Week 11 – Emily Thibodeau

November 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taylor’s article “Vaccines and the Changing Epidemiology of Autism” notes some of the trends in popular beliefs about autism’s causes, and refutes the false claims that have been popularized. In Chapter 6,”Mercury Falling”, Offit discusses the personal side of these trends in beliefs as well as treatment, and how bad science is putting children at risk. Firstly, Taylors article is a well-written, easy to understand piece about autism. He argues that increased prevalence (number of people with autism) does not suggest an increase in incidents (number of new cases over a time period). He highlights evidence that shows how incidents are not increasing and that the initial claims levied  against the MMR vaccine were false. He ends with lessons that can be learned from the constantly changing directions of the autism discourse. Essentially, the differences between junk science and real science need to be shown to the public by members of the press.

Offit discusses how junk science can go one step further – actually harming children. In his discussion of how timerosal had been epidemiologically proven not to raise autism rates, he highlights how many action groups and individuals such as Kirby, wished to use science in reverse, or lab studies, to test vaccines. Essentially, the lab testing may provide false information because lab animals react differently than humans in many cases. Despite this, groups such as Defeat Autism Now (DAN) actively promote untested, dangerous cures for autism. Preying on the hope that parents have for a cure, children may be endangered from unapproved cures. Additionally, activists such as Kathleen Seidel argue that the belief that autism is a damage inflicted on a child is offensive.

Both articles highlight the lack of evidence to suggest that thimerosal impacted the increase in autism prevalence. Taylor focused on the scientific background of this debate, offering few personalized stories. Offit showed many personalized cases where false science endangered children and created a false sense of hope for parents. To what extent is calling individuals with autism “damaged” detracting from legitimate research into treatments for autism, by focusing on false hope instead of acceptance?


Week 11 Luke Yiannatji

November 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In chapter 6 of Autism’s False Prophets, Offit discusses the several epidemiological studies disproving the hypothesis that thimerosal was a direct cause of autism in children and the public reactions to these findings. A number of epidemiological researchers such as Stehr-Green, Heron, Madsen, and Hviid found that during the time thimerosal was removed from vaccines, the number of people diagnosed with autism was actually increasing, not decreasing. These findings sparked a public outcry from parents clinging to the theory that thimerosal caused autism, many claiming epidemiological studies were an inadequate way of testing this theory. Others went as far as claiming scientists were “covering up” the fact that their vaccines caused a dramatic increase in autism. Offit then points out that “problems caused by vaccines (intestinal damage, thrombocytopenia, paralysis) as rare as one in 10,000, one in 25,000, or one in 100,000 have been readily detected by epidemiological studies”, but the studies done on thimerisal and autism did not detect even one instance where thimerosal caused autism. He then points out a number of cases where animal testing results were not consistent with findings in humans, such as Cutter Laboratories’ polio vaccine which turned out to cause polio in a high number of those injected. Examples like these show how “false reassurance” can occur if biological studies are used without epidemiological studies to back it. Offit then points out that “anyone who lives on a planet will consumer small amounts of mercury”, so politicians who claim they have “zero tolerance” would need to “move to a different planet.” This was the basis for presenting the argument that mercury poisoning and autism are completely different and that those claiming differently are misinformed. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence concluding this hypothesis is untrue, too many parents and organizations still condemn scientists and medical professionals for their endorsement of vaccines as a safe practice. J.B. Handley’s Generation Rescue went as far as paying 150,000 dollars to place a full-page advertisement in the New York Times stating: “MERCURY POISONING AND AUTISM: IT ISN’T A COINCIDENCE”, and another ad in USA Today stating: IF YOU CAUSED A 6,000% INCREASE IN AUTISM WOULDN’T YOU TRY TO COVER IT UP, TOO?” Within these ads were quotes from a  number of politicians in support of the disproven hypothesis claiming a link between mercury and autism. Furthermore, several of the researchers who disproved this theory with epidemiological research came under attack from parents who threatened harm to them for their studies. Also, Offit points out the high number of parents who were victims to all the false cures for autism and as a result spent a lot of money on false hope. One parent became “mad at myself for being so gullible and for misleading other parents of autistic children.” Kirby, who was a huge supporter of the mercury to autism simply would not quit hypothesizing about the causes and cures of autism, even going as far as saying the burning of coal in China and the California wildfires caused a spike in autism rates. Offit points out the numerous parents who are blinded by claims like these and who work other parents into an emotional state and protest against vaccines despite being tremendously misinformed.

In Parents’ perspectives on the MMR immunisation: a focus group study, Evans, Stoddart, and Condon aim “to investigate what influences parents’ decisions on whether to accept or refuse the primary MMR immunisation and the impact of the recent controversy over its safety” using a qualitative study of focus group discussions. The results found that “all parents felt that the decision about MMR was difficult and stressful, and experienced unwelcome pressure from health professionals to comply.” The 4 key factos affecting their decisions were: “(a) beliefs about the risks and benefits of MMR compared with contracting the diseases, (b) information from the media and other sources about the safety of MMR, (c) confidence and trust in the advice of health professionals and attitudes towards compliance with this advice, and (d) views on the importance of individual choice within Government policy on immunization” They concluded that in addition to parents wanting up-to-date information on MMR vaccines prior to choosing whether or not to immunize their children. Many of them did not trust medical professionals advice on the basis that they were aware GP’s needed to reach immunization targets, but most said they would welcome discussion with them about immunizations.

These two readings make it clear that vaccines have become a wide topic of debate among the public. Although the benefits of them usually outweigh the risks, the severity of the risks has shown to be cause for public concern. Furthermore, the hypothesis of a link between vaccines and autism has resulted in a heated debate among parents, politicians, scientists, and health professionals. Meanwhile, the media has seemed to benefit greatly from this stressful topic. As the number of autism cases have increased, so too has the number of media stories related to autism. Using evidence from several studies disproving the mercury to autism hypothesis, Offit presents parents under this belief as misinformed, and the scientists pushing false hypotheses like this as well as further pushing false cures are an overall harm to society. Nevertheless, the above study shows that vaccinations will continue to be a stressful decision among parents who may feel torn by the alleged risks and benefits.

My questions for discussion include: Is the media wrong for having a field day over the debate surrounding autism by pushing stories on the alleged “cures” and “causes” of autism onto the public?

Can it be said that people like Kirby who keep coming up with ridiculous hypotheses for the cures and causes of autism are exploiting desperate parents into spending out-of-pocket money on false hope?

Are politicians, who inevitably influence the public with their beliefs, qualified to make statements on the matter of mercury and autism?

Casey Krutz- Week 11

November 13, 2011 at 1:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In Chapter 9 of the Book “Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure,” Offit takes a strong stance against how science is presented in the media, especially in relation to issues such as autism. Offit presents the idea that while scientists seek to inform, the media in contrast seeks to entertain. There are many issues that affect how the news is presented on scientific issues. One is to scientific issues up heated debates instead of presenting the factual view. This is seen in the case of Tim Russert’s coverage of Meet the Press in which created a confrontation between a true scientist and a journalist more interested in appealing to the people. Journalists feel the need to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” in their news which is problematic in terms of providing the facts to the public.  There are also many outside influences, such as advocacy groups and lawyers that are more concerned in appealing to the people’s emotions than looking at science. Lastly, the news is shaped by politicians that also want to satisfy their audiences which lead them to claim vaccines are the cause of autism. This has adverse consequences, because it is leading parents away from vaccines that could possibly save their children’s lives or encouraging to them to possibly harmful therapies. Overall, Offit concludes that the perception of science is distorted because of the culture it is presented in.

In “Child: Care, Health, and Development,” Taylor holds the viewpoint that autism is not caused by vaccination, yet is able to come to realization of the positives that the vaccine scare lead to. Taylor explains how articles such as “The Lancet” that present the viewpoint that the MMR vaccine does lead to autism does not have any strong scientific evidence to support the argument being brought to attention. He also claims that the media makes matters worse since most coverage is anti-vaccine and that journalists who care little about public health, are only concerned with presenting dramatic news, which is often bad, such as in the case of the MMR vaccine leading to autism. Taylor feels that the internet has only contributed to this problems with too many options of viewpoints to be found on this issue. Taylor concludes that there has been no real increase in the occurrence of autism or that thiomersal, which is used in MMR vaccines, triggers autism, even in children. However, Taylor does mention that at least with the scare of autism, more people are thinking about autism and as a result, there has been more research conducted and better services provided, which is positive progress.

