Professor Gary Jason, PhD | Contemporary Moral Issues Resource Center | Part 5

Contemporary Moral Issues Resource Center | Part 5

Part 5: Some suggested term paper topics and supporting videos:

I. How to use this resource:

  1. The video and audio links are meant to give you a quick overview of the major disputes/arguments surrounding the various possible paper topics. This is meant to help you choose a topic to write on, and give you an idea of the argumentative terrain you will be on.
  2. But they are not primary resources – don’t quote them in your papers. Instead, once you have a general idea of what you will write on, the major arguments you must explore, and the major areas of facts you must dig out, THEN do a literature search for relevant articles. It is the written articles you will be using and citing as a basis for your paper.
  3. Remember to avoid direct quotation (reread the tutorial on when to quote, as opposed to putting the thought in your own words and then citing the source.) Indeed, I would appreciate it if you would simply paraphrase, and never quote directly.
  4. Your Turnitin duplication score should be ZERO. You should turn the paper in with the Class homepage report showing

II. Euthanasia topics:

  1. Discuss the principle of double effect. What is it? How can it be used to justify terminal (or palliative) sedation? What is the debate around the principle? [See for example Warren S. Quinn, “Actions, Intentions, and Consequences: The Doctrine of Double Effect,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 18, no. 4 (Fall 1989): 334-51.
    • Nick Nash lecture on natural law and the principle of double effect…video.
    • Brian Tittl lecture on double effect and euthanasia…video.
  2. Should voluntary active euthanasia be legalized? Why/why not? If so, what procedures and safeguards should be put in place to govern the practice?
  3. What is “terminal dehydration?” Since any patient can request it, does it mean that we need not allow physician-assisted suicide? Why/why not?
  4. If both parents desire it, is It ever morally permissible for doctors to terminate the life of a baby? If so, when and why?
  5. If both parents desire it, is it ever morally permissible for doctors to end the parents’ adult child? If so, when and why?

III. Abortion and birth control topics:

  1. At what age should women be able to get birth control pills? Justify your answer.
    • This Morning debate on putting 12 year old girls on birth control…video.
    • FemmeHead thoughts on putting young teens on birth control bills…video.
  2. Should birth control pills be sold over the counter? Why/why not?
    • Newsy argues for OTC birth control…video
    • WKBT discussion of OTC birth control…video.
  3. [This question is directed at those who hold abortion is morally acceptable at least some of the time.] Is it moral for a woman to abort fetuses with genes for traits that she for religious reasons considers bad? For example, would it be moral for a Muslim woman to abort a fetus just because it has genes that predispose the child towards alcoholism, or a woman of any religion that holds homosexuality to be a sin to abort a fetus if scientists assured her it had genes that would predispose the child to be gay? Why/why not?
    • Are cats gay? On gays and abortion…video.
  4. If you believe aborting late term fetuses is morally permissible, how about babies just after birth? Why/why not?
  5. Suppose you believe abortion is morally permissible. Should it matter that her choice is based upon the physical appearance of the child?  What if she is aborting the child because of its gender, or eye color, or likely height?  Why/why not?
    • CBC report on proposed Canadian law to ban testing for gender….video.
    • Frontline report on the missing girls…video.
    • Economist report on abortion of female fetuses in China and India…video.
  6. What is embryonic stem cell research? Is it the only kind of stem cell research? Why is it controversial? Is it ethical for privately-funded companies to do it? Why/why not? How about government funded companies? Is it ethical to force taxpayers who have profound religious or moral issues with some practice to fund it?
    • EuroStemCell conversation on the ethics of embryonic stem cell research—video.
    • Beverly Biology talk on the ethics of stem cell research…video.
  7. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women abort their fetuses. But the waiting lists for the adoption of healthy infants are long, with many American couples actually going abroad to adopt children. One entrepreneur Sue has come up with the idea of starting a website “” which will allow any pregnant woman to invite couples to bid for her to carry the fetus to term and allow them then to adopt the infant. The pregnant woman would not just be compensated for medical expenses, but getting whatever money over and above that she can negotiate. Sales would be recorded transparently, so just as a person wanting to buy or sell a used car can log on to Kelly Blue Book and see what the going rate for a baby is, so to speak. Should this be allowed? Why/why not?
    • Lisa Ling report on couples adopting Chinese babies—video.
    • EU report on foreign adoptions—video.
  8. Fred is an entrepreneur, and he likes part of the proposal of But he believes that paying for babies should be limited to nonprofits. Specifically, Fred wants to see religious charities (Evangelical Christian, Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish, and so on) funded by people who oppose all abortion can contribute money to pay market rates for bringing fetuses to full term.
  9. Should the government offer free birth control for all citizens? Why/why not?
  10. Should the government be able to set a limit to the number of children a family can have? Why/why not? Have other countries done that? How has it worked out?
    • Sadhguru on rewarding childless women…video.
    • PolyMatter on China’s one-child policy…
    • NYT retro report on the population bomb…video.
  11. When (if ever) should young women under 18 years old be allowed to have an abortion without their parents being notified? How about giving permission? If so, when and why?
    • 1-in-3 discussion of parental consent laws…video.
    • Laura Lynn Thompson opposing abortion without parental approval…video.
  12. Should a infants that are aborted alive be automatically protected by the state, or should the doctor and mother have the right to kill it?
    • EWTN report on babies born alive being killed…video.

