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CARBON CYCLE: The redistribution of carbon between organisms and the atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial compartments. The cycle is primarily driven by the action of biological processes such as the removal of carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and its return to the atmosphere during respiration. Human utilization of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal, have resulted in carbon dioxide being produced and released into the atmosphere faster than it is being removed by living organisms (see CARBON, GREENHOUSE EFFECT, NITROGEN CYCLE, PHOSPHORUS CYCLE). (MP)


CARBON DIOXIDE: (Chemical formula CO2; Latin carbo 'coal' + Greek dis 'twice' and oxys 'sharp'). A colorless, odorless gas produced naturally by the complete oxidation of carbon. It occurs in the atmosphere 0.03% and is found in solution in sea-water and rivers. CO2 plays an essential part in metabolism and ecosystem stability - a waste product of cellular respiration (carbohydrate and fat metabolism) utilized by plants during photosynthesis. That is, plants absorb carbon dioxide to obtain the carbon needed to build their tissues while plants and animals expel the gas as a product of food oxidation. In its solid form (dry ice) it is used in the treatment of some skin conditions. It is also used in fire-extinguishers, aerated water and in the bakery industry where bubbles of carbon dioxide liberated by yeast (or baking powder) in the dough lightens the dough rendering it more palatable. (See CARBON FIXATION, GLOBAL WARMING, GREENHOUSE EFFECT, PHOTOSYNTHESIS, RESPIRATION). (IP)

CARCINOGEN: Substance that causes or increases the risks of developing cancer. (See Cancer). (DM)

CARDINAL NUMBERS: Whole numbers such as 1, 2, 3 ... that are used for counting or for specifying the total number of items. (IP)

CARDINAL VIRTUES: The traditionally primary virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. (See VIRTUES) (MP)

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE: (Greek kardia 'heart'). Any abnormal condition characterized by the dysfunction of the heart or blood vessels such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatic heart disease and systemic hypertension. In affluent western societies such as the USA and Australia, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. (See DISEASES OF ADAPTATION, GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME, STRESS). (SG2+IP)

CARING: With the rise of VIRTUE ETHICS (q.v.) a caring person is increasingly recognised in ethics as a particular instance of a good person. Caring is not to be equated with BENEFICENCE (q.v.), having a more relational quality to it. FEMINISM (q.v.) has seen caring as a central human virtue yet one that has traditionally been undervalued both in academic ethics in particular and in patriarchal societies more widely. It has been strongly argued that caring is central to such professions as nursing and teaching. (MR)

CARRIER: Someone who may transmit a recessive genetic condition but who normally does not show any evidence of the disease (DM). It is possible to distinguish two types of carriers, sex-linked and autosomal carriers. In the first case, only women are carriers, and may transmit the disease gene to either sex of her children, but only boys will be affected in a ratio of 1 in 2 (50% chance). In the second case, if both parents are carriers of a mutant gene, any child has a chance of 1 in 4 (25%) to suffer the disease (GK).

CARRIER TESTING: Used to detect individuals who possess a single copy of a gene which follows an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance. Such an individual will not normally develop any disease or disorder but may pass on the gene to his or her offspring.

CARRYING CAPACITY: Carrying capacity (represented by the symbol K in ecology) is the maximum population density able to be sustained by an environment for a prolonged period of time without causing lasting damage or degradation. The concept also has applications to human ecology, for example in international development, food production or ecotourism management. (See LIMITS OF ACCEPTABLE CHANGE, SUSTAINABILITY) (MP)

CARSON, RACHEL: (1907-1964). Biologist and writer whose 1962 book Silent Spring has widely been hailed as heralding the environmental movement in the West. Carson initially specialised in English but her ambition to become a writer was initially overcome by her interest in natural history. For much of her working life she was genetic biologist and then editor-in-chief for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In Silent Spring Carson presciently argued that chemical pollution, particularly through the widespread use of agricultural pesticides, was both killing wildlife and upsetting the balance of nature. (MR)

CARTEGENA PROTOCOL OF THE BIODIVERSITY CONVENTION: Ratified by fifty countries, this international treaty came into force on 11 September, 2003. It regulates the inter-country transfer of LMOs and GMOs. (DM)

CASUISTRY: A method of ethical analysis that emphasizes practical problem-solving through examining individual cases that are considered to be representative. (DM)

CATALYST: 1. A chemical which remains unchanged but acts to initiate or increase the rate of a chemical or biological reaction. 2. More generally, a catalyst may be any substance, course of action or idea which initiates or increases the efficiency of any process of change. (See ENZYME) (MP)

CATHEKONIC ETHIC: A philosophical principle that deals with the relationship between parts and the whole. (JA)

CATHOLIC: Universal. So, strictly, the Catholic Church is either the whole body of Christians or the whole Christian Church before it separated into the Greek (Eastern) and Latin (Western) branches. In practice, though, the Catholic Church is widely understood as the Roman Catholic Church, namely that part of the Latin Church which remained under Roman authority after the Reformation. Roman Catholic theology has been and remains important in much medical ethics, for example with regard to the PRINCIPLE OF DOUBLE EFFECT (q.v.) and such issues as ABORTION (q.v.), CONTRACEPTION (q.v.) and EUTHANASIA (q.v.), with Roman Catholic teaching being strongly and consistently against all three. (MR)

CAUCASIAN: a term once used to describe an appearance including light skin and straight light to brown hair; that is, generally meaning of European descent. (See RACE, RACISM). (SG2)

CAUSATION: An interaction which produces or brings something about, pertaining to the cause and effect relation. Causes have consequences; affects have effects; act-contact-impact over time. Causation implies a pre-impact necessary connection and constant conjunction. Correlation or logical necessity may not necessarily indicate causation. Many things have a plurality of causes, the multitude of which leads to ‘ultimate’ causation and the freedom/determinism debate. (See AFFECT, CORRELATION, EFFECT, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, PROOF) (MP)


CELL: The smallest component of life. Biological component of tissue - contains nucleus and cytoplasm (protoplasm). A membrane-bound protoplasmic body capable of carrying on all essential life processes. A single cell unit is a complex collection of molecules with many different activities all integrated to form a functioning, self-assembling, self-regulating, and self-reproducing biological unit. (DM)

CELL CULTURE: The propagation of cells removed from multicellular organisms in a laboratory environment that has strict sterility, temperature, and nutrient requirements. (DM)

CELL FUSION: The joining of the membrane of two cells, thus creating a single hybrid cell that contains nuclear matter from both the parent cells. (DM)

CELL HYBRIDIZATION artificial formation of living cells through hi-tech biotechnological process of genetic manipulation and recombination technology and by the fusion of two or more cells by means of techniques that do not occur naturally. (JA)

CELL SUSPENSION: Made by cutting bits of tissues when shaken in liquid nutrient medium forms a single cell or clusters of cell suspension and having similar property as that of adult plant/animal. (JA)

CELSIUS DEGREE (°C): (Swedish scientist Anders Celsius, 1701-1744). A unit of temperature difference equal to one hundredths of the difference between the temperatures of freezing and boiling water at one atmosphere pressure. On the Celsius scale water freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C. Also called centigrade. (See FAHRENHEIT, TEMPERATURE). (IP)

CELLULAR AUTOMATA: Software ‘organisms’ which emulate aspects of biology such as self-organization, replication, learning processes and adaptation to their environment. Genetic algorithms and/or artificial neural networks can create unpredictable programs ‘with a life of their own’ which have biological analogues such as heredity, fecundity, symbiosis, and the rapid evolution of complexity. (See ARTIFICIAL LIFE, ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORKS, GENETIC ALGORITHMS) (MP)

CELLULAR TRANSPLANTATION: Experimental transfer of cellular body components Eg. Blood transfusion, bone marrow /pancreatic islet cells. (JA)

CENSUS: 1. Statistics: a census is a survey which investigates every member of a statistical population to determine its parameters. 2. Sociology: a government- sponsored obligatory survey of all individuals in a country or region. Early censuses (from 1801 in Britain) were in the form of simple head-counts, but today census forms ask for a wide range of personal and household information. Privacy and trust issues make it preferable that the census be anonymous. Census data may be disaggregated to provide localized political, academic and market research. Social statistics are an important resource for investigating trends in social well being, stratification and sustainability. (MP)


CENTENARIAN: A person who has reached the age of one hundred years. (See LIFE EXTENSION) (MP)

CENTIMORGAN: A unit of measure of genetic recombination frequency. One centimorgan is equal to a 1 percent chance that a genetic locus will be separated from a marker due to recombination in a single generation. In human beings, 1 centimorgan is equivalent, on average, to 1 million base pairs. The recombination frequencies between two loci on a chromosome are not the same in both sexes, and may be quite different from one chromosomal region to the other. Therefore, genetic distances measured in centimorgans are just an approximate measure of the physical distance as measured in base pair units. (DM+GK)

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (CNS): The major coordinating components of the nervous system and associated nerve cords, normally including the cerebral ganglia (brain) and ventral nerve (spinal cord). (See AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM, BRAIN, NEURON) (MP)

CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU): The central 'brain' of the computer, able to perform logical and mathematical operations on data and control the execution of programming instructions. (See COMPUTER, MICROCHIP) (MP)


