Friday, February 08, 2008

Canadian journalist David Warren on Oscar the deathcat!

Oscar is the cat who was written up in the New England Journal if Medicine for predicting when people in an old age home would die. (I say he did it by scent.)

Anyway, David Warren, acknowledging Oscar, commented amusingly on catly skills in general:
... I had adopted, or rather been adopted by (unlike dogs, cats choose their masters), one of these cats. I named him Ferdinand, after Magellan, the Portuguese explorer in the Spanish service, for his cathemeral activities took him on a circuit of considerable extent.

He was the sort of cat I would myself choose for a voyage of circumnavigation. It would have to be a cat, as I am persuaded by nautical memoirists from Joshua Slocum to Lorenzo Ricciardi, that goats make poor sailors. The virtues of cats, at sea, are attested by many of the feline voyagers themselves, from Trim, the famous cat of the famous Captain Flinders; to Mrs Chippy, aboard Shackleton’s Endurance; to Pwe, the “ineffective hunter of albatrosses” who crewed with Miles and Beryl Smeeton.

Don't like cats? I will try to find you something about dogs then.

Actually, I have often thought that it would be better to find a dog who could do what Oscar does. A dog can be much more easily trained to alert people to a situation than a cat. And I BET goats make poor sailors!

Home personnel knew only by the change in Oscar's behaviour that a patient's death was imminent , not because the cat thought it his business to alert them.

See also: Can people simply decide when to die?

Thought for the day: Goodness vs. greatness

From To the Source:

Nietzsche desired greatness more than anything. Indeed, greatness was so much better than goodness, that the truly great should never hesitate to go “beyond” notions of good and evil. Beyond Good and Evil was, in fact, the title of one of his most famous books.

To go far beyond and above the crowd; to squeeze the life from oneself and others for the sake of producing a great political state, great art, great literature; to be as pitiless as Pharaoh in using human slaves to build one’s glorious tomb—that was life. If this demanded cruelty, then let it be magnificent cruelty. “Almost everything we call ‘higher culture’” declared Nietzsche, “is based on the spiritualization of cruelty, on its becoming more profound: this is my proposition.”

Spiritualization of cruelty? Thankfully, Nietsche's innovation didn't work, but read more here.

Interview with Spiritual Brain authors Mario and Denyse at campus Web site

I Am Next ... where university and college students are going ... kindly posted an interview with Mario Beauregard and me (well, many of the questions we answered).

For example,
Is the mind an illusion created by the brain?
1. Materialists generally say yes. However, they have not proved that.

Quite the opposite. They start with that assumption, and then they fit anything they see into it.

Non-materialist neuroscience demonstrates that the mind is real and can change the brain. For example, Jeffrey Schwartz, a nonmaterialist UCLA neuropsychiatrist, treats obsessive-compulsive disorder by getting patients to reprogram their brains. Similarly, some of my neuroscientist colleagues at the Université de Montréal and I have demonstrated, via brain imaging techniques, that women and girls can control sad thoughts, men can control responses to erotic films, and people who suffer from phobias such as spider phobia can reorganize their brains so that they lose the fear.
Evidence of the mind’s control over the brain is actually captured in these studies. There is such a thing as “mind over matter.” We do have will power, consciousness, and emotions, and combined with a sense of purpose and meaning, we can effect change.

Read the rest here.

By the way, here's where you search inside the book.