IV. Sex practices topics:

  1. Where in the U.S. and the world is prostitution legal? How has it worked out? Should prostitution be legalized? Why/why not?
    • Intelligence squared debate “It’s wrong to pay for sex”—video.
    • Cambridge Union Debate on prostitution…video.
  2. What is the “age of consent”? What are some of the ages of consent in various countries? What are some of the ethical issues surrounding setting an age of consent? For example, if we set the age of consent at 15, and a man has consensual sex with a 14 year old female, is he automatically a statutory rapist? What about man who has consensual sex with a 15 year old female. Is he therefore acting in a morally permissible way?
    • The Guardian report on the age of consent…video.
    • 5 News debate on lowering the age of consent to 13…video.
    • Pinpin advocating lowering the US age of consent from 18…video.
  3. The most obvious reason for viewing child pornography is immoral and should be illegal is that in making it, the makers are harming children, violating the children’s’ rights in a profoundly evil way. But what about simulated child porn, i.e., child porn produced by computer graphics alone, and involving not actual children? Is it immoral? Why/why not? Should it be illegal? Why/why not?
    • Chicago Humanities Council panel on sexual imagery and legality…
  4. It seems that the main reason bestiality/zoophilia is immoral is that animals cannot give their consent. But can’t animals seem to take pleasure in the activity sometimes? Anyway, do the animals have any comprehension of what is being done? Yes, they can’t give consent-but can they even be said to reject the act? In that case, isn’t it like sex with a plant? Examine the ethics of zoophilia.
    • German philosophy grad student paper on the ethics of zoophilia, necrophilia, and pedophilia part 1…video.
    • German philosophy grad student paper on the ethics of zoophilia, necrophilia, and pedophilia part 2…video.
    • German philosophy grad student paper on the ethics of zoophilia, necrophilia, and pedophilia part 3…video.
    • German philosophy grad student paper on the ethics of zoophilia, necrophilia, and pedophilia part 4…video.
    • German philosophy grad student paper on the ethics of zoophilia, necrophilia, and pedophilia part 5…video.
  5. Examine the ethics of necrophilia.
    • Ask a mortician on necrophilia…video.
    • Swedish Liberal Youth party favors legalizing incest and necrophilia…video.
  6. Should schools be required to teach LGBTQ sex education? Why/why not? If so, at what level should it be taught? What if the parents object to their kids being taught such material? Explore the ethics here.
    • EWTN report critical of teaching LGBTQ in public schools…video.
    • Good Morning Britain debate on teaching LGBTQ sex ed in public schools…video.
  7. When is sex education appropriate in the schools, if ever? What if parents want to do the sex education for their own children? Explore the ethics here.
    • Origins of Everything report on the rise of sex ed in America…video.
    • TMFism discussion of sex ed…video.
    • WGBH debate on sex ed…video.
  8. Is there a meaning to the phrase “to sexually use/exploit” another person? If so, what is it? Would it automatically be immoral? Why/why not?

V. Marriage and reproduction topics:

  1. Suppose it becomes possible (through the CRISPR/Cas system or some other future technology) to edit our children’s genomes. Should parents be able to use this technology as they see fit? Why/why not? Is this technology really any different from improving your kids’ teeth by orthodontics or their intelligence by sending them to an advanced preschool? If so, how?
    • Darnovsky on issues about gene editing…video.
    • Evans on the ethics of gene editing lecture…video.
    • TRT roundtable on the ethics of gene editing…video.
  2. Should the government play any role in marriage? Why/why not?
  3. What is “polygamy”? Briefly sketch its history. Should its practice be allowed? Why/why not? What about “polyandry”?
    • Davis on whether American law can handle polygamy…video.
    • ABC News report on a modern polygamous family…video.
    • Megyn Kelly interview critical of polygamy…video.
    • Majeed on polygamy…video.
  4. Discuss the moral issues surrounding “eugenics.”
    • CrashCourse history of eugenics…video.
    • National Constitution Center panel on eugenics in America…
    • Kurzgesagt on promise of genetic improvement…video.
  5. Mail-order bride businesses have a long history in America. Today they are internet based, or what has been called the “email-order bride” business. What are the ethical issues surrounding people (almost exclusively men) going abroad on tours to find brides?
    • Lisa Ling report on international romance sites—video.
    • National Geographic report on email brides (Russian)—video.
    • Crimson expose of email order brides—video.

