The film begins in January 2016, when The Netherlands granted official recognition that the Kerk van het Vliegend Spaghettimonster as a religion. With this recognition, Mienke, Sam, Mathé, Dirk Jan, and other members of the church, begin their mission to get access to the same rights Dutch law affords other recognized religions, starting with the right to wear religious headwear in their driver’s license photos.
Michael Arthur – Director/Producer
Michael Arthur holds a business degree from a prestigious American public university, which sits and collects dust in his mom’s basement. He is very much an accidental filmmaker. In 2011, while working in a cubicle somewhere in Portland Oregon, Mike took a filmmaking night class to balance out the monotony of corporate retail. The documentary that resulted went from a YouTube short to a full-length feature which then aired on national TV in 2013. The experience ruined his cubicle aspirations.
“Progressives vs. Conservatives. Globalism vs. Nationalism. The Religious Right vs. The Liberal Elite. We find ourselves today in the midst of a war on multiple fronts. While they may appear to be separate conflicts, they all share a common core. In this way, it is only one war: fact vs. belief. To end it, we simply need to align on what a ‘fact’ actually is.
How then do we decide, which claims to accept as fact? Do they exist in an old book? Are they the claims given to you by the powerful, those who deem to benefit the most from the ‘facts’ they provide? Or, perhaps, is it those claims based on overwhelming observable evidence?
Since the Enlightenment, science has consistently proven the best tool to propel society forward. Despite how far science has brought us, recently, we seem to be regressing. The amount of people that have been convinced science is just another system of belief has gotten too big to ignore. All is not lost. The antidote to alternative facts and fake news is science.
When we all share a common definition for ‘fact’, there is no reason to doubt vaccines prevent disease, or that human activity impacts climate, or that murdering infidels may not grant you free admission to paradise. Only when we once again share a common basis for fact, can we stop arguing and start debating realistic solutions on how to fix the woes of the world.
The key to ending this war is to break through to the most vulnerable in our society. Those who do not have access to a quality education. Those who cannot afford to travel and experience cultures and ways of life unlike their own. Those that are convinced that all the answers they need are in whatever holy book their parents read to them. These are the ones who are the most susceptible to the false promises of the powerful. Instead of preaching the gospel of science from the pulpit, to reach them we need to try a different approach. This is the audacious hope of I, Pastafari. In a time of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, fake news, and alternative facts, the Pastafarians may be the savior the world has been waiting for.”
According to his website, Andrew West is a lawyer in the Ottawa area with specialization in Environmental Law and dispute resolution. He’s also the Green Party of Ontario’s Attorney General Critic. Currently, West has his sights set on leading the Green Party of Canada.
Following a career in the television industry working mostly as a sole proprietor/independent contractor, West attended Ryerson University (B.A. (Hons) in Politics and Governance) and University of Ottawa (Faculty of Law). West has volunteered for several NGO’s including a committee chair role for Amnesty International’s annual fundraiser, “Taste for Justice” – raising money to help stop violence against women.
West has run for office as a Green Party candidate in four election since 2014, most recently in a provincial by-election in Orleans (February 2020). When asked during a candidate debate whether education should be considered an essential service, West stated
“I think education is the most important thing we can do in this province.…rather than making cuts and slashing…proper investment back in to the most important resource we have, our children.” The format of the debate did not provide adequate time for West to immediately elaborate on how investing back into children’s education might be achieved. Later, however, he stated that helping to create appropriate funding would be “to merge the public and Catholic school boards.“
Ontario’s Ministry of Education is one of the province’s biggest Ministries. This massive ministry happens to house one of Canada’s greatest human rights embarrassments, the ongoing privileging of the Catholic religion via public-funding of Catholic school boards.
There are many individuals and organizations in Ontario who oppose the ongoing public privileging of the Catholic religion. Andrew West appears to be one of the few politicians willing to talk about ways and reasons to bring the Ministry of Education’s spending into line with principles of equal human rights.
Candidates for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada must raise $10,000.00 as part of their leadership campaign by the first week of June. While it appears that the Party has a system to track credit for generating donations, the money does not go to an individual candidate, but to the Party. As of May 28, 2020 West does not yet appear to have reached the mile-marking of having his portrait appear as a candidate. Whether he progresses or not, advances in human rights will rely upon politicians like Andrew West who develop and communicate policy that is consistent with a common and shared humanity.
