Archive for March, 2011

Vintage Drug Ad of the Week

March 27th, 2011
Bayer Heroin

Courtesy of the Bonkers Institute for Nearly Genuine Research

Stop that cough with Bayer Heroin.



Things you can buy for the cost of Carl’s book, part 13

March 27th, 2011
How to get rich as a televangelist or faith healer

$19.95 from Paladin Press

From the always reliable folks at Paladin Press, Bill Wilson’s book, How to Get Rich As a Faith Healer or A Televangelist.

“Discover the easy, inexpensive ways to get religious credentials (and the tax-free status that goes with them), how to develop your following, how to tailor your message for maximum gain and how to weasel out of trouble when your lavish lifestyle or personal misconduct hits the fan.”

Things to buy instead

Look who’s sitting next to the dummy!

March 26th, 2011
Medical Ethics for Dummies, meet Medical Ethics for Pious, Sermonizing Pricks

Medical Ethics for Dummies, meet Medical Ethics for Pious, Sermonizing Pricks

Photo of a library shelf, submitted by one of our users. Note the placement on the shelf.


The Ethicator on the Ethicist: Should I really write my own recommendation?

March 23rd, 2011
Why not just say it?

Why not just say it?

Dear Ethicator,

Your inferior counterpart at the New York Times recently told a reader that it was perfectly ok for her to write his or her own letter of recommendation for law school and then have a former professor sign it.  I’m thinking of doing this myself, but still, I’m not sure what I think of her advice. Does it sound fishy to you?

By the way, I’m disappointed Ariel Kaminer was chosen for that job; it should have been you.


Need a Second Opinion

Dear Second Opinion,

Whoa!  Not so fast there.  I have no beef with Ariel Kaminer; we’re both professionals, both trying to make the world a better place. Unlike other ethicists you might know, I do not get my kicks running down my colleagues in the profession (or stealing their ideas, or exploiting their labor, for example).

And besides, she is right.  If you think about it, this is all about building your brand with your target audience.  And who is better positioned to do this than you? Face it, your supervisor is dead weight; most academics wouldn’t know a good sales pitch if it bit them on the ass. Write that recommendation yourself, and you’ll know you’ve struck the right tone.  And remember:  it’s not lying if you really believe it.  If you can honestly say you are on your way to a Nobel Prize, feel free to point that out.

Job recommendations are just one of several kinds of notes you’re better off writing yourself, and letting someone else sign.  Some other examples I’d recommend include:

  • Award nominations
  • Promotion letters
  • Book reviews
  • Medical prescriptions

Uncomfortable? Sure. But unethical? No way. Now go get ’em. You’re welcome.

The Ethicator


Send your questions to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

Got Hiccups? Try Thorazine

March 18th, 2011

Thorazine ad, circa 1954 - click to enlarge
Thorazine ad, circa 1954 – click to enlarge


Courtesy of the Bonkers Institute, an ad from back when people weren’t afraid to think outside the box.


The Ethicator: Should I Give out A’s in Exchange for ADHD Drugs?

March 14th, 2011

Dear Ethicator,

I’m a philosophy Ph.D. student and I’m finding it difficult to buckle down and work on my dissertation. I’ve heard that Adderall is pretty good at helping people focus, and I know for a fact that a bunch of my students take it. Would it be unethical for me to give a student an A in my class in exchange for a semester’s worth of Adderall?



Dear Getting-no-help,

You should not try to acquire these pills secondhand, or pay for them in any way other than through a licensed health insurance company.  Nonetheless,  I’m glad you mentioned Adderall, America’s Number One Psychostimulant, brought to you by the good people at Shire pharmaceuticals. Adderall has proven effective at treating the symptoms of ADHD, and is known to boost mental concentration far more effectively than anything you can make in your bathtub, although there are also other options like the cbd delta 8 disposable that will help you feel more relaxes as well.

Adderall can be employed in a number of forms, such as an extended release pill, or perhaps crushed up and inhaled through a twenty-dollar bill.   Ask your doctor about side effects, which may or may not  include euphoria, bursts of extreme productivity, superhuman sexual prowress, and occasional cardiac death.

Do you need Adderall? To get an idea, you should answer this brief questionnaire:

  • Do you ever find it difficult to concentrate on complicated tasks, such as writing philosophy papers and dissertations?
  • Have you ever found yourself losing focus while attempting to perform several tasks at once (for example, writing a metaphysics paper while checking your email, surfing the web, texting your friends and Tweeting about the NCAA play-offs)?
  • Have you ever found an academic lecture to be so suffocatingly boring that you just zoned out for the remainder of the talk?

