Saturday, March 26, 2005

Thoughts on Schiavo

My first reaction when I first heard of the Schiavo case was outrage at the Christian Right's insistence on still considering Terri as a thinking and living human being who should be kept on life support at all costs even if there is no chance that she may recover any mental functions. I think a "person" is a thinking and feeling entity, or someone who may someday recover the status of thinking and feeling entity, and that biological samples which do not and cannot think and feel (embryos, cells, ...) are not persons. This is, after all, the basis of our support for abortion and stem cell research: no harm is done to persons. So I thought that the proper thing to do was switching life support off.

Then when I saw her pictures on television I realized that the fact that she moves her eyes can give a very strong impression that she is at least feeling something. Someone emotionally involved, like her parents, is not likely to believe any medical statement that she is does not, and never will, think and feel. So I ask myself what I would feel if I were in the place of Terri Schiavo's parents. Would I feel that society is murdering my daughter? Perhaps I would. Why shouldn't Terri Schiavo's parents be allowed to keep the hope, or the delusion, that their daughter may wake up smiling? Is it because taxpayers are paying for life support? Would things change if they were paying for it themselves?

Doctors say that Terri Schiavo will never think or feel anything. But most doctors also say that today's cryonics patients will never be revived, and that life extension technology will never work. Does this mean that we should give up on cryonics and life extension? Does it depend on who is paying? It seems reasonable to think that those who can pay for cryonics and life extension should be allowed to do so, but that taxpayers' money should be spent wisely and focused where it can be effective. But how do you explain that to Terri Schiavo's parents? And how do you explain it to those who will want to try experimental deep life extension therapies without being able to afford it?

All questions and no answers: these are difficult issues.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The "culture of life" and the ethics of assassination

A puzzle for me is how one can actually believe the right-to-life dogma that every embryo is a moral person equivalent to an adult, and that we are worse than the Third Reich in our acquiescence to widespread murder of "people" in abortion clinics, and not then think that the murder of abortion clinic doctors is called for. Clearly if one could have killed concentration camp guards one should have.

The only arguments I've seen for right-to-lifers not killing abortion doctors is the rare consistent advocacy of Christian pacifism, or the more pragmatic argument that, while abortion doctors should be killed, it might turn off the public.

Now, with Schiavo, the link between withdrawal of treatment and abortion has been inescapably forged for the radical Right. And the judges and clinicians involved have been receiving death threats.

I think we can now look forward to a widening of the ambit of the Christian right's shooters. All hail the culture of life.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Save the Bears with Viagra

(Via AlterNet) Many endangered species are hunted in order to prepare alleged aphrodisiacs. J.D. Smith, writing in Grist Magazine, has a surprisingly CybDemite solution:
If we want to save black bears and rhinos, we have to get these drugs (Viagra and its analogues) into the hands of the people who would otherwise be paying for those animals' parts or doing the hunting for themselves. Many can pay, and for them – and our endangered animal friends – liberalized trade and e-commerce have their advantages.

But those who can't pay shouldn't be left out. Responsibly packaged along with condoms, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of disease, a little pharmaceutical lift might brighten an aid recipient's day a wee bit more than the typical relief package of rice, beans and cooking oil. Scented candles, of course, could be optional.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Naam to speak at Tools for the Development of Humanity - Wash D.C. - April 25-26

CybDemite Ramez Naam will be one of the many exciting speakers at the Arlington Institute's TAICON 2005 - Tools for the Development of Humanity April 25-26, 2005 in Washington D.C.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Democracy on life support...

Once you learn the Facts and Lies about Terri Schiavo, the more outraged you become.

In a thread on an atheism forum, one poster noted the following in reaction:

She's in a "permanent vegitative state". That means she's a vegetable with no higher brain function and there's no chance of that ever changing.

Even though there was no living will, the courts have established that it was her wish not to live in such a scenario. The husband won't gain anything from this. If he walks away now, divorces her, and removes himself entirely from the situation, it won't change the ruling that has established her wishes.

This isn't about Mrs. Schiavo. It's about partisan politics and the right to life movement. Once the constitutional imperatives currently in place are overriden, the right to life movement will use this as a wedge in an attempt to overturn Roe Vs. Wade.

This case is symptomatic of the larger trend towards furthering the conservative agenda in the States. It's win-win for the conservative movement. If the government interferes and she continues to live they'll have created a precedent for the override of constitional rights in the name of promoting a "culture of life", which will be used for promoting anti-abortion legislation. If she dies, she becomes a martyr, and further energizes their cause.

Any hope for rational discussion evaporates with pleas to raw emotion. How can the democrats hold discourse with people who respond with the cry of "Murderer!"?

I'm afraid this is just the beginning.

Save Schiavo Act Allows Bush and Republicans To Pay Back BrainDead Electoral Support Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Scientific American Editors Recommend Citizen Cyborg, More Than Human

The Book Editors of the April issue of Scientific American recommend CybDemites James Hughes' Citizen Cyborg and Ramez Naam's More Than Human.