Ethics & Morality Archives

So, this sort of thing is going around in many ways all over. Succinctly put (from here):

If you want to feel depressed about the future of American politics, Obamacare confirms an unnerving phenomenon that has been well-documented by social scientists: more and better information has almost no effect on the political mind.

It’s some sort of mirage apparently to the left, who remains convinced that it is just a misunderstanding that divides right and left. Which is apparently their premise, but I can’t believe they actually believe that.

It is a common practice in many sciences, especially physics, to start with a toy, highly abstracted model to demonstrate the essence of a concept. Let’s posit two parties, positions, “political minds” (whatever the heck that might be), call them the dog party and the cat party. Let’s pretend the dog values exactly one thing, equality and that the cat also values exactly one thing, freedom. A perfect communist utopia would be exactly what the dog, in this example would find the ideal. It is their goal. The cat party on the other hand would look at the (mythical perhaps) wild west as shown in movies as their ideal. It is their goal. Then you present both with a “Obamacare”, a large complicated healthcare plan that has costs, benefits and so on. Learning more and more about it is going to not change the dog or cat perceptions on the benefits of this plan one bit. This shouldn’t be unnerving at all. It is clear, those who value equality would like Obamacare as it shifts more resources from the “haves” to the “have-less”, it equalizes things. Those who value freedom would see this is one more diktat from people who should be mindin’ their own bizness and gitten out of theirn. Learning more about it, isn’t going to convince them one bit that it looks any better.

The thing is, those like the poster, Mr Klein all know that the left and right don’t share the same value structure, that they don’t evaluate “goodness” of programs and political situations with the same cost/benefit matrix. Our political system, for better or worse, is naturally bi-cameral. This means that to get any say at all, you align yourself with the “team” whose actual or declared (… which in a perfect world is aligned somewhat) cost/benefit matrix for evaluating “goodness” of decisions is best aligned with yours. Those like Mr Klein know this.

Question is, why pretend otherwise? I dunno? Any guesses?

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    Getting It Exactly Wrong: Extremism

    Often you’ll hear or see someone making the statement, the “problem” is extremism. Sometimes the term extremism is replaced with fundamentalism. There is a problem with this statement, if you examine what is meant by that, nobody believes it and contrary to being the problem, extremism is exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Extremism is not a vice, it is a virtue. More than that, pretty much everyone would agree that this is so.

    Examine common extremists, Olympic athletes, professional athletes, and the top researchers in physics, mathematics and chemistry are all what we would regard as extremists. They have devoted their entire life, to borrow from the Bible have, devoted their pursuit of their goal with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. What they are doing is how extremism is defined. They are taking their pursuit of excellence, be it a time in the dash or a proof of an abstract concept … it consumes their attention, their life. Breaks from that pursuit are (typically) intentionally taken to bank their coals, to spur them to higher and greater efforts when they return. I’d mention politicians, who can often also show great zeal in their extreme efforts mostly in the pursuit of … (yikes).

    Oh, comes the objection (from the marginalia), but we mean religious extremism is what is bad. Hmm. So, secular extremism is good, religious extremism bad? Except that isn’t quite so. The most common example of religious extremism a common religious in these parts, are monks. Monastics, like those athletes, devote themselves entirely to God, withdrawing from the world. Horrible they are not. Secular extremism is also bad when the thing pursued is a vice (alcoholism for example).

    This may yield a clue.  Extremism may be seen as human in pursuit of particular excellence (as opposed to general excellence). One concentrates on one thing, as exclusively as possible and devotes ones life to that. If the thing for which you pursue is is a vice, or generically “is bad”, then this form of extremism is harmful. But pursuing vice is bad, in and of itself, that is the loci of the “badness” of extremism to the cause of a vice, not the extremism itself.

    See also “arete” or what the ancient Greek’s would have recognized as common extremism.

    Next up: why fundamentalism, is also not problematic.

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      So. Vaccinations?

      Some ground rules should be established in these conversations. Everyone should agree:

      • Vaccines greatly decrease the chance of contracting the disease which they target.
      • If a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, then epidemics are unlikely.
      • This “significant” number does not have to 100% to be effective. Flu shot vaccination rates hover around 50% for the last few years according to the CDC, and no epidemics have occurred.
      • Vaccines are not 100% risk free, although globally speaking the benefit outweighs the risk. This, of course, does not help either the person getting sick or having an allergic or auto-immune reaction.
      • All currently required childhood vaccines are for horrible illnesses. Measles for example “Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment.” (from the wiki). Like chicken pox, in childhood in the 50’s and earlier .. almost all kids got the Measles. Oddly enough people survived.

      My question is, if you think measles vaccinations should be mandatory, why don’t you think flu shots should be mandatory?

