Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

Remember that Ethics Alarms is dependent on its many scouts, tipsters, fans and friends to keep the content varied and enlightening. As it is I can’t keep up, and having to engage in principled boycotts of unethical news sources (CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, ESPN, ABC and more) has made research more difficult, since even these blighters of the culture occasionally have something useful to report. Positive stories, those that tell me that society may be heading into the light rather than slithering into the darkness, have been in especially short supply lately, or if they have not, I’m not seeing them.

Speaking of seeing, maybe one reason I am in a rotten mood is that my wife decided that the perfect way to begin the week was by watching the 2008 Canadian film “Blindness,” a smug, would-be ethics film in which much of the world is suddenly rendered sightless by a mysterious pandemic. The movie’s villain is a blind man with a gun, who declares himself “king;” Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government; and the plot has developments like this (from the Wikipedia plot summary):

“A man with a handgun appoints himself “king” of his ward, and takes control of the food deliveries, first demanding the other wards’ valuables, and then for the women to have sex with their men. In an effort to obtain necessities, several women reluctantly submit to being raped. One of the women is killed by her assailant, and the doctor’s wife retaliates, killing the “king” with a pair of scissors. In the ensuing chaos, the building catches fire, with many inmates dying. The survivors who escape the building discover that the guards have abandoned their posts, and they venture out into the city. Society has collapsed, with the city’s population reduced to an aimless, zombie-like struggle to survive.”

Amusingly and predictably, the movie was attacked by organizations representing the blind.

It made me wish I was blind while I was watching it.

1. Wow…the New York Times really is sticking with the debunked “1619 Project” narrative! Nick Rojas writes this in a Times news story:

The Three-Fifths Compromise, an agreement reached during the negotiations in 1787 to create the United States Constitution, found that, for the purposes of representation and taxation, only three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people would be counted toward its total population. It is regarded as one of the most racist deals among the states during the country’s founding.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was not racist, and it is only notorious to the historically ignorant and those who have deliberately misrepresented the facts to advance Critical Race Theory. Giving full representation to slaves in the Southern states would have vastly increased the slave states’ power, and made it more difficult to keep slavery from spreading. Historians are mostly in agreement that the compromise was ultimately in the long-term interests of black Americans and began the process leading to emancipation.

2. On a related topic…Two brothers, Bentlee Herbert, 8, and Rodney Herbert, 5, were removed from their elementary school classrooms for wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts, and the boys’ mother, Jordan Herbert, who was using her sons as political props, was told by the superintendent of the school district in Ardmore, Oklahoma, that political messaging on clothes was not allowed at school.” The New York Time quotes Mama Herbert as saying that “A Black Lives Matter T-shirt is not politics.”

Right. Does anyone believe that?

3. Until someone explains to me how this happened, my trust in “settled science” will remain severely limited. My temperature was taken several times last week, and each time it was below 98 degrees. I also heard the 1967 pop hit above for the first time in years, and wondered, “Wait—now we are told that normal body temperature can be anywhere from 97 F to 99 F, that it’s usually lower in the morning and goes up during the day, and that it peaks in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes by as much as 1 or 2 degrees. How did 98.6 get recognized as normal for so long?” The 98.6 number is now officially regarded as a myth, but when I was a kid, the class thermometers had little marks on them at 98.6, and above that, you were sick. Why? Well, in the mid-19 Century, German doctor named Carl Wunderlich measured the armpit temperatures of about 25,000 people and came up with an average of 98.6 F. And for more than a century, doctors and scientists just went along with that estimate, allowing a false “standard” to permeate the culture and medical practice.

4. Fine Art Ethics: And now for something completely stupid…French curators had worked for a decade to prepare a major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci in 2019, but when it opened, “Salvator Mundi,” the most expensive work ever sold at auction and a “lost” da Vinci painting that has been rarely shown, was absent. Since the Louvre had promoted the painting heavily in its advance marketing of the event, its absence without explanation led many to conclude that the museum’s experts had discovered that it was not genuine—and that’s exactly what the French wanted people to think. Because Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the owner of “Salvator Mundi,” had insisted that he would only allow the painting to hang if it were next to the “Mona Lisa,” a condition the museum refused to meet, it was decided that the prince should be punished by undermining the value of his painting and treating it as if it were not genuine, deceiving the public and diminishing the exhibition out of spite.