While Offit focuses more on the way the media and journalists specifically present the vaccination and autism situation, Taylor focuses more on the fact that there is no evidence found that MMR vaccination leads to autism. While both Offit and Taylor seem to agree that the way media presents the issue is anti-vaccination, Offit only focuses on why this is problematic, while Taylor is able to find some positives in this anti-negative research. Offit only points out the negative consequences that come about from this anti-vaccination media, such as children being lead away from possibly life saving vaccinations. In contrast, Taylor points out that since the public is at least thinking about autism more, some progress has been made to help families with children that suffer from it.

My questions that arise from these two articles are: Even with an anti-vaccination viewpoint, the media is now mentioning autism more often.  Do you think that even if the media is anti-vaccination, the fact that autism is being mentioned in the news is better that it being ignored? Or do you agree with Offit that journalists are just putting their children in danger if they listen to the media’s message?

Week 11 – Jade Hanson

November 12, 2011 at 11:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments



The debate over what causes autism consists of two main viewpoints. The first side of the debate is for the most part supported by scientists who argue that vaccines do not cause autism. The second viewpoint is often argued on behalf of the parents of autistic children who believe that the MMR vaccine does cause autism. The parents side of the argument has received a lot of media attention in part due to the Wakefield article published in The Lancet. Because this side of the argument does not use scientific methodology when testing it’s hypotheses, it is important that the media highlights the scientific side as well. If journalists continue to write these strong pieces that highlight the opinions of somewhat irrational parents, outbreaks of serious diseases that have come close to eradication can present themselves back into the United States population.

In Taylor’s article entitled Vaccines and The Changing Epidemiology of Autism, Taylor argues that there has been no real increase in autism. Taylor uses medical records and other scientific literature to conclude that part of the reason the public believes there has been an “increase” in the number of children with autism is due the ability of doctor’s to not only better diagnose the condition, but also the ability to diagnose autism on a wider spectrum. Taylor also notes that no “scientific evidence” has presented itself on behalf of the parents arguing autism is caused by vaccinations. If the media does not stress this side of the argument as well, the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children could skyrocket causing a serious threat to public health.

In the article entitled Parents’ Perspectives on the MMR Immunisation: A Focus Group Study, Evans and team present the four main reasons why parents struggle with the decision to immunize or to not immunize their child with the MMR vaccine. The media and it’s reports on vaccine safety was directly referenced in why some parents are not vaccinating their children. The other three reasons listed also are greatly affected by the media industry. The other reasons for not immunizing their children are:


  1. Beliefs about the risks and benefits of immunization compared with the risks and associated with contracting measles, mumps, or rubella
  2. Confidence and trust in advice given by health professionals and attitudes towards compliance with medical recommendations
  3. Views on the importance of individual choice within government policy on immunization.


As stated above, all three of those reasonings can be affected by the media. Many parents would not even be aware of the very unlikely risks of the MMR vaccine if it wasn’t for the media. Also, the media has often caused the public to question figures of authority which I believe is the cause of reason number two. Finally, the media often stresses citizens rights and their ability to refuse government power which could be affecting reasoning number three.

Overall, the media is partially at fault for endangering portions of society due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. It is important for the media to not only stress the scientific findings related to the issue, but also to make it known to the public that the diseases protected by the MMR vaccine are not erradicated and can represent themselves into the American public. As a non-immunizer quoted in the Evans and group article said, “ ‘It was because of the media and the press that I looked into the MMR and decided well whoa, I’m not having that”. The media does play a significant role in the outcomes of this debate and it is time they start taking action.


The question I pose for the week is:

Who do you think is the most responsible for parents refusing to immunize their children?

Jorden Gemuend – Week 11 – Evans et al. and Offit epilogue

November 11, 2011 at 11:55 am | Posted in Weekly Responses | Leave a comment

When vaccines, thimerosal, and autism are all mixed together, the resulting product is confusion. Despite the numerous scientific studies that support there being no connection between either vaccines or thimerosal contained in vaccines with the development of autism, there still remains a lot of disbelief. Evans et al. attempt to uncover some of this confusion by examining the thinking behind parents’ perspectives of the MMR vaccine, while Offit writes in the epilogue of his book about ways in which the scientific evidenced was trumped by parents, the media, celebrities, and politicians. However, while this state of confusion and debate over vaccines and autism seem to indicate room for differing opinions, the future will not leave such room. Society will adopt social norms where opposing opinions to those norms will be oppressed.

These pressures can already be seen forming within the medical community and the unwelcome pressure applied on parents to have their children vaccinated. Evans et al. write in their article “Parents’ Perspectives on the MMR Immunisation: A Focus Group Study” about the feelings that parents held in Great Britain about the MMR vaccine. They found 4 core attributes within their focus groups. First, they report that all parents, both immunizers and non-immunizers, saw MMR as both beneficial and potentially risky. Secondly, the media publicity about the possible link between MMR, autism, and Crohn’s disease raised doubts in people who would have otherwise not doubted. Thirdly, parents found it difficult to have an open discussion with health professionals about risks, benefits, and options for immunization. This is where the first signs of societal pressure can be seen. Many of these parents reported the unwelcome pressure they received, and how many allowed their children to be vaccinated due to this pressure. Another source of pressure was the government established vaccine quotas that were required to be met in order for health institutions to receive funding. Here, the pressures and norms have already been molded into the very structure of society. This leads to the fourth finding, that this potential conflict between government policy setting immunization targets and the rights of parents is important to parents. The authors conclude the study by suggesting that health professionals be more open and explanatory to patients, and that information about immunizations become more easily accessible.

Paul Offit attempts to clarify the truth on the matter in his epilogue of his book Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. Offit goes through a series of media happenings that primarily focus on Jenny McCarthy, the celebrity mother who has become a representative of believing that autism is linked with vaccinations. Offit details how McCarthy went from the Oprah show, to Larry King Live, to 20/20, and finally to The View promoting her beliefs that autism is caused by vaccines, and that special diet is a cure for autism. Interestingly enough, Offit uses a style of presenting the statements of those who support the connection between autism and vaccines and then immediately following them with an opposing fact. This builds a sense of irony, which when read comes off as slightly humorous. This style of rebuttal plays off the social norms that are being developed in order to dismiss opposing viewpoints. Here, Offit seeks the truth, but in the future, the social norms will supersede the truth. Offit takes note of the strategies used by McCarthy. Her use of personal and emotional anecdotes was far more powerful than science. She also provided what health professionals and scientists could not, a cure, and thus hope. McCarthy proclaimed that doctors need to listen to parents more, the same claim as Wakefield. Offit decides to end the epilogue by painting a picture of how these “crusaders” against vaccines were winning.

Science, however, is not down for the count. In the case of autism and vaccines, the lack on connection will eventually take hold. Any attempt to connect the two will be shunned; not debated, but shunned. As Bill Clinton calls it un-American to debate global warming, these societal norms will begin their march towards dominance. By turning the situation personal, opposing beliefs are essentially connected with the believer, and thus both become attacked. As with evolution and intelligent design, the debate goes deeper than simply two sets of beliefs. No, instead, this is about two types of people, and the divide thickens. As Evans et al. explain, parents are already feeling the weight of unwelcome pressure to have their children vaccinated. Offit uses a satirical style of rebuttals to inch towards not only dismissing parents’ beliefs that autism and vaccines are related, but also towards their credibility. Soon, if you are not an expert of science, or a key policy maker, then you do not have a say in the matter. In cannot be possible that you may know something the world does not. Science will become the law.

My Question: Do you believe that with debates such as those we have been dealing with in class, the beliefs held by people become associated with a judgment of the person?


November 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Research surrounding Autism, it causes and potential treatments, is largely debated in today’s world. It is believed that children are born autistic, but that various therapies can help to curb autistic symptoms. The DSM-IV outlines the symptoms and personality characteristics that define individuals with autism.  Offit, in his book, “Autism’s False Prophets”, outlines the history and discovery of Autism in America and discusses its effects on children diagnosed with it and on those who work or live with them on a daily basis. Although, 0ffit delves into various potential therapies psychologists use in treating children with Autism, not every therapy works for every child; as illustrated by the DSM-IV’s categorical description and by the recent diagnoses of milder forms of Autism, it is clear that autism is a spectrum disorder; therefore, what is considered helpful to one child could be harmful to another.


