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  • Archive for the 'Bioethics' Category

    Graphic Novels on Health Care and other items….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 8th February 2012 (All posts by )

    -from SHOTS, NPR’s Health Care Blog:

    Health care reform is no laughing matter, but MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s new comic book on the subject aims to communicate some pretty complicated policy details in a way that, if not exactly side-splitting, is at least engaging.
    In Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, Gruber steps into the pages of a comic book to guide readers through many of the major elements of the law, including the individual mandate to buy insurance, the health insurance exchanges where people will be able to buy coverage starting in 2014 and how the law tackles controlling health care costs.

    I draw your attention to another graphic novel: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

    While I was buying a copy of Persepolis from a real-life book store a few years ago, a young woman at the sales counter mentioned that there was a “great” graphic novel about North Korea that I might like. I’m not a graphic novel reader and I think Persepolis is it for me unless I decide to review the health care book, but it interested me that she seemed so enthusiastic about the topic of North Korea and graphic novels. I guess it makes sense given our “information overload” society. I don’t know. Why not look for clarity?

    PS: Linking is not endorsement and all that.

    PPS: What’s the “all that” about? Eh, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for the past week or so and my blogging has been pretty terrible because of it. I linked the health care graphic novel because it amused me, not because I am simpatico with the message. I think you all knew that already….

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Bioethics, Book Notes, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Media, Medicine, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, Science, Society | Comments Off on Graphic Novels on Health Care and other items….

    Does this sound familiar ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th September 2011 (All posts by )

    The science community is now closing in on an example of scientific fraud at Duke University. The story sounds awfully familiar.

    ANIL POTTI, Joseph Nevins and their colleagues at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, garnered widespread attention in 2006. They reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that they could predict the course of a patient’s lung cancer using devices called expression arrays, which log the activity patterns of thousands of genes in a sample of tissue as a colourful picture. A few months later, they wrote in Nature Medicine that they had developed a similar technique which used gene expression in laboratory cultures of cancer cells, known as cell lines, to predict which chemotherapy would be most effective for an individual patient suffering from lung, breast or ovarian cancer.
    At the time, this work looked like a tremendous advance for personalised medicine—the idea that understanding the molecular specifics of an individual’s illness will lead to a tailored treatment.

    This would be an incredible step forward in chemotherapy. Sensitivity to anti-tumor drugs is the holy grail of chemotherapy.

    Unbeknown to most people in the field, however, within a few weeks of the publication of the Nature Medicine paper a group of biostatisticians at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, led by Keith Baggerly and Kevin Coombes, had begun to find serious flaws in the work.
    Dr Baggerly and Dr Coombes had been trying to reproduce Dr Potti’s results at the request of clinical researchers at the Anderson centre who wished to use the new technique. When they first encountered problems, they followed normal procedures by asking Dr Potti, who had been in charge of the day-to-day research, and Dr Nevins, who was Dr Potti’s supervisor, for the raw data on which the published analysis was based—and also for further details about the team’s methods, so that they could try to replicate the original findings.

    The raw data is always the place that any analysis of another’s work must begin.

    Dr Potti and Dr Nevins answered the queries and publicly corrected several errors, but Dr Baggerly and Dr Coombes still found the methods’ predictions were little better than chance. Furthermore, the list of problems they uncovered continued to grow. For example, they saw that in one of their papers Dr Potti and his colleagues had mislabelled the cell lines they used to derive their chemotherapy prediction model, describing those that were sensitive as resistant, and vice versa. This meant that even if the predictive method the team at Duke were describing did work, which Dr Baggerly and Dr Coombes now seriously doubted, patients whose doctors relied on this paper would end up being given a drug they were less likely to benefit from instead of more likely.

