US Ethics Centers, Initiative, Resources
The pesky pin drops on our National Ethics Center map appear to encourage cover-ups. For this reason, we offer the list above so that you don't forget to zoom in on some of our favorite initiatives and ethics-committed laboratories and centers around the nation. For example, one of our favorite places for finding ethics topics and the latest research is The Metaphysics Research Lab in Palo Alto, California, where the incredibly great and fabulously rigorous dynamic reference work The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is being updated all the time. Since we have never been to the lab, we imagine it as some kind of modern day version of what the philosophes of The Enlightenment wished for with their Encyclopedie, but did not have the technology to accomplish in the 18th century. But today, we do. Please make the most of this resource.
You might think that except for the coasts, and one lonely pindrop in...Minnesota, that the rest of the country is an ethics initiative wasteland. Not so. It is just that our criteria for inclusion are biased and skewed. Further, we don't want to shortchange the state of Michigan, where a2ethics.org is located. We have a map for state ethics initiatives in our Local Resources: www.a2ethics.org/node/519. We invite others who are stateproud to do the same for their own states and send them along. Make sure, however, you have knowledge of the activities of the Center or initiative you are touting. You don't have to know the people running the Center, but we ask that you are familiar with their programs and with what they do.
Our completely unscientific, biased and skewed criteria? We include the groups and programs we have knowledge about first and foremost. In other words, in some cases, such as The Hastings Center and The Kennedy Institute of Ethics, we have attended and learned alot from one of their programs and closely follow their published work, research and projects to inform our own. For example, The Hastings Center Report, published quarterly, is a goldmine to us and to anyone interested in learning about bioethics issues, from "older" dilemmas, such as informed consent, to "newer" controversies, among them synthetic biology and stem cell research.
Second, we currently include only those initiatives that we like and are familiar with and whose work we think is fair-minded and as far as we can tell (and we don't know) without an ideological goal or a blatantly political agenda. Yes, we decided that it would be a time-waster to suggest programs to you and to acknowledge initiatives that we think are their own cover-ups: public relations campaigns, which use ethics as a strategy or which serve to launch a candidate's future political aspirations.
Further, we think it is somewhat problematic that ethics initiatives are often founded in the wake of major scandals confronting our institutions. Yet, we understand why this is so. At the same time, we are aware that the naming rights mania for other private sector nonprofits as well as university centers, may well include initiatives resulting from a wealthy patron, who wanted to start an ethics center, after spending most of his or her life exhibiting professional conduct that would never warrant membership into the Ethos Society. We certainly hope, for example, that in the next few years, we do not hear about an Alex Rodriguez-Floyd Landis Sport Ethics Center or a Bernie Madoff-Alan Stanford Business Ethics Initiative, joining the many unnamed and unpublicized ethics centers in the nation, whose staffs are trying to help us all understand ethics and living the life well-lived.
As we said, this is an issue we are learning more about. So, you might ask why are we including the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs? Wasn't Andrew Carnegie a ruthless businessman, who didn't see much hope for the masses, but thought he had a better idea for philanthropy for them and gave away his millions in the name of his personal idea of beneficent paternalism?
How do we respond to this? We don't. For now, we are of two minds. First, we think calling out and doing some research into the names on our Centers is appropriate and worthwhile. At the same time, we believe it smells of a kind of "gotcha" and "ambush" smugness. And we are tired of people majoring in the ironic quip without digging deeper. We know, for example, that Andrew Carnegie's will did not designate the founding of an ethics center.
Second, we are inclined to take an utilitarian approach. The fact is, we are more motivated to find out whether a center's programs are overwhelmingly beneficial and whether ethics initiatives really are doing the greatest good for the greatest number. We believe that the Carnegie Center efforts to inform and educate people about international issues and their ethical consequences are among the most innovative and far-reaching in the arena of applied ethics today. And we (one of us, to be exact) feel so strongly about the Carnegie Center's mission, that we give a small contribution each year to support its programs.
We think that the Centers, initiatives and resources we are featuring, offer programs that are overwhelmingly beneficial and are, as best as we can tell, doing the greatest good for the greatest number. We plan to periodically update and assess our current choices as we learn more about them. Please feel free to inform us about these Centers and their programs and to let us know about others you know who are doing the greater good in ethics.