Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Surveys and surveys - The Canadian Medical Association should know better

The Canadian Medical Association currently debates the issue of assisted dying. That's a reassuring thing as everything points in the direction of doctors becoming the gatekeepers once assisted dying is regulated and will be made available to eligible Canadians who request it.

Strangely, the Association seems to put a lot of store in an on-line poll it inflicted on its members, where only 29% of those who responded said that they were willing to provide assisted dying to eligible patients while 63% objected. I'm surprised the Association's staff would have even mentioned this survey. It's troubled by obvious ( and quite deadly, pardon the pun) methodological problems that renders it useless.

The Associations Vice President Professional Affairs, Dr Jeff Blackmer produced a 34 slide presentation titled (no doubt to the horror of most living medical ethicists) 'End-of-Life Care in Canada: A Principles Based Approach to Assisted Dying'. There will be only few people left in bioethics who have not come to realize that the much celebrated principles approach to medical ethics guarantees arbitrary recommendations and outcomes. The principles approach is neither action guiding nor action justifying, it's useless as a tool of ethical or policy analysis and justification. Blackmer decided to add random other principles to the Georgetown Mantra, including vacuous nice sounding stuff like the 'dignity of life' (yes, really, he did!). We spent a fair amount of time in our Royal Society of Canada Report on the subject matter dissecting this particular issue.

After delivering to his audience this hotchpotch of principles, there's an unconnected slide with recommendations, followed by 8 or 9 slides reporting the results of the CMA's on-line poll. Blackmer reports that of about 80 000 doctors in Canada about 1400 clicked their way thru the on-line poll. At a minimum the negligible turnout suggests that most doctors in Canada didn't care to complete a survey that they probably realized ultimately tells us nothing about Canadian doctors' views on assisted dying. The reason for this is methodological. These kinds of surveys may or may not be representative, we just cannot know, because the survey participants may or may not be representative. If anything we should be suspicious of these results, because no professional survey organisations ensured that the sample was actually representative. Those who feel strongly about the subject matter - physicians opposed to it - will fire up their supporters to reject assisted dying and proclaim no collaboration.

Other surveys, including one reported in our above mentioned report, suggest significantly higher levels of support. It is all the more disheartening that a seasoned journalist like the Globe and Mail's Andre Picard takes the 29% figure at face value in his twitter reporting of the Blackmer presentation. (See the image above.) Doing that permits the anti-choice activists to feel good about their campaign strategy, their encouraging their like-minded doctor supporters to click thru the survey would pay off if people fell for this nonsense. I left a slightly more polite comment to this account under Blackmer's public slide presentation, but it was quickly deleted. Go figure.

The CMA recognizes that we will be getting assisted dying in some form or shape (determined by the criteria set out in the Supreme Court of Canada judgment on this subject) and that a small number of its members will be called upon to provide assisted dying services to their patients. The Association is rightly concerned about ensuring patient access while protecting its objecting members' conscience choices. There is a precedent for this. Abortion. Objecting doctors will be obliged to transfer their patients to a colleague they know will oblige them, without unreasonable delay. The CMA is apparently supportive of this compromise.

The train toward assisted dying in Canada has departed but hasn't reached its destination yet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Joint Open Letter to Prime Minister and President of Bangladesh: re the killings of secularist bloggers by Islamist fanatics

We, concerned members of the blogging and activist community of Bangladesh and internationally, along with representatives of human rights organisations and other civil society organisations and supporters, wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the institutional attack on Bangladeshi citizens who profess humanist, atheist or secularist views.
In the last two years, five bloggers (variously identifying as humanist, rationalist, atheist, and variously writing about science, humanist values, against Islamist extremism, or in favour of human rights and justice) have been murdered, hacked to death by assailants acting for fundamentalist militant groups (according to their own claims of responsibility). These victims are: Ahmed Rajib Haider, the science author Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Niladri Chatterjee (pen name Niloy Neel). Four of these murders have occurred since February this year. In other cases, individuals like Jafar Munshi and Anjali Devi have been killed for alleged or perceived acts of ‘defamation of religion’, such as refusing to enforce hijab on students. And since 2013, supporters of the Shahbag movement and the war crimes justice process (the accused being Islamist leaders) have also been brutally murdered by similar Islamist entities. The victims include: Ashraful Alam, Arif Raihan Deep, Nurul Islam Faruki, Jagat Jyoti Talukder, Jakaria Babu.
The murderers and their ideological supporters are of course to be condemned and must be brought to justice.
In addition, instead of helping to confront this outrageous injustice, political and state institutions have begun blaming the victims themselves and making matters worse.
Following the murder of Niladri Chatterjee on 7 August, the Inspector General of Police engaged in victim-blaming, called for self-censorship, and threatened bloggers — the very people who are being murdered — with legal action under the current quasi-blasphemy law. Meanwhile, despite some counter-terrorism operations, the police have comprehensively failed to disrupt the networks that are ordering or carrying out these cowardly attacks. Even with two of the killers caught at the scene (after the murder of Washiqur Rahman) and claims of responsibility made openly on social media and via news outlets, still the attacks go on, and the extremists behind the killings remain at large. Instead of calling for vigilance and evidence against the murderers from the general public, police have instead encouraged the public to report alleged atheistic writings.
Faced with fresh death threats against numerous named Shahbag activists and others branded “enemies of Islam” in the week after the most recent murder, a police spokesperson told those threatened merely to “lodge police complaints” if they thought they were being followed! This is a grossly inadequate, highly negligent response to what is evidently a most serious and potentially fatal threat.
A number of Islamist groups, including Awami Olama League which is closely associated with your own Awami League party, have made new demands of death penalties for all atheist bloggers and activists, echoing the rhetoric of Islamist extremists in other parties. Obviously, this demand represents a gross violation of the rights of the non-religious to freedom of thought, and against freedom of expression generally and must be firmly and explicitly rejected.
Furthermore, your Cabinet Committee for Law and Order, headed by Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu, on their 9 August 2015 meeting decided “to declare Atheist authors as criminals”, thereby making them subject to prosecution, and intelligence agencies have been asked to monitor blogs to find those atheist writers. Even under the current law, such a mass arrest of people who profess non-religious views in their online communications would represent a grave violation of the international human rights obligations to which Bangladesh is committed. The Home Minister in a separate speech was seen repeating the same warning message.
These institutions and officials of the state through their current stances — demonising free expression, while appeasing murderous extremists — are destroying Bangladesh’s claim to be a democratic state that upholds the human rights of all citizens. To criminalize the expression of “anything that may hurt anyone’s religious sentiments or beliefs” (as the Inspector General of Police puts it) means in practice that fundamentalists and extremists can say and do anything they want, while anyone who stands for democracy, free expression, rationalism, justice, and human rights would be reduced to silence.
This is a recipe for a theocratic state in thrall to the most extremist members of society. People must be able to discuss and debate religion and politics, beliefs and practices. If they cannot, then injustice, fear and violence will reign.
To fail to confront and refute these oppressive and illiberal tendencies now, will mark the beginning of the end of Bangladesh as a free and democratic country.
We implore you to:
  • ensure the safety and security of those individuals whose lives are threatened by Islamist extremists, including the witnesses and family members
  • instruct the police to find the killers, not to harass or blame the victims
  • disassociate yourself publicly from those who call for death penalties against non-religious Bangladeshis, and ensure using your executive authority that individuals within your party membership maintain the same standard of respect for freedom of conscience and expression
  • work decisively for legal reform to repeal Section 295A of the Penal Code and section 57 of the ICT Act of 2006, in order to bring the legal system of Bangladesh in line with the  spirit and values of freedom of expression and ‘of conscience’ as enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and as per obligations under the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is party.
[Full list of signatories follows below the Bangla version of this statement]

