A couple's petition to legalize incest.
(For the latest columns on pain weapons, dieting, and naked body scanners, click here.)
A Senate committee in South Carolina approved legislation to offer prisoners reduced sentences in exchange for organs or bone marrow. Sponsor's arguments: 1) "This would save money, improve the quality of healthcare and save a whole bunch of lives." 2) "We have to do something to motivate" prisoners to meet the need. 3) "We would check that this was voluntary … It would not be forced upon them." Objections: 1) Voluntary? You must be joking. 2) Federal law bans trading organs for a "valuable consideration," such as, say, freedom. (For previous updates on getting organs from prisoners, click here, here, and here. For allegations of euthanasia to get organs in the United States, click here.)
A German brother-sister couple is challenging the law against incest. Details: 1) They were raised separately. 2) They met when he was 23 and she was 15; they began living together a year later. 3) They have four kids. One has epilepsy; two have "special needs"; three have been put in foster care. 4) The brother has served a two-year sentence for incest. 5) He recently got a vasectomy. Couple's arguments: 1) The law is outdated. 2) It violates our civil rights. 3) We're not hurting anyone, so just leave us alone. 4) The law lets couples with genetic risks (due to advanced age) or hereditary diseases have kids, so why not us? 5) If we live together and don't have more kids, how can the government prove we're having sex without becoming dangerously invasive? (For a previous update on incest between children raised apart, click here. For Human Nature's takes on incest, click here and here. For genetics and cousin marriage, click here.)
Bangalore, India, has launched a war on dogs. Thousands of stray dog packs roam the city, which is India's software hub, and recently they've killed two children, inspiring street protests. Local officials have pledged a "merciless" campaign to round up the dogs, put most of them in shelters, and kill the incorrigibly ferocious ones. Animal rights activists' complaints: 1) "The unfortunate incident of two children killed by some stray dogs is rarest of the rare and cannot be generalized to portray in bad light … man's best friend." 2) Mass culling of dogs is anti-Hindu and cruel to animals. Garbage workers' complaint: Speaking of cruel, the government is sending us out to catch these nasty dogs without protective gloves. (For Human Nature's take on breeding dogs for ferocity and other traits, click here. For an update on China's one-dog policy, click here. For immoral uses of dogs, click here and here.)
Cosmetic vagina surgery is becoming a hot business. Sample procedures: "laser vaginal rejuvenation," "designer laser vaginoplasty," and "revirginization." Cost: $3,000 to $9,000. Plastic surgeons reported nearly 800 procedures in 2005; many more are done by gynecologists and haven't been tallied. One doctor "says he has performed more than 3,000 in the past 12 years and has trained 140 doctors in a dozen states and 20 countries." Rationales: 1) We're just giving women what they want. 2) It's no worse than dying your hair. 3) It improves sex if you've had a baby. 4) It saves some marriages. Objections: 1) There's no scientific evidence that it improves sex or is safe. 2) It's foisted on insecure women by pushy men and greedy doctors. 3) Women who ask for it have been brainwashed by porn models. 4) It's another step in changing women's bodies to suit society. (For a previous update on cosmetic vagina surgery, click here.)
Weight-loss surgery for adolescents tripled from 2000 to 2003. Trend lines suggest the annual rate of such procedures on patients aged 12 to 19 now exceeds 1,000. Most of these teens had gastric bypass, which reduces stomach size. Skeptical view: 1) Surgery should always be a last resort. 2) We have almost no long-term data on how safe this surgery is for kids. 3) It costs $30,000 a pop, which could be better spent on obesity prevention. 4) Parents are getting weight-loss surgery for their kids because they've seen celebrities getting it. Rebuttals: 1) Data so far indicate it's safe for kids. 2) If pop culture makes kids put on weight, why shouldn't pop culture show them how to lose it? (For Human Nature's take on girth control, click here.)
The religious right is trying to oust an evangelical leader for fighting global warming. Rev. Richard Cizik, an executive at the National Association of Evangelicals, has led Christian environmentalists for "creation care." In response, several groups have sent the NAE a letter suggesting he should be silenced or pushed out. Their complaints: 1) Global warming may not be caused by humans. 2) It's a left-wing hoax to promote birth control and impede capitalism. 3) It's a diversion from bigger issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and abstinence. Cynical view: Don't worry—if we destroy the world, God can make us another one in six days. (For a previous update on global warming, click here. For Human Nature's take on neo-creationism, click here.)
Latest Human Nature columns: 1) Real diets for real people. 2) Invasion of the naked body scanners. 3) The future of pain-beaming weapons. 4) Gay sheep and human destiny. 5) More on gay sheep. 6) The power to shrink human beings. 7) The first human embryo factory. 8) The bum rap on cloned food. 9) Lesbians of mass destruction.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph on Slate's home page of a hand holding a cell phone by Digital Vision. Photograph on Slate's home page of a man napping by David De Lossy/Photodisc Green/Getty Images.