"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can. - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Things are looking app

The Economist
Originally posted March 12, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Constant, wireless-linked monitoring may spare patients much suffering, by spotting incipient signs of their condition deteriorating. It may also spare health providers and insurers many expensive hospital admissions. When Britain’s National Health Service tested the cost-effectiveness of remote support for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it found that an electronic tablet paired with sensors measuring vital signs could result in better care and enormous savings, by enabling early intervention. Some m-health products may prove so effective that doctors begin to provide them on prescription.

So far, big drugmakers have been slow to join the m-health revolution, though there are some exceptions. HemMobile by Pfizer, and Beat Bleeds by Baxter, help patients to manage haemophilia. Bayer, the maker of Clarityn, an antihistamine drug, has a popular pollen-forecasting app. GSK, a drug firm with various asthma treatments, offers sufferers the MyAsthma app, to help them manage their condition.

The article is here.

'Body Hacking' Movement Rises Ahead Of Moral Answers

Eyder Peralta
NPR
Originally published 10, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Sometimes, he said, technology moves too fast and outpaces accepted social boundaries — not to mention laws. He argued that was part of the reason why early wearers of Google Glass were called "glassholes."

"It created a social misunderstanding," Salvador said. "You didn't know what was going on."

To Salvador, the boundaries of acceptance are a matter of our social philosophy, an area that he argued was driven by esoteric discourse without tangible moral and ethical recommendations.

The philosophers, he said, are letting us down.

Alva Noë, a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley and a contributor to NPR's 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog, has written extensively on what he calls "cyborgian naturalness." He disagreed that the modern philosophers dropped the ball, saying that tackling the matter would involve unpacking two questions:

  1. Is it OK to cut into human bodies for these kinds of experiments?
  2. How much tolerance should society have for artificially enhancing the body?

To the first question, Noë said he found the "body hacking" experimentation on humans "ethically disturbing" and couldn't fathom a doctor or any other scientists conducting these kinds of operations.

The second question was more complicated.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Doctors Often Fail To Treat Depression Like A Chronic Illness

Shfali Luthra
NPR.org
Originally published March 7, 2016

Depression prompts people to make about 8 million doctors' appointments a year, and more than half are with primary care physicians. A study suggests those doctors often fall short in treating depression because of insurance issues, time constraints and other factors.

More often than not, primary care doctors fail to teach patients how to manage their care and don't follow up to see how they're doing, according to the study, which was published Monday in Health Affairs. Those are considered effective tactics for treating chronic illnesses.

"The approach to depression should be like that of other chronic diseases," said Dr. Harold Pincus, vice chair of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and one of the study's co-authors. But "by and large, primary care practices don't have the infrastructure or haven't chosen to implement those practices for depression."

Most people with depression seek help from their primary care doctors, the study notes. That can be because patients often face shortages and limitations of access to specialty mental health care, including lack of insurance coverage, the authors write. Plus there's stigma: Patients sometimes feel nervous or ashamed to see a mental health specialist, according to the authors.

The article is here.

Most Popular Theories of Consciousness Are Worse Than Wrong

Michael Graziano
The Atlantic
Originally published March 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

In the modern age we can chuckle over medieval naiveté, but we often suffer from similar conceptual confusions. We have our share of phlegm theories, which flatter our intuitions while explaining nothing. They’re compelling, they often convince, but at a deeper level they’re empty.

One corner of science where phlegm theories proliferate is the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness. The brain is a machine that processes information, yet somehow we also have a conscious experience of at least some of that information. How is that possible? What is subjective experience? It’s one of the most important questions in science, possibly the most important, the deepest way of asking: What are we? Yet many of the current proposals, even some that are deep and subtle, are phlegm theories.

The article is here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Planned Parenthood And Fetal Tissue Sale: Manufactured Controversy And The Real Ethical Debate

I. Glenn Cohen
Health Affairs Blog
March 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The Real Debate (We Already Had)

As a bioethicist, what was perhaps most upsetting to me was the way the kabuki political theater obscured the fact that there was a real set of ethical questions to be discussed.

These are questions about complicity. For those who think abortion is seriously wrong, in what ways does the use of tissue from abortion make the user or downstream beneficiary of research complicit in that sin?

This is an interesting question that bioethicists have wrestled with for a long time. But when it comes to law, it is one the law has explicitly resolved in a way that allows fetal tissue use.

As my friend Alta Charo noted in a piece for The Washington Post:
Fetal tissue research is legal in all but a handful of states, and it has been conducted in the United States, with federal support, for decades, except for a brief moratorium on the use of National Institutes of Health funds in the 1980s. It is regulated by federal law, and was funded by the Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama administrations, most recently to the tune of about $76 million per year.
The blog post is here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Taking Ethics Seriously: By Setting Up Board Committees?

Dina Medland
Forbes.com
Originally published March 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

However, the report does not recommend that all companies should form a committee. “While the need for more detailed oversight may favor the creation of a committee, there is a risk of the board’s own responsibilities being diluted  – and of unnecessary overlap with other committees. What remains critical is that boards address the issues of ethics and values in the context of their approach to risk oversight, even when they do not have a committee”, it says.

One could argue that the creation of a committee in a boardroom is in fact a death knell to a broader discussion of the issue of company culture – which surely includes creating attitudes to corporate values, sustainability and realistic profit targets from an ethical base implicit in the business plan.

The article is here.

To blame or to forgive?

By Nicola Lacey and Hanna Pickard
Oxford University Blog
Originally published March

What do you do when faced with wrongdoing – do you blame or do you forgive? Especially when confronted with offences that lie on the more severe end of the spectrum and cause terrible psychological or physical trauma or death, nothing can feel more natural than to blame. Indeed, in the UK and the US, increasingly vehement and righteous public expressions of blame and calls for vengeance are commonplace; correspondingly, contemporary penal philosophy has witnessed a resurgence of the retributive tradition, in the modern form usually known as the ‘just deserts’ model.

But if we stop to think about it, this criminal justice practice stands in contrast to significant features of our everyday moral practices. People can and routinely do forgive others, even in cases of severe crime. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that both vengeance and forgiveness are universal human adaptations that have evolved as alternative responses to exploitation, and, crucially, strategies for reducing risk of re-offending. We are naturally endowed with both capacities: to blame and retaliate, or to forgive and seek to repair relations. We have a choice. Which should we choose?

