Ethics of cloning

I had three more online ethics classes today on the cloning topic. There’s an interesting diversity of opinions among the kids in the classes on this. I ask if it’s okay for a married couple who can’t have a baby naturally to have a baby that’s a clone of the mother.

  • All the kids in one class: No. You shouldn’t clone humans.
  • All the kids in another class: Sounds fine, sure, why not?

I had a follow-up question ready, asking if it’s okay for a single woman to have a clone baby of herself, if she doesn’t want a husband/boyfriend. Obviously there was no point asking this of the first class, so I skipped it. I asked the second class, thinking some of them might object to single women having children. But they all said it would be fine.

We actually start talking about cloning animals and spend half the lesson on that before tackling humans. I ask about cloning farm animals, or endangered species, or pets. So far almost all of the kids have been surprised to learn that there is a company that has been cloning pet dogs and cats since 2015. Some of think that’s okay, while others think it’s a waste of money and people should just get a new pet instead of cloning an old one, and some think it’s bad because there are already plenty of dogs and cats who need homes.

By the end of the lesson we’re discussing why human cloning, which is feasible given our current technology, hasn’t been done yet (as far as anyone knows). How would a person feel if they grow up to learn they are a clone? Most of the answers have been pretty negative.

Also today I had my face-to-face ethics class at the school this morning. It was the last lesson on the topic of tolerating/respecting other people’s beliefs. It was actually really interesting because through this topic several kids changed their minds on one of the main questions: If Anna (a child) believes smoking is okay because her grandmother smokes and is perfectly healthy, should we respect her beliefs? And should we allow her to publish her beliefs in the school newsletter?

Initially the kids were mostly against these, as they all agreed smoking was dangerously bad. But through discussion about how to argue convincingly with someone, by presenting evidence in a polite manner, and letting people make informed decisions by presenting them with multiple ideas, they started to converge on the idea that they should respect Anna’s beliefs, and even let her publish them – as long as opposing evidence was also presented. It was very impressive to see.

The weather today was delightful. Sunny, and the temperature got up to 24.4°C. That’s the warmest day since the middle of May, and very welcome it was after the weeks of chilly winter conditions. This is a real taste of spring, and with flowers bursting all over the place already – magnolias, camellias, azaleas – it really felt like spring today.

And a final thing that happened today: There was a truck accident at the end of my street. A crane truck came down the hill on the main road and lost control, ending up embedded in a pedestrian island in the middle of the cross street (my street), which was planted with shrubs and mulch, so the truck cab ended up stuck deep in the soil and couldn’t be driven out. This blocked the main road in both directions for several hours, and traffic had to be diverted to quite a large detour. I don’t know if anyone was hurt in the accident, but from what I saw it didn’t look like any other vehicles were involved, and the crane driver should have been able to get out okay. The main danger would have been if a pedestrian was crossing the cross street there—like I do regularly—they could easily have been hit. So I’m glad I wasn’t at the time.

New content today:

Four classes in one day

I’ve had to move my Monday ethics extension class to Tuesday because of the university teaching on Monday, so today I had 4 classes instead of 3, which is the most I’ve ever done in a single day. I know it’s not a full 8 hours work, but it’s still exhausting!

At lunch I took Scully for a long walk, down to the Greenwich Point ferry wharf ( a longer walk than the Greenwich wharf, where we take her sometimes too). The weather was nice – sunny and not too cold. It should warm up a bit more this week too, bringing our first hint of spring.

New content today:

Art and weather

Today I spent time working on brief lesson outlines for upcoming ethics/critical thinking classes. I do this for classes 4 weeks in advance, so parents and students know what topics are coming up. I write the detailed lesson plans later, closer to when they are done. This week I was a bit behind, so I did two brief outlines, on the topics of art and weather. I’ve done art before, in January this year, but I had a new student join last week, and she specifically requested art as it’s her favourite subject. So I went back and looked at the previous lesson and came up with a bunch of new questions that I can ask.

For lunch I took Scully for a walk and went to the nice bakery. They had a raspberry chocolate gateau today, so I tried a slice of that after my chicken pie. It was very good.

