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"Chance or Choice:" What is Genetic Enhancement?

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Ryan Pollock
DNA In the first post of this series I give a broad overview of some of the ethical issues arising from the "new genetics."

"Weakness of the Will:" A Toxic Social Environment

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Ryan Pollock
Happy Meal In my last post I focused on the question of whether it is acceptable to limit access to foods which contribute to the struggle of obesity. Another important aspect of this issue, however, is the manner in which those foods are marketed.

"Weakness of Will:" Challenges in the Struggle Against Obesity

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Ryan Pollock
Obesity is a complex problem and it may require more than just physical change.

4th Annual Rural Studies Student Conference: Reconceptualizing Rural Contexts

by rjp218 Nov 02, 2016
Dr. Kimberly Pfeifer delivers a keynote address on mapping global food systemsFaculty and students participate in a Q&A session following a presentation On October 28th and 29th, 2016 Penn State’s Rural Sociology Graduate Association hosted the 4th Annual Rural Studies Student Conference at Penn State’s University Park campus. The conference provided workshops, keynote presentations, paper sessions, and networking opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students from Penn State and other institutions. We are excited to announce that this year’s conference nearly doubled its previous attendance. We had over 75 people register, from 10 different schools and organizations, with representatives from more than 15 departments and programs across the Penn State campus.

“At Least You’ve Got Your Hope”: Against Hope in Medical Bioethics

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Jonathan Marks
CarriageGlove As a case in bioethics, the case of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) serves to demonstrate several things.

“That’s Me All the Way”

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Bryan Cwik
Wikimedia Commons The O’Bannon Case, College Sports, and Property Rights in One’s Image and Public Likeness

2016 Stand Up awardees speak at ‘The Village at Penn State’

by rjp218 Oct 27, 2016
2016 Stand Up honorees The 2016 Stand Up honorees, Jaden Rankin-Wahlers, Alanna Kaiser and Nathan Larkin, spoke at ‘The Village at Penn State: State College Retirement Communities’ on Friday, October 21, 2016. The students presented on the topics of which they were honored last spring.

Amoral Victory?

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015

Announcing the 2014 Stand Up Award Honorees

by khepler May 01, 2015
Announcing the 2014 Stand Up Award Honorees For Zachary Brubaker, taking a stand means uniting the blind and sighted to promote respect and equality for workers with disabilities. For Maggie Cardin, taking a stand means working to educate emerging teachers to recognize and prevent depression and suicide in students. Two Penn State students received the 2014 Stand Up Award for showing courage and fortitude and demonstrating ethical leadership through personal example. The Stand Up Awards are sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State

Are Ethical Arguments for Climate Change Action Weaker Than Self-Interest Based Arguments? Why Taking Ethical Arguments Off the Table Is Like A Soccer Team Unilaterally Taking The Goalie Out of the Net.

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
Many commentators to ClimateEthics argue that since people are self-interested beings, it is more important to make arguments in support of climate change based upon self-interest rather than ethical arguments. Some go so far to assert that people don't care about ethics and therefore only self-interest-based arguments should be used to convince people to enact domestic climate change legislation. In other words, they argue:"get real" only self-interest arguments matter.

Ask an Ethicist: Can I practice interviewing during an actual interview?

by rjp218 Nov 03, 2016
Cassie Rosas Interviewing can be stressful and a common way to help become better at interviewing is practice. But what happens when someone uses actual interviews with companies they have no interest in to just practice? Is it ethical to take away these interview slots to just practice or are there better ways to handle this situation?

Ask an Ethicist: Can I share my interview questions with peers?

by rjp218 Sep 09, 2016
Wayne Cross headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing a five-part series retailed to the career-fair. Interviews can be stressful, especially for the first time. Many people feel that if they know the questions ahead of time, they’ll do a better job as they will be prepared. But is that really true? And, is knowing the questions ahead of time ethical or is it considered cheating?

Ask an Ethicist: Can I turn down an accepted internship offer for a better one?

by rjp218 Sep 13, 2016
Katie Wysocki Headeshot Question: I pushed myself to apply to top companies for my summer internship. I was so excited to get an offer from Company A that I accepted the internship immediately fearing I might not get another offer. However, I just received an internship offer from Company B, which is my top choice. I would much rather work at Company B, but I’m concerned reneging on the original accepted offer from Company A could hurt future opportunities. Can I change my mind? I have not started working at Company A yet.

