Category Archives: Science & Technology

Comment Of The Day: “Regarding Hormone Restrictions In Women’s Sports”

Heidi/Andreas Krieger, Esat German women’s shotput champion

There were an unusual number of superb comments on this topic. This one is a worthy representative of them all.

Here is Sue Denim’s Comment of the Day on the post, Regarding Hormone Restrictions In Women’s Sports:

While I strongly support the use of science and evidence to make these decisions – this stinks to high heaven. The books were cooked, and very obviously so.

”One of the world’s most respected sports lawyers has quit his position on a committee of the governing body of international athletics, slamming the controversial new rule that is believed to target gold medal-winning South African runner Caster Semenya.”

Four months after being appointed to the IAAF’s disciplinary tribunal, Steve Cornelius said “in good conscience” he could not continue in the role.”

Without going into allegations about “real reasons”, let’s just look at the facts.

“A peer-reviewed article co-authored by Dr Bermon and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found female athletes with high testosterone had the greatest advantage in the pole vault and hammer throw, yet these events were not included in the newly created “restricted events” category.

The IAAF’s investigation also found no advantage in the 1,500 metres event but it was included..”

Let’s look at the evidence of advantage. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/30/18: Going Out Like A Lamb

Good Morning!

It’s especially good because this is the last day of one of the worst Ethics Alarms months ever, with the lowest daily average of views for an April since 2013. I have no idea why, and I wouldn’t change anything anyway. I have my dark suspicions, though….

1 Pig brain ethics. Researchers at Yale University restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs, and kept the organs alive for several hours.  Now ethicists are wondering if this was ethical.

Hmmmm:

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you asked the pig, he’d say that cutting his head off was more unethical than keeping his brain alive afterwards.
  • Like a lot of bioethics controversies, this is more “ick” than ethics.
  • Go on, make a “Futurama” joke.

2. Human brain ethics. Is we getting dumber? This Facebook quiz claims that “nobody” can get even 5 of these 10 questions right, and that if you get all ten right, you’re a genius. I hope that isn’t true. I would say that anyone who can’t get at least 8 of the 10 right is either under 15 or cognitively damaged. I really want to know what the average score is. If most Americans really can’t answer these, then we need to dismantle the public school system and start from scratch. And any teacher who can’t answer at least nine of the ten questions should be fired. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Science & Technology

Wait…Al Gore Is From Ancient India?

Okay, okay, I know Al has been riddled with cheap shots over this and never claimed to be the inventor of the Internet. However, that apocryphal claim makes more sense than this one, recently made by Biplab Deb, the chief minister of the Indian state of Tripura. He insists that the Internet was invented thousands of years ago by ancient Indians.

And you thought President Trump saying that Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War was bad!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s

Biplab!

“Narrow minded people find it tough to believe this. They want to belittle their own nation and think highly of other countries. Believe the truth. Don’t get confused and confuse others . . India has been using internet since ages. In Mahabharata, Sanjay was blind but he narrated what was happening in the battlefield to Dhritarashtra anyway. This was due to internet and technology. Satellite also existed during that period . . . Some European countries and the US claim that the modern communication system were their invention, but we had all these technologies in ancient times.”

Just in case you think he was misunderstood. or mistranslated, Minister Deb doubled down, elaborating in a scholarly fashion, almost as if he weren’t certifiably off his rocker and so technologically ignorant that he makes Hillary Clinton look like Steve Jobs, in a more recent interview when asked about his earlier jaw-dropping comments:

Whether Mahabharat, Ramayana or Upanishad, these are the empirical texts of our culture. If a person sitting in a palace can narrate what is happening in a battlefield 50 km away, there must have been some technique. Ordinary eyes do not have the facility to see such things. This was a particular technology, in the name of Sanjaya, which is akin to the Internet of today. Now if some of my friends raise questions on proof, then I would say that the proof lies in the Internet technology of today. Those who cannot understand, and feel that to oppose they must run down Indian culture and civilisation and aggrandise Western culture, they are provoked by my statements.

For example, how did the Wright Brothers think up of aeroplanes? They watched birds fly and conceived of a technology that could make a plane that flew. Thus Sanjaya’s use of a technology that could see events far away proves the superiority of Indian civilisation. Those who do not believe in Rama will question his existence. In the time of Rama, there was the Sarayu river, now too it is there. I am born of my mother, why do I believe that, because my mother told me so.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Literature, Quotes, Science & Technology

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 12, 2018: Mistakes, Senators, Survivors, The Pope And Cosby

Good morning!