The blog post is here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reversing the legacy of junk science in the courtroom

By Kelly Servick
Science Magazine
Originally published March 7, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Testing examiner accuracy using known samples can give the judge or jury a sense of general error rates in a field, but it can’t describe the level of uncertainty around a specific piece of evidence. Right now, only DNA identification includes that measure of uncertainty. (DNA analyses are based on 13 genetic variants, or alleles, that are statistically independent, and known to vary widely among individuals.) Mixtures of genetic material from multiple people can complicate the analysis, but DNA profiling is “a relatively easy statistical problem to solve,” says Nicholas Petraco, an applied mathematician at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Pattern evidence doesn’t operate under the same rules, he says. “What’s an allele on a tool mark?”; “What’s an allele on a hair or fiber?”

The article is here.

Note: This article addresses evidence such as fingerprints, that can have error. What does this say about neurological or psychological "evidence" in terms of accuracy, validity, and reliability?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

How our bias toward the future can cloud our moral judgment

By Agnieszka Jaroslawska
The Conversation
Originally published March 7, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

It may seem illogical, but research has confirmed that people have markedly different reactions to misdemeanours that have already happened to those that are going to happen in the future. We tend to judge future crimes to be more deliberate, less moral, and more deserving of punishment than equivalent transgressions in the past. Technically speaking, we exhibit “temporal asymmetries” in moral judgements.

(cut)

Research suggests that people rely on their emotions when making judgements of fairness and morality. When emotions run high, judgements are more extreme than when reactions are weak.

The article is here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Probing the relationship between brain activity and moral judgments of children

ScienceCodex News
Originally published March 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

To determine whether the early automatic or later controlled neural activity predicted actual moral behavior, the researchers then assessed the children's generosity based on how many stickers they were willing to share with an anonymous child. They then correlated the children's generosity with individual differences in brain activity generated during helping versus harming scenes. Only differences in brain signals associated with deliberate neural processing predicted the children's sharing behavior, suggesting that moral behavior in children depends more on controlled reflection than on an immediate emotional response.

The article is here.

Everything Is Crumbling

By Daniel Engber
Slate.com
Originally published March 16, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The authors called this effect “ego depletion” and said it revealed a fundamental fact about the human mind: We all have a limited supply of willpower, and it decreases with overuse. Eating a radish when you’re surrounded by fresh-baked cookies represents an epic feat of self-denial, and one that really wears you out. Willpower, argued Baumeister and Tice, draws down mental energy—it’s a muscle that can be exercised to exhaustion.

That simple idea—perhaps intuitive for nonscientists, but revolutionary in the field—turned into a research juggernaut. In the years that followed, Baumeister and Tice’s lab, as well as dozens of others, published scores of studies using similar procedures. First, the scientists would deplete subjects’ willpower with a task that requires self-control: don’t eat chocolate chip cookies, watch this sad movie but don’t react at all. Then, a few minutes later, they’d test them with a puzzle, a game, or something else that requires mental effort.

The article is here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Should Therapists Analyze Presidential Candidates?

by Robert Klitzman
The New York Times
Originally published March 6, 2016

Many psychologists have been quick to offer diagnoses, calling him and other presidential candidates "narcissists," and even providing thoughts about possible treatments.

I wondered what, if anything, to say. I've watched Mr. Trump on TV like everyone else, but never met him. So, I hesitated -- for ethical reasons. The American Psychiatric Association (A.P.A.) prohibits its members from giving professional opinions about public figures we have not interviewed.

This ban stems from a bad incident in my field. In 1964, Fact magazine published an article, announced on its cover as "1,189 Psychiatrists say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President". The magazine surveyed these professionals, and 49 percent of respondents said Barry M. Goldwater was unfit for the job, describing him as "unbalanced," "immature," "paranoid," "psychotic" and "schizophrenic," and questioning his "manliness." Leading psychiatrists were among those quoted. A famous Johns Hopkins professor said Mr. Goldwater's utterances should "disqualify him from the presidency."

When Doctors Should Say 'I Don't Know'

By Julie Beck
The Atlantic
Originally published February 29, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Doctors’ tools, knowledge, and treatments have improved since the bloodletting days, and we now have the ability to scan and analyze the body down to the cellular level. But “precision is not the same thing as certainty,” Hatch writes, and often, doctors are just making guesses based on the best evidence they have—a measuring of risks and benefits and probabilities that can be easily influenced by their preconceptions.

Medicine is a high-stakes game of uncertainty, complicated by the fact that people are naturally predisposed to seek certainty whenever possible. If you don’t know what something is, it could be a threat, out there on the ancient savannah of evolutionary psychology logic. That goes for patients and doctors alike, and if both parties are in agreement that certainty is best, it’s possible that they’ll just blow past the risks of a treatment, or the dubiousness of a diagnosis, for the sake of having an answer.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Colorado Looks to Broaden Therapists' Power to Prevent School Shootings

by Dan Frosch
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published March 6, 2016

In a state that has been battered by mass shootings, Colorado lawmakers are trying a new, focused approach to stopping bloodshed in schools.

A proposed bill would broaden the circumstances under which mental-health professionals can report a student that they believe poses a threat, an issue that has drawn increasing attention around the country

Colorado law requires mental-health workers to alert authorities if a patient expresses a specific, imminent threat, and mandates that they warn those being threatened.

The proposal would permit therapists to alert school administrators about a potentially dangerous student even if that danger isn't immediate. It would apply to all public and private schools, as well as institutes of postsecondary education. Counselors who are school district employees are already permitted such latitude under federal law, but many schools contract with outside mental health workers to treat students, and some students are in private therapy as well, experts said.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, sailed through Colorado's House of Representatives last month by a vote of 51-12. It now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to have the backing of members of both parties.

The article is here.

