Daniel Beck

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Daniel Beck is a recent PhD graduate from Michigan State University’s Department of Philosophy. He has presented on topics in bioethics, environmental philosophy, moral philosophy, and political philosophy at both national and international professional conferences, and his scholarly work on bioethics methodology has been published in a peer reviewed academic journal.

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"Hunterian Collection" by StoneColdCrazy is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Byrne died quite young, at the age of 22, and quite tall, at approximately seven feet, eight inches. This is still tall for today, but must have been more impressive during Mr. Byrne’s short life in the late 18th century. According to an Ohio State University researcher, the average height for men in Northern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries was only about five feet, five inches. Today, the average height for men in Northern Ireland has been calculated to be about five feet, 10 inches.

"A registered nurse from the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association checks the blood sugar level of a patient" by Brian Finney is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Jamaica’s healthcare system has a critical problem: there are not enough specialist nurses in the country. Jamaica produces plenty of specialist nurses. However, nurses trained in Jamaica are leaving the country to work in places in the developed world, like the United States or the United Kingdom. According to a recent NPR article, “the exodus has forced Jamaican hospitals to reschedule some complex surgeries because of a lack of nursing staff on their wards.” James Moss-Solomon, the chairman of the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, accused richer countries like the U.S. of “poaching” nurses from Jamaica. The use of the verb “to poach” —which can mean “to take something in an unfair way”—implies a moral condemnation of the practice.

"Heiwa elementary school" by ajari is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Equal opportunity weighs heavily in American views of education. Not everyone can grow up to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but who gets to be CEO should be determined principally by merit, and not according to skin color, place of birth, or family wealth. Both conservatives and liberals describe education as a driver of equal opportunity. While some may be born into poverty and others born into wealth, a well-rounded education can be the leg up that the poor child needs to compete with the rich kids. The moral case for public education rests on its ability to give everyone a shot to rise to the top.

"Wormhole travel" by Les Bossinas is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: this article contains spoilers for Aurora. 

Aurora, the most recent novel by the science-fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, focuses on the long-distance voyage of Earth’s first interstellar generation starship. A generation starship is a spaceship designed to sustain a small human population stuck on the ship for several generations. This generation ship is travelling 11.9 light years to the Tau Ceti system, a voyage that takes them roughly 200 years to complete. Thus, the inhabitants of the ship that we meet are not those individuals who signed up willingly for the expedition, but rather the descendants of their descendants.

"IBM Blue Gene P Supercomputer" by Argonne National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Twenty-one years ago (February 10, 1996), Deep Blue, an IBM Supercomputer, defeated Russian Grand Master Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. Kasparov ultimately won the overall match, but a rematch in May of 1997 went to Deep Blue. About six years ago (February 14-15, 2011), another IBM creation named Watson defeated Champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in televised Jeopardy! matches.

The capabilities of computers continue to expand dramatically and surpass human intelligence in certain specific tasks, and it is possible that computing power may develop in the next several decades to match human capacities in areas of emotional intelligence, autonomous decision making and artistic imagination. When machines achieve cognitive capacities that make them resemble humans as thinking, feeling beings, ought we to accord them legal rights? What about moral rights?

"Super Bowl XLVIII" by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Nearly 112 million people in the United States watched the Super Bowl last year. Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was, per NPR, the most watched show in the history of television.  Clearly, professional sports are highly esteemed in America. In the run-up to what is sure to be another highly anticipated Super Bowl, it is a good occasion to consider the moral value, if any, of athletic competition. To do so, I want to draw your attention to a curious occurrence that happened several years ago in a much less popular sport, badminton.

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"USW Carrier Rally" by United Steelworkers is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Flickr)

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s key campaign promises was to stop companies from shipping American jobs overseas. Since his election in November, he has already claimed credit for making progress on this promise. The President-elect has claimed credit for stopping Carrier from moving jobs in Indiana to Mexico. More recently, Ford announced that it had cancelled plans to build a new car manufacturing facility in Mexico. The January 3 New York Times article linked to above suggests that Ford’s decision was partially a response to Trump’s plans on trade policy.

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"Homeopathy" by Detco is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Homeopathy, the medical philosophy that “like cures like,” is big business. According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, $2.9 billion were spent in out-of-pocket costs by adults in the United States for homeopathic medicine in 2007. The medical philosophy of homeopathy, developed in Germany over 200 years ago, posits that any substance that produces certain symptoms in a healthy person can also be used to cure those symptoms in a sick person. Homeopathic cures introduce one of these substances to cure a person of their symptoms.

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As the parent of an inquisitive 2½ year old, I currently find myself fumbling to explain Santa Claus to him, of whom he is now quite aware. Should I emphasize that he is a storybook character, and not a real person? Would he even know what the difference between real and make-believe is yet? I am struck by the perennial parenting question that divides many a household: Should we lie to our kids about Santa Claus? My own parents always dutifully marked some Christmas presents as if they were from Santa Claus, even well after we kids were past the stage of believing in that jolly old elf. I do not personally feel damaged by my parents sustaining the myth of Father Christmas, but a recent essay in Lancet Psychiatry warns otherwise. Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia and co-author claims: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

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"Syrian Refugees strike at the platform of Budapest Keletri railway station" by Mstyslav Chernov is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Anxieties over changing demographics, immigration, and refugees have been a key theme in Western politics over the past couple of years. A central flashpoint in the political debates leading up to the Brexit vote was a controversial poster from the “Leave” Campaign, depicting a line of Syrian refugees. In the United States, reports of racist taunting and vandalism have increased since the recent election. France will vote in presidential elections in 2017, and the National Front’s candidate Marine Le Pen is projected to have a strong showing. The National Front has also been associated primarily with its opposition to immigration, specifically immigration from Islamic countries. More generally, political sentiments that reject multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, in favor of nationalism and isolationism, have grown in popularity in both the United States and Western Europe.