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Joseph Rotblat, the Physicist Who Left the Manhattan Project: a Biography of Scientific Responsibility

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Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project for moral reasons before its completion. He would spend the rest of his life advocating for nuclear disarmament. His activities for disarmament resulted in the formation, in 1957,

Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project for moral reasons before its completion. He would spend the rest of his life advocating for nuclear disarmament. His activities for disarmament resulted in the formation, in 1957, of the Pugwash conferences, which emerged as the leading global forum to advance limits on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Rotblat's efforts, and the activities of Pugwash, resulted in both being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Rotblat is a central figure in the global history of resistance to the spread of nuclear weapons. He also was an important figure in the emergence, after World War II, of a counter-movement to introduce new social justifications for scientific research and new models for ethics and professionalism among scientists. Rotblat embodies the power of the individual scientist to say "no" and thus, at least individually, put limits of conscience on his or her scientific activity. This paper explores the political and ethical choices scientists make as part of their effort to behave responsibly and to influence the outcomes of their work. By analyzing three phases of Rotblat's life, I demonstrate how he pursued his ideal of beneficial science, or science that appears to benefit humanity. The three phases are: (1) his decision to leave the Manhattan Project in 1944, (2) his role in the creation of Pugwash in 1957 and his role in the rise of the organization into international prominence and (3) his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. These three phases of Rotblat's life provide a singular window of the history of nuclear weapons and the international movement for scientific responsibility in the 50 years since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. While this paper does not provide a complete picture of Rotblat's life and times, I argue that his experiences shed important light on the difficult question of the individual responsibility of scientists.

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2015-05

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Ethics of Life Extension Technology

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The prospect of anti-aging or life extension technology is controversial in biogerentology but deemed even by skeptical experts to warrant discussion. I discuss the justifications that the probability of life extension technology being developed in the near future is reasonably

The prospect of anti-aging or life extension technology is controversial in biogerentology but deemed even by skeptical experts to warrant discussion. I discuss the justifications that the probability of life extension technology being developed in the near future is reasonably high and that this research justifies the time and money it receives. I investigate potential ethical and societal issues anti-aging technology might create. This paper addresses inequality of access, economic cost, changes in quality of life, the role of death in human life, if and how the technology should be regulated and how parties who choose not to undergo treatment can be fairly treated, even when they are a minority.

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2015-05

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The Ethics of Keeping Large Felids in Zoos

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This thesis aims to address the ethics of keeping the big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, in zoos. It is a practice that has generated some controversy in light of scientific studies reporting stress among wide-ranging animals in

This thesis aims to address the ethics of keeping the big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, in zoos. It is a practice that has generated some controversy in light of scientific studies reporting stress among wide-ranging animals in captive enclosures, as well as in the context of wider discussions in animal welfare and conservation ethics in zoos. A driving question for this project, therefore, was "What are the arguments for and against keeping large felids in zoos/captivity?" This thesis examines the historical and current ethical approaches to evaluating the ethics of maintaining big cats in zoos. Due to many of the big cat species listed as endangered species on the IUCN redlist, the species-centered approach to zoo ethics is becoming the common viewpoint, and, as a result, zoos are deemed ethical because of their contribution to ex situ conservation practices. Further, the ethical arguments against zoos are minimized when the zoos provide suitable and appropriate enclosures for their large felids. Of course, not all zoos are created equal; the ethics of zoos need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but in general, it is ethical to maintain big cats in zoos.

