In my psychology class, my professor is big time interested in how scientists research diseases. A powerful feminist– something apparently most of us, male and female happen to be– she really takes an interest in diseases that affect women more than men. In this case her rant was about breast cancer and how the doctors of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s conducted their research.
The pool of people used in breast cancer research were those with at least the following qualities:
1. All white
2. All males
3. Between ages 24 and 49
4. Between 165 and 205 pounds
Guess how “skewed” their figures, facts and estimates became as soon as women were included in their research?
As it turns out, a great deal of the research of the last fifty to sixty years has been based on very narrow parameters, many that would leave us scratching out heads, in hindsight, wondering how they could be so stupid and narrow? But part of the problem is that science has always been about exclusions and rules. The research performed is generally research that interests the scientists. And if those scientists are nearly all males, then the projects will be male-centric. If the scientists are mostly homophobic, their research will tend to back those beliefs. The research that brought us AIDS was brought about under a regime of scientists who were white, male, heterosexual, likely homophobic, and their bias, as in nearly all science, is clearly evident in the “facts” and “conclusions” that were obtained.
I will often return to an old argument of mine which is that 100 years ago, they proved, using the same math Einstein and Newton had access to, that driving 65+ MPH in an open air vehicle would cause your skin to tear from your face. Proved it! They proved the speed of sound could not be reached in an aircraft because you would hit an invisible barrier in space and go splat! Proved it! But I think one reason we were able to get past those mistakes was because we didn’t want to believe they were true. We didn’t want to put faith in the answers. But with HIV and AIDS I think there is more than enough religion and desire to stick with the 1980’s conclusions.
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