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Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sun, 27th Jun '10 4:52 AM


Ethics is not science. Social and natural science can provide important data to help us make better ethical choices. But science alone does not tell us what we ought to do. Science may provide an explanation for what humans are like. But ethics provides reasons for how humans ought to act. And just because something is scientifically or technologically possible, it may not be ethical to do it.

I don't understand this part of our national debate. Economic systems have various advantages and disadvantages, but can "science" tell us which system to choose? It may inform our decisions......but isn't that more of an issue of priorities and values?

Science can tell us that smoking causes lung cancer. But can "science" tell us not to smoke? In other words, as one smoker put it, to put "health" ahead of "pleasure"? If so, how?

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sun, 27th Jun '10 4:53 AM

Should have read, "but isn't our ultimate decision about which we choose more of an issue of priorities and values?".

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sun, 27th Jun '10 7:03 AM

"The best physical, chemical, and other scientific knowledge will not tell us what to do and who to be". If that sentence is true, why do we not ever discuss the best ideas about what to do and who to be on this site?

Tsk9653  (Level: 113.2 - Posts: 1466)
Sun, 27th Jun '10 9:36 AM


I agree that science and ethics are different disciplines. At the same time, in general, my sense of things would be that what is ethical conduct for human beings should be strongly influenced by science. Now, I don't smoke, and I personally believe the dangers from secondhand smoke have been exaggerated. I don't support smoking bans in all public buildings, for instance, because I believe people should be permitted to make bad choices if those choices don't cause above de minimus risks to others. At the same time, there certainly is scientific research suggesting a rather larger risk from secondhand smoke than I believe is warranted from the data. In any event, many people -- perhaps a majority at least in some states -- believe in the dangers of secondhand smoke based on the scientific research. Now, as you say, it's not really a matter for the realm of science to say that because secondhand smoke is linked with additional cancers, smoking in public buildings should be banned. On the other hand, to the extent science shows a link between secondhand smoking and disease, that is evidence that should be very carefully considered in making a decision whether to ban smoking in public buildings. Why? Because it raises the ethical question of the extent to which some human beings' pleasure should be permitted to impact on the health of non-participants in a pleasure (smoking), which, at a minimum, has been found to have profound health consequences for the smoker.

In any event, I would certainly be willing to discuss specific ethical issues that anybody cares to post about. Indeed, i would say that my politics are largely infused with my beliefs concerning what is ethical behavior for people or countries.

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Sun, 27th Jun '10 5:10 PM

Our thoughts seem to be the same in using science as a tool when it comes to informing our ethical decisions. I enjoyed your second hand smoke discussion, I'd never heard that opinion before, although smoking was just as an example. To continue the smoking discussion, I'm not going to bother to check my facts, but I seem to remember reading that whatever laws we pass there a certain number (maybe somewhere areound <20%) of the population that pretty much refuses to quit. Taxes go up, but "in general" smoking does not go down. I'm not saying it hasn't gone down at all, but that there is a stubborn percent who just aren't going to quit. My state recently was pleasantly surprised that while many sources of revenue have gone down, the taxes that smoking bring into the state has been constant whatever the economy is doing and a much needed source of cash thanks in part to this stubborn group. I have to wonder if it has something to do with our approach. We say "smoking causes cancer" to these folks. They shrug their shoulders and say, "we're all going to die anyway".

We raise taxes in part to try and force them to quit, but also to bring in revenue, and this helps because they are a minority, (and if you can believe some studies more likely to be poor, which gives them less of a voice in politics) and they just pay more and keep smoking. We pass laws making them have to shiver outside in the cold, (only in part according to some arguments to stop second hand smoke) and on top of that in my state ten feet away from buildings and so forth which is likely to be the parking lot area in apartment complexes and public places, yet despite that, however far they have to walk, they just keep smoking. I've seen people verbally assault them while they've been minding their business, with phrases like "nasty habit" or "that causes lung cancer you know" (duh, of course they know that), but these approaches have only been effective to get a certain number to stop.

I'm not an expert on this topic, but alot of the people I do know who have stopped smoking have done so because of an internal change of some kind (sometimes influenced by externals like higher taxes, sometimes not). A guy has kids, so he quits for his children. His priorities have changed. Another guy I met wanted the money to save for a house, so he quit again because he wanted something more. While casual observation only goes so far, I don't have the time to be an expert at everything. We have people for that. Among the people I know, and this is not an attempt at stereotyping or generalizing to the whole group, but just an observation based off of a small sample size of people that I know, I would describe many of my friends over the years who have smoked as "hedonists", at least more so than I probably am. The ones I know (and I'm not making a generalization about them as a "group", these are or have been friends), probably engage in more casual sex, go to the bars more often, smoke cigarettes and possibly marijuana occasionally, spend more of their time having fun......etc. Some of the ones I know who don't do those things still smoke because they did some of those things at one time, and the cigarette is all that's left over from that lifestyle, a kind of lingering reminder of days gone by. Of course, this is a much younger crowd.....and only based of some small number of people I have known. There are all different kinds of people that smoke out there.

To me it would seem that that "lifestyle", when it actually happens among my former or current friends is based off of in part certain views on life. Sometimes we label it pleasantly as an experimentation phase among the younger members of the crowd, but not every culture sends their children through this "phase" in quite this way. My friend Bob is a Buddhist, and they sent him to a monastary for awhile during that time.... I don't see anybody (or not too many people, not even me) trying to change that view or "philosophy" that helps to make that lifestyle possible or "appealing", or very few people trying to change the kind of things they value, which might help them to set their priorities straight, just external solutions all of the time, an attempt at "force" through government or some kind of external harrasment.

Although I do admit there has probably been "some" attempt at this approach. Maybe those smoking are glamorous posters were an attempt of this kind.......taking a shot at its portrayal and the lifestyles portrayed as glamorous in movies......

I didn't mean for this thread to become solely about the topic of just seems strange to me that alot of these "philosophical" issues are present in our discussions, but the never even make a blink on the radar. Implicit issues never made explicit.

I didn't have time to proof check this post, and I'm probably rambling some......but I'm on the way out the door and it was the best I had time for.

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