Kent Bottles: Do Humans Really Know Themselves Any Better Than Killer Whales? Implications for Health Care Reform
If I am reading the tea leaves correctly my Twitter stream is telling me that we really don’t know what we want in regards to health care reform, and we really don’t know why the killer whale killed the experienced and dedicated trainer in Florida.
The examiner.com listed five possible reasons why the killer whale killed Dawn Brancheau during a show at SeaWorld: he got distracted when her ponytail touched him; he was lonely or bored; he was feeling sexual; he had worked out too much; and killer whales are wild, dangerous animals who should not be in captivity in the first place. (http://bit.ly/bIkIzr) In a New York Times article, Richard Ellis of the American Museum of Natural History called the killing “premeditated.” Graham Worthy of the University of Central Florida disagreed and said the killer whale was “a misunderstood big kid.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/us/26whale.html)
Another aspect of this case that seems at least initially confusing is the decision not to euthanize the killer whale. When chimpanzees, alligators, pythons, and pit bulls kill, they are usually put down immediately. Nancy Black, a marine biologist, called the killer whale “a big money-making animal” because he has sired 14 calves for SeaWorld, a for-profit enterprise. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/us/26whale.html)
So we don’t really know what whales who kill think.
The American public may not know what it thinks about health care reform either. The GOP keeps telling us that the American people have soundly rejected Democratic attempts at health care reform because of the tea party movement, the special Senate election in Massachusetts, and the cost of the bills before the House and the Senate.
And yet a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation public opinion poll performed February 12-15, 2010 revealed conflicting results. While the American people are skeptical about the Democratic efforts, they approve of many of the individual components of health care reform. For example, 72% believe large and midsized businesses should provide health care insurance for their employees. Another 62% believe laws should prevent health care insurance companies from dropping coverage for people who develop a serious illness, and 58% say insurance companies should be prevented from denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. And maybe most surprising of all, 51% of those polled favor a public insurance option run by the government to compete with private insurers. (http://bit.ly/bWc71K)
And then there is problem with polls in general. Last July when the public debate was most heated about health care reform, a New York Times/CBS News poll found 66% of Americans supported the public option. A Time Magazine poll, a Pew poll, and a Fox News poll reported 56% support, 52% support, and 44% support, respectively.
“One way to look at what appear to be inconsistent results is to point the fingers at the respondents and say obviously they haven’t thought through what they really think. Another possibility is to say: Look closely at the questions and let’s really be sure,” stated Professor Jon A. Krosnick of Stanford. Context can be important and so can subtle bias that is consciously or unconsciously incorporated into polling questions. At the end of the day it is hard to figure out what the American public really wants in terms of health care reform. (http://nyti.ms/cscdrk)
Many of us believe that what we have now for health care will stay the same if health care reform fails to pass. False, wrong, no. Ironically, this is about the only thing that experts of all ideological beliefs agree on, that: “the unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly.” (http://nyti.ms/cKMymD)
“People think that if we do nothing, we will have what we have now. In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have,” states Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund. Not passing health care reform “is a course that is literally bankrupting the federal government and businesses and individuals across the country,” says Peter V. Lee of the Pacific Business Group on Health. (http://nyti.ms/cKMymD)
So we really don’t understand killer whales that kill. We are confused about what we really want in the way of health care reform. Perhaps it is time to listen to the neuroscientists who claim we really do not know ourselves very well. Perhaps we should all re-read books like Timothy Wilson’s excellent Strangers to Ourselves (http://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Ourselves-Discovering-Adaptive-Unconscious/dp/0674013824/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267380025&sr=1-1) .
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