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September 15, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-15

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 15, 2005


J!E £irbi*wu &iilg

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


There is simply
no fat left to cut
in the federal
- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-
Texas), declaring Republicans victorious in
their efforts to cut back federal spending, as
reported yesterday by The Washington Times.


When science and opinion collide
owe (or is it blame?) were presented in much the same manner are equally valid to begin with.
the motivation to as opposing sides in matters of science (e.g. And therein lies the quagmire. How should
write a column whether Sctiiavo could feel pain, whether or the media go about providing "balanced" cov-
about science issues to to what extent she was conscious, and wheth- erage to issues where the scientific evidence
the Terri Schiavo deba- er or not we should even have considered her is strongly in the favor of one position?
cle. For weeks I followed "alive" at all). "Experts" were summoned, For starters, news providers, both cable
the coverage, in spite views were exchanged, and in the end view- and print, should be reluctant to provide
of my great disdain for ers were left to make up their own minds. open discussions of issues that have a dra-
the entire situation and Fine. I am the last person who will ever matic imbalance of scientific support. This
a deep conviction that question the importance of the open exchange is NOT the same as suggesting that positions
it was largely unnews- of ideas. But it is equally important - espe- with strong scientific support should never
worthy. The fiasco had all the makings of a cially in matters involving substantial amounts be challenged ... of course they should. But
spectacular TV mini-series - drama, poli- of science - to ensure that the existence of if you are going to claim that 2 + 2 no lon-
tics, death, cameos by famous people - and an open discussion does not obscure the bal- ger equals 4, or that someone who has been
that's probably how it managed to simultane- ance of objective evidence for and against a reliably diagnosed as fundamentally brain
ously irritate me and completely hypnotize particular topic or position. Unfortunately, dead is actually somewhat conscious, then
the national media. that happens with great regularity. you had better have some strong evidence in
For better or worse, I've never been much Picture a standard consumer of cable news, your corner and not simply a gut feeling.
of a miniseries man. But beneath all the not particularly versed in medicine or neuro- In the end, however, cable and print news
drama of the Schiavo ordeal was a flicker science, watching CNN during a moderated providers are, at least partially, yoked to the
that held my interest, though I had to squint discussion of Terri Schiavo's mental condi- desires of the consumer. And in our society,
pretty hard to make it out. Caught up in all tion. Schiavo's aunt (or brother, or whoever) this consumer has a very strong desire to
the evening news drama, spun around and talks about how Terri seems to perk up, and make up his own damn mind about more or
confused like a tourist in a very foreign land, even smile, in the company of her family, and less everything, even matters with strong ties
was science. has a short video clip to support her asser- to science. In principle, I have no problem
The science was tough to pick out for a tions. A neurologist or clinical neuroscien- with this desire, largely because I share it.
fairly simple reason: The Schiavo drama tist counters by discussing how certain brain We should realize, however, that by request-
was, at its core, nothing close to a science areas can continue to function and even gen- ing that the media allow us to make our own
issue. It was a legal issue drenched in fam- erate behavior, such as that in the video clip, decisions about complex issues, we assume a
ily conflict, and as such was destined for the in the absence of any conscious input, and pair of burdens. The first is the responsibility
legal and political sections of magazines, makes reference to research data. The mod- for weighing the evidence presented by the
newscasts and blogs. But this particular erator asks questions, and appears equally media. The second, and less recognized, is
issue, though not overtly scientific, did have critical of both sides. the task of considering whatever evidence the
a significant amount of science baggage, par- What is the viewer left to conclude? The media does not mention.
ticularly medicine and neuroscience. What's doctor has professional credentials, but the The latter is a greater burden than most
more, the way this science was presented had relative has personal experience. And why realize. Media coverage of any issue is nec-
a significant impact on how the general pub- would CNN bother with the relative if they essarily limited ("tip of the iceberg" comes
lic evaluated the entire issue. were sure that the doctor was right? Plus that to mind), and leaves the chore of evaluat-
This is where everything took a tui'n for video clip was pretty convincing. ing the remaining evidence to the consum-
the worse. I don't think anyone, including I have set this entire column up to make er. Asking for this burden is easy; bearing
myself, was surprised at the surplus of dif- the viewer seem foolish for failing to see the it responsibly, which requires effort and no
ferent and often conflicting perspectives imbalance of objective evidence, but I am small amount of analytical savvy, is much
that emerged in the media coverage. What not so sure that I can really blame him. The more difficult.
struck me, though, was that opposing sides way the information is presented, in an open
in matters of opinion (e.g. whether Schiavo discussion, equal-time format, it's easy (and Jackson can be reached at
had clearly expressed her end-of-life wishes) usually correct) to assume that both sides edjacks@umich.edu.

