If you are reading this, then you have likely seen today’s Zapiro cartoon. If you haven’t, you can see it on Daily Maverick. I’m not going to reproduce it here, both because I haven’t asked for permission to do so, and because some folk who I hope to engage via this post might think it’s needlessly provocative to do so. Continue reading “Zapiro and the rape of South Africa”
Well. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga and I had a rather interesting morning. I was part of the group that drafted a charter on rights and responsibilities for religious conduct at schools, and today we (and other interested parties) gathered to discuss the charter, and to hear the Minister’s thoughts on “harmful religious practices” in schools.
Instead, what we mostly got was lessons in how many demons are out there, hungering for your kids’
brains souls, and how only Jesus can save them. Continue reading “Basic Education in Demonology”
Readers will know that I’m not partial to shaming others, and that I try to avoid polarised viewpoints. I also try to apply the principle of charity – in other words, try to understand what someone was trying to say, rather than simply judging their statements based on surface-level meaning.
And while it’s fairly easy to imagine what Helen Zille thought we should take from her tweets yesterday, it’s very difficult to comprehend how someone with so much experience and knowledge of South African politics could be so naive – or ignorant – as to tweet what she did. Continue reading “Helen Zille and “valuable aspects of colonial heritage”.”
Before anyone else says it, yes, I know the title over-promises. Snappy comebacks aren’t exactly my thing, because they are typically simple-minded and reductionist responses to issues that are, to borrow Dr. Ben Goldacre’s line, “more complicated than that”. Continue reading “6 snappy comebacks to “6 snappy comebacks for sugar sceptics””
Yesterday, a strange collection of people received an unusual email. It was a suicide note from a man we knew to varying degrees, sent to people with whom he’d formed a connection over the years, whether via secular humanist activism (as in my case) or badminton, or something more intimate, like being family or close friends.
It was scheduled to be sent hours after he had taken his life, and included instructions regarding memorial services, burial and the like.
I didn’t know him well, so I’m not sad at his death in any personal fashion. I am however sad at how he had to die – alone, and with no certainty that his suffering would be alleviated, given that the medical support that should be available at times like these cannot be provided unless you can find a physician who is willing to break the law. Continue reading “Dying with dignity”
I took part in a very interesting radio debate this morning, on the topic of whether or not God exists. As I said in one of my first remarks, the first question we’d need to resolve is “which God?”, because that question is perhaps one that separates many heathens and believers.
By which I mean simply this: the debate around the existence of god(s) allows for vast amounts of embedded assumptions, implied premises, special pleading, confirmation bias and the like. I’m not a fan of Richard Dawkins’ approach to the religion debate at all, but he had it completely right in saying (paraphrased) that everyone knows what it’s like to be an atheist – I just go one god further than you. Continue reading “#GodDebate: Mahlatse Winston Mashua, Eusebius and I talk God”
As anyone who reads Synapses would know, I’m a proponent of scientific skepticism. What that means is something along the lines of “the practice or project of studying paranormal and pseudoscientific claims through the lens of science and critical scholarship, and then sharing the results with the public“ (from Daniel Loxton’s 2013 essay, “Why is there a skeptical movement?).
Skepticism should not be conflated with hyperskepticism, as Caleb Lack and I argue in our book on critical thinking. So, it doesn’t (necessarily) mean believing in chemtrails, or Big Pharma deliberately poisoning you, or your cellphone making you infertile (it’s a bit of a pity that that one isn’t true, actually). Continue reading “Vaccines and false balance”
There’s an interesting – and important – discussion going on in South African professional philosophy at the moment. You can read about it on the Mail&Guardian, but the nutshell summary is that tensions regarding the “apparent supremacy of European philosophy over African philosophy” have resulted in the president and “several black philosophers” resigning from the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa (PSSA). Continue reading “The (unbearable?) whiteness of philosophy”
A journalist friend recently asked me for comment on the issue of gender reassignment, and as usual, I went overboard. Given that only a few sentences of what I provided will make it into her piece, here’s a longer version of my take on some of the ethical issues involved with hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery for under-18s.
First published on GroundUp.
Objectivity is impossible to achieve. We all have our biases, and on top of that, we all have brains that work to confirm those biases, and to undermine the impact of information that could change our minds.
We are of course not helpless in the face of misinformation – we can remind ourselves to read and think about dissenting views, we can debate issues with friends from different parts of the political spectrum, and most importantly perhaps, we can remind ourselves that discovering our own errors is an essential component of triangulating on the truth. Continue reading “Fake news isn’t the same as lying”