If you answered “yes” or “maybe” to any of these questions, you should start a course of Adderall immediately. Under no circumstances should you continue to write your dissertation without Adderall; you have an illness, and it can be treated with Adderall. Please go to your doctor as soon as possible and request some Adderall. Bring a copy of this article, and ask your doctor to write my code (ETHICATE2011) in the prescription. Remember:  Adderall.  Payment Code:  ETHICATE2011.  Thank you.

The Ethicator

Send your questions to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

Things You Can Buy for the Cost of Carl’s Book, Part 12

March 12th, 2011
Body for Sale

$18.00 from Paladin Press

The Ethicator’s book pick of the month:  Ed Brassard’s book,  Body for Sale.  “Whether the bottom line is saving lives or making money, medical technology is a source of life and death, hope and new beginnings, and big bucks. Find out how you can cash in on this lucrative trade.”

Finally, someone who gets it.

Keep sending your questions to the Ethicator:


Ethicator, Things to buy instead

The Ethicator: Can I get a job without a genius brother?

March 10th, 2011
Real employment

Real employment

Dear Ethicator,

Once upon a time I told your brother that I was thinking about applying to philosophy graduate school. He told me that if I got a Ph.D. in philosophy I’d probably be fated to checking bags at the airport. I disregarded your brother’s bullshit comment and entered a philosophy Ph.D. program, only to find that he was kind of right; it’s darn-near impossible to get a job in philosophy. Your brother has been very successful in philosophy, but now we all know that this was only because he had a brilliant younger brother whose ideas he could plagiarize. I don’t have any siblings. Is there any other way to become a successful philosopher or am I doomed to work at the airport?

Thanks, Ethicator!
Possible future TSA employee

Dear employee:

I am not sure how I am supposed to reason with someone who admits to drawing career inspiration from my brother.

Nonetheless, if you are an academic parasite like Carl, and are looking for an intellectual host to feed on, you would do well to get one of those airport bag-checking jobs you’re dismissing. I know a few people in that line of work. Most got unionized jobs right out of high school, have pensions, and maybe even air passes that let them fly out to see Lakers games on long weekends. If you’re like most philosophy PhDs, I’m guessing that your last vacation was in a ’94 Sentra, driving to some airport hotel over Christmas holidays to interview for a six-month job grading freshman logic exams.

So what am I saying here? Spend some time working with the airport folks, and start stealing ideas from them, because they are clearly smarter than you are. Then you can impart to your colleagues lots of ideas previously unknown to academic philosophers, such as basic labor market supply-and-demand.

Happy feeding,

The Ethicator

Keep sending your questions to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

The Ethicator: To be . . .

March 5th, 2011

Mel Gibson in Hamlet

Dear Ethicator,
To be or not to be? Is that still the question?

A question? Of course.  THE question?  Not a chance.  We live in a social media universe, and you just became obsolete five minutes
ago. Don’t just stand there staring at your belly button.  Got a problem? Tweet it, crowdsource it, answer it and move on.  Next question.

Oh btw, how much do you think an autographed copy of WC,BH is
worth? In other words, how much is Carl Elliott’s signature worth?

This is a complicated question.  On the one hand, I would assume that Carl’s signature would be essentially worthless to any sane person who values decent writing.  On the other hand, if scarcity is a criterion for value, I must admit that Carl’s signature is extremely rare.  One  almost never sees Carl’s signature in the usual places — for example, on checks.  You’d be hard-pressed ever to find a signed check from Carl Elliott.  If you ever find a signed check by Carl Elliott, you should probably consider it a collector’s item.  Legal statements, such as restraining orders, are far more common and are probably not worth much. So it probably depends on the document.

You’re welcome,
The Ethicator

Send your questions to the Ethicator:


Advice Column, Ethicator

The Ethicator: Can I pay someone to write my dissertation?

