Steve Paulson, executive producer and host of To the Best of Our Knowledge, moderated a discussion with philosopher Christian Miller, neuroscientist Heather Berlin, and historian of science Michael Shermer to examine our moral ecology and its influence on our underlying assumptions about human nature.
The inclusion of elite transwomen athletes in sport is controversial. The recent International Olympic Committee guidelines allow transwomen to compete in the women’s division if their testosterone is held below 10 nmol/L. This is significantly higher than that of cis-women. Science demonstrates that high testosterone and other male physiology provides a performance advantage in sport suggesting that transwomen retain some of that advantage. To determine whether the advantage is unfair necessitates an ethical analysis of the principles of inclusion and fairness. (...) Particularly important is whether the advantage held by transwomen is a tolerable or intolerable unfairness. We conclude that the advantage to transwomen afforded by the IOC guidelines is an intolerable unfairness. This does not mean transwomen should be excluded from elite sport but that the existing male/female categories in sport should be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced approach satisfying both inclusion and fairness. (shrink)
This article uses Marc Lewis’ work as a springboard to discuss the socio-political context of the brain disease model of addiction. The claim that promotion of the BDMA is the only way the general public can be persuaded to withhold blame and punishment from addicts is critically examined. After a discussion of public understandings of the disease concept of addiction, it is pointed out that it is possible to develop a scientific account of addiction which is neither a disease nor (...) a moral model but which the public could understand. Evidence is reviewed to suggest that public acceptance of the disease concept is largely lip-service and that the claim the BDMA removes stigma among the public and professionals is unsupported by evidence. Further, there is good evidence that biogenetic explanations of mental/behavioural disorders in general have been counterproductive in the attempt to ally stigma. A model of addiction as a disorder of choice may attract special problems in public-facing communications and risks being misunderstood. However, ways of presenting this model to the public are suggested that may avoid such risks. Lastly, the claim that the BDMA is the only way of ensuring access to treatment and of maintaining research funding for addiction is disputed and a way in which these benefits can be retained under a disorder-of-choice model proposed. The article concludes by enthusiastically endorsing Lewis’ call for a third stage in the governing image of addiction. (shrink)
Cross-species comparisons are benefited by compatible datasets; conclusions related to phylogenetic comparisons, questions on convergent and divergent evolution, or homologs versus analogs can only be made when the behaviors being measured are comparable. A direct comparison of the social function of physical contact across two disparate taxa is possible only if data collection and analyses methodologies are analogous. We identify and discuss the parameters, assumptions and measurement schemes applicable to multiple taxa and species that facilitate cross-species comparisons. To illustrate our (...) proposed guidelines for evaluating the role played by tactile contact in social behavior across disparate taxa, this paper presents data on mother-offspring relationships in the two species studied by the authors: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and dolphins (bottlenose and spotted, Tursiops truncatus and Stenella frontalis, respectively). Cross-species comparative studies allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the similarities and differences with respect to how animals traverse the relationships that form their social groups and societies. (shrink)
Views on addiction are often polarised - either addiction is a matter of choice, or addicts simply can't help themselves. But perhaps addiction falls between the two? This book contains views from philosophy, neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, and the law exploring this middle ground between free choice and no choice.
Around the year 350, a young orator and philosopher called Themistius delivered a speech to the Emperor Constantius II in Ancyra. Themistius found great favor with the Emperor, who catapulted him into the Constantinople Senate in 355. He was similarly favored by subsequent emperors – Jovian, Valens and Theodosius. This volume presents translations of a selection of the speeches of Themistius, grouped into chapters that deal either with a key period in the evolution of his career or with a sequence (...) of events of particular historical significance. (shrink)
The inspiration for this paper came rather unexpectedly. In February 2006, I made the long trip from my home in Sioux City, Iowa, to Torino, Italy in order to witness the Olympic Winter Games. Barely a month later, I found myself in California at the newly-renovated Getty Villa, home to one of the world's great collections of Greco-Roman antiquities. At the Villa I attended a talk about a Roman mosaic depicting a boxing scene from Virgil's Aeneid. The tiny tiles showed (...) not only two boxers, but a wobbly looking ox. ‘What is wrong with this ox?’ asked the docent. ‘Why is he there at the match?’ The answer, of course, is that he is the prize. And the reason he is wobbly is because the victor has just sacrificed this prize to the gods in thanksgiving, by punching him between the eyes. A light went on in my head; I turned to my husband and whispered, ‘Just like Joey Cheek in Torino.’ My husband smiled indulgently, but my mind was already racing. I realized that by donating his victory bonus to charity, Cheek had tapped into one of the oldest and most venerable traditions in sport: individual sacrifice for the benefit of the larger community. It is a tradition that derives from the religious function of the ancient Olympic Games and it deserves to be revived the modern world. (shrink)
Despite its historical contribution, Heather sees the Brain Disease Model of Addiction as failing to relieve stigma, increasing fatalism, and fundamentally wrong. He also sees “choice” as partly volitional and partly unconscious, implying no moral violation. I agree on all counts. Heather then presents a disorder-of-choice model of addiction, highlighting the failure of self-regulation with respect to immediate goals. Not only do I endorse such modeling, but the neural mechanisms I describe may help to explicate it more thoroughly.