Thursday, July 29, 2010
However, what about patients. There's all sorts of people out there, and some are morons. So, what if a patient doesn't want to be seen by a particular doctor for moronic reasons, say the doctor's membership in a particular church, the doctor's skin color and other non-professional matters. Some of my colleagues, certainly colleagues I hold in high esteem, argue that motives that are unacceptable (eg racist motives) should be ignored and the patient request declined. My gut feeling was initially that that probably is the right approach. Why give in to blatantly racist attitudes for instance. Stuff em I thought.
Well, here's the counter argument: some other bioethicists claim (they did not provide evidence, but let's assume their claim is correct) there is evidence that having to deal with attending doctors that patients can't cope with (for whatever reasons) has a negative impact on health outcomes, and those health outcomes should be our primary concern. That argument persuaded me - that is until I discover that there's no evidence to support the empirical claim I have just outlined.
Tricky one though, hu? What do you think?
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The thing with these small details is that their effects accumulate. Bell Canada is charging me for a phone that never worked properly, but, so the company points out to me, in its multi-pages of illegible small-print contract they warned me that they might not offer reception where I actually need it, and also that I have no reason to assume they'd be able to guarantee reception in the GTA, the Greater Toronto Area. Makes sense, doesn't it? Mobile phone reception in Toronto, what a stupid idea! Anyhow, so there I'm paying a monthly fee for a non-functioning phone.
At Queen's, where I work, the outside company that sells food in our cafeterias takes staff and students for a ride in truly breathtaking ways (try York University's cafeterias as a comparison if you don't believe me). Recently they charged for an absolutely mediocre sandwich (white cheapest ever toast bread, tuna) 3,99 C$ + tax. Seriously, producing this sandwich probably cost 40 cents or thereabouts. My complaint remained unanswered, of course. Talking about a captive audience!
And the list goes on and on and on. The big thread is that businesses get away with the proverbial murder in so many different ways. In the restaurant the proprietor knows full-well that many guests like a coffee after their meal, so they'll gulp when they discover the price tag, and cough up the cash. Given that most are tourists anyway, who cares how they feel about having been ripped off. As to Bell, the company knows that it is one of the most widely reviled companies in Canada (right up there with Air Canada and similarly customer hating outfits), so it doesn't care either what people think of it. It's all about milking customers in the short-term, at nearly all cost. Well, and our cafeteria, I'm trying to reduce y exposure to it as good as I can as they don't deserve my business.
I wonder whether this business conduct makes medium- to long-term business sense. I am not even talking business ethics here, just business sense. These organizations surely hurt themselves over time more than their individual disgruntled customers. I have since withdrawn all my business from Air Canada, and come the end of my contract, in my life-time Bell won't get me back as a customer. As to Ottawa's Fish Market. You got to be kidding...
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Citizens of the World against Stoning
We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the fate of 43 year old Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani and fear she may be executed in Iran at any time for ‘having an illicit relationship.’
We call on people everywhere to intensify their protests by marking Saturday 24 July as the International Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani Day. On the Saturday, we ask you to come out on to the streets and in city centres across the globe at 2pm local time bringing photos of Sakine and messages in her defence and against stoning and execution. Other measures that can be taken include highlighting her case wherever possible, signing petitions (http://stopstonningnow.com
The mother of two has already received 99 lashes and been sentenced to death by stoning. Sajjad, her 22-year-old son, who raised the alarm of her imminent stoning when there was no further legal recourse via an open letter to the people of the world (http://notonemoreexecution
As a result of the public outcry, the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London has issued a press release stating that the regime did not intend to stone her, that stoning in Iran was rare and that there was no truth to the reports (http://iransolidarity.blog
On 24 July 2010 at 2pm join us and make the world stand still in its rage against medievalism and barbarity and in its support of humanity. Sakine, her children and the many others awaiting death by stoning and execution deserve nothing less.
