this procedure is foolproof. Doctors cannot give a 100% guarantee that the baby will turn out as desired, and this technology has not been around long enough to see the long-lasting results, whether they are positive or negative. Also, contrary to Community-Based Research, doctors and geneticists hold on the power in this technology and research, where the parents only get to choose which characteristics they want and nothing more. In an ideal situation, or in an effort to make this a democracy building scientific research process, researchers and geneticists could have worked with communities to see what they believed to be the problem traits of their community, whether this be obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, or brown-eyedness. Scientists could give a presentation on the work they do in the lab so possible designer baby parents could understand how genetic manipulation works. This education would be an effort to make this scientific research an equal playing field and would reduce the gap between the scientists and the research subjects (the designed babies and their parents). Also offering this technology to a wider range of participants and giving everyone an equal chance to design their own "perfect" babies would make this science more democratic rather than limiting their abilities to those who can afford the procedure.

RE: Widespread Denial

RE: Widespread Denial by patt0337 (Week of Beyond Dualisms Oct 4/6/8)

In this blog post, patt0337 talks about how some people in the United States have denied that global warming is happening. Some very influential politicians, including former president George W. Bush, deny global climate change. They've done everything from claiming there is "insufficient evidence" to tampering with the real scientific evidence.

How do we trust data that has been tampered with? How do we trust our politicians if they'll go through any measure to create evidence for their side of the debate? I think a lot of people have issues with the idea of global warming because there is so much distrust surrounding the topic. The United States media focuses primarily on studies done in the United States. Few people will look up international data. The average citizen will get the biased perspective that their local media portrays.

My father is a perfect example of this denial. He says that global warming is a complete farce. He thinks that it was an idea invented by Al Gore to sell his movie. I've constantly pestered him about how he could think that CO2 levels remained constant from the time before cars to now. He doesn't get it. He got angry when they taught me global warming in high school because my school was "pushing the democratic political agenda of Al Gore." I think his distrust in the scientists and the politicians have led him to proclaim the whole thing is a corporate, political hoax.

When something as serious as global warming is addressed, the data needs to be concrete. The scientists have to be trustworthy. The politicians have to be truthful. Until these things are true, the common citizen will never know real world issues from corporate incentives.

Blessed Condoms

In reference to "The Pope's Condoms" posted by Altearithe on 11/21 in Reproductive Technologies, Week 11

I thought that this blog post, especially the TED presentation by Mechai Viravaidya, perfectly integrated with our discussion of trustworthy science and community participation in research. The information about the Pope's new take on condoms is very interesting, but I would like to focus on the part of the post that involved the video about Thailand. According to Viravaidya, the Thai population was growing at a rate of 3.3% in the 1970s. Scientists determined this was a problem and that the country would have no future without some population control. The women of the country, who were having an average of seven children each, agreed and from the very beginning entire communities would involved in the family planning effort. When there were only enough doctors, midwives, and nurses to reach 20% of the population, the committee led by Viravaidya that was working on the problem of getting birth control to every woman went to the village merchants and taught them how to dispense birth control. I simply cannot get over what a wonderful idea this is! I loved the Scheman article. I want to go into public health and that is exactly the sort of public health I want to practice. Communities are the real experts. Change cannot truly happen without the participation of "lay" individuals. Without village merchants, 80% of the population of Thailand would not have had access to birth control pills. After the program, the average birth rate was 1.5 children. When the HIV/AIDS rates skyrocketed, and the Thai government was not in support of controlling the epidemic, the scientists turned once again to the people. Everyone was trained in HIV/AIDS, even the media. Schools had condom competitions; school children distributed condoms to their villages. Parents loved it, said Viravaidya, because they were saving lives. From 1993-2001, the new cases of HIV in Thailand went down 90% and they saved an estimated 7.7 million lives.

I believe that the community participation of the Thai people to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of HIV/AIDS is a story of the beauty of what science can do if we step off our high horses. We as American scientists often see are ourselves as the ones with the answers. Well, sometimes that is true. But we must realize something that Viravaidya puts very well. We cannot rely on the "experts". We must all participate to enact change. The Thais were able to address every barrier. Monks blessed birth control so that practicing Buddhists would use it. Cops handed out condoms on the street. Hotels had condoms sitting next to the beer in their mini fridges. Thailand is a story of community partnership with science and its overwhelming success. No one can deny those statistics. Unfortunately, even as we have shows like "Teen Mom" and HIV/AIDS continue to rise, I cannot imagine this happening in the United States. I really wish I could.

Untrustworthy GMOs?

GMO's are vital to research by bradl215. Week 8:Democratic Science

This post brings up the issue of genetically modified organisms and gives a lot of reasons why they are beneficial. However, there are people who do not trust genetically modified organisms and the science behind them. This raises the question: why? I think that people like to trust, and perhaps only can trust, things they understand. It isn't exactly easy to understand why mustard plants are able to glow green due to a gene from a jellyfish being inserted inside of them. Furthermore, it is impossible to separate science from the big cooperations that fund the research. These cooperations, like Monsanto, are looking to make money. The big cooperations are not necessarily trying to benefit the overall population. I think this plays a big part in the cause of untrustworthiness of scientific research and of a lack of trust in science itself. The cooperations that fund scientific research can, and often do, use the results of scientific research to present the knowledge in a certain way that will benefit them into making a profit. This is where the "overwhelming" benefits of BT corn are advertised as well as the need to constantly fertilize crops. However, there are detrimental effects of BT corn and excess fertilizer (like the BT corn can affect unintended species and excess fertilizer is contributed to the growing dead zone in the ocean). When these detrimental effects are presented, scientists search to find the causes and, in that way, some of the previous research, like the production of GMOs, becomes "untrustworthy." The best solution I can think of is to continue to make science more of a democracy. This starts with more community involvement in science, like there was with the Phillips Community. What are your thoughts? Do you think cooperate funding creates some of the untrustworthiness of scientific research and undemocratic science? What are solutions to making science more democratic and trustworthy?

Building Democratic Science: For the Ethical Treatment of All

For this entry, I will be referencing Kristi's entry "Is Natural Extinct?", posted on November 6, 2010, under the category "9: Genetic Engineering (Nov 5)".

Is Natural extinct? I think this is a very interesting question to frame a discussion about genetic engineering and this week's topic, particularly Building Democratic Sciences. To ask if natural is extinct is to imply that "it" as compromising "something" with subject hood, came into existence, and by some means, has perhaps gone out of existence. It separates "us", "me", or "I", from the compromised "natural", therefore allowing us to distance ourselves from "it". It further reinforces our hierarchical relations with the non-I, other I's, and the universe as a whole. It treats "natural" as something to be studied, articulated, extorted, protected, developed, etc.

What if we throw away our hierarchies? What if we see ourselves as bodies lost together in this lonely blue planet. I am reminded of the words of the late Carl Sagan on our "pale blue dot" is an excerpt:

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

Can we integrated these imaginary I's into this idea of natural? What if we see ourselves as billions of I's, struggling for the same things, after all, are we not nothing more then a groupings of cells, trying to reproduce?

The following quotes from Jeffrey Cohen's "An Unfinished Conversation About Glowing Green Bunnies" in Queering the Non/Human further tease out the ideas I am trying to address:

J.J. Cohen
"I think of nature as being like god: it doesn't actually exist, but we humans posit it retroactively as a kind of unified entity in order to view agency, unity, and significance where those things are not necessarily found".

J.J. Cohen
"If I'm not horrified by her glow, it's because I'm not convinced that a boundary (natural/unnatural) has in fact been crossed: what has been queered is the very notion that such a boundary existed in the first place".

Karl Steel
"Reproduction, the foundation of the natural (and whose presence as such makes it the bête noire [avoided subject] of queer theory?), is also an assault on agency, perhaps the assault on agency..."

From these quotes, I summarize that as creatures, we are born without choice onto this world, and with this birth, imparted onto us is the I. The idea of I as separate from the non-I is cemented as we become "civilized". By queering and critically analyzing our relationships between each other, the "natural", "nonnatural", "contaminated", "human", and "nonhuman", we can challenge the very structures that perpetuate undemocratic practices, institutions, sciences that privilege capital (and social signifies of it), while marginalizing others. What is left? A sense of wholeness, belonging, and a commitment to community.

RE: Golden Rice

Golden Rice: by Kristi on October 30, 2010
Week (Oct 25/27/29): Democratic Science Category

The original blog post was about the controversies behind the introduction of Golden Rice in Third World countries. I want to relate this topic to this week's reading of trustworthiness of scientific research and democratic science. I am pretty skeptical whenever I hear that the United States wants to "introduce" a solution to world hunger. As mentioned in the blog the Golden Rice is a new scientific finding in an American lab and is to be shipped to the Third World countries once "approved" by the government. But what I always ask and never get the answer to is who is the American government to decide for other countries, and why should they have the power to decide what is good for the country. It is not surprising that science always "invents" something and tries it on the less powerful, underrepresented and the poor countries or human and animal. The Golden Rice is the same, made for the Third World country and not meant to be used in the United States. I personally think this unethical and should be illegal. However, this is not new, as in the Cosmetic Industries group presentation, the introduction of face bleaching cream in Japan and of its banning in the United States can be greatly related to the Golden Rice. Science's quick fix solution decides what is best for a community and does not involve their direct participation. It fails to acknowledge the community's opinions, beliefs and needs. As in Shiva's Democratizing Biology, "Biodiversity is ecologically and culturally embedded" for every community (456). Therefore through the forced introduction of the Golden Rice to Third World countries such as India, science is not only disrupting their biodiversity, but also denies citizens' rights to participate and their rights to know what is really behind science. So why should the community/society respect and trust science if science is not doing the same?

Earning a Patient's Trust

I would like to discuss on Mother Knows Best posted by Dr. Female during week 11 (Reproductive Technology - Nov 19). Dr. Female talks about a student's experience when she was in labor. The student shared the experience she had with her doctor. She said the doctor was not even in the room until the very last minute. And when he came in, he claimed that a C-section would be the best route for the mother and child. And thus he performed the surgery. The student felt as if the doctor just rushed through the whole birthing process.

Certainly there are good experiences and bad experiences with doctors. There are some who are helpful and take the time and effort to try to understand his/her patients, yet there will always be those who seem to not care for their patients, like the doctor that one of our classmates had an encounter with. For us, we think doctors should be there to serve us and acknowledge that we want explanations. But just knowing one side of the situation, we cannot claim that he was necessarily a bad doctor. He could have been; or perhaps he was busy, or possibly studying the patient's history, etc.

Dr. Female asks how these doctors can regain our trust. As stated in class strong objectivity is required. Doctors should be engaged with their patients, not detached. Doctors should acknowledge their patients and explain what is going on. With this, it allows us, as patients, to trust our doctors, because they try to put themselves in our shoes. This is a strong tool of empowerment. If you do not trust your doctors, whatever the doctors say, it is useless.

As a society we need to work towards a democratic science. Like Dr. Female suggested, getting a second doctor's opinion is not a bad idea. In a system of multiple knowers, we are given more choices. This, in turn, will enhance strong objectivity with a better end result.

Negative Participation in Scientific Research

A few weeks ago (November 4th to be exact), I created a post entitled "Animal Activists" which was located in the "Animal Research" category. This post is directly related to the topic of community participation in scientific research, but in an obviously negative way. I cited an episode of "The Simpson's" in my article and discussed how it has become custom to ruin someone's fur coat by dumping red paint on it to express one's pro animal stance. While wearing fur coats isn't necessarily considered animal research, it did make me think about other occurrences that would fit better in the topic of scientific research. The main thing that I thought about is present right on our campus in the labs where they do scientific research on animals. I work there occasionally and have seen posters of people to watch out for who are known animal activists and to call 911 if these people are seen in the labs. This is a perfect example of negative participation in scientific research. Another great pop culture example that relates to this topic is the movie "Jay and Silent Bob Strike". If you are not familiar with this movie, it stars two guys who are trying to find their way to California to stop a movie from being produced. Along the way, they find themselves stuck with a bunch of people who claim they are animal activists. The two then get talked into breaking into this lab and let a bunch of different animals free and, in turn, negatively participate in scientific research.
j and s.jpg

The Cosmetic Industry

This is in response to the blog entry...
"The Price of Beauty" by olden040 under "11:Cosmetics" Created November 21st

This remains an interesting concept to me because as this article mentions, "we know that cosmetics are bad for us" so why do we continue to use them? I feel like this relates back also to the question of trustworthy and community testing. I feel like consumers, as a community, know the risks of the cosmetic industry, but fail to acknowledge them because it is not something we want to believe. To us, the scientists that test these products are not someone we personally know or have a relationship with, so why should we be inclined to listen to what they are telling us? Certainly my favorite makeup that I and a million other Americans wear every day cannot be hazardous to my health just because some person in a lab coat tells me it is. Due to the fact that there is no personal relationship formed between the scientists running these tests a sense of trust is missing in the consumer, so we choose not to believe or pay attention to the truths that are being presented to us. It is especially harder for us to listen to someone we don't know due to the fact that make up and cosmetic products are something that we have grown accustomed to. It is going to take a lot more than someone we don't know telling us about a test to take away the cosmetic products that we have gotten used to having on a daily basis. Therefore, I feel like if community testing were to come into play, citizens would be a lot more inclined to listen to the dangers that cosmetic industries actually present. Unfortunately, it usually takes an actual experience or personal experience with the side effects of these products to get people to listen. But maybe if more of these community testing policies were implemented there could be fewer tragic long term effects by avoiding the possibility of them in the first place. However, in order for this to happen, the tests need to someone that we can trust and who we know cares about us. It is hard to accept knowledge on such a personal product when you have no relationship with the person telling you the knowledge. Therefore, if you could have personal interaction with some of the people performing the tests and giving safer alternatives we may be able to avoid the harmful long term effects that many cosmetic products are known to cause. Lets be honest, it is unrealistic to say that we will stop using these products entirely. However, if we have the right motivation from people who we feel we can trust, we can at least make the switch to safer alternatives and avoid many potential tragedies in the future.

