Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Scientists, like all other men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit, ... sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone, in their love for technique, to lose sight of broad principles outside of their domain of thought

Statement by Pennsylvania Gov Samuel W Pennypacker, 1905. https://junkscience.com/2018/05/on-the-need-to-restrain-scientists/

I return herewith, without my approval Senate Bill No. 35, entitled “An Act for the prevention of idiocy.”

This bill has what may be called with propriety an attractive title. If idiocy could be prevented by an act of assembly, we may be quite sure that such an act would have long been passed and approved in this state, and that such laws would have been enacted in all civilized countries.

The subject of the act is not the prevention of idiocy, but it is to provide that in every institution in the state, entrusted with the care of idiots and imbecile children, a neurologist, a surgeon, and physician shall be authorized to perform an operation upon the inmates “for the prevention of procreation.”

What is the nature of the operation is not described but it is such an operation as they shall decide to be “safest and most effective.” It is plain that the safest and most effective preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off the inmates, and such authority is given by the bill to this staff of scientific experts. It is not probable that they would resort to this means for the prevention of procreation, but it is probable that they would endeavor to destroy some part of the human organism.

Scientists, like all other men whose experiences have been limited to one pursuit, and whose minds have been developed in a particular direction, sometimes need to be restrained. Men of high scientific attainments are prone, in their love for technique, to lose sight of broad principles outside of their domain of thought.
A surgeon may possible be so eager to advance in skill as to be forgetful of the danger to his patient. Anatomists may be willing to gather information by the infliction of pain and suffering upon helpless creatures, although a higher standard of conduct would teach them that it is far better for humanity to bear its own ills than to escape them by knowledge only secured through cruelty to other creatures.

This bill, whatever good might possibly result from it if its provisions should become a law, violates the principles of ethics.

These feeble-minded and imbecile children have been entrusted to the institutions by their parents or guardians for the purpose of training and instruction. It is proposed to experiment upon them, not for their instruction, but in order to help society in the future. It is to be done without their consent, which they cannot give, and without the consent of their parents or guardians, who are responsible for their welfare. It would be in contravention of the laws which have been enacted for the establishment of these institutions. These laws have in contemplation the training and the instruction of the children.

This bill assumes that they cannot be so instructed and trained. Moreover, the course it is proposed to pursue would have a tendency to prevent such training and instruction. Everyone knows, whether he be a scientist or an ordinary observer, that to destroy virility is to lessen the capacity, the energy and the spirit which lead to effort. The bill is, furthermore, illogical in its thought.

Idiocy will not be prevented by the prevention of procreation among these inmates. This mental condition is due to causes many of which are entirely beyond our knowledge. It existed long before there were ever such inmates of such institutions.

If this plan is to be adopted, to make it effective it should be carried into operation in the world at large, and not in institutions where the inmates are watched by nurses, kept separate, and have all the care which is likely to rendered procreation there very rare, if not altogether impossible.

In one of these institutions, I am reliably informed, there have only been three births in ten years. A great objection is that the bill would encourage experimentation upon living animals, and would be the beginning of experimentation upon living human beings, leading logically to results which can be readily forecasted.

The chief physician, in charge at Elwyn, has candidly told us, in an article recently published upon “Heredity,” that “Studies in heredity tend to emphasize the wisdom of those ancient peoples who taught that the healthful development of the individual and the elimination of the weakling was the truest patriotism — springing from an abiding sense of the fulfillment of a duty to the state.”

To permit such an operation would be to inflict cruelty upon a helpless class in the community which the state has undertaken to protect. However skillfully performed, it would at times lead to peritonitis, blood poisoning, lockjaw and death.

For these reasons the bill is not approved.

Governor of Pennsylvania

Source: Henry H. Laughlin’s ‘Eugenical sterilization in the United States’ (Chicago: Psychopathic Laboratory of the Municipal Court of Chicago, 1922), on page 3

The Changing Public's Perception of Self-Driving Cars: Results are compared to an equivalent survey from 2014 and the public is less positive about self-driving cars today

The Changing Public's Perception of Self-Driving Cars. Ed Richardson, Philip Davies. May 2018, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.34641.02402

Description: Self-driving cars are now being tested on roads in the UK and the public’s perception will become a crucial part of determining the role that self-driving cars have in the future. This paper contains survey results of the public and concludes that most people think self-driving cars will reduce the number of accidents on motorways but only a small percentage of people would be interested in owning one. The results are compared to an equivalent survey from 2014 and the data shows that the public is less positive about self-driving cars today.

