A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

About the Ethics Blog

Welcome to The Ethics Blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)! We write for researchers, healthcare staff, officials, politicians, patient organisations and anyone interested in ethics.

We comment on the research ethics and bioethics debate and discuss our own research. We address issues from current debates in the research community and in the press. Some posts are only for your information, others are more reflective, but our goal is always dialogue. Much of the content deals with our research on healthcare, public health & professional ethics, biomedicine, biobanks & genomics, research ethics & academic integrity, the brain, consciousness & artificial intelligence, food, medicine & environment, and policy, engagement & communication.

Pär Segerdahl is editor of the blog and writes about his own research and that of others. Other researchers from CRB will appear as guest editors from time to time, and you can always contact us at crb@crb.uu.se. The Human Brain Project, where the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics was responsible for work on neuroethics and philosophy, partially funded the blog during the project’s final phase.  

We welcome comments on this blog, but please do not post anything containing inappropriate language, personal attacks, confidential personal data or copyright material. Material that violates Swedish law or is off-topic will be removed.

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  1. SoundEagle

    Hi Prof. Pär Segerdahl,

    Hello! SoundEagle is delighted to stumbled upon your blog and be acquainted with you and your work here. Since your “research has focused on the language of apes, animal welfare and gender”, please allow SoundEagle the liberty for commenting as follows:

    Interspecies interactions and communications are special in that they can and tend to transcend many boundaries and expectations imposed by human customs and belief systems. Perhaps you have heard of or studied such disciplines as zoo-anthropology or anthrozoology?

    What do you think of the writings of David Abram, specifically his book entitled “Becoming Animal”?

    To what degree does your research entail seeing animals outside of the box of human expectations or ideas that humans have about “utility” (not necessarily limited or pertaining to the utilitarian perspective or paradigm)?

    How do you find Frans de Waal’s book “The Ape and the Sushi Master”, which argues that animals are capable of forming and developing cultures and complex societies?

    Would you agree and/or recommend that we could learn a great deal about ourselves and Nature via the notion of “Biophilia” as first proposed by Edward O Wilson?

    • Pär Segerdahl

      Thank you for writing, SoundEagle. I’m struggling with precisely the questions you’re asking: what it means to write about animals; whether Frans de Waal understands human-enculturated apes like Kanzi, and what kind of human/animal divide the best forms of ape language research unmake. Perhaps this post could be of interest:
      I had not heard about David Abraham’s book, thank you for informing me!

      • SoundEagle ?ೋღஜஇ

        Hi Prof. Pär Segerdahl,

        Please be informed that I have vastly improved the special post at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/soundeagle-in-debating-animal-artistry-and-musicality/

        It is now three or more times longer, and includes more detailed discussions, plus newly added images, videos, a model (or cartography) shown across three images, and a poll. The last endnote there refers to your post entitled “Trapped in our humanity?”. You are very welcome to critique, review or comment on this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary post. Thank you in anticipation.

        Happy December to you!

  2. ernesto restrepo leidefors

    “We address issues from current debate in the research community and in the press”

    A commentary that i do not know with who to share:

    “I am a little bit fed up that politicians are called to react emotionally ” was part of the response by European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini when questioned about the dramatic images of the death of a toddler refugee. Should a scientist agree with such statement when questioned about images, data of animal experiments or general ethical issues that heat up public opinion? Granted the problems are different, but what is at stake here is the questioning of emotions in our way of acting in the world. Federica Mogherini used the word reacting which appear to be more related to a sort of impulse action; a type of immediate response that preclude reasonable, thoughtful decisions. From my perspective Federica Mogherini response is reasonable, although morally reproachable. It is reasonable from the perspective of handling a political situation where no one appears to be willing to act in front of an evident violation of basic principles of humanitarian emergency. In other words, Federica Mogherini just was saving her job position and carried out what is the job of politics, distort and manipulate. In fact to be reasonable for some may appear unreasonable for others because “All reasons are reasons for a particular people, restrained by spatial, temporal, and social conditions.” (Richard Rorty). Placing the issue in a personal perspective can help to clarify my point. It appears to me unreasonable how Europeans reacted to the Paris terrorist attacks in comparison with the most brutal attack carried out in Norway by a far right terrorist in 2011. Indeed both cases were terrorism but when the perpetrator appeared to be a white European, the political and social response is comparatively less evident. The response of Europeans was of shock after the massacre in Norway, but comparatively soft against the extreme right. The western World leaders joined in Paris to condemn and respond to fundamentalist Islamism but barely responded to the growing extreme right parties across Europe. For instance, everything was done to impose the economical policies in Greece while Hungary extreme right carrie out a campaign in clear violation of fundamental international human rights against refugees with total impunity. It seems than that reason are shaped by how we feel about the world. Hence, people with racist bias will feel and consequently elaborate reasons and actions that validate their social values. This bring me back to the problem of ethics in science. Scientists required an ethical guidance but how in a world of cultural powers asymmetries and privileges and racism is possible to recreate ethical practices ? How we can maintain a discourse of ethics in societies were extreme right political movements started to appear in the landscape of European governments. How should scientists respond about ethical guidelines of animal research when people appear to be treated even worst? These question are important because even if we care for ethical practices, the views of public opinion and political structures sooner or later may end up shaping the bureaucracy structures of ethical committees. For instance it appear in The Washington Post that a “New poll finds majority of Americans think torture was justified after 9/11 attacks “, how a phenomenon of social acceptation for torture end up shaping the policy of scientific institutions a long term ? What if tomorrow NIH offer grants for research in neuroscience aimed to improve ” enhanced coercive interrogation technique ” (an euphemism for torture used by US army). Should I be a “little bit fed up that scientist are called to react emotionally if someone showed me images of a scientist collaborative of such projects ? or instead should I assume, as any normal person would, that I should feel sorry, sorrow, shame or anger of what is happening … maybe then, we can start to think about how to act accordingly.

    Best regards

    • Pär Segerdahl

      Thank you for an important comment. The feelings you mention at the end (sadness, sorrow, shame, anger) are (in the situation you describe) clearly moral responses, I would say. Your comment strikes me as an eloquent moral response. Such responses make us speak and think; it becomes neccessary to think and communicate. I believe you are entirely right, this is where we can start to think about how to act. Emotions are not just “simple, triggered feelings”, but subtle responses to situations which motivate thinking and concern about those situations. The politician’s statement you cited in the beginning, on the other hand, seems to oversimplify the response to prevent further thinking and concern.

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