At www.humanistfreedoms.com we do not endorse any specific political party nor any candidate. However, from time to time, political parties and/or individual politicians take positions on issues that deserve to be recognized and analyzed. We are particularly interested in issues related to defending human rights and our common humanity. If think that a position taken by an individual politician or a political party deserves to be covered – contact us.
Auckland Festival of Photography is excited to present an exclusive outdoor waterfront exhibition of work by Werner Bischof, Switzerland.
Werner started his career in his studio in Zurich, Switzerland, where he perfected his artistic photography in “painting with light and shadow”. In 1945 he creates maybe the most significant photographic documentation of Europe in the aftermath of WWII. 1949 he joins Magnum Photos and travels two years in Asia: India, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Indochina he continues his humanistic photography, combining form and content.
His untimely death in a car accident in Peru at age 38 was the catalyst to maintain his photography in an archive for future generations.
USA is a series of work that brings early 1950s America vividly to life, yet Bischof’s tragic death at 38 meant the photographs were never printed during his lifetime. This is the first time they are being shown to the public in New Zealand.
Bischof was the first non-founding member to be welcomed into the then-fledgling Magnum collective, in 1949 joining Robert Capa, David Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Rodger. He had already become recognised for his pioneering use of colour photography, and was one of the first documentary photographers to take the format seriously. At the time of joining Magnum, most of Bischof’s contemporaries still predominantly worked in monochrome, a trend that continued well into the 1960s.
The photographs serve as a fleeting snapshot of a unique point in history: Bischof arrived in post-war United States from Switzerland in 1953, and stayed there for just one year, chronicling a booming and optimistic America through the eyes of an outsider. The 25 photographs that make up the series comprise few suggestions of interaction, they are instead stolen moments through shop windows and cars that blur past, evoking anonymity, and a contemplative look at everyday life in America during a period of immense change. (some text courtesy of the British Journal of Photography).
Thanks to Pro Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council, Panuku Development, Lion Foundation and Werner Bischof Estate.
Talking Culture – Artist Talk 12pm (noon)-1pm Wed 27 May 10am-11am Sat 30 May Marco will give a talk about his father, Werner Bischof’s photography ‘USA’ series.Read more and Zoom in to join the talk…
The national voices for English and French Humanism in Canada, Humanist Canada and Association humaniste du Québec, respectively, will host another essay contest this year. The theme for the Humanist Canada Essay Contest this year is “Religion and Humanism in Education” in a Canadian context. We welcome Canadian high school students to submit their strongest ideas, thoughts, and arguments to us.
The essay contest provides an opportunity for students to think critically on Humanism in Canadian society. The first place prize in each language will be $1,000. Deadline is September 30th, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern Time. There are no predefined topics. However, the bounds of the content should be relevant to the humanist community and its values across Canada.
“We are once again pleased to be able to host this forum for young writers interested in humanist themes,” Dr. Lloyd Robertson, Vice-President of Humanist Canada, stated, “This forum promotes a defence of science and reason from those who would attack it,” The full information for the essay contest can be found on the Humanist Canada website.
Chair of the Humanist Canada Essay Contest Committee and Member of the Board of Directors of Humanist Canada, Scott Jacobsen, said, “This is a rare opportunity for the presentation of the best and brightest young freethought minds the country’s high schools have to offer, in a formal academic-based competition with written essays. Any inculcation of values comes from the passing of them and providing a space for the next generations to evaluate, present, and live them. The Humanist Canada Essay Contest is one opportunity for young freethinkers to shine.”
About Humanist Canada
Humanist Canada (HC) promotes education and awareness of humanism. We are a resource for secular groups and causes across Canada. We support the advancement of scientific, academic, medical, and human rights efforts.
The Humanist Association of Ottawa (HAO) has been operating since 1968. Our vision is a world where reason and compassion guide public policy and social values to enable the fulfillment of human potential. Our mission is to promote the cause of humanism, foster the humanist community in Ottawa, and advocate for a secular public domain.
