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NORTH: A term used in international political economics to refer to the First World, consisting of the developed countries which are more advanced in wealth and welfare. These countries are generally to be found in the Northern Hemisphere, for example Europe, North America and parts of Asia, and also including Australia and New Zealand as part of the "North" despite their geographical location. (See DEVELOPED NATIONS, SOUTH) (MP)

NORTH - SOUTH DIALOGUE: refers to the technological and economic disparity between developed and developing countries where 'North' refers to technology - producing countries and 'South' refers to technology - importing countries. (IP)

NOVELTY: one of the criteria used in the evaluation of patent applications. The invention or discovery being evaluated must be new and must not have previously existed through the work of others in order to be accepted on the grounds of novelty. (DM)

NOVOCAINE: trademark for the anesthetic procaine hydrochloride. Procaine is administered for local anesthesia and for regional; such as epidural, procedures (Latin novus new + (co)caine) (see ANESTHESIA). (IP)

NREN: National Research and Education Network (US).

NUCLEAR ENERGY: Energy generated by fission or fusion of atoms. See NUCLEAR FISSION, NUCLEAR FUSION. (RW)

NUCLEAR FISSION: The process of splitting atoms apart, releasing smaller atoms, excess neutrons, and large amounts of energy. Fission is used in commercial power generation. Though initial claims predicted power too cheap to meter, nuclear power is actually rather expensive. Accidents in the nuclear power industry are not common, but some have widespread and very long lasting consequences. The area around Chernobyl, site of the world's worst nuclear fission accident, is highly contaminated with radiation and will remain so for millennia into the future. No safe permanent storage of nuclear waste has yet been developed and deployed. (RW)

NUCLEAR-FREE ZONE: A region with local authority to ban the transport, storage or deployment of nuclear materials, facilities, weapons or waste. There are regional nuclear-free zone treaties (e.g. New Zealand), and treaties prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons in space orbit, on the moon, in Antarctica or on the ocean floor. (See NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION) (MP)

NUCLEAR FUSION: The process of joining together of atoms to produce heavier elements and large amounts of energy. Fusion powers stars and fuel for fusion is abundant on Earth, but this process has not yet been successfully harnessed by humans for power generation. Nuclear fusion bombs have been developed and tested, but never used in a conflict. (RW)

NUCLEAR SUBMARINE (SSBN): A nuclear submarine is a covert underwater missile-tube powered by a self-contained reactor, and may itself be considered a nuclear weapon in addition to any nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) it may be carrying. The acronym referring to a nuclear submarine (SSBN; 'Submarine, Strategic Ballistic Nuclear') is an apt summary of the purpose and capabilities of these underwater weapons. (See NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SLBM, SUBMARINE) (MP)

NUCLEAR TRANSFER TECHNOLOGY: Technique of transfer of nucleus from an adult somatic cell to an eunucliated oocyte of another individual. Used in the creation of cloned animals E.g. Dolly, the sheep. (JA)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Weapons of mass destruction involving uncontrolled nuclear fission or fusion reactions, emitting a huge explosive blast, electromagnetic pulse and lethal radiation. Nuclear weapons include the atom bomb (e.g. Hiroshima and Nagasaki; uranium/plutonium fission), hydrogen bomb ('H-bomb'; hydrogen fusion), and neutron bomb ('enhanced-radiation weapon'; high mortality from radioactivity but reduced blast-damage to infrastructure). Among the nuclear-capable missiles are the land-launched inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Likely potential developments in nuclear weaponry include missile defense systems in space ('Star Wars'), smaller low-impact nuclear weapons, multiple miniature missiles ('bomblets'), and potentially also the 'dirty bomb' and 'suitcase nuke' of the terrorist. (See ATOM BOMB, DIRTY BOMB, HYDROGEN BOMB, ICBM, MISSILE DEFENSE, NEUTRON BOMB, NUCLEAR-FREE ZONE, NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION, NUCLEAR SUBMARINE, NUKE) (MP)

NUCLEAR WINTER: is a term used to describe a possible catastrophic atmospheric effect that might follow nuclear explosions. The heat from the nuclear blasts and from resulting fires would result in powerful updrafts carrying combustion products to stratospheric regions. The reflection and scattering of sunlight by these particles would then result in freezing temperatures even in summertime; such as occurred in 1816 - "the year without a summer" - following the massive Tambora, Indonesia, volcanic explosion of 1815. Carpet bombings of cities and other pointless military activities also produce firestorms that create their own particle-laden updrafts into the atmosphere (see AEROSOLS). (IP)

NUCLEIC ACID: A macromolecule composed of sequences of nucleotide bases, DNA or RNA.

NUCLEOTIDE: A subunit of DNA or RNA consisting of a nitrogenous base (adenine, guanine, thymine or cytosine in DNA; adenine, guanine, uracil or cytosine, in RNA), a phosphate molecule, and a sugar molecule (deoxyribose in DNA and ribose in RNA). Thousands of nucleotides are linked to form the DNA or RNA molecule. See DNA, base pair, RNA The human genome has 3.3 billion base pairs. (DM, IP)

NUCLEUS: The membrane-enclosed structure in the cytoplasm of eukaryotes that contains the chromosomes. (DM)

NUDISM: Nudism is a bioethical doctrine, which encourages public nudity. This may be at special beaches or resorts, or in daily public life. Reasons for nudism may be for social protest, for health and relaxation, or for openness among people.