Ask an Ethicist: Can money raised for a charity 5K be used to pay entry fees?

by rjp218 Feb 18, 2016
Francisco Javier Lopez Headshot Spring is around the corner, and that means all kinds of worthwhile charity 5K races. Many of these races have a reasonably priced entrance fee, but they also encourage runners to raise money for the charity. What if you create a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for that charity and want to pay for the entrance fee from the money that was raised? Is that ethical? Today's column looks at this dilemma and offers some advice.

Ask an Ethicist: Can Plato help us pick the next president?

by rjp218 Feb 24, 2016
Image: Joel Priddy Caucus season is here. In picking the next POTUS, how do we choose well? Common criteria include candidates’ takes on specific issues, their ability to serve as commander in chief, and how we imagine they would navigate delicate international imbroglios. But what about ethical leadership? This week's column discusses what Plato and the power of invisibility can teach us about the role of ethical leadership in contemporary democracy.

Ask an Ethicist: Does posting photos of my kids on social media violate their privacy?

by rjp218 Jan 26, 2017
Daniel Susser Social media has become an integral part of many of our lives. We open Facebook and Instagram when we wake up in the morning, and we check them one last time before we go to sleep. These services are important to us, because they connect us with others. But what happens when parents post photos of their children? Does it violate their privacy?

Ask an Ethicist: Embellishing on a résumé

by rjp218 Sep 09, 2016
Erica Kryst Headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing a five-part series retailed to the career-fair. In many cases, the résumé is your first point of contact with the employer. You know how important it is and you really want to stand out from the competition. Is it ethical to embellish or exaggerate a bit on your résumé?

Ask an Ethicist: How important is empathy in the U.S. Presidential election?

by rjp218 Oct 18, 2016
Daryl Cameron headshot As Election Day nears, voters are debating the qualities that make for an effective leader. One of these contested qualities is empathy: the ability to understand and resonate with the experiences of others. Does it matter if a President can relate to you and care about what you are going through?

Ask an Ethicist: Is it ethical to use robots to kill in a war?

by rjp218 Feb 24, 2017
Alan R. Wagner The advent of autonomous (self-controlled) robots presents important new questions for those who study robotics and ethics. Most people who study these topics believe that recent advances in autonomous robots and artificial intelligence will fundamentally change warfare. Autonomous robots, because they are not physiologically limited, can operate without sleep or food, perceive things that people do not, and move in ways that humans cannot. These abilities result in military advantages. Some scholars passionately argue that the use of robots to kill in war is unethical and others suggest that using robots in warfare may actually be more ethical than not using robots. So, is it ethical to use robots to kill during a war?

Ask an Ethicist: Is it ethical to accept an internship offer from networking only?

by rjp218 Jan 16, 2017
Susan Knell Networking can sometimes help land an internship. But sometimes we may feel guilty because we don’t feel that we deserve the internship because of other factors, such as lower grades. Would it be unethical for you to accept an internship based on networking alone?

Ask an Ethicist: Is it wrong to ask my son about his combat service?

by rjp218 Mar 14, 2016
Justin Synder Headshot Combat experience is sometimes difficult to talk about, especially for loved ones. Concerned parents want to learn more about their children’s time in the military, but many aren’t sure how to go about it. This week’s column helps explain why many veterans choose not to talk about their experiences and suggests that being there to listen, not asking, is the most ethical way to communicate with them.

Ask an Ethicist: Lost property on campus

by rjp218 Dec 05, 2016
Tom Sowerby This happens to all of us. For days, sometimes weeks, we may see a forgotten umbrella or other lost item sitting in the back of a classroom or office. After some time, many of us wonder if we could simply take that lost property. Is it ethical to take the lost property?

Ask an Ethicist: Making amends for lying on a resume

by rjp218 Feb 09, 2017
Brenda Fabian headshot Getting a great job right out of school can be challenging. Sometimes you may be tempted to embellish a bit on your resume or alter some of your professional or educational experience. Lying on your resume not only affects you, but your colleagues, supervisors, and those who didn’t get the job you landed. Lying on your resume also puts your company’s reputation at risk. So what happens when someone who lied on their resume wants to go back and set things right? This week’s column discusses just that.

Ask an Ethicist: Profiting from a Cure

by rjp218 Apr 12, 2016
Dan Cahoy Headshot Should someone be able to charge high prices for important medical information? Can one even own such knowledge? This week’s article shed’s some light on these questions by taking a look at whether or not it is ethical for an acupuncturist to charge other licensed acupuncturists a large sum of money to learn about key acupuncture points.

