Assignment: Ethics of technology: Genetic engineering and interference with the natural order. – Explain how the issue or practice operates in the novel, and take a stand and argue your position on the issue or practice.
- Yours is a well-written, well-structured paper.
- You provide convincing ideas supported by conclusive evidence.
- You have developed a graceful, concise writing style.
05 May 2014
Genetic Engineering: Humanity’s Next Step in Evolution
Human evolution took millions of years to develop our current species and, as far as we can tell, homo sapiens sapiens have been the first creatures on planet Earth to develop the technological sophistication they now enjoy. The possibilities of human advancement seem limitless and the only opposition they have is themselves. Nothing in human history has ever before set limitations. The sky ceased to be the limit in 1967 when the first manned mission to space, Apollo 1, took humans out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Why should humanity limit itself now? What is it about genetic engineering that makes people say that humans have gone too far?
In the novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Jimmy, the protagonist, wonders after seeing the genetically engineered ChickieNobs and Wolvogs for the first time, “Why is it he feels some line has been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?” (206). Some say genetic engineering is unnatural, some say it is dangerous, some simply feel uncomfortable and cannot create a better reason than that. The arguments against genetic manipulation are often blurred between moral and scientific grounds. However, I believe that genetic engineering is simply humanity’s next, natural step in evolution, without which their potential becomes unnecessarily limited.
With the ability to hand-pick the genetic makeup up of individuals within their species, humanswould able to achieve great feats. They could eliminate racial superiority and devastating genetic disorders like Alzheimer’s, improve strength and intelligence, and create a kind of general equality where all will be able to contribute to the betterment of humanity. This will leave them in a position to better care for those who cannot contribute due to the inevitable (but limited) social-economic divide. Once more of humanity is able to contribute to scientific advancement, the advancements will increase exponentially and provide humanity with even greater achievements – including deeper discovery of the universe, progressions in artificial intelligence, or even the elusive concept of world peace.
Oryx and Crake paints a particularly sad and exaggerated picture of what a world captivated by genetic engineering may look like. The author’s main purpose seems to be to frighten the reader into believing that genetic engineering will bring only doom and destruction. This sense of fright is easily achieved because the world depicted is seemingly so similar to humanity’s current reality, and shows a near possible future opposed to one that is more alien and too distant for the imagination. The genetic engineering featured in Oryx and Crake is not the main cause of the seeming dystopian world, but merely a guiltless accomplice to the real menace that is unchecked power. The death of the human race was not caused by achievements in genetic engineering, but by Crake’s unleashed imagination and his sociopathic nature.
Genetic engineering is featured a few ways in the novel, including as a central encompassing idea, but one of the first feats of genetic engineering that is introduced is that of the pigoon, or the sus multiorganifer.“The goal of the pigoon project was to grow an assortment of foolproof human-tissue organs in a transgenic knockout pig host – organs that would transplant smoothly and avoid rejections, but would also be able to fend off attacks by opportunistic microbes and viruses, of which there were more strains every year” (Atwood 22). This scientific accomplishment is one that is currently being explored in reality. Japanese scientists are possibly only a few years away from being able to grow human organs in pigs. Like God’s Gardeners in Oryx and Crake, there are those in Japan and the rest of the world who are opposed to the “idea of pig-human hybrids,” citing, not Oryx and Crake, but HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau as the unsettling example (Wingfield-Hayes).
The progress with the pigoons in Oryx and Crake is much more advanced than what Japan has achieved so far, such that “a rapid-maturity gene was spliced in so the pigoon kidneys and livers and hearts would be ready sooner, and now they were perfecting a pingoon that could grow five or six kidneys at a time. Such a host animal could be reaped of its extra kidneys; then, rather than being destroyed, it would keep on living and grow more organs, much as a lobster could grow another claw to replace a missing one” (Atwood 22).
Despite the astonishing medical applications this achievement implicated, Atwood hinted at great upset over the pigoons through Jimmy’s narrative of his own feelings, those of God’s Gardeners, and his own mother‘s anguish. The OrganInc brochure even had a disclaimer stating that “none of the defunct pigoons ended up as bacon and sausages” in order to “set the queasy at ease” (Atwood 23). The idea of these creatures containing human genes at some point and then ending up as food brings to mind too many uncomfortable questions about cannibalism and cruelty for the people of that world to handle. Would this reality’s humans be able to stomach it any better? Recent history says no, humans are more comfortable with the idea of waste, and crave a distance from the dirty truths that make them uneasy. Even with the nutritional advantage and abundance of horse meat, insects, and pet animals, the thought of consuming such creatures is too devastating to consider for most of the Western world.
In this vein, Oryx and Crake also heavily features the concept of genetically modified food. In the real world, humanity has made most of their progress in this area. Though a widely accepted idea, it is also still greatly controversial. This practice has allowed humans to provide greater nutrition at a lower cost to impoverished nations, and increase the quantity and quality of food overall. However, despite its current and potential applications, genetically modified food, commonly referred to as GMOs, has been heavily criticized over its safety, health, and ethics for quite some time. Genetically modified food has served to introduce the concept of genetic engineering to many, but their knowledge of it generally stops there.
