Notes and Comment Blog

Skeptics should be willing

Mar 15th, 2014 2:45 pm | By

Seen on Twitter:

What a joke #UpForDebate is. Skeptics should be willing to revise any and all of their beliefs given sufficient reason, argument, evidence.

Really? All? Are we sure? Our beliefs that genocide is wrong? Our beliefs that Hitler should not have tried to kill all the Jews? Our beliefs that it’s wrong to beat small children? Our beliefs that torture is not permissible? Our beliefs that murder is wrong? Our beliefs that assault is wrong?

So we’re just back to #UpForDebate again.

No, really. We don’t have to put everything on the table. It’s ok to see some things – in fact many things – as moral progress, and a ratchet, and to treat them as settled.

Some self-styled skeptics really don’t get this. (Others do get it, and accept that skepticism isn’t the only or best tool for analyzing morality anyway.) Some self-styled skeptics think being skeptical of homeopathy and being skeptical of basic human rights are exactly the same thing. They are mistaken.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How can anyone possibly not want a baby?

Mar 15th, 2014 12:48 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte did an eloquent post on the isue of “secular” anti-abortion arguments yesterday. No, she doesn’t buy it either.

So, the atheist/skeptic community is in an uproar on the subject of abortion, and since that’s kind of my jam, I figured I should weigh in. The question isn’t whether or not legal abortion is moral—outside a few kooks, nearly all non-believers are pro-choice—but whether or not those anti-abortion kooks should be indulged and given the privilege of having everyone treat their shit arguments like they have value in free-wheeling discourse, or if they should be shunned on the grounds of being shit arguments the same way anti-gay or overtly racist arguments are shunned.

I find the anti-shunning side to be peculiar, on the grounds of boredom. Yes, we should, as freethinkers, not shy away from “difficult” topics and have freewheeling discourse about them, but it’s not like anti-choicers have suddenly farted out a bunch of new crap arguments to pick apart. They’re still pooping out the same old crap argument they’ve been using for the past forty years—that an embryo or even fertilized egg that has no brain has more human rights than the woman who has been drafted into growing it against her will—that’s been debunked a million billion times.

Go ahead if you want to, she goes on, but don’t go thinking you’re advancing free thought by doing it, because that would require arguments in good faith, and that’s not what these are.

Like Kruszelnicki’s pseudo-liberal argument that if only there were more daycare and stuff like that then women would stop all this abortion horror. Oh yeah? says Amanda.

Ah, doesn’t that sound nice? We give women more opportunities to leave work early for their mothering duties and some gold-plated day care and perhaps some re-education camps (don’t say that out loud) and eventually, they will succumb to our soft coercion and know that having a baby is what they really want, like they should, because all ladies love babies—and all ladies want a baby right now  because they are so cute—because they are ladies.

Well, let me just put a stop to this shit right now. You can give me gold-plated day care and an awesome public school right on the street corner and start paying me 15% more at work, and I still do not want a baby. I don’t particularly like babies. They are loud and smelly and, above all other things, demanding. No matter how much free day care you throw at women, babies are still time-sucking monsters with their constant neediness. No matter how flexible you make my work schedule, my entire life would be overturned by a baby. I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby. I’ve heard your pro-baby arguments. Glad those work for you, but they are unconvincing to me. Nothing will make me want a baby.

And we get to feel that way, and act on it, because it’s our lives, not someone else’s.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Now Friends on Facebook

Mar 15th, 2014 11:38 am | By

Let’s take a look at Kelsey Hazzard, the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life. (She and Hemant are now Friends on Facebook. You can say that in a James Earl Jones voice if you want to.)

Kelsey Hazzard is the founder and president of Secular Pro-Life. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a legal fellow at Americans United for Life. She is also the author of the pro-life novella “Cultivating Weeds.”

Ok then let’s take a look at Americans United for Life.

Americans United for Life, the nation’s premier pro-life legal team, works through the law and legislative process to one end: Achieving comprehensive legal protection for human life from conception to natural death.The nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization holds the unique distinction of being the first national pro-life organization in America— incorporated in 1971, before the infamous Roe v. Wade decision.

AUL’s legal team has been involved in every abortion-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court since Roe v. Wade, including AUL’s successful defense of the Hyde Amendment before the Supreme Court. AUL’s legal expertise and acumen set the bar in the pro-life community for the creation of effective and defensible pro-life positions. At the state, federal and international levels, AUL works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced. AUL knows that reversing Roe v. Wade can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.

