Impressive Tattoo

 Art
May 312008
 

I would never get a tattoo, especially not one like this. But I have to admire the quality of the artwork.

(At Diana’s insistence, I am not posting the actual image itself, so you’ll have to click through to see it. Her immediate reaction when she saw the image was, “EEEK! GROSS! YUCK!”)

Murse or No Murse, That Is THE Question

May 312008
 

If you wish to inform yourself about the most important cultural issue of our time, then you’d better scurry over to Flibbertigibbet to discuss whether a man with a murse lacks the necessary masculine gravitas.

Personally, I’m with Flibby.

Blogger Problems

May 302008
 

*grumble*

I’ve been having terrible problems with Blogger lately, but particularly today. As a result, some of my comment scripts aren’t working correctly. Those scripts depend on information in the files that Blogger produces, but Blogger hasn’t been reliably producing the files with that information. Plus, Blogger’s upload of the files to my server has been hit-or-miss — and mostly miss.

I hope that the problems will be wholly sorted out in the next few days. In the meantime, I’ll create work-arounds as best I can. However, you’ll just have to be patient, as even those are difficult to implement due to Blogger’s problems.

Hopefully, this post will publish in some reasonable amount of time. I won’t hold my breath, though!

"Personhood" Advocates are Going for the Gold

May 302008
 
A new threat to a woman’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has arrived out here in the West. And it’s going straight for the jugular. Groups in Colorado and Montana believe they’re on a mission from God: to get voters to pass state Constitutional amendments defining “personhood” as beginning with fertilization. Under these amendments, full rights and equal protection under the law would be granted–not to a human being from the moment of birth–but to a fertilized egg.

But the country shouldn’t dismiss this lunacy as a bunch of “wild west hooey.” While similar efforts since 2005 in Georgia, Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin and Mississippi have fizzled, advocates vow to not give up on redefining “personhood” in their image.

This utter perversion of the “right to life” is a mockery of the principle of liberty established by our Founding Fathers. It will create an inherent and irreconcilable conflict between the individual rights of a living person and a single-celled product of conception.

Groups pursuing “personhood” amendments use a simplistic combination of religious belief and scientific fact to advance their agenda. The Thomas More Law Center, which provides legal support for these organizations, calls itself “the sword and shield for people of (Christian) faith” to fight for Christian values, which it claims is the foundation of our nation. Kristi Burton, the founder of Colorado’s group (which just succeeded in being first in the country to get the proposal on the November ballot), was quoted as “….we have God. And he is all we need.” A religious supporter of Montana’s initiative finds her “proof” in Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

These groups conveniently usurp the facts of human embryology in making their case for “personhood.” But the biological reality that life begins developing at conception is totally irrelevant in terms of rights.

Our Constitutional rights as citizens apply only once we are born as separate entities. To quote Ayn Rand, a 20th century novelist and philosopher, “Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).”

If a barbaric “personhood” amendment passes in some state, whose rights will prevail when a woman has a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy? Will a girl who’s been raped be compelled against her will to carry a pregnancy resulting from that brutality? Will lawyers defending fertilized eggs argue that a miscarriage is a violation of an embryo’s right to life, making a woman and her physician legally negligent?

Our hard-fought scientific and political achievements in controlling fertility will revert back to the horse-and-buggy era. Many reliable birth control methods would have to be outlawed because they interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg. Couples unable to conceive would be forbidden to try in-vitro fertilization because some of the lab-created fertilized eggs are not used.

“Personhood” advocates brag about going for the gold: the outright overturn of Roe v Wade. They think they are being clever by passing in just one state a “personhood” amendment that will ultimately challenge the “loophole” in the 1973 majority opinion of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He wrote: “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed…”

Traditional religious-right groups have tried for decades to outlaw abortion by the piecemeal evisceration of that fundamental right. But if a tyrannical majority of voters in Colorado or Montana approves a Constitutional amendment redefining the human being according to particular religious beliefs, it will be a milestone in tearing down the wall of separation between church and state.

Our freedoms, based fundamentally on the right to life, mean that we as individuals have the right to pursue life-sustaining goals–including decisions about pregnancy. But the particular freedom of religion does not mean the right to pass laws forcing citizens to live by biblical values.

“Personhood” advocates have corrupted the principle, “right to life,” and they’re exploiting their freedom of religion do it. Constitutional rights protect all of our liberties from the moment we’re born as separate individuals. And this is what we must zealously fight to preserve.

New NoodleFoodler: Gina Liggett

May 302008
 

I’m delighted to announce the addition of yet another guest blogger to the illustrious ranks of NoodleFood: Gina Liggett.

Gina Liggett is a nurse and freelance writer in Denver, Colorado. She’s studied Objectivism for more than 20 years and contributes to Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM) and Front Range Objectivism. In addition to philosophy, she’s interested in religion, politics, individual rights, international affairs, health care policy, science, and fitness. She dances ballet, jazz, and salsa, plays golf, and speaks French and Spanish. Gina can be reached at [email protected].

I’ve been very impressed with Gina’s contributions to FIRM over the past year and a half. She stepped up to the plate, in a big way. I hope to contribute to her opposition to the proposed “personhood” amendment to the Colorado Constitution. (That’s the subject of her first post, to be published shortly.) And, of course, I’m enthused to see what she writes for NoodleFood!

Check Your Premises

May 292008
 

In a lengthy post entitled Dissecting Epistemology, Monica challenges the objectivity of many of our supposedly scientific beliefs about the world. She writes,

Apart from the obvious idea that much of science is ideologically driven, many scientists – irrespective of any underlying, driving ideology – have deliberately cooked data and managed to get it published in scientific journals for no other reason than the fact that they are second-handed and they want to be right. And of course, scientific history is also rife with examples of new ideas taking time to become established in the mainstream due to a lack of objectivity in the scientific community. Just take that “quacky” idea that bacteria might cause ulcers!! We scientists “know” that bacteria can’t inhabit stomach acid!? Right?? Most commonly of all, in my opinion, is not intellectual dishonesty but the fact that shoddy science is done all the time and people just fail to fully and objectively evaluate that research. Sometimes, those claims then end up becoming part of the “objective scientific consensus” that persists for 50 years.

To say, “I’ve not studied the issue, so I just don’t know,” is often the most objective, the most self-aware, and the most honest reply possible to an inquiry. Sometimes, it’s also the hardest reply.

In my judgment, even though I’m an ardent advocate of evolutionary theory, Ayn Rand exhibited exactly that kind of objectivity in her statement on evolution in her essay “The Missing Link” in Philosophy: Who Needs It. She wrote, “I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent.” I’ve seen that statement harshly criticized in some corners of the internet, as if Ayn Rand were obliged to swallow the standard scientific account of man’s origins — without any study of the facts of the matter. That’s completely wrong: it’s a demand to accept a theory on faith, just because it’s endorsed by a sufficiently large number of supposed authorities. Ayn Rand refused to be that kind of epistemic second-hander. Instead, she formed her own judgments based on her actual knowledge. As a result of that method, she effectively challenged two millennia of altruism in ethics. That’s the kind of insight that scrupulous objectivity — not to mention a large helping genius — makes possible.

The Panama Canal in 75 Seconds

May 292008
 

This cool time lapse movie shows a passage of a tanker through the Panama Canal in 75 Seconds.

The Panama Canal Authority website states, “The history of the construction of the Panama Canal is the saga of human ingenuity and courage: years of sacrifice, crushing defeat, and final victory. Many gave their life in the effort. Follow the story from the early days of the French construction period, to the completion by the United States, and into the present time.”

More details of the history of this amazing creation can be found here. And of course there’s a Wikipedia article.

(Via Joost Bonsen.)

Farming with Mules

May 292008
 

This news story — High gas prices drive farmer to switch to mules — is straight out of Atlas Shrugged:

MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. – High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.

T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.

“This fuel’s so high, you can’t afford it,” he said. “We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That’s the truth.”

And Danny Raymond says he just likes using the mules around the farm. “We’ve been using them quite a bit,” he said.

Brother Robert Raymond added, “It’s the way of the future.”

What could better concretize the damaging economic effects of government regulations strangling energy production than this return to mule power? If such exists, I can’t think of it!

For a brief sketch of just some of those government regulations restricting the supply of oil, see Alex Epstein’s recently-published op-ed on Investigate Big Congress, Not Big Oil.

(Hat tip: Robbservations.)

Climate Change

May 292008
 

Climate change on the planet Jupiter is causing it to develop another Red Spot:

In what’s beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins — the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. — in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere.

This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds.

…The Hubble and Keck images may support the idea that Jupiter is in the midst of global climate change, as first proposed in 2004 by Phil Marcus, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The planet’s temperatures may be changing by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The giant planet is getting warmer near the equator and cooler near the South Pole. He predicted that large changes would start in the southern hemisphere around 2006, causing the jet streams to become unstable and spawn new vortices.

I’m sure this must be mankind’s fault somehow…

Abortion Debates in Great Britain

May 282008
 

Americans are used to abortion as being a hot button issue in politics. Hence, I found this article from The Economist to be an interesting contrast object of how the issues could play out politically in a system without quite such a strong religious undercurrent. In the case, the issue was a proposed law to change the cutoff point for a legal abortion from 24 weeks gestation to 22 weeks. Here are a few excerpts:

BRITONS, thankfully, have been spared America’s abortion wars. Political candidates’ positions on the matter are of little interest to the electorate. More Conservatives are “pro-life” and more Labour MPs “pro-choice”, but allegiances are rarely, if ever, based on this single issue. This is partly because Britain is less religious than America, but also because abortion laws are made in Parliament, where shades of grey can be debated, not in the courts, where black or white usually prevails.

…By precedent, votes on abortion are “free”: MPs may vote according to their consciences rather than a party directive. They still divided along party lines. Most Labour MPs—including the prime minister, Gordon Brown—voted against all the amendments, although three Catholic cabinet ministers supported a cut to 12 weeks. Most of the shadow cabinet voted for some reduction, and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, backed lowering the limit to either 22 or 20 weeks.

…The day before that, MPs had voted on two other amendments. The first would have prohibited experiments involving “chimera” embryos created by placing human DNA inside empty eggs from other mammals. The second sought to rule out creating “saviour siblings”: screening embryos created by IVF in order to select a match for an existing sick child whose life could be saved by cord blood or bone marrow from a suitable brother or sister.

All three issues went the government’s way, even though Mr Brown had to allow his party a free vote after a campaign by Catholic bishops made it clear that he risked losing three ministers if he did not.

Clearly, religion still has some influence in the debates, although not as strong as in the US. The interesting question will be whether this influence increases or decreases over the next several years.

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