Clear, Empathic Communication in a Pandemic & Always (A Two-Part Series)
A Webinar with the Gold Foundation & Alda Center Thanks for joining us for this two-part informational webinar series, made possible by a grant from the Kavli Foundation and sponsored by the American Chemical Society. Please register below.
PART 1: WEDNESDAY, MAY 27TH, 1:00-1:20PM ET PART 2: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3RD, 1:00-1:20PM ET
Difficult Discussions – Why Secularists Disagree on Bill 21
This will be an online meeting using Zoom. You can join with a computer, tablet, smartphone, or by phone (audio only). Information will be provided to those who RSVP
Has there been a more contentious issue for secularists in Canada than Quebec’s Bill 21? At CFIC, we’ve seen that this issue has been divisive for our secular community. We think that it is important to have a discussion about this topic, not to change minds, but to enhance our understanding of differing perspectives.
The event will start with a presentation by Catherine Francis about the background of Quebec’s Secular Bill and the subsequent legal challenge, followed by a moderated Q+A and discussion Whether you have a strong opinion about this bill (either for or against) or have watched the dialogue and not come to any conclusions, this webinar is for you.
This is part of a series of presentations about topics that our members disagree on. We recognize that while we all are aiming for a more just, secular society; we may have different views on how to get there. What we do know, is that as secularists, we must stick together on the big issues such as the funding of religion, elimination of blasphemy laws around the world and the use of science, rather than superstition to solve the world’s biggest issues.
About our Presenter: Catherine Francis was called to the Ontario bar in 1987 and is a partner in the Litigation Group and Bankruptcy and Insolvency Group of Minden Gross LLP, a mid-sized Toronto law firm. Her practice is devoted largely to corporate/commercial, real estate, banking, and insolvency litigation. In her spare time, Catherine is a member of several secular organizations and serves on the steering committee of the Humanist Association of Toronto. Catherine has frequently presented to Toronto Oasis, a community that meets regularly to create a place for freethinkers to celebrate the human experience, on legal issues of interest to the secular community.
Please join us on June 6, 2020 for a robust discussion of Bill 21.
Social distancing and self-quarantine present no barriers to exploring humanism, art and the human condition. In Ela Bittencourt’s April 30, 2020 Hyperallergenic essay she writes that “Lange’s instinct not to shrink from misery but to embrace it evidenced her profound sense of empathy. If we’ve grown a bit immune to it these days, the havoc wreaked on American life — on global life — by the COVID-19 crisis lends Lange’s humanist vision renewed relevance.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, celebrate creativity, openness, tolerance, and generosity. We aim to be inclusive places—both onsite and online—where diverse cultural, artistic, social, and political positions are welcome. MoMA is committed to sharing the most thought-provoking modern and contemporary art, and hope you will join them in exploring the art, ideas, and issues of our time.
Toward the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) reflected, “All photographs—not only those that are so called ‘documentary’…can be fortified by words.” Lange paid sharp attention to the human condition, conveying stories of everyday life through her photographs and the
voices they drew in. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures brings iconic works from the collection together with less seen photographs, from her landmark photobook An American Exodus to projects on criminal justice reform. Presenting her work across many contexts—photobooks, Depression-era government reports, newspapers, magazines, poems—and alongside the voices of contemporary artists, writers, and thinkers, the exhibition lets us consider the importance of Lange’s legacy and of words and pictures today.
This exhibition is currently being presented as part of MoMA’s Virtual Views series, as a “museum from home.” Explore iconic works that redefined how we see America with a live Q&A with curator Sarah Meister and photographer Sally Mann, enjoy poetry and artist’s books inspired by Lange, and unravel the mystery around one of the most famous photographs in the world.
There is perhaps no greater time in history to think critically than during a world crisis. But what is ‘Critical Thinking’? And why is it important; especially now? Many CEOs, politicians, world leaders, and educators champion its importance, but very few know what it actually is. So allow me to be clear: Critical Thinking is comprised of a set of tools or skill set that teaches us how to carefully, reflectively, and analytically interpret, understand, and act on information.
There really are better and worse ways to think about information
Critical Thinking allows us to distinguish between fake news and
information; and then to make valid inferences or conclusions based on that information. Although the Critical Thinking skill set can point us in a direction regarding what to think, it is primarily a set of guidelines initially assisting us in how to think about information.
