Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, February 15, 2016

Quiz Feb.16

The Case Against Perfection, ch2-Bionic Athletes

1. As athletic enhancement increases, what fades?

2. Does Sandel think the main problem with enhancement is that it undermines effort and erodes human agency?

3. What do genetically altered athletes corrupt?

4. Sandel thinks Lasik surgery to correct normal vision would be an acceptable enhancement for a golfer under what condition?

5. Does Sandel allege an ethical problem with mega-calorie diets?

6. What is "far-fetched" about the view that the rules of a game are arbitrary?

1. A devil's advocate might say, of the complaint that an enhanced performance is less impressive, that if it's so easy to hit 70+ home runs on steroids then more than just two should have been able to do it. The implication is that, enhanced or not, elite athletic accomplishment is entertaining and exceptional. What do you think?

2. Do you agree that we should be a more humble and less "promethean" species, more appreciative of the gift of life and less willful, less confident in our ability to "remake nature, including human nature"?

3. "Striving is not the point of sports; excellence is." (28) Agree? Were McGwire's and Bonds's achievements less excellent than Ruth's and Maris's?

4. Is it clear to you where we should draw the line between "natural gifts" and artificial enhancements? Isn't medical science an expression of culture, itself in turn a natural evolutionary adaptation on the part of our species? Aren't nature and culture on the same continuum? Or does this attitude extend a blank check for any and every humanly engendered aleration as equally "natural"?

5. Do transfusions, hormone injecctions (EPOs), altitude training, and genetic modifications all share the same ethical status, if their effect on performance is the same? 33

6. What threatens "the integrity of [a] game"?
Oxford Academic (@OUPAcademic)
As life expectancy increases, so should our understanding of the issues surrounding #aging - especially in #medicine bit.ly/1T5ignD

Rose Eveleth (@roseveleth)
Male biology students consistently underestimate female peers, study finds washington.edu/news/2016/02/1…

  • Some Christians believe God rewards the faithful. So why did I get Stage 4 cancer? nyt
  • Death goes in and out of fashion. The topic lingers behind euphemisms for a few years, and then someone calls it forth again: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross with her disciplined “On Death and Dying” in 1969; Susan Sontag with her angry but profound “Illness as Metaphor” in 1978 and the empathetic follow-up “AIDS and Its Metaphors,” in 1988; Derek Humphry, implausibly, with his suicide handbook “Final Exit” in 1991; Sherwin Nuland with his magisterial “How We Die” in 1993; more recently, Joan Didion with her agonizingly precise “The Year of Magical Thinking” in 2005; and Atul Gawande with his humane “Being Mortal” in 2014. Each of these books argues, one way or another, for a continuum between life and its conclusion. The gloss of youthful vitality can persuade us that life is for the living, but life is also for the dying, and repudiating that ultimate punctuation escalates our anxiety and deprives us of final dignity. Time and again, we must clarify our individual and collective beliefs about how the last chapter changes the rest of the narrative. “Or not to be” is not in fact a question. (continues at Andrew Solomon, The Good Death...)

    Longreads (@Longreads)
    Triplets, a legal battle, and murky ethics in the surrogacy industry: lgrd.co/1Wo7MyR @Slate#longreads pic.twitter.com/NzsaGJBZAD

    bioethics.net (@bioethics_net)
    #Bioethics: If U.S. continues to ignore CRISPR regulation we wont be ready for the futureow.ly/Ymq58 pic.twitter.com/yJlpaOhqTz
    The late David Carr on Black Mirror, MicroSoft's HoloLens, and our dwindling experience of "actual unencumbered reality."

    Micah Hester's colloquium talk at Vandy presented several ambiguous cases of "brain death" and "biological death," including that of Jahi McMath...

    Breaking Up With My Meds By DIANA SPECHLERThe drugs I take for anxiety, depression and insomnia have helped, but I’ve decided to quit.

    THE NEW OLD AGE Continued Questions on Benzodiazepine Use in Older Patients By PAULA SPAN A new reports that among 65- to 80-year-old Americans, close to 9 percent use drugs like Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin.

    The Patient Will See You Now,’ by Eric Topol, reviewed by Sandeep Jauhar, nyt bk rev 2.13.15. 

    Despite awesome increases in computational power, I think it is premature to conclude that doctors’ judgments — not to mention their healing touch — can be rendered by computers. In an illustrative vignette, Topol writes about a plane flight he was on in which a passenger lost consciousness soon after takeoff. In the air, Topol performed a smartphone examination of the patient, including checking an electrocardiogram, measuring blood pressure and doing a cardiac ultrasound. The patient was fine, but despite this investigative tour de force, Topol curiously concludes that the passenger did not require a doctor on the plane to make the diagnosis. “All that was needed were the tools to collect the data,” he says. This, I believe, is wishful thinking.
    Another old Sandel post:
    Walk on air

    ...today’s always a gift, and that’s why we call it the present. Dare we open it? (No peeking? How about peak experiencing?)
    Gift is Michael Sandel’s keyword in today’s Bioethics chapter, too, as his Case Against Perfection continues in chapter two. He’s an anti-doping anti-perfectionist (with the world’s most popular course on justice), worried that we’ll design ourselves right out of the possibility of accomplishing our own goals and, ultimately, achieving meaningful lives.