    In other words, the raw data was a mess. The results had to be random.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Bioethics, Environment, Health Care, Science, Statistics | 17 Comments »

    David Brooks’ Leash

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 17th March 2011 (All posts by )

    One of the most prominent examples of experimental genetics is the infamous domesticated silver fox:

    The domesticated silver fox …is a domesticated form of the silver morph of the red fox. As a result of selective breeding, the new foxes not only became tamer, but more dog-like as well…
    Domesticated foxes exhibit both behavioral and physiological changes from their wild forebears. They are friendlier with humans, put their ears down (like dogs), wag their tails when happy, and vocalize, and bark like domesticated dogs. As a consequence of breeding, they also developed color patterns like domesticated dogs and lost their distinctive musky ‘fox smell’…
    The experiment was initiated by scientists hoping to produce easier to handle fur animals and who were interested in the topic of domestication and the process by which wolves became tame domesticated dogs. They saw some retention of juvenile traits by adult dogs, both morphological ones, such as skulls that were unusually broad for their length, and behavioral ones, such as whining, barking, and submission…
    [Project founder Dmitry] Belyaev believed that the key factor selected for [in the] domestication of dogs was not size or reproduction, but behavior; specifically, amenability to domestication, or tameability. He selected for low flight distance, that is, the distance one can approach the animal before it runs away. By selecting this behavior it mimics what happened through natural selection in the ancestral past of dogs. More than any other quality, Belyaev believed, tameability must have determined how well an animal would adapt to life among humans. Because behavior is rooted in biology, selecting for tameness and against aggression means selecting for physiological changes in the systems that govern the body’s hormones and neurochemicals. Belyaev decided to test his theory by domesticating foxes; in particular, the silver fox, a dark color form of the red fox. He placed a population of them in the same process of domestication, and he decided to submit this population to a strong selection pressure for inherent tameness.
    The result is that Russian scientists now have a number of domesticated foxes that are fundamentally different in temperament and behavior from their wild forebears. Some important changes in physiology and morphology are now visible, such as mottled or spotted colored fur. Many scientists believe that these changes related to selecting for tameness are caused by lower adrenaline production in the new breed, which causes these physiological changes in a very small number of generations, thus allowing for these new genetic offshoots not present in the original species.

    Bryant Gumbel once observed of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his relationship with late NFL Players Union head Gene Upshaw:

    Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw’s leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted. Try to make sure no one competent ever replaces Upshaw on your watch.

    While watching this TEDtalk by New York Times columnist David Brooks, I thought of silver foxes, Gene Upshaw, and how David Brooks would be the ideal sire for a selective breeding program to produce a tamer right-winger. Generation after generation, you’d just have to breed for floppy ears, wagging tails, and low flight distance and you’d eventually end up with a more amenable Loyal Opposition. American politics would be a simple matter of showing your successor where you kept David Brooks’ leash.

    For the record, Brooks does take some well-aimed potshots at his TEDset/Davos-set masters. But his digs are in that long tradition of peasant humor where the serf was allowed to let off some steam while the lord of the manor reached for his knout to give the recalcitrant peasant a good whipping.

    I’m confident the next generation of TED-ready, Davos-approved conservative will offer less lip.

    And have floppier ears.

    [props Isegoria]

    Posted in Bioethics | 17 Comments »

    Slicing Spinal Cords With Scissors

    Posted by Shannon Love on 20th January 2011 (All posts by )

    [Sorry for any typos. I was a bit upset and hurried.]

    I’m mostly pro-choice but this horrific story demonstrates just how utterly extreme and insane the left in general and the Democrat party in particular have become on the matter of abortion:

    A doctor whose abortion clinic was described as a filthy, foul-smelling “house of horrors” that was overlooked by regulators for years was charged Wednesday with murder, accused of delivering seven babies alive and then using scissors to kill them.

    He “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” District Attorney Seth Williams said.
    Gosnell referred to it as “snipping,” prosecutors said.
    Prosecutors estimated Gosnell ended hundreds of pregnancies by cutting the spinal cords, but they said they couldn’t prosecute more cases because he destroyed files.

    How could this go on for over 30 years?

    State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell and the 46 lawsuits filed against him, and made just five annual inspections, most satisfactory, since the clinic opened in 1979, authorities said. The inspections stopped completely in 1993 because of what prosecutors said was the pro-abortion rights attitude that set in after Democratic Gov. Robert Casey, an abortion foe, left office.

