Tag Archives | Ethics

We Don’t Torture People

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is an independent, non-profit organization that applies psychological knowledge and expertise to promote peace, social justice, human rights, and sustainability. Members are psychologists, students, and other advocates for social change in the United States and around the world. Appalled by the torture program at Guantanamo Bay, they are appealing to other health care professionals to join them in signing a letter of protest addressed to President Obama (below).

One of the main signatories is Martha Davis, director of Doctors of the Dark Side, who has just released this video of actress Mercedes Ruehl and attorney Kristine Huskey in a reprise of ex-CIA Director George Tenet’s extraordinary argument about torture with Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes:

Dear Colleagues,

Attached and pasted below is a letter to President Obama that is being sponsored by Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR).

Because the hunger strike at Guantanamo is a medical emergency, and the result of intolerable delays in closing the detention facility, health care professionals and human rights advocates bring a special voice to this crisis.

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The Resurrection of the Wooly Mammoth

Woolly mammothYou’d think anyone who had watched Jurassic Park would know that this is likely to be a very bad idea, but regardless the scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep is plotting to use the DNA of the Wooly Mammoth to clone the ancient beast, reports the Guardian:

The pioneering scientist who created Dolly the sheep has outlined how cells plucked from frozen woolly mammoth carcasses might one day help resurrect the ancient beasts.

The notional procedure – bringing with it echoes of the Jurassic Park films – was spelled out by Sir Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh-based stem-cell scientist, whose team unveiled Dolly as the world’s first cloned mammal in 1996.

Though it is unlikely that a mammoth could be cloned in the same way as Dolly, more modern techniques that convert tissue cells into stem cells could potentially achieve the feat, Wilmut says in an article today for the academic journalism website, The Conversation.

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Deception Services: Company Offers To Create And Maintain Webs Of Lies

deception servicesThis model seems, ironically, like a more direct and honest version of what many businesses already do. As described by the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Tim Green will tell anyone anything, for a fee. As the founder of Paladin Deception Services, he will say what clients want him to say to anyone calling on his dedicated phone lines. He provides cover for cheating husbands, fake references for job-seekers and even “doctors” to confirm that someone needs a sick day.

Since he started Paladin in 2009, he has had about 250 clients on a ongoing basis. When potential clients call, Green connects them with one of his five employees. He picks the one best-suited for the job — male, female, or someone fluent in Spanish or Chinese. One employee is known for his ability to speak with a British accent or a Southern drawl. Paladin provides a phone number with any area code in the country.

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Study Suggests Thinking About Money Causes Immoral Behavior

thinking about moneyEven thinking about money causes immoral behavior? A reminder to keep your thoughts clean via MarketWatch:

People are more likely to lie or make immoral decisions after being exposed to money-related words, according to researchers from Harvard and the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business who published a report last month.

The findings show that “even if we are well intentioned, even if we think we know right from wrong, there may be factors influencing our decisions and behaviors that we’re not aware of.”

The study asked college students studying business to make sentences out of various word clusters before answering questions and playing several games. Some of the phrases contained a financial focus such as “She spends money liberally,” and others that were neutral, such as “She walked on grass.” Researchers found that people who were exposed to the financial phrases lied more often in subsequent activities.

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Sex After Dementia

via Marina Kamenev The Atlantic  tree-97986_640

Desire for physical intimacy doesn’t disappear when Alzheimer’s sets in. Supporting that aspect of a patient’s wellbeing raises a host of ethical questions.

Earlier this year, a sex worker in Sydney, Australia — I’ll call her Emma — got a call from a woman whose 93-year-old father was confined to a nursing home with dementia.

“You could tell in her voice that she was really nervous. But you could also tell that she knew what she wanted for her dad,” Emma said. He missed the intimacy of sex.

Emma works a day job in elderly care, but she has also been a sex worker specializing in working with people with disabilities, including dementia, for 30 years.

This nursing home resident had been an “openly sexual” person in his later life and had now asked his daughter to find him a woman. The nursing home staff was supportive, welcoming Emma into the facility and assisting her to move the elderly man into a comfortable position.

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Can Scientific Belief Make People More Moral?

science moralsIs science ethically neutral, or can it supplant religion in providing a moral compass? PLOS ONE on a series of studies finding that exposure to science (either in one’s personal background or merely by being asked to think about science momentarily) made college students more likely to divide up money fairly, more likely to express interest in positive behaviors such as volunteering and donating blood, and more likely to strongly condemn a date rapist in a hypothetical story:

No studies to date [had] directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.

Across four studies, both naturalistic measures of science exposure and experimental primes of science led to increased adherence to moral norms and more morally normative behaviors across domains.

Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality.

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“It is Indisputable that the United States Engaged in the Practice of Torture”

Still from "Doctors of the Dark Side"

Still from “Doctors of the Dark Side”

For those who have any doubt that the United States government has sanctioned the use of torture in recent years, Ritika Singh, a research assistant at the Brookings Institution, reports for Lawfare that,

The Constitution Project has released the results of its Task Force on Detainee Treatment in the form of this 577-page report—which concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that “the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”

The people who create and run the torture programs are oftentimes doctors, as depicted in the new documentary Doctors of the Dark Side.

Lawfare provides the Statement of the Task Force:

This report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the result of almost two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.

The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.

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Guantanamo Hunger Striker Tells His Story

SamirThis may be the most important report out of Gitmo ever. If it doesn’t cause Americans to seriously question the indefinite detention of prisoners without trial, what will? (Not to mention the brutal “medical” treatment at the hands of American doctors.) Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, told this story to his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call (in Arabic, translated to English):

One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here.

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Can We Patent Life?

An interesting question posed by Michael Specter in The New Yorker‘s new Science & Tech section:

On April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk, who had recently invented the polio vaccine, appeared on the television news show “See It Now” to discuss its impact on American society. Before the vaccine became available, dread of polio was almost as widespread as the disease itself. Hundreds of thousands fell ill, most of them children, many of whom died or were permanently disabled.

The vaccine changed all that, and Edward R. Murrow, the show’s host, asked Salk what seemed to be a reasonable question about such a valuable commodity: “Who owns the patent on this vaccine?” Salk was taken aback. “Well, the people,” he said. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

The very idea, to Salk, seemed absurd. But that was more than fifty years ago, before the race to mine the human genome turned into the biological Klondike rush of the twenty-first century.

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Study: Parents Lie Frequently To Their Children To Control Their Behavior

And we wonder why grown-up society looks the way it does. BPS Research Digest reveals what you suspected:

We teach our kids that it is wrong to lie, even though most of us do it everyday. In fact, it is often our children who we are lying to. A new study, involving participants in the USA and China, is one of the first to investigate parental lies, finding that the majority of parents tell their children lies as a way to control their behavior.

Gail Heyman and her colleagues presented parents in the USA and China with 16 “instrumental lies” in four categories – lies to influence kids’ eating habits (e.g. “you need to finish all your food or you will get pimples all over your face”); lies to get the children to leave or stay put (“If you don’t come with me now, I will leave you here by yourself); lies to control misbehaviour (“If you don’t behave I will call the police”); and lies to do with shopping and money (“I did not bring any money with me today.”).

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