NEWS FROM THE DIRECTOR
Our Centre’s Education for World Futures initiative was launched on May 26.This initiative grew from our attendance at the World Universities Forum in Mumbai in January, where our papers on integrated human studies courses and delivery attracted great interest. Essentially the initiative proposes the online delivery of our courses in conjunction with other universities worldwide. Each partner university would include custom designed local content focusing on relevant issues. We are very excited about the chance to deliver our course potentially to thousands of students worldwide, and to create a truly global educational enterprise with human wellbeing at its heart.Steve and I were pleased by the spirited response from the audience. One of the great things about the university system is the process of peer review, and the comments and questions of our colleagues will inform our course development. Both content and pedagogy will be rigorously scrutinised at every stage so the final product will be one that UWA will be proud to see wearing its badge.Our second semester seminars begin on July 29. Preliminary details are below, and updated program information will appear on our web site at http://www.ihs.uwa.edu.au/seminars/ihs-series I hope you get a chance to attend and enjoy some of the very interesting talks on the program.If you didn’t take note of the lecture series on Global Health beginning on Monday July 27, the details are below again.
Professor Neville Bruce
Director, Centre for Integrated Human Studies
NEXT SEMINAR SERIES: HUMAN RELATIONS BEGINS JULY 29
Our second semester seminars are broadly on the theme Human relations, and investigate what we know of ourselves as individuals, as families, and as Australians. Topics include our national character, our relationship with our history, our multicultural community, how our families are faring this century, and the challenges of caring for our ageing population. The series begins on July 29 with a look at humans’ creativity, focusing on music, an artistic endeavour now recognised as contributing to human wellbeing. You’ll receive an e-bulletin reminder before the first seminar, and can see the full program at http://www.ihs.uwa.edu.au/seminars/ihs-series
NOTES FROM THE LAST SEMINAR, ANIMALS
Professor Dennis Haskell, chairing the session, noted that animal ethics is a hot topic at UWA and the chair of the animal ethics committee is considered one of the hardest positions due to the nature of the research carried out here.
Dr Dominique Blache (who sits on the committee) said there was no easy answer to the question about whether animals were slaves or equals to humans, but, whether our use of animals was for production, food, research, art or as companions, the question was simple: is it ethical? Concern for animals is a relatively recent thing. Jeremy Bentham in 1789 said, “…the question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” We can approach the issue of animal ethics by using a number of ethical frameworks. The utilitarian approach suggested concerns of utility and equality. Costs – that is, the amount of suffering that animals experienced – should be balanced against benefit. Sometimes it was difficult for people to assess this. For example, food may be produced far away and consumers might not be able to judge whether it was produced humanely. Another approach is deontological, where the main concern is performing the right action, regardless of the outcome or benefit. In the case of whale strandings, from a deontological point of view, it is right to try to save whales. But from a utilitarian standpoint, it is questionable, because there is much effort, and often poor results. Virtue ethics decreed that we would do the right thing by being of virtuous character, but sometimes even when we want to do the best thing, we do the worst. Here Dr Blache showed a graph of figures for dog obesity in the US. The ethical debate could be driven by custom, law, religion and science, and critical thinking was essential.