One of the primary uses of GMOs in Oryx and Crakefeatures the ChickieNobs, which are only just starting production in their world at the time when Jimmy visits Crake at Watson-Crick. The ChickieNobs are described as a “large bulblike object that seemed to be covered in stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing” (Atwood 202). Crake, and the NeoAgricultrual student overseeing the project, likened it to the sea-anemone and the hookworm; it didn’t require growth hormones, didn’t feel any pain, and was able to produce chicken breasts over twice as quickly as the “high-density chicken farming operations” (Atwood 202). Jimmy was horrified at the sight of the creature, but in terms of high producing food in a world with dwindling resources, the ChickieNob sounds ideal. When compared with traditional chicken farming (which is cruel, dangerous and bad for the environment), something like the ChickieNob would be the perfect solution. However, there is something about the unfamiliar and new that causes humans to deem things unnatural and thus less than desirable. Even Jimmy, who was disgusted by the thought of the ChickieNobs and likened it to “eating a large wart,” considered that, “as with tit implants – the good ones – maybe he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” and ended up eating their product in great quantity later in the story (after achieving distance from what was the reality of them) (Atwood 203).
In terms of genetically engineered humans, the most controversial topic in the novel, it’s clear that great feats were achieved in the world of Oryx and Crake. Not only in terms of what Crake engineered into the Crakers, but also by what was available via the Street of Dreams. The ability to change height, penis length, eye color, even gender at the drop of a hat indicated remarkable control of genetics. The modifications procured from the Street of Dreams only interact with the existing human species’ genetic makeup, which is a cisgenic practice. However, what is done to the Crakers moves into an area similar to the Pigoons or the Soat/Gider which is introducing genetic material from one species to another species, commonly referred to as transgenic by genetic engineers (“genetic engineering”).
Crakers consume nutrients in a manner similar to rabbits, mate like baboons, and heal by way of purring like cats, making them undoubtedlyan altogether a new species. They are no longer homo sapiens sapiens, but instead something one might describe as being more animal than humanoid. As a mixture of the most desired traits (in Crake’s opinion), the Crakers are indisputably an unrealistic view of where humanity might end up. Without a situation and an individual with the power and psychosis comparable to that in Oryx and Crake, no one would be allowed, regardless of reasonable ability, to design a completely new and complex species in a single generation.
The most logical approach humans will take in their engineered evolution is that of small changes that will carry on and affect future generations, much in the way evolution naturally acts. The base desire to improve quality of life is what powers the progression humanity makes in this field. Humans wish to improve their own existence and that of their progeny, they do not wish to be replaced by superior and foreign beings (as was Crake’s plan).
Setting the idea of a replacement species aside, one realistic danger of genetically engineered humans might be in the widening of the social and economic divide. Proper applications would include availability to all equally, but there’s no historical indication that its introduction would be ideal. A good illustration of this possibility is featured the 1997 film Gattaca, where genetically engineered children draw a firm line between the haves and the have nots; where those lacking in perfection are severely limited in their future careers and lifestyles. The poor are unable to afford improved intelligence and perfect eyesight, and are suppressed more and more as the ability gap only widens. However, in this world, the privileged far outnumber the underprivileged, which may be the most desirable version of this situation considering the alternatives.
This danger is possible to avoid if humanity is able to create processes and practices that are easy and cheap enough to provide to the masses, the end goal being to close the socioeconomic gap. Even starting with engineering, a genetic resistance to AIDS, SARS, West Nile Virus, or other devastating but prevalent health concerns in impoverished nations would prove to create a greater long term impact than one would with simply devising better medication. Once health and mortality outcomes are improved, those communities are then able to focus more on things like education.
One can also argue that genetic engineering may give rise to the idea of eugenics, as with the Third Reich in 1930’s Germany. Some believe that being able, and having the desire, to prevent disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and blindness in the womb is a form of prejudice. These individuals feel that preventing disabilities is a statement that those with them have a decreased quality of life or are less capable (Seck). There are similar arguments against abortion after early detection of debilitating disabilities, though there is great difference between aborting a fetus and genetically modifying one to a standard model of normal or whole. Those in support of genetic engineering applications for disability prevention believe that “genetic engineering, if done on a purely decentralized basis by free individuals and couples, will not involve any form of coercion. Unlike the Nazi eugenics program of the 1930s, which involved the forced, widespread killing of ‘unfit’ peoples and disabled babies, the de facto effect of genetic engineering is to cure disabilities, not kill the disabled” (Seck). In addition, those with religious convictions who might feel that genetic engineering may be an affront to God could learn to appreciate genetic engineering as it could potentially decrease the number of abortions people seek, because“too often, women choose to abort babies because pre-natal testing shows that they have Down syndrome or some other ailment. If anything, genetic engineering should be welcomed by pro-life groups because by converting otherwise-disabled babies into normal, healthy ones, it would reduce the number of abortions” (Seck).