Ask an Ethicist: Reporting food safety problems

by rjp218 Aug 22, 2016
Amit Sharma headshot Serving safe and healthy food is a priority for the vast majority restaurateurs. But, sometimes the cost or lack of knowledge makes it difficult for chefs or owners to implement the necessary processes to ensure food safety standards are met. What happens if an employee of the restaurant notices a consistent lack of concern for food safety? Should the employee report it to the proper authorities, take action, or both?

Ask an Ethicist: Representing yourself honestly in an interview

by rjp218 Mar 13, 2017
Saleem Clarke headshot Consider your personal brand; how can you honestly represent yourself to potential employers? We have all heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy” but sometimes during an interview it is not clear what implications our honesty will have on our employability. Sure, we all want to present ourselves in the best possible light, but some interview questions can make us consider how to respond in a truthful and ethical manner.

Ask an Ethicist: Serving as a reference (or not)

by rjp218 Sep 09, 2016
Jennifer Eury In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This first question centers around writing reference letters. Most of us have either served as a reference for someone or asked someone to serve as a reference for us. But what happens when someone is asked to serve as a reference for a colleague or student and for whatever reason, the individual is not comfortable serving in this capacity? How should someone respond to the request?

Ask an Ethicist: Should I attend a career fair after accepting a job offer?

by rjp218 Sep 09, 2016
Lesley Jackson Headshot In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This question centers around attendance at the career fair. It's a great moment when you finally get that first job or internship offer. It feels even better to formally accept the offer, feeling secure about that next step in your career. But what if that offer comes before a career fair and you accept? Is it ethical to still attend the fair and take up the time recruiters could be spending with other students?

Ask an Ethicist: Should I accept a job from an internship that didn't seem like the right fit?

by rjp218 Sep 09, 2016
Ashley Rippey In preparation for Fall Career Days at Penn State, we are publishing questions over the next week that will discuss internships, interviewing, résumés, and reference writing. This question centers around a job offer from an internship that didn't seem like the right fit. There are ethical implications in deciding whether to accept a job offer after completing an internship or co-op. Today, we discover what some of those issues might be and how to approach them.

Ask an Ethicist: Should I engage with lay audiences about my research?

by rjp218 Mar 30, 2016
Brad R. Woods Headshot We now have access to more information than we’ve ever had and it keeps growing by the minute. We can quickly pull up restaurant reviews, journal articles, and real-time weather within seconds from devices in our pockets. But what happens when you come across something online that you know to be incorrect because you spent your life researching that topic? Should you feel compelled to engage in this online discussion since you’re an expert with several related publications?

Ask an Ethicist: Should I lower the volume of my music if a neighbor asks?

by rjp218 Feb 18, 2016
Don Thompson "Turn that music down!" is something many of us have heard from a neighbor or family member. In today's column, the ethicist takes a look at this predicament and offers some guidance on how to respond.

Ask an Ethicist: To stand or to sit for the national anthem

by rjp218 Sep 30, 2016
Josh Inwood headshot Expressions of patriotism can be important to the health of the nation and can serve as a rallying point for a diverse and multicultural nation. Equally important is the right to peaceful protest including the right to express opinions that some people might find antithetical to the nation. Recently this tension has come to the fore as athletes and other prominent public figures have begun silently protesting police abuses during the singing of the national anthem. This week’s column tackles this important issue.

Ask an Ethicist: What should I do if I encounter discrimination in the workplace?

by rjp218 Sep 23, 2016
Tom C. Hogan The workplace should be an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment. But what happens if you feel discriminated against or someone who is known to discriminate or regularly uses offensive speech is promoted. How should you deal with this and what resources do you have at your disposal? This week’s column aims to offer some advice on the subject.

Ask an Ethicist: Why should the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

by rjp218 Apr 22, 2016
Peter Buckland Photo At the Paris Climate talks, global society agreed to pursue a rapid decarbonization of the global economy to cap total global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. Such actions would prevent some dire effects of human-caused climate change. What are some of the ethical issues from global climate change?

At What Cost?

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015
The simplest definition of polio I could find (and that I trusted) was from PubMed: "Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that can affect nerves and can lead to partial or full paralysis." It is a disease I think many of us have heard about, but that I suspect many people don't know too much about. I don't, or didn't until I looked into it more.

