Saturday, 31 March 2012

A minor ethical dilemma: Copying music

Out of the three quandaries I'll have blogged about, this is probably the most widespread. I'm not talking about photocopying the score of Fly Me to the Moon, but rather copying digital music files - ripping tracks off a friend's CD, emailing favourite tunes around, or bluetoothing them perhaps? Although CD drives, email and Bluetooth are relatively new ideas, taking a copy of music you haven't paid for is not. I don't know how popular bootleg cassettes were decades ago, but these days copying music is, to a large extent, a socially acceptable practice.

Here's a list of activities that record companies despise:
1) Loaning a CD to a friend (most DVDs show a warning that states unauthorised loaning is prohibited, I'm guessing it's the same with CDs).
3) Making a mix tape/compilation and giving it to a friend.
2) Borrowing a CD and ripping a few favourite tracks.
3) Borrowing a CD and ripping it in its entirety.
4) Regularly downloading music illegally.
5) Downloading or copying music illegally, making more copies and distributing them.

So where are you on this list?

Wherever you are, there will probably be a justification for it. There are a lot of arguments going around these days as to why the above activities are actually good to do, such as...
- Record companies are evil and need to be taught a lesson.
- Music should be like, totally free, man.
- If I have bought a CD I can do what I jolly well like with it.
- Lending CDs, making mix tapes etc. actually promotes the music and helps the label.
- Everyone does it.

On this issue, unlike the previous posts, I can't really claim to be the epitome of integrity. However, my opinions have changed over the last few years, and I have two general principles that I think are good to apply.

Firstly, I think that people who work to produce music have a right to be paid for what they have produced.

Secondly, if I enjoy an album enough to want to own it, I should be expected to pay for it.

I'm thinking about even generaller general principles that could cover all of these minor ethical dilemmas, and they will emerge in my next post.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A minor ethical dilemma: Free refills

A number of restaurant chains charge patrons an unreasonably high price for drinks, on the basis that they can drink as much as they want. Of course, very few people will actually have more than one refill, and no one will ever drink enough to claim it was "good value for money" (if you're really thirsty you might just be able to manage 15 glasses of Pepsi).

The obvious solution for the shrewd customer is to pay for one drink which everyone on the table shares. Everyone drinks as much as they want, and you only pay for one glass of 7-Up!

But, as you might have guessed from the post title, there is a wee dilemma here. Is it really a noble thing to play Robin Hood - pinching what you can from Nando's coffers in order to feed your impoverished friends? But then, when the restaurant's prices amount to daylight robbery, what's wrong with exploiting a little loophole?

What would you do?

I get very uncomfortable in situations where I feel I'm breaking some kind of law, whether written or implied. It's almost like being at school - I'd be thinking "what if the manager comes out and tells me off?" That and the inconvenience of sharing one drink between a group would definitely put me off the idea.

Beyond feeling uncomfortable and inconvenienced though, I wonder whether the principles of honesty and integrity totally preclude any behaviour of this kind. I've got one more case study up my sleeve and then I'll discuss the issues a bit further.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A minor ethical dilemma: Bus tickets

Last Friday I was standing at the bus stop waiting for the number 25 to take me into town. As I was standing there a man called to me across the street, "do you want a day saver mate?" The man was kindly offering me his used ticket, which (being still valid for the rest of the day) would give me free journeys into town and back. I took the ticket, thanked the man, and started thinking about how good it was that you can still count on the kindness of strangers.

My thoughts soon moved on, however, to the ticket that was now sitting in my back pocket. Would it be dishonest of me to use it? Would it be unfair? Would it constitute theft?

What would you do?

Well, here's what happened. To the left is a picture of the actual ticket I was given. You might be able to see that it says "jrny: 20" somewhere near the top. That means that the guy originally bought the ticket on a number 20 bus. I started thinking about the remote possibility of getting caught out: what if the bus driver asked me where I had bought this ticket - could I remember which route the number 20 bus took? Was it Radbrook?

Then I realised I was trying to work out the most effective lies that could get me out of that unlikely, but sticky, situation.

A lot of people work like this: get what you can for as little as possible, and if that puts you in a spot, lie your way out of it.

I figured that is more of a worldly mindset than a godly one. So I paid for my tickets.

