Tag: theology

Bioethics Blogs

On Plastic Reason by Tobias Rees by Setrag Manoukian

Plastic Reason: An Anthropology of Brain Science in Embryogenetic Terms

by Tobias Rees

University of California Press, 2016, 352 pages

 

Plastic Reason is an excellent occasion to reflect on the relationship between poetry and science.

One might feel the proverbial contrastive tension in naming together poetry and science, a tension one finds in certain intellectual habits that foreground a distinction between human and non-human sciences, or in postures that romantically juxtapose the supposed freedom and creativity of poetry with the hard realities of science (social sciences included). However, at closer scrutiny, this tension reveals itself as an exciting site of possible conversations, to the extent that one might even end up arguing that there cannot be poetry without science, nor science without poetry. After all, the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) made a forceful case for the necessity of poetry in the “history of human nature,” conceptualizing poetic knowledge as the fundamental articulation of humans’ changing relationship with the world. Vico distinguished poetic knowledge from the sciences of nature, however this distinction was for him historical and relational, not absolute, with the understanding that, whatever humans might be, they could not be thought without both poetry and science.

Rees’s book is foremost an engagement with plastic conceptions of the brain, but as the author wrote me in a recent email exchange, it is also “concerned with a form of poetry.” So I began to read Plastic Reason asking myself what was this form of poetry, and whether the book could provide useful leads to think poetry and science together.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Things Which Have Once Been Conjoined: Science Fiction, Contagion, and Magic in the Age of Social Media by Samuel Gerald Collins

There are many interesting formations that might be called networked phenomena. Homophily and the tendency towards triad closure. Scott Feld’s Rule (I’m more likely to make friends with someone who has more friends than me). Small world phenomena (those 6 degrees of separation). “The Strength of Weak Ties” (reportedly the most cited sociology paper in history). In all, a series of social forms that complicates typical binarisms like individual versus group.

All of these have their positive and negative sides, but few networked phenomena have been met with more ambivalence than that of contagion, the idea that things (memes, viral videos, fashion) spread from person to person in a way that is similar to an epidemic; that is, people believe certain things or participate in certain behaviors without necessarily having “decided” to do so. Instead, the chances of “contracting” an idea, a fashion, or a new technology come down to the structural position in a network—a question, for example, of k-threshold models, where the chance of contagion depends upon the topology of connections vis-à-vis other infected nodes.

Given its identification with epidemiological contagion, it is not surprising that social contagion brings with it a negative valence, conjuring up fears of loss of autonomy, of being reduced to “hosts” for the “viral” propagation of information in a network. Contagion is at the heart of the fear and fascination of the zombie. It is also part of the latest panic in politics, one that centers on a vision of an electorate easily manipulated through fake news propagated through social media.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Living with Moral Disagreement: Activism, Advocacy, and Interaction

Image via

This May, the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University oversaw it seventh successful installment of installment of Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics. The theme of this year’s intensive ethics workshop was Living with Moral Disagreement: Activism, Advocacy, and Interaction. In this course, students from Fordham University and around the world engaged with faculty members from six disciplines on how to live in a world with a vast and deep moral disagreement

The Center brought together Michael Baur, PhD on Law, Melissa Labonte, PhD on Political Science, Charlie Camosy, PhD on Theology, Orit Avashai, PhD on Sociology, Gwenyth Jackaway, PhD on Communication and, the Center’s new Director of Academic Programs, Bryan Pilkington, PhD on Philosophy. From each of these distinct perspectives, the faculty engaged with students on topics about which we deeply disagree, including rights to healthcare, religious and legal exemptions around the concept of death and female genital mutilation or cutting. The conversation was lively, practical and steeped in the deep theoretical commitments.

The Center was pleased to have Lerato Molefe as a participant in this workshop, thanks to the Fordham/Santander Universities International Scholarship in Ethics Education. Lerato Molefe visited Fordham from Johannesburg, South Africa where she is the founding and managing director of Naaya Consulting, a legal and strategy consulting firm for large and high growth organizations spanning a range of industries across the African continent. She has degrees from Harvard Law School, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Smith College.


