Kristin Shrader-Frechette: Taking Action, Saving Lives: Our Duties to Protect Environmental and Public Health Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11948-011-9267-1 Authors Matthew Benjamin Reisman, Environmental Studies, The University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, USA Journal Science and Engineering Ethics Online ISSN 1471-5546 Print ISSN 1353-3452.
Only ten to twelve percent of Americans would voluntarily live within a mile of a nuclear plant or hazardous waste facility. But industry spokespersons claim that such risk aversion represents ignorance and paranoia, and they lament that citizen protests have delayed valuable projects and increased their costs. Who is right? In _Risk and Rationality_, Kristin Shrader-Frechette argues that neither charges of irresponsible endangerment nor countercharges of scientific illiteracy frame the issues properly. She examines the debate over methodological norms for (...) risk evaluation and finds analysts arrayed in a spectrum. Points of view extend from cultural relativists who believe that any risk can be justified to naive positivists who believe that risk evaluation can be objective, neutral, and value free. Both camps, she argues, are wrong, because risk evaluation as a social process is rational and objective, even though all risk-evaluation rules are value-laden. Shrader-Frechette defends a middle position called "scientific proceduralism." She shows why extremist views are unreliable, reveals misconceptions underlying current risk-evaluation methods and strategies, and sketches the reforms needed to set hazard assessment and risk evaluation on a publicly defensible foundation. These reforms involve mathematical, economic, ethical, and legal procedures. They constitute a new paradigm for assessment when acceptance of public hazards is rational, recognizing that laypersons are often more rational in their evaluation of societal risks than either experts or governments have acknowledged. Such reforms would provide citizens with more influence in risk decisions and focus on mediating ethical conflicts, rather than seeking to impose the will of experts. Science, she argues, need not preclude democracy. (shrink)
The argument in this essay is twofold. (1) Procedural justice requires,in particular cases, that we restrict property rights in natural resources, e.g., California agricultural land or Appalachian coal land. (2) Conditions imposed by Locke's political theory and by dense population require,in general, that we restrict property rights in finite or non-renewable natural resources such as land. If these arguments are correct, then we have a moral imperative to use land-use controls (such as taxation, planning, zoning, and acreage limitations) to restructure (...) land ownership and land use in a far more radical way than has ever been accomplished in the past. (shrink)
Through case studies that highlight the type of information that is seldom reported in the news, Faces of Environmental Racism exposes the type and magnitude of environmental racism, both domestic and international. The essays explore the justice of current environmental practices, asking such questions as whether cost-benefit analysis is an appropriate analytic technique and whether there are alternate routes to sustainable development in the South.
When Kangas suggested in 1986 that wildlife reserve designs could be much smaller than previously thought, community ecologists attacked his views on methodological grounds (island biogeographical theory is beset with uncertainties) and on conservation grounds (Kangas seemed to encourage deforestation and extinction). Kangas' defenders, like Simberloff, argued that in a situation of biological uncertainty (the degree/type of deforestation-induced extinction), scientists ought to follow the epistemologically conservative course and risk type-II error (the risk of not rejecting a null hypothesis that is (...) false), rather than type-I error. (This is the risk of rejecting a null hypothesis that is true). Kangas' opponents, like Noss, argued that, in a situation of scientific uncertainty, scientists ought to risk type-I, rather than type-II, error. This essay argues that there are different types of rationality appropriate to science and applied science and, therefore, in cases of applied science (like conservation biology), the more conservative course of action is for scientists to risk type-I error. The essay argues further that, on grounds of scientific rationality, Kangas, Simberloff, and others were correct in risking type-II error, but that, on grounds of decision-theoretic rationality, Noss, Waide, and others were correct in risking type-I error. (shrink)
This essay deals with the question whether quarks—the basic components of matter and one of the youngest confirmed particles in high energy physics—can be observed directly or indirectly. First, I shall discuss earlier definitions of “observation” in physics suggested by Grover Maxwell, Bas van Fraassen, and Dudely Shapere. Then, I shall compare their results with a new consideration of the idea of “observation” in physics and the distinction between direct and indirect observation.One of the ways that quarks appear in experimental (...) evidence is in jet-events which are special decay patterns in particle detectors. These jet-events are the central case study for this essay since they are the most convincing evidence of quarks so far. My inquiry into the physics behind jet-events and their treatment by physicists leads me to conclude that quarks are neither directly nor indirectly observed. I