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  1. #1
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Interview with Professor Julian Savulescu

    There was a very interesting guest on Enough Rope tonight. Professor of Practial Ethics from Oxford and Australian-born Julian Savulescu.

    Transcript here...

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/...s/s2374638.htm

    On what is practical ethics...

    ANDREW DENTON: Can you give me an example of a practical ethic that I could or would apply in my life?

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: Well I mean whether you sign an organ donor card or sign you know that you’re willing to give up your organs at after a car accident. I mean this is an area where you can make a difference and many people don’t so what sorts of policy should we have about obtaining organs to deal with the huge shortage of organs and should we be taking organs from people routinely when they die unless they object. Should we be taking them anyway or should we require for people to give consent as they do now.

    On drugs in sport...

    ANDREW DENTON: One of the things you said is that performance enhancement isn’t against the spirit of sport. In fact it is the spirit of sport. What do you mean by that?

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: Ever since that you know people started competing in sport they’ve been trying to improve their performance, not just through training but by taking substances and trying to modify themselves. Ah for example in cycling ever since cycling professional cycling began in the early 1900s people were taking things like strychnine and cocaine, alcohol, amphetamines, somebody once asked one Tour de France winner you know how often he’d used ‘la Bomba’ which was amphetamines and he said “only when absolutely necessary” and they said “well how often precisely is that ?” And he said “most of the time.”

    On disease screening of unborn infants and parallels to Nazi Germany...

    ANDREW DENTON: You know the slippery slope here though which is Eugenics, Nazi Germany which is where you start to selectively breed to get rid of those that you don’t want.

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: We practice eugenics when we do screening for Down Syndrome, when we do genetic testing of foetuses. That is a form of eugenics. What the Nazis did was they forced choices onto people.

    ANDREW DENTON: Mmm.

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: They forced people to be sterilised, they killed people against their will according to a state sponsored vision of how society should be. Now that’s not the sort of world that I would ever want to see. I think the fundamental value should be one of liberty. People should be free to be able to make these choices or free not to make them. And what we should give people is access to the technology, to improve their lives, and to improve their children’s lives. If they choose not to avail themselves of that technology, that’s their choice. That’s, if you protect liberty, that’s how you protect yourself against the Nazi eugenic ideal.

    On his role as an ethicist...

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: Yeah look I’m not an evangelist and I’m not out to convert people, and I think the sign of a success in my job is that people go away thinking for themselves what their view is. I don’t care if people don’t agree with me and often I put arguments simply there for them to be considered so the doping in sport one is one that I think that needs to be taken seriously. I don't know what my final view is. I’ve even given arguments for things that I don’t believe in because I think the arguments needs to be made. So I have a view of practical ethics that it’s about empowering people to make their own decisions, and what I see, increasingly, is a kind of moral oppression of one particular view. And my job is really just to put the arguments out there and get you to think.

    On the whole one of the more interesting guests I've seen.
    So einfach wie möglich, aber nicht einfacher - Albert Einstein

  2. #2
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rincewind
    There was a very interesting guest on Enough Rope tonight. Professor of Practial Ethics from Oxford and Australian-born Julian Savulescu.

    Transcript here...

    On drugs in sport...

    ANDREW DENTON: One of the things you said is that performance enhancement isn’t against the spirit of sport. In fact it is the spirit of sport. What do you mean by that?

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: Ever since that you know people started competing in sport they’ve been trying to improve their performance, not just through training but by taking substances and trying to modify themselves. Ah for example in cycling ever since cycling professional cycling began in the early 1900s people were taking things like strychnine and cocaine, alcohol, amphetamines, somebody once asked one Tour de France winner you know how often he’d used ‘la Bomba’ which was amphetamines and he said “only when absolutely necessary” and they said “well how often precisely is that ?” And he said “most of the time.”
    .
    I think what Professor Savulescu overlooks here is that we value sports as a way of developing a healthy body. Competitive sport serves as a demonstation of how well developed an athlete's body is. Most banned performance enhancing substances have serious negative long-term side-effects on the body. So the body of an athlete ultising steriods is not an example of a sustainable healthy body. Doing something that will damage the body rather than develop it is definately IMO outside of the spirit of sport.