VI. Retributive justice/punishment topics:

  1. What is “restorative justice”? What is attractive about it? What are some possible problems with it?
    • Sliva defending restorative justice….video.
  2. What is “corporal punishment” for criminal cases? What forms does it take? Briefly sketch its use history and current use around the world? Can it be morally defended? If so, how?
    • Simon Whistler on the ten most horrifying forms of corporal punishment….video.
  3. What is “solitary confinement”? When and where is it used? Assess the ethics of its use.
    • Rovner advocating ending solitary confinement…video.
    • ABC news report on solitary confinement…video.
  4. What is “torture”? Explore the moral case for and against its use as a method of punishment. Explore the moral case for using torture as a method of discovering information about future attacks.
    • Sandel on torture…video.
    • Col. Jackson on why torture is never justified…video.
    • CIA Director Brennan defending use of waterboarding…video.
    • Yoo defends himself on torture…video.
  5. What is “waterboarding”? Is it really torture? Why/why not? Should its use be allowed, and if so, in what situations?
    • Journalist Christopher Hitchens being water-boarded…video.
    • Journalist Andersson on the blackout box…video.
    • AG Mukasey denies waterboarding is torture…video.
    • Discussion of Zero Dark Thirtyvideo.
  6. What is the “insanity defense”? Discuss its use, and the ethical issues surrounding it.
  7. Upwards of half the people in American prisons are there for non-violent crimes, most commonly drug offenses. Should we decriminalize drugs? Should we legalize drugs? (What’s the difference?) Has this been done in other countries? How has it worked out?
    • Intelligence squared debate on drug legalization—video.
    • James Baker Institute debate on drug legalization—video.
    • Penn & Teller episode on the war on drugs—video.
  8. Should we allow ex-felons to vote? All of them? Some of them? Why/why not?
    • BEME News discussion of whether ex-felons should be allowed to vote…video.
    • The Real Daytime discussion on what felons should vote…video.
  9. What is “chemical castration”? Should it be allowed as a punishment? Why/why not? What if the prisoner consents?
    • Daily Blast discussion of chemical castration….video.
    • Douglas on chemical castration…video.
    • Newsy report on South Korea chemical castration of rapist…video.
  10. Should “forced labor” camps be allowed? Why/why not?
  11. What are “three-strike laws”? Should they be allowed? If so, how should they be framed or structured?
    • NYT report on three-strikes laws…video.
  12. In some cities, networks of cameras allow the police to identify and track potential suspects. New facial recognition software can allow computer to track anyone on the streets. This will allow the police to arrest people with outstanding warrants, or suspected of criminal activity, or of ties to terrorism. What are some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of this technology as a tool to control crime and terrorism?
    • WSJ report on life in the Chinese police state…video.
    • ABC News on the Chinese digital dictatorship…video.
    • HuffPost report on cameras in Newark…video.
  13. Explore the ethical issues surrounding the US Department of Defense giving surplus sophisticated weapons, including armored personnel carriers, to local police departments.
    • PBS report on police getting DOD surplus…video.
    • CBS report on military equipment in police hands…video.
    • NowThisWorld report on militarization of police…video.
  14. In enforcing border laws, is the US justified in the policy of family separation of illegal aliens caught at the border? Explore the ethical issues here.
    • ABC News report on children separated from illegal alien parents…video.
    • CBS News report on child separation…
    • Ben Shapiro defending the status quo…video.
  15. What are “assault rifles” exactly? How frequently are they used to commit crimes? Should they be banned, as machine guns are? Why/why not?
    • Bloomberg on what constitutes an assault rifle…video.
    • ReasonTV report on assault rifles as undefined…video.
  16. Prisoners’ health care is fully paid for by taxpayers, many of whom cannot afford their own health insurance. Should prisoners be allowed to have sex change operations? Why/why not.
    • Fox News debate on sex-change operations for prisoners…video.
    • Drew debate on sex change operations for prisoners…video.
  17. What is “bail”? Does offering to allow accused criminals to go free on bail discriminate against the poor? Explore the ethics of bail.
    • Al Jazeera on bail as discriminatory…video.
    • TestTube News discussion on bail as discriminatory…video.
    • Illinois TV news conference–police argue against proposals to eliminate cash bail…video.
  18. Is it legal to charge a minor as an adult? If so, when? Is that ever moral? Why/why not?
    • Studio 10 discussion of trying 13 year olds as adults…video.
    • Deitch TED talk on trying children as adults…video.
    • Richard French on when minors are tried as adults…video.
  19. Prisoners’ health care is fully paid for by taxpayers, many of whom cannot afford their own health insurance. Plastic surgery is usually used to enhance people’s feelings of confidence. Should prisoners be allowed to have plastic surgery, under the theory that it may make them fit into society better? Why/why not?
  20. What should the drinking age be? If you can marry, join the army, donate a kidney or be kicked out of your parents’ house at age 18, why shouldn’t you be able to buy a beer at that age?
    • Drew Binsky on lowering the age…video.
    • ReasonTV on ;lowering the age….video.
    • 60 Minutes debate on the 21 limit…
  21. If we put any murderer who is declared insane into a mental hospital rather than a regular prison-under the view that he didn’t know what he was doing–should we then release him when psychiatrists declare him sane again? Or should they be forced to stay in the mental hospital at least as long as they would have served in prison? Or should we keep him in prison for life, under the view that no psychiatrist can really tell when someone has “recovered” from such a mental illness?
  22. What are the incarceration rates by ethnicity? Why are there these differences? Does it indicate a problem with the criminal justice system?
  23. Should employers have the right to not hire ex-convicts? If so, any ex-cons, or just some? Explore the ethics of discrimination in hiring on the basis of criminal records (past criminal convictions).
    • Maltby on how a criminal record affects employment—
    • EEOC on guidelines on how to use arrest records in hiring—
    • Ryerson on use of criminal background checks in hiring—

