Life as an Extreme Sport

In Which An Editor Obnoxiously Brags About Her Author

I spent much of the fall grumbling – mostly good-naturedly – about editing a dissertation on the dual-use dilemma in the life sciences. I fell into editing the project rather late,Note, fellow editors: don’t take on a large project like that with a two-month window, especially not when you have two academic conferences of your own to prepare for and attend, plus your day job. which led to some memorable crankiness on my part (I actually sent back one chapter with “no” and “rewrite”), and sleep turned into a precious commodity for a while. Overall, though, I’m incredibly proud of the small part I had in the project, and extremely proud of the author in general. You can’t read the dis (yet), but you can see a little bit of Nick’s writing over on the Scientific American guest blog, today, where he looks at the proposed DHHS policy on gain-of-function

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Power Broker Bioethicists

Alice Dreger has a new post up discussing How to be a Bioethicist. She admits, upfront, that she sort of sucks as one, and not for reasons the snarkier or more vindictive readers of this blog might assume. Rather, she sucks as a bioethicist because she has a penchant for naming names and citing her work, because she is concerned about principles, and because she hasn’t figured out how to get a staggeringly high salary, regardless of currency. (Of course, she missed the fourth reason she makes a bad bioethicist: her unfortunate affliction with XX Syndrome.) Sarcasm, and even personal issues aside, I think Dreger raises a very interesting point about North American bioethics as a whole: what I rather jokingly referred to as the advent of “power broker bioethics” before I realized that this, indeed, was actually and precisely the correct phrase. A power broker, for those of you

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Is It Moral for Lefties to Vote for Obama What?

Over at The Atlantic yesterday, Conor Friedersdorf explained why he refuses to vote for Barack Obama this election season. His argument boils down to Obama having a dismal human rights record: Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone. … Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. This, I do not disagree with. Obama has done a lot of things that make me uncomfortable to flat out unhappy. I don’t agree with many of his policy decisions – and frankly, I also don’t

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Splice and Slippery Slopes

In the six years since I started taking coursework, TAing, teaching, and eventually working in the field of bioethics, there has been one constant: the slippery slope fallacy will set me off ranting every time. In fact, as a TA and a teacher, it is one of the first things that I discuss in a classroom: why I will not abide slippery slope arguments, and just how sloppy that thinking can be. So imagine my surprise to see a presentation of the slippery slope argument that not only was not sloppily presented, but was in fact one of the better arguments for it – and in a horror movie no less. Yes, I saw Splice last weekend, and I was quite taken with the movie as a whole. As most reviews of the actual plot will tell you, the movie went strangely sideways in it’s last 20 minutes, and came

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In Which Our Heroine Learns The World Is Not Flat

Oh Stephen Fry, this is just wrong. Saying that philosophers don’t tell you how to live your life is… I actually have a hard time getting my head around that point of view, given that many philosophers (especially those of the applied and normative branches) do, well, just that. Is Bentham’s calculus something other than how you should like an ideal utilitarian life? What about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, a treatise aimed at doing/becoming good, a practical application (some might argue the first in the applied ethics) rather than a meta or theoretical knowledge? (Spawned this entire field, really, called virtue ethics. Be hard to argue that virtue ethics is about anything other than how one should live one’s life.) Kant’s categorical imperatives are certainly prescriptions on how to live your life as a moral agent! (Right there we cover utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology, with just three well-known philosophers. There

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