Social Protest: In a well publicised event in the 1960's a young woman walked into a banquet of the stockholders of a large corporation which was producing chemicals for weapons use by the American military in Vietnam. She was totally nude, and carried a pig's head on a platter. According to reports, stockholders shouted: "Beat her. She's naked", and some indeed attempted to beat her. The event demonstrated the violent nature of some of the stockholders and their desire to punish the woman for her nudity rather than for the cruelty perpetrated upon the pig. The fact that the stockholders objected to the young woman's harmless choice of fashion, but did not object to Vietnam war profit-making, was the most salient social statement. Bioethicists, indeed, might research the values of societies where many forms of dishonesty, fraud and cruelty are tolerated, but where one who chooses to go out without clothing is considered criminally insane.

Heath and Relaxation: Nudists claim healthful benefits for exposure of the entire body to air and sunlight. Of course too much direct sunlight may be correlated with skin cancer, at least among some genotypes and in some latitudes. But the danger is little less to wearers of bathing suits. Health benefits may also be no less to wearers of bathing suits. But it has been anecdotally observed that if one takes a cold shower, and then steps out nude into a cool, well ventilated place, one will be quite comfortable. But as soon as one dons even an item of underwear, one will immediately feel cold. This observation might be tested scientifically. Another health benefit which nudists claim is that if one's body is exposed, then one has an added incentive to eat and exercise properly to keep one's body fit and presentable. Nudists consider it ridiculous that sedentary people who do not control their appetites, are tolerated while they display their unsightly, corpulent bodies on public beaches, so long as they wear the slightest bathing suit. But fit, healthy nude people may be persecuted.

Openness among people: The motive of openness and that of social protest cannot be entirely separated. A society of greed, exploitation and cruelty might be encouraged in part by a lack of understanding and sensitivity among people. The openness of social nudity might encourage us to understand one another better, and to treat one another with more sensitivity and kindness. If, moreover, we are not secretive about our bodies, perhaps this will lead us to be more honest with one another about other aspects of our lives. The Internet, with the aid of illegal and legal hackers, has opened to the public vast areas of our lives which one were secret. The Death of Privacy may be approaching. Nudism may be seen as an affirmation of accepting the Death of Privacy willingly, a symbol of breaking down barriers, hypocrisy and deceit.

Although nudism gained in social acceptance in the 1960's and 1970's in Western countries, fear of the AIDS epidemic, lead in the 1980's to a revival of sexual conservatism and an increase in modesty. But nudism need not be accompanied by sexual carelessness.

On the other hand, no ideology can be taken absolutely, and all have their flaws. Nudism is not a panacea, and nudists are just as capable of most kinds of crimes as anybody else. The only crimes which nudism can quite certainly eliminate are exhibitionism and voyeurism.

It has been observed that nudism, in the Northern Hemisphere, increases, as the latitude becomes more northerly. This may be because wherever summer sunshine is rarest, it is more precious and people make more effort to enjoy it. But this observation does not seem to have been scientifically studied. (FL)

NUKE: 'Nuke' is trivializing US shorthand for nuclear weapon; to use one on somebody is, to use the common but thoughtless colloquialism, to 'nuke' them. (See NUCLEAR WEAPONS) (MP)

NULL HYPOTHESIS: The mutually exclusive or inversely opposite set to the hypothesis. Often the null hypothesis asserts no differences between treatment populations. Disproving the null hypothesis adds weight to the hypothesis. (See FALSIFICATION, HYPOTHESIS, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, TYPE I ERROR) (MP)

NUREMBERG CODE: A set of legal principles for medical human experimentation, signed by the judges presiding over the 1947 Nuremberg Medical Trial investigating World War II atrocities. Among their prescriptions was the principle of informed consent, that nobody should be involuntarily subjected to scientific experimentation. The Nuremberg Code has been internationally recognized by relevant institutions and human rights groups. (See NUREMBERG TRIALS) (MP)

NUREMBERG TRIALS: The trials at the end of World War II of Nazi leaders and war criminals for genocide, crimes against humanity, treatment of prisoners and other crimes committed during the war. There were a total of 177 trials, ranging from the death sentence to acquittal. The Nuremberg Trials and Nuremburg Code were an important precedent in the historical progress of international war law. (See NUREMBERG CODE, INTERNATIONAL WAR LAW) (MP)

NURSING ETHICS: Nursing is an ethical endeavour. An ethics of nursing has long been debated and written about. It is only since the 1980s that nursing ethics has become a subject for academic study and analysis. A nursing ethic is closely allied to an ethic of care and thus to the feminist principles of that domain. As a theory, it has, however, often been disputed as not being rigorous or rational enough. In turn this has also been disputed, notably by Maurice Rickard, Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer (1), who have shown that there are two distinct ways of reasoning ethically that are not based on either the traditional justice (2) or feminist (3) premises since women and men use both possibilities equally in similar circumstances. The decision, however, depends on the relationship between carer and cared-for. The closer one is to the cared-for person, the more one’s decisions are based on intuition, conscience, care, compassion etc, and the further away one is, the more one’s decisions are based on justice and logic. The two ways of reasoning and decision making are both necessary and valid.

