Interesting article on the construction of disability in China by Yee-Fui Ng (Sessional Lecturer and PhD Candidate, Monash University Law School). The abstract: This article explores the tension between the Chinese government’s strong engagement in disability rights and simultaneous focus on ‘quality births’, which results in the abortion of disabled foetuses. At a broader level, the author examines the politicised and cultural construction of disability in China by scrutinising how the ‘disabled’ are defined, administered, policed and governed in postsocialist China.
From the Center for Genetics and Society blog, by Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest editor, March 4, 2013
The unfortunate truth is that discredited ideas never do die, they just rise again in slightly altered forms—witness eugenics. Despite the horrors perpetuated in its name, including forced sterilization and the Holocaust, the eugenic impulse is with us still. One of the forms it takes is schemes for “improving” offspring through the selection and manipulation of embryos.
In the last year or so, one neo-eugenic advocate in particular has been garnering media attention. He’s Julian Savulescu, holder of an array of titles, including an endowed chair and directorship of a center at the University of Oxford funded by the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education.
Some of you may be aware of the matter of “Baby M”, involving a 2-year-old child who was admitted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 25, 2012. She required a ventilator for life support. Despite the parents’ opposition to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, which incorporated their religious beliefs, the Court of Queen’s Bench found that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate life support and, on September 14, 2012, ordered the withdrawal of the ventilator. The Court held that there is a general notion in society that a life dependent upon machines and without awareness is not in the best interests of any patient. On September 19, 2012, a three member panel of the Court of Appeal held that there was no error in principle in the Queen’s Bench decision and the appeal was dismissed. On September 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the parents’ application for a further stay. “Baby M’s” ventilator was removed, she suffocated, and died.
The parents are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to have Canada’s highest court decide important issues regarding termination of life-sustaining medical treatment. This decision of the lower courts and, if leave is granted, the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court of Canada will decide the process that will be used and who will make decisions to terminate life support.
These decisions of the Alberta Courts and how they will be followed in the future may ultimately affect individuals in your organization or your community. Should you believe that you, your organization, or community have a position on these life and death issues that should be heard and considered Continue reading
The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, portrays a futuristic society where babies are genetically engineered according to parental references. The film features a society that consists almost exclusively of such artificially built individuals, with those who are born in the archaic, natural manner occupying the fringes of this society. In order to protect the rights of what are referred to as the “valids” and thereby keep out the inferior “invalids,” each individual’s genetic material is constantly sampled and monitored. Every person’s DNA is stored in a database, making multiple scans and random genetic sweeps in the workplace very efficient. The story follows an “invalid” who has a dream of becoming an astronaut, a job open only to the genetically enhanced elite.
But my intention here is not to provide a synopsis of the film, which is very good and is certainly well worth the time it takes to watch. Rather, I wanted to Continue reading
High profile anti-obesity activist Meme Roth writes on her blog: “Let’s finally recognize obesity as abuse—abuse of our children, abuse of ourselves—and together take action.” Roth has recently trademarked the term “second-hand obesity”, playing on “second-hand smoke.” She writes that second-hand obesity is passed along from parent to child and from citizen to citizen. Roth makes numerous television appearances every year and continually underlines the association of fat with sickness, death, and unnaturalness.
New research by Dr. Arya Sharma is beginning to break the elision of fat and sickness with his new research:
“The back-to-back studies come as more evidence emerges that a significant proportion of overweight people are metabolically healthy and that the risks associated with obesity do not make for a one-size-fits-all formula.” More can be found here: http://www.canada.com/health/Heavy+healthy+formula+slims+down+definition+dangerously+obese/5257089/story.html
If the risks associated with obesity are less dramatic than once believed, then what is feeding this culture of obesity panic that aims to “blast away fat” and “burn belly fat” away in 10 days or less?
What surprises me about much of the writing on obesity, like Roth’s and Richard Carmona, the Surgeon general of the United States who compared the obesity epidemic to terrorism, is that Continue reading
Last week, The Telegraph announced that within three years, it will be possible to have three biological parents for any one embryo using in-vitro fertilization. Why would anyone pursue such a technique? To “eradicate hereditary disease.” You can read the full artcle below:
This controversial method proposes that transferring a tiny fraction of DNA from a different donor than only the parents will result in a child without mitochondria-related diseases. (Mitochondrial diseases are often severe and incurable, including muscular dystrophy and ataxia). Researchers believe they can wipe out such diseases within a generation. Children would also retain DNA from both their mother and their father. The genetic implant of a third person is described as being “as minimal as changing the batteries in a camera.”