বাংলাদেশের প্রধানমন্ত্রী এবং রাষ্ট্রপতির নিকট সন্মিলিত খোলা চিঠি

মহামান্য রাষ্ট্রপতি আবদুল হামিদ ও মাননীয় প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনা সমীপে,
আমরা, বাংলাদেশের ও আন্তর্জাতিক ব্লগিং ও এক্টিভিস্ট সম্প্রদায়ের উদ্বিগ্ন সদস্য, মানবাধিকার সংগঠনের প্রতিনিধি, সমাজকর্মী ও মুক্তচিন্তার সমর্থকবৃন্দ, বাংলাদেশের মানবতাবাদী, নাস্তিক ও ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ নাগরিকদের উপর প্রাতিষ্ঠানিক আক্রমণের তীব্র প্রতিবাদ জানাচ্ছি।
গত দুই বছরে পাঁচ জন ব্লগার, যারা বিভিন্নভাবে মানবতাবাদী, যুক্তিবাদী, নাস্তিক হিসেবে পরিচিত এবং বিজ্ঞান, মানবতাবাদ, মানবাধিকার ও ন্যায়বিচারের সপক্ষে অথবা ইসলামী চরমপন্থার বিরুদ্ধে লেখালেখিতে জড়িত ছিলেন, খুন হয়েছেন। মৌলবাদী জঙ্গি গোষ্ঠীর ঘাতকেরা (তাদের নিজেদের স্বীকৃতি অনুযায়ী) তাঁদের নৃশংসভাবে কুপিয়ে মেরেছে। নিহতরা হলেনঃ আহমেদ রাজীব হায়দার, বিজ্ঞান লেখক অভিজিত রায়, ওয়াশিকুর রহমান বাবু, অনন্ত বিজয় দাশ এবং নীলাদ্রি চ্যাটার্জি (ছদ্মনাম নিলয় নীল)। এর মাঝে  চারটি খুনের ঘটনাই ঘটেছে চলতি বছরের ফেব্রুয়ারী থেকে আগস্টের মধ্যে। এর বাইরে জাফর মুন্সি বা অঞ্জলী দেবীর মত ব্যক্তিরা খুন হয়েছেন কথিত ‘ধর্মীয় অবমাননা’র অভিযোগে- যেমন শিক্ষার্থীদের হিজাব পরিধানে বাধ্য করতে অস্বীকার করা, ইত্যাদি।  এছাড়াও ২০১৩ সাল থেকে, শাহবাগ আন্দোলন ও যুদ্ধাপরাধের বিচার প্রক্রিয়া (যার অভিযুক্তরা কথিত ইসলামী নেতৃবৃন্দ) এর সমর্থকরাও একই রকম ইসলামিক শক্তির হাতে নির্মমভাবে নিহত হয়েছেন। এদের মধ্যে আছেনঃ আশরাফুল আলম, আরিফ রায়হান দীপ, নুরুল ইসলাম ফারুকী, জগৎজ্যোতি তালুকদার, জাকারিয়া বাবু।
হত্যাকারী এবং তাদের মতাদর্শিক সমর্থকদের অবশ্যই অভিযুক্ত করে বিচারের মুখোমুখি দাঁড় করাতে হবে।
এই ভয়াবহ অপরাধ মোকাবেলা না করে  রাজনৈতিক ও রাষ্ট্রীয় প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলো উল্টো অপরাধের শিকার ব্যক্তিদেরই দোষারোপ করা শুরু করেছে, যা পরিস্থিতিকে আরো খারাপ করে তুলেছে। বংলাদেশের গণতন্ত্র  এতে আরো বিপন্ন হয়ে পড়েছে।
গত ৭ আগস্ট নিলয় হত্যাকান্ডের পর, পুলিশের মহাপরিদর্শক আক্রান্তদের দোষারোপে লিপ্ত হয়েছেন, সীমা লঙ্ঘন না করার হুঁশিয়ারিদিয়েছেন এবং ব্লগাররা,- যারা আক্রান্ত ও খুন হচ্ছেন – তাদের বিরুদ্ধে বিদ্যমান  ছদ্ম-ব্লাসফেমি আইনের আওতায় এনে আইনি ব্যবস্থাগ্রহণের হুমকি দিয়েছেন। এদিকে, কিছু সন্ত্রাস-বিরোধী অভিযান সত্ত্বেও, পুলিশ এই কাপুরুষোচিত হামলা বাস্তবায়নকারী বা আদেশদানকারী নেটওয়ার্কগুলোকে প্রতিহত করতে পুরোপুরি ব্যর্থ হয়েছে। এমনকি ওয়াশিকুর রহমানের হত্যাকান্ডের পর ঘটনাস্থল থেকে দু’জন খুনি ধৃত হলেও এবং সামাজিক মাধ্যম ও পত্রপত্রিকায় প্রকাশ্যে খুনের দায়স্বীকারের বিবৃতি প্রচারিত হলেও, হত্যাকান্ড ঘটেই চলেছে এবং খুনের পেছনের জঙ্গিরা বহাল তবিয়তে আরো হুমকি দিয়ে যাচ্ছে। জনসাধারণকে খুনিদের বিরুদ্ধে সতর্ক  থাকা ও অপরাধের প্রমাণ দাখিলের আহবান না জানিয়ে পুলিশ বরং তাদেরকে কথিত নাস্তিক্যবাদী লেখার বিরুদ্ধে অভিযোগ করতে উৎসাহ দিচ্ছে।
সাম্প্রতিক হত্যাকাণ্ডের পরে বেশ কয়েকজন পরিচিত শাহবাগ কর্মী ও ‘ইসলামের শত্রু’ তকমা লাগিয়ে দেয়া ব্যক্তিরা যখন নতুন করে হত্যা হুমকির মুখোমুখি হচ্ছিলেন, তখন পুলিশের একজন মুখপাত্র কেবল এই বলে পরামর্শ দেন যে, কেউ যদি আশংকা করে যে তাকে অনুসরণ করা হচ্ছে তবে সে যেন পুলিশের কাছে অভিযোগ দায়ের করে। এমন গুরুতর ও মারাত্মক হুমকির মুখে তা নিতান্তই অপর্যাপ্ত এবং অত্যন্ত উপেক্ষামূলক প্রতিক্রিয়া।
