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COMPUTER WORM: See WORM.

CONCENTRATION CAMP: Internment centers for political prisoners. The British were the first to have instituted a system of concentration camps in Cap Colony and the Transvaal during the Boar War of 1901-1902. However, the most notorious concentration camp system was that used in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Among the most infamous were Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Auschwitz, Oranienburg, Papenburg, Maidenec and Treblinka. On account of their ethnicity, millions of innocent people were starved, tortured and killed in these camps as a deliberate act of mass extermination. (See INSTITUTION OF WAR, NAZI(S)). (IP)



CONCEPTION: The fertilization of the egg by a sperm that initiates the formation of a zygote (has been used for implantation also). (See FERTILIZATION) (DM)

CONCEPTUS: This term refers to the products of fertilization. It includes the embryo proper as well as extraembryonic structures and tissues that develop from the zygote (e.g. placenta). It is also called the preembryo. (DM)

CONCILIATION: Dispute resolution in normal relationships by the offer of friendly gestures and overtures. (See CONFLICT RESOLUTION) (MP)

CONCUBINE: archaic term for a class of woman who co-habits in the same house without being married to her partner. The famous orator of Greece Demosthenes (384-322 BC) placed things of Eros in perspective by defining "We have hetairas (prostitutes) for sensual pleasure, concubines for our daily bodily needs, and legal spouses to give birth to pure children and to be faithful guardians of the home." In the majority of nations the legal rights of the de-facto partner or modern concubine approaches that of marriage (see marriage). (See ADULTERY, MARRIAGE, OPEN MARRIAGE) (IP)

CONDITIONALITY: 1. Depending upon certain conditions for a particular outcome. 2. A term pertinent to discussions of international development, often referring to the conditionality imposed upon ‘structural adjustment’ loans issued by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank; for example economic liberalization and privatization which can lead, for example, to high costs for basic health or elementary school education in developing countries. (MP)

CONDOM: is a barrier method of contraception and protection from sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) including AIDS. The term is derived from the Latin condus meaning receptacle and was originally designed as a prophylactic against STDs associated with prostitution. When properly used it ranks relatively high in effectiveness; however, its failure rate of between 10 and 15 percent, among the young especially, is often high (see FEMALE CONDOM). (IP)

CONFIDENTIALITY: One of the important components of bioethical principles and a fundamental component in the physician-patient relationship, stemming primarily form the Hippocratic oath. All information of a person, whether personal, private or genetic is confidential and not to be revealed to others without the individual's consent. In the case of AIDS patients their visit to the testing place and results of testing should be held in confidence (DM, JA).

CONFLICT: A situation in which opposing viewpoints have come into physical confrontation. Conflicts are more intractable than simple disputes because of the existence of institutionalized, fundamental disagreement with limited malleability of participants or the situation. (See CONFLICT RESOLUTION, DISPUTE) (MP)

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Can arrive any time personal, family, national or financial interests distort the pure pursuit of truth, goodness, love or health. This can apply to anyone, for example a cab driver who takes you for a longer ride than necessary, or a member of the family of a terminally-ill mentally incompetent patient, who makes a "proxy" or "surrogate" decision to stop treatment, ostensibly for the patient's good but really to benefit from an inheritance, or because of the high cost of medical treatment (in those countries which do not yet have universal, government-supported, free health care), or because of the simple burden of care.

Bioethical attention, however, is usually given to conflicts of interest of scientists, scholars and health professionals. Cases are clear when a physician prescribes drugs manufactured by a company from which the physician benefits financially, or when a scientist publishes an article with positive conclusions about a drug or other product of a corporation for which the scientist works. Things are more complicated when a nurse hesitates to complain about medical negligence for fear of jeopardizing employment or advancement, or when a physician eats a free lunch supplied by a drug company for all who attend a staff lecture or grand rounds.

It is hard to be totally pure and free of conflict of interest. You may refuse to fly to a conference if the tickets are supplied by a corporation which you would like to be free to criticize, only to discover later that the disinterested scientific association which invited you received donations from that same corporation. And if you pay for the tickets from research funds which you receive from your own university, you might want to look into the corporations whose donations are allowing your university (and you and your family!) to survive. Nor does it help to say that everything is alright if you have academic freedom to say what you want. During the United States war in Vietnam, universities which existed on weapons research contracts were happy to employ radical anti-war professors, whose noisy presence gave the university a liberal image. Even if one could get free of financial interests, personal and emotional interests would remain. There is a school of literary criticism called "deconstructionism" which seeks the hidden motives of authors of literary creations. Ideas from this school have had some influence on philosophical and scientific criticism. Medical journals are beginning to require that authors list possible conflicts of interest. (FL)

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Conflict resolution is an important feature of both personal and international relations. Conflict analysis, negotiation, mediation, conciliation, facilitation, arbitration and judicial settlement are aspects of collaboration towards a compromise or consensus decision. Negotiation can be aided by good working relationships, persuasive value systems and ‘soft power’. Mediation involves a mutually respected neutral analyst, or communication between friendly third parties who empathize with and can represent each side of the dispute. Peace building and early prevention provide conditions for life satisfaction and dispute resolution well before armed conflict becomes likely. Preventive diplomacy and preventive deployment are before any outbreak of armed conflict, whereas peace making and peace keeping occur after hostilities have taken place. Peaceful means of conflict resolution are preferred to methods of enforcement. (See COMPROMISE, CONCILIATION, CONSENSUS, FACILITATION, MEDIATION, NEGOTIATION, PEACE BUILDING, PEACE KEEPING, PEACE MAKING, PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY) (MP)

CONFUCIUS: Confucius (c.551-479 bce) Philosopher of ancient China. The teachings of Confucius were recorded by his students, especially in the book known as Lun Yu (or in English: Analects). Confucius stressed the importance of acquiring virtue and acting according to proper moral behavior. His teaching places special emphasis on the importance of family, and on filial obligations towards parents. The father-son relationships is one of the Five Relationships (see Five Relationships). Confucius' teachings were influential not only in China, but also in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of East Asia. (AG)


CONFUCIAN CANON: Chinese texts of Confucianism containing the philosophy of Confucius, or K'ung Fu-tzu (551-479 BCE), originally comprising the Five Classics ("Shih Ching", "Li Ching", "Shu Ching", "Chun Chiu" and "I Ching"), later reorganised by Chu Hsi (1130-1200 CE) into four Books ("Analects of Confucius", "Book of Mencius", "Great Learning" and "Doctrine of the Mean"). (See CONFUCIUS) (MP)

CONGENITAL DISORDER: A defect present at birth, regardless of cause, which may or may not be inherited. (JA, DM)

CONGENITAL MALFORMATION: Structural or anatomical aberrations or less obvious physiological, functional, immunological or behavioral defects in neonatal or postnatal offspring (See TERATOGEN). (DM+DR)

CONIFEROUS FOREST: The coniferous, or ‘boreal’ forest is a widespread habitat containing communities of evergreen gymnosperms in cold-temperate northern hemisphere (latitudes 50°-70°) including Europe, Asia, and North America. The northern coniferous forest, or ‘taiga’, contains pine, spruce, larch and fir trees, and moist coniferous forest may include Sequoia redwoods. Conifers have been popular for lumber and are commonly managed as plantation species. Coniferous forests provide important habitat for hawk, owl, mink, elk, moose, bears and wolf. (See GYMNOSPERM, SOFTWOODS, TAIGA) (MP)

CONJECTURE: Conjecture simply means taking a guess. For example, a hypothesis is a refined and structured kind of conjecture. An educated guess is made by an expert with some backing in related knowledge. Heuristics is the use of educated guesses in the search for a solution. (See ASSUMPTION, HEURISTICS, HYPOTHESIS ) (MP)

CONJOINT TWINS: Two fetuses developed from the same ovum that are physically united at birth. Conjoint twins are the result of identical twins where the split is incomplete and the two new embryonic axes fail to separate in their entirety. The degree of union may be slight or extensive, and the twins may be joined at any part of their bodies. Most conjoined twins do not survive after birth and frequently suffer from major heart malformations. Ever since medical science made the separation of conjoined twins a possibility, there have been concerns about the ethics involved; sometimes one of the twins is sacrificed for the sake of the other. The famous 'Siamese' twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, were born in 1811, lived for 63 years and had 22 children between them. Their wives lived in separate houses and the twins spent alternate weeks with each of them. (See TWINS/TWINNING). (IP)

CONJUGATION: The reproductive process by which DNA is transferred between bacteria during cell-to-cell contact. (DM)

CONSANGUINITY: Descent from common ancestors. (DM)

CONSCIENCE: The ethical sense of right and wrong which is generally valued as the hallmark of a true existence as it represents the ability to choose and decide to take action and assess reaction. What one believes is right or wrong. It is sometimes thought of as an "inner voice". The conscience is a very unreliable guide to ethics. Psychopathic killers have sometimes thought that their consciences were telling them to kill. (IP, FL)

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR: A term that came into prominence during the First World War and applies to those who object to military service in a fighting capacity on moral, religious or ethical grounds. The British Military Service Act of 1916 dealt with conscientious objectors characteristically harshly. In 1939 provisions were made in the Military Training Act for exemption of bona fides to be allocated to various other appropriate form of national service. (See INSTITUTION OF WAR, VIETNAM WAR). (IP)

