Devin Kalish

Hello, I'm Devin, I blog here along with Nicholas Kross. Currently working on a bioethics MA at NYU.

Posts

Sorted by New

Wiki Contributions

Comments

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

So, I didn't do a very good job sticking to this statement. I'm still new to the forum format, and getting a much bigger response than I had expected. I've therefore decided to just make a clean break and hold myself to it. Feel free to continue interacting in the comments, I will read all of the comments unless they really pile up, but I'll stop responding unless one of them is a direct question or something like that. If I figure out a way to, I'll pin this message at the top of the comments section.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

Thanks! I'm glad you found it useful.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

This is a possibility, admittedly my evidence doesn't say much about the old state of the field. If so I think that would be a good reason for optimism, so I kind of hope you're right. That said, I think some of the state of research has to come down to unintentional consequences as well. The Belmont Report is too strict even as intended for instance, but I think a great deal of its harm comes from the vagueness of the guidelines it inspired.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

On the one hand I agree that that piece of evidence is my least systematic and convincing. I mostly raise it because of Willy in the world asking for a bioethicist petition on challenge trials and Matt Yglesias citing the 1Day Sooner letter in claiming that bioethicists seem out of step with regular philosophers. In this context I thought it made sense to dig a little bit into the contents of the letter. On the other hand, I do think that Sebo and Singer and McMahan and Savulescu (and for that matter Jessica Flanigan and Anders Sandberg and others) should count towards the bioethicist scorecard, and if some bioethicists are consequentialist/EA-affiliated, that doesn't mean they are in some separate category, it should instead undermine some of the stereotypes.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

This is all fair, and I appreciate the response. I don’t mean to say that you and other critics overall have bad takes on the issue of research oversight, I agree with most of the criticisms, and think they are important. It’s just on the topic of bioethicists specifically that I find a good deal of the discourse weird (I should also add that there are plenty of particular bioethicists, like Leon Kass, who are worthy of the criticisms, I just don’t think they are representative, or the root of the problem).

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

This is an interesting question, and you’re right that I don’t really address it directly. That said, I’m not sure I totally understand how your criticism applies to the issue of whether bioethics as a field is worthwhile. Are you saying that the IRB system is bad for research, and if it weren’t for the presence of bioethicists this system wouldn’t be in place? As I said in the piece, I’m not an expert on IRBs myself, but this seems implausible to me. The IRB system is in place because of unclear and excessive guidelines, and the strong risk of liability they bring, if bioethicists disappeared, I just don’t think it would solve that. Indeed I expect IRBs themselves would march on, populated by lawyers or doctors or applied ethicists we don’t call bioethicists.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

I think there's a ton to criticize in the institutions, don't get me wrong, I just disagree that that's how lots of the criticisms I see come off.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

Quick PSA, I’m interacting in the comments pretty actively right now. If the comments section keeps growing, I will slow down on this in a bit. Please don’t think it means I don’t think your comment is worth some interaction as well, I’ve been very happy with the comments I’ve been getting so far! I just wanted to make quick note of this since I’m pretty new to the forum and a bit self-conscious about how I engage.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

The cases do seem somewhat different to me as well, but I don’t think this necessarily contradicts my thesis. If the key criticism is something like “bioethicists should make their actual leanings more well-known and influential” I would agree with that. It’s just this seems more modest and less unique than many of the criticisms I have seen.

The Bioethicists are (Mostly) Alright

This is interesting, and I’m glad to see some pushback in the direction of the stronger thesis as well. Again, the evidence I have seen leans the other way and I have not seen evidence I consider as strong in the anti-bioethics direction, but each piece of my evidence is also fairly weak on its own. A first pass at these cases leaves me with the following reactions (the numbers don’t correspond to each of your numbered points, they’re just there for organization):

  1. My evidence is, I think, pretty anglocentric, and may leave room for the situation to be different in for instance France and Austria. It is my (not very well researched) impression that countries with a history of Nazi occupation are more bioconservative on average for instance. I was also disappointed to learn when looking into this, that surrogacy is actually banned throughout a large part of continental Europe: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrogacy_laws_by_country and even if those selected for these committees are sincere and not just bureaucrats, there may be a selection effect for them to have views closer to the government than the public.
  2. As I said, my evidence isn’t overwhelming, but with the exception of the 1Day Sooner letter, I tried to make it fairly systematic. I would expect some of these decisions to get through regardless of whether they are on average the more common types of judgements, so I don’t want to assume too much based on them without a better understanding of how each example was chosen. Leon Kass for instance, mentioned earlier, is a parody of bioconservativism in many ways, but he was highly influential on the Bush administration’s recommendations, and that is in America, where my samples are most relevant.
  3. On the point of recommending not paying for challenge trials, I think this is in part due to an unfortunate asymmetry. There are some bioethicists who are concerned about vague notions of “exploitation” and don’t think participants should be payed, and those who think it is more ethical to pay them, in my experience, still think it is alright to hold challenge trials if you don’t pay the participants (denying this would entail overt paternalism, which in this context I have run into few defenders of). Therefore challenge trials are often recommended without payment for coalitional reasons, from my experience.
Load More