(I’m in a good mood because this happened last night…)

1. Incompetent elected officials of the month…From Reason:

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the company’s insufficient efforts to protect users’ personal data…

Sen. Roy Blunt, (R–Mo.) … didn’t seem to understand that Facebook lacks a means of accessing information from other apps unless users specifically opt in…. Sen. Roger Wicker (R–Miss.) needed a lot of clarification on how Facebook Messenger interacts with cellular service. Zuckerberg had to carefully explain to Sen. Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) that WhatsApp is encrypted, and Facebook can’t read, let alone monetize, the information people exchange using that service. Zuckerberg had to explain to multiple senators, including Sen. Dean Heller (R–Nev.), that Facebook doesn’t technically sell its data: The ad companies don’t get to see the raw information. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–Vt.) brought along a poster on which his office had printed out images of various Facebook pages. Leahy asked whether these were Russian propaganda groups. “Senator, are you asking about those specifically?” Zuckerberg asked. He of course had no way of knowing what was going on with those specific pages, just from looking at pictures of them….Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) offered this metaphor: “the way I explain it to my constituents is that if someone breaks into my apartment with a crowbar and takes my stuff, it’s just like if the manager gave them the keys.” But …Facebook didn’t willfully assist in a crime. …Sen. Debbie Fischer (R–Neb.) didn’t understand, at a fundamental level, that if you’re using Facebook, you have agreed to let Facebook know a lot of information about you. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) asked whether Facebook had any major competitors. …

 

This is a theme of regulation, rules and laws in the cyber age: the officials responsible for regulating the uses and abuses of technology don’t use the technology involved, don’t understand it, aren’t willing to take the time to learn, and are apparently not even aware of how irresponsible and incompetent this is, how stupid and lazy it makes them look, and how it undermines the public trust.

2. But don’t worry…In his testimony, Zuckerberg said that Facebook was working on a way to ban “hate speech.” I can’t wait to see what the left-wing crypto-fascists who run the Big Tech giants consider “hate speech.”  Actually, we have some pretty good clues. Facebook silenced pro-Trump video-bloggers “Diamond and Silk,” deeming their political content “unsafe to the community.” Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, Workplace

Ethics Hero: Andrew Sullivan

Once again, Ethics Alarms is honoring Andrew Sullivan for unusual courage in the field of punditry. In this case, the honor is less for what he has written than the fact that he wrote it at all.

His general topic is genetic research, taking off from a recent op-ed appeared in the New York Times by Professor David Reich, a  Harvard geneticist, which broached the virtually taboo topic genetic variations between subpopulations of humans, that is to say, races. On the way through Sullivan’s essay, called “Denying Genetics Isn’t Shutting Down Racism, It’s Fueling It,” Sullivan makes many perceptive observations, like…

“This argument should not be so controversial — every species is subject to these variations — and yet it is. For many on the academic and journalistic left, genetics are deemed largely irrelevant when it comes to humans. Our large brains and the societies we have constructed with them, many argue, swamp almost all genetic influences.

Humans, in this view, are the only species on Earth largely unaffected by recent (or ancient) evolution, the only species where, for example, the natural division of labor between male and female has no salience at all, the only species, in fact, where natural variations are almost entirely social constructions, subject to reinvention. We are, in this worldview, alone on the planet, born as blank slates, to be written on solely by culture. All differences between men and women are a function of this social effect; as are all differences between the races. If, in the aggregate, any differences in outcome between groups emerge, it is entirely because of oppression, patriarchy, white supremacy, etc. And it is a matter of great urgency that we use whatever power we have to combat these inequalities.”

Agreed, and stipulated: the progressive position on this aspect of science is, as in so many other areas, a deliberate refusal to deal with reality in order that ideological goals may proceed.

More from Sullivan later in his piece… Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/2/2018: The Unreliable Authorities Edition

Good morning!

1.  Another baseball ethics dispute! This is an exciting time of changes in the traditional wisdom of how to play Major League Baseball, all sparked by that new ethics bugaboo, Big Data. Now that so many aspects of the game can be measured and analyzed, tradition and assumptions rarely challenged are now under fire. One massive shift is, ironically, in the matter of shifts, radical defensive alignments in which players are not fielding their normal positions, but rather are places where computer spray charts for each batter suggest that the likelihood of fielding a ball is highest.  This can mean anything from one lonely fielder on the left side of the infield, or four outfielders.