Physician Burnout Is a Public Health Crisis

Arthur L. Caplan
MedScape
Originally published on March 4, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

We've got a problem in this country with doctors. It's kind of an epidemic, but no one is talking about it. It is burnout. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic showed that in 2011, 45.5% of doctors reported that they felt burned out, and that number has now risen to 54.4% in 2014. More than half of all doctors in this country are saying, "I really feel that some aspect of my work as a doctor is making me feel burned out."

This is really trouble. It's trouble because a doctor who feels this way can commit more errors. They suffer from compassion fatigue, or just not being able to empathize with others because they have their own emotional issues. They may retire early, thereby reducing the workforce. They may have problems managing their own lives; 400 doctors committed suicide last year, which is double the rate of the population average. There's trouble for patients in having a workforce that's burned out. There's trouble for doctors in terms of their own health and well-being. We don't talk about it much. We like to think that doctors can handle everything, but it's clearly not true. It's a problem and there ought to be some solutions.

The article is here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

We're Already Violating Virtual Reality's First Code of Ethics

By Daniel Oberhaus
Motherboard.com
Originally published March 6, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Indeed, it was in light of this potential for lasting psychological impact during and after a virtual reality experience that Madary and Metzinger drafted a list of six main recommendations for the ethical future of commercial and research virtual reality applications. Broadly summarized, their recommendations are:

1) In keeping with the American Psychological Association’s principle of non-maleficence, experiments using virtual reality should ensure that they do not cause lasting or serious harm to the subject.

2) Subjects participating in experiments using virtual reality should be informed about the lasting and serious behavioral effects resulting from virtual reality experiences, and that the extent of this behavioral influence might not be known.

3) Researchers and media outlets should avoid over-hyping the benefits of virtual reality, especially when virtual reality is being discussed as a medical treatment.

4) Awareness of the problem of dual use, or using a technology for something other than its original intention, in the context of virtual reality. The author’s particularly are wary of military applications for virtual reality (which are already being put to a lot of use), whether this means its use as a novel torture device or a means of decreasing a soldier’s empathy for the enemy.

The article is here.

Psychologists Call Out the Study That Called Out the Field of Psychology

By Rachel E. Gross
Slate.com
Originally published March 3, 2016

Remember that study that found that most psychology studies were wrong? Yeah, that study was wrong. That’s the conclusion of four researchers who recently interrogated the methods of that study, which itself interrogated the methods of 100 psychology studies to find that very few could be replicated. (Whoa.) Their damning commentary will be published Friday in the journal Science. (The scientific body that publishes the journal sent Slate an early copy.)

In case you missed the hullabaloo: A key feature of the scientific method is that scientific results should be reproducible—that is, if you run an experiment again, you should get the same results. If you don’t, you’ve got a problem. And a problem is exactly what 270 scientists found last August, when they decided to try to reproduce 100 peer-reviewed journal studies in the field of social psychology. Only around 39 percent of the reproduced studies, they found, came up with similar results to the originals.

The article is here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Does your morality change over time?

Maria Isabel Garcia
Rappler.com
Originally published March 4, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

If the morality of young and older adults generally do not change, how can we count on change in general if that is what it would take to have a better future?

We look to children. That is where mothers, yours and mine, know instinctively. I think these data suggest once again how crucial pre-adolescent stage is in shaping our individual moral compasses. Most societies do not hold children responsible for their moral behavior because we presume that these are not yet forged by fire in the core of our beings. If these joint studies would further be supported by more studies, we really have a relatively short window in time to get those childhood moral compasses pointing to the general direction that would favor their well-being and societies’ in general.

The article is here.

The code not taken: The path from guild ethics to torture and our continuing choices

Pope, Kenneth S.
Canadian Psychology
Vol 57(1), Feb 2016, 51-59

Abstract

Psychology’s controversial role in torture in settings like Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantánamo fractured a comforting façade and raised questions about how we can best serve the profession. The controversy confronts us with choices about what our profession is, what it means, what it does—who we are, what we mean, what we do. It asks whether our lives and organisations reflect professional ethics or guild ethics. Professional ethics protect the public against abuse of professional power, expertise, and practice, and hold members accountable to values beyond self-interest. Guild ethics place members’ interests above public interest, edge away from accountability, and tend to masquerade as professional ethics. Psychology’s path to involvement in torture began before 9/11 and the “war on terror” with a move from professional ethics to guild ethics. In sharp contrast to its previous codes, APA’s 1992 ethics code reflected guild ethics, as did the subsequent 2002 code (APA, 2002). Guild ethics are reflected in the questionable nature of APA’s, 2006, 2007a, 2008a, and 2015 policies on interrogation and torture. This article examines tactics used to maintain the façade of professional ethics despite over a decade of publicized reports of documentary evidence of psychology’s organisational involvement in what came to be called “enhanced interrogations.” It asks if we use versions of these tactics in our individual lives. If a credible identity, integrity, and professional ethics are not reflected in our individual lives, it is unlikely they will thrive in our profession and organisations.

The article is here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Depression, Capacity, and a Request to Discontinue Life-Sustaining Treatment.

A. M. Pena
American Journal of Bioethics (2015); 15(7): 70-1.

The Right to Refuse Life Sustaining Treatment

There is ethical and legal consensus that a patient has the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment (LST), as an expression of autonomy-based principles, when the patient demonstrates an appropriate degree of capacity, the decision is consistent with the patient's preferences and free from coercion, and when the burdens exceed the benefits of continued treatment.  For the purposes of this discussion, I assume that the left ventricular assistance device (LVAD) is a form of LST and that it may be ethically permissible to deactivate the device, which is largely in accordance with professional and ethical consensus.  As with other forms of LST, if the device is deactivated, then the patient would die from underlying physiological causes, namely, heart disease.  My objective for this commentary, however, is to discuss whether depression can impair capacity to the extent that it is an ethical contraindication for withdrawing LST.

The article is here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

How America's criminal justice system became the country's mental health system

By German Lopez
Vox.com
Originally published March 1, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

It's a terrifying statistic: Someone with an untreated mental illness is 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement, according to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

(cut)


If people were getting comprehensive care and support, police most likely would not need to get involved in many of the circumstances that end up in horrible tragedies. But very often in the US, that's not happening.