The American Psychiatric Association’s description of Autism is most recently defined in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-IV.  According to the manual, the diagnosis of Autism requires 6 characteristics and requires that they be present before the age of three. Characteristics include delays in social interaction, delays in language used for social communication, delays in symbolic and imaginative play.  These symptoms can include impairments in holding a conversation, in speaking at all, in nonverbal gestures, and in lack of showing appropriate emotion. Because there are so many symptoms and combinations, reasons that define a child as autistic it can be hard to treat all autistic children the same way. While there is no clear or obvious cure, different therapies can work for different people.


Offit, in “Autism’s False Prophets”, outlines Autism research throughout the 20th century to today. Before the 1940’s, Autism was not in existence and was not a word anyone had ever heard of. When Leo Kanner, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital diagnosed the first child with Autism in 1943, the decription was much more concrete than it can be today. According to Offit, Kanner use the word autistic because he was “impressed by the child’s self-absorption.” Sixty years after Kanner’s original description of Autism, the disorder has not changed much. However, it has increased in number. Now, “every 1 in 150 children in the US is diagnosed with the disorder.” Offit proposes two reasons for this increase.  The first is that the definition of Autism has broadened “to include children with milder, more subtle symptoms. The second is that, in the past, children with severe autism were diagnosed with mental retardation.  Now that they can be considered autistic in some cases, the number of children with Autism has increased while the number of children with mental retardation has decreased. As a result of the varying definitions of Autism, treatments that work for one child may not work for another. It is hard to decipher the best possible treatments for a given child and, often, treatments are extremely expensive.


If this is the case, then how are people to treat children with Autism in the best and most beneficial way?  Is there any one reason that autism has increased and will there ever be a cure?

Week 10 Blog Post- Casey Krutz

November 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In “The Lancet,” Wakefield argues that the main reason that children get autism is due to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. In particular Wakefield focuses on twelve children spanning from three to ten years old that were able to function normally before they were given the vaccine, but changed dramatically after. Wakefield believes that after this vaccine, the intestine becomes inflamed or can no longer work correctly and as a result, there is a change in the way these children behave.  Wakefield also claims in the study that after getting the vaccine, normal brain and neural function is interrupted and so is the way the brain develops. Further, the study points out that the vaccine affects intestinal problems which can also reflect how children behave and the way their brain works. While stated in complex science terms and though Wakefield says himself that further research should be done, these findings show that there is an evident problem noticed with the vaccine.

In “Diagnostic Criteria for Diagnosing Autism,” the American Psychiatric Association seeks to explain symptoms and does not take a particular stance. In this descriptive piece that explains what symptoms are necessary in order for a child to be diagnosed with autism. It provides six developmental and behavioral characteristics that need to be apparent and points out that these should be seen before age three. APA claims that there is no evidence of other conditions that are similar to this.

While Wakefield argues that autism comes about as a result of a vaccine, APA does not take a side and just explains the symptoms of autism. Wakefield studies children who are 3-10, claiming that they were normal before given the vaccine. However, the APA claims that the problems of autism are evident before the age of three, contrasting the age group that Wakefield is looking at. While the APA does not provide reasoning for how these symptoms come about, it hints that autism is not something children get after the age of three when many children get vaccines.

This leads me to the question: What is the main cause of the autism disorder? Is it something that children are born with or can it can it come about as a result of a vaccine as Wakefield suggests?

week 10 – Autism – Stef Manisero

November 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In addition to evolution and global warming this weeks readings in regard to autism prove yet another foggy area in which scientific matters overlap with conceptions of the general public. Andrew Wakefield, in his article, writes about how he has found a connection between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and the maturation of Autism. In chapter 5 of his book, Offit brings us into the homes of families who have witnessed their children develop Autism and discusses the publishing of scientific findings which indicate that mercury use in medicine leads to the development of Autism. While Wakefield’s article is a scientific article filled with uncommon terms and medical words, Offit’s book seems more friendly to the general public. Once again, the communication of information between scientists and the general public has found itself lacking.

As discussed in his article, Wakefield conducted a study to prove that the MMR vaccine was causing Autism in children. His hypothesis stated that “the consequence of an inflamed or dysfunctional intestine may play a part in behavioral changes in some children.” The study examined twelve children, age three to ten, with chronic entercolitis. These twelve children all shared a history of normal development yet, after receiving the MMR vaccine, they all had begun to loose their acquired skills. Wakefield found results that supported his hypothesis, for the vaccine was found to lead to intestinal problems, and upon the problems becoming neurological, behavioral tendencies. Through complicated and unconventional terms, Wakefield claims that the disruption of normal neuroregulation is caused by endogenous encephalins and endorphins. Despite the fact that he draws this connection to be true, he concedes that his findings may be coincidental and that further investigations are needed on the topic.

Offit begins chapter 5 of his book, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure, by introducing two women, Lyn Redwood and Sallie Bernard, both of whom have children who developed characteristics of Autism after receiving vaccinations. Together the two women started a parent advocacy group, Safe Minds, with the intention of ending medical devastations caused by unnecessary mercury use in medicine. They co-wrote an article and published it in Medical Hypotheses, but due to the magazines’ small circulation, it barely made an impact. Mark and David Geier followed suit, and performed the first study that proved that thimerosal (a chemical found in mercury) did, in fact, lead to Autism. In addition, they proved that such vaccines led to heart attacks and epilepsy. Another family with a child who fell victim to the autistic characteristics after receiving a vaccine, the Hardleys, decided not to give up on their son. Every day they rubbed a chelation chemical on their son’s legs and arms, and saw dramatic result that brought their son back to life. With personal stories such as these, all of which demonstrate a family affected by the troubles of mercury poisoning or people striving to find explanations and solutions, this book can make sense to the general public. As it did for me, it can raise awareness of this ongoing issue and inform those who are unaware of what is going on. While Offit does use scientific terms and discusses studies, he does so in a way that the general public can make sense of what is going on.

After reading these two pieces, it has become evident that this is an important matter than needs to be brought to attention and cured. It is absurd that vaccines are leading to one in every one-hundred-and-fifty children to develop Autism. This is something that is avoidable and, if cured, could better hundreds of lives. The publication of books such as Offit’s makes it possible for the readers to both become aware of this societal issue and to understand how to avoid this from happening to their own children. In articles such as Wakefield’s, people, like myself, with no scientific knowledge on the subject are likely to believe his claims, for we have no reason not to. However, I found the language daunting and confusing and, at times, difficult to make sense of. In this case, there is a lack of communication between the scientists and the public, for not every member of the public is going to understand such matters in the way scientists can. However, in a book like Offit’s, the matter hits home much harder and, at the same time, is much easier to comprehend and make sense of.

Would it be beneficial to bridge the gap between scientists and the rest of the public if scientists were to hire authors and writers who are not advanced or incredibly knowledgeable in the realm of science to publish their work? Would this even be possible? If not, why?

Week 10 – Emily Thibodeau

November 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The APA piece detailing the diagnosis of Autism and Chapter 1 of Offit’s book “Autism’s False Prophets” both detail the traumatic and long-lasting effects autism can have on individuals and their families, but Offit delves a step further into the issue, examining some of the negative outcomes that have resulted from the desire for a cure for autism. The APA notes the symptoms that must be present in order for autism to be diagnosed. For example, individuals must exhibit at least impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.  Autistic individuals must demonstrate delays or abnormal functionality prior to the age of three in these areas. Some of the more detailed criteria suggest a lack of communicative ability, or interest in people, a delay in speaking, and preoccupation with objects. Overall, these symptoms appear shocking and would likely be devastating to any parent.

Based on these devastating symptoms, Offit details cures that have been suggested for autism, all of which appear to capitalize on parents’ desire for hope for their children. While behavioral therapy has shown to be legitimately useful, it is slow and expensive, driving scientists and parents to search for a better cure. Biklen first suggested facilitated communication as a way for autistic children to communicate with their parents. Unfortunately, this hoax led to facilitator generated accusations of molestation. Beck, a parent of an autistic boy, believed secretin injections worked to help her son. These injections were found to be useless, but parents still sought them after learning about their ineffectiveness. Frustration with the slow pace of medicine drove parents to believe in far-fetched cures for autism that turned out to be baseless.

