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The meat of the matter: grasping and judging xenotransplantation

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Publication details

JournalPublic understanding of science
DatePublished - Oct 2004
Issue number4
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)379-397
Original languageEnglish


This paper is concerned with the ways in which lay people come to understand and assess xenotransplantation. Drawing on focus group data, we explore how people can both demonstrate a collective process of cost-benefit thinking and tacitly problematize this by deploying three meta-arguments that we call "trust," "telos," and "trump." Respectively, these meta-arguments emphasize: unexamined relations of trust; irrelevance because innovations such as xenotransplantation are inevitable; and redundancy in the face of desperation. We then consider how lay people draw upon certain analogies associated with meat in order to grasp the meaning of xenotransplantation. The data show how "meat" itself displays disparate and contested meanings. Depending on what aspects of meat are emphasized, xenotransplantation is represented in either a negative or a positive light. Some of the implications of the fluidity of the meaning of both meat and xenotransplantation for cost-benefit thinking in lay and expert discourse are discussed.

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