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AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS: An ethically perilous form of missiles and other robotic weapons, endowed with onboard ‘intelligence’ to locate themselves, navigate and destroy the enemy without direct external guidance or tele-operation from humans. Euphemistically called ‘smart’ weapons, they may in fact not be very smart - either in the immediate sense of killing, or in the broader philosophical sense of combining artificial intelligence with weapon systems. (See AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, MISSILES, ROBOTICS, VIRTUAL WARFARE) (MP)

AUTONOMY: (Greek: autos 'self' + nomos 'law') The governing of one's self according to one's own system of morals and beliefs. 1. the absence of external constraint and a positive power of self-determination often applied to the right of personal freedom in actions, choices, beliefs and preferences. Bioethics uses autonomy as self rule, though the term self-love has been 2. in political philosophy the right of self-government of community, group or state, to formulate and enforce its own laws, policies and affairs; being independently accountable 3. biological organic independence evolved and controlled by natural laws and not subject to any other [Greek autos meaning self and nomos meaning law] (IP+DM)

AUTOPSY: Postmortem examinations.

AUTORADIOGRAPHY: A technique that uses X-ray film to visualize radioactively labeled molecules or fragments of molecules. For example it is used in analyzing the length and number of DNA fragments separated by electrophoresis. (DM)

AUTOSOMAL DOMINANT DISORDERS: Disorders where inheritance of a mutation from one parent only (or arising anew during egg or sperm formation) can be sufficient for the person to be affected. Dominant disorders include familial hypercholesterolaemia, Huntington’s Diease, adult polycystic kidney disease and neurofibromatosis. (JA)

AUTOSOMAL RECESSIVE DISORDERS: Disorders, where for a person to be affected, a mutation has to be inherited from both parents. Such parents are usually unaffected carriers because they only have a single copy of the mutant gene. Recessive disorders commonly have onset in childhood and include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and thalassaemia. (JA)

AUTOSOME: A chromosome not involved in sex determination. A chromosome other than sex chromosomes. The diploid human genome consists of 46 chromosomes, 22 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes. (DM)

AUTOTROPHS: (Greek autos 'self' + trophe 'food') Are self-sufficient organisms that are capable of obtaining their energy for life from exclusively inorganic materials, water, and some energy source such as sunlight (photosynthesizing plants) or capture their energy from converting inorganic chemical reactions involving iron or sulfur (autotrophic bacteria) (Greek autos self + trophe food). (Contrast HETEROTROPHS) (IP)

AUXIN: (Greek: auximos 'promoting growth') A plant growth (cell elongation) regulator/hormone, used in tissue culture = indoleacetic acid (IAA). (JA)


AVES: (Latin: 'birds') Aves is the zoological class which comprises the birds. (See BIRDS, ORNITHOLOGY) (MP)

AVESTA: Most sacred text of the Zoroastrians (See ZORASTRIANISM). The earlier part of the Avesta, known as the Gathas, is a collection of short hymns. (AG)

AVIAN: Describing bird characteristics and bird life, an avian feature may also refer to a resemblance or relationship with the attributes of birds. (See AVES) (MP)


AWACS: Acronym for 'Airborne Warning and Control System', AWACS perform an important defense function against missile and other military attacks. (See MISSILE DEFENCE) (MP)

AWOL: Military acronym for 'Absent Without Leave', although not necessarily implying intentions of desertion. (MP)

AXIODRAMA: (Greek: axioma 'hold worthy'). A method of exploring issues of ethics, cosmic relationships or values where the protagonist can review his or her relationship with God, Satan, a guiding spirit, death and so on. (See PSYCHODRAMA, ROLE PLAYING, ROLE REVERSAL). (IP)

AXIOM: An assumption or statement assumed true for the purposes of further analysis or deduction. (See ASSUMPTION) (MP)

AXON: Each nerve cell has only one axon carrying nerve impulses away from the cell. They are usually longer than the dendrites, sometimes about 100 cm long. (See DENDRITES, NEURON). (IP)

AYURVEDA: (lit. "knowledge of life")- A traditional Indian system of medicine and holistic healing. This system is based on the idea of balance of the elements and energies in the body, and recognises the unique constitutional aspects of each individual. The constitutional differences between individuals are expressed in the three dosas, and their combinations (see TRIDOSA). The traditional texts of Ayurveda are written in the Sanskrit language. (AG)

AYURVEDIC MEDICINE: Is said to be the oldest medical system on which many other oriental medical systems are based. It is practiced predominantly in India and encompasses several therapeutic modalities (e.g. herbs, massage, diet, yoga and meditation) which aim to redress homeostatic imbalances in the 3 doshas or primary life forces. An emphasis is placed on balancing the physical, spiritual and mental aspects of a person (See AYURVEDA) (JW).
































