Monogamy and Ghosts on M-Net’s ‘Carte Blanche’

by .reid.

I don’t really watch TV. When I do allow myself free-time it’s for reading some fiction (currently Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series). Anyway, I record certain programs then I watch them weeks later. I say this because I’ve only just watched Carte Blanche episode, from 12 June 2011. That’s a month ago.

Anyway, this was a largely disappointing episode but I’m still glad it was made. It dealt extensively with the large-scale alleged corruption within Jo’burg’s EMS. This was excellent, albeit a bit theatrical. Yet, within the episode, there were two stories that were intriguing to me.

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Fritzl, Faith and Folly


I recently watched a documentary on Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who kidnapped, drugged, and raped his daughter for 24 years; forcing her to be his sex-slave and mother to incestuous grandchildren. What more evidence is required for us to postulate the non-existence of a loving, caring god? Certainly, the systematic extermination of nearly an entire race of people was not enough; the brutality of the world throwing up destruction – whether through volcanoes or hurricanes – does not dint the happy glaze in the faithful’s eyes; and now, a woman raped by her father and kept in his dungeon for a quarter of a century, does not appear to slow faith, either.

Ideally, I would like to stop there and say: The jig is up. There is no man behind the curtain. Praying is the still-frame of an audience slow-clapping for the arrival of their beloved stage performer. Yet this performance has ended, there is no one watching out for you. We are here to look after ourselves and, by definition, each other. Leaving it up to god to catch your babies, let your favourite football team win, get you that hot date, earn your promotion, get you through this terrible ordeal, cure your son’s incurable disease, stop your wife’s neverending pain as cancer destroys her from the inside, take grandma up into heaven, forgive the wrongs of murderers and pimps and drug-lords, proclaim what’s right or wrong, is not a viable alternative to facing this stupid, bigoted, terrible world we live in. This is not a place of happiness. It is a place filled with suffering, with stupidity, with bigotry, which, after our toil and struggle, ends finally in death. Continue reading

Opening Quotation for My Thesis

I am, I think, late in handing in my thesis proposal. Anyway, I am in the middle of preparing it. The most wonderful thing was finding my opening quotation, from the great James Rachels.

The great man himself. Click to visit his website where you can get three of his wonderful books for free, including the one referenced here.


It is appropriate on a personal level, since the late Professor Rachels ‘got me’ into applied ethics. The quotation encapsulates much of, if not most of, my research for my thesis. I will be unpacking it for several hundred pages, but also developing an answer I think deserves more attention: rational pessimism. What that means I will have to fully flesh out; needless to say, I am drawing from Schopenhauer, Harris, Mill and Kant to formulate some kind of synthesis that can be applied in practical ethical dilemmas, especially when it comes to medical ethics. We’ll see how that goes.

Here is the wonderful quotation. (References at the end)

Although it may seem a surprising thing to say, the Western tradition places too much value on human life. There are times when the protection of human life has no point, and the Western tradition has had difficulty acknowledging this. The noble ideal of ‘protecting human life’ is invoked even when the life involved does its subject no good and even when it is not wanted. Babies that are hopelessly deformed, and will never mature into children, may nevertheless be kept alive at great cost. Euthanasia for persons dying horrible diseases is illegal. St Augustine called respect for animal life ‘the height of superstition’; in these cases, it is respect for human life that seems to have degenerated into superstition.

– James Rachels, The End of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 24.

Bad Comments Round #2: Jacqueline Howett, Responding to Criticisms, and the (Usual) Dangers of Positive Thinking

For Bad Comments Round #1, click here.

I’m not a published author. My aim is to write books one day, but for now, my focus is mainly to read them. (This reminds me of Schopenhauer’s statement that “buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them”.) However, I have learnt to a small degree how to deal with critics.

Maybe it has to do with the subject matter I deal with – sensitive ethical topics that happen to be my research focus like infanticide, suicide, and so on – but I’ve learnt to focus only on necessary commentary. That is commentary that actually adds to the discussion, by pointing out flaws in my argument and view. Continue reading

Pray the Gay Away With Help from Apple

As an iPad user, I’ve found it useful as this amazing and beautiful piece of tech appears to give you access to the legendary iTunes Store. They have ‘an app for everything’ it seems: from document taking to video-watching, from a working guitar to a usable DJ rig. And yes, they even have an app to get rid of your pesky homosexuality.

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New 3QD Column: Mob Morality

Larry Tate, from ‘I Hate What You Said’, has summarised my latest column in what 3QD editor, Abbas Raza, has indicated is a wonderful and humourous summation. It’s only a paragraph long and, actually, does a good job of posing the right questions.

From my column:

What is it about topics like incest,bestiality, necrophilia and cannibalismthat urges us to pick up pitchforks and torches? A more important question, however, is whether these topics automatically or necessarily should elicit outrage enough for us to target those who perform these acts. I think not.

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I was expecting more trolls, but the discussion actually seems fairly inviting.

South African Science & Skeptic Podcast: Consilience Episode 1, feat. Steven Novella

Angela Meadon, Michael Meadon and Owen Swart, some of our most prolific and passionate skeptics (yes to get more hits, it is spelled with a “k”), have just released their first episode of their new podcast, Consilience. Have a look at their first episode. They got the wonderful Steven Novella for an interview — which shows either their persistence, Novella’s friendliness, or a ridiculous amount of time. I imagine, though, it is all three.

The topic for this episode sounds wonderful. After listening, let them know what you think. Before the trolls are released, at least give them time to start doing the podcast though. Stay under your bridges until then.

Congratulations to the wonderful team. That’s a helluva way to start. This is good news for the spreading of scientific ideas in South Africa and, of course, Africa in general. I’m very glad to see this. Please spread the word.