March 3rd, 2011

Dear Ethicator,

I am a current PhD student but am worried that I am not making timely progress toward completing my dissertation. I’m contemplating purchasing a dissertation from a ghost writing organization so I can just be done already, and the website I’m considering guarantees that it is 100% plagiarism free so I don’t have to worry about that! My adviser is too busy writing articles for the New Yorker and checking the sales of his own book to help me along. Can the Ethicator advise me on whether it’s ethically acceptable to pay someone to write my dissertation? I mean, I’d totally read over it once before I turned it in…

Thanks Ethicator!
A concerned graduate student

Dear Concerned:

I am somewhat conflicted. As you know, I have very strong feelings about plagiarism. On the other hand, though, I see that you are paying for the work (unlike, well, you know . . .). So you’re happy, the writer’s happy. What’s the harm? After all, If you really like something enough, isn’t that kind of like writing it yourself? And if you are a serious bioethicist like I am, your time is precious. There’s only so much time to waste on writing when you are busy building and managing your brand, tweeting and talking to cable news. So I understand.

What I don’t understand, though, is why you assume that the financial burden should fall on you, rather than your professor. After all, he’s the one slacking off, raking in the bucks, writing for the fancypants magazines and clicking Amazon every 5 minutes to see if his book’s broken into the top 50,000. I say, order the paper and send him the bill.

You’re welcome,

The Ethicator

Send your questions to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator, Ghostwriting

The Ethicator: Should I Indulge My Former Prof?

March 3rd, 2011

Professor Blowhard

Dear Ethicator:

Big fan here; longtime reader, first time writer. I have a question about my obligations to my former PhD advisor. Now that it’s been a couple of years and the ink on my diploma has dried, do I still have to keep buying and pretending to read my advisor’s books?  Should I be honest and tell him that I think his work is boring?

Looking forward to your answer,

A former student of Professor Dickhead

Dear Former Student:

Your situation is truly heart-rending. You have spent countless, soul-crushing years laboring under a sadistic petty tyrant – one whose sole compensation for his own mediocrity is his power to ruin the lives of people under his supervision.   Now, years later, with all of that horror behind you, he still insists that you remain a sycophant, incessantly praising his worthless, mind-numbing academic papers at every turn – even though your own ideas are constantly showing up in his research, with no attribution.  I feel for you.

It would be unethical for you to continue indulging him – in fact, I think you are ethically obliged to destroy his career – but you should first consider getting some compensation for your suffering.  Write a letter of complaint to the university administration, preferably with some photographs included (Photoshop is very user-friendly these days, remember).  Before you send it,  show him everything and then give him the opportunity to offer compensation.

This may seem improper, but keep an eye on the big picture: You are the injured party.

Go get ’em,

The Ethicator

Send your questions to the Ethicator:

Advice Column, Ethicator

The Ethicator – Our First Question

March 2nd, 2011

Chuck E Cheese

Our reader asks:

Dear Ethicator,

My drug studies are getting really expensive, mainly because I have to pay the volunteers so much. It would be a lot cheaper to test the drugs on kids. I’m pretty sure I could get them to sign up for studies in exchange for an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese and a bag of Halloween candy. What do you think? (Also, do do you know if they have portable defibrillators at Chuck E Cheese?)

Just trying to do the right thing,

Jerry M.

The Ethicator replies:

Question: Is this for an erectile dysfunction drug? If so, I think it may be out of line to test it on kids. Otherwise, what’s the harm?

Bring a defibrillator just in case. There is such a thing as being too thrifty.

Advice Column, Ethicator

The Ethicator

March 1st, 2011
Sunshine bursting through black clouds

Glorious sunshine bursts through black clouds

All my fans seem to be asking me the same question:  Now that you’ve exposed and destroyed your brother Carl’s book, when will start publishing some ideas of your own?  At what point will we get a glimpse into the mind of the angry gadfly whose ideas were stolen and distorted into White Coat Black Hat?

I thought you’d never ask. For years, I’ve been cultivating an expertise in bioethics, primarily through various continuing education courses and extensive emailing with famous philosophers.  Throughout my scholarly work, though, I’ve been frustrated by  the stale, inflexibility of it all. Seriously, I love Aristotle, but let’s face it: The Nicomachean Ethics is pre-Internet thinking.

Enter the Ethicator, an advice column with a new, ground-breaking approach to bioethical questions. The title comes from my term “to ethicate”, a method of moral deliberation that balances traditional moral concerns against new realities, such as the needs of a globalizing market economy and the demands of a cable news and social media-fueled 24 hour news cycle.

Please submit your questions to the Ethicator:  I look forward to them.

Advice Column, Corporate Outreach, Ethicator