History, to be sure, admits no such restriction, but Mazur, alas, is no historian. Impersonal policymaking bodies, it appears, can learn from experience.
The analytic resources that the book deploys seem almost as dated as the events themselves. A firm grasp of constructivist ideas about knowledge creation would have helped, but Mazur evidently knows only a straw-man version of social construction that strips it of any analytic utility.
No unbiased reading was possible, he implies, as long as the principals in the Love Canal drama were propagating their interest-driven accounts of what had happened and who was to blame. Beverly Paigen, failed to meet the applicable standards.
The name Love Canal has entered the lexicon of modern environmentalism as a virtual synonym for chemical pollution caused by negligent waste management. State and federal officials tried desperately to assess the seriousness of the danger to public health, hampered by a lack of reliable scientific data and inadequately tested study protocols.
The story of Love Canal, Mazur argues, involved similar discrepancies of vision, so that what you saw depended on where you stood in the controversy. None of this is very helpful in explaining the profoundly unsettling questions about trust and credibility that Love Canal helped bring to the forefront of public awareness.
But common-law courts have always been reluctant to do their fact-finding on the basis of records that have grown too old. People forget, move away, or die, as indeed did happen in the case of David Axelrod, a remarkable public servant whom Mazur aptly characterizes as the tragic hero of Love Canal.
In a court of law, a rejudging of responsibility for Love Canal would have been barred by a statute of limitations. A question left tantalizingly in the air was whether, in times of heightened public anxiety, it is possible for public health officials to undertake credible scientific inquiry, let alone whether such inquiry has the power to inform policy decisions.
Instead of using constructivism as a tool for understanding how knowledge and belief systems attain robustness, Mazur dismisses this analytic approach as mindlessly relativistic.
This is all to the good, because it is hard to read this book without feeling that one is caught in a time warp. But whereas the artist Kurosawa was content to leave ambiguity unresolved, the analyst Mazur is determined to reconcile his conflicting accounts so as to offer readers something akin to objective truth.
His impatience with Lois Gibbs, however, is palpable, and he holds the news media responsible for succumbing too easily to her story, which he finds least credible despite its later canonical status.
Evaluating in turn the news coverage, the financial settlements, and the scientific evidence, he even-handedly declares that there is enough blame to go around among all the parties involved. Controversies soon erupted, and panicky homeowners turned to politicians, the news media, and the courts for answers that science seemed unable to deliver.
Either a chemical has caused a disease or it has not; either experts are doing good science or they are not; either people are unbiased or they are interested. Why, then, do we need another book about Love Canal now, 20 years after the event burst on our national consciousness?
It was the first, and in many ways the worst, example of a scenario that soon reproduced itself in many parts of the country.
Toxic chemicals had leaked from an abandoned canal used as a waste dump into nearby lots and homes, whose residents seemed more than averagely afflicted by a wide variety of health problems, from miscarriages and birth defects to neurological and psychological disorders.
In such a world, disagreements occur because people with interests distort or manipulate the facts to suit their convenience. New narratives intervene, adding confusion to an already-cacophonous story. Finally, it is interesting to observe that recent policymaking bodies have been, if anything, more charitable toward citizen perceptions and participation than the author of this book.
Similar recommendations have come from committees of the National Research Council. Is it unreasonable to expect more from academic social scientists, who have, after all, more leisure to reflect on what gives human lives meaning? Against the evidence of a mass of work on the history, philosophy, and sociology of science, he asserts that there are clear and unambiguous standards of goodness governing such issues as the use of controls, the design of population studies, the conduct of surveys, and the statistical interpretation of results.
The book will remain a useful though not perhaps totally reliable compendium of things people said during the controversy. Allan Mazur, a policy analyst at Syracuse University, answers by drawing an analogy between his book and Rashomon, the classic film by Akira Kurosawa, which has come to symbolize the irreducible ambiguity of human perceptions and relationships.
The effort to provide multiple perspectives on the same events often leads to unnecessary, almost verbatim repetition, as with a statement by Health Commissioner David Axelrod that is quoted on p. In the film, the story of a rape and murder is retold four times from the viewpoints of the four principal characters: Science, Politics, and People Lexington Books,an early sociological account of the controversy.
Harvard University Press,pp. The episode left a lasting imprint on U.Wherever you want to get to in life, Lloyds Bank has a range of bank accounts and personal banking services to suit you.
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He tilts again at imaginary windmills a page later, writing that “Few things can be proved absolutely to everyone’s satisfaction. There is a possibility that we are all figments of a butterfly’s wing; I can’t disprove it, but I don’t care.” as with a statement by Health Commissioner David Axelrod that is quoted on p.
98 and. Julia Arnold is a freelance writer living in Minnesota with her husband and two young children. BUT I'm trying not to care about any mean comments because I LOVED writing this one for Paren.
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