The committee took the unprecedented step of recommending that some details of these biological studies [be] kept from the public, so that no one could use them as recipes for new bioweapons. [more inside]
In the 1940s, US doctors deliberately infected thousands of Guatemalans with venereal diseases. The wound is still raw.
Just as Dante found it easier to conjure the pains of Hell than to evoke the joys of Heaven, so too do bioethicists find it easier to concoct the possible perils of a biotech-nanotech-infotech future than to appreciate how enhancements will contribute to flourishing lives. One of the chief goals of this symposium is to think about the indispensable role that virtue plays in human life. The chief motivating concern seems to be the fear that biotechnologies and other human enhancement technologies will somehow undermine human virtue. As we will see, far from undermining virtue, biotech, nanotech, and infotech enhancements will tend to support virtue; that is, they will help enable people to be actually good.
"In all other circumstances we praise non-violent activities and when people, for whatever personal reasons, enjoy sexual violence even in a consenting context I think we shouldn't just say “whatever turns you on”. We should say “There's something wrong here”. But people on the left are so terrified of being accused of moralising and therefore of being oppressive that they've abandoned their critical faculties in this area." Clive Hamilton on God, Sex, and the Left (Part 2).
The world’s most prestigious consultancy prides itself on its intellectual prowess and ethical standards. But this year, an insider trading scandal surrounding former McKinsey luminaries has left staff and alumni reeling
Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong. "In 1959, Dr Milton Rokeach, a social psychologist, received a research grant to bring together three psychotic, institutionalised patients at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan." All three believed that they were Jesus, and the doctor believed he should play god.
Carl Jung: Taking inner life seriously. An eight-part series on the thought of Carl Gustav Jung from the Guardian's How to Believe series (previously.) Jung's relationship with his patient, student, and rumored lover Sabina Spielrein, and his mentor Sigmund Freud is the subject of a new film, "A Dangerous Method." [Via] [more inside]
This week Pat Robertson (controversial as always) addressed an uncomfortable question. What are we obligated to do when our spouse becomes completely incapacitated? This is a relatively common situation for the elderly, one person declining faster than the other, but the same questions remain as with a couple in their thirties. Do you live with celibacy, divorce or commit infidelity? Dan Savage’s rules on cheating include a pass for caregiver/spouses in this situation to preserve the marriage. Things can become more difficult when the sexual relationship does not end after a partner becomes infirm.
Sperm Donors: Limited or Limitless? And who should decide? Is it an ethical question, a biological question, a social/political question, an economics question, or something all about money?
In 1989, The Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society (later called the 'Fred Friendly Seminars') produced a ten-part series entitled Ethics in America, hosted by Fred W. Friendly [obit]. The show, which aired on PBS, featured prominent American thinkers of the time -- including psychologists, philosophers, doctors, lawyers, theologians, professors, business leaders, district attorneys, politicians, journalists, and a supreme court justice -- engaged in round-table debate concerning hypothetical ethical dilemmas. It was reprised in 2007 as Ethics in America II. Both incarnations [I; II] are viewable for free at Lerner.org, which describes the original version thus: This series uses the Socratic method to build analytical skills and examine ethical questions. The programs aim to sharpen moral reasoning without favoring a particular position by exploring ethical dilemmas in legal, political, medical, corporate, and military arenas. Panelists include Antonin Scalia, Faye Wattleton, and Peter Jennings. [more inside]
In the late Sixties and early Seventies several experiments were begun to test whether or not a non-human primate could construct a sentence. Several species were involved in these various experiments including the chimpanzees Washoe and Nim, a gorilla named Koko, and later in the Eighties work began with a bonobo named Kanzi. While great progress was made in teaching these primates a vocabulary, it would be difficult to see any of these experiments as a success. And all of these projects raised important questions about the ethics of such experiments. [more inside]
People with antisocial personality traits are more likely to have utilitarian ethics [PDF] [more inside]
Angry Jane Doe: "I have started to sleep around. I sleep with men I am not dating. I sleep with men and refuse to date them, actually. I come to their houses, fuck them, say thank you for a nice time, and don't let the door hit me on the ass on the way out. You might think this is a pretty good deal, but it is not. Because I fuck and tell. Because I'm pissed." (NSFW.) [more inside]
Should a Wash Post writer take one toke over the line to build trust to get the story? The Washington Post has a strict policy that its reporters not engage in anything illegal to get a story. Does that include taking a hit on a joint or pipe if it will get the subject of the story to open up? Not surprisingly, the reader poll had over 70% say, I'd hit that.
A computer scientist teaching at a business school decides to go after students who cheat in his class. He’s come to the conclusion that it’s simply not worth his time. [via]
"If you look at a lot of the work that's been done on scientific approaches to morality—books written for a lay audience—it's been about evolutionary psychology. And what we get again and again is a story about the importance of evolved tendencies to be altruistic. That's a report on a particular pattern of behavior, and an evolutionary story to explain the behavior. But it's not an account of the underlying mechanism. The idea that science has moved to a point where we can see two animals working together toward a collective end and know the brain mechanism that allows that is an extraordinary achievement." Nevertheless, Prinz says, how to move from the possibility of collective action to "the specific human institution of moral rules is a bit of connective tissue that she isn't giving us."
Kyle Munkittrick, a program director at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and a grad student at NYU, writes an interesting essay on understanding Pixar's movies through relationships between the human and non-human characters -- and perhaps shaping how an entire generation sees life and reality.
Bartolo Colon, now of the New York Yankees, underwent a controversial stem-cell treatment in the Dominican Republic to regain his old form.
Guy Rundle teases out the meanings of the bin Laden assassination, in contrast to the Eichmann trial.
Plasticize Me: Will recent advances in human tissue preservation change the way we think about bodies, death, God… and China? [Previously, Via]
In December 2010 Slate posted an interview with Iraq War veteran and conscientious objector Josh Steiber [more inside]
Homelessness: Cutting out the middle men (Economist) "The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them". [more inside]
Life after Capitalism - Beyond capitalism, it seems, stretches a vista of... capitalism: [more inside]
In 2004, Minnesota student Dan Markingson committed suicide while participating in a clinical drug trial for various mood disorders. Trial sponsors the University of Minnesota and AstraZeneca were cleared of blame by the FDA in 2005. Last week, a group of faculty members at the university wrote an open letter to the university's Board of Regents requesting further investigation due to "troubling questions" that remain unanswered and a concern over "conflicts of interest" in the Academic Health Center.
Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses honor, moral revolutions, and the condemnation of future generations. His new book The Honor Code chronicles how the concept of honor has been crucial in the fight against immoral practices like dueling, foot-binding, and slavery. (See also 1, 2)
An Associated Press photo of last Wednesday's Middle East peace talks in Washington D. C. was enhanced for publication in Al-Ahram, Egypt's state-run and largest newspaper. Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak was electronically moved to a more central position.
Dark Patterns is a list of deliberately user-hostile web site design patterns typically intended to deceive or exploit unwary users. These range from the trivial and clumsy (interfaces designed to impair price comparisons) to slyer tricks such as sneaking add-ons into shopping baskets, making specific options deliberately hard to find and spamming all your friends, typically after getting permission on a false pretext. Among the offenders listed are the likes of Ryanair, CreditExpert, various travel and electronics shopping sites, and, of course, Facebook, which has its very own pattern.
Victoria (Australia) had moderate flooding last week, which journalists were keen to report. Perhaps too keen. Full story here.
The Rehabilitation of Ernest Gellner - It is easy to imagine why Ernest Gellner would be one of the universally known figures in Anglophone intellectual life. A polymath whose work ranged across anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology, his mind wrestled with an encyclopedia's worth of nagging questions about nationalism, modernity, civil society, imperialism, Islam, psychoanalysis, ethics and epistemology ... All of this, to repeat, should explain Gellner's monumental prominence – except for the fact that he has no such prominence. (via mr) [more inside]
Couples from Western countries, such as Australia, the US, and the UK are turning to surrogates in India to carry their babies. [more inside]
The Torture Papers. "In the most comprehensive investigation to date of health professionals' involvement in the CIA's 'enhanced' interrogation program (EIP), Physicians For Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody. The apparent experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the 'enhanced' interrogation techniques. The PHR report, Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program, is the first to provide evidence that CIA medical personnel engaged in the crime of illegal experimentation after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of torture." [more inside]
In the late 1950s, psychologist Milton Rokeach was gripped by an eccentric plan. He gathered three psychiatric patients, each with the delusion that they were Jesus Christ, to live together for two years in Ypsilanti State Hospital to see if their beliefs would change. Vaughan Bell tells the story of one of the weirdest experiments in the history of psychology. (via)
Are the Rules That Determine Who Can Donate Blood Discriminatory? Canadian AIDS researchers Dr. Mark Wainberg and Dr. Norbert Gilmore say that while the ban on blood donation from men who have sex with other men may have been ethically and scientifically justified in the 1980's, it no longer makes sense. (CMAJ.) Even though the US FDA reaffirmed their long-standing ban in 2007, they plan to revisit the policy in June. [more inside]
Provoking pro-choice advocates, Oklahoma passed two highly restrictive abortion laws on Tuesday. One (rtf file) requires doctors to show women an ultrasound of their fetus and point out its physical characteristics — even if the patient was impregnated through rape or incest. The second (rtf file) stipulates that doctors cannot be sued if they decide to lie to an expectant mother regarding her baby's birth defects. A third requires clinics to post signs telling patients they cannot be forced to have an abortion. The first law prompted an immediate lawsuit from Tulsa's only abortion clinic. [more inside]
The Havasupai Tribe of Grand Canyon won a $700,000 settlement from Arizona State University, plus the return of remaining blood samples, regarding the use of members' blood and DNA for research. The Havasupai had originally contacted researchers at ASU concerning the Type II diabetes that has ravaged that tribe and others, particularly in the Southwest. [more inside]
When Raymond Dunn, Jr. was born in 1975, he had a fractured skull, an undersized brain, and severe developmental disabilities due to a lack of oxygen. He was not expected to survive his first year. [more inside]
On the ethics of illegally downloading e-books; a Teleread essay full of interesting links about these modern e-reading times. Inspired in part by this New York Times Ethicist column, and brought to my attention by this ask.metafilter question.
When is paying $950/month for a bedroom in a boarding house potentially tax evasion and an ethics violation? When you're a congressman living at the C Street House in Washington D.C., where the going rates for similar accommodations is typically four times that amount. Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics In Washington (CREW) has filed official complaints with both houses of Congress. Rachel Maddow covers the scandal on her show. [Transcript here -- it's the lead story on this page.]
"When you see a wildlife photo or film that looks too good to be true, it probably is." Audubon Magazine's Ted Williams investigates game farms and the widespread use of captive animals in wildlife photography. (via) [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
ZDNet(!) reports on a strange case of technology journalism malfeasance. It turns out that journalist Randall C. Kennedy has been posing as the CTO of Devil Mountain Software, purveyor of Windows performance data.
"..when a victorious chief minister openly admits that he himself approached the leading newspaper of his state with money for “positive stories” after learning that the newspaper had signed a “package deal” with his rivals to print negative stories, you had better sit up and take urgent notice"
Much has been made of the ethics of bloggers who receive compensation -- usually in the form of demo units and trial versions of products -- in exchange for reviewing those products, often with the implicit understanding that the review is a positive one. These questions prompted an FTC investigation, and last fall the agency revised their formal guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials to include bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The Interactive Agency Bureau maintains that the guidelines are unconstitutional, and is calling for the FTC to rescind the rules as they apply to bloggers and other online outlets. The latest casualty? An intern at TechCrunch asked for a MacBook Air in exchange for a post. In the wake of this revelation, TechCrunch fired the intern and issued a formal apology. To his credit, the intern has posted his own mea culpa.
Do plants have a consciousness? Michael Pollan seemed to argue they do in The Botony of Desire (original book) and that they were inextricably involved in co-evolution with their human cultivators, affecting human development, perhaps as much as the humans who are selectively choosing traits in plants. If that’s true, that plants are conscious, is it okay to eat them?