UNITED NATIONS: Founded by 51 countries in October 1945 to promote peace and cooperation internationally; presently 189 member countries. The General Assembly is the main governing body; each member country has one vote. General assembly decisions are by simple or 2/3 majority for regular or 'important' matters. The 15-member Security Council has responsibility for matters related to peace and security. China, France, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the United Kingdom are permanent Security Council members; the other 10 members are elected by the General Assembly for 2-year terms. http://www.un.org/english/ (RW)
UNITY: (Latin: unus "one") The condition of being one unified whole composed of many different parts or peoples, associated by a common bond such as that of humanity, and connected in mutual agreement, tolerance and harmony. (See SOLIDARITY, TOLERANCE, UNITED) (MP)
UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: Global constitutional document outlining human rights for the whole of humanity, adopting and preserving a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations". Prepared by the Commission on Human Rights, set up by the United Nations Economic and Social Council chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, with 48 member states voting in favor and 8 against, and has been adopted by many more countries since. The thirty articles of the declaration cover areas summarized as follows: Article 1. All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights, 2. entitlement to rights without distinctions of race, color, sex, language, religion, politics, nationality, property, birth or other status, 3. right to life, liberty and security of person, 4. prohibition of slavery and servitude, 5. prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, 6. right of recognition before the law, 7. equality before the law, 8. right to an effective legal remedy, 9. prohibition of arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, 10. right to an impartial tribunal hearing, 11. presumed innocent until proven guilty, 12. protection against arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, correspondence, honor or reputation, 13. freedom of national and international movement, 14. right to foreign asylum from political persecution, 15. right to a nationality, 16. right to consenting marriage and protection of the family unit, 17. right to own property, 18. right to freedom of thought and conscience, choice of religion and freedom to teach, practice and worship, 19. right to freedom of opinion and expression and right to seek, receive and impart information through any media, 20. right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, 21. access to government, public service and genuine elections expressing the will of the people, 22. right to social security, 23. right to work, free choice of employment, equal pay for equal work and trade union membership, 24. right to rest and leisure, 25. standards of living adequate for health, wellbeing, security and child protection, 26. free elementary education and access to higher education on the basis of merit, 27. right to participate in the arts, science and cultural life, with protection of author interests, 28. right to an international social order able to realize these rights and freedoms, 29. everyone has duties to their community and is subject to laws which respect general welfare and the rights and freedoms of others, and 30. discouraging any act aimed at the destruction of these rights and freedoms. (See HUMAN RIGHTS) (MP)
UNKNOWABLE: Scientific knowledge is gained through testability and falsification using experiments and statistics. The limitations of science become apparent when dealing with subjects outside of the applicability of scientific method. These subjects of philosophical abstraction, great complexity and metaphysical belief are really unknowable unless they can be sufficiently justified or validated. There are operational barriers to the process of ultimate proof. Awareness of this leads to the philosophical response of the agnostic: “I don’t know.” (See AGNOSTIC, BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, FALSIFICATION, IGNORANCE, IMPOSSIBILITY, INDUCTION, KNOWLEDGE, PROOF, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)
UNSUSTAINABILITY: Unfortunately, perhaps the majority of current human activities are non-sustainable, so it may be easier or more appropriate to measure ‘unsustainability’. Approaching the subject from its complementary side elucidates obstacles and problems and encourages the incorporation of uncertainty. The measurement of both sustainable and unsustainable characteristics and impacts of a decision may inspire more ways in which corporations and governments can shift towards the goal of sustainability. Appropriate modeling and discounting should incorporate the skew towards unsustainability caused by future changes in resource values, uncertainty due to unknown interactions, critical threshold effects and dynamic or chaotic system behavior. (See SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, SUSTAINABILITY) (MP)
UNU: United Nations University.
UNV: United Nations Volunteers.