VII. Distributive justice topics:

  1. Is the use of performance enhancing drugs for sports (or business, or writing) ever morally permissible? Why/why not?
    • Studio 10 discussion on allowing performance-enhancing drugs…video.
    • The Economist on why doping is inevitable…video.
    • Gleaves on doping…video.
  2. Explore the ethics of discrimination among employees on the basis of how attractive they look. In what situations (if any) is it morally permissible?
    • The Young Turks discussion of discriminating on looks—
    • Stossel piece on discrimination on basis of looks—
    • Bennett survey results on beauty bias—
  3. Since unattractive people suffer through their whole lives, should there be affirmative action for them in compensation or hiring? Why/why not?
  4. Examine the ethics of a city declaring itself to be a “sanctuary city” in the sense that the city government directs the local police to refuse to notify ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of any people arrested and found to be illegal aliens.
    • Vox on what are sanctuary cities…video.
    • NBC on ICE vs. sanctuary cities…video.
    • CNN on ICE in Chicago…video.
    • ABC news on San Francisco as sanctuary city…video.
  5. Police profiling by appearance is generally indefensible. But how about police and security services profiling by behavior-say, pulling people out of the line waiting to board an aircraft if they are behaving nervously, or have only a one-way ticket, or such like? Is that morally permissible? Why/why not?
    • Fox News report on profiling in Israel…video.
    • ABC News on racial profiling…video.
    • WIRED report on reading body language…video.
  6. Discuss the ethical issues of hate crimes legislation.
    • CATO debate on hate crimes legislation…video.
    • Nate Hentoff on hate crimes legislation…video.
  7. Explore the facts surrounding the mismatch argument against GMD?
    • Stuart Taylor on mismatch…video.
  8. Surveys have shown that scholars who are politically even moderately right of center politically are incredibly under-represented on college faculties (in most Humanities and Social Sciences departments, left-leaning scholars outnumber right-leaning scholars by a 10 or even 20 to 1 margins. College students are overwhelmingly left-leaning political. If we value diversity, should we not have affirmative action based on political preference? That is, for the next (say) 50 years give preference to right-leaning students in admissions and right-leaning candidates in faculty hiring?
    • AEI panel on the lack of political diversity on campus…video.
    • Jonathan Haidt on diversity…video.
    • Jonathan Haidt on truth vs. social justice…video.
  9. Should GMD be extended to cover the LGBTQ community?
  10. Critically examine the commonly made claim that there is a wide gap in wages paid to men and women which indicates that women are being underpaid because of their gender. If the gap isn’t due to gender discrimination, what is it due to?
    • Jordan Peterson on the gender pay gap…video.
    • Vox on the gender pay gap…video.
    • Factual feminist on pay gap in soccer…video.
    • Bowles on gender pay gap…video.
  11. Is it social conditioning that keeps women from majoring in STEM disciplines? Explore the data here, especially recent international studies on female/male ratios and gender equal societies.
    • Skozcelas on how to increase the representation of women in STEM fields…video.
    • Independent Man Peterson commentary on women in STEM…video
    • Sommers on women and STEM majors…video.
  12. Should unpaid internships be against the law?/why not?
    • Weinstein on the ethics of unpaid internships…video.
    • Carmichael on when internships are good…video.
    • Goldberg on why not to be an unpaid intern…video.
    • Bellwoods on internships as bad for business…video.
  13. Should the voting age be lowered? If so, to what age?
    • Above the Noise should we lower the voting age to 16…video.
    • BEME News on voting at lowering the voting age…video.
  14. Should there be mandatory voting? Why/why not? Do other countries do this? How is it be enforced?
    • America from Scratch on mandatory voting…
    • Institute of Public Affairs on mandatory voting…video.
  15. Is it immoral for schools (such as Yale and Harvard) to accept students because their parents attend the same schools (“legacy” admissions)? Why/why not?
    • College Transitions report on “legacy” admissions…video.
    • Act TV report on legacy admissions…video.
  16. A problem for those of us who deeply abhor racism is racial differences in IQ. Explore this issue and the ethical questions it raises.
    • PsychExamReview of the question of racial differences in IQ…video.
    • SeriousScience interview on IQ…video.
    • Jordan Peterson on IQ facts…video.
    • Sam Harris and Charles Murray on IQ and race….video.
  17. Explore the issues surrounding a Universal Basic Income as a replacement for all existing welfare programs.
    • Friedman on UBI…video.
    • Kurzgesagt on UBI…video.
    • BBC report on Finland’s UBI experiment…video.
  18. Would having scholarships reserved for white males-even if privately funded-be morally permissible? Would they be any worse than scholarships for women, or minority students? Why/why not?
  19. Read about the Americans with Disabilities Act. This bill made people with disabilities a protected class as regards employment and pay in private industry. Some have argued that the bill was not a good idea, others that it was vitally needed. How has the bill worked out? Should it be retained as is, modified, or discarded?
    • Vitek on the ADA…video.
    • DBTAC pro report on ADA…video.
    • Mazzella critical of ADA…video.