আপনার দল বাংলাদেশ আওয়ামী লীগের সাথে ঘনিষ্ঠভাবে জড়িত আওয়ামী ওলামা লীগ সহ অপরাপর ইসলামী সংগঠনগুলো নাস্তিক ব্লগার ও আন্দোলনকর্মীদের মৃত্যুদণ্ডের বিধানসম্বলিত আইন প্রণয়নের দাবী নতুন করে জানিয়েছে, যা অন্যান্য ইসলামী জঙ্গি দলগুলোর বক্তব্যেরই প্রতিধ্বনি। স্পষ্টতঃ এমন দাবী নিধার্মিকদের চিন্তার স্বাধীনতা ও সাধারণ মতপ্রকাশের স্বাধীনতার অধিকারের সুস্পষ্ট লংঘন বিধায় অত্যন্ত দৃঢ়তার সাথে ও স্পষ্টভাবে প্রত্যাখ্যান করা আবশ্যক।
উপরন্তু, আইন-শৃঙ্খলা সংক্রান্ত সংসদীয় কমিটির সভাপতি, আপনার মন্ত্রীসভার শিল্পমন্ত্রী আমির হোসেন আমু গত ৯ আগস্ট এক সভায় ‘নাস্তিক লেখকদের অপরাধী ঘোষণা করে তাদেরকে বিচারের মুখোমুখি করা হবে’ বলে সিদ্ধান্ত জানান। একই সভায় ব্লগগুলোর উপর নজরদারির মাধ্যমে ওইসব নাস্তিক ব্লগারদের খুঁজে বের করতে গোয়েন্দা সংস্থাগুলোকে নির্দেশ দেয়া হয়েছে । অথচ বর্তমান আইন অনুযায়ী অনলাইন যোগাযোগে নিধর্মী দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি ধারণকারী মানুষজনের এমন গণগ্রেফতার বাংলাদেশ কর্তৃক প্রতিশ্রুত আন্তর্জাতিক মানবাধিকারের বাধ্যবাধকতারও চরম লংঘন। স্বরাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রী একটি পৃথক বার্তায় একইরকম সতর্কবার্তার প্রতিধ্বনি ঘটান।
খুনি জঙ্গিদের রোষ প্রশমিত করার ভ্রান্তনীতিতে ভেসে গিয়ে, রাষ্ট্রীয় প্রতিষ্ঠান ও কর্তাব্যক্তিরা  মুক্তমত প্রকাশকে ক্ষতিকর ও হুমকি হিসেবে চিহ্নিত করছেন। এতে সকল নাগরিকের মানবাধিকার সমুন্নত রাখা সম্ভব হচ্ছে না এবং বাংলাদেশ নিজেকে গণতান্ত্রিক রাষ্ট্র হিসেবে দাবি করার অধিকার হারাচ্ছে।
‘যেকোন নাগরিকের ধর্মীয় অনুভূতি বা বিশ্বাসে আঘাত লাগার মত যেকোন কিছু’কে অপরাধ হিসেবে (পুলিশের আইজির ভাষ্যমতে) দেখার বাস্তব অর্থ হল- মৌলবাদী ও জঙ্গিরা যেকোন কিছু বলতে ও করতে পারবে। অপরদিকে গণতন্ত্র, মুক্তমত, যুক্তিবাদ, ন্যায়বিচার ও মানবাধিকারের ঝাণ্ডাধারী যে কোন ব্যক্তির কন্ঠরোধ করা হবে।
এসব কণ্ঠরোধী কর্মকাণ্ড সমাজের সবচেয়ে উগ্র জঙ্গি গোষ্ঠীর আজ্ঞাবহ একটি ধর্মভিত্তিক রাষ্ট্র বানানোর পাঁয়তারা। সকল নাগরিকেরঅবশ্যই ধর্ম ও রাজনীতি, বিশ্বাস ও লোকাচার নিয়ে আলোচনা ও বিতর্ক করার সুযোগ থাকতে  হবে। এমন সুযোগ না থাকার অর্থ হল অবিচার, আতঙ্ক আর নৃশংসতার জয় ঘোষণা করা।
এমন জবরদস্তিমূলক ও সংকীর্ণ প্রবণতা দ্রুত মোকাবেলা ও খণ্ডনের ব্যর্থতা মুক্ত ও গণতান্ত্রিক দেশ হিসেবে বাংলাদেশের ভাবমূর্তি ধ্বংসের সূচনা ঘটাবে 
তাই আপনাদের কাছে আমাদের সনির্বন্ধ অনুরোধঃ  
১। ইসলামী জঙ্গিদের কারণে যেসকল ব্যক্তির জীবন আজ হুমকির মুখে- তাদের, তাদের পরিবারের সদস্যবৃন্দের এবং সাক্ষীদের নিরাপত্তা ও সুরক্ষা নিশ্চিত করুন।
২। আক্রান্তদেরই দোষারোপ বা হয়রানির বদলে পুলিশকে নির্দেশ দিন খুনিদের খুঁজে বের করার।
৩। নাস্তিক ব্লগারদেরদের বিরুদ্ধে যারা মৃত্যু পরোয়ানা দাবী তোলে, তাদের কাছ থেকে নিজেদের পৃথক করার প্রকাশ্য ঘোষণা দিন এবং চিন্তা, বিবেক ও মত প্রকাশের স্বাধীনতার প্রশ্নে আপনার দলের সকল সদস্য যাতে সমমর্যাদাসম্পন্ন মূল্যবোধ লালন করেন, আপনার কার্যকরী নেতৃত্বের প্রয়োগে তা নিশ্চিত করুন।
৪। গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশের সংবিধানে সন্নিবেশিত মত প্রকাশের স্বাধীনতা এবং চিন্তা ও বিবেকের স্বাধীনতার আকাঙ্ক্ষা ও মূল্যবোধের সাথে সংগতিপূর্ণ আইনি ব্যবস্থা প্রণয়নের উদ্দেশ্যে এবং আন্তর্জাতিক মানবাধিকার দলিলের বাধ্যবাধকতা অনুযায়ী বাংলাদেশ দণ্ডবিধির ২৯৫(ক) ধারা ও তথ্যপ্রযুক্তি আইন ২০০৬ এর ৫৭ ধারা প্রয়োজনীয় আইনি সংশোধনীর মাধ্যমে বাতিল করুন।