Shifts are not new, but they used to be used on a handful of super-sluggers with dead-pull propensities, notably Ted Williams, who famously refused to bunt for easy hits to the unoccupied side of the field, and instead usually tried to hit through or over the shift. It has been estimated that the Williams Shift, combined with the player’s infamous stubbornness, cost him many points off of his lifetime batting average, especially since Williams defeating the shift by bunting might have discouraged its use.

But he was Ted Williams, the second greatest hitter of all time.  The question of whether lesser batters should bunt against shifts, for now many teams shift against everyone, has an easy answer: Of course they should.

In yesterday’s Twins-Orioles game, Twins starter Jose Berrios had  a one-hit shutout in the ninth inning. leading with one out and no runners on base. O’s rookie catcher Chance Sisco came to the plate—he has my favorite baseball name this season–and the Twins put on a shift like the one Ted Williams despised:

So, knowing he wasn’t Ted Williams and also knowing that in baseball even seven run leads aren’t a sure thing, Chance dropped down a bunt to the left side for a single. Berrios then walked two batter Davis and Manny Machado to load the bases, but finished his shutout by getting the next two outs without further disruptions.

After the game, the Twins players questioned the ethics of Sisco’s hit. Berrios said, “I just know it’s not good for baseball [to bunt] in that situation. That’s it.” Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario said, “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.” Second baseman Brian Dozier added, “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

When do you “learn” not to try to win the game and get on base? For Sisco, a rookie, sending the message that shifting against him is a bad risk also is a wise career move. There is a long-standing, and stupid, unwritten rule in baseball that it is “bush league” to try to break up a no-hitter with a bunt, but extending that dubious logic to a mere shutout breaks the Stupid Meter.

2. Coffee is good for you, but be worried when you drink it. Continuing its rapid devolution into Bizarro World, just as increasing scientific evidence suggest that coffee is good for you, California is demanding that it carry a tobacco-like warning label. Last week a judge ruled that Starbucks and  other coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast has been shown to cause cancer in high doses. California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act  requires companies with more than 10 employees to warn their customers about the presence of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in their products, even in tiny amounts. Acrylamide, a chemical compound that is produced naturally during the roasting of coffee beans, is on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The judge ruled that the coffee company had the burden of proof  to show that acrylamide posed no significant health risk to coffee drinkers, even though there is no evidence that coffee does pose a risk. Continue reading

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Facebook’s “Ugly Memo” Is Completely Ethical.

Facebook employees were horrified last week by over a leaked 2016 memo from  Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth defending the social network’s aggressive expansion plans. Naturally, since the news media is in a Hate Facebook mode, ever since it was discovered that the social networking giants didn’t just let Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton acquire personal, data from its users: Republicans got some of the “big data” too, the Bosworth memo, nicknamed “The Ugly,” was more fodder to declare Mark Zuckerberg’s baby evil.

It may be evil, but not on the basis of the memo. Here’s what Bosworth wrote:

The Ugly

We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly.

We connect people.

That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide.

So we connect more people

That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned. That isn’t something we are doing for ourselves. Or for our stock price (ha!). It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period.

That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.

The natural state of the world is not connected. It is not unified. It is fragmented by borders, languages, and increasingly by different products. The best products don’t win. The ones everyone use win.

I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here. If you joined the company because it is doing great work, that’s why we get to do that great work. We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth. Nothing makes Facebook as valuable as having your friends on it, and no product decisions have gotten as many friends on as the ones made in growth. Not photo tagging. Not news feed. Not messenger. Nothing.

In almost all of our work, we have to answer hard questions about what we believe. We have to justify the metrics and make sure they aren’t losing out on a bigger picture. But connecting people. That’s our imperative. Because that’s what we do. We connect people.

Anyone who thinks this is a horrible or unethical sentiment doesn’t understand the fallacy of consequentialism, doesn’t comprehend moral luck, and doesn’t understand ethics or the concept of liberty. The section in the memo that has the Left’s new moralists suffering from the vapours is this one:

“So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”

That’s not “ugly.” That is a statement of reality, though admittedly one that certain political groups can’t understand, or choose not to accept. The value of tools that expand human power and experience is not diminished because they can be, and predictably will be, misused by some people, sometimes tragically. The nation was built on a basic understanding and embrace of that concept. Recently, a powerful movement has arisen challenging the assertion that personal; liberty is a universal good, on the grounds that liberty can be abused..  Here are some of the parallel and equivalent statements that this group currently challenges, often in  angry and demonizing terms: Continue reading

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