Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Eternal Pursuit for Knowledge and Meaning (aka Nikki’s soul-searching journey)

Intellectual or not, the human mind is on a constant path of furthering it’s own knowledge. Whether it be street smarts gained by years of socialization or the physical push for a higher education, we grow and adapt and seek out new information to cope with our ever changing surroundings.

Since the dawn of time, man (and woman) have pushed and grown to new heights to advance as a civilization. What drives this innate sense of growth and prosperity? What pushes us to seek higher education and put ourselves through years of schooling?

In it’s truest form philosophy refers to the “love of wisdom,” but in a general sense it could also refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.” To myself that definitely seems like the pursuit of knowledge and growth in a person. As seen by this photo, even philosophy itself, moves and adapts and seeks more and more to fulfill their insatiable need to explain the universe.

We desire knowledge to figure out this crazy universe and if there is a true meaning to our lives or if we’re just pawns in someone’s game or just specks of dust floating in space.

Different views have different opinions so what are we really supposed to believe? We as individuals seek out philosophy as a way to differentiate ourselves from the general populace of “sheeple” and to find our own meaning to life. To learn and hear people’s opinions and learn tolerance and how to argue for ourselves and stand up and fight the face of injustice.

Philosophy gives us a platform to seek a higher knowledge and expand our views. I personally am here to develop my own opinion and find my voice in the endless void. It is so easy to be lost in the sea of opinions and just give up and join the masses, but it takes real chutzpah to be the voice above the rest and really be yourself.

And along the words of the eternal cliche Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by.”

TL;DR I’m very opinionated and I like big words. Different people have different views, it’s almost like we’re individuals. Philosophy gives me existential crises and I don’t know if I like that.

 

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Talking Back: Knowledge’s Dependency upon Communication

Image taken from flickr.com user “liz west” and used under Creative Commons License.

You touch a hot stove. The nerves in your fingers send frantic messages screaming up your nervous system, travelling first through your arm then up through your neck. Your brain registers and processes the signal, then sends a reflex hurtling back to the rest of the body. Muscles in your arm contract and release, yanking your hand out of danger. Total time elapsed: a fraction of a second.

Communication is the essence of knowledge. We as humans communicate in many different ways, from text and speech to more basic systems such as body language. The initial communication, the first, most vital step in the hierarchy of information transfer, is none of these. Before text, speech, or body language is the human brain’s communication with the environment surrounding it. The stove is hot, the counter is smooth, the knife is sharp; all of these properties are recorded by our sensory organs. Our eyes, ears, nose, hands, and mouth all pick up information that is transmitted to the brain for processing. This is the initial communication, better described as the first and most basic transmission of information for all humans. Without this, it is impossible for humans to posses sensory information.

Note the careful use of vocabulary in the previous paragraph. There is a very important distinction between information and knowledge, and it would be folly to use the two interchangeably. To better explain what knowledge is (or at least my interpretation of it), I have prepared a logical argument that I will be going over piece by piece.

Proposition

if information is a collection of facts provided or learned about something or someone;

and communication is the imparting or exchanging of information;

and an entity is a thing with distinct and independent existence;

and a conscious being is an entity that maintains self-awareness, responds to stimuli, and acquires information;

then knowledge is the communication of information where at least one of the communicating entities is a conscious being.

This argument is a list of definitions, starting by defining important terms and ending with a declaration of the essence of knowledge. To enable understanding, I’ve broken the argument down into bite-sized pieces for each individual statement.

Image taken from flickr.com user “Heath Brandon” and used under Creative Commons License.

Definition #1: Information

information is a collection of facts provided or learned about something or someone;

The different uses of the word information cause issues when attempting to define it. An article by Luciano Floridi quotes philosopher Claude Shannon that “the word ‘information’ has been given different meanings by various writers in the general field of information theory.” Essentially, the word can be used to represent multiple distinct philosophical objects. For clarity and simplification, I have whittled down the definition of information to a manageable size.

Information is, quite simply, facts. A piece of information is a property or attribute of the object which it references. For example, sharp is a property of a knife whereas dull is a property of a spoon. Information exists independently of language. To return to logic, although the statement (words) may be different the proposition (essence) remains the same. I would extend this to argue that information can also exist without the need for consciousness. To put it simply, if a tree fell in the forest it would make a sound regardless of whether anybody was around to hear it. This may clash with the unprovability of anything outside our own minds, but that’s a different argument in itself.

