Ethics and Society Newsfeed – February 9, 2018

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Politics
The Circumscribed Ethics Investigation into Devin Nunes
“The House Intelligence Committee chair claimed he’d been completely cleared, but the panel probing his conduct never gained access to the intelligence he was accused of divulging.”

Trump’s Choice For Ethics Chief Wins Praise As ‘Somebody Who Plays It By The Book’ “Emory A. Rounds III is an associate counsel at OGE, a career civil servant who previously served in the ethics office of the Commerce Department and in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or the JAG Corps. The White House announced Wednesday that Trump intends to nominate Rounds as OGE director for a five-year term that requires Senate confirmation.”

Does Texas business group’s use of “dark money” for its political action committee follow state ethics rules?
“The powerful Texas Association of Business has been using “dark money” — which obscures the identity of political donors — for its political action committee. The group says the money’s used only for administrative expenses.”

Ethicists explain exactly why James Comey isn’t qualified for his new gig teaching ethics
“Former FBI director James Comey, who faced the moral quandary of how to appropriately investigate US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign and wound up upsetting all sides of the political spectrum, is due to become a professor in, of all subjects, ethical leadership. We wondered if professional ethicists agreed, and so asked four professors in the leadership and ethics to evaluate Comey’s behavior.”

Bioethics/Medical Ethics/Animal Ethics
Spotlight on procreation rights as France begins sweeping bioethics debate
“France on Wednesday kicked off a marathon round of talks designed to inform the country’s legislation on bioethics, with the government hoping to avoid a repeat of the poisonous debate that hijacked the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”

Physicians, ethicists urge Congress not to pass ‘right-to-try’ legislation
“Dozens of doctors, medical ethicists, and lawyers are warning Congress that legislation to allow Americans with life-threatening conditions access to unapproved, experimental 
drugs risks harming patients’ health.”

Now you can genetically test your child for disease risks. Should you?
“Genomics is cheaper and more available than ever, but its usefulness for parents has yet to be proven.”

Monkeys? Humans? The ethics of testing diesel fumes
“German car manufacturer Volkswagen is under fire following revelations that it part-funded tests in which humans and monkeys inhaled diesel fumes for hours.”

Research Ethics
Jump in animal research in Canada generates debate on science ethics
“Critics charge that Canada is lagging other countries in seeking alternatives to using animals in research, and suggest that universities, in particular, can be slow to change their ways.”

Scientists hate the NIH’s new rules for experimenting on humans 
“This week, after almost a decade of work, some new rules go into effect for researchers funded by NIH.”

Diesel monkey tests: can harmful corporate research ever be justified?
“The recent allegations that researchers funded by the German car industry tested the effects of diesel fumes on humans and monkeys has raised serious questions about research ethics in the corporate world.”

Technology Ethics
Ethical Tech Will Require a Grassroots Revolution
“…calling on the companies themselves to redesign their products with ethics, not purely profits, in mind, and calling on Congress to write basic consumer protections into law.”

Should Data Scientists Adhere to a Hippocratic Oath?
“…while calls for regulation have been met with increased lobbying to block or shape any rules, some people around the industry are entertaining forms of self regulation. One idea swirling around: Should the programmers and data scientists massaging our data sign a kind of digital Hippocratic oath?”

The ethical dilemmas of self-driving cars
“The arrival of the self-driving car presents a challenging new dilemma: Whom should the vehicle save – and whom should it harm – when an accident is unavoidable? “

The ethics of AI: Robots will rise, but will they rule us all? “The rise of artificial intelligence is posing interesting challenges for society, raising questions about ethics in a modern world where robots have intelligent decision-making power.”

Want to design user behavior? Pass the ‘regret test’ first
“What are the ethical responsibilities of companies that are able to manipulate human behavior on a massive scale? It’s a question one hopes technologists and designers ask themselves when building world-changing products — but one that hasn’t been asked often enough.”

As technology develops, so must journalists’ code of ethics 
“AI is sure to bring many benefits but concerns over its ability to make decisions mean human journalists’ input remains vital”

Environmental/Climate Change Ethics
Evaluating the Environmental Impacts of Trump’s Presidency
“Looking back at the rollbacks the president has made to environmental protections and regulations throughout his first year in office.”