Mina Ahadi, International Committee Against Stoning and International Committee Against Executions (Germany)
Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran and One Law for All (UK)
Maria Rohaly, Mission Free Iran (USA)
Shahla Abgari, Human Rights Activist (USA)
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Stop Child Executions (Canada)
Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle (Australia)
Caroline Brancher, Union des Familles Laïques (France)
Helle Merete Brix, Journalist and Writer (Denmark)
Roy Brown, International Humanist and Ethical Union (Switzerland)
Ed Buckner, President, American Atheists (USA)
Peter Calluy, Belgian Humanist Society (Belgium)
Pierre Cassen, Riposte Laïque (France)
Megan Cornish, Seattle Radical Women (USA)
Parvin Darabi, Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation (USA)
Richard Dawkins, Scientist (UK)
Sanal Edamaruku, Rationalist International (India)
Bill Flanagan, Queen's University (Canada)
Tahir Aslam Gora, Writer and Journalist (Canada)
AC Grayling, Writer and Philosopher (UK)
Laura Guidetti, Marea Association (Italy)
Maria Hagberg, Network against Honour-Related Violence (Sweden)
Johann Hari, Journalist (UK)
Farzana Hassan, Author (Canada)
Tasneem Khalil, Independent World Report (Sweden)
Hope Knutsson, Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (Iceland)
Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement (Nigeria)
Sonia Jabbar, Journalist (India)
Trefor Jenkins, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
Ghulam Mustafa Lakho, High Court Advocate (Pakistan)
Monica Lanfranco, Marea Feminist Review (Italy)
Anne-marie Lizin, Belgian Senate Honorary Speaker (Belgium)
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women's Issue (France)
Kinga Lohmann, KARAT Coalition (Poland)
Mohamed Mahmoud, Centre for Critical Studies of Religion (UK)
Irshad Manji, European Foundation for Democracy and New York University (USA)
Caspar Melville, Rationalist Association (UK)
Behnaz Parman, Artist (Germany)
Angela Payne, Anti-Injustice Movement (UK)
Clancy Pegg, Bioethics Journal (UK)
Naomi Phillips, British Humanist Association (UK)
David Pollock, European Humanist Federation (UK)
Venita Popovic, Zenicke Sveske Journal (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Gita Sahgal, Human Rights Campaigner (UK)
Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society (UK)
Nina Sankari, European Feminist Initiative (Poland)
Udo Schuklenk, Queen's University (Canada)
Aisha Lee Shaheed, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (UK)
Issam Shukri, Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq (Canada)
Elizabeth Sidney, Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom and Equality (UK)
Joan Smith, Writer and Activist (UK)
Roy Speckhardt, American Humanist Association (USA)
Annie Sugier, Ligue du Droit International Des Femmes (France)
Richy Thompson, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (UK)
Christine Tasin, Résistance Républicaine (France)
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner UK)
Giti Thadani, Writer and Filmmaker (India)
Shishir Thadani, South Asian Voice (India)
Gianni Verdoliva, Journalist (Italy)
1. The new and comprehensive list of persons stoned to death or awaiting death by stoning in Iran compiled by Farshad Hosseini of the ICAE is available in Persian:http://countmein-iran.com/
2. See a 17 July article in the Times calling for the eviction of the Islamic Republic of Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women: http://iransolidarity.blog
3. For more information, please contact:
Mina Ahadi, Germany, ICAE and ICAS Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0049 1775692413
Ahmad Fatemi, ICAE Public Relations, email@example.com, 0046 0735203817
Maryam Namazie, UK, Iran Solidarity Spokesperson, firstname.lastname@example.org
4. To donate to the important work of the International Committee Against Stoning and International Committee Against Executions, please make your cheque payable to ‘Count Me In – Iran’ and send to BM Box 6754, London WC1N 3XX, UK. You can also pay via Paypal (http://countmein-iran.com/
5. You can also find the latest news on the following websites:
International Committee Against Executions (http://notonemoreexecution
International Committee Against Stoning (http://stopstonningnow.com
Facebook Page of Save Sakine Mohamadi Ashtiani: http://www.facebook.com/gr
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The academic in question didn't actually have tenure, he was an adjunct instructor. In his letter he states - among other things - the following:
'To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the "woman" while the other acts as the "man." In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don't want to be too graphic so I won't go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.'
What wrong about this statement?
1) It is not the case that in same sex relationships one of the partners necessarily acts as the 'woman' and the other one acts as the 'man'. Even if this was the case, nothing at all followed normatively.
2) Empirically it makes no sense at all to speak of people engaging in sexual acts that their bodies are not fitted (by whom?) to undertake. Everything that we are physically able to undertake with our bodies are able ('fitted'?) to do.
3) It is question begging to claim that a sex act violates the meaning of our bodies? As in 'how', 'why', 'by means of what'? Are we violating our bodies each time we engage in sexual acts for the fun of it as opposed to in order to breed? What's he on about here?
4) What is meant by the 'structure of the human body' being violated by a same sex act?
And so he concludes,
'Catholics don't arrive at their moral conclusions based on their religion. They do so based on a thorough understanding of natural reality.'
This, of course, is patently untrue and unprofessional a statement. By necessity Catholics (qua Catholics) arrive at their moral conclusion about sexuality (amongst others) by means of a normative understanding of natural reality (ie their interpretation of what nature, especially human nature ought to be like, as opposed to what it really is like). For that reason the preacher (aka teacher) sneaks in Natural Moral Law and Reality. Really he's saying that natural law theory thinks that human reality ought to be such and such, when quite obviously it is different. The problem then ain't with the theory but with our behavior. All quite silly stuff to be honest.
Was it sensible to fire him? Well, given that the topic of the class was 'Utilitarianism and sexuality' (I can't see how anyone could teach that topic for a whole term, but hey), he clearly went on an agitprop exercise, even trying to hide is real reasons (Catholic doctrine) by claiming that his views have nothing to do with religion. He said, for instance, 'As a final note, a perceptive reader will have noticed that none of what I have said here or in class depends upon religion.' That's a plain lie. No wonder his University chose to take him down.
