Christopher Chew, Monash University

Cancer – The Best Way to Die?

A blog post late last month by Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, has provoked a storm of criticism and controversy. Provocatively entitled, “Dying of Cancer is the Best Death”, the author argues that a death from cancer is preferable and closes, controversially, with:

“…let’s stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer, potentially leaving us to die a much more horrible death.”

To be fair, the points Smith attempted to make in his article have been taken to their emotional extreme by his critics – so much so that he has written a follow-up post better explaining his (far more moderate) views.

In any case, two questions come to mind. Might cancer indeed be the best, or least worst, death? And is it possible money allocated to cancer treatment and research could be better spent elsewhere? The first will be addressed in this piece – the latter, on the other hand, cannot be done justice in this given space (and may be the subject of a follow-up post). Continue reading

Epidemics or Extremists?

Following six months in the UK with no access to a television, I’ve had the opportunity to rediscover the delights of prime-time news media exposure since returning to Australia.

If I had to point to the (world) issue that is foremost in the media’s minds at the moment, I would probably gesture wildly at the current concerns over the conflict with ISIS (or ISIL) in the Middle East. Indeed, it seems so important to the public that it is one of the few causes that currently has complete bipartisan political support; and to such an extent that the current Treasurer has been (subtly) reprimanded by Prime Minister Tony Abbot for daring to question the Opposition’s commitment. Continue reading

Welfare 2.0? Abbott, Forrest and the “Healthy Welfare Card”

A recently released review by Australian mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest (news article available here, full report available here) investigating training and employment for Indigenous Australians has made a controversial recommendation for the introduction of a “Healthy Welfare Card” for all recipients of welfare assistance in Australia, except for those on aged or veteran’s pensions.

The Healthy Welfare Card

The Healthy Welfare Card is the centerpiece of a new cashless system proposed by Forrest, to encourage responsible spending, reduce welfare fraud, administration costs, and increase financial inclusion. Future welfare payments, he envisions, will be directed to an account at a nominated responsible financial institution, presumably one of the Four Pillars of Australian banking. The Healthy Welfare Card is the direct debit card linked to this banking account, but with a twist – spending on “alcohol, gambling products, illicit services and instruments that can be converted to cash (such as gift cards) and…activities discouraged by government, or illegal in some places, such as pornography” will be restricted, presumably by prohibition of certain retail outlets or at the point-of-sale. The card will be usable at all Australian retail stores that accept VISA or MASTERCARD via EFTPOS facilities (except for the aforementioned), but will not permit the withdrawal of cash.

Continue reading

Tony Coady – Trusting Emotion, Trusting Reason: A False Dichotomy

In his recent seminar (a recording of which can be found here), Australian philosopher Tony Coady seeks to criticize the entrenched dichotomy of ‘emotion’ and ‘reason’. He argues that this rigid division is outdated and unsophisticated, and that its persistence is limiting the quality of both philosophical debate and wider scientific investigation.

Coady opens his talk by noting the derogatory accusations of ‘appealing to emotion’ that have been levied at opponents in the enhancement debate. He contends that this simply follows in a long philosophical tradition of separating and placing reason above emotion, from Plato’s allegory of the Charioteer (reason) harnessing his Horses (the passions), to the Christian concept of conflict between the higher desires of the Spirit and the desires of the Flesh that must be tamed. Coady claims that this view of reason, which he terms rationalism, has been the dominant paradigm in Western philosophical thought. Continue reading

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