compare this thesis to other views on the observability of quarks, suggested by Kristin Shrader-Frechette and Michela Massimi. But in short, it seems to me that if the notion “observation” is to have a reasonable relation to an everyday life’s concept of observation, and if it is meant literally instead of metaphorically, then quarks are not observable in any currently-known experimental context.RésuméCet article pose la question de savoir si les quarks — constituants élémentaires de la matière et dernières particules de la physique des hautes énergies à avoir été confirmées — peuvent être observés de manière directe ou indirecte. D’abord, des définitions antérieures de « l’observation » en physique seront examinées — en l’occurrence, celles proposées par Grover Maxwell, Bas van Fraassen et Dudley Shapere. Puis, leurs résultats seront comparés à une définition du concept d’observation et à une différenciation entre l’observation directe et indirecte.Une possibilité de mettre en évidence les quarks de manière expérimentale est le phénomène des jet-events, qui représentent un type spécifique de désagrégation dans les détecteurs de particules. Ces jet-events contribuent à l’étude de cas ici centrale, puisqu’ils sont la preuve la plus convaincante à ce jour des quarks. L’examen de jet-events et leurs évaluations par des physiciens mènent à la conclusion que les quarks ne peuvent être observés, ni directement ni indirectement. Cette thèse sera comparée aux points de vue de Kristin Shrader-Frechette et Michela Massimi sur l’observabilité des quarks. On en tire la conclusion que les quarks ne sont pas observables, si l’on entend employer le terme « observation » dans un sens non métaphorique et en conservant une relation avec ses usages dans la vie quotidienne. (shrink)
This collection of essays originated from an interdisciplinary conference on 'Evolutionary Epistemology' held in Pittsburgh in December of 1988 under the sponsorship of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Philosophy of Science. Contents: Epistemological Roles for Selection Theory, by Donald T. Campbell; Evolutionary Models of Science, by Ronald N. Giere; Should Epistemologists Take Darwin Seriously? by Michael Bradie; Natural Selection, Justification, and Inference to the Best Explanation, by Alan H. Goldman; Interspecific Competition, Evolutionary Epistemology, and Ecology, by Kristin Shrader-Frechette; (...) Toward Making Evolutionary Epistemology into a Truly Naturalized Epistemology, by William Bechtel; Confessions of a Creationist, by C. Kenneth Waters. Co-published with the Center for Philosophy of Science. (shrink)
A leading international expert on environmental issues, Shrader-Frechette brings a new standard of rigor to philosophical discussions of environmental justice in her latest work. Observing that environmental activists often value environmental concerns over basic human rights, she points out the importance of recognising that minority groups and the poor in general are frequently the biggest victims of environmental degradation, a phenomenon with serious social and political implications that the environmental movement has failed to adequately address. She argues for their equal (...) rights to 'environmental justice' and maintains that they should not have to bear most of the weight of the burdens of pollution and resource depletion. Advocating a greater awareness on the part of professionals in a position to help these victims, Shrader-Frechette proposes a more equitable distribution of environmental resources and, in doing so, makes an important contribution to the fields of environmental ethics and applied philosophy. (shrink)
The “land community” (or “biotic community”) that features centrally in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic has typically been equated with the concept of “ecosystem.” Moreover, some have challenged this central Leopoldean concept given the multitude of meanings of the term “ecosystem” and the changes the term has undergone since Leopold’s time (see, e.g., Shrader-Frechette 1996). Even one of Leopold’s primary defenders, J. Baird Callicott, asserts that there are difficulties in identifying the boundaries of ecosystems and suggests that we recognize that their (...) boundaries are determined by scientific questions ecologists pose (Callicott 2013). I argue that we need to rethink Leopold’s concept of land community in the following ways. First, we should recognize that Leopold’s views are not identical to those of his contemporaries (e.g., Clements, Elton), although they resemble those of some subsequent ecologists, including some of our contemporaries (e.g., O’Neill 2001, Post et al. 2007, Hastings and Gross 2012). Second, the land community concept does not map cleanly onto the concept of “ecosystem”; it also incorporates elements of the “community” concept in community ecology by emphasizing the interactions between organisms and not just the matter/energy flow of the ecosystem concept. Third, the boundary question can be illuminated by considering some of the recent literature on the nature of biological individuals (in particular, Odenbaugh 2007; Hamilton, Smith, and Haber 2009; Millstein 2009), focusing on concentrations of causal relations as determinative of the boundaries of the land community qua individual. There are challenges to be worked out, particularly when the interactions of community members do not map cleanly onto matter/energy flows, but I argue that these challenges can be resolved. The result is a defensible land community concept that is ontologically robust enough to be a locus of moral obligation while being consistent with contemporary ecological theory and practice. (shrink)