Definition #2: Communication

communication is the imparting or exchanging of information;

Drawing upon our definition of information, defining communication brings us closer to our final definition of knowledge itself. Communication is the transmission of facts, except that the original information is copied instead of moved. For example, if I read from a textbook that the sky is blue, the textbook still has that information after I read it.

To further break down the definition of communication, it is necessary to regard the two verbs used in the above definition. The exchange of information is a two way path; I tell you something, you tell me something. A basic example of this would be a conversation. On the other hand, the imparting of information is a one-way transfer. An example of this would be reading a book, where you receive information but send none back.

Another important method of imparting information is somewhat less obvious. Unlike a book, the environment around us does not always have facts displayed in written format. Despite this, humans still manage to acquire information from the natural world. How this happens can be thought of in two different ways: either humans take information from concrete objects, or concrete objects give information to humans. Whichever one is true is irrelevant for this definition, because either way it is a one way transfer of information from the environment to humans.

Definition #3: Entity

an entity is a thing with distinct and independent existence;

Image taken from upload.wikimedia.org and used under Creative Commons License.

An entity, quite simply is something that exists. Whether physical, mental, concrete, or abstract, an entity is something. Almost synonymous to “thing”, the word entity is simply used to describe the independence of some type of object. This term was mostly included in the argument to provide clarity for the definition of a conscious being.

Definition #4: Conscious Being

a conscious being is an entity that maintains self-awareness, responds to stimuli, and acquires information;

Defining consciousness remains an enormous issues for philosophers, scientists, and psychologists alike. Simply put, no-one can agree what is is. Nonetheless, for brevity’s sake I have created a simplified definition of a conscious being that is satisfactory for the scope of my argument.

The first quality of a conscious being is that it maintains self-awareness. In other words, it knows that is exists and is distinctly separate from other entities. Human are organisms that exhibit this quality, though primates and other animals may also posses complete of incomplete versions of self-awareness. The importance of this quality is that it separates humans from computers and other entities that may have the other two required properties.

The second quality of a conscious being is that it responds to stimuli. Philosopher Rubert Van Gulick restates this as “[a creature] capable of sensing and responding to its world”. This means that a conscious being changes, and perhaps adapts to differing environments and situations. Many non-conscious beings also exhibit this trait, but it is still an important attribute for a conscious being to have.

The third quality of a conscious being is that it acquires information. This quality is almost included in the previous property, but is still an important distinction for a conscious being. Something that is conscious must be able to use some form of sensory system to acquire and possess knowledge, whether from their physical environment or from elsewhere.

Conclusion

knowledge is the communication of information where at least one of the communicating entities is a conscious being.

The key of this statement is that one of the communicating entities must be a conscious being. This is what separates information from knowledge. If two computers are exchanging data, they are transferring information. It can be though of like this:

information is the basic facts, whereas;

knowledge is information filtered through consciousness

Because of this, knowledge cannot exist independently of a conscious being. Just like how information depends on concrete objects, knowledge depends on consciousness. Information is always true or false, right or wrong, but because of its dependency on consciousness knowledge is slightly more nuanced. Issues such as belief and justified belief come into effect, demonstrating how knowledge is influenced by the mind that contains it.

What this tells us about knowledge is that it is the humanization of information. Information is objective, but knowledge is the opposite. Just like humans, information is more complex than simply being true or false. Knowledge’s subjectivity could be considered the root of all human conflict. For if there was no knowledge, just unbiased information, wouldn’t that make everything so much simpler?

Bibliography

Floridi, Luciano, “Semantic Conceptions of Information”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/information-semantic/>.

Van Gulick, Robert, “Consciousness”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/consciousness/>.

 

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Midterm Assignment: Personal Theory of Knowledge

εntropyıng ın-bεtwεεn Camεra▲Obscura . .

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jef Safi

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.

Immanuel Kant

For credit as well as open-online participants are invited to respond to the following prompts in developing a personal theory of knowledge to be share on the blog by the end of next week (Friday December 5th). 

Purpose

  • To state and support a proposition of personal knowledge;
  • To synthesize and reflect on course topics explore thus far:
    • Philosophical Inquiry
    • Logic
    • Scientific Philosophy
    • Metaphysics
  • To integrate existing epistemological ideas into a unique personal theory.

