(’05)A picture is always more powerful than mere words. What is your view?


(Introduction) ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’. This phrase is synonymous with the power we associate with pictures; that they can express much more than words ever can, they can affect people on a larger degree than words ever can, and that they will always be more powerful than words ever will be. While this may not be wrong, it is plainly an overstatement of how powerful pictures really are. I feel, pictures are not always more powerful than words. In some situations, they may be more powerful, but in others, words prove their worth.

(Refute 1) Some argue that picture is always more powerful. This is because, pictures are universal. Globally, people around the world, regardless of where they come from, would be able to understand the message a picture is trying to convey. On the other hand, words are dictated by language, and this limits the number of people who can understand them; a non-English speaker/learner would never be able to understand words in English unless he takes the effort to translate them into his own language. In this sense, the power of words to reach out to more people is inherently held back by its nature, causing pictures, which can reach out to all via a universal language, to be more powerful. For example, pictures are used as signage on restrooms’ doors, instruction manuals, and traffic and warning signs all over the world. Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, uses pictures to illustrate how to assemble their flat-box furniture, in a step-by-step manner, together. If this was not so, the cost of translating their instruction manuals for a global market would be prohibitive. Pop art, such as Che Guevera or works by Andy Warhol, can be seen worldwide, from the streets of the USA to the alleyways of a very different country, China.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Some words are universal too. Language does not matter. The ideas/stories in these words are known to many, if not everyone, in the world. In this case, pictures are not always more powerful than words. For instance, best-selling novels like the Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies and been translated into 63 languages. In another example, for more than four centuries, the world has been enthralled by the words of William Shakespeare. In ‘As You Like It’, he wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” His captivating metaphor of life as a play, and all human beings as actors, has transcended centuries and ages, and become immortalized in the English language. Shakespeare’s words are studied much more around the world today than the works of any painter. His oeuvre has made far more impact and moved more people than that of any painter or photographer.

(Refute 2) Still, some argue that picture is always more powerful. This is because, it also appeals to the emotions. Photographs, especially, are deemed by many people as a powerful form of communication, as it replicates every detail, every emotion perfectly. This often has an effect of amplifying anything the image depicts, and increases the ability to evoke emotions such as shock, happiness and depression. Such allows pictures to capture a period in time where words are just not adequate enough to express the situation fully. Some examples are: the fall of the Berlin wall, a student activist facing-off a Chinese tank in Tiananmen square, a starving African child being watched by a vulture, pictures of Japanese videographer Kenji Nagai being shot in Burma, and the Hindenburg as an inferno. The solemn yet triumphant raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima that was published in newspapers all over America the following day gave a war-weary American public renewed belief that the war could be won. The Mona Lisa, with her subtle smile, is regarded as one of the greatest works of mankind. Hence, pictures are always more powerful than words.

(Supporting 2) However, I beg to differ. Pictures tend to be limited (in depth) of what they can express; this usually leads to a picture romanticizing a scenario, without going into the depth and specifics of the idea. E.g. Painting of the storming of the Bastilles: It seems to show that the French revolution (Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!) was a sudden, catylmtic event where the people rose up and threw off their chains of oppression. In fact, the French Revolution was a brutal, drawn-out affair with infighting that led to reprisal killings against different factions of the revolution. Such superficiality of pictures mean that they may actually evoke less emotions from people compared to words, which are able to go into depth describing a scenario/event/idea.

(Supporting 3) Furthermore, words also can appeal to emotions. In fact, there have been many times where words moved people to feel and to fight, where great words have influenced people sufficiently enough for them to be translated into action. For example, In Martin King Luther Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, he said, “I have a dream, that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. “I have a dream,” he expounded, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His dream came true, and in no small part due to the power of his words. There was no picture that could have resonated in the hearts and minds of Americans and championed the cause of racial equality as resoundingly and powerfully as his words. (Another example is Winston Churchill’s wartime speech: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”) Others include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their ‘Communist Manifesto’, which inspired millions of workers to rise up against capitalists; Hitler, which engendered such deep hatred in his people as to drive them to genocide; Mahatma Gandhi, which galvanized and enlightened Indians to seek change through non-violent means. As shown, words are just as powerful as pictures in affecting people’s emotions/actions, therefore, pictures are not always more powerful than words.


(’14)Do films offer anything more than an escape from reality?

Related: (’04)Discuss the appeal and value of fantasy stories and films.

(’01)A film has one purpose- to entertain. Using examples, consider this view.


(Introduction) The history of cinema now spans more than a century. One could say that the twentieth century was the first century to be recorded in motion pictures. But what is the purpose of motion pictures and what do they offer? Many say that films only entertain, by providing us an escape from reality. In this sense, they have much appeal, but little value. However, in my belief, films offer much more than just that. Through the stories told in films, certain meaningful messages/themes are discussed. Furthermore, films are also a source of revenue/profit for the filmmaker/film company, and some reflect our reality to us, serving as a record of the world itself.

