Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the question and answer portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The first and second parts may be found here, the third and fourth here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Q&A

Highlights: What is the relevance of John MacEachran’s position within the university? Should the university apologize? Should the Philosophy Department apologize?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

The Body as Object

Symposium Announcement

The Body as Object: The human as material culture

1 May 2009, Telus Centre; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (8:30 a.m. registration), University of Alberta, Edmonton
Cost:
$30 / $15 (concessions). Lunch and refreshments included.
Register at:
http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/materialculture

The Material Culture Institute’s 3
rd Annual Symposium investigates human bodies in relation to the material world. Please join us for a day of exciting and thought-provoking discussion concerning how bodies may be perceived as objects!

Speakers & topics (beneath the fold): Continue reading

An End to Disability?

Well, some kinds anyway.

Current medical technologies in the field of regenerative medicine have regrown the severed tip of a man’s finger (about a 1/2 inch) in 10 days.  With some refinement those who have lost entire limbs or who have suffered severe burns and/or scarring may also be given new hope… or would they?  I don’t think this is as clear cut an issue as it may first appear.

For many people their physical abilities and physical form are a huge part of who they are.  Giving this up to become “normal” may not be the obvious choice that many likely believe.  Nor is it clear that this would be a good thing, either for those facing the choice or the rest of us.  A richness of perspective and a host of other benefits are brought to the world as a consequence of there being people of differing abilities.  Whether it is something as commonplace as the installation of a wheelchair ramp that doubles as a bike jump or as world changing as the rise of the modern intensive care unit in response to the polio epidemic of the twentieth century* there are benefits to heterogeneity that would be lost in a world of normals.

I think the first response of our world would be to “heal the suffering” and to “save those in need”.  We’d see those who would refuse treatment as being slightly crazy, in the same way that parents who choose to keep children classed as severely disabled as being crazy (see this previous post for a chilling example), thereby giving us cause to step in an take make the choice that they are not in the right mind to make.  I admit that this is my initial response.  But in my gut I also have another hope, namely that some of those whom we would force our help on, either physically or through subtler forms of violence and oppression, will have the strength to hold us off—we never know what’s coming for us and if we should have learned anything at all from studying evolution it should have been that a diversity of ideas and people are the best way to play the odds.  Or perhaps I’m totally out to lunch?

Medical technology really does open a Pandora’s Box of ethical questions and moral trials, doesn’t it?

To read the original article about regrowing a finger with “Pixie Dust” as reported by the BBC, just click Continue reading

How many years?

Article 7  of Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act of 2000 defines crimes against humanity and includes “enforced sterilization.” The Act implements the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998. SO… it might appear that involuntary sterilization only was recognized as a crime against humanity in relatively recent history. But actually, Canada agreed to uphold  Charter of the London Agreement along with in August of 1945, and under that Charter the Medical Trials convicted Nazi doctors of crimes against humanity as early as 1947 for the the involuntary sterilization of German citizens with intellectual disabilities. Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 3&4

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third portion of the presentation by Martin Tweedale (The preceding parts may be found here). Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations.

Part 3

Highlights: exploration of validity of a purely consequentialist argument, challenge of academic cowardice, inadequacy of strict utilitarian approach, what features of the case justify removing the MacEachran prize, (un)importance of overstepping legal authority.

A transcript and the concluding Part 4, follow the cut; fiery Q and A to follow later. Continue reading

Thoughts about “Twice Lost”

This morning CBC’s morning radio show The Current aired a documentary called “Twice Lost”. There are a lot of questions that it raises–about relationships, diseases, families, suicide, and reconciliation. You can listen to the whole documentary by clicking here and then selecting Part 2.  It runs about 20 minutes, and is worth listening to in full. But here are the basics and some questions, if you don’t want to (or can’t) listen to the podcast. Warning: spoiler below. One question, up front: what difference should it make to family understanding of a shared past (or a shared future) to discover that a close relative has a previously undisclosed disease, disability, or condition? Continue reading

Following WhatSorts on Facebook

Facebook users may want to follow the WhatSorts blog and any other blogs of interest through the Facebook NetworkedBlogs application. It is easy and efficient way to keep up with the various blogs you follow. If you are interested and use Facebook here is how to get started (If you are interested but don’t use Facebook, you will need to register for Facebook first). Continue reading