The ABC’s of Critical Thinking
These guidelines include tools for the responsible collection of data and information which can be stated in the form of convincing arguments. They also include a greater capacity to acknowledge biases – both within ourselves – and within others, which may affect the way in which information is presented or interpreted. As well, Critical Thinking tools train us to understand the context in which information is housed so that it is reflected faithfully and without the omission of important back-story elements. Critical Thinking skills also allow us to better understand how evidence plays a key role in supporting arguments. And finally, one of the most important tools in the Critical Thinking skill set is the ability to recognize and call out errors of reasoning known as fallacies. When political leaders favour personal biases which contradict scientific evidence, we should recognize these fallacies for what they are – irrelevant, unfounded, emotional, self-serving, and often, dangerous.
How to Critically Think About Covid-19
Having acknowledged the importance of the Critical Thinking skill set, how should we be thinking about information regarding Covid-19? First and foremost, we need to start with information that has been attained responsibly and reliably. We need to familiarize ourselves with relevant contextual and background information that is evidence-based rather than simply based on opinion.
Although no news service can be completely free of bias or vested interest, there are many reliable resources available to choose from including:
BBC News, ABC, NPR, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Google News, NBC, The Guardian, CNN, PBS, NASA, Scientific American, Popular Science, Real Clear Science, Discovery, Nautilus, and National Geographic.
There are various other online resources that one might find useful to fact-check or further research information regarding a particular issue: Snopes, Pressbook: Web Literacy, Politifact, Factcheck.org, Washington Post Fact Checker, Truth Be Told, NPR Fact-Check, Lie Detector (Univision, Spanish language), Hoax Slayer, Climate Feedback, SciCheck, Quote Investigator, FactsCan (Canada), El Polígrafo (Mexico), The Hound (Mexico), Guardian Reality Check (United Kingdom), BBC Reality Check (United Kingdom), Full Fact (United Kingdom), mediabiasfactcheck.com, civilination.org, domainbigdata.com, and newswise.ca.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive of the resources available; rather, it illustrates some of the helpful and trusted sites that one may access in determining the reliability and truthfulness of information.
When it comes to knowledge – that is knowing what is true from what is mere speculation, our epistemic states of being could not have been summed up better than, believe it or not, Donald Rumsfeld. As Defense Secretary for George W. Bush, Rumsfeld summed up all possible epistemic states regarding any object of knowledge. He said:
“There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”
Even though he was wrongly ridiculed for making these statements, his pithy depiction of epistemic brevity captures brilliantly what we should be asking ourselves with every issue we face. We should always begin with what we know, then proceed to consider what we know we are ignorant of i.e. reflective ignorance, and finally, we should be cognizant of the fact that our level of ignorance extends more deeply to the point of oblivion i.e. blind ignorance or not even being aware of what we don’t know. This is a healthy way to approach knowledge acquisition while working through uncertainty.
In regards to the latter epistemic state, David C. Logan pointed out that:
Much scientific research is based on investigating known unknowns. In other words, scientists develop a hypothesis to be tested, and then in an ideal situation experiments are best designed to test the null hypothesis. At the outset the researcher does not know whether or not the results will support the null hypothesis. However, it is common for the researcher to believe that the result that will be obtained will be within a range of known possibilities. Occasionally, however, the result is completely unexpected—it was an unknown unknown.
Sometimes referred to as ‘serendipity’, every now and again, scientists discover something completely novel that they never anticipated. This leads to the discovery of an unknown unknown. But let’s start at the beginning: what do we currently know about this particular virus?
Currently, we now know that Covid-19 is a novel new form of Corona virus which has passed from one animal species (probably bats) to another, and is using human beings as hosts which has unfortunately spread itself around the world due, in large part, to air travel. We first learned of its origins stemming from Wuhan, China. For various reasons – due both to human ignorance and political bureaucracies – the virus was not contained at its point of origin and has spread rapidly through populations causing a global pandemic.
What makes the spread of this virus particularly difficult to contain is that a significantly large percentage of those infected with it, show no symptoms. This characteristic – the fact that carriers can be asymptomatic – is the single greatest reason we are all living under the conditions we now find ourselves.