(Refute 1) Some say films only entertain. This is because, Popular films often have fictional plots, an imaginary story that happens in an imaginary setting, detached from real life. Such only offers viewers an escape from reality, allowing them to immense themselves in the imaginary world, and ultimately, entertainment from doing so. For example, fantasy stories told through film such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings series brings viewers to a whole new world (literally), where characters and beings such as wizards, dwarfs, goblins, non-existent in the real world, become a reality.  Science fiction and cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner and Inception allow us to get a glimpse of alternative realities, of what the world could be like, whether in past, present, or future. Such unrealistic films would not have taught viewers any real, practical things, and hence just exists as a form of entertainment, for people’s enjoyment purposes.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Indeed, fictional films usually do not teach viewers any tangible things, but they almost always leave viewers with something intangible. Through the themes explored, subtle social commentary, and character development, viewers may be able to realize something, or start pondering over certain collective beliefs and big topics in society, such as the nature of humanity. Using Inception again, the main character, Dom Cobb, is a skilled thief who steals valuable ideas from within the sub consciousness of others. Hired by Saito, a highly powerful businessman, he and his team now has to do the reverse: to plant an idea instead of steal one. Through the process of manipulating other people’s sub consciousness, Cobb deals with subconscious issues of his own. He does so by burying them in a prison he created to dump them in, and locked them away without intending to address them. However, this only caused his inner issues to come back to taunt him even more, surfacing in different ways; at first sporadic, then later on frequent, and in the most unexpected situations. They were self-sabotaging. Such thus allows the viewers to learn that avoidance is never a solution to anything, and that the best way to deal with our issues is to deal with them straight on. The ‘Rocky’ film series, the story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time club fighter who later gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship, gives viewers an inspirational take on the value of determination, grit, and never giving up. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, not all films are fictional. Documentary films present certain information or events, seen or unseen, that exist, or have existed, in reality. Their purpose is to impart knowledge of this subject to viewers, let them understand, be aware of these issues and know what the world needs today. Citizenfour, a 2014 documentary film, is about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. Super Size Me, directed by Morgan Spurlock, is a social experiment on fast-food gastronomy which sees him attempting to subsist uniquely on food from McDonald’s for an entire month. In the process, he gains weight, his energy level plummets and he experiences many unexpected and terrifying side effects. The film also examines the corporate giant’s growing role in the lives of American consumers and explores its methods of indoctrinating young people and its contribution to America’s obesity epidemic. In An Inconvenient Truth, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment. As shown, rather than a form of entertainment and an escape from a reality, these films are the reflections of realities that the audience is living in now. Hence, films offer more than just entertainment.

(Refute 2) Some say films only entertain. This is because, film techniques that have been developed evidently seem to be only targeted towards increasing the entertainment factor for viewers. Increasingly sophisticated techniques are used to delight and entertain audiences. For instance, animated films, which involves the display of rapid movement in an art work, usually more vibrant and dramatic compared to their live action counterparts, has become more widespread. The advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) also made it possible to do spectacle more cheaply and on a massive scale.  CGI techniques and visual effects can be used to create realistic images of people, landscapes and events, both real and imaginary, and also to animate non-living items such as Lego. Furthermore, with the rise of 3-D technology and films, once 2 dimensional images projected onto a flat cinema screen come to life in full 3 dimensional glory. Much technologies were created just to make movies seem more entertaining than they actually are, and give viewers a better movie experience. As seen, given the amount of work put into making a film interesting and entertaining, the sole purpose of film is to do just that.

(Supporting 3) However, I beg to differ. Another purpose of the film is to create profits for the film-makers. That is the ultimate reason why such technologies are developed for and used in films nowadays. By doing so, films remain more relevant with the tastes and preferences of the current generation, allowing them to gain popularity, and eventually have a higher gross in the box office. The highest grossing film to date, with worldwide box-office gross of about $2.8 billion, Avatar, utilized many special visual effects and CGI. The studio created over 1,800 stereoscopic, photo-realistic visual effects shots. In addition to digital characters and environments, the machines, vehicles, and equipment in the movie were also digitalized to further blur the line between imagination and reality. Animated family films have also performed consistently well in the box office. Disney enjoyed success with films such as Frozen (the highest-grossing animated film) and The Lion King and also with its Pixar brand, of which the Toy Story films and Finding Nemo have been the best performers.  Beyond Pixar animation, the Shrek, Ice Age, Madagascar and Despicable Me series have met with the most success. As seen, films with these technologies fared better with the crowd. Hence, aligning with a film’s purpose to create money, many film-makers use, and film companies develop, such technologies. In this case, the purpose of a film is more than just entertainment.

(’10)The book has no place in modern society. Discuss.

Related: (’03)Does the book still have a future?

(’08)Nowadays, the pleasures of reading can never compete with the pleasures of visual entertainment. To what extent do you agree?