BP's Warning: Are there limits?

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015

Call for Panelists for the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting

by rjp218 Jan 19, 2017
This panel seeks to carve out new pathways into the subject of children, youth and media. Abstracts are sought that critically interpret how Middle Eastern, North African, and Persian/Arabian Gulf children and youth use, play with, produce, interpret and/or are influenced by media in conflict zones. Abstracts should come from or be framed from the “voice”, or perspective of children and youth and connect how their respective media uses and practices impinge on the development of their culture, constructions of civic and national identity, intergroup attitudes, political opinions, and/or peace and conflict related practices and behaviors. To that effect, papers might examine the media uses and associated daily lives -- past and/or present -- of among others, Algerian, Iranian, Iraqi, Israeli, Lebanese, Libyan, Palestinian, Syrian, Tuareg, Yemini or Yezedi girls and boys. Papers that explore these areas as they relate to the lives of those among them who have been (forcibly-) migrated, are borderlands children, have been born due to the uses of rape as a weapon of war, and/or whom, through them, have become child mothers, are particularly encouraged.

Climate & Social Justice: The Front Line of the People's Climate March

by khepler Mar 31, 2015
Contributors: Alex J Feldman
Credit: Alex FeldmanCredit: Alex Feldman Before world leaders gathered this week in New York at the United Nations to discuss climate change, two significant protests took place. On Sunday, September 21, the People’s Climate March, a big-tent protest uniting hundreds of NGOs, attracted a crowd of more than 300,000 to walk from 86th St. and Central Park West to 34th St. and 11th Ave. in Manhattan. The protest included Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. It is being billed as the largest climate protest in history.

Climate Change and Your Health

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Brockopp How far should a doctor to go to address the health challenges of her patients? For Dr. Wendy Ring, a physician who has worked for decades caring for the medically underserved in Northern California, the answer is quite literally across the country – by bike.

Cycling to DC

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015

Cycling to DC: Day 3

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015

Diversifying a Discipline - Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy

by rjp218 Mar 29, 2016
In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.

Engels, McDonald named Sherwin Early Career Professors

by rjp218 Apr 21, 2016
Two faculty members in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts have been named Sherwin Early Career Professors in the college’s Rock Ethics Institute. Jeremy Engels now holds the title Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and associate professor of communication arts and sciences, while Bryan McDonald now holds the title Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and assistant professor of history. Both appointments are effective March 2016 and continue until June 30, 2018.

Environmental Justice

by rjp218 Oct 27, 2016
We Americans like to think of ourselves as an ethical people. For generations, our presidents have referred to America as the “shining city on a hill” and “the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” We pledge allegiance to a flag that stands for “liberty and justice for all.” That word “all” is key. If our lofty declarations are to have any meaning, then justice must be available for everyone, including the vulnerable and the oppressed.

Environmental Philosophy (IAEP) and Population Control

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Alex J Feldman
Sterilization Image In mid-October, I traveled to New Orleans to give a paper at the International Association of Environmental Philosophy (IAEP). My paper, “Biopolitics, Race, and Global Population Control,” draws heavily on research I have conducted while at the Rock. The conference ran from the evening of October 25th through October 27th and included philosophers from a wide variety of traditions and trainings, as well as a number of non-philosophers interested in interdisciplinary work. IAEP has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere; the sessions are well-attended and encourage honest exchange.

Ethical interrogations of short stories

by rjp218 Mar 27, 2017
This is a post from Rock Humanities Dissertation Fellow, María Izquierdo Miranda. Maria is a 5th year ABD student from Puerto Rico in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at Penn State University. Her dissertation project, “Adaptable Debility: Becoming Human Under Biocapitalism,” addresses the performance of mental debility by middle class individuals of recent Anglo and Hispanic biocapitalist contexts.

Ethics and Climate at Widener University School of Law

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015
After several years writing for Climate Ethics, our colleague Don Brown is relocating to Widener University School of Law, where he will continue his work on the ethical dimensions of climate change on the blog Ethics and Climate. We are thankful to Don for his many contributions to the work of the Rock Ethics Institute, we wish him well in his new position, and we look forward to benefitting from his continued analysis of these important issues

Ethics and the Gulf Oil Spill

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015

Ethics of GMOs: A moderators perspective part 1

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Kristin Bergman
Photo of the room during the Ethics of GMOs: A Panel Discussion This is a guest post by Kristin Bergman, a moderator at the "Ethics of GMOs: A Panel Discussion" Research Ethics Lecture Series Event.