Now that we are faced with the extremely daunting tasks of avoiding or containing further infections while trying to develop ways to destroy or prevent further spreading of this pathogen, a global viral pandemic will always follow this exact pattern of reaction:
Testing, Isolation, Anti-virals, and Vaccine (or TIAV)
If you can remember the acronym TIAV, you will forever remember the order in which humans will always react to viral pandemics. Let’s look at each element of the acronym.
Due to the fact that we know carriers of Covid-19 can be asymptomatic, it has become vitally important to develop accurate tests which determine infections in real time. In various parts of the world, testing for signs of infection require people to wait for their results over a five day period. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to realize that this is far too long a time period if we wish to know accurate numbers of infections in real time. For example, based on such a system, person A could be tested on one day and produce a negative result, and then contract the virus between the test date and the result date thereby making the results of the test extremely ineffectual and potentially dangerous.
Luckily, there are new tests being developed and used to quicken the results. In Canada, the company Spartan Bioscience is producing millions of units to quicken the diagnosis time of testing. But not all countries have such tests; and some tests may not be as accurate as others. So in case you’re wondering why some countries – like Singapore and South Korea – seem to be ahead of other countries in ‘flattening the curve’ of their outbreaks, it’s because they conduct massive testing which provide results much more quickly. This allows officials to more accurately know and track those who are infected and those who are not. This, in turn, can allow for greater autonomy or social movement within various communities.
At this point in time, we know that Spartan Bioscience has developed portable DNA testing devices which were recently approved by Health Canada. These devices can apparently provide accurate tests for Covid-19 in less than an hour.
By using Critical Thinking, we can now state that, as a conditional, ifSpartan Bioscience (or any similar companies producing fast results) can produce millions of these devices for use around the world, then it logically follows that we will be better enabled to determine positive and negative cases and track infection rates much more accurately. This, in turn, will allow for the greater mobility of human populations. But – and this is a very big but – we can only increase human mobility if we have such accurate testing capabilities. Otherwise, isolation alone becomes our greatest defense.
Without such quick and accurate testing, our greatest defense against such a pathogen is isolation. By keeping populations isolated, we can slow the transmission of the virus and limit the increase of infections which will, in turn, ease the burden on hospitals faced with increasing numbers of advanced or critical cases. Trying to isolate massive populations, however, is not an easy task; and our current world population does not have much experience in doing so. There are many people – from essential services, to the homeless, to those who simply ignore the dangers of infection – who are susceptible to contracting the virus.
Autonomy vs. Paternalism
This raises the very interesting philosophical and political issues of autonomy versus paternalism. In other words, how much freedom should individuals have versus the State’s right to act like a parent and restrict their freedom? In Wuhan, China, and other countries around the world, strict isolation was enforced. However, in the US, individual states have controlled the amount of autonomy individuals have.
The most important inference to make here is that without accurate testing with real time results, isolation is our only tool by which to lower the rate of infection and ‘flatten the curve’. By using Critical Thinking, we can logically infer, then, that once a faster type of testing is available, we will begin to see a lesser need for isolation and a gradual loosening of travel restrictions on citizens.
By using the skill set of Critical Thinking, we can now infer that, at this point in the pandemic, there are three – and only three – reasons for easing isolation restrictions:
Testing: By conducting massive and accurate testing in real time to track infection populations.
Anti-Virals: The development of novel drugs which either cure outright or severely limit the damaging health effects to those who contract the virus.
Vaccine: The development of a novel vaccine which will prevent people from becoming infected by the virus.
It logically follows that the first wave of attack against the virus will be the development of accurate and effective tests. As mentioned above, this will allow epidemiologists to more accurately determined and track rates of infections and where those infections are occurring within a given population. This will then provide a more accurate picture of how and when personal isolation can gradually and strategically be lifted.
The next advancement in the war against Covid-19 will be the development of novel anti-viral medications. Currently, there are hundreds of trials being conducted worldwide to determine which drugs – or combinations of drugs – are effective in fighting this particular strain of Corona virus. Naturally, the world wants a cure as soon as possible. But we must be careful and vigilant in knowing which drugs work and especially, which ones do not. President Trump has been championing Hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug) to combat the virus. But studies have demonstrated that it is not very effective and can actually have harmful side effects to patients – especially those with underlying heart conditions.