Signatories
The signatories include threatened Bangladeshi bloggers and activists, representatives of organisations focused on human rights including freedom of expression or freedom of belief, religious and secular groups, and also individual writers, journalists, artists, academics and other professionals with Bengali connection or in solidarity.
Abdul Muttalib — Retired Principal, Bangladesh
Abir Shomudro — Student, Shahid Abdur Rab Serniabat Textile Engineering College, Barisal
Abul Hasnat — Humanist; London, UK
Adam Lagerqvist — Humanisterna, Sweden
Adam Reakes — Producer and host, The Herd Mentality Podcast
Aditi Kabir — Interpreter; Independent Translator
Administrators of the Bangla Community Blog Alliance – BCBA
Afrina Akhter Jesmin — Activist; Program Secretary, Bangladesh Short Film Forum
Ahmedur Rashid Tutul — Publisher, Shuddhoshor
Ajanta Deb Roy — Gonojahoron Moncho, UK
Ajit Kumar Ray — Professor, North bengal University, West Bengal, India
Ajoy Roy — Author; Academic; Human rights campaigner; Professor of Physics, retired, Dhaka University; editor, Muktanwesa; advisor, Mukto-Mona
Alain Davis — Secularist Campaigner and Migrants Rights Activist, UK
Alex Zakreski — Member, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression – CJFE
Alice Carr — President, Progressive Atheists Inc.
Alice Klein — President, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, CJFE
Amanor B. Apenkro — President, Humanist Association of Ghana
AmarBlog, amarblog.com
Anders Stedtlund — Software Designer
Andrew Copson — Chief Executive, British Humanist Association; President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Andrew Hobson — Blogger, Cyber Atheist
Ani Zonneveld — Founder, President, Muslims for Progressive Values
Anne-France Ketelaer — Vice-President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Ansar Ahmed Ullah — Secular Activist & Campaigner, UK
Anu Muhammad — Chief editor, Sarbojonkotha; Member secretary, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Port; Professor, Jahangirnagar University
Anupam Shaikat Shanto — Sarbojokotha Editor; General Secretary, Bangladesh Short Film Forum
April Jones — Freethinker, USA
Argentine Humanist Association, Deodoro Roca
Arifur Rahman — Blogger, arif.eu; Activist
Arik Platzek — Editor, diesseits (The Humanist Magazine) Berlin, Germany
Arman Rashid — Columnist; Member, International Crimes Strategy Forum-ICSF
Arne Mobrand — Humanist Stockholm
Arpita Bhowmik — Activist; Atheist and Humanist; Pharmaceutical Microbiologist, Japan
Ashfaque Anup — Blogger; Member, International Crimes Strategy Forum
Ashim Chakraborty — Journalist, Blogger
Ashis Saha — PhD Researcher in Johns Hopkins University
Ashley Davidson — Writer, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Ashoke Mukhopadhyay — General Secretary, Centre for Studies in Science and Society, Kolkata, India
Ashraful Alam — member of Progressive Atheists Inc, Melbourne, Australia
Ashraful Kabir — Research Coordinator
Asif Islam Khan — Activist; Academic, University of California, Berkeley
Asma Sultana — Visual Artist, Writer
Atheist Alliance International
Atheist Republic — atheistrepublic.com
Austin Dacey — Philosopher; Human rights activist
Ayella Collins — Humanist Empowerment of Livelihoods in Uganda
Baidik Bhattacharya — Academic, Delhi University
Barun P Mondol — IT professional
Benjamin Ismaïl — Head of Asia-Pacific Desk, Reporters Without Borders
Bo Borg — Humanisterna Sweden
Bob Churchill — Director of Communications, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Brendan de Caires — Programs & Communications Coordinator, PEN Canada
Brian D. Engler — Author and Humanist, Virginia
Carolina Josefsson — Local chairman, Swedish Humanist Association
Centre d’Action Laïque
Chitralekha Saha — Consulate of France in Calcutta
Christophe Deloire — Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders
Crispy Sea — Blogger; Author
Cristina Iacob — Romanian Humanist Association
David Curry — Prophetcast
David Rand — President, Libres penseurs athées – Atheist Freethinkers, Canada
Deana M Naraparaju — Blogger; Online Activist
Debdas Anamoul — Blogger
Dilshana Parul — Activist, Save the Children
Dinky Daruvala — Associate professor , Karlstad University, Sweden
Dipen Bhattacharya — Physicist, Riverside College District, California, USA
Donna Van Toen — Author; East Hamilton Spiritual Church
Douglas Bernard Wallis — Atheist, Humanist – Isle of Man, Great Britain
Dr Jim Walsh — CEO, Conway Hall Ethical Society
Dr Mahmudul Sumon — Associate Professor, Jahangirnagar University, Savar Dhaka Bangladesh
Dr Meredith Doig — President, Rationalist Society of Australia
Ekush Tapader — News Editor, Sylhettoday24.com
Emily Newman — Communications Coordinator, American Ethical Union
Eric Eriksson — Humanist, Sweden
Erwin Kress — Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands, HVD
Erwin Kress — Vice-president, Humanist Association of Germany
Esa Ylikoski — General Secretary, Union of Freethinkers of Finland
Esha Karim — Swedish Institute Scholar
Fahmidul Haq — Writer; Blogger; Academic, Factulty at Dhaka University
Farid Ahmed — Author and Editor of Mukto-mona
Farzana Kabir Khan — Blogger; Activist
Felipe Galicia — Biologist
Ferdaush Ahmed — Activist; Founder, Organisation for War Heroines, London
Fran Kurth — Executive Director, Capital District Humanist Society, New York, USA
Fredrik Idevall, — President Humanisterna Orebro, Sweden
Garga Chatterjee — Columnist and Cognitive Scientist
George Broadhead — Pink Triangle Trust
Gitiara Nasreen — University of Dhaka
Göran Björk — Humanisterna, Sweden
Gordon MacRae — Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland
Greg Epstein — Humanist Chaplain, Harvard University
Gulalai Ismail — Chairperson, Aware Girls, Pakistan
Gustaf Andersson — Humanist, Sweden
Hana Shams Ahmed — Columnist, Activist
Hans Kleine — Local chairman, Swedish Humanist Association
Hasan Mahmud — Advisory Board Member,  World Muslim Congress; General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada
Hemant Mehta — Editor, Friendly Atheist
Heriberto ‘’Pito’’ Rosario — Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture
Hidde Gaastra — Atheist/Secular Activist, Master in Political Science
Hironmoy Golder — Student, ASA University
Hritohri Islam — Humanist; Activist; Student
Humanist Society of New Zealand
Humanist Union of Greece