Before Kevin broke into a neighbor's house and was arrested by police, Pete tried to take steps that would have prevented the whole encounter. Kevin had just suffered a psychotic episode in 2002, and Pete raced Kevin to emergency care to hopefully get Kevin into some form of long-term care, potentially against Kevin's will if necessary.

But doctors said they couldn't do anything because Kevin, an adult, didn't appear to pose a threat to himself or others in the four hours they sat in an emergency room. So he was let free, and within 48 hours, he went through the episode in which he broke into the neighbor's house.

The article is here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Off-label Promotions: Pharma Wants More Freedom to Pitch Durgs

By Ed Silverman
Stat News
Originally published February 29, 2016

Drug makers have long argued that the Food and Drug Administration is squelching their free speech rights by barring off-label promotion of their medicines. A new proposal may give them a voice.

This month, a think tank at Duke University called for a new independent entity to review claims and recommend exactly what off-label information drug and device makers should be allowed to share with doctors.

Companies say current regulations prevent them from distributing important data to physicians about unapproved, off-label uses of their medicines. The FDA worries public health can be compromised if marketing claims aren’t backed up by solid evidence. A neutral third party, the authors of the white paper say, could provide much-needed arbitration.

The article is here.

Document Claims Drug Makers Deceived a Top Medical Journal

By Katie Thomas
The New York Times
Originally published March 1, 2016

It is a startling accusation, buried in a footnote in a legal briefing filed recently in federal court: Did two major pharmaceutical companies, in an effort to protect their blockbuster drug, mislead editors at one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals?

Lawyers for patients suing Johnson & Johnson and Bayer over the safety of the anticlotting drug Xarelto say the answer is yes, claiming that a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine and written primarily by researchers at Duke University left out critical laboratory data. They claim the companies were complicit by staying silent, helping deceive the editors while the companies were in the midst of providing the very same data to regulators in the United States and Europe.

Duke and Johnson & Johnson contend that they worked independently of each other. Bayer declined to comment. And top editors at The New England Journal of Medicine said they did not know that separate laboratory data existed until a reporter contacted them last week, but they dismissed its relevance and said they stood by the article’s analysis.

The article is here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Why being good is a miracle

By Michael Bond
The New Scientist
Originally published March 9, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

A quick look at leading evolutionary anthropologist Michael Tomasello’s A Natural History of Human Morality will tell you that this flux in social norms is all of a piece with group psychology. Interests and identities within groups often seem to hold sway over those of individuals. This can seem irrational, but in the context of our evolutionary history it is anything but. Tomasello aims to describe not only how these “us and them” attitudes evolved, but also how they came to define our sense of right and wrong.

The article is here.

Cross-Sectional Analysis of the 1039 U.S. Physicians Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank for Sexual Misconduct, 2003-2013

Azza AbuDagga , Sidney M. Wolfe , Michael Carome , Robert E. Oshel
PLoS ONE 11(2): e0147800.

Background

Little information exists on U.S. physicians who have been disciplined with licensure or restriction-of-clinical-privileges actions or have had malpractice payments because of sexual misconduct. Our objectives were to: (1) determine the number of these physicians and compare their age groups’ distribution with that of the general U.S. physician population; (2) compare the type of disciplinary actions taken against these physicians with actions taken against physicians disciplined for other offenses; (3) compare the characteristics and type of injury among victims of these physicians with those of victims in reports for physicians with other offenses in malpractice-payment reports; and (4) determine the percentages of physicians with clinical-privileges or malpractice-payment reports due to sexual misconduct who were not disciplined by medical boards.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bill would allow therapists to refuse clients over religious beliefs

Holly Meyer
The Tennessean
Originally published March 2, 2016

A bill that would allow counselors and therapists to refuse to see clients whose cases violate their religious beliefs has taken a step forward in the Tennessee state House.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, would let counselors and therapists refer clients without risking repercussions, such as a civil lawsuit or criminal action. The state House Health Subcommittee advanced the legislation Tuesday to the full committee.

The subcommittee recommended passage of the legislation with an amendment that changes the bill's language from "sincerely held religious beliefs" to "sincerely held principles."

The article is here.

The Brain Gets Its Day in Court

By Greg Miller
The Atlantic
Originally published February 29, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

A handful of cases have made headlines in recent years, as lawyers representing convicted murderers have introduced brain scans and other tests of brain function to try to spare their client the death penalty. It didn’t always work, but Farahany’s analysis suggests that neuroscientific evidence—which she broadly defines as anything from brain scans to neuropsychological exams to bald assertions about the condition of a person’s brain—is being used in a wider variety of cases, and in the service of more diverse legal strategies, than the headlines would suggest. In fact, 60 percent of the cases in her sample involved non-capital offenses, including robbery, fraud, and drug trafficking.

Cases like Detrich’s are one example. Arguing for ineffective assistance of counsel is pretty much a legal Hail Mary. It requires proving two things: that the defense counsel failed to do their job adequately, and (raising the bar even higher) that this failure caused the trial to be unfairly skewed against the defendant. Courts have ruled previously that a defense attorney who slept through substantial parts of a trial still provided effective counsel. Not so, at least in some cases, for attorneys who failed to introduce neuroscience evidence in their client’s defense.

The article is here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Psychologist Jens Förster earns second and third retractions as part of settlement

by Shannon Palus
Retraction Watch
Originally published February 24, 2016

High-profile social psychologist Jens Förster has earned two retractions following an investigation by his former workplace. He agreed to the retractions as part of a settlement with the German Society for Psychology (DGPs).

The papers are two of eight that were found to contain “strong statistical evidence for low veracity.” According to the report from an expert panel convened at the request of the board of the University of Amsterdam, following:
an extensive statistical analysis, the experts conclude that many of the experiments described in the articles show an exceptionally linear link. This linearity is not only surprising, but often also too good to be true because it is at odds with the random variation within the experiments.
The post is here. 

Many Dislike Health Care System But Are Pleased With Their Own Care

By Alison Kodjak
NPR
Originally posted

The United States has the most advanced health care in the world. There are gleaming medical centers across the country where doctors cure cancers, transplant organs and bring people back from near death.

But a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that only one-third of Americans say the health care they receive is "excellent." Even fewer people are impressed with the system as a whole.

