All posts filed under: Debate

Debate

Should the results of Nazi experiments ever be taken up and used?

During World War II, Nazi doctors had unfettered access to human beings they could use in medical experiments in any way they chose. In one way, these experiments were just another form of mass torture and murder so our moral judgement of them is clear. But they also pose an uncomfortable moral challenge: what if some of the medical experiments yielded scientifically sound data that could be put to good use? Would it be justifiable to use that knowledge? Using data It’s tempting to deflect the question by saying the data are useless – that the bad behaviour must have produced bad science, so we don’t even have to think about it. But there is no inevitable link between the two because science is not a moral endeavour. If scientific data is too poor to use, it’s because of poor study design and analysis, not because of the bad moral character of the scientist. And in fact, some of the data from Nazi experiments is scientifically sound enough to be useful. The hypothermia experiments in …

Whats wrong with Global Capitalism?

Global capitalism, the current epoch in the centuries-long history of the capitalist economy, is heralded by many as a free and open economic system that brings people from around the world together to foster innovations in production, for facilitating exchange of culture and knowledge, for bringing jobs to struggling economies worldwide, and for providing consumers with an ample supply of affordable goods. But while many may enjoy benefits of global capitalism, others around the world — in fact, most — do not. The research and theories of sociologists and intellectuals who focus on globalization, including William I. Robinson, Saskia Sassen, Mike Davis, and Vandana Shiva shed light on the ways this system harms many. GLOBAL CAPITALISM IS ANTI-DEMOCRATIC Global capitalism is, to quote Robinson, “profoundly anti-democratic.” A tiny group of global elite decide the rules of the game and control the vast majority of the world’s resources. In 2011, Swiss researchers found that just 147 of the world’s corporations and investment groups controlled 40 percent of corporate wealth, and just over 700 control nearly all of …

Just another ‘war on drugs’ disaster

The recent passing of a new addition to the British statute books, which will come into effect on April 6th, is the latest in a long line of poorly drafted drug laws. The new law, to act in parallel with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, effectively bans all substances – with the exception of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine – with a “psychoactive effect” on “normal brain functioning”. The awful irony of a UK government exempting two of the most individually and socially harmful substances has not been lost on concerned commentators. So where exactly has this nonsensical law come from? How on earth have we got ourselves into this situation? And will it work? To answer that, it’s worth reflecting on the emergence of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), or so called legal highs. New highs In 2009, club drug researchers first heard talk of the stimulant NPS mephedrone or “M-Cat” at UK clubs and after parties. At that time, there was growing disillusionment among users with the purity of popular illegal club drugs – as one of our interviewees put …

Problem of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’

Actor Ed Skrein’s much applauded withdrawl from the role of Asian character, Major Ben Daimio, in the Hellboy reboot has again highlighted the pervasive practice of “whitewashing” in contemporary Hollywood. Whitewashing is not new. It was a common practice in classical Hollywood where some of its most egregious examples include John Wayne as Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror and Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audiences know instinctively that whitewashing is bad – hence the criticisms of other whitewashing films and the resulting hashtag #StarringJohnCho that went viral in spring 2016. As a cultural practice, having white people play, replace and stereotype characters of colour obscures and erases their history, agency and power. Although it is fair to reject whitewashing as false and offensive on these ideological grounds, to do so without further scrutiny does not allow us to explore the reasons why it exists. Whitewashing happens in a number of ways. It can be the whitening through casting of a character who was originally a person of colour in historical or …

Would you want Google to know if you have ‘criminal genes’?

Artificial intelligence is already being put to use in the NHS, with Google’s AI firm DeepMind providing technology to help monitor patients. Now I have discovered that Google has met with Genomic England – a company set up by the Department of Health to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project – to discuss whether DeepMind could get involved. If this were to happen, it could help bring down costs and speed up genetic sequencing – potentially helping the science to flourish. But what are the risks of letting a private company have access to sensitive genetic data? Genomic sequencing has huge potential – it could hold the key to improving our understanding of a range of diseases, including cancer, and eventually help find treatments for them. The 100,000 Genomes Project was set up by the government to sequence genomes of 100,000 people. And it won’t stop there. A new report from the UK’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, is calling for an expansion of the project. However, a statement by the Department of Health in response …

