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SFreeman89Vision

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  1. If a cat was altered so that it had the genes of a dog, every appearance and function of a dog, such that it was absolutely indistinguishable from an organism that was born as a dog by any means actual or imagined, then surely it would in fact be a dog. Please justify why a 'man' or a 'cat' should retain its original identity from birth regardless of any subsequent reconfiguration of its constituent matter, when it does not retain its identity from when that constituent matter was a star or a tree, and why this is different to how a butterfly loses its identity as a caterpillar when it goes through metamorphosis.
  2. The original topic focused on men/women who 'identify as' or 'wish to live as' or 'prefer to be referred to as' the sex opposite to that indicated by their genitalia. Post-operative sex change patients who have had the genitalia they were born with surgically altered to resemble the other kind of genitalia are a different matter because as well as the identity and trait issues, they have also undergone physical change. Now of course one thing can become another thing. When a tree becomes paper it is then paper, not a tree. But is this what happens with sex-change patients? Certainly not right now, going by the dictionary definition of male and female. There is no surgical procedure that will make a female produce spermatozoa or a male ovulate. Hypothetically, if there were such a procedure, what then? By the dictionary definition, post-operative patients would indeed have literally changed their sex since they now conform to one definition and not the other. Presumably they would retain their original genes (XX/XY) but again, hypothetically some kind of gene reassignment therapy could change even that. If every last vestige of their original sex is obliterated and they then have every defining and essential characteristic of the opposite sex then surely that must be their actual sex. No such procedures exist, of course, and sex-changes today are analogous to imitation bacon made from tofu: It may look like bacon, it may even taste and smell like bacon, but it is just tofu made to resemble bacon, not actual bacon.
  3. As you can read above, I don't buy the brain thing either. We could certainly invent some new word to describe people with male/female brains (which presumably could be identified by scans), or indeed for people who have breasts and people who don't, people who naturally have dense facial hair, and so on. In principle the former might be more ever day conversation since we're more interested in people's traits than what's in their pants, and we might assume that 'female traits' will more reliably match those with female brains than those with female genitalia. But since not everyone has a scan at birth to determine their 'brain sex' (assuming such distinguishable brain types exist) we'd never know who is what. She implicitly assumes/claims that one's brain sex will correspond 1:1 with who 'identifies as male/female' by which she means someone telling others "I'm male/female," or "Call me he/she," but if we buy her initial brain sex argument it can't be true because people don't tell us they're the 'wrong' sex right away. Some people don't decide they have a 'gender mismatch' until late in life. Obviously their brain doesn't magically change when they say "I'm female," - if they have a female brain then they have always had one and merely failed to identify this. In the same way it is quite possible someone with a 'male brain' would misidentify themselves as female. She would say that they 'know themselves better than we do' so should be trusted to make that judgement, but if they can fail to identify their brain sex for years, why should their alleged identification be trusted? Similarly, people frequently think they have mental illnesses and have to be told by doctors that they do not (or vice versa). So we can't actually scan everyone to know their brain sex, and we can't rely on people to know their own brain sex without a scan (we can tolerably rely on people to report what is in their pants correctly). It then comes back to the idea of being female gendered in terms of traits and habits e.g. "I'm female because I like pink." But as I've discussed, I don't think this kind of definition of genders can work. As to why she thinks sex is an invalid concept. I'm not sure whether she does or not, from what she says here are two possible positions she may take: Sex is properly defined by whether someone has a male or female brain, genitals don't matter in determining sex, so someone's gender and someone's sex are synonymous, and correspond to how they identify The sex of the brain is called gender, the sex of the genitals is irrelevant so should never be used -. it doesn't matter whether I have a penis, it matters how I think of myself An additional problem with her position, re: what I wrote above, is that she does not in fact think that 'how one thinks of themselves' i.e. male or female will correspond to anything in particular. As I say, if it weren't for the problems above this idea (if true) might actually be useful because people of that sex/gender will have certain known traits. If I know someone has a female brain I could expect certain things about them, but she doesn't think that 'identifying as female' means liking knitting or the colour pink or any such thing. All that 'identifying as female' consists of is believing "I'm female." It seems one could conform strongly to the masculine archetype with very little in the way of femininity, and yet believe they were female and thus make it so. I should say that, on the one hand I don't want to necessarily take her too seriously because we probably all agree she's talking complete nonsense. But then I do think that there's a significant number of people who agree with her completely or at least broadly in her conclusions, perhaps using more finesse in their arguments, so these kinds of ideas should be strongly refuted (the debate was on Facebook, and her comments got multiple 'likes' and mine none so certainly this girl's friends agree with the girl!). I don't think just saying "sex = genitals, end of" is very convincing because after all, definitions can be changed when found lacking, or gain additional meanings. Not that she was at all convinced by my explanation that her position is meaningless (if to be female it to identify as female then it creates a circular definition that tells us nothing), but I do think that's more convincing than mere linguistic conservatism.