An amusing thing that my friends and I have been doing the past few days is making AI-generated Magic: the Gathering cards, using Urza’s AI, a tool written by some fellow MtG/AI enthusiasts. It’s quite fun, and produces some amusing and interesting cards sometimes (among a bunch of random semi-rubbish). You give it a card name, and it produces all of the other text and artwork for the card. The flavour text is often the really good part. To get ideas for new cards I like to use snippets of the flavour text from the last card.

Some examples (link to permalinks of the cards I’ve generated):

One thing we’ve noticed is that it tends to produce a preponderance of blue cards, and few of any other colour. My theory: Blue cards have a broader and more general vocabulary on them, whereas cards of other colours are more specific and focused in their language. So when you type in some random phrase, it’s more likely to be a closer match to the blue vocabulary.

New content today:

Being a busy bee

I had a full day today. I started with my Year 6 ethics class at the local school. We’re in the middle of three lessons talking about tolerating other people’s beliefs, and today we explored what it actually means to tolerate something. Does it mean you don’t try to convince them they’re wrong? Does it mean you should try to understand the reasons why they hold those beliefs? Does it mean you don’t make fun of them? Does it mean their beliefs are as good as yours? This is a well-behaved group of kids, but this morning I had to encourage them to speak – I asked some questions and got silence a few times.

I did a 2.5k run when I got home. And then took Scully for a walk at lunch time.

The afternoon I spent writing up my report for the ISO Photography meeting I attended in Cologne last month. I have to send this to Standards Australia, prior to our follow-up local meeting, which is on Friday next week. This involves going through all my notes from the meeting, plus the various reports that were presented, and distilling it down to highlights and significant events. I completed it and sent it off… just before starting my three online ethics classes in a row.

So it was a very busy, but productive day.

New content today:

Thinking about superstitions

This week’s new topic for my ethical/critical thinking class is superstition. I spent the morning writing the new lesson, and had three classes this evening with the new material.

There’s a set-up story about a girl who has “lucky socks” that she wears when she plays soccer, and questions about why she would think this, and what might happen if she can’t find her lucky socks on the day of a big match.

Then I go into exploring what effects superstitions have – if they are harmless beliefs, or if they can have actual bad effects on people, or on others and society as a whole. And then we ponder the question of whether we should respect people’s superstitions, or if we should ignore or dismiss them.

Besides the three of those classes, I also had an extension class for last week’s Food topic, going through homework essay questions for one student. I normally do this on Mondays, but he needed to shift the time this week, so it ended up being today, meaning I had 4 classes in a row. Phew… that’s a big chunk of work.

New content today:

Back to school

The new school term started this week, so this morning it was back to school for me, in my volunteer teaching role with Primary Ethics. I’d missed the last two classes of last term, when I was away on my trip to Germany and the Netherlands. It turned out that the coordinator hadn’t managed to find a replacement teacher for my class, so the kids missed out on two lessons. So they were happy to see me again today. I think. Or at least I hope so.

We started a new topic on Beliefs and Tolerance. The opening lesson is about some kids discussing smoking, with one of them saying they think it’s not as dangerous as people say, and she might try it when she gets older. The discussion is around whether that girl’s belief should be tolerated or respected, and what the difference is between those things, if any. And if she should be allowed to publish her views in the school newsletter or not.

It was a very interesting and engaged discussion, with lots of the kids offering thoughtful ideas and comments. I’ve definitely got a good bunch of kids this year.

Other happenings: My back feels much better than yesterday. Not 100%, but definitely well on the way to recovery. I’ve been using the ice pack again a bit today.

And… of course it’s been raining. The forecast is rain showers every day for the next week. I don’t think it’ll be long now until we break the wettest year on record.

New content today:

Icing my back

Despite taking it easy last night and trying not to aggravate my twinged back, it stiffened up badly overnight. I made an appointment with my physiotherapist, at midday today. The guy I see is really good and loosens up my pelvic joints and realigns things so it feels a lot better. Then it’s just a matter of getting the inflammation down, which in the past has taken a few days. But today he mentioned that if I was an athlete I’d put an ice pack on it for 15 minutes, take it off for half an hour, and repeat that all day, and by tomorrow it’d be completely fine. I never realised I could do something like that! If it helps heal faster, I’m all over it!

