Religious freedom does not extend to mutilating babies

While I believe in religious freedom, that is that everyone is free to believe what they will, the practice of those beliefs is permitted only when they do not infringe on the rights of others. A court in Germany has finally taken that seriously and declared that circumcision of children is bodily harm. If your religion wants you to be circumcised then that is your choice. However, a baby has not chosen their religion and you do not have the right to force your religious beliefs on your child. Furthermore the baby is not able to consent to the surgery. It can only be religion that could convince people that removing parts of the body with no consent is perfectly acceptable practice. Continue reading

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De Lille’s plan won’t be effective

Today is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Patricia De Lille, mayor of Cape Town, was interviewed on Morning Live about her rap against drugs and the city’s efforts to combat drugs. I don’t have the whole transcript of the interview but I want to focus on one of the things she said in particular, that drugs worked because of supply and demand and that the city was going to go after the supply. That is a very bad way to go about tackling the problem. Continue reading

Debating plant ethics

A pansy, the symbol of the free though movement. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some people might know that I became a vegetarian a few months ago for ethical reasons. In summary: many animals are sentient and capable of suffering and experiencing harm which means they are objects of ethical concern. It is unethical to cause harm to sentient creatures if it can be avoided. Eating meat is harmful to them, unnecessary for our survival and so ethically unacceptable. There are also health and environmental benefits to a vegetarian diet which are nice but were not the basis for my decision. That is all based on animal ethics. At least one person has now tried to start a debate on plant ethics. Continue reading

Updates: Aan and Nando’s

There’s not too much new about the Alexander Aan case but there are a few things I missed when I originally wrote about his sentencing. There seems to be some disagreement with what he wrote. I originally read, and quoted, “God doesn’t exist” but now I’m seeing “God does not exist.” Of course that’s not really that big of a difference and it’s probably not even worth worrying about since he probably posted in Indonesian and not English. A little more serious was that I missed part of his sentence. Not only was Aan sentenced to 2,5 years in jail but also fined Rp100 million (about US$10 600). This article has some information on the groups that are supporting him.

Back in South Africa, there has been positive news regarding Nando’s anti-xenophobia advert. If you remember it was banned by the SABC, DStv and e.tv and M-Net for supposedly having a xenophobic undertone and in case people misunderstood it. This week, TopTV announced that it would show the ad on a number of it’s channels. One of the positive knock-on effects of that decision is that DStv has now lifted it’s own ban on the advert. Hopefully the other channels will soon follow suit.

UPDATE: Not worth making a new post for this but Nando’s has said it’s no longer interested in showing it’s ad on DStv.

Manufacturing offence

JS Roundhouse mids (source: Yahoo!)

I’m, rather slowly, working my way through Nick Cohen’s You Can’t Read This Book which is all about censorship in the modern and Western world. In it one of the things he says censors must do is manufacture offence. If you don’t like something pretend it’s offensive and blow it completely out of proportion, even if whatever you’re being offended about is totally innocuous. I’ve found there’s a great example both of manufacturing offence, blowing something out of proportion and then using that commotion to bully people into doing what you want. It’s all because of some new Addidas shoes… Continue reading

Open-source and open-access news

I think as a global society we need to start working together to benefit everyone. Being in South Africa I’m constantly exposed both to sections of society that are incredibly poor and sections that are incredibly rich. One of the ways to move out of poverty and work towards a better world is through education and technology, but that costs money. Sometimes a lot of money, which is why I am supportive of various initiatives for free and open-source software. Previously I’ve expressed support for Mendeley and disapproved of attempts to prevent the public having access to research they funded. I’ve seen a few pieces on the topics recently and thought I’d share them in one convenient post. Continue reading