  4. Sex and gender are not (as a matter of dictionary definition/common usage) the same thing. Webster defines sex as: (and if you follow through to 'male' and 'female' you get a definition based on biology i.e. the production of sperm/eggs) It defines gender as: So it is possible to have all of the traits associated with one sex, while actually being of the other. My issue is that while it is possible to talk generally about masculinity and femininity (e.g. "That man seems very feminine," or "My wife can be quite masculine sometimes,"), I can't see any meaningful way to say (or determine that) "Person X is of the female gender," or "Person Y is of the male gender," (or even to claim "I am of the male gender,") since this ideas of a 'male gender' and 'female gender' have no essential distinguishing characteristics, which makes these virtual nonsense terms (and combined with their use in academia and elsewhere to obliterate 'sex' as a concept, an anti-concept). Now the girl I was debating with, from my original post, believed that biological sex, as from Webster, is not a valid (or perhaps not a useful) concept at least for non-medical use so either we should never talk about sex outside of a medical setting, or when we say 'sex' in everyday life we should mean gender, which is to do with the mind. Another part of her argument which doesn't exactly link up with the above but I'll discuss anyway, was a difference between brains. She said that people with penises who identify as women actually are biologically female because they have a female brain. My response to this last idea is: I'm not a biologist but from some quick research the theory of two clearly distinguishable kinds of brain is controversial so this is not certain (alternatively, brains may differ on average, in the same way that men are, on average, taller than women, but you can't tell if someone is male or female for sure by their height, so it is not a defining characteristic of sex) Even if there were two clearly distinguishable kinds of brain, one of which is found almost exclusively in people with vaginae and the other almost exclusively in people with penises, can or should this be incorporated into the definitions of the male and female sexes? Breasts, for example, are found almost exclusively in females but there are people cases of people with penises who develop breasts. We do not say they are female, or even male and female Even if brain-sex were were included in a definition of 'male' and 'female', then someone with male genitals but a female brain would beboth male and female Having said that however, it might be more useful in everyday speech to refer to people as the sex that corresponds with their brain, but it would not be incorrect to refer to them as the sex that corresponds with their genitals. None the less, given the second point, I don't think her argument (even if her empirical claims are correct) can stand up.
  5. See my comments. I agree things can be 'masculine' or 'feminine' e.g. dresses = feminine and ties = masculine because these things tend to be found in people of the corresponding sex. These things contribute to one's femininity/masculinity. But as you say, neither necessarily makes a person 'female' or 'male' gendered. How do you determine if someone's gender is male or female? Is it when someone has more traits/habbits that are masculine/feminine than they have traits/habbits of the opposite gender? But how do you count them all? What about traits/habbits that some people think fall into one camp and others the opposite, or that some people think are gendered and others neutral (e.g. body hair - is it masculine to have body hair because biological females tend to remove theirs, or is it gender-neutral since biological females have body hair naturally)? Aren't some more important (count or 'weigh' more) than others? Does intensity matter e.g. it's not whether you like pink but how much you like it? How can we really pin down traits/habbits that are gendered e.g. we might assume a great interest in clothes is feminine but what greater archetype of masculinity is there than the very sartorial James Bond? How can you objectively answer all of these questions and construct a gender definition of 'male' and 'female'? Rand says the definition of a concept (in this case 'male' and 'female' in the sense of gender) must have an essential defining characteristic. What is this?
