I recently came across this rather interesting article (ominously titled The Blood Harvest) by Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic from February of this year about horseshoe crabs and the use of their startlingly blue blood for biomedical purposes. While I had read a bit about the horseshoe crab and its particularly interesting evolutionary history before, I had not heard of the rather indispensable role it plays in modern medicine. Continue reading Cloning Blue Crab Blood to Prevent Infections
I read a very nice summary of the problems with undervaluing the importance of freedom of information and communication in the Google v Spain decision by Professor Niko Härting. Here’s just a snippet of the argument;
“Privacy by default” will encourage politicians, celebrities and other public figures to put their lawyers on track when they find inconvenient information online. And as the use of a search engine like Google is essential for finding information, the elimination from the results of search engines will provide a convenient and essential tool to suppress information.
I recommend you read the full article at;
Much rejoicing was had this week amongst fans of Data Privacy and Data Protection, as the European Court of Justice (ECJ – though officially now just the Court of Justice) in its capacity as one wing of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU; I know, the distinction is a bit confusing, and varies depending on who reports it) implied a “right to be forgotten” into European Data Protection Law. For example, the EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the decision, saying it was a victory for the protection of personal data in the EU; “The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world”. Whilst the idea of giving citizens more rights to control the processing and dissemination of their personal information is a commendable one, this already exists in the form of the Data Protection Directive which was found to be applicable in this case.
What really happened here is that the court extended, in my opinion rather widely unclearly, who can be designated as controllers or processors of personal data and what sorts of information should be considered objectionable personal information and remain completely within the control of the citizen. Continue reading Europe and The Right to Be Forgotten: A Memorable Victory for Privacy or Defeat for Free Speech?
I have blatantly stolen the phrase “Something from Nothing” from Lawrence Krauss’ discussion of the origins of the universe to in his brilliant book “A Universe from Nothing“, to describe a somewhat less significant, but similarly mysterious aspect of Irish Constitutional Law. As I have been a bit busy lately, and am lagging behind in writing new content for the site, I decided once again to go back to some of my previous work, this time as a fresh-faced (actually, at age 19 I was probably still struggling with teenage-years skin, closer to acne than fresh-faced) first-year student in Trinity College. The doctrine of unenumerated rights is one of the more controversial, and possibly for that very reason, interesting areas of constitutional law. It is a central part of both the arguments between judicial activism and separation of powers, and natural law versus positive law; Continue reading Something from Nothing: The Irish Unenumerated Rights Doctrine
Good news for European fans of “The Right to Be Forgotten”, as the European Court of Justice has backed the right to have “irrelevant” or out-dated information removed from online sources, and search results. Google is understandably unhappy, and this could also have troubling consequences regarding freedom of speech and information, but it is certainly interesting to see the ECJ backing this sort of very new “right” specifically as a response to developments in the online world.
I’m sure the title of this post will strike many of you as a bit controversial, as I do tend to try to keep my views on religion out of my academic arguments, unless of course they are particularly relevant or particularly amusing given the topic at hand. And this topic is one I find myself explaining to non-Irish jurists time and time again, with mixed feelings of frustration, shame and bemusement. The following are a few of the more surprising facts about Irish law, both historical and current, which seem to shock, anger or amuse my colleagues who didn’t grow up in such starkly conservative or Catholic nations, and even some of those who did. While it is true that many of these laws cannot be blamed on religion alone, one cannot deny the huge, at times mind-boggling and perplexing, impact which cultural, moral and religious conservatism, and the Catholic Church in particular, have had on the law in Ireland. Some of these peculiarities are uniquely religious, even Catholic, others are simply symptomatic of cultural and moral conservatism in Ireland and Europe over the last Century. For ease of both writing and reading, I have decided to break this post up into a series of shorter pieces on specific issues. We’ll start today with an introduction and the wonderful story of illegal condoms: Continue reading Catholicism, Moral Conservatism and Crazy Irish Laws: Part 1 – Introduction and Condoms
Slippery Slopes and Euthanasia
A ‘slippery slope argument’ (SSA) is a particular style of argument which particularly raises my ire (a phrase I’ve always wanted an excuse to employ) as they are so often raised against points I am trying to make, but also worries me in the frequency and potency of its use. These arguments are used to disrupt or even halt debate on some particularly controversial and important themes, and – tragically – are often simply accepted at face value, as they seem powerful at first glance, but perhaps do not stand up to logical scrutiny. In its most basic form, the Slippery Slope Argument suggests that if we allow position A to come about then it is highly likely, even certain, that, through some direct or indirect connection, position Z will eventually also come about. However, the validity of many of these arguments is questionable at best; David Enoch goes as far as to point out that they are often referred to as ‘slippery slope fallacies’. Nonetheless, these types of argument have been used in the legal, philosophical and political spheres for many years and in debates ranging from conspiracy theories about a One World Government to the question of stricter firearms control in the US to discussion about abortion law reform. A key aspect of SSAs is that position A is often regarded as not inherently wrong, or at least not nearly as wrong as Z, and yet it is argued that A should not be allowed happen because it may lead to Z – the primary reason for prohibiting A itself in fact has very little to do with the characteristics of A alone. Continue reading Bioethics and Bad Reasoning: The Slippery Slope of Using Slippery Slope Arguments
I have for a long time now been fascinated and perplexed by the challenges of basing human rights and ethics on an alternative quality such as genetics or consciousness as opposed to religion or natural law. Scientific and ethical discussion can impact and is impacting how we treat other species, particularly highly intelligent animals such as dolphins, chimps and ravens. Continue reading Consciousness, Ethics and Ravens