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Next 50 years will determine humanity's outcome "for 10,000 years" #climate a new #Plioceen?

Next 50 years will determine humanity's outcome "for 10,000 years" #climate a new #Plioceen? | Skeptical Philosophy |

Continued use of oil, natural gas and coal at the current rate will likely raise global temperatures to 2 or 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, creating conditions that would make life “difficult to manage”

Via EcoVadis, talkingdrumnigeria, CineversityTV
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Any bets on whether or not we'll do the right thing over the next 50 years?
EcoVadis's curator insight, April 4, 10:35 AM

The extent to which countries cut their emissions over the next 50 years will determine the conditions of people’s life on earth

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What is philosophy of science (and should scientists care)?

What is philosophy of science (and should scientists care)? | Skeptical Philosophy |
Just about 20 years ago, I abandoned a career as a physical chemist to become a philosopher science. For most of those 20 years, people (especially scientists) have been asking me what the heck the philosophy of science is, and whether scientists have any need of it.
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Albert Einstein said, in 1941, that "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind".  Maybe for today's world, we could replace "religion" with "philosophy".
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Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All | Skeptical Philosophy |

It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change. (Read more...)

Via Cage-free Science
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
"What we discovered in our research is that while the empowerment part of the equation has been loudly celebrated, there has been very little honest discussion among women of our age about the real barriers and flaws that still exist in the system despite the opportunities we inherited."
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  BULLSHIT.  That's right, if it ain't inclusive, then it ain't equal.  Intersectional feminism strives for equality for all genders, recognising that while gender oppression is a huge factor in an unequal society, it is also more complicated than that alone.  There are numerous other influences that are oppressive in their own way, or that…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Complete misrepresentation of the actual issue, and playing one oppressed minority off against another.  It's possible to oppose more than one form of prejudice at a time, people!
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Next 50 years will determine humanity's outcome "for 10,000 years" #climate a new #Plioceen?

Next 50 years will determine humanity's outcome "for 10,000 years" #climate a new #Plioceen? | Skeptical Philosophy |

Continued use of oil, natural gas and coal at the current rate will likely raise global temperatures to 2 or 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, creating conditions that would make life “difficult to manage”

Via EcoVadis, talkingdrumnigeria, CineversityTV
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Any bets on whether or not we'll do the right thing over the next 50 years?
EcoVadis's curator insight, April 4, 10:35 AM

The extent to which countries cut their emissions over the next 50 years will determine the conditions of people’s life on earth

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  Meow!  Controversial "debates" abound this week with the argument (mainly from radical feminists) that trans women can't be "real" women because they experienced male privilege while growing up.  First off, this is a complete non-argument; it's like saying I can't identify as disabled because I was healthy up until my teens, or because I had…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Transgender issues have come to the fore in UK media, which is in many ways a good thing.  However, there is also a lot of nonsense and fear-mongering being spread under the guise of "philosophy" or "debate".  But is there really a case to answer?
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The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time | Skeptical Philosophy |
It’s essential for strategic thinking.

Via Kasia Hein-Peters
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
This was alluded to at a Health & Safety conference I attended this week; in that case they were talking about managing stress by building resilience and making time to rest and recover.
Dawn Hoenie's curator insight, March 31, 9:14 AM
It’s essential for strategic thinking.
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NOTES FROM A SMALLER ISLAND | Skeptical Philosophy |
  A while back, I posted about UK immigration policy (this was pre-Brexit, before Brexit was a twinkle in Boris Johnson's eye, even) and I mooted the idea that our government might be steering the UK towards a lower, and hopefully sustainable, population with a correspondingly smaller economy.  Well, recent events suggest that this could…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
As an onlooker, there doesn't appear to be a coherent strategy for Brexit.  But even the most cynical of us knows that the government aren't stupid.  They must have some sort of plan.  What would that even look like?  I have some thoughts on what they might be looking to achieve.
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Brexit uncertainties threaten brain drain for UK science

Brexit uncertainties threaten brain drain for UK science | Skeptical Philosophy |

Britain's top universities have long been among the world's most sought-after destinations for study and research, drawing the brightest minds from all corners of the globe

Dec. 11, 2016, at 5:48 a.m.

In this photo taken on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, university lecturer Joanna Bagniewska looks at a tiger skull at the Zoology department of the University of Reading in England. Like many foreign scientists in Britain, Joanna Bagniewska was devastated when Britons voted to leave the European Union. The biology lecturer, a Polish migrant who found Britain a welcoming place to build her academic career over a decade, is suddenly seeing her job security and research prospects up in the air. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
By SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Like many foreign scientists in Britain, Joanna Bagniewska was devastated when Britons voted to leave the European Union. The biology lecturer, a Polish migrant who found Britain a welcoming place to build her academic career over a decade, is suddenly seeing her job security and research prospects up in the air.

"I'm worried that after my current contract finishes, one of the prerequisites could be a permanent residence card," she said. "I'd like to apply for EU grant money, but how much longer will it be available for?"

Britain's top universities have long been among the world's most sought-after destinations for study and research, drawing the brightest minds from all corners of the globe. But since Britons voted in June to leave the 28-nation EU, many in the science community say the U.K. risks losing the money, the international influence — and crucially, the talent — to sustain that enviable position.

More than one-tenth of research funding at British universities has come from the EU in recent years. Some fields — such as nanotechnology and cancer research — are more dependent on EU funding than others, according to a report by technology firm Digital Science. From 2007 to 2013, Britain received 8.8 billion euros ($9.4 billion) in direct EU investment in research.

Bagniewska is not just anxious about herself — she's upset for her students' future too, for the opportunities that both Britons and foreigners will likely miss out on when unfettered mobility between Britain and Europe can no longer be taken for granted.

"They were just getting excited about doing their masters and Ph.Ds in other countries. And then Brexit happened and they just got trampled," she said.

Scientists and researchers argue that being part of the EU has given British science a huge boost because it allows Britain to recruit the best talent across Europe and take part in important research collaborations and student exchanges without being constrained by national boundaries. The bloc's freedom of movement means its 500 million people can live and work visa-free in any member state.