BACKWITH-WIEDEMANN SYNDROME: A rare genetic disease with a predisposition to cancer of the kidney and liver before puberty, There appears to be a connection between children conceived by IVF birth technology and the genetic disorder. In USA, out of 63 children born with this disorder over 4% were IVF babies as on November 2002. Also called BW Syndrome, a genetic disorder occurring in about one in 15,000 births. Causes children to be born abnormally large, with large tongues and poor closures of the abdominal wall and are prone tohernias which needs surgical repair. (JA).

BACON ROGER (1214-1294) is credited with being the founder of experimental science (See SCIENTIFIC METHOD)

BACTERIA: (Greek: bakterion 'small stick') Bacteria (singular: bacterium) are small (between 1 and 10 microns) single-celled microorganisms whose genetic material is not enclosed in a special nuclear membrane. For this reason, bacteria are called procaryotes, from the Greek meaning prenucleus. Bacterial cells generally appear in one of several shapes; bacillus (rodlike), coccus (spherical or ovoid) spiral (corkscrew) or vibrios (comma-shaped) being the most common shapes. Individual bacteria may form pairs, chains, clusters, or other groupings and generally reproduce by a process called binary fission; that is, dividing into two equal daughter cells. For nutrition, most bacteria use organic chemicals, which in nature is derived from either dead or living organisms, however, some can manufacture their own food by photosynthesis and others from inorganic substances. Life on Earth as we know it would not exist if it were not for microorganisms because the microorganisms, bacteria mostly, play a key role in recycling essential nutrients when they decompose organic waste and dead plants and animals. Only a minority of all bacteria is pathogenic causing disease, while the vast majority benefit humans, other animals and plants (Greek bakterion meaning small stick) (see BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLE, MICROBIAL ECOLOGY, MICROORGANISMS). (IP, JA, DM)

BACTERICIDAL: Killing of bacterial using sterilization methods (JA)

BACTERIOPHAGE: Modified bacteriophages, like the phage lambda, are used as vectors to clone genomic DNA from different sources (i.e., mammalian DNA) in their natural hosts (E. Coli, also modified), and construct genomic libraries. (GK)

BACTERIOSTASIS: The inhibition of the growth and reproduction of bacteria without killing them. (JA)

BACULOVIRUS: A virus whose host is a bacterial cell; also called phage. As an insect virus it has a very large DNA (100-150 kb). Has been used to make DNA cloning vectors. It has been used as a viral insecticide and it is not pathogenic to vertebrates. (DM, JA)

BAHA'I: Religion established by Baha'ullah (Mirza Husayn-Ali Nuri) (1817-1892). This teaching places special emphasis on development of agriculture, the arts,sciences, and development of a universal language. (AG)

BALANCE: 1. A point of equilibrium between opposing forces; a stability, harmony, compromise or relational assessment, as in the 'balance of power' or 'balance of nature'. A balance must be maintained between ethics and technology, between ecology and economy, and between health and the pursuit of happiness. (See BALANCE OF NATURE, BALANCE OF POWER, EQUILIBRIUM, MIDDLE PATH) 2. One of the biological functions of the ear, balance is the maintenance of effective posture and locomotion with reference to an animal's weight distribution and gravity. (See HEARING) (MP)

BALANCE OF NATURE: The fluctuating equilibrium of natural ecological systems, in which proportions of different species are kept in balance by competition, adaptation, predator/prey relationships and symbiosis. It refers to natural ecosystems, communities and the biosphere in general where populations of all appear to be held roughly in equilibrium, and that disturbance of this harmony between organisms and the physical environment will have inevitable and generally unfavorable consequences for humankind. The phrase emphasizes the natural state as being one of balance which should be considered a critical bioethical concept (see also density-dependence). (See BALANCE, Density-Dependence, EQUILIBRIUM, NATURAL SELECTION, SYMBIOSIS) (MP+IP)

BALANCE OF POWER: The distribution of might and influence between nations or other competitive entities such that one cannot completely dominate the interests of the other. (See ARMS RACE) (MP)


BALLISTICS: Science of the motion of projectiles such as bullets and missiles, and more broadly also weapon physics such as explosive power (contained in the bullet not the gun), firing cap, firing pin, chamber, cartridge, shell, automatic/semi-automatic, trajectory, impact pattern etc. (See EXPLOSIVES, MISSILES) (MP)

