Automated drones: An ethical debate?

Due to some technical difficulties, we aren’t able to post the video from yesterday’s live Q&A, but I’ll be online … Continued

Due to some technical difficulties, we aren’t able to post the video from yesterday’s live Q&A, but I’ll be online next week at 12:30pm ET to take your questions on ethical issues in the news.

Yesterday’s chat did raise some interesting questions about three stories making headlines this week — the use of automated military drones, President Obama’s planned tax increases and controversial proposed changes to the rules on harvesting organ

Several chatters addressed the ethics of using automated military drones. One chatter wondered how much of the debate is a moral one, given the technological vs. ethnical aspects of drone warfare. Another noted that drone warfare potentially removes military service people from the sense that they’re killing an enemy. Even if such technology has the potential to save lives, does creating a greater distance between ourselves and enemy targets encourage us to go to war?

Obama’s planned tax increases — and the notion that Americans should pay their “fair share” was next up for discussion. At face value, it seems fair for top earners to pay more in taxes — after all, as one chat participant pointed out, President Obama has said he does not want it to come out of the pockets of those who can least afford it. From the Republican side, the argument is that top earners already pay about 60 percent of the income tax. Who decides what’s fair and how?

We also discussed proposed changes to the rules on harvesting organ, which would allow doctors to harvest organs in a hurry. While the new rules would offer the potential to save more lives, opponents worry that patient interests aren’t being protected.

Chat participants stressed that the patient donating the organs must come first. But how long should doctors wait to determine if a patient is really dead? Organ donation offers a real opportunity to save lives and every organ donor should come up with some criteria, whether medical, religious or a mix of both, that serves as a reasonable determinant of the end of their life. Based on that definition, they should sign up to donate whatever organs would be usable after that definition is met.

The last chat question addressed my column this week, which looked at a fanatical atheist group’s decision to tear up the Bible as an act of protest. I argued that there is something inherently hypocritical about a group of so-called “freethinkers” destroying a text. One chat participant wondered if there if there were exceptions to my argument — can a text ever be considered so morally wrong that defacing it is an acceptable method of protest?

There are, I’m sure, exceptions, but my argument is this: Fanasticsm of any kind – religious, secular or otherwise — that holds a deeply held ideology as more important than people – is always dangerous and always wrong. There are other ways to protest or debate ideologies we disagree with, but destroying texts doesn’t have a place in free thought.


Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • SteveinOhio1

    As to drones: Couldn’t the notion that “drone warfare potentially removes military service people from the sense that they’re killing an enemy” be recast as “a nation should minimize its’ soldiers’ exposure to combat when combat can be conducted by other means?”

    As to taxes: I am still amazed the top earners in the nation don’t write-out their tax check and say “thank you” to a country that perpetuates an economic system that permits people to receive vast sums of money while others go without adequate food, healthcare, etc.

Read More Articles

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.