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has stated that research is being conducted on Avigan (or favipiravir), an antiviral drug developed by a domestic firm (Fuji Film) that has been effective in treating COVID-19 patients. He has even gone so far as to give Fuji Film the go ahead to produce millions of pills. The problem, however, is that there is no definitive knowledge of its effectiveness and there are some bad side effects – including birth defects.
As much as we emotionally want to bring help to those suffering – and about to suffer – from the virus, the skill set of Critical Thinking trains us to ‘step back’ from our emotions to carefully and more reflectively consider how we should proceed. And this means that, at this point in the battle, any drug or vaccine development must go through stringent testing. In my latest book, I state that there are several phases for determining a drug or vaccine’s effectiveness, or efficacy, which must be carried out before such treatments ever make it to world-wide distribution and use:
Phase I: First of all, studies are initially conducted to learn about the dosages required to produce a response in the human body and about how the human body processes the drug and to learn whether the drug produces toxic or harmful effects and at what dosages.
Phase II: Second, a drug under consideration will be tested on a group of patients who have a specific disease. At this point, the drug is not a treatment per se but rather is the object of study to determine any benefits, side effects, and so on. If there are no benefits, the study stops. If there are benefits, researchers move on to Phase III.
Phase III: Finally, at this point, the intent of the drug experiment is to introduce a lasting beneficial change in the patients participating in the study with the intent to prevent or reverse the progression of the disease. There is a specific strategy involved in treatment experiments with patient participants at this stage.
For vaccine research, there are often Phase IV trials which occur after successful development at the prior three phases. This phase utilizes post-market surveillance studies to consider any and all potential adverse events with regular reports by the manufacturer to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)  to quickly and effectively identify potential problems after use in the population begins.
During the various Phases of drug research, scientists are utilizing the Controlled Clinical Trial. Clinical research on drugs or surgical treatments are undertaken in order to provide answers to specific questions such as these:
Will this treatment prevent or remedy a particular disease?
Will this treatment do more good than harm to patients with this particular disease?
Will this treatment do more good than available alternative treatments?
The central idea behind controlled clinical trials is to reduce bias in order to maintain objective, reliable observations. If scientists are not careful, their own biases can skew their understanding, rendering research useless thereby creating a false belief that ineffective or harmful treatments are therapeutic when in fact, they are not. The purpose for establishing a clinical trial is to determine the effectiveness of a therapeutic treatment. The word ‘trial’ indicates that there is a comparison between two or more potential outcomes.
Sometimes the outcomes compared are null, or to consider the option of having no therapeutic treatment. At other times, trials may involve comparisons between current and newly developed treatments. In the case of the latter, the goal of the trial is to determine which treatment is superior to another in, say, safety or effectiveness. The word ‘controlled’ refers to the comparative null set or group that receives no therapeutic treatment. It is often the case that a control group will receive a placebo rather than the actual treatment in order to compare the outcomes or effects of the study group. So there are often two groups that have a particular ailment. One group will be given a new therapeutic treatment, while the other group will be given either a placebo or competing drug.
The most important aspect of such studies is that they are blinded. This is a creative and novel use of what we might call ‘enforced ignorance’. Researchers deliberately single-blind or double-blind their experiments in order to maintain objectivity when compiling and later reading data.
Controlled clinical trials in which the patients do not know what group they are in are known as single-blinded studies. However, when neither the patients nor the administrators of the test know which group they are in, the study is said to be double-blinded. The purpose of blinding a clinical trial is to limit bias on the part of the administrators. In other words, if neither the administrators of the test nor the subjects know who is in which group, this will ensure greater objectivity in determining the effectiveness of the treatment. Only the lead researcher knows who is in the control group and who is in the test group. By blinding the administrators and the subjects of the trial, the lead researcher can prevent bias on two levels: at the level of the participants and at the level of the administrators.
Currently, throughout the world, there are hundreds of drug and vaccine trials being carried out. The greatest obstacle in determining what potential treatments are safe and effective is time. Right now, the world just wants to get back to normal. However, scientists cannot simply speed up the process of trials because, in so doing, they may approve a drug or vaccine which either doesn’t provide results or perhaps can even make things worse.