    Again, I am pro-choice but this tragedy occurred because the left violently resisted even the least regulatory oversight of even the most extreme late term abortions. The left has made abortion the highest good that trumps every other concern, and the resulting real-world policies border on the surreal.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Health Care, Human Behavior, Medicine, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy | 100 Comments »


    Posted by Ginny on 9th January 2011 (All posts by )

    This began as a comment and, given my extremely limited (nonexistent) expertise, it is rambling observations and questions – and if Michael & Madhu say I’ve got it wrong, well, I probably do.

    Mental hospitals dotted the landscape in the 50’s and 60’s. That was another time: some of us got through college pulling night shifts at them. Psychiatric counseling was a rite of passage among the artsy. (Note Girl Interrupted and Emily Fox Gordon’s Mockingbird Years. ) Gordon treats that particular perspective with irony. But such approaches were not always helpful and certainly those public wards filled with the less affluent were sad and lifeless.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy | 7 Comments »

    Beyond Human

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 1st January 2011 (All posts by )

    Anyone recognize this guy?

    marvel comics thor

    That is Thor, comic character from Marvel Comics. Based, of course, on the deity worshiped by the Norse.

    What can this object of ancient reverence do to warrant such regard? Like most thunder gods, he can hurl thunderbolts that destroy his enemies as long as he wields a mystical hammer called Mjolnir.

    ultimate marvel thor hammer mjolnis

    That is the main thing thunder gods do, after all, and it seemed to be something that would be extremely impressive to the Vikings.

    Anyone recognize these?


    My favorite carry guns. They are smaller and lighter than that hammer thing, and yet I can still create thunder by no more effort than making a fist.

    Sure, it isn’t exactly the same thing. I can’t call the storm like Thor supposedly could, for example. But it still is a perfectly common, well known, mature technology that expands my abilities to something that is impossible for an unaided human being to duplicate.

    I’m bringing up the fantastically obvious due to this online article. (Hat tip to Glenn.) Some really strange young woman has a hobby where she cuts herself open in order to shove magnets down amongst nerve clusters. Says she can feel magnetic fields that way.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Blogging, Science, Tech | 8 Comments »


    Posted by onparkstreet on 4th December 2010 (All posts by )

    Cromagnum, in response to my post on Chesterton, has posted a useful and informative comment here. It reads, in part (an excerpt from Eugenics and Other Evils follows):

    The Socialist system, in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true. But while it is obvious, it seems almost incredible that anybody ever thought it optimistic.

    Pundita has written a tour de force response to my post on Senator Richard Lugar: “Wikileaks plus first disbursements from 2009 US aid bill for Pakistan already under scrutiny for graft. Senator Richard Lugar please take note.”

    In a wide ranging post, she makes note of three key issues:

    1. Congressional oversight: If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the concept that vital information would be withheld from key congressional defense/intelligence committees — which can’t make informed recommendations without such data — while thousands of low-level civilian government and military employees had access to the data, you should listen to the interview; it’s enough to make your blood boil if you’re an American.

    2. Allegations of corruption in the distribution of aid monies: Two months after his remarks came the news that even the first small disbursements were already in trouble due to charges of corruption. Because aid monies disbursed to the Pakistani government become the sovereign property of the government and thus immune to oversight the 2009 aid bill aimed to get around the problem by disbursing the money to NGOs. The workaround simply opened another avenue for graft:

    3. The sometimes head-scratching priorities and decision-making of American officials: Yet the revelation doesn’t fully explain why the U.S. military and executive and congressional branches have consistently made bad calls on Pakistan because this has been going on for more than a half century — ever since the U.S. first became involved with Pakistan. Yet these bad calls weren’t seen as such until NATO floundered in Afghanistan. That finally put a crimp in the style of Washington’s anti-Russia crowd but over decades the crowd and its counterpart in Europe looked the other way while Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union then against Russia.