CONSCIOUSNESS: The registration of an effect, for example, a scale is conscious of weight. The ability to be aware of one's actions or experiences. Most biologists would hold that at least many mammals species, including the non-human primates, exhibit consciousness. Moral agents have especial duties towards conscious entities since such entities are aware of their pleasures and PAINS (q.v.). It is difficult to suppose that there will never be conscious ROBOTS (q.v.). (MR)

CONSENSUS: A consensual agreement or win-win outcome of collaborative problem-solving and conflict resolution. A consensus implies that debate has taken place, the solution is generally accepted rather than a grudging compromise, and that agreement is deep-rooted enough that it can stand for some time without need to revisit the issue. (See COMPROMISE, COLLABORATION, CONFLICT RESOLUTION, DELPHI METHOD) (MP)


CONSENSUS CONFERENCE: A conference of persons, usually of lay persons, which seeks to reach consensus on a moral dilemma, which is useful as a model for society. (DM)

CONSENT: See INFORMED CONSENT.



CONSENT FORMS: Papers given to persons to explain a procedure, and request their signature as a record of agreement. (See CLINICAL TRIALS, INFORMED CONSENT). (DM)

CONSEQUENT: In logic the second part of a conditional statement; that is, a statement (or proposition) that is said to follow from, or be implied by, another statement. For example, if the breeding conditions improve then the endangered species will flourish - will flourish is the consequent. (See CONSEQUENTIALISM). (IP)

CONSEQUENTIALISM: The normative theory that the rightness or wrongness of actions is determined by anticipated or known consequences, compare to deontologism. (DM)

CONSERVATION: includes both preservation and protection, preservation for long term use by the future generation and protection of what we have on the biosphere (earth). Opposite of hoarding. Needs sound management practices. Two types - In situ and Ex situ depending on the region of conservation. see In situ and Ex situ. In situ Conservation: - conservation of naturally found ecosystems includes the care and maintenance of living populations of species in their natural habitats - domesticated and cultivated species. Ex situ Conservation: - When an exotic species is removed from its original habitat and in an artificial habitat such as the zoo/zoological parks and botanical gardens/seed banks. Currently there are about 500.000 species of living creatures in zoos and 35,000 species of plants in 1,500 botanical gardens which is 15 per cent of world's plant resources. Some estimates indicate the number of plant species in botanical gardens as high as 70,000 to 80,000 species. Example - Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK (JA)


CONSERVATION DEPENDENT SPECIES: A species which is the focus of a continuing program of taxon or habitat conservation, such that it would qualify for threatened species status if the conservation efforts were to cease. (See CONSERVATION, ENDANGERED SPECIES, THREATENED SPECIES) (MP)

CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY: See CONVENTION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.

CONSERVATION OF CULTURE: See CULTURAL EVOLUTION, CULTURAL HERITAGE.

CONSERVATION OF HERITAGE: See HERITAGE.

CONSERVATION MOVEMENT: See GREEN MOVEMENT.

CONSILIENCE: The joining together of knowledge and information across disciplines to create a unified framework of understanding. The concept was developed by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson in a book named Consilience: the unity of knowledge (1997). (See E.O. WILSON, HOLISTIC THINKING) (RW)

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION: The consumption of goods based on the desire for social status, such that the satisfaction is based upon the desire to impress rather than on any other usefulness or utility of the item to the consumer. (See CHINDOGU, CONSUMPTION) (MP)

CONSTANT CAPITAL: The ‘constant capital’ rule implies the passing on to future generations of an aggregate capital (economic, human and natural capital) equivalent to that of today. ‘Strong sustainability’ requires the forms of capital to remain in constant proportion, whereas ‘weak sustainability’ allows substitution between them. ‘Critical natural capital’ must remain constant, functioning as it does to provide our global life-support system. (See CRITICAL NATURAL CAPITAL, NATURAL CAPITAL, STRONG SUSTAINABILITY, WEAK SUSTAINABILITY) (MP)


CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: See SCIENTIFIC METHOD.

CONSUMER PARTICIPATION: See PUBLIC PARTICIPATION.

CONSUMPTION: Resource consumption is the utilization of natural capital, involving flows of energy and materials from the environment. Consumption creates the demand which is the economic driving force for production and supply. Personal consumption may be measured per capita in dollars, energy use, tonnes of CO2 emissions, paper consumption, water usage, or ecological footprint. Consumption is one of the major socioeconomic factors leading to environmental destruction. It is a central component of Ehrlich’s famous equation I=PCT (in which I = ecological impact, P = population, C = consumption, and T = technological efficiency). The culture of today encourages consumption because of our epidemic overemphasis on materialistic economic measures of wellbeing. Reality however reminds us that global limits necessitate reduced consumption and a more modest paradigm of sufficiency and sustainability. Many forms of consumption have environmental costs significantly disproportional to any real human benefits. Prices could reflect any impacts from the chain of production until damaging products and conspicuous consumption are phased out or become socially unacceptable. (See CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION, ECONOMY, SUFFICIENCY, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT) (MP)