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2014-05

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Global bioethics: a descriptive analysis of the function of bioethics in health and medicine on a global scale

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This thesis explores concept of "global bioethics" in both its development as well as its current state in an effort to understand exactly where it fits into the larger field of bioethics. Further, the analysis poses specific questions regarding what

This thesis explores concept of "global bioethics" in both its development as well as its current state in an effort to understand exactly where it fits into the larger field of bioethics. Further, the analysis poses specific questions regarding what it may contribute to this field and related fields, and the possibility and scope associated with the continued development of global bioethics as its own discipline. To achieve this, the piece addresses questions regarding current opinions on the subject, the authorities and their associated publications related to global bioethics, and what the aims of the subject should be given its current state. "Global Bioethics" is a term that, while seen frequently in bioethics literature, is difficult to define succinctly. While many opinions are provided on the concept, little consensus exists regarding its application and possible contributions and, in some cases, even its very possibility. Applying ethical principles of health and medicine globally is undoubtedly complicated by the cultural, social, and geographical considerations associated with understanding health and medicine in different populations, leading to a dichotomy between two schools of thought in relation to global bioethics. These two sides consist of those who think that universality of bioethics is possible whereas the opposing viewpoint holds that relativism is the key to applying ethics on a global scale. Despite the aforementioned dichotomy in addressing applications of global bioethics, this analysis shows that the goals of the subject should be more focused on contributing to ethical frameworks and valuable types of thinking related to the ethics health and medicine on a global scale. This is achieved through an exploration of bioethics in general, health as a function of society and culture, the history and development of global bioethics itself, and an exploration of pertinent global health topics. While primarily descriptive in nature, this analysis critiques some of the current discussions and purported goals surrounding global bioethics, recommending that the field focus on fostering valuable discussion and framing of issues rather than the pursuit of concrete judgments on moral issues in global health and medicine.

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2011

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Conveying controversial science: Sam Harris's "The Moral Landscape" and popular science communication

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The academic literature on science communication widely acknowledges a problem: science communication between experts and lay audiences is important, but it is not done well. General audience popular science books, however, carry a reputation for clear science communication and are

The academic literature on science communication widely acknowledges a problem: science communication between experts and lay audiences is important, but it is not done well. General audience popular science books, however, carry a reputation for clear science communication and are understudied in the academic literature. For this doctoral dissertation, I utilize Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape, a general audience science book on the particularly thorny topic of neuroscientific approaches to morality, as a case-study to explore the possibility of using general audience science books as models for science communication more broadly. I conduct a literary analysis of the text that delimits the scope of its project, its intended audience, and the domains of science to be communicated. I also identify seven literary aspects of the text: three positive aspects that facilitate clarity and four negative aspects that interfere with lay public engagement. I conclude that The Moral Landscape relies on an assumed knowledge base and intuitions of its audience that cannot reasonably be expected of lay audiences; therefore, it cannot properly be construed as popular science communication. It nevertheless contains normative lessons for the broader science project, both in literary aspects to be salvaged and literary aspects and concepts to consciously be avoided and combated. I note that The Moral Landscape's failings can also be taken as an indication that typical descriptions of science communication offer under-detailed taxonomies of both audiences for science communication and the varieties of science communication aimed at those audiences. Future directions of study include rethinking appropriate target audiences for science literacy projects and developing a more discriminating taxonomy of both science communication and lay publics.

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2013

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Scenario panning for sustainability: understanding and enhancing participation in group deliberations

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Scenario planning originally garnered attention within the corporate sector as a tool to manage energy transitions, but it has gained traction within the field of sustainability. It is a process for exploring potential futures and thinking critically about complex decisions

Scenario planning originally garnered attention within the corporate sector as a tool to manage energy transitions, but it has gained traction within the field of sustainability. It is a process for exploring potential futures and thinking critically about complex decisions that involve high degrees of uncertainty. It is also effective in shifting mental models, engaging diverse stakeholders, and enhancing organizational learning, making it ideal for the complex problems that sustainability seeks to address. The resulting insights from scenario planning are typically used in strategic planning, which further aligns it with sustainability’s commitments to action-oriented solutions.

As a highly participative process, its success hinges on inclusive and just engagement of participants. This dissertation employed a multimethod approach to address the question, “What impacts do social dynamics have on participation in scenario planning for sustainability?” First, I conducted an ethical exploration of participation, looking to the systemic societal factors that might function as barriers to authentic participation. Next, I conducted an ethnographic study of a scenario planning workshop to identify ways in which social influence and authority impact participation in the process. Finally, I piloted a psychology study that explored the impact of explicit acknowledgement of status differential and the use of pre-event brainstorming on participation in a small group task that parallels scenario planning interactions.

