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PROFESSION: An occupational grouping consisting of experts with specialized skills or knowledge, organized to perform a service to society as well as maintain standards, communication and training within its own ranks. Professionals function as representatives of a field of knowledge in the interests of a society which deserves professional codes of conduct and ethical standards of practice. (See ENVIRONMENTAL CODE OF CONDUCT, EXPERT, STANDARDS OF PRACTICE) (MP)


PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE: The ability to perform the duties of one's profession with an acceptable degree of skill. (DM)

PROFESSIONAL ETHICS: Moral principles that apply to professional groups other than physicians and nurses. (DM)



PROGRAM: A complete set of instructions to a computer written in an encoding language. These instructions, together with the data on which the instructions operate, enable the computer to perform a wide variety of problem-orientated tasks. Some common programs used for scientific and technical purposes are FORTRAN, ALGOL, BASIC AND PL/1. (See COMPUTER, DATA PROCESSING, DEBUG). (IP)


PROGRESS: From the Latin for ‘move forward’, progress is advancement; completion of stages in a process; similar to ‘development’; used to mean ‘modernization’; gradual improvement of the human condition; or a forward pathway such as a person’s progress through life. Modern ideas of progress are based in ancient Greek philosophy, the Enlightenment and Darwinism, with eastern philosophy tending to see life as a series of cycles. Progress usually has a good implication, so progress supplies the means to happy humans and ecological wellbeing, measured by quality of life indicators such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, Human Development Index and State of the Environment Reporting. Despite dramatic progress in science and technology, it is not clear whether we are today much happier, more enlightened or compassionate than our ancestors. (See DEMATERIALIZATION, DEMILITARIZATION, DEVELOPMENT, GENUINE PROGRESS INDICATOR, GROWTH, MODERNIZATION, STANDARD OF LIVING) (MP)

PROGRESSIVE: Progressive politics is a liberal leftist persuasion in opposition to conservative politics. Progressivism advocates equality, equity, ethics and human progress. Progressive philosophers of politics have included John Dewey, William James and Theodore Roosevelt. (See PROGRESS) (MP)

PROKARYOTE: Cell or organism lacking membrane bound, structurally discrete nucleus and subcellular compartments. Bacteria are examples. Compare EUCARYOTE. (DM)

PROLONGATION OF LIFE: The use of therapeutic measures to prevent or delay the death of critically or terminally ill patients. (DM)

PROOF: Proof is notoriously difficult to achieve, which is why science is based more on falsification (indirect proof) than proof itself. Indirect proof follows the logic of finding the opposite of the proposed assertion and showing that not to be true (rejection of the null hypothesis). Direct proof is deductive, for example when known premises form a valid argument. Legal systems ‘prove’ a defendant guilty only with the qualification ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. There must be some combination of means, motive, evidence, high probability, and no ambiguity or contradictory evidence. Practicalities aside, there is always some underlying assumptions or elements of uncertainty inherent in most forms of ‘proof’. (See ASSUMPTION, CAUSATION, FALSIFICATION, NULL HYPOTHESIS, VALIDATION, VERIFICATION, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)

PROPAGANDA: English use of the word was an adaptation of its Italian origins (New Latin: Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide "Roman Catholic Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith"). Propaganda today refers to the spread of an "official" system of belief, including manipulation of the media and organized dissemination of information with the aim of damaging or assisting a particular political cause. The ease and extent to which the public mind can be swayed by personality and mass media was amply demonstrated for example by the Hitler Youth. But although propaganda brings to mind the fascist and communist extremes of the political spectrum, dictatorships have less need for internal propaganda than do capitalist democracies which are much more controlled and concerned by public opinion. The titles of Noam Chomsky’s "Necessary Illusions" and "Manufacturing Consent" refer to this paradox. Effective, difficult-to-notice methods of massaging public opinion include tacit assumptions, selective choice of focus, and omissions of certain information. Although themselves perhaps subject to similar accusations, Chomsky and Edward Herman’s works in the fields of politics and media provide a necessary and illuminating balance for the informed media consumer. They propose a current propaganda model (or set of "news filters") based primarily on a) concentrated, profit-oriented media ownership, b) advertising as the primary income, and c) reliance on information from government and business "experts". This non-explicit, reinforcing power-relationship effectively exchanges a positively biased (or at least objective), paradigm-entrenched media for desirable media laws and continued advertising revenue. Some argue that to protect the masses from excesses of human nature there may always be a need for manipulation, secrecy, or selective emphasis of information. However, if environmental and social goals are agreed upon, then corporate transparency and freedom of information can help expose those on the brink of ethical boundaries. (See CULTURE JAMMING) (MP)