Trump EPA nominee advances after hosting fundraisers for 2 Senate committee members
“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a 11-10 party-line vote. “

Should People Stop Eating Seafood?
“Fish eating is, for me, an ethics issue, but it is difficult to disentangle that part with the sustainability component,” Marino said. “Conservation is an ethical issue for me as well.”

Business Ethics
Comment: ‘We can’t leave Silicon Valley to solve AI’s ethical issues’
“Guendalina Dondé of the Institute of Business Ethics explains how companies can empower their employees and other stakeholders to use artificial intelligence efficiently, effectively and ethically”

Ethical leadership can have negative consequences, Baylor University researchers say “A new Baylor study published in the Journal of Business Ethics reveals that ethical leadership compounded by job-hindrance stress and supervisor-induced stress can lead to employee deviance and turnover. The research reflects the thoughts of 609 employees who were surveyed across two studies.”

Why Indian business schools will soon teach about karma, Mahabharata
“Business schools in India are set for a revamp of their curriculum, which will see the introduction of a new course on Indian ethics and concepts.”

Business schools now teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. protests and Trump
“As topics like sexual harassment dominate the national conversation and chief executives weigh in on the ethical and social issues of the day, business schools around the country are hastily reshaping their curriculums with case studies ripped straight from the headlines.”

Ethics and Pop Culture
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and the ethics of prisoner organ donations
“The idea of using a death-row inmate’s organ to save a child’s life made for entertaining and thought-provoking television, but it barely scratched the surface of the ongoing global debate over the ethical and legal implications of organ donations from inmates.”

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Confronts The Ethics And Science Of Survival, And Human Frailty Star Trek: Discovery episode 14 “The War Without, the War Within” confronts character ethics.

Philosophy and Ethics
In Theory: Feminist thinkers challenge ‘traditional ethics’
“A driving force for this revolution [women’s movements] might be a subject taught in women’s studies and modern-day philosophy courses known as “feminist ethics,” a branch of thought that argues “traditional ethics” neglects the perspective of women.”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: March 10, 2017

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Politics

White House Slammed by Federal Ethics Chief for Not Disciplining Kellyanne Conway
U.S. government’s official ethics watchdog blasted White House for not taking disciplinary action against senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s products on TV

Trump’s Ethics Order Seen as Boost for Shadow Lobbying
President Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday explains executive order to ban lobbying for five years for officials who leave office – addresses the ethics of “draining the swamp”

George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer says Jeff Sessions’ denial of Russia talks ‘a good way to go to jail’
Alleged ethics violations Jeff Sessions may have made when he claimed under oath that he “did not have communications with the Russians”

ACLU lawyer files ethics complaint against Sessions over Russia testimony: report
An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Christopher Anders, formally filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee denying any contact with Russian officials

Trump’s team nixed ethics course for White House staff
White House staff has received no ethics training under the Trump transition team and now presidency

Medical Ethics

House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results
Bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars; employers see that genetic and other health information

Prisoners with serious mental health problems face urgent treatment delays
Prisoners in the UK are supposed to receive mental health services after being referred to such a unit within 14 days and new official numbers have indicated that regulations are not being followed

New pregnancy testing technique needs limits say ethics body
Press release from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics explores the ethics of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) and explains why they are calling for a moratorium on the use of the new technology

Ethical Implications of User Perceptions of Wearable Devices
Wearable devices can save time at medical appointments and may even save lives – ethical implications of having large amounts of personal information stored in devices that are shared with third parties

When Evidence Says No, But Doctors Say Yes
Medical costs increasing and patient benefits are declining  – ethical conundrum of why medical professionals continue to prescribe unnecessary treatment, and calls for responsible regulation

States Wrestle With Legalizing Payments For Gestational Surrogates
Legislators proposed a bill that would regulate gestational surrogacy — potentially adding legal oversight to fertility clinics that facilitate these pregnancies

Environmental Ethics

EPA environmental justice leader resigns, amid White House plans to dismantle program
Key environmental justice leader at the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned, saying recent budget proposal to defund work would harm the people who most rely on the EPA

Why Won’t American Business Push for Action on Climate?
Fortune 500 companies who tout themselves as “green companies” have not stepped up to the plate when it comes to lobbying for climate change regulation

