"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Situational Ethics

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Two stories in today’s Edmonton Sun caught my attention.

The first is Peter Worthington’s call to caution concerning the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, “World inaction on Iranian nukes may force Israel’s hand” Worthington correctly identifies this as one of the largest threats in the world today, and Israel’s likely first-strike decision if real action is not taken by the world.

I’m often amazed at the ability of “rational” people to critique Israel in these situations. If Israel does act pre-emptively, there will be no end of outrage in western media on their unnecessary use of violence. I find this almost unintelligible.

As Worthington points out, Israel is a nation that is particularly susceptible to nuclear strike, certainly as compared to Iran, a much larger state geographically. If a device could be delivered to a centre of population, the result would be catastrophic.

It also ignores the right of any nation to ensure the safety and security of its citizens against attack. The intense bias of western media comes clear when you consider recent reporting on an Israeli air strike – there is little mention of the 100’s of rockets that have been launched against Israel, but much mention of the injuries caused by the air strike. Some of the reports even neglect to mention that some of the “civilian” deaths were those launching the rockets (not civilian by any interpretation of the law of war).

Add to this the frequent, public declarations from the President of Iran that his goal is the destruction of the state of Israel, you can understand why they’re getting a little nervous.

The bias that allows otherwise reasonable people to suspend their reason and come to outrageous and illogical conclusions came through clearly in a second article.

In “Climate expert’s pants on fire”, Lorrie Goldstein describes how climate scientist Peter Gleick lied about his identity in order to obtain documents from an anti-climate change agency. What struck me in the article was this description,

Gleick apologized for what he called “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics.”

But he’s also defended his actions by arguing he was driven to them by well-funded, co-ordinated and often anonymous attacks on climate science. He’s also thanked supporters in the ensuing controversy for their support, so his apology is a qualified one.

That rationalization is pure situational ethics, or if you prefer, an end-justifies-the-means argument. The anti-climate change organization needed to be stopped; therefore, falsifing my identity was justified.

That type of thinking is highly ethically suspect, and would cause me to re-examine all of that scientist’s past published work…it is too easy to supress important evidence in order to preserve a stronger conclusion, after all, the earth is at stake. How that type of reasoning leads to destruction, consider the case of Sally Clark and how suppressed medical evidence led to a false conviction for the murder of her two children (I came across this reading about the use of probabilities to establish causation-in-fact).

If the parallel there escapes you, the ethical suspension that underlies both situations is identical. We know A to be true, therefore it is acceptable to do B, even though we know it to be improper behaviour. In the case of Israel, it seems to be better for them to be nuked, than to claim a right of self-defence, something we would never permit if it was our country involved.

That’s the same reasoning that the US uses to support torture of terrorist prisoners in Gitmo…after all, the careful use of torture may save American lives.

On the Israel-Iran issue, I would expect to see a dramatic attack carried out in the next few months, unless the world takes equally dramatic steps to stop the production of a nuclear device by Iran.


Written by sameo416

March 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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