Kevin C. Elliott

in Is a Little Pollution Good for You?

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755622
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199827121 | DOI:

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This chapter provides an overview of the book and a summary of each subsequent chapter. It highlights the volume's two major goals: to examine the range of methodological decisions and interpretive judgments that permeate policy‐relevant scientific research and to explore ways of making these choices more responsive to a range of public values (in addition to those of deep pockets, which have abundant resources to spend on research). It also introduces readers to the book's central case study, hormesis, which involves seemingly beneficial effects produced by low doses of substances that are normally toxic. Chapters 2 and 3 perform two preliminary tasks: (1) They clarify the major categories of value judgments that contribute to differing evaluations of the generalizability and regulatory implications of hormesis; and (2) they argue that societal values should not be completely excluded from influencing any of these categories of judgments. Chapters 4 through 6 develop the book's three primary lessons, corresponding to the three “bodies” that Sheila Jasanoff emphasizes as central to obtaining trustworthy public‐policy guidance from scientific experts. These lessons concern how to safeguard the body of scientific knowledge from interest groups, how to ascertain the best advisory bodies for guiding policy makers and directing the course of future research, and how to provide the bodies of experts themselves with an ethics of expertise. Chapter 7 argues that the lessons drawn in chapters 2 through 6 are applicable not only to the hormesis case but also to other areas of policy‐relevant research, such as endocrine disruption and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

Keywords: hormesis; toxicology; environmental policy; low dose; chemical regulation; value judgments; conflict of interest; deliberation; ethics of expertise; research ethics

Chapter.  6436 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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