Run Oscar, Run !

Ready to Go

Oscar Pistorius will be racing over this weekend in The Netherlands. At least some of the races, especially the 400 metres, will give him an opportunity to set a time that improves his chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics; his personal best time is 1 second slower than the qualifying time, and he’s apparently not in top-form right now. But still … he’s probably got as good a chance as the Penguins have of trumping the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. The CBC has a nice short story on this right here.

Go, Oscar, go!

Update: news of his 200 metre run from Sports Illustrated, and now of his 100 and 400 metre runs here. Oscar needs to shave just more than 2 seconds off his 400 metre time in order to qualify for the South African team by qualification time, unless no other South African has a qualifying time.

What Sorts of Dignity?

The concept of Dignity has recently become a subject of considerable debate. This debate is partly being sparked by the publication of the monograph Human Dignity and Bioethics by the US President’s Council on Bioethics. The notion of dignity is being attacked as too vague and ambiguous to have any value, and some critics see the use of the concept of human dignity as ploy by conservative ethicists to thwart the advancement of medicine and science through new technologies. In fact, it has been used by both sides in such debates, but it remains vague and ambiguous. In my opinion, the problems with its squishy definition require attention, but I think there is something underneath the messy definition that needs to be explored, not abandoned. What do you think? Is dignity a concept that has no practical value and should be abandoned? If we dump the concept of dignity, what is lost? What does dignity mean to you? …. And what do you think it means to others?

Reality check: feedback call

Well, we’ve just passed both our first two weeks of full frontal attention to issues that caught our blogging attention around the question “What Sorts of People Should There Be?“, and also our 5000th hit on the blog. Let us know what you think of what you’ve seen, what you’d like to see more of, what else might be a good topic to blog on that we haven’t even come close to yet (but might). Rants? Pics / Vids? Themes?

Comment thread is open.

What Sorts of Nano research: A code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research


and here

of interest to us
4.1.16 N&N research organisations should not undertake research aiming for non-therapeutic enhancement of human beings leading to addiction or solely for the illicit enhancement of the performance of the human body.

THis suggests that every other enhancement research is allowed like ‘therapeutic’ (who decides what is therapeutic), and non therapeutic work that is not used for doping purposes or leads to addictions.. Additions are mostly drug related at first glance but may be one say that one can become addicted to ones enhancements like emotionally addicted.

In general the section seem to give the go ahead to most enhancement work

Some of the other wordings of the code might be usable for us but will see.Technorati Tags: , , ,

CFP: Feminist Philosophy and Medical Biotechnologies

Call for Papers
Special Issue of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy
Medical Biotechnologies, deadline 15 March 2009.

Edited by Marin Gillis and Inmaculada de Melo-Martín

Medical biotechnologies have been heralded as both the solution to most problems affecting human beings and their environments, and as a threat to all that matters to us. Feminist analysis of current medical biotechnologies has much to offer to this debate. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy invites submissions that use feminist philosophy to evaluate medical biotechnologies.

Articles exploring feminist philosophical analyses of medical biotechnologies and those evaluating how feminist values might shape the development and implementation of such technologies are welcome. Also of interest are essays reflecting on the gendered, race, and class dimensions of medical biotechnologies, those evaluating the impact of globalization on these biotechnologies and vice-versa, and articles offering new insights into the effects of medical biotechnologies on social and political arrangements.

Although feminist work in biomedicine is frequently assumed to be about women’s capacity to procreate, this issue seeks to highlight other dimensions of medical biotechnologies, including human genetic modification, cloning, xenotransplantation, chimeras, pharmacogenomics/genetics, and human genetic databases.

Papers should be no more than 8000 words, inclusive of notes and bibliography, prepared for anonymous review, and accompanied by an abstract of no more than 100 words. Please provide a cover letter identifying your paper as a submission for the special issue “Medical Biotechnologies.” The deadline for submissions is 15 March 2009.

Papers should be submitted by electronic attachment in Word to Marin Gillis at Submissions should follow Hypatia guidelines (see Please address all correspondence, questions, and suggestions to Marin Gillis or Inmaculada de Melo-Martín at

Reductionism in Biology: SEP entry and discussion thread

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Reductionism in Biology, co-authored by Alan Love and myself, has been published online. Section 5 mentions pluralism and ideas from feminist and social epistomology bearing on reductionism. Some of you may have views on this (e.g., on issues that we did not mention in our brief discussion). We set up a discussion thread on this SEP entry, to gather comments that we will consider when revising the entry in the future. Feel free to comment on our entry there!

Oscar Pistorius: Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite

I’d be curious what readers think about the above video of bionic athlete Oscar Pistorius, obviously made before the most recent decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which Gregor Wolbring has discussed in earlier posts on the blog, including here. Anyone know where the video comes from? Who do you think the basic message is? What does it say about the Olympics? What does it mean to you? The thread for comments is open.

Nanotechnology, transhumanism and the bionic man

this piece by nanowerk explains a lot of my reasoning quite nicely

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CFP: Archives and the Canadian Narrative

The What Sorts network will be helping to coordinate 1 or 2 submissions for panels for this conference; please contact Sue Campbell ( if you are interested in participating. At least one submission will concentrate on our project From Archives to Activism: Building Inclusive Communities Through Practices of Collective Memory, which focuses on the history of eugenics in Western Canada and which we’ll blog about later on. You’re also encouraged to send in separate submissions. *****************

“Archives and the Canadian Narrative – Re: Telling Canada’s Stories” and “Regional Archives in the Digital Universe.” Archives in Canada Conference Series (ACCS), 3rd Biennial Conference, Mount Allison University, 10 – 12 June 2009

This conference series aims to bring together researchers from the academic community and general public with archivists, librarians and other professionals to exchange ideas about issues and topics relevant to Canadian archives. Beginning in 2005 with a conference at McMaster University on the topic of Canadian Literature and Archives, the series continued with a conference on the archives of Canadian cultural activists in June 2007 at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. The third conference will take place at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, 10-12 June 2009. Proposals for papers or panels in English or in French are invited on the organizational theme “Archives and the Canadian Narrative – Re: Telling Canada’s Stories,” or the sub theme “Regional Archives in the Digital Universe.” Some questions that might be considered: How do archives enable researchers to shape and reshape narratives about Canada? What is the nature of archival “truth” and how can it best be discovered and disseminated? What responsibility does the researcher have to the archival artefact? To what extent do archives allow a role for the literary or historical imagination? What responsibility do editors have to the integrity of archival evidence? How is the nature of the Canadian narrative evolving? Continue reading

What sort of Olympics Paralympics: Beijing Olympics guide on Paralympians

DISABLED people can be unsocial, stubborn, controlling, and defensive according to an official Beijing Olympics guide.  The Olympic manual for volunteers in Beijing is peppered with patronising comments, noting for example that physically disabled people are “often” mentally healthy……
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Bringing Stigma Out of the Shadows

As part of the Mental Health Forum, the Health Sciences Council at the University of Alberta will be holding a full day forum Bringing Stigma Out of the Shadows on Thursday, May 29th. Keynote speakers include Phil Upshall (Past Chair, Canadian Aliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health), Lonnie Zwaigenbaum (expert on early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder), and Austin Mardon (activist and author). The event is free, and will be held at the Timms Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Alberta; advance registration is encouraged. For more details, see here

What Sorts of Social Response to Diversity

Simply put, every culture can respond to individual differences in two primary ways: (a) Accommodation or (b) Marginalization. Accommodation finds ways to tolerate and include differences, while marginalization finds ways to exclude and eliminate them. The more difficult question is why do societies find it necessary or desirable to marginalize? The answer may not be so simple. Is it about fear, money, power, or something else. What do you think?

What Sorts of People in the Casino?

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that, even in a casino themed around the Priscilla Queen of the Desert musical, gender “appropriateness” can still be demanded.

