Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is it ethical of BioEdge to use me for its marketing purposes?

I have published some time ago in the Journal of medical ethics a piece in which I decry the ongoing abuse of academic bioethics content by sectarian agitprop outlets such as BioEdge in Down Under, First Things in the USA and so on and so forth. I was very clear that I disapprove of their activities.

Last night BioEdge distributed a fundraising appeal quoting me thus,

The editor of the journal Bioethics has acknowledged that BioEdge has "a larger real-world impact than most bioethics journals could dream of".

To be fair to BioEdge, one of my criticism of its website was that it pretends to be a bioethics news website, when really it is a religious campaign operation. In its fundraising appeal it notes that

Like everyone else, we do have a bias. We are trying to promote human dignity as a foundation for bioethics. 

Credit where credit is due, at least folks more professionally involved with bioethics know that 'dignity' is a cover for a particular ideological conviction (while that conviction remains hidden under the cloak of 'human dignity', the term these days operates like a red flag warning of someone trying to sell you snake oil under this pleasing rhetorical cover).

This event reminds me of a book that I criticised harshly in a review in a leading medical journal. I ended it with a line suggesting that the book is 'well worth reading' because it shows so nicely how not to go about the matter at hand. BioEdge's use of my quote reminds me a bit of the book's publisher. It quoted the bit it found useful and left out the lengthy criticism that preceded it. 

Ethical? Not so sure.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Professor Schuklenk,

    I don't believe that anyone will be deceived and think that you *approve* of BioEdge's philosophical views. The quote we extracted from the JME article implies only that BioEdge is *influential*, not that its influence is noxious or beneficent.

    We recently surveyed our readers. They come from a wide range of philosophical backgrounds -- 33% are "socially liberal", 5% are animal rights activists, 5% are libertarian, 11% are feminists. However, 91% felt that BioEdge was objective in presenting its news.

    When we asked what phrase best describes BioEdge, 67% favoured the phrase "it is informative"; only 23% responded "it supports my values".

    I agree that we clash on some fundamental values (as showcased in the editor's message with most of the newsletters), but our basic service is informative, not proselytizing.

    Anyhow, we do appreciate the chance to have a robust and friendly debate. Cheers,

    MIchael Cook
    Editor, BioEdge

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