Question: How should a doctor respond to questions about her religious beliefs? My wife recently told me about a colleague of hers – a physician and an atheist – being caught off guard when asked by the parents of one of her cancer patients in the hospital if she believed in God. These parents wanted their son treated only by a doctor who believes in God, and my wife's friend did not qualify. How should she have answered their question?
Question: When should exceptions to established rules be granted? People often oppose some proposed exception to the rules on the grounds that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and engender abuse. For example, suppose that an honest and diligent student is in the hospital, and he wants to keep up with his school work as much as possible. His parents propose that he take his math exam from the hospital, and they'll monitor him during the exam. The school refuses on the grounds that if all students were allowed to do that, then cheating would be rampant because not all parents would be honest or diligent monitors. Is that a valid reason for refusing this proposed exception to the rules? When should exceptions be granted to established rules?
Question: What is the value of "political correctness"? I used to be a fairly typical right-winger who would regularly cry out "political correctness has gone mad!" While I still come across politically correct ideas that I find ridiculous (e.g. the ban bossy campaign), I'm finding myself more sympathetic to these ideas as I become more informed on them. So I'm now in favor of using the right pronouns for transgender people, avoiding words that can be perceived as derogatory (e.g. fag), and even changing school event names like "parent day" or "Christmas party" to something that doesn't exclude those it doesn't apply to. Where should the line be drawn between "political correctness" and making valuable change in our language or practices to be more accommodating and inclusive of people outside the mainstream? Are there legitimate concerns about language becoming more politically correct?
Question: How can I help my father understand that I respect him, even when I disagree with him? I generally value experience for its ability to provide helpful insights, but I am suspicious of people who fall back on appeals to authority in an attempt to win arguments. My father often does that during our debates on various subjects, as we do not see eye-to-eye on many important issues. When I reject his appeals on the grounds that they are logically fallacious, he takes personal offense and accuses me of disrespecting him. I respect my father, and I try to convey my appreciation for his experience in other ways. But I want to have civil discourse with him that doesn't dead-end in this uncomfortable way someday. My father and I have been estranged for the last five years, in large part due to his tendency toward communicating in this and other manipulative ways, and my current attempt at reconciliation is failing again because of these communication issues. This is a shame because I truly feel that the makings of a good father-daughter relationship are in place, but my father cannot seem to stop predicating our ability to love and respect each other on my willingness to constantly agree with him simply because he is my father. What advice can you give on how best to halt this unhealthy pattern, so that I can save my relationship with my dad?
Question: Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules? People often say that "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can't put my finger on what's so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it's true for some organizations, doesn't that indicate that the organization's rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards?
Question: Should a person try to "win friends and influence people"? In the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offers a wide range of advice on how to get what you want from other people. Some of this seems manipulative or second-handed, but is that right? Is the advice in the book of genuine value to a rational egoist seeking honest trade with others?
Summary: Many Americans have food allergies to common foods such as peanuts, dairy, and eggs. Some of those allergies are so serious as to be life-threatening. Jenn Casey's son has a life-threatening peanut allergy, diagnosed when he was a toddler. What must people diagnosed with such allergies do to protect themselves from accidental ingestion? How can parents keep their children with such allergies safe? How should other people in their lives – such as family, friends, and teachers – do to protect them from harm? What should schools, clubs, and other organizations do? This episode is Part Two of Two. Be sure to listen to Part One.
Question: How strongly should a student object to a professor's objectionable views? I am a senior undergraduate in a liberal arts major at a public university. I'm currently taking a class with the bleak subject matter of genocide. My blatantly socialist teacher presents her views in discussions of the Armenian genocide, the "genocide" in Soviet Russia, and the Holocaust. Often, she ignores the role of religion and flawed socialist policies. Also, she blames greed and capitalism to an unreasonable degree for the woes of the aforementioned countries. How should I respond to these objectionable claims of hers? How much should I try to undermine her wrongheaded views?
Question: How do I teach my toddlers how to share voluntarily? I'm the father of 23 month-old girl/boy twins who are just beginning to develop morality. I'm also an atheist with strong Objectivist leanings. I don't want to teach my children that they shouldn't commit a particular offense because God is watching them, as that will instill only fear of the unknown in them. What should I do instead? The twins will fight over particular things (e.g. toys, books, plastic containers, etc.). Too often I find myself trying to keep the peace with the one word command of "Share!" Forced sharing offends me but I find myself using it with the children because their understanding is limited and because it's easy to use. What might I do instead?
Question: What is the moral line between respecting copyrights and fair use? From a moral rather than legal perspective, what are the requirements to respect someone's right to their own work? For example if you have a movie on DVD is it moral to switch it to electronic form for your own use or should you buy the other form? When is quoting from an article or making a spoof fair use versus not respecting the owner's ownership?
Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to patronize religious businesses? Is it an endorsement of religion or failure of integrity for an atheist to buy goods or services from a religious business, such as hiring an explicitly religious (and advertised as such) plumber or joining the local YMCA?
Question: Should I limit my time away from family in deference to their cultural expectations? My family comes from a conservative Turkish background. They see the amount of independence granted me as a 19-year-old as more than enough. I see it as unsatisfactory. In fact, they feel pushed to their limit by the amount of time I ask to spend away from family on a daily basis. They believe I should not ask for any more independence, as they are already trying their hardest to accept me having even a small amount. However, what I'm allowed is very little compared to most people my age. It affects what I can do or not with my life, not just in the short-term but in the long-term too. Should I respect my family's wishes on this point, given that they are already trying their hardest within the context of their own cultural values? Or should I ask for more independence, even if that violates their beliefs?
Question: Can open relationships be moral? Can it ever be moral to have sex with someone else while in a relationship, assuming that you're honest with everyone involved? If not, why not? If so, what might be some of the pitfalls to be aware of? For example, should the criteria for selecting sexual partners be stricter than if you were single? How should you navigate the tricky territory of opening a previously closed relationship?
Question: Should disabled kids be kept out of the public eye? Recently, a waiter at a restaurant refused to serve one party after hearing them make fun of a child with Down's Syndrome sitting with his family in a nearby booth. Both parties were regulars to the restaurant. Some people have praised the waiter's actions because he took offense at overhearing the first party say "special needs kids should be kept in special places." He called them on their rudeness and refused to serve them. Others think he was wrong: his catering to the party with the disabled kid is indicative of a culture that embraces mediocrity and disability. What is the proper assessment of the remark made and the waiter's response? Should people with disabilities be kept from public view?
Question: Should you care whether other people find you attractive? I’ve heard some people say they don't care what other people think of their physical appearance: they only care about their own judgment. To care, they say, is second-handed. Is that right? It is wrong to be pleased when someone compliments you on your clothes or hair?
Question: Is it wrong to root for antiheroes in movies? I often root for characters like Daniel Ocean (of Ocean's 11, 12, etc.), Erik Draven (of The Crow), Harry Callahan (a.k.a. Dirty Harry), and "Mad" Max. Should I instead seek out movies with more consistently good heroes?
Question: Should men be sensitive to women's fears of being raped? Recently, I became aware of an ongoing debate among the online atheist community regarding proper conduct of men toward women they do not know. In a June 2011 video reporting on a conference, "Skepchik" Rebecca Watson talked about her experience of being asked to the room of a strange man in an elevator at 4 am. That invitation made her very uncomfortable, and she thought it was very wrong to so sexualize her. Her comments created a firestorm of controversy. Do you think that men need to be sensitive to women's fears about being raped? Should women have such fears around unknown men?