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Moral Maze

Podcast Moral Maze
Podcast Moral Maze

Moral Maze


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  • Can ethics survive the death of religion?
    For the first time, fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian. For centuries in the West, Judeo-Christian values have underpinned moral reasoning and grounded our ethics. While ticking “no religion” on the census doesn’t necessarily mean having no religious belief, should it concern us that this central story of our culture is fragmenting? Implicit in utilitarianism is the idea that we can do ethics without metaphysics. The Enlightenment hailed the triumph of scientific rationality over sacred revelation. Whereas, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that in any society in a state of ‘anomie’ – that is, lacking a shared moral code – there would be a rise in suicide. Secularists argue that the greatest examples of social progress of the last century have come about as a result of a loss of deference to religious moral authority. Religious leaders believe that it is precisely this moral authority that makes a society cohesive. Others think it doesn’t matter where you get your moral guide from as long as you’re looking for it. We live in an era of rapid social change, facing a new technological revolution, and all the ethical questions it poses. Does a religious-based ethics have the answers? Can ethics survive the death of religion? Producer: Dan Tierney.
  • Human Rights
    The largescale protests in China are not just a response to Covid restrictions but about fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech. They follow weeks of demonstrations in support of women’s rights in Iran, and LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar. We often speak about human rights as a self-evident truth – the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of conscience. Drafted after the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a milestone document seeking to protect the dignity of all human beings. Advocates argue that human rights are universal because the struggle for freedom can be found in every culture, despite being rooted in different philosophies and assumptions. They see a human rights-based approach to the world as the best way of identifying a shared humanity and improving human wellbeing. Sceptics, however, believe the global human rights movement can itself be a form of Western moral imperialism, or cite examples of atrocities justified with the language of human rights. Some believe that in order to hold powerful corporations and regimes to account, there needs to be a more expansive view of human rights. Others are concerned about what they see as the ‘mission creep’ in extending the legal framework of rights to encompass areas of moral life that shouldn’t be a matter for the law courts. What are human rights? Are they universal? Who should arbitrate when they are in competition? Producer: Dan Tierney.
  • The Morality of Snobbery
    People like us... you know what I mean. Snobbery? It's everywhere, and most of us would admit to it, at least occasionally. But beyond the caricatures of snooty and disdainful types who enjoy looking down on the tastes, habits and backgrounds of others, there's the serious matter of how it affects people's life chances. The British Psychological Society has launched a campaign to make social class a legally protected characteristic, like sex, race and disability. It would force employers and others to tackle discrimination on the basis of class. The idea is to reduce the damaging effects of class-based prejudice across education, work and health, and create a fairer society. People from working class backgrounds are less likely to get into a top university or land a highly paid job, but how much of that is down to the snobbery of others? Is a change in the law really going to shift prejudices that have been embedded over generations? Is it right to use the law in this way? More broadly, what’s wrong with expressing a preference about how other people present themselves? Isn't some behaviour that gets labelled as snobbery just an attempt to defend high standards, whether in speech, writing, taste or manners? Is there a moral case for snobbery? With Bridgette Rickett, D.J. Taylor, David Skelton and Alex Bilmes. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk
  • The Future of the NHS
    The Future of the NHS Can the UK keep its promise of free healthcare for everyone? NHS spending is higher than ever, yet waiting lists are getting longer and patient satisfaction is falling. The worst of the pandemic may have passed, but weekly Covid admissions remain high and many services are still struggling. While many patients feel delighted with the treatment and care they receive, stories of missed targets, staff shortages and crumbling buildings are common. Whether its waiting for an operation, mental health support, getting a GP appointment or just hoping an ambulance arrives in time, our cherished and beloved NHS is letting many people down, in spite of the heroic efforts of its staff. The people vying to be our next Prime Minister have acknowledged the problems, but are not promising big improvements. Is it time for a new model? Some believe it’s about funding, and we need to accept that the NHS we want and need will cost us much more. But in a cost of living crisis, are people really prepared to pay higher taxes to improve the NHS, and if not, why do we still expect a Rolls Royce health system? Others think it’s a bottomless pit of demand and it’s time to reduce our expectations. Can we afford the NHS to be anything more than a safety net for the sickest and poorest? Is it right to promise care to everyone, even those who can afford to go private? Or, might the public’s willingness to pay for the NHS evaporate, if it's no longer there for all of us? We may love our NHS, but how much should we expect of it, and how much are we willing to pay? With Tim Knox, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Matthew Lesh and Prof Allyson Pollock. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk
  • The Right to Abortion
    The Right to Abortion This weekend thousands of people marched on the White House in support of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. That constitutional principle, established nearly 50 years ago in the case of “Roe v Wade” has just been overturned by the US Supreme Court and already many Republican states have banned abortions. As President Biden moves to try to protect abortion rights, campaigners in the UK have been stirred to action. There have been ‘Pro Life’ demonstrations outside clinics in Northern Ireland and ‘Pro Choice’ protests outside the US Embassy in London. The number of abortions in England and Wales last year, more than 214,000, was the highest recorded since 1967, when a new law allowed, in most cases, terminations up to the 24th week of pregnancy. This also applied to Scotland but was only extended to Northern Ireland two years ago. Public opinion is clear: 85% of people in Britain think women should have the right to abortion. But should rights also be afforded to the unborn, and if so, at what stage of pregnancy? Has anyone the moral right to dictate whether a woman can have an abortion? For many women, “my body – my choice” is a fundamental principle. With Madeline Page, Professor Ellie Lee, Professor John Milbank and Kerry Abel. Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Peter Everett Presenter: Michael Buerk

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