Category Archives: 1997

Legacies of the 1960's and the Politics of Reform Today

Ohio University faculty
November 23rd, 1997

Public lecture by California State Senator Tom Hayden

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The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory

Steve Vogel
January 17th, 1997

Public lecture by Steven Vogel (Denison University)

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Corporate Social Responsibility: The Whys and Hows

Father Joseph La Mar
February 5th, 1997

Public lecture by Father Joseph La Mar (Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers)

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Making Gender Visible in the Construction of Scientific Knowledge

Making Gender Visible in the Construction of Scientific Knowledge
Helen Longino
February 17th, 1997


What follows is a summary of Dr. Longino’s talk. A videotape of the presentation is available. Please write to the Institute for details.


Helen Longino (University of Minnesota)

Certain properties of scientific theories qualify them as sources of credible evidence. These properties are not purely cognitive, however, but can serve as vehicles for the importation of gender ideologies into the content of models and theories.

Criteria used to chose among hypotheses include internal consistency, consistency with known bodies of knowledge, simplicity, and fruitfulness (Thomas Kuhn). Feminists suggest a different set of criteria: accuracy, novelty, ontological heterogeneity, mutuality, applicability to current human needs, decentralization of power. The first set appears to be related to the discovery of truth, the second with the achievement of socio-political goals.

This is a false dichotomy. Many of the traditional criteria reflect a social or philosophical context. The criterion of simplicity has led, for example, to a drive for homogeneity which has led to a neglect of differences between genders and racial groups in medical research.

Relying exclusively on the traditional criteria has three consequences: (1) It restricts interpretations of the world by excluding certain classes of explanation; (2) It blinds us to the fact that acceptance of this characterization of scientific knowledge can legitimate theories with a political valence; (3) It restricts participation in knowledge production by excluding those who favor different criteria.

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Left-Wing Conservatism: The Legacy of Christopher Lasch

Ronald Beiner
March 7th, 1997

Public lecture by Ronald Beiner (University of Toronto)

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Media & Democracy

Virginia Held
March 14th, 1997

What follows is a summary of a presentation given at Ohio University by Dr. Held. A videotape of the presentation is available. Please write to the Institute for details.

The communications media have achieved a heretofore unknown authority and status. The “media society” in which we live possesses an unsurpassed potential for democracy and democratic discourse, but the near monopolization of the media by commercial interests limits discussion and prevents the development of this potential. Realizing the democratic potential of a media society may require the establishment of not-for-profit media outlets and/or appropriate government regulation.

Despite current rhetoric, new technologies such as the internet offer no real remedy. On the contrary, like television, they appear to lead to increased isolation and decreased public participation in civic life.

Is there hope for reversing the trend to ever greater commercialization of the news? Critical attitudes and resistance to commercialization appear to be on the rise among audiences. Such attitudes should be promoted.

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Global Human Rights Panel

Kevin Danaher, Zar Ni, Asma Abdelhalim
April 9th, 1997

Panel discussion on human rights, cosponsored with the Free Burma Coalition

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Human Experimentation in 20th Cent. Am. Med. Science: Myths & Realities

Jon Erlen (University of Pittsburgh)
April 11th, 1997


What follows is a summary of Dr. Erlen’s talk. A videotape of the presentation is available. Please write to the Institute for details.
Please see also the E-Forum, where Boris Striepen takes issue with some of Dr. Erlen’s claims.


This talk addresses myths and realities surrounding the ethics of three controversial experiments involving human subjects.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Myth: Purpose was to study syphilis in the African-American population.
Reality: Study was actually designed to study the natural course of the disease. A simultaneous study at Johns-Hopkins did study differences between symptoms of the disease in Caucasians and African Americans.

Myth: Experimenters infected subjects in order to study the disease.
Reality: Experimenters had no need to infect subjects. Tuskegee chosen precisely because of high natural incidence of the disease — roughly 40 percent of adult male population.

Myth: Subjects were not told they had syphilis, but “bad blood.”
Reality: True, but “bad blood” was the local vernacular for syphilis. The subjects knew what was meant by the term.

Myth: Experimenters withheld effective treatment in 1932.
Reality: Subjects diagnosed with primary syphilis were removed from the study and referred to treatment. Only subjects with secondary or tertiary syphilis, for which there was no known cure in 1932, were admitted to the study.

Myth: Penicillin would have cured subjects from 1946-1948.
Reality: By 1946 all the men in the study had had the disease for at least 20 years and had developed tertiary syphilis. Even today, penicillin does not cure tertiary syphilis.

Reality: The study broke state and federal law by not reporting persons infected with syphilis to the authorities and by blocking men in the study from being drafted into World War II.

Reality: Experimenters lied about the purpose of the experiment, informing subjects that they were being treated.

Reality: Subjects coerced into participation with free meals, burial payments, etc.

Reality: Experimenters made no effort to prevent men known to be infected from spreading the disease.

Reality: Experimenters had no consistent long-term plan.

Salk Polio Vaccine Experiment

Myth: Success of the vaccine justifies the means

Myth: The mentally handicapped can be sacrificed for the sake of scientific knowledge

Myth: Pharmaceutical companies can be trusted to maintain standards even if it cuts into profits

Myth: Federal government has no responsibility to promote public health by involving itself in the production and distribution of vaccines

Reality: Exclusive use of mentally ill children as subjects

Reality: Lack of informed consent in national study

Reality: Failure of private laboratories to maintain standards. In 1955 Cutter lab puts out faulty vaccine and causes 2,600 cases of polio and 11 deaths. This demonstrates need for greater federal involvement in production and distribution of vaccines.

Willowbrook Hepatitis Experiment

Reality: Uninfected mentally ill children given viral hepatitis in order to study the course of the disease.


Myth
: The disease was rampant in the Willowbrook School; the children would have gotten it anyway. Besides, informed consent was given.

Myth: Ends justify the means

Myth: Consent is always informed consent

Myth: It is appropriate to place the mentally ill at risk for potential scientific benefit

Myth: Institutional oversight is always reliable

Reality: Faulty techniques in eliciting informed consent

Reality: No institutional oversight

Conclusion
Human experimentation is necessary for the advance of science, but we need to take great care to balance the potential rewards with potential harm. No subject should ever participate in such research without being fully informed of the procedure and the potential risks involved.

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Democracy and Environmental Justice in Nigeria

Owens Wiwa (human rights activist)
April 22nd, 1997

Public lecture by human rights activist Owens Wiwa

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The Ethics of Cloning

Ohio University faculty panel
May 5th, 1997