Philosophy & Ethics

In modern NASA culture, extended spaceflight might as well be science fiction. The no-risk requirement coupled with volumes of employment criteria, rules and regulations were why the Constellation program was going to take far longer to go back to the moon than it took to go there in the first place and there is no serious manned exploration in the works.

Nonetheless, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, would like to get more funding to create a health framework and they even make a recommendation that is positively un-government-like: allow exceptions to existing health standards on a mission-by-mission basis, but they dutifully qualify that any exceptions should be rare and occur only in extenuating circumstances. 


I mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a graduate level seminar on David Hume, and having lots of fun with it. During a recent discussion of sections 4 and 5 of the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (“Sceptical doubts concerning the operations of the understanding” and “Sceptic al solutions of these doubts”) the concept of metaphysical necessity came up.
Can you buy ethics? Are scientists simply paid guns producing research for anyone that writes a check?

It's certainly a common cultural belief. Skeptics about global warming think that academics cozy up to politicians and apply for grants related to whatever is in the news while skeptics about medicine believe that if a researcher gets funding from anywhere except the government they are for sale. In reality, there is more disclosure and less conflict of interest that at any point in the history of science. There was a time when scientists had to read Tarot cards and make astrology charts for wealthy patrons and people who know how expensive and difficult drug discovery is dread a future where the government does it rather than corporations.
This semester I’m teaching a graduate level course on “Hume Then and Now,” which aims at exploring some of the original writings by David Hume, particularly the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and contemporary philosophical treatments of Humean themes, such as induction, epistemic justification, and causality.

Why is deciding to abort a baby a legitimate ethical choice but choosing to have a boy is not?

Some groups see the ethical issues in both but some only see the ethical issues in one. It shows that ethics is rife with subjective beliefs and rationalizations, so it can't be government policy. Yet there are efforts to claims such arbitrary lines are an evidence basis for decision-making.

Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, writes in Science that "preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another." 


A lot of principles in teaching and learning are taught, tested, re-proven to work, and eventually found their applications. However, there are those that exist but are better left unsaid.

Examples of Some Principles that are are taught:

In Chemistry

"Like dissolves like" is a fundamental  truth in dissolution of substances.  This means that a polar solute dissolves in polar solvent, and non-polar solute dissolves in non-polar solvent. Thus, oil, being non-polar, will not dissolve in water (a polar solvent), but will dissolve in kerosene (a non-polar solvent)..

In Assessment and Evaluation
I keep hearing that Notre Dame philosopher and theologian Alvin Plantinga is a really smart guy, capable of powerfully subtle arguments about theism and Christianity. But every time I look, I am dismayed by what I see. If this is the best that theology can do, theology is in big trouble. (Well, to be fair, it has been at least since David Hume.)
Playing fair is an altruistic behavior - we sacrifice our own potential gain to give others what they deserve.  It's persisted since man has existed, so is it biological or social?

Regardless, it's still nice. No one is against fairness except people who have earned less of something and think others should reward them for it. And it may not even be altruistic. Northeastern University assistant professor of philosophy Rory Smead suggests another, darker origin behind fairness.  Spite.
Cosmologist Sean Carroll is one of many who have recently answered the annual question posed by Edge.org, which this year was: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? Sean, whom I’ve met at the Naturalism workshop he organized not long ago, and for whom I have the highest respect both as a scientist and as a writer, picked “falsifiability.”
By growing “mini-livers” from adult mouse stem cells, the road may be paved to replacing, reducing or refining the use of animals in science.

Dr. Meritxell Huch from the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge received the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) 3Rs Prize for developing a method that enables adult mouse stem cells to grow and expand into fully functioning three-dimensional liver tissue.