The story of the latest terrorist attack in London is both tragic and extraordinary, starkly contrasting the evil of the assassin and the virtues of his young victims. The red-faced authorities are trying to work out how it came about that a convicted jihadist attending a prisoner rehabilitation conference stabbed to death two of the people who wanted to help him. Meanwhile, and predictably, the event has been politicised. It is being cited as evidence that Islamist terrorists cannot be de-radicalised, and that even if they could, we can never know whether a jihadist who claims to have been de-radicalised is telling the truth. The answer for some? ‘Lock them up and throw away the key.’ Those who believe in second chances, on the other hand, might mention that one of the heroes who confronted and helped to subdue the knife attacker on London Bridge was a convicted murderer on day release. But perhaps before we consider how to punish and rehabilitate Islamists we should think about how to stop young Muslims from being radicalised in the first place. ‘Prevention’ is a catch-all term; for some it is code for cack-handed state interference in the private affairs of religious minorities; for others it is about community-building and a sense of belonging. But is that wishful thinking when communities seem so polarised, even ghettoised? Is it unreasonable of our society to preach “British values” to young Muslims who feel both economically and politically alienated? Or does the blame lie with those on both sides who have fought against integration? Featuring Dr Rakib Ehsan, Dr Usama Hasan, Hadiya Masieh and Dr Rob Faure Walker.
Producer: Dan Tierney
The Morality of Genetics
Doctors of medicine swear the Hippocratic Oath, written some 2,500 years ago, declaring that they will protect the confidentiality of their patients. Sometimes they break that promise and are criticised; sometimes they keep it and are criticised. This week a woman is suing an NHS trust for not telling her about her father’s Huntington’s disease, which doctors had already diagnosed when she had her own child. Only after the child was born did she find out that she also carried the faulty gene for the degenerative, incurable brain disorder – with a 50% chance of passing it on. Her father had told doctors he didn’t want her to know because he feared she might kill herself or have an abortion. This tragic case is at the centre of a moral tussle between the duty of confidentiality and the duty of care. If our right to medical privacy is intrinsic to our freedom, security and sense of self, when – if ever – should it be overridden to prevent harm to others? That’s a problem doctors have faced for a long time, but now inherited conditions are setting us another moral conundrum: science is giving us the power to eradicate many of them entirely, through gene-manipulation. So, should we press on with stem cell therapy and selective IVF? Or should we slam on the brakes, conscious of the perils of playing God and of creating a world in which prospective parents can order the characteristics of their designer babies from a tick-box à la carte menu? Featuring Dr Michael Fay, Sir Jonathan Montgomery, Sandy Starr and Dr Helen Watt.
Producer: Dan Tierney
The Morality of Voting
“You’re joking – not another one!” That was Brenda from Bristol, back in 2017 when Theresa May surprised the country with a snap poll. A penny for Brenda’s thoughts as we climb aboard the roller-coaster for our third general election in four years. The pundits are predicting only its unpredictability. The parties are fractured and fraught, the voters are frustrated and fatigued, and Brexit prances through the pantomime. The old safe-seat certainties are crumbling. Campaigners on all sides have been encouraging tactical voting to stop the opposition at all costs. Is that morally acceptable, or should we vote for the candidate we most closely support, even if they have no chance of winning? If our long-held tribal loyalties seem less certain, is that good or bad? Does it shake up candidate complacency or threaten community interests? Is it OK to stand in the voting booth and ask ‘What’s in it for me?’ or are we there on behalf of all humanity? Perhaps the question is not ‘How should I vote?’, but ‘Why should I bother?’ People fought and died for our right to vote, so is it a moral duty to go to the polling station, even if we spoil our ballot? Or is it wrong to criticise those who stay at home on election day, nursing their anger or their apathy? Featuring Dr Lisa McKenzie, Alan Hamlin, Richard Harries and Professor Lea Yp.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
It’s exactly 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The dramatic demolition on that chilly November night in 1989 symbolised liberal aspirations for a world soon to be remade in the image of America and Western Europe. For the political theorist Francis Fukuyama it was ‘The End of History’ and a decisive victory for the global democratic project. But history didn’t end in 1989 and understanding the reasons for that is perhaps the moral imperative of our age. Democracies are shaking, America is polarised, Russia is meddling with Western elections, China is crushing democratic protests in Hong Kong; then there’s 9/11 and its aftermath of Islamist terror. Where has it all gone wrong? Some see it as a moral failing on the part of the West that it did not seize its moment of triumph. Others believe the West was arrogant in expecting the nations of Eastern Europe and the Middle East to adopt its version of capitalist democracy. What are the lessons? The capitalist and communist ideologies may not be as entrenched as they were during the height of the Cold War but neither have they gone away. Today it’s fashionable to argue that only a resurgence of international socialism will keep the ‘evils’ of global capitalism in check. Others think that totalitarianism never died – it merely morphed into a new kind of political and moral orthodoxy that now dominates our institutions. Where do we go from here? Should each nation be left to work out its own destiny, or do we need a new global project? Featuring Anne Applebaum, Chris Bambery, Paul Mason, Dr. Alan Mendoza.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
The Morality of Risk
Fireworks are fun; they’re also dangerous. Hundreds of people are injured every November 5th and pets are frightened by the noise. What’s to be done? Sainsbury’s has become the first UK supermarket to stop selling fireworks and some MPs have called for an outright ban. They are heroes to some; to others, they are spoilsports, determined to see every jot of joy fizzle out like a damp roman candle. We take risks all the time, for better or worse, but is the long march of health and safety – from the Factory Act of 1833 to the smoking ban and beyond – taking us to a better place, or are we becoming an over-anxious, risk-averse nation? Risk assessments are vital – they can prevent lots of people from dying – but, despite the fact that ‘health and safety culture’ has extended its reach into almost every aspect of our lives, it failed to prevent the Grenfell Tower disaster. Risk aversion starts early. Children are nowadays less likely to walk to school on their own. Scotland is likely to become the first country in Europe to ban young footballers from heading the ball after research suggested they could be heading for dementia. When should statistical evidence of risk prompt a change of behaviour, either voluntary or state-enforced? Is it moral to accept a tiny level of personal risk for ourselves and our children, when the same statistics show that, across the population as a whole, that percentage risk adds up to hundreds or thousands of lost or ruined lives? Is risk-taking itself sometimes a good thing? In the world of economics it might cause a recession but it can also generate prosperity. In medicine a risky operation might kill the patient or it might be the way to save a life. Is it worth the risk of getting rid of risk? Featuring Kate Blincoe, Prof. Nick Chater, David Halpern and Dr Jamie Whyte
Producer: Dan Tierney.