That’s all bullshit. Abortion isn’t a threat to life. Abortion isn’t a culture of death, or the opposite of a culture of life. The way to protect human life is not to ban abortion. It’s all bullshit. The real threats to life are disease, poverty, violence, war, workplace hazards, environmental hazards, accidents, lack of education – systemic problems, social problems, problems of inequality and malpractice. Forcing women to bear children they don’t want to bear is completely tangential to all of that, and in fact greatly increases the risks to life for the woman.

So it’s all bullshit. All of it. It’s people blowing smoke for the sake of some kind of obstinate sentimentality about the fetus…except when it’s just plain old god-bothering disguised as obstinate sentimentality about the fetus.

These people are deadly enemies of women; make no mistake about it.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Argumentum ad horrorem

Mar 15th, 2014 11:11 am | By

More from the wonderful people at “Secular” “Pro-Life.”

creep“If abortion advocates were so secure in their position, in knowing that their stance is right and just, then why would they feel so threatened by pro-life displays? Why feel the need to censor pro-life information from getting out there if there’s no truth to it? It’s the million dollar question with an answer we’ll never get, because it exposes the utter frailty of the pro-abortion movement. Pro-lifers have truth and science on our side. Abortion advocates can’t fight against that, and they know it — so all they can do is try to shut us down.”

The quoted passage and the picture are from a piece at Live Action News, another anti-abortion-rights site.

Here’s how the piece starts:

Pro-life and pro-abortion students clashed this week at the University of Georgia. Pro-life students erected a display, hosted by Justice for All, that included graphic images of aborted babies. Unsurprisingly, pro-abortion students were having none of that.

While pro-life students showed their peers the reality of abortion with graphic images, pro-choice students built a makeshift wall to block the images from view and held signs with statements like “Pussy Power” and “My Body, My Choice.”

In interviews with The College Fix, pro-abortion students called the graphic images – which showed bloody fetuses after late-term abortions – “hateful speech.” They said students shouldn’t be forced to look at them, and that most of the pictures showed “stillborns” and not abortions.

The more I look the more surprised I am that Hemant Mehta solicited that guest post from Kristine Kruszelnicki.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Post the whole sentence, cheaters

Mar 14th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Oh ffs.

derpSecular Pro-Life

“Slowly but steadily, it seems more and more pro-choicers acknowledge this point.

It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”

Peter Singer (pro-choice philosopher), Practical Ethics

Of course we acknowledge it. A human embryo is of the human species. The issue is not that it’s not human and the issue is not that it’s not alive. The embryo is alive and of the human species. It’s a human being in the sense that Singer specifies there. That’s not the only sense. The sentence doesn’t even end there in the book: the punctuation mark after “being” is a semi-colon, and the sentence goes on to say that the same applies to an anencephalic infant. Then there’s a new paragraph and a new and different meaning of “human being” – so Singer isn’t saying or acknowledging what the hacks at Secular Anti-abortion Rights are pretending he said and acknowledged. Surprise! They’re not honest.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Mar 14th, 2014 5:20 pm | By

I’m trawling through Secular Pro-Life’s Facebook page. Look, if they’re going to be the boss of us now, we need to know a little more about them.

They want us to know they like baaaaaybeeeeeeeeez. They want us to know that so that we’ll feel guilty for being such baby-hating bad heartless evil people. So they let us know they donate diapers, and they show us photos of baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybeeeeeeeeeeeeez.

babiesNow, don’t you feel rotten?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The hyenas are prowling

Mar 14th, 2014 5:03 pm | By

Good job, Hemant.

Kristine Kruszelnicki of course is the “secular” anti-abortion rights person who wrote that guest post at Friendly Atheist.



Kristine Kruszelnicki shared a link

Justin Vacula just wrote to congratulate me on being PZ Myer’s “Witch of the Week”. I get to be trashed on PZ’s blog for the second time. Yay! (Free publicity at least?)

Of course he did. He is worried about disunity among the atheists.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The most vulnerable members

Mar 14th, 2014 1:25 pm | By

I’m looking into “Secular Pro-Life” now, having not done so before. They are repulsive. Their rhetoric is religious in its exaggeration and its coerciveness.


