Tag Archives | Ethics

Using Technology To Reach Buddhist Enlightenment

Via the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, J. Hughes on the use of new technologies in genetics and neurology to suppress vice and accelerate spiritual progress:

The Buddhist tradition recognizes that we are not all born with equal propensities to wisdom or moral behavior, and that Enlightenment is only possible for the very few [...] A fully virtuous life is biologically impossible for most people. But, given the rapid advance of neurotechnologies, “if these cognitive shortcomings could be compensated for, or balanced, through the use of safe and voluntary enhancement techniques, then it would be morally desirable to do so.” If specific, consistent moral behavioral orientations – truthfulness, compassion and so on – can be identified, and our likelihood of manifesting them is strongly influenced by inherited genetic predispositions or persistent neurochemistry, then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate.

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On Facebook, Dalai Lama Says That Religion Is Obsolete

If religion is no longer useful as a framework for morality, then what purpose does it retain — to provide a warm feeling of soothing comfort in a harsh world? Don’t we have spas for that? Via io9:

This past Monday, people who have the Dalai Lama as a Facebook friend found this little gem in their newsfeed.

The Dalai Lama’s advice sounds startling familiar — one that echos the sentiment put forth by outspoken atheist Sam Harris who argues that science can answer moral questions. The Dalai Lama is no stranger to scientific discourse, and has developed a great fascination with neuroscience in particular.

It’s important to remember that Tibetan Buddhists, while rejecting belief in God and the soul, still cling to various metaphysical beliefs, including karma, infinite rebirths, and reincarnation.

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What’s Wrong With Todd Akin and His Critics: Moral Coherence

Picture: US Congress (PD)

Do you accept or dismiss information depending upon your emotional reaction to it?  Brian D. Earp writes at Oxford’s Practical Ethics blog:

Should abortions be allowed in the case of rape? Republican Todd Akin—running for the U.S. Senate from the state of Missouri—thinks not. His reasoning is as follows:

From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy resulting from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

There appears to be no scientific basis for the claim that the trauma of forced intercourse can interrupt ovulation or in any other way prevent a pregnancy; indeed pregnancy is just as likely after rape as after consensual sex, according to the evidence I have seen.

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California Doctors Banned For Unauthorized Human Experiments

Shades of Nazi Germany? Alyssa Newcomb reports for ABC News:

Two University of California at Davis surgeons have been banned from doing human research after they injected bacteria into the head wounds of consenting terminally ill patients without university authorization, according to a letter sent from the school to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The university ordered Drs. J. Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph J. Schrot to immediately “cease and desist” doing the procedure last fall, according to the letter, dated Oct. 17, 2011, obtained by the Sacramento Bee.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has ordered a review into the actions of Muizelaar, who is chairman of the department of neurological surgery at UC Davis, and Schrot, an assistant professor…

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Baby Drop-Off Boxes Spread Across Europe

The BBC on a burgeoning recession-era parenting technique — towns provide a box in which struggling parents may stick babies they are incapable of caring for:

Boxes where parents can leave an unwanted baby, common in medieval Europe, have been making a comeback over the last 10 years. Supporters say a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street – but the UN says it violates the rights of the child.

There is a stainless steel hatch with a handle. Pull that hatch open and there are neatly folded blankets for a baby. The warmth is safe and reassuring. There is a letter, too, telling you whom to call if you change your mind.

Critics say that baby boxes are a throwback to the past when the medieval church had what were called “foundling wheels” – round windows through which unwanted babies could be passed.

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No, It Has Not ‘Always Been This Way’

Thomas S. Harrington writes at Common Dreams:

One of the more common responses I get when I try to point out the alarming decline of basic civic values and practices in the U.S. is one version or another of the following: “What are you getting so excited about? It is a dog eat dog world today, just as it has been for the entire trajectory of the human race. The powerful have always sought to fully exploit their ability to toy with the lives of “lesser beings”.

And with this response, these men—they are almost always men—feel they have really put the silly dreamer in his place, and that, moreover, that they have actually engaged in an argument and won it.

And because most Americans today have been brought up on a steady diet of punditry churned out by people whose knowledge base and thinking skills are said to be oh-so-much-greater and sharper than their own, they tend to have very little confidence in their ability to generate personal opinions on social and political issues, and hence, believe they have very little standing for contesting the Darwinian pronouncements of their local, self-proclaimed Alpha male.

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The Problem With Moderates

Plato And AristotleIn a world of ever-widening extremes – from weather patterns to wealth disparities to polarized politics – what does it mean to be a moderate? More specifically, how does this term apply to religion?

Viewed in the context of most everyday activities and situations and in line with Aristotle’s idea of the “Golden Mean” (which states that virtue lies at the midpoint between two vices; i.e. courage lies between cowardice and recklessness, etc.), it could be said that a moderate stance is generally better than an extremist one. For example, being a moderate drinker seems to strike a pretty good balance between being healthy and having fun, as opposed to the opposite extremes of being an ascetic teetotaler or a raging alcoholic. Likewise, being politically moderate, if nothing else, tends to generate far less strife during dinner conversations amid mixed company or at large family gatherings.

Then again, for some activities moderate is still too far from the bell curve – particularly in cases where conventional wisdom has taken up residence at one of the distant ends of the spectrum of possibilities.  For example, while being moderately racist may be an improvement over being a hate-filled white supremacist neo-Nazi skinhead, it still leaves a lot to be desired if hoping to join enlightened humanity in recognizing equal rights for all people based on our shared human condition.… Read the rest

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Are Creative People More Likely to Be Immoral?

InkblotTravis Riddle writes in Scientific American:

In the mid 1990’s, Apple Computers was a dying company.  Microsoft’s Windows operating system was overwhelmingly favored by consumers, and Apple’s attempts to win back market share by improving the Macintosh operating system were unsuccessful.  After several years of debilitating financial losses, the company chose to purchase a fledgling software company called NeXT.  Along with purchasing the rights to NeXT’s software, this move allowed Apple to regain the services of one of the company’s founders, the late Steve Jobs.  Under the guidance of Jobs, Apple returned to profitability and is now the largest technology company in the world, with the creativity of Steve Jobs receiving much of the credit.

However, despite the widespread positive image of Jobs as a creative genius, he also has a dark reputation for encouraging censorship,“ losing sight of honesty and integrity”, belittling employees, and engaging in other morally questionable actions.

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Hospitals Begin Planting Debt Collectors In Emergency Rooms

254668516_97856d3d0fThe New York Times reports on a new model of emergency care—debt collectors posing as medical staff:

Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.

This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country.

To patients, the debt collectors may look indistinguishable from hospital employees, may demand they pay outstanding bills and may discourage them from seeking emergency care at all. The attorney general, Lori Swanson, also said that Accretive employees may have broken the law by not clearly identifying themselves as debt collectors…

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Is War Porn A Natural By-Product of War?

Lynndie EnglandJoanna Schroeder wonders whether war porn is deviant, or a natural by-product of teaching young people to kill, on the Good Men Project:

The nation was shocked when we learned of more supposed bad behavior by US troops overseas, in the form of posing with the bodies of dead enemy combatants. This isn’t shocking news though, is it? It’s been happening since the beginning of this war, and as far as we know, as long as war has been happening, in one form or the other.

In a fascinating Salon.com piece, former infantry soldier and combat veteran John Rico an insider’s perspective on the function of so-called war porn, and wonders what it is about society that makes us so shocked to learn that young people who’ve been trained to fight and kill since they were 18 years old have reveled in the death of their enemies:

I have to say that I find all the political and polite posturing to be quite amusing.

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