Ethics of GMOs: A moderators perspective part 2

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Michael Rury
GMOs Graphic This is a guest post by Michael Rury, a moderator at the "Ethics of GMOs: A Panel Discussion" Research Ethics Lecture Series Event.

Food Ethics at Penn State

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015

Food Ethics: Plumpy, RUTFs and Malnutrition

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
Andrew Rice has an excellent article that touches on many issues related to food ethics in the September 7 issue of the New York Times Magazine. In "The Peanut Solution," Rice describes the development of a highly nutritious peanut paste that has proven to be highly successful at addressing malnutrition in children. It is a product that is highly nutritious, does not need refrigeration, and allows home treatment of malnourished children (a big advantage over other treatment regimens that require lengthy and costly hospital stays). The product in question, Plumpy'nut, is one of a growing number of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (R.U.T.F.) that have garnered attention from health professionals, aid agencies, donors, and as Rice details, companies both big and small and for profit and not for profit.

Food ethics: wasted?

by rjp218 May 01, 2015
Contributors: By Yana Manyukhina
Food PlatesFood left from restaurant patronsCompost BinsFood left over from a buffet Against the backdrop of growing environmental and societal concerns, restaurants may soon come to be judged not just by how good the food is, but also by how well the food waste is managed. America’s trend towards super-sizing does not seem to be slowing down. 16 oz soda cups, oversized dinner plates and even a single serving of ice cream at our beloved Berkey Creamery are a testimony to the food industry’s efforts to satisfy the customer with eye-pleasing amounts of her favourite treats. The health and body effects of the Gargantuan meals have long been at the center of public discourse, but the detrimental consequences of serving unmanageable portions go beyond individual consumers’ fitness and waistlines.

Four Penn State Researchers named Rock Ethics Institute Faculty Fellows

by rjp218 Apr 04, 2016
Jeffrey M. CatchmarkRosemary Jolly headshotPhoto used on people page.Amit Sharma headshot The fellows, Jeffery M. Catchmark, Rosemary Jolly, Sarah Clark Miller, and Amit Sharma, will help support initiatives that integrate curricular and research components by building interdisciplinary collaborations that will advance the Rock’s goal of integrating ethics into the Penn State curriculum.

Free Markets, Externalities, and A Question of Integrity

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015
One of the defining premises of any "free market" is that parties participate in transactions voluntarily. Shoving, imposing, and force--not allowed. Indeed, voluntary participation is a vital part of the justification--and defense--of free markets. Why are free markets supposedly "free"? Because people participate in transactions freely, voluntarily, as free human beings. Why are free markets considered beneficial? Because the outcomes are often beneficial to the participants and, often, to a broader community.

Gone Fishin'

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Jameliah Inga Shorter
A trip to the local grocery store can challenging. There are so many choices! Shopping for fish, be it tuna or salmon, fresh or canned, is further complicated by the labels "farm-raised," or "wild-caught," and stickers of origin.

Grandma Rhode's ethics of climate change

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Brockopp
Emma Minnie Rhode, 1902-1998Fossil Fuel UseBiking from State College to DC So, I wonder what my grandma would have to say about climate change? It seems like such a huge, overwhelming problem. The scientists’ predictions are dire: we have only ten years to turn our emissions around. I guess she’d say “when you’ve got too much to do, just pick something up and start doing it!”

Guest Post: Rock Ethics Institute Research Ethics Lecture on Postwar NIH Research Ethos and the Guatemala STD Experiments

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Kayte Spector-Bagdady
Soldier Poster By Kayte Spector-Bagdady* This piece, which originally appeared on the blog of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, has been reposted with permission.

Gut check: Researchers develop measures to capture moral judgments and empathy

Image 20170329 8587 1w2hgpf

by rjp218 Mar 30, 2017
Image 20170329 8587 1w2hgpf Asking people about morality and empathy may not yield sincere answers. Moral sentiments, can, indeed, be measured.