Body Mass Index

This is a response to
"The Athletic Body Mass Index" by walte423 under "10:Diet, Health, and Body" Created November 14th

I think the Body Mass Index is a perfect example of "trustworthy" research due to the fact that it seems to be an inaccurate measurement of what it is to be healthy or unhelalthy. According to the statistics posted in this blog if the BMI was an accurate measurement 22.5% of all athletes would be overweight. This blog also showed that it was mostly men that displayed a high BMI, while a lot of female athletes are actually considered underweight according to the BMI. This is extremely curious since we would consider athletes some of the healthiest people in our country, if they can't pass the BMI test what hope is there for a normal citizens like us? Since the BMI simply is a measurement of height and weight, it does not accurately account for telling who is overweight and who is not. It does not account for a person's muscle mass nor does it account if a person simply has a different shaped body. It is a known fact that people differentiate in skeletal body types between small, medium, and large. Clearly, a person who has a small body structure is going to weigh less than a person with a large body structure, even if they are the same height. It may in fact be physically impossible for someone with a large body frame to reach the same weight as a person with a small body frame, but the BMI does not account for any of this. It simply measures on two broad measurements and doesn't take into account any other factors that may be playing into a person's weight. It is therefore easy to misdiagnose someone with the BMI as overweight or underweight. So why do we let this dictate our decision on if we are healthy or not? We consistently look to these blind measurements because our doctors tell us that this test will tell us if we are healthy or not, when in fact the BMI may have nothing to do with health. Therefore, the BMI is a prime example of untrustworthy data from physicians because unless they truly take time to look at your specific case, the BMI is a general way to measure health that is more times than not an inaccurate measurement. Yet it remains the main system of measure for telling if a person is healthy or not.

Untrustworthiness of Vaccines

During class on Monday we listed off many examples of un/trustworthy research examples in science - one being vaccines. I immediately thought of the blog that I posted just a couple of weeks ago regarding the flu vaccine's untrustworthiness. This vaccine, as we all know, is administrated to anyone who wants it and at several convenient locations such as grocery stores, pharmacy convenience stores - CVS, Walgreens, schools, churches, etc., making the flu vaccine easily attainable. When I think of a vaccine being given at any other place other than the doctor's office, I would normally consider it to be safe because otherwise why would they make it so attainable if they even slightly question its possible effects? I'm sure all the possible side-effects for receiving the flu vaccine are available for viewing, but the few times that I was given the shot I was never told that I could possibly contract Dystonia - the neurological disease that the young woman in the video from the original post had contracted. We are led to believe that vaccines help us and not hurt us, which is shown to be false with this particular case. But the part that scares me the most is that we are encouraged (and sometimes even told) by several different parties to receive these vaccines - parties that we often trust with our health: doctors, pharmacists, etc. The woman from the film said, "she received the vaccine to earn points for her work health plan that gives perks for each level of wellness that is attained." (according to How are we supposed to know which vaccines we should be given if seemingly-credible sources are giving us recommendations and incentives to receive them? Can we further trust these seemingly-credible parties that recommend and administer the vaccines? Can we trust the vaccines that we have always thought to be safe? How do we get to the bottom of what is actually safe?

Reference to original blog post: Fear of the Annual Flu Vaccine by djk0467, Week 10: Biofears

Taking the Doctor's advice

If we don't have trust in the doctors and the scientists, how will we get anything accomplished? Would we have antibiotics to treat hundreds of infections? Would we ever find the cure to cancer?
In the blog titled "Mother Knows Best," Dr. Female argues that not all doctors are trying to "rush people through" and instead that most doctors want to "help people." In the movie "Knocked Up" the Doctor is yelling at the main character played by Katherine Heigl to listen to what he advises about her pregnancy and his decisions about her birthing process. Female explains how the doctor and other main character, played by Seth Rogen, have a conversation in order to calm the situation and in order to get all of the possible options explained.
This is a commonly perceived view of what happens at hospitals during a birthing process. Female continues by writing that, doctors "obviously have a good idea of what is going on" because they "have seen thousands of these cases." Yet women don't trust them as much as they should sometimes.
There are newer safer methods to delivering babies now than there ever was before. This can be seen by the drop in deaths since the methods of c-sections and other things were developed. None of these methods may be around if we didn't trust scientific research. Some methods are unnatural but they save many lives and that is the most important thing to doctors. So why do we not have more trustworthiness in the methods that doctors use and many of the decisions they make?
The information in my blog was referenced from:
Blog title: Mother Knows Best
Author: Dr. Female
Category: 11: Reproductive Tech (Nov17)

sandra steingraber: 'living downstream'

Anyone who is interested in environmental toxins and links to cancer should check out this movie or her book by the same title. She is a great writer, and makes a lot of complex scientific information understandable for those who are not advanced scientists. In the book (and I assume the movie as well) she traces her journey of overcoming and tracing her own battle with cancer, and explains both the science as well as the politics of cancer through an environmental lens. Enjoy.

Plastic Surgery: Media or Mentality?

This week, we pretty much did an overview of all of our presentations. We got around to talking about the cosmetics business and the fashion business, and I immediately began to think about the music industries around the world. I'm an avid listener of both American music as well as Korean music. The two countries may be divided by a large ocean, but the ideals are the same. Pop stars from both countries face major scrutiny if they receive any sort of cosmetic change up, whether it be plastic surgery or the copious amounts of makeup that both male and female stars wear. Here's a few stories to show the comparisons:

Plastic surgery controversy:
Korean media
American media

Stars using copious amounts of makeup:
Korean media
American media

It's amazing to see how much it can be controversial when such procedures and products are supposed to be supportive of increasing the idea of beauty and appeal for both sexes. I really think it's interesting that the media would zero in on ideas such as make up usage and how unisex it's become, becoming a fashion statement in both areas. I want to ask everyone what they believe these products really do for people though. The Korean media article about makeup really talk about how heavy eyeliner is becoming a major trend in male idol stars, depicting a fierce, manly image, whereas the American media really focus on how make up on males is definitely a negative aspect. Do you think it's important for stars in Hollywood to maintain a specific image?

The real heart of these controversies is the question of beauty and image. Across cultures, it's a similar cry. So what really makes up an image? Is it the advertisements? Is it comparing oneself to those idol stars who make money every time they endorse a certain product? Or is it the idea of finding someone who will care, even if it means using some potentially deadly products?

Deadly Cosmetics

The ethics presentation on the cosmetic industry focused a lot on the creation and promotion of the "Ideal" female role and the trends of makeup use. A lot of what the group touched on was the "social norms" of both makeup use and body image as a whole that women are expected to adhere to. This made me think a lot about how trends in makeup and body image and the "social norm" change. One trend that underwent a particularly drastic change was the use of bronzer. In the Victorian era, light pale skin was seen as the ideal, a sign of wealth and beauty, whereas a tan complexion was a sign of the working class. In the European middle ages women went as far as bleeding themselves to obtain a pale complexion. Today, women expose themselves to harmful UV rays by lying outside in the sun and utilizing tanning beds, in order to get a tan. Tanning lotions, sunless tanner, and bronzers are a staple in many women's daily routines.

Another thing the cosmetic industry group focused a lot on was the presence of hazardous chemicals in many cosmetics and the cosmetics database that informs consumers of these chemicals. Cosmetics have contained hazardous chemicals as long as they have been in existence. This article describes the history of makeup and different chemicals used throughout history. In Greco-Roman society women wore white lead and chalk on their faces. Face powders were made from arsenic, causing hundreds of deaths. The most dangerous chemicals used in many cosmetics throughout history were lead, nitric acid, and mercury.

My question to you is why the "trend" of using hazardous and potentially lethal chemicals in cosmetics has carried throughout history and are still being used and produced today? Why have society's pressures of makeup use lead so many women to ignore the damage they are doing to themselves in order to "fit in" with the social norms of the time?

The Price of Beauty

Are we slathering hazardous chemicals and unregulated substances? Cosmetics and other body products bring us in contact with more than 120 chemicals daily and many of them are hazaradous to our health. I was watching the Dr. Oz Show shorty after the Cosmetic Industries presentation. I though this article titled The Price of Beauty brought up a lot about what the cosmetic industries group was saying. An interesting point that they made in the article was using these products, such as anti-wrinkle cream, for beauty pays a price. The article mentions that using these products such as anti-wrinkle cream actually promote skin breakdown, thus leaving you at a higher rate for more wrinkles. It seems these beauty products are only a temporary solution to create and perfect the 'female ideal' created by the media and society. Cosmetics are hazardous to our health, and we know it. Will we rise up against the female ideal and stand up for our health? Why is the cosmetic industries putting hazardous chemicals in products that we use on children? Why are the cosmetic companies hiding the ingredients that go into their cosmetic products? Do we need to do something about this? Are cosmetic products really that dangerous? We use them everyday to cover up our flaws, clean our children, clean ourselves, clean our animals. How much is too much?

Nadya Suleman (a.k.a. Octomom)


This week, during the discussion of reproductive technologies, the issue was brought up as to how these technologies should be regulated in regards to pregnancy inducing procedures such as In Vitro Fertilization. Since we didn't stay on the subject to long I wanted to take another look at the subject. Now personally, I think anyone should be allowed to reproduce at least once, and according to these technologies help thousands of couples a year. But what about individuals who want to have children, should they be allowed to use these technologies even though they don't have the traditional family structure. My answer to this would be, if they can afford it, and if so then sparingly. Personally I think it is unnecessary to use this technology to have eight children in one like Nadya Suleman (a.k.a Octomom), who has 14 children total. I believe this is unethical, dangerous, and far too much work for a single parent to handle both emotionally and financially. However, this is an extreme case and I do believe there is value in these technologies. So now, my questions to the readers are when do you believe this technology is acceptable to be use, for what outcome, what regulations should, or even could, be placed on these technologies, and when should these technologies not be used?



| 1 Comment

The first recent news event that I think about when I hear of infertility treatments and other recent reproductive technologies is Octomom. I'm sure almost everyone has heard of this woman. Her name is Nadia Suleman and her story became known around the world when she gave birth to octuplets back in 2009 after using in-vitro fertilization treatments. She used this same procedure to get pregnant with the 6 children she had before the octuplets. There has been a lot of discussion about her situation and most of it is negative. She obviously cannot care for all of her children on her own and requires public assistance because she is unemployed. Her family is trying everything they can to make money for her because recently her house has faced foreclosure. There are some very ethical issues that arise in looking at her case and most of the blame for her problems is put on her fertility doctor. Investigators found out that the doctor had actually implanted 12 fertilized embryos into Nadia before she became pregnant with the octuplets, which is an extremely high number compared to the three or four embryos that are normally implanted. His actions resulted in a very risky and unhealthy pregnancy for Nadia. Recently I found this article, talking about the testimony in the very much talked about trial involving the fertility doctor. The state licensing agency has accused Dr. Michael Kamrava of negligence in the case of Nadia and two other women and is seeking to revoke his license. Besides the fact that he had implanted too many embryos compared to the standard for in-vitro fertilization, they also believe he should have referred Nadia to a psychiatrist for an evaluation before continuing with any of the fertility treatments. Some doctors are supporting him and saying that his actions were what was needed since she was an infertile single mom with a desire for a large family. Well a large family is certainly what she received and now she is unemployed and living on welfare with the risk of her house being foreclosed. So my questions for you are: What are your thoughts on Octomom? Do you think it's entirely the doctor's fault that Nadia is in the situation she is now? How big of a role does in-vitro fertilization play in this whole case? If reproductive technologies did not exist, would similar situations be prevented? What other ethical issues are prevalent in the whole Octomom story?

People: StyleWatch!

After paging through a magazine at work on my break, titled "People Style Watch" the presentation given this past Monday about the Cosmetic Industry came to mind. This magazine was entirely centered around clothing, accessories and makeup.


Tons of makeup tricks, ideas and new products presented to the reader. It then occurred to me how the media is so involved with the cosmetic industries, and how wearing makeup now seems to be the "norm." For example, if a celebrity isn't wearing makeup, you find various magazine articles "exposing" her real features and almost puts a negative connotation to them. It's almost as if, if a woman is not wearing makeup she is then regarded as not pretty or even not "womanly." I guess I never really took notice to the cosmetic industry and how large and influencing they can be on society. We are shown commercials daily about various cosmetics to buy, to reduce "fine lines around you eyes, enhance your lips, or volumizing your eyelashes" as if women, and even some men...are not good enough to go out in public unless we have these material things. I myself wear makeup everyday, I don't wear much, just mascara and some blush, but I've begun to think, "Have I myself been pressured by the industry to wear makeup, so I will fit in with the standards of today's society?" I would like to believe I chose on my own regard, but really...I'm starting to think this is not so. Don't get me wrong, I do go out with no makeup on too, but it's once in a blue moon.

So girls (and possibly men) I ask you this: Do you feel pressure to wear makeup? Do you feel like society has put a standard on how you should present "your face?" What about anti-aging makeup in general? Is our society today so out of skew with this ideal that wearing makeup makes you beautiful, makes you a "woman" that there is no way for us to turn away from this view?

Toodle PIP

Cosmetic surgery is by no means new (it dates back to before A.D. even), but has boomed into a business that we all know of and don't even bat an eye at any longer. We've become used to seeing people with reconstructed noses, lips, eyelids (like the double-eyelid surgery), and breast implants.
As in the following article from a few days ago that I recalled reading about, there were issues with a breast implant called Poly Implant Prosthesis (or PIP). It was banned by France due to the high chance of rupture, but the manufacturer changed the gel within for one designed for mattresses (that just increased the chance of rupture even more).
Since medical devices don't take long to be given the OK and not usually tested, people getting breast enhancement surgeries are the "guinea pigs".

The article is here.

Also as highlighted in the article, there's an artificial hip that's been reported to create metal shards that broke and lodged themselves in the bodies of the patients. The fact that the company that created the hip did not have any clinical trials since it was not required is appalling. The lack of regulation in these medical devices need to be strengthened for the public's safety, even if it means that businesses manufacturing these devices must take longer to send their products out to the public.

Check This Out.

Even though it's my week to comment, I couldn't resist posting this link for all to see.


To put it lightly, the entire presentation was ridiculous--not because she possesses a religious background or cites it as a reason for her pro-life stance on abortion--but for the inane connections she made to abortion.

For example, she shared with us the time her daughter came into her house wearing a pink ribbon in support of breast cancer. She told her daughter to remove the pin or leave because, evidently, the Susan G. Komen Foundation supports Planned Parenthood.

When posed with the question, "what are your feelings on animal abortion?", to her credit, she gave a heartfelt reply, but ended her sentiment with, "well...I suppose we have to find *some* way to control the cat and dog population." How very speciesist of her.

Thoughts? Does anyone find any reason in her arguments I may have overlooked?

