Sunday, December 23, 2007

Become and Organ Donor!

Sparked by a new book-

Is organ donation ethical/moral?

-Consider the link, but also, is it ethical and/or moral to move someone up the list based on societal status or profession, or celebrity status?
- What about using organs from accident victims, or from those in a brain dead state or persistent coma?

-There is also an issue of organ theft (i only bring this up because I'm in New Orleans right now, and its becoming a major problem); someone is sedated/kidnapped and an organ removal is performed without consent usually without a sterile environment. Any thoughts on this?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dow Chemical Company

While writing my journal on the uses of language and its ability to illuminate or obscure meaning, I recalled a Dow Chemical Company commercial I saw this summer. Observe the use of sight and sound perception, as well as the language they use. Please click the link below before continuing to read this post.

Watched it? Good. Dow Chemical Company was one of seven major U.S. chemical companies supplying Agent Orange to the military for use in Vietnam during the 60's. To this day, veterans and Vietnamese suffer from the long-lasting implications of exposure to this herbicide. If you want evidence of this, Google Images search 'Agent Orange'.

So, in response to what they saw as utter hypocrisy on Dow's part, put out their own commercial and posted on YouTube:

Just thought I'd share an interesting example of the power of language in conjunction with sense perception.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


So I was recently had interviews with representatives of our Senators and Congresswoman. They were interviewing me to decide whether I deserved a nomination to a Service Academy. During those interviews I was asked a very interesting question.

The question was what would you do if you were given a direct order from a commanding officer to do something that was against your morals. I wanted to take it even further and ask, what if it was against ethical standards. Is there a difference? And if so, why?

I know many of you will not have to deal with a 'commanding officer' but just think of it as a boss, somebody who can control parts of your life.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


A topic of great controversy is the pro-life / pro-choice argument. So many factors play into this. At what point is a fetus considered alive? Is the act of abortion similar to the act of murder? Should the woman have the choice? How can it be fair for a raped woman to have to carry the child of her assailant? What if the mother's own life is in danger? I found support for either the pro-life or the pro-choice argument.

Pro-Life: (View each of the photos and take in mind the effect of the captions. Be warned, website contains very disturbing images.)

Pro Choice:
Premise One: Individuals own their bodies, and everything that is growing within them.
Premise Two: Fetuses grow within the bodies of their mothers.
Conclusion One: Females own their fetuses.
Premise Three: Individuals may destroy that which they own.
Premise Four: Females own their fetuses.
Conclusion Two: Females may destroy their fetuses.
(For further discussion of these premises, follow this link:

After reviewing the two sections, what do you think? Present your own view on abortion and discuss how the images and premises fairly or unfairly influenced your opinion or could influence the opinion of others.

Monday, December 10, 2007

a way to stop paralysis?

Recently, a professional football player was injured in a helmet to helmet collision. At the field, doctors pronounced him paralyzed for the rest of his life, the player was promptly air-lifted to a hospital where doctors experimentally injected his body with cold saline and lowered his body temperature enough to stop the swelling in the spinal column. As a result of this the player is now up and walking with limited body functions.

Is it ethical to step in and save this professional football player from paralysis when so many others become paralyzed each year simply because they can't afford this cutting edge science?

In what ways will this be a good step for medicine? Will it have a bad impact at all? Discuss.
Here is a link if you want the whole story:
Draft? or All Volunteer Military?

There are those who volunteer to enlist because it is their choice and they feel that it is their duty to do so, but is it fair to have the all volunteer military when many of the people who enlist are the ones who have no other options? Is it ethical for people like Bush and Cheney who make the decisions, to send these people to war when they have never gone to war themselves and will never have to worry about sending their children? The draft no longer exists for the very reason that people don't want to be forced to go to war, especially those who don't agree with it and feel that it is not a sacrifice they should be making. But if we were to have the draft system instead, there probably would be a lot more protest and people who can so easily ignor the war now would definitely be forced to face this issue. So which would you choose? The draft system or all volunteer military?
throughout history terms have been used to degrade specific ethnicities and minorities. Has language evolved enough that it is ok to use derogatory terms in everyday language when addressing friends in general, not dependent on ethnicity?

Julia and Meara

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ethics in Photography

Ethics in photography has been an especially hot topic of debate since it was introduced not only as an art form but as a component of mass media. One very powerful example of an ethical dilemma was brought up by Mrs. King. In 1993, Kevin Carter, a documentary photographer, came across an impoverished girl in Sudan struggling to crawl towards water where everyone else had headed. As he was observing her, a vulture landed near the girl. Carter waited for nearly 20 minutes for the bird to spread its wings in order for a good photograph, but it never did. After taking some photos anyway, he did not help the girl reach the feed station and instead left it to die. The controversy continued when in 1994 Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph. Sadly, he committed suicide on July 27th, 1994 due to the extreme guilt that he felt for letting the Sudanese girl die when he knew he could have prevented it. His suicide note read, "The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist."
There have been many arguments that Carter’s lack of intervention on the girl’s behalf was fully justified. Before leaving on the assignment, he and the other photographers were instructed not to touch anyone for fear of epidemics. Furthermore, the ethical role and duty of a photographer is to observe and not interfere.
The general question is this: Does there come a point where these ground rules and ethical duties as a photojournalist should be ignored for the sake of a human life? Where does the standard of beneficence come into play? This also applies to nature photography. When is it (or is it) acceptable to help an animal struggling in its natural circumstances? For example, is it okay to help a newly hatched sea turtle make it into the ocean? Fair arguments can be made for both sides of these questions and ethics in photography truly resides in a “gray” area. What do you think?