Both articles note the symptoms of autism which can be particularly difficult for family members of the affected to deal with. The APA points out the lack of interest in human engagement. This, Offit notes, can lead parents to terrible means — specifically homicide. However, the APA piece is limited to diagnostic information only and does not discuss the effects autism can have on the individuals lives it touches. Based on both readings, how much risk would be too much for parents of autistic children when seeking a cure for autism? It seems as if these parents have been willing to risk pain (electro-shock therapy) and death (from lack of vaccination), is there a clear place at which parents should stop attempting to help their child, as the harm may be greater than the potential for good?

Week 10 Post – Offit (Ch. 1) & Autism Piece

November 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter One of the Offit book spoke of many different things. Leo Kanner was a child psychiatrist that worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital when he first noticed symptoms in children that represented what they now call autism. These symtoms were children who didn’t talk much, or when they did they talked to themselves, stereotypical and repetitive manner and lacked an imagination. The reason that they use the greek word “autistic” is because it translates to a child’s self-absorption. Personality traits that children were said to have were in common from their parents: cold, bookish, formal, introverted, humorless, and detached. This chapter also talked of Bruno Bettelheim who believed a reason for autism was due to “refrigerator moms”, which meant moms who would “freeze out” their children or simply didn’t want their child to exist. The rate of autistic children is increasing, it is now 1 in every 150 children have autism. This can be very emotionally and financially stressful for the parents and this chapter gave examples of some parent’s who couldn’t handle the stress and ended up killing their autistic child. Parent’s would try every possible treatment to help their children. Two of the “treatments” that were mentioned were facilitated communication and secretin therapy. Autistic children would go through facilitation where what they were thinking/seeing they could pretty much spell it out. This gave hope to the parents and made them realized some things that the child was feeling and thinking. Some were critical of this technique, and they had every right to be. After many alleged sexually abuse cases, they realized that the facilitated communication did not really in fact work when they performed studies on it. Another possible “cure/treatment” for autism was thought to be secretin therapy. Although studies showed that secretin therapy didn’t work, but parents still wanted their child to have it…even though there was scientific proof it didn’t help them.

The Medical/Psychiatric Diagnosis of Autism is a main diagnostic reference used for healthcare professionals. This is the 4th edition that was published in 1994. It states that to be medically diagnosed with autism one would have to have at least six behavioral and developmental characteristics of the twelve listed. These problems also have to be apparent before the age of three years old. And lastly, that there are no other conditions that it could possibly be (do to the symptoms).

Taking a look at the behavioral and developmental characteristics on the DSM-IV, it looks like a lot of them stay true to Leo Kanner’s first list of symptoms that the children he noticed had in common. These pertain especially too the stereotyped and repetitive use of language and motor skills, lack of imagination, and eye to eye gaze, facial expressions, or gestures to show signs of social interaction. One thing I am curious about is how to tell before age three – now I have never have taken care of children for more than a 24-hour period, and I’m sure parents know when their child is acting different…but that still surprises me at such a young age autism can be “assigned” as the “probelm”. I believe both of these pieces were straight forward facts about autism and very interesting to read.

In the first chapter of Offit’s book, it mentioned two possible kinds of “treatments” – one of them being secretin therapy. Even after studies showed parents that secretin therapy was not a cure for autism, why do you believe that they still wanted their child to try it? What would you do as a parent with an autistic child? Do you believe in Bettelheim’s “refrigerator moms” for a cause of autism?

Week 10

November 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

In Wakefield’s study , he proposed a connection between a child receiving the MMR vaccine and subsequent development of characteristics of autism, which he sought to prove by testing 12 children ranging from ages 3-10 who had a history of normal development followed by loss of acquired skills after receiving this vaccine. He states in advanced medical terms is that vaccine has an impact on intestinal problems which can then play a part in behavioral tendencies when those problems become neurological. He states this by describing a “pattern of colitis and ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia in children with developmental disorders.” Although he acknowledges that there is a possibility that these connections are coincidental, it would appear that his hypothesis seems to be plausible.


In Chapters 1 and 2 of Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets, he discusses Wakefield’s theory after discussing several other possible causes or cures for autism that proved to be false or fraudulent. From poor mothering skills to secretin injections, there have been numerous attempts by people with good intentions that have been proven false. Offit supports these proposals for cures with stories that are first heart-warming that turn out to be heart-wrenching since what happened to work for one child does not constitute a cure. Some practices such as Douglas Biklen’s facilitated communication were thought to be purely fraudulent and manipulated by doctors to give parents hope that their child would be cured.


In these readings, it is apparent that when there is a potential cure for autism, as soon as the media gets hold of it, it will spread like wildfire.  Since parents are understandably desperate to find a cure for their child, they will take risks if they hear that a certain procedure has “worked” for others, even if scientific backing is scarce or unproven. As Offit explains, these risks can sometimes lead to detrimental side effects or even death. With that being said, what are your opinions on the media’s tendency to exploit certain “cures” prematurely? Considering that many of these cures have proven to be fraudulent or inaccurate, is giving false hope to parents a consequence of the media infiltrating scientific processes or of the public reacting too quickly to what the media is saying? What do you believe is the best way to approach the topic of autism and cures for autism as it pertains to its portrayal in the media?

Week 10 Offit and Wakefield by Luke Y.

November 6, 2011 at 11:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The two pieces I looked at were chapter 1 of Paul A. Offit’s, Autism’s False Prophets, and Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasion development disorder in children by the infamous, Andrew Wakefield.

Offit begins his book by introducing what autism is and the ways it affects children’s’ behavior. Child psychiatrist, Leo Kanner, identified autism in children who seemed detached and inaccessible. He then used the word, autistic, taken from the Greek word autos, meaning “self”, to reflect these children’s observed “self-absorption”. In 1943, Kanner believed children were born autistic with little hope for a cure. Offit then mentions the dramatic increase in the number of children with autism since the mid-1990s. He claims this is due in part to the broadened definition of what is considered autism. He then describes the emotional and financial stress parents of these children face, as one states, “Living with these children can be hell. They can destroy your entire home.” Some parents have even killed their own children because of the hellish frustration. In short, the people affected by this disorder are desperate for medical researchers to come up with a real cure. The facilitated communication technique appeared to be a Godsend before it was proven that facilitators were subconsciously doing the typing, not the children. Later, intravenous injections of a hormone called secretin was seen around the nation as an effective treatment until this too was proven false.

Andrew Wakefield’s study claims the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine was causing autism in children. His study investigated 12 children with chronic entercolitis and developmental disorder, eventually finding support for the hypothesis: “the consequence of an inflamed or dysfunctional intestine may play a part in behavioral changes in some children.” He then claimed this ultimately leads to a disruption of normal neuroregulation and brain development by endogenous encephalins and endorphins. In short, Wakefield portrays a connection between MMR vaccines and the intestinal dysfunctions that were shown to predict autism in some children as very likely to be true, but admits “further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”

To the average reader, Wakefield’s study appears to be a valid and reliable empirical analysis despite it not being written in layman’s terms. I, personally, had never before seen many of the scientific and medical words used in this study. Since I am not a professional of this field, there is no chance of me ever going out of my way to test what Wakefield is claiming. Therefore, I was tempted to believe in what Wakefield was claiming, especially since several other professionals were backing his claims. This makes me wonder about the thought process throughout the general public on this. Since the average citizen does not have the means to research, test, and informatively debate studies done by such high-knowledge people, the public sometimes has to trust the information given to them. This trust in so-called “experts” combined with the pure desperation on the part of those affected by autism drives into being these “false prophets” that Offit describes.

Who is to blame for the several instances where researchers provided false hope to those affected by autism?

Are researchers and scientists searching too much for career stardom on issues like autism and global warming?

Has the media been too quick to fall in love with stories regarding a cure for autism?

Week 10 – Autism Jade Hanson

November 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

All three pieces for this week attack different issues regarding autism. The two which I will focus on in my analysis are the piece in The Lancet and the APA’s Diagnostic Criteria for Autism. While both of these pieces discuss valid portions to understanding the conflict over autism, neither piece is intended for the general public. Therefore neither aim to clear confusion on the claims made by the ill-informed related to vaccines and autism.

Many parents and some doctors often attribute their child’s autism to a vaccination. However, findings by Wakefield and team show that there is no direct correlation with vaccines and autism. These researchers note that the most common finding is that an inflamed or dysfunctional intestine play a role in the behavioral changes in autistic children. If this write up was made more readable by the general public, it is likely that some fears would be calmed. Furthermore, some public outcry over vaccines causing autism would most likely diminish if the piece was read by the majority of the general public.

