Tag Archives | Ethics

Quest For The Ultimate Human Killing Machine

Arnold Schwarzenegger T-800Guilt, tiredness, stress, shock – can specialized drugs help to mute the qualities that make soldiers human, asks Michael Hanlon in the Independent (with thanks to disinfo reader Freeman for the tip):

…The era of The Terminator, the perfect robotic killing machine, is decades away; to date, all efforts to create a humanoid robot that can climb the stairs, let alone fight the Taliban, have been risible. But scientists are reporting breakthroughs with the next-best thing – the creation of human terminators, who feel less pain, less terror and less fatigue than “non-enhanced” soldiers and whose very bodies may be augmented by powerful machines.

Efforts to understand the brain of the soldier and put this knowledge to good use have been going on for some time. Professor Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at Pennsylvania State University, studies the way neuroscience is being co-opted by the military. “Right now, this is the fastest-growing area of science,” he says.

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America is Not a Very Christian Nation

Christian Nation?Stephen Prothero writes at CNN:

In the never-ending debate over whether the United States is a Christian nation, recent events support the nay-sayers. I am referring to the troubles of Herman Cain and Joe Paterno.

How we respond to ethical conundrums often boils down to empathy. In the abortion debate, do you identify with the woman who wants an abortion or with the fetus? Concerning the federal deficit, do you identify with the wealthy person who might see his taxes rise or with the poor person who might see her unemployment benefits extended?

One purpose of the world’s great religions is to widen our circle of empathy beyond ourselves and our families to others in our community, and in the wider world. Christianity, for example, has long taught that we should empathize with “the least of these,” and particularly with the poor and oppressed (see Luke 4:18).

The morality plays we are now witnessing — the sexual harassment allegations swirling around Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and the sexual assault charges swirling around the Penn State football program headed by former coach Joe Paterno — provide an opportunity to assess just where our collective empathy lies …

Read more here.… Read the rest

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Yes, A Monkey Head Transplant Experiment Occurred in the 1960s

This is one of those things that would be hard to say without the video evidence. As Cyriaque Lamar explains on io9.com:
We've been loving the Midnight Archive's series of macabre web shorts (previously: 1, 2). One of their more recent installments is a short documentary on the late Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon who successfully transplanted the head of one monkey onto the body of another ...
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Are You An Anarchist?

anarchRegardless of what your answer is, David Graeber’s classic essay “Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You” is food for thought regarding what is possible. Via the Anarchist Library:

Many people seem to think that anarchists are proponents of violence, chaos, and destruction, that they are against all forms of order and organization, or that they are crazed nihilists who just want to blow everything up. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Anarchists are simply people who believe human beings are capable of behaving in a reasonable fashion without having to be forced to. It is really a very simple notion. But it’s one that the rich and powerful have always found extremely dangerous.

At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how.

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One Thing You Can’t Hide … Is the Authoritarian Inside

John LennonThomas S. Harrington asks “what does it really mean to be a liberal?” on CommonDreams:

The drive to achieve harmony — bring what is thought and felt inside into line with one’s daily praxis — has always been an issue of central importance to most cultures. Indeed, the term “integrity” comes from the idea of “being of one piece”, that is, having few if any fissures between the inner and the outer self.

Maybe it is just me, but I don’t hear much about people in public life or in positions of authority over our children talking much about the goal of achieving internal harmony anymore. And on the rare occasions when I do, it is usually with the purpose of mocking such seekers as superfluous or flaky.

My sense is that this failure to promote or celebrate the search for inner harmony may have lot to do with the presence of in our lives of massive, and therefore seemingly insurmountable, moral inconsistencies.

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Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape

What Does God Need With A Starship?

Michael Martin makes a few good points regarding the claim that without religion there is no basis for morality:

Is Theistic Morality Necessarily Objectivist?:

Let us assume for the moment that the Biblical position on rape is clear: God condemns rape. But why? One possibility is that He condemns rape because it is wrong. Why is it wrong? It might be supposed that God has various reasons for thinking rape is wrong: it violates the victim’s rights, it traumatizes the victim, it undermines the fabric of society, and so on. All of these are bad making properties. However, if these reasons provide objective grounds for God thinking that rape is wrong, then they provide objective grounds for others as well. Moreover, these reasons would hold even if God did not exist. For example, rape would still traumatize the victim and rape would still undermine the fabric of society even. Thus, on this assumption, In this case, atheists could provide objective ground for condemning rape–the same grounds used by God.

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Vatican Calls for ‘Central World Bank’

Emblem of Vatican CityPhilip Pullella reports in Reuters:

The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.

“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said.

It condemned what it called “the idolatry of the market” as well as a “neo-liberal thinking” that it said looked exclusively at technical solutions to economic problems.

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A Capitalist Against Corporate Greed

Lower ManhattanCritics of the Occupy Wall Street movement often point to activists’ use of iPhones and laptops in their fight against corporate greed and control of America. As Natalie W of Capricious Yet Constant points out, we sometimes must use the tools of the system to dismantle it. We recognize the irony of biting the hand that feeds, but the lifestyle choices anyone makes do not diminish their involvement in the movement, or the movement itself:

I own an Apple iPhone.

I have a MacBook that I take everywhere with me.

I drink Starbucks when my body needs a caffeine fix.

I eat McDonald’s but prefer Corner Bakery when I’m hungry and away from home.

I smoke Camel cigarettes.

I am a proud member of Occupy Chicago. I am protesting in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the 1000-plus occupied cities in the US for economic equality for all people, for an elimination of corporate influence over government regulation, and against corporate greed.… Read the rest

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Spanish Blood Test Can Tell When You’ll Die. Maybe.

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

But do you really want to know? Giles Tremlett reports on the small Spanish biological research company at the center of claims that its blood test can predict the age you will die, for the Guardian:

As a taxi takes me across Madrid to the laboratories of Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre, I am fretting about the future. I am one of the first people in the world to provide a blood sample for a new test, which has been variously described as a predictor of how long I will live, a waste of time or a handy indicator of how well (or badly) my body is ageing. Today I get the results.

Some newspapers, to the dismay of the scientists involved, have gleefully announced that the test – which measures the telomeres (the protective caps on the ends of my chromosomes) – can predict when I will die.

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Has Neuroscience Disproven Evil?

GreyMatterVia Modern Mythology:

In “Is Myth Dead?” in The Immanence of Myth, I talked about some of the misconceptions that exist between what falls under the purview of science, and what belongs instead to myth, or as it is more commonly known, narrative. And it is a direct result of misconceptions discussed there that we see a constant glut of so-called “science” articles making claims such as “neuro scientists say that evil no longer exists,” (Slate article) or “neuroscience versus philosophy, taking aim at free well.” (Nature.com article). Let me use these two articles as an example of what is actually an epidemic issue that needs immediate and complete overhaul.

The Slate article is considerably more egregious than the latter, as it presents a singular interpretation as the only possible answer to a very complicated question that has challenged the best humans minds throughout our sordid history.… Read the rest

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