Components

  • It’s a Blog Post: Each personal theory of epistemology will be posted in the form of a blog entry on the class site.
  • Tell us what you know: Identify a specific aspect or perspective of your view of knowledge ( how, where, and under what conditions it exists, is acquired, communicated).
  • Be Logical: Represent the statements formulating your proposition of knowledge as a syllogism or logical argument.
  • Cite your Sources: Whether the website that originally posted the image at the top of your post or the thinker(s) who informed your own ideas, use links and identify how others’ have influenced your published work.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 1.26.22 PM

 

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Encryption Conniption: Privacy and Security in a Digital World

AES_copy

Image taken from http://upload.wikimedia.org/ and used under Creative Commons License.

Recently, Apple and Google have come under fire from several police and law organizations over their use of encryption on smartphones. With the release of iOS 8, Apple wrote on their privacy page that

 “On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data.” (Source)

Understandably, organizations such as the FBI have denounced this data protection, protesting that services like this place users “beyond the law”. Ironically, going “beyond the law” has been exactly what the NSA’s data collection program has recently discovered to have been doing, which is part of the cause for recent privacy and security developments such as this.

Other government organizations have responded even more strongly that the FBI. The Chief of Detectives for Chicago’s police department, John J. Escalante, has even gone so far as to state that

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile.” (Source)

This is an unusual argument, and to help understand it better I have broken it down into its different pieces:

  • Premise 1: Pedophiles are in want of products that do not allow outside parties to see their data.
  • Premise 2:  Apple phones are products that do not allow outside parties to see their users data.
  • Conclusion: Apple phones are going to become the phone of choice for the pedophile.

Let’s go through each part in-depth to determine whether the argument is true, valid, and/or sound.

  • Premise 1: While this premise makes somewhat of a sweeping generalization about pedophiles, it still appears to hold true. It makes logical sense that those who commit crimes and do not want to be punished for their crimes would purchase products that conceal their potentially incriminating data from outside parties.
  • Premise 2: At this point in time the premise seems to be true, as shown by Apple’s privacy page. However, there is no knowing if this may change in the future.

At this point, we can infer that this argument is factually correct because all of its premises are true (note: just because an argument is factually correct does not mean that its conclusion is true, only its premises).

Well, what about the conclusion?

This is where the argument falls through. The conclusion does not follow from the premises, so the argument is invalid. Let me explain why.

The conclusion relies on a large assumption not present in the premises:

  • Note: This argument states that “Apple phones are going to become the phone of choice for the pedophile.” If something is the “anything of choice”, it is distinguished from other choices in some way. In this case, possible distinguishments could be availability of options or perhaps quality. This leads to the assumption below.
  • Assumption: Apple Phones are the distinguished (i.e. only or best) option for encrypted data and communications.
  • This is obviously wrong: there are countless products and services that offer encrypted data and communications. It is wrong to assume that Apple Phones are the only options in this area. In fact, they may not even be the best choice – there are many other choices such as open-source encrypted messenger surespot and encrypted data service spideroak (note: the author of this article does not assert the authenticity of these services – use at own risk).
  •  The conclusion of this argument relies on this assumption, and as this assumption is false, the conclusion is also false.

So, the argument is invalid – is that it then? Not quite.

Arguments such as this about criminals using encryption are outdated. Yes, criminals use encryption, but so do everyday citizens (and the government, for that matter). Encryption may conceal evidence from the government, but so do walls. Encryption and walls alike protect the privacy of individuals, and just because criminal use is a possibility does not mean they should be scrapped. We have a right to privacy, and it should not be thrown aside.

 

 

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NSA Need Not Look Here

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower of the NSA, is arguably one of the better-known crusaders for privacy. When he talks, people listen, which is why Tech Crunch reports:

According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.

Anthony Ha “Edward Snowden’s Privacy Tips: “Get Rid Of Dropbox,” Avoid Facebook And Google”

The argument is made that those who value privacy ought to stay away from popular consumer Internet services. The argument can be broken down into this:

  1. Premise: People who care about privacy take measures to ensure their privacy
  2. Premise: Popular internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users
  3. Conclusion: Therefore people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services

First, to determine the soundness of Snowden’s argument, we must ensure that the arguments are true/accurate.

  • Premise 1 can be contested, though is mostly accepted.

  • Premise 2 can be contested. Popular Internet services may not have privacy as their highest concern, it may be argued that Internet services are not antagonistic to privacy. Companies like Dropbox actively encrypt files transferred from you to their servers, and are also encrypted while they rest on their servers as well.

Therefore, the flaw in Snowden’s logic lies in premise 2, stating that popular consumer internet services do not ensure the privacy of their users. Though the form of the argument may be valid, premise 2’s error in its contents damages the truth of its premises, and consequently the conclusion reached.

