Monday, September 29, 2008

Genetic Ethics

Some weeks ago, there was the Slow Food Movement in San Francisco, which protested the health aspects of genetically modified foods, which are indeed controversial. However, even more controversial are the ethical issues surrounding the morality of genetic engineering. Here in this article, I will argue that genetic engineering is indeed moral.

Perhaps the most commonly held objection to genetic engineering is that “we are playing God” and “tampering with things best left to nature”. This objection raises the philosophical and theological question about man’s role in the environment. However, it does not hold up considering the nature of nature and humanity today. I believe man should do no harm to others in the environment. Thus, man has the privilege of influence over other species as long as they do not significantly harm them. The nature of genetic engineering is not malicious; rather, it is benevolent to individual species. For example, man might change the genetic makeup of a native plant to make it more resistant to harsh weather caused by global warming. Such genetic engineering will let the plant survive and feed those who survive off it.

Now that we have punched holes in what makes genetic engineering immoral, a sound argument detailing why it is moral is needed. Now, as morality entails the happiness of others and yourself, genetic engineering is a moral thing to do because it benefits people as well as the organisms of an ecosystem. Usually, humans genetically engineer organisms to survive in harsher environments for the benefit of themselves. This use of genetic modification is moral because it benefits all parties involved. It benefits the plant because it will continue to live in the environment that global warming will create. Those who consume that plant will benefit because that species will continue to exist for them to continue their own existence. Thus, should natural evolution become too slow to support ecosystems in the future, evolution induced by man might be a reasonable alternative.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Historians in the Cave

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato's Republic is quite possibly, the most philosophically significant work of Ancient Greece. Its Cave allegory put that we do not know about it, even if something exists in reality, we will be in disbelief about it. In one word, the allegory is about truth. The actual allegory is much more story-like; I encourage you to read it. Please do, this blog post will be about its relevance.

So, does it ring familiarity with you? With no doubt, The Matrix came to mind. The Allegory of the Cave plays a major part in The Matrix. Especially in the "steak scene" where the character Cypher, strikes a deal with Agent Smith, to return him to the Matrix and wipe him of memories of the "real world". "Ignorance is bliss", he remarks, understanding that the truth is indeed painful. Now, Cypher's reaction is natural. It can be seen in real-life. Imagine that the country is currently in a prosperous, secure yet free state. Then you discover that the NSA has been wiretapping your phone calls, intercepting your emails and blocking out your blog posts. Infuriated by this, would you not want to have never known about such evils?

So, what is a more relevant connection to our life? That is history. It is the job of the historian to supply people with the truth. Even primary historical documents give shaky grounds for proving that things really did happen. As fun as prehistory is, we will never truly be sure if what we know is the truth, as we can only be truly sure of something's existence by first handedly witnessing it happen. The historian must tell the truth in order to prevent cave-like, or NSA situations from happening in the future. As it is said, we study history to prevent the future from repeating the mistakes of the past. Similarly, history is not the dry study of what dead guys did, but supplying the truth to the unborn guys to prevent them from doing what the dead guys did wrong.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Psychology and Care of Internet Trolls

A major concern which I encountered when I considered building is blog is the disruption that internet trolls would cause. Luckily, this blog has never been trolled. However, trolling is still a problem on many websites I frequent. Wikipedia editors like me find themselves constantly bombarded by trolling, sometimes to the point where they receive death threats, leading them to quit editing altogether. (The trolling wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica even has an article about me, ) A tragic thing that drives people to leave online communities, trolling harms and annoys people and harms the website, both in reputation and user-count.

So, what motivates people to troll? The common answer is a lust for attention. When someone is angered by a troll, and responds back angrily, that troll has done his job and has been awarded. A reaction and recognition is what the troll wants, and gets. With that reaction, he gets a feeling of recognition and infamy. When he is denied recognition, the motive for trolling is not sated, thus, ignoring trolls is the only way to deal with trolls. (Well, besides hitting them with the banhammer, which would motivate them to come back under a different account)

So how should we deal with these nuisances? The best way is to do nothing at all and take the approach of the guards at Buckingham Palace: To attempt to ignore the annoyance until it gives up and goes away. The guard stolidly ignores the strangers making faces at him, annoyed that the guard did not react (and give them what they want), the strangers leave him alone. In the same way, denying these nuisances what they want would make them go away, as they would feel that they are doing it to no avail.