Ian Bushfield — Executive Director British Columbia Humanist Association
Imad Iddine Habib — Atheist and Secularist Activist; Founder, Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Imran H Sarkar — Spokesperson, Gonojagoron Moncho
Imtiaz Mahmood — Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
International Crimes Strategy Forum
Iqbal Nouyed — West Virginia University
Irtishad Ahmad — Professor, Florida International University
Jacques Rousseau — Chair: Free Society Institute, South Africa
James Croft — Leader in Training, Ethical Society of St. Louis
Jane Donnelly — Human Rights Officer, Atheist Ireland
Jaseeb Ara Siddiqui — Creative writer; Painter
Jawshan Ara — Ph.D. Researcher in Neuroscience, University of Maryland; writer, Mukto-mona
Jay Grime — Atheist Blogger
Jesmin Chowdhury — Teacher and Writer
Jillian Hsieh — Humanist, Florida
Jin-oh Choi — President, Launceston Skeptics Inc.
Joakim Ströberg — local chairman, Swedish Humanist Association
Joann Robertson — President, British Columbia Humanist Association
Jodie Ginsberg — CEO, Index on Censorship
John Hamill — Secretary, Atheist Alliance International and Atheist Ireland
Jonas Nordström — Boardmember, Swedish Humanist Organisation
Josh Kutchinsky — Membership Organiser, Central London Humanists
Julia Julstrom-Agoyo — Secretary, Americas Working Group, IHEYO; Liaison to FES, Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago
Julie Begum — Chair, Swadhinata Trust, UK
Juyel Raj — Journalist, Blogger
Kaberi Gayen — Professor, Dept of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka
Kajalie Shehreen Islam — Assistant Professor, University of Dhaka/Doctoral Candidate, SOAS, London
Kaji Tamanna Keya — Activist; Student, Brandeis University, USA
Kallol Mahalanabis — Mumbai,India
Kallol Mustafa — Activist; Executive editor, Sarbojonkotha; Member, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Port; Professor
Kamrul Hasan Tushar — Gonojagoron Moncho, UK
Kamrus Salam Shangshad — Former Vice President, Bangladesh Students’ Union
Kaveh Moussavi — Academic, University of Oxford
Kazi A. Mamun — Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Business Programs, School of Business Administration, University of California
Kazi Mahboob Hassan — Medical Researcher; Writer; Member, CFI
Khan Muhammad Bin Asad — PhD researcher, Astrophysics
Khorshed Azam — Writer
Khushi Kabir — Activist, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kristina Ekman — Humanisterna, Sweden
Law’nence Miller — Trustee, New York Society for Ethical Culture
Lawrence M. Krauss — Foundation Professor, Arizona State University, School of Earth And Space Exploration, Physics Department; Director, The Origins Project
Leesa Gazi — Cultural Activist
Leicester Secular Society
Leon Korteweg — Board Member, Dutch Freethinkers Association, De Vrije Gedachte
Magnus Kvist — Humanisterna, Sweden
Magnus Timmerby — Board member, Swedish Humanist Association
Mahbub Azad — Blogger; Moderator, Sachalayatan.com
Mahbub Rubaiyat — Sarbojonkotha editor, Activist, Teacher
Mahmud Hussein — Founder and CEO, L.E.A.D.; Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
Mahmud Hussein — Founder, Global Secular Humanist Movement
Mahmudul Haque Munshi — Blogger; Organizer, Shahbag protest
Mahmuduzzaman Babu — Columnist, Singer, Activist
Maidul Islam — Asst Professor in Political Science, Presidency University, Calcutta
Mallarika Sinha Roy — Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for Women’s Studies, Delhi, India
Manisha Chakravarty — Student, Dhaka
Maria Greene — Executive Director, Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association
Marie Alena Castle — Communications Director, Atheists For Human Rights
Maruf Rosul — Blogger; Activist, Gonojagoron Monch
Mary Bergin — member, Humanist Society of Victoria, Australia
Maryam Namazie — One Law for All, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Masuda khan — Student, USA
Mats Linde — Teacher and humanist, Sweden
Max Farrar — Emeritus Professor, Leeds Beckett University, UK
Mazidur Rahman — Civil Servant and Unionist
Md Habibur Rahman Salman — PhD Student
Md Ibrahim Faisal — Computer Engineer, Chandler, Arizona, USA
Mervyn Thomas — Chief Executive, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Michael De Dora — Director of Public Policy, Center for Inquiry
Michael Nugent — Chairperson, Atheist Ireland
Miraj Ul Islam — Physician, Columnist
Mohammad Haroon — Secretary, Coalition on Rights & Responsibilities of youth , Peshawar, Pakistan
Mohammad Jawed Iqbal — Activist
Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan — Sarbojonkotha editor, Associate Professor, Dhaka University, Bangladesh
Mohonlal Siddiquee — (Pen name) Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Moinul Hossain — Secular activist
Moira Clarke — President, Reason Road Inc.
Mostafa Farook — Activist, London, UK
Mozibul Hoque Moni — Vice-President, JASOD-UK
Muhammad Golam Sarowar — Blogger; Activist
Muhammad Syed — President, Ex-Muslims of North America
Muktangon Blog, nirmanblog.com
Mukto-Mona
Muntakim Haque — Blogger; Activist
Mynga Futrell — Bright; Civic Pluralism Activist
Nabeel Ashraf Ali — International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Nafisa Asif — Humanist; Researcher, University of Sydney
Nagorik Blog, nagorikblog.com
Nancy Drew — Atheist activist; Blogger, Question With Boldness
Nani Jansen — Legal Director, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Nasreen Rahim — President, Bangladesh-American Democratic Coalition, BADC
Naushaba Rashid — Activist; Financial Advisor, Wells Fargo
Nazmul Ahmed — Physician & Political Activist
Nicola Young Jackson — President, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation
Nijhoom Majumdar — Lawyer and Blogger, Member ICR Foundation
Nina Sheth — Law Student NYU Law
Nira Yuval-Davis — Professor and Director, Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, University of East London, UK
Nowrin Tamanna — Academic, University of Reading; justice activist
Olof Stroh — local chairman, Swedish Humanist Association
Ontario Humanist Society
Ophelia Benson — Blogger; Columnist
Oscar Ekman — Humanisterna, Sweden
P Das Babu — Activist
Paul Chiariello — Educator, Managing Editor Applied Sentience
Paul Sating — Creator and Host of Quranify Me Podcast & Atheist Apocalypse Podcast
