Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo, December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo has died of forced starvation and dehydration. She was 41.

Crying Out for Certainty

This whole situation with Terri Schiavo continues to frustrate me. I am firmly allied with those who believe Terri should live (and that she certainly shouldn't be starved and dehydrated) but I just wish I could be talk to all the parties myself, you know? I so desperately want certainty, but it seems to me that there is at least a shadow of a doubt over Terri's condition. That being said, I don't think "a shadow of a doubt" justifies killing anyone in such a case.

Proponents of Terri's death say, "the courts have decided these things over and over" which sounds important until you realize that the "facts" of the case were decided in the original trial and were not open for dispute in any of the appeals. Michael Schiavo had a very good attorney who is well versed in "right to die" issues. The Schindlers had a young attorney working on out of sympathy. It was not until after the trial ended that (at some point) the Schindlers got a better attorney.

Some neurologists claim that Terri is in a PVS, but a leading neurologist, Dr. William Hammesfahr, disagrees. His report on Terri is published on I'm always skeptical of things I just read off of the internet, so I did a quick search on him and he seems to be a real doctor who works in the field of neurology. If you read the report he is convinced that Terri is not in a PVS and is responsive. However, Hammesfahr has been disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine for false advertizing about his treatment of stroke victims. I read through a bit of the complaint and trial transcript myself, and some neurologists seem to think Hammesfahr's treatments work as advertized, and some don't. The claim that he is a Nobel Prize nominee is apparently false. This doesn't mean that what Dr. Hammesfahr says about Terri is false, but I really wish his record was a bit cleaner. It would be easy to portray him as a doctor who wants notoriety for his controversial method so he claims he can help Terri. For the record, the Schindlers asked him to examine Terri, he did not volunteer himself as I understand it.

People I trust who would know about this sort of thing and are pro-life have seen her CT and say that her brain is really "mush." Where does that leave me? Ugh. I'm confused. Any way you slice it, though, I don't advocate starving and dehydrating Terri.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

New (Old) Music

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I occasionally post on the music I'm listening to. In the past I've advocated the musical stylings of Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, and Snow Patrol. I'm still a fan of all of the above, by the way, but the music I've been getting into lately is...well...something of a departure from that style. I'm going to add three to the list of "Lazy Logician Approved" artists:

1. Giovanni da Palestrina
2. Don Carlo Gesualdo
3. Hildegarde von Bingen

Yeah, that's right. Medieval composers (you'll have to forgive me if I use incorrect terminology about this kind of music as I'm new to the scene). I guess I'll blame my interest in this music on Hollywood because I've been enjoying this stuff in movies I've been watching (did [em]Constantine[/em] have some?). The intricate sounds these composers crafted using only the human voice put a number of orchestral pieces to shame. I've nearly been brought to tears several times.

These pieces do such a great job of communicating the transcendent nature of God (well, not so much Gesualdo). You can really get swept away by the beauty of the harmonies, or in Hildegarde's case, the stark unison. I think "haunting" is a good way to describe it.

So, for those of you desirous to expand your musical horizons, don't ignore these early classical composers. This is truly beautiful music.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Will George Get it Right?

If you haven't done so yet, go to and watch the latest trailer for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. WOW. I realize I'm tipping everyone off to my fundamental geekhood (if it wasn't evident already), but that trailer has me ready to go stand in line. If this movie is as good as the trailers look, will Lucas be absolved of his "sins" in the eyes of Star Wars fans (note: I liked episodes I and II, so I don't have much of a beef with him)?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stranded With Philosophers

Johnny-Dee has a good post over at Fides Quaerens Intellectum. It's a play off of the old "stranded on a desert island game. This time the question is what philosophers you would take with you. It wasn't original with John but, like him, I have no idea who did it first. Anyway, here's my list:

1. John Searle: I disagree with a lot of Searle's opinions, but he's got an interesting perspective, and after hearing him on Philosophy Talk I found out he is pretty funny (or at least he was on that show).
2. Alvin Plantinga: I've got to agree with John on this one. Here's another philosopher with a sense of humor, plus he could balance Searle's atheism.
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein: I know, I know, he wouldn't be all that exciting as a party guest, but what can I say? I love the whole "flawed genius" thing. I find it fascinating (I guess that's why I love Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind).
4. David Hume: By all accounts a philosopher who knew how to party. He could counteract Wittgenstein's introversion.
5. Jonathan Edwards: A personal hero of mine. An absolutely brilliant mind and a giant of the Christian faith. A lot of people have the idea he was just a hellfire and brimstone guy, but that wasn't true. He was a great thinker. He and Hume could have some interesting conversations.

