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Podcast Profile: Moral Maze

podcast imageTwitter: @BBCRadio4 (followed by 61 philosophers)
Site: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qk11
175 episodes
2015 to present
Average episode: 43 minutes
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Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • Panel-Style

Podcaster's summary: Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week's news stories. #moralmaze

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List Updated: 2022-Aug-10 11:32 UTC. Episodes: 175. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2022-Jul-29 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Snobbery
People like us... you know what I mean. Snobbery? It's everywhere, and most of us would admit to it, at least occasionally. But beyond the caricatures of snooty and disdainful types who enjoy looking down on the tastes, habits and backgrounds of others, there's the serious matter of how it affects people's life chances. The British Psychological Society has launched a campaign to make social class a legally protected characteristic, like sex, race and disability. It would force employers and others to ta...
2022-Jul-21 • 43 minutes
The Future of the NHS
The Future of the NHS Can the UK keep its promise of free healthcare for everyone? NHS spending is higher than ever, yet waiting lists are getting longer and patient satisfaction is falling. The worst of the pandemic may have passed, but weekly Covid admissions remain high and many services are still struggling. While many patients feel delighted with the treatment and care they receive, stories of missed targets, staff shortages and crumbling buildings are common. Whether its waiting for an operation,...
2022-Jul-14 • 43 minutes
The Right to Abortion
The Right to Abortion This weekend thousands of people marched on the White House in support of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. That constitutional principle, established nearly 50 years ago in the case of “Roe v Wade” has just been overturned by the US Supreme Court and already many Republican states have banned abortions. As President Biden moves to try to protect abortion rights, campaigners in the UK have been stirred to action. There have been ‘Pro Life’ demonstrations outside clinics in Nor...
2022-Jul-07 • 43 minutes
'Unacceptable' Opinions
“Unacceptable” Opinions Have you ever felt that you can’t say what you really think, that your honest opinions have become somehow unacceptable? It’s a common complaint that freedom of speech is being restricted, that more and more views have become inadmissible or rejected as intolerable. On social media, people expressing thoughts that would have hardly raised an eyebrow a generation ago, are viciously attacked and branded as bigots. If that is a problem - and opinions differ - the government may be ...
2022-Jun-30 • 43 minutes
Ukraine - what should western countries do next?
Ukraine - what should the west do next? It's 125 days since Russia's tanks rolled into Ukraine in a full scale invasion of the country. Since then the world has watched, appalled by the bloodshed, the destruction of towns and cities, the 12 million refugees. At first there was relief that the Ukrainians had beaten back the attack on the capital Kyiv. Now there is less optimism as Russia takes more territory in the east. From the start Britain and its allies have been clear: Russia must be stopped. Bill...
2022-Jun-23 • 43 minutes
The morality of striking
Is it morally acceptable to go on strike, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people who are uninvolved in a dispute? This week’s rail strike is expected to be the biggest in 30 years with only a fraction of services running and widespread disruption. But whatever the arguments behind the dispute, what’s the moral case for a strike? The right to withdraw labour is seen by many as fundamental, an essential last resort in a battle with employers where workers are trying to secure reasonabl...
2022-Jun-16 • 43 minutes
Inequality: Is the gap between rich and poor in the UK fair?
Is the gap between rich and poor in the UK fair? The soaring cost of living is raising questions about the gap between rich and poor. As prices have been forced up by global events, including the war in Ukraine, families on low incomes, who spend most of their money on basics, have been hit hard. In the last year, more than two million people in the UK turned to food banks. Stories of parents forced to choose between food and warmth, or skipping meals so their children can eat, have become common. Can th...
2022-Jun-09 • 43 minutes
What is the future of the monarchy?
What is the future of the Monarchy? A pageant, a star-studded concert, street fairs and picnics; it was a joyful four-day tribute to the Queen and millions revelled in her Platinum Jubilee. Seventy years of service, celebrated in true British style. But now the bunting is down and the carnival is over, how committed are we, as a nation, to the monarchy? A recent poll suggests that about 62% are in favour of retaining it, down from three quarters a decade ago. About 22% would prefer an elected head of ...
2022-Jun-02 • 42 minutes
What's the point of university?
Eight universities are under investigation for providing poor quality degrees. The Office for Students has sent inspectors in to investigate whether undergraduates are getting decent value in return for the huge debts they rack up to get their degrees. For years, there’s been concern about so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees that do nothing to boost job prospects. But the expansion of universities was rooted in a grand ambition to create a better-educated workforce and to turbo-charge social mobility; a wi...
2022-May-26 • 43 minutes
The Priorities of the Police
Dame Cressida Dick, the newly-departed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, says policing has become ‘too politicised’. When her force has been criticised on the right for investigating ‘Partygate’ and on the left for letting the Prime Minister off too lightly, and when the Durham Police must now decide whether to end the career of the leader of the Labour Party, it’s hard to argue with her. The Public Order Bill, which had its second reading this week, will create new legal powers to prevent or punis...
2022-Mar-24 • 43 minutes
Cleaning the Internet
For a brief moment this month Ukrainians were allowed to call for the death of Vladimir Putin on Instagram and Facebook. That freedom was subsequently withdrawn – “hate speech” isn’t tolerated on those platforms after all. But can Ukrainians really be expected to hold back on how they feel about the Russian military? And maybe we, as bystanders, could do with seeing that anger expressed without the filter of online ‘etiquette’ policies devised by a Silicon Valley CEO. Maybe our rage about Mariupol is all we...
2022-Mar-17 • 43 minutes
Refugees and borders
Nearly three million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian tanks crossed the border at the end of February. Some say the UK was slow to respond but many thousands of people are now signed up to a government scheme to turn their houses into homes for Ukrainian refugees - the first should arrive soon. There has been an outpouring of generosity and goodwill toward those suffering in this conflict, but uncomfortable questions remain. Are we really doing enough? Why such generosity now, when we have spent ...
2022-Mar-10 • 43 minutes
Sanctions, enablers and collective punishment
We can’t help Ukraine with troops and planes, most politicians insist, but we can hit back at Putin by punishing his friends and choking the Russian economy. This week the long-promised Economic Crime Bill zipped through the Commons and could be law within a month. The Home Secretary said the legislation proves she’s determined to “hobble Putin and his cronies”. But it will do nothing to hurt their ‘enablers’ – the London-based accountants, lawyers and fixers who’ve helped the oligarchs to hide their money ...
2022-Mar-03 • 43 minutes
Putin - did we help create a war criminal?
We don't know how the Ukrainian conflict will end. But how did it begin? The responsibility for the Ukraine conflict lies squarely with Vladimir Putin - described by some as cunning and crazy by others - this is his war. But was there a chance to prevent it? Would he have done this if the West behaved differently after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the new Ukraine was born? In these last decades, Russia built up its military strength while the European democracies made every effort to disarm. NATO m...
2022-Feb-24 • 43 minutes
What is the countryside for?
We should all have a legal right to nature, according to a group of more than 60 campaigning charities who say we need better access to the countryside. They have written to the government, complaining that one in three of us lives more than 15 minutes’ walk from the nearest green space. But is nature there for our enjoyment? Is the countryside just a recreational resource, to be exploited by anyone in possession of a pair of wellies? If we are entitled to delight in the landscape, don’t we also share the ...
2022-Feb-18 • 43 minutes
How do we make a longer life a moral one?
We can add ten years to our lives if we chose, we’re told this week by scientists who have measured the effects of tweaking our lifestyles. The downside is we’ll need to give up meat and eat a lot of lentils to do it. Oh, and start very young. It won’t be easy – but is there a moral imperative to do it? Elsewhere, science is forging ahead with new, possibly less onerous ways to help us live longer. Researchers in Japan this week unveiled a serum that can halt aging, though so far only in mice. And Silicon V...
2022-Feb-10 • 45 minutes
What's our moral responsibility to the future?
Levelling up - a brighter and fairer future is on the way according to the Government. But what is our moral responsibility to the future and how does it weigh against the needs of the present? Maybe the stars of technology, economics and politics really are now aligned to bring an end to post-code inequalities. Or is this another hotch-potch of plans that can’t be judged until a time so distant we’ll have forgotten why we dreamed them up in the first place. Are plans for the future destined to fail because...
2022-Feb-03 • 42 minutes
How Free Should Speech Be?
Yielding to the big star pressure of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, this week Spotify agreed to put a content advisory label on any podcast that includes material about Covid. Mitchell and Young removed their music in protest at Joe Rogan’s podcasts. These shows are extremely popular globally but they aired views sceptical of Covid vaccines. In an Instagram post Rogan himself said he'd aim for more impartiality in future, but Spotify’s shares are down and more artists are joining the boycott. Who is responsi...
2022-Jan-28 • 43 minutes
Ukraine - to intervene or not to intervene.
President Putin insists that he has no intention of invading Ukraine. In amassing troops and weapons along the border, the Russians are merely ‘protecting their national interests’. Meanwhile NATO, the US-European military alliance, is busy reinforcing its eastern member states with ships and planes. Our own Prime Minister has issued dire warnings that Russia will not be allowed to harass a smaller neighbour in this way. So, who is right? Is there a moral imperative for us to protect a fledgling democracy t...
2022-Jan-20 • 43 minutes
The Rules - Expectations and Apologies
In spite of his apology the calls continue for the Prime Minister to resign. He did not follow his own rules so he must go, says a sizeable majority in the polls. But why must he go? Sympathy, understanding and forgiveness are all virtues to celebrate - unless we happen to be talking about people we don’t like. Most of those who broke the lockdown rules (maybe you, maybe me) got away with it. Some got a caution or a fine; very few lost their jobs. The charge against Boris Johnson is not so much that he br...