WCC participates in UN panel discussion on climate ethics
World Council of Churches (WCC) explains their involvement on UN’s panel discussion on climate ethics and why a human rights framework should be considered when taking action on climate change

Technology

Why we must teach morality to robots
Ethical input with robots needs to come before, not after, developing other skills

Ethics And Hacking: What You Need To Know
Forbes Technology Council members weigh in on ethics and hacking

Yes, what you do or say in an Uber may be recorded
Uber users to watch what you say and do in the back of those vehicles, as it just may be recorded

 

Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet

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STUDENT VOICES

By: Michael Aprea

This essay is in response to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs video “Climate Protectionism and Competitiveness.”  

Steam put the world in motion. It lit up the night, and tightened humanity’s grasp on the forces of nature. Nature, however, has eluded the human race and has forced civilization to reconsider its power in the most fundamental sense. Scientist, politicians, and citizens now face the heat as they scramble to address a cycle of global warming spawned by the progress of the industrial revolution that threatens to unhinge the fragile balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Reducing carbon emissions has been the answer to the problem. This standard that has taken hold in developed nations has morphed into a global economic crusade against carbon emissions through regulation, taxation and sanctions seeking to curb the emissions of the developing world. Although consumer responsibility and global collaboration in an endeavor to reverse global warming trends are laudable, it is important to recognize the risks these steps pose on global trade, the citizens of developing countries, and the debt developed nations have as beneficiaries of the first fruits of fossil fuels.

The United States owes its status as an economic superpower to the progress of the industrial revolution; a revolution fueled by carbon emitting fossil fuels. The rapid growth of nations such as Unites States reliant on fossil fuels came at price–rising global temperatures. Carbon doesn’t only heat up cold economies, it also has the ability to raise average global temperatures as it gets trapped in the atmosphere and captures solar radiation. These shifts in temperature have precipitated evident changes in the environment. Recent glacial melting, super storms, and inflated and more rapid extinction rates can all be traced to these rising temperatures. In response, the United States and other developed nations have sought alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions. These measures entail large investments of capital, and higher costs of production–a reality that makes production in underdeveloped nations more cost effective and foreign products cheaper. This reality, coupled with policies and regulations that seek to reduce carbon emissions through taxation and sanctions on developing nations still very dependent on fossil fuels, raises a host of ethical questions–particularly regarding the right and motive a developed nation has in enforcing such measures.

Continue reading “Stoking the Flames of Competitiveness on an Overheating Planet”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 3, 2017

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Politics

Betsy DeVos’s ethics review raises further questions for Democrats and watchdogs
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to lead the Education Department, promised to divest from more than 100 entities to avoid potential conflicts of interest with her new job. Questions left unanswered.

Donald Trump warned over ‘unprecedented’ plan to appoint cabinet without ethics office checks, emails reveal
Disclosed emails from the head of the ethics office warn President aides staffing a cabinet with robust oversight is a ‘tradition evolved as a result of hard lessons’

South Dakota Governor Signs Measure Reversing Voter Ethics
Governor of South Dakota signed a bill Thursday overturning an anti-corruption measure passed by a majority of voters in November, to the consternation of government watchdog groups.

Trump And His Organization Lawyer Up For The Ethics War Ahead
President Trump and the Trump Organization are beefing up their legal teams against an expected surge of conflict-of-interest allegations.

Teaching Ethics In The Trump Era
Graduate-level professor asks how to tell students ethics is important when “nothing around them feels ethical” re: Trump administration and conflicts of interest.

Bioethics

Human-pig hybrids might be unsettling. But they could save lives.
A new study out of California unsettled a lot of people last week after revealing that scientists had, for the first time, made part-human, part-pig embryos — referred to as “chimeras.” Raises ethical questions.

Could changing the way doctors are paid help narrow health disparities?
A study suggests that changing the way doctors and hospitals are paid could narrow some of the health disparities between poorer and wealthier patients.

Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Could Shape Bioethics for Generations
Neil Gorsuch, nominee for the US Supreme Court, has spent his career weighing matters of life and death. His views on life—that it is sacred and “intrinsically valuable”—are likely to shape court decisions in areas from abortion to assisted suicide for decades to come.