Some believe or hope that humanity will reach its ultimate potential naturally through continued evolution and feel that genetic engineering upsets the natural order (or consider it to be bypassing God). Regardless of their desire, the unfortunate truth is that because of the intelligence humanity has evolved to achieve naturally, they will not be able to make a similar great step again without artificial means, certainly not in a way which will satisfy humanity’s desire for instant gratification. Humanity has developed so many ways of circumventing natural selection in terms of health care and extension of life that in order to improve themselves they need to now take unnatural steps. Those with undesired qualities who at one point may have been a casualty of natural selection, are able to carry on their unfortunate genes, but with the addition of genetic engineering, humanity would be able to turn those genes into more desirable and contributing members of society.
It is easy to hear these arguments and take moral reproach to their sentiments simply because humans are so quick to preserve qualities of uniqueness and a sense of free will or choice. Genetic engineering does not aim to do away with those qualities; its application simply expects to improve the human experience by removing inequalities and limiting factors. In Oryx and Crake, Crake believed humanity to be beyond repair and needing of replacement, but in reality improvements can be made on humanity’s failings and genetic engineering is the way in which humans can take these significant steps.
Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. New York: Anchor Books, 2003. Print.
Gattaca. Dir. Andrew Niccol. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman. Columbia Pictures, 1997. Film.
“Genetic Engineering.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Apr. 2014. Web. 04 May 2014.
Seck, Chris. “Arguing For and Against Genetic Engineering.” Stanford Review. Stanford, n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.
Wingfield-Hays, Rupert. “Quest to Grow Human Organs Inside Pigs in Japan.” BBCNews. BBC, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014.Read More
Assignment: When Darwin wrote “Natural Selections,” he believed that sexual selection was of great importance in evolutionary changes in species. Assuming that this belief is true, establish the similarities between sexual selection in plants and animals and sexual selection, as you have observed it, in people. Paragraphs 10-12 discuss this issue. Darwin does not discuss selection in human beings, but it is clear that physical and stylistic distinctions between the sexes have some bearing on selection. Assuming that to be true, what qualities in people (physical and mental) are likely to survive?
- Yours is a well-crafted essay – organized, logical, convincing
- Effective use of posing questions
- You have a clear, precise writing style
- Well written
21 April 2014
Sexual Selection in Modern Humans: What Will Endure?
BBC News recently published an article on the significance of evolution guiding beard trends in men. The author, James Morgan, states that: “The more beards there are, the less attractive they become – giving clean-shaven men a competitive advantage.” The researchers contend that the trend is cyclical, believing we have currently reached a peak in beard popularity and attractiveness, and that beards will begin to disappear from the majority. Whether it is beards, wide hips, colorful feathers, or prominent antlers, there are aspects in nature that assist in the evolutionary process through something Charles Darwin identified as Sexual Selection.
Evolution through natural selection is defined as “a natural process that results in the survival and reproductive success of individuals or groups best adjusted to their environment and that leads to the perpetuation of genetic qualities best suited to that particular environment.” It is clear that merely adapting to the environment is not the only necessary ingredient for success; all animals need to be able to reproduce in order to carry on their advantageous mutations. It does not matter if a creature possesses the ultimate desirable mutations if that creature is not able to reproduce before their death.
One finds that in animals, there is consistency and observability in the sexual selection process. Conversely, there is an astounding amount of uncertainty with humans when you begin to consider aspects such as humor and altruism – traits not found in the animal kingdom. This uncertainty begs the question: which human traits will win out and carry on into the future generations of the species?
In Charles Darwin’s essay on natural selection, he specified that sexual selection “depends, not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for possession of the females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor but few or no offspring” (905). In the world of insects and animals, this struggle is clearly evident; males compete for right to the females, and females choose the males with which she will mate. This is accomplished through a variety of processes including domination of territory, direct confrontation with other males, mating displays such as dances and noise making, and even simply the possession of the brightest or most alluring features (Dobkin). These processes are also observable in humans and critical to their reproduction. Their significance, however, becomes more blurred when you include other uniquely human psychological objectives, which can often supersede the natural mating objectives (such as the desire for a successful career). Whereas the process of reproduction is the only thing that drives the motivations of the lower animals, humans are infinitely more complex. This is not to say that sex and reproduction are not human motivators, as they clearly are, but rather to contend that they have evolved to a point where it is no longer their sole concern.
Selection of casual sexual partners in humans is generally thought to be determined by simple evaluation of physical attractiveness. It is the process that is most easily recognizable, although human quantifiers of whether someone is “hot” or “beautiful” have many scientifically measurable components. Waist to hip ratios and indicators of testosterone and estrogen in facial and body construction are not just aesthetically pleasing; they can tell potential partners at a genetic and instinctual level whether the object of their desire is a good candidate for reproduction (Anitei). These qualities can stimulate physical attraction reactions, but do not account for the unquantifiable qualities in humans that drive monogamous relationships and more reliable reproductive partnerships. Humorous ability, charitable nature, and aggressive tendencies (or lack thereof) can all contribute to an individual’s attractiveness, but are not attributes that one can yet easily identify or track through genetics in any significant way.
