5.4  Advancing Ethical Standards                            last revised/edited 11/2010, 6/2014,  11/2014   

5.4.1 Efforts to form ethics committees
5.4.2 Examples of applying ethical standards
5.4.3 Further goals of promoting broad application of higher levels of ethics

5.4.1 Efforts to form ethics committees
Advancing ethical standards is most important and may be pursued in the following ways. Individuals, grassroots movements, action groups in colleges and universities and journalists may create informal ethics committees that work towards becoming part of the political system, as it is stepwise reformed. Their pursuits include an agenda of expectations:
– Whenever laws, regulations, and budgeting are discussed, scholars, professionals working in related fields, journalists, and other interested people are encouraged to review information from the perspective of natural ethics. Then they may formulate and help propagate informed opinions regarding consequences of proposed changes, particularly considering effects on the poor, within the country and worldwide, effects on global issues such as water shortages and global warming, and effects on the quality of life of the population, according to happiness research and other psychological insights.
– Journalistic efforts may be fostered that attempt to regularly check what is publicly stated and immediately respond to untrue, questionable and misleading statements by politicians or persons running for office.
– Similar responses are encouraged when civic leaders’ and analysts’ opinions are biased or based on religious teachings, not supported by science and broadly recognized data, particularly if the media propagate the opinions; and when important announcements and advertisements are unsubstantiated and/or (purposely) misleading.
– Efforts may be made to make natural ethics, theoretical and applied, an integral part of school education at all levels, including continuing education of professionals, particularly in areas of human services and communication. Ethical considerations and psychological aspects must be emphasized in sex education, and young people must learn about applied happiness research, e.g. that income is not closely associated with happiness while generosity and gratitude are. Education must also include peace research, techniques in the pursuit of peaceful resolution of conflicts that include mediation and arbitration techniques.
– Parenting classes that emphasize ethics should become part of secondary education, helping older siblings and cousins to understand what it means to have parental functions and also to discourage early parenthood.

Further goals may include:
– Regulations requiring all public officials to have continuing education that includes broad ethical principles and discussions of ethical issues and human rights. While pursuing efficient improvements in recognized problem areas, ethical rather than political considerations must be upheld as governing principles. Ignoring blatantly ethical principles becomes reason for impeachment or dismissal of any official.
– If a persons publicly express opinions that are based on their own reinterpretation of data or private research, but which significantly differ from broadly accepted scientific teachings, the presenters of these differing ideas have an ethical obligation to state that they express personal opinions that need further testing to be confirmed. However, professionals need to recognize that on anecdotal data and intuition based theories and treatment approaches are valid and often necessary for progress. [So-called “evidence-based” treatment is not necessarily “best” treatment; prospective research utilizing double blind procedures is mainly valuable when attempting to disprove the validity of a new technique.]
– Rules should be introduced requiring effective corrective measures, whenever a clearly unethical and/or untrue statement was made or implied, spoken, published, electronically distributed, etc. When experts come forward and show clear indication that statements conflict with present research data or ethical standards, efforts must be made to reach the same audience and inform them of the contention. This may become particularly important in electronic medial.
– An early goal is to have representatives of ethics committees present in all political and other institutions to monitor that ethical principles are observed consistently; these representative may provide consultation and guidance, and they may seek outside experts in difficult situations; they also try to assure that the needs and interests of all people and of the world as a whole are considered, and they ensure that dishonest behaviors, favoritism, bribing or corruption (accepting inappropriate ‘gifts’ or grafts) are prevented. At least some representatives of ethics committees must not be local people; they belong to federal committees or are from distant area.
– Mechanisms must be developed that decisions by legislators and officials, that, in retrospect, have adverse unintended effects, are promptly reviewed; execution of such orders or regulations is stopped and corrective procedures are initiated.

Today, governmental bodies may invite “stake holders” to give input, mostly after new regulations have been written. However, the main intention is usually to protect financial interests and to give special interest groups the impression that their opinions are heard. Professional ethics rules are very limited; ethical considerations in a broad sense are rarely a central concern. Actions to influence politics usually come from small groups with very specific concerns. These may sometimes stop legislation or a project but do nothing to change the general course of political and economic developments.

5.4.2 Examples of applying ethical standards
When a publicly made statement is considered blatantly unethical by most experts in the field, the person has to be publicly corrected and/or censored, and if he/she continues to make publicly similar statements, efforts are made to prevent the person, for a set time, from public speaking, publishing, and distributing material in any form. Examples: equating minority views or a religion with being enemies, “unpatriotic”, “evil”, etc.; asserting that cruelty against persons can be justified by the persons’ culture of ancestors or region of origin.
Words generally influence thinking and attitudes and should be chosen appropriately. The term “opinion” is often misused. An opinion is to be thoughtful and based on data; it is a reasonable conclusion that does not reach proof or scientific consensus. The term must not be used when dealing with a bias, prejudice, religious dogma, or a spontaneous impression that comes to mind due to some associations, e.g. memories of what was heard in childhood.
Journalistic reporting must avoid using deceptive terms that promote an extreme position. “Pro-life” referring to giving rights to embryos in a women’s womb is not fostering the life of people dying of starvation and easily treatable diseases, “born-again” “Christians” are only re-baptized, and they are no more Christian than other sects.  “Pro family” referring to anti-gay is not supporting any struggling family. Often terms such as “rebel”, “freedom fighter”, “insurgent”, “terrorist”, etc. are used to judge rather than journalistically describe. Similar standards are to be developed for all public speakers and other forms of mass communication.
Obviously, people must be allowed to openly speak about their thoughts, hypotheses and theories, but they must clarify what are educated guesses, speculations, or new research data not yet duplicated and/or acknowledged by leading scientists. Speakers and publishers have an obligation to state if presented hypotheses or theories contradict current views of experts in the field, rather than expanding or elaborating acknowledged theories in some way. [Disagreement with prevalent academic teaching may represent an advanced view but many new hypothesis or theories are wrong; some are potentially dangerous.]