"When you're talking about health care, we have this amazing kind of schizophrenia about our system," says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

The story is here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Third-party punishment as a costly signal of trustworthiness

Jillian J. Jordan, Moshe Hoffman, Paul Bloom & David G. Rand
Nature
Originally published February 25, 2016

Third-party punishment (TPP), in which unaffected observers punish selfishness, promotes cooperation by deterring defection. But why should individuals choose to bear the costs of punishing? We present a game theoretic model of TPP as a costly signal of trustworthiness. Our model is based on individual differences in the costs and/or benefits of being trustworthy. We argue that individuals for whom trustworthiness is payoff-maximizing will find TPP to be less net costly (for example, because mechanisms that incentivize some individuals to be trustworthy also create benefits for deterring selfishness via TPP). We show that because of this relationship, it can be advantageous for individuals to punish selfishness in order to signal that they are not selfish themselves. We then empirically validate our model using economic game experiments. We show that TPP is indeed a signal of trustworthiness: third-party punishers are trusted more, and actually behave in a more trustworthy way, than non-punishers. Furthermore, as predicted by our model, introducing a more informative signal—the opportunity to help directly—attenuates these signalling effects. When potential punishers have the chance to help, they are less likely to punish, and punishment is perceived as, and actually is, a weaker signal of trustworthiness. Costly helping, in contrast, is a strong and highly used signal even when TPP is also possible. Together, our model and experiments provide a formal reputational account of TPP, and demonstrate how the costs of punishing may be recouped by the long-run benefits of signalling one’s trustworthiness.

The letter can be found here.

What’s the Point of Moral Outrage?

By Jillian Jordan, Paul Bloom, Moshe Hoffman and David Rand
The New York Times - Sunday Review
Originally published February 26, 2016

Human beings have an appetite for moral outrage. You see this in public life — in the condemnation of Donald J. Trump for vowing to bar Muslims from the United States, or of Hillary Clinton for her close involvement with Wall Street, to pick two ready examples — and you see this in personal life, where we criticize friends, colleagues and neighbors who behave badly.

Why do we get so mad, even when the offense in question does not concern us directly? The answer seems obvious: We denounce wrongdoers because we value fairness and justice, because we want the world to be a better place. Our indignation appears selfless in nature.

And it often is — at least on a conscious level. But in a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature, we present evidence that the roots of this outrage are, in part, self-serving. We suggest that expressing moral outrage can serve as a form of personal advertisement: People who invest time and effort in condemning those who behave badly are trusted more.

The article is here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Right-to-die report will call for prior consent in dementia cases

By Robert Fife and Laura Stone
The Globe and Mail - Ottawa
Originally published February 24, 2016

A special parliamentary committee will propose Parliament adopt a new physician-assisted dying law that includes advance consent for people in early stages of dementia, sources say.

In a report to be tabled in Parliament Thursday, sources say the joint Commons-Senate committee will also address how doctors should deal with people with debilitating mental disorders and young people enduring painful and terminal illnesses.

The report recommends the government should first see how medically assisted dying works with adults before allowing it for children or people with mental illnesses.

The article is here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Should you edit your children’s genes?

Erika Check Hayden
Nature
Originally posted 23 February 2016

Here is an excerpt:

But emerging technologies are already testing the margins of what people deem acceptable. Parents today have unprecedented control over what they pass on to their children: they can use prenatal genetic screening to check for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, and choose whether or not to carry a fetus to term. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis allows couples undergoing in vitro fertilization to select embryos that do not have certain disease-causing mutations. Even altering the heritable genome — as might be done if CRISPR were used to edit embryos — is acceptable to some. Mitochondrial replacement therapy, which replaces a very small number of genes that a mother passes on with those from a donor, was approved last year in the United Kingdom for people who are at risk of certain genetic disorders.

Many safety, technical and legal barriers still stand in the way of editing DNA in human embryos. But some scientists and ethicists say that it is important to think through the implications of embryo editing now — before these practical hurdles are overcome. What sort of world would these procedures create for those currently living with disease and for future generations?

The article is here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Amusing Ourselves to Death? The Tension between Entertainment Values and Civic Virtues

Kayhan Parsi
bioethics.net
Originally posted February 24, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

I appreciate the fact that television is currently experiencing its latest golden age, with programming that rivals great literary works. Moreover, I believe that social media can be a force for good, mobilizing people to engage, to learn, and to be involved. Yet, with the dominance of visual and social media culture, we all need to become better educated on how to “read” this media culture. We need to reflect on how these new media shape the political landscape. And we need to connect the civic virtues in a meaningful way and harness the great power of these technologies. One way to do this is to adopt the Oxford-style debate format promoted by Intelligence Squared. As Rosencraz and Donvan argue, our current format reveals nothing of substance but rather is an opportunity for entertainment values to reign supreme. The candidate that says the most outrageous thing wins in this kind of format (WWF anyone?). On the other hand, “Oxford-style debate would force the candidates to respond to intense questions, marshal relevant facts, and expose weaknesses in their opponents’ arguments. Memorized talking points could not be disguised as answers.”

The blog post is here.

Notes From Psychiatry’s Battle Lines

By George Makari
The New York Times - Opinionator
February 23, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Consider this: Like most clinicians, I am eager for scientific progress, something new that will yield more clarity and provide my patients with faster or deeper relief. However, as I take stock of a new “neuroenhancer,” or the latest genetic correlation that may point to the cause of an illness, or a suddenly popular diagnosis, the historian in me senses ghosts beginning to stir.

Historians have shown that psychiatry has long suffered from the adoption of scientific-sounding theories and cures that turned out to be dogma. Perhaps the clearest example of such “scientism” was psychiatry’s embrace, in the early 19th century, of Franz Joseph Gall’s phrenology, in which all mental attributes and deficiencies were assigned to specific brain locales, evidence be damned. During much of the 20th century, psychoanalysis proposed far more conclusive answers than it could support, and today, the same could be said for some incautious neurobiological researchers.