Clean eating can damage children’s health

Clean eating seems ideal for parents who want to establish their children’s healthy habits early on. It’s no surprise really: “clean eating” is the perfect buzz term for parents who are faced with supermarket shelves full of baby and toddler food which is high in sugar content and low in nutritional value. But while some clean eating plans are focused on a balanced diet – with less processed and more whole foods – others are extreme. Some advise cutting out things such as gluten, or whole food groups, such as grains and dairy – all the while advising us to consume so-called “super-foods” to maximise health and well-being. There’s a reason why it’s called a “balanced” diet, and subscribing to any extreme nutritional plan can adversely affect child health on multiple levels. Excluding major food groups from our diet at any age can lead not only to inadequate calorie intake, but potentially malnutrition, and deficiencies in minerals and vitamins. Food groups Gluten – a protein found in cereals like wheat, rye and barely – appears …

There’s no crisis in masculinity, only a narrow definition of men

Every generation declares some kind of crisis in masculinity. And women today aren’t shy of pronouncing a masculine emergency: Hannah Rosin did so in her book The End of Menwhile MP Diane Abbott warned of a disaffected “fight club” generation. But where are the male voices? The few that are in the media like Ally Fogg and recently Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow agree that, for whatever reason, men are not very good at talking openly about (and organising around) the deeper issues affecting them. But by the end of 2013 the term “meninism” started trending on Twitter, with tongue-in-cheek hashtags like #MeninistTwitter. While some of it took unhelpful digs at feminism, a lot of men surprised themselves about how much they actually needed a forum to talkabout being a man today. Pain is as real for men The hurt that men feel in life is very real, if only we dared to listen. Every one of the 3,784 male suicides in England and Wales in 2012 – an astonishing 77% of all suicides …

Facebook’s failed attempt to appeal to teens has quietly closed its doors

Facebook’s latest attempt to appeal to teens has quietly closed its doors. The social media platform’s Lifestage app (so unsuccessful that this is probably the first time you’ve heard of it) was launched a little under a year ago to resounding apathy and has struggled ever since. Yet, as is Silicon Valley’s way, Facebook has rapidly followed the failure of one venture with the launch of another one by unveiling a new video streaming service. Facebook Watch will host series of live and pre-recorded short-form videos, including some original, professionally made content, in a move that will allow the platform to more directly compete with the likes of YouTube, Netflix and traditional TV channels. Lifestage was just one of a long series of attempts by Facebook to stem the tide of young people increasingly interacting across multiple platforms. With Watch, the company seems to have changed tack from this focus on retaining young people, instead targeting a much wider user base. Perhaps Facebook has learnt that it will simply never be cool –, but that …

Canada’s struggle to get more women into the military

The Trudeau government released a new defence policy in early June, after months of speculation about the size of the defence budget, purchase of major equipment and Canada’s future role in military operations. The election of Donald Trump in the U.S. no doubt threw the process off course and forced certain revisions to the policy, which was initially due in January. The policy offers guidelines on the types of operations the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) might undertake and promises a steady increase in funding over the next decade. But its main focus is on people — the women and men who dedicate their life to military service. Highlighting the importance of diversity, the policy pays special attention to female service members and aims “to further increase the representation of women in the military by one per cent annually towards a goal of 25 per cent in 10 years.” Driving this shift is the assumption the CAF is in need of culture change — and that more women and the use of gender perspectives will improve …

Myth of Britain’s gifts to India

Many modern apologists for British colonial rule in India no longer contest the basic facts of imperial exploitation and plunder, rapacity and loot, which are too deeply documented to be challengeable. Instead they offer a counter-argument: granted, the British took what they could for 200 years, but didn’t they also leave behind a great deal of lasting benefit? In particular, political unity and democracy, the rule of law, railways, English education, even tea and cricket? Indeed, the British like to point out that the very idea of “India” as one entity (now three, but one during the British Raj), instead of multiple warring principalities and statelets, is the incontestable contribution of British imperial rule. Unfortunately for this argument, throughout the history of the subcontinent, there has existed an impulsion for unity. The idea of India is as old as the Vedas, the earliest Hindu scriptures, which describe “Bharatvarsha” as the land between the Himalayas and the seas. If this “sacred geography” is essentially a Hindu idea, Maulana Azad has written of how Indian Muslims, whether …