Paul “Anne-Marie” Hurst, of Sydney, got away with attending the opening of Priscilla wearing a frock, and managed to drink uninterrupted at the casino bar, “Priscilla’s” afterward. But when she then decided to have a flutter in the casino, was denied entry on the basis of being inappropriately attired for ‘his’ gender. (Notably, the news article seems committed to keeping Hurst in the gendered place alloted at birth, referring to her constantly as Mr Hurst)

The theming of the bar, and the success of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, are interesting phenomena in Australia to begin with. In a country profoundly committed to archetypes of masculinity, there is a tradition of dressing “real men”, of unimpeachable masculinity, up as women. The Footy Show is Australia’s contemporary bastion of masculinity, which makes liberal use of cross-dressing, Continue reading

Podcast of Talks on Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta

Podcasts are available of nearly all of the talks that were given in a public conference held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton last year, “Eugenics and Sterilization in Alberta: 35 Years Later”. Eugenic sterilization was practiced in Alberta until 1972, when a new provincial government repealed the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. The conference was public not only in the sense that it was “open to the public” but in that it strove to include the voices of community members who were affected by the long history of eugenic sterilization in the province of Alberta. Speakers included the Honorable David King, the MLA and cabinet minister in the provincial government who led the way in the repeal of the SSAA in 1972 and offered his own personal reflections; Claudia Malacrida, a sociologist who talked about dehumanization and sterilization in institutional contexts; and Leilani Muir and Judy Lytton, two Albertans who lived in those contexts. You can get the program from the conference, see abstracts for the talks, and listen to the podcasts, right here.

The Biocultures Manifesto

On Friday I read a new manifesto by Lennard Davis and David Morris: Biocultures Manifesto published in the New Literary History. While the assertions and insights may not be entirely novel to readers of this blog, their declarations, nonetheless, are spot on and because of the finesse and clarity with which they write, this manifesto will be part of the arsenal many of us will use for our teaching.

The manifesto covers the co-constitution of science and society, of fact and value, and of the great difficulties of making and grappling new knowledge. Probably one of my favorite sections is the following:

In the end, all branches of knowledge interpret. Interpretation isn’t all that they do, but it constitutes a massive common ground. Scientists set up experiments to generate data that they interpret. Literary critics interpret texts. Judges interpret the law. Sign language and interpreters ad translators transform one lanague into another … Wouldn’t we all benefit by learning the rules or norms by which various discourse produce and interpret their findings? Wouldn’t such knowledge help us improve our own perhaps distinctive interpretive norms and skills…. This learning, while not discord-free, offers a model for dialogue and holds out a promise that interpretative disagreements need no become occasions for violent conflict.

My only beef with the article is that, well, it is lives within walled garden. And I have to say, a manifesto behind gates is a little less of a manifesto. To say this, is not to blame the authors as we are often at the mercy of the journals. However, I think we do have a responsibility to put this issue out in the open and eventually start breaking down the walls.

Elephant Man: Last Chance

Just quickly, since I’m running off to teach a full-day seminar in philosophy for children: went to see The Elephant Man last night in good company. It’s really well done, living up to the standards of theatre we’ve come to know and love in Edmonton. It gives a lot of food for thought on appearance, what’s normal, societal rules regulating how we perceive, react, and behave, the gaze, and the idea of monstrosity. If you’re in Edmonton, catch it at Studio Theatre at the University of Alberta–it ends on Saturday.

World health statistics 2008

I added the link to the new report in my blog see here
below just one part of the content of thaTen highlights in health statistics 7-34
Progress towards MDG 5: maternal mortality 8
Coverage gap and inequity in maternal, neonatal and child health interventions 10
HIV/AIDS estimates are revised downwards 13
Progress in the fight against malaria 15
Reducing deaths from tobacco 18
Breast cancer: mortality and screening 21
Divergent trends in mortality slow down improvements in life expectancy in Europe 24
Monitoring disease outbreaks: meningococcal meningitis in Africa 27
Future trends in global mortality: major shifts in cause of death patterns 29
Reducing impoverishment caused by catastrophic health care spending 32
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