Tag Archives | Ethics

Cleansing The Soul By Hurting the Flesh: The Guilt-Reducing Effect of Pain

Lent personified at a Carnival celebration. Detail of 1559 painting "The Battle between Carnival and Lent" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

"Lent personified at a Carnival celebration" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1559)

From ScienceDaily:

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Disgust Has Helped Formed Our Morality

Pig-PenIt’s a controversial opinion but sure is interesting. Keep this in mind next time you encounter someone “hygienically challenged” … Jessica Marshall writes in Discovery News:

More controversially, some argue that effects of disgust are even more far-reaching, influencing how societies operate and possibly forming the evolutionary foundations of morality.

“If I go around leaving poo in your front lawn or spitting in your cups or making nasty smells in public transport or if I go to church in my pajamas, I’m threatening you with my bodily fluids,” Curtis said. “These are manners, but they’re also the precursor of moral behavior. That’s at least one of the ways that morality could have evolved in society: simple rules about not getting other people sick with your emanations.”

Studies have even shown a connection between physical disgust and moral disgust, Curtis said. “If you sit people in a room with bad smells, they punish more severely,” she said.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Did Societies Evolve To Be Corrupt?

Riot PoliceGood question. Alasdair Wilkins asks on io9.com:

Corruption is as old as human history. For as long as people have organized themselves into groups with powerful leaders, those leaders have sometimes abused their power. But evolutionary biologists say corruption might actually be holding societies together.

That’s the theory put forward by evolutionary biologists Francisco Ubeda and Edgar Duenez. The pair used game theory to figure out why people cooperate to form a society even though the ones in charge are corrupt. The model they developed assumes that government officials and law enforcers — in other words, the individuals responsible for punishing noncooperators — can get away with a certain amount of noncooperation themselves in the form of corruption, and that they can sidestep most punishments when caught being corrupt.

Their findings make a lot of intuitive sense — most people will continue to cooperate to keep their society together, in part because they don’t want to be punished by law enforcers.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

WikiLeaks Supporters ‘Operation Payback’ Wish To Be A Force for ‘Chaotic Good’

WikileaksChaoticGoodAnyone else seeing a clear Dungeons & Dragons reference the mainstream media will be oblivious to? Josh Halliday and Charles Arthur write in the Guardian:

A 22-year-old spokesman, who wished to be known only as "Coldblood", told the Guardian that the group – which is about a thousand strong – is "quite a loose band of people who share the same kind of ideals" and wish to be a force for "chaotic good".
There is no real command structure in the group, the London-based spokesman said, while most of its members are teenagers who are "trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have". But others are parents, IT professionals and people who happen to have time – and resources – on their hands.
Continue Reading

U.S. Scientists Significantly More Likely to Publish Fake Research

Professor FrinkVia LiveScience:

U.S. scientists are significantly more likely to publish fake research than scientists from elsewhere, finds a trawl of officially withdrawn (retracted) studies, published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Fraudsters are also more likely to be “repeat offenders,” the study shows.

The study author searched the PubMed database for every scientific research paper that had been withdrawn — and therefore officially expunged from the public record — between 2000 and 2010.

A total of 788 papers had been retracted during this period. Around three quarters of these papers had been withdrawn because of a serious error (545); the rest of the retractions were attributed to fraud (data fabrication or falsification).

The highest number of retracted papers were written by first authors in the U.S. (260), accounting for a third of the total. One in three of these was attributed to fraud.

The UK, India, Japan, and China each had more than 40 papers withdrawn during the decade.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The 33 (Formerly) Trapped Chilean Miners Have A Contract to Stop Any Individual From Profiting at the Expense of the Group

ChileMinersInteresting way to deal with a horrible situation that these fellas found themselves into. Glad to see the rescue operation is going well, Godspeed. Fiona Govan writes in the Telegraph:

The 33 trapped Chilean miners have moved to stop any individual from profiting at the expense of the group, drawing up a legal contract to share the proceeds from the story of their ordeal.

The men have called in a lawyer to draw up a contract ensuring they will equally profit from the lucrative media deals they expect to secure for sharing the story of their two month survival in the hope that they never have to work again.

The group have already rejected requests for interviews and have instead made plans to jointly write a book about the days spent trapped below the Atacama Desert following the mine collapse on August 5.

The details of the discussions between the men were disclosed in a letter by one of the miners to his wife.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The War Addicts: The Pentagon and Military Would Do Almost Anything to Continue A Never-Ending War

Bad WarTom Engelhardt of TomDispatch via Alternet:

Sometimes it’s the little things in the big stories that catch your eye. On Monday, the Washington Post ran the first of three pieces adapted from Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars, a vivid account of the way the U.S. high command boxed the Commander-in-Chief into the smallest of Afghan corners.

As an illustration, the Post included a graphic the military offered President Obama at a key November 2009 meeting to review war policy. It caught in a nutshell the favored “solution” to the Afghan War of those in charge of fighting it — Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus, then-Centcom commander, General Stanley McChrystal, then-Afghan War commander, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others.

Labeled “Alternative Mission in Afghanistan,” it’s a classic of visual wish fulfillment. Atop it is a soaring green line that represents the growing strength of the notoriously underwhelming “Afghan Forces,” military and police, as they move toward a theoretical goal of 400,000 — an unlikely “end state” given present desertion rates.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

From the recent March/April issue of Archaeology. Zach Zorich writes:

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Will The People Of The Future Regard Us As Barbarians?

veal-calvesSocieties past were barbaric: slavery, witch-burnings, child labor, and wooden teeth. Writing in the Washington Post, Princeton professor Kwame Anthony Appiah wonders what future generations will condemn us for. He suggests our prison system, treatment of animals in factory farming, neglect of the elderly, and desecration of the environment as four contenders for what will be viewed as our greatest crimes. What do you think?

We already know that the massive waste of life in our prisons is morally troubling; those who defend the conditions of incarceration usually do so in non-moral terms (citing costs or the administrative difficulty of reforms); and we’re inclined to avert our eyes from the details. Check, check and check.

And the full extent of the punishment prisoners face isn’t detailed in any judge’s sentence. More than 100,000 inmates suffer sexual abuse, including rape, each year; some contract HIV as a result. Our country holds at least 25,000 prisoners in isolation in so-called supermax facilities, under conditions that many psychologists say amount to torture.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

How to Respect Sex Workers

Monica Shores on Alternet writes a great short piece with links for further research on how to respect sex workers:

Most women have strong feelings about the sex industry, be they for or against. (And many, of course, remain undecided.) When dealing with such an emotionally volatile topic, it’s easy to inadvertently silence or even insult sex workers themselves. (As a participant in sex worker activism for the past four years, I’ve seen that in action and on the page.) There’s a way to debate commercial sex while respecting the industry’s laborers. Here are some suggestions:

1) Don’t diminish or mock sex workers’ agency. When discussing a person coerced or forced into sex work, a sensitive recognition of the violation they’ve suffered is definitely in order. However, it’s important to let individuals themselves make this distinction, rather than automatically assigning them a label that indicates lack of agency. For instance, referring to all sex workers as “prostituted” or “used” can be violating in and of itself if the person identifies their work as a free choice.

Read the rest
Continue Reading