So there's my list. I see potential for interesting interaction. I smell a TV series...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

It Itches, I'm Tellin' Ya...

Certain Doubts has an interesting post on Keith Lehrer's Pain/Itch Example. The idea is that it's supposed to show we can be "mistaken even about the contents of our own minds." The example, taken from Jonathan Kvanvig's post at Certain Doubts, goes like this:

You go to the doctor complaining of an itch. He listens to your complaint, observes the location of the itch, writes down how the problem started, and the details about physical symptoms including duration and intensity of the experience. Then he tells you that he thinks he knows what the problem is. He tells you that it’s not really an itch, but a pain. People have confused these two in the past, but we now have a well-confirmed theory that distinguishes the two in a slightly different way than “the folk” do. The theory has led to two technologies. One is a machine for distinguishing the two underlying states, and the other is medicine for treating the two conditions. Your doctor tells you that one of the medicines will solve the problem if you’re experiencing a pain, but not the itch; and the other medicine will have the alternative results. You insist that you’re experiencing an itch, but he uses the machine and shows you the results: you’re in pain, it says. If you still insist, he’ll give you the itch medicine. You do, and he does; you return two weeks later, still suffering, and ask for the pain medicine. You take it and get well. So you say, “I guess I was wrong. It was a pain, not an itch, after all!”

Like several respondents I was left unimpressed (see Jonah Shupbach's good criticism here. Why should I think that this machine the doctor (or whomever) built is in a better position to judge my internal states than I am? Even if the machine can tell the difference between the two sensations why does that mean that I am in pain?

Beyond that, it seems to me that Lehrer has made some unwarranted assumptions in formulating this example. In situations like this I prefer to tread lightly because this example was formulated by an intelligent man; so I offer the caveat that I might be missing something. At any rate, Lehrer designed the example to show how we might be mistaken about the contents of our own minds. He first needs to prove, I think that such a thing is possible in such a clear case when our mind is not clouded in some way (perhaps he does in some other article which I have not read, but I tend to doubt it). He assumes it is, and I think this is not warranted. If the example is intended as proof that it is possible then it is circular because it assumes the possibility at the outset of the example (this is why I doubt it was meant as such a proof).

I can build a similar example on why 2+2 acutally equals 5 rather than 4, but I wouldn't expect people to believe that either. Imagine you are in a math class and your professor put a giant red 'X' next to your answer of '4' to the problem '2+2=?'. You challenge her on this and she says, "Actually it is 5. Humans only think it's 4 because of a trick of the brain. We ran it through a sophisticated Math program invented by researches from MIT and the answer came out to be '5'. We repeated the calculations numerous times and have come to the conclusion that the way the 'folk' add two and two is slightly off." So off you go to check on this math program. You purchase it and have some software experts analyze it and they assure you it's perfect. So you conclude that 2+2 does equal '5'.

Of course, just because I build an example of how 2+2 could equal five doesn't mean that it's possible that it could happen. I would have to prove its possibility before I even tried to move on to how it could be done. Similarly, for Lehrer's example to work you would have to assume the possibility of our being wrong about our mental states from the outset. Any comments?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Brain Freeze

I've been having a hard time coming up with good blog fodder lately. I think one reason is that I want everything to be too good. I mean, a blog is an on-line journal, right? Who in the world says it's supposed to be full of lucid, fully-formed thoughts? I think I read Maverick Philosopher too much. He always seems to have something insightful to say, but then again, he's been studying philosophy and other things for a lot longer than I have.

I do want to post more on philosophy as well. I just have to come up with some worthwhile things to think and talk about. Oh, well. I guess I'll just have to keep reading and talk about that.

Alright, I'm done whining now.