Int J of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation Special Issue on Nanotechnology, Disability, Community and Rehabilitation

New in the Int J of Disability, Community and Rehabilitation (IJDCR)

The issue can be found here

An IJDCR Special Issue on Nanotechnology, Disability, Community and Rehabilitation edited by Gregor Wolbring,
Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies Program, Dept of Community
Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Canada

Articles:

Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue, by Gregor Wolbring

If Nanotechnology Were a Magic Wand What Obligations Would it Bring? Or:
The Right to Enhance Versus the Right to Morphological Freedom, by Heather
Bradshaw

Optimization of Human Capacities and the Representation of the Nanoscale
Body, by Michele Robitaille

Nanotechnology: Changing the Disability Paradigm, by Laura Cabrera

The journal welcomes submissions on a continuous basis that focus on nanoscale and nanoscale-enabled science and technology as it impacts on disabled people and the broader community and the role of rehabilitation professionals, family members and others.

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Martin Tweedale Parts 1&2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium at the Western Canadian Philosophical Association annual meeting, held in Edmonton, to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north. Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson. This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog. Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the presentation by Martin Tweedale. Professor Tweedale’s presentation is titled “Ethical Dilemmas in Eliminating the MacEachran Prizes in Philosophy.” It is a discussion of the decision made by the University of Alberta Philosophy Department over whether to continue its association with the prizes in the name of John MacEachran. Professor Tweedale summarizes the factors considered in the deliberations and explores the extent to which the decision taken was rationally demanded by those considerations..

Part 1

Highlights: summary of the background events prompting the decision to cease offering an award in the name of John MacEachran, reason for prizes being awarded, who is doing the honouring in providing awards in a person’s name?

Part 2

Highlights: reflections on the negative impact on students of canceling the prize, listing of reasons both pro and con for honouring John MacEachran, investigation of the challenge that we honour for the good and only the good that people have done and none of us are saints, threat of scandal, moral posturing.

A transcript for both parts follows the cut.

Continue reading

10 bits of Fun Stuff

Here are 10 of the things I reckon to be at least a little bit funny that I’ve posted on What Sorts since May, starting with

New Dawkins Vid Reveals Intelligent Design

Coming Out, by See Hear

Two Birds, One Stone

Standing Corrected: Why is there no apostrophe in “Hells Angels”?

Is your dog on Prozac?

Atoms are … mostly empty space

Gay Diver Makes a Splash

The War in Iraq: An Australian Perspective

PZ Meyers on the Enhancement of Sexual Morality

Parental Disorders

Human Kinds symposium, Vancouver, April 11th

The What Sorts Network has organized an invited symposium session on Human Kinds at the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in a few weeks time. Details below; please spread the word. The meeting is being held at the Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver V6G 2V4 Canada, April 8-12, and our session will be on the Saturday morning before Easter Sunday, April 11th. Those who want to attend just this single session can register on site just for this session ($10); registration for the whole conference is $60.

Philosophers will note that, unusually for an APA symposium, we have managed to stage this one with only 1 out of 4 speakers likely being recognized by the APA cogniscenti as a bona fide philosopher: Nick Agar. Congratulations Nick! And, now I think of it, kudos to the rest of you as well. Impostors all.

Well, not really impostors, just very smart folks who mask their philosophical savvy in other cloth. So who are these other folks, you might ask? Click on their names to find out more details, but in summary: Natasha Vita-More is a renowned transhumanist trailblazer in art, media, and culture; Gregor Wolbring is a disability activist, trained in biochemistry and specializing in future technologies and human life; and Ed Stein is a leading scholar on gay rights, sexuality, and the law, having moved into law after finishing his Ph.D. in Philosophy at MIT.  The session should be a blast.

If you’re going to this meeting, come along, and let others know who might be interested. Room information can be gained when you register on site for either the conference or the session.

VIII-F. Invited Symposium: Human Kinds
9:00-Noon
Chair: Robert A. Wilson (University of Alberta)
Speakers: Natasha Vita-More (University of Plymouth)
“Design Issues Concerning Extreme Life Extension”
Gregor Wolbring (University of Calgary)
Human Beings—Sentient Beings: Species Typical, Sub-typical, and Beyond Typical”
Nicholas Agar (Victoria University of Wellington)
“Ray Kurzweil and Uploading: Just Say ‘No'”
Edward Stein (Yeshiva University)
“The Categories of Sexual Orientation in Law, Science, and Society”

An “Outbreak” of Autism?

The New York Times reported yesterday on an ongoing epidemiological survey into a clustering of autism cases among Somali families in Minnesota.  Given such a clustering there are a number of possibilities that might be true, among them:

  1. It is a statistical fluke.
  2. It is the result of misplaced pattern recognition, similar to seeing faces in clouds or patterns in the bombs dropped on London in WWII.
  3. There really is a significant statistical difference among Minnesotan Somali families.

Of course figuring out which of these is really the case will certainly not be easy for the investigators.  As the article points out, the process of diagnosing autism is less that ideal and since there is no known cause the investigation cannot be as targeted as anyone might hope.  Additional complexities, like the involvement of anti-vaccine advocates and the possibilities of racially biased diagnoses further muddy the waters.

If you would like to read the article, you can find it here.

If you are interested in reading more about what is being seen by some as an “autism epidemic” then you might also want to look here.

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Q&A

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here and the second here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Q&A

Highlights: Is selective abortion another form of sterilization? What was the reason for forming the 1929 commission in Finland and why did it take so long for the results to be passed into law?  How was moral insanity defined? How were illegitimate children viewed in Nordic countries in the early 20th Century?  What was the involvement of religion?

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 3

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the third part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here and the second here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 3

Highlights: the consequences of the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy for doing ethics in Europe, embarrassing statistical analysis of money saved from selective abortion, directed and coercive nature of prenatal genetic testing, strength of ideas of reproductive freedom and autonomy, critical assessment of Finns on “useless” philosophy, secret recipe for arousing passion in Finns.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading

Philosophy, Eugenics and Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 2

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the second part of the presentation by Simo Vehmas (The first part may be found here).  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 2

Highlights: Lack of knowledge by sterilization victims about what was happening, total number of Finnish sterilization victims in, illusion of voluntary sterilization, logical flaw of “playing the Nazi card”, strategy for effective discussion in the face of embarrassment, and prevention of disability vs. providing autonomous choice.

A transcript follows the cut. Continue reading

Health Ethics Symposium–Ethics Education: Minding the Gaps

The John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre invites you to attend an exciting, one-day Health Ethics Symposium at the University of Alberta.

The theme of this year’s symposium is Ethics Education: Minding the Gaps.

Health Ethics Symposium
Ethics Education: Minding the Gaps
Thursday, 30 April 2009
8:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Stollery Executive Development Centre
5th Floor, Business Building
11211 Saskatchewan Drive
University of Alberta

Space is Limited

For further details, please refer to the attachment or visit www.ualberta.ca/bioethics

Please post in your area or feel free to forward this information to anyone that may be interested. Thank you.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Philosophy, Eugenics & Disability in Alberta and Places North – Simo Vehmas Part 1

On October 25, 2008, the What Sorts Network hosted a public symposium to examine, well, philosophy, eugenics, and disability in Alberta and places north.  Four speakers were featured on the panel, Dick Sobsey, Simo Vehmas, Martin Tweedale, and Rob Wilson.  This event was video recorded and over the next month we will highlight these videos on this blog.  Roughly four videos will be featured each week.

To download the full description of the symposium please click here.

With this video we begin the presentation by Simo Vehmas.  Simo’s presentation is titled “Preventing Disability: Nordic Perspectives” and it focuses on summarizing past and present attitudes towards eugenic practices in Nordic countries, principally Finland, with special attention paid to attitudes and ideas around eugenic practices of preventing disability.

Part 1

Highlights: Origins of eugenic ideas in Finland; use of eugenic practices to reinforce various social power structures; ineffectiveness of marriage regulations lead to sterilization practices; intersection of eugenics, morality and criminality.

A transcript follows the cut.

Continue reading