    No matter who wins the presidential election in 2012, I wager that many of the structural problems that have plagued our foreign policy in recent years will remain. One of the most appealing aspects of the Tea Party movement is its “pay attention!” ethos. Complain about elites all you want, they can’t cause so many problems if we citizens are performing our own oversight functions.

    Update: Thanks for the link, Professor Reynolds!

    There are some very good comments in the comments section. I will try and respond more fully at a later date.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Elections, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Society | 10 Comments »

    “Chesterton’s Warning”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 27th November 2010 (All posts by )

    It sounds like a preoccupation of the exotic fringe to most of us now, but nine decades ago eugenics was openly advocated as a mainstream Progressive idea. Indeed, the most certifiably advanced minds of the day promoted and celebrated it. In 1923, former President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard, U.S. Senator Royal Copeland of New York, former President David Starr Jordan of Indiana and Stanford Universities, President Livingston Farrand of Cornell University, and a host of other educational, medical and social-welfare luminaries making up the Eugenics Committee of the United States came forth with a program calling for “selective immigration, sterilization of defectives and control of everything having to do with the reproduction of human beings.” In 1932, Margaret Sanger, founder of the organization that would eventually become Planned Parenthood, advocated “a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” Nor was support restricted to a secularist avant-garde. As Christine Rosen has shown, many American Christian and Jewish religious leaders, including even some Roman Catholics, were fully supportive of eugenic ideas and policies. It was no fringe phenomenon.1

    Wilfred M. McClay, The American Interest.

    Posted in Bioethics, Book Notes, History | 8 Comments »

    A Nexus Between Academic Medicine and Government

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th July 2010 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal has one more article on the effect of Obamacare on doctors. A couple of interesting statements bring up some comments on an excellent medical blog I read.

    First the WSJ points about Obamacare.

    The act will reinforce the worst features of existing third-party payment arrangements in both the private and public sectors — arrangements that already compromise the professional independence and integrity of the medical profession.

    Doctors will find themselves subject to more, not less, government regulation and oversight. Moreover, they will become increasingly dependent on unreliable government reimbursement for medical services. Medicare and Medicaid payment, including irrational government payment updates, are preserved (though shaved) and expanded to larger portions of the population.

    The Act creates even more bureaucracies with authority over the kinds of health benefits, medical treatments and procedures that Americans get through public and private health insurance. The new law provides no serious relief for tort liability. Not surprisingly, various surveys reveal deep dissatisfaction and demoralization among medical professionals.

    I’ve been posting about this for a couple of years and it is no surprise.

    Now here is where it gets interesting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Bioethics, Health Care | 3 Comments »

    Medicare optouts

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd June 2010 (All posts by )

    I subscribe to a physician only web site that has a lot of political items in the mix. It has over 100,000 members, well over, I believe. The subject of dropping out of Medicare, and sometimes from all insurance, is a frequent subject. I thought it might be interesting to see the comments (some of them) to one such post.

    I am opting out of Medicare

    Last week I stopped seeing new Medicare patients. Today, I decided to opt-out completely. The sign in my waiting area reads:

    Dear patients,

    As of October 1, 2010, I will no longer accept Medicare insurance due to the harassment and cuts in payments by the federal government. My fees are very reasonable – please feel free to discuss them with me personally. I would love to continue to care for my Medicare patients, just without the federal government telling me how do my job or how much to get paid.

    This is just the beginning of the healthcare reform. Please thank your elected representatives and think carefully how you vote in November.



    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Health Care | 58 Comments »

    Personal Plug: The Victorians, Darwin & Lit Crit

    Posted by Ginny on 6th May 2010 (All posts by )

    The first review of my husband’s book, Masculinity in Four Victorian Epics is out. He’s published a lot on Matthew Arnold, Victorian autobiographies, the Czechs, but this is his first full-length critical work using Darwinian criticism. This isn’t exactly a literary blog, but Tod Williams (who, in good peer review fashion we don’t know, but appers friendly to this methodology) reminds me of the way literature used to be approached.

