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Giving a gift is a complex transaction. So what makes a gift good? MattysFlicks/Flickr

Give and take: the anxiety of gift giving at Christmas

The anxiety attached to gift giving is worth considering. The Christian commemoration of Christmas is about celebrating God’s ultimate gift, his only son. Such an exceptional gift reaches its destiny in…
“In a dance as old as time”: Bristol shoppers get ready for some 1950s bargains. Paul Townsend

Amazon price glitch: to buy or not to buy, that is the moral question

Christmas is never plain sailing. It’s tough on consumers trying to work out how much food to buy and how to get their hands on the latest must-have toy for children, and it’s tough for retailers trying…
Trust in doctors to do the right thing. Organ by Shutterstock

How much should you be told about your organ donor?

The recent inquest into a case in Wales where two patients died following kidney transplants has focused fresh attention on the risks associated with transplantation. No transplant is risk-free, but the…
In September, Tony Abbott returned two antique statues to India in the presence of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. EPA/ Government of India

Stolen cultural objects: what’s the role of Australian galleries?

Last week, The Australian reported that 49 artworks had been identified by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) with gaps in their ownership history that could signal they were stolen. Asian antiquities…
Politicians would deny that wealthy people buying time with them and donating to parties influences decision making. EPA/Steffen Schmidt

Integrity in politics

Below is the text of Michelle Grattan’s Accountability Round Table lecture, November 18, 2014. Most of us who’ve been around politics for a while in one capacity or another can remember the time when misleading…
George Brandis argues that it is the government’s duty to investigate and prevent serious crimes – and that metadata can help. AAP/Alan Porritt

Metadata and privacy: surveillance state or business as usual?

Metadata, previously a word limited to the tech-savvy, is now not only a hot topic of public discussion but the focus of new national security legislation. The public discussion seems split between two…
Old fashioned scandals meet new-fangled complexity. Andy Dean Photography

Will all the ethical social scientists please stand up?

Social scientists have to get better at recognising and responding to ethical problems. Although economists, political scientists and psychologists have not been responsible for the same level of abuses…
Confucius stands guard at Beijing’s Renmin University. George (Sam) Crane

Confucius doesn’t live here anymore

In today’s China, the philosopher Confucius is back. To mark his 2,565th birthday this September, the nation’s President, Xi Jinping, paid homage to the sage at an international conference convened for…
Should teachers dictate what’s right or wrong? Blackboard via pupunkkop/Shutterstock

We need to teach children how to think, not what to think

In its ideal form, education should be socially progressive. We teach the next generation of scientists, engineers and medical researchers who will improve our quality of life: they will learn more about…
Legislating for commercial surrogacy would enable Australia to overcome concerns about poorly regulated clinics overseas, such as this one in Thailand. EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Commercial surrogacy in Australia: rethinking notions of ‘natural’

Often emphasised in discussions about children’s best interests is the idea that certain ways of having and raising children are “natural”. For example, this word appears frequently in reference to how…
He’s having a laugh: Jack Ma with the NYSE traders. Justin Lane/EPA

Alibaba feeding frenzy shows how little we have learnt

Greed is still good. Wall Street has just witnessed its largest ever stock market launch as Chinese internet giant Alibaba raised some $25 billion and watched its share price rise by 35% on its first day’s…
There is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between moral and ethical decisions. Helga Weber

You say morals, I say ethics – what’s the difference?

Certain customs or behaviours are recognised as good and others as bad, and these collectively comprise morality – arguably the summation of our value system as human beings. So a conversation about ethical…
Very little we say in the policy room can contain the enormous complexity of family life. Kitty DuKane

The ‘perfect family’ has created an ethical and moral vacuum

Whether we’re reading about family studies research in Women’s Day , Scientific American or the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, most of us look for evidence that will help us understand where we sit along…
Is morality – and happiness – determined by how you affect the people around you? Shutterstock

Telling right from wrong: why is utilitarianism under attack?

It is a word we hear from time to time, but few of us know what it means. Utilitarianism is the method most people use to decide whether an action is right or wrong. We decide the moral merits of what…
One of the self-drive cars already being used by Google in Nevada, in the US. EPA/Google

Self-driving cars need ‘adjustable ethics’ set by owners

One of the issues of self-driving vehicles is legal liability for death or injury in the event of an accident. If the car maker programs the car so the driver has no choice, is it likely the company could…
YouTube footage of a man kicking a squirrel off a cliff has prompted outrage, yet we all need to stop and think about how we treat animals. YouTube

Outcry over squirrel kicker, yet disrespecting animals is the norm

An online video apparently showing a French tourist kicking a squirrel off a cliff in Grand Canyon National Park was greeted with horror and incredulity after being posted (and since removed) on YouTube…
Despite claims of independence, academics that work closely with industry often have their views unconsciously shaped. Fellowship of the Rich/Flickr

Academics on the payroll: the advertising you don’t see

In the endless drive to get people’s attention, advertising is going ‘native’, creeping in to places formerly reserved for editorial content. In this Native Advertising series we find out what it looks…
US army ‘deserter’ Bowe Bergdahl had deep and abiding questions about the justice of the cause he signed up for. EPA/IntelCenter

Deserters aren’t born, but made: Bowe Bergdahl and moral injury

The public debate around the recent prisoner swap that saw US Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl returned from five years' imprisonment in Afghanistan in exchange for five senior Taliban leaders has had two main…

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