Another Science Hoax

Keith Windschuttle, editor of Australian Right magazine Quadrant, and prominent culture warrior, has been hoaxed — publishing an article arguing essentially that genetic scientists should be allowed to do anything they want without the scrutiny of the public or media, because scientists know best.

The hoaxer outed themselves to another online magaine, Crikey, and has chronicled their misdeed in the blog ‘Diary of a Hoax.’ This is delicious. Continue reading

Microchipping of HIV carriers… What next?

Here’s a link to the story.

This raises a number of interesting questions… Foremost of which being, why would this strategy be employed?

The capacity for a microchip (basically an implanted ID card) to affect behaviour in those who are reckless or wanton in spreading HIV must be quite questionable.  And this would also be dependent on a range of other supports.  The provision in and of itself makes little sense.

As the Australian national guidelines state:

for people with HIV who place others at risk, a variety of increasingly interventionist strategies may be needed, with preference being given to strategies that are least restrictive, as these will generally be the most sustainable and effective in the long term.”

This author’s statement in Time, is simply insane:

“The chip would send off a signal when infected blood comes into contact with non-infected blood so it would monitor the spread.” Continue reading

Podcast about the ‘trials’ of courtroom interpreters

How should the courtroom interpreter interpret their own role in the courtroom? And what discrepencies exist in understandings of this role, between defence and prosecution lawyers, judges, defendants, and the interpreters themselves?

This comprehensive and interesting Australian Radio National podcast may interest readers of the ‘what sorts’ blog, especially with respect to the interests of access to justice and the ability to be fully linguistically present at one’s own trial. Continue reading

Genetic profiling and the Law

Genome sign at Mission Bay, San Fransisco. The sign reads "Human Genome GCCAAAGTATACTATTTCAGCCAACAT" etc. for several lines. It is white bold text on a black backgroundI never seem to stop plugging Radio National podcasts, but here‘s one that shouldn’t be missed, on Damien Carrick‘s Law Report, about genetic profiling. The program looks at the likely prospect that within the next ten years it will be possible to purchase a full genetic profile relatively cheaply (i.e., for around $1000).

Continue reading

China’s one child policy, a generation on

Those interested in issues pertaining to population control and family planning might like to listen to this Australian Radio National podcast, which charts the history of the one child policy in China: it’s making, and its effects. Continue reading

Knowing Thine Enemy?: a book to look out for

cover image for Enhancing Human Capacities by Julian Savulescu

cover image for Enhancing Human Capacities by Julian Savulescu et. al

Some of you — and especially philosophers on the ‘what sorts’ team — will know of a controversial Australian ex-pat ethicist who likes to provoke debate about what sorts of people there should be … No,this time it’s not Peter Singer (although Singer was his PhD supervisor), but rather Julian Savulescu of The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. Savulescu’s chief interest is the use of biotechnology for what he presumptively calls ‘human enhancement.’

When he worked for the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Savulescu wrote a piece called “In Defense of Selection for Nondisease Genes”.* As this community knows well, others have argued that it is defensible to engage in postconception selection against diseased genes, where the term diseased genes refers to:

a gene that causes a genetic disorder (e.g. cystic fibrosis) or predisposes to the development of a disease (e.g. the genetic contribution to cancer or dementia)

This argument in itself is highly contestable, given that it is reasonable to feel that a ‘diseased’ life of one with, say, cystic fibrosis — let alone one that down the line ends with cancer or dementia — is worth living… and more pertinently, that there are grave social consequences when that decision is made on others’ behalf as a matter of course. Savulescu, however, offers a far more radical thesis than this. Continue reading

SCOPE Advertisement

I wanted to share with the what sorts community this advertisement, run in Australia, for Scope — formerly the Spastic Society (which changed its name in 1994 in order to reclaim a positive image for disability in the face of the derogatory use of the label ‘spastic’ in Australia to denote general disparagement).

I think the advertisement succeeds in its provocation to reflect upon prejudices — and fears — about disability that people might bring into their everyday interactions. Anyway, here is the advertisement:

Disability dolls

Tomas, a Down Syndrome doll Here’s one for niche marketing: ‘disability dolls.’

A girl’s relationship with her doll is complex, but one of the mechanisms involved in such a relationship is mirroring. The doll represents a smaller self that the child nurtures, and this nurturing is then inwardly directed. Mothers often worry about the idealised image presented by dolls – and especially the likes of Barbie, which has unlivable proportions. The worry is that their daughters will develop a sense of inadequacy – that they can’t ever measure up to the image represented by the doll; upon which their hopes and sense of self are projected.

So imagine what it’s like buying a doll for a child with Down’s.

So, here‘s a business that fills that niche, and turns a tidy profit in doing so. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Many years ago in Germany, [Helga Parks, who makes the dolls] says, she watched the face of her late niece, Angela, who had Down’s, light up when she was given a doll with facial features like her own to play with. Angela, who died at the age of 9, pointed to her doll and said: “This is me.”

Parks is also looking into starting a line of bald dolls, for kids undergoing chemotherapy. Continue reading

NT Intervention National Day of Action

Contact - Aboriginal rock painting depicting first fleetThe Aboriginal Rights Coalition in Australia held a conference in May, during which it was resolved to have a national day of protest on June 21 — one year after John Howard’s government announced the Intervention in the NT. (I posted about the intervention previously, here)

Among the aims of the national day of action are the following:

- Repeal all “NT intervention” legislation
– Restore the Racial Discrimination Act
– Fund infrastructure and community controlled services
– Sign and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
– Aboriginal Control of Aboriginal Affairs

I think it is fair to say that without any commitment to consultation with the people whom the intervention measures affect directly—and to international agreements that seek to protect the specific interests of indigenous people—policies enacted in these communities cannot yield unambiguous benefits … and arguably are seriously detrimental to the autonomy aboriginal communities had developed regarding employment, etc. Continue reading

The Law and Intellectual Disability

At yesterday’s CURA meeting Nick Supina mentioned the over-representation of people in Canadian prisons with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and this reminded me that I should post on a recent podcast by Australia’s Radio National, The Law Report. In Australia, too, the legal system is letting people down who have particular needs, whether because of autism or other circumstances that might engender unpredictable or ‘anti-social’ behaviour. This program provides an interesting and relatively comprehensive account of this oversight.

NT Intervention: Australia

Aboriginal children at mission

The “intervention” into indigenous people’s lives in the Northern Territory, Australia, deserves more international attention than it is receiving; and given its continuation of a way of ‘managing’ aboriginal populations that has dark eugenic resonances, is also relevant to the ‘what sorts of people should there be?’ project.

The intervention was introduced by the previous Howard government when its approval ratings were flailing prior to last year’s election, in what can be seen as a last ditch effort to raise the prejudice, fear and hatred that won him the election in 2001 (just on the heals of September 11). The action involved creating a state of emergency in remote aboriginal communities, and then deploying the army and ad hoc teams of social workers, doctors, and bureaucrats into the area to examine children for signs of sexual abuse. It also has led to the quarantining of welfare payments, bans on liquor and pornography, and (perhaps more controversially) the suspension of what little self-determination indigenous people had in this area, such as the permit system (more about this below).

Apparently in response to a report commissioned by the Northern Territory government, “Little Children Are Sacred“—a report which detailed and proposed solutions to endemic hardship suffered, especially by children, in remote communities of the Northern Territory (sexual abuse being just one of these hardships)—the government called a state of emergency in these communities. Focusing only on sexual abuse and ignoring poverty, the Prime Minister said to Australia that this situation was “our Katrina“. Continue reading

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

A BBC look at plastic surgery

image by LiveU4

I should preface this post by noting that plastic surgery isn’t within the purview of my research. But it most definitely is relevant to the what sorts project — our expert being Cressida Heyes.

So, here is a review of Louis Theroux’s “documentary” on plastic surgery, as practiced in that shrine to superficiality: Los Angeles. The diacritical marks around documentary should alert the reader to the program’s various weaknesses. Anyone familiar with Theroux’s work will likely be aware of his tendency to go ‘native’ in the pursuit of a sensational ‘angle.’ Theroux maintains an ironic air throughout his exposé, but then (somewhat disappointingly) subjects himself to liposuction … presumably to lend a more authentic gloss to his treatment of plastic surgery. (He then continues to exhibit an ironic attitude towards his thorough implication in the object of his inquiry, perhaps to mask his total lack of objectivity).

Nevertheless, what Theroux does succeed in demonstrating is the normative function of the imperative for “perfection”, avowed by each of the surgery addicts whom he interviews. Of course, “perfection” here refers to an extremely bland notion of what counts as beautiful; and many of his interviewees are evidently wounded individuals: from having been called ugly by their step-father, to attempting to recover from a failed relationship. What is striking is the enthusiastic, complete, and totally un-ironic faith that each of these people has in the power of plastic surgery to heal their damaged self-esteem. Continue reading