Michelle Hutchinson

Call for Registration – GOOD DONE RIGHT: a Conference on Effective Altruism

7-9 July 2014, All Souls College, Oxford

Speakers include: Derek Parfit (Oxford), Thomas Pogge (Yale), Rachel Glennerster (MIT Poverty Action Lab), Nick Bostrom (Oxford), Norman Daniels (Harvard), Toby Ord (Oxford), William MacAskill (Cambridge), Jeremy Lauer (WHO), Larissa MacFarquhar (the New Yorker), Nick Beckstead (Oxford), Owen Cotton-Barratt (Oxford).

For further information and registration, please visit www.gooddoneright.com.

Effective altruism is a growing intellectual movement at the intersection of academia and the public world. It seeks to use insights from ethical theory, economics, and related disciplines to identify the best means to secure and promote the most important values, and to advocate for their adoption. To this end, philosophers at Oxford have established the Centre for Effective Altruism, a charitable company with close ties to the University, comprising two organizations, Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours, the first of which focuses on effective giving, the second on ethical careers.

The aim of this conference is to bring together leading thinkers to address issues related to effective altruism in a shared setting. The speakers are drawn primarily from within moral philosophy, but will also include specialists in development and health economics. Key topics include: our obligations as individuals and citizens in a highly unequal world; the moral importance of cost-effectiveness considerations in aid; the measurement, aggregation, and comparison of benefits; the ethics of career choice; population ethics; and existential risk.There will also be a conference dinner on the 8th in the Hall of All Souls; please do consider signing up.

The Immorality of the News

People tend to worry a great deal about censorship of the press, and to talk about the obligation governments and others are under to allow the press the freedom it needs to report accurately. But maybe we should worry more about what the press itself chooses to leave out, and think about its reporting obligations. Continue reading

Kony 2012, Malaria and Pizza

Last week this blog  mentioned the Kony 2012 video, and suggested that many of the criticisms of it were ‘dishonest’ in a particular sense, and biased. Criticisms of such a worthy cause, and other charities seeming to piggy-back on Kony 2012’s success, often meet with great anger. But such piggy-backing is entirely justifiable. Continue reading

Censoring Foetuses

In the US, Randall Terry is challenging Obama for Democratic leadership. Strangely, his reason for doing so is in order to be able to show graphic anti-abortion adverts  featuring aborted foetuses, holocaust victims, and a black person being lynched. Continue reading

Pheasant Shooting: Bad for Pheasants, Worse for Humans?

At the beginning of this month, the pheasant shooting season began. Pheasant shooting is little discussed – it’s usually seen just as a harmless country pass time. However, it’s far from clear that it really is as unobjectionable as this neglect implies. Continue reading

Why Pro-Life Counsellors Ought to Lie

Those who are pro-choice often get frustrated by anti-abortion advocates, who are seen as using underhanded and immoral tactics to decrease numbers of abortions. These include presenting misleading information about abortions at their advice centres.
For example, it is claimed that some abortion counsellors show pictures of late-stage abortions when discussing early-stage abortions, exaggerate the trauma felt by people who have had abortions and assert that foetuses feel pain earlier than scientists believe they do. A large part of the opposition to the amendment proposed by Nadine Dorries , which would have prevented bodies which carry out abortions from counselling women, was that this might mean that more women would be counselled by anti-abortion groups who cannot be trusted to provide accurate information about abortion. I’m going to suggest that it is a mistake to think that anti-abortion advisors are failing morally by providing misleading information about abortions. Indeed, they might be failing morally if they did not do so. Continue reading

Creating Non-Human People

 Last week, the Academy of Medical Sciences released a report  calling for better regulation of experiments involving animals containing human tissues or genes. One specific claim made by the report is that experiments which entail “modifying non-human primates to create human-like awareness or behaviour” should be banned. Was it right to call for such a ban? Continue reading

Artificial meat – the best idea you’ve heard all year!

Last week scientists from Oxford and Amsterdam announced the results of an investigation into the environmental impact of growing meat artificially in labs rather than keeping livestock. They found that greenhouse gases would be reduced by up to 96%. In addition, cultured meat production would only require 1% of the land and 4% of the water that conventional meat does. They estimated that if more resources were put into the research, it would take about five years to produce artificial meat with the consistency of mincemeat, and another five years to produce steaks. Their conclusion is modest: “We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now.”  This modesty is misplaced – it should be considered not just desirable, but hugely important to replace conventional with artificial meat. Continue reading

Charity: Why It’s the Thought That Counts

  Do we treat giving presents and giving to charity too differently? Continue reading

Was France right to ban the burqa?

This week France’s ban on people covering their faces in public comes into force, prohibiting people from wearing, among other things, burqas, niqabs and masks. This has been greeted with horror by many in the UK. But is France showing more sense than we are on this issue? Continue reading