Sexual Responsibility in the Digital Age

The values which we inherit from our respective cultures shape and mold all aspects of our individual growth, including our biological, spiritual, psychological and socio-cultural growth. As human beings we must make the assumption that since we are sexual creatures our sexuality needs to be viewed in its totality as part of the health and well-being of the individual. For this reason sexual responsibility is an integral part of our development as human beings because it is as important as all the other facets of our health to vigorously maintain our sexual health. Sexual responsibility is a very important part of maintaining healthy relationships and is a life-long process that enhances our ability to make healthy and responsible choices throughout our lives. The physical, emotional and social aspects of sexual development are key in developing sexual responsibility and are critical in creating a society in which individuals understand, honor and ultimately take responsibility for their own sexuality.

Sexuality is a basic and fundamental aspect of humanity and the pursuit of sexual pleasure is natural and desirable. Unfortunately, in the past sexuality has been demonized and the celebrations of healthy sexual desires were repressed and not expressed. But this is a different era, one of unprecedented freedoms in the world and in this environment it is critical that we implement a sexual health approach that helps to promote positive sexual identity and esteem, honest communication and trust between partners. This increases the possibility of having pleasurable, fulfilling and satisfying sexual experiences by taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s sexual choices and their impact on others while optimizing reproductive capacity and choice. It must be facilitated by help at the community level, by access to developmentally appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate sexuality education, clinical and preventative sexual services, respect for individual differences and diversity and a lack of societal prejudice and discrimination.

With that being said, personal sexual responsibility for one’s own sexual pleasure in the end comes down to two things. The first is to “know thyself, and to thyself be true.” The second is that you must speak up! As an adult it is your responsibility to explore your own sexuality, in order to become familiar with yourself as a sexual entity. This does not mean going off on a tangent and participating in sexually irresponsible behavior in order to ‘experiment,’ instead, what it means is that how will you know what pleases you if you refuse to explore different, healthy avenues of research? As an individual, if I am not aware of what does and what does not please me I will not be able to maximize my possibilities of enjoying sexual pleasure. No one but myself, or perhaps a partner with whom I have discussed my sexual desires will ever know what gives me pleasure. Sex is an important, healthy and enjoyable part of any relationship and the fact is if the sex is not good, often this can cause the dissolution of a relationship. This could have been avoided by simply speaking up, because despite what romantics would have us believe, our partners are not telepathic. Without open and honest discussion with one’s partners an individual is doomed to dissatisfaction. Our present society is by no mean prudish, so unlike other eras where talking about sex was taboo, in this era we know that it is a necessary and obligatory part of healthy relationships and it is part of the sexual responsibility of the individual.

In the past, having little or no sexual knowledge contributed to a culture of sexual irresponsibility which unfortunately led and indeed still leads to negative consequences. Today, inadequate sexual knowledge is one of the major reasons we engage in sexual practices without fully understanding the consequences of this behavior and the impact of poor decision-making where sexual matters are concerned. Knowledge alone does not necessarily change risky behaviors, but it can provide the basis for decisions that promise sexual health. STI’s, sexual coercion, shame, discrimination and violence are all consequences of sexual irresponsibility and it is not just the individual who is engaging in such behavior who is affected and damaged but all the various people connected to him or her and ultimately society itself.

At the familial level, parents need to take a much more active role in discussing any and all sexual topics. Most importantly, parents need to be involved in all aspects of their children’s lives, gradually letting the children become responsible for themselves. We cannot depend solely on schools and churches to educate our children about human sexuality. We also need to be a part of the educational process. From these efforts, a new generation of knowledgeable and responsible youths can emerge and this will in time counter the effects of the irresponsible sexual behavior of the few who continue to resist any efforts to change their point of view with regards to responsible sexual behavior.

By valuing our ability to control our own sexual decision making and emphasizing the importance of this to whomever we are addressing, we begin the process of showing them how they can take responsibility for their own behaviors. We need to learn how to control our own sexuality and be able to select a partner who will respect us and help us avoid unwanted sexual outcomes by creating respectful and mutually satisfying relationships that also includes good and healthy sex. Ask them, “Do you recognize your needs and not just your wants? Do you believe in your skills and your worth as an individual?” Answering yes to these questions puts them on the path to healthy relationships which include learning how to compromise with partners and at the same time not ceding all of our control to them. If a person is a sexually responsible individual, no one will be able to try to hijack this responsibility from them, and the fact that a person believes that this is within their purview to do should make a sexually responsible person run for the hills. In the end it comes down to free will; we make our choices and hope that they are the right ones.

