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William Whitmire

Analytical Essay Option 1
Analytical Essay: Misleading Science. A Public Policy Solution?
During the unit on scientific research, we learned a great deal, about how scientific things

are translated into our public discourse. Through observations in scientific magazines and critical

reading during this unit it has become clear to me that scientific research has tried to meet public

interest and news halfway and the same respect has not been observed which has led to unclear

and unstainable reporting of science. Our critical readings authors do not offer a solution to the

problem rather they talk around the issues, which I will, discussed throughout this essay while

also introducing my own solution to this problem since our authors did not. I propose

considering public policy that would make it illegal to alter or mislead citizens when translating

scientific research into our public discourse.

Scientific research is at the forefront of our society. Scientific research has open the door

for us to discover and advance our society. However, for a long time now scientific research has

conform to the norms of our conventional public discourse rather than being allowed to be

discussed in its own vacuum with its own set of rules that are norm for this discipline. Von Burg

says, that this is due to the inability and, in case of some politicians, unwillingness for non-

scientific to engage science experts reveals not only a lack of understanding about science, but a

disenfranchisement with the scientific process and its practitioners (Burg). Jeanne Fahnestock

tries to illustrate this point in her book called Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of

Scientific Facts and within this journal article Fahnestock presents readers with several examples

of Scientific research being translated incorrectly once it enters the news outlets. One of

Fahnestock examples reads as the following:

The original piece makes the following claim: (1a) No other protein sources are used by

T. hypogea [the bee species under consideration], and pollen transporting structures have

been lost, making this species an obligate necrophage. (Roubik,1982,p.1059)

In the Science82 version this becomes, (1b) Though other bees have teeth, this is the only

species that cannot carry pollen. (Vulture Bees, 1982, p.6) (Fahnestock)
In the example above Science82 is a scientific magazine that tried to translate this bee research

so that it can be more understanble to the lament readers. In this translation, Science 82 implies

that Bees have teeth, which never is stated in the original research. In addition, the Science82

translation implies that this is the only species of Bee that cannot collect pollen, which is a pretty

big deal in the scientific community because this would assume that the scientist has identified

all species of bees in the world/universe and tested them for their ability to carry pollen. Another

example of Fahnestocks observation can see a little further down in her article when she is

comparing original content and accommodated versions. In the accommodated version the

words appear and suggests have vanished (Fahnestock). By eliminating words like appears and

suggest implies complete certainty and we all know that science does not operate in complete

certainty. As a reader and a constant consumer of knowledge it has become apparent to me that

scientific research has toxically been accommodated and has become intentionally misleading.

Other articles like Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts help make

this problem clear it does little to help provide solution to how we can help solve or alleviate this

problem also Fahnestock ignores looking at innovative solutions like public policy or ethical

reforms within the media sphere.

Making the Case for Reform
In our critical readings on how Scientific information has been translated into public

discourse our authors do not present information on how to reform or alter the behavior that has

led to misleading accommodations of scientific research. For example Jimmie Killingsworth and
Jacqueline Palmer presents a plethora of examples that give readers an insight into the dynamics

of scientific research and public discourse in Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America but

fail to offer any solution about how to solve the issue. Even the Fahnestock piece offers very

little in terms of solutions to combat the misleading of scientific research in public discourse.

This presents a real ethical question for me because I think it is a little wrong to present an issue

and not talk about solving it. This situation reminds me of a situation that I saw on a commercial

where someone was robbing the bank and the security guard is watching it happened and says I

am only a safety monitor can only report if a robbery is happening I cant do anything to stop this

robbery from happening. Fahnestock, Killingsworth and Palmer are scholars they are tasked with

coming up with solutions to problems like the one presented above. There solutions do not have

to be correct or popular in the scientific or public discourse communities but I think it raise some

ethical questions that they neglected to discussion solutions at all. What is even more surprising

to me is that their work contains enough information to come up with possible solutions to these

issues. I could create my solution using their work. For Example, Killingworth and Palmers work

helped me understand how we can go about solving these issues, which they did not explore. I

would propose that a public policy solution to tacking this issues. More specifically, I would

recommend the Federal Government agency the National Science Foundation to lobby congress

to implement a ban on the intentional misleading of scientific research on the media and other

spheres where scientific research is shared and discussed. I know this seems drastic and

unforgeable because it may be hard to determine intensions, but Killingsworth and Palmer article

opens the door on how we can establish a definition of intentional misleading of scientific

information. Killingworth and Palmer talk at length about something they call human interest.

Human interest is the leading factor in determining what scientific activates will be covered as
big stories (Killingsworth and Palmer). They make the argument that, The emphasis on human

interest carries the journalist out of the field of natural science and into the action-oriented fields

of social movements and politics (Killingsworth and Palmer). They go on to say, the striving

for the dramatic and even the sensational slant on the facts implicit in the demand for news

causes the genre to shade into the field of poetic or mythic utterance (Killingsworth and

Palmer). Killingworth and Palmer provide a good picture of how human interest can influence

scientific research. I also believe that this could be the key in enforcing my public policy

proposal to eliminate the intentional misleading of scientific data. Determining human interest is

something that can be traced through meetings and depositions of individuals thought process of

individuals and seeing if human interest was a reason for presenting misleading scientific

research. This policy proposal would severely limit public discourse surrounding scientific

research, which is probably why the authors mentioned earlier did not propose such action. But I

would counter that point by saying does science need public discourse. All of the authors

mention feel somewhat hesitant of public discourse around science but none recommend

eliminating public discourse around science. Scientific research is about observations, numbers

and facts they do not need to be discoursed through media they only require discussion within

the community. The publics opinion of research is obsolete at best because science does not

exist in the terms of opinion rather it exists in the terms of facts. I find it puzzling that our critical

authors do not touch on solutions of such a huge problem that impact the scientific community.
In closing scientific research is at a crossroad. We have the resources provided by

our critical authors to come up with a solution to this horrible situation. However, we will not see

changes to this problem until authors like Killingsworth, Palmer, and other start to not only

examining issues but also look to provide solutions to them.

Works Cited
Burg, Ron Von. Rhetoric Across Borders . Anderson : Parlor Press, n.d. Book.
Fahnestock, Jeanne. "Accommodating Science: The Rhetoriclal Life of Scientific Facts
." Written Communication (1986): 280. PDF.
Killingsworth, Jimmie and Jacqueline Palmer. "Transformations of Scientific Discourse
in the News Media." Killingsworth, Jimmie and Jacqueline Palmer. Ecospeak:
Rhetoric and Enviromental Politics in America. Carbondale and Edwardsville:
Southern Illinois University Press, n.d. 133-159. Book/PDF.