Travelers on the Path of Knowledge

Knowledge is an ocean and a few drops just aren’t enough. -Unknown

Interesting stuff about humans.. April 16, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — musaafir @ 10:10 am

I’m OK, You’re Biased

This article explains how objectivity is in the eyes of the beholder. A study was done about human behavior and how even when we think we’re unbiased, we usually are biased.

“Doctors scoff at the notion that gifts from a pharmaceutical company could motivate them to prescribe that company’s drugs, and Supreme Court justices are confident that their legal opinions are not influenced by their financial stake in a defendant’s business, or by their child’s employment at a petitioner’s firm. Vice President Dick Cheney is famously contemptuous of those who suggest that his former company received special consideration for government contracts.”

“Research suggests that decision-makers don’t realize just how easily and often their objectivity is compromised. The human brain knows many tricks that allow it to consider evidence, weigh facts and still reach precisely the conclusion it favors.

When our bathroom scale delivers bad news, we hop off and then on again, just to make sure we didn’t misread the display or put too much pressure on one foot. When our scale delivers good news, we smile and head for the shower. By uncritically accepting evidence when it pleases us, and insisting on more when it doesn’t, we subtly tip the scales in our favor.”

“And yet, if decision-makers are more biased than they realize, they are less biased than the rest of us suspect. Research shows that while people underestimate the influence of self-interest on their own judgments and decisions, they overestimate its influence on others.”

And in other news, movies such as Gattaca explain how terrifying it can be when our knowledge and technology come before natural biology. We may know so much about ourselves that we can screen out genetic diseases and other complications at birth. We all thought such a future was too advanced for our present state. But do we know about the research that’s being done that involved our own cells and tissues?

“When you go to the doctor for a routine blood test or mole removal, when you have an appendectomy, tonsillectomy or any other kind of ectomy, the stuff you leave behind doesn’t always get thrown out. Doctors, hospitals and laboratories keep them. Often indefinitely. Some get consent with admission forms that say something like, I give my doctor permission to dispose of my tissues or use them in research. Others don’t. Today most Americans have their tissue on file somewhere.”

“How you should feel about all this isn’t obvious. Scientists aren’t stealing your arm or some vital organ. They’re just using tissue scraps you parted with voluntarily. But still, someone is taking part of you. And people often have a strong sense of ownership when it comes to their bodies. Even tiny scraps of it. Especially when they hear that someone else might be making money off those scraps. Or using them to uncover potentially damaging information about their genes and medical histories.

But a feeling of ownership doesn’t hold up in court. And at this point, the law isn’t clear on whether you have the right to own and control your tissues. When they’re part of your body, they’re clearly yours. Once they’re excised, things get murky.”

“At this point, scientists largely have the access they want. And they hope to keep it that way for fear that restrictions might slow research. But a growing number of activists — ethicists, lawyers, doctors and patients — are arguing cases and pushing for federal regulations that would change the status quo by granting people rights to control their tissues.”

For full text visit: Taking the Least of You

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