PROPERTY RIGHTS: It is a right of ownership of a property. Recently the question of considering genes and DNA sequences as a property or as an assert, have been debated. Or genes and genomes should be considered as our (human) common heritage. If genes are public property (common heritage) then it should be public ally owned. (See GENE PATENTING, PATENT). (JA)

PROPRIETARY HEALTH FACILITIES: Health care facilities (including diagnostic centers and clinical laboratories) that are privately owned and that operate on a for-profit basis. (DM)

PROPRIETARY HOSPITALS: Hospitals that are privately owned and that operate on a for-profit basis (in US English). (DM)

PROSTITUTE: As a verb, the word means to allow oneself to be exploited or taken advantage of, usually for money, for professional advancement, for security, etc. As a noun, it usually refers to women who provide sex for pay: "sex workers". In ethical discussion, it is often pointed out that sexual prostitution is really no different ethically than other forms of prostitution. Examples are publishing or teaching things that you do not believe, for the sake of professional advancement, or even working at any employment which one does not love or believe in. Indeed, working at a job, which one does not believe in may be a more serious case of prostitution, in the strict sense of the word, than doing sex work if one loves it.

Sexual prostitution is less ethically problematic in itself than are the evils, which may accompany it. It is a vehicle for sexually transmitted diseases. Women are tricked into addiction to hard drugs in order to make them easy sex slaves. Young girls in some countries are still sold into prostitution, and child prostitution is an international problem. Young women from poor countries are enticed to migrate to rich countries for "employment". But when they arrive they find that they must work as prostitutes, and have no other way to pay off their travel debts and "agent's commission" and return home. Legalising prostitution and instituting strict public health and social supervision might alleviate these problems. But powerful religious conservatives might block any attempt to legalise prostitution in many countries. A two-tier reform might therefore be considered. In order to placate religious conservatism, prostitution would remain illegal. But strict public health and social supervision would also be instituted. The punishment for prostitution would be a small, nominal fine. But the punishment for failing to submit to STD examinations, for failing to observe other STD preventive measures, or for the various human rights violations, would be huge and accompanied by a mandatory term in prison. (FL)

PROTECTION: A sanctuary is declared by a human degree, which gives protection from human exploitation of natural resources and biodiversity. It prohibits human activity, which can destroy the natural ecosystem. (JA)

PROTECTED AREAS: A type of ecoprotection of a particular geographically defined area which is designed or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives which covers all kinds of situations. There are about 30,000 protected areas worldwide covering 8.83 % of the surface of the earth. (JA)

PROTEIN: A large molecule composed of chains of smaller molecules (amino acids) in a specific sequence; the sequence is determined by the sequence of nucleotides in the gene coding for the protein. Built by 2 or more amino acids linked by polypeptide chain, CONH bonding, can be hydrolyzed. They are a major constituent of all living organisms. Eg. Muscle, enzymes (not all enzymes are proteins). Proteins are required for the structure, function (e.g neurotransmitters) and regulation of the body's cells, tissues and organs, and each protein has a unique function. Examples are hormones, enzymes and antibodies. (DM, JA)

PROTEIN ENGINEERING: Modification of the amino acid structure or the tertiary features of proteins (e.g. carbohydrate chains) with the purpose of modifying the functions of the proteins. (DM)

PROTEOME: hybrid term - PROTEins expressed by a genOME - applicable to industrial protein science describing the proteins expressed by a particular genome or tissue. Traditionally, proteins were examined one at a time; nowadays proteome systems can examine them en masse making accessible the temporal and spatial expression of proteins in biological systems, how they"re processed and modified, and how they interact to form functional complexes in a tissue or cell. The term "proteome" was introduced in 1994 by Australian scientist Marc Wilkins (see GENOMICS, PROTEOMICS). (IP)

PROTEOMICS: the term was first introduced into the scientific literature in 1995 to define the total protein complement of a genome and has become an integral part of gene-expression analysis. Proteomics concentrates on the separation and purification of many proteins concurrently from a complex mixture of proteins. While it had its origins more than 20 years ago, proteomics is a major technology now because of advances in protein science. Separation into pure molecules is typically done on a 2-dimensional matrix followed by identification and characterization by mass spectrometry. Proteomics is becoming the mainstay of functional genomics because, unlike the informational-based genome, proteins are the functional molecules of cells. Proteomics gained its modern profile through the formation of two national proteomics institutes: APAF (Australian Proteome Analysis Facility) founded by Keith Williams at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and the Center for Proteome Analysis located at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark founded by Peter Mose-Larsen and Stephen Fey. The commercialization of proteomics has typically been in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries; however, future developments demand greater focus on bioinformatics where scientifically useful information gained from proteomics can be integrated into clinical and bioethical decision making (see BIOINFORMATICS, GENOMICS, PROTEOME). (IP)

