The Corpus Callosum

Bioethics at Starbucks

My colleagues, et alia, have been
writing ( href="http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/2007/12/steroids-for-academics.html">1
href="http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/2007/12/the_ethics_of_performance_enha.php">2
href="http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2007/12/cognitive_enhancers_in_academi.php">3
href="http://drugmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/doping-is-a-okay-according-to-nature/">4
href="http://sunaddict86.blogspot.com/2007/12/performance-enhancing-drugsfor-brain.html">5
href="http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2007/12/altered_mates_drugs.html">6
href="http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/drugs_for_brains.php">7
href="http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/12/is_it_cheating_to_take_brainen.php">8
href="http://womensbioethics.blogspot.com/2007/12/mothers-professors-little-helper.html">9
href="http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2007/12/taking_drugs_to_enhance_cognit.php">10)
about the ethical issues involved in
the use of drugs to enhance cognition.  This is all based upon
an article in Nature,
by Barbara Sahakian and Sharon Morein-Zamir: href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7173/full/4501157a.html">Professor’s
Little Helper
.  Inevitably, the
comparison to caffeine comes up.  

src="http://anerroroccurredwhileprocessingthisdirective.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/sbucks1_t.jpg"
height="513" width="400">

The idea is that is the use of caffeine is ethically
permissible, then
the use of synthetic drugs for the same purpose must be OK, too.
 

Note, however, that not everyone agrees that caffeine is OK.
 Mormons, in particular, eschew caffeine, because they think
it is wrong to ingest it.

Now, I’m not an expert on Mormon theology, so I could be wrong about
that.  But I think I am correct.  The reason is this:
when I was a kid, I attended a birthday party for someone who was in a
Mormon family.  The grown-ups made homemade root beer for the
occasion.  They explained that, by making it themselves, they
could be sure that there was no caffeine in it.

The root beer, by the way, was very good.


Much later, I was mildly amused to learn that homemade root
beer
contains a small amount of alcohol.  

Anyway, it is quite likely that the small amount of alcohol was too
small to have any discernible effect.  Perhaps it is ethical
if you drink just a little bit.

That got me to thinking: if the quantity is relevant to the ethical
calculus, is there some point at which a very large quantity of
caffeine becomes unethical?

Notice the picture at the top of this post.  That is a picture
of a gentleman who tried to find out.  He had gotten a coupon
for a free drink at rel="tag">Starbucks.  He decided to find
out what
the most expensive drink is.  This is not a trivial task,
because the various options can be combined in a variety of ways.
 

Eventually, he settled on what he thinks is the most expensive
Starbucks concoction: A 13-shot venti soy hazelnut
vanilla cinnamon
white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. It cost a total of
$13.76 (with tax).

src="http://anerroroccurredwhileprocessingthisdirective.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/sbucks2_t.jpg"
height="569" width="400">

Read about his experience href="http://anerroroccurredwhileprocessingthisdirective.com/2007/09/28/the-most-expensive-drink-at-starbucks/">here.
 He challenges anyone to find a more expensive Starbucks drink.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Briggs
    December 21, 2007

    That got me to thinking: if the quantity is relevant to the ethical calculus, is there some point at which a very large quantity of caffeine becomes unethical?

    A buzz has started on the science blogs around the world about the ethics of cognition enhancing drugs. I have seen the same baseline as you where caffeine is considered OK, but you do bring up an interesting point! I think it is just the start of a long lived, in depth debate not only being qualitative but now also quantitative! Happy Holiday!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  2. #2 Gingerbaker
    December 21, 2007

    Mmmmmmm…. Root Beer! :)

    And do you know the best thing about yummy root beer?

    It is real.

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