How to Apply for the International Santander Universities International Student Scholarships

For information on how to apply to the 2018 Workshop or Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program, please visit our Santander Universities scholarship page.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Living with Moral Disagreement: Activism, Advocacy, and Interaction

Image via

This May, the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University oversaw it seventh successful installment of installment of Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics. The theme of this year’s intensive ethics workshop was Living with Moral Disagreement: Activism, Advocacy, and Interaction. In this course, students from Fordham University and around the world engaged with faculty members from six disciplines on how to live in a world with a vast and deep moral disagreement

The Center brought together Michael Baur, PhD on Law, Melissa Labonte, PhD on Political Science, Charlie Camosy, PhD on Theology, Orit Avashai, PhD on Sociology, Gwenyth Jackaway, PhD on Communication and, the Center’s new Director of Academic Programs, Bryan Pilkington, PhD on Philosophy. From each of these distinct perspectives, the faculty engaged with students on topics about which we deeply disagree, including rights to healthcare, religious and legal exemptions around the concept of death and female genital mutilation or cutting. The conversation was lively, practical and steeped in the deep theoretical commitments.

The Center was pleased to have Lerato Molefe as a participant in this workshop, thanks to the Fordham/Santander Universities International Scholarship in Ethics Education. Lerato Molefe visited Fordham from Johannesburg, South Africa where she is the founding and managing director of Naaya Consulting, a legal and strategy consulting firm for large and high growth organizations spanning a range of industries across the African continent. She has degrees from Harvard Law School, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Smith College.


How to Apply for the International Santander Universities International Student Scholarships

For information on how to apply to the 2018 Workshop or Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program, please visit our Santander Universities scholarship page.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Impossibility of the Inert: Placebo and the Essence of Healing by Thomas J. Csordas

The concept of placebo is predicated on the opposition between active and inert, deploying this opposition to assert that an action or substance with no inherent active principle can have a paradoxical effect “as if” it were active.1 My thesis is that there is no such thing as the inert in human affairs, relationships, or experience. Think of the apparently simple retort of the bullied child that “sticks and stone may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” Contrary to this retort, names can indeed hurt. They are not inert, but carry an actual force identifiable as hate or disdain. And what of the retort itself? Is it a vain, desperate, and ultimately inert act of self-protection, effective only insofar as it taps into the “as if” logic of the placebo? I think not, though like any remedy it must be applied under the right conditions and with the understanding that it may not be uniformly effective in the degree to which it buffers the noxious influence of name-calling with an equivalent, self-confident force of self-esteem. There is also, however, an easily overlooked element of materiality in the retort. That is its rhythm: the fact that it is phrased in trochaic meter. It is not only that meter adds the force of incantation or song, but that it directly engages the embodied existential immediacy of the situation, contributing an element of jauntiness encompassing not only tone of voice but posture and gesture.

The notion of materiality as I have just used it is of value in reflecting on the impossibility of the inert.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Where to publish and not to publish in bioethics – the 2017 list

Allegedly, there are over 8.000 so called predatory journals out there. Instead of supporting readers and science, these journals serve their own economic interests first and at best offer dubious merits for scholars. We believe that scholars working in any academic discipline have a professional interest and a responsibility to keep track of these journals. It is our job to warn the young or inexperienced of journals where a publication or editorship could be detrimental to their career and science is not served. We have seen “predatory” publishing take off in a big way and noticed how colleagues start to turn up in the pages of some of these journals. While many have assumed that this phenomenon mainly is a problem for low status universities, there are strong indications that predatory publishing is a part of a major trend towards the industrialization of misconduct and that it affects many top-flight research institutions (see Priyanka Pulla: “In India, elite institutes in shady journals”, Science 354(6319): 1511-1512). This trend, referred to by some as the dark side of publishing, needs to be reversed.

Gert Helgesson, Professor of Medical Ethics, Karolinska InstitutetThus we published this blog post in 2016. This is our first annual update (the previous version can be found here). At first, we relied heavily on the work of Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, who runs blacklists of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers and journals. His lists have since been removed although they live on in new form (anonymous) at the Stop predatory journals site (SPJ) and they can also be found archived.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Peter Singer interviewed about, well, everything

The Journal of Practical Ethics recently posed 20 hardball questions to Peter Singer about his philosophy. It is a terrific insight into his thinking as his long career draws to a close.

About utilitarianism: Why do many intelligent and sophisticated people reject utilitarianism? Some people give more weight to their intuitions than I do—and less weight to arguments for debunking intuitions. Does that reduce my confidence in utilitarianism? Yes, to some extent, but I still remain reasonably confident that it is the most defensible view of ethics. I don’t know if everyone will accept utilitarianism in 100 years, but I don’t find the prospect frightening. It would only be frightening if people misapplied it, and I do not assume that they will.