      If you think free riders are a problem and deserve active censure, should childless middle age adults (or older) be similarly censured?

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        Color Me Confused

        So, the left has gotten unhinged about Mr Christie offering that vaccinations for kids be voluntary. This isn’t an “anti-vaccination” position, as he hasn’t said not get them. If you need evidence that they have gotten unhinged, the proof is in the conflation, equating “anti-vaccine” with “optional”.

        Look. I’m not getting the kerfuffle. Explain to me the difference between optional flu shots and optional measles shots (hint: “It’s about the children” or “‘cause they are minors” earns you a dunce cap and won’t be considered a response). So why are flu shots not required for everyone? Hmmm?

        Or is this just the purely partisan stupid hacking like it looks like?

         

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          SSM Surrogates

           

           

          This is one reason why SSM is not, objectively, marriage. As a rule*, marriage is a culturally and societally managed institution which, through natural processes, results in the next generation being produced. The protection and perpetuation of the next generation is something which society (whether tribal or governmental) has historically been deeply interested in. Rest assured that there is no natural way in which an SSM couple can contribute to producing the next generation. While virtually any relationship between two or more humans can be recognized and, therefore, named “marriage”, “marriage plus surrogate”, “grouping”, “shacking-up”, “brotherhood”, “sisterhood”, or whatever, only a relationship minimally limited to a male – female arrangement can in and of itself produce the next generation (I know, that last part is pretty obvious). As such, marriage between a man and a woman should be recognized as an institution which, as a rule and by design provides for the perpetuation of society; and not as, for example, an arrangement which provides one with governmental benefits.

          * By “as a rule” I’m referring to an anomaly free, unencumbered, and properly functioning system. (thanks to Stand to Reason for pretty much everything I just said)

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            Random Ferguson Thoughts

            Mr Schraub has some silly things to say on the topic, some remarks on that include (below the fold ’cause it’s long): Read the rest of this entry

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              Deadbeat Dads

              Imagine if being a “Deadbeat Dad” received the same level of national publicity – and scorn – as, say, the publication of private conversations where one sport’s team owner made racist and homophobic statements? From Joe Carter’s article,

              Men who have the ability to provide financial support for their children but refuse to do so should be among the most shamed groups in America. Yet there isn’t much stigma attached to being a “deadbeat dad”—and in some communities there is no disgrace at all to being an absent father.

               

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                Free Speech Rights and Pro-Life Teenagers

                Last March, two pro-life female high school students, in a free-speech zone [sic] on the campus of UCSB, had their display board stolen right in front of them by an associate professor. They were then assaulted as they attempted to retrieve their property. In August, the professor was convicted and given a slap-on-the-wrist sentencing (imagine, if you will, the results if it had been a conservative professor assaulting two underage gay-rights protesters).

                You can see video of them following the professor at the following link. Note the sophomoric attempt at logic some of the university students hurl at the girls (e.g., “you don’t attend this college” or “you don’t pay to attend here”).

                Take off your cultural blinders… This is the thinking of the next gen.

                #prolife #freespeech #abortion

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                  An Ethics Question

                  Monday Mr Burgess-Jackson posted a short ethics question:

                  You are a doctor. You have five patients, each of whom is about to die due to a failing organ of some kind. You have another patient who is healthy.

                  The only way that you can save the lives of the first five patients is to transplant five of this young man’s organs (against his will) into the bodies of the other five patients. If you do this, the young man will die, but the other five patients will live.

                  Is it appropriate for you to perform this transplant in order to save five of your patients?

                  I’d like to propose a variant, because I don’t think the doctor (“do no harm”) should ever consider this as given. (below the fold) Read the rest of this entry

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                    Categorical Errors Considered

                    Note: I started writing this with the notion that the category error alluded to below was a mistake and a sidelight hiding behind the issues being argued. As I continued in writing I have come to believe that the category error is both the primary reason for the arguments and further is a fundamental problem which is well known.

                    Much wroth, fury, words, and accusations of ignorance, bigotry, and perversion have crossed from both sides in the recent decades long struggle by various factions in the debates about marriage and who might be married rightly. A few observations

                    1. Defenders of SSM remark that this sort of marriage is private and affects none outside of the marriage. Yet, if this were so, then why would not civil unions suffice? The logical answers is because this reply is a lie. It does in fact affect others and in this lies a category error to which I alluded in this essay’s title.
                    2. To read the papers and hear the debates this is an important issue. Yet, why is that? Why is that more important than other issues. As that famous statistician Bjorn Lomberg  pointed out that getting vitamin supplements to the third world would saves tens if not hundreds of millions of lives (and would be cheaper and more effective than most of the aid we send to the third world), world-wide millions are affected by human trafficking indeed the numbers trafficked within the states is comparable to those affected by SSM … and those affected are mostly well educated affluent couples. Yet what debates are heard?

