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

 

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.

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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? 

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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.

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Fordham’s Dr. Christiana Z. Peppard at the forefront of encyclical analysis

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Following the Vatican’s release of Pope Francis’s first encyclical on Thursday, Fordham University Assistant Professor of Theology, Science and Ethics Christiana Z. Peppard, Ph.D., has been providing analysis and commentary on the much-awaited papal message on climate change.

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Meat-eating and Global Warming

By: Michael Baur

In a 2009 article in the New York Daily News, Princeton philosopher and animal rights advocate Peter Singer proposed that we begin imposing a heavy new tax on the sale of meat.

One justification for such a tax, he argued, was that it would help to reduce meat-consumption and thereby help to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  As Singer rightly pointed out, a 2006 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization showed that livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.  More specifically, the study showed that worldwide livestock farming causes about 18% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, while only about 13% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions were caused by all forms of transportion combined (see this BBC news article for more on this).

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