Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon

Imagine trying to learn biology without ever using the word “organism.” Or studying to become a botanist when the only way of referring to photosynthesis is to spell the word out, letter by painstaking letter.

For deaf students, this game of scientific Password has long been the daily classroom and laboratory experience. Words like “organism” and “photosynthesis” — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it. Continue reading

Signing Science

Lydia Callis

Scientific terms like “organism” and “photosynthesis” have no widely accepted equivalent in sign language, so deaf students and professionals have unexpected hurdles when talking about science. Here, Lydia Callis, a professional sign language interpreter, translates a shortened version of an article by Douglas Quenqua, explaining how new signs are being developed that may enhance scientific learning and communication.

Read the article Here


Rethinking the ‘Just War,’ Part 2

The Second of a Two Part Series


Before presenting a critique of traditional just war theory (which I call the “Theory,” for short) I should make two points of clarification. Although the Theory is largely congruent with the international law of war, the subject of just war theory is not law but morality. If the inconsistencies and absurdities I will describe were confined to the law, they would be less troubling. Because the law is an artifact and does not purport to state truths about a reality that is independent of human invention, it can tolerate considerable disunity. But just war theory is usually understood as a set of principles that have been discovered rather than designed, and that provide an objective account of the morality of war. If just war theory is more than just a set of conventions, and if the objections I will advance here are correct, the traditional version of just war theory must be rejected. Continue reading

Rethinking the ‘Just War,’ Part 1

Can war be justified? Is there such a thing as morally proper conduct in war?

With Veterans’ Day upon us and, with the Obama administration preparing to face another four years of geopolitical choices in unstable regions, The Stone is featuring recent work by Jeff McMahan, a philosopher and professor at Rutgers University, on “just war theory” — a set of ethical principles pertaining to violent conflict, whose origins can be traced back to Augustine, that still influence the politics and morality of war today. The work will be published in two parts on consecutive days — the first dealing with the background and history of the traditional just war theory, and second consisting of the author’s critique of that theory.

— The Editors (NY Times)

There is very little in the realm of morality that nearly everyone agrees on. Surprising divergences — as moral relativists delight in pointing out — occur among the moral beliefs in different societies. And there are, of course,  fundamental moral disagreements within individual societies as well. Within the United States people hold radically opposing views on abortion, sexual relations, the fair distribution of wealth and many other such issues. The disagreements extend from the particular to the general, for in most areas of morality there are no commonly recognized principles to which people can appeal in trying to resolve their disputes. But there is at least one contentious moral issue for which there is a widely accepted moral theory, one that has been embraced for many centuries by both religious and secular thinkers, not just in the United States, but in many societies. The issue is war and the theory is just war theory. Continue reading

Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.

“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ ” Continue reading

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Take Center Stage At High Court

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases Wednesday testing what, if any, limits there are to the police using drug-sniffing dogs. By the close of two hours of argument, it looked very much as though the court would rule against the use of drug-sniffing dogs without a warrant in one case, but not the other.

Miami-Dade Detective Douglas Bartelt and narcotics detector canine Franky give a demonstration in Miami in 2011

The protagonists in this story are Franky and Aldo. Franky, a chocolate Labrador, had a near-spotless record as a drug-detection dog in Miami-Dade County. The question is whether his human police partners violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. After police got an anonymous tip, they took Franky up to the front porch of a private home, and when he alerted to drugs inside, the police used that as justification for getting a search warrant.

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Take Center Stage At High Court