Tag Archives | Ethics

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

“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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.”).

Read the rest
Continue Reading

German Zoophiles Outraged Over Plan To Prohibit Sex With Animals

Is bestiality the world’s strangest civil rights issue? Der Spiegel reports:

The German government plans to ban zoophilia — sex with animals — as part of an amendment to the country’s animal protection law, but faces a backlash from the country’s zoophile community, estimated to number over 100,000. They say there’s nothing wrong with consensual sex and that the true violations of animal rights are taking place in the farming industry.

Zoophilia was legalized in Germany in 1969 and animal protection groups have been lobbying for a ban in a campaign that has been fuelled by heated debate in Internet forums in recent years. In the future, having sex with an animal could be punished with a fine of up to €25,000 ($32,400).

“We will take legal action against this,” Michael Kiok, chairman of zoophile pressure group ZETA (Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information), told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “We see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The Pressing Conundrum Of Creating Moral Machines

Via the New Yorker, Gary Marcus on how we will soon need our machines to be ethical, but have no idea how to do this:

Google’s driver-less cars are already street-legal in California, Florida, and Nevada, and some day similar devices may not just be possible but mandatory. Eventually automated vehicles will be able to drive better, and more safely than you can; within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and human driving will be so great you may not be legally allowed to drive your own car.

That moment will signal the era in which it will no longer be optional for machines to have ethical systems. Your car is speeding along a bridge when an errant school bus carrying forty children crosses its path. Should your car swerve, risking the life of its owner (you), in order to save the children, or keep going?

Many approaches to machine ethics are fraught [with problems].

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest

Continue Reading