In health care, the relationship between nurse and patient or client is of vital importance. It is necessary for simple care, but it is even more important when the needs of holistic care are taken into account. Holistic care demands that nurses are aware of all the needs and circumstances of a person, and in particular also the person’s emotional, psychological and spiritual resources. To understand these, a trusting relationship is vital. Such a relationship is based on the idea that carer and cared-for need each other, enhance and support each other, and therefore share each other’s life for the duration of the relationship (4).

As a discipline, nursing ethics is however, accepting within it also many other approaches. A particularly popular approach is from virtue, which considers the moral basis of the person (5, 6). This approach questions first why someone should be honest, good, loyal, trusting, etc and from what motivates these virtues (or values) stem. This demands not only personal awareness and insight, but also a good understanding of group and social psychology.

Approaching nursing ethics from human rights is also popular, but not without problems. Human rights "serve as the moral underpinnings of contemporary international relations, setting the individual at the core of national and international concerns" (7). Human rights are difficult enough to prove and maintain for issues such as freedom from torture, freedom of expression, religion and association (8), thus claiming a right to health is that much more difficult. It is hard enough to get the health care needed when resources are limited, in places where there is simply no provision for health, claiming a right to it makes little sense. However, all nurses must be aware of the need for respect for the person, and to uphold rights to privacy (confidentiality), adequate information and to be treated humanely. It is too often taken for granted that these rights are inherent in health care, but this should never be assumed.

Using stories as a basis for care has always been customary in nursing, but narrative ethics takes the field further into deeper reflection. Sally Gadow (9) has made a strong point for relational narratives. The starting point for this theory is the uniqueness of the individual: but individuals are in relation. Gadow considers this in the context of postmodernism, where few certainties exist. What a person has and is, therefore, matters above all, and this has to be expressed and heard. In order to make sense of an illness or tragedy, a person has to tell his or her story, and this has to be heard and acknowledged. As the story unfolds, so the ethics of a given situation also unfolds.

This type of ethical enquiry is closely related to an ethic of care. Theories have different bases, but the essential is that those who are cared for are respected and helped. This needs nurses who are able to give this kind of care, that is, who can and do act ethically and who are supported and educated in this endeavour. Ethics education should therefore not only be a discreet subject in a curriculum, but integrated through the whole of pre- and post-registration nursing education.

If nursing ethics has an international language and norms remains disputed. Through travel and by reading, knowledge becomes internationalised, but cultural norms vary considerably. The main difference is between cultures that lay emphasis on the individual (North America and Europe) or on the family and groups (Asia, Africa, South America). The two cultures are not exclusive, but it does mean that certain norms that are taken for granted in Western cultures, such as autonomy, cannot apply globally. This makes it imperative that nursing ethics is therefore approached from the basis that is most fitting in a given situation or culture. (VT)


  1. Maurice Rickard, Helga Kuhse, Peter Singer "Caring and justice: as study of two approaches to health care ethics", Nursing Ethics, 3:3, 212-223, 1996.

  2. Laurence Kohlberg The Philosophy of Moral Development, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1981.

  3. Carol Gilligan In a Different Voice; Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

  4. Verena Tschudin Ethics in Nursing; the caring relationship 3/e, Oxford: Elsevier, 2002.

  5. P Ann Scott "Aristotle, nursing and health care ethics", Nursing Ethics, 2:4, 279-286, 1995.

  6. Per Nortvedt "Sensitive judgement: an inquiry into the foundations of nursing ethics", Nursing Ethics, 5:5, 385-392, 1998.

  7. Wendy Austin "Using the human rights paradigm in health ethics: the problems and the possibilities", Nursing Ethics, 8:3, 183-195, 2001.

  8. The Human Rights Act 1998 (UK) and the European Convention on Human Rights.

(9) Sally Gadow "Relational Narrative: The Postmodern Turn in Nursing Ethics", Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice, 13:1, 57-70, 1999. (VT)

NURSING HOMES: Facilities that provide nursing supervision and limited medical care to persons who do not require hospitalization. (DM)


NUTRITION: The science of food, the nutrients and other substances contained therein, their action, interaction, and balance in relation to health and disease. (DM+IP) (See MALNUTRITION, NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY)

NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY: Imbalance in nourishment to body. (JA)






























OBESITY: (Latin: obesitas 'fatness') An abnormal increase in the number and/or size of fat cells in the adipose tissues mass. Most children with excess fatness do not have an endocrine (hormonal) disorder. If they become obese during the phase of infant growth, which is determined by nutrition, they will not only be fat but also tall for the family. All of the endocrine causes of obesity are associated with a diminished growth-rate and short stature. The child who is short and fat or the child who has an intellectual problem and fatness may well have an endocrine disorder in which case detailed investigation is needed (Latin obesitas fatness) (See ANOREXIA NERVOSA, BULIMIA NERVOSA). (IP)


OBLIGATION the act of binding by a social, legal or ethical tie; such a duty, contract, promise, or any other requirement that compels one to follow or avoid a certain course of action. In ethics - general moral considerations, in bioethics obligation to autonomy, beneficence, non-malficence, justice and confidentiality. (IP)

OBSENITY: One hears that "pornography (q.v.) is a function of geography". What is accepted in one location or society is shocking in an other. The same can be said of obsenity. And time is surely another factor. Words which used to be considered obsene are now quite acceptable, even among quite conservative people. But it does seem that some language is absolutely, and not just relatively obsene. This would be, for example, any gross insult of an individual human, which emotionally hurts the insulted person. (FL)