Paul V Dudman — Archivist and Refugee and Migrants Rights Activist, University of East London, UK
Peter Harrison — President, New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists
Peter Tatchell — Human rights campaigner; Peter Tatchell Foundation
Petri Karisma — Chairman, Union of Freethinkers of Finland; Co-founder, eroakirkosta.fi
PG Petzen — Swedish Humanist Association
Pierre Galand — President, European Humanist Federation
Pradip Deb — Melbourne, Australia
Predrag Stojadinović — Vice-president, ‘Atheists of Serbia’
Probir Kumar Sarkar — Senior Sub editor, Dhaka Tribune
Prof. Dr. Frieder Otto Wolf — Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands, HVD
Prof. Udo Schuklenk — Ontario Research Chair, Queen’s University
Pushpita Gupta — Activist, Secular Bangladesh Movement
PZ Myers — Blogger; Biologist, University of Minnesota Morris
Rafee Shams — Social Worker, Mrittika
Rafida Bonya Ahmed — Author; Mukto-Mona Editor
Raihan Abir — Editor, Mukto-Mona
Rajarshi Debnath — Financial Consultant
Rajib Halder — Student, Mathematics Department, Govt. BM College, Barisal
Rajib Sarkar — Humanist, USA
Rakibul Hasan — Filmmaker, Activist & Blogger
Rana Yasmin — Blogger; Member, International Crimes Strategy Forum-ICSF
Rashad Ullah — Academic, Mukto-Mona Member, Washington, DC
Rasheda Khan — Social Scientist, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
Ratan Kumar Samadder — ICORN Guest Writer
Rayhan Rashid — Academic, Rights Activist; Blogger; Member, International Crimes Strategy Forum-ICSF, Bangla Community Blogs’ Alliance-BCBA
Rayhana Sultan — Activist, Council of Ex-Muslims UK
Rebecca Hale — President, American Humanist Association
Rebecca Jane Prescott — Atheist, Blogger, Isle of Man, Great Britain
Rein Zunderdorp — First Vice-President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Renate Bauer — President, Dachverband Freier Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften e.V., Germany
Riaz Osmani — IT Professional, LGBT and ex-muslim activist
Richard Carrier — Historian and Philosopher, FreethoughtBlogs
Roar Johnsen — Treasurer, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Robyn Pennacchia — Atheist, Blogger at The Frisky
Roger Moody — Nostromo Research
Rolf Söderlund — Retired, IT Professional
Romanian Secular-Humanist Association
Ron Soloman — Vice-President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Roy Brown — Past President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Roy Speckhardt — Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Rumana Hashem — Activist-Sociologist and Post-doctoral Researcher, University of East London
Rumman Mahmud — Justice Activist; Software Engineer, Cisco Systems
Russell Blackford — philosopher and author, University of Newcastle, Australia
Ryan Croom — Student, USA
Ryan Evans — Student, USA
S D Mistree — Poet
Sabbir Hossain — Coordinator, Bangladesh Liberation War Library and Research Centre; Convenor Member, Forum for Secular Bangladesh and Trial of War Criminals of 1971
Sabine Remling — MSc Marketing Manager, Sweden
Sachalayatan, sachalayatan.com
Saki Chowdhury — Activist
Sakti Das MD — Blogger; Member, Foundation for Freedom
Saleh Mustafa Jamil — Teacher and Human Rights Activist
Salmin Sultana — Justice Activist; Archivist; Member, International Crimes Strategy Forum
Samina Luthfa — Teacher, Dhaka University
Samira Rahman — Civil Servant and Community Worker
Samira Shackle — Assistant Editor, New Humanist Magazine
Sangita Ghosh — Journalist, Bangladesh
Sara Hosain — Barrister
Sarah Haider — Co-founder, Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarto Blouin — President, Humanist Foundation of Quebec
Sazedul Waheed — Student
Scott Sharrad — President, Council of Australian Humanist Societies inc.
Sean Jones — Humanist, USA
Sean McGuire — Blogger, My Secret Atheist Blog
Semanti Ghosh — Associate Editor, Anandabazar Patrika, India
Shabnam Nadiya — Writer
Shaheen Sultana — Community worker
Shahid Khan — Vice-Chairperson, Global Minorities Alliance, UK
Shaista Erum — Secretary, Global Minorities Alliance, Glasgow, UK
Shamim Ahmed — Development Economist
Shamim Ahmed Lasker — Blogger; Online Activist; Assam, India
Shane Squires — Physicist, USA
Shawan Mahmud — Member Secretary, Martyr Altaf Mahmud Foundation
Sheila Ayala — Secular Ontario
Shelby Perez — Human Rights Activist, USA
Shimon Sharmin — Blogger; Translator
Shohini Ghosh — Sajjad Zaheer Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
Shuvo Shaha — Student, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
Sidmennt, The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association
Smrity Azad — Chair, Docklands Light Theatre, UK
Sohail Chowdhury — Blogger; Writer
Sonia Dattaray — Atheist, USA
Sonja Eggerickx — Past President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Sotiris Angel — Entrepreneur, UK
Soumen Halder — Businessman, India
Stephen Stuart — Secretary, Humanist Society of Victoria
Steve Hayes — Prophetcast
Stewart Henderson — Blogger; Treasurer, Council of Australian Humanist Societies
Suhana Zaman — Humanist, London
Sumon Nath — Blogger
Suraiya Rahman — Student, Dhaka
Suranjit Das — Activist; Business man
Susan Sackett — Vice-President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Sushanta Das Gupta — Blogger
Swakkhar Shatabda — Teacher
Swami Manavatavadi, Sadhvi Asha Manav, and Dr. Sabita Mishra — Manavatavadi Vishwa Sansthan, The International School of Humanitarian Thoughts and Practice, Kurukshetra India
Syeda Najnin Sultana Shikha — Women’s Right Activist, Nari Chetona
Tahsin Tabbassum Kotha — Student, Govt. College of Commerce, Chittagong
Tanuja Bhattacharjee — Poet; Blogger; Engineer
Tarek Fatah — Author
Taslima Nasreen — Author; Physician; Blogger
Tasnim Hossain — Software Engineer
Tejmur Šihmamedov — President, The Secular Circle’
The Board of Directors of Humanist Canada
Trisha Ahmed — Student, USA
Ulf Gustafsson — Blogger, Swedish Humanist Association
Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti — NGO, Italy
Uttam Niraula — Executive Director, (Society for Humanism) SOCH Nepal
Valter Eriksson — Physiotherapist, Sweden
Veronica Abbass — Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Atheist
Vidya Bhushan Rawat — Social Development Foundation, Delhi
Vishwajeet Samuel Gain — Student, La Martiniere Calcutta, India
Yamen Hoque — Blogger; Humanist; State College, PA, USA
Zoe Hamilton — Atheist, USA