Regardless of what the successful traits that drive human reproduction are, sexual selection in terms of the future of the species can either be viewed in bleak or optimistic terms. With human advancements in birth control and genetic engineering, desirable mutations and evolution through sexual or natural selection become more obsolete. It is possible that the use (or misuse) of birth control could become the most influential factor. Individuals with responsible traits and higher intelligence will consider the issues of overpopulation and limited resources, choose to utilize birth control, and therefore minimize or even end their genetic line. Those with irresponsible tendencies and an overall lower intelligence will use birth control ineffectively (or not at all) and ensure that their genetic line will carry on or even prosper. This particular idea is featured in the 2006 film Idiocracy, where a man of average intelligence is placed in experimental hibernation. Upon waking, he finds that through this kind of sexual selection, the entire world’s population is now of incredibly low intelligence, making him the smartest man alive. Although the film is entirely fictional and written with humorous intention, the basic idea is one that is seriously considered by many intellectuals and some even find frightening. It may be this trait of irresponsibility that continues the growth and survival of the species (which is the ultimate goal of natural selection), but it may also be the trait that determines their eventual doom.
Another possible future that humanity finds itself at the brink of, is one where its offspring is entirely genetically engineered to possess the most desired traits. Science is already able to manipulate physical qualities such as eye and hair color and has the ability to detect genetic defects. Soon this may include height, metabolism, aggression, spatial reasoning and more. If this genetic engineering is also coupled with the popular idea where birth control is enforced (or even imposed) globally, sexual selection or even natural selection would find itself entirely outdated. At the very least, the definition would need to evolve to include what guides us to intelligently select what comprises humanity’s most desired traits. Would this process even allow humans to remain homo sapiens sapiens? Would homo sapiens sapiens manufacture a new species?
Humans theorize that the earth will have a 6th great extinction event that will prove to be the end of their species. Many scientists state that this extinction, referred to as the “Holocene extinction”, is actually beginning now and cite humans as the main cause. With 1-10 species lost per year, it is unknown whether the Holocene extinction will wipe out humanity. It is believed that, through the great strides humanity is making in science and technology, they can be kept alive by developing the means to flourish on other planets or in space itself. However, such progress cannot be made if production of suitable offspring ceases.
In practice, it behooves humanity to make intelligent choices regarding sexual selection to ensure the longest life for the species. As the most sentient and self-aware species, humans are best qualified to improve upon the process of natural selection – whether it is through genetic engineering, controlled births, or even solutions that have not yet been thought of. The ability to do this is a large part of what sets humans apart from their neighbors on Earth.
Anitei, Stefan. “The 3 Main Physical Factors of the Biological Attraction in Humans.” Softpedia. Soft News, 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2014
Darwin, Charles. “Natural Selection.” Jacobus 897-911.
Dobkin, David S., Paul R. Ehrlich and Darryl Wheye. “Sexual Selection.” Standford.edu Stanford University, 1988. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
“Holocene Extinction.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2014 Web. 18 Apr. 2014.
Idiocracy. Dir. Mike Judge. Perf. Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, and Dax Shepard. Fox. 2006. Film.
Jacobus, Lee A., ed. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.
Morgan, James. “Beard Trend is ‘Guided by Evolution’.” BBC News. BBC. 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
“Natural Selection.” Mirriam-Webster. n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.Read More
Assignment: The concept of the “American Dream” is basic to the United States Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The American dream is based on opportunity 0 opportunity for success, upward mobility, and prosperity achieved through hard work. Modern interpretation of the American Dream includes the opportunity to pursue a career without artificial barriers, opportunity for home ownership, opportunity for one’s children to receive a good education and opportunity without restrictions limited to a person’s socio-economic class, religion, race, or ethnicity.
You must address the following concepts in the course of your argument:
- Describe the changes that have taken place in the American economy since 1960. How have they affected the way Americans work and the work that Americans can expect to find? How does this affect the American Dream?
- Why are the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer? Examine the kinds of differences between the rich and the poor. Is the process of increasing the riches for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor inevitable?
One requirement is that you must draw from the ideas of the writers whose works we read in our “Wealth and Poverty” unit, namely Andrew Carnegie, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Robert Reich. You will also include your own ideas. Finally, you will draw from ideas of writers not included in this course whose works have influenced your thinking.
- Your section addressing the change in the economy since 1960 is solid.
- Aim for a strong counter-argument/rebuttal when you are writing an argument.
- You have a clear, pleasing writing style.
- Errors with parenthetical in-text citations (punctuating end of signal phrases, ending period)
31 March 2014
The Birth of the American Dream
America is known throughout the world as the land of opportunity, where the streets are paved with gold, and one is handed limitless potential at the door – that is, when you are a straight Caucasian male.
In our classist, racist, and sexist society, the system is designed to support the privileged. I believe that the question shouldn’t be whether the American dream has ended; it should be whether or not we can have one at all.
The American dream, as it is typically glorified, never truly existed. America boasts an “equal opportunity” environment, touting a meritocracy, but conveniently disregards the intersecting systems of oppression and inequality that create its lower class.