For five years, Secular Pro-Life has united people of every faith and no faith to fight for the most vulnerable members of our human family.

That’s religious bullying via sentimentalism. “Vulnerable members of our human family” is religious language for a developing fetus.

I’m sure they think they’re secular, I’m sure they aren’t officially religious, but their rhetoric is saturated in religiion, whether they’re aware of it or not.

They reported on their tabling at the 2012 American Atheists convention. (Yes. Sigh.)

Kelsey: One elderly woman looked me in the eye and said “I don’t understand how women could be so hateful to other women.”  I was upset by the attack, but calmly responded: “I do not hate women.  No woman wants to have an abortion.  No woman wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to have unprotected sex today, so that I can get pregnant and have some doctor put sharp objects up my privates.’  No one wants that.  And we want to make sure women don’t end up in that situation.”  That settled her down a bit and she walked away.

No woman wants to get pregnant when she doesn’t want to get pregnant; that’s true by definition. But if a woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant does get pregnant then she may very well wake up and say, “I’m going to have an abortion today” and feel massive relief that she can say that and it will be true. Kelsey and her friends don’t have the power to make sure that no woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant does get pregnant.

Rebecca has a post about those people at that convention.

it was disheartening for me to discover that a booth at this past weekend’s American Atheists conference was presenting the “scientific” argument against abortion:

That photo is from Surly Amy. By the time I arrived, he had been joined by a woman who was obviously well-versed in anti-choice rhetoric. I interviewed them for about an hour, and while I mostly kept my cool as they grinned and talked about how a fertilized egg deserves “the same” rights as me, I had to stop the interview shortly after the man insisted that a fertilized egg has the same rights as a 12-year old who has been raped and impregnated by her father. Then he went on to tell me that he’s one of the people who waves photos of bloody fetuses at women, and he refused to condemn the actions of anti-choice activists who surround and harass women attempting to enter Planned Parenthood. The best he could offer was that the strategy may be ineffective, and when I pressed him he agreed that specifically calling a woman a whore is “wrong.”

I told him he is a horrible person and I walked away because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. The Religious Right has successfully invaded a secular space to sell their anti-woman message, and in our ranks we have a sizable portion of people who declare that fighting back is too political. Too feminist! Too leftist. Too insular and academic.

Fuck that. If we don’t stand up and defend our values – humanism, skepticism, scientific inquiry – when they are under attack by those who would seek to further limit the rights and freedoms of the disenfranchised, then those values aren’t worth holding at all.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Invisible because incorporated

Mar 14th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

Another review of Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex, this time at NPR, by Marcelo Gleiser.

(Don’t forget, she’s a speaker at Women in Secularism 3, a mere two months from now.)

The man who gave us philosophy as we know it is back, walking among us, going to TV talk shows, visiting Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., having his brain examined by a naïve reductionist neuroscientist, engaging with our current struggles.

For this we must thank Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s inventiveness and intellectual courage. Her bookPlato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, has just been published to rave reviews by people such as philosopher Colin McGinn. Goldstein’s goal is clear: to show to the “philosophy-jeerers” — those who claim philosophy has no value whatsoever — how absurdly wrong (and mostly ignorant) they are.

To show, that is, not to tell.

Philosophy has changed much since Plato, as it should. After all, its purview is precisely to examine and re-examine itself as a precondition to growth. No advance would be possible without this openness to criticism. (Incidentally, and not surprisingly, this is also how science functions. Plasticity is an essential property of any evolving knowledge system.) Goldstein’s brilliantly constructed narrative, combining Plato’s original texts with current-day events, shows how timely the central questions of philosophy remain, as the answers multiply.

Answers are never final, or, if they seem to be, they shouldn’t be interpreted as such. Yet, while in science it is easy to identify progress, in philosophy the task is harder. As Goldstein reflects upon Plato’s legacy, she offers a portrait of the shifting nature of our philosophical inquiries and our search for meaning:

Philosophical progress is invisible because it is incorporated into our points of view. What was tortuously secured by complex argument becomes widely shared by intuition, so obvious that we forget its provenance. We don’t see it, because we see with it.

Philosophy provides the goggles with which we make sense of reality.

And you want to know something about those goggles.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Mar 14th, 2014 11:40 am | By

James Croft has a new entrant in the #UpForDebate who gets to talk about abortion rights how many decades do we have to keep discussing whether women get to have bodily autonomy wars.

