August 10th, 2019


The Bioethics Gap

So I'm researching bioethics for a poem about Stylet.  I just stumbled across this page which points out that local-America offers college degrees in bioethics but there are few paying jobs  in the field.  What the actual fuck?  O_O  Well no wonder we have a tangled mess of public policy and bitter arguments.  The people trained to deal with these issues are expected to do it for free.  That abuses them, and also undermines their authority.  It also means that a lot of the work gets done by people with no special training in how to examine, discuss, and decide these issues -- because somebody's too cheapass to hire an expert for trivial topics like whether it's okay to gengineer a wind-pollinated plant or take biometric data by force.

I find it ironic because I grew up with bioethics.  Remember I've been raised by two teachers, one a scientist and one a historian.  So we talked about the pros and cons of buying hybrid or heirloom garden seeds, the problems with factory farms, genocide as a public policy, and so on.  I rarely have difficulty framing a new issue, and I'm often frustrated when the people in power don't seem to understand what they're even talking about let alone how to make an ethical decision.  :/  

Meanwhile over in Terramagne, this is a normal job.  Every hospital, research lab, etc. has a bioethics board.  The members are usually a mix of topical experts (e.g. a zoologist and a biochemist) and context experts (e.g. a bioethicist and a legal advisor).  This allows them to cover issues from a wide range of perspectives.  Other bioethicists are basically communicators.  They may work for a TV station, newspaper, church, research project, etc. and their job is to tell people what's going on and/or lead discussions about it.

On the citizen side, you can find introductory classes in general ethics and bioethics, along with "issue" or "dilemma" labs, at community centers and other locations.  Some hospitals and mental clinics offer these too.  They may use historic examples (like eugenics in World War II), contemporary examples (often in news articles), or a mix of the two.  This gives people a chance to learn about current issues, discuss them in reasoned tones, and develop a personal stance.  Not everybody chooses to do this, but if you throw a hot topic into a mixed crowd, chances are somebody  has taken a summer class in bioethics for the fun of it and can set up a decent debate.

So if you work in a field that needs to consider the effects of your activity on lifeforms, consider paying an expert.  Even if you don't need a whole extra person, and it's just an employee who put in the effort to earn a certificate, at least you've got an Ask John for it.  That can save a lot of trouble, and sometimes money too.

Poem: "From Magic to Manifestation"

This poem came out of the August 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "change" square in my 8-2-19 card for the End of Summer Bingo fest.

"From Magic to Manifestation"

At first each idea
seems impossible, then
someone figures out
a way to do it.

Technology is
an inexorable march
from magic to manifestation.

Television sends entertainment
to living rooms around the world.

A remote control garage door opener --
or any remote -- is basically a magic wand.

Microwave ovens cook food in an instant.

Cellphones let people walk and talk
at the same time, without a cord.

Wi-fi links distant devices together.

Videochats like Skype and Facetime
add visual imagery to voices.

It's even hard for fiction
to keep ahead of science
when new exoplanets are
discovered all the time.

And that's why
I don't believe in
"the impossible."

Everything is possible,
even if we don't know
how to do it yet.