Philosophy & Ethics

You don't have to be a jerk to get the right thing done but sometimes out-of-the-box thinking requires some angry evangelism. Yet even legendary jerks like
Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison
knew you can't use the belligerence strategy too often or the next brilliant idea you have could fall on deaf ears.

Samuel Hunter of Pennsylvania State University and Lily Cushenbery of Stony Brook University, writing in the Journal of Business and Psychology, say jerks that are disagreeable by nature, overly confident, dominant, argumentative, egotistic, headstrong or sometimes even hostile are lauded, like Jobs, if they are innovative and succeed and happen to be CEO of the company, but for most people it can backfire. 



It's the research that counts. Shutterstock

By Ottoline Leyser, University of Cambridge

You can be a doctor without becoming an American citizen, people move here all of the time and go to medical school.

They just do it legally. The US president has used an executive order to grant amnesty to an unknown number of illegal aliens currently residing in America and now a group of scholars writing in Academic Medicine contend that not only should people in the US be able to go to medical school if they apply, it is an ethical mandate.



You might never know that you're hard of thinking. Robin Zebrowski/Flickr, CC BY-NC

By Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol and Richard Pancost, University of Bristol

It is an unfortunate paradox: if you’re bad at something, you probably also lack the skills to assess your own performance. And if you don’t know much about a topic, you’re unlikely to be aware of the scope of your own ignorance.


Knockaloe Camp. Stefan Manz

By Stefan Manz, Aston University

The German-Jewish painter and writer Paul Cohen-Portheim had spent a peaceful summer in 1914 visiting friends in Devon and enjoying the beautiful south-west coast.

But his idyllic holiday came to an abrupt end after Britain’s entry into war on August 4. Despite there being no suggestion of any sympathy towards his homeland’s military ambitions, Cohen-Portheim was classified as an “enemy alien” and prevented from leaving the country.

This is a commonly used argument, indeed often taken for granted. We can simulate physics on a computer. So, the argument goes, what is to stop us eventually simulating your whole body including your brain? And if so, is it not just a matter of time, and increasing computer power before we have exact simulations of humans as computer programs? Programs whose behaviour is indistinguishable from humans?

This is a staple of many science fiction stories of course. But some logicians, philosophers and physicists think there are flaws in this argument.

We know the laws of physics are incomplete. Could there be physical processes which for some reason are impossible to simulate using a computer program? And could processes like that go on in a human being?


Proof of life beyond earth is coming. Stargazing image via Shutterstock

By David A. Weintraub, Vanderbilt University


Research undertaken on beagles and the contraceptive pill in the 1970s was found to be fabricated - there never were any beagles. Flickr/Understanding Animal Research, CC BY-SA

By Mark Israel, University of Western Australia

There are a few things you might need for an experiment involving beagles and the side effects of contraceptive pills. Animal research ethics aside, beagles might be a good start.


Old fashioned scandals meet new-fangled complexity. Andy Dean Photography

By Mark Israel, University of Western Australia


How much risk can health workers be asked to take on? Mike Segar/Reuters

By Catherine Womack, Bridgewater State University

Taking care of sick people has always involved personal risk.

From plague to tuberculosis to smallpox to SARS, health-care workers have put themselves in danger in the course of fulfilling their duties to care for others. Many have lost their lives doing just that.