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Gender Doom

Gender roles are a set of behavioral and societal norms which are considered appropriate for each sex in a relationship or in a greater sociological perspective. At every step in human history there comes a time when we must reassert our beliefs and test the very foundation on which the pillars of a society are raised. In fact, the roles of the sexes, which in part determine the course of civilization, form an integral part of society. From homoerotic roles of Spartan men in Ancient Greece to successful women in the workplace today, the roles of men and women in society will always be influenced by and also with respect to regional, religious, cultural, historical, living principles, experiences and climate which differ across the globe. Therefore, gender role in society is best defined as the role portrayed by an individual with respect to a combination of factors or any one of them depending on living conditions categorized as roles based on the individuals classification, i.e., male, female or a combination of both and their roles based on the physical character and/or sexual and psychological orientation as result of social bonding or self-preferences

The big questions now are, where are we standing right now in the context of the gender roles and what implications does it have on human existence? The gender of a person reflects the masculine or feminine attributes of an individual with respect to their psychology, biology, and role in in society. A gender role is the responsibility or the way of living of a person in a society with respect to its lifestyle. The traditional roles in society have been shouldered by people based on a faulty premise of the roles inherent to a specific biological orientation. Though the passage of time and the creation of a more “liberal” value system have faded the differences between the male and female form to a large extent, there still remains a large amount of confusion as to what our gender roles truly entail.

Returning to the example of ancient Sparta, in this culture homosexuality was the norm; in fact men who did not engage in erotic relationships with other men could be punished for not following societal norms. But these were Spartans, one of the most warlike, aggressive and “masculine” cultures the world has ever known, yet by modern standards they would be considered to be “sissies” or effeminate because homosexuality today is synonymous with these terms. The fact that these ubermensch took both the active and passive roles in their relationship shines a light on the lie of what we define as masculine. Men have always seemed to be more interested in physically tough activities, such as war whereas women performed tasks such as raising children and home economics. Yet in today’s society these roles are being reexamined and indeed redefined.

Just as more and more women are in the workplace pursuing successful careers in many fields, there are a growing number of men who are choosing to not pursue careers and to take on the role of “Mr. Mom” and would rather stay at home with the children. The fact is, in this fast paced society more and more of the upbringing of children is being left in the hands of their teachers, their nannies, and the television, because both parents are at work.

Coming from an African culture as I do the idea of the man at work and the woman at home with the kids is ingrained into us from birth. These lines never blur in a traditional setting, but as more and more of us in the African Diaspora come into contact with Western ideas, it becomes clear that there is room for compromise. As a Nigerian man of my generation, I do not think I will ever be comfortable with being a stay at home Dad while my wife acted as the primary breadwinner, because I am after all a product of my upbringing and I have been taught that such a thing is unmanly. But when one looks at it from a logical standpoint the idea becomes much more attractive. I plan on pursuing a doctorate in Organizational/Industrial Psychology which means that I have many more years of study to go. My girlfriend on the other hand has already finished her studies, and has already established an excellent career for herself in her field. She wants to have kids now, but since I have at least another five years of school to go, it would not be feasible unless one of us stays at home with the children. So why not me?  Why shouldn’t I stay at home with the kids while I continue my studies online so my wife can continue to work? But the fact is, it is not just me who would be uncomfortable with the idea of it, but also my girlfriend because she also a African and is a product of the same cultural environment as me.

Times have changed and men and women’s roles are less stringently defined, and the traditional gender roles of men and women are becoming transformed by the economic realities of today’s world. It has always taken, throughout history, both men and women working in the marketplace or in the fields and in the house to keep the family afloat. While society still dictates the role of gender, many individuals regard themselves free to choose their preferences. The role of transgender and intersexed people is also equally considerable, and need to receive due consideration, while the emancipation of women and their changing roles are some of the defining moments in reducing the gap in gender roles. In the end the ideas and norms of a particular society become irrelevant, because the bottom line is that gender roles must no longer be an obligation to any individual, and in order to sustain a better way of life, a person’s free will should be the sole determinant of his or her role, so that we as a society can avoid our gender dooms.

Civilization is a Product of Intelligence

Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.

Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute

An interesting statement by a person who truly possesses a depth of knowledge on the subject of artificial intelligence, but the fact is his statement is born of both an optimism and an ignorance of what intelligence, artificial or otherwise actually is.  What we humans call intelligence and how we  measure it is, a purely subjective thing because of the many factors involved in a decision making process and the baseline we have used to determine this has been forged from a perspective that is wholly human.  After all, there are other forms of non-human intelligence which are able to achieve things that human beings cannot; look to the hive mind of a bee colony and you will understand that the way we think as humans is not by any means the only definition of intelligence.