BAR CHART: A graph consisting of bars whose lengths are proportional to quantities in a set of data; for example, a bar chart may illustrate how one variable such as height correspondingly increases with another linked biological variable such as concentration of a particular hormone. (See GRAPH, HISTOGRAM). (IP)

BASE PAIR: Two nucleotides (adenosine and thymidine, or guanosine and cytidine) held together by the bonds between individual bases. (DM+GK)

BASEL CONVENTION: Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989). (MP)

BASELINE MONITORING: An environmental or community study which provides baseline information on its condition at a point in time, for example a biodiversity inventory, against which future changes or developmental impacts can be measured. (See MONITORING, SCOPING) (MP)

BASQUE: Ethnic group in Europe, concentrated mainly in the Pyrenees. There are several million Basque in Europe, and a smaller population elsewhere, including in the United States. Their language is unrelated to any other European language, and it is even difficult to link their language with any outside of Europe. In their own language, the Basques refer to themselves as Euskadi. Famous Basques include St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and the sculptor Eduardo Chillida. (AG)

BATES, WILLIAM H. (1860-1931) American ophthalmologist. In 1919 he published a book called "Better Eyesight without Glasses", which has been reprinted many times. He has been much maligned by ophthalmologists, although it is difficult to find any scientific refutation of his doctrines in the medical literature. He has also been misrepresented by commercializers who pretend to teach the "Bates Method", but then teach eye exercises unrelated to the advice given in Bates' own book. Bates believed that vision problems are not a disease of the eye but a disease of the mind. The ability to see clearly is a function of the ability to imagine clearly. And -- since tension is an obstacle to good vision -- the first step is to stop caring so much whether you see clearly or not, and just relax. This latter advice resembles an attitude cultivated by Zen archers and other Japanese martial artists, although Bates did not mention these disciplines in his book. Anecdotally, some people report high success with Bates' method and others report that they cannot understand what he is trying to say. No controlled clinical trial has been reported to date. (FL)

BATTERY FARMING Form of FACTORY FARMING (q.v.) in which poultry (usually chickens) are kept in confinement at very high population densities for the production of eggs or meat. (MR)

BAYESIAN ANALYSIS: Problem analysis for decision-making in which semi-subjective probabilities are assigned to uncertainties so that they can be analyzed as risk and refined with experience. (See RISK ANALYSIS, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)

BCG VACCINE: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin Vaccine, an attenuated strain of Mycobacaterium bovis used to immunize against tuberculosis. (JA)

BEAUVOIR, SIMONE DE: (1908-1986). French writer, feminist, philosopher, leader of the post-war existentialist movement and early exponent of women's rights. In the 1940s de Beauvoir with Sartre formulated the principles of a modern existentialist philosophy that stressed the importance of personal experience in a largely meaningless world. According to these principles, people need to create their own ethical values and be responsible for their own actions. Many of her novels reflect this view - most notably 'The Blood of Others' 1948; 'All Men are Mortal' 1955; 'The Woman Destroyed' 1968. A long commitment to improving the status of women gave rise in 1949 to her immeasurably popular and controversial book 'The Second Sex'. 'The Second Sex' traces women's oppression by male-dominated society and effectively argues that women's inferior social position does not reflect biology but systematic political subjugation. Simone de Beauvoir's 'ovarian' work had a profound influence on the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s and influenced later feminist writers. (See DWORKIN, GREER). (IP)



BEGINNING OF LIFE: The time at which human individuality or personhood is considered to begin. In biological discussions it is also used to refer to the first living organisms to appear on the planet Earth (See EVOLUTION). (DM)

BEHAVIOR: (Middle English behaven "to hold oneself in a certain way"). 1. the activity or pattern of activities of a particular organism 2. the actions, reactions and activities of individuals under specific circumstances. Behavior is the outward expression of a complex interweaving of psychological, biological and social factors determined by each individual’s pattern of feelings and emotions. Healthy individuals with an inner sense of wellbeing are generally able to function adaptively in changing environments, that is, during periods of stress they retain flexibility according to the needs of the situation in order to balance behavior for self-expression with responsibilities to family and community. The foundations begin early in life even before birth as they represent the continuum of genetically determined and learned characteristics. Typically, every person has a fairly individual behavioral style with different individuals having a different mix of tending to be anxious, compulsive, depressed, passive, dependent, withdrawn and so on. Under stress, these particular coping styles become exaggerated, but remain simply extreme forms of the individual’s usual traits. (See BEHAVIOUR CONTROL, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE). (IP)