A couple of years ago he took part in such a debate, and realized while it was in process that it was basically a sham and he shouldn’t have agreed to do it. It was not a pleasant moment.

What I had failed to realize, despite my weeks of preparation, is that my ability and willingness to enter into a space of “debate” around the issue of abortion is a manifestation of privilege. What you are wiling to debate – what is effectively “up for discussion” – is frequently a reflection of what you think, in principle, you might be willing to give up. What you are able to put on the table of public discourse are the things you don’t feel too threatened to let go of. During all my discussions on the topic before the debate it had never occurred to me that my ability to conduct the research and weigh the arguments in a reasonably dispassionate way was due to the fact that I simply will never have to face the decision to abort. I was discussing, and discoursing, and debating rights which are not mine to put up for discussion. By opening that debate, even taking the pro-choice side, I was essentially putting women’s right to autonomy on the table in a way I have no business doing. Engaging in abstract philosophical discussion about other people’s rights in a public forum, when those rights are constantly under threat in the current political and social climate, and when the answer to the questions you raise will never effect you directly, is a callous and thoughtless thing to do.

I know how this feels to some degree, because I feel a certain sense of outrage when straight people debate the rights of queer people. I have many times found infuriating the way that straight folks can casually discuss my right to get married the same way they might discuss where to go to lunch that day. When it is my fundamental rights being debated, it is very easy to see when the issues are being discussed with too much intellectual remove, and too little righteous anger. I have, more than once, tried angrily to impress upon those arguing against equal marriage (say) that it is my life they are talking about, not some topic for a class paper. My life. It is sadly less easy to see this happening when you are on the other side of the equation. The fact is that as much as I try to be an ally to women, I do not feel the sense of threat and personal affront when confronted with an argument against abortion which I feel when confronted with an argument against gay rights. It doesn’t hit me where I live – which makes me a very bad person to judge when and to what extent such discussions are appropriate.

I think that’s right. It’s a hard thing for people to hear, because it seems inimical to open free discussion…but I think it’s right anyway.

I should have known better, then, than to have reposted on Facebook, without any critical commentary, an article by Kristine Kruszelnicki recently hosted on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog presenting a secular case against abortion. The case presented is shoddy and unconvincing, and it would have been far better, were I to post it at all, to have done so being explicit that I disagreed strongly with it and was posting it for the purpose of attempting to improve the arguments in favor of a woman’s right to choose. I should have been particularly mindful of posting that piece in such a way given the fact that the secular community still seems incapable of agreeing that women are indeed full people, and that it is not OK to proposition them endlessly at conferences, invade their personal space, grope them, make demeaning comments about their appearance all the time etc. Furthermore, I should have recognized that the posting of that article came closely on the heels of what seems to be a signal from Dave Silverman that American Atheists, Inc. might be willing to make common ground with conservatives on the question of abortion in order to further other “more clear-cut” secular aims (it is particularly stupid that I didn’t think of this given the fact I criticized Silverman myself for his statements at CPAC). When the bodily autonomy – and therefore fundamental dignity – of women is not firmly established, it is simply inappropriate to treat as an academic exercise questions of abortion rights – especially without framing those questions in any way.

And the bodily autonomy – and therefore fundamental dignity – of women is not firmly established. We keep seeing that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Actual people with personalities, characters, wishes

Mar 14th, 2014 9:57 am | By

A striking thing that Gilliel said in a comment on Greta’s post Having a Reasonable Debate About Abortion yesterday:

And here’s another thing that’s been driving my blood pressure up and I will bold the beginning so that people


I have been pregnant three times which resulted in two kids. My first pregnancy turned Wahoonie-shaped around week ten and I needed an abortion (which is never counted as an abortion-abortion, but as a reasonable medical intervention because reasons. Probably because I suffered enough since I actually wanted to be pregnant very much). I had two wonderful kids afterwards.

To act as if the death of that embryo was somewhat comparable to one of my children, actual people with personalities, characters, wishes, likes, dislikes, a central nervous system, even breaking a bone, let alone dying is so deeply fucked-up and beyond belief offensive that I hardly have words for it.

Surely that’s right.

