Haley Scholar Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
In “John Rock’s Error,” Gladwell details how medical doctor and devout Catholic John Rock invented and rationalized the use of the birth control pill. His justification supported how the oral contraceptive was natural because “…the Pill’s ingredients duplicated what could be found in the body naturally” (104). The drug specifically allowed for three weeks on the Pill and a placebo during the fourth week to allow for woman’s “natural” bodily process of menstruation.
This natural menses process is eventually challenged in the article as later research demonstrates that women with higher rates of menses tend to be at higher risk for cancer; whereas women with more infrequent menses are at less risk. If the Pill replaced the placebo week with a dosage of hormones that mirrored the other three weeks, the drug could, in fact, help prevent cancer in women; however this was unknown during the time Rock advocated for the Pill. Consequently, he failed to receive the support he expected from the Church and was shunned for his scientific advances.
If the Church had known of the anti-cancer benefit of the Pill during Rock’s platform, perhaps, the Pill would have been more accepted. However, Rock’s case is an instance of “progress in advance of understanding” (125), which is seen as detrimental to the scientific cause.
What other cases, scientific or otherwise, has “progress in advance of understanding” been viewed unfavorable?
Or, based on the reading, when is "progress in advance of understanding" advantageous instead of detrimental?
Many Things that are being researched can become advantageous as more research is done. Like with Penicillin i am pretty sure when they first started researching the drug they were looking at its specific effect on a certain ailment but as more and more research was done they found that it not only cured one ailment but it cured many aliments just like with many other drugs. People get scrutinized for things that society cannot yet fully understand but when society finally understands it it betters the drug and its effectiveness in society.
I think a lesser known example of "progress in advance of understanding" would be that of Ignaz Semmelweis and his discoveries in regards to antiseptics. Semmelweis discovered that in clinics where physicians washed their hands with a bleach solution before operating, patients were less likely to contract illnesses/diseases (specifically childbed fever, as Semmelweis focused his studies on birthing clinics). However, his idea was rejected by his contemporaries because most of them did not believe that something as simple as hand-washing could cause a reduction in the rates of patient infection, and because they believed he had insufficient evidence to prove his point; it was not until the germ theory of disease was discovered some time later that Semmelweis' proposal came to be accepted. I think this is a good example of when "progress in advance of understanding" would be more advantageous than detrimental. Although Semmelweis' theory may not have had oodles of proof when he proposed it, the "pros" of hand-washing before operations far outweigh the "cons". Had his contemporaries accepted his theory rather than outright rejecting it and ridiculing him, not only would the number of infected patients have decreased, but scientists of the time also might have been able to acquire sufficient evidence to prove Semmelweis' theory.
I believe that the 2012 Presidential Election will represent a case were "Progress in Advance of Understanding" will be unfavorable. Due to the fact that a lot of Americans do not really understand the plight of our Country, the chances of Obama being re-elected are small. Most people argue that Obama did not keep his promise of change, that things have gotten worse, that our Country is in no better place than it was before he became president. However, most Americans also don't really understand politics. Most people do not understand that no matter what Obama tries to do his ideas have to be supported by those who work with him in order to be successful. Most people do not understand how many obstacles Obama has to overcome in order for his promise of change to come about. As a result of this lack of understanding, Obama is not accepted by many, and many people will probably vote against him.
Another case (drug) that has been researched for many years is Prozac. It has been used in various ways such as: to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, some eating disorders, and panic attacks. It works by increasing the amount of serotonin, a natural substance in the brain that helps maintain mental balance. This drug helps those who are at a mental imbalance yet some people in the world may think otherwise. Some may think that they just need psychiatric help, a psychologist, a doctor, prayer, or God. But the world has, for the most part, accepted this drug due to the many cases it has helped others.
The first drug that comes to my mind when I think of "progress in advance of understanding" are vaccines.Vaccines are actually a small dosage of a disease that is given to us in order to develop immunity to the disease. Vaccines are usually given to children in order to prevent diseases, but instead a great correlation has been made with the children that receive the vaccines and autism. It has yet to be proven, to my knowledge, that the vaccine is actually the cause of autism but the kids who get the vaccine are at a higher risk. This is something that I think will be improved upon later on and we will see that it in fact does not necessarily cause autism.
