The Black hole

I almost had a punch-in-the-air, triumphant moment reading the Renner article (2009). It felt like there was finally someone who decided to represent facts as they are, with none of the biases or “nudges” (as mentioned by Guidotti in an email to Johnnie Hemphi dated 4/6/2006) that seemed to surround other publications. I think her report was well-articulated, comprehensive and to-the-point.

It was actually interesting to see Guidotti’s “pained” letter in response to her article. I guess once the ball of lies is set rolling, they become so deeply embroiled in it that they probably start believing it’s true! In that respect, Guidotti’s emotional outburst to the report by calling it “incorrect and irresponsible” and going on to further refer to her statements as “unwarranted allegations” almost feels…real. From a reader’s perspective, I’m pretty sure Renner’s report would’ve generated rightful concern about lead in water. But if they are not well-versed on the case, as most people would not be, Guidotti’s response may have raised doubts, because his status has power. This is what worries me the most. As I mentioned in my last post, the sheer power these agencies and individuals carry – EPA, DC WASA etc is pretty intimidating. They can, and are, pull strings to tilt things in their favor and so this fight is pretty long drawn.

With reference to the other readings, I believe Guidotti would fit the bill of an Issue Advocate (Pielke, 2007)from the Devil ofcourse.  This is evident in every angle of his paper, which was even termed as a “Health Message”. However, being an advocate is not necessarily a bad thing. I feel that most research works from this angle. We build a hypothesis and try to defend it and that pretty much means we try to push across a central message. That is advocacy in its own right, but I guess it ultimately boils down to what is being conveyed. 

I think what strikes me most about this entire case is the level of complexity. With the recent angle of the partial lead service replacement and its detrimental effects (EHP, 2010), we can see that while there is one central problem, ie, Lead in water – there are many sources. Which one should be addressed first? Aren’t they all linked somehow? It appears that the one thing that could help solve these problems – SCIENCE – has been sadly pushed to the back seat.

References:

Van de Poel, I. and L. Royakkers. 2011. “Normative Ethics” and “The Ethical Cycle.” In Ethics, Technology, and Engineering: An Introduction, pp. 102-108 and pp. 133-160. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Pantazidou, M. and I. Nair. 1999. Ethic of Care: Guiding Principles for Engineering Teaching & Practice. Journal of Engineering Education 88(2):205-212.

Pielke, R. A., Jr. 2007. “Four Idealized Roles of Science in Policy and Politics” and “Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics.” In The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics, pp. 1-7 and 135-152. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Renner, R. 2009. “Troubled Waters: Controversy Over Public Health Impact of Tap Water Contaminated With Lead Takes on an Ethical Dimension.” AAAS Professional Ethics Report XXII(2):1-4.

Renner, R. 2009. “Troubled Waters: On the Trail of the Lost Data.” AAAS Professional Ethics Report XXII(3):1-3.

Guidotti, T. L. 2009. [Letter to the Editor in response to Renner’s “Troubled Waters” articles]. AAAS Professional Ethics Report XXII(3):4. (Renner’s final response to Guidotti, is in PDF “W7 Renner Response.”)

Renner, R. 2010. Reaction to the Solution: Lead Exposure Following Partial Service Line Replacement. Environmental Health Perspectives 118:A202-A208.

Renner, R. 2007. Lead Pipe Replacement Should Go All the Way. Environmental Science & Technology 41(19):6637-6638.

Edwards, M. and Lambrinidou, Y. 2009. Possible Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest and Other Concerns Related to a Publication in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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