Dr. Donald Low, who did the right thing, right to the end. RIP.
[NOTE: I wish I could properly cite the interview on which I am basing this post, but I just can't find it. If anyone can provide me with a link to the actual story, please let me know.]
On 25 September, around 7:00 pm, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio 1 (Toronto) of a professor of Disability Studies from Ryerson University. The interview was essentially a commentary of a powerful video by Dr. Donald Low, the exceptional microbiologist who steered Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis. In that video, Dr. Low called for new standards to provide dying with dignity to everyone. The commentary by the Ryerson professor, herself disabled, raised warning flags about Dr. Low’s call.
She talked – very eloquently – about all the different ways that one can define “dignity” as a social norm, and that any such norm would lead to a slippery slope that would end up with the disabled being euthanized without their consent because society had decided they lacked “dignity” in their lives. Essentially, she argued that every life has some kind of inherent dignity that must be respected – even if that means denying them dignity in death.
I’ve added Rule 38 to my Rules page: There are no slippery slopes, only slippery people.
That is to say, slippery slopes are fallacious reasoning, and I believe one uses a slippery slope argument only because one has ulterior motives for arguing against a claim. Far better, I say, to be clear and honest about those motives.
Sam’s Teats (Courtesy Wikipedia)
There’s a bit of drama going on in Toronto these days regarding the (in)famous sign that used to adorn the storefront of Sam The Record Man. The admittedly iconic sign was safely put aside before the store was demolished as part of the revitalization of that part of Yonge Street. Ryerson University is erecting a new Student Centre on that site now, but it may well be that the sign will have to be re-mounted elsewhere. This is causing ‘way more of a fuss than it deserves.
Maura E. Charette. Photographed by her father, who wrote an equally questionable article in the same issue of IEEE Spectrum, on the “myth” of a STEM “crisis.”
August must have been a slow news month at IEEE, because they’ve published a staggeringly bad article, Is a Career in STEM Really for Me? The piece is so shallow and naive, I felt compelled to write about it.
Maura E. Charette wrote the piece. She has just started Grade 8.
(I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.)
Image courtesy Wikipedia.
I shall read:
Melissa Mohr. 2013. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing (available both on Google Play and Amazon).
I’m adding this book to my goram reading list, based on an interview that Dr. Mohr gave Q The Summer (CBC Radio 1, 15 August 2013).
Here’s some of the points from the interview that make me want to read the book.
Swearing comes from the limbic system, not from the usual language centres of the brain. This explains why some brain injuries impede regular speech but not swearing. It can also be beneficial; for instance, swearing seems to actually increase our tolerance for pain.
How swearing has changed over the years is an indication of what that culture thinks is taboo. Ancient Romans – being “manly men” – often used words indicative of being sexual “receivers” as swear words. During the Medieval period, swear words typically involved religion. In Victorian times, swearing was all about sex – to the point that even “leg” was considered a taboo (and hence a swear) word. (If you wanted to refer to the leg of a table, one would use “limb” or “lower extremity” or some such.) By the middle of the last century, Victorian goofiness had given way to the usual swear words we know today, which remain sexual and scatological in nature.
Here’s a design problem with a simple solution.
The city is repaving our road. In prelude to that, they’re replacing the curbs and sidewalks. I saw this out my front window today. As I watched them go at it, I noticed a very significant problem in the system consisting of the curb-layer (the yellow machine to the right), the cement truck, and the workers.
Can you figure it out?
This is your brain on postmodernism.
Tom Chivers has a good post excoriating the fetid creationist nouveau Virginia Heffernan, who thinks that science and religion can be treated as social “text.”
I cannot think of an insult too low for that intellectual whore and her creationist bullshit. But, in the words of Leslie Nielsen, that’s not important right now.
Instead, I wanted to use Heffernan’s tripe and Chivers sage rebuttal to highlight just how vacuous postmodernism is. Postmodernism is a reductionist (which they call “deconstructionist”) perspective on – well, pretty much everything – but seen through the lens of the arts rather than the sciences. It’s just the kind of semantics-free babble you get when some well-educated artists get science-envy and create their own, utterly baseless perspective of the universe.