VIII. Political philosophical topics:

  1. I only briefly mention a variety of libertarian philosophy called anarcho-capitalism. Critically explore this political philosophy. What might be its strengths? Weaknesses?
    • Anglo Libertarian on anarcho-capitalism…video.
    • Caplan on anarcho-capitalism…video.
    • Xexizy critique of anarcho-capitalism…video.
  2. Discuss the ethical issues surrounding the FISA court.
    • Federalist Society history of FISA court…video.
    • PBS discussion of the FISA court…video.
    • Fox News critique of FISA court…video.
  3. Discuss the ethics of adopting the “loser pay” (“British rule,” “fee shifting”) system in American common law. How does the system work in practice in (say) Britain? In particular, what role do insurance companies play in Britain’s common law system? In the US, a few states have this system – which ones, and how does it work in those states? Should the US adopt such a system in all states? Why/why not?
    • American Constitutional Society panel (very critical) on loser pay system—
    • Perry signs loser pay law in Texas—video.
    • Unintended consequence of Texas law—video.
  4. Should we privatize Social Security, say by adopting the “Chilean Model” of retirement planning? Why/why not?
    • Friedman on social security…video.
    • Friedman sketches some of his ideas on retirement…video.
    • Frontline episode on the retirement “gamble” and the problem of 401k plans…video.
    • FBN interview with Pinera on privatizing the social security system—video.
    • Pinera answers questions on the Chilean model of privatized social security—video.
    • Cafferty critical of privatizing social security—video.
    • Worldfocus report critical of the Chilean system—video.
  5. Should we nationalize/socialize our health care system?
    • Soho Forum debate on whether the free market best handles health care…video.
  6. Should the Federal (or even state) government pay the healthcare costs (some? all?) of people who are in the country without legal permission (“undocumented workers,” “illegal aliens”)? Why/why not?
    • FBN debate on healthcare for illegals…video.
    • Wharton School on how illegal aliens pay taxes…video.
    • Fox News report on California giving illegal aliens health benefits…video.
  7. Many colleges have speech codes that prohibit students from saying or writing things which other students find harassing or offensive. In some cases, students who have been punished for violating these codes have in turn successfully sued their colleges for violation of the right to free speech. Examine the ethical issues surrounding campus speech codes and (more generally) free speech on campus.
    • Paikin panel on free speech on campus…video.
    • Stossel episode critical of college speech codes…video.
    • ReasonTV interview with Prof. Kors skeptical of speech codes…video.
    • ReasonTV interview with attorney Lukianoff skeptical of speech codes…video.
  8. What do people mean by “micro-aggression”? Is it just hypersensitivity by the other person? Explore the ethical issues here.
    • Quartz definition of micro-aggression…video.
    • Alvoid on micro-aggressions…video.
    • Factual feminist on micro-aggression…video.
    • Yaron Brook on micro-aggression…video.
  9. A recent Supreme Court ruling held that corporations can openly fund candidates and causes. Some people were outraged. Was that ruling morally right – that is, should companies be able to fund candidates and causes? How about unions? Environmentalist groups? Why/why not?
    • Intelligence squared debate on free speech and money—video.
  10. There is controversy about paycheck protection laws. What are they? How do they relate to the U.S. Supreme Court Beck ruling? What arguments are there for and against paycheck protection laws?
    • Business Matters debate on paycheck protection act—video.
    • Missouri House hearings on paycheck protection—video.