2022-Jan-12 • 43 minutes
Direct Action
The so-called Colston Four did not deny pulling down a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston, but last week in Bristol they were cleared of causing criminal damage. They argued that they were protesting for racial equality, “on the right side of history”, and a jury found in their favour. The four were celebrated by crowds outside the courthouse, part of a tradition, it seemed, of activists bringing social change by whatever means necessary. Their critics, on the other hand, say this is an invitation to...
2021-Dec-29 • 43 minutes
Meaning
The end of one year and the beginning of another can be an obvious moment for people to set goals and reset priorities. The pandemic, from which we are yet to emerge, has put much into perspective and has doubtless prompted many to ask the question: where am I going with my life? What’s it all about? While none of us can truly know the meaning of life, most of us are meaning-seeking creatures who have our own ideas about what gives life meaning – God, nature, the arts, human relationships, good food, scient...
2021-Dec-23 • 43 minutes
Peace and Goodwill
Christmas is the season of peace on earth and good will to all people. While we naturally want to endorse this sentiment, it is also a yearly reminder of how conflict and bad faith exist in our homes and in wider society. While some families will celebrate a long-anticipated and joyful reunion, others will be trying to hold their tongue about divisive issues like Brexit or Covid until the same time next year. Surely, we could all benefit from a bit more listening, understanding and compromising? But what if...
2021-Dec-15 • 43 minutes
Do we get the politicians we deserve?
The Number 10 ‘party’ scandal has prompted questions not only about whether the Prime Minister is still an electoral asset but whether he and his government have the moral authority to lead us through the lingering pandemic. According to a recent YouGov poll, the level of trust in UK politicians has fallen to an historic low. Despite the scathing attacks from across the political spectrum, are today’s political leaders any morally worse than in previous generations? Some see morality as having been vacuumed...
2021-Dec-10 • 43 minutes
60 Years of the Contraceptive Pill
It’s 60 years since the contraceptive pill was made available on the NHS. It has had a revolutionary impact on women’s lives and on society. In 1961 women often married at an early age and many were expected to stay at home and raise a family while men went out to work. The ability for women to have control of their own fertility meant they could choose to have children and a career on their own terms. The availability of the pill undoubtedly changed the nature of sexual relationships, even if it was not th...
2021-Jul-29 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Partying
It’s easy to see how lots of people singing, shouting and smooching in a stuffy space would keep a virologist up at night. Within hours of nightclubs reopening the Prime Minister announced that full vaccination will be the condition of entry from September. The Netherlands recently tried reopening its clubs and quickly decided to close them again amid rising infection rates. We may be free to party, but we’re not free of the virus. Just because we can, does it mean we should? For some, there is a clear mora...
2021-Jul-22 • 43 minutes
Animal Sentience
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, currently working its way through Parliament, would for the first time formally recognise that animals have the ability to experience feelings, including pain, joy and fear. If the law is passed, the government will establish an Animal Sentience Committee to scrutinise policy. Many hope it would offer animals greater protection - only this week, the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed that rules designed to protect horses from a cruel death appear to be regularly ignored a...
2021-Jul-15 • 43 minutes
The Future of Work
Is it time to rethink our attitude to work? Nearly half of employees care less about their careers since Covid, according to a survey this week of 2000 staff of large companies. Four in ten said they are concerned about work-related burnout and a quarter of women said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their work-life balance. The lockdown has disrupted long-existing patterns of work for some and exposed the work-based inequalities of others. As we’re about to unlock, many believe this is the moment ...
2021-Jul-08 • 43 minutes
Justice and Peace
Northern Ireland's largest cross-community victims' group, Wave Trauma Centre, has written to Boris Johnson opposing the idea of a “de-facto amnesty” for Troubles-related prosecutions, after the cases of two Army veterans facing murder charges were dropped. It follows reports that the government has been considering a ban on all prosecutions prior to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement under a statute of limitations, focusing instead on information retrieval for the families of those killed. Most people will nev...
2021-Jul-01 • 43 minutes
Patriot Games
It’s that time every two (or three) years when St George’s flags flap out of car windows and red cross bunting festoons the front of the houses of England football fans. At any other time, such behaviour might be greeted with suspicion, even concern, such is the pejorative perception of patriotism expressed by the English. Why does English patriotism have such bad PR? Patriots see their cause as unifying; a positive sense of the nation as something which holds us all together in our different tribes. Others...
2021-Jun-24 • 43 minutes
Rights and Rules
The New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard looks set to make history after being confirmed as the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games. Hubbard previously competed in men’s events before transitioning in 2013. She is eligible due to a change in International Olympic Committee guidelines on testosterone levels in 2015, and after qualifying requirements were modified by the International Weightlifting Federation. For many campaigners this is a landmark moment for trans people, whose parti...
2021-Jun-17 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Swearing
Strong swear words are becoming an increasing part of everyday life, according to research from the British Board of Film Classification. Six in ten of us are now comfortable cursing. A third of us have a greater propensity for profanity than five years ago. What has not changed is the desire to censor swearing in age-restricted cinema and DVD releases. This seems almost quaint in an internet age where almost no content has a gatekeeper. It does, however, point to contradictory attitudes to bad language. Th...
2021-Jun-10 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Taxation
The G7 group of advanced economies has reached a deal to make multinational companies pay more tax. It is a cause which has focussed minds in the wake of a costly global pandemic. For centuries, taxation has been seen as a moral, as well as an economic, principle. At a national level, some see this as a moment for the government to be bold in recouping wealth from those who have become richer during the Covid-19 crisis, and redistributing it to redress the social and economic inequalities the virus has expo...
2021-Jun-03 • 43 minutes
Happiness
Philosophers and artists, from Epicurus to Ken Dodd, have grappled with the secret to happiness. Now, neuroscientists at University College London suggest the answer could lie in the equation: (t)=w0 +w1∑j=1tγt −jCRj +w2∑j=1tγt −jEVj +w3∑j=1tγt −jRPEj. While hardly rolling off the tongue, the formula roughly translates to mean that we should lower our expectations to be happy – but not so low, and for so long, that it makes us unhappy. This appears to fly in the face of a celebrity culture that chases fame,...
2021-May-27 • 43 minutes
Is it immoral to refuse the vaccine?
According the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the “vast majority” of people in Bolton who have been admitted to hospital after contracting the fast-spreading Indian variant of Covid-19 had been offered a vaccine but hadn’t taken it. Attempts to persuade vaccine uptake have focussed on public health, social freedom and economic recovery. What about the language of morality? Is it immoral to refuse the vaccine? We are social beings, and the definition of morality is behaving in a way that is good for others, n...
2021-Apr-01 • 43 minutes
The Meaning of Easter
Easter 2021 comes at the end of an annus horribilis. We are meaning-seeking creatures, and the symbolism is everywhere if you want to find it. There’s the re-birth associated with the Spring equinox, the hope in the Christian account of the resurrection, the freedom marked by the Jewish Passover, and the reflection and restoration embodied in the Muslim observance of Ramadan. While many faith and spiritual groups instinctively see this is a powerful moment in the calendar, for many people, the Easter bank h...
2021-Mar-29 • 42 minutes
Moral certainty in a pandemic
The mathematician John Allen Paulos once said, “uncertainty is the only certainty there is”. One year on from the beginning of the first lockdown, never has this felt more true. In light of this, how certain should we be in our judgments about the decisions that were taken by those in power over the last twelve months? One strongly-held view is that had the government and its advisors been more decisive, acting with greater moral clarity in the early stages of the pandemic, more lives would have been saved....
2021-Mar-18 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Masculinity
The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard has provoked widespread anger, fear, solidarity and soul-searching. While some may see elements of a moral panic, how are we to deal with the uncomfortable truth that, despite progress in so many areas of life, the overwhelming majority of domestic abuse, sexual assault and violent pornography is perpetrated by men against women? Is there something intrinsically wicked about men? That’s a very stark question, which invites deeper exploration. For some, the problem s...
2021-Mar-04 • 43 minutes
Conditions on living in a post-vaccine world
The Covid vaccine has given us a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown but it also provides us with a whole new set of moral conundrums. The virus will likely be with us forever, so the question becomes: how will we live with it in the medium and long-term? We’ve all accepted conditions on our daily lives, with the view that they would be temporary, but should we have to get used to them? Downing Street says the idea of a "Covid passport" app is still under review. Should we make the ability to travel, socialise in...
2021-Mar-02 • 43 minutes
Free Speech at Universities
The government has announced a series of proposals to “strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England”, with a “free speech champion” investigating potential infringements on campuses. The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned of a “chilling effect” where students and staff feel they cannot express themselves freely. Many believe these measures are a welcome legal intervention following claims of increasing numbers of individuals being silenced, no-platformed or sacked. Critics...
2021-Feb-18 • 43 minutes
Personal Responsibility
We’d probably all be able to give the government a score out of ten for its handling of the pandemic – but how many of us have even thought of subjecting ourselves to the same level of scrutiny? From illegal raves, house parties and large family weddings to the everyday decisions not to wear a mask or socially distance, how much should the public take a share of the responsibility for the spread of the virus? The author and commentator Matthew Syed claims that personal responsibility is “in retreat”. Citing...
2021-Feb-10 • 43 minutes
The ‘Age of Impunity’
“America is back”, said President Joe Biden, ushering in a new era of US foreign policy. There is a lot in his in-tray. Having announced an end to US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, he faces a coup in Myanmar, Russia’s election meddling and the “very credible case” of genocide against the Uighurs in China. There has been a sense for some time that liberal democracy is in retreat, politically, morally and perhaps also militarily. The result, according to some, is that we have become toothless in hold...
2020-Dec-02 • 42 minutes
Christmas 2020
The ethical calculation families across the UK have to make about seeing loved ones this Christmas could have far-reaching and potentially fatal consequences. The government has laid down the rules, but the moral choices lie between the gaps. Those who urge caution, even a postponement of Christmas, say it’s about taking personal responsibility to make everyone safe, and that it would be wrong to let our guard down now that the vaccine ‘cavalry’ is just over the other side of the hill. The other side of the...