    “Bionic Athletes,” enhanced by various means (not restricted to pharmaceuticals), have looked the gifthorse of natural (some will say “god-given”) athleticism in the mouth (he says). They’ve corrupted their respective sports and compromised our capacity to appreciate their gifts and their games.

    So what? Games are only, well, games. Arbitrary, unimportant, meaningless. Right?

    Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s not the central argument here. Let me just say, though, that I’ve experienced at least a few glorious afternoons in the bleachers that felt anything but “meaningless” – they felt like what James Carse calls “infinte games,” played for their own sake and experienced as ends in themselves. Never mind, though, for now.

    Sandel’s clear insinuation is  that we’re in danger of killing the biggest game of all, the game of life. If we make winning by all means the only thing, we’ll be robbing life of intrinsic interest, meaning, joy. Joie de vivre is the greatest gift; the dopers and cheaters and transhumanist dreamers may yet prove to be our greatest killjoys.
    The deeper danger of enhancement and genetic engineering is that they represent a kind of hyper-agency, a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires.

    At stake, Sandel says, is “an appreciation of the gifted character of human powers and achievements.” Such appreciation reflects a “religious sensibility” that is grateful but humble, and not so presumptuous as to try and replicate those powers. Hmmm.

    Do nature’s gifts require and reward such self-abnegating gratitude? Does the “religion of humanity”?

    There follows an interesting comparison, interesting at least to baseball fans, of Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio.

    Then, a surprising and at least overstated (probably false) claim: “striving is not the point of sports; excellence is.” I think Sandel really does not want to say that, does not mean what his words may convey. He wants to block the kind of ambitious striving that lusts after (say) seven medals at the Tour de France, or 73 suspiciously -amped Home Runs, or a shortcut to the marathon finish line. But surely he does not oppose striving against one’s own previous limitations to overcome internal resistance and achieve more than we knew we could.

    Don’t some admirable athletes (and humans in general) possess a gift for striving?

    I do think Sandel’s right to point out that “success” in baseball must continue to mean a 70% (or so) failure rate, in order to sustain our interest. I also agree that Judge Scalia is full of peanuts when he calls all rules “arbitrary.”
    Sandel did an interesting Philosophy Bites interview worth hearing. His Harvard lectures on justice are wildly popular. He was also described in a recent profile as a “rock star.”

    Richard Powers’ Generosity: An Enhancement (Part Two: “Walk on Air”) also raises crucial questions about the genetic gift of a sweet and happy disposition, and how well- or ill-advised we and our heirs might be to experiment with re-gifting happiness via biogenetic interventions and therapies. There are “big winners in genetics’ happiness roulette” (the biggest are hyperthymic, “every day bathed in renewable elation”) and relative losers. It’s not fair. Can we level the playing field? Can “peak experience” be packaged and sold?

    A few highlights from today’s Generosity:
    People want to live longer and better. When they can do both, they will. Ethics is just going to have to catch up.
    …we might still become the authors of our own lives.
    One glance at the only available planetary future made having children at best
    benighted and at worst depraved. Nulliparity— human build-down— was a moral imperative… she was already a member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.
    Resolved: the human race would have been better off if the agricultural revolution had never happened. Resolved: the government should cap the salaries of professional athletes… Resolved: the human race will not survive its own ingenuity. Resolved: the cure for our chronic despair is just around the corner… Tonia Schiff can make the most cataclysmic debate almost as entertaining as reality itself.
    Candace helps students understand that feeling good about themselves is more important than being “perfect…”
    It took the species millions of years to climb down out of the trees, and only ten years more to jump into the fishbowl.
    “If I knew a drug that produced sustainedintense, level, loving well-being without any trace of stupor or edge, I’d take it myself.” She cocked her head and twisted her lips. “You’d have to. Everyone else would already be on it.”
    You have cause — so have we all — of joy.
    Does generous [heart, joie, expansion, big feeling] include all those who are by nature genuine, generative, anyone pregnant with connections, keen to make more kin?
         Or is generosity a question of having the right blood, the innate germ of the genteel gentry?
    Enough philosophy; she has sworn off it. Philosophy never consoled anyone.
    I’d spent my whole life coming here, and now I was home. Everyone alive deserves to feel that way once.
    Only once?
    And so we’re off to BNA. Happy flight, kids. Walk on air.


    1. Quiz Question: Defenders of beta-blockers argue that the drugs do not make anyone a better violinist or pianist but simply remove an impediment. What do they say the removal of this impediment allows for?

    2. Quiz Question: What two items did Sandel use as a scale of acceptance in sports innovation? pg30

      1. I was actually looking for running shoes and a subway. I ll give it to you though.

    3. DQ: What threatens "the integrity of [a] game"?

      Answer: The integrity of a game is threatened by several factors, but the use of enhancers and any other form of bodily enhancement serves as a major threat. I feel that supplements take away from the “fun” aspect of any game and skew the outcomes in competitions. I disagree that, “striving is not the point of sports.” Striving leads to a sense of accomplishment, and is generally sought as a positive aspect of games to the athlete and audience alike. The ongoing use of enhancers in sports may only continue to grow; however if this is the case, the integrity of games may never be the same again.

