Philosophy & Ethics

As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, my most recent effort in philosophy of science actually concerns what my collaborator Maarten Boudry and I call the philosophy of pseudoscience. During a recent discussion we had with some of the contributors to our book at the recent congress of the European Philosophy of Science Association, Maarten came up with the idea of the pseudoscience black hole. Let me explain.

“Should I kill myself? May the artificial intelligence (AI), which humankind will depend on, ponder such questions, decide rationally, and drag us with it in a mercy killing?”

After a series of media stories about the Liverpool Care Pathway being systematic malnutrition, dehydration and premature death in patients across a wide age-range, it was subjected to review by a panel which delivered their findings on 15 July 2013 saying that
the Liverpool Care Pathway
needed to abandon its name, as well as the use of the word "pathway", and that the
the Liverpool Care Pathway
should be replaced within 12 months by an "end of life care plan". 


I’m getting a little tired of writing about the relationship between science and philosophy when it comes to ethics, as I’ve made my views abundantly clear on this blog and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, more than one of my readers has exhorted me to take on Richard Carrier’s arguments to the effect that science can answer moral questions, as these arguments are allegedly much better than those advanced by more prominent skeptics, such as Sam Harris and Michael Shermer.
A recent talk by Adam Elga (Princeton University) at CUNY’s Graduate Center made me think a bit about what the author calls “suspiciously formed desires.”

When the Supreme Court was debating the legal foundation of the Affordable Care Act in the United States, Justice Antonin Scalia challenged the Obama administration claim that the controversial individual mandate provision was Constitutionally legitimate, even under the broad 'Commerce' clause.

"Could you define the market -- everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli," Scalia said. 


Yes, yes, we’ve covered this territory before. But you might have heard that Sam Harris has reopened the discussion by challenging his critics, luring them out of their hiding places with the offer of cold hard cash.

Remarkable improvements in the quality of life, prevention and treatment of disease have been made possible through advancements in biomedical research, including clinical trials involving human subjects.


When I go to the gym I get easily bored, so I listen to either music or, more likely, audiobooks. Recently, I’ve spent exercise time with a couple of scifi entries by author Robert Sawyer. I started out with Flashforward, then moved to Calculating God.

Both books are based on clever premises, unfold nicely, but are — in my opinion — ruined by the author’s penchant for invoking deus-ex-machina scenarios near the end. And they both preach a bit too much science, to the point of feeling like a lecture to the reader, especially Calculating God. Nonetheless, they do make the time at the gym pass significantly faster...

29% of large clinical trials remain unpublished five years after completion and, of those, 78% have no results publicly available, according to a paper published yesterday.

This means that an estimated 250,000 people have been exposed to the risks of trial participation without the societal benefits that accompany the dissemination of their results, worry the authors. Of course, the participants all volunteered for the trials and had informed consent and many were even paid so claiming they were 'exposed to the risks' is emotional verbage designed to guide the public into one conclusion: all trial results should be published.