ETHICS BLOG: The claim of thoughtfulness
[2014-04-16] Philosophy has an aura of pretentiousness. Philosophers seem to make such ambitious claims about the essence of everything. About morality, about mind, about language… usually without doing any empirical research!
From where do they derive their claims? Are they sitting in armchairs just awaiting “truths” from out of nowhere? Is philosophy a form of “easy science” where one goes straight to the results without doing the research work needed to substantiate them? More
Pär Segerdahl is Associate Professor of Philosophy and editor of the Ethics Blog.
Read his and other texts on the the Ethics Blog.
Limits of mind reading
[2014-03-21] Do we have to understand how you think to read your mind? In a recent article, Kathinka Evers and Mariano Sigman explore the possibilities of mind reading using fMRI and trace conditioning. Today we can measure brain states even when a person appears unconscious.
But these technologies can do more than help patients. They can also be used to access subjective awareness in adults an infants. According to the authors we should be aware of misuse. Especially since there is promise of important medical breakthroughs, there is ethical concerns if possibilities are hyped or results misinterpreted.
Read article in Consciousness and Cognition: Possibilities and limits of mind-reading: A neurophilosophical perspective
Neuroscientific explanations in courtrooms
[2014-03-20] The defence in a recent Italian case used fMRI-evidence to claim that a brain tumor was the reason behind a case of child molestation. There were different interpretations of the evidence and in the end the defendant was sentenced to five years in prison.
In a recent article in AJOB Neuoscience, Michele Farisco writes that the introduction of neuroscientific evidence in courtrooms is challenging. Assessing the relevance and strength of the evidence is difficult.
In the article he suggests a strategy to involve meta-scientific experts to help judges and juries to understand the limitations of this kind of evidence. Experts should also help courts contextualize evidence and help them understand how it can affect human identity and behaviour.
Read article in AJOB Neuroscience: In Need of Meta-Scientific Experts?
Trustworthiness requires more than guidelines and review
[2014-03-14] Research ethics has developed into an extra legal regulatory system. Guidelines serve as steering documents, committees oversee and consent procedures are formal.
This is often justified with reference topast atrocities. In a recent article in Research Ethics, Linus Johnsson, Stefan Eriksson, Gert Helgesson and Mats G. Hansson call this 'institutionalized distrust' and claim that this approach has some limitations.
For one, we can't justify regulatory systems with past horrors unless the distrust itself is a necessary or efficient means to prevent future atrociousness. According to the authors, this distrust is a potential threat to researchers moral competence and integrity because it encourages a blinkered view of ethical issues.
Read article in Research Ethics: Making researchers moral: Why trustworthiness requires more than ethics guidelines and review
CRB coordinates unique research collaboration on genetic risk information
Health care systems, legislators and society at large are unprepared for the management of complex risk information. CRB will coordinate a unique international multidisciplinary research collaboration. Philosophical, historical and sociocultural analysis will be linked to empirical studies of risk perception. Read more