Culture and values in academia

I saw this recently on Twitter.

It links back to an article on Inside Higher Ed by Lynn Talton about better structure in one’s work life. Specifically it brought up three main topics that shouldn’t be neglected; “Getting Involved in Something Outside Your Research,” “Exploring Research Beyond Your Specialty” and “Prioritizing and Planning Your Development as a Professional.” These are all things that I agree are really good to do but which I don’t think are given the attention they deserve. Continue reading

Should I have watched Ender’s Game?

Last week I watched the sci-fi movie Ender’s Game with some friends. I found the movie to be quite entertaining and enjoyed myself. However, it got me thinking. Not about the subject matter but about the attempts to get people to boycott the film. The boycotts were called for because of Orson Scott Card’s (The author of the Ender’s Game books on which the film is based) negative views on homosexuality. So, supporting the film could be seen as supporting someone with views that go against my own and other decent people’s. Is it right to watch it? Continue reading

The UK porn block and the concept of obscenity

I made a passing reference the to the UK’s new plan to block all porn but I decided that it, and obscenity in general, required a more thorough examination. In short, David Cameron feels that UK internet service providers need to block all porn by default to protect children. In short, again, that idea is stupid. It’s stupid partially because it will not work and partially because the mindset behind it is one that should not be accepted. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Dissapointing world

Sometimes I just find the world incredibly disappointing. A Norwegian woman went to the police in Dubai to report being raped and instead found herself arrested for extramarital sex! She was later pardoned by the Sheik but the very fact that that can even happen is ridiculous. It’s not the 17th century but you could be forgiven for thinking so.

Then I hear the UK wants internet service providers to block porn by default. Naturally this is “for the children.” Of course I highly doubt there’s any evidence that it will improve children’s lives or that he’s taken into account the uncertainty that lurks in these situations. There better be very strong evidence to enact such a thing because the government has no business telling people what they can and can’t look at. This system should be opt-in only, unless maybe in the UK every single household and person has kids.

As if privacy weren’t muddied enough it seems retailers think it’s good to stomp all over it so they can track people and recognise celebrities. No. You shouldn’t be tracking people. Their defence is that it’s the same as what’s done on-line. That may be but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In this case they’re just copying a bad example.

This last one is not as bad as the others but a difference in what I think we are meant to achieve through justice system. Nazi hunters are putting up posters looking for information to convict those involved in the holocaust. The problem is that was 70 years ago and the people involved even older. Of course if your idea of justice is just to punish people then it makes sense to convict them. A more constructive form of justice would seek to rehabilitate and prevent recurrence of past events. The chances these people are going to repeat their crimes is infinitesimal so convicting them will serve no purpose.

The world’s Muslims: religion, politics and society part 2

This follows on from my earlier post: The world’s Muslims: religion, politics and society part 1.

Regarding sex, we find most Muslims regard abortion (50-99%, not counting Azerbaijan at 23%), sex outside marriage (53-99%) and homosexual behaviour (67-99%) to be immoral. Opinions on divorce and polygamy varied greatly by geography. There generally wasn’t a majority support for honour killings but it was a disturbingly high minority that felt they were sometimes or often justified. Related to the sex is the notion of gender equality.

In some Muslim countries women are treated as inferior to men with Saudi Arabia having some of the most restrictive laws on what women may or may not do. The issue of women’s rights has also recently been debated in the Afghan parliament with some demanding the law be changed so that a husband cannot be prosecuted for rape within the marriage. Continue reading

The world’s Muslims: religion, politics and society part 1

This serves as a follow up to one of my previous posts, Necessary criticism is not “Islamophobia,” where I gave a briefly discussed the accusations of Islamophobia levelled at some atheists and maintained that it’s not Islamophobic to be concerned about, and criticise, certain ideologies. In addition, I showed the real-world problems certain interpretations of Islam could cause, using events in Bangladesh as an example.

Following on that there are two links I learned of through WEIT that are worth reading. One is from an ex-Muslim who gives his perspective on Islamophobia. Continue reading

Discussion – gender reassignment

I can’t quite recall how it came about but yesterday our tea-room conversation turned briefly to when would be the right time to tell someone you had surgery to change your gender. Is it a good idea to do so when you first start dating? April did this in The IT Crowd, humorously being misheard as saying she “came from Iran” instead of “used to be a man.” Of course that could kill any chance of a relationship quite early. Should you then wait? And how long? Would it be seen as a betrayal of some sort? Would it be worse than saying you used to have a different religion or be a vegetarian? And if it would change how you see a relationship does that mean you’re placing more value on a person’s body, or what their body used to be, than the person inside?

I think they’re interesting questions and it’d be good for me not to be the only one writing here. Perhaps this is a good time for such a discussion.

PS: First comments are held until approved. After a comment has been approved all subsequent comments are posted immediately.

Was Varsity Newspaper’s article racist?

UCT's dating poll (source: News24)

UCT’s dating poll (source: News24)

It seems a graph in UCT’s student newspaper, Varsity Newspaper, has caused quite a bit of a stir after publishing a pie chart with the title, “UCT votes on most attractive race.” (Story on News24 and iol.)

With South Africa’s extreme sensitivity to racial issues it didn’t take long for people to start denouncing the paper. According to News24:

Some Twitter users, including human rights activist Zackie Achmat, voiced their disapproval. @ZackieAchmat referred to the chart as “racist nonsense”. Another user, @ednake89 tweeted “this is the kind of bullshit UCT’s Varsity newspaper publishes”.

Continue reading