Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

Singing legend Barbra Streisand said a lot of questionable things in a recent interview with Variety. Things like…

  • She says she felt she was miscast in Gene Kelly’s bomb of an adaptation of “Hello Dolly!” for the screen. (As everyone noticed, anyone but Carol Channing would have been miscast.) She says “she tried to get out of it,” thus absolving herself from responsibility from the film some believe  killed the big-budget movie musical.

Nobody put a gun to her head: stars say “no” to projects all the time.

  • “By the way, who was called the father of film?” she asks. “D.W. Griffith. He made his first film in 1908. But a secretary named Alice Guy in 1896 started making films because she worked for Gaumont studios. She made the first film, and she’s not given credit.”

Google is your friend, Babs. The first commercial films are generally credited to the Lumière brothers‘ who had their short films screened in Paris in 1895 . Nobody has ever claimed Griffith made the first film; some credit him with making the first film with any art to it. But Barbra likes narratives better than facts.

  • She thinks Hillary won.

“I really believe she won the election,” Streisand says. “I’ve talked to senators from Michigan and Wisconsin. I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.”

Yes, Barbra’s a politics-addled idiot these days.

  • She blames Trump for the Parkland shooting.

“I think even that shooter was affected because Trump brings out the violence in people. He says, ‘It’s OK — rally, lock her up.’”

None of these cretinous and irresponsible statements bothered anyone too much, though–Barbra has been taking like this most of her life. She also said that she was never sexually harassed in Hollywood. Amazing! This revelation, however, set off ethics alarms: Two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. The third dog is a distant cousin. The two clones cost $50,000.

PETA immediately protested:

“We all want our beloved dogs to live forever, but while it may sound like a good idea, cloning doesn’t achieve that—instead, it creates a new and different dog who has only the physical characteristics of the original. Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis. And because cloning has a high failure rate, many dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs—so that’s not fair to them, despite the best intentions. We feel Barbra’s grief at losing her beloved dog but would also love to have talked her out of cloning.”

Hey, as long as they don’t clone Barbra…but I digress.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as the week runs out is this…

Is Streisand cloning her dogs unethical, or just stupid?

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The Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies

fallacy

I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling  him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.

1. Ad Hominem Attack

An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an  argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.

1 a. The Toxic Introduction.

A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.

2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)

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When Is Human Cloning Unethical? When You Do THIS, For Starters…

Coming attraction at the San Diego Zoo.

Coming attraction at the San Diego Zoo.

Much of the ethics debate over cloning is and has always been pure “ick factor” confusion. Cloning is strange and unnatural, and to many people, that means it is immoral and wrong, as in, “If God had wanted us to be created from nose hairs, he wouldn’t have given us sex organs!” But there is nothing intrinsically unethical about cloning. The problem is that there are many theoretical applications of cloning that are monstrous (See: “The Island”), and too many scientists whose attitude is, “Why not?”

It is difficult to imagine a more perfect example of this than the news that Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church is plotting to create a Neanderthal human, if he can find, in his words, “an adventurous female human” willing to be Mommy to Alley Oop. Continue reading

Poll: 84% Don’t Have a Clue What “Ethical” Means

Was Norman Bates unethical or sentimental? Well..wait, WHAT?

OK, that was a somewhat misleading headline. According to a poll run by ABC News, 84% of the public thinks that cloning dead pets is unethical. But since there is absolutely nothing unethical about cloning dead pets, I think the headline above is accurate. Well, maybe 84% accurate.

The story is over at Sodahead, which is dedicated to dumb polls. The analysis of the poll, if one can call it analysis, is almost totally bereft of anything remotely connected with ethics or ethical theory. In a previous poll on the subject, Sodahead asked those polled to choose whether the practice was “unethical” or “sentimental”, which is a choice akin to, “Do you like baseball, or can you swim?” Of course cloning a pet is sentimental—why else would someone do it? Who came up with the boneheaded idea that sentimental and unethical were mutually exclusive? Norman Bates dressing up as his beloved mother and killing people was sentimental, but I’d also say it was less than ethical. Continue reading

“Grow Your Own Marrow Donor” Ethics and Consequentialism: The Ayala Family Saga

Anissa Ayala and her custom-made bone marrow donor

Once again, the fans of that ethically corrosive twin of  “the ends justifies the means,” consequentialism, were holding court in the mass media, as the “Today Show” revisited a two-decade old ethical outrage to declare that it was all perfectly fine after all…because it worked.

Thus does television, itself dominated by ethically-dim writers, producers and stars, corrupt the public. So here we go again:

Does the fact (if it indeed is a fact) that Osama bin Laden capture and execution was facilitated by torture make torture less ethically wrong?

No.

Do the fortuitous results of any action that was unethical from its inception change the nature of that conduct from unethical to ethical.

Again, no.

Is conceiving a child solely to provide donor bone marrow to her cancer-stricken older sister ethically acceptable as long as the sister’s cancer is cured?

Absolutely not!  But to listen to the “Today Show,” and revoltingly, the “Today Show’s” resident medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, it is not only ethically acceptable but laudable. Because it worked.

Twenty years ago, Abe and Mary Ayala were desperate because Anissa, their 16-year-old daughter, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Chemotheraphy proved ineffective, and neither the Ayalas nor their son was a compatible bone marrow donor. The Ayalas had long before decided that two children were enough; Abe had a vasectomy. But then Mary came up with the idea of having another child in the hopes that it would be a bone marrow donor who could save Anissa’s life. Continue reading

“An Army of Fake Personas”? I DO Trust the Military, I DO Trust the Military…

Why does the Air Force want to recruit these people?

Raw Story reports that a United States Central Command spokesman recently confirmed that the US Air Force had solicited private sector vendors for something called “persona management software.” The technology would allow an individual to “command” virtual armies of fake, digital personas across multiple social media portals.

The “personas” would have detailed, fictionalized backgrounds to make them undetectable as fake to outside observers, and there would be sophisticated identity protection to support the deception,  preventing suspicious readers from uncovering the real person behind the account. The program would also fool geolocating services, so these “personas” could be virtually inserted anywhere in the world, providing ostensibly live commentary on real events, even while the operator was not present.

Hmmmm. Continue reading