Tag Archives | Ethics
From the late great David Foster Wallace:
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Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships.
The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some in-frangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.
Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.
This should be more troubling, but it feels like business as usual in Washington. Dan Foomkin writes on the Huffington Post:
Members of the House of Representatives considerably outperform the stock market in their personal investments, according to a new academic study.
Four university researchers examined 16,000 common stock transactions made by approximately 300 House representatives from 1985 to 2001, and found what they call “significant positive abnormal returns,” with portfolios based on congressional trades beating the market by about 6 percent annually.
What’s their secret? The report speculates, but does not conclude, it could have something to do with the ability members of Congress have to trade on non-public information or to vote their own pocketbooks — or both.
A study of senators by the same team of researchers five years ago found members of the higher chamber even better at beating the market — outperforming it by about 10 percent, an amount the academics said was “both economically large and statistically significant.”
Read More: Huffington Post
Kate Kelland reports on Reuters via MNN:
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Simon Baron Cohen has been battling with evil all his life. As a scientist seeking to understand random acts of violence, from street brawls to psychopathic killings to genocide, he has puzzled for decades over what prompts such acts of human cruelty. And he’s decided that evil is not good enough.
“I’m not satisfied with the term ‘evil’,” says the Cambridge University psychology and psychiatry professor, one of the world’s top experts in autism and developmental psychopathology.
“We’ve inherited this word … and we use it to express our abhorrence when people do awful things, usually acts of cruelty, but I don’t think it’s anything more than another word for doing something bad. And as a scientist that doesn’t seem to me to be much of an explanation. So I’ve been looking for an alternative — we need a new theory of human cruelty.”
Baron Cohen, who is also director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge, has just written a book in which he calls for a kind of rebranding of evil to offer a more scientific explanation for why people kill and torture, or have such great difficulty understanding the feelings of others.
The UK Ministry of Defense experiences a moment of self-reflection that one can’t imagine happening at, say, the Pentagon. Richard Norton-Taylor and Rob Evans report for the Guardian:
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The growing use of unmanned aircraft in combat situations raises huge moral and legal issues, and threatens to make war more likely as armed robots take over from human beings, according to an internal study by the Ministry of Defence.
The report warns of the dangers of an “incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality”, referring to James Cameron’s 1984 movie, in which humans are hunted by robotic killing machines. It says the pace of technological development is accelerating at such a rate that Britain must quickly establish a policy on what will constitute “acceptable machine behaviour”.
“It is essential that before unmanned systems become ubiquitous (if it is not already too late) … we ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely,” warns the report, titled The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
This reminds me a bit of the old Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures except the results are more “shocking” (no pun intended). Laura Sanders writes on WIRED Science:
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SAN FRANCISCO — When faced with a thorny moral dilemma, what people say they would do and what people actually do are two very different things, a new study finds. In a hypothetical scenario, most people said they would never subject another person to a painful electric shock, just to make a little bit of money. But for people given a real-world choice, the sparks flew.
The results, presented April 4 at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, serve as a reminder that hypothetical scenarios don’t capture the complexities of real decisions.
Morality studies in the lab almost always rely on asking participants to imagine how they’d behave in a certain situation, study coauthor Oriel Feldman Hall of Cambridge University said in her presentation.
Guernica discusses how “plasticization” and other advances create new questions regarding how we may make use of corpses. Cadavers are in-demand like never before, for all sorts of purposes, including macabre exhibitions:
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Von Hagens is a tireless promoter of the ethical difference between his exhibits and the others. “All the copycat exhibitions are from China,” he told the New York Times. “And they’re all using unclaimed bodies.”
Both “Bodies…The Exhibition” and “Body Worlds” make use of a new technology von Hagens calls “Plastination,” by which all water is removed from human tissues and replaced with soft silicone polymers. A macabre detail included in the story von Hagens tells of the development of this process hints at the ethical questions that were to come: He first thought of creating perfectly preserved cross-sections of human bodies when he was at a sandwich shop one day watching a butcher run a ham through an electric slicer.
Our green, leafy friends lack faces and voices, but below the surface, they possess a surprising sensitivity and a desperate will to remain alive and unharmed. The New York Times questions the ethics of vegetarianism:
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Surely, I’d thought, science can defend the obvious, that slaughterhouse carnage is wrong in a way that harvesting a field of lettuces or, say, mowing the lawn is not. But instead, it began to seem that formulating a truly rational rationale for not eating animals, at least while consuming all sorts of other organisms, was difficult, maybe even impossible.
The differences that do seem to matter are things like the fact that plants don’t have nerves or brains. They cannot, we therefore conclude, feel pain. In other words, the differences that matter are those that prove that plants do not suffer as we do. Here the lack of a face on plants becomes important, too, faces being requisite to humans as proof not only that one is dealing with an actual individual being, but that it is an individual capable of suffering.
#1 “If you cannot respect the rights of others than you yourself shall be denied your rights.”
#2 “Shun all forms of social status and classes, these are mere illusions that attempt to justify ignoring the needs of society.”
#3 “If you make children, you are responsible for their health, education and happiness. If you take a person into your household or join a person in their household that has children of their own you are to accept full responsibility of their care as if they were your own.”
#4 “When you view someone as a burden to society, know this line of thinking is a much worse burden and more detrimental to society than poverty.”
#5 “When your religion, belief, ideology or personal opinion justifies violating the rights of others, know you are an enemy to the cooperative.”
#6 “Live a full and happy life, shun rewards and promises of heaven.… Read the rest
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Lent in the Christian tradition is a time of sacrifice and penance. It also is a period of purification and enlightenment. Pain purifies. It atones for sin and cleanses the soul. Or at least that’s the idea. Theological questions aside, can self-inflicted pain really alleviate the guilt associated with immoral acts?
A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, explores the psychological consequences of experiencing bodily pain.
Psychological scientist Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland, Australia and his colleagues recruited a group of young men and women under the guise they were part of a study of mental and physical acuity. Under this pretense, they asked them to write short essays about a time in their lives when they had ostracized someone; this memory of being unkind was intended to prime their personal sense of immorality — and make them feel guilty.