No one knows yet what form Britain's exit from the EU — commonly known as Brexit — is going to take, but immigration was a key issue for "Leave" voters. Many believe some limit should be put on the number of EU citizens moving to Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to reassert control over British borders. She has offered no firm guarantees for the rights of Europeans already living in Britain, an uncertainty that weighs heavily over the 32,000 Europeans who make up 16 percent of the academic workforce in British universities. Many universities say the rhetoric over immigration control is also jeopardizing recruitment of researchers and students from further afield.

Scientists for EU, an advocacy group, says it has received over 400 letters from researchers describing how Brexit has already impacted their life and work. Some are losing doctoral students who pulled out of studentships and job offers. Academics are putting plans to relocate to Britain on hold. One said their employer, a London university, immediately imposed a temporary hiring freeze, citing uncertainties about student recruitment and research income.

Adam Durrant, a British entrepreneur who founded an aerospace startup supplying climate data to airlines and aircraft manufacturers, says he's now considering moving some of his business to a EU country outside of Britain. Part of the reason, he says, is that Brexit will likely make hiring the right people much harder than before.

"In the future, it probably means that people would be less interested to come to the U.K. to work," said Durrant. "There's a huge question mark over my company and my own personal future. I will certainly retain a U.K. presence, but my company's focus of gravity may shift elsewhere."

Scientists say some U.K.-based researchers are already being excluded from joint bids for EU funding to minimize the risks for their colleagues.

Paul Crowther, head of physics and astronomy at the University of Sheffield, said a researcher from his department was dropped from an EU grant proposal as a precaution following the Brexit referendum. The vote "put the U.K.-based researchers in a very awkward position" and their participation in EU-funded programs could "compromise the project," he was told.

"The erosion of U.K. involvement in EU networks has already begun, with both the U.K. and EU science worse off," Crowther said.

Apart from a loss of grant money, Brexit will likely cause British scientists and research centers to miss out on shared databases and infrastructure.

"Large-scale efforts like studies of rare genetic diseases, the building of large facilities, are areas that multinational collaborations do much better," said Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist and president of Britain's prestigious Royal Society.

The EU is an important source of research funding for Britain, which lags behind many developed countries in state investment in science. In 2014, Britain's government spent under 0.5 percent of its GDP on research — below the European average, and half that of South Korea.

May's government is clearly aware of the jitters. She has promised to increase annual investment in research by 2 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) by 2020, in hopes her country can remain a world leader in science and innovation.

Durrant is doubtful that's enough to make a big difference.

"Two billion a year spread across everything isn't going to go very far," he said.

Similar anxieties are being felt at the undergraduate level. The 125,000 European students studying at British universities now pay the same fees as locals and have access to the same government loans. Officials have promised this will not change for those applying next year — but no one knows what will happen after that.

Fewer European students appeared to be applying for some of Britain's most competitive university courses, including medicine and places at Oxford and Cambridge. In September, the admission service UCAS reported a 9 percent drop in EU applications for British undergraduate courses starting in 2017.

Some argue that Britain could become like Switzerland, an "associate" EU state that is opting out of free movement of people while still taking part in limited European science projects.

"It's not all doom and gloom — but it will be harder," Ramakrishnan said. "We could make a go of it outside the EU. But for that to happen, we have to attract talent and fund science. And those two things are critical."

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Via Kim Frye
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
I'm already hearing of examples of this in my industry, and Article 50's not even been triggered yet.
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Report raises ethical concerns about human enhancement technologies

Report raises ethical concerns about human enhancement technologies | Skeptical Philosophy |

Drugs and digital technologies that will allow people to work harder, longer and smarter are coming soon, say scientists and ethicists, so we need to decide now how best to ensure they are used properly.

The comments are published on Wednesday in a report on human enhancement in the workplace written by experts from the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences.


Human Enhancement and the Future of Work considers everything that could be said to improve a person's ability to do work, including so-called smart drugs, which can enhance memory and attention, as well as physical and digital enhancements such as bionic implants or the ever-improving computer technology to store and access information.


Genevra Richardson, a professor of law at King's College London and chair of the steering committee that produced the report, said she defined "human enhancements" as technologies that improved a person beyond the norm. "They could influence our ability to learn or perform tasks, influence our motivation, they could enable us to work in more extreme conditions or into old age," she said.


"Although human enhancement technologies may benefit societies in important ways, their use at work also raises serious ethical, political and economic questions that demand broad consideration. These questions include, how do the public view these technologies, what are the consequences of their long-term use in individuals? There's the question of coercion. And who pays? If the private individual pays, then the rich will get cleverer."

Via Robert Farrow
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
If I had the option to take a drug that could enhance my cognitive performance, and it was safe, then I would do it.  But that's the point - it would be my choice.  If the technology becomes widely available, could it be a requirement, either directly through my employer, or indirectly through a fear of being left behind while others excel?
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European Parliament in sexism storm as lawmaker says women are too 'small, weak and unintelligent' for equal pay

European Parliament in sexism storm as lawmaker says women are too 'small, weak and unintelligent' for equal pay | Skeptical Philosophy |
A Polish member of the European Parliament may be punished after he said that women should earn less than men because they are weaker, smaller and "less intelligent.
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
This is what happens when fringe voices have a platform in a respected setting: they create false balance and drag objectionable ideas into the public consciousness as if they were valid debating points. No, it's not the European Parliament's fault - but politicians are able to use it to further nefarious ends, should they choose to. This is the strongest argument against Proportional Representation I have - it's a great and egalitarian idea in theory, an easily manipulated tool of repression in practice. [typed using my own weak and fragile hands]
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She was right: How Catherine Corless uncovered what happened in Tuam

She was right: How Catherine Corless uncovered what happened in Tuam | Skeptical Philosophy |
“So many things get covered up these days, I am just so thankful that this has come out”.
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
This was covered up for decades by the Catholic Church.  The mothers and babies that endured these nightmarish places had no voice, being hidden away from the rest of society.  Their story needs to be told.
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Study Shows That Teaching Young Kids Philosophy Improves Their Academic Performance, Making Them Better at Reading & Math