2020-Nov-30 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Vaccination
It’s hard to remember what normal life feels like, but for the first time since the start of the pandemic, there are reasons to be optimistic about when we might return to it. It looks increasingly likely that by the New Year at least one highly-effective Covid vaccine will be available. Despite this promising news, any new vaccines will be rationed, cost money and carry some degree of risk. This prompts a number of ethical and moral considerations. For some, this as a matter of global justice; they believe...
2020-Nov-26 • 43 minutes
Defence versus Foreign Aid
The Chancellor’s spending review this week has thrown up competing moral visions for Britain’s place in a post-Covid, post-Brexit world. On the one hand, there will be a boost in defence spending on drones and cyberwarfare; on the other, speculation about the UK’s foreign aid commitment has prompted ex-prime ministers, charities and religious leaders to speak out against any proposed cuts to the aid budget. Symbolically, if not practically, defence spending and overseas aid are seen to be in competition sin...
2020-Nov-11 • 43 minutes
Democratic Legitimacy
Donald Trump is refusing to concede the US election, making unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud and planning rallies across the country to build support for the legal fights ahead. The ‘leader of the free world’ is having a wobble and it is a testing time for democracy. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unify a country that has become so polarised that even the choice about whether or not to wear a mask during a pandemic is seen as political. What do the deep divisions, and even the denial of t...
2020-Nov-04 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Mortality
The Prime Minister said the second lockdown in England was necessary to avoid the "medical and moral disaster" of the NHS being overwhelmed. In starker terms: many people will die if nothing is done, and not just of Covid-19. Depending on one’s perspective, the government’s strategy has either been too concerned, or not concerned enough, with the avoidance of death above all else. What has the crisis revealed about our attitude to our own mortality and how we value human life? Some are accused of being too ...
2020-Oct-28 • 43 minutes
Celebrity Power
Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free meals for vulnerable children during school holidays has received widespread support from both the public and the media, with some describing Rashford as rising from sportsman to statesman, the noble quest of a celebrity footballer taking on the might of the Government. Whether he succeeds remains to be seen but it demonstrates the growing power of the celebrity. Advertisers and charities alike have long understood the power of associating celebrities with a product or ...
2020-Oct-22 • 43 minutes
Global Capitalism and the ‘Lost Generation’
By November, 1 million young people in the UK will be unemployed, according to a report out this week from the newly-launched Alliance for Full Employment. It has the backing of the former Prime Minister and Chancellor Gordon Brown, who warned of a “lost Covid generation” of young people with no prospects and nothing to do. The cost, he says, is more than just a financial one: “It destroys self-worth; it hurts family life; it shatters communities”. So what should our moral obligation be to this generation? ...
2020-Oct-14 • 43 minutes
The Moral Authority of Organised Religion
A damning report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse describes a culture of deference in the Church of England which meant that perpetrators were allowed to hide and, when exposed, were often given more support than their victims. This was a scandal in which the “moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach”. This pattern of behaviour and cover-up is shocking but depressingly familiar. Following decades of such revelations, there is a growing belief that Britain’s churche...
2020-Oct-08 • 43 minutes
Lived Experience
Donald Trump claims to have a better understanding of coronavirus following his own diagnosis and treatment. In a video message he said, "I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't the let's read the books school. I get it and I understand it.” There are those who believe that directly experiencing a social issue makes for better, more empathic, political decision-making. Critics of the President’s handling of the crisis, however, would argue that it should not have taken a ...
2020-Aug-05 • 43 minutes
Moral Lessons for a Post-Covid World
The past five months have turned our lives upside down. In the early days of the lockdown, idealists saw the pandemic as an opportunity for moral improvement; they thought it would reinforce our shared values and confirm our common humanity. As it has turned out, Covid-19 has not been the great leveller they were hoping for. You could argue that, on the contrary, it has taken our social inequalities and made them worse, adding a greater danger of death to the burden already borne by the most disadvantaged....
2020-Jul-29 • 43 minutes
The Death of the City?
Our normally bustling cities have been eerily quiet for months. It’s reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic horror film, ‘28 Days Later’. The lockdown is proving costly; Westminster Abbey has lost more than £12 million in revenue this year and is set to lay off one in five of its staff. Theatre bosses say they must reopen without social distancing in time for Christmas or face oblivion. Restrictions are beginning to ease but for many cafes, pubs, shops, clubs and restaurants, the pandemic could be terminal. Mu...
2020-Jul-22 • 43 minutes
The Morality of the British Empire
Campaigners are calling for an 'empire-neutral' public honour to reward front-line coronavirus workers in the Queen’s birthday honours list this autumn. It’s thought that some nominees will refuse to accept the traditional Order of the British Empire (OBE). The Black Lives Matter protests have sharpened the debate about our colonial past. Oxford professor Nigel Biggar has suggested that academics now put their careers at risk if they say anything positive about the British Empire. It’s an important moment f...
2020-Jul-15 • 43 minutes
How and why we educate
Universities are counting the cost of COVID-19. They’ve lost revenue from international students, they’re struggling for investment and some of them are finding it hard to meet their pension commitments. As many as 13 of them may no longer be financially viable, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The question of whether or not cash-strapped universities should be bailed out is moral as well as financial. It summons conflicting arguments about the social value of these institutions and the role t...
2020-Jul-08 • 42 minutes
Gambling
Years of soft-touch regulation and the universal adoption of smartphones have created a “perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling”, making “the lives of two million people miserable” – according to a House of Lords Select Committee report looking into the betting industry. Its 66 recommendations include a ban on “loot boxes” in video games, which can often be bought for real money and offer a randomised reward; many see this as a dangerous gateway to gambling for children. It wants to ease the industry out ...
2020-Jul-02 • 43 minutes
‘Groupthink’
Major changes in the Civil Service are needed to tackle metropolitan ‘groupthink’ in government, according to Michael Gove. Sceptics are worried about the impact of all this on the political neutrality of our administrators. Beyond the walls of Whitehall, there are those in Britain who believe that ‘groupthink’ has become pestilential. The word was coined in the 1970s by social psychologist Irving Janis. It has come to refer to people who are passionate about a particular view of the world and who treat tho...
2020-Jun-25 • 43 minutes
China
While the rest of the world is poleaxed by the pandemic, China is becoming increasingly assertive – if not downright aggressive. In the past few days it has annexed 60 square kilometres of the Himalayas, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead. Meanwhile, Beijing is rushing through stringent security laws in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan, sabre-rattling in the South China Sea and incarcerating 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. China’s recent behaviour challenges the values that underpin liberal dem...
2020-Jun-18 • 43 minutes
Racial Justice
The anti-racist protests of the last two weeks, and the far right backlash against them, have revealed something significant about British society. Over and above the rights and wrongs of toppling statues, scribbling out street signs and cancelling old comedies, is surely the deeper question of how we should understand what is happening? Racism exists and there is palpable anger at the injustices black and minority ethic people are experiencing. Yet, at the same time, there are concerns about how the seriou...
2020-Mar-26 • 43 minutes
Isolation
Some of the UK’s national parks saw visitor numbers soar to bank holiday levels over the weekend. The message about social distancing and self-isolation is taking time to sink in. "Life should not feel normal," said the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. If it does, she added, “You should ask if you are doing the right things." The public’s response to these unprecedented times has exemplified the best and the worst of humanity. What, then, does the coronavirus crisis tell us about the fundamental na...
2020-Mar-20 • 43 minutes
Danger and Opportunity?
The coronavirus pandemic has given the world a smack in the face. Sporting events have been cancelled, national borders have closed, jobs and livelihoods hang in the balance, the over-seventies will soon be asked to self-isolate and families are having difficult conversations about whether grandparents can be allowed to see their grandchildren. It’s life, but not as we know it. A cynical politician once said that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste, and pundits are already suggesting that we n...
2020-Mar-12 • 43 minutes
Islamophobia
The anti-racism campaigner Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia. Some have described the move as “Orwellian”; others believe he has a case to answer. The issue turns on what we mean by ‘Islamophobia’ – although even to pose that question is to invite denunciation in some quarters; why split hairs when it’s obvious that anti-Muslim bigotry is rife? The Conservative party has been under attack for the allegedly Islamophobic utterances of some within its ra...
2020-Mar-05 • 43 minutes
Coronavirus
Late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a tiny organism migrated from an animal to a human. Three months later, COVID-19 has gone global. So far, nearly 90,000 people are known to have caught coronavirus and more than 3,000 of them – mostly already ill or elderly – have died. Here in the UK, the government has acknowledged that its ‘containment’ strategy is likely to fail and is planning for delaying the spread of the virus and mitigating its effects. But nobody knows how the virus will behave in Brit...
2020-Feb-27 • 43 minutes
Profiling, Safety and Trust
The boss of Ryanair has been criticised for saying that airport security checks should focus on Muslim men who are travelling alone, because they pose the biggest terror threat. The Muslim Council of Britain said Michael O'Leary's comments were "racist and discriminatory". Profiling is the practice of categorising people and predicting their behaviour on the basis of particular characteristics. We're profiled all the time by businesses and insurance companies with the help of computer algorithms. That same ...
2020-Feb-20 • 43 minutes
Transgender Rights
Two of the final three Labour leadership candidates have signed pledges to defend trans rights, expel party members who express "transphobic" views and fight against Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and “other trans-exclusionist hate groups”. Both those groups cited insist they are merely campaigning for the rights of women as they exist under UK Equality law, as well as those of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This bitter quarrel could be seen as symptomatic of a wider culture war which calls into questio...
