Participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. We argue that this situation is unacceptable and that there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. This duty is grounded in the human right not to be placed at risk of harm without informed consent. We consider objections to disclosure grounded in considerations (...) of commercial interest, and we argue that these concerns are insufficient to override the moral duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. However, we also develop a proposal that enables commercial interests to be protected, while promoting the duty to disclose adverse clinical trial results. (shrink)
In the face of argument to the contrary, it is shown that there is defensible middle ground available for entity realism, between the extremes of scientific realism and empiricist antirealism. Cartwright's () earlier argument for defensible middle ground between these extremes, which depended crucially on the viability of an underdeveloped distinction between inference to the best explanation (IBE) and inference to the most probable cause (IPC), is examined and its defects are identified. The relationship between IBE and IPC is clarified (...) and a revised version of Cartwright's argument for defensible middle ground, which is free of the identified defects, is presented. (shrink)
The dismissive attitude of intellectuals toward conspiracy theorists is considered and given some justification. It is argued that intellectuals are entitled to an attitude of prima facie skepticism toward the theories propounded by conspiracy theorists, because conspiracy theorists have an irrational tendency to continue to believe in conspiracy theories, even when these take on the appearance of forming the core of degenerating research program. It is further argued that the pervasive effect of the "fundamental attribution error" can explain the behavior (...) of such conspiracy theorists. A rival approach due to Brian Keeley, which involves the criticism of a subclass of conspiracy theories on epistemic grounds, is considered and found to be inadequate. Key Words: conspiracy conspiracy theories conspiracy theorizing. (shrink)
Vaccine refusal occurs for a variety of reasons. In this article we examine vaccine refusals that are made on conscientious grounds; that is, for religious, moral, or philosophical reasons. We focus on two questions: first, whether people should be entitled to conscientiously object to vaccination against contagious diseases ; second, if so, to what constraints or requirements should conscientious objection to vaccination be subject. To address these questions, we consider an analogy between CO to vaccination and CO to military service. (...) We argue that conscientious objectors to vaccination should make an appropriate contribution to society in lieu of being vaccinated. The contribution to be made will depend on the severity of the relevant disease, its morbidity, and also the likelihood that vaccine refusal will lead to harm. In particular, the contribution required will depend on whether the rate of CO in a given population threatens herd immunity to the disease in question: for severe or highly contagious diseases, if the population rate of CO becomes high enough to threaten herd immunity, the requirements for CO could become so onerous that CO, though in principle permissible, would be de facto impermissible. (shrink)
John Dupr argues that 'scientific imperialism' can result in 'misguided' science being considered acceptable. 'Misguided' is an explicitly normative term and the use of the pejorative 'imperialistic' is implicitly normative. However, Dupr has not justified the normative dimension of his critique. We identify two ways in which it might be justified. It might be justified if colonisation prevents a discipline from progressing in ways that it might otherwise progress. It might also be justified if colonisation prevents the expression of important (...) values in the colonised discipline. This second concern seems most pressing in the human sciences. (shrink)
It is sometimes suggested that new research in such areas as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and genetic engineering should be halted or otherwise restricted because of concerns about possible catastrophic scenarios. Proponents of such restrictions typically invoke the precautionary principle, understood as a tool of policy formulation, as part of their case. Here I examine the application of the precautionary principle to possible catastrophic scenarios. I argue, along with Sunstein (Risk and Reason: Safety, Law and the Environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, (...) 2002) and Manson (Environmental Ethics, 24: 263–274, 2002), that variants of the precautionary principle that appear strong enough to support significant restrictions on future technologies actually lead to contradictory policy recommendations. Weaker versions of the precautionary principle, which do not have this feature, do not appear strong enough to support restrictions on future technologies. (shrink)
Appeals to intuitions as evidence in philosophy are challenged by experimental philosophers and other critics. A common response to experimental philosophical criticisms is to hold that only professional philosophers? intuitions count as evidence in philosophy. This ?expert intuitions defence? is inadequate for two reasons. First, recent studies indicate significant variability in professional philosophers? intuitions. Second, the academic literature on professional intuitions gives us reasons to doubt that professional philosophers develop truth-apt intuitions. The onus falls on those who mount the expert (...) intuitions defence to meet these objections because it is implicitly being claimed that training and practice caused professional philosophers to acquire reliably accurate intuitions and we are owed an account of how this transformation takes place. A possible response to this situation is to attempt to reform philosophical practice to improve the quality of intuitions. Another possible response, advocated here, is to avoid appeals to intuitions as evidence. (shrink)