UPANISHADS: (Sanskrit: ‘sitting beneath’) Sacred literature of Hinduism comprising many disparate writings, often referred to as the ‘Vedanta’ (or ‘End of the Vedas’), composed in Sanskrit between the 8th and 4th Centuries BCE. The Upanishads are the early basis of Indian philosophy, and articulate the religious foundations of the Vedas, monistic doctrines, and the Brahman and Atman. (See Vedas) (MP)
URANIUM: Chemical element with atomic number 92, existing in two isotopes 235U (0.7%) and 238U (99.3%). Uranium is radioactive, for example 238U emits alpha and gamma radiation and has a half-life of 4.5x109 years. (See RADIOACTIVITY, YELLOWCAKE) (MP)
URBAN CONSOLIDATION: The increased development of high-density housing in inner city areas. Urban consolidation is a result of the urbanization common in overpopulated, underdeveloped countries. Urban consolidation results in increased traffic congestion, pollution, noise, crowding and reduced privacy. It is however an attempt to manage other risks and processes of urbanization, such as the prevention of urban sprawl and the conservation of adjacent National Parks. Urban consolidation should develop parallel infrastructure and amenities, locate along public transport routes, and utilize cleaned-up industrial areas rather than green areas in order to retain adequate recreational sites and suburban parklands. (See SLUMS, SUSTAINABLE CITIES, URBAN SPRAWL, URBANIZATION) (MP)
URBAN RENEWAL: The process of remodeling and redevelopment of slums and shanty-towns, and the gentrification and modernization of residential areas and the central business district. (See MODERNIZATION, SLUMS, URBANIZATION) (MP)
URBAN SPRAWL: The spread of urban and suburban landscapes across a wide geographical area surrounding a city. Multiple nodes may emerge which function as secondary central business districts. Cities may obliterate coastal ecosystems by stretching along the coastline until they form a continuous suburban strip to adjacent towns. The American and Australian Dreams of the family home on a quarter-acre block have exacerbated the problem of urban sprawl. (See SUSTAINABLE CITIES, URBAN CONSOLIDATION, URBANIZATION) (MP)
URBANIZATION: The process of human movement and centralization towards and into cities and urban areas, with the associated industrialization, urban sprawl and lifestyle of urbanism. Often impoverished, landless or hopeful people may see limited rural opportunities or be driven from the land by increased mechanization of agriculture. Flight to the bright lights of the city often ends as a fringe life of shanty-towns, unemployment and crime. At the same time, cities are centers of opportunity, education and social mobility, and urban areas may undergo renewal, gentrification and modernization. (See INDUSTRIALIZATION, MODERNIZATION, SHANTY TOWN, SLUMS, URBAN RENEWAL, URBAN SPRAWL) (MP)
USAID:United States Agency for International Development
USDA United States Department of Agriculture: Founded in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. Responsible for conservation on private lands, stewardship of national forests, agricultural research, food safety, etc. http:\\www.usda.gov (RW)
USE VALUE: The value of the natural environment derived from its actual utilization by humans. The useful value of a resource may motivate conservation or may promote its development and destruction. Examples of direct use values include harvesting of timber and seafood, and indirect use values, or passive values, include recreation and functions towards the human ecosystem such as carbon fixation. This illustrates the difficulties of distinction and evaluation when it comes to the complex interdependency of humans with ecosystems. Use values may also include option value and bequest value, but exclude existence value and intrinsic value. (See BEQUEST VALUE, ENVIRONMENTAL VALUATION, EXISTENCE VALUE, INSTRUMENTAL VALUE OF NATURE, INTRINSIC VALUE OF NATURE, OPTION VALUE) (MP)
USER-PAYS PRINCIPLE:(See ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS)
USPTO: United States Patent and Trademark Office A governing body for granting Patents on novel inventions. The patenting regime in USA, is different from the EPO. A patent can be challenged through litigation or a request can be made for reexamination. (JA)
UTERUS: (Latin uterus 'womb'). The pear-shaped reproductive organ in which the conceptus is implanted and the fetus develops, and from which the menses flow. In women it is a single muscular organ positioned between the bladder and the rectum with its cylindrical neck, or cervix, being directed towards the vagina with which it communicates. The wider portion receives the oviducts or Fallopian tubes at its two upper angles in close proximity to the ovaries. The uterus is a common site of tumors - both benign and malignant. The commonest benign tumors are fibroids while, typically, cancer of the uterus appears at an older age with a common symptom being postmenopausal bleeding. Surgical (hysterectomy) at an early stage of the disease is usually a cure. (IP)
UTILITARIAN: The view that an action is deemed morally acceptable because it produces the greatest balance of good over evil taking into account all individuals affected. (See UTILITARIANISM). (DM)
UTILITARIANISM: 1. The belief that the value of a thing or an action is determined by its utility; ethical theory arguably proposed by Mo Tzu (China 6th century BC), and in Modern Times by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and James Mill(1808-1873) that all actions should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people 2. political theory that aids in the decision process by endorsing the course of action that produces the greatest utility for the majority of individuals. (DM)
UTILITARIANISM, ACT AND RULE: Act Utilitarianism teaches that to be ethical is to do acts, which will produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Good is defined as happiness, and happiness is defined as pleasure. Rule Utilitarianism teaches that to be ethical is to act according to rules, which are such that if all or most people were to adopt these rules then the greatest good would be produced for the greatest number of people. It has often been debated whether there is really any practical difference between these two versions of Utilitarianism.
