Is a Little Pollution Good for You?: Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research

Overview


Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise -- a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis (beneficial or stimulatory effects caused by low-dose exposure to toxic substances) claim that that this may be the case. Is A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis. In the process, it highlights the range of methodological and interpretive judgments involved in environmental ...
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Overview


Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise -- a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis (beneficial or stimulatory effects caused by low-dose exposure to toxic substances) claim that that this may be the case. Is A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis. In the process, it highlights the range of methodological and interpretive judgments involved in environmental research: choices about what questions to ask and how to study them, decisions about how to categorize and describe new information, judgments about how to interpret and evaluate ambiguous evidence, and questions about how to formulate public policy in response to debated scientific findings. The book also uncovers the ways that interest groups with deep pockets attempt to influence these scientific judgments for their benefit. Several chapters suggest ways to counter these influences and incorporate a broader array of societal values in environmental research: (1) moving beyond conflict-of-interest policies to develop new ways of safeguarding academic research from potential biases; (2) creating deliberative forums in which multiple stakeholders can discuss the judgments involved in policy-relevant research; and (3) developing ethical guidelines that can assist scientific experts in disseminating debated and controversial phenomena to the public. Kevin C. Elliott illustrates these strategies in the hormesis case, as well as in two additional case studies involving contemporary environmental research: endocrine disruption and multiple chemical sensitivity. This book should be of interest to a wide variety of readers, including scientists, philosophers, policy makers, environmental ethicists and activists, research ethicists, industry leaders, and concerned citizens.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"One of the few (if only?) books that attempts to work across debates concerning values in science and social epistemology, to develop insights not just about science in policy but also policy for science. This kind of finely textured analysis of the specific social institutions around scientific practice is desperately needed. Elliott's book opens this terrain up for examination, debate, and hopefully, eventual improvement."--Heather Douglas, Philosophy of Science

"Kevin Elliott has taken on a particularly controversial scientific view, namely hormesis, and utilized it to clearly identify various places non-epistemic social values can and should be incorporated into core scientific activities that bear on public policy issues. This comprehensive, thoughtful, and careful discussion should now be part of the dialogue about social values in science-policy discussions."--Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"This is a timely, well-researched and compelling book. Elliott admirably combines insights and strategies from philosophy of science with those of applied ethics to carefully analyze contemporary science and science policy around pollutants and human health. There is a growing interest in the philosophy of science community in bringing the work of philosophers to bear on contemporary social issues. This book stands out as a model for how to do just that."--Sandra D. Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh

"Is A Little Pollution Good For You? by Kevin Elliott, is a wonderfully clear and insightful book dealing with the interplay between social values and economic and political interests in scientific research. Elliott's book is a must read for researchers, scholars, and students who are interested in the relationship between science, industry, and society."--David B. Resnik, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, author of Playing Politics with Science

"The discussion of ethics for experts is especially well done."--BioScience magazine


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199374069
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/1/2014
  • Series: ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND SCIENCE POLICY Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,266,492
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin C. Elliott is Associate Professor at Lyman-Briggs College and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Societal Values and Environmental Research
2. The Hormesis Case
3. An Argument for Societal Values in Policy-Relevant Research
4. Lesson #1: Safeguarding Science
5. Lesson #2: Diagnosing Deliberation
6. Lesson #3: Ethics for Experts
7. The MCS and ED Cases
8. Conclusion

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