Philosophy & Ethics
In 1981 the philosopher Peter Singer published a book titled The Expanding Circle – Ethics, Evolution and Moral Progress. The book was inspired by EO Wilson’s Sociobiology – The New Synthesis, because although Singer claimed to find fallacies in Wilson’s book, he saw Wilson’s work as nevertheless providing a sound basis for exploring the evolution of ethical behaviour. Singer saw the need to republish with added notes in 2011 due to the appearance of fresh ideas on the subject.
Transparency is the slogan of a new, heterogeneous movement. The demand for transparency unites very different orientations. Many conservatives still feel that transparency is similar to anarchy. However, transparency is not primarily there to make it difficult for the powerful to hide their ways. That is just how transparency sells among liberals.
Transparency is stability! Opaque systems may fail entirely due to compromised secrecy. A transparent system is immune against that failure mode.
I have been an active member of the self-described Community of Reason since about 1997. By that term I mean the broad set encompassing skeptics, atheists and secular humanists (and all the assorted synonyms thereof: freethinkers, rationalists, and even brights). The date is easily explainable: in 1996 I had moved from Brown University — where I did my postdoc — to the University of Tennessee, were I was appointed assistant professor in the Departments of Botany and of Ecology&Evolutionary Biology.
Living Forever - Boring?
A recent article ["Would it be boring to live forever"
] raised the question that if science could resolve the problem of dying and prolong human life indefinitely, in a healthy state, would we become bored with such an existence and look at death more favorably.
The two perspectives are essentially expressed in the following quotes.
The latest issue of Philosophy Now
features an interesting collection of articles on human enhancement, with articles arguing that the approach is “essential” to humans in order to avoid catastrophes, that it can be used to extend youthfulness, and so on. There are also a couple of essays that are more cautious about the likely success, and even perils, of enhancement, so the full package (five entries) makes for stimulating reading.
I recently came across an article entitled "Synthetic biology: 'playing God' is vital if we are to create a better future for all
As you can imagine, the article itself is primarily focused on the advance of science and the counter-arguments that are often viewed as being "anti-science". Many of the comments support this view by arguing that we have been "playing God" since we domesticated the first animal, or planted the first food plant (1).
One of the primary issues is what this phrase of "playing God", actually means and the article addresses that point (2).
In 2010, when Dr. Paul Muizelaar of U.C. Davis began performing illegal experimental treatments on terminally ill brain cancer patients, he earned over $800,000. (1)
That's pretty good money for an academic, especially while we are enduring the political theater of universities canceling core curriculum classes to try and pressure taxpayers into agreeing to tax increases if we 'care about education'.
Since the unicellular creature, going through the evolution of the living organisms, until the recently ones, with complex and different kind of neurons, the nervous system has had only one purpose; to receive a particular change of energy of the environment, integrate it as an stimulus, and give a particular response to it. The stimulus can only be of two different types, harmful or beneficial, and they can have variations according the species and the particular state of the living creature.
Eugenics, the darling of elite, educated progressives 100 years ago in their quest to create Utopia, has been out of favor since those crazy Germans took it too far in the late 1930s, but there is one sound reason it found favor; why wouldn't we eliminate serious diseases beforehand instead of treating them after?
Plato famously maintained that knowledge is “justified true belief,” meaning that to claim the status of knowledge our beliefs (say, that the earth goes around the sun, rather than the other way around) have to be both true (to the extent this can actually be ascertained) and justified (i.e., we ought to be able to explain to others why we hold such beliefs, otherwise we are simply repeating the — possibly true — beliefs of someone else).*
It is the “justified” part that is humbling, since a moment’s reflection will show that a large number of things we think we know we actually cannot justify, which means that we are simply trusting someone else’s authority on the matter. (Which is okay, as long as we realize and acknowledge that to be the case.)