In many cases a drug known as coumadin is used to treat patients who have recently experienced a hard attack. This drug receives a lot of bad press because the chemicals used are the same in rat poison. When people experience bleeding due to the difficulty in achieving a accurate therapeutic dose,they don't want to take the drug. If they don't take the drug they have the potential to form a potentially fatal blood clot. Many drugs have side-effects, but that does not mean it is better to not take them. In some cases these drugs are preventing future events just like how contraceptives can be used as anti-cancer drug.
To reflect off of my fellow peers posts. Drugs are definately "progress in advance of understanding" because a new drug is always being put into the market and researchers are always trying to find a cure for a drug or how to make one better. Another reason why drugs are "progress in advance of understanding" because a certain drug might be intented to treat one specific thing but the more the drug is researched and tested it is then discovered to treat more than the primary reason it was made for.
Progress in advance of understanding can be more advantageous than detrimental when it is able to help a large amount of people. As more advances in technology are made, people do not fully understand how they work but they continue to use them because they are beneficial. For example, the life expectancy of people has significantly grown over the past centuries due to the advances in technology. If people were more concerned about learning how something works instead of the benefits these advances bring, then it would take much longer for people to accept and use these new technology. One of the most common examples that I can think of for this would be vaccines. When vaccines were first introduced, many people were worried about them because they did not know exactly how they would work and whether or not they would effective in protecting individuals from diseases they were trying to prevent. If people had just stopped using vaccines because they did not fully understand them, then there would still be diseases that many people could be affected by. However, since people allowed vaccines to progress, we are now able to take for granted what vaccines do for people.
I feel that humans are really prone to making this error. Every day you hear new research coming out discrediting practices once seen as the best practice. Examples include giving antibiotics out like candy (this causes "superbug" strains that can't be killed with antibiotics). Another example is Marie Curie dying from radiation poisoning, which wasn't known to cause cancer at the time. Being a nurse, I see progress before understanding on a day to day basis.
However, history is studded with many free thinkers who were ridiculed at the time of their "discoveries": Copernicus, da Vinci, Semmelweis, Jenner... the list goes on. In turn, we now know that the Earth is NOT the center of the galaxy, helicopters came into being, we wash our hands after going to the bathroom, and smallpox is all but eradicated.
One thing that comes to mind when I think of "progress in advance of understanding" that is viewed (to some) unfavorable is stem cell research. Though this is a controversial topic, stem cell research is a very advanced scientific research and helps saves lives. However its viewed unfavorable to some because it destroys embroyos, which is considered to be human life. Stem cell research can also be considered advantageous instead of detrimental as time goes on. In time, it will help save more lives.
The first thing that came to mind of "progress in advance of understanding" that is considered to unfavorable is testing with stem cells. I do not consider myself an expert on this subject by any means. I just know that some people look stem cell testing as unethical and others looks at is as necessary. Everyone may agree that it is progress in advance of understanding but is it right?
One instance of this in current events would be our energy supplies. Although there is much research on how detrimental oil and coal is to the environment, we still use immense amounts of them because of how relatively cheap they are when compared to many renewable energy sources. Slowly we can see changes towards renewable energy being made, such as wind turbine fields or buildings with solar panels on their roof. However, the transition is being slowed by two main factors. There are still some individuals that either do not believe that our methods for receiving energy is as harmful to the environment as it truly is or they just do not care about the future, and also the harnessing of these renewable energies are relatively expensive. As the effects of global warming are becoming more apparent, more people are finally understanding how harmful we have been and that a change is necessary.
Galilieo may not have been the first person to say “the earth is round”, but I’d venture to say he was the most famous and the most persecuted for saying it. In hind sight we all know the earth is round. It a simple fact that most pre-school children learn before their formal education even begins. However, in Galilieo’s time this belief was considered heresy. As others follow Galilieo’s assertions, brave explorers started out pushing further and further in to the sea. One such explorer, Columbus, after searching for a faster trade route to the Far East, came across a new continent. This discovery opened up new markets and products. New lands were settled and peopled encountered. Just think about all of the history, good and bad, that came about as a result of a controversial belief as the earth being round. I think it is referred to as “contempt prior to investigation”.
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