PROTEST: (Medieval Latin: prōtestum ‘declaration’) Democratic public action to defend a social or environmental cause. Protesters establish their right to public assembly and freedom of speech. Protest includes petitions, demonstrations, public marches, industrial action, civil disobedience, direct action and media attention. Protest is also an important function of charities, universities and non government organizations. A protest is also an official objection or formal declaration. (See ACTIVISM, ANTI-GLOBALIZATION MOVEMENT, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, DISSENT, GREEN MOVEMENT, INDUSTRIAL ACTION, PEACE MOVEMENT) (MP)

PROTISTS: Single-celled eukaryotic (having their DNA enclosed in plastids) organisms including slime molds, yeasts, protozoans, and single-celled algae. Usually microscopic. Well known protests include amoeba, Paramecium, Euglena, Plasmodium (the pathogen causing malaria), and Candida (a fungal pathogen). Protists exclude the prokaryotes (the bacteria and the archaea). (RW)

PROTOPLAST: A plant cell whose wall has been removed by enzymatic or mechanical means.

PROTOPLASM: a term indicates both the nucleus and cytoplasm. (JA)

PROZAC: the central role of serotonin in the modulation of depressed mood became clearer during the late 1980s when antidepressant drugs were introduced that selectively inhibited the recycling of serotonin at the synapse. The most famous member of this family (known as the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), trades under the name of ProzacTM (fluoxetine is its chemical name). It has been hailed by some as an "elixir from the gods" and has become in the public mind the aspirin of emotion. By 1996 the drug had been prescribed for an estimated fifteen million people in the United States alone. However, research shows that fluoxetine is no more effective than imipramine in alleviating depression, and is probably less effective than the tricyclic drugs in the treatment of melancholia. However, because a standard dose is required, it is simple to prescribe. Prozac’s initial side-effects are less troublesome (although not in the longer term, when significant sexual dysfunction has been reported) and thus people are more willing to take it. Prozac and the other serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have been found effective not only in depression, but also in other discomforts, such as panic, and obsessional behaviors where serotonin plays an important moderating role (see BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS, DEPRESSION, SEROTONIN RE-UPTAKE INHIBITORS). (IP)

PSA: Prostate-specific antigen. Is higher level in the blood is indicative of prostate problem. See PSA TEST. (JA)

PSA TEST: Prostrate-specific antigen test. A test to assess the levels of prostate-specific antigen in blood. Higher levels of the antigen is an indication of a problem in prostate. (JA).

PSEUDO- : Prefix or word element denoting falseness, pretence, disguise, deception, from the Greek: pseudes ‘false’. (See ANTI-, MAL-, META-) (MP)


PSILOCYBIN: A psychedelic drug producing altered states of mood and consciousness found in various "magic" mushrooms from across the world, including Psilocybe mexicana (a sacred plant of the Central American First Nation peoples), or the "gold tops" and "blue meanies" of Australia (prepared in tea or eaten recreationally). It has been used in cultural ceremony and youth counterculture primarily for its hallucinogenic power, which is similar in effect to LSD and causes the alteration of moods including euphoria, perceptive and cognitive distortions such as in dreamstates, a feeling of receptiveness and acceptance, awakening of spiritual insights, highly focused but fragmented attention, disassociation, impaired motor skills, and possible nausea, illness, paranoia, hallucination or psychological disturbance. Its use may induce psychosis or schizophrenia in susceptible individuals. Psilocybin has a similar chemical structure to the neurotransmitter serotonin (see BRAIN NEUROTRANSMITTERS, HALLUCINATION, MESCALINE). (IP+MP)



PSYCHIATRIC ETHICS: The ethics of psychiatric medicine has a large philosophical background because of the influence of those who, like Thomas Szasz, have convinced many people that many behaviour patterns which were once regarded as pathological, even criminally so, are only different from the norm. For this reason, in many societies today it is extremely difficult to hospitalise a person for psychiatric reasons unless they clearly endanger themselves or others. And even when they endanger others, it is difficult to keep them incarcerated.