Regardless of which version one adopts, the doctrine -- as was pointed out by Mahatma Gandhi -- simplistically implies that one may do bad to a minority in order to produce the happiness of the majority. Gandhi therefore rejected it in favour of the idea that we should try to do the best for everybody. Whether this is practically achievable is another question. The simplistic application of Utilitarianism seems to some people to imply that we may kill neonates with serious anomalies, and refrain from trying to help brain-injured patients recover from the Persistent Vegetative State, in order to save the cost to society of their treatment. Simplistic formulations and applications of Utilitarianism, however, may not be faithful to Mill, himself. Mill's book, Utilitarianism, was a deep work of philosophical thought, showing sensitivity to, and a willingness to face nuances and exceptions in the spirit of philosophy.
A more recent utilitarianism, the bioethicist, Peter Singer, argued that it is SPECIESISM (q.v.) to formulate utilitarianism merely for the good of the greatest number of people. All beings, which are capable of suffering, should be taken into consideration. Thus, he argued that the phrase: the greatest number of sentient beings, should be substituted for the phrase: the greatest number of people. (FL)
UTILITY: The state of being useful or producing good. (DM)
UTILITY PATENTS: Usefulness or utility is one of the criteria used to evaluate patent applications. Utility patents are patents issued to inventors of any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition or any new and useful improvement there of. (DM)
UTOPIA: (Greek: ou ‘no’ + tópas ‘place’) An imaginary place or visionary ideal which describes an alternate system of political and social organization. Utopian literature and philosophy have become formal categories since introduced in Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ (1516). Utopia is often interpreted as dreams of ideal perfection, implying ‘good place’ (eu: ‘good’) instead of the more correct ‘no-place’ (ou: ‘no’), which created the category of dystopia (dys: ‘bad’). So the term ‘utopia’ also includes the subset of dystopias like Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ and Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, as well as schemes somewhere in-between. Utopians have had to deal with fundamental problems of ethics, society and human interaction. Varying visions of ideal society have been proposed, dealing with human behavior towards one another and the elimination of desire, selfishness and wrongdoing. Utopias have been criticized on the basis of their social uniformity, and justification for unnatural proposed changes to human nature. In fact, and at the dystopian end of the spectrum, have been ideas of eugenic genocide (Hitler), selective extermination (Pol Pot), and authoritarian punishment (Lenin). Alternate proposals have included the middle way to self-enlightenment (Buddha), and in the fictional utopias altruism (Campanella), mood altering drugs (Huxley), the abolition of family (Plato) or of the legal system (Morris). Other bioethical dilemmas tackled by the utopian literature include justice, relation to nature, feminism, child-rearing, disability, abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, sexual promiscuity, and broader ethical debates such as good versus evil in human nature, reason versus passion, social welfare versus freedom, and collectivism versus individuality. Utopian visionary journeys have included those of Plato’s ‘Republic’ (c.360bce); Tommaso Campanella ‘City of the Sun’ (1602); Francis Bacon ‘New Atlantis’ (1627), Etienne Cabet ‘Voyage to Icaria’ (1839); William Morris ‘News from Nowhere’ (1891); H.G. Wells ‘A Modern Utopia’ and ‘Men Like Gods’, and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Island’ (1962). Perhaps the modern utopian writers are idealistic environmentalists and futurologists of popular science such as those investigating the revolutionary potential of genetics, nanotechnology and cyberia. (See DYSTOPIA, ESCHATOLOGY, FUTUROLOGY, HUXLEY, MORE, NANOTECHNOLOGY, OMEGA POINT THEORY, PEACE, SCIENCE FICTION, SUSTAINABILITY) (MP)
VACCINATION: (Latin vacca 'cow'). Any inoculation of killed or attenuated disease-bearing microorganisms given to induce immunity to or reduce the adverse effects associated with that particular disease. Vaccination can be administered by injection (intramuscularly, subcutaneously or intradermally) or by oral dosing. Vaccinating children against such diseases as measles, whooping cough, diphtheria and polio has been made compulsory in a number of countries. However, some oppose compulsory vaccination programs because, like any inoculation, it may infrequently cause infection and even more infrequently induce severe allergic reactions. (See IMMUNE SYSTEM, IMMUNITY, JENNER, VACCINE). (IP)
VACCINE: (Latin vaccinus 'relating to the cow'). A preparation containing killed or attenuated disease-bearing microorganisms used to induce immunity to that particular disease. Vaccines may be used as single or combination preparations. (See IMMUNE SYSTEM, IMMUNITY, JENNER, VACCINE). (IP)
VALIDATION: The process of assessing the validity of a theory, argument or statistical result. This usually involves an independent check of the reported results, preferably including investigation of the same topic from a different angle. (See KNOWLEDGE VALIDATION, SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS, VALIDITY) (MP)
VALIDITY: Validity is a property of reasoning, arguments or logical inferences. Valid reasoning has coherence and agreement of its premises, which together logically imply the conclusion (whether or not any of these are actually true). In non-philosophical parlance, a valid argument must in addition not be a weak argument or include false statements. Validity can also be property of measurement and modeling, for example content, construct and criterion validity. (See COHERENCE, PROOF, VALIDATION, VERACITY, VERIFICATION) (MP)
VALIUM: See DIAZEPAM.
