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By In Applied Ethics Comments (21)

Is Steroid Use in Sports Morally Permissible?

PEA Brain Dave
Shoemaker
, paraphrasing his colleague, Steve Wall, suggested only half in jest
that all philosophers who are sports fans really want to write about philosophy
of sports. Being accurately pegged, here
is some sports ethics.

 

In particular,
amidst all the brouhaha over steroid use in baseball, I’ve been wondering
whether anabolic steroid use in sports is morally permissible. I’ll first provide some very brief background
information about anabolic steroids and a few guiding assumptions. I’ll then mention some of the standard
arguments against the use of anabolic steroids in sports, and finally, some responses
to these arguments. Unhappily, and at
the risk of siding with Jose Canseco and being labeled as someone who doesn’t understand
the "purity" of sports, I think I find the responses to the standard
objections convincing. I’m hoping some
of you can get me back on the straight and narrow.

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By In Applied Ethics Comments (4)

Evangelicals Should Read More Luther

This is my Left2Right wanna-be post.  Many evangelical Christians recently advocated various state measures that would have prolonged the life of Terri Schiavo.  I doubt that they should have.

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By In Applied Ethics, Normative Ethics Comments (6)

Chimeras and the “Yuck Factor”

One of our readers has suggested that one of us post something on last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine piece on stem cells and animals.  It seems that scientists have now been injecting human stem cells into some animals to figure out the ways in which the cells might differentiate and develop, and so, as with any new medical technology or procedure, certain ethical questions are raised.  Combining the cells of any two distinct species creates what is known as a “chimera,” and so when these human cells are injected into the brain of a mouse, say, we’ve got a mouse/human chimera on our hands (perhaps literally).  As it’s put in the article:

Few people argue that all experiments mixing human and animal material should be banned outright.  But where should the lines be drawn?  “Some scientists are completely upset with even a single human cell in a monkey brain,” says Evan Snyder, a neurobiologist who has conducted chimeric experiments with Redmond.  “I don’t have problems with putting in a large percentage of cells – 10 or 20 percent – if I felt it could help a patient.  It comes down to what percentage of human cells starts making you squirm.”

But what precisely are the ethical issues involved here?  Believe it or not, what seems to be taken most seriously in defining the ethical issues is the aforementioned what-makes-you-squirm condition, known officially (I kid you not) as the “yuck factor.” 

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By In Applied Ethics, News and Events Comments Off on Ethics in War and Wartime

Ethics in War and Wartime

All are invited to attend the tenth annual Cal Poly Ethics Conference, to be held May 5-6. (Yours truly is an organizer).  The topic is Ethics in War and Wartime, and we have quite a lineup planned. The schedule of papers:

THURSDAY, MAY 5
9:45      Larry May, Washington University/St. Louis
                "Human Treatment, Poisoned Arrows and Weapons of Mass Destruction"

11:15    Deen Chatterhee, University of Utah
                "Taking Human Rights Seriously: War and the Liberal’s Dilemma"

2:30    Oliver Boyd-Barrettt, Cal Poly Pomona
                "On the (Near) Impossibility of an Ethical War Journalism"

       

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By In Applied Ethics, News and Events Comments Off on Vaccines

Vaccines

Here’s a news item (login required [free account]) that some readers might find interesting: the CDC has set up a permanent ethics panel on the distribution of vaccines and the sticky trade-off issues involved in rationing. According to The New York Times, it includes some familiar names:

“Four people have been named to the panel, although the agency hopes to add a fifth. Those already appointed, in addition to Dr. [John D.] Arras, are Robert J. Levine of Yale University, Kathleen Kinlaw of Emory University and Thomas Beauchamp of Georgetown University.”

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By In Applied Ethics Comments (16)

Souls and Human Beings

I’ve recently found myself having to deal more and more with the gnarly issue of souls in my work. My research focuses primarily on the relation between personal identity and ethics, but the metaphysical possibility of the existence of souls continually throws a monkey wrench into attempts to draw firm conclusions about the nature of selves, human beings, and/or persons with respect to ethical issues. Most contemporary theorists assume a materialist conception of these objects, but it’s very easy to undermine their conclusions by simply positing the existence of an immaterial substance at our core. For example, Singer and Kuhse have shown that if you believe that an embryo is a human being (with full moral status) from the moment of conception, the possibility of twinning gets you into serious trouble. But the trouble only comes if you assume a materialist conception of human beings. If, on the other hand, you maintain that what makes the embryo a human being from the moment of conception is that it houses a soul, then you can avoid the problems they cite. After all, upon twinning, one soul could migrate to one of the new organisms, while a new soul could pop into existence to be housed in the other new organism.

Because arguments about souls continually creep into public debates about this issue, I think it’s incumbent upon ethicists to deal seriously with it, rather than ignoring it or casting ad hominems upon its advocates. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Please forgive, then, the following movement into some rather straightforward metaphysics. It’s necessary, I think, to wrestle with the important ethical issues at stake in both the abortion and the stem cell research controversies.

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By In Applied Ethics Comments (3)

The responsible and the deterrable

Ever come across an argument that you just know can’t be right but you can’t pin down its flaw? I had that experience recently while reading an older paper on punishment, Alan Wertheimer’s “Deterrence and retribution.” (Ethics 86 (1976): 181-199) Quick background: Retributivists about criminal punishment often criticize consequentialist views on punishment, especially those that hold that deterrence is the aim of punishing an individual, on the grounds that such views would permit the “punishment” of those who are not responsible for criminal wrongdoing. If. e.g, if children, the insane, and others lacking in mens rea could be deterred from crime by the credible threat of punishment, why not punish these individuals, despite their lack of responsibility for their criminal acts? Indeed, retributivists ask, if we could deter individuals by occasionally punishing those who lack actus reus (those whose actions do not even meet the behavioral standards for criminal conduct), why not punish those who haven’t even engaged in criminal conduct? Wertheimer’s argument aims to defang this criticism a bit:

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