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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  April 2008

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE April 2008

Subject:

Re: Autism Day [Satire on Autism Science/Journalism]

From:

herb fox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 5 Apr 2008 01:13:13 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (239 lines)

The remarks of M Balter present us with categories that by being better 
defined will, i believe, make our list more useful and reduce some of 
the contentiousness that stems from what ex post facto are described as 
misunderstandings.  The remarks on the categories are mine and i 
certainly expect and welcome differing opinions.
I have no argument w/ M Balter's exhortation that "a science for the 
people has to be based on good science."  My only problem is that i 
don't know to what he is referring when he writes of "a science for the 
people."  Where is it?  Who is doing it?  Who is funding it? 

The categories are

   1. science for the people
   2. methodological errors
   3. capitalist plot
   4. conspiracy theories

*"a science for the people" *----For the record those young firebrands 
who first shocked the establishment at an AAAS meeting introduced 
Science for the People as a slogan that quickly got transformed into the 
name of a movement, the name of a magazine, and the name of an 
organization, in that order.  In M Balter's remarks below it is preceded 
by the article "a" and used as a noun.  Originally the organization 
applied itself primarily in its protest actions and writings to taking 
critical stands against what it referred to as science against the 
people or at times the misuse of science.  The conception that there can 
be "a science for the people" not just after the defeat of corporate 
capitalism but here and now is put forward in Zimmerman et al  "Towards 
a Science for the People." 
(http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz/SftP/Towards.html 
<http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/%7Eschwrtz/SftP/Towards.html>)  The 
initial analysis in their article (rejected wholesale by Science's 
editor in spite of majority endorsement by referees) is a well developed 
accounting of the forces that make science in capitalism not a science 
for the people and not neutral.  Their positive proposals are not 
presented as a stable alternative or ultimate goal but as actions of a 
coordinated movement to raise consciousness and aid other components of 
the then substantial protest and liberation movements.  Today the 
rationalization of the universities accompanied by substantial increases 
in corporate resources and concomitant influence and control, the 
Mansfiekl amendment, and the massive shifting of government funding to 
many more science-against-the-people categories have certainly increased 
the negative role of science.   I suggest that a suitable topic for 
discussion on this list serve is to what extent "a science for the 
people" is possible within today's institutional framework, and what are 
the appropriate and possible forms of action that could help to 
counterbalance and expose the widespread use of science against the 
people's interests.
*
"methodological errors" ----*The struggle in the scientific community to 
preserve the integrity of science as a truth-seeking enterprise is not a 
struggle between left and right. (see comments on "truth-seeking, op 
cit)  Both the massive set of all science that is not fundamentally in 
the people's interest and the minuscule set of all science that is 
intrinsically in their interest can have methodological errors.  The 
likelihood that mainstream science may be bogus or dishonest is greater 
because the motivation is recognition or financial reward, not the most 
enobling motivations.  To discount out of hand the inputs of those not 
trained in science is disrespectful, and to put them down because they 
are scientific illiterates is elitist.  People in their pain, 
discouragement and rejection are going to grasp at straws, 
methodologically correct or not.  That is why one role of a functioning 
science for the people movement must be to validate the inputs of the 
non-scientist and to increase their ability to judge science (see item 6 
op cit).  Let me add that there is a difference between a science that 
is directed at revealing the objective and stable laws of nature and the 
application of scientific method to solve problems that may not involve 
fundamental laws of nature.  Much use of scientific method is and has 
been applied to problems arising in the suppression, exploitation,or 
killing of people and exploitation of resources.  Those doing that stuff 
are very much concerned with their dirty work being free of 
methodological errors.
*
"capitalist plot"----*The capitalist system is a self-reproducing system 
with its own internal logic that, in fact, determines the few 
alternatives for capitalists and workers.  It is not a capitalist plot 
to generalize that the overwhelming motivation for all scientific and 
technical work in a capitalist society is to maximize the return on 
investment of the (mostly corporate) employers.  More and more 
scientific activity at universities is also under similar pressures.  
Look at the funding for science and technology available from Homeland 
Security versus that from the National Science Foundation.  Science that 
may benefit people is seldom a consequence of a program to create 
science that will benefit people; there must also be a profitable 
outcome.  Capitalist plots are not necessary to insure that under 
capitalism most science and technology will be designed to maximize 
profit.  Given this reality, a random guess that the next scientific 
article will be part of a more or less coordinated  effort to serve the 
economic interests of the ruling class will more likely than not be 
true.  It is also true that many if not most scientists and 
technologists believe that they are doing good, that what they do will 
ultimately benefit the people.  That is why another aspect of a science 
for the people movement must be to raise the level of understanding 
among scientists of how the capitalist system works.