Parents mourn miscarriages of wanted pregnancies, of course, but they’re mourning a potential, not an actual, and there is a difference.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Up for debate 3

Mar 13th, 2014 6:17 pm | By

Is Genocide always such a bad idea? #UpForDebate

Why not punish serious crimes by flaying people? #UpForDebate

Let’s totally rethink our position on torture. #UpForDebate

How about euthanasia for disabled people? That would save a few bucks. #UpForDebate

Immigrants. Shouldn’t we just enslave them? It was their idea to come here, after all. #UpForDebate

The US should invade Iceland. It’s just lying there, begging for it. #UpForDebate

We need serious tax reform. No tax at all on people with incomes over $200,000. Let everyone else pay for it. #UpForDebate

Dentists should be allowed to torture every 11th patient, just for laughs. #UpForDebate

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Another conception of rights

Mar 13th, 2014 4:57 pm | By

Our new blogger Kaveh Mousavi mentioned in a conversation the infuriating “arguments” he gets from fellow Iranians about the hijab. What are they? He listed them.

The first one: I say, I believe a woman should be able to have a choice in the matter of her own dress. They say, but, what if your own mother and your own sister chose to go on the street without the proper dressing code? This argument is repeated in all manners of sexual liberty, including porn. They are then genuinely amazed that I’m not convinced by this. They genuinely think that I would NEVER even consider letting my own relatives go out in the streets not covered up.

The second one is this: looking at a woman’s hair or body is a sin. Being turned on or being attracted to such things, also sin. Men have a “right” to walk in public without the danger of committing a sin. Women who go out in public with improper dressing code, they’re violating this right.

The third is that we’re all Muslims and Islam says this and therefore the social rules should be Islam’s rules.

Fascinating. Women who go out in public without being bagged up like rolls or newspapers or freshly ground coffee are violating men’s rights.

But what about women’s rights?




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More up for debate

Mar 13th, 2014 1:32 pm | By

Everything should be up for debate, right? It’s the hallmark of an open society. Nothing should be off the table – that way tyranny lies.

So. Why shouldn’t bigger stronger people just take what they want when they can get away with it? #UpForDebate

Why shouldn’t bigger countries invade smaller countries and take all their wealth? #UpForDebate

Why shouldn’t rich people work poor people to death? There are always more poor people. #UpForDebate

Why shouldn’t companies make their workers operate in whatever conditions happen to occur? Why bother with safety regulations? If some workers die, others will take their place. #UpForDebate

Why shouldn’t companies sell whatever product they can? It’s the customer’s job to figure out if the products are safe or not. #UpForDebate

Why shouldn’t countries refuse to let people of the wrong race or ethnic group immigrate? What’s wrong with filtering people out according to how viscerally you dislike them? #UpForDebate

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Up for debate

Mar 13th, 2014 1:00 pm | By

It’s a hashtag – #UpForDebate. A few random samples -

Maybe #atheists aren’t fit parents. We should remove their children. #UpForDebate#atheistdudebros

#UpForDebate You knew there was a chance that you would get carjacked. Now just relax and enjoy the ride.

#UpforDebate The healthcare you receive should be dependent on what you’re wearing at the time of injury.

Men work dangerous jobs, which means more injuries & greater cost to employers. They should be paid less to compensate. #UpForDebate

I think if I heard some solid evidence on the positives of dog fighting I could be convinced. #UpForDebate

I can think of a few.

What was so bad about the Vietnam war anyway? Why did we ever leave? #UpForDebate

Was the ruling in the Dred Scott case really all that wrong? #UpForDebate

The Fourteenth Amendment – a big mistake? #UpForDebate

The women who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company were lucky to have those jobs. #UpForDebate

Unions should be illegal. #UpForDebate

Anybody who is in solitary confinement obviously deserves to be there. #UpForDebate

We don’t have ENOUGH of the population in prison. #UpForDebate

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

But then there’s the woo aspect

Mar 13th, 2014 12:48 pm | By

For the sake of completeness though, I’ll point out that David Gorski has pointed out that Murthy has connections to “complementary and alternative medicine.”

What worries me about Dr. Murthy is his connection to so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), otherwise known these days as “integrative medicine.” My skeptical antennae started twitching when I saw that Dr. Murthy has been serving on the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Healthsince 2011, along with Dr. Dean Ornish. (Come to think of it, it’s disturbing that President Obama would have appointed Ornish to such a committee.) Also on the council is Janet R. Kahn, PhD, who is described as a having been a “Faculty Preceptor in the Fellowship Program in Complementary, Alternative, and General Medicine at Harvard Medical School” since 2000 and having served on the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health since 2009. You know who also serves on that particular advisory council? Brian Berman. There’s also an acupuncturist, Charlotte Kerr, on the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

And Murthy has spelled it out.

