Maybe We Need Less 'Compassion' Abroad

We hear a lot about "compassion" these days in international news. Scotland just released the sole person convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that left 270 people dead. Its rationale? "Compassionate release." The Libyan was greeted back home as a national hero. Across the globe, Malaysian authorities agreed to postpone the caning of a Muslim woman. Her crime? Drinking a beer, a violation of sharia law. They did so out of "compassion" and observance of the holy month of Ramadan, but still intend to flog her in a few weeks. Um, these are examples of "compassion"?

The word, of course, is fraught with mixed meanings. George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism" springs to mind. But when the offending acts leave the rest of the world befuddled and angry, you have to wonder if they were done more out of politics than out of compassion. There is also no shortage of hypocrisy present. After all, if we learned nothing from the Sotomayor hearings, it's that there is no role for compassion or empathy in judicial rulings. Judges must follow the strict letter of the law, not their personal prejudices. But we seem to hold foreign judiciaries to a different standard. After all, isn't that what the Scottish and Malaysian justice ministers were doing--following the law, however abhorrent or puzzling to us?

To borrow from the famous cliche about freedom fighters, it seems one country's compassion is another one's act of barbarism and hypocrisy.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less