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Saturday, January 31, 2015

To Protect His Son, A Father Asks School To Bar Unvaccinated Children

By Lisa Aliferis
Originally posted January 27, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

Rhett cannot be vaccinated, because his immune system is still rebuilding. It may be months more before his body is healthy enough to get all his immunizations. Until then, he depends on everyone around him for protection — what's known as herd immunity.


Carl Krawitt has had just about enough. "It's very emotional for me," he said. "If you choose not to immunize your own child and your own child dies because they get measles, OK, that's your responsibility, that's your choice. But if your child gets sick and gets my child sick and my child dies, then ... your action has harmed my child."

The entire article is here.

Ethics and the Enhanced Soldier of the Near Future

By Dave Shunk
Military Review
January-February 2015

Here are two excerpts:

The soldier of the future likely will be enhanced through neuroscience, biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetics, and drugs. According to Patrick Lin, writing in The Atlantic about the ethics of enhancing soldiers, “Soldier enhancements, through biological or technological augmentation of human capabilities, reduce warfighter risk by providing tactical advantages over the enemy.” Lin describes efforts to develop a “super-soldier” who can perform more like
a machine.


New ethical challenges are arising from the technological developments in stem cells, genetics,
neurosciences, robotics, and information technology.  Lawrence Hinman of the Center for Ethics in
Science and Technology, University of San Diego, reports that “these developments have created ethical vacuums, situations in which our technology has outstripped our ethical framework.” This statement, although made in 2008, remains true. In fact, current military references to enhanced soldiers are very limited.

The entire article is here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Does Moral Responsibility Come in Degrees?

By Justin Caouette
Flickers of Freedom Blog
Originally published January 14, 2015

Here are two excerpts:

I think Mele is right to say that moral responsibility is commonly regarded as a matter of degree, but I’m not so sure that such an assumption is warranted. And, if the assumption is warranted, I think it’s worthwhile to get clear on why this is so.  Investigating this so-called degree feature might help to shed light on the nature of moral responsibility itself. Further, if one holds that moral responsibility does come in degrees it might limit what one can say about the nature of moral responsibility and this conclusion could be fruitful as well for those trying to uncover the the root of the differences between competing views.


So, the purpose of posting on this topic is simply to get a sense of how can we make sense of moral responsibility as coming in degrees. Must we assume that blameworthiness and moral responsibility is the same thing to make sense of this? And, what does it even mean to say that moral responsibility comes in degrees?

The entire blog post, and some great responses, are here.

Editor's Note: These types of articles are particularly relevant for forensic psychology, and helping to understand how psychologists help describe mitigating factors.

Moral responsibility is also easily applied to psychotherapy.

Socrates Untenured

By Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle
Inside Higher Ed
Originally published January 13, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

While it is possible to point to philosophers who work with (rather than merely talk about) the concerns of non-philosophers, among the mass of philosophers societal irrelevance is often treated as a sign of intellectual seriousness.

This is a shame, since we are surrounded by phenomena crying out for philosophic reflection. Today we are constantly confronted by philosophic questions, in many cases created by advances in science and technology. Open your computer and you can find thoughtful exploration of issues as varied as the creation of autonomous killing machines, the loss of privacy in a digital age, the remaking of friendship via Facebook, and the refashioning of human nature via biotechnology. In this sense philosophy abounds. But professional philosophers have remained largely on the margins of this growing cultural conversation.

It needn’t be this way. Take the subject matter of metaphysics. Every philosophy department teaches courses in metaphysics. But how is the subject handled? As evidenced by a sample of university syllabuses posted online, metaphysics classes are overwhelmingly exercises in professional philosophy. Just as Dewey complained, classes begin from the concerns of philosophers rather than from contemporary problems. This can be seen in the leading textbooks.

The entire article is here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brief depression questionnaires could lead to unnecessary antidepressant prescriptions

University of California School of Medicine - Davis
Press Release
Originally released September 2, 3014

Short questionnaires used to identify patients at risk for depression are linked with antidepressant medications being prescribed when they may not be needed, according to new research from UC Davis Health System published in the September-October issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Known as “brief depression symptom measures,” the self-administered questionnaires are used in primary care settings to determine the frequency and severity of depression symptoms among patients. Several questionnaires have been developed to help reduce untreated depression, a serious mental illness that can jeopardize relationships, employment and quality of life and increase the risks of heart disease, drug abuse and suicide.