CONTACT TRACING: A public health practice of identifying persons who have been exposed to a communicable disease through person-to-person contact; includes, for example, identification of the sexual partners of persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. (See AIDS, COMMUNICABLE DISEASES, CONFIDENTIALITY, PUBLIC HEALTH). (DM)

CONTAINMENT: The use of biological or physical means to minimize or prevent the dissemination of biologically active agents which may be hazardous. (See BIOSAFETY, RECOMBINANT DNA). (DM)

CONTENTS: 1. Important initial reference list of the structure, organization and themes within a work of (usually) non-fiction. (See INDEX) 2. Inside elements; ingredients determined by the reductionist approach of breaking something down into its constituent parts. (See CONTEXT) (MP)

CONTEXT: Outside elements; external environment and conditions, investigated using the Systems Theory approach of checking for interactions and influences to/from higher scales and surrounding systems. (See CONTENTS) (MP)

CONTIGS: Groups of clones representing overlapping, or contiguous, regions of a genome. (DM)

CONTINUUM: A plane of thought; a continuous axis or tangent. In mathematics the continuum is the set of all real numbers. Elements or opinions are arranged in clumps along many conceptual continuums. Opposites are at polar extremes of a continuum, but often cannot really exist without the other. The continuum reminds us that ideas have fuzzy boundaries, and that most things are not black-and-white but a matter of degree. (See FUZZY LOGIC, MIDDLE WAY, SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM) (MP)

CONTRACEPTION: the prevention of pregnancy, especially through the use of devices and medications, or through behavioral procedures such as withdrawal, abstinence, and sterilization. Contraception by biological means involves the prevention of one or more of a) formation or release of gametes in the male or the female b) fertilization c) implantation of the fertilized egg, or development of the early embryo [Latin contra + concipere to take in] (see CONTRACEPTIVES). (IP)

CONTRACEPTIVES: devices or medications used to prevent conception. These include diaphragms, condoms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), cervical caps, spermicidal creams, various formulations of the pill, subdermal implants and injectables (See CONTRACEPTION). (IP)

CONTRACT: Binding agreement between two or more parties. Most ethicists would hold that a person generally has a duty to fulfil a contract into which she has voluntarily entered unless certain unforeseen and particular circumstances arise so that significant harm would result from fulfilling the contract.

A social contract, is, roughly speaking, a presumed, implicit agreement between the members of a SOCIETY (q.v.) or between individuals and the state. Thus, for example, there may exist an unspoken agreement that the state should uphold the rule of law so that I and other good citizens may live in peace but that, at the same time, I have certain duties towards the state - for example, to sit on a jury or even fight on its behalf in a (just) WAR (q.v.). (MR)



CONTRACTARIANISM: Ethical and political theories involving a social contract. Negotiations are capable of yielding mutual principles of conduct, which are binding upon all parties to create a just society. Ethical philosophers who had an influence on contractarian thought include Hobbes" moral theory based on desire, and Kant’s "Metaphysics of Morals" (1797). The most famous contemporary contractarian is John Rawls, who in his "A Theory of Justice" (1971) postulated that an ethical contract must be based on the presumption of individual equality. Other contractarians may define the goals or contracting parties in different ways, for example the utilitarianists such as J.S. Mill whose "happiness principle" was based on the most good for the greatest number. (MP & IP)

CONTROL GROUPS: Groups that serve as a check or standard of comparison in experimental studies . (DM)

CONVENTION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (CBD) It was negotiated before the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The agreed text of the convention of biological diversity was adopted by 101 governments and signed by 159 governments and the European Union. It was adopted to stress the equity in the use of biodiversity on ethical principles. CBD has been ratified by a total of 177 countries, excluding the United States of America. The objectives of the Convention as stated, in part, are as follows: Article 1 "conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies". Article 2 "Biological Diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems". (IP, JA)

CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS: Euphemistic term for missiles, explosives, artillery, small arms and other weapons, which although distinct from nuclear or other ‘weapons of mass destruction’, have in total produced overwhelmingly more death and terror than those categories. Much ethically-debatable wealth has been acquired by military-industrial sectors of nations such as the USA, UK, France, Russia, China and North Korea who have been among major world-wide distributors of conventional weapons. The boundaries of ‘conventional’ should not be pushed to include decidedly unconventional new proposals such as space weapons, low-impact nuclear weapons (e.g. gamma ray bomb) or ‘swarm intelligence’. (See DISARMAMENT, EXPLOSIVES, LAND MINES, MISSILES, NON LETHAL WEAPONS, SMALL ARMS) (MP)




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