The article is here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests

By Alison Flood
The Guardian
Originally published February 18, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The system was named Quixote, said Riedl, after Cervantes’ would-be knight-errant, who “reads stories about chivalrous knights and decides to emulate the behaviour of those knights”. The researchers’ paper sees them argue that “stories are necessarily reflections of the culture and society that they were produced in”, and that they “encode many types of sociocultural knowledge: commonly shared knowledge, social protocols, examples of proper and improper behaviour, and strategies for coping with adversity”.

“We believe that a computer that can read and understand stories, can, if given enough example stories from a given culture, ‘reverse engineer’ the values tacitly held by the culture that produced them,” they write. “These values can be complete enough that they can align the values of an intelligent entity with humanity. In short, we hypothesise that an intelligent entity can learn what it means to be human by immersing itself in the stories it produces.”

Riedl said that, “In theory, a collected works of a society could be fed into an AI and the values extracted from the stories would become part of its goals, which is equivalent to writing down all the ‘rules’ of society.”

The researchers see the Quixote technique as best for robots with a limited purpose that need to interact with humanity.

The article is here.

How Secular Are Secular Ethics?

By Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published February 21, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

There’s some truth to all these claims, but they are just a fraction of a much richer story. The real roots of secular ethics in the 18th to 20th centuries are to be found in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Star Trek. They come from Plato, Ecclesiastes, George Eliot, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Dr. Who. Furthermore, some element of personal ethics seems to be hard-wired in humans. When we think of passionate moral feeling as necessarily derived from Christianity, we do violence to reality. To think this way today is particularly galling because so many traditions of being good in the world now crowd our common culture.

But mostly it is just naïve. It makes me think of the schoolroom map of Siam in The King and I. Christianity is there, on the map of moral influences, but it is just not that big. As we move into the future, it is important to remember the myriad nonsupernatural models for dedicating oneself to being good. And, of course, the complexity of the real story is much richer than the simplistic one.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

People Feel Less Responsible For Their Actions When They're Following Orders

By Katrina Pascual
Tech Times
Originally posted February 19, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Now, the modified experiment, conducted by University College London researchers, reflected the subjects' mental distance from their actions when obeying orders.

"We wanted to know what people actually felt about the action as they made it, and about the outcome. Time perception tells us something about the basic experiences people have when they act, not just about how they think they should have felt," said UCL professor and senior study author Patrick Haggard.

Results showed that when the subjects freely chose the action in coercive orders, there was a longer interval between the action and tone, which is produced when subjects gave their partner an electric shock by pressing a key.

The article is here.

Engaging Patients Through OpenNotes: An Evaluation Using Mixed Methods

Tobias Esch, Roanne Mejilla1, M. Anselmo1, B. Podtschaske, T. Delbanco, J. Walker
BMJ Open, published online Jan. 29, 2016.

Abstract

Objectives 

(A) To gain insights into the experiences of patients invited to view their doctors’ visit notes, with a focus on those who review multiple notes;

(B) to examine the relationships among fully transparent electronic medical records and quality of care, the patient-doctor relationship, patient engagement, self-care, self-management skills and clinical outcomes.

(cut)

Results 

Patient experiences indicate improved understanding (of health information), better relationships (with doctors), better quality (adherence and compliance; keeping track) and improved self-care (patient-centredness, empowerment). Patients want more doctors to offer access to their notes, and some wish to contribute to their generation. Those patients with repeated experience reviewing notes express fewer concerns and more perceived benefits.

Conclusions 

As the use of fully transparent medical records spreads, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of possible benefits or harms, and to characterise target populations that may require varying modes of delivery. Patient desires for expansion of this practice extend to specialty care and settings beyond the physician's office. Patients are also interested in becoming involved actively in the generation of their medical records. The OpenNotes movement may increase patient activation and engagement in important ways.

The article is here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Become the Smartest Group in the Room

Minds for Business
Association for Psychological Science
Originally published January 28, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

You’re a manager tasked with putting together a team to tackle a new project. What qualities do you look for in creating such a crack team?

Research from psychological scientists Anita Williams Woolley (Carnegie Mellon University), Ishani Aggarwal (Fundação Getulio Vargas), and Thomas Malone (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) finds that the smartest groups don’t necessarily have the highest IQs – rather, what they do tend to have are excellent social skills.

(cut)

Instead, their studies revealed that social skills were much better than IQ at predicting a group’s collective intelligence. Social perceptiveness was measured by people’s ability to judge others’ emotions based on pictures of their eyes. Groups with members who were highly socially attuned — that is, good at reading emotions — were more collectively intelligent than other groups.

The results suggest that social perceptiveness allows group members to communicate more effectively, ultimately allowing the group to capitalize on each member’s skills and experience.

The article is here.

When are Do-Gooders Treated Badly? Legitimate Power, Role Expectations, and Reactions to Moral Objection in Organizations.

Wellman, Ned; Mayer, David M.; Ong, Madeline; DeRue, D. Scott
Journal of Applied Psychology, Feb 15 , 2016

Abstract

Organization members who engage in “moral objection” by taking a principled stand against ethically questionable activities help to prevent such activities from persisting. Unfortunately, research suggests that they also may be perceived as less warm (i.e., pleasant, nice) than members who comply with ethically questionable procedures. In this article, we draw on role theory to explore how legitimate power influences observers’ responses to moral objection. We argue that individuals expect those high in legitimate power to engage in moral objection, but expect those low in legitimate power to comply with ethically questionable practices. We further propose that these contrasting role expectations influence the extent to which moral objectors are perceived as warm and subjected to social sanctions (i.e., insults, pressure, unfriendly behavior). We test our predictions with 3 experiments. Study 1, which draws on participants’ prior workplace experiences, supports the first section of our mediated moderation model in which the negative association between an actor’s moral objection (vs. compliance) and observers’ warmth perceptions is weaker when the actor is high rather than low in legitimate power and this effect is mediated by observers’ met role expectations. Study 2, an online experiment featuring a biased hiring task, reveals that the warmth perceptions fostered by the Behavior × Legitimate Power interaction influence observers’ social sanctioning intentions. Finally, Study 3, a laboratory experiment which exposes participants to unethical behavior in a virtual team task, replicates Study 2’s findings and extends the results to actual as well as intended social sanctions.