(Introduction) Since the early ages, books had been hugely important to human civilization, as instruments for communicating information and ideas. However, in this age of information and technology, everything once written in books can be quickly brought online, adapted into films, and transcribed onto our screens. Undeniably, this has made life much more convenient and entertaining. But, this also means that the functions of books will be, somewhat, replaced. Technology provides a faster and more convenient way for us to do many things, compared to books. Still, I believe, there is much value in books. Books put readers through an irreplaceable experience. The internet can never take away the feeling of reading a book, nor the connection between the reader, characters, or even the author, at that given moment. Hence, I believe, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Refute 1) Some may say that the book has no future. This is because new media has replaced books’ informative purposes. Information, ideas, and knowledge once written in books can be, and will be, eventually, all brought online, or made into e-books. The Amazon Kindle, a series of e-book readers, has over 3.2 million e-books available in its database. The internet itself has several zettabytes (1 000 billion gigabytes) of data. Sometimes, this medium is even better than paper books. For instance, Apple’s ibooks provide interaction between ‘book’ and reader, unlike paper books that only allow for passive reading. Furthermore, the internet makes the information once on books quicker and easier for people to access. When people want to know something, they will usually venture online to do a search, instead of going to the library or bookstore to find a book with answers, as this takes up less of their time. As seen, books that once served as sources of knowledge and information are replaced by the better alternative. Hence, the book has no future.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. The internet does have a bigger pool of information that is more easily available at our disposal. But how effective is it in transmitting that information to us, and making sure that that information is retained in our heads? We would probably remember what we read from a book, but not what we read on the net from 3 weeks ago. For example, in a 2011 experiment published in Science Magazine, college students remembered less information when they knew they could easily access it later on the computer. Precisely because of how easy information is made readily available to us on the net, our brains start to disregard this type of information, with the mentality, ‘I’ll still be able to find it online easily, later.’ In contrast, because information from books was harder for us to find, we tend to remember it, in fear of never finding it again. This is why many textbooks and academic books still come in print, and many have been continually revised, reprinted over the years. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Refute 2) Still, people argue that books have no future because their leisure purposes have also been replaced. In the past, reading a book was a good way to unwind and relax, as a form of escapism for readers. However, with the advancements in technology, there are now other, better platforms of escapism. These include movies, drama, and film; books were gradually adapted to the big screen, and people opted to watch those instead of read the original book. Simply because, they bring the book to life (literally), allowing people to actually see what the book was describing. Static words and sentences are replaced by real-life, moving images. This change definitely seems appealing. In some cases, this resulted in the movie/film series overshadowing the original book. E.g. ‘Jaws’ movie series (Who knew they were actually adapted from a novel?) Other than that, with the development of avenues such as video games that are more stimulating and exciting compared to books, and engages a person to a larger extent, books that once served as sources of leisure and entertainment have also been competed out by their better counterparts. Hence, the book has no future.

(Supporting 2) However, I beg to differ. Indeed, while the new mediums have their merits, they have not taken away the appeal of books. The appeal of a book is that the reader is able read the story at his/her own pace. Every flip of the page is decided by the reader. The reader takes charge. This is not possible for a moving film, unless one is able to bear pausing and rewinding portions of the film over and over again. Furthermore, books also allow for readers’ imagination. When movies and films present everything to their viewers, they leave no room for imagination. Everything is just as it seems. However, for a book, the same words may mean many different things to different readers. Everyone is allowed to interpret the stories, the ideas, the characters, their own way. This way, books provide more satisfaction compared to films. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(Supporting 3) Furthermore, functions of books have expanded since ancient times, and they have also adapted, along with others, to today’s modern society. This allows them to stay relevant today, and in the future. For instance, Books have become therapeutic, and not in sense of merely providing inspirational quotes or advice (the internet can do that); some have become specifically therapeutic in nature, and they are gaining popularity with the public of society. For example, Bestselling books in Amazon include coloring books for adults: Secret Garden: An Inky treasure hunt and Coloring book, and Enchanted forest: An Inky quest & Coloring book, both by Johanna Basford. Secret Garden: An Inky treasure hunt and Coloring book has sold 1.4 million copies. Colouring is a therapeutic activity that allows people to zone out, relax and focus on a simple task. The process of filling in black and white drawings with colour can be paralleled with the process of filling up their stressed-up lives with good and vibrant things. Such can only be done on paper books. The computer only simplifies the process with the ‘fill’ function on Paint, causing the therapeutic effect to be lost. In an increasingly fast-paced, stressful society, such books would only become even more relevant in the future. As seen, this is one function of the book that can never be replaced by the technology, among many others. Hence, the book still has its appeal, and its future, in today’s modern society.

(’14)Discuss the view that, with an increasing global need for energy, every possible source should be exploited to the full.

Related: (’07)Is it possible to protect the environment when many countries require increasing amounts of energy to progress?


