"Mass Standards 005" by National Institute of Standards and Technology is licensed under CC0 Public domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

To establish a standard of physical measurement — the meter, the newton, the kilogram — is to establish the possibility of objective answers to questions such as, “Am I allowed to carry my luggage on,” “How much will I have to work to cram my overstuffed suitcase into the overhead bin,” and “Is my luggage allowed in the cargo hold?” But what about the standards themselves? Is there, say, an objective answer to the question, “Is it good to use this definition of the kilogram?”

"Newborn Baby Feet" by Julie Gentry is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Public Domain Pictures)

Charlie Gard is an 11-month-old boy suffering from an inherited and terminal mitochondrial disease. He cannot move his arms and legs or breathe unaided. At the time of writing, Charlie was still in intensive care at a UK hospital. Charlie’s parents decided that Charlie should be brought to the United States to receive an experimental treatment that may help alleviate his condition. However, the doctors at the UK hospital decided that the experimental treatment would not likely improve Charlie’s quality of life. Since the parents and the doctors disagreed on what would be in Charlie’s best interests, the courts got involved.  The UK legal system has so far ruled that receiving the experimental treatment would not be in Charlie’s best interest, and Charlie should be removed from life-sustaining treatment to receive palliative care; the legal process is still in process concerning Charlie’s ultimate fate.

"International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation" by MONUSCO is licensed under CC BY-SA (via Wikimedia Commons)

In a first-of-its-kind legal case, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is being prosecuted in Detroit, Michigan for violating a 1996 federal law against female genital mutilation. Nagarwala was indicted alongside another woman who was allegedly present in the room during the mutilation. Nagarwala’s husband, who owns the clinic where the procedure occurred, is also being prosecuted. Nagarwala is accused of performing female genital mutilation on two seven-year-old girls who had been brought from Minnesota for the procedure.

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Screen Capture from Peter Singer's "The Why and How of Effective Altruism" (via TED)

In the first part of this two-part series, we explored the views of Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer and whether they count as “eugenics.” Although his possibly eugenicist views are what drew protestors to Singer’s recent talk at the University of Victoria, Singer wasn’t there to discuss bioethics. Instead, he had been invited by the Effective Altruism club, and the event included a screening of Singer’s 2013 TED talk on Effective Altruism.

Illustration by Jordan Horton.

It is common for parents to teach their children to avoid moral danger. Parental advice includes avoiding certain peer groups, adhering to a curfew, and ensuring that responsible adult supervision is always present.  Parents tend to think that these kinds of policies make it more likely that their children won’t encounter situations in which they might make bad decisions.  

"Peter Singer no Fronteiras do Pensamento Porto Alegre" by Fronteiras do Pensamento is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Philosophers Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan recently wrote a very controversial op-ed in The Stone (a blog published by The New York Times) arguing that Anna Stubblefield may have been unjustly treated in her sexual assault conviction. Stubblefield engaged in multiple sexual acts with a person who was severely cognitively impaired.

"Kurdish Women in Hijab Headscarves" by Adam Jones is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

The European Union’s highest court has recently ruled that companies are allowed to ban hijabs in their workplaces. It is a response to two cases: Samora Achbita, a woman working for a company in Belgium, was fired over her refusal to take off her veil at work; Asma Bougnani was likewise fired by a company in France, for the same reasons.

This is yet another battle in the long hijab wars that have been fought in Europe over the last 20 years. As usual, there is a political aligning on this issue: the far right welcomes such bans, the multicultural left vehemently opposes them, and the rest of the parties are either undecided, or simply confused, about their stand.

"Peter Singer" by Mal Vickers is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Flickr)

Recently, students at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, gathered to protest a talk given by Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer. First and foremost, Singer is a utilitarian who believes that the rightness of actions depends on their maximizing pleasure for sentient creatures. He is well known for his provocative utilitarian views on infanticide, animal welfare, and charitable obligations.

The UVic protestors claimed that “giving Singer a platform was implicitly supporting the murder of disabled people, and that his views supported eugenics.” Their complaint is only the most recent in a long history of protests to the work of Singer. Though questions about academic freedom and freedom of speech more generally are relevant, let’s set them aside for a moment and consider the charge head-on: what is eugenics? Who counts as a eugenicist?

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"Apokalipsa" by Albert Goodwin is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus is usually thought of as a major ethical teacher (the famous slogan “What would Jesus do” is a major testament to this), but most of his preaching was not so much about how we should live, but rather, what will happen in the upcoming apocalypse. Yes, he gave a lot of ethical advice, but as Albert Schweitzer frequently reminded us, his ethics must always be understood in the context of apocalypticism. Jesus was, above all, a doomsdayer.

Screen Capture of "Arrival Trailer (2016) by Paramount Pictures (via Youtube)

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Arrival and Passengers.

If you were to see your life unfold ahead of you, with all of the triumphs but interspersed with the tragedies in all of their grittiness and grief, would you choose to experience it, in all of that detail? Not just in spite of the inconveniences and harms, not full of regrets, but could you wholeheartedly say “Yes!” to the life that will be, or has been, yours?