Helping Haiti One Step at at Time

by rjp218 May 01, 2015
Contributors: By Cara McDonald
Cara with a baby whose mother participated in her Moringa Tree research project. Photo was taken by Kaitrin Rodgers.The room that the 18 year old who is in this post gave birth. Photo: Cara McDonaldBaby who was born in this blog post. This guest post is written by Cara McDonald, a 2015 Stand Up Award recipient. You can see more of her story at My motivation to help Haiti is driven by an undeniable passion to see the country and the Haitian people reach their full potential. I envision a day where children are lifted out of poverty, mothers and fathers are able to care for their families and the country is not known for its poverty, but for its beauty and prosperity. This passion did not come from reading about poverty or seeing it on TV, but from witnessing it, feeling it and taking action against it.

How Patents Can Be The Difference Between Life and Death

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Bryan Cwik
The big political news over the past few weeks has been the shutdown of the federal government. One of the small footnotes to this latest national political circus was the cancellation of a scheduled trip President Obama was going to make to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which concluded Oct 7.

IP's Greatest Hits, Part 2: Chakrabarty's Magic Oil-Eating Bacteria

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Bryan Cwik
Pseudomonas Putida It is time once again for an installment of IP's greatest hits, a look back at significant developments in the history of intellectual property institutions that have had a profound effect on the world, as well as IP theory and policy.

Learning in the Field

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015

Moral Clarity in the Obamacare Showdown

by khepler Jul 21, 2015
Contributors: Jesse F. Ballenger
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy of President Obama's signature on the Affordable Care Act. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy of President Obama's signature on the Affordable Care Act. As the landmark Affordable Care Act prepares to begin enrolling Americans in health insurance on Oct 1, news accounts are focusing either on the confusion and glitches that inevitably accompany rollout of a program of this scale and complexity, or the way that “Obamacare” has become the focal point in the latest round of brinksmanship over the federal budget. But against news of uncertainty about and political conflict over the Act, I want to assert that there is an underlying ethical clarity to this issue: providing access to affordable health care is a moral obligation.

New York Times Krugman Claims That US Congressional Hearings Are A Moral Failure: The US Congress and The Ethics of Willful Ignorance.

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015
In an April 4, 2011 New York Times op-ed entitled "The Truth, Still Inconvenient," Paul Krugman charged that Republican led climate change hearings that had just concluded were a deep moral failure. (Krugman, 2011) Krugman described the GOP US House of Representatives hearings at which of five invited witnesses on climate change, one was a lawyer, another an economist, and a third a professor of marketing---witnesses without any expertise in climate change science. One of the witnesses that was actually a scientist was expected to support the skeptical position but surprised everyone by supporting the mainstream scientific view on the amount of warming that the world has already experienced. Yet he was immediately attacked by climate skeptics.

Nigel Dower on Sustainability and Cosmopolitanism

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
As one of the two public talks that preceded the recent Sustainability Ethics Conference at Penn State University Park, Nigel Dower presented a paper that highlighted the relationship between sustainability and cosmopolitanism. (Cosmopolitanism can be crudely broken down in terms of the following: Cosmos = cosmos, whole world, and polis = citizen, people, such that one is considered not simply as a citizen of a particular nation state but as a global citizen, a "citizen of the world.") The key point of Dower's talk was that there is a global dimension in most of the ways we talk about sustainability, even if it is usually working only in the background of our research as an orientational concept. Smaller projects, such as sustainable forestry, sustainable development, and sustainable tourism, already contain a more global, more cosmopolitan consideration of sustainability for the planet and all those who live on it. His thesis, then, is that sustainability requires cosmopolitanism as a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition. Cosmopolitanism is an ethically adequate basis for sustainability.

Nominees sought for the Rock Ethics Institute’s 2016 Stand Up awards

by rjp218 Nov 09, 2015
2015 Stand Up Graphic The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State announces a call for nominations for its ninth annual Stand Up Awards in recognition of undergraduate students at the University’s campuses who have demonstrated ethical leadership in taking a stand for a person, cause or belief. The goal of the award is to recognize courageous individuals and to inform the entire Penn State community about how often the extraordinary act is possible in ordinary circumstances.

On The Moral Imperatives Of Speaking Publicly About the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change-And How It Must Be Done.

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
One of the great privileges of writing ClimateEthics is that it exposes the writer to the good, bad, and ugly of climate change arguments being made around the world. Actually quite frequently we receive thoughtful comments that force us to go a little deeper and in some cases correct mistakes or correct reasonable misinterpretations. Often we get inspiring comments.

Owning Ideas: How Can You Own a Gene?

by khepler Apr 07, 2015
Contributors: Bryan Cwik
What do Angelina Jolie, Breast Cancer Screening, and the Myriad Genetics Case Have in Common?

