Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

reasons against abortion

May 23, 2011

One opposed to abortion posts to me:

my point is that there is absolutely no reason to grant non-person status to the unborn except to justify killing them

My reply:

How can one bestow nothing yet call it something?

Do you mean, “There are reasons to grant the unborn the status of ‘person’.”? I’ve heard a couple (e.g. “life begins at conception” and “you are killing a soul”), but these are not convincing. Human life is meaningless without personhood. If however, one were to present a case for a “soul”, I would reconsider my thoughts on abortion law. And I don’t mean anecdotal “past lives” stories, I’m talking about verifiable evidence.

Another “argument” I’ve been given is the linking to pictures of a destroyed fetus. Another is pointing out other people (i.e. persons) while implying that we should feel upset because, “See? If he was aborted, he wouldn’t be here now!”. I’ve even had some try to convince me by bringing notice to the fact that I would not be alive if I had been aborted. These are appeal to emotion fallacies.

If you have other reasons I’m not listing, I would like to hear them if you’re willing to offer.

I think I’m missing some. What are other reasons commonly given?


how Free software supports schools

January 29, 2010

I wrote the following list of advantages schools get by procuring Free software. I did it for the school I currently teach at though I hope others may find this useful. Any suggestions for additions or changes are welcome.

Civics and Ethics in Action: From an early age, we wish to teach students to share, cooperate, and engage their curiosity. Typically, proprietary software licensing restricts users from modifying their software or making copies to share with others. By contrast, teaching students the civics of community and the ethic of sharing is harmonious with Free software licensing and core educational goals. That is, we can promote these values and concurrently encourage students to respect the law. This is essential to an education that values global citizenship and civic responsibility.

Local Community Building: The freedom to share copies of GNU/Linux and other Free software means students and teachers can install this software on their computers at home. By contrast, proprietary software forbids this. Many teachers, students, and parents will want to have copies of the software used at school on their personal machines. When a school uses proprietary software, it compels community members to acquire their own restricted copies if they wish to compute using the same technology. By using Free software, a school does not pressure community members to purchase (or illegally acquire) equivalent software. Free software puts no limits upon the community.*

Global Community Building: Any money or effort spent by the school on the development of Free software can go directly toward improvements that other schools and organizations are free to benefit from. Those investments are sustainable as no developer can unilaterally choose to discontinue distribution. Additionally, simply by using Free software schools add to its economic value (via the network effect) and receive the benefits of source code peer-review from a global community. Using Free software is to participate in a cooperating community with no borders.

Depth of Learning Opportunities: Software is fundamentally a set of mathematical and logical instructions expressed in something called source code. Typically, the source code for proprietary software is kept a trade secret. Without source code, knowledge of software is kept shallow and the ability to modify (i.e. experiment with) it is impossible. Because Free software makes its source code available, the science behind such software can be studied by students. A Free software system is especially fitting for educational environments as any level of curiosity can be satisfied. Tools that are open for students to tinker with broadens learning opportunities and fosters community when those same tools are used by the students’ peers and teachers.

Security: Free software programs are adept at warding off viruses. Successfully planting a back-door in a popular Free software program is virtually impossible due to public scrutiny of the source code. Public peer review acts as an effective defense against the dangers of worms and trojan horses. The security a Free software program offers is a positive in terms of the productivity of users and a school’s technical staff.

Constructive Spending: Typically, using Free software instead of proprietary software releases funds that can be spent on developing desired software features or other school-related needs (e.g. professional development, facilities, books, etc). By contrast, using proprietary software means funds are directed toward perpetual licensing fees and upgrades – some of which are compelling whether or not the school sees a need.

Performance On Hardware and Hardware Life
: While not an inherent property of Free software, GNU/Linux is known as a lightweight and customizable system that performs well on older hardware and new hardware with low specifications (e.g. netbooks). This can translate into savings and waste reduction by extending hardware life.

Data Ownership and Vendor Choice: Free software is closely coupled to open standards for file formats. Students and teachers using Free software are ensured their information is stored indefinitely in universally accessible formats. Vendor lock-in through proprietary formats is never an issue when using Free software applications. Schools that adopt Free software are free to seek support and services from businesses of their choice.

* Some Free software does put a limit on individual community members (or companies) distributing copies. Sometimes, conveyed (i.e. distributed) Free software must carry with it the complete corresponding source code and the license the conveyor received with her or his own copy. This is known as copylefted Free software. Non-copylefted Free software is permissive, as it can be re-distributed as proprietary software.

The Christian Family Lynch Network

November 18, 2009

wants to legalize their hatred in Uganda.

an open question to Skype’s Josh Silverman

November 3, 2009

Mr. Silverman, you wrote in a post regarding TOM Online in collusion with Chinese authority to spy on and censor Skype users:

Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private.

First, it’s my understanding that Skype is proprietary software (and not semi-free software). Please correct me if I’m mistaken. If this is true, how can users come to know that their Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private, given that they are not privy to Skype’s source code?

when DIY shouldn’t cut it

October 28, 2009


The man’s lawyer, Doug Christie, tr[ied] to have the case tossed out on constitutional grounds, saying his religious motive negated any criminal intent.

Thrown out? A legal system has failed if “religious motive” can excuse such an act. I can buy the lack of criminal intent, but that’s only through an insanity defence. At the very least, the man needs to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

On a related but inconsequential note, I don’t understand why (especially in this day and age) some parents have their sons circumcised. I have heard several arguments but don’t find any of them compelling. Perhaps a medical condition could set in necessitating the procedure, but I’m referring to an otherwise healthy child.

decriminalizing drug use

October 8, 2009

The United States’ current version of their War on Drugs fails miserably because the problem of drug abuse is a health issue. Categorizing an illness as a crime makes the situation worse by introducing unnecessary problems. Instead of policy posturing to demonstrate a “get tough” approach on drugs, the US should get smart and reform laws to resemble those in countries like Portugal.

The current administration has indicated they’re open to change. However, simply making arrests a “low priority” doesn’t go nearly far enough. Decriminalization will coax more citizens suffering from addiction to seek treatment. As well, non-enforcement indicates a corruption of the law itself. If enforcement causes problems, the solution isn’t to ignore the law but to change it, so that its existence is just and beneficial to society.

Peter Schiff on healthcare – part 2

September 29, 2009

I came across the video below of Peter Schiff “interviewed” by Ed Schultz. This has to be one of the worst interviews I’ve seen. Schultz simply wasn’t interested in constructive questioning or dialog. It was clear Schultz entered the interview with the intent of shouting Peter down. This was annoying at best and disrespectful at worst but getting beyond that, Schiff brought up a point (between 7:07 and 7:18) that I’ve questioned before.

I want people who now get health insurance from their employers to get money – to get wages instead that are not taxed and they can make a decision if they want to buy healthcare or if they want to buy something else.

The problem I have with this is that it equates the need of health care with the desire for every other consumer product on the market. Schiff doesn’t seem to think that health care should be seen as any different than the production of cars or Frisbees. So let’s say that one chooses not to buy health insurance and their gamble doesn’t pay off. They get sick. A car salesman has no ethical obligation to sell someone a car when they’ve spent their dollars on something else. A toy store owner won’t feel a compassionate impulse to sell someone a Frisbee when they’ve spent their income on something else. Should doctors be put in a position to say, “Sorry about that cancer, buddy. Next time you should think about making better economic choices. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”

Either I’m misunderstanding Peter’s proposal or his approach is void of any humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the free market. I just don’t see that the efficiency of the free market on its own can sufficiently meet essential human needs.

economist “empathy”

September 14, 2009

Shikha Dalmia on U.S. health care reform:

[Obama] would of course ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions–tantamount to forcing fire insurance companies to write coverage on a burning building

Not quite. The health of one’s body is not equivalent to the strength of a building’s infrastructure. Criticizing public plans for health care is like shooting fish in a barrel when one’s premise is that basic human needs are on par with any other economic widget. Of course, if the empathy of the U.S. people weren’t overshadowed by the mainstream media and heartless private interests, a single payer proposal wouldn’t have been pushed into obscurity.

the sting of ‘All Rights Reserved’

May 22, 2009

A) Often, one has an ethical obligation to share


B) One has a legal burden not to

the ethics and legality of torture

May 6, 2009

Daniel Florien asks, “Is torture ever justifiable“? He begins in fantasy-land with a 24-esque “time-bomb” scenario. After several comments pointing out the absurdity of this approach, Daniel “updates” his post – linking to a “real scenario” (yes, the contradiction in terms is amusing) to further push the envelope.

The problems with this case are:

A) That the torture still didn’t help and

B) Even if the boy was saved, definitive proof that it was torture that saved the boy could never be had

Even for the exclusively pragmatic of us without a moral compass, the fact is that one can never prove an efficacy of torture. Even the “second undisputed fact” in the NYT article is that someone was “imagining” that torture might work. Wow. A compelling “fact” indeed.

While others state – “torture may possibly, somehow, whatever small the chance, not be wrong”, the wise in this thread note many times over that this is really a disguise for the argument in favor of vengeance. The vengeful have a standard retort grounded in an emotional fallacy:

If your child was kidnapped and you found yourself in a room with one who had information, would you torture him?

Perhaps. My anger and panic may drive me over the edge. And while a judge may have some degree of mercy on me should I act with such insanity, that should neither provide justice for my action nor sanction it in any moral sense. Arguing the justification of torture (whether moral or legal) on such grounds is simply a last-ditch emotional plea.