OBSTETRICS: The branch of medicine dealing with the management of pregnancy and childbirth.(see GYNOCOLOGY). (DM)

OBVIOUSNESS: Obviousness is one of the criteria used in the evaluation of patent applications. Obviousness addresses the degree of difference between the invention being evaluated and that is already known and available. (DM)

OCEAN POWER: Forms of ocean power include tidal energy, wave power, current power and thermal energy conversion. The potential energy of the oceans is enormous, but there are technological difficulties in harnessing this power for human use. (See RENEWABLE ENERGY, TIDAL ENERGY, WAVE POWER) (MP)

OCCIDENTAL: (Latin: occidere "to fall" in reference to the setting sun). "Occident" is a formal literary term for West, and Occidental culture, or the Occident, refers to Western civilization based around Europe and North America. (See ORIENTAL, WESTERN CIVILIZATION) (MP)

OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE: Exposure to potentially harmful chemical, physical, or biological agents that occurs as a result of one's occupation. (DM)

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH: The health of employees working in different occupation faces different risks to persons health. (DM)

OCCUPATIONAL MEDICINE: The branch of medicine concerned with the promotion and maintenance of the physical and mental health of employees in an occupational setting. (DM)

OCCUPIER FOR HANDLING WASTES: Any person/s or company that generates Hazardous waste substance that are specified by a competent authority who shall ensure that all such wastes are carefully and properly handled and disposed off without any adverse effects to those who handle the waste disposal or to the environment. and has the responsibility for their proper collection, reception, treatment, storage and disposal either by a facility or through personal arrangement. (JA)

OCKHAM’S RAZOR: A loose principle of science closely related to ‘parsimony’, stating that assumptions should be minimized and simplified. Named for the philosophical ideas of William Ockham (1285-1347), Ockham’s Razor cuts away unnecessarily complicated theories and identifies those with simplicity of theory construction. (See PARSIMONY, SIMPLICITY) (MP)

OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

OIKOS Greek word meaning "house" or dwelling place. Is the key concept describing disciplines such as ecology, economics and ecumenics. (IP)

OLD TESTAMENT: Sacred literature of Judaism and Christianity, also known as 'Jewish Scriptures' or 'Hebrew Bible', composed in Hebrew (some parts Aramaic), and fixed around 100 ACE after a long oral tradition. The Old Testament includes the first five books Genesis to Deuteronomy, which as a unity comprise the Torah or Pentateuch. The Old Testament chronicles the histories of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and other holy figures and sons and daughters of Israel, and suggestions for moral conduct such as the Ten Commandments. (See BIBLE, JUDEO-CHRISTIAN, NEW TESTAMENT, TORAH) (MP)

OLFACTION: (Latin olfacere 'to smell'). The sense of smell. The nose has a dual function - respiration and the sense of smell. The sensory nerves of smell have their origins in special cells in the mucous membrane of the roof of the nose. On each side of the nasal septum nerve fibers from these cells pass to the olfactory bulb - the area in the forebrain where the olfactory nerves terminate and the olfactory tracts arise. Nerve fibers form the olfactory tract (first cranial nerve) pass backwards to the olfactory area in the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex where the impulses are interpreted and odor perceived. All odorous materials give off chemical particles that are carried into the nose with the inhaled air and stimulate the nerve cells of the olfactory region. 'Sniffing' concentrates more particles more quickly in the roof of the nose thus increasing the number of special cells stimulated and the perception of smell. The sense of smell in humans is generally less acute than in other mammals. (See ANOSMIA, SENSES). (IP)

OLIGONUCLEOTIDE: Synthetic short DNA fragment used in molecular biology techniques, either for amplifying DNA (in PCR reactions) or for visualizing a complementary sequence in native DNA, cDNA or RNA (in dot or slot blot hybridizations). (GK)

OLIGOSPERMIA: Scarcity of sperm in the semen.

OMEGA POINT THEORY: An audacious scientific proposal by cosmologist Frank Tipler, founded in work by J.B.S. Haldane, John Bernal, Paul Dirac, Freeman Dyson and Teilhard de Chardin. The Omega Point is the singularity at the boundary of all future time in a closed universe. At this point, Tipler argues that the cosmological laws of physics imply that humans and all life will be resurrected into mathematically-defined states of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence - a fate remarkably similar to that proposed by major religious eschatology and theology. Including an extensive mathematical appendix for scientists, his popular ‘Physics of Immortality’ asserts “that theology is a branch of physics, that physicists can infer the existence of God and the resurrection of the dead to eternal life… I am quite serious. But I am as surprised as the reader. When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist… I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my special branch of physics.” (See ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE, ESCHATOLOGY, HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE THEORY, PARALLEL UNIVERSES THEORY, SINGULARITY) (MP)

ONCOGENE: A gene, one or more forms of which is associated with cancer. Many oncogenes are involved, directly or indirectly, in controlling the rate of cell growth. (DM)

ONCOLOGY: A study involving the formation of tumors and cancer cell formation. (JA)

ONTOGENY: (Greek: ont- "being" + geny "birth") The sequence and course of development during the life of an individual organism. (See PHYLOGENY) (MP)

ONTOLOGICAL: Refers to actual existence in reality as distinct from in thought or in the imagination. (DM)

ONTOLOGY: (Greek ont- "being" + logos "discourse" or "reason") The branch of metaphysics concerned with being, or existence. (MP)

