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Shame on Bioedge

It may be naïve to hope for better, but the world cannot afford sly pandering to lying propaganda. Failures of epistemic integrity have real practical consequences, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the middle east. Consider this:

‘In August Sweden’s leading daily newspaper, Aftonbladet, alleged that Palestinians were being killed for their organs. …While Aftonbladet never produced any proof for its lurid claims, it now appears that the rumour had some basis in fact – although Israelis as well as Palestinians were victimised.’ Bioedge

The ‘basis in fact’ is that some doctors in a forensic laboratory harvested some ‘skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers’. But the accusation is that Israel was deliberately killing Palestinians for their organs. Clearly, the harvesting mentioned is not evidence of the deliberate killing of Palestinians, and so is not a factual basis for the allegation. To lead the reader around this obvious refutation the author uses a weaselling qualification— ‘appears that the rumour had some’—and by this misdirection both effects and veils a disgusting insinuation.

I had believed that people involved in bioethics held themselves to higher standards of epistemic integrity than journalists, at least to the extent of abjuring low rhetorical trickery. I was wrong.


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5 Comment on this post

  1. It is widely circulated in some Middle Eastern newspapers (Ex: Pakistan Dawn) that Israel has harvested organs from Palestinians and it is believed, “basis in fact” or not. Facts don’t matter much to those who consistently look for ways to accuse a nation they hate. All the more reason for careful reporting on the facts.

  2. Not following the point of your remark, Simon. Are you
    (a) reporting a psychological fact about prejudice or intellectual laziness or (b) saying that in general it is reasonable to expect the worst when the worst is being done in other instances?

    And what ‘worst being done in other instances’ are you talking about?

  3. In general, BioEdge provides fair information. In this case, it seems that BioEdge is just reporting —perhaps not with all accuracy: I do not know, I would have to read the original at Aftonbladet— the suspicions. I have the suspicion that the author of the blog entry has other reasons to be discontent with BioEdge, such as a different orientation on moral matters. So you need to find a spot on BioEdge. But it is strange that, in a world such as Bioethics’s, where the most serious crimes are commended (, human cloning, abortion and euthanasia), someone might have a scruple about the exact wording of a piece of news.

    And I understand the remark by Simon as very straightforward. It means: If we know for sure that some serious crimes are publicly committed agains the Palestinians by Israel, why should we not suspect true any other possibility when in fact there could be Bioethical rationalizations for it? (I do not share this argument. I think that it is invalid, since every crime has to be proved in its own right. What I say is that it is a straightforward argument, easy to understand, and understandable).

  4. Sorry for the delay I didn’t think my post got through.
    More the first but some of the second even when considering the problems of induction.

    For instance from one doco I learnt that ‘The Elders of Zion’ is still being published in some Muslim countries in the ME even though it has been proven it is a fraud. & if I remember it correctly the explanation was that in the minds of Arabic public since Israel is getting away with so much and behaving so immorally this can be explained by believing the EOZion is true.

    In a similar way it was found the US media didn’t in fact bias the public into believing Saddam had WMD’s rather it was a validation after the invasion as to why the US was in Iraq.

    I’m not saying they are more likely to have done it-it isn’t in a court room after all- but I would say it is a natural fallacy people fall under. If for instance someone said the Nazi’s committed such and such up to now unknown atrocity people by in large would probably think in all likely they indeed did do it.

    Regarding the second and other instances even moderate Arabs and Jewish Peace and human rights orgs see a long list of human rights abuses from with Anti-British Jewish terrorism during the British Mandate, the masscare of Deir Yassin, continued land theft, the illegal security wall, The Gaza War crimes, racism in Israel itself a Arab Israeli cannot marry and invite that partner to live in Israel etc.

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