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: February 3, 2017”

The Ethics of Climate Change Activism: Fear vs. Reality

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STUDENT VOICES

By: Chelsea Zantay

This essay is in response to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs video clip “Global Ethics Forum: Ethics Matter: A Conversation with Bill McKibben.”  

Often when a problem is too big or too scary we throw up our hands and announce that “there is nothing we can do” to solve it.  Admittedly, climate change feels like one of those problems.  It seems like a quagmire of depressing facts and statistics.  It is now scientific fact that the polar ice caps are melting, our oceans are rising and becoming more acidic, and if we do not curb our consumption of fossil fuels, our planet will be rendered unlivable.  The plethora of disturbing information on climate change is enough to cause anyone to have a sleepless night or make them wish they had never heard the truth about our warming planet.  However, ostriches with their heads buried in the sand do not get much done, and once you know some truth, you cannot un-know it.  And so the question at hand is not “is climate change happening?” for that question has been answered in the affirmative (although climate change deniers would like to see this issue removed from our national political discourse).  The question right now is “what are we going to do about it, if anything?”

Bill McKibben, environmental scientist and founder of 350.org, has spent his career writing about climate change and mobilizing communities as an activist for the cause.  The mission of his website reads: “We believe in a safe climate and a better future – a just, prosperous, and equitable world built with the power of ordinary people.”  This statement is in no way frightening beyond the scope of comprehension.  In fact, it is probably what most people want out of the future.  Unfortunately, the direction we are headed in is not conducive to this safe and equal future.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  If we continue with our current rate of fossil fuel burning, we could be left with a planet that is ungovernable, uninhabitable and unrecognizable.  This is a terrifying thought, but should climate change activists refrain from telling the truth about our planet’s situation? 

At one point during the Carnegie Council’s featured video Global Ethics Forum: Ethics Matter: A Conversation with Bill McKibben, McKibben was asked about instilling fear in the general public so much so that the sheer magnitude of the problem may compel them not to act.  To this, McKibben replied, “reality is what it is, and we should describe it.”  In fact, it could be said that experts on ecology, such as environmentalists like McKibben and climate change scientists, have a duty to make this knowledge available to the public. 

Presently, we have seen enough “100-year” storms and floods to be convinced of the boundless power and undeniable truth of climate change.  Activists and scientists cannot be charged with attempting to use unwarranted scare tactics.  However, if they have been guilty of scaring the public into action in the past, is that such a bad thing? 

Continue reading “The Ethics of Climate Change Activism: Fear vs. Reality”

Ethics & Society Newsfeed: November 11, 2016

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President-Elect Trump and Ethics

Trump and Pence on science, in their own words
Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s career and campaign track record of false claims about science, rejection of research conclusions and dangerous rhetoric on misconceptions such as vaccines and autism

Donald Trump Will Face Unprecedented Ethics Decisions as President
Conflicts of interest between Donald Trump’s business interests and his presidency

Ethics laws don’t require Trump to give up control of his ‘unprecedented’ portfolio
Donald Trump has no legal requirement to forfeit control of his businesses

Trump left something out of his Obamacare speech — the 21 million his plan leaves uninsured
The public health consequences of Donald Trump’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare

Continue reading “Ethics & Society Newsfeed: November 11, 2016”

Why Science Denial is Immoral

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By Christopher S. Kovel, M.A.

Today’s society is built and shaped by technology and scientific discovery but, surprisingly, pervading scientific denial lingers. Irrational skepticism and flat-out denial of uncontroversial theories is not just a rebuke of the facts of science and an insult to toiling scientists in their respective fields, but should also be seen as a moral dereliction, capable of great harm if not remedied.

According to recent Gallup polls, two scientific theories in particular – evolution and anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change – struggle to gain widespread national acceptance. In 2014, 42% of Americans said they believe that God created humans in their present form (i.e. evolution never occurred). In the same poll, another 31% said they accept that humans evolved, but under God’s supervision and direction (commonly referred to as intelligent design). Only 19% said they believe the current scientific explanation of the origins of humans—that we evolved like every other organism on earth, through a natural process following biological principles.

Continue reading “Why Science Denial is Immoral”