The UC Davis team was concerned that the questionnaires might lead to prescriptions for antidepressant medication being given to those who aren’t depressed. Antidepressants are effective in treating moderate-to-severe depression but can have significant side effects, including sexual dysfunction, sedation and anxiety. They also have to be taken over several months to be effective.

“It is important to treat depression, but equally important to make sure those who get treatment actually need it,” said Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis and lead author of the study.

The entire pressor is here.

The link to the study is in a blue hyperlink above.  The conclusion of the research is as follows:

Conclusions: These exploratory findings suggest administration of brief depression symptom measures, particularly the PHQ-9, may be associated with depression diagnosis and antidepressant recommendation and prescription among patients unlikely to have major depression. If these findings are confirmed, researchers should investigate the balance of benefits and risks (eg, overdiagnosis of depression and overtreatment with antidepressants) associated with use of a brief symptom measure.

Is My Work “Medically Necessary”?

How insurance companies try to get around rules for mental health care.

By Darcy Lockman
Originally published January 12, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

I’ve been in private practice since 2010. Most of the people I see submit their bills to their insurance companies for reimbursement. It’s a testament to the integrity in the industry that these reimbursements often come through without a hitch. (Though only in this era of predictable corporate malfeasance could a company simply making good on its contractual obligations be praised for its integrity.) Somehow, four entire years went by during which I never once had to submit to a utilization review. But in the past year, possibly because of increased cost concerns in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, I’ve received a handful of phone calls, each caller requesting that I schedule a talk with a case manager.

The entire article is here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Political Extremism Predicts Belief in Conspiracy Theories

By Jan-Willem van Prooijen, André P. M. Krouwel, & Thomas V. Pollet
Social Psychological and Personality Science, January 12, 2015


Historical records suggest that the political extremes—at both the “left” and the “right”—substantially endorsed conspiracy beliefs about other-minded groups. The present contribution empirically tests whether extreme political ideologies, at either side of the political spectrum, are positively associated with an increased tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. Four studies conducted in the United States and the Netherlands revealed a quadratic relationship between strength of political ideology and conspiracy beliefs about various political issues. Moreover, participants’ belief in simple political solutions to societal problems mediated conspiracy beliefs among both left- and right-wing extremists. Finally, the effects described here were not attributable to general attitude extremity. Our conclusion is that political extremism and conspiracy beliefs are strongly associated due to a highly structured thinking style that is aimed at making sense of societal events.

The entire article is here.

My brain made me do it, but does that matter?

By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
The Conversation
Originally published December 12, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

These extreme cases are easy. Despite some rhetoric, almost nobody really believes that the fact that your brain made you do it is by itself enough to excuse you from moral responsibility. On the other side, almost everybody agrees that some brain states, such as seizures, do remove moral responsibility. The real issues lie in the middle.

What about mental illnesses? Addictions? Compulsions? Brainwashing? Hypnosis? Tumors? Coercion? Alien hand syndrome? Multiple personality disorder? These cases are all tricky, so philosophers disagree about which people in these conditions are responsible — and why. Nonetheless, these difficult cases do not show that there is no difference between seizures and normal desires, just as twilight does not show that there is no difference between night and day. It is hard to draw a line, but that does not mean that there is no line.

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Self-compassion protects against the negative effects of low self-esteem

By S.L. Marshall, P. D. Parker, J. Ciarrochi, B. Sahdra, C. J. Jackson, & P. C. Heaven
Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 74, February 2015, Pages 116–121

• Low self-esteem predicts poor mental health, but only amongst those adolescents who are low in self-compassion.
• Low self-esteem had little negative effects on those high in self-compassion.
• Self-esteem and self-compassion are statistically distinguishable.
• Self-compassion training may help young people to respond effectively to self-doubt.


Low self-esteem is usually linked to negative outcomes such as poor mental health, but is this always the case? Based on a contextual behavioural model, we reasoned that self-compassion would weaken the link between low self-esteem and low mental health. Self-compassion involves accepting self-doubt, negative self-evaluations and adversity as part of the human condition. In a longitudinal study of 2448 Australian adolescents, we assessed how self-esteem interacted with self-compassion in Grade 9 to predict changes in mental health over the next year. As hypothesized, self-compassion moderated the influence of self-esteem on mental health. Amongst those high in self-compassion, low self-esteem had little effect on mental health, suggesting a potentially potent buffering affect. We discuss the possibility that fostering self-compassion among adolescents can reduce their need for self-esteem in situations that elicit self-doubt.

The entire article is here.