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Ethical Brain: Chapter 4 
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Post Ethical Brain: Chapter 4
This thread is for discussing Ch. 4 - Training the Brain. You can post within this framework or create your own threads. ::191

Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 11/1/05 12:29 am



Fri Sep 30, 2005 3:40 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Training the Brain
"The Ethical Brain", Chapter 4

I'm not terribly impressed with the discussion in this chapter. As Gazzaniga anticipates, I tend to think that the ethical issues involved are somewhat peripheral. I can't help but wonder if Gazzaniga's "gut reaction" isn't more aesthetic than ethical -- would he rather see unmodified performers and players because enhancement is wrong or because it's simply less appealing? To me, aesthetics seems to be the clear winner. If so, then one of the difficulties of identifying the source of a "universal ethic" in the brain will be distinguishing it from the aesthetic, and that's going to be particularly difficult if the scientists exploring neuroethics don't make hard and fast distinctions when examining social situations like these. The ethical issues that I see related to the topics in this chapter are more about the dangers of enhancement to individual performers -- is the excitement of greater and greater extremes in sports and arts worth the potential costs of greater exposure to personal injury or the possible transformation of what it means to be human? That's something Gazzaniga hardly touches upon here -- save for a few strange suggestions that professional atheletes are "almost freaks" (p. 62) -- and what's left hardly seems a matter of ethics at all.




Wed Oct 12, 2005 2:25 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Training the Brain
Mad says,"The ethical issues that I see related to the topics in this chapter are more about the dangers of enhancement to individual performers -- is the excitement of greater and greater extremes in sports and arts worth the potential costs of greater exposure to personal injury or the possible transformation of what it means to be human?" That is a valid concern. I am sure that there would be more injuries, if more people would be able to pursue sports to the limits of human abilities.
Mad also wonders, "would he[Gazzaniga]rather see unmodified performers and players because enhancement is wrong or because it's simply less appealing?" I think that Gazzaniga voices a concern on p 64 when he says, "These[brain enhancements]would be advantages in a social context, in a competitive environment that affects not only an individual's self-image but also the self-image and goals of others. It goes beyond the use and/or misuse of substances by an individual. What Johnny does impacts my social contract with the group of performing athletes and musicians". I understand this to mean that Gazzaniga would be concerned about modifications because of advantages gained by those with enhancements. As I said in the steroid thread, I only think such advantages would be unfair and unethical if a rule or law is in place prohibiting such enhancements. One would be breaking a social contract with one's competition if one decided to use illegal enhancements. If this is the situation Gazzaniga is presenting, then I agree with him. However, if such enhancements are allowed, then I wouldn't share Gazzaniga's concern. I'd be more concerned with what Mad mentioned.

Edited by: tarav at: 10/19/05 7:17 pm



Wed Oct 19, 2005 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Training the Brain
tarav: I am sure that there would be more injuries, if more people would be able to pursue sports to the limits of human abilities.

As I understand it, a fairly significant proportion of the sports related injuries that you see these days are the result of what you might call "performing beyond capacity." Mark McGuire, for instance, sits out a fair part of any given baseball season due to pulled or strained muscles. And it's a fair bet that those injuries, which are essentially self-inflicted, have something to do with his use of anabolic steroids. (You guys will have to pardon me a little if my information is outdated or incorrect -- I'm going from memory, and I'm not exactly an avid spectator.)

That said, I'm not sure that this is really a matter for regulation, unless it can be demonstrated that chemically revved up athletes and performers are more likely to injur others. Assuming that's not the case -- which is not a given -- the ethical consideration must take place on a fairly individual level. That is, athletes have to ask themselves what their careers are worth to them. The effect that it has on the game itself does not strike me as an ethical matter.

I think that Gazzaniga voices a concern on p 64 when he says, "These[brain enhancements]would be advantages in a social context, in a competitive environment that affects not only an individual's self-image but also the self-image and goals of others. It goes beyond the use and/or misuse of substances by an individual. What Johnny does impacts my social contract with the group of performing athletes and musicians".