Check also The Ugly Truth About Ourselves and Our Robot Creations: The Problem of Bias and Social Inequity. Ayanna Howard and Jason Borenstein. Science and Engineering Ethics, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/the-ugly-truth-about-ourselves-and-our.html

And Psychological roadblocks to the adoption of self-driving vehicles. Azim Shariff, Jean-Fran├žois Bonnefon & Iyad Rahwan. Nature Human Behaviour (2017), https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/psychological-roadblocks-to-adoption-of.html

Bitches, Fishes, and Monsters: Prison Slang and Nonhuman Animal Terminology

Bitches, Fishes, and Monsters: Prison Slang and Nonhuman Animal Terminology. Joshua B. Hill and Julie Banks. Society & Animals, DOI: 10.1163/15685306-12341516

Abstract: The adult prison population in the U.S. is one of the most important, marginalized, yet misunderstood groups within the country. Not only is the population larger than those of other industrialized nations, but the prisons themselves also tend to be more punitive in nature. While there have been many proposed reasons for this, ranging from differences in the “American Character” to the increasing severity of mandatory sentencing guidelines, explanations of the American prisoner setting remain thin. One area that has relevance to this topic but in which there has been little research is the language used to describe prisoners. This language is replete with images of nonhuman animals. Examples and explanations of this phenomenon are provided through the inspection of the lexicons and argots (“prison slang”) for animal themes, and implications regarding implicit power relationships and the effects on both prisoners and nonhuman animals stemming from this language are explored.

Keywords: corrections; lexicography; animals; discourse analysis

Allocating under the influence: Effects of alcohol intoxication and social identification on in-group favoritism

Zhou, J., Heim, D., Monk, R., Levy, A., & Pollard, P. (2018). Allocating under the influence: Effects of alcohol intoxication and social identification on in-group favoritism. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 26(3), 268-277. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pha0000186

Abstract: The “social lubrication” function of alcohol during interpersonal interactions is well documented. However, less is known about the effects of alcohol consumption on group-level behavior. Empirical findings from social psychological literature suggest that individuals tend to favor those who are considered as members of their own social group. Not yet evaluated is how alcohol intoxication interacts with this group-level bias. Therefore, the current study examined experimentally the effects of intoxication on group bias. Ninety-four individuals (Mage = 20.18, SD = 2.36, 55 women, 39 men) were randomly assigned to consume an alcoholic (n = 48) or a placebo (n = 46) drink before completing manipulated allocation matrices, a task which measured the distribution of hypothetical monetary awards based on social groups. Results point to an interaction between drink condition and social group identification, whereby identification was significantly associated with in-group favoritism among intoxicated individuals only. Following alcohol consumption, participants with higher identification with their social group were more likely to demonstrate allocation strategies that favored their own group members. However, nonsignificant effects were observed for those in the placebo condition. The findings highlight how alcohol intoxication may facilitate group bias that results from social group identification.

Morality can be influenced by motivational states; authors measured moral disapproval under fasting and satiation and found that hunger reduces moral disapproval of ethical violations

The effect of hunger and satiety in the judgment of ethical violations. Carmelo M. Vicario et al. Brain and Cognition, Volume 125, August 2018, Pages 32–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2018.05.003

•    Morality can be influenced by motivational states.
•    Whether appetite can affect morality is unknown.
•    We measured moral disapproval under fasting and satiation.
•    Hunger reduces moral disapproval of ethical violations.

Abstract: Human history is studded with instances where instinctive motivations take precedence over ethical choices. Nevertheless, the evidence of any linking between motivational states and morality has never been systematically explored. Here we addressed this topic by testing a possible linking between appetite and moral judgment. We compared moral disapproval ratings (MDR) for stories of ethical violations in participants under fasting and after having eaten a snack. Our results show that subjective hunger, measured via self-reported rating, reduces MDR for ethical violations. Moreover, the higher the disgust sensitivity the higher the MDR for ethical violations. This study adds new insights to research on physiological processes influencing morality by showing that appetite affects moral disapproval of ethical violations.

Keywords: Fasting; Snack; Appetite; Disgust sensitivity; Moral disapproval; Ethical violation

More evidence that less is better: Sub-optimal choice in dogs

More evidence that less is better: Sub-optimal choice in dogs. Rebecca J. Chase, David N. George. Learning & Behavior, https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13420-018-0326-1

Abstract: The less-is-better effect is a preference for the lesser of two alternatives sometimes observed when they are evaluated separately. For example, a dinner service of 24 intact pieces might be judged to be more valuable than a 40-piece dinner service containing nine broken pieces. Pattison and Zentall (Animal Cognition, 17: 1019-1022, 2014) reported similar sub-optimal choice behavior in dogs using a simultaneous choice procedure. Given a choice between a single high-value food item (cheese) or an equivalent high-value item plus a lower-value food item (carrot), their dogs chose the individual item. In a subsequent test, the dogs preferred two high-value items to a single high-value item, suggesting that avoidance of multiple items did not cause the sub-optimal choice behavior. In two experiments, we replicated Pattison and Zentall’s procedure while including additional controls. In Experiment 1, habituation of neophobia for multiple items was controlled for by intermixing the two types of test trial within a single experimental session. In Experiment 2, we controlled for avoidance of heterogeneous rewards by including test trials in which a choice was offered between the combination of items and a single low-value item. In both experiments we observed sub-optimal choice behavior which could not be explained by either of these putative mechanisms. Our results, as well as those of Pattison and Zentall, are consistent with the suggestion that dogs’ assessment of the total value of multiple items is based, at least partly, on their average quality.