Example: Basing an anti-abortion stance on Biblical texts must be censored since Biblical allusions to fetuses and abortion do not support a belief that a fetus is to be considered a human person. That abortions, which were certainly preformed in antiquity, are according to Biblical texts not mentioned by the God of the Israelites or by Jesus confirms that the practice was hardly considered sinful. Furthermore, religious morals must not be used in political debates.
Proper use of words is not the same as “political correctness.” ”Political correctness” often refers to expressing a bias that is to be upheld in order not to offend some group. For instance, “normal” means ‘usual’, ‘natural’, ‘regular’, ‘typical’ and/or ‘conforming to a standard (of the common type)’; the term does not contain any valuation, as in the case of abnormally low sex hormones or some skills that are out of normal range; still many consider a discussion as to whether certain human conditions are “normal” insulting and not “politically correct.”

5.4.3 Further goals of promoting broad application of higher levels of ethics
Newly formed ethics committees may develop and pursue further goals, for example:
– Any material which is marketed as entertainment is evaluated by specialists and must pass a test of not promoting major unethical acts as fun, entertaining, or “normal”; standards have to be somewhat different and in some ways stricter if the product is marketed for/to children and adolescents (risk taking that is not extreme and some physical fighting is normal and possibly healthy for children, particularly boys, but during adolescence, they should become unacceptable and soon considered immature). Boys and young men physically fighting and abusing girls or women should never be portrayed as somehow justified, with possible vicarious enjoyment of brutalities. Adult literature, theater, movies and jokes will always allude to or show sexual activities that are not ethical, but adolescents should not be exposed to portrayals of sex in casual and obviously unethical contexts, glamorizing promiscuity, girls being mislead to participate in loveless sex, etc. However, when reading novels that portray real life situations, children should not be protected from learning about accidents and injuries, painful diseases and their treatments, “normal heartbreak”, more or less frequent forms of abuses and later about cruelties of past and/or in present distant places; but authors need to be sensitive; no child should be “flooded” by learning about all the frequent forms of suffering people experience, in modern times and in the past.
– If in art, e.g. an artistic movie, novel, or piece of theater, unethical acts are portrayed as normal and/or are viewed positively by heroes, with whom viewers are likely to identify, it is the artist’s judgment whether benefits of his artistic expression outweigh negative effects on potential viewers or audiences, and producers/publishers have to be ethical in their advertisement and distribution. Discussions of works following showings and in the media may be promoted. Ethics committees may limit access of such artistic production to minimize the possible negative impact1.
– In popular songs’ lyrics, influence on potential and targeted audiences should be assessed from an ethical but not necessarily religious-moral viewpoint. Artists, distributors, and people exposing others to the songs (radio show producers, disk jockeys, adults organizing parties, etc.) must consider ethical implications of their actions. It is most important that unethical lyrics are not promoted to increase sales; dyseconomy taxes (high sales taxes to discourage product) may be used to offset such profits, and ethics committees may limit access of such artistic production to minimize the possible negative impact. For instance: girls may love the melodies and voices while believing they ignore lyrics that deride them, liking the music probably makes messages more powerful.
– Historical, anthropological, and other scientific or journalistic documentation of unethical behaviors should be objective, not understating cruelties in order to appear nonjudgmental or to make described cultures appear more humane than they are/were.

In anthropological writing, it should be noted when documented actions violate natural ethics and human rights. Yet writers must not use their subjective interpretations to judge how involved people felt/feel. Examples include unhealthy and painful corsets, shoes, etc. to beautify body, training for extremely competitive sports, injurious and mutilating ritual practices, violence within families that cultures consider a private matter, and mistreatment of animals. Interpreting feelings and analyzing situations from psychological viewpoints may be valuable but, in many situations, must be qualified as speculative and/or the opinion of the writer. Generally, research, documentation, and publication of cruel behaviors should not be portrayed in mass media or historical novels that people largely use for entertainment, since the benefit of increasing information is outweighed by reinforcing the human fascination with cruelties, in some cases promoting cruel fantasies and behaviors, generally desensitize people and/or reinforce a sense of fatalistic acceptance of widespread cruelties.
In anthropological work and journalistic descriptions of minority groups and the poor of Third World countries, a focus on culture must never ignore governmental and economic abuses, including structural violence. Examples include the withholding of appropriate medical care, abuses by the country’s legal system and army, lack of basic nutrition, exploitation of resources with no benefit to the local people while polluting living spaces.
Research may also indicate how Western influences lead cultures to react by reverting towards more archaic and extreme practices.

Art has many functions: for the artist it may be primarily a form of dealing with internal turmoil, conflicts, grief, etc., but generally, the artist chld find ways of a resolution, as is typically the case in classical music. Art should not ‘advertize’ an artists’ pathology, normalizing it, etc., particularly if a disturbed artist with posttraumatic stress symptoms is dealing with very unethicl impulses. Sometimes it is healpful to see a series of pictures through which the artist seeks peace and resolutions to his/her turmoil. Art should never reinforce vulnerable and immature people’s own unethical impulses and make thier growth more difficult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.