2020-Feb-13 • 43 minutes
The Moral Purpose of the BBC
Her 98th year has not started well for Auntie BBC. The Government is consulting on decriminalising the licence fee; 450 jobs are being cut from BBC News to help meet a huge savings target; gender pay disputes are never far from the headlines; and audience figures reveal that the Corporation is struggling to connect with many British people – especially the under-35s and those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, the Director-General, Tony Hall, will step down in the summer after seven years in...
2020-Feb-06 • 43 minutes
Healing the Nation
In the last three and a half years, freedom has clashed with fraternity, families have fallen out and friends have become foes. What happens next is – the Prime Minister promises – “a moment of real national renewal”. Post-Brexit Britain is not yet a week old and there is much left to negotiate about its future relationship with the EU, but at last we have certainty on one thing: we’re out. Inevitably there are still die-hard remainers re-branding themselves as ‘rejoiners’ and continued shouts of “You lost,...
2019-Dec-05 • 43 minutes
Radicalisation and De-radicalisation
The story of the latest terrorist attack in London is both tragic and extraordinary, starkly contrasting the evil of the assassin and the virtues of his young victims. The red-faced authorities are trying to work out how it came about that a convicted jihadist attending a prisoner rehabilitation conference stabbed to death two of the people who wanted to help him. Meanwhile, and predictably, the event has been politicised. It is being cited as evidence that Islamist terrorists cannot be de-radicalised, and ...
2019-Nov-21 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Genetics
Doctors of medicine swear the Hippocratic Oath, written some 2,500 years ago, declaring that they will protect the confidentiality of their patients. Sometimes they break that promise and are criticised; sometimes they keep it and are criticised. This week a woman is suing an NHS trust for not telling her about her father’s Huntington’s disease, which doctors had already diagnosed when she had her own child. Only after the child was born did she find out that she also carried the faulty gene for the degener...
2019-Nov-14 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Voting
“You’re joking – not another one!” That was Brenda from Bristol, back in 2017 when Theresa May surprised the country with a snap poll. A penny for Brenda’s thoughts as we climb aboard the roller-coaster for our third general election in four years. The pundits are predicting only its unpredictability. The parties are fractured and fraught, the voters are frustrated and fatigued, and Brexit prances through the pantomime. The old safe-seat certainties are crumbling. Campaigners on all sides have been encourag...
2019-Nov-07 • 43 minutes
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
It’s exactly 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The dramatic demolition on that chilly November night in 1989 symbolised liberal aspirations for a world soon to be remade in the image of America and Western Europe. For the political theorist Francis Fukuyama it was ‘The End of History’ and a decisive victory for the global democratic project. But history didn’t end in 1989 and understanding the reasons for that is perhaps the moral imperative of our age. Democracies are shaking, America is polarise...
2019-Oct-31 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Risk
Fireworks are fun; they’re also dangerous. Hundreds of people are injured every November 5th and pets are frightened by the noise. What’s to be done? Sainsbury’s has become the first UK supermarket to stop selling fireworks and some MPs have called for an outright ban. They are heroes to some; to others, they are spoilsports, determined to see every jot of joy fizzle out like a damp roman candle. We take risks all the time, for better or worse, but is the long march of health and safety – from the Factory A...
2019-Oct-24 • 43 minutes
The ‘Tolerance of Intolerance’
The row in Birmingham over primary school lessons that teach an accepting attitude to homosexual relationships has been making headlines for most of this year, and now the courts are involved: the City Council has applied for a permanent ban on protests at the school gates. So far this escalating dispute about 'tolerance' has not displayed much of it – on either side. Muslim parents have been portrayed as backward and bigoted, while the local authority has been labelled Islamophobic. Behind this head-on cl...
2019-Oct-17 • 43 minutes
Punishment and Justice
The Sentencing Bill – one of seven criminal justice bills trailed in this week’s Queen’s Speech – will aim to keep serious or violent criminals behind bars for longer than at present. It’s part of the government’s ‘tougher’ approach to law and order, along with an increase in the number of police officers and an avowed intention to give victims a louder voice in the criminal justice system. The Home Secretary Priti Patel says she wants to make criminals ‘feel terror’ on the streets. Polling suggests that ne...
2019-Oct-10 • 43 minutes
Academic Freedom
It seems to some that universities, which used to boast that their courses would explore controversial ideas, are nowadays keener to reassure students that they will not be disturbed by anything too worrying. But safe spaces for students make dangerous spaces for dons. Doctors and professors have been subjected to harassment and no-platforming because of their unfashionable opinions on a range of topics including colonialism, transgender rights and abortion. Earlier this year Noah Carl lost his research fel...
2019-Oct-03 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Anger
The political pressure cooker is rattling, steaming and whistling. MPs on all sides are venting outrage over the language used by their opponents. It’s like a real-life Twitter. The PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said the atmosphere in the country will get ever more toxic unless the result of the referendum is delivered. Meanwhile, opposition MPs blame the current fury on what they see as the government’s pig-headed refusal to compromise. Aristotle said: “Those who do not show anger at things that ...
2019-Aug-01 • 43 minutes
Love and Relationships
Whether you watch it or not, it’s hard to ignore the TV reality show ‘Love Island’, which puts a bunch of semi-naked heterosexuals in a villa and tells them to ‘couple up’. It is firmly part of the zeitgeist and now set for two series a year. There’s a clear generational disagreement about the programme: 16-34 year olds are addicted to it; geriatrics can’t stand it. What does the success of ‘Love Island’ say about the state of television, and what does the state of television say about us, the viewers? Love...
2019-Jul-25 • 43 minutes
Anti-Semitism
The anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour party has been described by leading Jewish figures as “a taint of national and historic shame”. Jeremy Corbyn has acknowledged failures in dealing with allegations and the party has now published new materials designed to educate members about anti-Semitic tropes. Nevertheless, Labour is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for racism – an indignity that brackets them with the BNP. According to President Macron, anti-Semitism in Europe ...
2019-Jul-18 • 43 minutes
Surveillance and Human Freedom
Big Brother is watching you. George Orwell’s chilling words are now a reality. In China’s Xinjiang province, Uyghur Muslims have been described by one official as laboratory mice in an experiment of “advanced, predictive, algorithmic surveillance”. The comments were made to an undercover film-maker, whose documentary, “Inside the Chinese Digital Gulag”, airs this week. The film depicts a society based on phone surveillance apps and a vast network of cameras tracking individuals and even reading their body l...
2019-Jul-11 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Fashion
Some of the stars of this year’s Glastonbury festival have joined the chorus of campaigners denouncing ‘throwaway fashion’. They’ve given some of their own clothing to Oxfam and are encouraging their fans to buy their outfits second-hand (or ‘pre-cherished’). These days you can buy a dress for a fiver and wear it once before chucking it away. Is that proof that capitalism has gone too far? Critics of the industry cite the appalling conditions and rates of pay in the third-world factories churning out garmen...
2019-Jun-27 • 43 minutes
Moral Character
Famously photographed stuck on a zipwire, Boris Johnson is now attempting the tightrope. Unless he falls off, the pollsters suggest, he will alight in four weeks’ time in Downing Street. Perhaps understandably, he is trying to limit the number of buffetings to which he subjects himself in the meantime. Buffetings, however, continue. While it may be fascinating to voyeurs that he apparently spilled wine on a sofa and had a crockery-smashing row with his partner, is that really important? The Boris backers sa...
2019-Jun-20 • 43 minutes
The Policing of Humour
Comedy is a serious business, as Jo Brand discovered when she made a joke about throwing battery acid at politicians. The police have now dropped their investigation into her and she has not been sacked by the BBC – unlike Danny Baker after his apparently ‘racist’ tweet last month. Guardians of free speech worry about the policing of humour and the erosion of the right to offend. Yet we live in politically-febrile times and a joke may provoke more than mere amusement or even offence. Jokes can be deemed to ...
2019-Jun-13 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Hypocrisy
Discussion of the Tory leadership race has shifted from questions of policy to issues of personal morality. Given that most of the candidates have admitted – to a greater or lesser extent – snorting, smoking or supping illegal substances at some point in the past, how thunderously should they be condemned? Shouldn’t people running for high office be blasted for their past ‘indiscretions’? Isn’t it right that any person in a position of privilege and authority who has shown a contempt for the law should suff...
2019-Jun-06 • 43 minutes
D-Day 75th Anniversary
The Allied invasion of Normandy, 75 years ago, was the biggest land, air and naval operation in history. It led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi control and was the galvanising moment of the age, but it came at a cost that is almost unimaginable: at least 2,700 British soldiers, sailors and airmen lost their lives in the first 24 hours. Their sacrifice ensured that later generations would enjoy a lifetime of peace in Europe. Very few people in Britain today, other than military professionals, have ever...
2019-Mar-28 • 43 minutes
Moral Purity
The Sackler Trust has suspended new charitable donations in the UK, following claims that the Sackler family billions are linked to the opioid crisis in the US. The family denies the allegations, but both the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate group have refused its money. Whether that money is tainted or not (the question is hotly disputed) the controversy raises important questions about the ethics of funding for the arts, sport and philanthropic charities. Purists believe that good causes should alwa...
2019-Mar-21 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Leadership
Brexit is only days away and we still don’t have a plan. This is enraging for many, perplexing for most, and amusing for those who like their humour black. As one current slogan observes, “even Baldrick had a plan”. Some argue we are locked in a crisis of leadership. The major parties are fragmenting, collective cabinet responsibility has been trashed and the political atmosphere in parts of Britain is toxic. Have the two main party leaders ever been as weak? Many voters can’t understand how Parliament has ...
