Stransham-Ford and physician-assisted euthanasia

The Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld the appeal by the Minister of Health and others against the Pretoria High Court ruling allowing for Stransham-Ford to seek physician-assisted suicide.

Allowing physician-assisted euthanasia (or suicide) is the morally correct thing to do, as I’ve argued many times in the past. This doesn’t however mean that any given attempt to make it legally permissible is sufficiently persuasive.

A court has to decide on the merits of the case before it, and the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold an appeal by the Ministers of Justice and Health (among others), against the Pretoria High Court’s 2015 ruling permitting Stransham-Ford’s assisted suicide, seems to have been the correct one. Continue reading “Stransham-Ford and physician-assisted euthanasia”

(Detective) Lethobo: the Profits from Doom

While we should be biased towards allowing people to make “free” choices (inasmuch as determinism makes that possible!), is moral judgment – and even legal intervention – not permissible when freedom of religion results in people being harmed by charlatans? (Skip to the end for a podcast of me talking to Eusebius McKaiser about this on Radio702.)

Charismatic pastors have long been abusing the loyalty and faith of devout Christians, and I’m sure this happens in other religions also. In South Africa, though, we’ve recently heard of some quite bizarre examples.

Penuel Mnguni telling people they should eat snakes and Lesego Daniel making a sacrament of grass and petrol come immediately to mind. And then there are the more traditional forms of exploitation, like Pastor Mboro telling parishioners that he can get them to heaven for R 10 000 (or, secure them a VIP seat next to Moses, Abraham and even Jesus for R 30 000). Continue reading “(Detective) Lethobo: the Profits from Doom”

Emotion trumps evidence in a post-fact world (same as it ever was)

We’ve always lived in a post-fact world, but that shouldn’t diminish our commitment to finding common ground, nor to reasserting the value of both evidence and expertise.

As you’ve no doubt heard, “post-truth” has been named “word of the year” by Oxford dictionaries. But that shouldn’t lead us to think that truth or evidence has ever mattered as much as we might prefer, or that this post-truth world represents a complete break from the past.

All of us have always been susceptible to various forms of irrational thought resulting from bias in how we interpret – and even recognise – evidence, as elegantly illustrated in the work of people like Kahneman and Tversky, as well as in popular science books by Dan Ariely and others (like me and Caleb Lack (sorry not sorry)). Continue reading “Emotion trumps evidence in a post-fact world (same as it ever was)”

Populism, more than prejudice, is the problem with Trump

Some of those who are taken aback at the results of the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election should consider that how we respond to this rejection of the status quo might have far-reaching consequences.

This has been a pretty bad year. What we’ve lost includes Muhammad Ali, Prince, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, George Martin, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Elie Wiesel, and Micheal Cimino. (And then Leonard Cohen too…)

Oh, and, potentially, centrist politics – at least for a time. Brexit was at least in part a triumph of the political right, fueled by fears of immigrants and a nationalistic fervor, by contrast to the vision of a world united by common values and open (in both the legal and cultural senses) borders. Continue reading “Populism, more than prejudice, is the problem with Trump”

South Africa’s LGBTI folk can have rights – others, not so much

South Africa’s UN ambassador, Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, has (at time of writing) not responded to requests for comment on our willingness to support the suspension of the United Nations LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] rights expert.

South Africa has supported “a call for the suspension of the United Nations LGBTI rights expert“, because sexual orientation and gender identity “should not be linked to existing international human rights”. [Update, 22 November: SA has reversed course, and now support the establishment of the LGBTI rights expert position.]

Say what you will about whether “gender identity” is a confused concept (here’s Rebecca Reilly-Cooper with a thoughtful article on that), the fact remains that theoretical disputes are a separate matter from the fact that LGBTI folk are subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence exactly because of those identities. Continue reading “South Africa’s LGBTI folk can have rights – others, not so much”

A tale of two conspiracies from the Noakes hearings

Prof Noakes ended up trending on Twitter today, after SAFM and News24 reported that he’d been found guilty of professional misconduct by the HSPCA. But they will only be ruling on the matter in April 2017.

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend half of one day of the reconvened HPCSA hearings regarding Prof. Tim Noakes and his alleged “professional misconduct”.

I missed what might have been the most interesting day, at least on a personal level, as apparently one of my tweets was read into evidence. This gave Prof. Noakes an opportunity to tell folks that I had a vendetta against him, that I “call myself” someone with philosophical expertise, and so forth. Continue reading “A tale of two conspiracies from the Noakes hearings”

Hate speech and legal overreach in South Africa

The South African Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill has been published for comment, and members of the public have until December 1 to have their say. Here are four broad areas of possible concern regarding this Bill.

The intentions motivating the draft South African Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill are – as far as I can tell – entirely noble, but perhaps not entirely sound.

If you don’t know about the Bill, you can read Justice Minister Michael Masutha’s justification for it on Daily Maverick, in which he says that:

It will provide additional tools to investigators and prosecutors to hold the perpetrators of hate crimes accountable and provide a means to monitor efforts and trends in addressing hate crimes.

Continue reading “Hate speech and legal overreach in South Africa”