CENTRE FOR ASIAN AND INTERNATIONAL BIOETHICS: A centre under the Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.. The Centre conducts cross-cultural research into the foundations of ethics in Israeli and other Asian countries. It conducts a Mother and Child Health Education project, for Dalit (q.v.) village mothers in India, in cooperation with the Dalit Liberation Education Trust, and the Delta School of Nursing, Kadalure, Tamil-Nadu. The project began with the help of Mashav, the Department of International Cooperation of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The Centre is preparing similar projects for other locations in developing countries. (FL)

CENTRIC: Adj. Mode of living in line with the centrality given to a concept/person. See CENTRISM. (JA)

CENTRISM: A model of concentric importance, giving a centrality of living/placing an object/person/concept a central guiding force, other life activities are determined/controlled/regulated in terms of such a centrality of living. Eg. Theocentrism (God centred), biocentrism (life), ecocentrism (green technology), Anthropocentrism (human), webcentrism (computer). (JA)

CENTROMERE: The small junction area between the two arms of a chromosome. (DM+GK)

CERES: Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies.

CEPH-GENETHON (Centre d"_tude des polymorphismes humains). French cell and DNA bank keeping a collection of DNA samples and immortalized cell lines from 58 Caucasian family donors. The families representing the panel have large kindred (6 children) and 4 living grand-parents, accounting for 1.212 meiosis. It has also developed a high density microsatellite physical map for each human chromosome, suitable for linkage analyses. (GK)

CEPHALOPODA: Members of the mollusc class Cephalopoda include the nautilus, cuttlefish, squid and of course the octopus, generally considered to possess the greatest intelligence of invertebrate organisms. (See MOLLUSCA) (MP)

CERVIX: (Latin cervix "neck") that part of the uterus that protrudes into the cavity of the vagina - also called the "neck of uterus". Cancer of the cervix is a major cause of death among women (see CERVICAL CANCER, CERVICAL MUCUS, OVULATION METHOD OF FAMILY PLANNING). (IP)

CERVICAL CANCER: a neoplasm (abnormal development of cells that may be benign or malignant) of the uterine cervix that can be detected in the early, curable stage by the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear test. If left untreated cervical cancer invades the adjacent tissues and organs and eventually metastasizes through lymphatic dispersal. Carcinoma in situ, on the other hand, may be easily treated by excision or cryosurgery. Factors, which may be associated with the development of cervical cancer, are coitus at an early age, relations with many sexual partners, genital herpesvirus infections, multiparty, and poor obstetric and gynecologic care (see PAP SMEAR TEST). (IP)

CERVICAL MUCUS: a secretion of the lining of the upper portion of the cervical canal of the uterus. The mucus" consistency and appearance changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Around the time of ovulation, the volume of mucus increases and becomes thin, clear elastic, and easily penetrable by sperm; during the infertile periods of the menstrual cycle the mucus is thick and less penetrable to bacteria and sperm. The cervical-mucus method of birth-control is based on the detection of this change in the vaginal mucus in order to avoid intercourse during the likely fertile period. (IP)


CHAKRABARTY VS DIAMOND CASE: The famous Diamond V Chakrabarty case in 1980 deals with the patenting of a genetically modified “ crude oil eating” bacterium. The Supreme Court upheld the patent granted by 5-4 decision. The chief Justice Burger observed that the bacterium is a new one with markedly different characteristics with no comparable one in nature and has the potential for significant utility value in environmental protection and cleaning. (JA)

CHAIN REACTION: A self-sustaining series of reactions, in particular those of nuclear fission in which the particles released by one nucleus trigger the fission of at least as many further nuclei. (See CHINA SYNDROME, CRITICAL MASS, NUCLEAR FISSION, RADIOACTIVITY) (MP)


CHAOS THEORY: The notion in the natural sciences that a very small change in a system may have massive, unpredictable consequences. Memorably summed up by the 'Butterfly effect' in which it is possible, though of course, not certain, that the beating of a butterfly's wings in one part of the world may lead, a few weeks later, to a storm thousands of miles away. The indeterminacy of HEISENBERG’S UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE (q.v.) and chaos theory effectively ended belief in a Newtonian, determinate world-view in which an accurate description of a system allows its future to be predicted absolutely. Nowadays, for example, scientists predict that however accurate our measuring instruments and powerful our computers we will never be able to predict local weather variations more than a couple of weeks ahead. (MR)

CHARACTER: One set of symbols such as a letter, number, punctuation mark or symbol that can be represented in a computer. A character is stored and manipulated in the computer as a group of bits. (See BYTE). (IP)

CHASTITY BELT: a lock-and-key device said to be worn by some women in the Middle Ages to cover their genitals to prevent sexual intercourse during their husband's absence in battle etc. Similar devices have been discovered in the Caucasus and among the Cheyenne First Nation people in America. The use, if indeed they were made use of, of these devices epitomizes negative societal attitudes towards women by emphasizing their belonging - property of - another. (IP)


