Lithium-Water Proponent Stirs Up More Debate

Today is the last day of the Month of Thinking Dangerously here at Big Think, and in that spirit, we are presenting some more dangerous ideas from bioethicist Jacob Appel. Never one to shy away from controversy, he inaugurated this month with the suggestion that we should drug the drinking water with lithium, and he has plenty more ideas that are sure to spark debate. 

First, Appel tells us that assisted suicide should be an option for everyone—at least, almost everyone. He's fine with a system that, for a very acute period of time, would protect people from their worst instincts: "I think the paradigmatic example of someone you might want to prevent from committing suicide is the teenager who breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and tries to overdose on Tylenol.  And to tell them, for a few days, we’re going to hospitalize you against your will doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me." But for others who have suffered from chronic depression throughout their lives, who are thinking clearly and rationally yet want to commit suicide, it should be within their rights to do so. 

All medications should also be available over-the-counter, he believes. In the age of the Internet, people should be able to inform themselves about the risks of particular medications without consulting a doctor. In fact, says Appel, "most people go to the doctor and say, 'This is what I want medically,' and there are enough doctors out there than honor this request anyways." The harm of forcing people to see the doctor is the cost of doctor visits might be keeping some people from getting the medical care they need. And this poses "a far greater a risk than the small number of people who might not be educated enough or informed themselves enough to use medicine in a dangerous way."

Appel also expounds upon some of the other dangerous ideas presented earlier in the month. For instance, he agrees with economist and Big Think blogger Marina Adshade that polygamy should be legalized, but he goes further than that, arguing that prostitution, bestiality, and incest should be made legal as well. "The objections to all of these phenomena are really not what people say they are," he says. "People say they are concerned about the welfare of the individuals, but what they are really interested in doing is imposing their own social values, or their own religious values on other people. "

And like James Hughes, Appel believes parents should have certain freedoms to choose the type of child they want. Specifically, Appel says they should be able to choose their child's sexual orientation. "The real concern I have is I want people to be born into families that want them," he says."My concern is for the potential gay child born into the bigoted family who mistreats that child, who disowns that child, who drives that child to suicide. And that to me, that suffering, is far more concerning than the possibility that we won’t force more progressive cultural values on people who don’t want them." 

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

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less