"The Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey
asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives. For each issue, respondents were asked whether this is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue."
Can you defeat some of history's greatest philosophers, discover the true nature of morality, and escape the afterlife armed with only the Socratic method? You can if you are Socrates Jones:
Ace Accountant Pro Philosopher
Our Inconsistent Ethical Instincts
We like to believe that the principled side of the equation is rooted in deep, reasoned conviction. But a growing wealth of research shows that those values often prove to be finicky, inconsistent intuitions, swayed by ethically irrelevant factors. What you say now you might disagree with in five minutes. And such wavering has implications for both public policy and our personal lives. [more inside]
"All people are not equally entitled
to my time, affection, resources or moral duties." In his book "Against Fairness
) Stephen T. Asma argues in defense of favoritism
and against universal love
. "Whence then do we find morality and justice in an unfair world
?" [more inside]
The Delights Of Disgust
I confess I am disgusted by a great many things about people (and about myself, but let's put that aside). I do not believe it is particularly urgent for me to overcome my disgust, even if I recognize that this emotion must remain entirely separate from my thinking about which laws would be most just. I am disgusted by other people's dandruff, facial moles, food stuck in their beards, yet I do not accept that in feeling this way I am judging those people to be subhuman. I take it rather that humanity, while endearing, is also capable of appearing disgusting. [more inside]
During the Golden Age of Hollywood and until 1967, mainstream movie studios were banned by the Production Code
from depicting taboo topics like drug addiction, explicit murder and venereal disease, or even showing explicit nudity. But in the 1930's and 1940's, films marketed as "educational" could and did fly under the radar, and three of the best known 'educational' propaganda exploitation films are: Sex Madness
(1935), Reefer Madness
(1936) and The Cocaine Fiends
(1938). [more inside]
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides
from Radiolab's morality episode
: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp
' versus a calculator-wielding rationale
"Assassination and targeted killings have always been in the repertoires of military planners, but never in the history of warfare have they been so cheap and easy. The relatively low number of troop casualties for a military that has turned to drones means that there is relatively little domestic blowback against these wars. The United States and its allies have created the material conditions whereby these wars can carry on indefinitely. The non-combatant casualty rates in populations that are attacked by drones are slow and steady, but they add up. That the casualty rates are relatively low by historical standards — this is no Dresden — is undoubtedly a good thing, but it may allow the international media to overlook pesky little facts like the slow accretion of foreign casualties." -NYT Opinionator: The Moral Hazard of Drones
How Creativity Connects with Immorality Are creative types more likely to cross moral boundaries?
Elizabeth Kolbert explores the case against kids.
Drawing from the work of philosophy professors David Benatar
, Christine Overall
and economist Bryan Caplan
, Kolbert examines the justifications for reproducing.
Art. 6(2)(c) of Directive 98/44/EC
, passed by the EU Parliament and Council back in 1998, ruled that, among other things, "uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial
purposes" were to be considered unpatentable because of their being contrary to "ordre public" or morality. After German researcher Prof. Dr. Oliver Bruestle
was granted a patent
concerning a method for creating nerve precursor cells on the basis of embryonic stem cells, Greenpeace Germany
(in German) filed a lawsuit for annulment of the patent. The German Federal Court of Justice then referred to the European Court of Justice the question of whether embryonic stem cell therapy constitutes such a use of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes, under Directive 98/44/EC. [more inside]
The Truth About Race, Religion, And The Honor Code At BYU.
Deadspin has released an exposé on Brigham Young University's Honor Code
, which prohibits students from having sex or drinking alcohol. The article accuses the University of selectively punishing minority (and especially African American) athletes who violate the Code. Co-authored by Darron Smith,
a former BYU instructor. Responses from former BYU students at Religion Dispatches
, the Deseret News
and the Provo Daily Herald
. (Previously) [more inside]
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
It's the Right Thing to do. [more inside]
With the passing of Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells
, in 2009 President Obama expanded federal funding and rescinded George W. Bush's policies
that eliminated most federal funding and restricted human embryonic stem cell
research to the use of existing, contaminated cell lines. On Monday, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth blocked this new order after protestations
from James L. Sherley, a former scientist with the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, who operates the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company
, which aims to do "pro-life" therapeutic research without the "taint of embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials". [more inside]
The New Science of Morality
: An Edge
seminar featuring talks (with full
video, audio and text transcripts) by Paul Bloom, Roy Baumeister, Joshua Greene, Jonathan Haidt, Sam Harris, Marc Hauser, Josua Knobe, Elizabeth Phelps, and David Pizarro.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that humans have a rudimentary moral sense
from the very start of life... Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone... [But] the sense of right and wrong that [babies] naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be."