CHEMISTRY: The study of the states, reactions, and products of elements and compounds. (RW)

CHEMOSYNTHESIS: The formation or synthesis of organic nutritive substances in plants or animals by the use of energy derived from simple chemical reactions. For example, anaerobic bacteria such as the methanogens which live within the decaying sediments of bogs and marshes and produce methane gas. (See ANAEROBE, PHOTOSYNTHESIS) (MP)

CHEMOTAXIS: The process whereby bacteria that possess flagellae for propulsion sense a concentration gradient of a chemical substance in the medium and move either toward or away from it (see TAXIS). IP

CHEMOTHERAPY the treatment of diseases with chemical agents. The procedure involves the exploitation of biochemical differences between the disease process and the host tissue in order to interfere selectively with the disease process; for example, in selectively destroying cancer cells. Modern biochemical pharmacology is based on designing specific inhibitors targeted to discriminate against a metabolic process that is specific to the pathological condition. (IP)

CHERNOBYL: A city in the Soviet Republic of Byelorussia and the site of the world’s most disastrous nuclear accident in April 1986. The nuclear energy reactor breach caused widespread death and radioactive contamination, including hundreds of thousands of projected cancer deaths and radiation-related ailments such as endocrine/immune system problems and birth defects. (See BHOPAL, CHINA SYNDROME, NUCLEAR FISSION, RADIOACTIVITY, THREE MILE ISLAND) (MP)

CHI-SQUARE TEST: A measure of how well a theoretical probability distribution fits a set of data. The test is typically used in analyzing experimental data with standard normal distributions. (See ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE, SCIENTIFIC METHOD, STATISTIC). (IP)

CHILD ABUSE: physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment of an infant or child by any adult or adults. Major therapeutic and statutory concerns are identifying dysfunctional family members, friends or relatives and the children at risk. A duty of care falls on any individual who is confronted with children with obvious physical signs (the "battered-child syndrome") such as burns, welts, bruises, frequent physical mishaps/fractures, suspected sexual molestation, or signs of emotional distress and overall failure to thrive. Characteristically, abuse may be seen as the final behavioral consequence of multiple factors compounded by a variety of stressful circumstances; such as drug abuse, lack of emotional support within the family unit or lack of nurturing experience, possibly by victims of child abuse themselves. Child Sexual Abuse is the involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in sexual activities to which they are unable to give informed consent, and which violate the social taboos of family responsibilities. Despite recent insights, there still remain a large number of uncertainties and confusions surrounding child abuse. To some degree, this may be due to the particular protection society affords to "family business" and problems adults have in dealing with sexuality in themselves and in children. Additionally the area of child abuse is difficult to research objectively because it raises issues about power, secrecy, shame and guilt. (See ABUSE, DRUG ABUSE, elder abuse). (IP)



CHILDREN: In the US it is the age designation for humans 2-12 years old. (DM)


CHIMERA: An organism formed by the aggregation of cells taken from different genotypes. Chimeric embryos may occur naturally or artificially. An inter-species chimera is when the cells are from different species. Combination of unrelated species, ancient mythical gods with human-lion, human horse, human monkey, human-elephant head combinations in Hindu and Greek mythology. Insertion of foreign animal genes in plant/human in a particular species. Cell fusion of two species, Sheep-goat resulting in a Geep. See GEEP.

Ethical questions include - is it a sheep with pig genes, or is it a sheep or a pig? What percentage determines a species in transgenic? Is a human body with a pig head human or a pig? It dilutes the concept of speciation. (DM, JA)

CHINA SYNDROME: A term used to describe a catastrophic nuclear energy reactor core meltdown, in which the radioactive fuel would melt unstoppably into the earth, colloquially “all the way to China”. Chernobyl was a horrific example of the potential hazard posed by breach of the reactor containment vessel. Three Mile Island was a limited exposure of the core which came close to a total meltdown. (See CHAIN REACTION, CHERNOBYL, NUCLEAR FISSION, THREE MILE ISLAND) (MP)

CHINDOGU: A Japanese word for those practically useless consumer goods which are nevertheless commonly produced and purchased by the wealthy as a result of the temptations of glossy advertising. Chindogu may include novelty items, unwanted gifts, technological gizmos and other wasted resources. (See CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION) (MP)

CHLORDANE: Chlordane, also known as Octachlor, is a dangerous chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide, one of the 'dirty dozen' persistent organic pollutants. (See PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS) (MP)

CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS: Persistent organic pollutants including DDT, Dieldrin, Aldrin, Endrin and Chlordane used as pesticides but today maligned and phased out across much of the world because of their medical/ecological impacts such as toxicity and bioaccumulation. (See PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS) (MP)

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