  11. Recently, some protestors have argued that college student loans should be “forgiven.” What is the recent history of the college student loan program (nationalized in 2009)? What are some arguments for and against student loan “forgiveness”? What about the idea of “forgiving” them for people who go into government or non-profit work? Is that fair, or is it unfair to those who work in standard for-profit businesses? How does public choice theory enter in? Your view?
    • PBS report on student loan debt—
    • Applebaum favoring student loan debt forgiveness—
    • Dave Ramsey critical of student loans—
    • LearnLiberty criticism of student loan forgiveness—
  12. Some have argued that allowing wealthy individuals to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns is unfair to ordinary systems and corrupt political life, and laws have been passed to limit this practice, namely, so-called “campaign finance reform” laws. What are the moral issues involved in such laws? Do they infringe on the right to free speech?
    • George Will opposing campaign finance reform—video.
    • George Will on money in politics—video.
  13. Some nations have adopted a “flat income tax,” meaning a tax on income that is the same percentage no matter how much anyone earns, and there are no deductions of any sort (e.g., for charitable contributions, state or local taxes, or whatever else). Other nations”“including the USA”“have a so-called “progressive” income tax, meaning as a person’s income goes up, so should not just the amount he pays in income tax go up, but the percentage should as well (although deductions for various things are allowed). Discuss the ethics of flat taxes. Don’t forget to look at how the flat tax has worked in other countries.
    • Pros&Cons Channel discussion of flat income tax…video.
    • Firing Line debate on the flat tax…video.

IX. International relations topics:

  1. What is the just war theory? Can a nuclear war ever be a “just” war under the just war theory? Why/why not?
    • Walzer on just war theory…video.
    • CCCSpringfiels on just war doctrine and just war theory…video.
  2. If a nation uses chemical or biological weapons against us (in violation of international law), should we respond in kind? Why/why not? If not, how should we respond?
  3. What is “DACA”? Would it be good to make it law? Why/why not?
    • Vox on the DACA program…video.
    • KACE report on DACA and Trump ending it…video.
    • CBS on Trump ending DACA…video.
  4. In class I discuss the ethics of immigration, i.e., of allowing large numbers of entering our country. But I didn’t discuss the ethics of emigration, i.e., of other countries restricting the ability of their people to move here. For example, some other countries try to restrict emigration on the stated desire of stopping “brain drain.” Explore this issue.
    • Sinn on brain drain…video.
    • Ategaka on brain drain of African doctors…video.
    • CBS on brain drain to America reversing itself…video.
  5. Should we design robots to kill people?
  6. Explore the ethical issues surrounding giving foreign aid generally, and to dictators of poor countries in particular.
    • PolyMatter on the problems with foreign aid…video.
    • Parajuli on the dangers of foreign aid…video.
    • Rubin on why giving foreign aid helps US…video.
    • Secular Talk on US aiding dictatorships…video.
  7. Should college tuition be free? Why/why not?
    • KQED on free college tuition…video.
    • AtlanticLIVE debate on free college tuition…video.
    • ReasonTV against free college tuition…video.
  8. Should the Electoral College be ended, and Presidents be elected by direct vote? Why/why not?
    • Cooper Union debate on the direct vote…video.
  9. Is the international arms trade unethical? Should it be banned by international organizations? Why/why not?
    • Arms trade and ethical use debate—video.