Since vaccines take much longer to develop, we can logically infer that an anti-viral treatment will likely be developed sooner than a vaccine. Should a successful antiviral treatment develop over the next few months, it will help to flatten the curve considerably. It will also provide hope for those who suffer most from the harmful effects of the virus. This, in turn, will help buy some time for those front-line staff and ICU hospital workers until a vaccine can be developed.
Unless and Until – The New Normal
One final aspect to consider: unless and until a safe and effective vaccine is developed, the world will be forced to live according to a new ‘normal’. Travel restrictions can conceivably be loosened with proper testing and anti-viral drugs. However, we will not get back to a pre-Covid-19 existence until all humans can be protected from the virus. And Critical Thinking allows us to infer that there are limited ways that this can happen: either the virus will be eradicated naturally from the world – as we saw with SARS and MERS; or there will be global inoculations through vaccinations to prevent the contraction and spread of the virus – or perhaps, a combination of both will occur simultaneously.
Recommendations – What Needs to be Done Now:
Accurate testing and tracking in real time needs to be set up as soon as possible at all of the following locations:
Telecommunications and IT infrastructure/service providers
Agriculture and food production
Resources and Energy
At each one of these facilities (and more), testing must be done consistently so that identification of infection can be accurately determined, tracked, and controlled. Without such testing, easing isolation restrictions will undoubtedly lead to a second or third wave of infection rates.
When you read or watch a media report claiming that a country is taking precautions by taking peoples’ temperatures, red flags and alarms should go off in our heads. And this is because a large percentage of people who are infected with the virus are asymptomatic – they experience and display absolutely no overt effects from virus – like fevers, body aches, tiredness, etc. Therefore, using our Critical Thinking skills, we can logically infer that testing for physical symptoms will only do a partial job of identifying and tracking viral infections. So if we simply let all people without symptoms move about within a given society, we will continue to see a surge or increase of affected cases. This is why accurate testing in real time must be done excessively and redundantly. Without a vaccine, it is literally the only way we can be sure of infection rates. And we should not limit isolation unless and until we can test at this level.
Conclusions and Caveats:
One final aspect to consider is human population behaviour once isolation restrictions have been lifted. Currently, some people – particularly in the US, but there have been some Canadians – who have begun picketing in protest of the ‘lock-down’. They are demanding that the travel bans and home isolation orders be lifted so they can return to their ‘normal’ lives.
There are obvious and great problems with these gatherings. Such gatherings will only worsen the spread of the virus which will inevitably and ironically, lengthen the time people have to self-isolate. Part of the reasoning behind such gatherings is that the virus is no more deadly than the common seasonal flu; and that we should just let it ‘run its course’. This is sadly misguided. What we do know is that Covid-19 kills, on average, ten times as many victims as regular flu strains. So it definitely is more dangerous.
Alone and Isolated
And finally, what many do not realize is the horrific way in which this particular virus takes lives. Because of the nature of the disease – its transmission, the likelihood for contagion, its pathology, etc. – those who suffer worst from the virus, usually die alone and isolation. And because of our current state of world-wide self-isolation, funerals and burials have been restricted which has severely affected the grieving process for millions of people worldwide. The long term effects this will have on loved ones will be felt strongly and for years to come. So we should be preparing our mental health experts to anticipate an increase in therapeutic need when the world emerges eventually and successfully from this pandemic.
Now, more than ever, it is a time to use our prefrontal cortexes rather than our limbic systems. During world crises, we need to think critically, not emotionally, about our next steps. It is my great hope, that when this world, our country, and our neighbourhoods return back to some level of normalcy, we will not forget how this happened or how we overcame it. We must continue to strive to put Critical Thinking at the forefront of our education and political systems at all levels. These are the skills needed at any given time in our lives. But they are most needed when we commonly face a world-wide crisis.
Canadian human rights activist, Yasmine Mohammed, advocates for the rights of women living within Islamic majority countries, as well as those who struggle under religious fundamentalism.
Her book, Unveiled, is a memoir/polemic that recalls her experiences growing up in a fundamentalist Islamic household and her arranged marriage to a member of Al-Qaeda. In it, she sheds light on the religious trauma that so many women still today are unable to discuss.
