Rethinking Birth, Death, and Everything in Between

Should abortion be permitted until the fetus's birth? Bioethicist Jacob Appel believes so, arguing that any other guideline is too arbitrary to be legally justifiable, or enforceable. Indeed, his actual "philosophical drawing line" would lie somewhere after birththough he concedes that in practice "we couldn't live in a world" where this policy existed. Provocative yet matter-of-fact, Appel wades into the moral issues surrounding not only abortion but also infanticide, fetal organ trading, euthanasia, and numerous other medical controversies in his Big Think interview this week.

Acknowledging that concepts such as life and personhood are politically sensitive but philosophically difficult to pin down, Appel believes we should "grant great latitude"to mothers who commit infanticide due to post-partum depression, "treat[ing] them with kindness as someone who suffers from illness." At the other end of life's spectrum, he defends a patient's right to choose physician-assisted suicide but supports euthanasia only "very sparingly," as in cases of permanent paralysis without communication.


In the latter half of the interview, Appel fields questions as an award-winning fiction writer whose career has nevertheless known its share of obstacles: he claims to have received over 20,000 rejections. Asked how to survive that much discouraging feedback, he advises that the trick is to get your work past "the intern or college student first reading your work," recalling that he himself, in his clueless intern days, once hung up on the poet Allen Ginsberg.

An ancient structure visible from space isn’t man-made

Long hidden under trees, it's utterly massive

(Roy Funch)
Surprising Science
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  • It's made up of 200 million mounds of earth
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Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
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How Christians co-opted the winter solstice

Christmas has many pagan and secular traditions that early Christians incorporated into this new holiday.

Saturnalia by Antoine Callet
Culture & Religion
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  • The historical Jesus was not born on December 25th as many contemporary Christians believe.
  • Many staple Christmas traditions predated the festival and were tied into ancient pagan worship of the sun and related directly to the winter solstice.
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