X. Animal rights issues:

  1. Is the consumption of meat inherently immoral? Why/why not?
    • IQ Squared debate on the morality of meat consumption…video.
    • IQ Squared debate on the morality of meat consumption…video.
  2. Discuss the ethics surrounding the use of animals in testing drugs or medical procedures.
    • TED Talk on the Use of Mice in Medical Research—link.
    • VICE Expose of the Use of Animals in Medical research—link.
  3. Some have argued that you should never buy pets from pet stores, because those pets come from so-called “puppy mills.” Explore the ethical issues surrounding the sale of pets, but avoid loaded language. Cite evidence and facts.
    • KCET on new law halting pet stores from selling dogs and cats purchased from breeders…video.
    • CBS report on attempt to outlaw retail sale of puppies…video.
  4. Some people-including prominent actresses-have said that buying real(as opposed to faux) fur coats is immoral since the fur pelts are harvested from animals that have been killed, often by trapping. Others argue that there is nothing wrong with the fur industry that doesn’t equally apply to the leather goods industry, the meat industry, the fishing industry, or the soap industry. They argue that if we properly regulate the industry, it is morally fine. What are the arguments here, pro and con? Is there a regulated form of the fur industry you could support?
    • Historian Dolin of the history of the fur trade…video.
    • Merrilee Parker documentary on fur trade…video.
  5. Is it morally permissible to let your pet cat/dog go if it runs away? Are you obligated, as the owner, to find it and care for it, or is permissible to assume that the pet will take care of itself in the wild?
  6. In the wake of an effective publicity program showing hunters clubbing seal pups, strong restrictions were put on seal hunting in Canada. How did this impact the Inuit people, who from time immemorial have supported themselves from seal-hunting? Should requirements be eased to help the Inuit? Why/why not?
    • Munchies on Inuit seal hunting…video.
  7. Should we keep animals in zoos? Discuss the ethical issues surrounding zoos. Why/why not?
    • Above the Noise discussion of zoos…video.
    • Seeker on the pros and cons of zoos…video
    • Zoo curator defends zoos…video.
  8. Most people believe that human beings are superior to all other animals. But some philosophers have said that this is “speciesism”-they deny humans are superior to other animals. Explore this issue.
    • Vegan arguing that humans are not superior…video.
    • Enqvist on how we became so different…video.
    • Prager on the greater value of humans…video.
    • Machan/Facione debate on whether animals have rights… video.
  9. Should animals be forbidden in circuses? Why/why not?
    • PETA ad against use of animals in circuses…video.
    • Al Jazeera on Ringling Brothers retirement…video.
    • ARAN defending its use of animals…video.

Environmental Issues:

  1. If a democracy-say, India-decides that it wants dramatically fewer environmental regulations than we do, is it morally permissible for American to relocate there to save regulatory costs?
  2. Some have argued that fracking is environmentally bad, and should be banned. Others argue that fracking, properly done, is environmentally friendly. Review the controversy.
    • Marathon Oil explanation of fracking …video.
    • FBN report on the economic promise of fracking…video.
    • CBS 60 Minutes report on fracking…video.
    • Link TV anti-fracking report…video.
    • ReasonTV pro-fracking report…video.
  3. What are genetically modified foods (GMOs)? Are they anything really new? Yet many people fear them. Explore the ethical issues surrounding the use of GMOs?
    • Guardian short debate on GMO foods…video.
    • Real Science on the truth about GMOs…video.
    • Kurzgesagt on GMOs…video.
    • GW show on organic food…video.
  4. Many environmentalists have embraced wind and solar power as a solution to global warming. But others have argued that these technologies pose environmental risks of their own, such as harm to wildfowl and polluting mining activity. Explore the ethical issues surrounding these technologies.
    • Michael Moore documentary “Planet of the Humans”…video.
    • Josh Fox replies to Moore…video.
    • Alex Epstein on solar and wind power—video.
    • Alex Epstein on fossil fuels—video.
  5.  What are the ethical issues in international trade and the environment? Does free trade hurt the environment? Why/why not?
    • Mercatus Center report on international trade and the environment—video.
    • Mitchell examines free trade and the environment—video.
    • Bhagwati argues that trade helps the environment—video.
  6. Do consumers have an obligation to consume in a way that protects the environment (so-called “Green consumerism”)? If so, what exactly does this mean? Why/why not?
    • Journeyman pictures documentary “Consumed”—video.
    • Explainity plumping of sustainability— video.
    • Newman on sustainability—video.
    • Ted talk on sustainability—video.
  7. Over the last few years, our government has been massively subsiding electric vehicles (EVs). Explore the ethical issues here. Are EVs good for the environment? If so, how much? If they are so good, why do they need government subsidy?
    • Fox debate on EVs—video.
    • Get Connected quick debate over EVs—video.
    • Pro-EV documentary—video.
    • Lomborg on EVs as not so green—video.
    • Sharkee lecture on problems with EVs—video.
  8. One of the most controversial pesticides ever made is DDT. Some investigations-starting with the famous (or infamous) writer Rachel Carlson-have claimed that DDT causes cancer in humans and destroys wildlife. Others have urged that since its ban, hundreds of thousands of people – many children – have died because of malaria, a disease spread by mosquitoes which were in the past eradicated by DDT. Explore the ethics of the use of DDT.
    • Rachel Carlson critical of DDT—video.
    • Gottschau excerpt critical of DDT—video.
    • MSU story of Wallace, the biologist who investigated link between DDT and bird deaths—video.
    • ReasonTV report supportive of DDT—video.
    • Stossel report supportive of DDT—video.
    • VOA on Silent Spring at 50—video.
  9. Nuclear power has been controversial since its inception. Some self-styled environmentalists have deeply opposed it, claiming that it kills people (as in the incident at Chernobyl) – indeed, that it poses the risk of killing massive numbers of people-and polluting the environment for ages to come. Others, including recently some other self-styled environmentalists, have pointed to America’s nuclear power industry as being amazingly safe and effective, especially in view of the fact that it contributes essentially nothing to global warming. Examine the ethical issues surrounding nuclear power.
    • Schwenke video on how nuclear reactors work—video.
    • Intelligence Squared debate on nuclear power—video.
    • Columbia panel discussion on the future of nuclear power—video.
  10. Most cities have extensive regulations requiring recycling. But some writers have argued that recycling is a waste of time”“that if some waste is worth recycling, the free market will pay people to recycle. Otherwise, it is a waste of people’s time. Is that true?
    • Battle of Ideas Debate: Recycling is a Waste of Time—video.
    • Tom Woods interview with Dr.Lilly—audio.