The reason why Snowden may have come to this conclusion is another argument in itself. Though his idea of ‘privacy’ may differ from those of a layman, he should be aware that not all popular consumer internet services disregard privacy, though many do. This misconception may have come from numerous sensationalist titles of news articles:

The Guardian – “Apple’s Tim Cook attacks Google and Facebook over privacy flaws”
BBC News – “Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators”
Reuters – “German privacy watchdog tells Google to restrict use of data”
ABC News – “How Hackers Got Private Photos Without Ever Breaching Snapchat’s Servers”
Dailymail UK – “We’re not reading your email or your iMessages’: Apple boss Tim Cook hits out at privacy claims following iCloud hacks”

The links above are just a few examples of headlines denouncing popular consumer Internet services like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat so it’s very likely for people to assume that social media and Internet services don’t have peoples’ privacy in mind. However, because many of these companies’ backbones consist of users’ information, they put in place many privacy measures that users can utilize. Though not saints of any kind, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat servers themselves rarely get hacked. However, the average consumer does not put privacy as the highest concern, resulting in shared or week passwords for multiple accounts, or the usage of third-party apps resulting in privacy issues unconcerning the companies themselves.

Though Snowden brings up a good point that those concerned with privacy should be more vigilant when approaching social media and internet services, privacy is not always in the hands of the company that holds the information. Though hacks on servers are not unheard of, many times the user themselves are what cause privacy-related problems. And because of that, not all people concerned with privacy should stay away from popular consumer internet services.

 

 

 

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Logic Assignment Introduction

Logic Lane, Oxford

Photo of Logic Lane at Oxford by Andy Hough on Flickr.

As we move into our unit on logic, the face-to-face participants in Philosophy 12 have been reading about the Basic Concepts of Logic (pdf), which may be defined as “the science of reasoning.” Delving into statements, premises, propositions, as well as truth, validity and soundness, our hope is to greet the weekend with a host of blogged examples of logical arguments in their natural habitat. In past years, the tasks around logic have involved a similar feat of strength, and participants have generated multiple examples of logical arguments and tested them for form and content. Occasionally this has sparked interesting discussions of both the merits of this or that argument, the cultural implications (or origins) of such thinking, and by amending the unit assignment this week hopefully we will see more of this type of discourse emerging around our logical examples.

The Assignment 

  • Summarize and describe an example of a logical argument you have uncovered in a variety of settings: current events, popular media, personal anecdotes or hypothetical thought experiments. Be sure to include enough back-story for people unfamiliar with the milieu of your example to digest the logic at work, and provide links, video, or attached materials so that your audience can follow up or extend their inquiry into your example with ease.
  • Dissect the argument and its form by representing it as a syllogism.
  • Evaluate the argument for Truth, Validity and Soundness and explain your judgements.
  • Reflect upon the origins or implications of your selected argument. Where does it (or others like it) come from (in society, culture, etc)? What are the consequences of the conclusion drawn, or from the argument being framed in this way?

Post your example on the class site no later than Tuesday morning, and be sure to include the proper Category: Logic and Scientific Philosophy.

For your reference and preparation, here is an example of a response to this assignment:

Prime Ministerial Logic 

Image via Transitions, an Advocate for Sociological Inquiry

Following the discovery of Tina Fontaine’s murdered body in the Red River, in August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper faced reinvigorated calls to launch a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada. On the heels of reports from the special rapporteur to the United Nations, as well as the RCMP, which each discovered that aboriginal women in Canada face significantly higher rates of violence than non-aboriginals, Harper’s federal Conservative Government continued to reject pressure to better understand the root causes of this trend. The Prime Minister himself stated that “we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as a crime.”

The Prime Minister’s statement might be seen as an argument broken down to the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: The murder or abduction of aboriginal women is a crime.

Premise 2: Crime is not a sociological phenomenon.

Premise 3: A federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would rely on sociological practices of inquiry.

Conclusion: Therefore, a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would not address crimes against aboriginal women.

By evaluating the various premises’ truth and/or accuracy, we might be able to reveal the soundness of the Prime Minister’s argument.

