Category Archives: General

Doctors fail four-question test

I deeply hope I’m being snookered, but it seems not. In a Journal of Medical Ethics article entitled “After-birth abortion: why should babies live?” it is suggested that babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. (I saw this here, which referred to here. I looked up the links above myself.) The journal is by BMJ, whose tagline is “Helping doctors make better decisions.”

There’s so much here that could and should be discussed, but there’s a very simple root to all of this. For all of man’s knowledge, advancement, and technology, we cannot come to agreement concerning the Big Questions of existence, and because of this, we do terrible things.

Here’s what I mean. I think there are really only four Big Questions:

  1. What is life?
  2. What is mind?
  3. What is truth?
  4. What is evil?

This hideous journal article’s conclusion is hideous because of it’s answer to each of these, but especially (1). And I needn’t put words into their mouths:

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

Seriously think about this for a moment.

How does this apply to the one day old. One week old? One year old? Or the mentally disabled? Or the physically disabled? Or the aged dementia sufferer? Or the terminally ill? Or the deeply depressed? Or mood-swinging teen?

I’m tempted to say this is utterly untethered from any sense of morality, but it’s worse than that. It’s sneaks in its own poorly defined and unjustified moral code. What does their test even mean?

If a newborn senses some kind of awe or pleasure at it’s first encounter with light, does that count? Or is that not cogent enough to fulfill “attributing” or “value”?

Babies sense their surroundings and respond to them with a sense of preference. I’ve seen mama leave a room and the baby start to cry. I’ve seen the baby cry at the environment change at birth. When a newborn first smiles because of recognizing mama or papa, does that count? Are they not expressing something like “I like this,” containing both “I” and “like”? Is it lack of language the dooms them to non-personhood, as if knowing a noun changing their state of being? Surely not.

But these are only questions on their own terms: saying that some level of response to or interaction with environment defines life and mind. But arguing at that level is folly. It’s not enough. There is something else, deeper and more difficult which is below all this. Without having a baseline sense of what life really is, or what mind really is, these doctors are simply children playing with toys they don’t understand.

The authors appear to be coming from, or at least unintentionally employing, a reductionistic, naturalistic, mechanistic set of values, but those values themselves are to be questioned. In my opinion, they do a poor job of answering those four questions, and so cannot be counted on to provide meaningful guidance.

Core questions are important. Here we see implications of philosophy and metaphysics; real life actions depend on this stuff. In this case, these men have found it worth using the euphemism “after-birth abortion” for what used to be abhorred as “infanticide” because of their answers to core questions. But, those answers being poor, their conclusions are contemptible.

Rough start

I’m only three days into three year and I’ve got mysteriously failing house wiring, a backed up main line, a flat tire, and a broken refrigerator shelf. Oh, and I slipped and fell on the stairs (and thus broke a coat hook). Sheesh. May I have 2008 back, please? It was pretty good. :)

I feel fine…

…even though today was billed as possibly being the “End of the World”.

The Large Hadron Collider is intended to collide a bunch of particles at about ~99.99997% of the speed of light, thus reproducing conditions quite close to the moment of the Big Bang. Some folks are concerned that doing so will unleash tiny black holes which will interact with Earth’s gravity and grow in size until we are annihilated. Which would be a drag. More on that here.

I thought this was funny, though… one paper is cheering “Success!” because the machine got switched on and we’re still here. But the experiment that could make the little black holes won’t actually be run until October, and actually maybe not even for a year, as they slowly ramp up to full power.

Although the big switch-on took place today, the first high-energy collisions are not due until October 21.

This is nice, but not really “success” in the “see, we didn’t destroy the world” sense.

I thought this was pretty good…

The CERN team insist the project is safe.

Well, if they insist it’s safe, then they must be right, right? But aren’t they running the experiment because there are things they don’t know but want to? Ah, nevermind. Anyway, as long as it’s all worth it…

They say it could even help to bring massive benefits, such as a cure for cancer and solutions to nuclear waste and global warming.

Haaa ha ha… doesn’t that sound like a line from the Simpson’s or something? The only things missing are world peace and ED.

They added that if it does actually turn out to destroy the Earth, they will issue a formal apology and form an inquiry to examine what went wrong.

OK, I made that up.

No, I’m not really worried. I’m just impressed by the vapidity of the ‘pat-pat it’s OK, dear… now run along’ infomercial-style reporting. (Reminds me of Mark’s writing in That Hideous Strength)

Thought for the day: This machine and its experiments are costing somewhere around eight billion dollars. Eight thousand stacks of one million dollars. I know “governments” funded this, but they get their money through taxing people and their companies. Best possible “public good”?

So then I went to Oshkosh

The EAA air show in Oshkosh in Wisconsin, that is. flyGarmin was going to be released to the public for the first time in conjunction with the beginning of the air show. Garmin had a Monday morning press conference announcing all sorts of stuff, and flyGarmin was on the list. I was pacing around the whole day like an expectant father. How’s the site doing now? How’s the site doing now? The image to the left is the display we had to show flyGarmin off to folks. I got to “work the booth” occassionally, and the feedback was fantastic. Folks would come up as though they were paid to be in an infomercial; “Tell me you’ve done something to make updating my databases easier” “Why yes we have!”

So I hung out in Oshkosh for a few days, gathering feedback, seeing the kinds of things people were showing off at the show.

On my last evening, I decided to run out and get a bite to eat for supper. I drove around downtown Oshkosh wondering what I should get, and then I saw this:

I was driving when I took that photo. Yes, it says zero MPH. And see how all of the P, R, N, D, 1, 2 lights are on? That’s called “limp mode.” It means the computer sees something wrong with your car, and the transmission has been essentially shut down. Yeah, hundreds of miles from home, the day before I’m finally heading back home, and the transmission had gone out.

And I really wanted to go home. I’d been away for days.

Well, I limped back to where I was staying. Emailed Helen… “pray please”. I searched the internet looking for ideas. I found some transmission shops nearby, so I could get there first thing in the morning.

The next morning, I went out and tried the “turn the ignition on-and-off five times fast” to get the computer error codes. No luck. I tried the “hold down trip reset while turning on the ignition” to get the error codes. No luck.

Then my car just started working perfectly fine. The engine light was still on, but I took it for a one mile drive, and then a 20 mile drive… all seemed fine. I met my last commitment and headed home. The trip home went perfectly; I got 29 MPG.

And the car has been fine ever since. The engine light even went off before I could hook up my code reader to see what had been going on. I took this as a Nehemiah 9:21 thing. :)

flyGarmin launches

flyGarmin home pageI know that may not mean anything to you, but that’s a big project I’ve been working on at work for the last many months. It’s been a fun, complicated project focussed on making it a lot easier for pilots who use Garmin equipment to keep their equipment up to date.

It let’s pilots enter their aircraft and equipment into their own account, and then offers simpler-than-ever ways to update their databases.

I’ve got an awesome group of guys that I work with in Minnetonka, and literally dozens of people from all over the US have contributed. It’s been a great project for a pilot wannabe like me. And there’s still lots to do. :)