    Business is about generating profit, however it is against the spirit of business to put melamine in inferior milk products in order to maximise short-term profits. Again it is not a sustainable practice and is poor business, just like loading the body with drugs to get a short-term performance benefit at the cost of long-term negative impact on the body is poor sport. At least in my opinion.

  3. #3
    Batoutahelius road runner's Avatar
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    Thanks for the transcript, RW. I missed the show, but it was interesting. He also favours selling of organs, as discussed here a while ago.
    meep meep

  4. #4
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    I think what Professor Savulescu overlooks here is that we value sports as a way of developing a healthy body. Competitive sport serves as a demonstation of how well developed an athlete's body is.
    No, competitive sport by definition is about winning.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    Most banned performance enhancing substances have serious negative long-term side-effects on the body.
    Of course, but by then the athlete would have retired.

    What becomes really silly is the case of a 16yo Romanian girl disqualified in the Sydney Olympics for taking an over-the-counter cold remedy that happened to have a drug banned by the sports commissars.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    So the body of an athlete ultising steriods is not an example of a sustainable healthy body. Doing something that will damage the body rather than develop it is definately IMO outside of the spirit of sport.
    But then the jarring of running on hard surfaces can damage the body. Should the sports commissars be nannies?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    Business is about generating profit, however it is against the spirit of business to put melamine in inferior milk products in order to maximise short-term profits.
    And the market would punish this without any help from big government.

    Professional sport is big business.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    Again it is not a sustainable practice and is poor business, just like loading the body with drugs to get a short-term performance benefit at the cost of long-term negative impact on the body is poor sport. At least in my opinion.
    All likely right, but does this justify the nannying of sports commissars?
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” — Abba Eban on the UN general assembly

    “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi on the UN kakistocracy

  5. #5
    Batoutahelius road runner's Avatar
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    This made me laugh:

    ANDREW DENTON: When judgment day happens and God comes down, where do you think he’s going to put scientists?

    PROFESSOR JULIAN SAVULESCU: [laugh] I don’t know what the answer to that question is going to be.

    ANDREW DENTON: I’ll give you a hint. It’s going to be hot.
    meep meep

  6. #6
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Cant see that, given that modern science was founded by Christians. Stephen Snobelen, Assistant Professor of History of Science and Technology,
    University of King’s College, Halifax, wrote [Isaac Newton and Apocalypse Now: a response to Tom Harpur’s “Newton’s strange bedfellows”; A longer version of the letter published in the 26 February 2004 Toronto Star]:

    Here is a final paradox. Recent work on early modern science has demonstrated a direct (and positive) relationship between the resurgence of the Hebraic, literal exegesis of the Bible in the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of the empirical method in modern science. I’m not referring to wooden literalism, but the sophisticated literal-historical hermeneutics that Martin Luther and others (including Newton) championed. It was, in part, when this method was transferred to science, when students of nature moved on from studying nature as symbols, allegories and metaphors to observing nature directly in an inductive and empirical way, that modern science was born. In this, Newton also played a pivotal role. As strange as it may sound, science will forever be in the debt of millenarians and biblical literalists.
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” — Abba Eban on the UN general assembly

    “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi on the UN kakistocracy

  7. #7
    Reader in Slood Dynamics Rincewind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boris
    This made me laugh:
    Me too. Andrew was obviously being facetious and playing on the perception in soe elements of the public that there is a conflict between science and religion. In terms of consistency I don't think he would ask the same question of a religious leader from a non-christian faith.
    So einfach wie möglich, aber nicht einfacher - Albert Einstein

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    But then the jarring of running on hard surfaces can damage the body.
    There is that weird thing whereby lots some top sports people are having surgery, multiple times, to fix up their knees

  9. #9
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheJoker
    I think what Professor Savulescu overlooks here is that we value sports as a way of developing a healthy body.
    And then injuring it almost beyond recognition as such. Long-term participation in many competitive sports is a serious health risk itself so adding drugs to the picture really doesn't have to increase the hazard level all that much.

    I see the anti-drugs-in-sport thing as simply reflecting that people like to see what the human body is capable of in a sporting context, rather than the human body plus drugs. Of course this is really a matter of perception since expensive training, dietary assistance and (increasingly) fancy clothing and equipment have long since obliterated the line between natural and artificially enhanced performance.

