Saturday, September 24, 2011

Should We Control Aging?

A recent New York Times article described a scientific battle being waged between researchers studying the aging process and how to control it. Why is science dedicated to the lengthening of life by prolonging it "artificially" instead of concentrating its efforts on allowing life to reach its limit "naturally" by controlling the conditions (diseases, disasters, etc.) that tend to end it prematurely. Why do we bother with uncovering the aging process?

Stemming the aging process would give one the opportunity to live forever, and to live forever without the effects of biological aging! One could have the appearance and the energy of a 30-year old (pick your age) "forever!" Would you opt for this - or opt out of this?

Every living thing undergoes an aging process. There are evolutionary and cultural memes that support this reality. Aging isn't always pretty; as a matter of act it's often quite ugly. It can be emotionally ugly and physically ugly. It is often, if not generally, unwelcome.

We should clearly attempt to make the process less difficult to accept. But should we really be in the business of trying to stop it altogether? I don't know - maybe we should. Perhaps a world where biological aging no longer occurs would be an improvement. Using the evolutionary principle, I guess it would have to be considered an inevitability in the unceasing process of biological alteration. There is no stopping science in its constant drive to answer the never-ending questions about our natural world.

As for me, I'd opt not to tamper with our current march towards the senior years. Aging seems not only purposeful - but has its poetry. However, in its teleologic eternal efforts to understand, science has no bounds and should have none. It may trample on poetry in the process -- but new poetry always follows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Troy Davis Case - What's Right and What's Wrong

Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia on September 21, 2011. Davis was indicted for murdering a police officer in 1989 and convicted of this crime in 1991. He was sentenced to be executed ten years ago. Between sentencing and execution his attorneys had numerous appeals and reviews by various jurisdictions including the Georgia Supreme Court, The United States District Court, The United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, and a at least two special review panels. I counted 11 reviews during the past 10 years.

There had been multiple appeals for new trials and for more evidentiary hearings from notables that include Pope Benedict, former president Jimmy Carter, former FBI director William Sessions, and even Al Sharpton.

First of all, no judge and no court decisions should be influenced by external pressure, whether it comes from Al Sharpton or even Pope Benedict. If the purpose of the demonstrations was for new trials or new hearings, these appeals were in keeping with what actually occurred. There were multiple new judiciary and evidentiary hearings - none of which apparently led to an overturning of the original conviction and sentencing.

None of the notables were present in the courtroom. None of the notables were present for evidentiary argument during the many appeals. I wasn't there, and I would contend that none of the readers of this entry were there.

I am not arguing for the death penalty. I am very opposed to the death penalty. But I firmly support our judicial process, which I believe to be as fair and unprejudiced as possible. Davis's case was considered by many courts on a myriad of occasions. And unless we suspect some form of judicial conspiracy among the various levels of review, it is reasonable and right to conform with their decisions.

Were this not a death penalty case, I wonder if anyone would even have heard of it. Unfortunately Georgia (one of 34 states) supports the death penalty - a form of punishment that has been judged to not be "cruel and unusual."

Yes the death penalty is harsh and, to my way of thinking, wrong. Demonstrations against it are in order - as a matter of fact there should be more of them! But to demonstrate and chastise those committed to the law and its interpretation is unreasonable.

We should not be questioning guilt or innocence here. That is not our place. We were not present in the courtrooms. We should, however, be taking a stand against execution even when the evidence for murder is overwhelming; and even for the most callous of murderers.

On the same day that Davis was executed, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas. Brewer was convicted of chaining a man to the back of a pickup truck in 1998 and pulling him along a bumpy road to his death. Protestations and demonstrations against his execution were either non-existent or not publicized. Why?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Israel-Palestine. A Public-Relations War

Last night I attended a presentation by a member of AIPAC (American-Israel Political Action Committee) dealing with the Palestinian statehood issue which will shortly be coming up for discussion at the United Nations. Most of you are aware of this matter. It is the latest approach that the Palestinian "government" is taking to strengthen its position vis-a-vis Israel - a position, which the speaker maintained, has no chance of passing because of an assured United States veto as a last resort. There is, however, the strong possibility that the status of Palestine will be upgraded to what is termed "state without membership" - similar to the Vatican, or Switzerland prior to its joining the United Nations.

The speaker went to to discuss other options relating to a Palestine-Israel accord, seeming quite confident that a negotiated settlement will eventually be reached, because, in fact, there is no alternative solution.

I wonder.

At present Israel is losing a public relations battle. Palestinians are gaining ground, gaining sympathy, gaining allies - to the point where an application to the United Nations is actually going to occur! They are winning the war of words, photos, videos, and headlines. They are an "occupied" people who have been "ejected" from their homeland and are existing in "refugee" status in other countries. If it were a decision left to the General Assembly of the UN, Palestine would be granted official statehood and membership. According to the AIPAC speaker, the vast majority of UN members would vote it so.

The Israel-Palestine problem reminds me a little of psychotherapy. After some 60 years, no real change.

Israel has offered many negotiation-points - but to no avail! Has the time come to believe that this just won't work? If I were winning a war of public relations and sitting in the so-called "catbird's seat," why should I negotiate? If the world is moving in my direction, why change tactics? Time? I have all the time in the world? No reason to hurry. It can only get better for me and worse for the other side. And I have a whole group of potential "fifth columnists" ready to jump in and help.

I find it difficult to share AIPAC's optimism regarding a future negotiated settlement given the present circumstances. Somehow Israel must find a way to gain an advantage in this public-relations war. It has to somehow rid itself of its "oppressor" image - an image which, unfortunately, has come to represent the face of Israel to much of the world.

Israel is not an oppressor!
Israel is not an occupier!
Israel is not a slaughterer of civilians

Israel is merely trying to exercise its right to exist. It has been physically attacked numerous times over its period of existence and all Israel has done is to respond - to protect its citizens and its geographical integrity. In being forced to do so Israel has, somehow, taken on the face of oppression. This image must be changed.