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Same Sex Marriage Isn’t Everything

Topic: The Arkansas dilemma.

Tim McCarthy: I think a much more troubling result of this election was the ballot initiative in Arkansas. I was speaking with some gay friends of mine and this was a ballot initiative that they basically forbade, or now forbids, by law single people from adopting children in Arkansas. So they have to be married in a traditional marriage, in order to be able to adopt children. And this was something that for me was very troubling.

It was troubling for a host of reasons. One is the energy, as I’ve mentioned before. The energy behind the passage of this ballot initiative by pro-family groups and conservative groups in Arkansas used this equation of homosexuality and pedophilia to drive people to the polls, to vote in favor of denying single people--and that means gay and lesbian people because gay and lesbian people can’t be, by law in Arkansas, part of a traditional marriage. So this effectively denies them the right to adopt children. So that any gay or lesbian person in the state of Arkansas has now been denied the right to adopt and raise children. These include foster children who are languishing in foster homes. You can imagine what the state of foster care must be a state like in a depressed state like Arkansas; it’s not good in any state certainly I’m sure is not very good in Arkansas either.

This to me is a very troubling step backwards. It brings up all of those kind of historic statements that we’re still dealing with and fighting against in the LBGT community. So for me, that ballot initiative in Arkansas was far more insidious and far more, for me, a sign that we have not made enough progress and that we may in fact be taking a step backward.

Then the Prop 8 vote [Proposition 8]. Because at the end of the day the Prop 8 vote was the gay marriage resolution, was closer this time around than it had been previously in California. There’s been movement in the direction of progress in the issue of marriage.

 

Question: What about gay marriage?

Tim McCarthy: The issue of marriage is a very sticky one. I personally, though I relish my right to get married to my partner if I so choose in Massachusetts, and looks like that’s going to also happen in New York very soon. It certainly happened all throughout New England, with the exception of Rhode Island. I relish that right. I’m happy to have it. I’m grateful to people who struggled to earn that right in the states where we’ve earned it.

But I don’t think that the marriage issue, strategically, is the best thing to put at the forefront of our movement. And I think there has been, among some members in the LBGT movement, an over emphasis on marriage.

I think that there are two problems with that. One is that marriage is the most sacred of institutions, right? I mean, culturally speaking. In the public imagination most people, despite the fact that we have 50% divorce rate among straight married couples, we raise marriage to a pedestal that we don’t raise any other kind of relationship to. And I think there are a lot of reasons for that historically, but when you seek to become fully integrated, and have the full rights of marriage; it’s like kicking a bee’s nest or kicking a hornet’s nest--and that’s what the LGBT community has done. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t kick hornet’s nest. I think that, you know, none of us would be anywhere if we didn’t kick a few hornet’s nest. But at the end of the day, we have to understand that when you kick a hornet’s nest, there are going to be hornets, right, and you are going to get stung.

I sounded like a Southerner right now. I feel I should be on a porch somewhere drinking mead tulips.

But at the end of the day, we’re going to get stung and we have been stung and we’ve been stung in California. We haven’t been stung elsewhere. But in the end of the day and not to beat the metaphor to death too, much, at the end of the day, I think that we have asked for a fight that we have now gotten, right? And some of us are upset that that fight has resulted in some punches and some black eyes, and California is one of them.

So I think, strategically, marriage might not be the only fight we want to have. I think we want to pick some fights that we know we can win so that we can store up some energy for the big fights and marriage is definitely a big fight.

The other piece of this is that within the LGBT community, marriage is not, I would argue, the most important issue for the broadest range of LGBT people but for a lot of folks, employment nondiscrimination is more important than marriage. For a lot of folks, adoption rights are more important than marriage. For a lot of folks, universal health care is more important than marriage. For a lot of folks, there are a lot of things that are more important than marriage.

I think by focusing or over-emphasizing marriage as the sort of gem in the crown of gay rights or LGBT rights, we are alienating a broad staff of folks within our community. Homeless trans youth [i.e. transgender youth] are not principally interested in getting married. They are more interested in making sure that they are protected against all sorts of street violence and discrimination and so forth.

There are folks in communities of color and in poor communities all over the country for whom marriage is something that middle class white people who live in the suburb want.

So I do think that by overemphasizing marriage and by fixating on Prop 8, we do more to break the bonds that we should be strengthening in our community. I don’t think that marriage is a winning issue when one our goals is to create as broad and multicultural and multi-class in LBGT community moving forward politically and socially.

 

Recorded on: July 1, 2009

 

Human rights advocate Tim McCarthy worries that there’s been an overemphasis on fighting for a right that shouldn’t be at the forefront of the gay rights movement.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

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  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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