The work of scientists and doctors in advancing genetic research and its applications has been accompanied by plenty of discussion in the popular press—from Good Housekeeping and Forbes to Ms. and the Congressional Record—about such ...
In the last third of the twentieth century, humanists and social scientists argued that attention to genetics would heighten already‐existing genetic determinism, which in turn would intensify negative social outcomes, especially sexism, racism, ableism, and harshness to criminals. They assumed that laypeople are at risk of becoming genetic essentialists. I will call this the “laypeople are genetic essentialists model.” This model has not accurately predicted psychosocial impacts of findings from genetics research. I will be arguing that the failure of the (...) model can be traced to its inability to recognize the complexity of laypeople’s attitudes; its incorrect theory of how beliefs, attitudes, and discourse function; and its blindness to how academics’ own interests can override the available evidence. More specifically, I suggest that the substantial data about laypeople’s deployment of genetics supports what I will call the “laypeople are strategic essentialists model” better than the “laypeople are genetic essentialists model.” The strategic essentialists model holds that people tend to store multiple categories, including multiple causal forces, that they deploy “strategically” to serve context‐dependent goals. It will be difficult for academics to reorient ourselves to model laypeople as sophisticated strategic essentialists rather than as naïve genetic essentialists. Perhaps a little shift, however, will be of value. (shrink)
In the face of documented difficulties in the public understanding of genetics, new metaphors have been suggested. The language of information coding and processing has become deeply entrenched in the public representation of genetics, and some critics have found fault in the blueprint metaphor, a variant of the dominant theme. They have offered the language of the recipe as a preferable metaphor. The metaphors of the blueprint and the recipe are compared in respect to their deterministic implications and other associations. (...) The likelihood of the recipe metaphor framing cognition in more useful ways is called into question. (shrink)
People respond to metaphors as much with regard to the emotions that they generate as to their referential, comparative contents. Interviews with non-geneticists about preferred metaphors for gene-environment interaction that illustrate this tendency are reported. These interviews also reveal the dynamic tendency of such emotional responses. A second set of interviews shows that lay people may preferentially use a metaphor of "virus" or "disease" for talking about genes, as opposed to the coding metaphors transmitted through the mass media and reportedly (...) preferred by geneticists. An explanation based on the differently situated emotions of these groups is proposed. It is proposed that the prominence of emotions in responding to genetics indicates the importance of incorporating analyses of emotions instead of simple principles into policy formulation about genetics. (shrink)
ABSTRACT “Lockdown!” has articulated our collective and individual fear response to the novel coronavirus. Two regnant specialized discourses fostered by the academy—science and ideology critique—could not redirect this inadequate response nor generate their own adequately broad and focused social responses. This suggests the desirability of the academy adding phronesis as a goal for its pedagogical practices.
The human propensity for casting our social worlds as "us against them" is perhaps the primary impediment to deep and broadly inclusive understandings of the workings of rhetoric. Many decades ago, Kenneth Burke assailed that barrier with regard to Adolf Hitler. Surrounded by the satisfactions of vituperation against the leader of one of the world's most heinous social movements, Burke begged his readers to make space for understanding how Hitler's rhetoric brought about what it did. Philippe-Joseph Salazar's Words Are Weapons (...) makes a similar contribution for our era. He asks us to resist the gratifications generated by dismissing as "Islamaphobic" any critical analysis of what he calls "caliphal"... (shrink)
This essay examines the Brazilian deforestation debate to explicate the beginnings of a post-modern theory of argumentation. Modernist argumentation reflects two distinct approaches, found in the deforestation controversy. The first approach, ‘universal minimilization,’ presumes that the survival of humanity is sufficient grounds upon which to base argument. The alternative, ‘strategic manipulation,’ results in argument being employed as a technical device to advance one's interest. In place of the modernist approach, we offer an ecocentric theory of argumentation. This conception calls for (...) individuals to set aside differences in values to sustain humanity but at the same time to be sensitive to differences in costs and benefits that accrue from common efforts to persons differently situated. Additionally, this view operates with a tacit working assumption that environmental questions are not discrete entities to be evaluated separately. Rather, people must act collectively on a range of interconnected issues to ensure survival. (shrink)