Friday, August 14, 2015

Canada's provinces and territories establish expert group to advise on assisted dying

You might recall that the Canadian federal government established an external panel to advise it on legislative options on assisted dying. Telling the Supreme Court of Canada what he really thinks of it, Harper then stacked the panel with anti-choice activists.

Quite clearly Canada's provinces were unwilling to let that charade continue without doing something about it. Today, in a very welcome development, they announced a joint expert panel advising the provinces on how to respond to the Supreme Court judgment. It is a much larger panel consisting of experts with a wide variety of competencies, including nursing, medicine, law and ethics, and comprising of experts from across Canada.

I am certainly looking forward to the results this panel will produce.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fighting Imaginary Enemies in Bioethics Publishing

The Australia based Journal of Bioethical Inquiry has recently published two papers[1],[2] by the same group of authors. One of these papers was a Letter to the Editor, hence it is not entirely clear whether or not it was peer reviewed. Let’s call this paper Paper One. It was published in 2013. Another paper was published in 2015, the journal mentions that this paper was externally peer reviewed. Let’s call this paper Paper Two. Each of these papers targets editorial and commercial practices of major English language bioethics journals or their publishers. Both papers are Open Access at the time of writing, I encourage you to take the time to read them for context. 

This blog entry responds to both papers. My primary objective is to show that each paper fails in each mission.

Let us start with Paper One. The authors aimed here to investigate whether bioethics journals are variously ‘institutionally racist’ or ‘editorially biased’. They tried to achieve this by using the following method. They investigated the composition of major journals’ Editorial Boards – no content analysis was undertaken as part of this research project. The authors of this paper then grouped Editorial Board members into various categories according to where they live in terms of their countries’ rankings in the Human Development Index.  Surprisingly – and evidently unjustifiably so - this paper then proceeded to grouping the Editorial Board members into three categories (the HDI offers four[3]). It grouped Editorial Board members into Very High and High HDI, Medium HDI and Low HDI. The paper then notes indignantly that the vast majority of Editorial Board members belong into the first group of HDI countries. It turns out, by grouping Very High and High HDI countries into one category, these authors created arguably artificially the result required for their scathing critique. Unsurprisingly they found that the vast majority of Editorial Board member hail from countries that are either Very High or High HDI. However, a closer look into these categories reveals that the following countries can be found in their amalgamated first category: Germany and Libya, Mexico and Switzerland, Iran and the United States, Sri Lanka and Liechtenstein, and so on and so forth. Quite clearly, many countries belonging to the global south were unjustifiably folded into the global north category to achieve the desired outcome, namely blameworthy bioethics journals having an insufficient number of Editorial Board members hailing from the global south.

As mentioned already, Paper One also failed to undertake an actual content analysis. Bioethics established some 15 years ago its own specialised developing world focused companion journal called Developing World Bioethics. In case you wonder whether that meant shunting articles aside into a global south niche category, nothing could be further from the truth.  Developing World Bioethics has currently the second highest Impact Factor of bona fide bioethics journals, as measured by the Institute for Scientific Information. All of this escaped the authors of this paper, because they were primarily concerned with the composition of the Editorial Board of Developing World Bioethics, an Editorial Board they happily castigated for having insufficient representation from the global south, because by these authors’ definition, for instance the journal's Mexican and Sri Lankan Editorial Board members don’t quite count as representatives of countries of the global south.

Paper Two proceeds in this methodological vein. The focus is on purportedly greedy publishers and general bioethical imperialism. Like in the first paper, hyperbole remains a strong selling point of these authors. The target this time are paywalls. Most journals in our field are subscription based journals, which is partly a function of the fact that most authors publishing in bioethics journals do not have access to the funds required to publish in pay-for-play Open Access journals. That also means that access to the content we publish is restricted to subscribers, typically subscribing university libraries. Individual articles are available for sale to people interested in purchasing them. Paper Two then proceeds to investigate the question of whether mainstream or leading bioethics journals are available to academics working in the global south. This actually is an important issue and as an Editor of Bioethics and Developing World Bioethics I have always cared passionately about affordable or complimentary access for academics working in the global south. Leading academic publishers, including Wiley-Blackwell, the publisher of Bioethics, are founding members of myriad access schemes aimed at ensuring that academics in the global south have access to the content we publish. Knowledge is power after all. Among these schemes is HINARI, a scheme administered by the World Health Organisation. There are other schemes, AGORA and OARE among them.  