XII. Miscellaneous:

  1. What is “gene patenting”? Explore the ethical issues surrounding gene patenting.
    • Get Science on the pros and cons of gene patenting…video.
    • Wendover on the question of gene patenting…video.
    • Simoncelli on whether gene patenting should be legal…video.
    • LSE discussion of the ethics of gene patents…video.
  2. Every year, thousands of Americans die waiting for organ transplants, especially kidneys. A few donate their organs, usually to their kin or close friends, but far less than the existing demand. Yet under current law, people cannot sell their organs the way they sell their eggs, sperm, or blood. Some have argued that we should allow a free market for human organ sales. Do any other countries allow this? Do you think that we should? Why/why not? If so, what regulations would you suggest?
    • Intelligence squared debates “We should legalize the market for human organs”—video.
    • Reason TV pro piece on organ sales—video.
    • Satz on the moral limits of markets—audio.
  3. What is “genetic screening”? Why might an employer want to genetically screen potential employees? Would that be ethical? Why/why not? What is the current law here?
    • Baptist Health report on the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act—video.
    • Euro report on genetic testing—video.
    • CCTV report on genetic testing—video.
  4. What is “human cloning”? Should it be legalized? Why/why not?
    • Science Plus on the ethics of human cloning…video.
    • Adam Savages Tested on the status and ethics of cloning…video.
  5. Do social media pose a risk for young people, especially young girls? Why/why not? If so, what should be done about it?
    • Lampe on good effects of social media…video.
    • Graham on bad effects of social media…video.
    • DW on negative effects of social media on young women…video.
  6. Should women routinely be put into front lines in combat? Where has this occurred, if at all? What has been the result? Discuss the factual and ethical issues here.
    • Forces TV debate on women serving on front lines…video.
    • TYT on women in combat…video.
    • Seeker on the science of women in combat…video.
  7. Are the standards for physical fitness different for men and women in military service? Review the facts here, then what ethical issues they may raise.
    • London Real on different standards…video.
    • CNN report on lower standards for women in Marine corps…video.
  8. Are there general cognitive differences between men and women? What are the facts here? Explore the ethical issues that may be raised here.
    • How To Academy debate on whether there are gender differences…video.
    • Pinker on the major cognitive differences between men and women…video.
  9. If there was a drug that dramatically lowered the chances of (say) heart disease with no side effects, would it be ethical for government to put it in the public’s drinking water?
  10. Should E-cigarettes be banned? Regulated? Why/why not?
    • Newman on advantages of vaping…video.
    • Stossel on vaping…video.
    • The Economist on vaping…video.
  11. Should all children be required to vaccinate? Why/why not?
    • Sky News discussion of compulsory vaccination…video.
    • PBS report on mandatory vaccination…video.
    • Frontline: the vaccine wars…video.
  12. Should references to “God” be removed from our currency? Stuck from legal proceedings? Why/why not?
    • GodVlogger argument for removing “In God We Trust”…video.
    • Cody Armour argument against removing the motto…video.


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