On critics: There have been many critics of my views about euthanasia for severely disabled infants. I had some good discussions with the late Harriet McBryde Johnson, who was not a philosopher but a lawyer who had a rich and full life despite being born with a very disabling condition. As long as she was alive, when I wrote anything on that topic, I wrote with her potentially critical response in mind.

The objective truth of morality: You could just say “these are my normative views, and I’m going to treat them as if they were true, without thinking about whether moral judgments really can be objectively true.” If you do that, then in practice your decisions will be the same whether or not moral judgments can be objectively true. But given that I think morality is highly demanding, it becomes easier to say that, since morality is so highly demanding, and there is nothing irrational about not doing what morality demands, I’m not going to bother doing what I know to be right.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Is AI a Threat to Christianity?

February 6, 2017

(The Atlantic) – While most theologians aren’t paying it much attention, some technologists are convinced that artificial intelligence is on an inevitable path toward autonomy. How far away this may be depends on whom you ask, but the trajectory raises some fundamental questions for Christianity—as well as religion broadly conceived, though for this article I’m going to stick to the faith tradition I know best. In fact, AI may be the greatest threat to Christian theology since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Religious exemptions to assisted dying harm patients

Stuart Chambers argues that faith-based institutions should not be ‘conscientiously objecting’ to medical assistance in dying.

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Since the passing of Bill C-14 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying),” the debate over negative and positive rights has resurfaced. Assisted dying advocates emphasize negative rights. They insist that the state should refrain from interfering in the intimate personal decisions of its citizens. However, they also make claims about positive rights insofar as the state has an obligation to provide the resources—hospitals, staff, drugs—required to fulfill a dignified death. Without both types of rights — negative and positive — the Act is groundless. When faith-based hospitals demand religious exemptions from medical assistance in dying, they are, thereby, undermining personal dignity. The result is increased vulnerability and suffering for patients.

For reasons of conscience, individual health care professionals may refrain from providing end-of-life services. There is nothing in the Act, however, that remotely suggests that publicly-funded hospitals are exempt from the responsibility to provide medical assistance in dying.  This has not stopped faith-based institutions from imposing their theological worldview on their patients. In December 2015, the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario rejected any exception for physician-assisted death in its institutions and would not “directly or explicitly” refer a patient to get the medical procedure elsewhere.

Concordia Hospital

This religious bias, however, was not in sync with the attitudes of Ontarians. When polled in October 2016, 57% of Ontario residents disapproved of the position of Catholic hospitals on medical assistance in dying.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Now Accepting Applications: Fordham University’s Master’s Degree in Ethics and Society and the HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute

Master’s Degree in Ethics and Society: Spring 2017

The Master of Arts in Ethics and Society provides students with a solid grounding in moral theory and ethical practice in fields such as philosophy, theology, bioethics, research ethics, business and law.

Preparation for:
– Doctoral programs in the humanities and biological and social sciences
– Professional degree programs in medicine and law
– Employment in a variety of fields including government, nonprofit, academia, business, and healthcare)

Engage in practicum experiences throughout the New York Metropolitan Area at:
– St. Barnabas Hospital
– Global Bioethics Initiative
– Generation Citizen
– Fordham University Institutional Review Board
– Families and Work Institute
– And more

Take courses tailored to your interests with course work in:
– Philosophy
– Law
– Psychology
– Ecology
– Theology
– Political Science
– Economics
– Social Work
– Business
– Communications and Media
– And more

ASSISTANTSHIPS WITH STIPEND AND TUITION REMISSION OF OVER $11,000 AVAILABLE FOR SPRING REGISTRATION!

Students are admitted on a rolling basis. For spring admission, please apply by late November.

Visit fordham.edu/ethicsandsociety to apply or contact the Director, Dr. Celia B. Fisher at fisher@fordham.edu for more information.


Fellowship Opportunity for NIDA-Funded HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute: Summer 2017

Now in its sixth year, the Fordham University HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) is now accepting applications for the 2017 Summer Institute and Mentored Research Program.

This NIDA-funded program, directed by Center for Ethics Education Director and Principal Investigator, Dr. Celia B. Fisher, provides early career investigators in the social, behavioral, medical and public health fields with an opportunity to gain research ethics training.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.