Eusebius McKaiser (host of a show on Radio 702) and I were meant to be part of a public discussion at WiSER (based at Wits University) on COVID-19 and its social implications later this week. The conversation was in the end postponed – not because of health risks (although that is now an utterly sensible reason for postponing) – but because some people thought that a philosophical conversation was inappropriate, and that WiSER should include epidemiologists, virologists and the like on any panel related to this coronavirus.Continue reading “COVID-19, South Africa, and humility regarding scientific reasoning”
Friday December 6 is your deadline to indicate your support for repealing Section 6 of the Civil Union Act (via the Civil Union Amendment Bill), and you can do so by writing to Mr Zolani Rento (email@example.com) or Mr G Dixon (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ve offered some reasons to support the repeal before, and repeat the invitation made in that post to copy and paste whatever you like from it in your submission.Continue reading “Repealing Section 6 of the Civil Union Act”
We pick the narratives that we prefer. And if we find a guru, thought-leader or intellectual who speaks to our values and dreams, confirmation bias means we celebrate their successes, and forgive them their failures. In reality, though, they’re going to be the same mixed-bag as the rest of us, albeit often operating at a higher level of complexity and consequence than we are.Continue reading “Bread from air: Fritz Haber, and the unpredictable outcomes of visionary thinking”
Before we talk about what the law says, we should talk and think about what sort of society we hope for the law to help create. The law is always going to be an imperfect tool for managing millions of often selfish, confused, partisan, and otherwise compromised humans.
So when talking about liberal values such as free speech, it is legitimate to ask whether past, current or future formulations of laws governing the value in question do the job optimally, rather than to simply appeal to them as the end-points of an argument.Continue reading “Zille vs. Haffajee on hate speech and the Economic Freedom Fighters”
Steven Friedman is right to say that BLF should be allowed to compete as a political party, even though they limit membership to black voters only. He makes this case in his Business Day column of July 31 (paywalled), but you can also read it on his Facebook wall.
The South African Electoral Act says that parties may not discriminate on racial grounds, and while that means the BLF is legally in the wrong, it tells us nothing about whether the Act deals with this matter in an ideal way.Continue reading “Race-based party membership: Steven Friedman on BLF”
Early this morning, Quillette (a conservative-leaning online magazine, founded by Australian writer Claire Lehmann) editor and photojournalist Andy Ngo was the target of antifa (anti-fascist) protest while covering a rally in Portland, Oregon. The banner photograph is from when he was admitted to the emergency ward for treatment. He also had some of his photographic equipment stolen during the incident.
I don’t like many of the views that authors on Quillette espouse, even as I’m happy to concede that Quillette is on the whole more objective than some of their critics claim them to be. But the point of this post is that this doesn’t matter: you don’t need to agree or disagree with a writer or speaker to know that it’s wrong for them to be assaulted for holding the views that they do.Continue reading “The glorification of violence, and the case of Andy Ngo”
Sean Davison, who helped his terminally ill mother to die in 2006, and who was subsequently sentenced to 5 months of house arrest in New Zealand (where the “crime” occurred), was today sentenced to 8 years of house arrest, with 5 suspended, for 3 similar offences.
Given that the sentence for murder in South Africa is supposed to be 15 years, this caused some consternation for a few talk-radio callers I heard today, and also on that platform of considered debate known as Twitter.Continue reading “On assisted dying, and Sean Davison being sentenced to 3 years of house arrest”
South Africa has a “spiritual vampires” problem, to adapt Susan Gerbic and the Guerrilla Skeptic’s term (“grief vampires”) for people like John Edward, who claim to speak to the dead. But then, I suppose you could say that the whole world does, in that religious leaders who make a living off telling people things they themselves don’t actually believe can be found everywhere.
I’ve written about some of South Africa’s exploitative evangelists in the past, including Prophet (Detective) Lethobo and Penuel Mnguni, as well as about the CRL Commission’s investigation into harmful religious practices and whether they should be regulated.Continue reading “Raising the dead: too many questions, but more than enough answers.”
“The Pan South African Language Board says that parents should be concerned if children often speak in the adopted British accent from the popular animated TV series Peppa Pig.”
So says Sibusiso Nkosi, of the aforementioned Pan South African Language Board, because they worry that some accents are perceived to signal positive traits like intelligence more than others do, and they want to encourage South African kids to keep speaking in their “African accent”, so as to not reinforce this perception.Continue reading “Two South African stories, one stupid, one more serious”
Here are three pieces that have been open in my browser for a few days now, while I kept postponing the urge to write something substantial about each of them. Instead, I’ll simply present them for your consideration, with a paragraph or two on selected areas of possible interest.
First, Bruce Schneier on blockchains, and how it’s debatable that they live up to what many consider one of their key promises: to “displace, reshape, or eliminate trust“. Schneier is an American cryptographer who has written extensively on security issues (his work on airport “security theater” is well-worth reading), and he certainly speaks with authority, even if you might not agree with his analysis.Continue reading “Weekend reading in ethics, featuring Marie Kondo”