Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tweets & snips

My father died last month at 83 when my sister and I were on the plane, coming out to say goodbye for what felt like the 57th time. There was a message on my phone from my husband when we landed. What I felt when I heard the news was joy... Ann Patchett, Finding Joy in My Father’s Death, via

Motoko Rich (@motokorich)
"Too many doctors compromise on vaccines, instead of mounting a passionate plea,"@DrPaulOffit nyti.ms/1wHHQBm @cslnyt

“Will he make it through this?” she asked: Deciding on a patient's death.

Most Doctors Give In to Requests by Parents to Alter Vaccine Schedules

Op-Ed Contributor: Are You Really Allergic to Antibiotics?

1 comment:

  1. I discovered that my authorship was only to the philosophy blog, and not this blog, so for now I'll post my presentation blog post here until I can get this fixed:

    A Case Against The Case Against Perfection

    My presentation is being done on my own, and is focusing on the philosophical problems with Michael Sandel’s The Case Against Perfection. Throughout the book, there is a lot of vague reasoning and bad examples to argue against bioengineering, and rather than tackle each example individually, I thought it would be more interesting to address his underlying philosophy justifying his reasoning.

    The biggest difficulty was pinpointing what that philosophy is. The first half of the book only hints at his real point, spending most of the time on examples. It isn’t until the last chapter “Mastery and Gift” that we see the angle he was arguing from. Here he drops a few famous philosophers’ names, such as Kant, however they are far from his own views, which I’d say resemble Aristotelian Naturalism more than anything. The perspective of Naturalism hinges around the idea of an immutable human essence, which can be used as a starting point for ethics. Sandel calls this human essence “giftedness” while also implying awe is also essential. According to Sandel, humans must have a sense of giftedness in order to have awe, and not feel as though they are simply masters of themselves and nature. From here he says that bioengineering - and genetic engineering in particular – destroy this sense of giftedness, and therefor awe.

    While Sandel attempts to address objections, he only confronts obvious strawman arguments (such as “it’s too religious”), and not the bigger points made throughout philosophical history. While Moore may have a more direct argument against naturalistic ethics with his “open-question argument”, Hume’s broad criticism seems more appropriate for Sandel’s vague philosophy. Hume quite simply criticized all philosophies similar to Sandel’s with a famous point: one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”. To put this another way, just because the world “is” a particular way, in this case humans have giftedness, does not mean it “ought” to be that way, meaning giftedness is good. While Hume’s argument is devastating to Naturalism, there is another problem it runs into with modern science: evolution. Naturalism is a very, very old philosophy, back when the idea of an essential aspect of a creature was more plausible. Today it is near impossible to pinpoint one aspect of humanity as an immutable human essence. We are a point on an ever-changing spectrum of organisms. It is difficult to take any of Sandel’s evaluations seriously when they are based on Aristotelian Naturalism, which has gained severe criticism both philosophically and scientifically over the last several centuries.

    Lastly, Sandel has a misunderstanding of awe. Even if we concede everything previously mentioned, awe is not some finite emotion we run out of once we make ourselves 6’5” geniuses. No amount of genetic manipulation will render a supernova less impressive, nor our sense of giftedness from our placement on a beautiful planet rather than on a less habitable one. Our sense of giftedness will always be in relation to our environment and each other, even if it changes, it will never go away. There’s always something else out there that’s greater. If not, is it really appropriate to judge the most power thing in the universe as having hubris?