2019-Mar-14 • 43 minutes
Moral Panics
The rise in the number of fatal stabbings in recent months has generated big headlines and heated political debate. Teenage knife crime is high on the national agenda. There is broad agreement that something has to change but not as much agreement about what that is. Should there be more police officers on the streets? more surrender bins? more use of stop and search? more weapons sweeps? tougher sentences? Do we need a knife crime ‘tsar’ to co-ordinate it all? What about the role of schools and youth clubs...
2019-Mar-07 • 43 minutes
The Morality of the Artist and the Art
“Leaving Neverland”, a two-part TV documentary broadcast this week, details child sex abuse claims against Michael Jackson. The renewed allegations have prompted a debate about whether we should stop listening to his music. Some believe a boycott takes an important moral stand against the late singer’s alleged crimes. To pay any such artist the compliment of our appreciation, they say, is to undermine the victims. Others think the moral character of the artist has no bearing on the worth of the art. In his ...
2019-Feb-28 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Disobedience
At the end of a landmark Vatican summit on paedophilia in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis had strong words for guilty clergy, describing them as "tools of Satan." Campaigners, though, are looking for the devil in the detail of the Pope’s proposals. Some of them are saying that the Church has now simply lost its claim to moral authority. Has it? Or, in our understandable revulsion to this scandal, do we risk overlooking what institutional religion might still have to offer? The loss of trust in institution...
2019-Feb-21 • 43 minutes
The Collapse of the Caliphate
“The Caliphate is ready to fall”, tweeted President Trump. The so-called Islamic State’s territory is all but recaptured. If only that were the end of the matter. We can take away their land, but not their warped and dangerous ideas. And there’s the small matter of what to do with the 800 European-born ISIS fighters who have been captured in Syria. The US president has threated to release them if Britain and other European countries don’t take them back. If the British jihadis are traitors to their country,...
2019-Feb-14 • 43 minutes
‘Decolonising’ the Curriculum
A report, commissioned by the Office for Students, has recommended that universities should “decolonise” the curriculum to end the dominance of western values and beliefs, which “position anything non-European and not white as inferior.” While the regulator hasn’t formally adopted the report as policy, campaigners have long argued that the perpetuation of what they see as a colonial legacy in education is immoral. They argue that a ‘white’ curriculum marginalizes BAME writers and alienates minority students...
2019-Feb-07 • 43 minutes
The mental health of young people
By many measures the UK is better than it was in the 1950s, but is it a better place in which to be young? Teenagers are more likely to be depressed today than they were during the Great Depression. Self-harm and suicide are on the rise. What’s going on? Surely, it can’t just be the internet, whether we welcome it for giving young people freedom they never had before, or demonise social media for confronting young people, hour by hour, with evidence of their own inadequacy. Research suggests that children a...
2019-Jan-31 • 43 minutes
The Moral Duty of MPs
Another week, another page of script written in the screenplay for ‘Brexit: The Movie’. The plot and cast-list are beginning to look more complicated and extensive than those of the fantasy series ‘Game of Thrones’. MPs on all sides are voting on amendments (and amendments to amendments) to the Prime Minister’s deal. Within this muddle lies a fundamental question: what is the moral duty of a Member of Parliament? When they are deciding how to vote, should they be guided by their personal red lines, or the w...
2018-Nov-29 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Friendship
It’s the time of the year to dust off the Christmas card list and perhaps delete one or two of the names on it. Who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? Who should never have been on the list in the first place? The Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has made the honest admission that he can’t be friends with his Tory colleagues, saying he can’t “forgive them for what they’ve done” to the country. And yet Tony Benn was friends with Enoch Powell. Tee-shirts with the slogan ‘NEVER KISSED A TORY’ have been...
2018-Nov-22 • 43 minutes
The United Nations
Britain has been heavily criticised by the United Nations expert on extreme poverty and human rights, over what he describes as its “draconian” benefits sanctions. Philip Alston has taken a 12-day tour of some of the most deprived areas of the UK and he is not impressed with what he has seen. Quoting the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, he says that current government policies are condemning the most destitute to lives which are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Poverty campaigners are hailing Professor...
2018-Nov-15 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Compromise
The Prime Minister’s Brexit plan is now on the table, but the table is looking very wobbly. We learned this week that the Chequers proposal, backed by cabinet ministers in July, was not so much a lollipop as a spoonful of castor oil, an “undesirable compromise” to be grudgingly accepted rather than greeted with enthusiasm. When the deal goes to Parliament for approval, will MPs and peers have a moral duty to support Theresa May's compromise, however unsatisfactory they believe it to be? Some will say ‘No, i...
2018-Nov-08 • 43 minutes
Lest We Forget: the Morality of Remembrance
The centenary of the end of the First World War this weekend is a significant moment for collective moral reflection. What is the point of remembering the fallen? Is it to make a solemn vow that we will not let their sacrifice turn out to have been in vain and that we will fight to hold onto the freedoms they fought to defend? Or is it formal commitment that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past and that we will never again send our young men to die uselessly for a cause they do not understand? We can...
2018-Nov-01 • 43 minutes
Words as Weapons
In a Pittsburgh synagogue at the weekend, history’s oldest hatred delivered yet another tragedy. Eleven people were killed as worshippers were gunned down during Sabbath prayers. We know that the attacker is an anti-Semite, but we do not know whether he was induced to kill, as some commentators have suggested, by the current political climate. Only days earlier a very vocal supporter of Donald Trump was arrested for allegedly posting bombs to 14 of the president’s enemies. Part of the presidential response ...
2018-Oct-29 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Ends and Means
First it was Salisbury and now it’s Istanbul. Once again the news outdoes the most lurid spy thriller. This time the story features the bumping-off of a dissident journalist as he collected divorce papers from a Saudi Arabian consulate, while his fiancée waited for him outside. At first, the Saudis flatly denied the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, saying he left the building unharmed. Now the Kingdom admits he died in a "rogue operation" - without explaining unverified reports of a team of suspected agents arri...
2018-Oct-18 • 43 minutes
Guilt and Innocence
Hampshire Police are giving leaflets to suspected sexual predators, explaining the law to them and asking for their behaviour to stop. The "C5 notices" are used when there is not enough evidence to support a prosecution. Supporters of the scheme say it’s another way to prevent sexual crime and protect children. Critics say there’s no evidence it changes anyone’s behaviour and it risks stigmatising the innocent. Where does this leave the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of l...
2018-Oct-11 • 43 minutes
Climate Change
Twelve years to save the world. While we're squabbling about Brexit, climate scientists are reminding us that the existential threat of our day is global warming. This week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising temperatures. According to its authors, keeping to the preferred target of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will mean cutting carbon emissions by 45% by the year 2030. That will involve, they say, "rapid, far-re...
2018-Jun-21 • 43 minutes
The NHS at 70
The Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a 70th birthday 'present' for the NHS: an extra £20bn a year by 2023, paid for in part by tax rises. It has been received with cries of 'about time' and 'not enough.' Other voices mutter that we are simply pouring good money after bad into a system that is broken. To go with the funding boost, the government has promised a 10-year plan that "tackles waste, reduces bureaucracy and eliminates unacceptable variation," but sceptics say we've seen those promises befor...
2018-Jun-14 • 43 minutes
The Morality of International Diplomacy
These are difficult days for diplomats; President Trump has torn up the rule-book. In just a few hours he went from firing off a salvo of angry tweets criticising America's G7 allies to embracing Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea - seen for decades as a rogue state - in an historic summit. Mr Trump's supporters see a man who gets things done in the interests of the people who elected him. As the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson put it recently, "Imagine Trump doing Brexit... There would be all sorts of ...
2018-Jun-07 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Suspicion
With 25 Islamist plots foiled in the last five years and four extreme right plots stopped since March 2017, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid this week described a "step change" in the terrorist threat to the UK. As a result, MI5 is to declassify and share information on UK citizens suspected of having terrorist sympathies. "Key" biographical data on - potentially - hundreds of people will be given to neighbourhood police, councils and other public agencies such as the Probation Service and the Charity Commiss...
2018-May-31 • 43 minutes
Irish Abortion Referendum
Following the landslide vote to overturn strict abortion laws in the Irish Republic, attention has shifted to Northern Ireland - the last corner of the British Isles to resist both legal abortion and gay marriage. The Prime Minister Theresa May is facing growing calls to bring the laws in line with the rest of the UK. It's a complicated political picture, but it raises a number of important moral questions. The first is about the extent to which a nation's religious and cultural traditions should be enshrin...
2018-Mar-29 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Big Data
Worried Facebook-users who have deleted their accounts because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal have been discovering that the social network held even more data about them than they had feared: complete records of their phone calls and text messages, contacts from their address books, appointments from their calendars, reminders of their friends' birthdays... It is naïve to suggest that we can ever again be truly private individuals, however much we might like to be, but is the harvesting of our personal...
2018-Mar-22 • 43 minutes
Cold War 2.0?
The icy winds from the East have been an apt meteorological metaphor for UK-Russia relations. Since the Salisbury spy incident, and the immediate pointing of blame at the Kremlin, diplomats have been kicked out of both countries. But that's unlikely to be the end of the matter. All eyes are on what happens next. What would be the most moral course of action to take? Should the UK pursue the strongest possible sanctions and perhaps even refuse to compete in this year's World Cup in Russia? Some believe that ...
2018-Mar-15 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Comedy
Tatty bye, Doddy. The most famous resident of Knotty Ash, wielder of the tickling stick and creator of the Diddymen, has died. Sir Ken Dodd's widow said: "He just wanted to make people happy". He was both of his time - described as "one of the last music hall greats" - and timeless. From his debut at the Nottingham Empire in 1954 as "Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty: Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter," he never failed to reduce his audiences to tears of helpless laughter. For some, there could be no higher mo...
2018-Mar-08 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Competition
Cycling is again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. A damning report by MPs argues that Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky "crossed an ethical line." They claim that the Tour de France champion used an asthma drug - which is allowed under the anti-doping rules for medical need - to enhance his performance. The accusation is strenuously denied, but where exactly is the "ethical line"? Isn't it expected that competitors will do anything and everything within the rules to gain an edge? Even the model sports...