(Introduction) A popular Saudi Arabian proverb runs: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father drove a car, I fly a jet plane, my son will ride a camel.” This saying is reflective of mankind’s current energy situation; we, as a species, have already consumed 1.5 earth’s worth of resources. If we continue to consume at our current level of energy consumption, earth’s resources will not last us for long. In view of this, some say that every possible energy source should be fully exploited, to get as much energy possible out of the limited resources. But, I feel, this should not be the case. This is because, exploitation of certain energy sources, such as fossil fuels, will actually fuel the sustainability problem and cause many environmental problems. Hence, instead of exploiting every energy source blindly, we should focus on developing alternative energy sources, namely, renewable, nuclear energy, while cutting back our reliance on fossil fuels, and also use energy more efficiently and conservatively.

(Refute 1) Some argue that every possible source should be exploited. This is because, even at the present, people in some places do not have enough energy to sustain their daily livelihoods. Reports estimate that one person in five still lacks electricity (1.3 billion people). Nearly forty percent of the world’s population (3 billion people), still rely on traditional sources of energy, such as wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. Given that the present energy needs are still not met, and that future needs are going to increase (International Energy Agency’s annual World Energy Outlook forecast that global energy demand will increase 37% by 2040), the world does not have leeway to slow down exploitation. Every possible energy source needs to be exploited to solve the current, more urgent problem of bringing these people and countries out of their energy shortage situation first. Developed countries, with higher technology, should start using more renewable energy sources, leaving developing countries with more fossil fuels to meet their basic energy needs. As developing countries become more affluent and technologically advanced, they should also use more renewable energy. As seen, there is no possible way for exploitation of energy to slow down. If the world still leaves some energy sources untouched, the current energy shortage problem will only compound, and future will be even bleaker. Hence, exploitation of all possible resources is justified.

(Supporting 1) However, I beg to differ. Energy sources, especially fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, should not be fully exploited, as this method is unsustainable. On the surface, exploitation may seem to reduce the energy problem, but the issue of sustainability worsens. Fossil fuels are limited and are expected to vanish soon. The world could still have oil reserves that would fill 800 million barrels. But it is getting scarcer, and current estimates suggest we will run out between 2025 and 2070. Current natural gas deposits fill around 6000 trillion cubic feet that could, with the current level of usage, last for about 50 years. Coal has the greatest reserves, spread all over the Earth. If we carry on using coal at the same rate as we do today, we could have enough coal to last well over a thousand years. However, as other fossil fuels run out, particularly oil, the use of coal may increase, reducing that time span considerably. As shown, energy sources are depleting, and will all not last long, being substitutes of each other. Once exploited, there will be even less remaining, causing people to be even more frantic in their exploitation of the remaining few deposits, creating a vicious cycle that will only drive up the prices of these scarce resources and prevent people who really need energy from getting it. Hence, exploitation is unjustified.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, energy sources such as fossil fuels create environmental damage, so they should not be fully exploited. From exploitation of fossil fuels, there has been a huge damage to the environment. Extraction process for oil destroys natural habitats, while its refining process requires the use of toxic chemicals. Mercury contamination, ozone pollution and acid rain stem from the burning of coal. The burning of such fossil fuels also contribute to global warming, as carbon dioxide, a gas that traps heat below the earth’s atmosphere, is emitted, causing a greenhouse effect. Hence, exploitation is unjustified.

(Alternative 1- use more carefully) Alternatively, they could be fully exploited, but exploited more carefully to protect the environment. Instead of selfish, careless exploitation of these resources, more care could be taken to make sure that the process is more environmentally friendly, either by capturing the harmful by-products, or by eliminating them altogether. For instance, Carbon Capture and Storage, a process that captures the carbon dioxide generated from fossil fuel power stations and other energy intense industrial processes and stores it underground, stops it from entering the atmosphere. Fracking, the process where rock is fractured apart by the high pressure water mixture to extract oil and gas, can also be carried out more carefully, to prevent potentially carcinogenic chemicals from escaping and contaminating groundwater around the fracking site.

(Alternative 2- target use of alternative sources) As such, instead of exploiting every possible energy source (fossil fuels), alternative energy sources such as renewable energy, nuclear energy should be made to better use. This is because, these energies are cleaner and more sustainable compared to fossil fuels. Sources such as strong winds, heat within earth, moving water, and solar energy can provide a vast and constant energy supply, without greenhouse gas and net carbon emissions. They do not generate waste products such as carbon dioxide and other more toxic by-products, dramatically reducing toxic air pollution. Nuclear energy is similar, and the amount of energy released is about 60,000,000 times as much as when a carbon atom burns. As seen, these energy sources have great potential (in generating energy), and are better than fossil fuels in the sense that they do not face the problem of scarcity, and pose less of a threat to the environment. However, they are still not used extensively. Still, about 80% of energy comes from fossil fuels. Hence, I feel that more targeted effort should be put into the usage and development of these energy sources, instead of traditional resources.