In doing so, this dissertation presents a conceptual framework from which to understand the role of participation in scenario planning for sustainability and coins the term “strawman participation,” drawing attention to the role and function of social influence in participatory processes. If “token participation” arises from participants not being granted decision-making power, strawman participation develops from social/structural barriers, then “authentic participation” allows for both decision-making power and social capacity for participation. Though my findings suggest that scenario planning utilizes methods to equalize participation and engage diverse participants, factors such as status differentials and gender dynamics impact authentic participation. Results of the pilot study point to the utility of status concealment and individual-level brainstorming to bolster participation. Ultimately, this work contributes to a more nuanced understanding of participation in service of more robust, pluralistic sustainability decision making.

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2015

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Empathy, enhancement, and responsibility

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This dissertation engages with the philosophical, psychological, and scientific literature on two important topics: empathy and human enhancement. My two broad goals are to clarify the role of empathy in ascriptions of responsibility and to consider how enhanced empathy might

This dissertation engages with the philosophical, psychological, and scientific literature on two important topics: empathy and human enhancement. My two broad goals are to clarify the role of empathy in ascriptions of responsibility and to consider how enhanced empathy might alter those ascriptions.

First, I argue that empathy is best thought of as a two-component process. The first component is what I call the rational component of empathy (RCE). RCE is necessary for moral responsibility as it allows us to put ourselves in another's shoes and to realize that we would want help (or not to be harmed) if we were in the other's place. The second component is what I call the emotive component of empathy (ECE). ECE is usually an automatic response to witnessing others in distress. Expanding on Michael Slote's view that moral distinctions track degrees of empathy, I argue that it is ECE that varies in strength depending on our relationship to specific people.

Second, I argue that in order to achieve Peter Singer's goal an "expanding circle" of care for all human beings, it will be necessary to use some form of artificial empathy enhancement. Within this context, I try to show that empathy enhancement is 1) a reasonably foreseeable possibility within the next decade or so, and 2) morally defensible.

Third, I argue that philosophers who argue that psychopaths are not morally responsible for their actions are mistaken. As I see it, these philosophers have erred in treating empathy as a singular concept and concluding that because psychopaths lack empathy they cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. The distinction between RCE and ECE allows us to say that psychopaths lack one component of empathy, ECE, but are still responsible for their actions because they clearly have a functional RCE.

Fourth, I paint a portrait of the landscape of responsibility with respect to the enhanced empath. I argue that the enhanced empath would be subject to an expanded sphere of special obligations such that acts that were previously supererogatory become, prima facie, morally obligatory.

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2016

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Ethics and online behaviors: challenges among counseling and psychology graduate students

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Technology is rapidly evolving, and mental health professionals are increasingly using technology in their clinical work. In reaction to this shift, it is important that research examines the ethical implications of online behaviors. The current study examined the online practices

Technology is rapidly evolving, and mental health professionals are increasingly using technology in their clinical work. In reaction to this shift, it is important that research examines the ethical implications of online behaviors. The current study examined the online practices of graduate students in the mental health field and generated prediction models for online client searches and best practices in informed consent and online disclosure. The sample consisted of 316 graduate students in counseling, clinical, and school programs. Of those with clinical experience, a third had utilized the Internet to find information about their client. Progress in the participants' program, as measured by credits completed or in progress, and years of social networking experience were positively related to online client searches. The vast majority (over 80%) of individuals who conducted an online search did not obtain informed consent prior to the search. Curiosity was the most frequent reason given for conducting a client search. Previous professional discussions and belief that information online is private were not significant predictors of obtaining informed consent. The final analysis examined disclosure of client information and found that lower scores on ethical decision-making and years of social networking experience predicted online disclosure. This study is an important step in understanding the implications of the intersection of technology use, ethics, and clinical practice of graduate mental health professionals.