While their strength, electrical, optical, or magnetic properties are expected to contribute a trillion dollars in global commerce before 2015, nanomaterials also appear to pose threats to human health and safety. Nanotoxicology is the study of these threats. Do nanomaterial benefits exceed their risks? Should all nanomaterials be regulated? Currently nanotoxicologists cannot help answer these questions because too little is known about nanomaterials, because their properties differ from those of bulk materials having the same chemical composition, and because they differ (...) so widely in their applications. Instead, this paper answers a preliminary ethical question: What nanotech policies are likely to contribute to society’s ability to give or withhold free informed consent to the potential risks associated with production and use of nanomaterials? This paper argues that at least four current policies appear to jeopardize the risk-disclosure condition that is required for informed consent. These are the funding problem, the conflict-of-interest problem, the labeling problem, and the extrapolation problem. Apart from future decisions on how to ethically make, use, and regulate nanomaterials, this paper argues that, at a minimum, these four policies must be modified. Government must spend greater monies on nanotoxicology; ensure independent nanotoxicology research; label consumer products containing nanomaterials; and avoid assuming that nanotoxicological properties are based merely on mass and chemical composition. Otherwise free informed consent to these new technologies and materials may be jeopardized. (shrink)
In this book Shrader-Frechette reveals how politicians, campaign contributors, and lobbyists--and their power over media, advertising, and public relations--have conspired to cover up environmental disease and death.
Scientists and engineers often are not much interested in theoretical-ethics discussions. Frequently, like Harvard’s Cass Sunstein (2002), they propose “freemarket environmentalism,” basing environmental decisions on cost-benefit analysis and on saving the greatest number of lives for the fewest number of dollars. They say that when society overregulates, by emotively and irrationally rejecting environmental-risk decisions based only on cost-benefit analysis (CBA), it reduces manufacturing jobs, shrinks the economic pie, makes people poorer, and thus causes unnecessary deaths. To avoid these economic problems—that (...) harm everyone—Sunstein (2002, ix, 7) and others argue “for a kind of cost-benefit state” that .. (shrink)
Comparing alternative scientific theories obviously is relevant to theory assessment, but are comparativists (like Laudan) correct when they also make it necessary? This paper argues that they are not. Defining rationality solely in terms of theories' comparative problem-solving strengths, comparativist philosophers of science like Laudan subscribe to what I call the irrelevance claim (IC) and the necessity claim (NC). According to IC, a scientific theory's being well or poorly confirmed is "irrelevant" to its acceptance; NC is the claim that "all (...) evaluations of research traditions and theories must be made within a comparative context," how any theory "compares with its competitors" (Laudan 1977, 21, 120). Using current competing theories (T1 and T2) of population viability assessment (PVA) for the Florida panther, the paper investigates IC/NC. In part because dominant T2 panther biologists accept IC/NC (which T1 theorists reject), the paper argues that they appear both to have accepted flawed T2 and to have contributed to flawed panther science and policy. Correcting Laudan's Comparativist Philosophy of Science (LCPS), underlying the T1-versus-T2 debate, thus may hold promise for helping resolve both the scientific and policy controversy over panther PVA. (shrink)
Scientists are divided on the status of hypothesis H that low doses of ionizing radiation (under 20 rads) cause hormetic (or non-harmful) effects. Military and industrial scientist s tend to accept H, while medical and environmental scientists tend to reject it. Proponents of the strong programme claim this debate shows that uncertain science can be clari ed only by greater attention to the social values in uencing it. While they are in part correct, this paper argues that methodological analyses (not (...) merely attention to social values) also can help clarify uncertain science. The paper analyzes ve measurement uncertainties , as well as seven methodological value judgments, relevant to H. Using criteria of internal and external consistency, as well as predictive power, it argues that metascience also helps resolve this debate. And if so, then value-laden, policy-relevan t science may need, not only more attention to social values in order to resolve and to clarify disputes, but also more conceptual and methodological analyses of science. (This paper suggests what such methodological analyses might be like and uses the case of low-dose risks from radiation to illustrate its points, while a companion paper (“Chemical Hormesis, Conceptual Clari cation, and the Warrant for Policy-Driven Science”) in this same issue of POS suggests what such conceptual analyses might be like and uses the case of low-dose risks from chemicals to illustrate its points.) If this paper’s thesis holds in the very politicize d “hard case” of radiation hormesis, then it suggests that the metascientist s may be right about what is also often necessary to clarify scienti c disputes. (shrink)