Study Shows That Teaching Young Kids Philosophy Improves Their Academic Performance, Making Them Better at Reading & Math | Skeptical Philosophy |

Should we teach philosophy to children? You’d have a hard time, I imagine, convincing many readers of this site that we shouldn’t. But why?
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
I did not study Philosophy at high school (apart from some relevant pieces in English classes), and as far as I know, most British schools do not have this as a core subject.  But I think we should teach it here - learning how to think, and how to think about thinking, is a valuable skill that helps us to perform better in all areas, both in the classroom and in the "real world".
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I Am A Science Lady's insight:
In which I become an Agony Aunt for your questions on popular portrayals of mental health topics, Part 2.
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(NEW) ATHEISM (PLUS) | Skeptical Philosophy |
  I feel that I've missed the boat somewhat here, as this is a conversation I had way back in the days of my first steps in the skeptical movement.  But it came to mind because I had a question that I wanted to pose to the Atheism+ people, and I just discovered that their…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
For today's atheists, it's "us" vs. "them".  Why?
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Rescooped by I Am A Science Lady from Everything is related to everything else!

The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science

The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science | Skeptical Philosophy |
‘The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science’ is a fairly slim and small format book. Darlene Cavalier and Eric B. Kennedy edited this short collection of papers that came out earlier in 2016. The book is part of a series, from the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University. The series aims are for ‘These books are brief, clear, and to-the-point, while at the same time tackling urgent topics across a range of complex techno-scientific subjects. The overall aim is to deliver thought-provoking contributions that explore the complex interactions among science, technology, politics, and society.‘ and Citizen Science is clearly successful in doing this.

Via Fernando Gil
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Science shouldn't stay in the lab.  It affects all of us, and we should welcome its influence into our lives.
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FOXO4-peptides kill elderly cells, reduce signs of aging in rodents

FOXO4-peptides kill elderly cells, reduce signs of aging in rodents | Skeptical Philosophy |

Even if you aren’t elderly, your body is home to agents of senility—frail and damaged cells that age us and promote disease. Now, researchers have developed a molecule that selectively destroys these so-called senescent cells. The compound makes old mice act and appear more youthful, providing hope that it may do the same for us.


“It’s definitely a landmark advance in the field,” says cell and molecular biologist Francis Rodier of the University of Montreal in Canada who wasn’t connected to the study. “This is the first time that somebody has shown that you can get rid of senescent cells without having any obvious side effects.”


As we get older, senescent cells build up in our tissues, where researchers think they contribute to illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. In the past, scientists have genetically modified mice to dispatch their senescent cells, allowing the rodents to live longer and reducing plaque buildup in their arteries. Such genetic alterations aren’t practical for people, but researchers have reported at least seven compounds, known as senolytics, that kill senescent cells. A clinical trial is testing two of the drugs in patients with kidney disease, and other trials are in the works.


The proof-of-concept study, published March 23, 2017 in Cell, found that an anti-senescent cell therapy could reverse age-related loss of fur, poor kidney function, and frailty. It is currently being tested whether the approach also extends lifespan, and human safety studies are being planned.


The peptide took over four years of trial and error to develop and builds on nearly a decade of research investigating vulnerabilities in senescent cells as a therapeutic option to combat some aspects of aging (Trends in Molecular Medicine, 10.1016/j.molmed.2016.11.006). It works by blocking the ability of a protein implicated in senescence, FOXO4, to tell another protein, p53, not to cause the cell to self-destruct. By interfering with the FOXO4-p53 crosstalk, the peptide causes senescent cells to go through apoptosis, or cell suicide.


"Only in senescent cells does this peptide cause cell death," says senior author Peter de Keizer, a researcher of aging at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. "We treated mice for over 10 months, giving them infusions of the peptide three times a week, and we didn't see any obvious side effects.


FOXO4 is barely expressed in non-senescent cells, so that makes the peptide interesting as the FOXO4-p53 interaction is especially relevant to senescent cells, but not normal cells."


Senescent cell therapy is one of several strategies being tested in mice aimed at reversing aging or lengthening healthspan. In 2015, the Valter Longo laboratory at the University of Southern California reported that mice on a calorie-restricted diet that mimics fasting benefited from a longer life, a reduction in inflammatory disease, and improved memory (Cell Metabolism, 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.05.012).


In December 2016, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute of Biological Science and colleagues made headlines with their discovery that cellular reprogramming of epigenetic marks could extend lifespan and improve health in fast-aging mice (Cell, 10.1016/j.cell.2016.11.052). "This wave of research on how we can fight aging is complementary, and not in competition," says de Keizer. "The common thread I see for the future of anti-aging research is that there are three fronts in which we can improve: The prevention of cellular damage and senescence, safe therapeutic removal of senescent cells, to stimulate stem cells--no matter the strategy--to improve tissue regeneration once senescence is removed."

Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Who wants to live forever?  What about in a changing world?
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We need to talk about the online radicalisation of young, white men | Abi Wilkinson

We need to talk about the online radicalisation of young, white men | Abi Wilkinson | Skeptical Philosophy |
With the appointment of Breitbart News’s chair to Trump’s staff we need to be clear about the links between misogyny, racism and neofascism on alt-right websites
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
This seems like old news now, but it's important that we don't forget that radicalisation is not restricted to one demographic.  And based on my experience, it could be happening to someone you know and care about.  Its insidious nature adds to its danger.
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WEALTH, HEALTH, AND WOO | Skeptical Philosophy |
  Very often when skeptics discuss alternative medicine, they look at the problem only from their own perspective.  We know the facts, why won't people listen, etc, etc.  But that ignores the real reasons why people choose alternative medicine.  The evidence is enough for us, but it isn't for some people.  And those people tend…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
How come the more well-off are more interested in alternative medicine?  Here are some thoughts...
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The role of culture brokers in intercultural science education

The role of culture brokers in intercultural science education | Skeptical Philosophy |

The role of culture brokers in intercultural science education: A research proposal

Michael Michie[1]

Centre for Research in Science and Technology Education

University of Waikato

Paper presented at the 34th annual conference of the Australasian Science Education Research Association held in Melbourne, 10-12 July 2003.

