The most recent episode of the BBC’s Moral Maze debated the case of Ched Evans, a convicted rapist who seeks to return to playing professional football in England. Although the story has received modest attention in America (here is a link to a New York Times article story), it has created a national debate in England.
Here is a description of the Moral Maze debate from the BBC’s website:
The case of the footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans is a morality tale for our times. Evans, who played for Wales and Sheffield United, was jailed for 5 and a half years after being found guilty of raping a woman who was so drunk she couldn’t give her consent. Clayton McDonald, then a Port Vale defender, who was also involved, was cleared of the same charge. Evans has always maintained his innocence and has not apologised to the victim. He’s now been released on licence and there are calls for him to return to his footballing career. An online petition with 150,000 signatures says Sheffield United should not take him back. The story may read like a tawdry tabloid expose, but it actually goes to the heart of the kind of society we want and the kind of people we want to be. Should a convicted rapist who’s served his time and maintains his innocence be entitled to get his job back? Does the need for forgiveness and rehabilitation trump the need for continuing disgrace and the need to make an example of someone who for many should be a role model? Does the fact of being a high profile figure put you in a different moral category that deserves extra punished? Or does that send out a message that even though you’ve served your time you still may not be allowed the chance to rebuild your life and reintegrate in to society.
Panellists: Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Claire Fox, Giles Fraser
Witnesses: Charlotte Webster, David Walsh, Dr Clare Carlisle, Dr Nina Burrowes
Although the BBC’s the Moral Maze is currently on hiatus until later this fall, the most recent episode discussed the morality of surrogacy. The topic was sparked by a horrendous story discussed below.
Here is a description of the podcast from the BBC’s website.
She was paid £8850. The money would help repay the family’s debts and to go towards the education her two children. Pattaramon Chanbua never even met the Australian couple who were paying her. It’s known as “gestational surrogacy” where the host mother is implanted with an embryo. Effectively the Australian couple were paying to rent the Thai woman’s womb. In this case Pattaramon gave birth to twins. One of them, who’s been named Gammy had Down’s syndrome. It’s a terrible story that raises many uncomfortable moral and ethical dilemmas. This isn’t just a simple contractual obligation. At the heart of this there’s a child’s life. Who bears the moral responsibility when things go wrong? And is that something that can be delegated to regulation? Infertility is a grief for many thousands of couples and the trade in international surrogacy also attracts same sex partners who desperately want children. But how do we – should we – weigh their pain against the exploitation of poor women and the commodification of that greatest of gifts – the gift of life? In such emotive cases it’s perhaps too easy to rush to judgment. There’s the argument that when done properly surrogacy can enrich people’s lives, offering the childless a the chance to become parents and by putting money into the hands of surrogate women it gives them the chance to plan the future of their families in the way they see fit. If we ban it we take that opportunity out of their hands. If we regulate is that tacitly condoning a degrading a marketization of something that should not be commodified? And if we regulate womb renting, why not allow the poor to monetise other parts of their bodies? Their blood? Or perhaps a kidney? And is it the role of the state to regulate and control what people do with their bodies? Moral Maze – Presented by Michael Buerk.
Panellists: Matthew Taylor, Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy and Jill Kirby.
Witnesses: Richard Westoby, Julie Bindel, Nicola Scott and Dr. Helen Watt.
“The Morality of Nationalism”
That was the issue being debated on the BBC’s Moral Maze podcast. An appropriate topic given the current state of affairs in the Ukraine, where nationalism plays a central role.
Here is a description of the podcast from the BBC website:
This week the Moral Maze looks at the morality of nationalism. In Ukraine and the UK people are fighting and in the former case dying over the idea and the ideals of nationhood. Those are just the biggest headlines today; without pausing to think too hard you might add Syria, the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain and Tibet to the list and that’s just from the news in the last seven days – let alone going further back in history to the breakup of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Chechnya and Ireland. Nationalism and the struggle for national identity is a complex moral puzzle. What makes nationalism such a powerful and morally problematic force in our lives is the interplay of old feelings of communal loyalty and relatively new beliefs about popular sovereignty. On the one hand it undoubtedly expresses something deep in human nature – a yearning for self-determination and justice. But it can also come with darker tribal undertones of “us” and “them” and has been seen all too often through ethnic cleansing and genocide. To what extent should people be permitted to act on the basis of loyalty to those to whom they are specially related by culture, race or language? Are there benign forms of nationalism? Should enlightened people repudiate nationalism? What value should we attach to cultural diversity? Given the current examples of how nationalism can sometimes seem to be a force for good, and sometimes a force for very great evil what are the moral underpinnings of nationalism?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Melanie Phillips, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser.
Witnesses are John Breuilly, Edward Lucas, Philippe Legrain and Gideon Calder
“Public health vs individual freedom”
This was the title of the most recent episode of the BBC’s Moral Maze podcast. The programme fosters an interesting (although admittedly, at times, dry) debate about the role of the state in regulating public health and its limits. For instance, do you have an individual right to Twinkies? Does the should the state regulate the size of sodas (NYC)?
Here is a description of the show:
When should society step in and save us from ourselves? Our apparently insatiable appetites for smoking, drinking and eating are all in the news this week, but where and how should we draw the line between individual freedom and public health? Is it purely a utilitarian calculation; that the consequences are such a drain on the national purse that we can no longer afford the luxury of letting people do what they want? Or does that just reduce the value of our bodies to the lowest common denominator – the bottom line on a balance sheet? And even if we could afford it, should the common good outweigh individual freedom? Is expecting other people to pay for the consequences of our own behaviour immoral? And what if we could invent a cheap and effective pill to allow us to drink as much as we want without suffering a hangover, or eat what we like without the risk of diabetes? We might herald the scientific advance, but would it make us better humans? Is there something morally, as well as corporally corrupting about defiling our bodies with intoxicants and excess? Or does that sound hopelessly Victorian and censorious in an age that has come to prize self-indulgence and hedonism almost as much human rights? Are policies to control our appetites the worst kind of nanny-statism that punishes the responsible and infantilises the rest or a sensible response to a public health crisis?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Michael Portillo, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor.
Moral Maze: Boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics
With the Sochi Winter Olympics starting later this evening, I think it is fair to say that most Westerns assume that there is symbolic value in boycotting the games in protest of Russia’s human rights violations, particularly as they relate to homosexuals. However, the most recent episode of the Moral Maze questions this assumption and debates the moral utility of Olympic boycotts. Several of the “witnesses” of the programme assert that Olympic boycotts are useless. They argue that, particularly with reference to Russia anti-gay policies, gay athletes would be better served competing and beating the Russians rather than sitting out the games. They cite Jesse Owens at the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany. What better way to show the absurdity of Hitler’s claims of “Aryan superiority” than an African American running faster and jumping further than Nazi “uberman.”
Here is a brief description of the podcast:
Are sporting boycotts of events like the Winter Olympics effective or just empty gestures?