Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sunday Papers 2

One of my favorite weekly rituals is to spend Sunday morning with a cup of coffee or tea and my Philadelphia Inquirer. In between the T.O. coverage there was a couple of interesting articles that look at the complexity of what many see as simple issues.

First was Arthur Caplan's look at Rafael Palmeiro and the renewed steroid scandal in baseball. But this article (by the Chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at the University of Penn) sees this issue as the first in a series of complex ethical questions we will have to face in the near future: "There is nothing about the reaction to Rafael Palmeiro's downfall that indicates we are ready to deal with the fundamental ethical question raised by his use of steroids: How can we draw the line when it comes to enhancement?" This issue is explored further in this article which is a preview of a new book on the subject by Joel Garreau entitled, Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies - and What It Means to Be Human and in the film Gattaca.

The second article looks at the many gray areas in copyright infringement. This is another area that raises some complex and difficult ethical questions as digital technology becomes more sophisticated. When is copying legal? When is it stealing? And will society lean more toward open collaboration (see Creative Commons)?

It should be interesting to see how these issues play out and to get students to respond to them as well. We try to touch on some of these issues when we do a unit on Dystopian Literature in a junior/senior level English course. Having them examine real ethical questions and how they might effect society in the future helps them to see what the statement the authors are trying to make about society through the novels and stories. Students choose one of the following novels to read: Feed, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and A Clockwork Orange.

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