In the spirit of Reconciliation, I would like to acknowledge the traditional Indigenous peoples of Darwin and Melbourne, and the Maori people of Aotearoa New Zealand

“As a nonnative person, I chose to work in this world of borders. Now I find my time in the border world has transformed all my work in education.”

Celia Haig-Brown, in Haig-Brown & Archibald, 1996

(italics in original)


At the beginning of 2002 I was offered the position of teaching principal at an Aboriginal community on the islands north of Darwin. I accepted this position, thinking that it would give me an opportunity to not only live in an Aboriginal community, as well as to see informally whether there was a role mediating between the Aboriginal community and the white population (i.e. a culture broker), who took on the role and what qualities they had. Particularly, I was interested to see to what extent I could take that role.

My experiences over such a short period of time and so recently as well, are difficult to interpret; like many cross-cultural experiences there was a period of elation at being in this novel situation, followed by a negative period (“culture shock”). Finally, coming through the make-or-break period with a decision to leave has implications of failure which I am only starting to resolve. My perception of myself as a culture broker is strongly influenced by these negative images.

One incident gave me some insight into the ways people could work as culture brokers, without having to label them (or they themselves) with the title. Realising that I wasn’t participating within the community, I went to the local social club with the intention of breaking through the barriers which I felt I had surrounded myself with. A large group of Aboriginal men usually gathered around the dartboard and pool table and I had previously declined offers to play these games on the grounds of being unskilled. I was encouraged to join in with the group but stayed more or less on the periphery and watched.

On the next occasion a week later, I followed the same routine and was asked if I wanted to play darts. I agreed to play, put up my money and proceeded to justify why I hadn’t played before. On this occasion there was a man present who had spoken to me regarding employment at the school some time previously, and he started to introduce me to some of the other men and talking about the range of things happening in the community.

I was aware through my experience and reading that as a teacher I was also to be a culture broker of sorts. In reflection, there were various ways in which I was expecting myself to be a culture broker

·        on a personal level as a member of the community

·        between myself and my students, also at a personal level

·        through my pedagogy, by planning, teaching and assessing in ways which were inclusive and culturally appropriate

·        between the curriculum and my students, as it was mostly a curriculum based on western concepts.

At school, my class (years 5-7) had become fairly much enculturated into the western style of education. Although on an island, the community had fairly good access to Darwin by plane (up to four flights daily) and television, so there is a strong western influence. Some of my attempts at including local culture and knowledge were met with rebuffs, including “you can’t teach me how to be aboriginal” (I didn’t think I was) and “it’s too hot to be outside” (followed by “Let’s go back to school and play soccer.”).

I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable in both my job and living in the community, so I left after a semester in the school. I had been on a contract for the semester and chose not to renew it. I found the loneliness of living by myself and a feeling of isolation from the community (partially of my creation) were major factors, although I was experiencing difficulties in my classroom and relating to the other teachers.

I had spent several years working in science curriculum and I was aware of the need to make the curriculum documents and materials being developed, inclusive of Indigenous students. This led to looking at the research, which led to Aikenhead’s 1996 paper and the idea of culture broker. However it was also a term used by some of my colleagues who were working in indigenous education. I had become interested in culture studies of science and science education and resolved to look further at the role of teacher as culture broker, particularly in science education.

A review of the literature

Culture has been defined by a number of authors, whereas others presume its definition altogether. In the context of multicultural science education, some authors (e.g. Aikenhead, 1996; Cobern, 1991) have used a definition by Geertz (1953), an anthropologist: “an ordered system of meaning and symbols, in terms of which social interaction takes place”. Phelan, Davidson and Cao (1991) conceptualised culture as the norms, values, beliefs, expectations, and conventional actions of a group. Nieto (1999, p. 48) incorporated the ideas present in many of the definitions as “the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared and transformed by a group of people bound together by a number of factors that can include a common history, geographical location, language, social class, and religion”. These definitions reinforce the idea that cultures can differ between different social groups. As well, in any culture there are likely to be many subcultures, either mutually exclusive or overlapping (which are also possible at the level of cultures); one of these subcultures is the subculture of science (Aikenhead, 1996).

Phelan et al (1991) identified students’ subcultures of family, school and peer worlds, the interrelationships between them, and, in particular, how meanings and understandings combine to affect students’ engagement with learning. They also tried to understand students’ perceptions of the boundaries between worlds and adaptation strategies they employ as they move from one context to another. They suggested that boundaries or borders refer to real or perceived lines or barriers between the subcultures and identified four patterns of students being able to move between subcultures. Subsequently, Aikenhead and Jegede (1999) used the metaphor of international travel to demonstrate cultural borders and border crossings, and they use the spectrum of four types of border crossings: smooth, managed, hazardous and impossible.

The concept of borders between cultures was reinforced with the publication in 1992 of Border crossings (Giroux, 1992) and with it the terminology of border – rather than boundary, barrier or divide – crossing. Giroux’s book was written at the onset of critical education and the movement away from social and cultural reproduction. He suggested that within the discourse of modernism, borders are erected between the dominant, European (white) culture to the exclusion of the other (an assimilationist perspective). On the other hand, postmodernism promoted a critical approach to culture as a social construction, a theme repeated in critical multiculturalism.

Educators (including teachers) are among the groups of cultural workers who may find themselves in cultural borderlands of one type or another, either between the dominant western and another subculture, or on a larger scale between their own culture and a different culture (e.g. indigenous education) in the sense of the definitions above. How can they arrange for their students to achieve within a curriculum framed by the dominant culture? Aikenhead (1996) believed that for situations involving managed border crossings (and to some degree, hazardous border crossing), teachers needed to take on the role of a culture broker.

The term “culture broker” or “cultural broker” is not particularly defined in the literature but is defined through common usage as a person who facilitates the border crossing of another person or group of people from one culture to another culture[2]. Jezewski (in Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001) defined culture broking as “the act of bridging, linking or mediating between groups or persons of differing cultural backgrounds for the purpose of reducing conflict or producing change”. Usually the culture broker is from one or other of the cultures but could be from a third group. Often they are capable of acting in both directions. The role is covers more than being an interpreter, although this is an important attribute in cross-cultural situations where language is part of the role.