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2012

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The Human Genome Project and ELSI: the imperative of technology and the reduction of the public ethics debate

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In the past century, a number of technological projects have been undertaken as grand solutions to social problems. In the so called century of biology, this technological world view focuses on biomedical advances. The President of the United States, who

In the past century, a number of technological projects have been undertaken as grand solutions to social problems. In the so called century of biology, this technological world view focuses on biomedical advances. The President of the United States, who once called for nuclear weapons and space exploration, now calls for new biotechnologies, such as genomics, individualized medicine, and nanotechnology, which will improve the world by improving our biological lives. Portrayed as the Manhattan Project of the late 20th Century, the Human Genome Project (HGP) not only undertook the science of sequencing the human genome but also the ethics of it. For this thesis I ask how the HGP did this; what was the range of possibilities of goods and evils imagined by the HGP; and what, if anything, was left out. I show that the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) research program of the HGP was inscribed with the competencies of the professional field of bioethics, which had lent itself useful for governing biomedical science and technology earlier in the 20th century. Drawing on a sociological framework for understanding the development of professional bioethics, I describe the development of ELSI, and I note how the given-in-advance boundaries between authorized/unauthorized questions shaped its formation and biased technologically based conceptualizations of social problems and potential solutions. In this sense, the HGP and ELSI served both as the ends of policy and as instruments of self-legitimation, thus re-inscribing and enacting the structures for these powerful sociotechnical imaginaries. I engage the HGP and ELSI through historical, sociological, and political philosophical analysis, by examining their immediate context of the NIH, the meso level of professional/disciplinary bioethics, and the larger context of American democracy and modernity. My argument is simultaneously a claim about how questions are asked and how knowledge and expertise are made, exposing the relationship between the HGP and ELSI as a mutually constitutive and reciprocally related form of coproduction of knowledge and social structures. I finish by arguing that ELSI is in a better position than bioethics to carry out the original project of that field, i.e., to provide a space to elucidate certain institutionally authorized questions about science and technology. Finally, I venture into making a prophecy about the future of ELSI and bioethics: that the former will replace the latter as a locus for only formally rational and thin ethical debates.

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2012

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Ethicist-scientist interactions: analysis of current methods and an anthropological account of the life in the laboratory

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Within ethics, a number of scholars advocate an interdisciplinary approach of combining the two traditionally different professions of science and philosophy with the confidence that this collaboration will be a mutually beneficial experience. Current ethicist-scientist interactions include embedded-ethicists and research

Within ethics, a number of scholars advocate an interdisciplinary approach of combining the two traditionally different professions of science and philosophy with the confidence that this collaboration will be a mutually beneficial experience. Current ethicist-scientist interactions include embedded-ethicists and research ethics consultation services. Both methods are employed with the hope that they will reduce social and ethical problems that could arise from scientific research, and enhance the reflective capacity of investigative teams. While much effort has been put forth in the endeavor of creating ethicist-scientist interactions, there remains opportunity to refine these new interaction models to make them more robust. There is need for ethicists to understand the context of ethical decision-making in the laboratory. By extension, before interacting with scientists in a research lab, research ethicists ought to have the ability to understand the science and also be familiar with the different factors that influence scientific research, such as funding, productivity requirements, time constraints, politics of laboratories and institutional reward structures. Through literature review and the analysis of qualitative data obtained from the ethnographic study in a neuroscience laboratory, this thesis explores the strengths and weaknesses of ethicist-scientist interactions and aims to understand the culture, traditions and values of this community and their perspectives on their role as scientists and their relationship to ethics. This study shows that the quantity and quality of ethics discussions in the lab are limited and dictated by time constraints and minimal incentives. Other influencing factors are the researchers' perspectives on ethics and how they view their role as a scientist in relation to the public.

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2012