Couple wants you to decide: should they abort?

I've been running into this story all over the Internet for the past few days. A Minneapolis couple is asking for people to vote on whether or not they get an abortion. You can visit their site here.

The couple claim that they want to leave it up to the public to make this important decision so that people can have a real opportunity to make a difference through voting. It's hard to feel like casting a vote makes much of a difference, they imply, so they're offering up the fate of their pregnancy as a concrete example of what a simple vote can do. They post ultrasound pictures and the woman writes updates on how she's feeling, how doctor visits went, etc. The couple encourages voters to think of their pregnancy as their own, weigh the positives and negatives, and make a decision. Voting closes two days before the last date that abortion would be a legal option.

This would be a problematic and controversial issue even if everything they claim was true, but the whole thing is increasingly being seen as an anti-choice stunt. The Arnolds have self-identified as pro-choice, but it's difficult to understand this as anything but an anti-choice tactic. Would anyone really put such an important, personal decision in the hands of strangers just to prove a point about democracy? It seems unlikely. Furthermore, Slate reports that the pair are Glenn Beck fans, who is staunchly anti-choice. Pete Arnold is also said to be a conservative blogger, which further puts their story into doubt.

While this story about one couple's dubious decision to let the public make a choice for them isn't exactly a Big Deal, it is an interesting thing to follow and it's indicative of the passionate debate over abortion in this country. Arguably no other reproductive technology divides people more strongly and definitely. I'd be interested to see what everyone thinks of this; I'm kind of at the eye-rolling stage at this point. I'll leave you with a quote from the Slate article (linked above) that suggests anti-choice antics:

"Putting what you do with your body up to a vote is the anti-choice view. Treating women's bodies like they're public property is the anti-choice view. True, most anti-choicers think a woman's rights should be voted on in order to force childbirth, and they're making this more open-ended, but the underlying sentiment--that women's bodies are public property, that their choices should be determined by strangers--is what the pro-choice movement rejects."

Reproductive technologies and multiple births

| 1 Comment

After the reproductive technologies presentation I did a little research. I found an article that discusses assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and their risks. Assisted reproductive technologies are fertility treatments were both eggs and sperm are handled in the laboratory. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology. In the article she discusses how women who undergo IVF are much more likely to deliver multiple-birth infants than women who conceive without it. The problem with these multiple births is that it raises health risks for both the woman and her infant. For women, the health risks can be a higher probability for the need of a cesarean section, maternal hypertension, preeclampsia, hemorrhage, and death. For the infant, the health risks include a higher chance that they will require neonatal intensive care, and experience higher rates of low birth weight, preterm birth, and cognitive and physical impairments. Should these reproductive technologies be used if there are these health risks present? There is another reproductive technology that can be used single embryo transfer (SET) which has far less health risks because only one embryo is being transferred so it is far less likely for the woman to have multiple births. Surprisingly SET isn't used that much due to current federal policies like The Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act of 1992 which creates incentives for physicians to use multiple embryos to obtain better success rates. Do you think that the emphasis should be on better health for the infant and mother or on higher success rates?

Mission to Abort.


On Wednesday in class someone mentioned a law that requires/encourage women to have an ultrasound before they can ultimately make a decision to have an abortion. This New York Times Article describes a new law implemented in Oklahoma that mandates that women who are seeking an abortion to be given an ultrasound image in addition to a very detailed description of the fetus/embryo. I think that this is a very ridiculous use of reproductive technology because its primary purpose in this instance is to manipulate women/ guilt them by humanizing the fetus and influence them into making a decision that those who implemented the law believe is ethical. By doing so I think they are attempting to strip away a woman's right to make the choice that is best for them. Ironically enough as the article says that most women who see the image produced by their ultrasound say that the picture only reinforced their decision. Also, it shows the dichotomy between technology and humanity. Technology typically removes the human factor in a lot of applications to make them more economical/ efficient. But in this instance they utilize technology to attempt to humanize a fetus or an embryo when they don't really have any identifiable human features.

This video from the onion is a great hyperbole for these new laws and their intended effects by exaggerating the sort of manipulation that is used by mandating sonograms. For instance in the video they discuss the "provision that requires nurses to follow women around with a giant boom box that plays the sound of children's innocent laughter over and over again". This is a very blunt but similar idea to the ultrasound laws because it shows how certain ethical viewpoints are forced onto certain people to coerce them to accept ideas that are contradictory to their own on that ethical issue. Should sonograms be mandated before a woman can undergo an abortion? Where do we draw the line for accessible reproductive technology such as abortions, should we have to name the baby, paint a nursery for it and listen to the sound of children's innocent laughter before we can really make a decision?

African Market for Female Condoms?

| 1 Comment

The article

Female condoms haven't really caught on in the US--- or in any country for that matter. Often, the male condom has served as a less embarrassing and more natural feeling alternative. However, male condoms generally put contraceptive power and choice into the hands of those who wear them, men. This has proven to be a problem in Africa, where the AIDS epidemic is ever-present. Many women have to choose between keeping their partners happy and keeping themselves protected. The traditional female condom design was uncomfortable and awkward, leaving this contraceptive method rarely utilized. However, researchers have developed a new design that feels natural, and in many cases, men can hardly detect its presence. In Africa, this is an especially important technology, allowing women to protect themselves from the threat of AIDs without needing permission from their partner.

Beyond Africa, female condoms could play an important role in changing women's reproductive freedom. Men often are "in charge of" supplying condoms and women in taking the pill. This often allows women control over the choice to procreate, while the risk for sexually transmitted diseases still looms. A more desirable female condom may allow women take a more active role in preventing STD transmission.

Here are some questions I have:
1. Is there a market for female condoms in Western countries?
2. Even if there isn't a market, do female condoms signify an important step toward female autonomy in reproduction?
3. If female condoms do become more popular, will they affect the desirability of male condoms at all?

The Pope's Condoms

For many, the issue of the Church and condoms are obvious: they're an unnatural means of conception avoidance.
Just today on BBC's front page a headline blared out at me: Pope's condom comments welcomed by campaign groups (of which, you can find here: linkage

The pope said that "the use of condoms might be justified in exceptional circumstances."

The "exceptional circumstances" was given in his example of "male prostitutes where, he said, using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS could be seen as an act of moral responsibility, even though condoms were 'not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection'."

This of course is very much incorrect as we all know.

Contraception is within Reproductive Technology's realm, and as we can see from this article, people, even the Pope, lack the knowledge or the acceptance that contraception and its various methods can be used to control STDs or STIs.
I myself have asked various people throughout the years (say the last 5 years) on their views of condoms and other forms of contraception, and most knew the importance of using condoms for safety reasons, but others blindly follow the Church (in other words, they had no knowledge really about methods of contraception except that it's not natural and give illogical reasons when asked as to why they think it isn't.). Of course, this DOES NOT tie in with everyone.
Ever since the 1920s and 1930s, condoms and other forms of birth control have been opposed by the Church, so this comment of the Pope's is, as can be imagined, quite controversial, although saddening since the Church still will not go with the times.

Condoms can actually help with a country's way of living and quality of life, as "Mr.Condom" has for Thailand.

As you can see from the video, condoms were used as population control and were even blessed with holy water to bypass the Catholics view on condoms in the Phillipines by monks for the sanctity of the family.
Although how people were educated on condoms are hilarious or strange (Mr. Condom and condom blowing competitions and hairbands?), it really is amazing how it has helped Thailand with family planning and changed their lifestyle and propelled them to progress.
Will something that helped for Thailand help other countries? Most likely, but the fact that it's the world that need help with this, how can we spread this further so that the whole world can take a leaf out of Thailand's book? With the Church's hold on most of the world, will it be a possible move at educating people of contraception? If we can, what ways can we educate people about various forms of contraception aside from just the "talk" or letting kids watch videos when they're 10?
Or should children be taught earlier if we don't want them to have children at 10 like this little girl. Apparently it's cultural for Romanian gypsies to give birth at this age, but it's very dangerous as the younger the girl, the more complications there can be for the infant.

Reproductive Technologies & Acupuncture

| 1 Comment

At the beginning of last summer, my brother and his wife began seeking treatment for their problems with infertility. They never really considered trying in vitro fertilization because of its high cost and low percentage of getting pregnant (only about 35%). Instead they turned to an alternative, less expensive, type of treatment that had higher success rates: acupuncture. After three months of weekly sessions, my sister-in-law announced that she was pregnant! During the presentation on reproductive technologies the other day, I was again reminded of the amazing options for people who cannot conceive on their own. After a quick search on youtube, I found this video that highlights one couples journey and their joy after a successful acupuncture treatment:

While in vitro fertilization is an awesome scientific feat, it only works 1/3 of the time and most people cannot afford to pay for it if their health insurance doesn't cover the costs (on average $12,400). I also understand that acupuncture isn't cheap either (sessions cost between $50-$130 in this area), it is a more affordable option for many couples and some health insurances may cover the costs. I could not be happier for my brother and his wife, but at the same time I wonder if all this technology is necessary. My brother and his wife chose to adopt after first learning of their infertility, but this was also very expensive and very emotional process. While respecting the individual's or couple's choice to want to bear their own child, are these reproductive technologies necessary in an already overpopulated world? And for those who choose to have a child on their own rather than adopting, what can be done to make this process more affordable for more people? Also, in the video, the woman being interviewed stated that, "I wasn't willing to make it a science project" referring to her pregnancy; do you think that acupuncture is less of a science project than in vitro fertilization?

Cosmetic Dangers- Forseen?


As I was listening on Monday to all the dangers posed by the everyday cosmetics, it reminded me of a plot point from Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman. In the film, the main villain, the Joker, takes over a huge chemical company and uses his knowledge of chemistry to create a line of cosmetic and hygienic products that, when used in combination, will cause the wearer to die laughing. I thought during the presentation that this is essentially what's happening today. Given that today's cosmetics won't cause one to die laughing, it does raise an interesting point that here we are 21 years after that movie came out and yet our cosmetics do pose a health risk that most people don't even realize, just like the citizens of Gotham City in the movie. I'm sure that no one watching that movie in 1989 would have dreamed that cosmetics they would wear one day would become so hazardous to their health. And to go further, the citizens in the movie were saved from the Joker's products because Batman found out the problem and released the knowledge to the press. As we in the real world have no such Dark Knight to protect us, this means that people do not know about the dangers posed by the chemicals in cosmetics. True, the website that the group presented does have the information that people need to know, but many people are pretty much unaware of its existence. So who should go about the task of informing the public? Is it the responsibility of consumers to know what they're buying? Or the government to protect its citizens? Or the companies to protect their customers?


The Power of the Ultrasound

| 1 Comment

In wednesay's presentation on Reproductive Technologies, we discussed how sonograms (ultrasounds) were a way for the mother and doctor to check up on the fetus and see how it was developing. I stumbled upon this hilarious short film about a couple receiving an ultrasound. However, instead of using the ultrasound to check up on the baby's health, they were checking up on its level of hotness...

This film points out just how ridiculous it would be to predict what a baby would look like, and more importantly, mocks the people who actually worry if their baby is going to be pretty or not. We already discussed a couple weeks ago how close technology was to making 'designer' babies, so that's not the reason I'm showing this video. Mainly I just wanted to ask people what they thought about ultrasounds. The possibility was brought up in class that ultrasounds would one day be mandatory for people considering getting an abortion. Do you think this is fair? Should we force people struggling with this decision to face an image of their unborn child? What do you guys think? I personally believe ultrasounds should continue to do what they're doing now, checking up on the baby's health, not scaring women out of getting abortions, and not scaring people into thinking they're having an ugly baby!

Mother knows best.


During the birth scene in the movie Knocked Up, the doctor tells Katherine Heigl that she is going to be given medication and they need to get the baby out now because the cord is wrapped around it's neck. That was not the birth plan that Katherine and her original doctor had gone over. She specially says that she "doesn't want the baby to come out all drugged out." The doctor freaks out and starts yelling that maybe she should be the doctor and that he obviously must not know what he is talking about if she is just going to refuse his suggestion anyway. Seth Rogen handles the situation very well by asking the doctor to step out in the hall to have a conversation regarding the doctor's demeanor. The doctor returns, apologizes and calmly discusses the options with Katherine. Explaining that his job is to get the baby out safely as the top priority, and that this is the best way he knows it can be done.

This scene is thought to be all too common in the world, doctors make decisions without talking to the patients. However, the law states that all patients must be fully informed on the risks of all procedures and that consent has to be given to any procedure, especially those that are invasive. If consent is not given, lawsuits often result costing doctors a lot of money and more importantly, their reputation.

In this scene the doctor takes charge telling Katherine what needs to be done to get the baby out safely. This could easily be considered an extreme case, because I will agree, that often a c-section is not the best solution. However, as the doctor explains, his main job is to make sure the baby is okay.

Many women used to die during pregnancy. It was a common cause of death actually. If you look back in time the mortality rates for women giving birth have dropped dramatically. Whether or not doctors are taking charge pre-maturely, the fact remains the same: less people are dying. It is never beneficial for the mother to die giving birth, and it is always heart breaking when the child dies due to problems that arise with labor.

The truth is that labor is a very difficult transition in a women's body. Things are minor as the hips being turned even as slightly as 2 degrees can cause severe problems during birth, such as broken blood vessels within the mother's body from stress of pushing, undue stress on the baby's head(and ultimately it's development), or worse-a cracked pelvis. All of things things have been eradicated by increased reproductive technologies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all cases are the same, and I am positive that there are some doctors out there that do just rush people through to make it to their tee-time, but most doctors became doctors for one reason: to help people. Most doctors have been practicing for years and have seen thousands of cases. They obviously have a good idea of what is going on. How can a first time mother know more about the situation than someone that has performed it many many times? C-sections and anesthetics are not necessarily natural, but they have improved birthing conditions for many women, and millions of lives have been saved because of their introduction.

My question for you all is: How can we draw the line? Obviously it is important to question your doctor, and to make sure we get second opinions because not all doctors are good doctors. But, how can these doctors regain our trust? The doctor in the film did it right by calmly explaining the situation to Katherine and getting her to understand the problems at hand. But will this be enough? Or will we always wonder if we know best over the trained professional? Is it actually a problem of them over-stepping their bounds, or is it just a wish that we could be more informed?(Because, by law, we have to be informed in full)

digging deeper into the cosmetics industry

I tried to embed the video but it didn't work, but check out the following website and watch the clip. Also, just copy and paste as I cannot for whatever reason link anything ever.

