Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include 'Animal Liberation', 'Practical Ethics', 'The Point of View of the Universe' (with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek), and, most recently, 'The Most Good You Can Do'.
In the wake of the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, and amid reports that FTX's founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, diverted billions of dollars of clients' funds, some observers have linked the alleged financial malpractice to ideas widely held within the "effective altruism" movement, which Mr Bankman-Fried says inspired him. More specifically, they point to the ethical view that the end justifies the means.
How is it that a man who has banned 83 million people from Twitter can freely use the platform to post his messages denigrating women and supporting the brutal attack on the writer Salman Rushdie? I'm referring to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose government is killing young women who want to be able to show their hair in public.
In August, Springer Nature, the publisher of 3,000 academic journals, including the "Nature" portfolio of the world's most influential science journals, announced new ethics guidance for its editors, addressing the balance between academic freedom and the risk that publication of some research will harm specific groups of humans. The guidance also mentions, though much more briefly, research using animals.
In March 1964, The New York Times reported that 38 witnesses saw or heard a brutal, drawn-out, and ultimately fatal attack on a woman called Kitty Genovese, but none did anything to help her or even summoned the police. The report was later shown to be erroneous, but the "bystander effect" is real. As many psychology experiments have shown, an individual is less likely to come to the aid of another if they can see that other people who could help are not doing so.
On Dec 29 last year, Hasan Gokal, the medical director of the Covid-19 response team in Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States by population), was supervising the administration of the Moderna vaccine, mostly to emergency workers. The vaccine comes in vials containing 11 doses. A vial, once opened, expires in six hours and unused vaccine must then be thrown away.
In 1809, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, set to work on The Book of Fallacies. His goal was to expose the fallacious arguments used to block reforms like the abolition of "rotten boroughs" -- electorates with so few electors that a powerful lord or landowner could effectively select the member of parliament, while newer cities like Manchester remained unrepresented.