Bostrom and Ord’s reversal test has been appealed to by many philosophers to substantiate the charge that preferences for status quo options are motivated by status quo bias. I argue that their characterization of the reversal test needs to be modified, and that their description of the burden of proof it imposes needs to be clarified. I then argue that there is a way to meet that burden of proof which Bostrom and Ord fail to recognize. I also argue that (...) the range of circumstances in which the reversal test can be usefully applied is narrower than they recognize. (shrink)
Abstract Following Clarke (2002), a Lakatosian approach is used to account for the epistemic development of conspiracy theories. It is then argued that the hypercritical atmosphere of the internet has slowed down the development of conspiracy theories, discouraging conspiracy theorists from articulating explicit versions of their favoured theories, which could form the hard core of Lakatosian research pro grammes. The argument is illustrated with a study of the “controlled demolition” theory of the collapse of three towers at the World Trade (...) Center on September 11, 2001. (shrink)
We consider the current debate between bioconservatives and their opponents—whom we dub bioliberals—about the moral acceptability of human enhancement and the policy implications of moral debates about enhancement. We argue that this debate has reached an impasse, largely because bioconservatives hold that we should honour intuitions about the special value of being human, even if we cannot identify reasons to ground those intuitions. We argue that although intuitions are often a reliable guide to belief and action, there are circumstances in (...) which they are not reliable. Intuitions—including intuitions about enhancement—are subject to various cognitive biases rendering them unreliable in some circumstances. We argue that many bioconservative intuitions about enhancement are examples of such unreliable intuitions. Given this, it is unrealistic of bioconservatives to expect others to rely on their unexamined intuitions. Furthermore, refusing to engage in debates about the reasons and values that underpin their intuitions about enhancement will have the effect of making bioconservative voices less relevant in policy debates about enhancement than they would otherwise be. (shrink)
Jonathan Haidt ( 2001 ) advances the 'Social Intuitionist' account of moral judgment , which he presents as an alternative to rationalist accounts of moral judgment , hitherto dominant in psychology. Here I consider Haidt's anti-rationalism and the debate that it has provoked in moral psychology , as well as some anti-rationalist philosophical claims that Haidt and others have grounded in the empirical work of Haidt and his collaborators. I will argue that although the case for anti-rationalism in moral psychology (...) based on the work of Haidt and his collaborators is plausible , a decisive case has yet to be made. It will require further experimental evidence before a decisive case could be made. My assessment of anti-rationalist philosophical arguments that are grounded in the empirical work of Haidt and his collaborators is much more negative than this. I will argue that this body of empirical work is a very unpromising basis for such arguments. (shrink)
Jon Haidt, a leading figure in contemporary moral psychology, advocates a participation-centric view of religion, according to which participation in religious communal activity is significantly more important than belief in explaining religious behaviour and commitment. He describes the participation-centric view as ‘Straight out of Durkheim’. I argue that this is a misreading of Durkheim, who held that religious behaviour and commitment are the joint products of belief and participation, with neither belief nor participation being considered more important than the other. (...) I further argue that recent evidence from the cognitive science of religion provides support for Durkheim’s balanced account of religion and counts strongly against Haidt’s participation-centric view of religion. I suggest that Haidt’s adherence to the participation-centric view of religion is better explained by his desire to accept an account of religion that is consistent with his social intuitionist moral psychology than by his desire to accept an account of religion that accords with available scientific evidence about religion. (shrink)
This paper argues that the provision of effective informed consent by surgical patients requires the disclosure of material information about the comparative clinical performance of available surgeons. We develop a new ethical argument for the conclusion that comparative information about surgeons' performance - surgeons' report cards - should be provided to patients, a conclusion that has already been supported by legal and economic arguments. We consider some recent institutional and legal developments in this area, and we respond to some common (...) objections to the use of report cards on the clinical performance of surgeons. (shrink)
In a previous article in this journal, we examined John Dupré's claim that ‘scientific imperialism’ can lead to ‘misguided’ science being considered acceptable. Here, we address criticisms raised by Ian J. Kidd and Uskali Mäki against that article. While both commentators take us to be offering our own account of scientific imperialism that goes beyond that developed by Dupré, and go on to criticise what they take to be our account, our actual ambitions were modest. We intended to ‘explicate the (...) sense in which the term is used by Dupré’ and to ‘identify the normative content of his critique of scientific imperialism’. We made no claim to have developed our own account of scientific imperialism that went further than what was implicit in Dupré's work already. However, that said, the discussions presented by both Kidd and Mäki raise important general issues about how the idea of scientific imperialism should be understood and framed. Here, we offer our considered responses to Kidd's and Maki's discussions of scientific imperialism. (shrink)
Rapid advances in neuroscience may enable us to identify the neural correlates of ordinary decision making. Such knowledge opens up the possibility of acquiring highly accurate information about people’s competence to consent to medical procedures and to participate in medical research. Currently we are unable to determine competence to consent with accuracy and we make a number of unrealistic practical assumptions to deal with our ignorance. Here I argue that if we are able to detect competence to consent and if (...) we are able to develop a reliable neural test of competence to consent, then these assumptions will have to be rejected. I also consider and reject three lines of argument that might be developed by a defender of the status quo in order to protect our current practices regarding judgments of competence in the face of the availability of information about the neural correlates of ordinary human decision making. (shrink)
It is argued that Hume’s definition of miracle stands in need of revision because it fails to be inclusive of acts of supernatural intervention in the world which are non-law-violating. Potential revisions of the definition, due to Paul Dietl and Christopher Hughes are considered and found to be inadequate, and a new definition is put forward; a miracle is "an intended outcome of an intervention in the natural world by a supernatural agent." An objection to this definition is anticipated and (...) a distinction is made between miracles and magic in order to address the objection. (shrink)
Both intention-based and causation-based definitions of the miraculous make reference to the term ‘supernatural’. Philosophers who define the miraculous appear to use this term in a loose way, perhaps meaning the nonnatural, perhaps meaning a subcategory of the nonnatural. Here I examine the aetiology of the term ‘supernatural’. I consider three outstanding issues regarding the meaning of the term and conclude that the supernatural is best understood as a subcategory of the nonnatural. In light of this clarification, I argue that (...) a prominent causation-based definition of the miraculous should be revised so as not refer to the supernatural. I further argue that authors of intention-based definitions of the miraculous need to consider whether or not they should continue to refer to the supernatural, in their definitions of the miraculous, in light of the conclusions discerned here. (shrink)
Transformative technologies can radically alter human lives making us stronger, faster, more resistant to disease and so on. These include enhancement technologies as well as cloning and stem cell research. Such technologies are often approved of by many liberals who see them as offering us opportunities to lead better lives, but are often disapproved of by conservatives who worry about the many consequences of allowing these to be used. In this paper, we consider how a democratic government with mainly liberal (...) values that is governing a population divided between liberals and conservatives can introduce new transformative technologies and try to achieve consensus about the introduction of such technologies. To do so, we draw on recent work in moral psychology which enables us to better understand the intuitive and emotional responses that underpin conservative objections to such new technologies. We then show how a government may introduce incremental changes in our social practices that have the long-term effect of weakening conservative objections to transformative technologies and better enabling governments to achieve consensus about these. (shrink)
There is overwhelming agreement amongst naturalists that a naturalistic ontology should not allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. I argue, against this prevailing consensus, that naturalists have no proper basis to oppose the existence of supernatural entities. Naturalism is characterized, following Leiter and Rea, as a position which involves a primary commitment to scientific methodology and it is argued that any naturalistic ontological commitments must be compatible with this primary commitment. It is further argued that properly applied scientific method (...) has warranted the acceptance of the existence of supernatural entities in the past and that it is plausible to think that it will do so again in the future. So naturalists should allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. (shrink)
Ross & Spurrett (R&S) appear convinced that the world must have a unified ontological structure. This conviction is difficult to reconcile with a commitment to mainstream realism, which involves allowing that the world may be ontologically disunified. R&S should follow Kitcher by weakening their conception of unification so as to allow for the possibility of ontological disunity.
Stephen Mumford concludes a recent paper in Religious Studies, in which he advances a new causation-based analysis of miracles, by stating that the onus is ‘on rival accounts of miracles to produce something that matches it’. I take up Mumford 's challenge, defending an intention-based definition of miracles, which I developed earlier, that he criticizes. I argue that this definition of miracles is more consistent with ordinary intuitions about miracles than Mumford 's causation-based alternative. I further argue that Mumford has (...) failed to demonstrate any advantages that his approach to miracles has over an intention-based approach. (shrink)
Brierley et al argue that in cases where it is medically futile to continue providing life-sustaining therapies to children in intensive care, medical professionals should be allowed to withdraw such therapies, even when the parents of these children believe that there is a chance of a miracle cure taking place. In reasoning this way, Brierley et al appear to implicitly assume that miracle cures will never take place, but they do not justify this assumption and it would be very difficult (...) for them to do so. Instead of seeking to override the wishes of parents, who are waiting for a miracle, it is suggested that a better response may be to seek to engage devout parents on their own terms, and encourage them to think about whether or not continuing life-sustaining therapies will make it more likely that a miracle cure will occur. (shrink)
In her 1983 work How the Laws of Phyiscs Lie  Nancy Cartwright argued for antirealism about fundamental laws alongside realism about phenomenological laws. Her position was considerably altered by 1989 when, in Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement , she argued for a realist construal of capacities (close relations of Powers, natures, tendencies, propensities and disptısitions), which she took fundamental laws to be about. Most realists about capaeities, and their ilk, are realist about fundamental laws as well. However this is (...) not true of Cartwright. In  she emphatically reaffirmed her antirealism about fundamental laws, stating that 'fundamental laws are not true, nor nearly true, nor true for the most part' [2, p.175]. In 'So the Laws of Physics Needn't Lie'  Chalmers argues that Cartwright's advocacy of realism about Nature's capacities in  undermines her antirealism about fundamental laws. He accuses Cartwright of apparent contradictions in her position as articulated in . Given Chalmers' reading of Cartwright, an appearance of contradiction does seem to arise. Against Chalmers, I advocate an alternative reading of Cartwright, which is much more charitable to her. This alternative reading of Cartwright has the advantage of avoiding the charge of contradiction. Indeed, if this reading is accepted, the appearance of contradiction, that Chalmers taxeses Cartwright with, does not even arise. A further virtue of this reading of Cartwright is that it is consistent with Cartwright's more recent writing, as I will show. (shrink)
There is widespread agreement about a combination of attributes that someone needs to possess if they are to be counted as a conservative. They need to lack definite political ideals, goals or ends, to prefer the political status quo to its alternatives, and to be risk averse. Why should these three highly distinct attributes, which are widely believed to be characteristic of adherents to a significant political position, cluster together? Here I draw on prospect theory to develop an explanation for (...) the clustering of attributes that is characteristic of conservatives. I argue that a lack of political ideals is the underlying driver of conservatism. I will provide reason to believe that people who lack political ideals are disposed to prefer the political status quo to its alternatives; and reason to believe that people who prefer the political status quo to its alternatives are disposed to be risk averse, at least with respect to significantly many of the risks that arise in the social and political domain. I also consider and reject some other potential explanations for the clustering of attributes that is characteristic of conservatives and sketch some policy implications that follow from the explanation I develop. (shrink)
In another paper published here, I criticized Stephen Mumford 's causation-based analysis of miracles on the grounds of its failure to produce results that are consistent with ordinary intuitions. In a response to me, intended as a defence of Mumford 's position, Morgan Luck finds fault with my rival approach to miracles on three grounds. In this response to Luck I argue that all three of his criticisms miss their mark. My response to Luck's final line of criticism helps shed (...) light on the difference between my approach to the definition of miracles and that due to Mumford. While my approach is driven by both metaphysical and epistemological considerations, Mumford 's approach appears to be driven exclusively by metaphysical considerations. (shrink)
The link between parasite-stress and complex psychological dispositions implies that the social, political, and economic benefits likely to flow from public health interventions that reduce rates of non-zoonotic infectious disease are far greater than have traditionally been thought. We sketch a prudential and ethical argument for increasing public health resources globally and redistributing these to focus on the alleviation of parasite-stress in human populations.
The contemporary behavioral sciences are disunified and could not easily become unified, as they operate with incompatible explanatory models. According to Gintis, tolerance of this situation is “scandalous” (sect. 12). I defend the ordinary behavioral scientist's lack of commitment to a unifying explanatory model and identify several reasons why the behavioral sciences should remain disunified for the foreseeable future. (Published Online April 27 2007).
The problem of constraining methodological pluralism is highlighted in a discussion of John Dupr 's The Disorder of Things . Dupr requires limits on what are to count as legitimate scientific methodologies. Although Dupr recognises this requirement, he fails in his attempt to appropriately ground such limitations.