Archive for March, 2014

This week we welcome back the Bishop of Swindon, Lee Rayfield who will talk on this topic.

Three parent embryos! So the Daily Mail described the proposals coming before Parliament in a few months. 

Mitochondrial replacement transfer involves forming an egg from two maternal donors; one contributes a nucleus, the other mitochondria (the ‘battery packs’ present in most cells).  This technique – which falls under the heading of Assisted Reproductive Technology – will potentially enable mothers who have diseases of their mitochondrial DNA to have children. 

Opponents describe this as the first move along the slippery slope of genetic selection, and also that it involves the wanton creation and destruction of embryos.  Others question the safety of such a procedure and whether enough is known about the genetics of mitochondria to take this step.  Those in favour regard the transfer of mitochondria as equivalent to an organ graft and wonder what the fuss is about. 

Bishop Lee Rayfield was on the Oversight Group for public consultation with respect to Mitochondrial Replacement Transfer and will be outlining some of the complex ethical issues posed by this technology, the steps taken by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in going about the consultation and the recommendations reached by the Oversight Group.  

Do come along and join in the discussion.


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The autocratic Chairman of the Phil Soc has set out some gentle rules for posting on this blog, in the hope of maximising civil discourse.

To view, click the link on the right hand side under ‘Pages’ or just click https://gerry779.wordpress.com/rules-of-this-blog/

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This week’s talk will be given by Martin Jamieson, and it’s about Trust and the standard views people have about trust.
He says there are three such views:
One’s a claim: that there’s been a great decline in trust. Very widely believed.
The second is an aim: that we should have more trust.
And the third is a task: that we should rebuild trust.

The claim, the aim and the task are all misconceived.
So what he’s going to tell us about is a different story about a claim, an aim and a task.

Come along to find out more!

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Britain is a democracy, and one of the most free countries in the world…. apparently.
Nowadays, what do we understand by those words, and to what extent does our society still match those ideals?
This week, PhilSoc Chairman Gerry Merrison will look at these issues, and by touching on areas such as free speech and the ‘respect culture’, unparalleled surveillance, ever-more influential lobbyists, the transfer of powers from the state to the EU and to unelected Quangos, will ask how free we really are.
Come along this Friday to hear more… and to give your view.

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This week, our honorary president Chris Eddy returns to this topic. He says:

“Consequentialism is a theory about what counts as a justification for any proposed course of action, specifically that, in all situations, endorsing one proposal in preference to another can be justified only in terms of the reasonably foreseeable consequences of each. The Consent Principle does not deny the consequential theory of justification, which is common sense, but sets a logical limit to the kinds of proposal that can be justified to responsible agents.
Whoever proposes a course of action thereby implicitly undertakes to justify it, and to justify, I argue, is not merely to rationalize, i.e., to give one’s reasons for making a proposal, but to give reasons why others should consent to it, so that no action can meaningfully be justified if there is anyone for whom consenting to it would entail a contradiction. E.g., you could not meaningfully consent to the proposal “that you be raped”, since “rape” is a type of act which could occur, by definition, only without your consent. The Golden Rule implies the Consent Principle by its use of the word “would” (in “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,”) which invokes the idea of will or consent.
This is ground I have covered on previous occasions; in this evening’s talk I shall concentrate on exposing the weaknesses in the arguments that are routinely trotted out in support of Unlimited Consequentialism, i.e., the use of consequential reasoning without the logically (and therefore universally) binding limits imposed by the Consent Principle.
Unlimited Consequentialism is one way of arguing that “there can be no absolute values”, which is to say, that no type of action, however horrific, – e.g., torturing a child to death, – ought to be regarded as forbidden absolutely (i.e., unconditionally). If there were no absolute values, then there would be no logical basis for claiming that any value was necessarily preferable to any other, and Unlimited Consequentialism, on this assumption, provides the dodgy rhetoric with which coalitions of the willing, like Bush and Blair or Al-Qaeda, rationalize the opportunistic exercise of power in support of what they think of as their interests. I shall argue that Unlimited Consequentialism has a greater affinity with fascism, communism or the cynical authoritarianism of a Putin or a Museveni than with democracy, and that this gives us a good consequential reason for rejecting Unlimited Consequentialism.
Consequentialists associate the belief in absolute values with traditional religion; e.g., Richard Dawkins, the militant atheist and consequentialist, argues that, (1) if there is no God, then there can be no absolute values, and (2) there is no God, so (3) there can be no absolute values. To tease the Humanists I shall argue that (1) there are absolute values (in the sense that certain types of action are impossible to justify on any condition), and therefore, (2) if Dawkins’s first premiss is right, there must be some kind of God, i.e., a Being which performs at least some of the functions traditionally attributed to God.”

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