                    How are these issues a sidelight issue and the other a hot button issue? I suspect my  I offer it is because those entrenched against SSM are also committing that same category error. What is the error of category to which I allude? Simply the following, laws and lawmakers are not our spiritual guides. Note, the use of the term “spiritual” is not the normal one, but one which I will continue in this essay and perhaps in further essays.

                    So let me digress for a moment. Spiritual? What is that? In the introduction to Dimitru Staniloae’s book (Orthodox Spirituality), it is pointed out that in the Eastern Christian doctrine, your spiritual life and its tending is perhaps better translated as your ethical life and its care. Spiritual health and ethical well being are synonyms.

                    What is legal or not and what is righteous (in good spirit or a good moral/ethical decision) are independent. This is a founding principle of American jurisprudence. (Or is it?) It certainly is the assumption now. Mr Daschle defended a Senatorial philandering colleague by pointing while he while he was dishonest he didn’t break any laws. The correct reaction to this is that the colleague got his priorities exactly backwards, i.e., it is more important to be ethical than stay on the right side of the law.

                    Laws are not ethics. Laws and what lawmakers conspire to create has very little to do with ethics and instead its primary purpose is to provide a framework. This framework provides so that peoples may live harmoniously alongside each other in an ordered way.  So that, when conflicts between people arise, there is an orderly way of handling those same conflicts. Personal ethics overrides and sits over the law. For the most part, there is no conflict, most of our choices, our ethical decisions do not lead us toward choices which are illegal. Where they do, it is right, it is correct to choose the ethical over the legal. On the other hand, there are things you may do legally which however are not ethical. Even where there is no conflict, normally ethics binds our actions tighter than the law.

                    Solzhenitsyn warns that this separation that is part of modern Western democracies (and was part of the former Soviet state) is an error. That itself is an interesting counter point. So it seems likely that this why this debate is important is not what it is about, but sort of the issue is the ground on which it is being made. What is at stake is perhaps not about the particulars of whether certain young dinks (dual income no kids) can have their relationship legalized or not but really what is being debated here and in other forums is whether law should be neutral or be admitted to have spiritual (ethical) content or should it not. Kant (and our founders) explored law devoid of ethics, can a safe lawful republic of demons (not angels) be constructed or not. Perhaps it can. Perhaps it can’t. The question at hand is should it? Recall the Ratzinger/Habermas debate, debating whether a democratic society can be constructed and sustain itself independent of religion, i.e., “does it need things outside itself to sustain itself.” Ratzinger and Solzhenitsyn think not. Bertrand de Jouvenal pointed out in his meta-political science musings about what he termed Babylon (the large multicultural state) envies the unity of the small state. My reading of Solzhenitsyn (and Jouvenal) is that a solution exists. If the larger federal state limit itself to promoting commerce and unity between smaller entities within itself, while foster their ability to form strong local identity, laws and praxis then you could have the best of both worlds. You can find local loyalties and ties and bonds within the framework a larger multicultural state.

                    Both sides of the cultural debate miss this point. Both sides wish to apply the same laws and sensibilities in artists boroughs of San Francisco, in Amish villages in Ohio, in rural Lutheran Wisconsin, and so on. Why? Why try? It seems wrong to insist that behavioral norms universal.

                    Locally laws can be tied to spirit. Federally, the are not, but there they run to the Habermas separation of Spirit and law. It seems to me laws about birth, death, marriage are those which the federal level should keep its hands away, to set aside for local regions to coin their own practices, to tie their own view of ethics and spirit what is allowed, to what is righteous in their region.

                    Instead of insisting that laws be spiritual or devoid of spiritual considerations is wrong. Federal laws laws which bind us all, might be best be light and aim only to promote commerce, unity, and ease frictions. Local laws … let them tangle and wind the ways the local choose. That is, after all, nothing more than freedom.

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                      Adult Stem Cells: The Trend Continues

                      This article at Life News describes recent grants & prize money that went to stem cell research.  There is something to note about how the money way divvied up.

                      As noted in the earlier Lozier Institute study, the first round of grants under this category, in October, 2009, saw a marked departure by CIRM away from a funding preference for hESCR [human embryonic stem cell research] and towards adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research.

                      That pattern continues in the July 2012 round of grants. Of eight research projects selected, only one involved hESCs while two involved the use of fetal tissue. The others used ethically non-contentious adult stem cells or other non-embryonic approaches. Of the $150 million awarded, $48 million went to the hESC and fetal tissue projects; the remaining $102 million went to the ethically non-contentious adult stem cell and other non-embryonic projects.

                      Results are drawing the funding, not political hype, and the trend is away from embryonic stem cells.

