Tattooing Buidings

One interesting observation of Darlymple’s is that people in Europe rarely put graffiti on beautiful buildings, and that this behavior “suggests a subliminal aesthetic criticism”. But why do they “tag” public surfaces in the first place? One reason:

The need to make their mark on something is no doubt part of the attraction of tagging for taggers. Apart from a few famous graffiti artists (Banksy being the most famous, his activity often partaking of a mordant wit), the overwhelming majority of taggers are almost certainly from the lower reaches of society. Such lower reaches have always existed, of course, but in a society in which we are all called upon to be unique individuals, in which celebrity has an exaggerated importance in the mental economy of so many people, in which employment is often precarious and in any case felt to be without dignity, and in which powerlessness is obvious (in a sense, powerlessness in a democracy is more humiliating than powerlessness in a tyranny), the need to assert oneself in some way or other, no matter how pointless, becomes all the more imperative. Thus tagging has several attractions at once: adventure, the conferral of membership of an oppositional group and self-assertion (not expression).

Read the others

What’s In a Diagnosis?

An academic in Canada has found a few dozen people around the world who desire to mutilate or disfigure themselves because they feel they are wrongly abled. According to Dalrymple, it won’t be long before these people claim it is wrong both to regard them as abnormal (for who is to say what is normal?) and to withhold from them the special treatment and attention that are conferred by right on those having an approved disorder.

You can’t make this stuff up, right? Actually, you can and Dalrymple does.

Thieves are not responsible for their actions?

Dalrymple is polite even to the Indians who call him at home and attempt to defraud him. This certainly seems kind of him. But then again…

Is such politeness humanity or pusillanimity? We often think that to make excuses for others is kindness, to make excuses for ourselves dishonesty. But to make excuses for others but not for ourselves easily becomes condescension or a sense of superiority moral and even existential. We are responsible for what we do, but they are not. We act, they only react. This is the characteristic deformation of the liberal conscience.

Update: Oops, we forgot the link. Read the article here.

Meetup of Dalrymple readers in New York

One of our commenters, Brian, recently had a fine idea: having a few fellow Dalrymple readers get together for dinner and drinks in Manhattan, where some of us live and/or work. Clint and I have had the pleasure of meeting many Dalrymple readers at various events over the years and have always been impressed with them and in particular with the Skeptical Doctor readers and commenters and look forward to meeting more. It turns out our friend Gavin, who does heroic work running the excellent Dalrymple Forum and associated Twitter account and who also rebuilt our website (he’s a very talented pro at this stuff), will be making his first trip to New York next week, so we thought this would be the perfect time for a meetup. As such, we are looking at Wednesday night, July 8, at a restaurant or bar still to be determined. No, Dalrymple himself will not be there, but I am sure we will have a good time anyway.

If you plan to join us, may I ask you to RSVP to webmaster@skepticaldoctor.com with the number of people in your party? The more the merrier as far as we are concerned (especially since everyone is paying for themselves). Once we have a headcount, we can select an appropriate location and maybe reserve a table or two. We will provide the location via email to those who RSVP.

Thanks, everyone.

Bribery as Medical Treatment

A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine outlines the results of a scheme to pay people to quit smoking, and what Dalrymple finds most interesting is what it did not say:

…it treated a monetary bribe as morally unproblematic, in precisely the same way as it would have treated a pill or a potion, that is to say as if smoking [were] straightforwardly a disease and money were a straightforwardly pharmacological agent. And it seems to me obvious that if the authors had offered, say, $1 million instead of $800, the results would have been very different. As a bribe to people with a median household income of $60,000, $800 seems to me pathetically, homoeopathically, even insultingly, little. The authors evidently need further training in the art of bribery, perhaps in Nigeria or Albania. Certainly, further studies with different sizes of bribes to smokers are needed.

Pondering the Immigration Imponderables

This piece at the Library of Law and Liberty is a nuanced take on the mass immigration from impoverished countries currently being experienced by most of the West. Dalrymple explores the difficult connection between one’s personal experience and public policy. After a touching description of the immigrants who care for his mother-in-law (“they are extremely good people, whose warmth, kindness, humanity and mannerliness were obvious on first acquaintance”), he nevertheless wonders whether such immigration is justified, and acknowledges that the answer to the one question does not necessarily provide the answer to the other:

1. I sympathize personally with the immigrants;
2. I like the majority of those whom I have met;
3. I recognize that, along with many others, I benefit from their presence, though I do not know precisely what the size of that presence ought to be;
4. I do not know what their overall economic effect is;
5. I do not want to see my society changed irreversibly by their uncontrolled influx.

Can Dual Prescriptions for Opioids and Tranquilizers Increase Your Risk of Dying?

The study described here seems to have particular relevance to the US, given the runaway rate of prescription of opioids, and the overdoses therefrom:

On another occasion a patient, a heroin addict, accused me of murdering him because I would not prescribe diazepam for him. In actual fact, I believed that precisely the opposite was almost the case: that if I prescribed for him what he wanted, his chances of dying by overdose, intentionally or unintentionally, would be much increased.

A paper in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal suggests that I was right.

A Fireable Thought

What is the end goal of those who wished to see Timothy Hunt forced to resign for having spoken a few innocuous words regarding coed laboratories?

The ultimate aim, of course, is that of Newspeak as described in Nineteen Eighty-Four: that certain things should not only be unsayable but unthinkable. No doubt those who formed the lynch mob that forced Professor Hunt’s resignation (thanks to the terminal pusillanimity of the university administration) would not much care for a parallel with the Kouachi brothers, who carried out the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and it is true that they did not actually kill the professor; but their desire to ensure that certain things not be said was the same as the murderers’, and their method of fulfilling their desire differed from that of the Kouachi brothers mainly in the sophistication of the means employed.

Additional Alternative Medicine

In a supposedly rational age, why do so many people still avail themselves of so-called alternative medical treatments that have a success rate of essentially zero? Dalrymple first notes that most alternative medicine is an addition to, rather than in replacement of, the orthodox kind, and he identifies many possible reasons for its use, including this one:

…alternative medicine seems warmer and friendlier. Alternative practitioners seem to have more time to devote to their patients than the orthodox. Moreover, the theories on which they work imply a mystery if not the mystical: there are [more] things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, doctor, especially where I am concerned. My case is special, not just a run-of-the-mill case of disease x, y, or z. Alternative medicine is perfectly adapted to an age of neo-paganism, to the needs of people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.