OOCYTE: The immature female germ cell. It is called an ovum when it matures after the penetration of the sperm during fertilization and the completion of the second meiotic division. (DM+IP)

OPEC: Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

OPEN ACCESS: A system in which resources are available to everyone. (See TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS) (MP)

OPEN QUESTIONS: 1. Questions without an answer, open to anyone’s opinion. 2. Questions which trigger thinking because they have a lot of latitude available for the answer, such as ‘And?’, ‘Therefore?’, “Why?’, ‘How?’ and sometimes ‘What?’. (See CLOSED QUESTIONS) (MP)

OPERANT CONDITIONING: Modification of behavior through the use of positive and/or negative reinforcement. (DM)

OPERATING SYSTEM: Computers: the software platform upon which computer applications and the user interface are based, for example DOS, Windows or Linux for PCs, Unix for Internet servers, and recently TinyOS for small networked microprocessors like ‘smart dust’. (See INTERNET, SMART DUST) (MP)

OPHTHALMOLOGY: The branch of medicine concerned with the eye, its diseases, and refractive errors. (DM)


OPPORTUNITY COST: The value of foregone opportunities or alternatives unable to be achieved because of time or money towards some other option. Examples include the opportunity cost of excessive military spending and the opportunity costs of being a couch potato in front of the TV. (See ALTERNATIVES, EXTERNALITIES) (MP)

OPPOSABLE THUMB: One of the fundamental evolutionary adaptations setting human ancestors apart from other animals, the opposable thumb (able to oppose each other finger, grip, pinch and precisely manoeuvre objects in the hand) enabled the early development and extensive use of tools. (MP)

OPTICAL DATING: Relies on quartz timing which depends on the counting of electrons trapped by naturally-occurring mechanical forces in the mineral of interest. These electrons are trapped at a regular rate and are released by the sunlight’s energy (zero time) but if buried in sediments become an effective clock when millennia later flashing the quartz with light releases the electrons" energy in measurable photons with its intensity being directly proportional to the time since the quartz was last exposed to sunlight. The technology is more useful than the 40,000 year limit of radiocarbon dating and has extended archaeological understanding (see RADIOCARBON DATING, THERMOLUMINESCENCE DATING). (IP)


OPTIMIZATION: The process in decision-making in which the "optimal" or best solution is arrived at through analytical comparison of the alternative courses of action. Management models are often designed in order to optimize certain factors unfortunately more commonly economic measures than social or environmental outcomes. (See OPTIMUM SUSTAINABLE YIELD, SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS) (MP)

OPTIMUM SUSTAINABLE YIELD: The concept of ‘maximum sustainable yield’ has given way to ‘optimum sustainable yield’. This is a management and modeling tool which takes into account all relevant economic, biological and socio-cultural factors and optimizes between them such that all are able to sustain themselves without being depleted. ‘Optimum’ does not imply ‘best’ in an economic sense, but a generally lower ‘safe’ level in which any risk of resource or population decline is minimized. It accommodates dynamic ecosystem fluctuations, and incorporates concepts of uncertainty, carrying capacity and the precautionary principle. (See CARRYING CAPACITY, MAXIMUM SUSTAINABLE YIELD, PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, SUSTAINABLE YIELD, THRESHOLD MANAGEMENT, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)

OPTION VALUE: The willingness to pay for the preservation of ecosystems and nature in order to retain the potential option of perhaps visiting or utilizing them at a later date. (See BEQUEST VALUE, ENVIRONMENTAL VALUATION, INSTRUMENTAL VALUE OF NATURE, INTRINSIC VALUE OF NATURE, USE VALUE) (MP)

ORDER: 1. A command, instruction or task allocation from a superior such as a corporate boss, policeperson or military officer. The assumption of unquestioning compliance may imply the loss of individual thought or freedom of action, denying the subordinate the right behave in accordance with their own ethical principles. 2. The level of taxonomic classification of organisms below the class, and containing one or more families. For example, primates and rodents are orders within the class Mammalia. (See SPECIES, TAXONOMY) (MP)

ORGAN: (Greek: organon "tool", from ergon "work") The structural and functional unit of the body, an organ is any well-defined body part consisting of fully differentiated specialist cells and adapted to a certain biological purpose (e.g. brain, liver, skin). 2. Informally, "organ" may refer to the penis. (MP)

ORGAN DONATION: Donation of body organs with the intention that they be replaced into the body of another. The donation of some organs can come from living donors while for many organs it is possible only after death. (See BRAIN DEATH, ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION).(DM)

ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION: Surgery of removing a solid organ /tissue or partial detachment of a part of the body and implantation of the same organ in a different region of the same body or different individual. Four types: Autograft - using one's own tissue for grafting. E.g. A cock's claw transplanted to its comb region; Isograft, Syngeneic graft. Existence of genetic identity between the donor and recipient; Allograft, also termed homograft, the donor and the recipient are members of the same species. Xenograft, also termed as heterograft (Hetero = other than self) , the donor and recipient are of different unrelated species E.g. Human and Pig, (See XENOTRANSPLANTATION). (JA)

ORGANELLE: A structure in the cytoplasm of a cell that is specialized in its ultrastructure and biochemical composition to serve a particular function (e.g. mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, chloroplast). (DM)