Yeah, this is potentially tricky territory. Because I do see the rudiments of a fairly good argument so long as you're talking about chemical enhancement in the broader social sphere. Once people start using steroid like substances to compete in the normal job force, say, or to amplified their bodies in personal encounters (self-defense, for instance) then I see the potential for serious social schisms. But as I've said in another thread, sports and the arts strike me as fairly closed systems -- what happens in a sports arena has a very limited impact on the major events of outside life. And I'm not terribly impressed by the argument that says it's unethical to chemically alter one's performance simply because I, as a spectator, expect to see an unenhanced performance. If they performers or athletes are making specific claims about whether or not they're using chemical modifiers, that's certainly an ethical issue -- but it's the statement that's in question, not the substance.

There is a point at which the whole issue becomes fuzzy, though, and the reason is that athletes are citizens, too. So all of the long-term effects that could potentially alter the balance society remain even when the player is off the field. But the question there is whether or not society as a whole should allow modification -- I think there are good reasons against -- and not that of whether or not sports should allow it.




Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:52 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Training the Brain
Mad: not to get off too far on the steroids thing, but I think the problem is that POTENTIAL athletes start using the stuff thinking that it will give them an edge, without knowledge or care as to long term effects. We've seen a number of steriod abusers in sports die at an early age. How many more are there that used the drugs and died early, without even the 15 minutes of fame?

Additionally, I think many would like to have the fantasy that they could play the game, that the players are 'just like' you and me. However, if the player is juiced, the player is not like us (of course, the player is not like us anyway, they work out more, are in better shape, have better eyesight, etc, etc, etc.)




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Post Re: Ethical Brain: Chapter 4
i really found the chicken and egg discussion around practice interesting.

Personally, I tried to play the guitar starting around 4th grade. I was terrible at it. I just could not finger the frets. I did practice, a lot (or at least I remember that I did), but didn't really get better. I just didn't have any skill.

It seems to me that you need at least some skill, and then practice to make yourself a lot better. Finally, you need the drive to get better and do the practice. These things all seem to need to be working together to make a Michael Jordan.




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Post Re: Ethical Brain: Chapter 4
Ginof, I agree that in practical terms the concern with performance enhancing drugs should currently fall on the physical side-effects. Premature death is, of course, a huge concern. With that, I'd also include the ease with which juiced athletes tend to injur themselves. I didn't mean to ignore those aspects of the issue, but as I understood him, Gazzaniga seemed to be assuming a hypothetical situation in which safe drugs were being used.




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Post Re: Ethical Brain: Chapter 4
I am a reader who is quite concerned with the issue of authenticity. Perhaps, some might say that my thinking is ideal; however, I would like to believe that the playing field should be as equal as possible. The idea of using enhancers goes much further than aesthetics. The human experience in its purest form is what I consider an undeniable opportunity. Therefore, I completely agree with the statement on page 56 that states, “For one member of the social group to arrive with a stacked deck is inherently disruptive to the process and undercuts the whole point of the activity.” As Gazzaniga mentions, the rules should be the same for all competitors. Otherwise, the people who take enhancers are deemed cheaters.


For example, Marion Jones, is a former world champion track and field athlete who admitted to taking steroids. She returned all medals, points and prizes and spent six months in jail in 2008 after lying to federal agents during an investigation. Because I was an admirer and fan of Jones, it was difficult to see her go. What she did was completely unethical. Fortunately, she admits to having learned her lesson. Hopefully, she will do well as the returns to sports as the newest member of the WNBA team the Tulsa Shock.


How would Gazzaniga respond to this in reference to genetics? Jones is now 34 years old and had not played competitive basketball for 13 years. Even if she once dazzled as a teen point guard and even as a chemically enhanced world record holding sprinter three years ago; how would her genes hold up to the pressure of great expectations? I guess we will have to see how this season finishes, so far her team has not done so well with only 3 wins and 8 loses.



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