On the other hand, the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic Criteria is a piece that offers a checklist of symptoms required to diagnose a child with autism. While this piece does not help aid the fight in support of or against vaccines causing autism, a better understanding of the disease itself could help the general public better understand the issue at hand. However, this piece is written for medical health professionals. By journalists not clearly describing autism and it’s causes, audiences won’t be properly informed on the most basic elements relating to the issue of vaccines and autism.

The only way to clear up misconception about the relationship between autism and vaccines is to educate the public on all fronts. If scientists/medical professional could tailor pieces not for people within their own profession, it is more likely that the public could better censor sensational claims made by the uninformed that often occur in the news.



Do you think that informational coverage on autism would actually be printed in the news or would it be considered by editors to be “not newsworthy”?

Jorden Gemuend – Week 10 – Wakefield et al. and Offit

November 2, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Posted in Weekly Responses | 1 Comment

While Andrew Wakefield was busy proclaiming that he had discovered a connection between the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and the development of Autism, the press, fellow scientists, and politicians all jumped onboard in support. Paul Offit describes this domino effect in chapter 2 of his book Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. This fall-out of scientific findings connecting the MMR vaccine to Autism, the subsequent support, and the reactions of the public are all similar to the debates of evolution and global warming.

Andrew Wakefield published his study first claiming that Autism can be caused by the MMR vaccine in 1998 with the title “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.” Wakefield had performed a medical study of 12 children who after a period of normal development, lost acquired skills, including communication. Eight of the children’s parents linked the onset of the behavioral problems with the MMR vaccine. Wakefield, after performing many medical examinations and tests, concluded that all 12 children had gastrointestinal problems, which could be leading to Autism. He raised the possibility that the vaccine may be connected with these intestinal dysfunctions, and thus the association was made.

Paul Offit writes in chapter 2 of his book about the events leading up to Wakefield’s study being published, and the societal consequences that followed. Step-by-step, Offit walks the through the various medical findings that led Wakefield to his 1998 publication linking the MMR vaccine with Autism. The day after holding a press conference revealing these findings, the English media explodes with reports such as “Alert over Child Jabs,” and “Ban Three-in-One Jab, Urge Doctors.” As a result, thousands of parents stopped allowing their children to be vaccinated with MMR, lowering MMR vaccinations rates from 90% to 70%, and as low as 50% in some areas of London. Although some experts questioned these findings, the storm had already been formed. Offit describes how Measles outbreaks began occurring in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and some children were losing their lives. Meanwhile, many scientists and experts backed up the findings of Wakefield, and Congressman Dan Burton also raised support. Offit talks about how Burton created a hearing where Wakefield and supporting scientists presented their evidence for the MMR connection to Autism. However, Congressman Henry Waxman, with the help of scientist Brent Taylor, refuted the connection and the evidence put forth by Wakefield. The news had already spread, however, and many countries around the world had already reacted to Wakefield’s assertions. Although Wakefield was shown to be wrong, his theory still underwent a process of media explosion and scientific backing before crumbling.

The debates on evolution and climate change both include scientific consensuses stating that they are correct. Like Offit points out in his book, it only took the idea of the MMR vaccine being linked with Autism to spark an incredible amount of support from scientists, politicians, and the public. This support and media coverage was met with thousands of parents not having their children vaccinated, leading to Measles outbreaks in Great Britain and the deaths of children. Wakefield was not alone, however, as many scientists provided their own findings to support his assertions. Once these scientists knew what they were looking for, it seemed easy to provide findings that supported the connection. With evolution and global warming, the scientific consensus seems to have formed the same way. A starting point shoots off with more and more support building upon this initial direction. Eventually, other directions are forgotten, and not considered possible. The only direction is straight forward, in support with the inertia already built. Imagine if the MMR link with Autism had been left unchallenged, or perhaps the scientific support overshadowed other directions. Combined with the media coverage, political support, and public acceptance, this link would look similar to how evolution and climate change currently look. This will be another fact, backed by scientific consensus and normatively established in society. Perhaps evolution, climate change, and other concepts that have been adopted as “correct” have simply survived where Wakefield failed. It may only be a matter of time before the truth shines brightest.

My Question: Are ideas which deviate from the established scientific consensus able to be heard?

Week 9- Krosnick & McCright/Dunlap

October 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

In Krosnick’s op-ed, he discusses a study he did that confronted the theory that the public is torn on whether or not climate change is occurring and if action should be taken. His theory is that there is in fact a larger consensus than we think, and that the majority of the public does believe climate change is occurring and is caused by human action. On the other hand, McCright and Dunlap approach the concept of the countermovement by studying documents by conservative “think tanks” and assessing the origins and characteristics of those who are opposed to climate change on a more global level. Although Krosnick’s piece is focused on a select few American citizens and McCrighton and Dunlap are referring to a whole movement, it can be seen that although there may be a growing consensus in America, there will always be opposition to environmental action if it is threatening to one’s own values.

Krosnick’s study was a phone interview done with 1,000 random American adults asking them questions about their opinions on climate change. His claims his study is different from those in the past because he focuses on people’s own opinions on the issue rather than asking them about what they have observed through media coverage on climate change. Since there are politics involved when it comes to media coverage of climate change, there will be skepticism on the issue. Krosnick is suggesting that this skepticism is not as prevalent as we may think it is in real life, just like it is not present amongst the experts on the subject.

The study done by McCright and Dunlap suggests otherwise. They focus on the growing opposition as well as the “claim and frame” processes acting as tools in coverage on the orientation of climate change as a social movement and social problem. They found that there are three common themes of the conservative countermovement: Criticism of the scientific evidence and beliefs in global warming, emphasis on the potential benefits of global warming, and claims that taking internationally binding action would have many negative consequences. They say that if global warming is seen as threatening the core characteristics of conservatism, and the “Manifest Destiny” which is the belief in certain potentials of the future such as faith in science and technology, economic growth, and faith in material abundance and prosperity, then they will not support action to slow down the effects of climate change.

Therefore, Krosnick states that there is a growing consensus amongst the public while McCright and Dunlap state that there is an entire movement against taking action against global warming. McCright and Dunlap’s study is focused more on political figures and leaders in this movement while Krosnick is focused on the general public, but they both still raise an important question as to the extent of skepticism that exists amongst the public. Do you think that there is more of a consensus than the media will allow us to know? Or is there inevitably going to be a countermovement to issues as prevalent as global warming? What would you suggest we can do to find out what the public really thinks?

Week 9 Post – Krosnick & Grundmann

October 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The New York Times article, “Climate Majority” by Jon Krosnick talked of a study that represented how American’s truly feel about global warming and whether it is happening or not. After getting an idea about how the public feels they realized that the view that Americans’ don’t have a consensus of global warming occurring and human activity being the main cause is simply not true. The public seems to have a general consensus and the Americans views are being portrayed inaccurately. This made me think of the other reading about scientific consensus and the idea that they actually do have a consensus that global warming is happening-but people still think there is doubt within the scientific community.

Climate Change and Knowledge Politics was a study performed by Reiner Grundmann. He is curious if the IPCC consensus has promoted different policy changes by the American and German governments. And looks at three different “actors involved” with this issue, IPCC experts, advocates, and skeptics to see if their knowledge of global warming would make them put forward different policies, which wasn’t surprising when he proved this hypothesis. Both countries have grown attention to the issue, but it is hard to compare exactly between the two governments because skeptics are much more apparent in the US Press than the German Press.

We have read a lot of articles and scientific readings about whether or not American’s believe that global warming is happening and what the main reason is. This issue has been quite split down the middle with people believing and people that don’t. So reading Krosnick’s piece confused me, and it got me to start thinking about how is this the first piece that we read that states that the public has a consensus on the global warming issue. Krosnick’s had a small pool of people, but why is this different than the rest of the public…it could be that most of the people studied were Democrats or highly educated? Also, no one can say that the issue of global warming isn’t becoming more and more popular, because it is. But there is still a loss of communication between scientists, people, media, and the politicians – some people have more knowledge of the issue of global warming and the possible effects and some don’t. Those who don’t, are going to have a little bit of doubt no matter what, and look to others to help them make a decision on climate change. Do they look to scientists, politicians, peers, media reporters?


