Philosophy & Ethics

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. 
I’ve been reading for a while now Jim Baggott’s Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth, a fascinating tour through cutting edge theoretical physics, led by someone with a physics background and a healthy (I think) dose of skepticism about the latest declarations from string theorists and the like.

It used to be that only rich people could afford to be fat. Now only rich people can afford to be thin.

And there's even a growing income gap when it comes to suicide.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland but that doesn't make it equal, and the authors of a paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology have found that assisted suicide is more common in wealthier areas.


Gay marriage is rapidly becoming less and less controversial, at least in the Western world. Yes, the battle hasn’t been won just yet, both in Europe and in the US, but we are getting there at a pace that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

The next frontier, it seems, is adoptions by gay parents. When I talk to even some of my somewhat progressive friends and relatives, including those in the Old Country, they seem to resist the idea of gay couples adopting children much more than they resisted (if they ever did) the idea of gay marriage. Why?

A hundred years ago, progressive efforts to bring about Utopia led to eugenics and social Darwinism, efforts to breed out undesirable traits by sterilizing people who had them. The concept was endorsed by luminaries such as the author H.G. Wells, economist John Maynard Keynes and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Oh, and eventually the New York Times and Adolph Hitler.

Racism as a social and scientific concept recurs periodically and researchers need to be careful that the growth of genomics does not bring about another resurgence of scientific racism, according to anthropologist Nina Jablonski of Penn State.


Here comes another post on ethics! This one is, I must admit, somewhat meta-ethical, despite my recent post about the limited value of meta-ethical discussions when it comes to debates in first-order ethics. As I pointed out in the discussion that followed that essay, it’s not that I don’t think that meta-ethics is interesting, it’s just that it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for refusing to get down and dirty about actual everyday moral questions.