Yasmine Mohammed is an activist, writer, college instructor and the founder of Free Hearts Free Minds, an organization that provides psychological support for freethinkers living within Muslim majority countries, where the State-sanctioned punishment for leaving Islam is death.
UC faculty, residents and medical students honored for delivery of care, compassion and teaching
The UC College of Medicine’s Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapter, sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, will induct the GHHS class of 2021 and present several humanism awards to residents and faculty during a virtual ceremony available online Wednesday, May 20.
Dr. Melissa Klein, professor in the UC Department of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s physician, will be recognized as the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Faculty honoree. Klein will officially be presented the award, which recognizes a College of Medicine faculty member who best demonstrates outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, as well as clinical excellence.
Fourth-year medical student, Caroline Hensley is the recipient of the Leonard Tow Student Award this year.
Dr. Melissa Klein/photo submitted
The purpose of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) is to promote a culture of humanism in the practice of medicine by publicly recognizing students, residents, and faculty whose clinical competence and professionalism include exceptional humanistic behavior and commitment to service.
Each spring, the UC College of Medicine’s chapter of GHHS recognizes those students who at the end of their third year have demonstrated exemplary attitudes and behaviors characteristic of the most humanistic physicians: integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy, and service.
Twenty-six students will be inducted into GHHS: Sarah Appeadu, Rachel Azriel, Matt Byrne, Saige Camara, Margaret Carney, Thomas Daley, Adam Darwiche, Hagar Elgendy, Olivia Gobble, Caroline Horton, Kristen Humphrey, Basil Jafri, Jun Kim, Shawn Krishnan and Derrick Lin.
Other inductees will include Sarah Marshall, Katherine Melink, Kevin Milligan, Jasmine Prince, Mia Samaha, Alex Schoenberger, Santiago Serna, Dylan Sexton, Zach St. Clair, Vanessa Wagner and Max Yang.
Caroline Hensley/photo submitted
All students were nominated by their peers and faculty as students who best exemplify integrity, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy and a dedication to service. Their awards will be presented by Laura Malosh, assistant dean of student affairs, during the virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 20.
Finally, the society will recognize two residents with the Arnold P. Gold Humanism Teaching Awards this year. It recognizes outstanding humanistic teaching residents as identified by their students. Third year medical students select residents to receive The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award, based on their exceptional teaching skills and commitment to the compassionate treatment of patients and families, students and colleagues. This year the M3 class recognized Dr. Young King, Department of Surgery and Dr. Megan Sax, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Megan Sax/photo by Colleen Kelley of UC Creative + Brand
DiCarlos is the author of How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass and Six Steps to Better Thinking: How to Disagree and Get Along and a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. In his newest book, DiCarlo breaks down the steps of critical thinking and the process of making a persuasive argument in this useful guide. To dissect core principles of argumentation, DiCarlo works through topics such as bias (biological, cultural, and ethnic), types of reasoning (deductive, inductive, and abductive), fallacies (red herrings and ad hoc), and how to address disagreement. DiCarlo hopes that as “people use the critical thinking skills fairly, they will be more empowered to have meaningful discussions about important issues, disagree entirely, and still be able to get along.” To make his points, he uses examples that are current, such as how President Trump exhibits philosopher “Harry Frankfurt’s distinction between lying and bullshit”; novel, as with arguments surrounding the existence of Bigfoot; and revolutionary, such as 19th-century Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis’s arguments against customary medical practices that led to modern antiseptic procedures. Those looking to critically engage with information or “value discourse over hatred” will learn a lot from DiCarlo’s thorough study. (June)
Publishers Weekly: Christopher W. DiCarlo. Rowman & Littlefield, $32 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5381-3855-7
There is perhaps no greater time in history to think critically than during a world crisis. But what is ‘Critical Thinking’? And why is it important; especially now? Many CEOs, politicians, world leaders, and educators champion its importance, but very few know what it actually is.
Critical Thinking is comprised of a set of tools or skill set that teaches us how to carefully, reflectively, and analytically interpret, understand, and act on information.
There really are better and worse ways to think about information Critical Thinking allows us to distinguish between fake news and reliably-attained, evidence-based information; and then to make valid inferences or conclusions based on that information. Although the Critical Thinking skill set can point us in a direction regarding what to think, it is primarily a set of guidelines initially assisting us in how to think about information.