(Alternative 3- change consumer habits) Lastly, we should not exploit every energy source, because, ultimately, to sustain our energy, a reduction in energy demand through improved energy efficiency and conservation is the best (and only) solution. While energy sources provide solutions to the world’s energy woes, it is but a neutral force that requires people to utilize in meeting the goal of energy sustainability. Hence, it is pertinent to instead correct our use of energy sources. Specifically, we should use energy more efficiently and conservatively. However, since many have become used to using energy wastefully, there is a need for government coordination to change our consumerist behavior. This will involve stricter product regulations as well as public education programmes to encourage people to think differently about energy. Governments should also address the issue of financing, providing cheap loans to households and small businesses with which they can carry out the necessary improvement works. For example, Cleantech, a division of the Economic Development Board Singapore that offers assistance to businesses that specialize in clean technology is a good example of what government can work towards.

(’11)How far should medical resources be used to extend life expectancy?

Related: (’98)‘The first duty of a doctor has always been to preserve life.’ How far can this principle still be maintained?

(’03)Should medical science always seek to prolong life?


(Introduction) Shakespeare had King Lear lament the tortures of aging, while the myth of Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, Sumerian tale of “Gilgamesh” and the eternal life of the Struldbrugs in “Gulliver’s Travels” all fed the notion of overcoming aging and immortality. These may be more than fiction now. Research from the World Health Organization claimed that people are living longer, healthier lives now than they did in the past. The global life expectancy increased from around 64 years in 1990 to about 70 years in 2011. The notion of possibly continuing this trend forever becomes an increasingly relevant concern that we, as a society, should deliberate about.

(Refute 1) Some say that medical science should always seek to prolong life, as that is what medicine and medical resources are used for. That is its ultimate purpose. Whether in the fields of maintenance of health, the prevention or treatment of disease, research done develops inventions of medicines, vaccines, or techniques that eventually enable an individual to live longer. Furthermore, practitioners of medicine have a duty to preserve the lives of their patients. In many countries, doctors/physicians recite the Hippocratic Oath upon entering medical practice. One of the oldest binding documents in history, this Oath written by Hippocrates is of great historic and traditional value. Most of the Hippocratic Oath has been revised over the centuries, to encompass current values; today, it is most often cited as a single phrase, “First, do no harm”. The significance of the Hippocratic Oath hence does not reside in its specific guidelines, but rather, in its symbolism of an ideal: the selfless dedication to the preservation of human life. Therefore, aligning with the purpose of medical science and the responsibilities of a medical professional, medical science should always seek to prolong life.

(Supporting 1) I feel, while the above is indeed true, in some situations, aggressive medical treatment to prolong one’s life will only become sanctioned torture. This is especially true for patients who have little hope of surviving through/recovering from their diseases. When technology and medicine are used to simply keep them alive (life support), their suffering increases. Life support machines such as pacemakers, defibrillators or ventilator, may lead to unnecessary pain. Defibrillators reboot the heart with a powerful shock when it races uncontrollably or falls into quivering arrhythmias, sometimes causing excess shock to patients. When they did, patients would feel as if they have been kicked in the chest by a horse. In intensive care units (ICU), patients who require a combination of such devices to keep them alive will then be often consigned for weeks or even months to a medical purgatory, attached by tubes in their tracheas to ventilators, with catheters protruding from their necks, chests, abdomens or bladders. When awake, they are in constant discomfort, chronically deprived of sleep, so they are often sedated to the point that they are no longer in communication with their environment. Under such circumstances, it may be considered immoral to keep using medical resources to extend their lives. Hence, medical science should not always seek to prolong life.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, medical science should not always seek to prolong life, because when more people live longer, there is consequently additional burden on society. Already, many developed countries face the problem of an ageing population; if life spans of people were to be extended even more than necessary, social, economic and political problems will only build up. A good case in point would be Japan, the first major nation to turn gray. Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancy rates; women on average live to 87 and men to 80; but its public debt in 2013 hit $10 trillion, twice the nation’s GDP. As life expectancy rises, a Japanese person entering early adulthood may find that parents and grandparents both expect to be looked after. Because the only child is common in Japan’s newest generation, a big cast of aging people may turn to one young person for financial support, or care giving, or both. Politically, the young in Japan have some of the world’s worst voter-participation rates, as they think the old have the system so rigged in their favor, there’s no point in political activity. Hence, in mind of these negative consequences, medical science should not always seek to prolong life.

(Alternative view- a concession of sorts) However, since the above argument is based on the assumption that medical science only prolongs life without prolonging health, some would counter it by arguing that in the process of aiming to increase life expectancy, solutions/cures to many other problems/diseases that plague human health will also be found. Hence, medical science should always seek to prolong life. Instead of concentrating on the prevention/cure of individual diseases, for instance cancer (which is a roundabout way to prolonging life, and may lead to other repercussions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, according to Olshansky, a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Public Health), when scientists directly aim to prolong life, they target the ageing process. As scientists investigate the details of this process with a view to finding ways to slow/prevent it at its root, they fend off the whole slew of diseases that come along with ageing. These include chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, which are now more prevalent. In another example, A recent clinical trial by Novartis that tests an anti-ageing drug in healthy elderly volunteers from Australia and New Zealand also enhanced their immunity to flu by 20%. Hence, given that there is evidence that medical science which seeks to prolong life can improve health along with longer life, medical science should always seek to prolong life.

