Friday, January 18, 2008

What is this blog?

When I started blogging I wasn't exactly sure of my intent, but a large part of it was to have a place to catalog my life in Los Angeles. And I don't mean the day-to-day entries like "went shopping and boy was it cold in the freezer section" type observations. Blah would be the nice way to describe those blogs. But since I was sending out periodic mass e-mails of my funny, remarkable, moving experiences since moving here I figured why not post them to have some degree of posterity. Plus, blogging would give me a chance to keep up my writing chops at least a little and perhaps force me to record at least half of the things that I'd typically say to myself "I gotta tell everyone this" and then totally not share.

Here I am about two years after starting (all pre Oct 02 entries are backdated) and still nto exactly sure what I'm doing. The blog has been a combo of politics, sports, stories from my life (funny, sad, whatever), vent place, music and movie review site and various combinations there of. I'd like to type that I have a more focused point right now, but I don't. I hope though that each entry continues to have a point of some kind at least and that it doesn't degenerate into just a place to type out my mundane experiences.

Today's entry is just a collection of some amazing links and stories that make me really happy the Internet exists.

NPR's story about the human need for sleep. While listening to this in my car, I couldn't help but think of a colleague who is one of the lucky few who doesn't need more than six hours. I hate her a little. But seriously, this story makes me wonder about the place of achievement in humanity's collective life. The light bulb has been the biggest killer of sleep and probably overall life balance EVER.

A column by Poynter Institute writing coach/guru and all-around advocate for logic, thoughtfulness, freedom and art Roy Petere Clark discussing how political candidates have ruined the word "change."
In his piece, Clark quotes legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."

Another column by Clark, this one taking us all to task for eating on and feeding the vulture mentality toward the very pathetic and tragic (think ancient Greek meanings) of Britney Spears. Another way to think of it ... imagine that this was your daughter. How would you feel?

And yet a third column by Clark. This one is about coverage of cloning in the media. News broke yesterday that a lab in California had cloned a person for the purpose of creating a stem cell line. Clark asserts that we all need to be responsible, thoughtful, patient and open-minded. As an at-times crazy atheist liberal, I know that this is advice I need to heed as much as anyone.

When news about the FDA moving toward approving cloned meat as healthy to eat a great friend and I had an interesting exchange ...

On Jan 16, 2008 12:24 PM, Amy (who said that to her this was a gross idea, i responded that i didn't.) wrote:
Yeah, but I do think animals have souls. And since we don't have much idea of how cloning affects people and thier personalities/souls, we can't possibly know how it affects animals. Plus, I think animals are already treated so horrifically in factory farms, etc., that any perceived removal from 'real' status could lead to them being treated even worse. I'm totally ok with stem research, and with growing new body parts, but a whole sentient being is another thing completely. Manufactured life is creepy.

On 1/16/08, Mike wrote:
That's a good point about animal souls and animal commoditizing. But I also don't have nearly as huge a problem with human cloning. Not saying I think it should happen now or that we should clone tons more people for our over-populated world, but I don't find it to be this terrifying "Humans are playing God" concept, largely because I don't believe in God. So I don't have that spiritual crisis to overcome.

On Jan 16, 2008 1:00 PM, Amy wrote:
I do suspect there will be more athiests showing up to the clone meat buffet.
I need to work out my personal bioethics. In many ways I'm staunchly pro-life: I'm anti-death penalty, mostly vegetarian, I wouldn't get an abortion (now), and I can't kill bugs. I am pro-suicide and pro-right-to-die. I've put dying pets to sleep. I wouldn't want to be on life support, and I've often wondered how I'd handle a cancer diagnosis, or how I would feel if I need an organ transplant. I would definitely rather adopt a baby than be 'treated' for infertility. I don't think I could ever do IVF, but I give blood. It's a tangle.
I hope the cloning debate, if it becomes one, will challenge people to consider more carefully where their food comes from. Eating should be emotional - the whole purpose (i think, as more-or-less a secular christian) of sacrements is to remind people to be conscious about what they're doing, and to be present, and to ask questions, and to be grateful (or angry), and to connect with people and things outside of themselves, and to keep a constant sense of context and perspective. But, probably people won't give a fuck, especially if the clone meat is less expensive.

Me again:
What do you mean by "pro-suicide?"

I think everyone should examine their bioethics and ethics in general much more closely. We live too often in a world that forces people to think that they must always be pragmatic and make decisions case-by-case. Yes, that's important because adherence to idealism in the face of all else has led us to many horrible things (war in Iraq).

But at the same time, the pursuit of self-knowledge (which at its ultimate foundation is philosophy) is incredibly important. The older I get the more satisfied I am with my decision to major in philosophy. I fear that too many people don't even consider the notion of a personal system to make decisions. Sadly, too many academic philosophers won't allow for the irrationalism inherent in people, thus punishing a person for having internal contradictions within their systems.

Philosophy should instead be used to point out those contradictions and help a person resolve them—things like being pro-choice and anti-death penalty (me), or my mom who is anti-abortion (though OK in cases of rape or incest or life of the mother) and being pro-death penalty. My mom uses different parts of the Bible to justify each belief—Thou Shalt Not Kill and Eye for an Eye.

The difference between you and I on cloning seems to be rooted in your view of eating as a more sacred ritual and my view of it as physical sustenance necessary for the body to function. Not that you're ignorant of the science or that I'm ignoring the emotional connection, but if I'm understanding you right that's what I'm seeing. I see cloning as another amazing even stupendous advancement in science, much like nuclear energy—something that is an amazing end in itself but that also presents great opportunities for positive effects on humanity and horrible negative ones.

And regardless of my science-primary view, the examination of where things come from and the effects of method (i.e. what are the comprehensive effects of cloning on ethics, genetics, the environment, the economy, etc.) should be inherent in all ethical decision-making systems, religious, secular or what have you.

The greatest gift of the scientific method is that someone is supposed to be adaptable and willing to abandon that which they've held most certain in the face of new evidence. And that they'll always continue not only to be open to new evidence but to search for it.

OK, this rambled, sorry.

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