Artificial intelligence today is properly known as narrow AI (or weak AI), in that it is designed to perform a narrow task (e.g. only facial recognition or only internet searches or only driving a car). However, the long-term goal of many researchers is to create general AI (AGI or strong AI). While narrow AI may outperform humans at whatever its specific task is, like playing chess or solving equations, AGI would outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.  And it is this ability to outperform human beings that is of most concern.

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and many other big names in science and technology have recently expressed concern in the media and via open letters about the risks posed by AI, joined by many leading AI researchers. So why is the subject suddenly in the headlines?

This is because AI now, unlike in past eras, has the potential to become more intelligent than any human and we have no surefire way of predicting just how such an intelligence  will behave. Even in this technologically saturated world we cannot expect to use past technological developments as a barometer because we’ve never before created anything that has the ability to, wittingly or unwittingly, outsmart us. Look at human evolution, for example.  Humans now control the planet, not because we’re the strongest, fastest or biggest, but because we’re the smartest. If we’re no longer the smartest, are we assured to remain in control?

In the long term, an important question is what will happen if the quest for strong AI succeeds and an AI system becomes better than humans at all cognitive tasks. As pointed out by I.J. Good in 1965, designing smarter AI systems is itself a cognitive task. Such a system could potentially undergo recursive self-improvement, triggering an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a superintelligence might help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty, and so the creation of strong AI might be the biggest event in human history. But if we consider these artificial intelligences which we ourselves have created and imbued with many human traits, we must considcer the fact that humans, when we became ascendant due to our superior intelligence, immediately set upon a path of genocide and subjugation of all of our closest relatives and fiercest competitors.  In short, what will a superintelligent artificially created inetelligence think to do to us, its only real comp-etitor and a genuine threat to its existence? Unless we learn to align the goals of the AI with ours before it becomes superintelligent, we too, may soon become obsolete and eventually extinct.

But in reality, the fear of machines turning evil is another red herring. The real worry isn’t malevolence, but competence. A superintelligent AI is by definition very good at attaining its goals, whatever they may be, so we need to ensure that its goals are aligned with ours. Humans don’t generally hate ants, but we’re more intelligent than they are – so if we want to build a hydroelectric dam and there’s an anthill there, too bad for the ants. The beneficial-AI movement wants to avoid placing humanity in the position of those ants because in such a scenario, well as we know, the ants will always lose.

The myth that machines can’t have goals and therefore are not truly conscious is inaccurate. Machines can obviously have goals in the narrow sense of exhibiting goal-oriented behavior: the behavior of a heat-seeking missile is most economically explained as a goal to hit a target. If you feel threatened by a machine whose goals are misaligned with yours, then it is precisely its goals in this narrow sense that troubles you, not whether the machine is conscious and experiences a sense of purpose. If that heat-seeking missile were chasing you, you probably wouldn’t exclaim: “I’m not worried, because machines can’t have goals!”

To cause us trouble, such misaligned superhuman intelligence needs no robotic body, merely an internet connection – this may enable outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Even if building robots were physically impossible, a super-intelligent and super-wealthy AI could easily pay or manipulate many humans to unwittingly do its bidding.

The robot misconception is related to the myth that machines can’t control humans. But the truth is intelligence enables control: humans control tigers not because we are stronger, but because we are smarter; the Europeans controlled the known world for a while because they had a greater level of technology than those they conquered.  This means that if we cede our position as smartest on our planet, it’s possible that we might also cede our position as the dominant species, and just like the other various members of the hominid family tree which no longer roam the earth, perhaps Homo Sapiens will eventually be replaced by Homo ex Machina.

To help us better prepare for and prevent such potentially negative consequences in the future and thus enjoying the benefits of AI while avoiding pitfalls, we must continue to research this field because one way or another something will be born.  And if we are not there to nurture it, to understand it, to guide it, then we risk the very doom that conspiracy theorists and Hollywood have for so long been shouting about through the bullhorn of technology, the very same technology which has the potential to strip us from our throne for ever and send us the way of the Dodo bird.  Ironic isn’t it.

The English Only Movement

The English only movement has been a topic of concern in the United States since colonization, when the Europeanization of indigenous peoples occurred here. When examining such a volatile topic it is extremely important to examine the underlying reasons behind it. Is it truly to preserve the English language, American culture and unify American citizens by eradicating what so commonly divides them or is there a more sinister reasoning behind it such as to alienate immigrants, target specific ethnic groups, and encourage assimilation and actually to segregate English speakers from non-English speakers? Because there are so many misconceptions advanced by this movement, it is necessary to examine it with scientific principles in order to separate the truth from the fiction. By examining the socio-psychological, educational, testing, and health-service delivery arena, I believe that it will become evident that there is actually very little to support the arguments of the English only movements. And not only that, it could actually have some very negative effects on academic achievement, psychometric and health service delivery systems for the millions of American citizens who are not English proficient. These people are not illegal aliens who will be marginalized by an English only mandate but actual tax paying citizens who contribute their own unique colors to the fabric of America.