  10. #10
    CC Grandmaster Spiny Norman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rincewind
    In terms of consistency I don't think he would ask the same question of a religious leader from a non-christian faith.
    I wish he would ... you could arguably replace "where go you think he's going to put scientists" with "where go you think he's going to put religious leaders" and leave the rest of the dialog intact.
    “As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity.” -- C.S.Lewis

  11. #11
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    No, competitive sport by definition is about winning.
    Read my post I said the reason why we (society) value competitive sport or sport in general is due to positive health effects. For the competitors competitive sport is about winning, for the non-competiting public the interest lies in the development of a healthy body. At least my experience as sporting coach is that almost all parents enroll their children in sports for the perceived health benefits. I acknowledge what Kevin says about injuries having had a knee reconstruction myself

    Even from a business point of view if you want a sustainable model, public interest/image, and junior participation rates are key. Allowing drugs in sport has a negative effect for both of these. The idea is you need to protect the business and the other athletes from those that would endanger the long-term sustainability for their own personal short-term gain. Just like companies monitor the actions of their employees.
    Last edited by TheJoker; 01-10-2008 at 09:46 AM.

  12. #12
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    And then injuring it almost beyond recognition as such. Long-term participation in many competitive sports is a serious health risk itself so adding drugs to the picture really doesn't have to increase the hazard level all that much.

    I see the anti-drugs-in-sport thing as simply reflecting that people like to see what the human body is capable of in a sporting context, rather than the human body plus drugs. Of course this is really a matter of perception since expensive training, dietary assistance and (increasingly) fancy clothing and equipment have long since obliterated the line between natural and artificially enhanced performance.
    I should have said percieved health benefits. The general perception is that sport is healthy for the body. Most people get into sport for the percieved health benefits. None of the other things you mentioned (training, diet or clothing) have negative health effects.

    I agree with you that the perception is not always accurate; injuries both imediate and long-term wear and tear can have a negative effect on the body.

  13. #13
    CC International Master TheJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mangafranga
    There is that weird thing whereby lots some top sports people are having surgery, multiple times, to fix up their knees
    Actually it's not just top sports people it fairly common across all levels in certain sports (contact sports, skiing, netball etc). I myself have had a knee reconstruction due a spoting injury. But personally I still feel the benefits of drug-free sports far outweigh the risks, but when you add drugs into the equation my opinion changes.

  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Joker might like this one.

    A stain on baseball
    George Will
    8 December 2004

    "When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws."

    — G.K. Chesterton, 1905

    ....

    To understand the damage that the steroids scandal is doing to baseball, consider this: Probably sometime late in the 2005 season or early in the next one, Barry Bonds, who already has 703 career home runs, will begin a game with 754, one short of Henry Aaron's record. Would you cross the street to see Bonds hit number 755?

    Bonds, 40, is intelligent and severely aware of his body. When, a year ago, Bonds's lawyer said his client might have "unknowingly" used steroids, Bonds and the gaudy numbers his dramatically transformed body has generated since he turned 35 became, strictly speaking, incredible.

    In recent decades athletes have learned that, using nutrition, strength training and other means, it is possible to enhance performance. But not all that is possible should be permissible. Some enhancements devalue performance while improving it, because they unfairly alter the conditions of competition. Lifting weights and eating your spinach enhance the body's normal functioning. But radical and impermissible chemical intrusions into the body can jeopardize the health of the body and mind, while causing both to behave abnormally.

    Athletes chemically propelled to victory do not merely overvalue winning, they misunderstand why winning is properly valued. Professional athletes stand at an apex of achievement because they have paid a price in disciplined exertion — a manifestation of good character. They should try to perform unusually well. But not unnaturally well. Drugs that make sport exotic drain it of its exemplary power by making it a display of chemistry rather than character — actually, a display of chemistry and bad character.
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” — Abba Eban on the UN general assembly

    “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi on the UN kakistocracy

  15. #15
    Batoutahelius road runner's Avatar
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    I am not sure where to draw the line here, I think it is a fine one. However, I do not think that swimmers should be allowed to wear full-body suits that assist their movement through the water. If that, why not flippers?
    meep meep

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