Tag Archives: Morality

Ched Evans: UK Rapist Seeks Return to Professional Soccer

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

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After a brief (Spring) break, the SLACE Archive has returned. The most recent episode of the BBC’s Moral Maze radio programme, lived up to its name–tackling the vexing issue of physician assisted suicide.

Here is a description of the show from the Moral Maze website:

There are few more emotive subjects than assisted dying. It captures both the hopes and the fears of the age in which we live. Advances in medical technology have been a triumph, extending our life expectancy almost exponentially. 33% of babies born today can expect to live to 100. 80 years ago the figure would have been less than 4%. But along with the undreamt of levels of longevity have come the nightmares of a lingering death; robbed of our humanity by the indignity and pain of diseases. The government has just announced that it will give MP’s a free vote on the latest legislative attempt to allow people to get help to die and campaigners believe that decision will give the bill a strong chance of becoming law. It will allow adults to ask a doctor to help them die if they’ve been given no more than six months to live. But it won’t go as far as some campaigners would like. Why is it morally acceptable to help someone to kill themselves if they’re already close to death, but not to help someone who might have many years of pain and suffering ahead of them? And if it’s right to allow adults assisted suicide, why not children? After all is it moral to expect them to endure the suffering we would not? At the heart of this issue is personal choice and moral agency – it’s my life and my death. But is the brutal truth that in almost every circumstance we already have that choice, it’s just that we want someone else to administer the coup de gras? Or is that point? Assisted dying – a very compassionate and humane answer to help people when they are at their most desperate or a law that will in reality help only a small number, but put many more vulnerable people at risk? Chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Anne McElvoy, Matthew Taylor, Giles Fraser.

Witnesses are Graham Winyard, Colin Harte, Gerlant van Berlaer and Ruth Dudley Edwards.

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March 18, 2014 · 5:46 pm

“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

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March 1, 2014 · 12:41 pm

Scanlon and Obama on Inequality

Recently, President Obama has stated that income inequality, and inequality of opportunity, is the “defining challenge of our time.”  As debates about the minimum wage start to gain traction in American politics, it appears that inequality may  be a major issue in 2014.  Last month, Harvard philosopher Tim Scanlon sat down with the philosophy bites podcast to discuss the morality of inequality in the context of political philosphy.

Here is a description of the podcast which asks “what is wrong with inequality?”: 

Why do so many people object to inequality? Is there something intrinsically wrong with it? Is it wrong because it has bad consequences? Or is there nothing wrong with it? Harvard philosopher Tim Scanlon discusses these questions with Nigel Warburton in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast.

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February 17, 2014 · 8:05 pm

“Pornography: What Do We Know?”

That was the question being examined on the BBC’s Analysis radio programme. Here is a description of the show: 

What do we really know about the effects of pornography? 

Public debate has become increasingly dominated by an emotive, polarised argument between those who say it is harmful and those who say it can be liberating. Jo Fidgen puts the moral positions to one side and investigates what the evidence tells us. She explores the limitations of the research that’s been carried out and asks whether we need to update our understanding of pornography. She hears from users of pornography about how and why they use it and researchers reveal what they have learnt about our private pornographic habits. 

With pornography becoming increasingly easy to access online, and as policy-makers, parents and teachers discuss how to deal with this, it’s a debate that will have far-reaching implications on education and how we use the internet. 

Producer: Helena Merriman 

Interviewees: 

Professor Neil Malamuth – University of California 
Dr Miranda Horvath – Middlesex University 
Dr Ogi Ogas – Author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts 
Professor Roger Scruton – Conservative philosopher and Author of Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation 
Professor Gail Dines – Wheelock College, Boston.

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November 3, 2013 · 1:44 am

Radiolab: Blame

Recenlty, WNYC‘s Radiolab ran one of the most intense and interesting podcasts I have heard in quite sometime.  The podcast, titled “Blame,” is about the intersection of law, technology, and moral responsibility.   

The first story, “Fault Line,” is about a New Jersey man epilepsy may or may not have play a role in his child pornography addiction.  Here is a description of “Fault Line”

Kevin* is a likable guy who lives with his wife in New Jersey. And he’s on probation after serving time in a federal prison for committing a disturbing crime. Producer Pat Walters helps untangle a difficult story about accountability, and a troubling set of questions about identity and self-control. Kevin’s doctor, neuroscientist Orrin Devinsky, claims that what happened to Kevin could happen to any of us under similar circumstances — in a very real way, it wasn’t entirely his fault. But prosecutor Lee Vartan explains why he believes Kevin is responsible just the same, and should have served the maximum sentence.

The second story, “Forget about Blame?”, is a conversation between the hosts of Radiolab with David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who argues that the law should forget about retributivism and blame. Eagleman defends the “my brain made me do it” defense and suggests that neuroscience should fundamentally alter how we think about criminal law.

Here is a description of the story: 

Nita Farahany, who’s been following the growing field of Neurolaw for years now, helps uncover what seems to be a growing trend — defendants using brain science to argue that they aren’t entirely at fault. Neuroscientist David Eagleman thinks this is completely wrongheaded, and argues for tossing out blame as an old-fashioned, unfair way of thinking about the law. According to David and Amy Phenix, a clinical and forensic psychologist who relies on statistics, it makes more sense to focus on the risk of committing more crimes. But Jad and Robert can’t help wondering whether that’s really a world they want to live in. 

Finally, the third story, “Dear Hector”, is a remarkable tale of forgiveness.  It is about a father who befriends his daughter’s murderer.  

Reporter Bianca Giaever brings us a story of forgiveness that’s nearly impossible to comprehend — even for the man at the center of it, an octogenarian named Hector Black.

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October 23, 2013 · 2:53 pm