Animals, AIDS and Evolutionary Epistemology

Peter Singer writes in the India Times about how certain aspects of American democracy hinder the movement for animal rights. In this case, it’s nothing “extreme,” just laws that would allow pigs and calves raised for meat to have enough room on their tethers or in their cages to turn around and lie down. Arizona and Florida recently passed measures like these, but Singer points out that America’s lack of federal animal welfare legislation for farm animals is largely a result of political lobbying. Our political parties are relatively weak, forcing candidates to raise their own money for campaigns and therefore making them subject to pressure from special interests. In other countries, where parties fund reelection campaigns, this pressure is less direct.

Meanwhile, The New York Times writes about waiting lists for HIV medication in South Carolina. South Carolina has the ninth-highest AIDS rate in the country; the fastest growth/spread rates have mostly been in the South, another sign that HIV/AIDS is more about poverty, economics, culture, and discrimination than about particular sexual practices. A positive note (I think?) is that the lack of funding in South Carolina is due more to unawareness that there was a shortfall in funding than outright opposition by lawmakers. An excerpt from the NYT:

Carmen Julious, director of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services in Columbia, agreed that ignorance played a crucial role. “You would be surprised at state and federal legislators who understand AIDS in Africa,” Ms. Julious said, “but they don’t know anything about AIDS in South Carolina.”

One of the main problems resulting from AIDS stigma is that people are less willing to be tested, so their HIV-positive status is often not discovered until they have progress to AIDS, at which point treatment is much more difficult and expensive.

Over at Rationally Speaking, Massimo Pigliucci (a philosopher) links to a piece he wrote on evolutionary epistemology, published in The Skeptical Inquirer. Similar to comments I made before on human nature (saying that any serious consideration of what it means to be human must first recognize that we are animals), Pigliucci notes that while there can be no science without philosophy, there can also be no serious philosophy that is ignorant of the discoveries of science. An excerpt on how an evolutionary epistemology may yield insights:

Evolutionary epistemology aims to explain not only why we can know about the world, but—perhaps more crucially—why out epistemic access to the world is so limited. After all, natural selection adapted our sensory and cognitive abilities to the so-called “mesoworld,” that is that portion of reality above the microscopic and quantum levels but below the macroscopic levels of interplanetary to intergalactic phenomena. This means that one should expect our intuitions and reasoning abilities to be pretty good when they address the mesoworld, but to increasingly fail or mislead us when we move away from it. As Vollmer puts it, nobody can visualize the quantum realm, and—ironically enough—many people still have trouble accepting the idea of evolution itself because they cannot wrap their minds around the concept of cumulative change over periods of hundreds of millions of years.

But read the rest of the article too, as it provides a slightly stronger defense than just ‘this works.’

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