So I’ve been icing my back on and off for much of the afternoon. And yeah, it feels a lot better already, so it seems to be working. I’ll see how it is after another night’s sleep.

The other main thing I did today was write up my lesson plan for the new online ethics topic of Food. I included stuff on dumpster diving for discarded food, food waste, healthy and unhealthy food, and some ethical questions about the impact of raising meat on the environment, and also the impact of shipping food around the world just so we can buy peaches in the middle of winter. One kid tonight had a very interesting idea about junk food, suggesting that people should get a maximum quota of junk food per month, “maybe two chocolate bars or something.”

Oh, and the rain is back again… It was very cold today, a maximum of only 13°C in Sydney, which is the second coldest day of the year so far. It’s supposed to be rainy for the whole week. We’re definitely approaching that all-time yearly rain record.

New content today:

History off the rails

This morning I had some spare time, and my golfing friend had suggested we take the opportunity to play a round at the short “par 3” course that we go to sometimes. We had to check the weather this morning, as rain was forecast, but the morning was sunny, so we met at the course and managed to get our game in before the clouds closed in. We played two balls each, and I started well, hitting the ball cleanly in the air and putting decently. But unfortunately my game deteriorated a little as we continued and I ended weakly, posting rounds of 75 and 76 with the two balls, just shy of my best score of 71 on this course.

After the game we went to have lunch at a nearby bakery, where I had a sausage roll and a salted caramel tart as we watched the dark grey clouds roll in.

Later in the afternoon I went to pick up Scully from doggie daycare, just before the rain came down. It’s been raining moderately heavily throughout the evening.

And this evening I had three online ethics classes in a row. The third one went a bit off the rails, as the kids were all keen to interrupt and provide comments about stuff that became increasingly tangential to my lesson plan. I had a question about the Black Death, regarding how we can be sure that such an event actually happened, considering it was almost 700 years ago. But one kid started asking questions about plague doctors and why they had masks with pointy noses, and then two other kids started taking about the various things they had stuffed into the noses to try to filter out the plague, and it kind of took off from there. I don’t mind too much, as long as the kids are enjoying the class and hopefully learning something, but I did try and get it back on track. It was exhausting though, and I understand why school teachers have breaks for recess and lunch – so they don’t have to handle kids for more than 2 hours in a row!

New content today:

Thinking critically about history

It’s Tuesday, start of a new week of online ethics classes. This week the subject is History – which is really more on the critical thinking side of things than ethics.

I start with a story about the Library of Alexandria, mentioning how the huge collection of scrolls has been lost, and ask the students how tragic a loss that is for our understanding of ancient history. Then we go through a series of questions about how we can know that historical records are accurate, and how important it is to know about history. I end with thinking about people in the future considering the present as a part of their history. We are recording more and more of our lives and storing or uploading enormous amounts of information. But imagine if YouTube went out of business and all those videos were lost – and people 100 years from now heard stories about how YouTube contained hundreds of millions of videos, and all of them were lost – how would they feel?

New content today:

The end of Fighting

Highlights of today:

  • I got a package from a Kickstarter I backed in April 2021. I’ve stopped backing new Kickstarters, but the trickle of rewards form old projects continues to flow in.
  • I finished off the Fighting topic in my online ethics classes. It was a good one. Next up for this week is History.
  • I made calzones for dinner. My wife made the pizza dough, and I stuffed them with spinach and ricotta and made a tomato and garlic sauce to spoon on top of the cooked calzones.
  • It rained. of course.
  • I took Scully for a walk for lunch, a bit late since we waited for the storm to pass. We met Bongo, another neighbourhood dog, and had a bit of a walk with him and his owner.
  • I worked on a very special Darths & Droids strip, which took a lot more work than normal. (to be published on Thursday)
  • I forgot about tonight’s Irregular Webcomic! – I hadn’t made it in time and had to rush to make it and upload it before going to bed.

New content today: