viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2015

We are OUR TRADITIONS ▲ MercatorNet: Dignitarian of the Year. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Our Pick of the Films of 2015

MercatorNet: A message to the ‘multi-cultis’ - just say Happy Christmas

A message to the ‘multi-cultis’ - just say Happy Christmas

A British Christian asks for cultural sensitivity.
Laura Keynes | Dec 18 2015 | comment 

kubinho / Flickr

Here is my open letter to all the people who say “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Happy Christmas”.

Dear friends and acquaintances, local council officers, greetings card manufacturers, social media managers, customer service managers, etc etc,

This year, please don’t wish me “Season’s Greetings”.

Because, you see, I’ve noticed how every year you say “Eid Mubarak!” on your social media platform of choice. I assume it’s to show what a great, inclusive, multi-culti kind of person/organisation you are, because I know you’re actually a secularist. Yet still, every year you come out with “Eid Mubarak” even though you say you’re “not religious”. It’s very big of you to wish your Muslim neighbours a happy festival in terms they can appreciate.

And so, I’m always a bit surprised when Hanukkah comes around and you stay remarkably silent. It must be an oversight, I think to myself. How can it be that this person who wishes to embrace every faith equally, to show their tolerance and marvellous inclusivity, has missed this Jewish festival? Could it be that you equate all Jewish people with the actions of the Israeli government?

I know, my friend, you’re very vocal on the subject of Israel and Palestine, and always filling my news feed with pictures of dead Palestinian children. Maybe that’s why it sticks it your craw to wish Jews “Happy Hanukkah”? Then again, maybe I’m wrong, because I know you’re always saying it’s not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel, ergo you’re not anti-Semitic. Maybe you’re just too busy on Hanukkah to update your social media with a simple “Happy Hanukkah!”?

But what I really don’t get is why you can’t bring yourself to wish your Christian friends and neighbours a “Happy Christmas”. It’s a simple thing. If you can extend the respect to your Muslim friends to wish them “Eid Mubarak” using the terms of their choice, then surely you can do the same for Christians? I mean, we say “Happy Christmas” because it’s a festival about Christ being born. The terminology is quite specific.

What exactly is your problem with the word “Christ”? I’ve noticed that you really can’t bring yourself to say it. You’ll only wish me a tight-lipped “Season’s Greetings”. I find it quite insulting, and a little bit amusing. “Season’s Greetings” is such an anaemic term; it doesn’t really mean anything.

You might be celebrating some kind of pagan winter season, in which case good luck to you, Happy Winter Solstice and all that, but be aware that the reason you’ve got the time off work and the reason you’re having a big meal with family is because this is a Christian feast day and this is still a country governed by the rhythms of the Christian calendar. Don’t pretend it isn’t. If you’re really that bothered about the rest of us celebrating a festival you don’t believe in then you’ve always got the choice to go into the office. Hey, take Darwin Day off instead and celebrate with your secular-atheist mates then. Why not? No one minds these days, in a land where all beliefs are equal.

All I’m saying is, if you’re really that tolerant and multi-culti and inclusive, I’m sure you can find it in your heart to wish a Christian community a “Happy Christmas”.

Otherwise, you end up looking a bit of an uptight hypocrite, just saying: Cheers! Happy holidays/winter season/winterfest...whatevs!

Laura Keynes writes from Cambridge in the UK.
- See more at:

MercatorNet: The fatal flaws of the bioethics industry

The fatal flaws of the bioethics industry

A philosopher criticises its superficiality and sophistry.
David S. Oderberg | Dec 18 2015 | comment 

David S. Oderberg is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK, and has written extensively on bioethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, animal rights, and capital punishment from a natural law, anti-consequentialist viewpoint. He is also the editor of Ratio, an international journal of analytic philosophy. Xavier Symons, Deputy Editor of BioEdge, asked him to comment on the state of contemporary bioethics.

Xavier Symons: In your opinion, what are the main philosophical concepts that bioethicists tend to misunderstand?

David S. Oderberg: There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the bioethics industry (because it is something of an industry), although I’d prefer to put it in terms of simple mistakes or confusions. I don’t think most bioethicists misunderstand what they believe or recommend at policy level, since most have a clear agenda, which is to pull apart as many “taboos”, i.e., commonsense traditional prohibitions, as possible.

A lot of the time, the ends justify the means inasmuch as bioethicists will use whatever argument they have to hand, whether good, bad, or indifferent, to advance a prior agenda. In that sense, I suppose you could say they misunderstand the function of argument, which is to get to the truth, not to advance a previously-adopted policy.

I recall reading, a number of years ago, a report by the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority, produced by a handful of bioethicists and devoted to defending human embryo experimentation. It was abundantly clear from the report that the authors (most of whom I had barely heard of as far as the philosophy profession is concerned) were intent on recommending embryo experimentation to the government as morally permissible, and they used whatever argument or “theory” they could to defend it.

As a result, you had a bit of Kantianism on one page, utilitarianism on another, virtue theory on another, and bits and pieces of philosophical thought, many of them totally irreconcilable with each other, thrown into the mix to achieve a supposedly rational conclusion that, sure enough, it was just A-OK to experiment on embryos, as long as we’re careful.

At a more conceptual level, I have seen a few significant confusions cropping up again and again. One is that between “killing” a patient’s condition and killing a patient, as though you could cure a person of their problem by getting rid of the person, e.g., end the pain by ending the patient. You can certainly do that, of course, just as you can eliminate a headache by cutting off someone’s head. But this should never be confused with curing someone, or caring for them, which are the primary duties of health professionals.

If bioethicists think they can “cure” someone of their suffering by euthanasia, then they are not really interested in cure (or care) at all, but in some other objective.

Which brings me to the confusion between what is good for a person and what is good for someone else, be it their family, the community, or society as a whole. Given that care and cure are the primary duties of medicine and health care generally, what is best for someone other than the patient can never be the primary objective of the health care professional as health care professional.

The idea that a patient could be a “burden” on society, their continued existence “distressing” to their family, their plight a “drain” on the health care system, can never trump the primary duty of care, which means looking after the patient and curing them where possible, or else making their situation as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, under the malign influence of the bioethics industry, too many patients are now seen as commodities, units of production (I can’t find a better term) in the system, anything but individuals with a right to life, care, and dignity.

If I had to pick a last confusion among many, it would be the deliberate medicalisation of normal duties of care. The classic example is “artificial nutrition and hydration”, once called food and water. Now feeding people and giving them water, when they needed it, used to be a good old-fashioned human duty. But once bioethicists and their willing dupes in politics, economic, and the law, medicalise it - indeed, once it becomes the acronym ANH - then the common human duty is hidden behind jargon and they can coldly discuss “withdrawal of ANH”, as though it were a medical procedure rather than plain starvation.

The same sort of distancing practice is found in the use of terms such as “foetus”, “conceptus”, “termination”, “euthanasia”, “vegetative state”, and so on. History has plenty of precedents for this.

XS: How would you say the field of bioethics relates to the field of moral philosophy?

Oderberg: There is no bioethics without moral philosophy. Bioethics just is the application of moral philosophy, or ethics, to problems of life and death broadly construed. In that sense, there is no such thing as bioethics conceived as an autonomous discipline with its own experts working from a set of sui generis bioethical principles.

Yes, to be a bioethicist you need expertise in moral philosophy (something not shared by many bioethicists) and a command of the specific medical, scientific, and technological issues you are pronouncing upon. Preferably you should have up-close experience of those issues rather than mere ivory tower “experience”.

To be a bioethicist, then, you need to be a moral philosopher, and to be a moral philosopher you need to be a philosopher, able to distinguish good and bad arguments, and to separate reasoned thinking from fad, fashion, societal pressure, prejudice, and government policy.

And to be a philosopher, you need first to be a human being, with human concerns, love for your fellow man, care for society and its future, and that most uncommon resource - common sense. In other words, bioethics is not what you do when you can’t get a “real” philosophy job and like getting big grants from foundations and think tanks.

XS: What kind of novel contribution might a so-called “natural law approach” bring to the field of bioethics?

Oderberg: Well, natural law bioethics is not very well developed, despite its semi-advocacy in some circles. Being, say, pro-life doesn’t make you a natural law bioethicist. Nor does worrying about the sinister developments in biotechnology, or going on about the “culture of death”.

Being a natural law bioethicist means having a deep knowledge of, and respect for, a tradition of thinking that goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, that emphasises the role that nature has in guiding morality. Only ignorant sophists think that natural law ethics means believing that whatever is natural is good or right and whatever is unnatural is wrong or bad. Rather, it is about identifying what it is that fulfils our human nature, makes us be what we are supposed to be according to our natures as rational, embodied, but finite creatures.

I think we can be pretty sure that, as far as fulfilment of our nature is concerned, being killed generally doesn’t help. So attacks upon innocent life - innocent life, not the life of those who might forfeit their right due to the harm they have caused to others - are prohibited by natural law, whatever other considerations may apply.

I have yet to see a good argument to the effect that life itself is nothing but a means to the pursuit of other goods, and hence loses its value when one is, say, in a coma or persistent non-responsive state.

When it comes to topics such as genetic engineering, surrogate mothers, human “enhancement” or whatever issue bioethics and technology have managed to get before the media, what is needed is a careful, refined natural law analysis of the issue at hand. The guidance has to come from what is good for individual human natures and natural human groupings such as family, community, and state. But what is good for a group of humans depends wholly on what is most conducive to the fulfilment of each and every individual, which is why sacrificing some innocent people for the benefit of others is wrong. What is good for the group is not the same as the “best outcome” on a utilitarian or consequentialist weighing up of good and bad effects of some behaviour.

To this end, natural law theory cannot and must not work in a vacuum: it must be informed by authentic and credible empirical work on human nature and the common good, all of this balanced against common sense. To take one example, the self-mutilation that goes by the name “cosmetic surgery”, where the purpose is not to remedy a defect that inhibits the natural function of the human body (and perhaps also natural human functions such as friendship and social relations), is arguably morally wrong in all its forms.

Now, it’s not that there is something “unnatural” about it in a vague sense, but that its elevation of bodily perfection above the acceptance of inevitable imperfection given the kind of creature we are is itself an unnatural reversal of the proper hierarchy of human goods, placing a bodily good above what one might call a psychic good.

XS: A number of Catholic ethicists (Grisez, Finnis, George) have attempted to apply New Natural Law Theory to modern bioethical problems. Do you agree with the New Natural Law approach

Oderberg: Well, in general I do not agree with the approach, but I do agree with many of their ethical positions, albeit not all (and they don’t all hold the same ethical positions, either). The approach of “new natural law” emerged from the cultural revolution of the 1960s, when some Catholic philosophers, taking on many of the untraditional and contemporary views of the time (most of which persist), decided that good old-fashioned Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics just didn’t “cut it” any more.

We moderns, in other words, could see through the assumptions of Aristotle and Aquinas (and their followers) and their metaphysical “prejudices”, especially the view that there actually is such a thing as human nature, and that from human nature one could argue philosophically for a system of ethics. So a metaphysic of human nature, and everything that goes with it, was thrown out the window in favour of a focus on the subjective, first-person viewpoint, on the agent’s perspective on their reasoning about what to do and what is good or bad.

Now, somewhat miraculously, the NNL theorists managed to arrive, by this wholly new and hitherto unknown method, to a set of views that largely coincided with the ones they sought to uphold. Yet, as far as I can tell, the only times when they seem to have a view backed up by a penetrable and perhaps plausible argument are when they appear to be falling back on just the sort of “outdated” metaphysics they tend to disapprove of.

So, in my view, the NNL project as such is and always has been a failure, and is never, ever going to persuade liberal bioethicists to abandon a single one of their positions, whether on abortion, euthanasia, surrogate motherhood, “gay marriage”, or whatever. Now I’m not saying that the traditional, metaphysically-driven approach is, psychologically speaking, more likely to convince liberal bioethicists; but I do think it’s the only one that, intellectually speaking, has even a hope of doing so.

XS: Where do you see the field of bioethics heading in the next few decades?

Oderberg: Well, probably not heading in a wonderful new direction in which science and technology are put in their place and authentic human values are placed back in control, where society and government allow only those developments that genuinely benefit individuals and the common good. In fact, my views are pretty apocalyptic on that score, but I won’t go into it here.

What I will say is that the future of bioethics is tied to the future of society (or societies). Don’t expect bioethicists to lead the way in restoring sanity to an otherwise insane society. In fact, don’t expect philosophers to do so.

The cultural forces at work are what drive future developments, and whilst it’s true that bioethics has been very much in the vanguard, it is not the driver. We need to look at the wider society: where is it going? What will it be like in, say, thirty years? Answer that question and you will have answered the question as to what bioethics will look like.

I’m more than a little afraid, albeit more for my children than for myself. If everyone kept their children free from the brainwashing effects of the media and the biotech boosters (as the great Wesley Smith calls them), bioethics would end up looking very different indeed.

Professor Oderberg’s website is This interview has been republished from BioEdge, another publication of New Media Foundation.
- See more at:


Nativity by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

It's that time of year when the staff of MercatorNet reluctantly tear themselves away from the website to attend to the special duties and joys of the Christmas season. The editors would like to thank readers, donors, our board, bloggers, comment moderators, regular contributors, partner websites, fans and critics -- for their loyal support. 
MercatorNet has developed a lot over the past 10 years but is always a work in progress. It is also largely a labour of love, with modest recompense for the time and effort involved, and this applies especially to the editor, Michael Cook, whose commitment and humour drive the whole enterprise. I doubt that he will like my saying this but it's overdue. Thanks from all of us, Michael.
We have chosen our Dignitarian of the Year and hope you approve. The Middle East refugee crisis is not going away; it is a huge humanitarian issue that Pope Francis has pleaded with the world to respond to. If a French family with seven children could take in refugees, I find myself asking, What do I have to do?
There's more in the menu below, including a nod to an old favourite marking it's 50th anniversary: A Charlie Brown Christmas (video included)And check out our Pick of the films for 2015.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And we'll be back again on January 4th. 

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

MercatorNet’s Dignitarian of the Year
Michael Cook | FEATURES | 18 December 2015
Our choice is a Greek Good Samaritan, Antonis Deligiorgis.
You’re a good show, Charlie Brown Christmas!
Carolyn Moynihan | FEATURES | 18 December 2015
Fifty years on, the animated cartoon still captures the reason for the season.
Our pick of the films of 2015
Staff of MercatorNet | POPCORN | 18 December 2015
Here are our nominations for the best entertainment of the past year
The fatal flaws of the bioethics industry
David S. Oderberg | FEATURES | 18 December 2015
A philosopher criticises its superficiality and sophistry.
Merry Christmas!
Marcus Roberts | DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY | 18 December 2015
Thank you for reading DID throughout 2015
A message to the ‘multi-cultis’ - just say Happy Christmas
Laura Keynes | FEATURES | 18 December 2015
A British Christian asks for cultural sensitivity.
Latest Christmas toy fad: Baby Snitch
Denyse O'Leary | CONNECTING | 18 December 2015
The doll at least talks and listens to the kid. But who else does?
What happens to lost socks?
Jennifer Minicus | READING MATTERS | 18 December 2015
The answer is stranger than you think.

MERCATORNET | New Media Foundation
Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George Street, North Strathfied NSW 2137, Australia

Designed by elleston

New Media Foundation | Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605 

No hay comentarios: