Ethics: October 2005 Archives

Roundup

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Christian Carnival XCIII is up at White Ribbon Warriors.

GetReligion explains why Catholics proposing withholding communion from politicians who allow abortion and euthanasia need not say the same about Catholics who support the death penalty or war.

Bush hates rich people too!

He's gay, Jim!
From what I've heard about Rick Berman's attitudes toward homosexuality, this might ruin the chances of a Sulu series or even a Sulu appearance in any further stories. [Evidence: See this from 2000, which interestingly points out that one TOS actor and one or two TNG actors are gay. There's a lot more here, but much of that goes way beyond evidence presented. See the Wikipedia entry on this subject for more. Ron Moore confirms that someone in charge explicitly didn't want gay characters, and Kate Mulgrew says it was Berman.]

Tim Challies gives an excellent argument for Christians' participation in Halloween. I think he concedes way too much to those who think the current practice of Halloween has anything to do with paganism in the religious sense, but that's what makes his argument so strong. Even if you concede that, he thinks Christians shouldn't just see it as ok to participate. He thinks it's more like a moral obligation.

Jonathan Ichikawa thinks a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution intended to ban gay marriage is going to invalidate marriage of any kind. He first pointed this out five months ago and raised the issue again recently. His latest volley sort of responds to people taking alternative views, including my comments on both those posts (to the effect that an originalist won't take the conclusion he thinks follows) and the discussion at Orin Kerr's Volokh Conspiracy post. He thinks everyone questioning his view is underestimating how serious this is. I'm not sure he's really dealt with my argument, though. Either way, it's a really funny issue, because if he's right then those opposing gay marriage on the grounds that it will harm marriage as an institution will be fully destroying marriage as a legal institution while getting rid of the possibility of gay marriage.

I do not agree with the president on everything, though I've often defended some of his less popular statements and policies, against liberals who think his views are too conservative and against conservatives who think his policies are simply not conservative. It should never be said that I defend him no matter what he does. I happen to agree with him more than any liberal or moderate would, and I also happen to agree with him more than most conservatives would. That's not because I agree with whatever he would say but because I simply think he has the right views on many things that I don't think either major party gets quite as right. That being said, I wanted to disagree with something he did that I suspect most people I know would agree with him on. Last Friday, he made a statement criticizing Bill Bennett's infamous comments Wednesday morning about abortion and its social effects. I don't think the president was right in declaring Bennett's comments "not appropriate". I've seen two complaints against what Bennett said, one completely stupid and the other based on a genuine but misguided worry, indeed a logical fallacy. This second sort of issue comes in two forms, the more prominent and more misguided one and the less prominent and a little more reasonable one that I think ultimately is still not a good reason to criticize Bennett.

What Bennett said was pretty clear and straightforward. He was responding to a caller who thought you could argue against abortion on social consequences grounds. In particular, the caller wanted to say that abortion is wrong because if we didn't have it we'd have more taxpayers, and the GNP would be higher. Society would be more productive. Regardless of whether such a claim is true, if abortion is wrong it's for much deeper reasons than that. Bennett wanted to distinguish between the mere consequences of an action and what makes it wrong, thus siding squarely on the non-consequentialist side of ethical theory (which is the right view). He wanted to make this point by showing that an action can have good consequences without being a good action. So he picked an example that most everyone would consider horrendous with consequences that, independent of other factors, would be good. Since the original example was just like that, his point would be made, and it would be a very effective way of making the point. So he chose the example of aborting all black babies, which no one in their right mind would consider a good thing, not only for the horrific element of killing a whole generation of kids (presumably without consent of either parent). What's even worse is that it singles out just black babies to kill, which is verging in the direction of genocide. Yet surely such an action would reduce crime, Bennett points out. This is thus a very good example of the sort of argument Bennett wanted to make his point. He could have made it raceless and just had every fetus being killed regardless of race, but that wouldn't have been as bad a case, and he wanted it to be very bad.

Wired News has a fascinating article on face transplants. It contains an interesting statement. Some doctors have suggested that the novelty of the surgery and the lack of certainty on what risks even are make informed consent impossible. I commented on Jonathan Ichikawa's post about this, pointing this out, wondering what they might have meant by that, and his response struck me as equally unusual. He thinks this is an attempt to make a philosophical argument out of an ick factor. Is that really what's going on? What does this statement about informed consent amount to? I have some thoughts, but I really wanted to see what people think about this without my suggesting anything.

Ron Moore, who runs the redux of Battlestar Galactica that appears on the SciFi Channel, has a blog that he doesn't often update. His latest post was over two months ago, and I've been wanting to comment on it since then but haven't had the chance to put my thoughts together. (I'm glad I waited, because the mid-season finale just over a week ago gave me a couple more elements to talk about.) He often responds to viewer comments in his blog entries, and one comment he answers struck me in how it exemplifies our evaluation of people's characters. I don't think the fact that this is fiction makes a difference. We do this sort of thing in real life too. I think Moore's response is interesting, because he seems to be insisting on a view about moral evaluation that no one really holds. I hope that will be clear once I get the dialectic going. Here is the comment he's responding to:

I'm curious as to what characters we are supposed to like at this point in the second season. Adama, Roslin, the XO, and Apollo have all been disappointments. Adama has been a non-factor due to his injury but is at the root of the martial law problem along with Roslin since they begin working at cross purposes. Roslin has turned into this Jim Jones/David Koresh type figure and added a drug addiction to it which I find off putting. The XO can't make a good decision (other than to go back to Kobol) and has turned into more of an alcoholic than ever. He's let his wife manipulate him for worse as well. Apollo seems like an ingrateful whelp with a chip on his shoulder, going against both the military and his father. Starbuck hasn't been much better, going against Adama and then tooling around Caprica reliving her old life and playing ball games. Which character has shown any redeeming values this season?

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