We originally thought that this confusion with scientists having a consensus or not was lost through the media, is the miscommunication through media the same reason why we are “misinformed” about the consensus of Americans’? After all our other readings do you think American’s have an actual consensus?

Megan Geske- Krosnick and Van den Hoye

October 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Assuming that the scientific consensus about human-caused global warming is in fact correct, then it is necessary for everyone to attempt to mediate this threat. Policymakers must pass laws and guidelines limiting the fossil fuel emissions and other necessary changes. However, oil companies and politicians with specific agendas make this task more difficult, and so far have been effective in stopping any such bill from passing. The economic and political consequences have overshadowed the environmental impact, and despite citizens desire to combat global warming, America has yet to effectively combat climate change.
In a survey by Political Psychology Research Group, Jon Krosnick found that, despite what some politicians (e.g Republican Lisa Murkowski) would like us to think, a majority of Americans believe that the world is warming due to human activities. According to Krosnick, some conservative politicians justify shooting down plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases because it is not what the American public wants, and claim that the American public doesnot trust environmental scientisits after alleged flaws in studies were found. Krosnick effectively dismissed both of these cliames. So why do politicians and the media claim otherwise? Krosnick blames faulty survey questions to be the ultimate culprit.
In The Oil Industry and Climate Change: Strategies and Ethical Dilemmas, Van den Hove et al discuss three major oil companies’ strategies for dealing with the issue of global warming. Despite BP’s embarrassing and devastating oil spill last year, BPAmoco has a proactive response to global warming, claiming that they will create energy efficient technologies (and other such strategies to be more “green”). At the other end of the spectrum, ExxonMobil has led the fight against emission constraints, participating and funding lobby groups to stop Senate from agreeing to certain guidelines. ExxonMobil’s strategy also relies on pointing out the alleged economic consequences of constraining emissions; ExxonMobil claims that this will negatively impact the American public’s way of life.
These two articles both point out an inconsistency between opinions and actions. Americans appear to be concerned about global warming, yet no effective action has been taken by policy makers to address this threat. Politicians and businesses have instead decided to look at short-term consequences such as the economy, ignoring the larger picture.

Question: Who do you think has the most influence in determining climate policy? Politicians, citizens or businesses? Should there be a policy made to limit emissions, or do you think that we should use the “wait-and-see” strategy?

Stef Manisero – week 9

October 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Climate change is, evidently, an issue that remains under extreme debate. There are multiple opinions on its’ causes, effects and even its’ existence. One thing that is definite, however, is that scientific knowledge has affected public policy matters in its’ call for political action. Consequently, individuals are being forced to develop a better understanding between science and public policy, for beliefs on climate change have certainly become relevant in government practices and political perspectives.

Featured in a New York Times op-ed piece, author Jon Krosnick wrote an article entitled, “The Climate Majority.” He starts off by stating that a Senate vote would be taking place in the future on a resolution that would limit emissions of greenhouse gases. He argues that despite common beliefs that fewer and fewer Americans believe climate change is a legitimate concern, a recent survey disproves such theories – in actuality, “huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.” Selected randomly, 1000 respondents were asked if they believed the earth’s temperature had been heating up over that past 100 years, and 74% answered affirmatively. Krosnick discusses other studies that giving opposite results, and argues that the majority of the time the questions are worded awkwardly or in a way that may not give accurate results, explaining the flawed beliefs. Other surveys that have asked simple and direct questions have led to similar results as this one, that people do believe in global warming. He talks about issue publics, which are usually issues so controversial that the public is divided somewhat equally, however, in this issue public, 88% of the public believe global warming is happening. At the end, Krosnick ties the issue back to one of the upcoming vote, claiming, “a vote to eliminate greenhouse gas regulation is likely to be perceived by the nation as a vote for industry, and against the will of the people.” In this case, scientific knowledge is greatly affecting matters of public policy, and it is clear that beliefs on climate change have become related to government practices.

Grundmann also focuses on the relation between scientific knowledge and public policy, arguing that despite a consensus on climate change being reached by the IPCC, different governments still hold different opinions on the matter. The article, “Climate Change and Knowledge Politics,” compares the reactions of the United States and Germany to the IPCC consensus. As Grundmann describes, the IPCC is seen by many as a combination of science and public policy, and predicts that many countries would have high policy responses to the IPCC’s reached consensus. However, as seen by the US government, this is not the case. Grundmann argues that this is because the press in both countries relies on different sources of scientific expertise when reporting on global warming, and the US government does not use the IPCC report to legitimize its climate change policy, while the German government does. The main difference in the two countries’ reactions is that in choosing to ignore the report, the US belittles the problem, whereas Germany acknowledges its importance. The US rejected a global climate treaty, yet Germany chose to accept it and attempted to persuade the rest of the world to adopt it as well. Grudmann argues throughout the difference in policy actions between governments, and in exploiting the US’s neglect of the problem side-by-side with Germany’s active engagement in the matter, we see two extremely different government reactions to the same policy. Once again, scientific knowledge is seen reflecting on public policy, and it furthers the idea that scientific knowledge is increasingly important in government practices and political ideologies.

Both these articles demonstrate the high relevance of scientific knowledge in political policies in today’s society. The increase of the matter in day-to-day policies calls for an increase of scientific knowledge. As everyday matters are becoming more and more based on science, in particular the matter of climate change, it will require the general public to become more informed on scientific matters. In Krosnick’s article, we see survey results that demonstrate the high percentage of Americans who do believe that global warming is occurring.  In Grudmann’s article we see the differences between two governments approaching the issue of climate change. While the US is choosing to ignore it, Germany is choosing to take action on the matter. Both authors demonstrate the high correlation between scientific knowledge and government policy issues, and this connection is only likely to continue increasing.

Questions: Do you agree that the correlation between science and public policy will continue increasing or not? Will the correlation stay the same or get lower? What other issues, asides from climate change, are currently of public concern and related to science?


Week 9 Blog Post- Casey Krutz

October 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

In “Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims,” McCright argues why the public might not be as concerned with global climate change as they should be. His basis of argument is the conservative movement. The conservative movement makes three claims. One, conservatives argue that the evidence that global warming is based off of is weak, if not completely wrong. Two, conservatives argue that if global warming did occur, there would be substantial benefits. Third, conservatives claim that if people took action on the assumed problem of global warming, more harm would be done than good. The conservative movement aims to point out that while the science of global warming appears to be getting more uncertain, the harmful effects of global warming policy are becoming more certain. The conservative movement attempts to discredit scientific evidence for global warming and undermine its credibility to the public, making it seem non-problematic, while pointing out all of the negative economic impacts and impacts on national security if action is taken on this issue.

In “The Climate Majority,” a New York Times article, Krosnick argues that the American public is actually in support of global warming, contradicting many poll findings. While Krosnick presents that many national surveys have shown that few Americans believe climate change is real, a pool done from Stanford National Science Foundation showed that 75% of randomly chosen adult participants believe that global climate change was occurring and that the reason for this was human behavior. A majority of the survey participants also wanted Federal Government to limit air pollution emitted by businesses and do not feel that policies to reduce global warming would hurt the nation’s economy. Also, in this article Krosnick presents that many pools that show the American public as skeptical about climate change present questions in a way that does not give them a chance to support global warming. In fact, Krosnick finds that most of the public wants the Federal Government to take steps towards global warming action, but feels that the government is opposed and doesn’t care about the public opinion.

While “Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem” presents reasons for why global climate change policies have not been implemented and puts the blame on the conservative movement influencing the public, “The Climate Majority” asserts that public actually believes that global change is occurring and is more concerned about it then we are aware of.  It is clear that there has been a large political debate behind the basis of whether global warming is occurring and whether or not action should be taken or not. McCright details the conservative reasoning of why global warming is not supported and this shows why policies may not have been implemented to curtail the human effects on global warming. Krosnick puts the blame on federal government who is perhaps not listening to the public opinion enough and skewed pools that are distorting the public opinion.

“The Climate Majority” seems to be fairly vague about what the article is presenting. Krosnick does give percentages from pools that show that the public supports implementing global warming policies and indicating their support and indicates bad question wording that may have swayed public survey responses. However, since this is a newspaper article from New York Times, which is often said to hold a liberal bias, it may have intended to present that global warming has support since liberals are often in favor of action against global climate change. I do not think that “Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem” is not completely convincing in its argument either. While I do agree that conservatives have an impact on other conservatives supporting or rejecting, global climate change, McCright, seems to emphasize that the conservative movement has had such a large impact that policies to get the public to act against climate change have little chance of being implemented.

