Oct 17, 2011

Unjustness of death penalty underlined again

Three significant events relating to the death penalty occurred in the United States during September. The one that gained the most publicity was the execution in Georgia of Troy Davis, who had been convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark McPhail, an off-duty police ...

Aug 13, 2011

Toward a planet safe for great apes

Two new movies released this month — one a science-fiction blockbuster, the other a revealing documentary — raise the issue of our relations with our closest nonhuman relatives, the great apes. Both dramatize insights and lessons that should not be ignored. Rupert Wyatt’s “Rise ...

Jul 20, 2011

Gauging moral progress by animal welfare

Mahatma Gandhi acutely observed that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” To seek to reduce the suffering of those who are completely under one’s domination, and unable to fight back, is ...

Jun 20, 2011

Objective defense of why some things matter

Can moral judgments be true or false? Or is ethics, at bottom, a purely subjective matter, for individuals to choose, or perhaps relative to the culture of the society in which one lives? We might have just found out the answer. Among philosophers, the ...

May 16, 2011

When prevention is more effective than relief

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March, Brian Tucker was in Padang, Indonesia. Tucker was working with a colleague to design a refuge that could save thousands of lives if — or rather, when — a tsunami like the one in 1797 ...

Apr 16, 2011

The enemies of a digital universal library

Scholars have long dreamed of a universal library containing everything that has ever been written. Then, in 2004, Google announced that it would begin digitally scanning all the books held by five major research libraries. Suddenly, the library of utopia seemed within reach. Indeed, ...

Mar 4, 2011

Justifying an intervention in Libya for justice' sake

MELBOURNE — The world has watched in horror as Libya’s Colonel Moammar Gadhafi uses his military to attack protesters opposed to his rule, killing hundreds or possibly thousands of unarmed civilians. Many of his own men have refused to fire on their own people, ...

Feb 16, 2011

The world needs more elephant mothers

MELBOURNE — Many years ago, my wife and I were driving somewhere with our three young daughters in the back, when one of them suddenly asked: “Would you rather that we were clever or that we were happy?” I was reminded of that moment ...

Jan 6, 2011

Penalties pay off for New Year's resolutions

MELBOURNE — Sometimes we know the best thing to do, but fail to do it. New Year’s resolutions are often like that. We make resolutions because we know that it would be better for us to lose weight, or get fit, or spend more ...

Dec 16, 2010

Is open diplomacy possible or even desirable?

PRINCETON, New Jersey — When the furor erupted over WikiLeaks’ recent release of a quarter-million diplomatic cables, I was reminded of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s 1918 speech in which he put forward “Fourteen Points” for a just peace to end World War I. The ...