Penn State aiming for Zero Carbon Emissions

by khepler Mar 31, 2015
Contributors: Brockopp
Tree Penn State already boasts world-class researchers on climate change, but can we also become a leader in reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions? How can Penn State best prepare our students to face the challenges ahead of them? These were the questions posed to seventy-five participants at the Penn State Getting to Zero conference held at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on April 11, 2014.

Penn State welcomes three new ethics core faculty members

by rjp218 Sep 13, 2016
From left to right: Joshua F.J. Inwood, associate professor of geography; C. Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of psychology; Alan R. Wagner, assistant professor of aerospace engineering The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State welcomes three new core faculty members in ethical research: C. Daryl Cameron (Psychology), Joshua F.J. Inwood (Geography), and Alan R. Wagner (Aerospace Engineering). These faculty members will help strengthen an interdisciplinary community of scholars and educators from across the University and they are committed to enhancing Penn State’s curriculum and research expertise in ethics.

Racial Jokes and Racist Jokes

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015

Reject Over Easy Eggs

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
Announcement of voluntary recalls prompted by food safety concerns have become increasingly familiar. In 2006, there were E. coli O157 infections from fresh spinach. In 2007, contamination of pet food by melamine sickened or killed an unknown number of pets and animals and presaged a much larger issue with melamine contamination of milk that impacted China and other countries in 2008. Then there was the outbreak of salmonella infections associated with peanut butter in 2008-2009.

Roadmap for a New Vision

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015

Rock affiliate faculty member to serve as a visiting scholar for NEH Summer Institute

by rjp218 Jan 24, 2017
Sarah Clark Miller 2017 headshot Sarah Clark Miller, associate professor of philosophy and women's, gender, and sexuality studies, and Rock affiliate faculty member, will serve as a visiting scholar for “Diverse Philosophical Approaches to Sexual Violence,” a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute to be held at Elon University June 18-30, 2017.

Rock Ethics Institute names new director

by rjp218 May 10, 2016
Ted Toadvine headshot Ted Toadvine, professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Oregon, has been named director of the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State. Toadvine’s tenure as director will begin in January 2017.

Should we care about how nature is thought of in other cultures?

by rjp218 Aug 26, 2016
Brett Davis Headshot Yes, and for several reasons. To begin with it is important to recognize that while we share the earth, ocean waters, and atmosphere with the rest of humanity, and while societies around the globe must cooperate in order to effectively respond to the dangers and even existential threat of climate change, our different cultures have conditioned us to experience natural phenomena and to understand the relation between humans and (the rest of) nature in different ways. Our artistic, scientific, philosophical, and religious traditions shape the ways in which we conceive of and perceive nature.


by SKeira Apr 15, 2015

Taking out the Trash

by khepler Apr 07, 2015
Contributors: Jameliah Inga Shorter
( The aim of this blog series is to reflect on sustainable living practices that will inspire change in us.

TEDx Talk w/Jonathan Marks: Governments should fight corporations, not collaborate with them

by rjp218 Apr 11, 2017
Conflict is bad; compromise, consensus and collaboration are good — or so we're told. Lawyer and bioethicist Jonathan Marks challenges this conventional wisdom, showing how governments can jeopardize public health, human rights and the environment when they partner with industry. An important, timely reminder that common good and common ground are not the same thing.

The Death of Rails-to-Trails? A Land Ethic Look at Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust vs. United States

by khepler Jul 16, 2015
Contributors: Stephanie E. Vasko If you’re a State College runner, chances are that you’ve taken advantage of the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail, which connects the Penn State arboretum to the Toftrees area trails.

The US Academy of Sciences' Reports On Climate Change and The US Moral Climate Change Failure.

by SKeira Jul 21, 2015
Earlier this month, the United States Academy of Science issued its most recent report on the science of climate change that once again concluded that human-induced climate change was a very serious threat to humans and ecological systems around the world. This Report was entitled "America's Climate Choices 2011" (US Academy, 2011) Among other conclusions, this report found:

The Worst Ethical Scandal In the US Congress: Climate Change?