More concerning is what Dr. Murthy said in this article, published in Harvard Magazine in 2003:

Murthy’s combined expertise in medicine and business (and he still might pursue an advanced degree in public health) makes him well qualified to follow through with one of his dreams: to develop a system that provides proven, affordable, integrated (traditional and alternative) healthcare in a standardized fashion.

His interest in alternative medicine stems from his own cultural background—both his parents emigrated from India. Although he grew up in Miami, Murthy’s frequent visits to his parents’ homeland allowed him to witness that country’s ancient art of healing, Ayurveda (Sanskrit for “the science of life”). “I have tried various alternative medical therapies myself,” he reports, “and I have found that many alternative modalities are based in principles that make sense, and seem to frequently be effective with patients.” Research in recent years has made important strides in investigating alternative medicine in the United States, Murthy says, but much more needs to be done, and he would like to be a part of that process.

Oh, dear. “Based on principles that make sense?” That’s the sort of thing no physician whose practice is science-based should ever utter about Ayurveda or other “alternative medicine.” He also seems to have been prone to the same sorts of deficits in reasoning that lead all too many people to confuse correlation with causation or placebo effects for real effects.

So he should be questioned about that. Seriously questioned; probingly questioned.

In my perfect world, if I were a Senator asking Dr. Murthy questions, I wouldn’t ask so much about Medicaid, Medicare, the ACA, or other health policy. Well, I would, but that wouldn’t be my primary line of questioning. I figure that Dr. Murthy has political views compatible with those of President Obama, otherwise President Obama wouldn’t have appointed him. Presidents rarely appoint people with highly incompatible views to theirs to positions that are very public, like that of the Surgeon General. What concerns me more is that the Surgeon General should be a voice of science-based medicine, even if it means bucking the prevailing views, existing government policies, the pharmaceutical companies, whatever. Think of the Surgeon General in 1964 warning that cigarettes cause cancer, even though cigarettes were popular (not to mention extremely profitable) and the tobacco companies were doing everything they could to bury or counter the developing body of evidence linking smoking tobacco to lung cancer and heart disease. What we don’t need is a Surgeon General who will be a voice in favor of the ongoing pollution of science-based medicine with quackery.

I’m down with that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How dare a potential Surgeon General defend public health?

Mar 13th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General is, strange to relate, not a fan of injuries and death caused by guns. What an eccentric view, especially for a Surgeon General. Surely a right-minded SG should think of guns as healthy toys.

MSNBC reports on this surprising medical anomaly.

Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is now facing a difficult confirmation for defending public health by pushing for measures that would reduce gun violence in America.

Last week on a vote of 13-9, Murthy’s nomination passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. But his path forward to full confirmation is now under assault from the National Rifle Association, which penned a letter strongly opposing Murthy as Surgeon General. Sen. Rand Paul has threatened to put a hold on the nomination and Sen. John Barrasso has come out against confirmation.

At issue is a letter sent to members of Congress by Murthy, a co-founder of the national grassroots health care advocacy group Doctors for America. “As health care professionals who are confronted with the human cost of gun violence every day, we are unwavering in our belief that strong measures to reduce gun violence must be taken immediately. We strongly urge Congress and the Obama administration to put legislation in place now and develop a comprehensive plan to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths,” Murthy wrote.

Oh good lord no, that’s crazy talk. How could it possibly be a good idea to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths? We want more of those! They keep us alert and energized.

Murthy’s view is not controversial within the public health community. The American Medical Association officially opposes any laws that would block doctors from having open conversations about firearm safety in the home and the Academy of Pediatrics has recommended specific gun violence prevention measures to Congress.

Murthy wouldn’t even be alone among Surgeons General connecting gun violence to public health. Dr. C. Everett Koop, who served as Surgeon General during the Reagan administration, spoke out about gun violence in an essay for the American Medical Association titled: “Time to Bite the Bullet Back.”

