By Dominic Wilkinson @Neonatal Ethics, Director of medical ethics
Why should we care about what happens to future generations? What reason do we have to sacrifice our own well-being and interests for the sake of people who will exist after we are dead?
Last night Professor Sam Scheffler from NYU gave the first of the 2015 Uehiro lectures on this controversial and challenging topic. http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/HT16_UL_Scheffler1.mp3
Written by Simon Beard
This is an unedited version of a paper which was originally published on The Conversation:
please see here to read the original article
After 35 years, the Chinese government recently announced the abolition of its controversial one child policy for one that will allow all Chinese citizens to have up to two children. Whilst this increased respect for personal autonomy is undoubtedly good, it is not clear if the lifting of the ban will actually lead to a marked increase in China’s birth rate – while the birth rate has dramatically reduced since the policy was introduced, so too have those of neighbouring countries without such policies.
Whether or not Chinese parents decide to use their new-found rights to procreate, the move does raise questions. Would it be good or bad if more children were now born in China and the population grew? And what value might there be in any changes to China’s population size and structure? Continue reading
Over the last four decades or so, philosophers have spent a good deal of time on this somewhat peculiar question. Why? After all, it’s not a question that people ordinarily ask, like ‘Do animals have rights?’ or ‘Is abortion permissible?’. Continue reading
There appears to be lot of disagreement in moral philosophy. Whether these many apparent disagreements are deep and irresolvable, I believe there is at least one thing it is reasonable to agree on right now, whatever general moral view we adopt: that it is very important to reduce the risk that all intelligent beings on this planet are eliminated by an enormous catastrophe, such as a nuclear war. How we might in fact try to reduce such existential risks is discussed elsewhere. My claim here is only that we – whether we’re consequentialists, deontologists, or virtue ethicists – should all agree that we should try to save the world.
The British Parliament has, recently, passed Act 1990 making possible what is, misleadingly, called “three parents babies,” which will become law in October 2015. Thus, the UK is the first country to allow the transfer of genetic material from an embryo or an egg that has defects in the mitochondrial DNA to generate a healthy baby. As it is perhaps known, a defect in the mitochondrial DNA causes several genetic disorders such as heart and liver failure, blindness, hearing loss, etc. Babies free from these genetic problems are expected to be born next year. This is good news and shows how science and technology can really work for human benefit.
This procedure raised several concerns, but also revealed confusion and misunderstandings in public debates. There was the fear of opening the way to Nazi practices considered intrinsically immoral. This is certainly not the case since the prevention of mitochondrial defects does not, strictly speaking, involves any gene editing, which is a different kind of genetic engineering. Now, embryo editing, which will be illustrated soon, does divide scientists and ethicists and needs further public debate. I will here present some real ethical concerns relating to embryo editing and to comment on the recent call, published by Nature, for a moratorium on the germline experiments. Continue reading
Imagine that you have been left a large legacy, and would like to donate it to a charity, with a view to doing the most good possible.
It’s natural to think that one set of charities you should consider are those which cheaply save people’s lives, and perhaps particularly young people’s lives. For then you can count the good in the rest of those people’s lives as a good you’ve brought about. Continue reading
We face very important decisions about climate change policy, healthcare prioritization, energy consumption, and global catastrophic risks. To what extent can the field of population ethics contribute to real-world decisions on issues like these? This is one of the central questions being pursued by researchers in the Population Ethics: Theory and Practice project at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. The project, overseen by Dr Hilary Greaves, officially began earlier this month, and will continue (at least in its present form) for three years. The research team aims to make progress in theoretical population ethics, and to assess its relevance to pressing practical issues that affect future generations.
This week is ‘Sustainable Fish Week’ at Ghent University in Belgium. All fish on the university restaurants’ menus come from sustainable fisheries or fish farms (with practices that can be maintained without reducing the ability of the target fish to maintain its population and without threatening other species within the ecosystem, for example, by removing their food source, accidentally catching and killing them, or damaging their habitat). Tuna sandwiches will be taken off the menu and a sustainable alternative will be provided instead. Those who take their meal at a university restaurant will receive a free ‘fish guide’ with helpful information for making responsible fish choices at home. Those with strong stomachs may also enjoy the opportunity to taste jellyfish at the university restaurants. The message is that, if we continue to eat unsustainable fish, then soon jellyfish will be the only alternative to fish left on the menu.