Compared to many philosophy books, this volume is directed at a rather diverse range of audiences. I came to this research as a philosopher of science hoping to achieve two major goals: (1) to examine the range of methodological and interpretive judgments that permeate policy-relevant scientific research and (2) to explore ways of making these judgments more responsive to a range of public values—not just to the “deep pockets” that have abundant resources available to spend on research. In brief, I was interested in how science and democracy relate to one another. This is a project that intersects with many different scholarly disciplines, research projects, and practical concerns.
Nearly everyone with an interest in the environment—concerned citizens, environmentalists, scientists, industry groups, and policy makers—should find the book’s major case study, hormesis, of interest. Hormesis involves seemingly beneficial effects produced by low doses of substances that are normally toxic. Some scientists argue that this phenomenon could have important policy implications, such as weakening government regulations of toxic substances. Large sums of money are at stake in debates about government regulatory policy, and many interest groups are intensely concerned about these issues. Therefore, the book’s careful analysis of the methodological and interpretive judgments associated with hormesis research (especially in chapter 2) should be helpful to a variety of groups who want to understand the scientific issues at stake more clearly. Chapter 7 examines similar judgments associated with two other phenomena, endocrine disruption and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which are also relevant to environmental policy.
Research ethicists will also hopefully find much of interest in the book’s analysis of the hormesis, endocrine disruption, and MCS cases. Chapter 4 reviews a variety of questionable research practices that have been perpetrated by vested interest groups with a stake in the outcome of scientific research. The chapter argues that university conflict-of-interest policies are not sufficient to prevent worrisome effects of vested interests on academic research, and it suggests several alternative strategies. Chapter 6 examines