The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great … for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train … and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. (Carnegie 487)
Andrew Carnegie’s vision is not that of “survival of the fittest,” it is one of “survival of the richest.” His attitude that, “the man of wealth thus becoming … trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves,” (493) is reflected in America’s unwillingness and inability to bring the impoverished out of poverty. America’s real dream exists in the rich getting richer off of the backs of the laborers and undereducated, as well as its complacency with the status quo.
Through much of America’s history, the majority of the job market existed in production work; however, around the 1960s, that started to change in a significant way. With the introduction of computerized automation, most production jobs were either made completely obsolete, or outsourced for cheaper labor. As Robert Reich outlines in his essay about the changing American workforce:
Routine production jobs have vanished fastest in traditional unionized industries (autos steel and rubber for example)… foreign owned webs are hiring some American’s to do routine production in the United States … [but] the foreign-owned factories are highly automated and will become far more so in years to come … this fraction will continue to decline sharply as computer-integrated robots take over (520-21).
Traditionally those previously filling the low-level production positions would be, “young men entering the workforce without college education,” (Reich 520) but as jobs vanish, the senior members are protected and fewer positions are available to the unskilled laborers. The young people entering the workforce and those who have been displaced from production jobs are now moving into positions of service, an industry which is also shrinking, albeit at a more slow and uneven pace.
The future of America’s economy now rests in the hands of what Reich calls, “symbolic analysts,” those that, “solve, identify, and broker new problems” (516). Behind every machine that consumes a production job is the engineer who designed it and the marketer who sold it. From the faces on the silver screen to the voices over the radio, the scientists and programmers, and the young entrepreneurs – “almost everyone around the world is buying the skills and insights of Americans who manipulate oral and visual symbols” (Reich 526).
The trouble with being a symbolic analyst is that it typically calls for higher education and some level of luxury to pursue ones passions. Despite what the American dream claims is possible, those born into the rural or urban slums are not afforded such opportunities.
The most important characteristic of insular poverty is forces, common to all members of the community, that restrain or prevent participation in economic life at going rates of return. These restraints are several. Race, which acts to locate people by their color rather than by the proximity to employment, is obviously one. So are poor educational facilities. (And this effect is further exaggerated when the poorly educated, endemically a drug on the labor market, are brought together in dense clusters by the common inadequacy of the schools available to blacks and the poor.) (Galbraith 504)
A common response to this issue of insular poverty is to simply, “help [only] those who will help themselves,” (Carnegie 487) as, “a poor society … had to enforce the rule that the person who did not work could not eat” (Galbraith 506). It is also too often believed that those in positions of poverty are simply not trying hard enough, but, “the most certain thing about this poverty is that it is not remedied by a general advance in income. Insular poverty is not directly alleviated because the advance does not remove the specific frustrations of environment to which the people of these areas are subject” (Galbraith 505). However, by nature of its success, our society has a moral obligation to assist our impoverished members. “An affluent society that is also both compassionate and rational would, no doubt, secure to all who needed it the minimum income essential for decency and comfort … nothing requires such a society to be compassionate. But it no longer has a high philosophical justification for callousness” (Galbraith 506). To remain a world leader, America must demonstrate compassion and finally address its poverty problem.
I believe the solution lies, as outlined by John Galbraith, in providing quality public services for the impoverished youth.
If the children of poor families have first-rate schools and school attendance is properly enforce; if children, though badly fed at home, are well nourished at school; if the community has sound health services, and the physical well-being of the children is vigilantly watched; if there is opportunity for advanced education for those who qualify regardless of means; and if, especially in the case of urban communities, housing is ample and housing standards are enforced, the streets are clean, the laws are kept, and recreation is adequate – then there is a chance that the children of the very poor will come to maturity without inhibiting disadvantage. (507)
If America doesn’t invest in its urban and rural ghettos, they will only continue to grow and perpetuate the issues of unemployment, lack of education, poor health, and unhappiness. “Poverty is self-perpetuating partly because the poorest communities are poorest in the services which would eliminate it” (Galbraith 507)
Within the poorest communities, individuals may possess the desire to upset the vicious cycle and escape, but rarely is that possible. Not only is the majority of one’s time spent working to survive, if such work is even available, but there is also a dearth of opportunities which combines with generations of oppression to create an atmosphere of hopelessness. “In the United States, the survival of poverty is remarkable. We ignore it because we share with all societies at all times the capacity for not seeing what we do not wish to see.” (Galbraith 508)
The American dream is the idea of true inclusion paired with opportunity for all without restriction, but we cannot begin to claim it as reality until society helps those it had previously oppressed. In making “the investment in children from families presently afflicted,” (Galbraith 506) America can ensure its continued success and economic future. Where previously, only swiftly disappearing production or service jobs were available, the youth of America’s impoverished would have the opportunity to achieve roles as symbolic analysts.
Carnegie, Andrew. “The Gospel of Wealth.” Jacobus 481-495.