Social Psychological Considerations

The first of these considerations has been the argument that without an official language, namely that of English, the US risks being split into a bi-polar nation. The example most frequently cited is that of Canada and its French speaking province of Quebec in which the territory has instituted policies which elevate French above any other language and it is used as the official language of business, service provision and education. But like most reactionary arguments the information put forth is often misleading and inaccurate. There is a significantly different historical context between the US and Canada is this regard. The French colony of Quebec has existed in language isolation for several hundred years even the French that they speak is reminiscent of an archaic form of the language and the numeric and power sharing relationship between the French speaking minority in Canada and those who speak English, is very different than the relationship between the dominant English speakers in the US and the minority which is not proficient in the language. The fact is that most immigrants have come to the US to improve their socioeconomic status and actually believe that language acquisition will help improve their lives. Yes, there are many who never become comfortable with their new home and actively seek to avoid assimilation by remaining isolated in their own linguistic communities, but they are a minority. Most want the American dream, and they understand this nation that means becoming American, including speaking the language. Research has shown that there is a continued language shift among later generation Hispanics and that 75% of all Hispanic immigrants speak English frequently every day. The language shift which is occurring also points to the fact that minority languages, without the replenishment of immigration, are actually dying out because linguistic assimilation is happening rapidly. This implies that with time English would have become the only language anyway, so why can’t those in the English only movement simply be patient? What are the movement’s true motives? The fact is that many of those advocating for this movement are doing it because of racist sentiments felt by them. The increase in hate crimes and racist sentiment in the US is disturbing and even more so is the fact that groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have used the same arguments put forward by the English only movement to further their own racist agendas, because in part these arguments are very similar to those used in other times and other places to force the domination of one group over another. The minority groups affected by such actions in turn suffer more as a result of the negative backlash which it has upon their communities because an individual’s development and identification with a group can greatly influence their educational achievement.

Educational Issues

There are 2 major controversies in this issue. The first is whether or not bilingual education is effective and the second is the relationship between language acquisition, bilingualism and cognition. There is a relatively low achievement and high dropout rates among language minority students, but it has been shown that high quality bilingual education programs can promote higher levels of academic achievements and a greater level of both English proficiency and the second language. The English only approach, in which the immigrant must succeed or fail on their own, only leads to an increase in psychosocial incompetence and increased sense of isolation immigrant communities. There is a wealth of research which suggests that bilinguals enjoy some cognitive advantages over monolinguals, such as cognitive flexibility, metalinguistic awareness, concept formation, and creativity. This however countermands the argument that the mind has only a limited capacity to hold information and bilingualism must as a result be detrimental. This of course is rubbish since the entire world outside of the US is functionally bilingual, and in many places such as the African continent whole communities are multilingual. Bilingualism can only improve a person through dual language proficiency, increased achievement and psychosocial competence whereas an English immersion policy invariably leads to the opposite of this.

Testing

Because previous testing in terms of cognition, with respect to bilingualism has been extremely culturally biased, the facts with which the English only movement bases many of their assumptions upon are flawed, and indeed many are outright false. The tests were in many cases poorly translated, and provided a lack of reliability and validity in their data. There were no performance norms for the minorities being tested and the test administrators themselves were usually unfamiliar with the language and/or cultural of those being tested. It will take more careful empirical research to clarify many of the issues in testing, but in the meantime it is essential that the results of flawed research and skewed data not be used to enhance this already shaky position

Health Services

The argument that because of language issues the already overburdened healthcare system is being further taxed by the difficulties caused by language barriers and providing translators in the absence of bilingual healthcare providers is patently false. It is true that language does make a difference the delivery of quality healthcare, but the institution of English as the standard language has not been shown to significantly change the quality of care for anyone. But it is obvious that an immigrant forced to communicate in language not his or her own may not perhaps communicate as effectively with their healthcare provider and this may lead to serious complications down the road due to miscommunication, and this in turn taxes the health care industry with rising costs as a result of medical conditions which could have been avoided if they had been caught earlier. Bilingual healthcare providers familiar with not only the language but the culture of a minority group are far more effective than fluency in English could ever be. No matter what a person’s command of a language that is not his or her own they are still beholden to the cultural beliefs and the traditions which spawned them. Being familiar with this allows healthcare providers to gather all the necessary information to made correct diagnoses.