2018-Mar-01 • 43 minutes
The Morality of International Aid
Since we learned that aid workers, sent to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake, chose instead to have sex with some of them, there's been something of a moral earthquake within the international aid sector. Charities had seemed to be beyond criticism; paragons of virtue. Now their moral high ground is crumbling away. It's not just Oxfam, though that was where the revelations began and where loud apologies failed to stop 7,000 private donors from cancelling their direct debits. Now the spotlight is on t...
2018-Feb-22 • 43 minutes
Religious orthodoxy versus liberal values
Orthodox faith schools have long been crucibles in which enlightenment values and religious freedoms have simmered uncomfortably. The bubbling grew fiercer this week with the prospect of more faith schools and the scrapping of the rule that they have to take in non-believers. The concern among many about what religious conservatives are teaching children has hardly been assuaged by a group of ultra-orthodox rabbis in Hackney, who are urging their schools not to accept government funding for teaching the 'li...
2018-Feb-15 • 43 minutes
Romantic Love
As restaurant prices double for the day and the world turns pink and fluffy, it's easy to be cynical about February 14th. Romance is a marketable commodity, partly because most of us grow up convinced that our most important aim in life should be to find true love, believing that the perfect partner is out there waiting, if only we can identify him or her, and then it will be hearts and flowers all the way to the grave. You don't have to be starry-eyed to argue that this vision of romantic love is a good th...
2018-Feb-09 • 43 minutes
The Objectification of Women
That rich men attract beautiful women - and vice versa - has for centuries been obvious and unquestioned. Suddenly a few noisy scandals have started a social avalanche that some call the new puritanism. In the past week Formula 1 racing has abolished the 'grid girls' whose role had been to look glamorous in the company of racing drivers; the Professional Darts Corporation, in consultation with BBC TV, has done away with the 'walk-on girls' who had provided a similar service for the masters of the triple-twe...
2017-Dec-08 • 43 minutes
The Morality of 2017
2017 has been a year of sex scandals and toppled reputations; trigger-happy tweeting and polarising rhetoric; 'remoaners' and 'Brexiteers behaving badly'; 'no-platforming', 'safe spaces' and 'snowflakes'. This year some cherished values - among them free speech, accountability, democracy, sovereignty and the rule of law - have been called into question as never before. For this final Moral Maze of the year, we're inviting our four panellists to nominate their "most important moral issue of 2017" and to face...
2017-Nov-30 • 43 minutes
The Institution of Marriage
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement was announced this week after a frenzy of speculation. We are used to media excitement about the personal lives of young royals, but perhaps this also says something about the value we still place in the institution of marriage. At the same time, the fact that nobody seems to mind that Ms Markle is divorced suggests an acceptance that relationships are more complex than they used to be, and that divorce no longer carries any great social stigma. Beyond the traditi...
2017-Nov-24 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Artificial Intelligence
Driverless cars could be on UK roads within four years under government plans to invest in the sector. The Chancellor Philip Hammond said "We have to embrace these technologies if we want the UK to lead the next industrial revolution". At the thick end of the wedge, Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk believes artificial intelligence is "a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation". AI is changing our lives here and now, whether we like it or not. Computer algorithms decide our credit rating ...
2017-Nov-16 • 43 minutes
Defining Gender
The Church of England has issued its schools with advice on transphobic bullying, suggesting that boys should be free to dress up in tutus and tiaras, and girls allowed to wear tool-belts and superhero capes, in the spirit of exploring "who they might be", without fear of stigma. The traditional view of gender is in rapid retreat. Both the Westminster and Scottish governments are considering making it easier for someone to change their legal gender. The LGBT campaign group Stonewall has called the current U...
2017-Nov-09 • 43 minutes
Moral Progress
The Westminster sex scandal has shone a light on yet more public figures behaving badly. The behaviour may not be new, but people appear to be far less tolerant of it. This raises questions about where our morality comes from and whether human beings can become collectively more ethical. Is this apparent shift in social mores an example of how our collective moral standards have improved? Or has an increasingly sexually-permissive culture - in which even children as young as ten are now "sexting" - created ...
2017-Nov-02 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Self-Determination
Before the Cava corks had finished popping to celebrate Catalonia's declaration of independence, direct rule was imposed from Madrid, the region's autonomy stripped away; its president sacked. It was a tumultuous few minutes by any country's standards. To some, the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is a traitor to Spain who should face criminal charges. To others, he is a Catalan patriot fighting for the region's right to self-determination - a cardinal principle of international law enshrined in the UN char...
2017-Oct-26 • 43 minutes
Elite Universities
Newly-released data obtained by the Labour MP David Lammy shows the dominance of the top two social classes at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Four-fifths of the students accepted between 2010 and 2015 were the offspring of barristers, doctors and chief executives - and the numbers are edging upwards. More offers were made to pupils in the London commuter-belt than in the whole of northern England. Most prime ministers, most judges and a large proportion of those who work in the media went to Oxbridge. I...
2017-Oct-19 • 43 minutes
Moral Complicity
Following claims of rape or sexual harassment made by dozens of women against the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, a picture emerges of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood exerting pressure on young actresses at the start of their careers, often in hotel rooms and offices. While the allegations of non-consensual sex are denied, the story has prompted a collective soul-searching in Tinseltown and beyond. How was Harvey Weinstein's behaviour tolerated, why did so few people speak out against him, and how m...
2017-Oct-11 • 43 minutes
50 Years of the Abortion Act
The Moral Maze returns with a special programme marking 50 years of the Abortion Act, recorded in front of an audience of students at UCL Faculty of Laws. Under the 1967 law, terminations were made legal for the first time in limited circumstances, with the agreement of two doctors. By far the most common reason for abortion (accounting for more than 181,000 of the 185,596 abortions in 2016) has been that continuing the pregnancy would risk injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, grea...
2017-Aug-10 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Holidays
For the crowds of holidaymakers flocking to Spain, it must have come as a shock to see "tourists go home" daubed on buildings in Barcelona and Majorca. You'd think the locals would be more grateful for the millions of euros they bring with them to spend. The resentment is not just about belligerent and under-dressed Brits drinking all day and yelling all night. The anti-tourist graffiti, tyre-slashing and window-smashing are protests against the economics and morality of mass tourism, which - according to a...
2017-Aug-03 • 43 minutes
Veganism and Animal Rights
One of the less predictable arguments to result from Brexit concerns the rights and wrongs of chlorine-washed chickens. Perhaps chlorinated-chicken-gate made many people feel temporarily smug about UK standards of animal welfare, compared with those in other parts of the world. Yet, at the same time, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a 'Go Vegan World' advert with the headline "Humane milk is a myth" - a claim which suggests we do have much further to go before we can feel morally-superior about ou...
2017-Jul-27 • 43 minutes
Morality and Gender Equality
Despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act nearly half a century ago, the BBC salary revelations of last week suggest that the most dramatic example of inequality for women - the gender pay gap - shows no immediate sign of narrowing. In a letter urging the corporation to act now to deal with the disparity, many of its highest-profile female personalities emphasise "what many of us have suspected for many years... that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work." Logically, the legal ...
2017-Jul-20 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Faith Schools
A long-running legal battle between Ofsted and the Al-Hijrah Islamic state school in Birmingham has reached the Court of Appeal. The principle at stake is whether segregating boys and girls - for all classes, breaks and trips - amounts to unlawful sex discrimination in a mixed-sex setting. Ofsted's lawyers argue that it is "a kind of apartheid", leaving girls "unprepared for life in modern Britain". The school maintains that gender segregation is one of its defining characteristics and that the policy is cl...
2017-Jul-13 • 43 minutes
The morality of parental rights
The case of Charlie Gard, the desperately sick 11-month-old on life support in London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, has captured the attention of the world. At the centre of it are two parents who instinctively believe in going to any lengths to fight for their baby's life, even when the doctors treating him have reluctantly come to accept there is nothing more to be done to mitigate the effects of his exceptionally rare genetic condition. The legal battle raises painful ethical questions about who - pare...
2017-Jul-06 • 43 minutes
The Morality of the Public Sector
It's not very often you see the complete breakdown of the constitutional convention known as collective cabinet responsibility. The issue at stake is whether to loosen the reins on austerity by giving a pay rise to public sector workers, from prison officers and nurses to judges and senior NHS managers. Ministerial heavyweights have been falling over themselves to urge the government to reconsider the 1% pay cap the Conservatives had wanted to keep in place until 2020. The fragile general election result ha...
2017-Jun-29 • 43 minutes
Moral Philosophy for the Internet
Theresa May has been forced to ditch whole chunks of her party's manifesto in the wake of the election, but one of the key non-Brexit policies to survive is the plan to crack down on tech companies that allow extremist and abusive material to be published on their networks. The recent terrorist attacks have strengthened the arguments of campaigners who've long said that it's far too easy to access this kind of content and have accused internet companies of wilfully ignoring the problem. The promised "Digita...
2017-Jun-22 • 43 minutes
Grenfell Tower Fire
Rage is an understandable emotional reaction to the Grenfell tower fire. It's not just a response to the number of people who died or were severely injured and the many hundreds more who lost loved ones or have been evacuated from their homes in the area. It's when you look at the accounts of Kensington and Chelsea council that the emotion crystallises into something more morally troubling. In the last financial year the council had spendable reserves of more than £300 million and was running at such a prof...
2017-Jun-15 • 43 minutes
The morality of generational voting
British politics has experienced what's been dubbed a "youth-quake." What seemed like political certainties a few weeks ago have been turned on their head by the high youth turnout. And that's a Good Thing isn't it? Politicians have long bewailed the fact that young people don't exercise their democratic right - even if all it takes is not much more than putting a simple 'X' in a box. Until now electoral arithmetic meant that politicians targeted increasingly smaller groups of voters in key constituencies. ...