Researchers are also placing great emphasis on needing public support, before current laws (which would prevent such an operation) become changed. Strong opposition comes from “groups who oppose embryo research and claim genetic engineering can result in serious defects.”
What is perhaps equally interesting to the article itself is the poll available on the website. The Telegraph asks: Continue reading
This might be of interest to some people:
The Ewha Trans-Humanities Research Team will host an international
conference on “Human & Machine: Posthumanism in Technology, Culture
and the Arts” from June 1st to 2nd, 2012 and invites suitable
contributions for presentation at the conference..
Genetic engineering and digital technology are more than just
supplement of human intellectual and physical ability; they seem to
bring fundamental changes to the nature of what it means to be human.
Such changes have been seen in how philosophy, literature, art,
technology and cultural discourse view the issue of individual and
group identities, the nature of human characteristics, the meaning of
life, the status of humans in nature and other relevant issues taken
from ethical and political perspectives. In this conference, the
subject of humans and technology, both of which are represented in the
debate on posthumanism, will be deeply discussed from a
multidisciplinary perspective focusing on the topics of: Human Body
Transformation in Science, Technology, and Art; Ethical Issues on
Human Enhancement; Representations of Posthumans in Popular Culture;
and Posthumanistic Impact on Human Ontology.
The conference poses the question as to whether or not technology has
influenced the perspective of being human and the nature of humanity
itself. The conference examine the aspects of the human body that have
been transformed through technology and their significance: How have
physical transformations through prostheses, implants, genetic
engineering, and organ transplants influenced human identity? How are
the ethical issues, that such transformations generate, demonstrated
in the arts? Given the phenomenon that human beings can reconstruct
themselves with machines as well as utilize machines, what is the
meaning of post-human embedded within the interaction between
human-like robots and human beings, or the combination of technology
and human-beings? These questions are to be discussed in the
Human enhancement and transformation technology, which cutting edge
technology will make possible, demand our serious consideration since
the diverse aspects of being human in the future rely on a variety of
ethical and political issues including the rationality and validity of
the application of such technologies. The conference endeavors to find
answers to the fundamental questions of how to define what is the norm
in the nature of being human, and what natural rights for human beings
are, followed by which values are to be respected in the era of
cutting edge technology.
Furthermore, the conference examines aspects of representations of
posthumans like human clones, androids, cyborgs and aliens which
depict new forms of human beings, through the image of the future
presented in popular culture such as SF movies, animations, SF novels,
music videos and TV commercials. And also, there will be a discussion
of public awareness on the notions of naturalness, otherness, class,
utopia and dystopia related with such popular culture.
As human beings attain the ability and skill to reconstruct their
bodies through substitution, the boundaries between the human body and
its image, the lines between what is artificial and what is natural,
and the distinctions between nature and culture disappear. This
phenomenon raises various ontological issues regarding the
relationships of the real body and the virtual body, life and
lifelessness, and the subject and its surroundings or ‘others’.
Posthumanism pursues, on one hand, a liberal and post-ideological
relativism, but on the other hand, it tends to combine with the
critical theories, materialism and feminism. How can individual
transhumans and posthumans be positioned in social systems and
relations? Indeed, do human beings have the freedom to choose a body
for themselves? If so, how and where can we apply our enhanced
abilities? To what extent can it be considered an individual matter or
a social and political matter? Through posing the issues and problems
on modern anthropocentricism, this conference reconsiders the human
ontology that is constantly changing and being reconstructed rather
than the one that is defined by identity in the nature of
A tentative schedule of the conference is as follows:
Session 1: Human Body Transformation in Science, Technology, and Art
Session 2: Ethical Issues on Human Enhancement
Roundtable Discussions: all speakers and discussants will participate in
Session 3: Representations of Posthumans in Popular Culture
Session 4: Posthumanistic Impact on Human Ontology
Roundtable Discussions: all speakers and discussants will participate in
Confirmed Speakers include Julian Savulescu (Oxford University), Dónal
O’Mathúna (Dublin City University), Michael Hauskeller (University of
Exeter), Thomas Philbeck (NYIT), Stefan Sorgner (Universität
Erlangen-Nürnberg), and Jens Eder (Johannes Gutenberg University,
If you like to present a paper at the conference, please submit an
abstract of not more than 400 words by 29 February 2012 to Dr.
Eunryung Kim, e-mail: email@example.com.
The Limelight Film Showcase, Day 2, is TOMORROW, i.e., Tuesday 18th October, 2011, at the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton. All events are in Myer Horowitz Theatre in the SUB Building, and the festival runs from noon until around 10pm and includes not only short and feature films, but also live dance and movement performances. Check out the schedule via the festival page here. All events are free and open to the public.
Living Archives team member, Gregor Wolbring, will be speaking on the body and prosthetics at the “Frontiers in Research: Our Post-Human Futures” conference at the University of Ottawa on November 15, 2011.
The University of Ottawa is pleased to present the thirteenth annual Frontiers in Research lectures. This year’s theme is Our Post-Human Future .
During the past decade, human perfection and even immortality have become topics of renewed interest due to groundbreaking scientific advancements, and are now much more tangible and potentially achievable goals. The quest for human improvement through biomedical means appears to be unstoppable in the developed world. But this drive towards the “post-human” has also given rise to discussion, debate, conflict and a great deal of research on where to take the human species.
Frontiers in Research: Our Post-Human Future will explore these questions in light of developments in the fields of genetics, neuroscience and prosthetics, and their social, political, economic, ethical and religious implications.
For more information on the conference, click here.
Oakland-based filmmaker Regan Brashear is launching her film FIXED: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement and is running a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding for the film’s clean-up. You can start with donations of $1 and up–details about the campaign and film here. The campaign runs until 9.03am EDT, August 31, so donate NOW. A brief excerpt from the site:
What’s the film about? What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, what would you do and why? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants and bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body, but what does it mean to design “better humans” and do we want to? FIXED follows three remarkable people: Continue reading
from CBC Edmonton, last night, with stacks of comments already.
Front page, Edmonton Journal, by Andrea Sands:
This week saw the death of two colleagues-at-a-distance whom I more than respected, not simply and coldly for their contributions to philosophy, but for the friendship and caring mentorship they each showed to me early in my career, as I know they did with others. I’ll keep this brief here, just giving some general pointers and two short memorial anecdotes I’ve already posted at other sites.
David Hull was the founding figure in the philosophy of biology. John Wilkins has already got three posts up on him at Evolving Thoughts, David Hull is dead, David Hull’s Philosophy, and Ruse on Hull: A Memoir. The last makes me cringe a little, but that’s probably because Michael Ruse often induces that effect, at least in me. In response to the first, I said:
David was one of the three people I sent my first attempt in phil of biology to–the others were both people in the field whom I’d had some contact with before in other contexts. I was a third year assistant professor mainly working in phil of mind and cog sci at the time, and the paper was on John Dupre’s “promiscuous realism”. Like the others, David wrote back encouragingly and sympathetically. The welcoming response from David, especially since I was a complete stranger to him, marked an important contrast with the fluff and competitiveness of phil of mind at that time, and it made phil of biology a truly attractive option for me to pursue more seriously. There are likely many other short anecdotes about David’s kindness and professional integrity, but this small one with a big effect for me is what comes to mind first. He will be missed all round.
I also admired David for his successful efforts to convince the Philosophy of Science Association to avoid holding its meetings in overtly homophobic states.
Mary Anne Warren was one of four philosophers who, in essence, put applied ethics on the philosophy map in the early 1970s. Continue reading
Thanks to Velvet Martin for posting a link to the following video from CDO; her daughter Samantha features. What do people think of the message here? Community building around chromosomal disorder? A humanization of the dehumanized who “look kinda funny”? A tacit complicity with the medicalization of human variation (via the notion of “disorder”)? All of the above? Something else? Continue reading
From Express News, University of Alberta:
Provincial eugenics archives awarded one of two SSHRC Awards
February 10, 2010 – (Edmonton) On Feb. 4, the federal government announced nearly a $1 million each over six years for two University of Alberta-led projects aimed at bringing communities and universities together to build knowledge on areas affecting Canadians.
Robert Wilson, professor in the Department of Philosophy, was awarded $1 million in a community-university research alliances grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to fund his project titled “Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada.” Read the rest here
This up yesterday at LifesiteNews.com:
EDMONTON, Alberta, January 20, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While Isaac and Rebecka May, the Canadian couple who are fighting for their new-born baby’s life, are awaiting a January 27th judgment on their petition for a 90-day injunction against their hospital’s order to remove their baby Isaiah’s ventilator, some advocates for the disabled are saying that what the May’s are experiencing is shockingly common in Canada. According to Sam Sansalone, father of Katya Sansalone, who was born 8 years ago with full trisomy 13, in Canada “profoundly disabled kids are routinely – and intentionally – not treated with life-saving intervention.” Sansalone serves as co-chair of the Advisory Committee of Family to Family Connections at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, a family-centered care initiative recently launched in Southern Alberta.
He said that “the dynamic that we had to fight became very quickly and firmly entrenched as soon as we had a genetic diagnosis.” “The clear mandate, at least at that time, was that you don’t save these disabled children’s lives,” he continued. “You allow them to die – even though the needed interventions are exactly the same as would routinely and unquestionably be given to quote-unquote normal children.” Katya Sansalone was born with a cardiac condition that is associated with her chromosomal defect. The Sansalones fought hard with their hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, to have them perform the cardiac surgery that Katya needed. The hospital initially refused to do the surgery, he said, but “they didn’t make it look that way.” “Initially they said we had a choice, and then they proceeded with trying to influence that choice by giving us false information about the range of outcomes,” he continued.
Sansalone attributed their success in part to the fact that his wife is a doctor, which helped the family to research Katya’s condition. This research allowed them to be “not so easily fooled by this kind of misinformation.” Sansalone said the hospital “actually tried to hide medical literature from me.” He saw that on one occasion the neonatologist had a key study on a clipboard that actually dispelled myths about Katya’s condition that the hospital had perpetuated, but the doctor held the study out as though it supported their position. “When I tried to read it, the neonatologist doctor actually pulled it away from my view,” he said.
Sansalone believes their experience might have some parallels to what the Mays are now going through with the Stollery Children’s Hospital. “I hear that they were being denied … regular access to the patient chart – reading it and seeing the imaging.” “That is completely illegal, … read the full story at LifeSiteNews.
There’s a very interesting video of distinguished historian Tony Judt talking about motor neuron disease, life, and euthanasia up about a week or so ago at The Guardian website. The article is entitled “One of the worst diseases on the Earth”, taking a line from the interview itself. It isn’t embeddable right now (so far as I can tell), but the link to it is right here. Continue reading
American athlete Aimee Mullins has been a guest editor over at Gizmodo recently, and her “Racing on Carbon Fibre Legs” is worth a read on Cheetah legs, Pistorius, an ableism. Amongst the things of interest are:
As of yet, the best prosthetic available is not as efficient and not as capable as what Mother Nature gives us — or, what she was supposed to give me and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The revolutionary design of the woven carbon-fibre Cheetah Leg, nicknamed for its design inspiration, has been in existence for nearly 15 years — and after my initial triumphs with them in the mid 1990s, it has been the leg of choice for nearly all elite amputee sprinters. But in one instant, after Pistorius entered a summer 2007 track meet in Rome and placed second in a field of runners possessing flesh and bone legs, he and I were deemed too abled.
And then, in conclusion: Continue reading
There is now a nice pair of videos, running for just under 12 minutes, on Oscar Pistorius, made shortly before the Beijing Olympics, up on Youtube. They take the story up to the point where the Court for Arbitration in Sport overruled the initial IAFF decision banning him from competing with non-disabled athletes. For that decision, see Gregor Wolbring’s thoughts and related discussion in earlier posts here and here.
and not all five in one post, but each in its own, as I run 5 more posts from What sorts from roughly mid-2008 to early 2009.