There is a video that is about 10 minutes long that is pretty easy and accessible to understand, and has links to a ton of other related issues such as bottled water. Let me know what you think of the site if you check it out. I just stumbled across it earlier tonight and have yet to check everything out.

I remember being overwhelmed and skeptical when I began learning about the way we are being sold potentially unsafe food and products. I realize it is in many ways unavoidable, and it is just yet another thing to worry about in our overstimulated, over-informed, over-worried state of being. However, it is important to know that there are many power dynamics that operate in order to keep us uninformed and loyal consumers to products we don't necessarily need and could choose to avoid if we were given the information.

I do not think that the responsibility can fall to the consumer only and that it should not be framed as individual choice, as this removes the very real damage that disproportionately compounds already marginalized communities both in the US and abroad (the term 'environmental racism' can be applied here).There is the issue of affordability (which comes into play both for affordable and accessible healthy food as well) in which chemical-free often means more money spent on natural products.

A lot of people seemed surprised on with the ethics presentation on Monday about the cosmetics industry. I first learned about this during an Ecofeminism course I took in about 2004 at Minneapolis and Technical College, taught by Carol Hogard. This woman was fantastic, and forever changed my life in pushing me to see how blind we can be do the injustices that do have systemic roots and that we are all a part of.

We understood environmental justice as a complex issue in which the relationship of humans to the earth and nonhumans is one of domination, control, and exploitation of resources. Destroying natural ecosystems and polluting environments stands strongly as something that should be contested, especially when much the destruction is being done by cutting corners and the dictates of unchecked capitalism.

This last point is important, as low-income and poor communities across the globe are disproportionately and systematically chosen as sites to build factories and dump toxic waste, as it is a matter of economics to do so. Also, as was explained during the presentation, many chemicals are found to mimic estrogen and/or can affect fetuses which make this a particularly female issue. How is it that the right for corporations to pursue profit can be prioritized/ valued over the forms of life that we are (or depend on or are inseparable from)?

What are your thoughts about the cosmetics industry (as well as other harmful practices) being unregulated as to what they use and disclose to consumers about the known effects of some chemicals used in their products? Can the 'epistemologies of ignorance' be used to explain the politics of how such a thing can and does continue to occur? Should agencies that claim to protect public health such as the FDA be expected to inform us or even mandate labeling for consumers? How is it that corporations set up their own regulatory agencies, and only require voluntary participation in meeting the standards set forth (as the video states: 'making the rules and then deciding whether or not to follow them')

Lastly, at the very end of this clip the Precautionary Principle is mentioned. This was essentially what my ecofeminism class concluded as both a personal and institutional solution that is so easily grasped and neutral, yet powerful and radical given that as it stands the United States have not yet adopted this as practice. It is simply that since we don't know the long term effects of these chemicals (or technologies such as GMOs, depleting non-renewable natural resources, among other topics of debate) that we should be cautious until we do know. Right?

To conceive or not to conceive...


One thing the reproductive technology presentation reminded me of was the Octamom that raised so much controversy just one and a half years ago. I found an old news video that gets to the gist of the controversy surrounding Nayda Suleman. This is a woman who used reproductive technologies to conceive children. She is a single mom of 14 children. She had 6 at one time and 8 at another. People were angered about this because she, at the time of giving birth to 8 children at once, was out of work. Many of her children ended up with disabilities due to the multi-births. Furthermore, to deliver the 8 children, it required many doctors and countless resources--all very expensive. Reproductive technologies--like all technologies--come with responsibility and accountability. Now the question becomes not whether or not someone can conceive, but should they? This also makes me wonder if we are perhaps becoming too advanced for our own good. One of my great worries is that we start to put restrictions on how many children people can have to control population and prevent people who might not have the resources to provide for their children from having too many children. But is this really an answer? The good thing about not using reproductive technologies is that, for the most part, it is the people who have the ability to care for and provide for children that reproduce. Caring for a child is perhaps one of the biggest responsibilities a person will ever have in their life. I do not think it is something that should be taken lightly and having a support system and/or going through it with someone else as a partner will make it a lot easier. I think having a child should be more than just the parent's choice/what they want. He/she/they should be thinking of what is best for the child and any other children they already have too. I am interested in other perspectives on this though. Do you think the Octamom was irresponsible or that she is justified in her actions? Furthermore, do you think the increased ability for people to conceive is going to create problems? If you do foresee problems, what are they and how can they be resolved? Finally, should just anyone be allowed to use reproductive technologies? Should just anyone be able to be parents?

Surrogacy & Baby Mama

Wednesday's class on reproductive technologies lead me to the realization that people will do anything in order to pass on their own genes, even as far as letting someone else carry their baby - surrogacy. This is an arrangement made for a woman to become pregnant and carry the child to term for a third party in exchange for payment. Googling the topic quick, these links were at the top of the list: offering "$26,500-$42,000!" to women willing to be surrogate mothers, a website called promising "Immediate matches. Surrogates with insurance. 30 yrs friendly service," and even Surrogacy: Surrogacy Agency Gay & Straight Couples Worldwide - making them so available even to the point of Surrogacy mothers online. I couldn't believe the price people are willing to pay and the lengths the will go to have their very own offspring.

Many of you have probably seen Baby Mama, starring Amy Poehler playing a surrogate mother because Tiny Fey's character Kate isn't able to have children since her uterus is T-shaped. Kate isn't married, doesn't have a partner of any type, but is financially stable. She pays $100,000 to an agency that hires surrogate mothers and sets up interviews between the parties to decide who will carry their child.

The beginning shows the owner of the Surrogate Agency and how she plays a role of a mediator between the two parties. In the movie, Angie (the surrogate mother) moves in with Kate because she breaks up with her boyfriend and the two are able to go through the pregnancy process together. Angie ends up not being pregnant with Kate's egg because the In Vitro fertilization did not take, but with her own fertilized egg. The contract between the two parties was obviously called off and Angie wasn't paid the $100,000, but Kate ended up getting pregnant by the small percentage she had.. so everyone was happy!

So my question is how far is too far? What lengths can people go to have their genes passed on? Do you think surrogacy is something that is acceptable or seems wrong?

To Create an Idiocracy


In Wednesday's discussion of Reproductive Technologies the idea of a declining global IQ was brought up. Many people stated that global IQ was declining but without proof I was a bit skeptical, so I looked around online when I got home. What I found was this website, which shows the changing average IQ as recorded from 1950 until now, as well as the predicted change through 2050. And sure enough, the average IQ is decreasing! This reminded me of a movie I saw a long, long, time ago. The movie is called Idiocracy, and is the story of the most average man of our century being sent 500 years into the future---where everyone has become amazingly idiotic. In class we talked about how many people have feared that the rather high birth rate of the lower-class, wondering if these "less intelligent" people will cause a trend of increasing stupidity in the future. Sure enough, that is what this movie's premise is. This video explains it far better than I could:

As us science majors have probably all heard about a hundred times, evolution favors those who reproduce the most. In the natural world, those who reproduce the most are the most fit to survive. In the human world... not so much.

So my question to you is, do you think the downward trend of global IQ seen in the last fifty years is a serious concern? Are we slowly devolving into a far less intelligent version of the human species as seen in Idiocracy? What should we do about it if we are? What can reproductive technologies (potentially) do for us in this scenario?

Here's the trailer for the movie, for those interested:

This message brought to you by...

| 1 Comment

...Privilege Denying Dude at


Makeup Dilemma

| 1 Comment

Monday's presentation from the Cosmetics group got me thinking. I am thinking about cosmetics' role in our culture and their effects on all of society, but most importantly, on women. The Cosmetics group did a great job explaining the health hazards of cosmetics, along with the compulsion that women feel to wear makeup because of an impossible beauty ideal created by our culture. I think we can all agree that the media plays a huge role in this because of its pervasiveness into all aspects of our lives; media has become a major component of the "spectacle" that has become our culture. (Do I need citations in blog posts? It's from Debord's Society of the Spectacle) We, as women, absorb these images of manipulated bodily perfection and, hard as we may try, are unable to block them all out without internalizing them. Also, maybe as a result of this internalization or maybe not, a lot of us use and consume cosmetics. The larger question is what to do about it? Should I just stop wearing makeup as a rejection of sexual objectification of women? ...Coloring my hair? ...Wearing clothes that make me look nice? ...Participating in mainstream culture whatsoever?

I ask these questions rhetorically because I think there are other, more effective solutions than we as individual women turning our bodies once again into the battleground. So instead of placing the center of debate on my body and those of other women, I propose putting the central focus on alternative ways of fighting the impossible, male & heterosexually defined, harmful definition of beauty on those who disseminate it at a larger level.

Here are a few cool ways that people have targeted these harmful messages on a larger scale:

1. No Makeup En Masse: This woman decided to go without makeup for a week and gained a huge following of other women who abstained from makeup for a week. More people more power! Combining efforts helps strengthen the cause. Plus, a week is much more doable than trying to swear something off forever.

Girls at a Texas high school have decided to be makeup free every Tuesday.

2. No Photoshop: Photoshopped images are terrible! Well, when the media uses them in place of real people and we see them all the time they are.

This company refuses to use photoshop in its ads and its catalogues.

This is an alternative website to get your funny feminist news and celebrity gossip from that doesn't use photoshop.

Does anyone else have some other ways to effectuate change on a larger level than just not wearing makeup/using cosmetics? Or does anyone see a hole in my reasoning? Other ideas and possibilities are always welcome because this objectification of women has got to stop at point, somehow. NMW_HEADS_575x575-01.jpg

The Athletic Body Mass Index

After listening to the Health, Body and Diet group talk about Adrian Peterson having a really high Body Mass Index I decided to do some research and see how other top athletes compared to the BMI health standards. To do this I went to the website for the 2010 US Olympic Team. Under many of the player profiles they list height and weight and I recorded this and calculated their BMI in an excel spreadsheet. (Sometimes I had to use Wikipedia to find the height and weight and other times and for many athletes I could not find any data.) The BMI is calculated by dividing the height by the weight squared. I would like to present some of the results and general trends for your consideration:



The presentation by the Public Health group made me think a lot about the idea of making vaccinations mandatory. A current contentious issue brought up by the group was the newly developed and heavily marketed vaccine Gardasil. Gardasil is a vaccine to help protect woman against the Human Papillomavirus, HPV, and cervical cancer. The vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006. Many doctors and parents are encouraging young girls and women aged 9 through 26 to get the vaccine. I myself have gotten immense pressure from many health care professionals to get the vaccine.

However Gardasil has many adverse side effects and can cause very serious health concerns. In class we watched a video of a girl who had developed a severe immune deficit disorder due to the vaccine. This is an example only of a short term side effect. Who knows what kind of long term side effects will arise due to the vaccine. The fact is Gardasil has not been around long enough nor had enough testing done to determine what long term side effects accompany the vaccine.

In the 1960's, thalidomide was used as a treatment for morning sickness in pregnant women in the US and all around the world. The drug had no direct effect on the women taking the medication but it was found out to have severe birth defects in the newborn babies. The most common being lack of development of limbs. This drug, much like Gardasil, was not tested for many years before being put on the market in order to ensure no long term side effects remained. How do we know that Gardasil does not also have a long term side effect as severe as the one accompanied by thalidomide? Although many do not experience any side effects themselves from the vaccine we don't know if the vaccine could affect babies born to mothers who had received it in their teens. How can we even think of putting a drug, not 100% sure to have no long term side effects, on the market and giving it to girls at such a young age?

Brave New World

After this week's earlier presentation on Genetic Engineering and Patenting, I thought about a movie that I really liked while growing up, Gattaca. It was based on a book called Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which I have yet to read although it is in my book collection. The movie is based on the idea of how liberal eugenics becomes the norm and DNA plays the primary role in determining social class. According to Wikipedia, liberal eugenics is an "ideology which advocates the use of reproductive and genetic technologies where the choice of enhancing human characteristics and capacities is left to the individual preferences of parents acting as consumers, rather than the public health policies of the state". The movie revolves around the character Vincent Freeman played by Ethan Hawke, who is conceived and born without the aid of DNA enhancing technology, which is considered imperfect in the society portrayed in the movie. Vincent's younger brother, Anton, however is conceived with the aid of genetic selection. There is a game between these two brothers called 'chicken' in which they both swim out to the sea and the first to give up and swim back to the shore is the loser. Anton always wins due to his genetic enhancement but one day Vincent ends up swimming out further than his brother. Vincent dreams of becoming an astronaut but is discriminated due to his 'imperfect' DNA. He ends up buying the identity of a 'valid' candidate by using his urine and hair samples to bypass periodic security checks. Without giving too much away, the movie is basically a love letter to the human spirit and how the human heart can thrive over what is perceived to be genetic perfection. Vincent ends beating all odds and becomes the astronaut that he sets out to be in the end.

While stem cell research is still a distant reality at this point, will society one day be judged based on their genetic superiority? Do we allow ourselves to 'enhance' our own offsprings and lead ourselves into a super human race?


Diets Don't Work

As a somebody in the science majors, I am one to look for proof before taking things too seriously. With so many fad diets around the world, which one works? As the Diet, Body, and Health group explained, obesity is a major issue in America. Also as we discussed in class, the BMI scale is not that good of a measure of health, and one of the biggest effects it has if just to scare people into thinking they are more unhealthy than they are. I'm going to give some personal details here: according to the BMI scale I am obese with a BMI of 29. Now, I do admit I'm a little less fit than I used to be, and should be, but looking at me you wouldn't even classify me as obese. For me to even be at the upper edge of "normal" on the BMI scale (25), I'd have to lose over 30 pounds. Basically amputating a leg.
Anyways, enough of my digression. Here's a quick video about the Atkins diet. I don't know if many of you remember the Atkins craze...but it was pretty ridiculous.

Now, this goes back to my question of "Will it work?" In my psychology class we reviewed an article titled "Medicare's Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets are not the Answer." This article went on to talk about diets in which the researchers examined long term effects of dieters. While yes, diets will work in the short term; after about a year most people gain back their weight plus more. The conclusion of the article is that while it is important to eat healthy, diets (especially fad diets) are not effective in long term weight loss. However, exercise is a large factor. Regular exercise (with occasional high-intensity workouts) DO contribute to safe, healthy, effective, and long-term weight loss.

This being said, are we just too lazy to actually exercise? Is changing what we eat as far as we're willing to go?