The Evolution of Morality
explains morality from a framework of kin selection, reciprocity, and learning. [more inside]
Sam Harris's talk on morality
at TED has sparked a debate on whether science can have anything to say about moral problems. Harris, a prominent author and outspoken atheist, makes the politically incorrect assertion that there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality (as opposed to the concept of moral relativism), and that the methods of science can be used to determine them. [more inside]
Researchers at MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
have identified two "morality centers" of the brain. In two separate experiments, they have shown a correlation between a particular part of the brain and the ability to make moral jusgments related to intent to commit a crime. In one experiment
, patients with brain damage in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex
of the brain don't consider hypothetical perpetrators to be morally responsible for their actions. In another experiment (noted on NPR today
) the researchers showed that they could switch off the moral judgment function by applying a magnetic field to the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ)
of the brain. The TPJ has also been implicated in "out of body experiences"
, both in cases of brain damage and by artificially stimulating the area.
"Although the word “entitlement” fits, it’s been used so frequently as to have become inadequate to capture the preening self-regard, the obliviousness to the damage that high-flying finance has inflicted on the real economy, the learned blindness to vital considerations in the pay equation. Getting an education, or even hard work, does not guarantee outcomes. One of the basic precepts of finance is that of a risk-return tradeoff: high potential payoff investments come with greater downside.
But how did that evolve into the current belief system among the incumbents, that Wall Street was a sure ride, a guaranteed “heads I win, tails you lose” bet?"
Yves Smith writes an essay
on 'indefensible men.'
The Moral Dimensions of Ditching a Mortgage:
University of Arizona law professor Brent T. White
has written a provocative new paper
(pdf) that urges homeowners with "underwater" mortgages"
to walk away
by strategically defaulting
on their mortgage debts. [more inside]
On Thursday, the 12th of November, Karen Armstrong
her Charter for Compassion
. The charter is the product of her Feb 2008 TED prize wish
to “restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.” The project began with a “unique web-based decision making platform”, allowing “thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter.” These contributions
were then given to the Council of Conscience
for the construction of the final charter. Previous attempts
at the promotion of a "global ethic" grounded in the Golden Rule
have been largely, globally, ignored. Some people dislike the idea of blurring the differences between religions
, some have problems with the Golden Rule itself
. [more inside]
When the Chrysler car company released its new model Dodge Coronet in 1967, the theme of its ad campaign was the "White Hat Special," with some ads featuring the "Dodge Girl" in her signature white Stetson
, saying that "Only the good guys could put together a deal like this." These ads didn't need any elaboration. Madison Avenue knew the potential buyers had all been raised on film and TV Westerns, and knew the symbolism of white hats. Roy Rogers
, Gene Autry
, the Lone Ranger
— cinematic heroes wore white hats, and bad guys wore black
. It was all very simple. The colors white and black have carried layers of moral meaning since long before American infatuation with cowboys and automobiles, and some scientists believe that those associations may be automatic and universal and ancient
). [more inside]
Markets and Morals
-- "without quite realising it, without ever deciding to do so, we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society" -- is the first of the 2009 Reith Lectures
delivered by Michael Sandel
) cf. Yglesias
on free markets
... [more inside]
How wrong is it to use a kitten for personal sexual pleasure? Depends on whether you've washed your hands
Homophobia is still alive and well in... San Francisco?!
The DNA Lounge
, the high-tech nightclub
of former Mozilla/Netscape wunderkind Jamie Zawinski
, has apparently run afoul of the local Alcohol Beverage Control board.
In 2008, during a period of time when the DNA Lounge -- with SFPD
and neighborhood approval -- successfully appealed an ABC decision blocking the club from offering all-ages live music, the ABC sent agents into the club during their GLBT nights, and are now trying to shut the club down for "lewdness", "discrimination", and "running a disorderly house
injurious to the public welfare and morals
".(NSFW!) The DNA is determined not to go quietly
into this goodnight
Darwin the abolitionist.
"The theory of evolution is regarded as a triumph of disinterested scientific reason. Yet, on the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species
, new research reveals that Darwin was driven to the idea of common descent by a great moral cause
"The more we understand why we demonise certain scientific advances, the better we will be able to decide whether some areas of research are so sensitive they should always remain off limits to science." Is Science Out of Control?