*"conspiracy theories"----*Mostly nonsense and when they are correct 
describe actions of mavericks outside the capitalist mainstream.  The 
capitalists in the US have sufficiently mind-fucked the population that 
they do all their shit openly with impunity.  The best opposition to 
conspiracy theories is to help people understand how the system works, 
how it screws them over and provokes terrible things, because of its 
nature, its inner logic.

herb

Michael Balter wrote:
> One of the reasons that a science for the people has to be based on 
> good science is that otherwise it becomes prey to all the kinds of 
> errors that mainstream science is vulnerable to. The anecdotal reports 
> of parents are essentially worthless in establishing a relationship 
> between vaccines and autism, for all the classic reasons--recall bias, 
> the confusing of correlation with causation (vaccines are given right 
> around the time that autism symptoms normally appear in children, 
> etc), and the substantial body of studies that refute such a 
> connection. I believe that most people here are familiar with this. 
> The fundamental error here is the idea that if anyone connected with 
> the "establishment" or the government is in favor of something--in 
> this case, vaccination, which saves millions of lives--then it must be 
> some sort of capitalist plot. The failure to distinguish real 
> capitalist plots (of which there are many) from patent nonsense 
> creates a huge distraction from the real tasks at hand. In fact, if I 
> wanted to be a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the CIA is behind 
> the vaccine-autism connection, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and AIDS 
> denialism, because objectively it takes thousands of people out of 
> necessary struggles and diverts them.
>
> btw, be sure to check out Jim West's Web site for the real scoop on 
> the polio/pesticide connection--an excellent exercise in bad science.
>
> MB
>
> On Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 2:14 AM, Jim West <[log in to unmask] 
> <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>
>     Michael Goldhaber,
>
>     It is generous of you "not to say that unlimited number of
>     vaccinations is
>     unproblematic".
>
>     You accuse Cornelia Read of being myopic, seeing vaccines as the
>     only cause
>     of autism, but she is just saying that vaccines are a very obvious
>     cause.
>     Parent's are reporting an obvious sequence of events:  vaccines are
>     administered, child screams interminably, child becomes mute,
>     child becomes
>     neurologically impaired.
>
>     You claim Cornelia's mercury dosage (as ppb) review is wrong, but
>     if you do
>     the math (for a 10 lb infant), her argument becomes extremely
>     compelling.
>     Cornelia provides the data (see her URL below).
>
>     The effectiveness of her blog is that it shows quite graphically
>     that that
>     which was once 'arguable', we now realize was exploitive and
>     dangerous.
>
>     In other words, the history of medicine enables us to understand
>     its present
>     character.
>
>     With regard to your salute to the effectiveness of vaccines, those
>     beliefs
>     are usually, if not always, based on disease paradigms that omit
>     environmental studies.
>
>     The second part of your salute appears to exhort "leftists" towards
>     vaccination enforcement.  Without reviewing disease paradigms in
>     terms of
>     environment, the left may just be facilitating rightist exploitation.
>
>     -Jim West
>     NYC
>     ========
>     On Thu, 3 Apr 2008 02:00:54 -0700, Michael H Goldhaber
>     <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>
>     >One aspect (at least)  of the blog post recommended  below is highly
>     >misleading. Concentrations of mercury in water and in vaccines are
>     >compared, with no mention that  even a child would take in thousands
>     >of times as much water by weight in comparison to the weight of
>     >vaccines. Thus ppb of mercury in vaccines is a very misleading
>     measure
>     >of relative doses. In addition no mention is made of the fact that
>     >autism is now understood as a spectrum of disorders, and diagnosing a
>     >child as autistic quite possibly is now routinely done for milder
>     >cases than it would have been in the past.  Furthermore, there are
>     >other social changes that might give rise ot higher incidence of
>     >autism, such as parents typically conceiving at an older age than
>     >formerly and increased use of ultrasound. I people are truly
>     concerned
>     >about an increase in autism, it is a very poor  plan to focus only on
>     >one possible cause, which may or may not be the real culprit.
>     >
>     >This is not to say that unlimited number of vaccinations is
>     >unproblematic, but in general vaccinations have led to better public
>     >health and longer life expectancies, not the reverse. Surely,
>     leftists
>     >ought to be concerned about  the dangers to the public at large if
>     >individual parents arbitrarily decide against vaccination for their
>     >own children. Even diseases such as measles and mumps can be
>     deadly or
>     >highly debilitating.
>     >
>     >
>     >Best,
>     >Michael
>     >
>     >On Apr 2, 2008, at 9:35 PM, Jim West wrote:
>     >> I see a sqabble beginning...
>     >>
>     >> So to lighten things up on such a heavy subject -- this fine
>     satire by
>     >> Cornelia Read puts autism, science and journalism in proper
>     >> context.  Facts
>     >> and humor allow the reader to laugh and learn.
>     >>
>     >>
>     http://kimstagliano.blogspot.com/2008/03/medical-mistakes-throughout-ages-thank.html
>     >>
>
>
>
>
> -- 
> www.michaelbalter.com <http://www.michaelbalter.com>
>
> ******************************************
> Michael Balter
> Contributing Correspondent, Science
> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
> Boston University
>
> [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> ****************************************** 

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