A broker is usually defined as a middleman (sic) and emphasises the commercial aspect such as in stockbroker. In terms of cultural broker, the use of the term broker is most in accord with “middleman, intermediary, or agent generally; an interpreter, messenger, commissioner” from the Oxford English Dictionary and the idea of reward is not necessarily financial (e.g. Szasz, 2001). (The Oxford English Dictionary does not give a specific definition for cultural broker.)

The origin of the term is in the field of anthropology in the mid-1900s, when several anthropologists wrote about native people whose role in their society was as a cultural intermediary or cultural broker, usually with the western society. The term ‘cultural intermediary’ was used in some of the literature, with ‘culture broker’ and ‘cultural broker’ as alternatives. Other terms used include ‘innovator’ and ‘marginal man’ (sic). The genre was given an historical perspective and the field of ethnohistory came into existence. The background to this can be found in the introduction to Margaret Connell Szasz’s Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker (Szasz, 2001).

In the literature, the role of a culture broker has been discussed in a number of areas:

anthropology and ethnohistory
health education, including Indigenous health education; nursing education: rehabilitation of foreign born persons
education: multicultural schooling, Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL), science education
business; museums; tourism; justice.
The culture broker in anthropology and ethnohistory

Press (1969) reviewed much of the earlier literature on culture brokers, criticising the tendency to type them as “one of only several categories of individual, as though most innovative situations were somewhat alike and exhibited limited personnel requirements” (p.205). He also expressed concern that the research had focused on the personal stresses rather than the impacts that the brokers had on either the parent or the host culture, and hadn’t established where their mandate to operate came from. Paine (1971), a Canadian anthropologist, developed a theory of patronage and brokerage, with patron and client as two endpoints. Between them, he located the ‘go-between’ as a person between the parties who does not expect any remuneration or alteration, and the ‘broker’ who deliberately changes emphasis or content.

Boissevain (1974) examined brokers as entrepreneurs, distinguishing between patrons and brokers. He suggests that the resources which an entrepreneur manipulates are of two distinct types, although they can be found in combination:

first order resources: land, jobs, scholarship funds, specialized knowledge, which he controls directly – dispensed by patrons
second order resources: strategic contacts with other people who control such resources directly or who have access to such persons – dispensed by brokers.
Szasz (2001) edited a collection of 14 biographical studies of cultural brokers in post-Columbian America. In her introduction, Szasz traces the development of the idea of cultural intermediary or broker in anthropology, outlining the origins of a new discipline of ethnohistory in the 1970s, which included historical accounts of an anthropological nature. However it’s in the conclusion to the book that Szasz as editor gives us the best insight into the characteristics of cultural brokers. She considered that all of the cultural brokers came into the roles more or less by accident and there were influential factors such as internal networks, mixed cultural heritage and gender which predetermined who they would become. As well, she felt that they have three main characteristics in common.

All the border people were curious about “the other side” of the cultural divide and also demonstrated receptiveness to “the ways and words of others” (Kessell, 1995) and “trying to read both maps of the mind” (Parker, 1995). Inherent in this receptivity was the belief that those cultures offered something of value. Recognition of those cultures might also have implied that they were of intrinsic worth. Intermediaries who succeeded in this border world also demonstrated that they were trustworthy and that it required determination.
Those who succeeded in meeting these demands were locked into the complexities of a position that offered rewards but often countered those rewards by immeasurable difficulties. All too often intermediaries found themselves in awkward, sometimes precarious positions. One of the strongest motives for brokering was the sense of power that it offered. Beyond the anticipation of material rewards and the pleasure gained from power, cultural intermediaries also derived personal satisfaction.
Each of the people discussed in Szasz’s book followed a different path to become cultural brokers which depended on their historical and cultural circumstances. Importantly, the examples in the book come from both western and Native American cultures, rather just from the indigenous side as they had been portrayed by most of the anthropologists.
Cultural brokers are not the same as interpreters, although facility in both languages (if there are two languages involved) is almost an essential factor and they can act as language interpreters as well. The more important part of their role is that they can interpret the culture for one or both groups. Szasz also notes that transculturites, a term used by Hallowell (1963) to denote people who move from one culture to live in another culture, do not necessarily become cultural brokers.

In Northern America some of the transculturites had been taken as children and as they grew older they either didn’t want to rejoin their original culture or didn’t know enough of their original culture to act as brokers[3]. White men who joined Native American groups were often referred to as ‘squaw men’ or by the pejorative, ‘turned Indian’. In the early days of settlement of New Zealand, a large number of white men were accepted into Maori groups as Pakeha Maori (Bentley, 1999) but few of them were able to take on the role of cultural broker in any significant way. Rather most were seen as an embarrassment by the English colonial powers and their Maori hosts alike. However there were a few who fit the role of cultural broker sensu Szasz, because they moved back and forth between the two cultures. Apparently you can’t abandon your own culture and become a cultural broker.

Culture brokers in health care and nursing

As in education, the creation of multicultural societies such as those in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has had implications for cross-cultural communication in health care and nursing. There have been papers written on different aspects of the health field (e.g. palliative care - Hall et al, 1998; counselling - Beauchamp & Shaw, 1998, May, 1998; disability services - Jezewski, 1995, Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001; nurse training - Shomaker, 1995). In 1996, Anne Fadiman’s book, The spirit catches you and you fall down, tells the story of a Hmong family’s experience with the American health system, focusing on cultural differences and the need for culture brokers to help resolve conflicts.

