Tag Archives | Ethics
In the New York Times, Peter Singer and Agata Sagan say it’s only a matter of time before we pinpoint chemicals in the brain that produce empathetic behavior. Will religion be rendered obsolete? And, when we develop an ethical-behavior-boosting pill, will it be recommended (or mandatory) that everyone take it?
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If continuing brain research does in fact show biochemical differences between the brains of those who help others and the brains of those who do not, could this lead to a “morality pill” — a drug that makes us more likely to help? Given the many other studies linking biochemical conditions to mood and behavior, and the proliferation of drugs to modify them that have followed, the idea is not far-fetched. If so, would people choose to take it? Could criminals be given the option, as an alternative to prison, of a drug-releasing implant that would make them less likely to harm others?
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A neuro-imaging study shows that personal values that people refuse to disavow, even when offered cash to do so, are processed differently in the brain than those values that are willingly sold.”Our experiment found that the realm of the sacred — whether it’s a strong religious belief, a national identity or a code of ethics — is a distinct cognitive process,” says Gregory Berns, director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University and lead author of the study. The results were published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Sacred values prompt greater activation of an area of the brain associated with rules-based, right-or-wrong thought processes, the study showed, as opposed to the regions linked to processing of costs-versus-benefits.
Berns headed a team that included economists and information scientists from Emory University, a psychologist from the New School for Social Research and anthropologists from the Institute Jean Nicod in Paris, France.
[Site editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the new Disinformation title 50 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know: Religion, authored by Daniele Bolelli.]
The history of Christianity is like a treasure chest for anyone who is fond of contradictions. The Gospels bicker with each other by relating similar tales in very different ways. But even more obviously, Christianity has often so dramatically departed from the words attributed to Jesus as to make you wonder how these glaring contradictions can be justified. Jesus tells you to “Love your enemies” and “Turn the other cheek”? So let’s show how much we love Jesus by waging crusades, inquisitions, witch-hunts, and brutal campaigns of repression against anyone who doesn’t love Him as much as we do. Jesus’s pacifism has drowned in the hyper-violence that has characterized much of Christian history.
But—we may object—most Christians alive today seem to have lost the bloodthirsty enthusiasm of their ancestors, and are no longer inclined to exterminate non-Christians.… Read the rest
US financial regulators charged a father and son in Utah state with operating a $220 million property investment Ponzi scheme which targeted fellow members of the Mormon church. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wendell Jacobson and his son Allen Jacobson, of Fountain Green in central Utah, with selling shares in their purported real estate business and using the funds from some investors to pay returns promised to others. It said that since 2008 the two had solicited investments into their business of ostensibly buying, rehabilitating and then renting out properties. They appeared to use the memberships in the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — the Mormon church — "to make connections and win over the trust of prospective investors," the SEC said. Securities in their businesses were sold to investors without registering with the SEC as required by law.
Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in — a government, company, or marriage — even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust?
A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, illuminates the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo — a process called “system justification.”System justification isn’t the same as acquiescence, explains Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”
Reviewing laboratory and cross-national studies, the paper illuminates four situations that foster system justification: system threat, system dependence, system inescapability, and low personal control …
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Some atheist scientists with children embrace religious traditions for social and personal reasons, according to research from Rice University and the University at Buffalo — The State University of New York (SUNY).
The study also found that some atheist scientists want their children to know about different religions so their children can make informed decisions about their own religious preferences.
“Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society — so much so that even some of society’s least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives,” said Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, the study’s principal investigator and co-author of a paper in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
The researchers found that 17 percent of atheists with children attended a religious service more than once in the past year. The research was conducted through interviews with a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S.
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Buddhist scholar Graeme MacQueen gave a talk that explained why Buddhists should take action to stop war and its causes. Unfortunately, even the most compassionate people in our western society often find justification for doing nothing while suffering grows around them. Many Buddhists are in that frame of mind and they justify their non-action by claiming that their responsibility is soley to avoid violence in themselves. But Professor MacQueen has challenged this stance, recalling Buddhist scripture and revisiting the concept of a bodhisattva.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Similarly, Professor MacQueen asks in this talk if we have the right to “give away things that don’t belong to us … the earth … species … ecosystems … the futures of our children and other people’s children.” Through silent collaboration, that is what many people are doing today.
A Dutch researcher has created a virus with the potential to kill half of the planet’s population. Now, researchers and experts in bioterrorism debate whether it is a good idea to publish the virus creation ”recipe”. However, several voices argue that such research should have not happened in the first place. The virus is a strain of avian influenza H5N1 genetically modified to be extremely contagious. It was created by researcher Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands. The work was first presented at a conference dedicated to influenza, that took place in September in Malta. Avian influenza emerged in Asia about 10 years ago. Since then there were fewer than 600 infection cases reported in humans. On the other hand, Fouchier’s genetically modified strain is extremely contagious and dangerous, killing about 50% of infected patients. The former strain did not represent a global threat, as transmission from human to human is rare. Or, at least, it was before Fouchier genetically modified it.