The article is here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Data Against Kant

By Vlad Chituc and Paul Henne
The New York Times
Originally published February 19, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

This principle — that “ought” implies “can,” that our moral obligations can’t exceed our abilities — played a central role in the work of Immanuel Kant and has been widely accepted since. Indeed, the idea seems self-evidently true, much as “bachelor” implies “man.”

But is it actually true? In 1984, the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong outlined a series of thought experiments that, he contended, demonstrated that “ought” does not always imply “can.” Though his argument found some adherents, most philosophers were not convinced. We think that the consensus view that “ought” implies “can” is mistaken.

(cut)

While this one study alone doesn’t refute Kant, our research joins a recent salvo of experimental work targeting the principle that “ought” implies “can.” At the very least, philosophers can no longer treat this principle as obviously true.

The article is here.

Honesty and Dishonesty Don’t Move Together: Trait Content Information Influences Behavioral Synchrony

Marco Brambilla, Simona Sacchi , Michela Menegatti, Silvia Moscatelli
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, pp 1-16

Abstract

Emerging evidence revealed that honesty and trustworthiness are important drivers of the impression-formation process. Questions remain, however, regarding the role of these moral attributes in guiding real and concrete behaviors. Filling this gap, the present study investigated the influence of honesty on a nonverbal behavior that regulates social interactions: behavioral synchrony. Movements were recorded while participants interacted with a partner who was depicted as honest (versus dishonest) or as friendly (versus unfriendly). Results showed that synchrony was affected only by the honesty of the partner. Specifically, the more the interaction partner lacked honesty, the lower the perceived similarity between the self and the interaction partner, which in turn diminished the promptness to engage in behavioral synchrony. Our findings connected the literature on behavioral synchrony with that on the implication of morality for social perception, revealing the key role of the honesty facet of moral character in shaping nonverbal behaviors.

The article is here.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit

By Brian Earp
BMJ Blogs
Originally posted February 16, 2016

Introduction

Science and medicine have done a lot for the world. Diseases have been eradicated, rockets have been sent to the moon, and convincing, causal explanations have been given for a whole range of formerly inscrutable phenomena. Notwithstanding recent concerns about sloppy research, small sample sizes, and challenges in replicating major findings—concerns I share and which I have written about at length — I still believe that the scientific method is the best available tool for getting at empirical truth. Or to put it a slightly different way (if I may paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous remark about democracy): it is perhaps the worst tool, except for all the rest.

Scientists are people too

In other words, science is flawed. And scientists are people too. While it is true that most scientists — at least the ones I know and work with — are hell-bent on getting things right, they are not therefore immune from human foibles. If they want to keep their jobs, at least, they must contend with a perverse “publish or perish” incentive structure that tends to reward flashy findings and high-volume “productivity” over painstaking, reliable research. On top of that, they have reputations to defend, egos to protect, and grants to pursue. They get tired. They get overwhelmed. They don’t always check their references, or even read what they cite. They have cognitive and emotional limitations, not to mention biases, like everyone else.

The blog post is here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Definition of Morality

Gert, Bernard and Gert, Joshua
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
(Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming

The topic of this entry is not—at least directly—moral theory; rather, it is the definition of morality. Moral theories are large and complex things; definitions are not. The question of the definition of morality is the question of identifying the target of moral theorizing. Identifying this target enables us to see different moral theories as attempting to capture the very same thing. In this way, the distinction between a definition of morality and a moral theory parallels the distinction John Rawls (1971: 9) drew between the general concept of justice and various detailed conceptions of it. Rawls’ terminology, however, suggests a psychological distinction, and also suggests that many people have conceptions of justice. But the definition/theory distinction is not psychological, and only moral theorists typically have moral theories.

There does not seem to be much reason to think that a single definition of morality will be applicable to all moral discussions. One reason for this is that “morality” seems to be used in two distinct broad senses: a descriptive sense and a normative sense. More particularly, the term “morality” can be used either

  1. descriptively to refer to certain codes of conduct put forward by a society or a group (such as a religion), or accepted by an individual for her own behavior, or

  2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

Which of these two senses of “morality” a theorist is using plays a crucial, although sometimes unacknowledged, role in the development of an ethical theory. If one uses “morality” in its descriptive sense, and therefore uses it to refer to codes of conduct actually put forward by distinct groups or societies, one will almost certainly deny that there is a universal morality that applies to all human beings. The descriptive use of “morality” is the one used by anthropologists when they report on the morality of the societies that they study. Recently, some comparative and evolutionary psychologists (Haidt 2006; Hauser 2006; De Waal 1996) have taken morality, or a close anticipation of it, to be present among groups of non-human animals: primarily, but not exclusively, other primates.

The entire entry is here.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Does the desire to punish have any place in modern justice?

By Neil Levy
Aeon Magazine
Originally published February 19, 2016

Human beings are a punitive species. Perhaps because we are social animals, and require the cooperation of others to achieve our goals, we are strongly disposed to punish those who take advantage of us. Those who ‘free-ride’, taking benefits to which they are not entitled, are subject to exclusion, the imposition of fines or harsher penalties. Wrongdoing arouses strong emotions in us, whether it is done to us, or to others. Our indignation and resentment have fueled a dizzying variety of punitive practices – ostracism, branding, beheading, quartering, fining, and very many more. The details vary from place to place and time to culture but punishment has been a human universal, because it has been in our evolutionary interests. However, those evolutionary impulses are crude guides to how we should deal with offenders in contemporary society.

Our moral emotions fuel our impulses toward retribution. Retributivists believe that people should be punished because that’s what they deserve. Retributivism is not the only justification for punishment, of course.

The article is here.

Reconceptualizing Autonomy: A Relational Turn in Bioethics

Bruce Jennings
The Hastings Center Report
Article first published online: 5 FEB 2016
DOI: 10.1002/hast.544

Abstract
History's judgment on the success of bioethics will not depend solely on the conceptual creativity and innovation in the field at the level of ethical and political theory, but this intellectual work is not insignificant. One important new development is what I shall refer to as the relational turn in bioethics. This development represents a renewed emphasis on the ideographic approach, which interprets the meaning of right and wrong in human actions as they are inscribed in social and cultural practices and in structures of lived meaning and interdependence; in an ideographic approach, the task of bioethics is to bring practice into theory, not the other way around.