VALUE 1. The worth of something/someone, can be monetary worth, aesthetic worth, ethical worth or worthy as a means in itself 2. of a thing as measured by the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged, or estimated in terms of a medium of exchange (from Old French valeir meaning worth). (IP)
In general it means the importance or worth, price put by humans on a species / natural resources / concept. Measured in terms of utility for humans, e.g. time spent on an item. Intrinsic value is the concept of independent existence, having a predetermined purpose of a species/organ, places an objective value on individual animal, species, ecosystem, biosphere. See the concept developed by Holmes Rolston III, for example. A hierarchy of values is giving different values in the order of importance of organisms/ecosystem. (JA)
VARIABLE: 1. Containing variety, fluctuating. 2. In statistics, a measurement or attribute, able to be graphed and analyzed. (See DEPENDENT VARIABLE, DIVERSITY, INDEPENDENT VARIABLE) (MP)
VARIANCE: A measure of dispersion, variance is equal to the standard deviation squared. (See MEASURES OF DISPERSION, STANDARD DEVIATION) (MP)
VARIETY refers to a distinct group of plant or animal within the same species that share a number of characteristics which are passed on from one generation to the next and which distinguishes the plant/animal of one variety from those of another. (IP)
VASECTOMY: Sterilization of a man by surgical excision of a part of the vas deferens. (DM)
VDRL TEST: Venereal Disease Research Laboratory Test, a microscopic agglutination screening test for the detection of Waisermann antibodies in the serum of syphilitic patients. (JA)
VECTOR: DNA molecule originating from a virus, a bacterium, or the cell of a higher organism used to carry additional DNA base pairs; vectors introduce foreign DNA into host cells, where it can be reproduced in large quantities. Examples are plasmics, cosmids and yeast artificial chromosomes. (DM)
VEDAS: (Sanskrit: ‘knowledge’). Sacred literature of Hinduism, composed from around 1500 BCE and comprising the four Vedas: the ‘Rig Veda’ containing hymns of praise, the ‘Suma Veda’ with sacrificial chants, the ‘Yajur Veda’ with sacrificial formulae, and the ‘Atharva Veda’ comprised of spells and legends. The Vedas were appended with the ‘Brahmanas’, ‘Aranyakas’ and ‘Upanishads’, which were more philosophically inclined and highlighted non-sacrificial means to salvation. (See Upanishads) (IP & MP)
VEDAS: (Sanskrit: "knowledge"). Sacred literature of Hinduism, composed from around 1500 BCE and comprising the four Vedas: the "Rig Veda" containing hymns of praise, the "Sama Veda" with sacrificial chants, the "Yajur Veda" with sacrificial formulae, and the "Atharva Veda" comprised of spells and legends. The Vedas were appended with the "Brahmanas", "Aranyakas" and "Upanishads", which were more philosophically inclined and highlighted non-sacrificial means to salvation. (See UPANISHADS) (IP , MP)
VEDIC: A period in Indian/Asian cuLture, dating back 3,500 BC to 800 BC. Features include personification of nature, ascribed divinity to natural resouces like rivers, mountains, water, air, fire, land. (JA)
VEGETARIANISM: The custom of eating only vegetable products and no meat. Vast numbers of vegetarians, especially in India, also eat milk and milk products. In some parts of the world, notably Bengal, fish is accepted as part of a vegetarian diet. It can be debated whether eggs are acceptable. Reasons for vegetarianism may be (1) respect for the rights of animals, (2) health, (3) spirituality. The Brahmin caste in India is traditionally vegetarian. They are also known for a high standard of health.
Many people believe that eating meat is necessary for their health, while others successfully live long, healthy vegetarian lives. There might be a "gene for vegetarianism" in the sense that certain people, perhaps including the Brahmins, might have genetic sequences, which produce enzymes, or other substances, which allow them to get optimal nutrition from non-meat sources. But this hypothesis has not yet been adequately researched. Another hypothesis, which has not yet been adequately researched, proposes that younger, growing people need meat, while older people can do well on a vegetarian diet. (FL)