Conclusion

The English only movement on the surface seems to have a strong foundation upon which its many arguments rest, but as we have seen upon closer examination, that same foundation is filled with many flaws such as inaccurate data, skewed statistics, biased interpretations of research results, which in the end are simply a veiled means of delivering their anti-immigration and racist sentiments, promoted by the English only leadership. The huge volume of research on this topic has shown that intergroup cooperation can be developed in an atmosphere that will allow linguistic pluralism without the denial of a group’s heritage language.

Color-Blind Society: a critical analysis

Racism is still alive and well in today’s society only wearing a more subtle and more dangerous disguise. Because of the fact that overt racism is very rare in these times leads many Whites to believe that racism and racial discrimination is a thing of the past and that color-blindness is the right path for society to take. But color blind ideology rests upon a faulty premise, the premise that all of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement have truly removed all racial barriers from society and as a result of this race no longer matters. The nation celebrated the unprecedented re-election to a second term of America’s first African-American president, a remarkable achievement which seems to represent some sort of vindication to many Whites that racial discrimination is indeed dead. The fact is that President Obama forced his way through a door reserved for those of the dominant race by his individual strength of will not by the victories of the Civil Rights Era and throughout his tenure as president he had been the victim of racism, some covert, but most of it overt. How many presidents in the history of this nation have been so virulently opposed no matter what he does for the good of the nation? Former president Jimmy Carter came out and said what no one wanted to say, that the real reason for all the vicious opposition to Obama was not because of his policies but because of his race.

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A better measure of the dynamics of race in this nation at present would be obtained by looking at the numbers of minorities who still remain outside that same door which the President forced his way through, and in fact we can see that racial segregation and discrimination is actually on this rise now. Race still very much matters in this society, and because of this, trying to address problems of race in a color-blind manner does not erase the issue of race it simply buries it under new narratives and terminologies designed to maintain the status quo. By ignoring racial problems or categorizing them as non-racial problems we ignore the history of race and racism and its long-term effects and we are using the wrong tools in our efforts to solve these problems.

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Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Amanda Lewis and David G. Embrick in their article “I Did Not Get That Job Because of a Black Man” The Story Lines of Colorblind Racism, hypothesize that narratives and testimonies amongst Whites contribute to the continuation of racism in the form of colorblind racism. They believe that we tell stories to our spouses, children, friends and co-workers stories and it is through these stories that we present and represent ourselves to the world at large. These stories define us so much so that the narratives and testimonies which have become prevalent amongst post-civil rights Whites are contributing to the transformation of racism from an overt Jim Crow type form, into a colorblind racial form. It is these narratives and testimonies which reinforce stereotypes and discount race as an issue by substituting other things in its place to explain away racial issues.

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This argument is reinforced in the article by Brendesha M. Tynes and Suzanne L. Markoe, entitled “The Role of Color-Blind Racial Attitudes in Reactions to Racial Discrimination on Social Networking Sites.”  They hypothesize that in a society where everybody is connected to each other through the social networking sites which are rapidly become the new frontier in how human beings interact with each other, when one considers that the generation growing up now will come of age with the idea that interaction with their peers on social networking sites is the norm, it does not come as a surprise that this new world has begun to mirror the color-blind ideology of the real world. After all, the tolerance noted in the authors’ study of 217 African American and European American college students, is most likely a reflection of the attitudes passed on to them by their social groups through various narratives and testimonies which can only reinforce negative racial stereotypes.

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In both cases the prevalence and repetition of the racial attitudes confirm that it is more than likely to reflect some truth about their social world because all ages and classes told similar stories. Even those who considered themselves racial progressives indicated some color-blind racism. In both studies Europeans scored much higher on the color-blind racism scale. 

There exists right now a new racial narrative, one in which overt racism is all but gone and covert or color-blind racism is rapidly becoming the norm. Our social reality has become warped and how we as a society interact with each has begun to reflect this change and these subtle new racial nuances. The fact is colorblindness is an unrealistic approach to a very big problem, simply ask the many disenfranchised, marginalized, minimalized and painfully aware members of society who feel the pain of racial discrimination every day. This ideology is not one designed to bring people together, but instead a luxury that the elite and dominant culture uses to maintain the status quo, without alienating members of their culture with overt racism and transforming it into a form that all them can comfortably live with.

Is Donald Trump stuck in a preoperational stage?