  • Premise 1 can easily be accepted as true.
  • Premise 2 can be more easily contested, as the study of criminology itself is a branch of sociological inquiry. While it is the government’s prerogative to define and combat crime in terms it was elected to uphold, practitioners in the fields of both sociology and criminology would likely contest the Prime Minister’s assertion that “crime is not a sociological phenomenon.”
  • Premise 3 can be seen to be true, as an inquiry into the trend of murdered and missing aboriginal women would “study social behaviour, its origins, development, organization, and institutions,” which Wikipedia defines as sociology.

As we can see, the flaw in the Prime Minister’s argument is contained in Premise number two, and damages the conclusion reached. While the argument’s form may be valid, an error in its content damages both the truth of its premises and the soundness of the conclusion.

The origins of the Prime Minister’s logic are difficult to trace, though they might be seen in the political ideology of Neoliberalism. Writing in the Toronto Star, Jakeet Singh noted that the Prime Minister’s remarks were

“clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems.”

The effects of this logic being brought to bear on crime and punishment in Canada can be similarly difficult to witness (somewhat ironically even, as the evidence to be found would reside within the sorts of sociological inquiries the Prime Minister is denying). However, Singh’s article describes the casualties of Mr. Harper’s ideology as our societal ability to perceive and confront injustice. “You see,” he writes, “Sociologists often differentiate between “personal injustices” and “systemic” or “structural injustices.” Personal injustices can be traced back to concrete actions of particular individuals (perpetrators). These actions are often willful, and have a relatively isolated victim.”

Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”

By refusing to view crime as a sociological phenomenon, those accepting the Prime Minister’s argument do so within a broader context which should trouble those who believe in our collective responsibility for one another’s well-being. “When we paint all social problems as individual problems with individual solutions,” Singh writes, “we also lose any sense of the social responsibility, rather than personal responsibility, that we need to address them.”

 

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The Almighty Google and a Tidbit on Whales

wittgensteinWhen starting to think about “what is philosophy”, I found myself pulling up the Google webpage and searching exactly that. What I found was a solid definition stating that “Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.” After reading this definition, I still found that it had changed nothing about the concept of philosophy for me. So I searched a bit deeper and come across another more casual definition. “Philosophy can refer to the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”. Now here is a definition I can talk a little bit more about. Now this is a definition that I can actually picture in my mind. It helped me imagine and think about my basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes as an individual. I believe that everyone has a purpose on this planet physically and mentally. I believe that I, as an individual will lead my own path based off of my decisions, values, and ambitions in life. With this definition to go off, the wheels started turning in my head. I started to truly recognize what philosophy was to me. Are you ready?

Philosophy is like a collection of books, each with different ideas, storylines, and dialogue. However when you bring all of these novels together you get an enriching plethora of knowledge, reasoning, and arguments. Philosophy is whatever people want it to be, whether it’s talking about whales (and yes, I just had to fit whales somewhere in this talk), or what is the meaning of life. It’s all relevant and important in terms of philosophy. When you talk about a thought with someone, for example; “why not just weigh the fish?” you can talk and talk and bring your own ideas to the table, your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes on the subject. That is what philosophy is all about, bringing your ideas to the table and saying “why not this? This is what I believe.” Philosophy is the organic breaking down of a subject influenced by your own beliefs, concepts, and attitudes.

 

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Basic Concepts of Logic – Preliminary Definitions

Here is a prezi that was created to explain lesson 6 in the basic concepts of logic package. Enjoy!Preliminary Definitions

 

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Playing God or Frontier of Science?

On February 23, 1997, Dolly the lamb was literally made. She is not the work of nature but of a man named Ian Wilmut and his team of scientists.  Dolly came into being as the genetic replica of an ewe, of whom she is a clone. When the bewildering news spread around the world, there was substantial debate over the issue as Dolly opened the doors for other types of cloning, including the possibility of cloning humans. Most concerns that were raised emphasized on the ethical issues, yet there are no clear answers to the questions. The Los Angeles Times opined that such a discovery” opens the door to a “blade Runner” world of human replicants. The Wall Street Journal asked business leaders and newsmakers whether they would like to have themselves cloned.

So, what is cloning exactly?

“Cloning is the creation of an individual that is a genetic replica of another individual. The process transfers a nucleus from a somatic nonreproductive cell into an “enucleated” fertilized egg, one that has had its own nucleus destroyed or removed. The genes in the transferred nucleus then direct the development of a complete organism from the altered fertilized egg. Two individuals who are clones have identical genes in their cell nuclei, but differ in characteristics that are acquired in other ways.” ~ Bookrags Research Article

For decades, cloning has caused ethical, moral and religious debates.  This controversial medical evolution brings about two points of view, either good or bad, there are no greys in between.

