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In 2012, the World Health Organization not only condoned the creation of “super-flus” (high lethality strains with heightened transmissibility), but also urged greater dispersal of these strains among research facilities around the globe. This essay analyzes that decision process using an updated theory of logos and pathos that incorporates contemporary understandings of emotion and the human brain into prescriptions for public deliberative decision-making processes. That analysis shows that, because the decision process was necessarily executed through the affective reasoning processes of the 22 narrowly-selected individuals invited to the meeting, it could not provide an optimal decision process. The essay therefore proposes that the World Health Organization should adopt an on-line, open-access discussion process for deliberating about major decisions about world health policies. The basis for the decision in affect (pathos) rather than in ostensible logos is demonstrated by textual and contextual evidence produced by the participants.


internet democracy, science policy, rhetoric of science, public understanding of science, H5N1, super-flu, bio-safety, WHO, pathos, logos, bio-containment, flu policy, health policy, World Health Organization

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Copyright © 2014 Celeste M. Condit

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.




The author thanks Dr. David Depew, Dr. William White, and two anonymous reviewers. An earlier version of the essay was presented at the ESR Genomics Conference in London in April 22, and to a POROI meeting at the University of Iowa, in October 2012; the author thanks the participants for their input.

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