Our world is being ravaged at all quadrants by conflicts both large and small which are being fought not so much over natural resources or territory, as humanity has continually done throughout our history, but instead because of the combatants inability to see the world from a different point of view than their own. Ideology based upon culture, religion, race and many other factors has become the advocate for war and the constant conflicts which plague our world today. Why are these various nations and sub-groups fighting? Is it truly for some abstract ideal that only members of that group can comprehend? Or is it perhaps for another reason which can be summed up in one word? Image result for egocentrismImage result for egocentrism

Egocentrism traditionally is not a word associated with adult behavior patterns. It is a term coined by the great developmental psychologist Jean Piaget to describe a developmental period in which preoperational children go through. In it, children cannot see the world from another’s point of view. Is it then possible that Piaget’s theory can be applied to humans beyond the preoperational stage? Our 45th president seems to be a perfect example of an individual who has never developed past the preoperational stage, perhaps because all his life Donald Trump has been is his own mind, the God of Gods, the King of Kings, the ruler of the Trump fiefdom who has surrounded himself by yes-men who all his life have encouraged this sort of mentality in him because it enabled them to reap huge profits through him without the burden of morality.  And if this is true could this also mean that the various tyrants and demagogues of the world are also forever frozen at a preoperational stage?

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It must be noted however, that just as children in a preoperational stage still have not fully developed not only physically but also morally, and many of these same leaders who are responsible for these conflicts have grown up in a moral vacuum and an atmosphere of psychological immaturity which cannot help but contribute to such infantile and destructive behavior. Mr trump is a classic example of this.  His sense of entitlement, his amorality, his immorality, his hugely inflated ego and sense of self-importance (if you are a follower of the new schools of thought in which there is no evil in the world, only people with psychological disorders that can be cured) clearly reveals a man who is the throes of some sort of deep psychological abnormality.  If this is the case then morality, like sexuality or language which normally emerges from a child on a particular developmental schedule rather than being placed into the child from the outside on society’s schedule can never be expected to take root in an aging todler such as Trump. As such, this fully-grown egocentric has been laboring under a severely retarded developmental schedule, with no outside influence from society, just like many of the world’s other engineers of conflicts who have lived life in a moral vacuum, prepared and maintained for them by those with their own agenda.

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Should these conflicts and the psychology which drives them be carefully studied, not from an adult psychological perspective but instead from the perspective of child psychology? It is not enough to make a connection between the egocentrism of these tyrants and a cure all for the world’s ills, but a combination of psychology and a careful dissection of the ideologies behind these conflicts invariably will lead to some area where we find this profound lack of moral development.

The idea of adults being stuck in a preoperational stage, perhaps on some levels seems rather farfetched. But when we see the results of ethnocentrism, egocentrism’s younger brother, all around the world today then the idea becomes just a little less ludicrous. Moral and ethical development in children, of course, affects the moral and ethical health of adults but what of those who were raised in a moral and ethical vacuum? Might they have missed out on the effective mechanisms which allow a person to be responsive to another person’s suffering at an early age and as a result have remain ed stunted, damaged and forever frozen at the preoperational stage as an amoral, egocentric child waiting for the necessary guidance to make him or her whole?  And in the wake of the recent tragedies, in which the president seemed to find no empathy at all with the victims and indeed seemed to cast blame on them instead of the aggressors, it becomes all too evident thast the moral compass of the 45th president is not only skewed, but because he never developed past the preoperational stage, it is most likely non-existent.

 

The Social Impact of Reproductive Genetics

Humanity is a creature unique amongst all the living beings existing upon this planet because unlike all other organisms it does not seek to live in harmony with its environment and instead seeks to mold it to its own various needs with a complete disregard as to the effects upon the ecosystem to which it is still a part of. Our very intelligence, our infernal curiosity and our never-ending quest to quantify and qualify the world around us has led us to a point where humanity is now able to ignore many of Nature’s dictates and in fact, may now bypass the consequences of natural selection by using our ability to manipulate the genetic material which is the foundation of our heritage as a species and making such decisions as if we ourselves were Gods.

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Humanity stands at the dawn of a genetic age in which unprecedented discoveries and achievements in the field of genetics have allowed us a window into a world previously denied us. The Human Genome Project, which was the largest biological research enterprise in history, has mapped our entire genetic structure. New scientific claims of genes associated with diseases, conditions, personality traits and behaviors are reported regularly by the media and scientists have actually identified and claimed the genes for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, Fragile X syndrome, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, bi-polar illness, obesity, homosexuality, alcoholism, novelty seeking, shyness, bed-wetting and the list continues to grow longer every week. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA and the founding father of the Human Genome Project declared that “we used to think our fate was in the stars. Now we know a large part of it is in our genes.”