(Alternative view, cont.) As such, if science really manages to achieve the above, life might extend in a sanguine manner, with most men and women living longer in good vigor and also working longer. This will partially negate additional burdens/negative consequences on society, as pension and health-care subsidies are kept under control. In fact, many of the work being done in longevity science concerns making the later years vibrant, as opposed to simply adding time at the end. More than two decades ago, scientists discovered the daf-2 and daf-16 genes in worms that can be changed in a way to cause the invertebrates to live twice as long as is natural, and in good vigor. Now, Buck Institute, the first independent research facility dedicated to extending the human life span with better health, has quintupled the life span of laboratory worms. Their focus is on extending the ‘health span’ of an individual, so that people are still able to maintain a healthy, quality way of life, even in their last few years. Furthermore, one of the main findings of a Harvard University study published in 2013 shows that quality of life has already been improving, even as people live longer; most people now no longer are very sick for six or seven years before they die. Instead, that stretch of poor health has shrunken to about a year or so. With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be. Such is the win-win situation that longevity science manages to create. Hence, medical science should always seek to prolong life.

(Conclusion) Although it has to be acknowledged that the above views are valid, there will definitely be situations where treatment to prolong life becomes torture instead (as previously discussed). Therefore, we cannot say that medical science should always seek to prolong life; even if they ensure that the person, living longer, stays healthy and maintains a quality standard of living, there will definitely come a time where life itself fades away. Our bodies were not made to be immortal in the first place; the fact is, longevity science ultimately just adds time before our end, regardless of whether this ‘time’ is quality or not.

(’07) ‘The view of the majority is always right.’ Do you agree?

(my personal favorite~)


(Introduction) Majority Rule― that is likely the ‘righteousness’/’justice’ that the world goes by nowadays. But how do we even determine what is righteousness? Essentially, by using the number of people as the yardstick to determine what is ‘right’, we degrade the meaning of righteousness. Righteousness is not something that can be mass produced, nor something that is established by the number of people. Even if something is a mistake, even if cruel, even if stupid, if many people acknowledge it, it becomes the truth; this logic is sadly, still relevant, until today. But it is wrong. A right idea, belief or action still stands correct no matter whether one person or the whole world believes in it. We now establish the idea of ‘Majority Rule’ to determine what is right not because it is necessarily justified, sound, or ‘right’, but because it is convenient. And thus, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right.

(Refute 1) Some may say that the view of the majority is always right, because they believe in the morality of every human being. By believing that each individual has a set of sound morals, is logical and clear-headed, and will naturally make the right decision, cumulatively, majority view should always be correct. And in many cases, this is true. Things that the majority decide upon are often good and useful. For instance, Most people wash their hands after using the bathroom, even though they do not understand fully how germs can cause disease. Majority admits that there is a need to do something about global issues such as climate change, poverty, income inequality, water and food shortage, and more. Furthermore, normally, a person will take the view that benefits him/her. Hence, even if a view may not seem correct at first, if many people take it up, it means that the view accrues benefits/happiness most people, and should be the right view, as anything beneficial/that makes people happy is commonly perceived as good and righteous. This follows the utilitarian view, where the ultimate ‘good’/’goal’ of the system known as society is to bring the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of people. Hence, majority view is always right.

(Supporting 1) But, I beg to differ. Firstly, the above argument assumes that each person will always be morally sound. But, in reality, the majority’s moral compass may be skewed, due to certain environmental factors or external influences. For instance, in the past, majority of American whites discriminated against the blacks, with the belief that they were in the right, when, in fact, they were violating the basic principal of human equality, and were morally wrong. This distorted morality that whites held was largely influenced by the fact that historically, the blacks were slaves who worked for white masters, brought in from Africa by European traders, and hence were beneath the whites and deserved to be treated badly. In Harper Lee’s book, ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, where Majority Rule of a white jury convicted an innocent black man of rape, this idea was illustrated brilliantly. In another example, majority of Indians discriminated against the Dalits (untouchables), due to the deep-rooted caste system in their society. Even though the Dalits were also human like the rest of Indian society, they were not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls. Such treatment of fellow human beings definitely feels morally wrong/repugnant to any bystander/observer, but majority of Indians apparently thought nothing was wrong; they had the mindset that that was how the Dalits deserved to be treated. What makes up a person’s value system is then significantly influenced by the environment and culture he/she is living in; if the culture of a society is distorted, the normal person will also not have the correct mindset. Therefore, we cannot look at each person individually and naturally assume that he/she eternally has sound values and will always make the right decision; at any given moment, based on the situation in society, a person’s values may change. In this light, in present America, discrimination against blacks have largely (overtly) diminished, precisely because of society’s change; majority’s moral compass changed accordingly. Hence, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right; Only when society gets it correct, will the majority be right.