2017-Mar-29 • 57 minutes
Morality of the Green Belt
When it comes to talking about home ownership in this country it quickly divides in to the "have's" and "have not's." According to the OECD fewer than half of low to middle income families are now able to afford to buy a house and some campaigners estimate that, by 2020, families earning the National Living Wage would be unable to afford to buy homes in 98 per cent of the country. The answer, according to many, is radical deregulation of the planning laws and building on the greenbelt. 8 million new family ...
2017-Mar-23 • 43 minutes
Nationalism
This week the Prime Minister is touring the devolved nations of the UK as she prepares to trigger the Brexit process. Her message to the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is clear: we are better as one nation - the United Kingdom. Brexit has whipped up a complex and (some would say) toxic mixture of politics and patriotism. While Theresa May and others champion the national credentials of the UK, she's having to shout down the voices in the devolved nations that say their economic, cul...
2017-Mar-16 • 43 minutes
Meritocracy Of Grammar Schools
The government has pledged that a new generation of grammar schools will improve social mobility. One way being proposed to ensure that is to force grammar schools to lower the 11-plus pass mark for poorer children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The idea is already running into opposition. People are asking what's the point of having a selective academic system if you don't select the most able students? It's also said that it risks patronising disadvantaged communities by sending out a message that less i...
2017-Mar-09 • 43 minutes
Virtue Signalling
There was a time when publicly standing up to protest at injustices, especially if they didn't affect you personally, was the sign of an upright citizen - the very definition of altruism - a "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." Now such expressions of moral outrage are as likely to be dismissed as "virtue signalling" as they are to be applauded. It's a neat and pithy phrase and like all the best neologism seems to capture and distil something in our cultural discourse. It's onl...
2017-Mar-02 • 43 minutes
Morality of Loyalty
298 days after Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri had done the seemingly impossible and helped his team win the Premiership league title, he's been sacked. Even by the standards of football it was a decision that shocked many. Gary Lineker, a former Leicester player, said he shed a tear. Leicester had never won a top-flight title but their improbable triumph rekindled some of the romance of the sport and Ranieri was made FIFA's Coach of the Year. This season has been a disaster. Leicester now face releg...
2017-Feb-23 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Fake News
You can't open a newspaper or hear a press conference at the moment without having to dodge the allegations of "fake news" being thrown around the place. Journalism used to be regarded, at least by journalists, as the "Fourth Estate" - the foundation of a civilised society and an essential part of the democratic process. A properly working democracy, it's argued, cannot function if its citizens don't have reasonably accurate, reasonably fair and reasonably comprehensive information about the world in which ...
2017-Feb-16 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Empathy
The government's decision to end the scheme that let unaccompanied migrant children into the UK has provoked an outcry. Many had hoped that we could offer a home to thousands of child refugees and the closure of the scheme has been branded "shameful". It's hard not to empathise with the bewildered and vulnerable child refugees now stranded in Europe and it's a very natural human reaction to want to do something to help. But what if, in the very act of helping, we make matters worse? The resettlement scheme ...
2017-Feb-09 • 43 minutes
Peace, Justice and Morality
How far should we be willing to forgive and forget past crimes in the interests of building lasting peace? The issue has been a running sore in Northern Ireland politics despite the Good Friday peace agreement. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has a special unit, the Legacy Investigations Branch, to review more than 3000 murders during the Troubles. But there are allegations it is prioritising re-opening the killings where soldiers from the British Army were involved, over those carried out by terrori...
2017-Feb-02 • 43 minutes
Morality of international trade
If you want to watch the reality of modern politics being played out in real time, you could do worse than visit the Parliament petitions website. The petition to prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the UK has now got well over a million signatures. Rather like the spinning figures on a petrol pump, you can see the total rising by the hundreds every minute as people register their moral outrage at the President's executive order banning travel to the US from certain Muslim majority countries. ...
2016-Nov-25 • 43 minutes
The Psychology of Morality
Go on - admit it. You like to feel you're above average. Don't worry. We all like to feel we're somehow special - that our gifts make us stand out from - and above - the crowd. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as positive illusion. It's the sort of self-deception that helps maintain our self-esteem; a white lie we tell ourselves. The classic example is driving: the majority of people regard themselves as more skilful and less risky than the average driver. But research just published shows that this c...
2016-Nov-17 • 43 minutes
Social Integration
Do we have a moral duty to make friends with people of different races, social backgrounds and sexuality? The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is warning that a lack of social integration in the UK is costing our economy about £6bn and he says the answer lies in our own hands. Talking at an international conference on the issue he said "Promoting social integration is a matter for everyone, for every citizen of our cities. It means ensuring that people of different faiths, ethnicities, sexualities, social backgrou...
2016-Nov-10 • 43 minutes
Political Discourse
When the actor Kevin Spacey was filming the current series of House of Cards, with its brutally cynical take on American politics, he said he was worried that they may have gone too far. As the US presidential election reaches its vituperative climax, he now concedes they haven't gone far enough. The invective has reached new heights this week with Donald Trump claiming the election is being rigged and Hilary Clinton countering that he's unhinged and dangerous. Has political discourse ever been as poisonous...
2016-Nov-03 • 43 minutes
US Presidential Election
On the afternoon of Thursday 19th November 1863, the American President, Abraham Lincoln, delivered what has become perhaps the most important speech in American history. Lincoln was dedicating a National Cemetery for the 50,000 men who'd been killed in the Civil War battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His address was only 272 words long, but it has become one of the greatest and most influential statements of a national moral purpose "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not ...
2016-Oct-27 • 43 minutes
Moral imagination and migration
The demolition of the Jungle camp in Calais this week has highlighted a moral paradox at the heart of the debate about migration. The media are full of heart-rending stories of the suffering, endurance and hope of individual migrants - each one of them a compelling cry for our help and understanding. Yet, despite our growing collective knowledge of the plight of migrants, our attitude to migration seems to be hardening. Why? In many other areas of our society the opposite is true. Take, for example, the cas...
2016-Oct-20 • 43 minutes
Authors of Our Own Misfortune?
This week the Moral Maze asks "in a society where resources are scarce, should we take account of whether people have contributed to their own misfortune?" The issue has been raised by Phil Kay, the assistant chief constable of Leicestershire. Like other public bodies, the force is struggling to stretch resources to cover demand. He told his local newspaper that he would "far rather" officers focus on preventing crime and protecting the public than spend their time investigating break-ins where carelessness...
2016-Oct-13 • 43 minutes
Privacy
For Donald Trump it was an 11 year old dusty tape that appeared from the archives. For Sam Allardyce it was a sting by undercover reporters. For the Olympic gymnast Louis Smith it was a video leaked on to the internet. All of them conversations they thought were private becoming embarrassingly public, with varying degrees of consequences. We all say things in private we wouldn't want made public, so what right to privacy should those in the public eye be entitled? Is it a simple case that we have a right to...
2016-Oct-06 • 43 minutes
A world without Down's syndrome?
Do we want to live in a world without Down's syndrome? This isn't just a theoretical question. It could soon become a reality. A new technique called non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), detects Down's syndrome with 99% accuracy and it should soon be available on the NHS. It's already being used in Iceland where 100% of Down's syndrome pregnancies are terminated. The Danish health system declared the objective of being Down's-free and introduced the test in 2006. The termination rate there today is 98%. In...
2016-Aug-31 • 43 minutes
Policing Offence
When is a personal opinion so offensive that it becomes morally unacceptable? This weekend former Tory leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom discovered her comments on motherhood had transgressed an unwritten social convention. The outraged legions of leader writers, columnists and Twitterati descended and by Monday she was gone. As the politics of offence, identity and rights become ever more toxic, they become equally hard to navigate and the price of transgression is ever higher. The whole Brexit debate an...
2016-Aug-04 • 43 minutes
The Summer of 2016
As someone once said 'Whoever you vote for the government wins'. Whether we thought it was a conspiracy or not we've got used to the idea that something we called the establishment ran societies like ours. No longer. From Brexit voters agreeing with Michael Gove that we shouldn't listen to experts, to Donald Trump supporters relishing the hostility to their man of every part of the American establishment or Jeremy Corbyn supporters rejecting conventional wisdom about what is needed to win elections: everywh...
2016-Jul-28 • 43 minutes
Legalising Drugs
Going to a music festival has become a rite of passage for the post GCSE teenager. Their excitement at the prospect of a long weekend of unsupervised possibility is perhaps only matched by the anxiety of their parents who know exactly what that might entail. Those fears may have been heightened by the news that a music festival in Cambridgeshire has just become the first UK event of its kind to offer people the chance to have their illegal drugs tested to establish the purity of content before they take the...
2016-Jul-21 • 43 minutes
Nuclear Weapons
MP's have voted overwhelmingly to renew our Trident nuclear weapons system and the first job of any new prime minister is to write the "letters of last resort" which contain prime ministers' instructions for what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. The handwritten notes are taken to the UK's four Vanguard-class submarines, the ships which carry the ballistic missiles the Royal Navy calls "the nation's ultimate weapon" and contain instructions of what to do in the worst-case nuclear scenario: the obliter...
2016-Jul-07 • 43 minutes
The Chilcot Inquiry
130 sessions of oral evidence,150 witnesses, 150,000 documents, more than 2.5 million words - the Chilcot Report on the Iraq War was finally published on the day of this programme. The inquiry was set up to examine our reasons for taking part in the US-led invasion of Iraq, how the war was prosecuted and its aftermath. But was the decision to go to war morally justified? Chilcot confirms that there was a massive failing in intelligence in the lead-up to the decision to go to war, especially around WMD; it a...