Jezewski (1995) used grounded theory to produce a theory of culture brokering, related to nurses providing health care. In her concept analysis she identified twelve attributes of culture brokering from the anthropology and health-related literature:

intervening in conflict situations when tensions exist in interactions
standing guard over critical junctures in the context of interactions
possessing role ambiguity in the context of brokering and functioning in asymmetric relationships
functioning marginally in one or more systems while brokering between systems
encouraging potential for changing systems
dealing with others positively and cultivating varied social relationships
mediating between traditions
innovating when traditions are inflexible
facilitating communication by translating interests and message between groups
bridging value systems
functioning as a go-between
bringing people together through networking. (Jezewski, 1995, p. 18)
Jezewski also produced a culture brokering theory (Figure 1) in the context of caring for groups of clients who were politically and economically hopeless (migrant workers or homeless persons) or persons who because of life-threatening illness needed to make informed decisions under the most stressful conditions. This theory has also been applied to provide culturally competent services to foreign-born persons (Jezewski & Sotnik, 2001).

Figure 1. A model of culture broking theory, constructed around disability services (from Jezewski, 1995)

Jezewski also analysed the attributes of brokerage in the business literature and identified the following attributes

complementing the existing way of doing business
possessing public confidence and reputation
establishing links
being the right person for the role
increasing competition in the business world
ensuring the client knows the benefit of a broker. (Jezewski, 1995, p. 12)
She comments that the business literature emphasised “the importance of education in terms of teaching a person how to broker and continuously enhancing brokering skills through seminars and workshops” (Jezewski, 1995, p. 12). However, it would appear that only in the production of wealth that the value of education for the brokers is seen as expedient. It is because of its association with business that some people (e.g. Michael Christie, pers. com.) feel uncomfortable with using the term “broker”.

In Australia, the role of Aboriginal health workers (AHWs) as cultural brokers in their communities (Soong, 1983) and the changing nature of their work have been examined (Willis, 1999). More recently, Trugdgen (2000) highlighted a perceived inadequacy in the training of AHWs and their lack of knowledge of western medicine. The lack of AHWs in the larger urban centres of the Northern Territory (rather than communities), as discussed in Humphery, Weeramanthri and Fitz (2001), has implications not just of the identity of urban people as Indigenous but also suggests that they are more likely to have smooth border crossings into western medicine. A similar situation exists in education in the NT (and probably elsewhere), where urban Indigenous students are more likely to be assimilated into classrooms with few or no facilities to support their education, whereas in community schools their western teachers would be supported by Indigenous assistant teachers[4].

The role of education of people to be culture brokers is hardly touched on in the literature; for instance, in the training of Aboriginal health workers in Australia it is assumed that somehow through their experiences of the western world, the AHWs will become culture brokers. It would appear from the literature (e.g. Szasz, 2001) that many of the people who take on the role do so because of their own interest. There is also limited training and experience for professionals to enhance their skills as cross-cultural mediators, although the need for this has been identified (e.g. Trudgen, 2000).

In essence Jezewski’s model duplicates what good teachers do already as they get to know their students. Teachers would have more clients than nurses at any one time, although teachers have the advantage that they have their clients for a longer duration and can build up a better picture of the client. The model may have some value for neophyte teachers with its focus for each stage. However, the model is based around the notion of the nurse as a go-between between the patient and professionals, other paraprofessionals and services. Teachers have to be able to assume both roles as go-between and professional.

The culture broker in education

To this point, the literature has been concerned with the culture broker as a middleperson, particularly in anthropology but also through the health literature. The relationship is one of an intermediary between a patron and a client. However in looking at education, the line of thought changes with the teacher being expected to take on the dual role of patron and mediator (professional and go-between). There are few references to teachers using other people as culture brokers (e.g. Páez & McCarty, 1997). A range of terms focus on the role of a teacher in a cross-cultural situation and culture broker is only one of these. Some of the alternatives are perhaps only part of the overall role of culture broker.

In one of the first references to culture brokers in education, Wyatt (1978-79) recommended the synthesis of the learning styles of the school and the native community (in this case, a Canadian First Nations community in British Columbia) and “that such synthesis depends in large part on the native teacher’s acting as a “cultural broker”, one who can communicate effectively in both a school and a community context and can translate knowledge and skills from one to the other.” (Wyatt, 1978-79, p.17)

Wyatt felt that only native teachers have the background necessary to be effective cultural brokers because they could achieve a balance between school and community styles of learning. This may be the case in this particular situation but other writers have shown that culture brokers can come from either cultural group, and it is possible for a culture broker to come from a third group (although this would affect their effectiveness).

Gentemann and Whitehead (1983) use the term cultural broker as a link between the mainstream and other cultures or subcultures (they were working with African American students in a bicultural situation). “The broker must be able to straddle both cultures, to take mainstream values and communicate them to the ethnic cultures, and communicate the ethnic culture to the mainstream.” They suggest that a cultural broker is more than just an interpreter, although knowledge of language (even an understanding of Standard and non-standard forms of English for someone working with African Americans) is one of the cultural symbols they must possess. Gentemann and Whitehead saw that the culture broker was important as a role model for those in the ethnic community who aspire to participate in mainstream activities.

Diaz and Flores (1990) and Flores, Cousins and Diaz (1991) use the term cultural mediator in looking at the role of the teacher teaching multicultural literacy to students in American minority classes. “The teacher acts as a cultural mediator, organizing the learning in order to mediate levels of knowledge between the teacher and the students and among students themselves.” (Flores et al, 1991).

Working primarily with African-American students, Gay (1993) suggested that teacher training should include grounding in “how the dynamic of cultural conditioning operates in teaching and learning” and that teachers should be taught to be cultural brokers. Her definition of a cultural broker is couched in pedagogical terms: “A cultural broker is one who thoroughly understands different cultural systems, is able to interpret cultural systems from one frame of reference to another, can mediate cultural incompatibilities, and knows how to build bridges or establish linkages across cultures that facilitate the instructional process.” She suggested that there are several skills necessary for teachers to become cultural brokers (and subsequently ways in which this could be undertaken):

acquiring cultural knowledge
becoming change agents
translating knowledge into practice.
Diamond and Moore (1995) identified three roles of teachers as they create “the culture of the classroom and invite students to co-participate in this effort:

cultural organisers who facilitate strategic ways of accomplishing tasks so that the learning process involves varied ways of knowing, experiencing, thinking and behaving;
cultural mediators who create opportunities for critical dialogue and behaving;
orchestrators of social contexts who provide several learning configurations including interpersonal and intrapersonal opportunities for seeking, accessing, and evaluating knowledge.” (Diamond & Moore, 1995, p. 35)
Stairs (1995) examined the cultural base of teaching and learning in Native schools in Canada. She considered that the movement from cultural inclusion to cultural base in the conceptualisation and implementation of Native education, where there had been the progressive incorporation of schools into the Native cultural, would benefit further from the presence of culture brokers. She felt that the future directions included

emerging oral and written linguistic forms, in both Native languages and English as cultural bridges
developing Native educator roles as culture brokers between Native and Euro-Canadian ways of knowing.
She also saw a role for culture broking for incorporation of certain Native ways of learning into mainstream formal education. “I suggest in closing that genuine two-way brokerage between Native culture and formal schooling validates Native ways of learning, responds to urgent mainstream needs, and is our collective path to success in Native education.” (Stairs, 1995)

Páez and McCarty (1997) advocate using cultural brokers in teaching English to children of migrant families. They focus on communicating with parents to provide one or more of the following services: mediation, advocacy, interpretation and translation, and educational consulting. They give advice to teachers as to the requirements in selecting cultural brokers, rather than necessarily developing these skills themselves. These considerations include the potential broker’s professional and personal background, their general and educational experience, their role in the community and their relationship with the student and family.

Gay (2000), writing primarily for preservice teachers of African-American students, restated the three key roles and responsibilities of teachers of Diamond and Moore (1995) in terms of using culturally responsive pedagogy[5]:

cultural organisers: “… teachers must understand how culture operates in daily classroom dynamics, create learning atmospheres that radiate cultural and ethnic diversity, and facilitate high academic achievement for all students. Opportunities must be provided for students from different ethnic backgrounds to have free personal and cultural expression so that their voices and experiences can be incorporated into teaching and learning processes on a regular basis. These accommodations require the use of various culturally centred ways of knowing, thinking, speaking, feeling, and behaving.”
cultural mediators: “… teachers provide opportunities for students to engage in critical dialogue about conflicts between cultures and to analyse inconsistencies between mainstream cultural ideas/realities and those of different cultural systems. They help students clarify their ethnic identities, honor other cultures, develop positive cross-ethnic and cross-cultural relationships, and avoid perpetuating prejudices, stereotypes and racism. The goal is to create communities of culturally diverse learners who celebrate and affirm each other and work collaboratively for their mutual success, where empowerment replaces powerlessness and oppression.’
orchestrators of social contexts for learning: “… teachers must recognise the important influence culture has on learning, and make teaching processes compatible with the sociocultural contexts and frames of reference of ethnically diverse students. They also help students translate their cultural competencies into school learning resources.” (Gay, 2000, p. 42-43)
In summary, there are two conflicting views of teacher as culture broker coming through the literature.

The first is that the role is better filled by someone from the Other and that teachers are better off searching for the best person to fill the role. Almost all of the biographies in Szasz (2001) and most of the anthropological studies are of culture brokers from the Other.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, a teacher needs to develop a set of skills to become more proficient in their cross-cultural classroom, with the implication that upon attaining them they would have achieved the role of culture broker.
The culture broker in science education

Aikenhead (1996) introduced the role of “teacher as culture broker” to science education in the first of a series of papers (Aikenhead, 1996, 1997, 2001a, b, c; Aikenhead & Jegede, 1999; Jegede & Aikenhead, 1999), based on the ideas of Stairs (1995). These papers initially examined the abilities of students to cross a cultural border between their everyday life to the subculture of school science but subsequently have focused on integrating Western and Indigenous science through Aikenhead’s “Rekindling Traditions” teaching resources, and particularly on the teacher’s role as a culture broker.

Aikenhead (1996) examined the degree of difficulty that students may have in crossing the border between their life-world subcultures and the subculture of school science. Phelan et al (1991) identified that border crossings could be smooth, manageable, hazardous or virtually impossible, and these can be used with Costa’s (1995) five categories of students to identify the potential for border crossing as well as the role of the teacher in each situation.

Potential scientists: These students make smooth and natural transitions, and borders appear invisible. However these students are unlikely to find an STS approach fulfilling.
Other smart kids: These students are likely to have managed border crossings, and the teacher’s approach would be more as a travel agent
‘I don’t know’ students: For these students border crossings are hazardous, and they learn to cope and survive. The role for the teacher is more as a tour guide, a more structured approach than for Other smart kids.
Outsiders and Inside outsiders: For these students border crossing into subculture science is virtually or almost impossible, and apart from suggesting reconceptualizing the field, Aikenhead (1996) chose to leave this unresolved.
For the majority of students, Aikenhead suggested that a Science-Technology-Society (STS) approach to science education would allow students to cross most easily into the subculture of school science.

Aikenhead (1997) extended the concept of border crossing to include the perspective of Indigenous students (in this case, First Nations students in Northern America) learning western science through school science. He saw that school science was comprised by “a dynamic integration” of the cultural transmission of the subculture of western science as well as of the dominant culture of a country, as well as other crucial influences which may be experienced primarily by the educators. If the goal of the school science curriculum is the cultural transmission of canonical science content, then doing so will either be supportive or disruptive to students’ everyday cultures. If students learn western science which is in harmony with their indigenous view of the world, they incorporate the content into their personal view of the world and it enhances their everyday thinking. This is termed enculturation. On the other hand, if students learn western science which is at odds with their indigenous views and which replaces or marginalises those views, so that it dominates their everyday thinking, then assimilation has taken place. Assimilation has highly negative connotations, not only at this level in school education but also in terms of assimilation of groups of indigenous peoples.

However, many indigenous students have shown that they can actively resist assimilation and this resistance can take many forms. One form that Aikenhead cites was called “Fatima’s rules” by Larsen (1995), and related to developing the ability to answer questions without understanding the subject matter meaningfully.