This brings me to my questions for this week. Do you think that overall the public is concerned about global climate change or do they see it as non-problematic? Also, many reasons have been given that influence the public on global climate change issue, including temperature and political influence. What is the main reason that people support or oppose climate change?


October 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


In “The Climate Majority”, Jon A. Krosnick discusses the surprisingly false claim that the majority of Americans do not believe global warming is occurring. Although the perception made visible by media is that the public is split 50/50 on the issue, in actuality, a large majority DO believe global warming is occurring, DO believe that it is largely a result of human actions, and DO encourage that policies on limiting toxic emissions be implemented. Krosnick says, “global warming has attracted what political scientists call an ‘issue public’: millions of Americans who are passionate about this subject and put pressure on government to follow their wishes” and that, normally, “issue publics divide equally on opposing sides” (4). After conducting a study, what Krosnick concluded was that this divide did not actually exist. Rather, an overwhelming majority believe that global warming is happening and that we must do something about it; the issue is, in actuality, a singular issue. Why the misperception? Krosnick attributes this to the fact that past survey questions are unclear and violate crucial ‘survey question’ formulas. They do not stick to one topic at a time and they ask questions that are likely to confuse the participant. If surveys were to ask more direct, clear, and concise questions, then it would be easily recognized that a large majority of the public believe global warming is occurring and that it is time to face problems and come up with solutions.


In “The Construction of Global Warming.” David Demeritt delves into the relationship between politics and science.  He exposes the underestimated, but crucial, role that politics plays in hot issues such as global warming. Dermitt feels that it is not ‘the facts’ that shape science; rather, it is the social and political construction of those facts. The way Dermitt sees the debate, it is an ‘issue public’ as Krosnick calls it. Krosnick demonstrates how this is not actually the case and Dermitt begins to explain why the misunderstanding exists. He claims that, in the end, politics are built into science. He says “the social organization of climate change and its articulation with the political process raise important questions about trust, uncertainty, and expertise.” The main point Dermitt is making is that, in the end, what is believed and ultimately done to decrease global warming is a result of the social and political context in which science is framed.In order to get the public to understand and, therefore, make informed decisions regarding global warming, the media does not need to increase factual and technical information.  Instead, they need to increase the amount of trust the public has in media sources and in the “social process through which those facts are scientifically determined.”  If the public can learn to trust the process then hopefully they will be able to accept the truth and to see global warming the way Krosnick presents it.


How can journalists and scientists effectively engage the public so that they can understand the process? If what Krosnick claims is true, then what information needs to be provided to best get the public to understand the truth in global warming?


Week 9 McCright and Krosnick

October 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem, McCright and Dunlap argue that the conservative movement is at the core of recent challenges to global environmental problems and at the heart of the “green backlash” pointed out by Brulle (2000) and Switzer (1997). Sociologists have defined global warming as a social problem, leading to some social scientists ‘deconstructing’ claims made by environmentalists and scientists, while others evaluate the role of the media in affecting the salience of global warming as a social problem. McCright and Dunlap claim these sociologists neglect the organized opposition and the intense efforts of industry and the conservative movement to construct the ‘non-problematicity’ of global warming. The authors research therefore focuses on the mobilization of the conservative movement into an effective countermovement directly opposing environmental proponents’ framing of global warming as a problem. They conduct a content analysis of counterclaims used by the conservative movement to measure and establish global warming’s non-problematicity. Their overall argument is that the controversy over global warming stems from the concerted effort of a powerful countermovement (conservatives) more than any other factor. They set out to provide evidence the controversy is a direct function of the excercises of power by an influential countermovement. They found the three counterclaims used to challenge global warming’s legitimacy as a serious problem were that the evidentiary basis of global warming is weak, the net effect of global warming would be beneficial should it occur, and the policies proposed to ameliorate the alleged global warming problem would do more harm than good. In essence, they find conservatives to believe that “while the science of global warming is becoming more uncertain, the harmful effects of climate change policy are becoming more certain.” In short, the counterclaims serve to block proposed action on global warming that challenge their interests centered around the economic risks of taking action. Also, they see these counterclaims as what helped halt the U.S.’s endorsement of the Kyoto protocol in 1997. They feel that our society needs to consider the social forces opposing the “environmental lobby”, and claim we need to shift our attention toward the efforts of conservatives and their industry allies to mobilize an effective countermovement dedicated to establishing the ‘non-problematicity of global warming.

In The Climate Majority, op-ed contributor, Krosnick, writes about the senate vote proposed by a republican in Alaska which would ‘scuttle’ the EVPA’s plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases by American businesses. At first, it seems like this is what Americans want based on public opinion polls. However, Krosnick points out that a Political Psychology Research Group survey showed just the opposite – a majority want government to institute regulations. 86% of respondents are in favor of the government limiting the amount of air pollution businesses emit. A majority opposed taxes on electricity and gasoline to reduce consumption, but 84% favored government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind, and solar power. Krosnick then goes on to criticize the question wording of other polls which indicate a conflicting opinion among Americans by tapping the populations personal beliefs. He believes in asking only 1 question at a time and choosing language that makes it easy for respondents to understand and answer each question. The survey they held discredited the claims of growing public skepticism. Other places in the world, such as in Britain, had inaccurate portrayals of respondent beliefs as well. Global warming has shown to form a great deal of issue public around the world. The growing issue public surrounding proponents of global warming policy need to be taken into account for votes on bills such as these, as “a vote to eliminate greenhouse gas regulation is likely to be perceived as a vote for industry, and against the will of the people.”

While both authors address the level of consensus and uncertainty among the U.S. population, Krosnick’s analysis seems to be based more from updated opinion polls, while McCright and Dunlap make claims based off a content analysis of past political speak. Krosnick claims the divide among the population in terms of believing global warming is happening is often exaggerated by the media from, and McCright and Dunlap claim the conservative movement is driving the opposition to climate change. Regardless of the effects the media has on the level of people’s support for policy action on global warming, the fact is that policy action has lagged despite a seemingly large majority who believe global warming is true and a strong scientific consensus advising the population one way. Here, both authors point out the partisan politics side of this paradox.

If Krosnick is claiming the population is mostly in agreement on the global warming issue and policy action, and McCright is claiming a large movement is forcing a partisan divide on the issue and policy action, can both of them be correct in their own ways? Why or why not?


Luke Yiannatji

Jade Hanson – week 9

October 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

As debated in our class, it is evident that many reasons contribute to the public perception of global warming and the actions(or lack there of)being taken to slow the process. It is evident that journalistic problems/flaws are present in the global warming issue and I believe they contribute to big corporations’ perceptions on the action required by them in the fight against global warming.

In The Climate Majority, Jon Krosnick addresses the issue of poor polling methods/questions used by journalists and cites this as a major reason for public perception misrepresentation. The Times performed a study however that when offering balanced options, the responses came back in a large majority believing global warming is happening and that it is caused by humans. The article also analyzes the economic perspectives involved, showing that most people support the reduction of big business gas emissions. However, because of the constant confusion portrayed about the issue in the media, big businesses are not feeling the pressure to make changes to their levels of carbon emissions.

In The Oil Industry and Climate Change: Strategies and Ethical Dilemmas, the authors discuss three of the largest oil companies in the world perspectives on global warming. Oil companies contribute in large part to the level of carbon emissions on our planet. This article discusses the strategy of each company in regards to global warming, some embracing the findings of climate scientists and some ignoring the issue. However, the authors argue that even the companies who claim to want to make changes to help the economy will most likely not do so because they will come up with alternative strategies over time and because it is not being demanded by the general public that they change.

In order for the public to demand change, journalists need to do a better job of highlighting the public’s support for changes to reduce carbon emissions. They also need to present solid factual information that shows the need for big companies to take action. Environmental groups alone can not make change happen and one country’s government alone can not have a large impact. It is the responsibility of the world’s citizens to demand change from big companies. By journalists giving citizens the proper tools to lead change, it is possible large reductions of carbon emissions can occur.


The questions I pose are:


Can journalists write a story about the problem posed by big companies and their carbon emissions in an unbiased manner?


What medium do you think would be most successful to engage the public in the fight against big business carbon emissions?

Week 9 – Emily Thibodeau

October 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

In “The Construction of Global Warming and the Politics of Science”, Demeritt argues for skepticism towards the idea that politics and science are separate entities. Overall, Demeritt believes that social and political construction have shaped science, and in particular the global warming debate. He points out global warming models as causes for controversy on many levels. Some problems with global warming models, which are relied on heavily in global warming and climate change debate, include flux adjustment by scientists, in an effort to maintain equilibrium, the ignoring of extreme cases, and the lack of formalization of model making. Scientists seem to play a huge role in shaping these possibly inaccurate models that influence the discourse surrounding climate change. Demeritt argues that public doubts about climate change should be addressed by discussing the social processes through which scientific facts are determined; not simply giving the public more facts.

Krosnick in “The Climate Majority” discusses a recent study that contradicts most opinion studies about climate change. Krosnick found that a majority of Americans do believe humans impact climate change and support some form of governmental action to lower human impact on global warming. Other studies which present contradicting results often had seemingly flawed question. For example, questions asking individuals about their scientific knowledge of climate change and their perception of climate change news were used to gage their personal views on climate change, which may give misleading results.

Overall, both articles acknowledge the lack of public knowledge about climate change. Demeritt notes that the lack of knowledge often leads to confusion, and individuals do not understand what influences the scientific facts they hear and may or may not understand. Krosnick notes that lack of public knowledge has been constructed as a lack of public concern for or belief in climate change, thanks to flawed survey questioning. But Demeritt is quick to blame the media and scientists for withholding information from the public about their social motivations, whereas Krosnick points out that long-standing, potentially incorrect surveys may be giving the general public a flawed picture of climate change debate. To what extent are the media responsible for these climate change knowledge shortcomings? Should the media devote more time to educating the public about social and political influences on scientists, as Demeritt suggests? Or should greater attention be paid to the survey questions that are used to gague public opinion, as Krosnick suggests? Would both be helpful?

Jorden Gemuend – Week 9 – Grundmann and van den Hove et al.

October 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Posted in Weekly Responses | 1 Comment

In the face of scientific findings of anthropomorphic climate change, different institutions are bound to be effected. The difference is how these institutions are going to react, or essentially adapt to a world where climate change continues to be a pressing issue. While the consensus about scientific findings seems to grow more concrete, Reiner Grundmann and van den Hove et al. show how the reactions of national governments and international oil corporations drastically differ within themselves. Nonetheless, it is clear that the reactions of governments are closely related to the reactions of oil corporations.


Grundmann asks the question of why the IPCC consensus has led to different policy responses by governments. In his study, “Climate Change and Knowledge Politics,” Grundmann jumps into the different ways in which the German government and the U.S. government have reacted to the findings reported by the IPCC. He describes how many people see the IPCC as a hybrid of science and policy, which would be expected to have higher policy responses, and yet notes how this is not necessarily the case, as with the U.S. government. Knowledge politics, a key element in understanding the decisions made by politicians, is the use of knowledge provided by scientists/experts/professionals to justify policy action. Grundmann makes five observations of the reactions made by the U.S. and German government. First, climate change policy for both governments is driven by political agendas and institutionalized according to national groups of power. Second, both countries retrieved expertise from different sources besides the IPCC reports that were more familiar to that government. The two governments react differently, however, in that the German government uses the IPCC report to legitimate its climate change policy while the U.S. does not. Here, a clear distinction in choices is made where Germany chooses to acknowledge climate change, and the U.S. attempts to wait and see, or downplay the problem. Fourth, The U.S. rejects a global climate treaty, while Germany and the EU not only promotes it but tries to convince the rest of the world to agree. Again, Germany proactively reacts to climate change while the U.S. attempts to ignore it. Finally, Grundmann argues that the influence of the IPCC on national governments is limited by the political dominance that is present in the processes that collect expert knowledge. While the German government proactively engages the dilemma of climate change, the U.S. government does not.


In many ways, these governmental reactions are similar to those of international oil corporations. Van den Hove et al. brings light to these reactions in their study, “The Oil Indutry and Climate Change: Strategies and Ethical Dilemmas.” The authors are quick to point out that while all oil corporations aim to achieve profits, they differ in their attitudes of the constraints which society tries to impose upon them. This, of course, is related because oil companies are directly related to greenhouse gas emissions. Van den Hove et al. distinguish the three different reactions that ExxonMobile, BP Amoco, and TotalFinaElf have employed when confronted with building evidence of climate change. ExxonMobile attempted to fight against emission constraints, primarily through promoting the negative economic consequences such constraints would have. TotalFinaElf took a neutral stance and decided to wait and see how policy relating to climate change would develop before choosing to act. Essentially, TotalFinaElf is avoiding the problem. BP Mobile decided to acknowledge the dilemma and make changes by being proactive in its emission cuts. The authors point out that all three of these reactions has led to profits, or at least not a reduction. A suggestion to promote the proactive option by demonstrating that it is still profitable can help swing the industry towards acknowledging climate change and participating in more ethical practices.


Whether it is national governments or international oil corporations, the choices of how to deal with climate change seem to be the same. The similarities appear most vividly when separating the reactions into a proactive and acknowledging form and an avoidance and weakening the issue form. The German government acknowledges climate change and proactively creates policy in order to mitigate its effects. It seeks to use scientific knowledge and expertise as a backing for its policies, and hope to come out with more popular support as a result. This is the same tactic used by BP Amoco, who has taken a proactive approach to cutting carbon emissions. The U.S. government is more reminiscent of the reactions seen by ExxonMobile and TotalFinaElf, who either avoided the problem or attempted to weaken it through the fear of consequences. These reactions and their similarities are telling as to how policy is formed in relation to climate change in both government and corporations. Interestingly, van den Hove et al. point out that all three strategies used by the oil corporations have been successful. This could serve as a possible predictor for the outcomes of the U.S. and German government reactions. The difference here is that we pay government with our votes, and oil corporations with our money.


My Question: While these authors point towards a proactive reaction being best, does the wait and see reaction of the U.S. government have some merit?

Megan Geske: Week 8

October 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly Responses | 4 Comments

Both Global Warming: the psychology of long term risk and Apocalypse Soon? look at why people are skeptical about climate change, despite scientific evidence indicating that it is occurring. These two articles went beyond just blaming the mass media, focusing instead on the psychological reasons that people are hesitant to jump on the climate change bandwagon.
In Global Warming: the psychology of long term risk, Oppenheimer and Todorov examine the difference between the American public’s beliefs, and the policies they support. Oppenheimer and Todorov found that while much of the American public claimed to be concerned about global warming, many individuals were not willing to support policies that would affect their way of life (like gasoline taxes). This conflict is known as the “American paradox”. One of the main problems that policy makers have in America is that climate change has become not an environmental issue, but a political one, dividing Republicans and Democrats. Oppenheimer and Todorov note that there is a “finite pool of worry” for political problems, meaning that the public in general only focus on one large issue at a time. To account for this, policy makers must find a way to focus attention on global warming, because without attention and support of the public, there will be no solutions to this problem. In addition, this article offered ideas for a successful campaign on climate change. The authors suggest that experts should speak about the consequences of climate change in terms of local consequences, so that people will feel that the issue is personally relevant.
In Apocalypse Soon?: Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs, Feinberg and Willer focus on one psychological principle in particular: the just-world phenomenon. This theory refers to people believing that the world is inherently just, with people getting what they deserve. Most campaigns concerning climate change have focused on the terrible consequences of inaction, such as future generations suffering. This notion of innocent people suffering does not mesh well with the just-world belief, and Feinberg and Willer argue that this results in people denying the existence of global warming. The results of the Feinberg and Willer’s two experiments showed that a positive message that did not contradict the just-world theory led to a decrease in skeptisim. Feinberg and Willer also found that presenting a potential solution to climate change reduces the threat to the just-world theory, thus resulting in lower skepticism.
Both articles introduce interesting psychological factors that explain the public’s reluctance to take action to combat global warming. The two articles also suggest possible ways to effectively communicate the reality of climate change. Oppenheimer and Todorov suggest personalizing the consequences of climate change, whereas Feinberg and Willer suggest presenting potential solutions to climate change, and not using a “doomsday” frame. Do you think either or both of these solutions would change public opinion? DO you think journalists would be willing to implement these different frames in their articles?

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