      1. I believe that the ability of the athletes should not be overshadowed by performance enhancers.

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    6. This is a video advertising the first "Cybathlon" that will take place this year (October 2016). I think it is really interesting to see the types of challenges these competitors have overcome to be able to compete and how the type of competition is targeted specifically to their corrected disabilities. With these enhancements for the physically impaired I wonder how close to enhancing the "average" or "normal" athlete we will get. I think this brings about an interesting circumstance that we should all keep our eyes on.


    7. Should athletes with corrected physics disabilities be able to compete in the Olympics and not forced to only compete in the Paralympics? For example, did Oscar Pistorius, who competed in the 2012 London Olympics have a physical advantage over his opponents due to the fact of his prosthetic legs? How could his legs be advantageous compared to his opponents?

      1. I believe that the public interest dictates how these rules are reached. If the public all went out and raced in wheel chairs and there was a high demand to watch it, the Olympic committee would eventually include it in its own contest. I did not agree with Oscar racing due to him being the only one allowed to wear the prosthetic legs. Why would it not be acceptable for people with full limbs to wear customized apparatuses for running as well.

    8. Quiz Question:

      Why do some people deny that sports have a point?

      (pp. 42)

      1. Some people deny sports have a point because their rules are arbitrary.

    9. Quiz Question:

      What steroid hormone is responsible for increasing RBC production in order to provide the user with boosted amounts of stamina and lowered amounts of recovery time?

      (pp. 32-33)

    10. So this chapter reminded a lot of some video's on YouTube i've been watching for entertainment(link below). You will immediately see that these guys are quite "enhanced" but what is interesting is that in the comment section the people react (for the most part) the way the book describes how fans of a sport react to enhanced performers

    11. Do transfusions, hormone injections (EPOs), altitude training, and genetic modifications all share the same ethical status, if their effect on performance is the same?

      I would say not quite because although they would have a similar effect on the game they would not have the same effect on the body and that is where the ethical lines begin to separate. A lot of the things that some athletes take to enhance themselves(especially professional body builders) can actually KILL you. It doesnt even take that long. Even if you get off of the drugs before that extreme point your body still wont be the same so when we have these sports that allow these sort of things to go down KNOWINGLY the ethical questions should be pointed at the sport itself and the people profiting the most from it.

    12. http://singularityhub.com/2014/04/23/bionic-athletes-with-exoskeletons-robotic-limbs-and-brain-control-devices-to-compete-in-2016-cybathlon/

      This link leads to an article on the 2016 cybathalon which allows exoskeletons, robot limbs and even brain control interfaces. As all competitors are enhanced, I wonder if this isn't actual rather ethical or a fair playing field.

    13. http://www.amsvans.com/blog/athletes-with-disabilities-prepare-for-bionic-olympics-in-2016/

      This link leads to an article about athletes competing in the cybathalon, it might give you second be thought about the ethics involved if you know these are all disabled people unable to compete without enhancement.

    14. This article talks about the pros and cons of the interesting high-altitude training program mentioned in the chapter. It is a good example of what the outcome of using people as a means is.


    15. Quiz Question:

      Does the increase of the average weight of Super Bowl lineman from 248 lbs in 1972 to 304 lbs in 2002 raise an issue? Why?

    16. Discussion Question #5:
      I think that transfusions, hormone injections, altitude training, and genetic modifications all share the same ethical status because their effect on performance is essentially the same. However there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what isn't for some of these training methods. For instance, an athlete living in and training hard in a high altitude location seems much more acceptable than a person who uses various gadgets and a oxygen-controlled environment to do the same workouts. The latter scenario is unethical because the athlete has an unfair access to resources and because it raises a bar (artificially) that can't be crossed by most other athletes.

    17. Here is a link to a segment from an anime that details a split in the human race about how to cope with an extinction level event. Which side would you take and why?

    18. Quiz Question

      What is the concern of parallel competitions for the enhanced and unenhanced?

    19. Discussion Question

      Do you think that, in part at least, the concern with "hyper-agency" is that it treats Nature as "mere means," to use Katian terminology?

    20. Here is a link to a chart that illustrates the change in football players' weight from 1941 to 2013. I thought it was astonishing how quickly the weight escalates.


    21. Here is a cool video I found about performance enhancing drugs and their effects on the human body!


    22. DQ:
      Who, if any, is an athlete you followed or idealized and later was investigated for substance abuse rule violations? What was your reaction.

    23. Robin Williams on performance enhancing: funny!


    24. What kind of high tech house in Portland OR is used to enhance atheletes' performance?

    25. Discussion topic: What are some parallels you see in this chapter in regards to athletes compromising the integrity of the game and in humans compromising the integrity of LIFE?

      1. Discussion: Should performance enhancers be considered wrong if an athlete is not using them for competition (in other words, their own well-being)?

    26. I found some interesting links that correspond with what we talk about in class with performance enhancing methods in sports



      (Look at those nice runs.)