Religion on campus is the
least of our concerns
In his Sept. 13 column (Spreading only part of
the word), Chris Zbrozek criticized Christians
for not paying attention to the Bible. He then
mused that "the sole important factor in deter-
mining salvation, in most brands of evangelical
Christianity, is personal redemption, not good
works." Oddly enough, accepting Jesus Christ
as a personal savior is the first and foremost step
to the religion.
Zbrozek then implied that, had the evangelist
not been spewing "fire and brimstone," he (and
other students) may have actually paid attention
to him. I'm slightly skeptical that more than a
10th of the student population would pay seri-
ous attention to someone spreading "The Word,"
unless to mock.
And while Zbrozek criticizes the fact that the
evangelist could have been speaking about Katrina
relief, let me criticize the fact that Zbrozek could
have written about any of the following: Hallibur-
ton subsidiaries getting contracts for New Orleans
reconstruction, Iran and Russia cooperating over
nuclear power or Tony Blair considering scrap-
ping Holocaust Memorial Day.
Even if it's blood that Zbrozek is after, maybe
he could talk about how Vice President Dick
Cheney called Katrina relief "very impressive"
(insurgency, "last throes! ") or that Kathleen "We
were unprepared!" Blanco put into effect several
years ago the "State of Louisiana Emergency
Operations Plan," a document written specifi-
cally for an event like Hurricane Katrina.
Zbrozek chose to use the same "clever" rheto-
ric that most people on this campus figured out in
11th grade: Most Christians don't live as Christ
did (especially those whose families can afford
University tuition). Rather than take advantage of
his "editorial freedom," he wrote more than 800
words on a subject so trite one could hardly call
it an issue. Chris, you have the press and people
reading your words. Make them worthwhile.

anywhere else for that matter?
As the article illustrates, purchasing con-
traceptives at an independent pharmacy is
both inconvenient and more expensive. Is
the goal of the bill to increase the number
of unwanted pregnancies and abortions? Stu-
dents at the University will continue to have
sex no doubt, but perhaps the bill will cause
even more emotional, physical, educational
and financial consequences for a new genera-
tion of young mothers and fathers.
The lack of emergency contraceptives at
the University of Wisconsin, especially for
women who have been raped or sexually
assaulted, is particularly disturbing. Today's
world is a scary and dangerous place to be.
To deny women the right to protect them-
selves after a horrific sexual attack is despi-
cable public policy. Ask yourself who is to be
feared more, the attackers or the new liber-
ty-crushing policies? As the bumper sticker
says, "Keep your laws off my body."
Lindsey Seyferth
School of Public Health
Editor's Note: The original editorial was
factually inaccurate. Please read today's
correction on page 2.
New LSA language
proposal misses the boat
While the Student Government of the Col-
lege of Literature, Science, and the Arts may
have good intentions in its decision to support
a proposal that would allow students to take
one year of two separate languages to fulfill
their foreign language requirement, I feel this
will not help LSA students and only dilute
what seems to be a very good requirement.
I think the main problem in looking at the
requirement is that people tend to think of
it as a four-semester requirement, instead of
(at least what I think) its true intention as a

give you very basic skills and will not make you
a very effective speaker. Personally, I would rath-
er get my money's worth and become fluent in
one language instead of knowing a few odds and
ends of two. How useful is that?
It seems to me that if the rest of the world
has taken the time out of their busy lives to
learn English and often other languages as
well, the least we American students can do is
pick up another language ourselves. The Uni-
versity is a very diverse school representing
a great number of countries, ethnicities and
points of view.
To have only a year of a foreign lan-
guage seems to be cheating international
students who learned our language to go to
our school and threatens our credibility as
an international university. I found it unique
(and admittedly, sometimes tedious) to have
a language requirement as extensive as the
University's, but I can say without a shred of
doubt that my years spent learning a foreign
language have bettered my understanding of
the world and improved my study ethic as
a whole. If fluency is a goal, more than two
semesters are going to be necessary for any
foreign language. As a result, I support and
urge fellow students and faculty members
to preserve the fourth semester proficiency
requirement that is currently intact.
Adam Supernant
LSA junior

.x, ORIAL RA~...

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Amanda Burns, Whitney Dibo,
Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg, Eric Jackson, Brian Kelly, Theresa Kennelly,
Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David Russell, Dan Skowronski, Brian Slade, Lauren
C1 1 1 I 1 Ca . "_1." 1_ T __.---1C__ J _ _ T _ 1


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