ORGANIC CHEMISTRY: A major branch of chemistry which investigates carbon compounds. Carbon has the ability to bond covalently with itself, as well as with other molecules like hydrogen, oxygen or nitrogen, to form varied and extensive branched chains or rings. Carbon compounds are fundamental to all currently existing earthly life, but not restricted to living matter as believed in the nineteenth century when the term "organic chemistry" was coined. Conversely, it is theoretically possible that not all life must be based on organic chemistry. "Carbon chemistry" is perhaps a more technically accurate alternative. (See BIOCHEMISTRY, LIFE) (MP)


ORGANIC FARMING: Agriculture without use of artificial pesticides, chemical fertilizers, artificial hormones, or, according to some, genetically modified organisms. In some countries or districts, what food may be labeled as organic is regulated by statute. Farming of organically grown foods usually attempts to minimize human additives. (See PERMACULTURE) (RW, MP)

ORGANISM: A living being. (RW)

ORGANIZATIONAL POLICIES: Positions on issues taken by groups such as professional and voluntary health associations. (DM)


ORGANOIDS: Artificial matrices are being made to perform the functions of organs, such as for release of hormones in the body. Usually living cells will be enclosed within the matrix. (DM)

ORGANOPHOSPHATES: Phosphorus-based pesticides which, like the chlorinated hydrocarbons, are dangerous and persistent organic pollutants. (See CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS, PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS) (MP)

ORGASM: the climax of sexual excitement and pleasure during which ejaculation occurs in the male and vaginal contractions in the female. The female orgasm may be repeated several times if stimulation is continued (Greek organ to grow or swell). (IP)

ORGY: (Greek: orgia "secret rites", from ergon "work") An orgy is a no-holds-barred sexual party involving casual interaction and intercourse between multiple partners in a group setting, usually with food and perhaps intoxicants such as wine. Relatively rare today because of modern taboos, the orgy is considered by some as an example of the decadence and self-indulgence which may have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, there is nothing bioethically wrong with honest sexual indulgence so long as all participants and their primary partners are consenting. (See OPEN MARRIAGE, SWINGING) (MP)

ORIENTAL: (Latin: oriens "rising" in reference to the dawn sun). "Orient" is a poetic term for East, as well as the act of aligning one’s own position with reference to the compass, surroundings or point of view. Oriental culture, or the Orient, refers to Asian philosophies and people, especially those of the "Far East". (See EASTERN PHILOSOPHY, OCCIDENTAL) (MP)

ORIGIN OF LIFE: The origin of life on Earth is still a mysterious and contentious issue. The majority of the world believes in creationism, the conscious design of life by God as described in religious texts such as the Bible. Creation may be interpreted as the design of currently-existing fully formed organisms, as an initial "setting loose" of early replicators to evolutionary forces, or as a process of constant creative co-existence with the world. Perhaps the most probable scientific theory is the "primeval soup" theory, first formulated by Russian biochemist A. I. Oparin in his 1936 The Origin of Life on Earth, and eloquently described in Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene. Life may have evolved from the interaction of reducing hydrogen-rich gases of the atmosphere dissolved in primordial oceans of non-biologically produced organic chemistry. Under the action of lightning and ultraviolet radiation, simple molecules were transformed into the fundamental organic molecules of living matter. Evidence of such processes has been demonstrated under laboratory conditions, with scientists able to spontaneously create complex organic molecules in a test tube, including amino acids, pyrimidines and purines such as adenine, one of the four bases of the DNA molecule. Nucleic acids (DNA and RNA molecules) may constitute the best molecular mechanism for accurate intergenerational transmission, with replication mistakes in fewer than one base in 108-1012. The replicator is the basis of life, simply a molecule with the property of being able to create copies of itself using materials from the surrounding chemical soup. Once replicators begin competing with one another for such resources, the process of evolution by natural selection is sufficient to explain increasing complexity of these molecules up to and including modern organisms. Two other scientific theories for the origin of life are also worth mentioning. One is the "inorganic mineral" theory proposed by Graham Cairns-Smith in which the original replicating entities, clay-like crystals such as silicates, acted as a scaffold for the later emergence of DNA. Another possible theory is that the building blocks of life may have had extraterrestrial origin, arriving on Earth in ice from impacting comets. (See ALIEN LIFE, ARTIFICIAL LIFE, CREATIONISM, EVOLUTION, LIFE, NATURAL SELECTION) (MP & IP)

ORIGINAL SIN: A view in Christianity founded by Augustine, in which sin is held to be innate to all humankind. Inherited guilt and propensity to sin are carried through to all direct descendents of Adam and Eve, who ate from the tree of knowledge against divine command. (See SIN) (MP)

ORNAMENTAL PLANTS: Plants selected for their beauty or appearance rather than food. (DM)

ORNITHOLOGY: (Greek: ornis "bird" + logos "reason") The scientific study of birds and bird life. Ornithologists study the physiology, ecology, behavior and classification of birds. (MP)

OSMOSIS: The passage of water through a semi-permeable barrier such as a cell membrane. Water tends to flow from a hypotonic fluid (with low osmotic concentration) to hypertonic fluid (higher relative osmotic concentration) until an isotonic medium (equilibrium) is reached. (See MEMBRANE) (MP)

OTA: Office of Technology Assessment of the USA.