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While the promise of improving the treatment of disease is carried by the influence of genetics on medicine, there are many potential obstacles and repercussions that may hamper this vision. In particular, a long shadow will be forever cast upon the field by the specter of our historical past attempts at eugenics. The implications of the social impact of reproductive genetics are many, but a few of them stand out as more potentially problematic than others. The privacy of genetic information, the potential of genetic stigmatization, the role of genetic screening and intervention in reproduction, enhancements and the specter of human cloning and finally the ever present peril of new forms of eugenics all will have a great effect upon the social impact of reproductive genetics, effects which must examined carefully in order for humanity to be adequately prepared for the next phase in our scientific development.

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As the genetic aspect of modern medicine progresses, the problems with regard to maintaining the privacy of an individual’s genetic information increasingly becomes a concern. Genetic testing in itself is usually done for a number of reasons such as to confirm a specific diagnosis in a symptomatic individual, which is also called diagnostic testing, it is done to ascertain the risk of having a particular condition in an asymptomatic individual, and also called predictive or susceptibility testing, to ascertain the risk of transmitting a condition, also called carrier testing, to check to see if a fetus has a genetic disorder, also called prenatal diagnosis, for forensic testing, for paternity or relationship testing and finally for research purposes. But what does this mean with respect to genetic privacy? Well in many cases the conditions being testing for carry certain social stigmas, i.e., the persons carrying this gene or suffering from these conditions are treated differently from the rest of the members of society and in many instances so do the insurance companies which provide the money to treat the condition. As long as an individual’s condition does not jeopardize the health of society as a whole then that information must remain private. But in an age of where all medical records have been converted to electronic medical records (EMR) who actually has access to the results of genetic testing which are in a patient’s EMR? The concern that the unethical use of test results against vulnerable individuals for the benefit of others or even such other unethical motivations such as eugenics (we will address this subject later on this paper) becomes a very real concern. To minimize this concern there must be some sort of national if not international body to shoulder the onus of maintaining high standards of genetic testing oversight. Even then, cross-cultural difficulties and barriers will no doubt affect just what is considered a violation of privacy and what is considered to be acceptable level of transparency when it comes to genetic test results.

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With genetic testing rapidly becoming the norm, the problem of genetic stigmatization increasingly becomes an unfortunate reality. This is the discrimination directed against certain individuals based solely upon an apparent or perceived genetic variation from the norm. For example the gene for sickle cell anemia can be easily tested these days using the hemoglobin electrophoresis, which I myself have undergone. It is rapidly becoming a common occurrence among African-Americans and Africans today to ask their partners to be tested for this trait before the decision to make the commitment to having children is made because of the prevalence of sickle cell anemia in our race. Already a lower value is being attached to any potential children who are homozygous for the sickle cell anemia gene, despite the fact that most individuals living with the condition today can still live long and productive lives because of the advances in medical treatment. Genetic stigmatization will most certainly result in a denial of services or entitlements as greedy insurance companies, as we have seen in the past, try to deny payments for certain pre-existing conditions or to at least increase the insurance premiums of those individuals to prohibitive levels. A subtler form of eugenics could arise from this as certain genes could come to be associated with a certain race or ethnicity and this could lead to genetic discrimination with regards to individual choice and disincentives by insurance coverage.

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The role of genetic screening and intervention in reproduction is a controversial topic because of the many sociological concerns which arise from any manipulation of our genetics with respect to reproduction. The world has still not healed and perhaps will never heal from the dark specter of Nazi eugenics which the Holocaust cast over our world. Who decides which traits are valuable are which are not? This path leads to a point where certain traits and the disabilities which arise from these genes are becoming devalued; will this mean that a whole segment of society will become marginalized as we become ever more efficient at weeding them out before they are even born? The Human Genome Project has discovered the existence of many genes which have been linked to certain behavioral traits such as the trait for homosexuality. In the first place, why were we searching for a gene for homosexuality and if it does exist then it follows that there must be one for heterosexuality too? It seems to me that already the specter of eugenics has begun to loom over genetics once again, because there are many in positions of power whose political and sociological agenda includes the suppression of “unnatural acts” such as homosexuality, despite the fact that if there is a gene coded for this behavior then it is actually very much a part of nature. The perspectives of disability activists and what public health officials maintain are necessary goals in public health will continue to clash because the argument of the activists that the genetic intervention of disabilities negates the value of disabled people has much truth to it. While medical advocates counter with the argument that they are preventing disabilities and not people, things like genetic intervention through abortion or gene therapy is leading to eugenics if not by specific intent then at least by outcome. With technology rapidly moving in previously unimagined territories it is not so outlandish to imagine a world in which our ID cards also contain a genome map of each individual, supposedly placed there for rapid medical access but in fact it will divulge our entire genetic endowment. Already there is a genetic DNA database of all convicted felons in the US along with all military and federal personnel. How long before this trend becomes mandatory?