Galbraith, John Kenneth. “The Position of Poverty.” Jacobus 499-508.
Jacobus, Lee A., ed. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.
Reich, Robert B. “Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer.” Jacobus 513-529.
Assignment: What constitutes morality, that is, moral principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior? Is Edward Snowden a moral patriot or a traitor?
In the first section you will define what constitutes morality. One requirement is that you will draw from the ideas of the writers whose works we reading our “Ethics and Morality” unit, namely Henry David Thoreau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Michael Gazzaniga. You will also include your own ideas. Finally you will draw from ideas of writers not included in this course whose works have influenced your thinking.
In the second section, you will present your argument proving that your claim that Edward Snowden is a moral patriot or that Edward Snowden is a traitor.
- Effective practice of using King and Thoreau as lenses.
- Your argument is based on solid, logical points and you provide ample persuasive detail.
- You write w/ clarity and precision.
10 March 2014
The Morality of Treason: Edward Snowden
Morality is often defined simply as what guides right and wrong behavior. Some people believe that morality is intrinsically driven, and others believe morality is established by a higher power. Regardless of its origins, universal and cultural moral concepts influence and drive governments and laws across all nations.
Throughout the last few weeks, we have closely examined several respected perspectives on the concept of morality, but for the purposes of this paper, I will draw specifically from the ideas presented by Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau, and Michael Gazzaniga. Their ideas closely reflect my own in the belief that morality is an inherent responsibility. Gazzaniga illustrates this by writing “Evolution is saving the group, not just the person” (426). Investing in one’s own best interest, in the long run, does not benefit anyone, even oneself. It is the welfare of the group that affects the individual’s success, and I believe that Edward Snowden understood this.
In June of 2013, Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and contractor for the NSA, released thousands of classified intelligence documents to the media. He claimed it was an attempt to alert America and the world to what he believed to be crimes committed by the United States government against its people. These crimes included secretly accessing cell phone metadata, surveillance, wiretapping, bypassing encryption and privacy controls all without the peoples’ knowledge. When Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leak, the United States declared him a fugitive and charged him with espionage and theft of government property. Snowden then obtained temporary asylum in Russia after fleeing the US. Past whistleblowers, such as Chelsea (Bradley) Manning who is currently serving a 35 year prison sentence, have not been so lucky (Knowlton). In the case of Edward Snowden, it is clear to me that he is a moral patriot; his “crimes” against the United States government were driven by his own conscience and the desire to help his fellow human beings.
Both Thoreau and King approached morality from the standpoint of duty. If one finds something to be morally unsound, it their moral obligation to do something about it; they both believed complacency to be one of the worst moral crimes. Thoreau asserted that “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right” (306) and “It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong”(310). King agreed on this concept: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (382). Thoreau also went on to state that “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable” (308). I am certain that these two great men would celebrate Snowden’s actions and in turn would help fight the uncovered injustice.
After making his initial discoveries, Edward Snowden tried to give his government the benefit of the doubt, but found that after a time he could wait no longer. In their profile on Snowden, the BBC reported that “Mr. Snowden said he had considered going public earlier, but waited to see whether President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 would change the US approach.”[Mr. Obama] continued with the policies of his predecessor.” Snowden believed that the actions the government took did not have the consent of the people of the United States. As Thoreau states “The authority of government … to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed” (323).
Edward Snowden’s actions, though condemned by the United States government, were celebrated by the majority of American voters. A Quinnipac University National Poll showed that 55% over 34% believed that Snowden was a patriot rather than a traitor. This belief was consistent regardless of political affiliation, gender, race or age.
Anthony Romero from the Huffington Post acknowledged “As a whistleblower of illegal government activity that was sanctioned and kept secret by the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government for years, he undertook great personal risk for the public good. And he has single-handedly reignited a global debate about the extent and nature of government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.” Snowden listened to his conscience and took action; Thoreau and King would have found that to be the only reasonable option. Politico reported that “These actions have been accompanied by a sea change in public opinion about surveillance. Poll after poll has shown that for the first time ever, Americans think the government has gone too far in violating their privacy, with vast majorities believing the NSA scooping up a record of every phone call made in the United States invades citizens’ privacy.”
One could argue that when Snowden sought asylum in Russia, it was a sign of his crimes and treason, one might continue by saying that he should have been willing to submit to trial in the United States if he believed his actions were reasonable and just. King insists “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty… an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law” (384). But King also claims that “Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber” (385). However, in this case, the secrets stolen from the NSA do not make Snowden the robber. We the people are the robbed, we are the violated and the United States is the robber. Snowden was simply trying to open our eyes to the injustice of what was happening behind our backs. He is one of us, and thus should be protected as one of the robbed.
Based on the presented moral reasoning’s of Thoreau, King, and Gazzaniga, it is clear that Edward Snowden was acted on his conscience and that the United States government behaved in ways that were not sanctioned by its people. It was a moral responsibility to release the classified documents to the public and that is why I believe that Edward Snowden is not a traitor to our country. Rather he is a patriot and a hero.
Brown, Peter. Snowden Is Whistle-Blower, Not Traitor, U.S. Voters Tell Quinnipiac University
National Poll. Rep. Quinnipiac University, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.
Gazzaniga, Michael. “Toward a Universal Ethics.” Jacobus 415-431
Jacobus, Lee A., eds A World of Ideas Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.
King Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Jacobus 375-392
Knowlton, Brian. “Senators Differ Sharply on Penalty for Snowden.” The New York
Times. The New York Times, 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
“Profile: Edward Snowden.” BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 6
Romero, Anthony D. “Edward Snowden Is a Patriot.” The Huffington Post.
TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.
Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Jacobus 301-324
Timm, Trevor. “Edward Snowden Is a Patriot.” POLITICO. POLITICO LLC, 8 Oct. 2013. Web.
06 Mar. 2014.Read More
Deconstructing and Comparing the Works of Machiavelli’s The Qualities of a Prince and Lao Tzu’s Tao-te Ching – English 5 – Essay 1
Assignment: Compare Lao-tzu’s view of government with that of Machiavelli. Consider what seems to be the ultimate purposes of government, what seems to be the obligations of the leader to the people being led, and what seems to be the main work of the state. What comparisons can y0u make betwee Lao-tzu’s Master and Machiavelli’s prince?
- You write with clarity
- Your comparison/contrast is logical and well organized
- You provide convincing evidence
- Keep verb tense consistent
Deconstructing and Comparing the Works of Machiavelli’s The Qualities of a Prince and Lao Tzu’s Tao-te Ching
Reading the works of Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu in succession highlight how truly at opposition the messages are. Though both pieces express the desired way to govern a people, the “Tao-te Ching” speaks of peace, simplicity, and letting the universe work its will, while “The Qualities of the Prince” emphasizes the necessity for war, and the natural wickedness of men. There are no particular reasons that these two ways of thought should be in harmony, one written in the 6th century, and the other the 16th, but they are similar in that they are highly revered and the aphorisms taken from the text are often quoted and considered wise, brilliant, and true. Both authors seem to believe that they are experts in the ways of human nature, and at their time in history might have been, but I could argue that their political reasoning’s are so antiquated, that they have no place in today’s culture. That said, contrasting these two texts can emphasize the extremities between a conquering nation and a stagnant one.
One of the prevailing messages of the Tao is that of inaction, or at least inaction until absolutely necessary and even then taking action without notice. “The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, “Amazing: We did it, all by ourselves!” (207) The Tao believes that the role of the Master is that of silent leader, an example, a sturdy center to the Way; the Master encourages simplicity in all things and knows the universe will move as needed. To take unnecessary action would be to move outside the center and to upset the balance and the flow of life. Machiavelli, believing in strong actions and leadership as a controlling roll, would find Lao-Tzu’s teachings weak.
Machiavelli opines that “there is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live” (224) and concludes that to accept the true nature of men is the only way to rule appropriately. Machiavelli thinks of himself to be a realist and would consider Lao-Tzu a wishful person when considering the people.
In “The Qualities of a Prince”, Machiavelli leads me to believe that the purpose of a government and its leader is to gain power and stay in power; everything is focused on that task. Lao-Tzu states “Act for the people’s benefit. Trust them; leave them alone.” (214) He feels that people at the heart of it are simple and good, and that if only left to the ways of the universe, they would live simple and good lives without ambition, desire, or want. “I let go of the law, and people become honest. I let go of economics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion, and people become serene. I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.” (211)
Trusting in those you lead was not something Machiavelli encouraged though, “[…] men are a sorry lot and will not keep their promises to you, you likewise need not keep yours to them.” (230) He expected plotting, treason, and unlawfulness from his people and wrote his rules as such under the ideals of being a realist. Finding that “they are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain” (228) the role of Prince was to contain and govern that instead of letting the people prosper or set an example.
Lao-Tzu thought “If a country is governed with tolerance, the people are comfortable and honest. If a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty.” (211) The Tao speaks on the balance of life that “For every force there is a counterforce.” (208) He understood that through your example as the Master, the people would follow in suit. You cannot force anything upon your people except through force, but if you let things be, everything would fall into place. Machiavelli though, was not shy about what kind of leader you should be. “A prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal” (227) His reasoning’s for being cruel or for lying were that they are the only logical means to an end, when the other possibility is to fall out of power. Everything is done to keep the Prince in power. Keeping the Prince in power is in the best interest of the people.
Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli surprisingly spoke similarly on how a people should feel about their leader, Lao-Tzu stating “[…]best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised.” (207) Machiavelli insists that though to be both loved and feared would be best, being the two at once is impossible, thus “it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.” (227) On the subject of being despised, Machiavelli fest strongly that a Prince should avoid being considered that at all costs. “A prince must guard himself against being despised and hated[...]” (226)
Where I felt the most disagreement between the two texts was on the subject of war. Machiavelli felt it was the single most important thing a Prince could do. “A prince, therefor must not have any other object nor any other thought, nor must he take anything as his profession but war, its institutions, and its discipline; because that is the only profession which befits one who commands.” (221) Lao-Tzu in opposition felt that it was the lowest form and should only be attended if absolutely necessary. He believed “Peace is his highest value. If the peace has been shattered, how can he be content? […] How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral.” (209)
As a pacifist, I am want to admire Lao-Tzu’s messages of peace, however his stance on inaction and simplicity, in their substance, are not qualities I support. I believe that ambition and education are necessary and admirable for our world to continue to advance. Again, as a pacifist, I am immediately judgmental of Machiavelli’s text. Where Lato-Tzu’s message is of peace and feminine undertones, everything about Machiavelli’s is harsh and violent and masculine.
