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Unruhe und Ungewissheit – Stem Cells and Risks

Sahlin, Nils-Eric LU ; Persson, Johannes LU and Vareman, Niklas LU (2011) In Translational Stem Cell Research: Issues Beyond the Debate on the Moral Status of the Human Embryo p.421-429
Abstract
“Die Unruhe und Ungewissheit sind unser Theil”, writes Goethe in a letter to the German novelist Sophie von la Roche in 1774. But is it the incalculable and indeterminate that cause disquiet, or is it our bustling pursuit of knowledge that makes us uncertain?

Contemporary psychologists have taught us a great deal about the way we perceive risks and about the way affects and emotions influence our behaviour. Their research has shown that, as decision makers, as risk-assessors, and as risk-controllers, we are short-sighted, one-eyed and prone to serious errors of refraction. Who would have guessed that? We generate too few, and too narrow, hypotheses. We gather information, or evidence, in favour of our guesses that is too narrow,... (More)
“Die Unruhe und Ungewissheit sind unser Theil”, writes Goethe in a letter to the German novelist Sophie von la Roche in 1774. But is it the incalculable and indeterminate that cause disquiet, or is it our bustling pursuit of knowledge that makes us uncertain?

Contemporary psychologists have taught us a great deal about the way we perceive risks and about the way affects and emotions influence our behaviour. Their research has shown that, as decision makers, as risk-assessors, and as risk-controllers, we are short-sighted, one-eyed and prone to serious errors of refraction. Who would have guessed that? We generate too few, and too narrow, hypotheses. We gather information, or evidence, in favour of our guesses that is too narrow, readily available, and skewed in favour of preferred beliefs. Once we have a pet hypothesis, we look for confirmatory evidence, neglecting countervailing evidence. We are simply not rational—not in the way our theories of rationality (logic, probability and decision-making) assume, at any rate. This is an alarming fact, considering the serious risk assessment and risk management tasks that lie ahead of us.

This fact of irrationality (the phrase “fact of irrationality” seems fair, since the claim is supported by a vast amount of empirical evidence) should not just bring about unrest; it should make us think—think at least twice about our state of knowledge, in particular when the task is to make a serious risk-assessment in a convoluted situation [1]. We must not go gentle into that uncertainty.

In this paper we will focus on a particular type of risk: the risk of unknown and uncertain long-term effects. The problem here is one of not knowing what will happen, and when we know it will, when; and of not being acquainted with the consequences, and therefore being unable to value the unfamiliar. Doing this our centre of attention will be human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Adult stem cells are not as interesting – they do not bear the same type of risks and moral difficulties.

The paper urges risk analysts to take a Socratic approach to their discipline. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
publication status
published
subject
keywords
uncertainty, risk, stem cells, decision, epistemic risk
in
Translational Stem Cell Research: Issues Beyond the Debate on the Moral Status of the Human Embryo
editor
Hug, Kristina and Hermerén, Göran
pages
421 - 429
publisher
Humana Press
ISBN
978-1-60761-959-8
978-1-60761-958-1
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
2e72eba2-a9d4-4839-8f55-a599d6979ee6 (old id 1579059)
date added to LUP
2010-03-26 13:12:35
date last changed
2016-09-26 14:45:45
@misc{2e72eba2-a9d4-4839-8f55-a599d6979ee6,
  abstract     = {“Die Unruhe und Ungewissheit sind unser Theil”, writes Goethe in a letter to the German novelist Sophie von la Roche in 1774. But is it the incalculable and indeterminate that cause disquiet, or is it our bustling pursuit of knowledge that makes us uncertain?<br/><br>
Contemporary psychologists have taught us a great deal about the way we perceive risks and about the way affects and emotions influence our behaviour. Their research has shown that, as decision makers, as risk-assessors, and as risk-controllers, we are short-sighted, one-eyed and prone to serious errors of refraction. Who would have guessed that? We generate too few, and too narrow, hypotheses. We gather information, or evidence, in favour of our guesses that is too narrow, readily available, and skewed in favour of preferred beliefs. Once we have a pet hypothesis, we look for confirmatory evidence, neglecting countervailing evidence. We are simply not rational—not in the way our theories of rationality (logic, probability and decision-making) assume, at any rate. This is an alarming fact, considering the serious risk assessment and risk management tasks that lie ahead of us.<br/><br>
This fact of irrationality (the phrase “fact of irrationality” seems fair, since the claim is supported by a vast amount of empirical evidence) should not just bring about unrest; it should make us think—think at least twice about our state of knowledge, in particular when the task is to make a serious risk-assessment in a convoluted situation [1]. We must not go gentle into that uncertainty.<br/><br>
In this paper we will focus on a particular type of risk: the risk of unknown and uncertain long-term effects. The problem here is one of not knowing what will happen, and when we know it will, when; and of not being acquainted with the consequences, and therefore being unable to value the unfamiliar. Doing this our centre of attention will be human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Adult stem cells are not as interesting – they do not bear the same type of risks and moral difficulties.<br/><br>
The paper urges risk analysts to take a Socratic approach to their discipline.},
  author       = {Sahlin, Nils-Eric and Persson, Johannes and Vareman, Niklas},
  editor       = {Hug, Kristina and Hermerén, Göran},
  isbn         = {978-1-60761-959-8},
  keyword      = {uncertainty,risk,stem cells,decision,epistemic risk},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {421--429},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0x592ba90)},
  series       = {Translational Stem Cell Research: Issues Beyond the Debate on the Moral Status of the Human Embryo},
  title        = {Unruhe und Ungewissheit – Stem Cells and Risks},
  year         = {2011},
}