OUTER SPACE TREATY: Multilateral treaty signed in 1967 obliging nations not to place nuclear weapons into orbit. (See MISSILE DEFENSE, NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION, SPACE WARFARE) (MP)

OUTLIER: In statistics, a measurement which lies in an unusual or extreme location compared to the other measures in the data set. Sometimes outliers are assumed to be errors and removed, but in a few cases they may indicate extra information such as vagrant individuals outside of their ecological range. (See ERROR, NOISE) (MP)

OUTPATIENT COMMITMENT: Legally mandated outpatient treatment of the mentally ill. (DM)

OVARIES: Paired female sex glands in which ova are developed and stored and among many others the female steroid hormones estrogen and progesterone are produced. (DM)

OVERDEVELOPED NATIONS: Overdeveloped in this context means material development; excessive energy use, resource consumption, waste generation, and expenditure on damaging technologies. Overdeveloped nations waste their excess wealth, and feign unawareness of external misery. These countries should begin (and can afford) moves towards humanitarianism, philanthropy, environmental economics, deconsumerism and dematerialization. Material overdevelopment implies a certain philosophical under-development in terms of sustainability, peace, precaution, opportunity cost, biodiversity conservation, social equity, human rights, ethics and empathy. (See CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION, DEMATERIALIZATION, DEMILITARIZATION, DEVELOPED NATIONS, FIRST WORLD, SUFFICIENCY, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT) (MP)



OVIDUCT: Fallopian tube.

OVUM (pl. ova): The female egg or oocyte, formed in an ovary.

OVUM DONOR: A woman who donates an ovum or ova to another woman.


OXYMORON: Oxymoron is a strange word used to describe a self-contradictory phrase where the words making up the two halves are seemingly opposite, but still manage to make sense in combination. Typical examples include ‘sustainable development’, ‘military intelligence’, ‘smart bomb’. (See EUPHEMISM, PARADOX) (MP)

OZONE: (Greek: ozein 'to have an odor'). A highly reactive form of oxygen consisting of three atoms, O3. Ozone is formed naturally when oxygen is present in an electric discharge, as occurs in a lightning storm. Due to its high reactivity ozone is also used in many industrial processes as an oxidizing agent in bleaching, cleaning and related processes. In the troposphere, ozone reacts with other pollutants to produce smog and free radicals that damage the health of humans and other organisms. In the stratosphere, an ozone layer shields the Earth's surface from UV, which would otherwise damage DNA in living things. (See OZONE HOLE, STRATOSPHERE, TROPOSPHERE). (IP+RW)

OZONE HOLE: In common idiom describes human-driven stratospheric ozone layer depletion. The stratospheric ozone serves as a shield to absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere, protecting living organisms on the Earth from the effects of excessive amounts of such radiation. Under normal equilibrium conditions, the quantity of ozone in the stratosphere is at steady-state levels resulting from balanced production and destruction. However, industrial activities have emitted a variety of atmospheric pollutants, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), that have significantly accelerated the destruction of stratospheric ozone in Polar Regions with the consequent thinning of this protective shield. The most prominent instance of ozone layer destruction is the so-called Antarctic Ozone Hole, which refers to the region of the Antarctic stratosphere where ozone is depleted by 50 to 75% in winter and early spring. Increasing ground-level ultraviolet radiation seriously reduces photosynthetic production and causes other ill effects on organisms. (See OZONE, GREENHOUSE EFFECT). (IP+RW)




































PACIFISM: Pacifism is non-violence, or harmlessness. Pacifism has had a long tradition in Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, Christianity, Anabaptists, Quakers, Contractarianism, International Federalism, hippy culture, civil rights, green and peace movements. It is heartbreaking to note that many of the world’s most famous pacifists, such as Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., were assassinated for their beliefs. (See AHIMSA, CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR, NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE, PEACE, PEACE MOVEMENT) (MP)

PAIN: Unpleasant physical or mental sensation. It is not always easy to tell if another entity is in pain and the difficulties increase as the dissimilarities between the entities increase. For example, can fish feel pain? Fish can't scream or grimace in the ways that we can when in pain. However, they do show analogous physiological changes to those shown by humans when placed in situations where we might anticipate them feeling pain. (See SUFFERING.) (MR)

PALEOANTHROPOLOGY: Paleontology is a discipline of science that deals with the study of fossils and fossil remains of plants, animals and humans. Antnropology is a discipline of science that deals with the study of human beings. Paleoanthropology is the study of fossil remains of human beings, both pre-human and human beings. (JA)

PALEOINDIANS: Some anthropologists and archaeologists call the first Asians (Mongoloids) that entered the American continent during the Upper Palaeolithic period, Paleoindians. These are the ancestors of the Amerindians. Accordingly, the first migration is also called the paleoindian migration, followed by the Na-Dene and Aleut-Eskimo waves of settlement. This model is very controversial, and recent genetic studies as well as archaeology/anthropology indicate that the colonization of the American continent has been much more complex. Still, the very early occupants of the continent are called Paleoindians. (GK)

PALEOLITIC AGE the archeological age beginning about 750,000 years ago characterized by the hunter-tribal period of human cultural development. (IP)

PALEONTOLOGY: (Also British: palaeo- from Greek: palaios "ancient" + ontology "existence") The scientific study of fossils and their context. The paleontologist uses remnant clues to reconstruct information about ancient life forms and past environments. (MP)