BEHAVIOUR CONTROL: Manipulation of the actions of a person or group by biomedical, psychological, or social means. (DM)


BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY: the branch of evolutionary ecology concerned with tracing the link between ecological factors and adaptive behavior in animals (see HUMAN BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY). (IP)

BEHAVIORAL GENETICS: The study of the effects of heredity on human behavior. (DM)

BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE: The science concerned with the actions or activities of any individual or species as matters of biological or psychological study. (See BEHAVIOR). (IP)

BEHAVIOUROME: A project proposed in 2002 by Darryl Macer to map the totality of ideas human beings can have, relating to moral decision making. This includes to compare the similarities and differences between individuals and cultures. After seeing patterns in cultural diversity, from those patterns a classification system for human ideas will emerge. In the end, we could understand the mind in the way that we are beginning to understand the body. See home pager and yahoo groups, (DM)

BELIEF: Agreement with a given world view. E.g. Belief in the existence of God. (JA)

BELL CURVE: The title of a controversial book that claimed race was linked to IQ; Herrenstein, Richard J. and Murray, Charles. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, The Free Press 1994, 845 pp. (See NORMAL DISTRIBUTION) (DM)

BENEFICENCE: The state of doing or producing good, compare to nonmaleficence. 1. in ethical theory doing and loving good, active kindness deed or work for others, bioethics = loving good 2. in science the obligation to maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms, reflecting on social and cultural implications [Latin "beneficum" meaning to gain prosperously as in benefit or blessing especially from God as in benediction] (IP+DM)

BENEVOLENCE: (Latin: bene volentem 'well wish') The desire that others should be free from suffering and pain. 1. desire to do good 2. theological virtuous disposition charitable, cultural differences in emphasis on moral importance of an action and the virtue from which it is undertaken - family emphasis on benevolence, amongst strangers act with beneficence. (JA+IP)


BENTHAM, JEREMY: (1748-1832) One of the founders of the Utilitarian movement in philosophical ethics. He tried to put ethics on a scientific foundation by interpreting good and pleasure, and evil as pain, and by proposing as calculus of pleasures and pains which would give a scientific measure of the rightness or wrongness of the action. Although a seminal thinker, his follower, John Stuart Mill (q.v.) is probably better known today. (FL)

BENTHOS: 1. Benthos is the bed or bottom of a body of water, including the layers of mud, silt or sand. 2. Benthos (or benthon; benthic organisms) are the animals and plants which live on the seabed or lake bottom. (See ESTUARY, SEAGRASS) (MP)

BEQUEST VALUE: Placing value on the existence of nature and resources, including willingness to pay for their preservation for the potential future benefit to one’s descendents. Bequest value is concerned with providing fair intergenerational access to nature’s useful potential and life support systems. (See ENVIRONMENTAL VALUATION, EXISTENCE VALUE, INSTRUMENTAL VALUE OF NATURE, INTRINSIC VALUE OF NATURE, OPTION VALUE, USE VALUE) (MP)

BERKELEY, GEORGE: ( 1685-1753) Irish Bishop and philosopher. Berkeley, California, is named for him because of his prophetic poem about the course of British Empire moving westward.. He argued that matter doesn't exist. What we call material objects are really collections of sense perceptions -- colours, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations -- which he called "ideas", and which he believed exist only in the mind. He was therefore the father both of radical Empiricism and of the Logical Positivist school in philosophy of science. He believed that we get our sense experiences directly from God, who needs no such intermediaries as material objects, and who gives us experiences not to teach us about a material world but to teach us moral lessons. (FL)

BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION: Information required for best decision-making and problem solving includes the following: meta-analysis; assessment of context and content; a variety of data, information, models and assumptions; combination of experimental, theoretical and philosophical resources; study of appropriate systems, processes, flows, component dynamics, emergent properties, uncertainties; understands human needs and motivations; uses integrated, strategic, precautionary and adaptive management; based on the principles of sustainability and bioethics; ecological, economic, social and cultural considerations; appropriate selection of indicators; evidence based management; environmental monitoring; adherence to the principles of science, logic and ethics. (See ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT, BEST CURRENT PRACTICE, INDICATOR, META-KNOWLEDGE, NEWLY EMERGED PROBLEM, PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)

BEST CURRENT PRACTICE: Awareness of the status of knowledge and technological change across the world in relation to advancements in environmental management or medical technology. Note that best current practice is often not most current practice. (See BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT, STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT, SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT) (MP)

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