(Supporting 2) Furthermore, when a person takes the view that benefits him/her, it is out of (short-sighted) self-interest, and does not necessarily mean that the view is right. This is especially true when people are dealing with unpleasant situations that seem to put themselves at a disadvantage; in these circumstances, they first think about themselves, and their short-term interests, without considering what will happen in the long run/other (minority) groups. This short-sightedness and urgency to resolve the unpleasant situation immediately for themselves causes majority to take up the ‘wrong’ view, whether morally or not. For example, Influx of foreign workers into Singapore in the recent years have caused many Singaporeans to view it as a bad thing, with people citing growing strain on their jobs, housing, transport and infrastructure, and dilution of the Singaporean national identity as major concerns. However, in the rush for self-interest, many neglect that this influx is ultimately a good thing for Singapore in the long run. With an ageing population and shrinking workforce, foreign workers are needed to boost the economy. If they are barred from entering, there may come to a point where Singapore lacks labour, and will have to decrease production and raise prices for its goods/services, which is extremely undesirable for an export-orientated economy. Even if some Singaporeans recognize/realize this, they are still likely to choose self-interests over what is right; this is the phenomenon known as ‘groupthink’ in psychology, where the minority in the group concedes to majority’s view. In fact, ‘Groupthink’ tends to be most prevalent in conditions where there is a high degree of cohesiveness, there are similar interests involved, and situational factors that contribute to deferring to the group (such as external threats, moral problems, difficult decisions) are present. In this case, Singapore’s example can be considered to be significantly influenced by this phenomenon, as the situation fulfils all the conditions stated. Psychologists reason that groupthink could likely result in poor decision-making and inefficient problem-solving (also true/evident in Singapore’s case); this, coupled with people’s self-interests that cause them to neglect other possibilities, causes the majority to take up the wrong view at times. Hence, I disagree that the view of the majority is always right.

(Supporting 3) Lastly, view of the majority is not always right, because human nature causes us to largely seek the easy/convenient way out, instead of the ‘right’ way. In fact, in many cases, the ‘majority’ becomes the ‘majority’ not because that many people really happened to have the same view on the subject/issue/topic of interest, but because people just follow what other people do (social pressure), without any real thought/view on their own. Most of us are conformists, even if we do not realise it. Such exemplifies the attitude of humans to seek easiness; what is easier than not thinking? In Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiment, now regarded as a classic experiment in social psychology, Asch investigated the extent to which precisely social pressure could affect a person to conform. 50 male students from Swarthmore College in the USA participated in a ‘vision test’. Using a line judgment task, Asch put a naive participant in a room with seven confederates. The confederates had agreed in advance what their responses would be when presented with the line task.  The real participant did not know this and was led to believe that the other seven participants were also real participants like themselves. Each person in the room had to state aloud which comparison line (A, B or C) was most like the target line. The answer was always obvious. There were 18 trials in total and the confederates gave the wrong answer on 12 trials. Over these 12 trials about 75% of participants conformed at least once. As shown, even for a simple task/answer/view, people tended to just follow what others do, without believing in their own thoughts/views (if they had one in the first place). When met with issues/problems that are troublesome, all the more likely that we would follow other’s view(s). This may lead to majority choosing to ignore these issues, or striving to reach a shortcut. We are reluctant to admit the difficult view, or the view that requires a lot of thought to achieve, and this causes us to make the wrong opinion many times. For example, the 29th American president, Warren Harding, was elected simply because he looked like how a president ought to look like. The convention delegates and similarly the voters thought Harding, who “radiated common sense and dignity”, was the perfect candidate. However, in reality, he was generally limited in his capacities, and did not contribute anything substantial to the presidency. Historians agreed that he was “one of the worst presidents in American history”. As shown, the majority, in their tendency to take the easy way out when they need to assert their view on something, avoid thinking too deeply into the issue, and this results in them not taking the right view. Hence, I disagree that majority view is always right.

(’14)To what extent can the regulation of scientific or technological developments be justified?

Related: (’96)Should any limits be placed on scientific developments?

(’09)Should every country have the right to carry out unlimited scientific research?


(Introduction) Albert Einstein once stated, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” His quote nicely sums up the nature of scientific research; that is unpredictable, uncertain, and risky.  Given this nature of scientific research, I feel, there needs to be limits placed on it. Limits help to lower the risks of research, ensure that it still remains humane, and moderate its progress so as to match that of society’s. However, these restrictions should not be overly controlling; they should not dictate what should and should not be done at every step, otherwise, they prevent any research from happening.

(Refute 1; Regulation not justified) Some may say that there should be no limits to scientific research.  Science works best when left alone. Only when there are no limits, can scientific research reach its maximum potential/progress. Regulation prevents developments from reaching their full potential. This is because, research consists of many rounds of trial-and-errors, experiments and repeats. Thomas Edison and his team tested at least 6000 materials before they found the suitable material to be the filament of the light bulb. In Gregor Mendel’s pea experiment, he set out to study 34 subspecies of the common garden pea, a vegetable noted for its many variations in color, length, flower, leaves and for the way each variation appears clearly defined. Over eight years, he isolated each pea trait one at a time and crossbred species to observe what traits were passed on and what traits were not from one generation to the next. If regulations were present at every step to control what scientists can and cannot do, real research may never proceed. Hence, they are not justified.