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When discussing genetics and reproduction, there is a subject within this topic that has gripped the imagination of the population since the idea of genetic manipulation was first introduced, and that is of course genetic enhancement and human cloning. Despite widespread agreement that it would be ethical to use somatic cell gene therapy to correct serious diseases, there is still uneasiness on the part of the public about this procedure. The basis for this concern lies less with the procedure’s clinical risks than with fear that genetic engineering could lead to changes in human nature. Legitimate concerns about the potential for misuse of gene transfer technology justify drawing a moral line that includes corrective germline therapy but excludes enhancement interventions in both somatic and some germline contexts. Germ-line gene therapy is defined as the deliberate genetic modification of germ cells (sperm or oocytes), their precursors, or the cells of early embryos where the germ-line1 has yet to be segregated, while in somatic cell therapy the genes which are replaced cannot be passed on to the next generation unlike those used in germ line therapy which negates the possibility of changing or enhancing an individual’s actual genome. Hundreds of movies and books have been made and written about genetically enhanced super-beings, soldiers or a powerful elite but is it now so farfetched in this world? In an era where the new technologies that civilians utilize are driven by the progress first made by the military-industrial complex, how naïve is it to believe that the cloning technology used to create the first cloned mammal, the sheep named Dolly almost two decades ago in 1997 has not been improved upon and how much more naïve is it to believe that our military would not have a long ago progressed from animal to human testing if only to keep up with less “morally scrupulous” countries who would have much to gain in having an army of enhanced and cloned soldiers. It is no longer science fiction and it is frightening. We already regularly genetically enhance humans using somatic gene therapies to treat illness and we have the technology to produce germline enhancements. Is it so far-fetched to believe that scientists have not already taken the next logical step?

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Finally and of course most ominously is the danger of the creation of a new form of eugenics that is acceptable to mainstream society because it has been disguised as a benefit for society as a whole. Wiping out the various genes which cause genetic illnesses from the gene pool may seem like an admirable goal, but how does one judge the value of an individual? Just because an individual is symptomatic of a disease or simply carries the gene does this mean that they cannot add to the fabric of our existence? Most of the genetic research done in the world today is controlled by governmental bodies or private organizations both of which lack a transparency that is necessary for proper regulation of this technology and the ability to maintain a strict watch over any of the many sociological problems which will inevitably arise. This means that by limiting or stimulating human reproduction, as was done at the beginning of the last century, or by preventing genetic diseases and improving physical and mental characteristics as is done regularly nowadays, distinct and ominous changes are being made upon our species. In the implantation of such actions, contradictions are produced, such as the discrimination and elimination of many people in exchange for the view of one ideal human, eminently social factors are being turned into biological ones. The defense of a supposed scientific neutrality and the indiscriminate use of the reproductive choice right to push forward a sinister agenda, all will inevitably contribute to the acceptance and indeed implementation of a social eugenics which echoes the same mistakes made over and over again in history, from the Spartans to the Nazis. And this is not unique to other cultures. In the Buck vs. Bell decision of May 2, 1927, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Virginia statute that provided for the eugenic sterilization of people considered genetically unfit. The Court’s decision, delivered by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., included the infamous phrase “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Upholding Virginia’s sterilization statute provided the green light for similar laws in 30 states, under which an estimated 65,000 Americans were sterilized without their own consent or that of a family member. And to this day the Supreme Court has still not expressly overruled this decisions which means that technically speaking it is still perfectly legal. Couple this fact with the possibilities that genetic research has now opened and our biological future does look rather ominous.

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It behooves those working within the field of reproductive genetics to develop a nuanced understanding of the benefits and risks of reproductive genetics to humanity on all levels. They will have the opportunity over the next several years to advocate for policies that promote reproductive well-being for all individuals as the public becomes more aware of the potentials, both good and bad of this field of medicine. Policies that promote reproductive well-being for all individuals while ensuring that men, women and families benefit from advances in reproductive technologies and genetic research while at the same time protecting those same men, women and families from the dangers inherent in such research. And while the reproductive health care community faces this changing world of reproductive science, they can do much to help patients understand their options and make the best decisions for the best possible care while at the same time carefully monitoring not only the progress of this field of research but the bioethical and sociological implications that come hand in hand with it.