On August 22, 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued proposed new regulations for radiation releases from the planned permanent U.S. nuclear-waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The goal of the new standards is to provide public-health protection for the next million years — even though everyone admits that the radioactive wastes will leak. Regulations now guarantee individual and equal protection against all radiation exposures above the legal limit. Instead E.P.A. recommended different radiation exposure-limits for different time periods. It also (...) recommended using only the arithmetic mean of the dose distribution, to assess regulatory compliance during one time period, but using only the median dose to assess compliance during another period. This piece argues that these two changes — in exposure-limits and in methods of assessing regulatory compliance — have at least four disturbing consequences. The changes would threaten equal protection, ignore the needs of the most vulnerable, allow many fatal exposures, and sanction scientifically flawed dose calculations. (shrink)
After giving a brief account of human rights, the paper investigates five contemporary attacks on them. All of the attacks come from two contemporary proponents of the cost-benefit state, attorney Cass Sunstein and philosopher Larry Laudan. These attacks may be called, respectively, the rationality, objectivity, permission, voluntariness, and comparativism claims. Laudan's and Sunstein's rationality claim (RC) ist that only policy decisions passing cost-benefit tests are rational. Their objectivity presupposition (OP) is that only acute, deterministic threats to life are objective. Sunstein’s (...) permission claim (PC) is that regulators are merely permitted, 3 not required, to take distributive and human rights concerns into account. Sunstein’s 3 voluntariness claim (VC) is that the consent of potential victims is not relevant to government regulations about risks and benefits. Laudan’s comparativism claim 3 (CC) is that there are no rules of thumb, no precomparative norms like human rights, for assessing theory choice in policy science. The paper analyzes each of these claims, shows how they undercut human rights, and argues that each of them errs. (shrink)
Eighty percent of (commercial) genetically engineered seeds (GES) are designed only to resist herbicides. Letting farmers use more chemicals, they cut labor costs. But developing nations say GES cause food shortages, unemployment, resistant weeds, and extinction of native cultivars when “volunteers” drift nearby. While GES patents are reasonable, this paper argues many patent policies are not. The paper surveys GE technology, outlines John Locke’s classic account of property rights, and argues that current patent policies must be revised to take account (...) of Lockean ethical constraints. After answering a key objection, it provides concrete suggestions for implementing its ethical conclusions. (shrink)
Many scientists, businessmen, and government regulators believe that the criteria for acceptable societal risk are too stringent. Those who subscribe to this belief often accept the view which I call the probability-threshold position. Proponents of this stance maintain that society ought to ignore very small risks, i.e., those causing an average annual probability of fatality of less than 10–6.After examining the three major views in the risk-evaluation debate, viz., the probability-threshold position, the zero-risk position, and the weighted-risk position, I focus (...) on the arguments for the first of these views, since it is the position which currently undergirds most public policy (especially in the U.S.) regarding acceptable risk. After analyzing Arrow's argument from decision theory, Comar's and Gibson's argument from ontology, and Starr's and Whipple's argument from epistemology, I conclude that these defenses of the probability-threshold position err in a variety of ways. Most commonly, they fail because they tacitly accept the assumption that magnitude of probability, alone, provides a sufficient condition for judging the acceptability of a given risk. In the light of these errors, I suggest that it might be more desirable for risk assessors, decision theorists, and policymakers to weight various risk-cost-benefit parameters according to alternative ethical criteria, rather than to evaluate risks solely in terms of mathematical considerations. (shrink)
Following the recommendations of the US National Academy of Sciences and the mandates of the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, the US Department of Energy has proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the site of the world's first permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste. The main justification for permanent disposal (as opposed to above-ground storage) is that it guarantees safety by means of waste isolation. This essay argues, however, that considerations of equity (safer for whom?) undercut the safety rationale. The (...) article surveys some prima facie arguments for equity in the distribution of radwaste risks and then evaluates four objections that are based, respectively, on practicality, compensation for risks, scepticism about duties to future generations, and the uranium criterion. The conclusion is that, at least under existing regulations and policies, permanent waste disposal is highly questionable, in part, because it fails to distribute risk equitably or to compensate, in full, for this inequity. (shrink)