Monday, 12 March 2012

A response to euthanansia stories

One of the most-read posts on my blog is "7 reasons why I'm against euthanasia". This makes me slightly nervous, as I wonder whether any of the things I wrote will be seen as insensitive and ignorant, and indeed whether I myself will come to disagree with any points made previously.

What also worries me is that there is a propensity among religious people (including myself sadly) to jump headlong into any debate with their opinion of what's right and wrong. When it comes to euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage or whatever the first question we want to ask is "are you for or against?", which can be summarised in various ways: "are you right or wrong?" and "are you on my side or on their side?" being two prime examples.

As Adlai Stevenson shrewdly observed, some people approach every problem with an open mouth.

The tragedy then, is that when we hear another news story about someone with a debilitating illness asking for the right to have their life ended we call it a story about euthanasia, and we pronounce our judgement. To some people, though, this is not a story about euthanasia, it's a story about Tony Nicklinson. He is a real person (not a 'case') who is suffering, and who needs compassion more than he needs to hear seven reasons why I disagree with euthanasia.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Christianity's influence on a nation's morality

A while back I started reading Dawkins' The God Delusion but I have to admit that I gave up on it before I got to the section on morality. Nevertheless, I understand that when Christians and atheists talk about morals they are pretty much talking about two different things.

The Christian says, "Morality is the definition of what human behaviour is 'right' and 'wrong', as defined by God Himself. God sets the standard of moral perfection, and is the judge of good and evil."

The atheist says, "Morality is a system that humans have evolved in order to help societies function smoothly. There is no absolute good and evil, only relative concepts of right and wrong that constantly shift as a culture develops."

this fantastic screen shot is from
I have previously blogged about the implications of those definitions.

The issue seems very prevalent at the moment, what with the row over gay marriage, the proposal of "after-birth abortion" and the ongoing outcry over the greed epidemic amongst MPs, bankers and the like.

Do you think moral standards in your country are in decline?

(Incidentally, if you think morals can be said to 'decline' at all then you're a moral absolutist, right? Which means you probably believe in God, yeah?)

So what is it that causes shifts in the moral fabric of a culture?
And how can a moral decline be reversed?

I don't claim to have all the answers, but, well, I've got a few largish ones. Namely, that an increase in Christianity is always good for overall morality, and actually the only way of restoring broken morals is an increase in Christianity. Conversely, a decrease in Christianity is always bad for overall morality. This is not because religious people are better people, it's because Jesus is the light of the world.

So we can petition and campaign like William Wilberforce. We can lobby and protest. We can speak up on behalf of the church, and pray for her voice to be heard. We can plead with the government to listen to bishops, arch-bishops and cardinals. But we'll only pull out of a moral decline when people start repenting and believing the gospel.

I'mma finish with a quote from everyone's favourite pastor.

“See, after church tonight you will go home and you will eat chicken, not human, because of the spread of Christianity. You think I’m kidding, go to a country that hasn’t had the spread of Christianity. They’re having human for dinner.” 

Friday, 2 March 2012

After-birth abortion

Last week I read this article about two Catholic midwives who lost their case to not be involved in abortion procedures. Apparently being a conscientious objector will get you off the front line, but you might still have to make bombs.

But a much bigger volcano just erupted, namely the propsal of medical ethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva that parents should be given the option to have their newborn babies killed under certain circumstances (the same circumstances that apply to abortions).

Naturally, this has stirred up some intense reactions. Adrian Warnock suggests (or rather, agrees with the Daily Mail) that their argument actually undermines the case for abortion. I disagree, and here's why...

The proposal put forward by Giubilini and Minerva is, in fact, the absolutely logical next step from abortion. I firmly believe that anyone who holds that abortion is morally acceptable must either agree with them, or be guilty of double-standards.

What is the difference between an unborn baby and a newborn baby? It might immediately seem like a vast difference, but as these academics point out, neither have a sense of their own existence. So why would a person who is pro-abortion be opposed to "after-birth abortion"? Whatever their objections are, they are not logical because when you believe it is acceptable to kill an unborn baby because it is not really a person then you must also agree that it is acceptable to kill a newborn baby.

It's utterly appalling, and we need to be prepared for the following shift. One of two things will happen:
1) People will see the logical connection between abortion and "after-birth abortion" and agree to accept both.
2) People will se the logical connection between abortion and "after-birth abortion" and decide to reject both.

Lets pray that its the latter.

And also please read this.