The ethics of organ transplantation are largely based on ‘brain death’ - the certainty that brain activity is irreversibly over - to allow harvesting of organs from the cadaver while the heart is still beating. But, there is considerable debate about what the ability of the body to survive such a loss might mean for the ethics of organ transplantation. Are we confident in saying that these living bodies are dead? Confident enough to harvest unpaired vital organs from them? Even to presume consent for donation in these cases? Who should pronounce on matters of life and death? Do we trust doctors enough to make the decision for us? Medical ethics boards? Public opinion? Philosophers, theologians, politicians? In this Battle of Ideas debate, we learn that central to this issue is just what we mean by being human and how we value autonomy and free will. Much of our morality rests on a feeling that we should treat a human as an end, never as a means, certainly not as a bag of spare parts.
There has been a resurgence of interest in ‘character’ and how it is formed. Character traditionally was seen as a matter of possessing virtues such as courage and wisdom. Today it is often defined in terms of ‘capabilities’ like resilience, optimism, stoicism, altruism, emotional regulation and so on. Nevertheless, sceptics argue none of these can be taught, but are the outcome of moral choices, life experience, or are simply ‘virtues’. Yet, many are turning to positive psychology and neuroscience for more robust evidence about how to develop character in schools. Should society even be in the business of assessing us as individuals, analysing what character deficiencies we might have? Are schools teaching character in fact practising indoctrination? Or is trying to assist the formation of our character with the latest science no more problematic than toning our muscles in the gym – the equivalent of a moral workout? Filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival this debate warms things up.
Policymakers regularly accompany their policy proposals with scientific claims, while campaigners also cite ‘the science’ to further their causes. In 2011, the British Medical Association, as part of its anti-smoking crusade, asserted that smoking in cars generates 23 times more toxins than you would find in a smoky bar. While the figure was impressively frightening, it was also untrue. So rather than the problem being too little trust in science, are too many inclined to trust the science too much? This Battle of Ideas debate filmed at the Barbican addresses the big question, do government, activists and campaigners need to stop hiding behind science and make their arguments in moral and political rather than scientific terms?
Too often adults seem powerless in the face of young people behaving badly. During the 2011 summer riots in the UK, well-equipped police officers looked on impotently. Teachers now complain they no longer have official support to deal with misbehaviour and adults avoid reprimanding misbehaving kids for fear of being accused of abuse. Whether it is smoking, recycling or healthy eating, adults often find themselves under a barrage of criticism, and it is our children who are telling us off. ‘Mum, don’t you know fatty foods are bad for me.’ Do we need to reassert the idea that children should respect their elders and children and young adults do not have the same capacity as adults? This fascinating debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas festival reveals all.
Is a cult of transparency causing as many problems as its advocates claim it solves? Critics argue that informal exchanges are inhibited: people have to always be on their guard, wary of giving an honest opinion. Others argue a culture of transparency may actually encourage more secrecy: ‘Text me instead of emailing’; ‘Phone me and I’ll tell you off the record’. Moreover, is the act of making decisions ‘behind closed doors’ really such a bad thing? After all, we value confidentiality when it comes to our own bank statements and medical records. Has the ‘right to know’ reinvigorated the public understanding of how society really works, or simply ‘furred up the arteries’ of organisations and government? Or will transparency, the right to know, help restore trust and accountability in society? Panellists in this Battle of Ideas debate share their expertise.
The Queen said an immigration bill would aim to "ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute, and deter those who will not". Unlike migrants, obviously the Queen contributes a lot and is not just a parasite. If passed, the bill will ensure landlords have to check their tenants' immigration status. Has the Queen checked in her bed for foreigners? Have you checked who is in yours? This 30 second short suggests a much simpler solution.
In this second episode of WORLDbytes’ TV Dinners, while guests tuck into cheese and cake for dessert, the conversation progresses to drinking and smoking. Interwoven with infamous campaign adverts designed to change our behaviour, diners consider whether the amount we drink and whether we smoke should really be up to us. Special guest Rob Lyons points out, the first thing you get from doctors are questions about your weight, smoking and alcohol consumption which may have absolutely nothing to do with what you have visited them for. Should we have the freedom to make unhealthy choices? If alcohol is a great social lubricant, is binge drinking okay? Is smoking a step too far for our health and should smokers be demonised? All the arguments are chewed over in this compelling short.
Even before the Leveson inquiry the British press had become tame, objectivity ridiculed and a culture of conformism had set in. Joining volunteers on the sofa, Mick Hume author of There is No Such Thing As a Free Press… and we need one more than ever sets the scene. Investigative journalism is facing an ice age, he explains and the ‘buts’ to ‘I believe in press freedom’ are getting louder. Discussants raise their concerns, was the response to phone hacking over the top? Why can’t we say what we think anymore? What about privacy? Do the public know or care? Can we trust the press anyway? Hume’s answers are salutary and his recommendations to create our own media to challenge ideas rather than support regulation or whinge about Murdoch are more than worth taking on board.
A Centre for Mitochondrial Research was established this year at Newcastle University. But its proposed techniques cannot be tested in clinical trials without a change in the law, so the government has commissioned a ‘public dialogue’. Such procedures address the feelings prompted by scientific advances, but often also result in substantive moral objections being condescendingly dismissed as the irrational ‘yuck’ reaction. There seems to be scant room for moral or political rather than scientific arguments. What roles should democracy, morality and a grasp of the actual science play in the process of making decisions on such issues? The speakers in this Battle of Ideas science session reveal all.
According to government figures, there are over a million illegal immigrants living in the UK. This thirty-second eye opener provides a simple solution and is guaranteed to stop illegal immigrants hiding in your cupboards. Watch it and pass it on.