Friday, November 6, 2009

Articles of Interest

Melanie talks about the recent protest against Autism Speaks at Ohio State. I was involved in the early stages of this event. I really miss the people over at our ASAN chapter.

Also on the Asperger front, Claudia Wallis writes in the New York Times about the strong possibility of Asperger syndrome being removed from the new edition of the psychiatric diagnostic manual to be merged with P.D.D.-N.O.S as autism spectrum disorder. The article goes on to quote Ari Ne'eman as supporting the view that autism is one large community. He views his identity as being "attached to being on the autism spectrum not some superior Asperger's identity." I have personally debated this issue with Ne'eman. My position regarding disabilities in general is to make a division between those who are at a baseline of physical and mental capacity and those who are not. As I see it these two groups have different interests, require different things from society and must therefore operate within different models. For those who are functional the necessary model is that of the minority group. What is needed is not charity (otherwise known as aid) from society, but an understanding that such people have a different though equally valid mode of living. This would apply to someone like me or my friend in a wheelchair, who is completely self sufficient. Now this type of disability model would not apply to those who are disabled in the more traditional sense. Such people would require charity from society. Hopefully this charity would be used with the long term goal of helping as many people as possible to move out of the non-functional disabled category to the functional category. I made the argument once that to call a group the Autistic Self Advocacy Network means that you are dealing with only those who are actually capable of engaging in self advocacy. Self advocacy on behalf of other people is a contradiction in terms. It is amazing how this type of basic tautology apparently could prove to be offensive to some people.

Also in the New York Times, Kenneth Chang has on article on the rise of modern day creationism in the Islamic world. The article points out that because Islam does not share the Genesis creation story with Jews and Christians there has been far less at stake for Muslims to stick with a young earth model. I come to the issue from a medieval perspective. In the Middle-Ages the controversial creation issue was not evolution, but the Aristotelian claim that the world existed from eternity. Muslims were far more likely to be willing to go along with the Aristotelian position because they did not have to defend Genesis. (For more on this topic see Taner Edis writing for the History of Science Society.)

Charles W. Hedrick writes in Biblical Archaeology Review about the continued controversy over Morton Smith's claim to have discovered a different and potentially far more provocative version of the story of the resurrection of Lazarus in the Gospel of Mark. Smith was probably the most colorful figure in the field of twentieth century Jewish studies. He was a former Episcopalian minister who turned Talmud scholar.

Finally Raina Kelley, in Newsweek, takes a swing at the film Precious and the growing genre of underprivileged children redeeming themselves and finding a future through the medium of writing. Kelley writes from a non-humanities perspective, arguing that mathematics is a field far more likely to allow a person to enter the middle class, but there is an inherent bias among writers to push their own profession. This is not to say that Kelley is against the humanities; there is just an acknowledgment that to write requires actual training and, contrary to myth, does not spring spontaneously from the unlettered heart. I take an Aristotelian attitude toward the humanities. The humanities have no utilitarian value and are therefore for those who do not need to make a living or for those, like me, willing to live in poverty. They do serve a purpose, though, and are necessary for anyone wishing to play an active role in society.

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