    My husband was attracted to this method: he argues it was growing up on a farm and reading Tennyson in the truck on the way to the feed store that made it natural. On another plane, of course, as the reviewer notes: “It should come as no surprise that an established Matthew Arnold scholar would approach literature with a concern for universal human truths or that one with such interests would turn to literary Darwinism for a methodology.” He examines that popular (but now seldom read) Victorian genre – the “long poem.” “Machann maintains in his introduction that the issue of masculinity is not only central to the four long poems he treats but to ‘our understanding of Victorian literature: its major themes, its idealism and social criticism, its perplexities and uncertainties’” (1) The Victorians restrained masculine violence in many ways, but the ideal of chivalry and “manliness” was also expressed in adventuring (both geographically and intellectually).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes | 7 Comments »

    Borlaug Remembered

    Posted by Ginny on 7th October 2009 (All posts by )

    “He regarded himself as an instrument, which he used tirelessly for the benefit of others.”

    The world honors Borlaug here and here.

    Posted in Academia, Bioethics, Obits, Science | 2 Comments »

    Norman Borlaug, 1914-2009

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 13th September 2009 (All posts by )

    Via Pejman Yousefzadeh, I hear that Norman Borlaug has passed; NYT obit.

    In the face of caviling from scarcity-mentality “environmentalists,” he saved a billion lives. Requiescat in pace.

    Posted in Bioethics, Environment, India, Latin America, Obits | 5 Comments »

    Everybody wants to go to heaven,

    Posted by Ginny on 8th August 2009 (All posts by )

    But none of us want to go now.

    A mean conservative Newt Gingrich argues: “we need a new federal resolve to truly defeat Alzheimer’s. As America’s largest generation ages, we have no time to lose.” On the empathic left Ezekial Emanuel (brother of the gentle soul, Emanual): “Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, USA | 7 Comments »

    Minor Notes – Art, Purpose & Evolution

    Posted by Ginny on 6th April 2009 (All posts by )

    I added a comment on Brian Boyd on the post below; just before going to bed, I took one last look at the net and see that Denis Dutton (A&L Daily) has linked to a new article by Boyd. Since I don’t really have the background and right now also don’t have the time to do either justice, this is just a link:

    A) Boyd’s article: “The Purpose-Driven Life” is in The American Scholar and argues: “Evolution does not rob life of meaning, but creates meaning. It also makes possible our own capacity for creativity.”

    B) Speaking of art & evolution, I haven’t linked yet to Dutton’s book itself: The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Evolution. Dutton enriches all of our lives with A&L Daily. The Amazon entry includes a lengthy and somewhat critical review by that witty youngster, Jonah Lehrer. I feel immense gratitude to Dutton – I think he dermonstrates on a daily basis the usefulness of the internet and a genial wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. I suspect his work is richer than Lehrer implies, but must admit this has been an over-committed year and we’ve been moving his book around from table to table in the livinig room. If no one else here gets around to talking about it, I promise a discussion in a few months (but not sooner).

    By the way, does anyone out there belong to the Czech organization, SVU?

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes | 3 Comments »

    Who We Are

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd April 2009 (All posts by )

    We aren’t always – perhaps seldom – the best we can be. Fortunately, we have our moments. And, well, generally, we aren’t racists, bigots, sexists; we aren’t roaring masses lynching, beheading, stoning. We feel jealousy but aren’t driven by ravenous coveting; we can be irrational but save such excesses for football.

    Obama has demonstrated in the last couple of weeks who he thinks we are. But he doesn’t know us.

    “But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”
    “My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” (Politico)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Politics | 45 Comments »

    The Gut: Tribalism’s Home and Not Always a Bad Thing

    Posted by Ginny on 30th August 2008 (All posts by )

    Thanks, Shannon for your blogging, which has provided a smorgasbord. 


    In the comments to his “Identity-Politics Insanity” post, Helen’s observation reminds us of a truth about American politics but more importantly about human nature.  For instance, a balanced ticket is attractive, because we assume more ideas are in play and more people feel an identity with their leaders.  On the other hand, Shannon is right:   identity politics encourages a tribalism whose restraint has been the great triumph of western civilization and a prerequisite for a diverse nation ruled by predictable, equitable laws.  We rightly fear identities that trump law & duty, but we also fear ideologies which encourage children to betray their parents and wives their husbands.  We ignore such passions – natural to our species – at our own peril: unacknowledged they threaten chaos; diminished, we lack a glue that holds communities and even identities together.

      Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy | 3 Comments »

    Faulkner’s Grip on Psychology

    Posted by Ginny on 10th May 2008 (All posts by )

    “The old fierce pull of blood.” – Faulkner

    Literature helps us understand human nature. Disciplines designed to do so are not always so good at it. Sometimes, indeed, they seem counterproductive. “Buried Prejudice”, an article by Siri Carpenter in Scientific American Mind (via A&L), argues that “[e]ven our basic visual perceptions are skewed toward our in-groups. Many studies have shown that people more readily remember faces of their own race than of other races.” But to Carpenter (and the researchers summarized) the tension between our understanding of truth and justice (transcendent ideals that also pulled Faulkner’s young hero, Sarty) and our feel of the tribal (which he feels mixed with “despair” and “grief”) is not the tension between feeling and thinking, the biological and the rational. Our culture has slowly developed institutions to restrain the tribal passions central to our earlier survival but detrimental to a more diverse and larger society. But, Carpenter describes a group of researchers who have found (“[u]sing a variety of sophisticated methods,” that we “unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: black and white, female and male, elderly and young, gay and straight, fat and thin.” (The word “astounding” is telling.) Of course, this is not always helpful – say, in sitting on a jury – when we link (as Jesse Jackson implies he did in the catchy intro) “black” with “danger”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Society | 2 Comments »

    Unclean! Unclean!

    Posted by Shannon Love on 3rd May 2008 (All posts by )

    Megan McArdle’s post on the resurgence of measles due to a lack of vaccinations prompted me to think about the modern moral and legal ramifications of someone choosing to go about unvaccinated.

    When a person becomes infected with a lethal contagious disease, the disease microbe turns their body into a biological warfare factory churning out billions of weapons which automatically seek out and attack other people. If a person infected themself on purpose and then went about their daily life, we would regard it as a form of lethal violence against everyone they came in contact with. How then should we regard those who fail to take simple, cheap and low-risk steps to prevent such an occurrence by accident?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Morality and Philosphy, Science, Society | 10 Comments »


    Posted by Jay Manifold on 30th April 2008 (All posts by )

    Again, from the usual source: with reference to this … TBN is a sewer, Crouch is a parasite, and Stein is upholding the finest tradition of Hollywood celebrities, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

    Lots of other people, I hope, will be quoting Jacob Bronowski today, from the “Knowledge or Certainty” episode of The Ascent of Man:

    It’s said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
    Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end, the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ: Think it possible you may be mistaken.”
    I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died here, to stand here as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

    I’m not finished. I know PZ Myers. I’ve corresponded with him, spoken with him, and been a guest in his house. Nor was I there under false pretenses; he knows exactly what I am. I can think of few contrasts sharper than that between the way atheist liberal blue-state biology professor PZ Myers treated evangelical libertarian red-state corporate slug Jay Manifold and the way PZ is getting treated by these cretins.

    It’s about time somebody started a “Christian Fans of PZ Myers” club, complete with WWPZD bracelets.

    Did I mention that TBN is a sewer?

    Posted in Academia, Bioethics, History, Human Behavior, Personal Narrative, Quotations, Science | 56 Comments »

    Another Reminder

    Posted by Ginny on 9th January 2008 (All posts by )

    To keep Borlaug on our horizon, here is John Pollock’s  Green Revolutionary in Technology Review.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics | 1 Comment »

    How I Learned to be the Adult – And Why I Often Forget – 2 –

    Posted by Ginny on 9th May 2007 (All posts by )

    May 10 update: Instapundit links to another discussion of Rubin by Will Wilkinson in The Economist.

    May 9 post:

    When I started my little business, I despaired when a large chain opened down the street two weeks before we did. What I should have recognized was that large chains & naïfs could see our college town needed copy shops. We survived – for quite a while. Tired and worn out, both from a pregnancy in my forties and a series of rather stupid business moves on my part, I sold out years later to a locally run company. We were doing several times the amount of business we had that first year – and, while some such shops had come and gone during thirteen years, several survived, making varying but real profits.

    I was wrong, but I was working from the gut. Paul Rubin’s “Evolution, Update: Immigration and Trade” points to why I felt as I did and why I was wrong. Just as it is probably not always wise to do what both villains & heroes do in adventure dramas – head for the high ground – we retain instincts that once helped us survive.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Business | 2 Comments »

    Imagine Insanity

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th April 2007 (All posts by )

    In reading Ginny’s post below as well as the posts and comments of the sites she links to, I note a strong presumption among most that in the case of mental illness we should err on the side of under-treating rather than risk over-treating someone. Dr. Jonathan Kellerman makes this observation:

    Talk to anyone who’s tried to commit a dangerously violent child or parent for even a few days: A stranger with a law degree will show up at the hearing and paint you as a fascist. So it’s far too much to expect anything resembling a decisive approach to those whose level of threat remains at the verbal level.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Law, Morality and Philosphy, Science | 8 Comments »

    We May be Biased Toward Hawks, but We’ve Become Doves

    Posted by Ginny on 4th January 2007 (All posts by )

    Pinker’s brief contribution to the Edge‘s year-end treat gives a cheerful & progressive sense of proportion. While acknowledging our historical tendency toward cruelty and barbarism, he describes a world more dovish. But also this week Arts & Letters links to a Foreign Policy article “Why Hawks Win” that argues our reasoning is biased toward war. Both seem flawed but both attempt to understand the elusive “nature of man.” Of course, both also come with their own preconceptions.

    Pinker might see this “hawkishness” in terms of the tribal loyalties so central to traditional defense. Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon are, I suspect, finding such tribal perspectives when discovering bias:

    Evidence suggests that this bias is a significant stumbling block in negotiations between adversaries. In one experiment, Israeli Jews evaluated an actual Israeli-authored peace plan less favorably when it was attributed to the Palestinians than when it was attributed to their own government. Pro-Israel Americans saw a hypothetical peace proposal as biased in favor of Palestinians when authorship was attributed to Palestinians, but as “evenhanded” when they were told it was authored by Israelis.

    What the authors don’t acknowledge is how those biases helped earlier generations protect their own. That we tend not to trust the “other” may at times have to do with the nature of the “other” (Arafat’s reign did little to lead Israelis to find Palestinians trustworthy), but the biological truth remains: we trust our own. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Do Blondes Have More Fun

    Posted by Ginny on 28th April 2006 (All posts by )

    My oldest daughter. whose good looks are a bit Slavic & definitely brunette was quite irritated as she searched for a cake “topper” five years ago: she wanted a brunette bride paired with a groom of the blonde/blue-eyed good looks of her Nordic husband-to-be. (Perfectly sensible people tend toward the sentimental at such times; I figured she figured she would only marry once & why not with marzipan schmalz?) Dark brides were everywhere, but always coupled with dark grooms. And perhaps as many plastic couples were dark grooms with blonde brides. Clearly, these reflected our culture’s vision of a generic “handsome couple.” But, now, I see in AL Daily, “Corrected-Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun”, the ancient path of evolutionary choice, though I’m not sure this is enough evidence. With such ratios, the males chose, but what will women find alluring? If cake ornaments (generally chosen by women) are any indication, blonde men don’t have (or aren’t) more fun.

    Another thought, will women become dark & dowdy if the ratios in China & India continue – and perhaps spread? (I’m looking forward to being in fashion myself.) When men died young & hard:

    The increase in competition for males led to rapid change as women struggled to evolve the most alluring qualities. Frost believes his theory is supported by studies which show blonde hair is an indicator for high oestrogen levels in women.

    Whatever. My daughter’s search says something, but I’m not sure what. I put this under “bioethics” but suspect it’s trivia.

    Posted in Bioethics | 3 Comments »