PANTHEISM: Pantheism is a philosophy, which says that God is everywhere, everything is identical with, or at least a part of God, nothing exists except for God. Pantheism can be regarded as a form of atheism, in the sense that pantheism says that God is nothing but the world. But Pantheism can be regarded as an extremely religious idea in that it says that the world is nothing but an appearance of God. SPINOZA (q.v.), was perhaps the most famous pantheist philosopher. Some people call him an atheist. But the American philosopher, William James, called him: "that God-intoxicated man." Israeli Kabala ("Jewish mysticism"), which says that everything in the world is a revelation of Godliness, is a form of pantheism. Another famous pantheist was Parmenides of Elea (5th Century BC) in ancient Greece. (FL)

PAP SMEAR TEST: a smear test of examining stained cervical cells for the presence of cancerous ones (named after George N. Papanicolaou, Greek physician in US practice 1883-1962). The technique permits early diagnosis of cancer and has significantly contributed to lowering the death rate from cervical cancer; thus, is an important part of general gynecological care (see CERVICAL CANCER). (IP)

PARADIGM: A paradigm is an archetypal pattern or theoretical framework which supports scientific and metaphysical beliefs. Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) sees the progress of science not as gradual like the empiricists, but as a series of punctuated changes, or ‘paradigm shifts’, which alter the very model and language of the previous belief system. The ‘dominant paradigm’, or established viewpoint, is overthrown by an alternative epistemological framework or world-view. One of Kuhn’s examples was the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic earth-centered picture of the solar system to the Copernican heliocentric model. (See ALTERNATIVE PARADIGM, DOMINANT PARADIGM, KNOWLEDGE, META-KNOWLEDGE, PARADIGM CASE, PARADIGM SHIFT, WORLD VIEW) (MP)

PARADIGM CASE: The ‘paradigm case’ is a dominant representative example of something, and the ‘paradigm case argument’ is a philosophical refutation of skepticism. (See PARADIGM) (MP)

PARADIGM SHIFT: Punctuated revolution of scientific knowledge and/or community belief with new ideas or discoveries. Changes in fundamental worldview or viewpoint do not come easily, and individuals ahead of their time (on the other side of a paradigm shift) may initially suffer institutional ridicule (examples include James Lovelock, Noam Chomsky and Eric Drexler). The dominant paradigm has the collective weight of inertia, tradition and professional careers invested in its maintenance. Institutional resistance will persist until the models and language of the previous belief system are updated to the alternative paradigm. (See ALTERNATIVE PARADIGM) (MP)

PARADOX: A seemingly contradictory situation, problem or statement. (RW)

PARALLEL UNIVERSES THEORY: The potential simultaneous existence of "ghost" universes other than our own, a theory developed since the 1950s to explain quantum and relativity paradoxes such as the collapse of a quantum wave function. Universes within the "multiverse" may also be connected by "wormholes", a term coined by John Wheeler, maybe with daughter universes able to bud off from the parent universe through a black hole singularity. A parallel universe would be similarly populated by stars and galaxies, perhaps even a near-duplicate of our own universe including humans. It has been even more speculatively proposed that all possible courses of action exist across an infinite number of parallel universes. This is of course non-testable conjecture, but if it were true it would have peculiar repercussions for ethical philosophy. (See HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE THEORY, QUANTUM THEORY) (MP)

PARAMETER: 1. A boundary or limiting factor to thought or action, for example: "technology should be developed within the parameters of bioethical debate". 2. In maths it may be an independent variable in an equation whose constancy allows investigation of the other variables. 3. In statistics it refers to a descriptive measure of a population, as distinct from a statistic which is derived from a sample and is only an estimate of the parameter. (See SAMPLE, STATISTIC) (MP)

PARAMETRIC STATISTICS: Statistics which assume the normal distribution. (See NORMAL DISTRIBUTION, PARAMETER) (MP)

PARANORMAL PHENOMENA: (Greek: para "beyond") Observations or claimed experiences which are not within the range of normal experience and therefore not explainable by science or logic. The progress of science may eventually explain some paranormal phenomena, however more likely the unexpected progressions of technology will attempt to simulate the paranormal and perhaps successfully "normalize" some. (See CLAIRVOYANCE, EXTRASENSORY PERCEPTION, PARAPSYCHOLOGY, PRECOGNITION, PSYCHOKINESIS, STIGMATA, TELEPATHY, TELEPORTATION) (MP)

PARAPSYCHOLOGY: (Greek: para "beyond" + psych "mind" + logos "science"). The branch of psychology concerned with psychic phenomena such as clairvoyance and telepathy. (MP)

PARASITE: (Greek: parasitos "guest"). A symbiotic association in which one organism lives in or on another and takes nourishment at the expense of this host organism. Parasites make up the bulk of the organisms on earth, since each non-parasite is usually host to a multitude of parasite species. Examples of parasitic symbionts of humans include lice, fleas, roundworms, tapeworms, protists, bacteria and fungi. (See COMMENSALISM, SYMBIOSIS) (MP)

PARENTAL CONSENT: Informed consent given by a parent on behalf of a minor or otherwise legally incompetent child. (DM)

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION: For medical treatment of legal minors, in many jurisdictions the parents need to be notified. It is a contentious issue in some states regarding the age for parental notification for abortion decisions in pregnant teenagers. (DM)

PARSIMONY: (Latin parsimōnia ‘sparingness’) Simplicity and least number of requisites and assumptions; economy or frugality of components and associations. In philosophy of theories the principle of parsimony is known as ‘Ockhams Razor’. (See OCKHAMS RAZOR, SIMPLICITY) (MP)

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