(Refute 2; Regulation not justified) Some may say that there should be no limits to scientific research. This is because, any attempt to regulate the forward momentum of science will always lead to failure (of science). For new scientific discoveries, developments and research to come about, one needs to step outside the norms of what is currently scientifically appropriate. He needs to take an existing discovery and make it into something new, something different, something better. If regulations/limits were present to prevent scientists from embarking on such a new and seemingly ‘abnormal’ research, then there may not be any new scientific discoveries anymore. This is especially true in today’s context, where the things science wants to discover are ever more complex; if there were regulation and control to impede science, science may never find those things. For instance, to better understand the fundamental structure of the universe, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, produced the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way. Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide, leading to fears that a black hole may be created. In fact, there were a few people who were so concerned that they filed a lawsuit against CERN in an attempt to delay the LHC’s activation. Even though their attempt failed and the LHC was activated, if there had been legal limits and restrictions placed on the production of the LHC, we may have never been able to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, believed to be essential for formation of the Universe, that the LHC found. Hence, regulations are not justified.

(Supporting 1) However, if there are no limits, and science discovers new things at a phenomenal rate, other problems may arise. If science process too quickly, we/society may not catch up to it. There will come a time where science completely goes beyond the understanding of an average human being, and this defeats the purpose of science, which is to help mankind, in the first place. As this quote puts it nicely, “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” Hence, for both science’s and society’s own good, for science to be applicable to society and for society to appreciate science, there needs to be regulation to match their speeds of progress. More specifically, there should be limits to scientific research, to slow down its speed of progress. For instance, surveys by Pew Research center found that there are wide gaps between what the public believes, and what scientists believe. 88% of scientists say that genetically modified foods are “generally safe” to eat; 37% of the public agrees. 86% of scientists believe that vaccines should be required in childhood, compared to 68% of the public. 98% of scientists say they believe humans evolved over time, compared to 65% of the public. As shown, science is constantly proceeding, but human cultures and mindsets that take a longer time to change, are not catching up. Hence, there needs to be limits to slow down scientific development, to wait for humans to catch up, so that the research is truly worthwhile.

(Supporting 2) There should be limits to scientific research, so that process of the research remains humane. Research requires experimentation, and sometimes, experimentation with living subjects. The subjects used in this case are usually animals. However, in the past, there were no clear rules/enforcements that prevented the use of human beings in experiments. The way experiments were carried out was trusted on, and depended upon, scientists’ own morality, leading to some cases of human experimentation carried out by immoral scientists. For instance, During World War II, Nazi human experimentation consisted of medical experimentation on large numbers of people in its concentration camps. They conducted experiments to learn how to treat hypothermia. One study forced subjects to endure a tank of ice water for up to three hours. Another study placed prisoners naked in the open for several hours with temperatures below freezing. The experimenters assessed different ways of rewarming survivors. In another example, the American Tuskegee Syphilis experiment that ran from 1932 to 1972 aimed to see whether syphilis affected black men differently from white men. It involved nearly 400 impoverished and poorly educated African-American men diagnosed with latent syphilis, but whom were never told they had the disease and were never treated for it, even when penicillin became a standard cure in 1947. Any treatments they were getting were actually placebos, aspirin or mineral supplements. When the study ended in 1972 following a public outcry, only 74 of the original participants were still alive. 28 men had died of the disease and a further hundred or so of related complications. 40 wives had been infected and 19 children had been born with congenital syphilis. In these experiments, scientists clearly treated the men as less than humans. Hence, there needs to be limits that clearly restrict the use of human beings as such experimental subjects, so as to prevent such inhumane experiments from happening ever again.

(Supporting 3) There should be limits to scientific research, for safety purposes. Nature of scientific research is neutral, but research could produce by- or end-products that are harmful/hazardous to society. These products could theoretically escape the laboratory/go out of control/spread elsewhere. Hence, regulations are required to control the extent of research carried out and quantity of products produced, so as to lower the risk of the products’ escape and harm to society. For example, Ron Fouchier, a researcher in the Netherlands, developed an easily transmissible version of avian influenza H5N1 by introducing the virus into lab ferrets. His work helps scientists to study the virus in advance, before it actually evolves in the wild, allowing new vaccines to be developed beforehand. However, the virus can potentially escape from the laboratory and spread in mammals like us, which is exactly what we would not want it to do. Nuclear research, which involves the reactions of atomic nuclei, is another kind of scientific research that poses the same problem. In nuclear research, when unstable nuclei start to decay after a random interval, radiation is produced. This radiation could pass through ordinary matter, and would be harmful in large amounts. Some forms pose as a severe, long-term hazard to human health even in very small quantities. As shown, not all scientific research is completely safe, and, to minimize the safety issue, limits are required.