A nice analysis of some other nonsense in the good preacher's email to his students can be found at the - as ever - dependable Pharyngula.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Monday, July 05, 2010
Having just redeemed themselves in the eyes of regular readers with pretty sharp reporting about the Dudus' affair, Jamaica's journalism is back to its usual quality-wise lows.
Two of Jamaica's papers, the Observer and the Gleaner have a long and distinguished history of anti-gay agitprop. The Gleaner frequently does it under the guise of pseudo-openness perpetuated by one of its columnists. He's a quite eloquent chap who likes to gives his musings an air of scientific soundness when really he picks and chooses biased academic content usually from low-ranking academic journals likely gleaned from the Family Research Council's (or some other Christian fundamentalist organisation like it) treasure chest of anti-gay 'research'. You know, the kind of research 'demonstrating' that gays are more likely to rape little kids, murder your grannie and have a hotline to the devil. A long running Jamaican agitprop feature on that front has been this: Antigay violence in Jamaica ain't the real problem (empirical research undertaken by international human rights organisations be damned) but violent gay men beating each other up are the real problem.
Here's an example taken from the Observer. In last Sunday's edition, under the byline of 'DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer staff reporter', the campaign continues. Hussey-Whyte notes in her introductory line that 'Many may argue that the gay community is falsely accused of excessive violence against its own members, but the horrible wounds on Keron Brown's body tell a different story.” Her story is about a gay man who she reports has been abused pretty badly by his partner and that partner's mates. Assuming that the case is true – I have no way to verify it, but it's perfectly possible, of course, that a gay man was abused by his partner – nothing follows with regard to how the average gay person treats his or her partner(s).
No doubt Donna Hussey-Whyte doesn't know what inductive reasoning is, and even less why we know that such modes of analysis don't work as a scientific method. So, to her benefit: You can't really use anecdotal cases to make a general point. Say, assume I see someone jumping out of a 10th floor window and ending up on the ground floor without injury. I shouldn't make that the story line of an article suggesting that generally speaking it's sensible to assume that jumping out of 10th floor windows isn't a risky activity. I'm sure you get the drift. So, before Donna Hussey-Whyte's agitprop piece even goes into full swing, anyone who took Scientific Method 101 knows already that not only is her first sentence wrong, but more importantly, that anyone can know with certainty that her story can't prove her point about the gay community being pretty violent against its own members. It's not even clear what she means with gay community to be honest. Is her proposition that the average gay person is more likely, or a membership club called 'gay community' or is something else tickling her incisive reporting mind?
Even if there was a whole bunch of such cases, nothing would follow regarding the question of how the majority of gay people in Jamaica treat each other. Short of a representative survey, this bunch of cases would be just that, a bunch of anecdotes. The question is: Could such research even be undertaken in a society where gay people are hunted out of their houses, beaten up randomly in the streets, and where homosexual conduct and relationships are still illegal. The truth is, if we bothered investigating what amounts to an odd-indeed hypothesis to begin with, we would really have no means to undertake such a study in current-day Jamaica.
Anyhow, back to Donna Hussey-Whyte's agitprop piece: Just think of a counter example of similar disingenuity, think of the number of crimes committed by heterosexual people in Jamaica. Most of those crimes are committed against other heterosexual people. Would this tell us anything at all about a purported link between heterosexuality and violent behaviour? Not at all – that is unless you're Donna Hussey-Whyte. Oddly, she never filed this particular investigative report. Makes you wonder why...
Having said that, from societies more peaceful than the Jamaican we do know that gay people are – if anything – less prone to be violent than their straight counter parts. Is it possible that anti-gay violence and general societal homophobia cause possibly surplus violence among gay people that otherwise would not exist? This truly is an interesting question, if we accept the local media's as yet unsubstantiated premise that gay people in Jamaica are really more prone to abuse each other than they are in other countries. Do we know whether they are more prone to this sorts of behaviour than they are in other countries, or do we know whether they're more prone to violence than are heterosexual people in Jamaica? We know none of this, unless we believe that Donna's inductive 'reasoning' is a good substitute for actual evidence.
As ever, beware of Jamaica's newsmedia when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Their reporting is by and large in the service of anti-gay prejudice. It's mostly propaganda, no more, no less.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Of course, there will be those who say that circumcision is always wrong, and - my own preferences to the contrary notwithstanding - there's some truth in that. The thing is though, since we have fairly strong evidence that circumcision dramatically reduces the risk of catching HIV there's probably a public health argument to be had - in Southern Africa - for undertaking circumcisions. Wouldn't it be nice though, if authorities in that country managed to have them conducted in such a way that not so many young men needlessly lose their lives over them?