Jacobus, Lee A. “Lao-Tzu Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching and Niccolo Machiavelli The Qualities of the Prince.” A World of Ideas: EssentialReadings for College Writers. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 203-33. Print.Read More
Write an essay in which you reflect on Adler’s claim, and discuss your belief in God* — do you believe? If so, what elements have combined to persuade you to this belief? Do you disbelieve? If so, what factors prevent you from believing? Are you unsure? What would you need to learn to move you one direction or the other?
This essay is reflective in nature. No quotes, no research, just your thoughts on a very complex (and, we’ll find, important) topic. Do try to organize it fairly well though(please no rambling!). Please also try to limit any anger or vitriol you might feel towards this topic. I don’t want it to be a platform for bashing a particular group of people.
*I’m using the word “God” very loosely. It doesn’t have to mean the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish god (although it certainly can). It can also refer to a more general manifestation of deity, but I want to particularise our definition as an entity distinct from a pantheistic/animistic understanding of the divine nature. Don’t use the Force for he essay!
Comments: “Thank you for your honesty!”
19 November 2013
Mortimer Adler, in his essay on God, claims that “more consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God, than from answering any other basic question.” I believe this to be true to an extent. Yes, belief or disbelief in a deity can indicate a lot about a person and their actions. However, as we discover from America’s Four Gods, there is so much more to the picture. It is not just whether someone thinks there is a god or not, but if they believe, then what kind of god they think there is, and how involved that god is with our world.
As for non-believers, their disbelief is a good starting point to indicate who they are and/or how they’ll act, but human nature is so deeply complex that there is a myriad of other factors that affect who a person is. To me, because the question of God is so easily answered, it is one I don’t typically think to raise when assessing an individual. I question their charitable nature, the quickness of their temper, and their aptitude for critical thought; only when brought forth on its own does the question of god affect how I view a person or their actions.
Although I wasn’t always an Atheist, I was never a full believer. I was baptized at the age of seven, had my first communion a few years later, and spent many afternoons in a bible class as a child, but to me there wasn’t anything meaningful about it. I enjoyed hearing stories and all of the arts and craft projects, but I never felt a spiritual connection to any god.
As a teenager I predictably spent a lot of time starting to consider the nature of deity and concepts like truth. I openly described myself as an agnostic because I felt such a profound connection with nature and thought that a connection and wonder like that meant that there must be some supernatural or spiritual aspect to the world. I cannot remember the exact moment I realized I was an atheist, I can’t even narrow it down to the year, I just know that it was so natural and obvious, there wasn’t any chance of me feeling any other way. It was truly the only thing that made any sense.
There’s an entire worlds worth of reasoning for why I am not a believer and why this is so strongly my truth but I suppose one of the most prominent reasons is in how diverse humanity is and how rife with disagreement we are. I cannot imagine that we would be this way if we were in fact created by an all-powerful being with any intent to control or even guide the way we live our lives.
If we had a god who was active in our day to day lives and cared about what we did, then I cannot accept that it would be a good god worthy of our respect and worship considering all of the pain and terribleness in the world. If we were created by a distant god who simply got everything going and then left us alone, then there would be no requirement for belief or need for worship. I believe that our entire basis for belief and doctrine is entirely man made and is now a relic of a more primitive time in our history. I no more believe in the Christian God than I believe in Zeus, Thor, Vishnu or Santa Clause.
My lack of belief in any god also stems from the fact that there is absolutely zero proof substantiating any religious claims. Everywhere there is hard evidence backing up scientific theories, but when requesting proof of God I am presented with empty rhetoric on how “faith doesn’t require proof” or circular logic that needs a pre-existing belief in god to validate any argument.
What irritates me the most about religion is the seeming lack of critical thought. Religious people generally follow a set of doctrines blindly and do not question their religious leaders. Their morality is based not on logic or a shared goal for a harmonious society, but instead exists allegedly only because some unseeable creature has put forth a set of rules related through old stories or supposed profits. I often hear atheists asked how we “can find beauty in the world without God?”, but in my mind our universe is all the more awe inspiring and gorgeous because there was no design – it is all the result of natural and scientific processes.
I think all I would need to become a believer is repeatable independently verifiable proof that a god/creator/etc exists. As a scientist I can easily accept new facts to change my point of view or beliefs. Whether it’s God, alien overlords, or a giant computer simulation, as long as there is proof (maybe something along the lines of an instantaneous global communication to everyone), I would accept it as fact.Read More