Aikenhead posed two questions regarding indigenous students’ need to achieve in science (Aikenhead, 1997, p. 222):

How does one nurture students’ achievement toward formal educational credentials and economic and political independence, while at the same time develop the students’ cultural identity as Aboriginals?
To what extent, and how, can First Nations students learn non-Aboriginal school subjects such as science without being harmfully assimilated by science’s dominant Western culture?
At the low-risk end of the spectrum, he suggests that “educators dedicate themselves to preserving the culturally distinctive modes of communication, thought, and life styles of the students’ Aboriginal culture” (Aikenhead, 1997, p.223). At the other end, talented students are pushed into the pipeline in the hope that the long-term outcomes will outweigh any personal loss to their self-identity as an Aboriginal. It is at this upper end that the processes of assimilation are stronger and that the need for better management of border crossings becomes apparent, as was suggested by Pomeroy (1994) through teachers and students becoming “cultural border crossers” together.

Aikenhead gives some examples from his own experience of the difficulties that indigenous students experience when they move between cultures and subcultures. He also summarises some of the literature of research where difficulties have arisen:

problems experience in developing countries by students who have an “indigenous” tradition and attempt to learn a subject matter grounded in western culture: Baker & Taylor (1995), Dart (1972), George & Glasgow (1988), Jegede (1995), Jegede & Okebukola (1990, 1991), Knamiller (1984), Pomeroy (1994), Swift (1992)
minority students in western countries: Allen & Crawley (1998), Atwater & Riley (1993), Contreras & Lee (1990), Krugly-Smolska (1995), Lee, Fradd & Sutman (1995), Rakow & Bermudez (1993)
Pomeroy (1994) addresses both non-western and minority domains of research and overlaps with First Nations research in science education (McIvor 1995; Nelson-Barber & Estrin 1995)
Hennessey (1993, p. 3): “Crossing over from one domain of meaning to another is exceedingly hard”.
Cajete (1999) bases much of his theoretical argument about culture brokers on Aikenhead’s work, augmenting it with his own practical experiences. He uses Native ways of learning as a model for development of culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy.

McKinley (2001) indicated that the power relationships implicit in the idea of “effective teacher as a culture broker”, needed to be considered. Her first criticism is of the assumption that western science teachers only need to learn how to deal with pedagogical aspects of cross-cultural differences, rather than dealing with the teachers’ views of their students’ abilities as learners or the validity of their knowledge. The second criticism is that if white teachers can learn to become culture brokers, then seemingly there may be no role for indigenous people in the educational enterprise.

Science is one area of knowledge where there is a strong contrast in the worldviews of Indigenous and non-indigenous people. For indigenous students, particularly with strong traditional ties, there are often conflicts between western science and their indigenous knowledge. Often these students avoid science because of the difficulties created by conflicting worldviews. Teachers can act as culture brokers if they are aware of the situation but awareness in itself doesn’t create a culture broker.

Northern Territory and attend a university in Aotearoa/New Zealand is addressed in the paper (p.14).

Via Charles Tiayon
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Science is a great tool for enhancing our knowledge, but it can't do everything.  We need to understand and communicate with other cultures to benefit them and us.  All knowledge-sharing is good, and the way one interprets knowledge is influenced by one's background.
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Britain could lose 8pc of its construction workforce after Brexit, says Rics

Britain could lose 8pc of its construction workforce after Brexit, says Rics | Skeptical Philosophy |
New research by the Royal Institution of Surveyors has found that 8pc of the UK's construction workers come from the European Union and could be lost due to Brexit.

Via Graham Watson
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
That would be a huge loss if the construction industry picks up again soon (to, say, pre-2008 levels).  But maybe Brexit will decimate the industry so we won't need those extra workers.  A mess in either case.
Graham Watson's curator insight, March 15, 12:13 PM
...Interesting headline, but no sense of the Telegraph wanting to really spell out the implications of this for the UK housing market.
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Moral Enhancement

Moral Enhancement | Skeptical Philosophy |

Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson argue that artificial moral enhancement is now essential if humanity is to avoid catastrophe.


Via Robert Farrow
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
Is it moral to impose good morals?  What if our lives depend on it?
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  Today was a Throwback Friday! Sounds exciting, doesn't it?  This week, we're going back to the 1970s, so get your tank tops and platform heels ready!  Fujifilm, somewhat unbelievably, ran a press conference with a product demo that included a semi-naked female body as a prop for "testing the camera's performance on skin tone". …
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
I'm a female-bodied human working in a predominantly male industry.  I'm so tired of sexist "banter" being presented as the norm.  For those on the right side of the joke, it insulates them against the harsh realities of an unequal society.  For those who are the butt of said jokes, it keeps them from success & fulfilment.  Remember that next time you turn over the page on your nude calendar.
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Read Theresa May's full brazen attack on 'incompetent' Labour and 'obsessed' SNP

Read Theresa May's full brazen attack on 'incompetent' Labour and 'obsessed' SNP | Skeptical Philosophy |
The speech to the Conservatives' Scottish conference was branded "mind-boggling hypocrisy" by the SNP. Judge for yourself with this transcript
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
This speech is horribly clichéd and contains more cheese than Tesco's deli counter.  Do these speeches even mean anything in modern political discourse?  In a connected world, diplomacy and cooperation are the way forward.  And yet here we are in the UK with our isolationist grandstanding.  And yes, I did note the delicious irony in May stating "One of the driving forces behind the Union’s creation was the remorseless logic that greater economic strength and security come from being united".  Really?  Is that why we're turning our back on the EU?
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THE REGRESSIVE LEFT FALLACY | Skeptical Philosophy |
  Here we are with another example of skeptics making thinking errors that they'd pick up on if someone else did it. However this is a bit more than just a failure of logic - it's also a distortion of the original term. While words can and do change meaning, it doesn't mean that we can…
I Am A Science Lady's insight:
It's that Skeptical Boogeyman out to get you: The Regressive Left (boo! hiss!).  But what does that really mean?  Isn't it just a scare phrase used to silence dissenters from the mainstream sceptical viewpoint?
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I Am A Science Lady's insight:
One of my friends wrote a poem about critical thinking - yes, such a thing is possible, and it's really rather good.
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