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015
Although the US media has recently paid attention to the comparatively minor ethical stories unfolding in the US House of Representatives, there is not a peep in the US media about a much more momentous unfolding ethical failure in the US Senate. While many press stories have appeared in the past few week about potential ethical problems of Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters in the House, ethical lapses that harm society because public servants may have abused their power in ways that enrich themselves or their families, the US Senate ethical failure is more ethically reprehensible because it is depriving tens of millions of people around the world of life itself or the natural resources necessary to sustain life. The failure in the US Senate to enact legislation to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions is a moral lapse of epic proportions. Yet it is not discussed this way.

Two Penn State Researchers named Rock Ethics Institute Faculty Fellows

by rjp218 Apr 07, 2017
Gary Adler, Jeff Catchmark, Martin Pietrucha, Rose Jolly, Amit Sharma The faculty fellows, Gary John Adler, Jr. and Martin T. Pietrucha, will help integrate curricular and research projects to advance the Rock Ethics Institute’s goal of integrating ethics throughout the Penn State curriculum.

Undergraduates honored with Rock Ethics Institute 2016 Stand Up Award

by rjp218 Apr 20, 2016
Heidi Lynne Photography Alanna Kaiser, 2016 Stand Up Awardee in AfricaNathan Larkin, 2016 Stand Up HonoreeJaden Rankin-Wahlers Stand Up honoree Penn State students Alanna Kaiser, Nathan Larkin, and Jaden Rankin-Wahlers are being honored respectively for their work in social & environmental justice; organizing efforts to address climate change; and combatting stigmas associated with poverty and homelessness.

Undergraduates honored with Rock Ethics Institute 2017 Stand Up Award

by rjp218 May 17, 2017
2017 Penn State Stand Up student awardees, from left to right, Hayly Hoch, Alexis Scott and Brian Davis.Image: Heidi Lynne PhotographyPenn State student Brian Davis speaking at a campus rally he organized about the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting.  Penn State student Hayly Hoch on the Penn State Student Farm.mage: Gabrielle ManninoPenn State student Alexis Scott, with the Queer & Transgender People of Color student group, during Pride Week. The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State recently celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Stand Up Award by honoring Brian Anthony Davis, Hayly Hoch, and Alexis Scott. This award is presented to Penn State Undergraduate students who have demonstrated courage, fortitude, and ethical leadership by taking a stand for a person, a cause, or a belief.

Welcome Message from the Interim Director

by rjp218 Sep 13, 2016
Eduardo Mendieta headshot It is my pleasure to welcome you back to another exciting year at the Rock Ethics Institute. This coming year promises to be a busy but also a creative and hope inspiring one for all of us at the Rock and the University Community in general.

What are Our Food Values?

by SKeira Apr 15, 2015
On September 26th, the Rock Fellows Seminar discussed the essay "What Food is "Good" for You? Toward a Pragmatic Consideration of Multiple Values Domains" by Donald Thompson and Bryan McDonald. The goal of this paper, as articulated by its authors, is to lay out our food values without taking a normative stance, to map out the various ways (in three value domains) that we think about food and goodness to encourage self reflection and open areas for research and policy needs. The role of self-reflection, as a key means of spurring decisions about food, was a main point of discussion during the seminar.

What is Ethics?

by rjp218 Sep 24, 2015
Contributors: Michael D. Burroughs
How can you move from ethical awareness to ethical action? The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State can help guide you and give you some tools to help in both your professional and personal lives.

What We Can Learn From a Kosher Slaughterhouse

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
Now, I know next to nothing about Judaism or even what the word kosher means. Some cursory research on the internet led me to Judaism 101: Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws. There I learned that kosher in fact does NOT mean a rabbi blesses food, but in fact IS a set of rules about what foods should and should not be eaten as well as how these foods should be kept and prepared. After reading through the site and seeing the lists and rules explained, I thought I would at least be prepared enough to go to Popper's talk and sort of understand it on an elementary level. Honestly, though, I was a little worried it would all be over my head

Where the Rhetoric Hits the Road

by SKeira Jul 22, 2015
Like many of you, I've been following discussions of Gov. Corbett's proposed budget cuts fairly closely over the last week. My focus has been on trying to understand the line of reasoning that leads us from a claim around which there is general consensus ('Pennsylvania is in financial trouble') to a claim that is highly controversial ('The proper response to this trouble involves cutting the appropriation to Penn State by roughly 52%'). I am well aware that in admitting that, despite the effort I have put in, I still haven't grasped the connection between these claims, I run the risk of coming off as politically and economically naive. That's a risk I am willing to take, however, because I think the obstacles I have encountered in my attempts might deserve a bit more attention than they are currently getting.