Flakes, all of them. Hippy-dippy flower-eating sentimental bunny-sniffing flakes.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More more more of a guy thing

Mar 12th, 2014 5:21 pm | By

What about “ban bossy”? I’m not sure it was a great idea to choose the word “ban” as part of a meme or hashtag or campaign. But the idea behind it? Well yes. I see more reason every day to think that the culture is just godawful for girls and women; that it’s just saturated in ragey misogyny, contempt, patronizing ideas about some kind of inborn need to be drowned in pink fluff for the first ten years, fear, loathing, disgust, hostility, and dismissal.

Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chávez talked about it in the WSJ a few days ago.

Behind the negative connotations lie deep-rooted stereotypes about gender. Boys are expected to be assertive, confident and opinionated, while girls should be kind, nurturing and compassionate. When a little boy takes charge in class or on the playground, nobody is surprised or offended. We expect him to lead. But when a little girl does the same, she is often criticized and disliked.

Because being assertive, confident and opinionated is more of a guy thing. Being talkative, argumentative, active, intellectually involved – more of a guy thing. So what does that mean? That all the opposites are more of a girl thing. Being passive, timid and empty-headed is more of a girl thing. Being silent, compliant, torpid, inert – more of a girl thing.

That is not a good way to raise girls to think they can do all the things.

Social scientists have long studied how language affects society, and they find that even subtle messages can have a big impact on girls’ goals and aspirations. Calling a girl “bossy” not only undermines her ability to see herself as a leader, but it also influences how others treat her. According to data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, parents of seventh-graders place more importance on leadership for their sons than for their daughters. Other studies have determined that teachers interact with and call on boys more frequently and allow them to shout out answers more than girls.

It’s no surprise that by middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys are. Sixth- and seventh-grade girls rate being popular and well-liked as more important than being perceived as competent or independent, while boys are more likely to rate competence and independence as more important, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. A 2008 survey by the Girl Scouts of nearly 4,000 boys and girls found that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 avoid leadership roles for fear that they will be labeled “bossy” or disliked by their peers.

Because there are these rules, these expectations, these stereotypes. And they matter. How can we change them except by changing them? Why shouldn’t we try to change them?

I’m seeing people on Twitter saying things like “well if you tell me not to say it I’ll just say it more” and “some ridiculous people think words matter” and similarly insightful items. Their point? Just…don’t try to change that, because I’m fine with it. Just the usual pissy smart-ass ungenerous shit.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Plato in a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y

Mar 12th, 2014 4:29 pm | By

Colin McGinn reviews Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato at the Googleplex in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a pity they chose Colin McGinn of all people, but oh well.

Plato is brought marvelously to life, and, as a welcome corollary, philosophy is vindicated against what Ms. Goldstein aptly labels the “philosophy-jeerers”—those who rashly claim that philosophy has no intellectual substance or future in this scientific era.

Philosophy-jeerers should read some Rebecca Goldstein. Seriously.

“Plato at the Googleplex” consists of chapters of scholarly discussion followed by fictional accounts of Plato appearing in various contemporary venues. Thus we see Plato at Google headquarters on a book tour, Plato in a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Plato as a consultant to an advice columnist, Plato interviewed on cable news and Plato’s brain being examined in a neuroscience laboratory. Here Ms. Goldstein employs her novelistic skills to sparkling effect by weaving abstract concepts into concrete modern narratives. At a cable news station, he is grilled by one Roy McCoy, who is not a bit intimidated by his distinguished Greek guest: “Okay, so they tell me you’re a big deal in philosophy, Plato. I’m going to tell you up front—because that’s the kind of guy I am, up-front—that I don’t think much of philosophers.”

Well Anthony Grayling has actually been on the Colbert Report, twice, so it all makes sense.

Goldstein also outlines religious and secular responses to the existential questions of the so-called Axial Age, the period (circa 500 B.C.) when the key questions of human civilization began to be crystallized. When people began seriously to wonder what makes human life worthwhile, one group (represented by the Hebrews) conceived the idea of a single God to whom all human life matters, while another group (the Greeks) conceived of human life having meaning on terms internal to itself. As Ms. Goldstein observes, this fundamental choice is still being played out today: Do the Abrahamic religions have the right view of the good life for human beings or were the Greeks onto something better?

The Greeks were onto something better.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Don’t break something laughing

Mar 12th, 2014 3:48 pm | By

Via Unearthed Comics via the Facebook page Science-facts – such a funny cartoon. So, so, so funny. The cartoonist is Sara Zimmerman. So, so, so, so funny.

Credit Unearthed Comics

Ya. Hilarious.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)