2016-Jun-30 • 43 minutes
Morality of Victors and Vanquished
Pundits and politicians alike are struggling to capture the enormity of the consequences of the result of the referendum vote. It's at times like these people often turn to George Orwell for inspiration. He likened our nation to "a family with the wrong members in control" - "that" he said "perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase." Who'll be left standing and in charge after all the political recriminations and bloodletting have ended is still not clear. It's been described as ...
2016-Jun-23 • 43 minutes
The EU Referendum
The murder of the MP Jo Cox has cast a very long and dark shadow across the closing days of the EU referendum. The nature of the campaign and how her death might influence the result are a matter of conjecture. On this week's Moral Maze we're going stand back from that speculation and ask a much bigger question - has this referendum been good for us and good for democracy? The intense campaigning has been going on for many months now and comes hard on the heels of the Scottish independence referendum. Argua...
2016-Jun-16 • 43 minutes
Assisted Dying
Every year thousands of terminally ill patients are being helped to die by their doctors, according to Baroness Molly Meacher, the new chairwoman of Dignity in Dying. She claims doctors are prepared to risk their own freedom rather than see their patients continue to suffer unbearably. Her assertion comes as the British Medical Association next week prepares to discuss the results of its 18 month long survey in to the public and medical professionals' attitudes on end-of-life care and physician-assisted dyi...
2016-Jun-09 • 43 minutes
The Morality of Business
The sales signs are going up in 163 BHS shops around the country as the liquidators try to salvage something from the wreckage of this once proud company. When Sir Philip Green bought BHS in 2000, it was making a profit. By the time he sold it in 2015, for £1, to a three-times bankrupt with no retailing experience, it was making a loss and the company pension fund was more than £400m in deficit. Exactly what went wrong at BHS is the subject of no fewer than four separate inquires. What is certain is that it...
2016-Apr-14 • 43 minutes
Social Convention
Would you ******* believe it? A council has ******* banned swearing in public. The council in question is Salford which has used a Public Space Protection Order to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Salford Quays area which includes Media City, home to the BBC, which might be just a coincidence. Part of the order says it will be deemed a criminal offence if anyone is caught 'using foul and abusive language'. Public Space Protection Orders, or PSPOs, are similar to ASBO's (anti-social behaviour orders), and...
2016-Mar-31 • 43 minutes
Brussels Bombing
The fact that the Belgian authorities had been expecting an attack doesn't diminish the shock of yet another bombing with mass casualties in a European capital. Belgium's foreign minister said on Sunday that Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, could have been plotting more operations. Tragically, he was proved right. That Salah was able to hide in Brussels, under the noses of the Belgian police, for more than four months raises uncomfortable questions for them - and also for us...
2016-Mar-17 • 43 minutes
Morality and the EU Referendum
Claim and counter claim in the EU referendum debate have filled the air waves and packed the papers and there are still 14 weeks left to the actual vote. The atmosphere is already highly charged and the political stakes couldn't be much higher. The way we vote on June 23rd will have profound implications for generations to come. We've heard a lot about the political and economic arguments that we should consider when casting that vote, but what are the moral considerations? Is preserving our national cultur...
2016-Mar-10 • 43 minutes
Is Science Morally Neutral?
In 1816, when Mary Shelley sat down to write her Gothic novel Frankenstein, it was a time of social, political and scientific upheaval. It has given us the archetypal image of the mad scientist single-mindedly pursing his grotesque experiments whatever the cost. "Frankenstein Science" has even become its own category, especially beloved by tabloid headline writers. 200 years on and the pace of scientific development has increased exponentially; the fact that Shelley's Frankenstein still has such a hold refl...
2016-Mar-03 • 43 minutes
Historical Sex Abuse
The idea that we shouldn't speak ill of the dead has an ancient heritage dating as far back as 600BC. It's attributed to the Greek philosopher Chilon of Sparta, but judging by recent headlines around allegations of historic sex abuse it might not have much more of a shelf life. Police forces keen to redress claims that in the past they haven't treated victims fairly and to demonstrate they're not part of a an establishment cover up, are devoting huge resources to cases often dating back many decades and eve...
2016-Feb-25 • 43 minutes
Who Owns Culture?
It may not have the same impact as the Elgin Marbles, but a slightly battered bronze statue of a cockerel has re-ignited a row that has potentially profound implications for our museums and opens a Pandora's Box of moral dilemmas. The statue in question sits in the dining hall of Jesus College Cambridge, but it was originally from the Benin Empire, now part of modern-day Nigeria. It was one of hundreds of artworks taken in a punitive British naval expedition in 1897 that brought the empire to an end. In the...
2016-Feb-18 • 43 minutes
Banning Boycotts
How far should you be allowed to express your moral and political beliefs through boycotts? There have been high profile boycott campaigns on everything from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, and tobacco products to economic and academic boycotts of Israel. Now the government is planning a law to make it illegal for local councils, public bodies and even some university student unions to carry out boycotts. Under the plan all publicly funded institutions will lose the freedom to refuse to ...
2016-Feb-11 • 43 minutes
Charities
Charity in the UK is big business. There are over 165,000 charities registered with the Charity Commission, and the total annual income of the sector is more than £100 billion. But what should they be allowed to spend their money on? The government has just announced that charities which receive state grants will not be allowed to spend any of that tax payers cash on political campaigning. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has described the change as "draconian" and will amount to "gagging" t...
2015-Dec-10 • 43 minutes
Selfie Culture
The wobbly mobile phone footage and someone calling out "you ain't no Muslim bruv" has given us a powerful rallying cry. It was filmed by a bystander as police restrained a man who's since been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. What it doesn't show is how one very brave man fought to try and disarm the attacker, while people stood around filming it all on their phones. Mobile phone footage has now become a staple of our news and not so private lives. Which one of us hasn't clicked on a link and exp...
2015-Dec-03 • 43 minutes
Moral Certainty
We live in a complex world where it's often hard to know what's the right thing to do - the right thought to think. But there are increasing sectors of our public discourse where any sense of moral ambivalence or doubt will not be tolerated. Race, homosexuality, child abuse are just some of the touchstones where any expression of doubt is often pounced on and hounded out, especially on social media. Our Moral Maze this week isn't about freedom of speech, or political correctness; it's about the moral value ...
2015-Nov-26 • 43 minutes
Just War and Syria
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, will make his case for bombing ISIL in Syria this week. Some commentators are predicting that, if parliament votes in favour, the raids could start as early as next week. This will mean our going into a coalition not only with France and America but also with Russia - a country that has been a long-standing ally of the Syrian leader President Assad, the man whom we wanted to bomb only two years ago. The adage "my enemy's enemy is my friend" dates back at least to the 4th c...
2015-Nov-12 • 43 minutes
Drugs in Sport and Human Enhancement
The report from the World Anti-Doping Agency couldn't have been clearer. Russian athletes were involved in state sponsored cheating and the IAAF was involved in bribery and corruption. Admittedly it's not exactly the stuff of Chariots of Fire, but what are the real moral boundaries that have been transgressed? If you think elite sport is all about individual talent and dedication you're sadly mistaken. Top athletes in all sports are supported by multi-million pound programmes that ensure they get the best o...
2015-Nov-05 • 42 minutes
Population Control
This week the Moral Maze asks: "is it our moral duty to have fewer children?" The question has been brought in to focus by two stories in the past week. First, that by 2027 the population of the UK is expected to top 70 million people and the second that China is to end its "one child" policy. With 238,737 births every day the world population is rapidly approaching 7 and a half billion and will be 8 billion by 2024. While many people will be campaigning for tougher policies at next month's UN climate chang...
2015-Oct-29 • 43 minutes
Public Opinion
When Professor Averil Macdonald, the chairwoman of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said that women are opposed to fracking because they don't understand it, the reaction was predictable. She was accused of being sexist, patronizing, misogynistic. But in all the brouhaha what was missed was the difficult moral question at the heart of her argument. Professor Macdonald was citing research that shows only 31.5% of women are in favour of shale gas exploration compared to 58% of men. She argued that while women do accep...
2015-Oct-22 • 43 minutes
Turning a Blind Eye and the Law
If you're the kind of person who likes to smoke a joint and chat on your mobile while out for a relaxing Sunday afternoon drive it seems you're in luck. According to figures released this week it seems that the police are increasingly turning a blind eye to these offences and when it comes to enforcing the new law banning smoking in cars where there are children, the police have said it's not their job. If the purpose of the law is to protect public health and safety, and to set moral boundaries, can it eve...
2015-Oct-15 • 41 minutes
The Work Ethic
The Moral Maze returns this week to apply its nose to the grindstone and naturally the prospect of work is exercising our collective mind. Ringing, perhaps guiltily in our ears, are the words last week of the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Defending the changes to tax credits he said "We want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years' time. There's a pretty difficult question that we have to answer, which is essentially: are we going to be a country which is prepared to...
2015-Aug-06 • 43 minutes
666 Evil
Looking back at some of the stories that have been in the news during this series of Moral Maze you could be forgiven for despairing of humanity. The suspected firebombing by Jewish settlers killing a Palestinian baby, the white supremacist who shot dead nine people at a church in South Carolina and where to start with so-called IS? Public stoning, mass executions and lessons in beheading for school children are just some of their stock-in-trade. Faced with such a litany of horrors it's tempting to reach fo...
2015-Jul-16 • 43 minutes
The BBC
No one has come up with a better or pithier definition of public service broadcasting than John, later Lord Reith. The purpose of the BBC is to "inform, educate and entertain." For Reith, the son of a minister, the creation of the BBC was a public service; an unambiguous moral good and ever since Reithian has become an adjective that symbolises a kind of broadcasting that promoted virtue to the nation and one that should not be sullied by commerce. To "inform, educate and entertain" are still part of the BB...