Ethics | Vocab Expansion

The BBC advertises “Revision”, which means: the studying youngsters such as yourselves

do to make it through their GCSEs (exams)



Definitions: Ethics (n) the science of morals in human conduct; rules of conduct.

Moral (adj) concerned with the goodness or badness of human character or behaviour.


Most people have a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong. Part of this sense 

comes from our parents and family during our upbringing. There is, however, a national

sense of ethics which is much more difficult to pin down. For example, we expect our

politicians to have high moral standards, though this is not always the case. Many people

want ethical foreign trade, yet we supply arms to developing countries. Ethical issues

raised daily in medical science that simply didn't exist a few decades ago.


For some, a strictly defined view of what is right and wrong comes from religion. All major

religions have codes of behaviour which contribute to the national sense of ethics. But in

our increasingly secular society some argue that our 'moral standards' are in decline.


This is a very broad area and one which it would be impossible to cover comprehensively.

Instead you will look at some examples of ethical issues in British society.



Ethical standards in public life

This is a tricky area. Should someone have to live in a particular

way because he/she is in public life? Once the answer would have

been a very definite 'yes'. Politicians, for instance, could easily be

tainted by scandal involving their private lives. Such scandal could

end a political career, for example the Profumo Scandal in the

1960s. The tabloid newspapers love a good scandal but should this

dictate the way that people live their lives?



Ethics - genetic engineering in humans

Many scientific discoveries bring with them difficult ethical issues. You will look at two

examples. You should be aware of the issues surrounding the science.


Since the discovery of the structure of DNA science has come a long way towards finding

out what makes a human being. The genes that control our development have been

painstakingly mapped in the human genome project. While this can bring great benefits to

humankind it also carries dangers with it.


Now the technology exists to alter the genetic make-up of individuals before they are born.

The big question is whether or not this should be allowed. It is now possible to:



  • decide the sex of a baby before birth.


  • implant genes into embryos.


  • clone some human cells.


  • grow new organs in isolation.

Consider the ethical issues at stake here. Do you think that it is right to change the sex of

a baby simply to fit in with the wishes of its parents?


What changes are allowed and which ones are prevented has to be decided by somebody.

The power to change human beings is in our possession: under what circumstances should

we use it?



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