The ethical principle of autonomy, usually expressed in terms of informed consent, is problematic in all others where the mental competence of the patient is borderline or unclear. This problem arises in paediatrics and geriatrics no less than in psychiatric medicine, with respect both in treatment and in research. It is often extremely difficult to tell whether the patient is really acting autonomously in giving or refusing consent. International guidelines for research on human subjects, like the oft-revised Helsinki Declaration, do not yet address this problem in much depth. (FL)

PSYCHIATRIC WILLS: Declarations in which persons assert in advance their desire to accept or reject psychiatric interventions that they may be deemed to require in the future. (DM)

PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS: Pharmacological agents which affect the mind or alter states of consciousness. (DM)


PSYCHODRAMA: invented in 1921 by Jacob L. Moreno M.D. (1889-1974) is a diagnostic, therapeutic and educational method designed to cultivate and utilize creativity, intuition, self-education and psychological insights by accessing a wide range of intra-psychic, interpersonal and group dynamics - all possessing elements of verbal, non-verbal and imaginative realities and emotions. The essential component of the drama is creativity in order to generate activities that promote personal and interpersonal freedom and responsibility. A typical psychodrama is the family psychodrama where the therapist works with immediate or extended family members using role reversal, future projection and any other appropriate technique useful in building interpersonal, empathic concerns. (See AXIODRAMA, ROLE PLAYING, ROLE REVERSAL). (IP)

PSYCHOKINESIS: (Greek: psyche "mind" + kinesis "movement") 1. Sudden impulsive action or movements in a person with mania and defective inhibition. 2. In parapsychology, the terms psychokinesis or telekinesis refer to the claimed ability to move or exert influence on distant objects with the power of the mind. Strange experiments in cybernetics indicate that something similar to psychokinesis may be possible if minds and microprocessors can be combined with wireless technology; for example, using cybernetic attachments to neurons, J. Chapin and M. Nicolelis managed to link rat thought processes to the movement of food levers. Most remarkably, a transmitting device implanted into the brain of a stroke patient by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta allowed human thought processes to move a cursor on a computer screen. (See CYBERNETICS, MICROCHIP IMPLANTS, TELEPATHY) (MP)

PSYCHOPATH: (Greek: psyche "mind" + pathos "disease") A person with an antisocial personality disorder in which they lack empathy, guilt or moral responsibility for their actions. Also called a sociopath, the psychopath is capable of abnormally aggressive or violent behaviour and other socially irresponsible acts. (MP)

PSYCHOSIS: (Greek psyche 'mind' + osis 'condition'). Any mental disorder of organic or emotional origin characterized by impaired reality, diminished impulse control, gross disorder of perception and thought such as in hallucinations and delusions, but restricted to exclude the mental consequences of delirium associated with fever. Since a psychosis renders an individual non compos mentis by failing to distinguish between fantasy and fact, the victim is considered unfit to plead in a court of law. The International Classification of Diseases lists eight specific psychoses. Four are listed as organic psychoses (senile and alcoholic dementia, for example) which are generally the result of degenerative changes in the brain. The others are functional psychoses and include schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, involutional melancholia and paranoia. (See DEMENTIA, DEPRESSION, INSANITY). (IP)

PSYCHOSURGERY: Treatment of psychiatric disorders by the surgical removal of cerebral tissue or by the interruption of pathways in the brain. (DM)

PUBERTY: (Latin: pubertas 'age of maturity') The developmental period of first becoming capable of sexual reproduction. It is marked by the adolescent growth spurt, maturation of the genital organs, development of secondary sexual characteristics, first ejaculation of sperm in boys and onset of menstruation (the menarche) in girls. There are also psychosocial characteristics resulting from the effects of increased gonadal sex steroid production and the resultant maturational changes in the central nervous system (CNS). Puberty normally occurs between ages of 9-13 in girls and 12-14 in boys [Latin pubertas age of maturity] (see ADOLESCENCE). (IP)


PUBLIC HEALTH: Protection and improvement of community health, or prevention of disease, by organized community or government effort. (DM)

PUBLIC HOSPITALS: Hospitals controlled by federal, state, or local governments. (DM)




PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM: A theory about the passage of evolution, formulated by Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould in 1972 to explain gaps in the fossil record. ‘Punctuated equilibrium’ is evolution progressing, not slowly and gradually as Darwin thought, but rather in intermittent steps or bursts with long periods relative stability or equilibrium in between. Punctuated equilibrium may also be seen in political revolution, the paradigm shift and the passage of life. (See EQUILIBRIUM, EVOLUTION, FOUNDER EFFECT, SPECIATION) (MP)






























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