Peter Singer on Stem Cells and Cloning

Question: How do you determine the morality of stem cell research?

Peter Singer: A certain thing the government needs to regulate, the use of made genetic information because if it doesn’t, we’re going to get into a situation where rich people can buy information that enables them to select certain, among the variety of embryos, select the best children or the children with most talents and poor people are not and I think that’s going to produce a society that’s even more sharply divided among the lines of rich and poor than our society is today and I think we want or should want such a society.

So, in the genetics matter, I do think there’s a need for regulation. On the use of stem cells for research, the only regulation that I would see would be if anyone is going to use them for reproductive purposes but I don’t think that that’s very likely. I don’t know anyone who’s focusing on that.

So if stem cells or embryos that are going to be used to remove stem cells and the stem cells are then going to be used for research and destroyed, and not allowed to develop into an embryo and then a fetus and a child, I really don’t see much need to regulate that.

Question: Why is your perspective on abortion unique?

Peter Singer: My defense of abortion is unique because it does not try to draw a sharp distinction between the fetus and the infant. It acknowledges a point that opponents of abortion make that there is simply a gradual development of the human being that continues during the first months of life after birth, as well as beforehand.

So I think the question about abortion we should ask is not, is the embryo or fetus a living human being, because I think the answer is undoubtedly yes, it is. The question is, what characteristics or capacities does a being have to have in order to make it a case that that being has a serious right to life?

And when we ask that question, I think it’s not hard to see that the answer, when it’s a member of the species Homosapien, is not really a very persuasive answer. Why should membership of one particularly species be determinative of whether you have a right to life or not.

So if we reject that answer then we’re going to have to look at the characteristics of the beings and say, are these characteristics is such that if you have them, you have the right to life and if you don’t, you don’t. And I think we can explore what those characteristics might be, but the most important part is to break away from the idea that it’s the membership of our species in itself that really is the morally crucial marking line, dividing line.

 

Recorded on: March 16, 2009

 

Peter Singer on modern utilitarianism.

The digital economy benefits the 1%. Here’s how to change that.

A pragmatic approach to fixing an imbalanced system.

Videos
  • Intentional or not, certain inequalities are inherent in a digital economy that is structured and controlled by a few corporations that don't represent the interests or the demographics of the majority.
  • While concern and anger are valid reactions to these inequalities, UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan also sees it as an opportunity to take action.
  • Srinivasan says that the digital economy can be reshaped to benefit the 99 percent if we protect laborers in the gig economy, get independent journalists involved with the design of algorithmic news systems, support small businesses, and find ways that groups that have been historically discriminated against can be a part of these solutions.
Surprising Science

The idea that Alzheimer's is a form of diabetic disease has been gaining currency in medical circles for almost ten years. The accumulated evidence is now so strong that many specialists are now comfortable referring to Alzheimer's as type 3 diabetes.

Keep reading

Social media makes breakups worse, study says

Is there a way for more human-centered algorithms to prevent potentially triggering interactions on social media?

Image by Pranch on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • According to a 2017 study, 71% of people reported feeling better (rediscovery of self and positive emotions) about 11 weeks after a breakup. But social media complicates this healing process.
  • Even if you "unfriend", block, or unfollow, social media algorithms can create upsetting encounters with your ex-partner or reminders of the relationship that once was.
  • Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder suggest that a "human-centered approach" to creating algorithms can help the system better understand the complex social interactions we have with people online and prevent potentially upsetting encounters.
Keep reading