PART I :ASSUMPTIONS Leaders set “ethical tone” of an organization Young people more open to learning about ethics Freedom of speech, values, belief and conscience within the academy critical to its being an open forum for freely debating, affirming, challenging, creating or destroying values
Assumptions cont’d.... Enormous pressure in universities to adopt politically correct values and moral relativism New technoscience raises unprecedented ethics issues ‐ must embed ethics from inception “Doing ethics” requires use all our “human ways of knowing”, not just reason Must teach ethics in multiple ways, both direct and indirect
PART IIThree topics especially relevant to ethical challenges within higher education: Basic steps involved in “doing ethics” Need to use the full spectrum of our “human ways of knowing” in “doing ethics” Unprecedented ethical issues raised by new technoscience.
Steps in “doing ethics”... i). Identify all ethically relevant facts. Good facts are essential for good ethics ii). Identify all values relevant to those facts iii). Identify any conflicts of values iv). Prioritize conflicting values v). Ethically justify the priority adopted
Use all “human ways of knowing”...Include “Human memory” ‐ history ‐ learn from past Imagination, especially moral imagination, what might expect in future Examined emotions Commonsense Experiential knowledge Ethics Reason ‐ very important, but not only Reason important way
Valid warning that “dangerously on the edge of total flake”but equal danger if “dangerously on the edge of pure rationality”Paradoxically, scientific research now proving importance of “other ways of knowing” to ethical decision making: Shows people with damage to emotional centresof their brains can’t make good moral decisions and people with problems in frontal lobe function make “overly utilitarian decisions” when deciding about ethics.
The new technoscience ... Technoscience presents unprecedented challenges to fundamental human values and ethics and conflicts spill into society as a whole Ranges from human embryo stem cell research; cloning; and creating artificial sperm and ova; to artificial intelligence; robotics; synthetic biology; nanotechnology; and “dual use” research ‐ possibility of terrorism Major 21st century values issues will centre on this science; what we decide will set “ethical tones” of our societies
Ethical questions raised include: Is there an essence of our humanness we must hold on trust for future generations? If so, what is it? What are children’s rights with respect to their genetic origins, e.g., is it ethically acceptable to make a baby between two women? Are we, as transhumanists believe, on our way to a post‐human future where humans will be an obsolete model?
Should we reprogram embryos’ aging genes to increase the average human lifespan to 200 years? How can we find some “shared ethics”?What do we owe ethically to future generations? Can the future trust us?
To answer need comprehensive and sophisticated analysis at micro (individual), meso (institutional), macro (societal) and mega (global) levelsWe hold the essence of life, itself, in the palm of our collective human hand in a way no humans before us have ever done; we can redesign life, including human life. We can change the 4.8 billion years of evolution that has resulted in us and all other life on earth, in a nanosecond.
With great power comes great responsibility towards present and future generationsTo fulfill that responsibility requires that our decisions be ethically sound. That requires teaching university students ‐our future leaders and decision makers ‐ to act ethically.
To find ethics needed to guide us..Need be conscious of dangers of false certainty must build into decision making structures an ethics of uncertainty dangers of being simplistic must build in an ethics of complexity impact our decisions will have on future generations must build in an ethics of potentiality.
Concepts that could help fulfill an ethics of potentiality include: The “precautionary principle” currently most commonly found in environmental ethics “Anticipated consent” ‐ if we can’t reasonably assume that someone affected by our decision – e.g., future generations ‐ would consent if present, it’s not ethical to proceed “Trust” change from “blind trust” ‐ “Trust me because I know what is best for you” – to “earned trust” ‐ “Trust me because I will act in your ‘best interests’ and show that you can trust me”