5. Another disturbing tale from the Great Stupid (cont.) In Albany, NY, last week, an appellate court ordered a woman in to remove a rock from her driveway because a small Confederate flag is painted on it. If she refuses, the court threatened “change of circumstances” in the custody case of her multiracial daughter. In a unanimous 5-0 ruling, the court said that the Confederate-flag-decorated rock would be a factor in “any future best interests analysis” regarding the 7-year-old child. “Given that the child is of mixed race, it would seem apparent that the presence of the flag is not in the child’s best interests, as the mother must encourage and teach the child to embrace her mixed race identity, rather than thrust her into a world that only makes sense through the tortured lens of cognitive dissonance,” the opinion states.

Oh. WHAT??? It’s a rock. There’s a small Confederate flag on it. That is a historical symbol that signifies enough different events, ideas and issues to fill a thousand books. A court has no business presuming that a parent is not capable of explaining to her child the significance of such a symbol, controversial or not, and I regard this as oppressive government speech control using a custody matter as a pretense.

What makes it especially sinister is that the scenario embodies a “pay the two dollars” ethics conflict. Rationally, the woman should just toss the rock and get on with her life, but if she does, the court is allowed to abuse its power and another core American right continues its death by a thousand cuts.

14 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/10/2021: “Help! Every Ethics Story I Find Makes Me Want To Jump Into My Shredder!”

  1. Re: No. 4; The Racist Rock.

    The bigger issues with the Court of Appeals decision is that the matter of the Salvator Mundi rock was not raised at trial or on appeal, but the appellate court decided on its own to address the nefarious nature of the rock (not sure it is was igneous or sedimentary, but that’s a discussion for another day). The appellate court, then, entered into a custody dispute and imposed sanctions on a mother fighting her child’s father for custody of their child and threatened her with full powers of the court system, giving her an ultimatum that unless she removes the offending rock she risks losing custody of the child. How is that acceptable?

    • Why have you not finished The Pandemic Creates a Classic and Difficult Ethics Conflict?

      Good question.

      I started it almost a year ago, but was uncomfortable with how much I didn’t know, and how quickly the assessments and data had changed. What I was going to write has barely changed at all, but I keep expecting data that would show my position to be reckless—and that position is, as I think I’ve made clear elsewhere, is that the lockdown was misguided and unAmerican, and thus unethical. I’m not going to let the issue go.

      • What I was going to write has barely changed at all, but I keep expecting data that would show my position to be reckless—and that position is, as I think I’ve made clear elsewhere, is that the lockdown was misguided and unAmerican, and thus unethical.

        At this point, the data will never show your position was reckless.

        It was not even reckless one year ago. There were substantial arguments against lockdowns back then- the unprecedented, coercive nature, the burden imposed on people’s livelihoods- even if I believed that lockdowns should still be in effect in NYC and LA metro areas in mid-May of 2020. I

  2. If you’re looking for stories, Twice I have seen different stories about this spanking video out of Florida. I’m sure there is a good ethics post involving that.

  3. Jack wrote regarding BLM being political:
    Right. Does anyone believe that?
    Only every “woke” person in America. Just ask one.

  4. Plot question?- Julianne Moore plays an ophthalmologist’s wife who pretends to be blind so she can stay with her sightless husband as the stricken are rounded up by the government;
    How can the sightless husband/ophthalmologist be an ophthalmologist if he cannot see?

  5. You’re missing part of the story about “98.6°F” as the average body temperature. The German doctor did his study in degrees centigrade. Due to the large variation in temperatures, he proposed “about 37°C.” Someone grabbed that “about” and did a conversion to 98.6°F and deemed the number to have more significant digits than pre-conversion number.

    Something similar sticks in my mind when reading the reporting on Air France 447. (That’s the jet that went down in the Atlantic after leaving Brazil.) I remember seeing a report that “Searchers are looking in water about 14,711 feet deep. Hugh, that’s an oddly specific “about”. A quick conversion shows that it is an exact conversion of 4,500m. It’s just another sign of badly lacking fundamental science education.

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