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                        Mr Obama Goes to Chick-Fil-A

                        So, did Mr Obama use the Colorado shooting to set the stage for policy changes:

                        Every day, in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there’s daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.

                        Hmm. Which policy? Restrict guns or reinforce traditional marriage? Which is more likely a root cause, restrictions on guns or broken families and single/absent parents? The latter is more likely the cause, the former the more likely policy in mind.

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                          The difference

                          You’re probably well aware by now of the murderous attack that left 15 people dead in Pakistan.

                          What? You thought it was 16 people in Afghanistan who were killed? Well, certainly that news is making the headlines on newswires across the world. But I’m referring to a suicide attack on mourners at a funeral in Pakistan. From Bill Roggio, at The Long War Journal,

                          A suicide bomber killed 15 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a funeral in the Pakistani city of Peshawar today. The attack appears to have targeted a senior provincial government official who has raised an anti-Taliban militia in the area.

                          Pakistani officials confirmed that a suicide bomber carried out today’s attack as mourners were offering prayers for a woman during a funeral in the Badaber area of Peshawar.

                          Had you heard about this? If you had, was it a news headline or merely another one-of-many filler stories?

                          In a way, perhaps the fact that such stories get so little airplay, and stories of U.S. military personnel committing crimes get so much airplay is an indication of the very difference between our moral high ground and the terrorist enemy’s.

                          Consider the following account of Muslim on Muslim killings, per The Long War Journal.

                          Over the past five years, the Taliban and allied Pakistani terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Punjabi Taliban have shown no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites, as well as during religious processions and events. There have been 36 major attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.

                          One of the most brazen attacks took place on Dec. 4, 2009, when a suicide assault team stormed a mosque frequented by military officers in Rawalpindi. Two senior generals were among the 40 people killed.

                          Another major attack took place on July 1, 2010, when suicide bombers struck the Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, killing 41 people and wounding more than 170. Three suicide bombers detonated their vests at the shrine at a time when it was most frequented, in an effort to maximize casualties.

                          The last major attack against religious targets took place on Sept. 15, 2011, when a suicide bomber killed 31 people in an attack at a funeral in Lower Dir.

                          All told, The Long War Journal lists 36 major attacks since December 2007 (in Pakistan alone), resulting in 805 people killed. That’s an average of 22 people killed per attack – attacks at mosques and other Islamic institutions.

                          Try to find that on CNN.

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                            The Ethics of "After-birth Abortions", Part 2

                            [Please click here for part 1, as this just picks up where that left off. Also, another blogger found the article again at a new URL on the same site. I’d searched using their advance search form with no success, but glad that it’s back so people can read the whole thing.]

                            The newborn and the fetus are morally equivalent

                            The authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva,  start this section with their definition of personhood.

                            Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.

                            Thus, to be a person, you have to know you’re a person and be able to value it. The state of not knowing, however, lasts quite a bit beyond newborn status. The authors, again, fail to address this. More than fail to, actually, they refuse to address it, as we shall see.

                            Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.

                            The equivalence here is somewhat flawed, not the least because they start to blur the moral right to life with the legal right to life. Further, they equate giving up your legal right to life (by, for example, murdering someone else) with a fetus or embryo being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Depending on your morals, all three examples have a moral right to life, it’s just in the last case it was actively forfeited.

                            Read the rest of this entry

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                              The Ethics of "After-birth Abortions", Part 1

                              Last Friday, I noted in my Friday Link Wrap-up "Medical "ethicists" are seriously arguing that post-birth newborns are ‘not persons’ and can ethically be "aborted". I also posted this article on Facebook, and one of my friends took me to task on it. He said that "sloppy agenda laden journalism" has misinterpreted their intent, and that "the researchers are attempting to provoke debate on the ethics of abortion, not the desirability to kill newborns."

                              I’ve read the whole piece by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, and I come to the conclusion that, while their stated intent may not be to suggest that it is desirable to kill newborns, the result will be the same. The main problem I see is that, while they have their personal moral stances regarding how often and in what circumstances what they call "after-birth abortions" would take place, their stances would not be what others use to make their determination. Would they accept a gun manufacturer’s statement that "I don’t intend my product to kill innocent people"? Perhaps not, but it can be used that way, and abortion kills millions upon millions because they are merely inconvenient. The authors’ morals will not be used to put into practice their suggestions. Keep that in mind.

                              (Note: While putting this blog post together, the article was removed from the Journal of Medical Ethics website. The link takes you to a "Not Found" page, and no amount of searching for title, text, or authors could find it. I’m not sure if it was taken down for some reason, or if, perhaps, only the most recent articles appear on the website. In any event, the article is no longer there. I’ll continue to look to see if it gets posted elsewhere.)

                              (Second note: This is why I haven’t posted anything this week so far. I’ve been spending my time working on this.)

                              Read the rest of this entry

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