Harrison Bergeron-ing a Too-Exceptional Sprinter

There's an article in the NYT today covering one of my philosophy of the body hobbyhorses.  Dutee Chand, an 18-year old champion sprinter, has been told she must have surgery or start a drug regimen in order to be allowed to compete in official races.  The problem? Her body naturally produces more testosterone than usual, and administrators worry it gives her an unfair advantage: Arne Ljungqvist, the longtime chairman of the I.O.C.’s medical commission, said a hyperandrogenism policy was nece … [Read more...]

Debunking the NYT’s Numbers on Contraception

You may have seen the New York Times's much shared infographic on contraception failure rates, and I'm here -- statistics cop badge in hand -- to tell you that it ain't necessarily so.  There are some huge methodological flaws in the way that the NYT chose to model the risk of unplanned pregnancy over ten years, and I'm explaining just how badly they went wrong at The American Conservative. The NYT generated these graphs by looking only at failure rates for contraception over one year, and then … [Read more...]

“Just Treating Symptoms” can be a great approach

In a review of Thrive: The Power of Evidence-Based Psychological Therapies, Jenny Diski is suspicious of CBT as a form of therapy.  She's concerned that it's focused on managing symptoms of distress, rather than causes, and that, ultimately, it's more focused on making mental illness bearable for bystanders than for the person who is ill.  She writes: CBT fulfils the authors' admirable desire for an improvement in mental health provision. It takes at most 20 sessions, often far fewer; it is so s … [Read more...]

Designing Emotional Contraception

Over at The American Conservative, I'm discussing a bioethicist who's done a literature review to find anti-love drugs.  He's not discussing science fiction, but drugs that currently exist which could have the side effects of suppressing lust, attraction, and/or attachment if prescribed off label (anti-depressants are high on the list).  His ethics questions are mostly focused on the level of the individual, but I've got concerns about how they'd shift societal expectations about responsibility a … [Read more...]

The Stories We Tell About Illness

Sarah Sparks has a really excellent post today at First Things about the interactions (good and bad) between theology and therapy.  As an Orthodox Christian and a recovering bulimic, Sarah has has to do a lot of translating between the sacred and the secular, since the treatment of sin, fasting, and self-control are very different in each of the two worlds she moves in.  It looks like both groups have a lot of cultural false cognates -- moments where they're using the same word to refer to d … [Read more...]

I Want You! (to be a virtuous virus firebreak)

I've been terribly tardy in getting my flu shot this year, but I finally did it today.  (Turns out there's a bit of a run on for vaccinations in DC; my original appointment was cancelled because the pharmacy ran out, and I had to phone six CVSes before I found anyone with supplies).Vaccination is awesome for you, since the flu sucks, but it's also a public service.  The vaccine is 62% effective (which means people who get the vaccination are 62% less likely than those who don't to have such a … [Read more...]

When Moral Hazard is the Safest Course

Patheos blogger Thomas McDonald of God and the Machine is horrified by the FDA's recommendation to approve Truvada (an antiretroviral cocktail) as preventative treatment for HIV.  When people use the prophylactic regime, their chances of contracting HIV are reduced by 50-75%.  As far as I can tell, these are the 'actual use' numbers.  With perfect use, the chance of infection goes down to pretty much zero.  This is why, in affluent countries with good health care services, there's virtually no ch … [Read more...]