Tag Archives | Ethics

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jonathan Haidt On the Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives


Are you a conservative who believes liberals have no moral values? Are you a liberal who believes conservatives have no moral values? Either way, you’d be wrong.

Do you believe liberals have an unbiased grasp of reality? Do you believe conservatives have an unbiased grasp of reality? Again, either way, you’d be wrong.

Watch as psychologist Jonathan Haidt tries to lead a group of (mostly) liberals out of their “comforting delusions” (his exact phrase) at the 2008 TED conference, and wonder how successful he’d be in front of a group of Tea Partiers.

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The Harm Caused By Charity (Video)

A short animated film of a talk by philosopher/theorist Slavoj Zizek, who is always eager to push people’s buttons. Zizek examines the ethics and effects of charitable giving, and concludes that charity has a dark side, in that it helps preserve the status quo:

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Jesus Thwarts An Armed Robbery (Video)

JesusPowersIn all fairness to the Good Lord’s superpowers, this convert to Christ did go on to rob another store the same day. I wonder how he’d hold up against Darth Vader, who recently robbed a bank in Long Island. Via the AP:

Authorities in South Florida have charged the man they say backed out of robbing a MetroPCS store after an employee spoke with him about Jesus. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that 37-year-old Israel Camacho of Coral Springs later committed an armed robbery caught on surveillance video at a Payless ShoeSource.

Investigators say Camacho entered a Metro PCS store in Pompano Beach last Friday, chatting with an employee and then displaying a gun and demanding cash from the register. The employee, Nayara Goncalves, spoke with Camacho about church and God and eventually convinced him not to hurt her.

Authorities say he robbed the Payless ShoeSource a few hours later. He has been charged with armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.

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Babies Display Sense Of Good and Evil

Eyebrow_babyEver gaze into a baby’s eyes and think, “You are a little sociopath”? Thankfully, you’re wrong — a new study shows that babies as young as six months demonstrate a sense of morality, suggesting that we are born with the ability to know good from evil, and making it harder to train an army of evil babies. From PhysOrg:

The research was carried out by a team led by Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University in Connecticut in the US, and used the ability to differentiate between unhelpful and helpful behavior as their indicator of moral judgement. The results contradict the theories of Sigmund Freud and others, who thought human beings start out as “amoral animals”, or a moral blank state. Bloom said there is mounting scientific evidence that this may not be true and that “some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone.”

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Lying Children Will Grow Up To Be Successful Citizens

Did we all already know this … or is it a great leap forward in our understanding? Richard Alleyne writes in the Telegraph:
Bart Simpson Loves You

Researchers have found that the ability to tell fibs at the age of two is a sign of a fast developing brain and means they are more likely to have successful lives.

They found that the more plausible the lie, the more quick witted they will be in later years and the better their abiliy to think on their feet.

It also means that they have developed “executive function” — the ability to invent a convincing lie by keeping the truth at the back of their mind.

“Parents should not be alarmed if their child tells a fib,” said Dr Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto Universit who carried out the research.

“Almost all children lie. Those who have better cognitive development lie better because they can cover up their tracks.

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Can Science Answer The Big Moral Questions?

Defenders of religion argue that no matter how much information science gives us about the world, it can never answer fundamental questions such as “Why are we here?” and “What is good/evil?” — That’s what we have religion/spirituality for.

Speaking at the TED conference, Sam Harris lays out how he believes science can in fact provide us with the answers to basic moral questions (and give us better answers than the Bible).

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