As cloning gives rise to an organism with the exact DNA as the original, the promising benefits that cloning may offer would be welcomed by those who suffer from immobilizing diseases, those that wish to save their loved ones or those suffering from infertility.  Just imagine, if you could clone the vital organs of humans and use them for transplantation, many lives could be saved with new organs.  There is no doubt that scientists with this new found science will get bolder; it would probably won’t come as a surprise that the world will try to clone influential people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King Jr. so they can carry forward their legacies for generations after.

Cloning brings hope for those who are unable to have children.  People can just get themselves cloned and have a baby exactly like themselves.  With a little help from genetic engineering, “designer babies” are exact copies of the parents with some additional talents and looks; people can choose certain genetic traits (which Megan’s post further explains).  In addition to human cloning, plants and animals can be cloned as well.  If you have ever watched Jurassic Park, the scientists managed to recreate the entire species from the Lost World with a single strand of DNA.  Perhaps the world repopulated with clones of extinct animals isn’t such an absurd idea anymore.  Plants that are cloned can be modified with genetic engineering, thus providing more enhanced plants that features more than just the characteristics of the original. All these possibilities make cloning look like necessity to help save not only the human race, but also plants and animals.

However, with the good, comes the bad.  The idea of being able to use exactly compatible cells to save lives sounds like a beautiful vision…but is there a way to actualize this miracle without creating an embryo and killing its life?  Cloning, in a sense, is playing God; where we test the boundaries of the natural order of life. Many Christian ethicists argue that human cloning would “create substantial issues of identity and individuality.”  With two identical organisms living, people will lose uniqueness that is so accentuated in the society today.  Or let’s say the scientists recreate a different version of yourself, where the clone bears no negative traits of the original human.  It has the best physical features, the highest IQ possible, and the inhuman qualities that humans can only covet.  Wouldn’t you develop an inferiority complex if your own clone was better than you? What would if be like to live in the shadows of your clone when you are the original? Imperfections is what makes a human, a human.

There are also the individuals who want clones to meet their selfish motives.  If say a man is diagnosed with brain cancer, to clone another man to provide a compatible brain is for the benefit of the original; resulting in the death of the clone without the clone’s consent.  And how far does it go for a clone to demand his/her or even its rights?  Religiously, cloning is a denial of the basic aspect of reproduction, according to the Catholics, clones “lack a spirit and soul as it fails to go through the natural cycle of reproduction”.  Cloning is also highly ineffective: Dolly had taken 277 attempts and its life span was half of that of the original clone.

Though no one knows how human clones will effect the human identity and relationships, but can you imagine how the clone would feel to be called a copy of someone who is already existed and not someone who is unique? But ethically, it is already wrong to inflict harm to one’s feelings and confidence.

Human cloning seems to be an ambitious idea for the moment, but both sides of this issue are presented to you.  What’s your take?

http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~mbernste/ethics.cloninghumans.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_(sheep)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloning

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/353-the-ethics-of-human-cloning

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ethical-issues-of-cloning.html

 

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Discussion Point: Is Science Objective?

look downstairs into stairwell whirl

Picture courtesy of Flickr user: quapan

As a culminating activity to our introduction to Scientific Philosophy, the class will be discussing the nature of objectivity in science from a number of perspectives outlined in the course text. In groups of 2-3, for-credit learners will prepare the following to be delivered next Tuesday (October 16th):

  • A one-minute introduction to their philosophical perspective (listed below);
  • A two-minute response to the question, Is Science Objective? 
  • A question for one of the other selected perspectives;

In addition, each group will post a synthesis of their thinking after the discussion to readdress their response to the original question, and incorporate influential points made by their peers during Tuesday’s class.

The different lenses / perspectives we will be addressing in class will be:

  • Post-Modernist
  • Feminist
  • Scientific Realist
  • Karl Popper
  • van Orman Quine
  • David Deutsche
  • Anarchistic Epistemologist
  • Instrumentalist
  • Logical Positivist

Invitation to Open-Online ParticipantsAs ever, we welcome your input, feedback, and engagement with the classroom learning wherever you are able to supply it. For this particular aspect of the course, if you would like to submit a response to the question from one (or more) of the listed perspectives (or one of your own choosing), feel free to submit a post or comment on the blog (If you are not a registered author on the blog, fill out the form on the Open Online Participants page to remedy this.) and join our discussion on Tuesday live on #ds106radio, or Google Hangout.

 
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