I want to know if there are any popular diets that do incorporate strenuous physical activity as a primary part of their system. Why do Americans fall victim to these phony diets? And what can we do to change the system so that these diets and crazes are no longer necessary? This is more than an individual problem, it's a systemic problem.

Asian Carp & The Great Lakes

| 1 Comment

Upon hearing the presentation about Biofears and the discussion about invasive species, I sort of felt like the group was downplaying the problems that invasive species cause. Yes, some invasive species can be beneficial or not affect other species in a harmful manner, but with the vast majority of invasive species, this is not always the case.

Case in point: the asian carp. The asian carp is a real and current problem in our Great Lakes. I recently read an article concerning this and how asian carp eat up all the plankton in the lakes, causing other fish higher up in the food chain to starve. This, in turn, causes great concern to fishermen and the loss of biodiversity in the lakes. Many efforts are going into how we can block or deter the Asian Carp, since the current electrical barriers are not stopping all the carp from traveling, and DNA has even been found further up streams.
The article also noted how U.S. current spends billion of dollars to help combat invasive species and that aquatic invasive species are the worst.

So, my questions for you all is basically, what are your thoughts of invasive species in general? Do you have any thoughts on the Asian carp debate? Do you think the rhetoric of such articles always give the impression that invasive species are bad? How should this be solved?

I think the rhetoric of such articles is something to be looked at, and talked about how it needs to be changed.

The link for the article can be found here:

Disney teen queen

| 1 Comment

On Friday, the ethics topic of Health, Diet and Body presented topics ranging from H1N1 to eating disorders. It seems like along with that, there have been many reports of eating disorders flooding the news. From Portia De Rossi to now Disney Channel start Demi Lovato being treated for an eating disorder along with other issues. She has a long history of struggling with an eating disorder as well as a history of cutting herself. With all that H,D, & B presented on Friday and with all the information out there available to people, I don't understand why someone could do that.

My next question is really the history of her issues and how much hollywood as played up her problems. Hollywood provides the "guidelines" for girls such as how skinny they should be, what clothes they should wear, and how their hair should be cut. Demi Lovato is a very popular Disney Channel star with the average audience ranging from 8-13 years old. She is considered an idol to these little girls. With her scars being visible and her ultra skinny body being portrayed as and "idol", eating disorders are becoming more and more prevalent among young girls. Which goes to the question DH and Body asking how young is too young to talk about body image? Or more importantly what is considered healthy with all of the media controlling it?

Diets vs. Life Choices

Today, we are constantly bombarded with images of the "perfect body" by the media. For instance, the magazine Cosmopolitan always seems to have a picture of a slim female celebrity on the cover.


Better yet, they often offer some form of dieting advice to help you obtain a body like the one on the cover. In this instance it's "Lose Weight While You Eat". The point I'm getting at is that this "perfect body" image and all the different diets out there aren't really helping anyone. Diets, especially the quick fix diets that offer massive weight loss in only a few weeks, aren't sustainable and may only help to lose weight, not keep it off. In order to lose weight and, and keep it off, an individual needs to change their lifestyle; otherwise they will just gain the weight back. In an article on it talks about a maple syrup diet that Beyonce used to lose 22 pounds in time for the movie Dreamgirls, which even she admits she wouldn't recommend to anyone. This article also mentions all the false promises that diets may try to make in order to get you to try them. One example is that you can "trick your body's metabolism into using up energy". So in reality, it all comes down to making healthy choices and not overindulging. Just for fun I also found a video from the Onion that shows some ridicules quick fixes to hide any excess weight.

My question to the readers is how can individuals motivate themselves to change their eating and exercise habits in order to lose weight? Obviously this may be different for everyone so I'm just looking for some ideas.

She should really eat a sandwich.


On friday the Health, Body and Diet group were talking about how fat is portrayed in the media and how it is our fault as society that girls want to be thin/healthy. It got me thinking about how often we say to some skinny girl "You really should eat something." I remember a couple of years ago I was watching some television program that was about naturally skinny girls and how they are often mistaken for having eating disorders(maybe it was the TYRA show...I'm not sure) and the girls were saying how they had always felt victimized because people would come up to them and tell them how thin they were and how they should go "eat a sandwich". And I know that I do it too. I have some friends that are just naturally incredibly thin, and I always notice myself thinking that they should eat more, even though I know they can put away more food than my 6'1" boyfriend. On the show they were talking about how easy it is for people to criticize the skinny and tell them to gain weight, but they brought up the good many people would walk up to someone that is over weight and say "go lose weight"? Why is there this double standard? If society wants skinny people instead of fat people, why are the skinny people the ones that are constantly told by their peers and friends that they need to change?

Portia de Rossi/de Generes was just on the Ellen show talking about her new book where she talks about her various eating disorders she went through as a model and young actress. She talks about how she would be 85 pounds going onto the red carpet, and she would wear something to hide her arms because she knew that is what showed how skinny she was the most...yet, she would still win best dressed. That shows how set on thinness society is. This girl was literally killing herself to be thin, and the media showered her with praises. She also said that the one thing that could have been said to her to get her to stop would have been "That I look unhealthy." Telling someone they are too thin is a compliment. "How could someone be TOO thin?" she said. She said the way to get someone to stop is to play the health card.

I am wondering, all of you out there in feminist studies land, how thin is too thin? Can there be too thin? Can there be too fat? Is there actually a value to this? Or will it always be outside people telling you what is healthy? Can Health even be determined if doctors and such can't determine it?

My main question asks for alternatives. We talked in class a lot about how this system is jaded, and I agree. But, what can we do to fix it? Any ideas?

Automatic Soap Dispensers

I remember during the biofears presentation the topic of automatic soap dispensers was brought up. The general response to them was a negative one which I don't think was fair. People against them argued that they are just another way that companies are scarring consumers with the idea of germs and as a result they are making a profit off of people's fears. Furthermore, that automatic soap dispensers are a stupid idea and completely unnecessary because you are washing your hands so even if there are germs on the traditional soap dispenser's pump, they will be washed away. What wasn't mentioned is that the utilization of an automatic soap dispenser in addition to an automatic water faucet would be a highly effective way to decrease one's susceptibility to acquiring additional germs. The only problem with the previous proposal is that consumer automatic water faucets are uncommon and expensive. One could also argue that companies manufacturing automatic water faucets are also profiting off of people's fears of germs. I actually own this automatic soap dispenser made by Lysol. Some of the benefits I have found from using it are it decreases susceptibility to additional germs (germs present on traditional soap pumps) and it is efficient due to it's specific allocations of soap which are delivered through an electronic pumping system. One negative aspect I have found with it are the soap replacement cartridges are relatively expensive. You are forced to buy specific soap replacement cartridges, made by the company (Lysol), which are also fairly small. By forcing consumers to have to buy these specific soap cartridges they are making an even greater profit off of the consumer's fear of germs. What is your stance on automatic soap dispensers? Do you believe that they are necessary? Do you believe that they serve a purpose and are beneficial? Or that they just cause additional fears of germs which companies use to make a profit?

Aliens or Friends?

In the 'Infections and Biofears' presentation on Wednesday the group discussed how invasive species were portrayed in a negative light and were believed to "take over" the environment they were introduced in, killing off or diminishing many of the the other organisms. A study has been done by Brown University on the Asian shore crab that 'invaded' the New Jersey shore. In this article, posted by Science Daily, researchers report that the Asian shore crab does not harm the other species, but they actually coexist very nicely. This is an example of one invasive species that did not conquer the native ecosystem, but instead has gotten along with the other species quite well. Normally when we hear about invasive species we hear about how they dominate the landscape at the expense of the other species and how they cause more harm than good. This study actually showed that instead of the crabs crowding out the natives, there was actually a higher number of native plants where the crabs were because they worked off eachother so well. This is just one example of the natives and invasives living together in harmony and working off of eachother. We can compare the invasive plants to immigration, and see that the rhetoric for both are very similar. Both are seen in a negative light by many. Many people believe that immigrants will come in and take away jobs, hurting the 'natives.' My question is, why aren't people looking at the situation in a more positive light? Why don't people see immigration as an opportunity to learn to coexist and thrive from each other? People need to see all the good being brought in by immigrants and stop focusing on negative aspects that aren't even true. Why are people stuck in this way of thought even though our nation was built by immigrants? Almost everyone can trace back their family line to the time when their ancestors came to the United States from a far away land. Isn't it time to learn to live in harmony with each other??

Babying the Obese


First off there is one thing that you all need to know that was not said during the presentation by the Diet, Health, Body group. The BMI index is not used to determine the amount of fat a person has. At first it was but with new technology we have found better ways to determine this. The BMI index is primarily used to determine a person's risk of disease due to their weight. If you remember the picture they had of the fat person and the muscular person side by side and how they had the same BMI. It is true that we see the muscular person as healthier but he is still at an elevated rate of potential disease due to his weight. A bodybuilder is very susceptible to heart disease. If all you do for physical activity is lift heavy weights, you actually use the left side of your heart more. Over time with the left side of your heart bigger than the right, you are more susceptible to heart arrhythmia, attack or stoke. Also body builder seem to have much higher blood pressure than a normal person. Lastly an question that was not answered during the presentation was how do they determine what is overweight, obese, ect. for the BMI. The way they did this was by looking at premature morbidity and mortality due to their BMI. They found that at 19, 25, and 30 there were significantly higher rates. All of this information came from text book "Fitness & Wellness" by Werner and Sharon Hoeger.

Now on to what I wanted to talk about. In our society obesity is a server problem. The United States is the only industrialized nation where over 10% of the population is obese. This come with a price, a price which we all must pay.

In this video we hear about a person story with obesity. Tim, was obese adn when he went to his doctor he got the response most people would get. We need to get you on some sort of prescription. I give a lot of credit to Tim for losing weight the right way through diet and exercise. Our society has become so lazy that even with a health problem due to lack of exercise or diet, we just want something that will help so we can continue living the same life style.

As much as some people may hate me for saying this, I really do not care. I am a major supporter on discriminating of those who are obese. Think about it! People who are overweight who have been told you are at risk of having heart, liver, diabetes problems due that are just babied through it because we are scared we may hurt their feelings. We give people who need to increase there physical activity handicap parking spaces so they won't have to walk so far to get to the store. Or we give the mobile scooter so they won't have to walk because their knees won't be able to handle their weight. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Hopefully you can see that all we are doing is perpetuating the problem.

At the rate were going, Obesity is going to become the number one health care problem. Whether this is due to all the fast food or processed food we eat, or our sedentary lifestyle. We cannot just tell people we know need to lose weight to take a pill to help them and just keep living the same way they have been which got them to this point in their life. Because we are all paying for it, and with an economy which is not doing well and the new health care reform, this is something that needs to end and quickly.

If someone for the Diet, Health, Body group could comment on here and tell me which article they read and where it was in the article about how fat people tend to live longer that would be great. I do not believe this statement or study one bit. Especially since President Clinton during his term gave a congressional speech about how we are the first generation that will not outlive our parents. This study came straight from the surgeon general so I more inclined to believe this study than the one in the article. I am willing to beat a lot of money that the study in the article was funded by either a fast food restaurant or a company which makes processed foods.

According to GOOGLE I have mono...


Just a few days before the public health and biofears groups presented, my friend's facebook status was the title of this post (according to GOOGLE I have mono). Alarmed by the message I immediately called her up and inquired about the status. After being tested, it turns out she doesn't have mono.

The discussions we have been having in class about how the way mass media presents information has caused lots of biofears among society reminded me of this situation. It shows how the accessibility of more information, specifically on health, is causing many to self-diagnosis themselves with sicknesses and diseases that they don't actually have. I looked up the symptoms of mono on the Internet and could probably justify that I have mono as well. But I don't, and it is easy to see the benefits and downfalls to the accessibility to this type of information to the general public. It is allowing society to have more control over their own health problems, but at the same time it is increasing biofears.

This website, does a very good job outlining the pros and cons of using mass media to transfer information on public health. It states, "They (mass media) are important tools in advancing public health goals" (1). This is because advanced society of very dependant on mass media to transfer information on health. But also the website goes on to say that, "using mass media can be counterproductive if the channels used are not audience-appropriate, or if the message being delivered is too emotional, fear arousing, or controversial" (2). If mass media is not used correctly then it could deliver incomplete messages and biofears among society.

My dad is a general practitioner and he says that he couldn't even count the number of times he has had patients come to his office telling him that they have so and so fourth problems. He says that the Internet, word of mouth, and the television are where most get health related information. They decide they have these problems and demand medications. This shows that drug companies are doing a good job advertising and giving society fears and in turn they seek the products, perceptions, and vaccinations. Like we talked about in class the pressure many parents were feeling about giving their daughters the GARDASIL vaccination.

Do you think that the pros out way the cons when it comes to using mass media as a means to transfer information on public health? Why or why not? What are other ways we transfer information on public health? And how do you think we could insure that the mass media is transfering complete and correct information? Also, lots of companies advertise their product in the mass media, but do you think drug companies should be able to do the same?

WWHD: What Would Hollywood Do?

If you click HERE, you will be brought to "Vaccinate Your Baby," a site endorsing vaccinations. On the home page, you are stared in the face by Amanda Peet, a famous actress. She is endorsing vaccines just as other celebrities endorse makeup products. If you click on Amanda's story, she refers to her friends "in Hollywood." And even though she says that some of her friends were choosing not to vaccinate their babies, I can't help but feel like putting a celebrity's face on this site is trying to glamorize vaccinations. I understand that she's trying to use her platform and fame for good. She's trying to educate parents on vaccines and this is a good thing. But on further inspection of the site, it really is one sided. There are only very short explanations that shoot down any doubts people have about vaccines. I do think it's a well organized site and is a decent place to start for researching parents. I just don't like that they could possibly be swayed by Amanda's face because of the way we hold celebrities on pedestals. But I can't imagine how hard it must be to make health decisions for your child. People argue that we give infants too many vaccines too soon and it may be overburdening their immune systems. There may also be a link between autism and vaccines. Despite these issues, vaccines have saved millions of lives. But as time goes on, our technology is allowing us to do so much. Bacterias are becoming stronger because of the advances we've made. I just hope that our technology does not come back to bite us in the butt. Do you think celebrities should endorse things like vaccines? Do you think a site like this has more or less impact on people than a purely scientific site?

Target: Women -- Diets


It is my sincere belief that anyone interested in feminism or anyone interested in debunking the "feminine mystique" should watch episodes of Target: Women. Target: Women is a miniseries hosted by Sarah Haskins that aired on Current TV (but the episodes can all be found on YouTube). The show takes things from pop culture (from birth control to wedding shows to Twilight and more) and examines the sexism hidden within them using satire and parody. Here, I show an episode relevant to today's discussion about health and dieting.

I think this video points out one of the parts of our discussion: that there is a lot of pressure to diet and lose weight (especially around the New Year). Information about dieting and losing weight is everywhere, constantly barraging us. However, what the video shows that I don't think we discussed in class, is the kind of information that's thrown at us.

Haskins reveals that there are many contradictory types of advice, which leave us confused. Which diets actually work? How do they work? Which one will work for me and my individual body type and size? These questions are not addressed, and diets are presented as catch-all solutions that will work for anyone. Sometimes, the information is over-simplified, like with the segments on cutting back on soda. The information presented suggests that one doesn't actually have to do anything to lose weight, besides cutting back on soda. But, it seems doubtful that this is the case, since losing weight takes more than just cutting back one soda a day.

I think this reflects another point we brought up in class: that we (as Americans) live a fast-paced life, and consequently we want fast (and easy) results from their dieting. But the reality is that even if you manage to lose weight on a diet pill or on a specific diet, once you stop using the pills or stop the diet, you're likely to regain weight. The diet books/programs/foods/pills present temporary solutions (meaning you'll probably have to buy their products again) in order to make it seem easy. But, in fact, losing and maintaining weight is a long-term commitment that requires eating healthy and exercise, and self control. But, consumers don't want to hear that (and retailers want to keep you buying their stuff) so real solutions aren't really given.

I also think the video reveals another problem, which is that we don't really know what is healthy. I think this becomes most clear in the example of "the Swap." Why are "regular noodles" any better than Mac'n'cheese? Why is pumpkin pie better than pecan pie? (I think Haskins effectively parodies this with her version of "the Swap," which gets me every time.) The only information about what's "actually healthy" is provided to us by these companies/individuals trying to sell their diet/foods/programs, in which case it's pretty likely this stuff isn't really healthy, and it's just a ploy to make you buy certain things.

Ultimately, I think that's the problem with dieting and health right now: the information. There's too much "noise" about diets and health that are contradictory, confusing, and (in all likelihood) not even true. Meanwhile, accurate information about how to lose weight in a healthy and effective way, which foods are healthy, and about exercise, is sadly absent from mass media and education programs

Junk Food - The Booming Market

| 1 Comment

I really enjoyed the presentation today on Diet, Health, Body, and especially the segment on how so much money was spent on junk food advertising. When I thought about this more, I realized just how much it was true. Without being in front of the television right now, all I can think about is car and junk food commercials that I regularly see. The first thing I thought of being the Simpsons buff that I am was the episode where junk food took over their school and, in turn, turned Bart into an obese Bart. This was all done with advertising that any kid, except Lisa, would "eat up" in a second.n5ufmkc-bartsimpsongetsfat.jpgI fear the episode I am talking about isn't too far off from the actual truth in schools. I know that when I was in high school there were vending machines with all sorts of terrible things that any kid had easy access to whenever they felt like it. I remember also that there were discussions of how to change this when I was in school so I am not sure if anything has changed. One thing that I really thought was effective was how they made the more healthy choices in the vending machines cheaper than the typical junk foods. In turn, more kids would think twice about the more healthy options because of the cost. I still see this being done around campus as well where, if you look, the healthy choices are marked with little stickers inside the actual vending machines. So, I was wondering, can you think of more effective ways to limit how much junk food a kid eats? Of course, there is no possibly of completely wiping out the market, so what are some other good options?

Not for the herd anymore?

| 1 Comment

The talk on HPV and the vaccine for the disease was very interesting. There was one point I wanted to discuss, but we didn't have time. In every introductory public health course vaccines are discussed. One key point that is talked about is how they are intended to be a tool for the whole population. For them to have true efficacy the herd must all get the treatment. This has been something for years that has been the key concept behind vaccines.
The new HPV vaccine takes this idea and turns it on its head. This vaccine is meant for a specific subset of the population. This was touched on somewhat on Monday relating to how the current idea is that the vaccine will be given to women and through women being vaccinated, men will in turn have lower rates of disease. Putting a vaccine into this new framework poses several problems. It excludes some therefor making it more likely from a public health stance that those within the target population will be less likely to receive the vaccine. It is the if-they-don't-have-to-get-it-why-should-I idea. Another major issue in excluding a population (specifically men in this case) is that women are once again being stepping stone for which the other population will gain from.
Many other issues exist when talking about how the exclusion of a population with relation to a vaccine causes problems. These are just two main ones that I wanted to mention in class. What might be some other issues? How does this new framework of vaccination cause problems unrelated to vaccines/ vaccination?

Public Health for Public Safety or for Public Morality?


This week I thought it was interesting how many parallels there were between public health and biofears. Basically the underlying question to both of these topics is ultimately who gets control over how we define and how we manage public health? In Biofears, we talked a lot about state control and power, and how generating fears of infections, diseases, and invasive species gives the state more power. I think we can also draw a parallel to the HPV vaccine. Although the United States is considered a free country, we generally have some of the most conservative policies and ideas in the world. With regards to sexual education, most public schools are still teaching the ABC method (abstinence, be faithful, condoms), even though studies have shown that teenagers engage in pre-marital sex regardless of what they're taught. It is interesting to note that although the government advocates for vaccines, hand-washing and other forms of prevention of infection of disease, it rarely advocates for education that teaches preventative methods for pre-marital sex such as condoms, spermicides, the pill and other contraceptives. Are vaccines and condoms not both preventative measures against the spread of disease? Arguably on of the main goals of public health is to prevent the spread of infection, but the government gets to choose which ones it wants to prevent. In essence, although we get the choice "yes or no" to whether or not we participate in various preventative measures, the government gets to decide the terms. By saying yes to vaccines, but no to contraceptives before marriage they are dictating not only public health, but public morality. As far as this relates to vaccines, many insurance companies and groups do not advocate the HPV vaccine because it is essentially viewed as another preventative measure for sex. My question is this: if the goal really is to keep people healthy and prevent HPV and cervical cancer wouldn't you require everyone to get the vaccine because you can never be sure who will be engaging in sexual activity? Is it not the same as advocating for the flu vaccine, even though you don't know who will come in contact with an infected person? Furthermore, if we are following a utilitarian model, would vaccinating everyone not ensure the greatest good for the greatest number? My biggest problem with this is the hypocrisy involved in each situation. If a public health concern is within the realm of the government agenda, it will be promoted, if not it is left by the wayside or more often then not, stigmatized. Clearly we are not emphasizing protection enough, and even as statistics show that STDs are on the rise, the message from the government and the media is clear: abstinence only is the answer. If abstinence were truly the answer we would have seen changes a long time ago. Here's a clip from CBS news that reiterates my point:

After seeing this I feel like we have two options as a society: we can either continue to close our eyes and deny that sexual activity exists before marriage, or we can wake up and realize that teens are having sex and even though we may not like it, help them do it safely.

The Vampire Cough

| 1 Comment

While we were talking about infections and biofears, I instantly thought of the newest episode of The Office. It is just the opening scene that you need to watch as that is the only part of the episode that pertains to the issue of infections and biofears. Dwight is actually bringing up great points about germs and the antibodies that we develop from being exposed to different kinds of germs and how using hand sanitizers are not actually benefiting us all that much (mentioned also in class). Even though the clip has some extreme points to it, such as the suggestion of bowls of vomit around the office and people actually sneezing and coughing directly on Dwight, I feel that this is a step in the right direction in showing society that they do not need to be so scared of infections and biofears.Do you think by having a very popular comedy show mention this issue, it will actually reach out to the public and get them thinking in a different direction on infections and germs? Do you think more places in popular culture should do this? Would it help society get over the fear?

Hand Sanitizer... Friend or Foe?


Recently I have been hearing a lot about the differences between washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer as a substitute. As a student volunteer at the hospital, I am constantly using hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of infection. Most hand sanitizers advertise that they eliminate 99.9% of germs. Is this accurate? wrote an article about how the hand sanitizer removes the outer layer of oil from your skin actually ridding the body of natural bacteria and not the kind that get you sick. The manufacturers test these products on inanimate surfaces and this is how they come to the conclusion that 99.9% of germs are killed by their product. Do you think this is ethical of them to advertise their product when it is not even tested for effectiveness on live tissue? Read the article to see your stance on the issue. Researchers are also coming to the conclusion that plain soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap in protection from bacteria related infection, and living in an ultra-clean environment may inhibit the development of the immune system in children. Why do you think this information is not advertised to us as consumers? We could be aiding in the development of a superbug by using too many antibacterial products just because as a society we are so afraid of bacteria and what may happen if we catch a cold. Our body has its own system of protection against disease and granted we need a little boost every once in a while from a medicine, we can't go overboard because of what we hear on tv commercials or programs that may have profit on their minds. Should we regulate what the media tells us when it comes to biofears? And if so, how?

Fear of the Annual Flu Vaccine


When I was younger my parents didn't make me or my siblings get the flu shot. Not because they don't believe in vaccines, but just because we didn't usually get sick with the flu so they didn't find it necessary. During my first semester of college my mom told me she wanted me to get the flu shot because I was obviously more prone to sicknesses living in the limited-spaced dorms. After receiving the vaccine, someone on my floor showed me this news story...

After watching it I was immediately terrified. Evening though I hadn't received it earlier, I had never intentionally avoided getting the vaccine. To me, the flu shot seems like something you get to be extra cautious - and contracting a disease from it would be the last thing I would expect, especially since this vaccine is so widely used. Since then I have never received the flu shot and I don't think I ever will. Becoming sick with the flu, even though miserable at times, isn't worth contracting a disease like the one in the news story. Do you think you could still receive the flu shot knowing that this could happen to you? Does it make you question other vaccines that are used as frequently?

The "Tributaries" of Social & Environmental Justice


Hi class,

This article in last week's Huffington Post, by Kelly Rigg, "The Movement with a Thousand Faces"

...reminded me to post the video Ava referred to during last Monday's discussion on the science of environmental justice. Paul Hawken is a well known environmental author and speaker, lecturing here at the annual Bioneers conference on his book, Blessed Unrest:

Scientists Fight Back!

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics

The American Geophysical Union plans to announce that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue. Other scientists plan a pushback against congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.


"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

"We are taking the fight to them because we are ... tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

Queer Fungi


...yet another illustration of the queer nonhuman world, this time, in the news!

The reproductive life of the exquisitely rare black truffle is highly unusual for fungi.

empathy, enlightenment, and education

The Empathic Civilisation

I watched this yesterday and it made me immediately think of our class. Enjoy!

Is anyone else familiar with scientific research on compassion, empathy, meditation, prayer, altruism, and the like? Non-competitive social benefits?

What are some clear examples where collaboration and mutuality within science and between sciences is necessary/desirable? What are ways to remove conflicts of interest when it comes to the ethics of the production of knowledge and information?

21st Century Enlightenment

This video relates to a lot of the overall themes that our course has been dealing with, but especially in light of the ethics presentations I thought I'd share these two animated video lectures. Some random quotes that resonated (though a little strange out of context):

"21st Century Enlightenment should champion a more self-aware socially embedded model of autonomy that recognizes our frailties and limitations"And...

"Rationality can tell us how to get from A to Z, but without ethical reasoning we cannot discuss where Z should be. So then, what we aim for can be just as important to our wellbeing as to what we achieve" (video clip).


Michael Foucault is quoted (apparently in a description of Kant's opinions about the Enlightnment (?) also in video clip)

"It has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are [...] is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us [...] and an experiment of possibly going beyond them".

Changing Education ParadigmsThis one is just interesting... not a whole lot related to class but helps articulate some recent feelings as the semester rolls on.

Is Gardasil Safe?

Today in class brought up some really interesting topics. We mostly talked about Gardasil and the human papillomavirus because of how it relates to public health. Many don't want the vaccine to be mandated by the government because there is little actually known about the vaccine. Out of the many people who had the vaccine, there were about 10,000 adverse side effects. When vaccinations or drugs get put onto the market so quickly, there is little knowledge of what can potentially go wrong. People shouldn't have to be forced to take that risk. I thought it was shocking that women coming into the country are required to get the shot. We are exposing them to possible risk factors. The unknown is always scary. With the increased technology, we are rushing into many unknowns. We think that we know everything and can solve the problems. However, with the unknown comes scary side effects as in this clip.

Just like in the clip we watched from class, the side effect/disease was triggered by the vaccine. Does this mean that the vaccine is the cause? Does it mean that the disease was already there in the DNA is some way? Do you feel that we need to be more careful in the rush of vaccines given to people before proper research on the drug is tested?

Women as a Vessel for Prevention

I would like to start my saying that I was very impressed with the presentation today on public health and the HPV vaccine. I feel like because they ran so short of time there were some important issues that could not be discussed. Firstly who is getting the vaccine. As discussed, there is no vaccine for men, which means the responsibility falls on woman to get vaccinated. I understand that it is important that women protect themselves from HPV and other STI's but why are we focusing on women when by doing so we are leaving out a large population. If you go to the CDC website you will find a wealth of culturally infused information about who is really being protected and why. link to CDC website. You will notice that all four pictures featured on the site are of non-white males. This indicates who the CDC believes will be the most likely to contract HPV. The most unnerving thing about this site was under the title "Is there a way to test for HPV in Men", in bold they have written Remember "HPV is very common. Most men with HPV will never develop health problems from it. Finding out if you have HPV is not as important as finding out if you have the diseases that it can cause". The fact that the CDC says not to worry about having HPV but rather worry about the potential threat it cause in the future is infuriating to me! HPV has significant health risks for women and men with HPV should be concerned about passing it on to others. Not only are women being encouraged to get a vaccination that can have some pretty nasty side effects, but we are telling men not to worry about it. The site also says that "men who have sex with men are 17 time more likely to contract HPV". So not only are we not concerned with the health of women we are also ignoring the gay community and their sexual health concerning HPV. My question to you is why are we only offering this vaccine to women and what are the ethical issues or cultural stigma's that surround this decision?

Playing God

| 1 Comment

Upon hearing the presenter's views from the genetic engineering group, I immediately thought of something I heard from one of my coworkers about scientists creating artificial life in a lab.

Prominent geneticist Craig Venter synthesized life from a mixture of chemicals. The orgamism is indeed simple, but nonetheless alive. The organism is synthesized from a computer program, making its parents software. This is the first time life has been created without any sort of biological parent, and purely from non-living material.

This is the first step towards something big, in my opinion, as science continuously grabs for a larger understanding of existence. If we can create life in the laboratory, what's next?

Frankenstein's Monster


This weekend, TodayOnline featured an article that drew a connection between genetic engineering and Frankenstein. I've really only read parts of Frankenstein, but from what I can remember, and from what I've heard about it, Dr. Frankenstein creates a monster that ends up killing people...(my sister tells me it was Dr. Frankenstein's lover/adopted sister), and in general, the monster ends up doing more harm than anything else, and Dr. Frankenstein immediately ends up regretting what he has done. This reminded me of an argument that was posed in favor of genetic engineering, and I think it came up during the animal testing discussion as well, the gist of which, as I understood it, was that humans, like all other species, have an instinct for survival, and should/will do anything they can to ensure their survival, and therefore their species continued existence. I thought about this a lot because it is an intriguing argument--one that certainly deserves some thought. What I came up with, is really just more questions, but definitely a clear line of thinking, that I hope to convey in a manner as coherent as possible... . When a lion chases down a kills a gazelle (please forgive me if this is not an accurate pairing...I just mean when any animal harms or kills another in order to survive), this is a natural part of life, and ecologically, is what is supposed to happen. The scale on which other species seem to harm or kill other species seems to be rather small, and evolutionary effect is a desired one, as far as I know. While I completely understand that there are huge groups of people (many people whom I personally know and love) whose lives have been saved by some form or another of "genetic engineering." I also know that there have been some pretty harmful effects, and perhaps more importantly, we don't know what kind of long-term effects could be brought about by any number of kinds of genetic engineering (whether it be creating a new bacterium or super-corn), and what it could do not only to our own species, or the species on which we're performing the "engineering." This is not meant to be a call for an end to all genetic engineering, but really I'm just wondering if genetic engineering really is analogous to an attempt by any other species to ensure it's continued existence. Furthermore, is every single instance of genetic engineering an actual attempt at furthering our species?

Cure or Crime

This past week's presentation on animal ethics made me think about where I stand on the issue. One of the major arguments for testing on animals is that many pharmaceutical and medical discoveries have been made that have saved many lives. Animal testing has allowed for the production of synthetic insulin to be used for patients suffering with diabetes. It has allowed for the production of many antibiotics such as penicillin and vaccines to prevent disease. Even today, animal testing is being used to find a potential cure for cancer, a vaccine for AIDS, a treatment for Parkinson's and a therapy for Alzheimer's. Not only has the effects of animal testing been beneficial to humans but also to animals. Veterinarians have been able to develop treatments for feline Leukemia and Canine distemper through animal testing. The medical and pharmaceutical companies absolutely depend on animal testing to make these advances.
002_vioxx.jpg However, are these medical advances just flukes? Merely accidents that happened to work out for the better? In 1999, the FDA approved the use and sale of a drug called Vioxx by the major pharmaceutical giant Merck. Vioxx, an NSAID, is an anti-inflammatory drug that works by removing substances that cause inflammation, pain and fever in the body. It was predominantly used as a treatment for arthritis. In 2004, the drug was taken off the market after it was found that it could double the risk for heart attack and stroke in humans. Vioxx proved safe in all the animal tests prior to its approval by the FDA. For example, in 2002 a test on mice found that Vioxx actually reduced atherosclerosis, build up of fatty substances in arteries, in the animals. These tests led researchers to believe that Vioxx could be used as a safe effective drug, which even prevented heart problems, in humans. Tens of thousands of people suffered related heart attacks and strokes due to Vioxx. Other drugs that have been shown safe in animal tests but have proved dangerous in humans are Fenfluramine, a weight loss drug that thickens heart valves, Baycol, used to lower cholesterol but caused severe muscle toxicity, and Seldane, an allergy medication that was shown to have severe drug interactions. Many of these severe effects were observed in the initial clinical research on humans. However, the companies used the fact that no adverse effects were observed in animal trials to continue marketing these drugs as safe.

It is simple biology; physiological differences between animals and humans make animal testing a poor model for how drugs will interact and what adverse affects might occur in humans. How many more "safe" drugs discovered through animal testing will be marketed only to find out years later that they cause dangerous side effects in humans? How are we to determine whether a medical discovery found through animal testing will be the next insulin or the next Vioxx?

Environmental Justice


This weeks topics have been very interesting with Environmental justice, animal testing, and Genetic engineering. Although all presentations presented an abundance of information and very valid points, Environmental Justice confused me. I still don't understand the full concept of Environmental Justice. But, reading the news, the LA times ran an article about the San Joaquin Valley in California and the conditions of their drinking water. This area houses some of the state's poorest but they need to spend the extra money to drink and cook with bottle water because their city water is so contaminated it is undrinkable. The contamination comes from harmful nitrates, which enters from fertilizer runoff and septic tanks. Farmers started nitrogen fertilizers to boost the production of their crops. This contamination can cause a wide variety of health problems, which can be fatal. My question is, if Environmental Justice is such a topic of discussion, why aren't there government programs to help the residents of the San Joaquin Valley? Or, where is Erin Brokovich when you need her?

animal research thoughts

I've always had an awkward and uncomfortable feeling when it comes to animal research. I understand what benefits have come from testing animals, but I also can't understand some of the circumstances that are justified when it comes to testing animals for human preservation (some of the footage seen in the PETA film).
I think an important argument to have while talking about animal research is, what alternatives could be offered? Why aren't we testing on aborted fetuses or using stem cell research? I brought this up at the end of class because I think it's a fair question and I think the fact that we are not testing on what's known as "human life," brings up undeniable species-ism.
It's interesting that politicians and individuals are against testing on aborted fetuses or using stem cell research but turn a blind eye to animals that are suffering for human progression/need. I question whether or not it's acceptable to say that sacrificing one animal for human life is okay and would be okay with the animal if asked because we're not asking.
I respect and acknowledge that there are guidelines that labs have to follow if they want to use animal research - but I wonder if sometimes these guidelines are bent? I mean, I don't work in a lab, and I'm not familiar much regarding science labs, but I think it's hard to say that every lab that practices animal research - follows the strict guidelines. I'm sure we'd all like to think so, though. And also, I do appreciate that the presenting group brought up the idea that a lot of scientists care for the animals, it brought a humanistic light to the discussion. But I also think another problem with lab guidelines is that another human is calling the shots on how animals are treated in the labs, which is yet another form of species ism because humans are deciding when and how many animals are okay to test on.

What are your thoughts and feelings about stem cells? Why do you believe it's easier for people to justify testing on animals but not using stem cell research or other resources from humans?

Hurricane Katrina as a Natural and Social Disaster

The problems of environmental racism and environmental justice in America were highly evident after Hurricane Katrina. It became easy to see how some of the environmental burdens are distributed based on race. Read more

New Orleans is 62 percent African American and two feet below sea level. Most of the people stranded after the hurricane "were poor, black, disproportionately elderly, young and old, and without private transportation," which shows how not only where these people living in a high-risk area, but they were also left out of many of the disaster plans.

After reading this article, the part that shocked me the most was when it talked about how years before Hurricane Katrina, environmental justice activists where "anticipating the racially disproportionate effects of climate change." If we knew that a disaster like this was going to happen why wouldn't we derive an evacuation plan that incorporated the majority of the people being affected. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the ones without there own transportation. It's unfortunate that it took a disaster like this for the majority of Americans' to realize the environmental racism that is happening in our country.
For example: It was surprising to me when in the article it talked about how southern African American communities were facing problems from toxic/chemical pollution from oil refineries. It shows that communities in the South were facing environmental racism even before the hurricane. This proves that it really did take a natural disaster for me to realize environmental racism happening in our country.
What do you think are ways to make environmental justice a more known issue without more natural disasters? Do you think Americans have learned from this situation? Why or why not? And, do you think it is possible to ever have environmental justice for everyone? Why or why not?

Is animal testing a form of animal cruelty?

| 1 Comment

After watching/listening to the animal research group I was most interested in the idea of animal cruelty. I think that testing on animals has some good to it to some degree, but when we start thinking of humans as superior to animals we are being selfish. When testing animals we need to make sure that we as the experimenters are taking absolute great care of these animals that is, treating them with respect because in a sense people think they cannot use words to tell us that they do not want to be tested, although I believe they can use gestures and vocal sounds to alert us. When I hear of a company using animals for testing I think it's fine, but when they abuse the animals that is when I get very angry. The animals are essentially doing us a favor, they didn't volunteer to be tested so we as humans need to show them the respect they deserve, and that includes having them stay in a warm and comfortable environment. They need to be fed properly on a daily basis and be taken outside to get air and to play with the other animals; we need to love them like we would love a domestic animal, like a dog or a cat for instance.
Also, after listening to the animal research group I wanted to do some research to help understand and further my curiosity; so I went on you tube. I found this clip and it just got me so angry. The woman in this clip I feel is backing up the Covance animal testing research center, but from what I could see in the video they were being cruel to the animals and I just hate that she doesn't see the problem with what they are doing. All she thinks as I can see is that the company is doing humans some good by discovering how to treat humans with certain diseases. She doesn't mention that it will help the animals as well, which really annoyed me. From what I can see the monkeys were being tortured. This is a clip from fox 9 news. Here is the clip : news cast on animal testing.htm

So my question to the class is this, what do you think of this video? What kind of reactions does it present to you? And if you are okay with testing animals, how far do you think us as humans should go when testing for or curing diseases or even testing for cosmetics? What counts as cruelty and what doesn't?

Chester, PA fight for justice

Chester, Pennsylvania is a city of waste disposal. Many states send their trash to Chester to be burned. Chester is populated by people of low socioeconomic status who have no say in their city's role in waste disposal. In 1996, the people of Chester began to come together to fight companies bringing trash to their city. This fight began after the people realized that the health of the citizens of Chester was being negatively effected. Health problems and cancer were increasing in the people of Chester and they were sure that it was because of the nearby waste incinerators that burn 2688 tons of trash per day. Chester's fight began with simple protests of standing in the way of the trash trucks as they drove into town. The people soon realized this was not enough. As citizens became more aware, they became more frustrated. They became aware that these large companies picked Chester as a waste management center because of its low economic status. As the woman states at 2:10 in the video, "...because we're black, we're poor, low economics, low jobs, they think this is the ideal place." These facilities provide jobs but are costing the community its health. This brings up the topic of environmental racism and how it is completely unjust for these people's health to be put at risk just because they are of low status in our society.Chester created the Chester Residents Concerns for Quality Living to raise awareness and build strength in the community. But the citizens are having little luck in improving their quality of live against these big companies. Not only are the incinerators still burning today but plans for new incinerators for new materials such as tires are in the works. But the people of Chester continue to fight and raise awareness. They created the DelCo Alliance for Environmental Justice.They are determined to make their voices heard and to fight for their lives to be recognized as significant. This is a very sad case of the government using its power over low socioeconomic status people for its own purposes. The government knew that this city needed new jobs created. It knew that if it were to place hazardous facilities in this town, the people would not have enough knowledge, power, or organization to fight it. What needs to be done so that this does not continue happening to towns like Chester?

Designer Babies...What's Next?!


On Friday, the Genetic Engineering presentation discussed a bit about being able to make designer babies. This is a very controversial topic and it is somewhat scary because we are messing with nature and playing "God." I found a CNN report "Designer babies: Creating the perfect child," that related to genetic engineering and what someone brought up in class during the discussion.

After the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, our understandings of genetic bases of human disease and non-disease traits have been growing. With rapid advances in human genome and our increasing ability to modify and change genes, we can start designing our own babies in the near future. Already we can select the sex and check for certain disease bearing genes via in vitro fertilization.

With the potential to create designer babies, what other problems can arise from genetically engineered babies (i.e. social divisions, different parenting)? Those who can afford this procedure will end up prospering and those who cannot afford it will slowly diminish. Will this continue until we just have one race-the perfect race with equality amongst everyone? How will these perfect babies interact with the "natural" babies as they grow up? Will there even be equality? Genetically engineered babies are and will become a greater deal as our technology advances. I believe that genetically engineered babies will be created; it is inevitable because we are always looking for ways to improve our life. So, as a society we must prepare. How can we create better ways of practicing science? What are some other concerns or thoughts with regards to creating the perfect baby?

Do Animals Live or Die? You Decide

cute-animals.jpgAnimal testing has long been a topic of controversy, especially when thinking of animals such as in the picture of above. The argument ever continues on whether the benefits of animal testing outweigh all the negative effects it has on animals, particularly death. This news video outlines what some of the pros and cons are of the animal ethics debate Video Link. This video highlights some of the key issues that play into debates about animal testing. The first part emphasizes all the good that has been done based on animal testing. It talks about vaccines, tests, and antibiotics that have all been possible thanks only to being able to test on animals. Also, at the beginning of this clip it seems that the facilities that the animals are being kept in are more than adequate and that they are not being abused. Still, we can't help but wonder if that is what the conditions are like all the time or if that was just a show. I also noticed that all the positive effects of animal testing focused only on human benefits and not on any animal species benefits, though we know from other sources that there have been some. Still, the way this was presented it looks as though only humans benefit from testing on animals which would mean that we are putting ourselves above the animals we test on because they are expendable and we are not. This is a wrong mentality, and if this is the case the regulations of animal testing need to be changed, because who can say that this animal is expendable? cute-animals4.jpgHowever, the next part of this argument is that animal testing is inevitably tied to animal cruelty. The woman talks about how the lab that she worked in mistreated its animals to the point that it would give her nightmares for years to come, such as in this picture animal-testing.jpgThis obviously is unacceptable as well. We cannot mistreat animals for testing just because they cannot object. This is a misplaced sense of power that we inevitably inherit as humans. Thus, this shows that our mindset needs to be changed in order to protect the things that may ultimately save us.

Therefore, although animal testing is necessary animal cruelty is not. Animals may ultimately save us do to the advances they have allowed us to make. We should therefore be thankful for these animals and not abuse them. They have given to us and we need to give back to them. Yes it is inevitable that testing will continue, but it is possible to move forward without causing harm. We need to make sure that all tests are necessary as well as make sure that animals are kept in comfortable high standards of living, even if they are being tested on. No being, animal, human, plant, or other organism deserves to be taken advantage of and treated cruelly just because it does not have the ability to argue or give consent.