The authors of Paper Two apparently investigated whether leading English language bioethics journals are available via HINARI. That is a fair enough approach, HINARI covers health related research outputs, so Bioethics and Developing World Bioethics should be available thru HINARI, if at all. Paper Two reports erroneously that neither Bioethics nor Developing World Bioethics are available via HINARI. The authors make the same erroneous claim about other major journals in the field, including but not limited to ajob – American Journal of Bioethics, jme – Journal of Medical Ethics, Journal of Clinical Ethics, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

It is worth noting here that the authors of Paper Two did not bother confirming with me or my fellow editors, or with our publishers, whether these journals are really not made available free of charge or at very low cost to academic institutions in LMIC countries. Apparently, confirming with the editors of these journals, or their publishers, that these bioethics journals really are not available free of charge to authors in the global south was too onerous for the campaigning authors of Paper Two.  It turns out, not only are Bioethics and Developing World Bioethics available via HINARI, but so are our esteemed competitors, namely all of the journals I mentioned above.[4] There is some irony in the fact that the current Editors of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry were unaware of the availability of their very own journal via HINARI. It is doubtful that they meant to stand idle by while authors slander their journal in the pages of their own publication.

In light of these facts, I strongly encourage you to read Paper Two again. The anti-imperialist emperors look pretty naked to me. It’s a good example for the view that good intentions are not good enough. This research output reportedly underwent peer review, which goes to show that while peer review might be the best quality control mechanism there is, it is far from perfect. Paper Two goes on at great length about the purported profit motives of greedy publishers and how that impacts access to scientific information for researchers in the global south, alas its starting premise turns out to be false.
One would hope the Editors of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry retract this particular peer reviewed output at their earliest possible convenience.

UDO SCHUKLENK




[1] Subrata Chattopadhyay , Catherine Myser and Raymond De Vries. 2013. Bioethics and Its Gatekeepers: Does Institutional Racism Exist in Leading Bioethics Journals? Journal of Bioethical Inquiry DOI: 10.1007/s11673-012-9424-5 [Paper One]
[2] Subrata Chattopadhyay, Catherine Myser, and Raymond De Vries. 2015. Imperialism in Bioethics: How Policies of Profit Negate Engagement of Developing World Bioethicists and Undermine Global Bioethics. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry DOI: 10.1007/s11673-015-9654-4 [Paper Two]
 [3] UNDP. 2014. Human Development Report 2014.  http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2014 - The interested reader might find these graphics displayed at Wikipedia informative. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index [Accessed August 11, 2015]
[4] A complete list of accessible journals can be found here, http://extranet.who.int/hinari/en/journalList_print.php?all=true . [Accessed August 11, 2015] Consider saving the large file as a CSV file (follow the link offering that option). You will then download a MS Excel file that can easily be searched for journal titles that you are interested in.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Is there something wrong with motivating for effective altruism?

Peter Singer has come up with what struck me at the time as an obvious proposition, namely that we should maximize the good we can reasonably produce in the world with the means that are available to us. He rightly thinks that that should impact on the kind of work we do, and that it should also impact on the kinds of charities we support, and the amount of resources we donate towards their work. He thinks that we often do lousy jobs when we donate money to charitable causes. One of his examples is David Geffen giving 100 mio US$ to some performing arts place in Manhattan. I always held the view, for instance, that the kinds of research questions we decide to address are decisions that are not ethically neutral. If thru my work I can contribute toward others living better lives and I choose to instead investigate issues that are bound not to achieve that, I would make a choice that is ethically problematic.

So far, this all seems uncontroversial, or so you would have thought. Since then folks, often on the political left, have castigated Singer for allegedly individualising the problem of world poverty. Others have claimed that his proposition is a feel-good activity for white well-off folks with too much time on their hands.

Particular scorn was reserved for one of Singer's poster boys, who apparently works for a nasty bank and then donates a lot of the money he makes there to Singer-approved good causes. Apparently this shows what's wrong with this effective altruism thing Singer is promoting. The criticism is directed squarely at the guy's damage while 'on the job' so to speak, not so much at his donating his wealth to good causes.

I would be sympathetic to the argument about the banking guy, if the premise is correct that his day job causes more damage than he manages to fix with his donations. I don't, of course, know whether that is actually the case, neither do Singer's critics... nor does the banking guy. This is another sore point where Singer critics get excited, claiming that we cannot quantify what's best in any case most of the time. That's theoretically probably a sound criticism, but it misses the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that the world will be made a better place by people making conscious choices that translate into them donating more to quality charitable causes aimed at improving human well-being (ie projects that demonstrably achieve those objectives) than if those same people chose not to do so. It really is that simple. Them considering over time how to alleviate the problem of poverty most effectively by donating deliberately toward projects that are efficient at lifting people out of poverty is a thing to be applauded.

A side effect of this 'considering possible projects to support' will inevitably be that some or many of those same donors consider how we got to having these problems in the first place. With a bit of luck they might decide that taking political action to change some of the economic rules of the game is what is called for. Their time spent on achieving this could also be a form of effective altruism.

Singer is motivating more people to think about these issues. Oh, but here comes the other side's bigger picture argument. They are saying that by individualizing moral responsibility and reducing it unjustifiably to a matter of individual altruism we are missing the global structural injustices that give rise to these sorts of problems. You know, the kind of stuff Thomas Pogge, Amartya Sen and others like them have been droning on about for such a long time.

This criticism misses its target, at least to my mind. There is no doubt that Pogge's analysis of the harmful consequences of the world economic order as we know it is broadly correct. Nothing stops anyone to invest time and resources toward changing those rules of the world economic order, especially if we have decided - on reflection - that this would contribute the most toward changing the amount of poverty in the world. However, it seems fair to note that we have had such writings and demonstrations for about a century, and yet they're not quite motivating people to rise up to change the world. So, frankly, such criticism more often than not comes from people that have done nothing much other than to go on and on about how bad capitalism is, without practically doing anything to improve the living conditions of the world's poor. I do think Singer and his crowd have done one better than that. There is nothing inherent in effective altruism that prevents people from motivating toward radical changes of the world economic order. For that reason I do not understand why critics seem to think it's an either-or type proposition.