The relational turn in bioethics may profoundly affect the critical questions that the field asks and the ethical guidance it offers society, politics, and policy. The relational turn provides a way of correcting the excessive atomism of many individualistic perspectives that have been, and continue to be, influential in bioethics. Nonetheless, I would argue that most of the work reflecting the relational turn remains distinctively liberal in its respect for the ethical significance of the human individual. It moves away from individualism, but not from the value of individuality.In this review essay, I shall focus on how the relational turn has manifested itself in work on core concepts in bioethics, especially liberty and autonomy. Following a general review, I conclude with a brief consideration of two important recent books in this area: Jennifer Nedelsky's Law's Relations and Rachel Haliburton's Autonomy and the Situated Self.

The article is here.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A sociological analysis of ethical expertise: The case of bioethics

Nathan Emmerich
Sage Open
Published 22 June 2015
DOI: 10.1177/2158244015590445

Abstract

This article outlines a theoretical and conceptual account for the analysis of contemporary ethical or “bioethical” expertise. The substantive focus is on the academic discipline of bioethics—understood as a “practical” or “applied” ethics—and its relationship to medicine and medical ethics. I draw intellectual inspiration from the sociology of science and make use of research into the idea of “expertise” per se. In so doing, I am attempting to move the debate beyond the limitations placed upon it by philosophical or meta-ethical analysis and develop a perspective than can be used to address the sociological reality of (bio)ethical expertise. To do so, I offer the terms ethos and eidos to provide a basic conceptual framework for the sociological analysis of “morality” and “ethics.” I then turn to an exegesis of Collins and Evans’s account of ubiquitous, contributory, and interactional expertise and situate these topics in relation to academic bioethics and medical practice. My account suggests a particular understanding of the kinds of relationships that “bioethics” should seek to foster with the social fields it endeavors to not only comment on but also influence.

The article is here.

The Rise of Data-Driven Decision Making Is Real but Uneven

Kristina McElheran and Erik Brynjolfsson
Harvard Business Review
February 3, 2016

Growing opportunities to collect and leverage digital information have led many managers to change how they make decisions – relying less on intuition and more on data. As Jim Barksdale, the former CEO of Netscape quipped, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” Following pathbreakers such as Caesar’s CEO Gary Loveman – who attributes his firm’s success to the use of databases and cutting-edge analytical tools – managers at many levels are now consuming data and analytical output in unprecedented ways.

This should come as no surprise. At their most fundamental level, all organizations can be thought of as “information processors” that rely on the technologies of hierarchy, specialization, and human perception to collect, disseminate, and act on insights. Therefore, it’s only natural that technologies delivering faster, cheaper, more accurate information create opportunities to re-invent the managerial machinery.

The article is here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Senate Unanimous in Bill Protecting Student Medical Records

By Chris Gray
The Lund Report
Originally posted February 16, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Senate Bill 1558 allows university or college health centers, mental health centers and counseling centers to share patient medical information with someone at the university only if they have the right to access that information off-campus -- a high legal bar.

“Students will have the same expectation of privacy on-campus as off-campus,” said Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, the bill’s chief sponsor.

She told The Lund Report that the bill was necessary because campus health records can sometimes be classified as student records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and not protected under the more ironclad medical privacy law, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. And whereas HIPAA medical records come with them a strong guarantee of privacy, FERPA student records can be viewed by university administrators in certain circumstances.

The article is here.

Beyond the paleo

Our morality may be a product of natural selection, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone

by Russell Powell & Allen Buchanan
Aeon Magazine
Originally published December 12, 2013

For centuries now, conservative thinkers have argued that significant social reform is impossible, because human nature is inherently limited. The argument goes something like this: sure, it would be great to change the world, but it will never work, because people are too flawed, lacking the ability to see beyond their own interests and those of the groups to which they belong. They have permanent cognitive, motivational and emotional deficits that make any deliberate, systematic attempt to improve human society futile at best. Efforts to bring about social or moral progress are naive about the natural limits of the human animal and tend to have unintended consequences. They are likely to make things worse rather than better.

It’s tempting to nod along at this, and think humans are irredeemable, or at best, permanently flawed. But it’s not clear that such a view stands up to empirical scrutiny. For the conservative argument to prevail, it is not enough that humans exhibit tendencies toward selfishness, group-mindedness, partiality toward kin and kith, apathy toward strangers, and the like. It must also be the case that these tendencies are unalterable, either due to the inherent constraints of human psychology or to our inability to figure out how to modify these constraints without causing greater harms. The trouble is, these assumptions about human nature are largely based on anecdote or selective and controversial readings of history. A more thorough look at the historical record suggests they are due for revision.

The article is here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Does Bioethics Tell Us What to Do?

by J.S. Blumenthal-Barby, Ph.D.
bioethics.net
Originally posted February 15, 2016

Applied ethicists—including bioethicists—are in the business of making normative claims. Unlike, say, claims in meta-ethics, these are meant to guide action. Yet, when one examines the literature and discourse in applied ethics, there are three common barriers to these claims being action-guiding. First, they often lack precision and accuracy when examined under the lens of deontic logic. Second, even when accurately articulated in deontic language, they often fall into the category of claims about “permissibility,” a category that yields low utility with respect to action guidance. Third, they are often spectrum based rather than binary normative claims, which also yield low utility with respect to action guidance.

The blog post is here.

Corporates Manipulate and Succeed: Is this the way forward for start-ups?

By Robert Parmer
The Startup Magazine
Originally posted August 3, 2015

Here is an except:

Companies aren't always as independent, benevolent, or community-oriented as they seem. In fact, many popular companies are actually owned and operated by much larger (and often less popular) corporations.

I was once in the body care store “The Body Shop” and overheard a conversation between a customer and employee. They were talking about how they only use cruelty free products and only support companies that have that overall mindset, no excuses! I quickly picked up on a flaw in their logic.

While the Body Shop itself may represent a brand that is cruelty free, as a whole the company that backs them does not. That company is oddly enough Nestle which also owns the controversial brand L’oreal.

The article is here.