Speak Easy

After this week's presentations i was most interested in the animal testing debate. The one thing that really interested me was this idea that animals cannot give consent in order to be tested on. Or the fact that animals cannot tell you that they do not want these things to happen to them. I have a really hard time believing that. Just because the animals do not speak the language that we do does not mean that they do not tell you when things are amiss. i ride and train horses and i can tell you that when something is wrong my animals can tell me what I am doing wrong. It reminded me of when i was younger and there was the Disney channel movie 'Ready to Run.' It was about a young girl who wakes up one day and realizes she has the ability to talk to horses, like actually speak to them in English. Besides the fact that it was a little upsetting that the girl that could talk to animals was a Latin American girl and her mother explained that her 'people' were more connected to the earth and to animals than the white man. And if that's true why did the horse speak English and not Spanish? We could tone down the minority objectivity just a bit. Anyway the fact was I was upset because i didn't need my horse to speak my language in order for me to know what she was saying. i had a car accident a while ago and had to go to the chiropractor a lot to fix some lingering effects. Before i would go to the chiropractor i would ride my horse and when i dismounted she would point to different parts of my body that were out of place. She could tell me exactly the same thing the chiropractor could. I just had to listen. It's not that animals cannot tell you that they don't want things done to them or they can't tell you something is wrong. I am okay with animal testing on somethings I believe. If the testing saves lives of humans and other animals that is fine. However, cosmetic testing is just completely ridiculous because nobody really needs a new kind of eyeliner THAT bad. That makes me wonder if humans are really that selfish? Do we really not know if animals are consenting to these procedures or are we choosing not to listen?

Fiction or Futuristic?


During the genetic engineering discussion on Friday the discussion turned to transgenic organisms. According to transgenic organisms are animals or plants that contain genetic material artificially transferred from another species. While most transgenic species combine human DNA with animals to study disease, some advancements in genetic engineering have allowed us to create transgenic organisms such as glowing bunnies. It seems that now it is possible to create an artificial species from any two animals no matter how genetically different they are. This got me thinking about a picture that I was sent awhile ago of a very interesting sculpture.

The sculpture is titled "The Young Family" and was created by Patricia Piccinini in 2002. I researched some of her work and it looks to me like a lot of it is based on transgenic ideas, combining human and animal traits. If you want to check out some more of her controversial sculptures, click here. Her sculptures are truly shocking and to be honest they scare me, and not just because they are creepy looking. These sculptures scare me because for all we know they could be the future of transgenic technology. I know it's a bit extreme and maybe this sculpture will never be a real species, but who knows how far we can go with so many recent developments occurring in this field. Transgenic organisms can be very beneficial to medical research because they allow us to test treatments in a way we were never able to before, but how far is too far? I say this because glowing bunnies are in no way beneficial to anyone or anything's survival.
Are we already taking the first steps on a path to a world where any species can be bred without issue?
Do you think these sculptures will ever be real organisms?
How can we prevent genetic engineering from moving in the wrong direction (designer babies, glowing bunnies, etc.)?
What are your thoughts?

Creating the next Aryan Race


Currently throughout the country we are genetically modifying foods to try to create higher yields of crops. With these genetically modified foods, we are creating cold-resistant and pesticide resistant crops. These crops will therefore out live other crops which may lead to less biodiversity and creating a "perfect" crop of Aryan race amongst plants. As Vandana Shiva pointed out in the video we watched before and when the group was talking, the higher yields are not necessarily being created in third world countries. Many farmers have to grow the crops to be exported to different regions and cannot save the crops for their families. Because of the patenting of the crops, families cannot save seeds to use the following years, but they have to purchase seeds each year which leads to increased spending which is not necessary. To take the crop example to the extreme, we are working with genetically modifying human genes in order to rid the population of diseases such as Alzheimer's in order to improve the quality of life. Many people are concerned that this will lead to the creation of designer babies, which we already have a small grasp on. View a shocking video about designer babies below.

Traits may become desired and the diversity of the human race may slowly be diminished. With the problems from the GMOs, many problems can be traced back to the large corporations. What is going to stop the human race from making designer babies? Do we allow the government to have more control over our rights? Will the government continue to slowing take over our rights and therefore lead to a supergovernment?

Is Natural Extinct?


While a lot of the debate that occurred in class on Friday focused on whether genetic engineering was justifiable or not, I believe that the central argument surrounding genetic engineering relies upon the idea of what is natural vs. what is unnatural. For me, when I hear the word natural, many questions pop into my head, such as: How do you define natural? What can be defined as natural? Is anything really natural? After careful consideration of these questions, I have come to the conclusion that nothing in the world is natural or has been for a long time.

For me, natural conveys a time when nature was left to its own devices, when humans did not tamper with it or interact with it. One artist whose work I love is Yuken Teruya, who does origami sculptures of trees from paper bags and paper towel tubes. When I think of natural, I think of a particular photograph of him examining one of his trees. This picture is shown below:

yuken teruya.jpg

To me, this picture represents how natural is something completely separate from humans, where humans can only have a glimpse of what is truly natural. We can guess what is natural, but every time we come into contact with an organism, we change something about that organism. Throughout history, humans have encroached upon animal habitats, knocking down their dwellings and forcing them into new habitats where they would not normally reside. We have domesticated animals to the extent where they depend on us to live; we have selectively bred our foods to obtain the best yield of crops. So, is anything left on this earth natural?

Looking at life from an evolutionary perspective further convinces me that nothing is truly natural. If life has been constantly evolving for millions of years, then every animal, every species, every organism is not natural. It can from a precursor organism, which came from another precursor and another. The only truly natural organisms were those that were created at the very beginning of time. So, how can we use a definition like this to apply it to those things that are natural and unnatural today? With this definition, everything today is already unnatural, so what is the harm in further changing organisms and modifying them to better serve the human purpose? Isn't this what we have always done? Why stop now?

What do you think? What constitutes natural vs. unnatural? Feel free to answer any of the questions posed in the above paragraphs. I do not believe everything that I just wrote but I am following a line of logic, so feel free to tear it apart.

*Important Feedback Re: First Week of Presentations*

After completing our first week of ethics presentations, I want to make sure our class keeps a few things in mind, in order to move forward more productively:

All of the topics selected are contentious, and this is precisely the point: from day one of this course, we've discussed how science is an ever-evolving dialogue, an imperfect process in a quest for greater understandings of our shared world.

These presentations discuss a wide range of topics from many perspectives. While some of you have chosen to present "pros," "cons," and "neutrals" of a subject, we have to remember that the benefits and drawbacks of a particular topic should not be conflated with whether you're "for" or "against" it. When we make simplistic conclusions about an issue, we not only create unnecessary polarization, but we also foreclose the possibility for other insights to be revealed. The truth is, there are positives and negatives to most things in life, but ethical concerns are raised in science when we weigh questions of power:
...Who has the ability to control a scientific process and why? Who will benefit and who won't?
...What, exactly, makes this topic so contentious to some? What fears, anxieties, traditions, ideologies, does it uphold or threaten?
...What kinds of relationships should we demand between science and academies, industries, and governments?
...And though it will always be imperfect, impartial, and finite, how can we create BETTER ways of practicing science, science that promotes more livable ways of relating across the spectrum of races, genders, species, etc. for generations to come?

Finally, a note of caution on creating a classroom climate conducive to healthy debate, for there have been moments when productive questions have been shut down. Once we understand that: topic presented is "bad" or "good,"
...that the point of these exercises is NOT to reach a final conclusion or resolve the debate,
...and that multiple considerations, in multiple contexts, must be weighed in order to grasp these complex issues,
we can move forward as a class asking more questions, becoming more aware and critical knowers, consumers, voters, and researchers, and creating a space where varying viewpoints can be aired. Remember, if critiques are raised, they can be harnessed to develop better ways of employing whatever scientific development we're considering, making it more effective, more sustainable, and more liberatory.

These presentations are meant to inform our class on important topics that may be brand new to some. But more importantly, they are meant to showcase ethical dilemmas. Keep this in mind, whether you present in the upcoming classes or listen as an active audience member. What larger concerns do these topics raise, especially within a context of feminist science?

A Lesson from Spiderman


Throughout this course there has been a lot of debate about the culturally constructed aspects of science. One aspect of this debate has been the question of whether we, as humans, need to resist privileging humans as subject and all other life forms as object. Basically, is speciesism ok? Our course materials have thoroughly explored how speciesism works and where we can see evidence of it in our understanding of science. By failing to acknowledge the vast array of differing subjectivities of animals and organisms, (and plants too, perhaps to a lesser extent) humans engage in speciesism constantly. However, this aspect of debate has taken on a new form in our class while talking about animal rights and genetic engineering. The assertion that humans, if we are no different than other animals in our instinctual drive to survive, are not doing anything wrong by using our considerable scientific means to "survive" has come up several times. This is speciesism sneaking in through the back door. At first glance, it seems this argument does not engage in speciesism: "Humans are the same as all animals, no worse or better." From this, it might seem to follow that humans, like any other animal, will use all of its power to survive. However, there is fallacy in both of these points.

To start, humans are very different from any other species on this planet. This is not to say better or worse, but surely different. Humans alone have access to intellect that separates us from all other species. (Stating this fact is not speciesist, because it does not deny that other subjectivities, and perspectives exist for other species and individual organisms.) This separates the scientific research and methods, such as research using animals and genetically engineering plants and animals, from a situation of predator and prey. A lion preying on an antelope is a vastly different situation from genetically altering an organism so that it is more beneficial for humankind (which is debatable as well). Although all types of scientific research can very well be defended for innumerable reasons, and I am not arguing against those, scientific research is not a predator-prey scenario and it shouldn't be defended as one.

My second objection to this line of argument that has come up many times in class and on this blog is that while an animal hunts its prey for its individual benefit, the development, research and use of scientific and technological advances do not aim to ensure the survival of the human race, but rather to improve quality of life. While there is the possibility that the results of lab testing or improved disease resistance in crops will save lives, the survival of the human race by and large does not hinge on these. Humans existed long before the types of scientific advances that we investigate in this class came into existence. Also, there is no animal other than humans that have the same capability of collecting, imprisoning, breeding, altering the genetic makeup of, violating, and killing other organisms. It is not a level playing field. While invasive species have been known to kill off other organisms on a large scale, it is very different from the scale of damage that humans can knowingly enact, and the conscious effort behind these enterprises is what separates humans' deployment of scientific advances from animals preying on others for food and survival.

I realize that there may be possible points for debate in my argument, but I am really frustrated at this analogy that continues to be wielded in defense of very intricate and specialized scientific research that is in no way similar to a predator-prey scenario. It is speciesism because it assumes the guise of equality between humans and other species in their predator capabilities, but really is used as an excuse to continue the hierarchy of humans manipulating other organisms without consent. I like to think of the difference between speciesism and an understanding of the nuanced place humans hold in their intellectual differences from animals as akin to the famous line from spiderman: "With great power, comes great responsibility." It may be cheesy, but there is some real truth to it, and it is very applicable when we investigate the issues of this course. (If you want to relive the wonderful movie moments, here is a link and here is another link with Uncle Ben telling Peter Parker all about this... I'm not going to address the "becoming a man" part and the issues therein today though...)

Does anyone else agree? If people think there is a hole in my logic, by all means, defend this analogy. I am very interested to see if anyone has other thoughts that may be different.

This is awesome!

This is not my post, but just something that I saw in my facebook feed. Please take a look. It is so impressive for that boy to be so brave. CLICK ME

Animal Activists


After seeing the presentation for "Animal Research" on Wednesday, I feel they made a very strong argument more on the lines of animal right's more than anything else. With all of the pro-PETA stands and the horrid video that we watched (I say horrid in a sense that the footage was horrifying, and not that the video itself sucked) it's hard to argue against PETA's stance. For some odd reason the only thing I found myself thinking about after that was how animal activists throw red paint on fur coats, and how they have made that their signature move. Some famous instances where this has happened suddenly popped into my head. The one instance that is forever seared into my brain came from the Simpsons. Who could forget when Lisa Simpson did the deed to Krusty the Clown and his ever so elegant looking fur coat? Of course, I was unable to find any pictures or video of the event, but trust me, it happened! Can you think of any other famous instances (real or made up) where animal activists strike? Do you think you feel so deeply about something where you would "go the distance" in making your thoughts public? These are just a couple questions I pose with my post, and I encourage you to bring up more questions and/or reply to mine with your thoughts.

Environmental Sexism?

| 1 Comment

I saw an article on the blog "Feministing" that made me immediately think of the environmental justice presentation on Monday. The group talked about environmental racism and about how even though large corporations put their toxic waste in the backyards of the neighborhoods of the poor or people of color or both, the resulting health effects are often blamed on the population. For instance, the group mentioned the case of Point Hope, Alaska where Native peoples were subjected to radiation and the resulting cancer was blamed on the community's tobacco use. The article I found in Feministing is related and involves a phenomenon we can perhaps label as "environmental sexism." The blog entry, found here, discusses a study that proves that women are not to blame for the increase of estrogen in our water supply. I have heard before, as I sure others have, that the estrogen secreted in urine from women who take/use certain hormonal birth control methods is causing problems in the environment and estrogen in the water has been linked to fertility problems and cancer in humans. However, the study at University of California San Francisco found that less than 1% of the estrogen in our water supply can be linked to birth control. Here's an article about the study in Chemical and Engineering News, if you feel Feministing might be a bit bias. The study also found that the estrogen pollution can be linked to farm runoff and landfills, it has nothing to do with women who use birth control.

So my questions are: Why do we blame low income neighborhoods, women, and people of color for our environmental pollution instead of looking to the real culprit? Is the blaming of women for estrogen pollution just another ploy against the use of birth control?

Paul Hawken (as mentioned in class)

| 1 Comment

Paul Hawken was brought up in today's Environmental Justice presentation. I tried to explain his book "Blessed Unrest", but in case I failed to convey his amazingness I wanted to post these. Some ideas of his that resonate with me are:

'democracy and evolution work better than command and control'

'a movement based on ideas, not ideologies.'

'ideologies constrain and dictate'

'dispersing the pathological concentrations of power'

Thoughts? Insightful? Realistic? Is emphasis on smaller projects and initiatives harmful or helpful? What if they amount, as Hawken claims, to over 1 million organizations?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2010 is the previous archive.

December 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en