General Studies Unit 1 Revision (2)

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  • General Studies
    • The Big Bang
      • The theory states that about 13.7 billion years ago all the matter in the Universe was concentrated into a single incredibly tiny point. This began to enlarge rapidly in a hot explosion (The Big Bang), and it is still expanding today. We can see this through the fact that all the galaxies are moving away from us.
      • Copernican Heliocentric theory
        • it challenged the age long views of the way the universe worked and the preponderance of the Earth and, by extension, of human beings. The realisation that we, our planet, and indeed our solar system (and even our galaxy) are quite common in the heavens and reproduced by myriads of planetary systems provided a sobering (though unsettling) view of the universe. All the reassurances of the cosmology of the Middle Ages were gone, and a new view of the world, less secure and comfortable, came into being.
        • The Sun is at the centre of the universe
      • It could be argued that Science explain the ‘how’ but not the ‘why’
        • -There are some contradictions but perhaps the Bible is not to be interpreted literally (Adam and Eve v Creationism)
    • Humane society
      • Humanity refers to having or showing compassion towards others and is linked to morality and ethics.
        • Historically, the moral basis for society has come from religious beliefs.  For example, ways have of behaving have been determined by the writing of a prophet or holy person.
          • They may direct followers to behave in a certain way in order to secure their place in an afterlife or heaven, or to increase their own happiness or the happiness of others.
      • In the UK religion and politics are linked
        • In the UK the church is recognised by the state.  The Queen is the Head of State and the Head of the Church of England.  Therefore, the UK is NOT A SECULAR STATE because of the role of Christian beliefs in the state/politics.
        • Christian religious leaders have had an active role in the legislative affairs of the country since before the formation of the Church of England.
        • There are 26 unelected bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords. Known as the ‘Lords Spiritual’, they read prayers at the start of each daily meeting and play a full and active role in the life and work of the Upper House.
  • Do we need religion for a humane society
    • Humane = having or showing compassion or benevolence
    • Religion teaches absolute truths
    • Not all religious people are humane
      • e.g Christians in the KKK, Osama Bin Laden in Islam
    • Religion goes against some inhumane acts such as stem cell research whereas, atheist wouldn't have a problem because they don't have the belief that God is the creator of life so only God can take life away
    • Homosexuals and transgenders are victims of prejudice in religious communities. Therefore, for a humane society we do not need religion - we need equality and acceptance.
      • However, religion is changing to become more accepting
        • e.g Pope Francis said "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn't marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society"
  • judgements about how humane  a society is will refer to ethics and morals.
    • Ethics
      • When judging whether something is ethical/moral within a society, we can use certain approaches/theories to debate whether a decision is ethical.
      • Utilitarianism
        • Recently a US Senate report has emerged graphically detailing the CIA's brutal interrogation methods used on terrorist suspects held in custody.
          • While the CIA has been strongly criticised by Democrat politicians and the US media, a (small) new poll by the Washington Post found that a majority of Americans backed the methods the spy agency used in the years following the September 11 attacks.
            • A poll asking 1,000 Americans a number of questions about their views on torture and the response to the Senate report found that over 58% of people agreed with the methods used to interrogate suspects.
              • The people who voted ‘yes’ to the poll used by The Washington Post were probably using the theory of ‘utilitarianism’ to make their decision
        • Jeremy Bentham was an early and influential advocate of utilitarianism. A utilitarian believes in ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number.’
          • The more people who benefit from a particular action, the greater its good
            • Therefore, whether a decision is ethical is judged on its likely results/consequences. 
              • However, this is not the best way as the consequences in the future cannot be completely predicted correctly. Therefore, you will never truly know what the right decision
                • Another criticism is that Bentham's utilitarianism allows crimes such as gang rape as the most happiness for the most amount of people in these cases
                  • John Stuart Mill (a follower of Bentham) saw these weaknesses and decided to change utilitarianism slightly
                    • Mill introduced the 'greatest pleasure for the greatest number' and higher/lower pleasures
                      • Higher pleasures = pleasures of the mind
                        • Mill believed these were pleasure such as writing poetry, reading novels and listening to classical music
                          • This is because Mill was a well educated upper class man
                      • Lower pleasures = pleasures of the body (sexual pleasures, food, sport etc)
                      • Mill's Utilitarianism also has criticisms as some peoples high pleasures may be what Mill classes as his lower pleasures
                        • Also, some people may not be able to take part in Mill's higher pleasures for example, in sub-saharan African countries as less than 45% of adults from these countries are literate
                    • Mill added extent to Bentham's Hedonic calculus
    • Ethics are a set of moral principles
  • Moral relativism
    • Moral relativism is the idea that moral principles have no objective standard
    • In its extreme, the view that there are no hard and fast rules on what is right and wrong, on which values are set and should be fought for.
    • It is opposite to absolution (there is one truth)
    • Relativism is "Different opinions, no one authority, and as many 'truths' as there are people or societies or cultures advancing different ways of doing things," says Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University.
      • It is easy, he says, "to give relativism a slogan: Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. One man's meat is another man's poison." And when that is applied to ethics, then goodness, virtue and duty also lie in the eye of the beholder.
    • Therefore, people’s ethics and morals are imposed by the culture in which they live and, hence, these can be quite different on different societies/cultures and over time.
  • Deontology (or Deontological Ethics) is an approach to Ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions (so it is different from Utilitarianism). 
    • Deontological ethics
      • Deontology may sometimes be consistent with Moral Absolutism (the belief that some actions are wrong no matter what consequences follow from them), but not necessarily.
        • For instance, Immanuel Kant famously argued that it is always wrong to lie, even if a murderer is asking for the location of a potential victim. But others, such as W.D. Ross (1877 - 1971), hold that the consequences of an action such as lying may sometimes make lying the right thing to do (Moral Relativism).
      • Mill believed in this type of ethics. Whereas, Jeremy Bentham was an Act utilitarian
        • It is sometimes referred to as ‘rule-based’ ethics.
    • It is sometimes referred to as ‘rule-based’ ethics.
  • What is 'Humane'?
    • One of the basic assumptions of modern societies is that all members must be treated equally. 
    • In December 1948, the newly formed United Nations adopted a Declaration of Human Rights to which all members of the UN would adhere
  • Human uses of animals
    • Sources of entertainment
    • To help us hunt
    • -As surrogates for humans in testing of food, cosmetic and medicine
    • As food (milked, hunted or farmed)
    • Supply animal organs for transplantations
    • For communication
    • To carry out useful work
  • Issues about the use of animals that may be examined
    • Zoos and animal entertainment industries
    • Animal testing
      • Some argue that this is inhumane
    • Fox hunting (and the ban on fox hunting)
    • Farming
    • Animal rights and animal welfare
      • Concern about human rights has a long history.  The idea that animals may have rights is a more recent development.
      • There are many animal welfare groups and organisations, such as the RSPCA and PDSA in the UK, whose objectives are to reduce pain and suffering caused to animals, both domestic and agricultural
      • They campaign for the humane treatment of animals. There are strict laws governing animal welfare in the UK but none of them acknowledges animal rights as a legal issue.
        • Imprisonment is not usually a huge punishment for animal abuse, most crimes result in fines and/or a ban from being in care of an animal

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