Photo and information on Kevin Carter from:

Saturday, December 08, 2007


What makes people believe in religion? Why?
How easy is it to convert to a religion, either from a previous non-religious or religious stance?
What needs does religion fulfill?
What kind of biases are involved in religion?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What?! I dont see it...

One thing i've noticed is that most people only ever see what they expect to. As long as you look honest and keep a straight face, you can convince people of almost anything. I once convinced a friend that I had never been to New Zealand... right after i had given him a souvenior from New Zealand. He believed me, simply because i kept a straight face. My question is: why do people only see what they expect to? Why do they never notice the things that are out of the norm unless they're pointed out to them?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary”

So I know we’ve been talking a lot about art the past few days, so I’ve found a couple of pieces of artwork that have undergone a lot of controversy about whether or not they should be viewed by the public or placed in a public museum.

Go here: to view a controversial piece of art by Chris Ofili. The following was said about the controversy:

In 1999, the city-funded Brooklyn Museum of Art came under fire when it exhibited a Chris Ofili painting of the Virgin Mary that featured sexually explicit cutouts covered with elephant dung. The Catholic Church, as well as New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, were outraged. Giuliani denounced the exhibit as morally offensive and threatened to cut off funding to the museum and terminate its lease if it did not cancel the exhibit that included Ofili’s painting. The city followed through and withheld the museum’s rent payment for October and filed a state lawsuit to get the lease revoked.

As a countermeasure, the museum filed a suit in federal court against the city claiming violations of the first ammendment, and seeking a permanent injunction against the city to keep it from withholding funds. U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon, sided with the museum, and granted them a preliminary injunction. The city was also ordered to resume the museum's funding, and to stop any eviction proceedings.

(Visit to view more instances of controversial art.)

**Consider the following questions:

What do you think should have been done about the “Holy Virgin Mary”?

Do you think Judge Gershon was justified in siding with the museum?

Putting this in a broader sense, should anything that is expressing an opinion, no matter how offensive to any kind of people, be allowed in a public place, and be funded by the money of taxpayers?

What types of knowledge issues are relevant in dealing with these kinds of cases?

-Sam Thompson

Marijuana Returned

James and Lisa Masters recently won a court case to have $100,000 dollars of marijuana plants and growing equipment returned. It was returned from impoundment by the police by order of Judge James Hiatt, because the Masters claimed to be using the marijiana for medical purposes, and selling it to friends using it for medical purposes. However the equipment and all of the plants were destroyed, so the Masters are seeking compensation, saying the law requires all medical marijuana to be maintained. Should the plants have been returned, and do the Masters deserve compensation?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dr. Watson- Racist?

This article is about Dr. Watson's recent announcements.
Many of us are familiar with Dr. Watson as a great scientist, being part of the Watson and Crick team that pioneered advancements in DNA. Now, Dr. Watson is making claims that experiments show that black intelligence is not equal to white intelligence and therefore, black people do not deserve to be treated the same way as white people. As we know, Watson has proved his intelligence through his advancements with Dr. Crick concerning DNA, yet he is being fought and even looked at in the context of racial hatred laws.
How do Watson's current statements compare to the work he has done in the past (does his past work give him any more credibility now)? Is society not accepting his ideas because of our familiarity bias with equality? How is science conflicting with ethics?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sorry, forgot to put the link. Here it is


What should Navy Lt. Michael Murphy have done?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Barry Bonds' Indictment

Some background: Barry Bonds, who just this year passed Hank Aaron as the all-time home run champion, was indicted this past November 15th by a federal grand jury in San Fransisco, accused of lying when he said that he did not knowingly take steroids. He will appear in court on Friday.

Read these two articles from ESPN on Barry:

Both authors are black, and both mention the race issue. One article says that race is a factor, and the other says that race is not a factor, both comparing Barry Bonds to other people in similar situations. Which do you agree with? First, is Barry's indictment a good thing or a bad thing? Second, is Barry's race (he's black) a factor in this decision? Should it be? Remember to justify...

Privilege vs. Availability

Conspiracy theories are all the rage, but most of their followers know quite little about a surprising convergence in their origins. The Unidentified Research Center, a conspiracy theory think-tank thought to be based in Roswell, New Mexico, has been churning out conspiracy theories for the last sixty years or so.

Think of your favorite conspiracy theory. Chances are, the URC was behind it, at some point in the stage: conception, composure, fabrication, or cover-up. Only now, in celebration of their sixtieth anniversary, is URC actually opening up. 2000 lucky entrants will be taken on a guided tour of the facilities of "Area 51," the URC's main headquarters. Sign up now, with a $50 deposit, for your chance to win this exclusive once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! You won't want to miss it.


Conspiracy theories provide an interesting example of the difficulties we encounter in perception. They are, almost exclusively, about the bias of privilege, that we can see or learn about something that no one else knows.

Beyond the fun we can have talking about conspiracy theories, though, there is another interesting issue. From the handout we received on "Biases Affecting Information Processing" (found online at, a different bias often directly conflicts with Privilege: Availability. One bias postulates that we want the accessible information, while the other postulates that we want the inaccessible information.

Can these be resolved? Or can only one of them impact us at any given time? Perhaps if we work to reduce the influence one of these biases has on us, we only dig ourselves deeper into a rut on the other one. Can anyone offer any insight into this contradiction?

And especially, can anyone provide any (personal) examples?