  6. That was just one potential example for simplicity's sake, I was not suggesting that would actually be the likely definition. But you see, you talk about things that are commonplace or 'the norm' for people of that sex e.g. it is the norm for male children to play with trucks and guns, you played with trucks and guns so you are male gendered. Clearly such a simplistic formulation as this is absurd though because people can (and most people do) have traits or tastes that fit both traditional roles. A female may wear pink dresses and love sewing and baking and all other kinds of things that perfectly fit with the traditional female role or archetype, and yet play with guns. So is she female or male gendered? We would need a formulation of gender that is far more complex, taking into account a whole range of factors. But how can we be objective about this? As I said above, do we add up all the 'female' traits versus all the 'male' traits and do a tally? Or do we give different weights to different factors? Does the strength of a particular trait matter? And how can we objectively decide on traits to put into the 'male' and 'female' boxes? Some traits are, it seems, far and away more common with one sex than the other, like enjoying knitting. But some traits may only be slightly more apparent in one sex than the other. If it turns out that 60% of females prefer chocolate to vanilla, compared to 55% for males, is preferring chocolate to vanilla part of the female archetype? What if the difference is 1% or 0.1% or 50%?
  7. An interesting point. But I don't think that 'sad' and her/this conception of 'female gender' are defined in the same kind of way. Although someone identifies themselves as sad, they have an objective criteria against which they can make that decision. I can ask "Am I sad?" consider how I feel, and then compare that to the definition of sad. Equally, other people can observe my behaviour and come to their own conclusion about whether I am sad or not. It may be that this external observation is less accurate than internal identification, but it is still possible. To complete the point I suppose I have to state the definition of 'sad'. The dictionary definitions are, admittedly, somewhat lacking, usually taking a form such as "feeling sorrowful." Since sorrowful is really just a synonym for sad, that won't do. I would suggest something along the lines of "a negative mental state that is not caused by direct stimuli." Sadness is inherently negative, that is its key defining characteristic - a way of feeling that is bad, that is 'against' you. The last clause distinguishes it from physical pain, hunger etc which are experienced in the mind but as a result of direct stimuli, where as sadness arises from a deeper awareness of reality. We could go further and say something like "stemming from an awareness of one's desires not being met, or from one's aversions being met." So, with this definition in hand I can compare it to how I feel. Is my mental state a bad one? If so, is that the automatic impulses in my brain as a result of not having eaten anything today, or is it because I grasp the reality that I am in financial trouble (while my desire is to be rich), for example? Answering those questions leads me to the conclusion one way or the other. It is also possible for a person to be incorrect or to lie. For example, I may say "I am sad," but on further inquiry it turns out that reality is actually configured just the way I desire it so either I was mistaken or I lied. Take the female gender on the other hand. How do I tell if I am of the female gender? How do I know if I 'feel' like a female? What does a female feel like? (stop sniggering at the back!) We could specifically define it, for example "A female is someone who feels empathy for others." In that case I can compare the definition to my own feelings. Do I feel empathy for others? If so, by this definition I am female. Equally, others can observe my behaviour and determine whether I am female or not. Again, the degree of accuracy may be lower, but it is possible. This definition makes sense internally. It also, I think, gets at what you said in that it stems from how the person feels. So we could move forward with it, but what specific criteria to use? While females are known for their empathy, do we want to say that anyone who has empathy is female? That anyone who doesn't is male? We could go down a list of 'feminine' traits but I can't see any of them being what Rand called the "essential characteristic which distinguishes [those things subsumed under the definition] from everything else." In any case, I believe the girl I was discussing this with believed there was no trait that defined a female, it was simply that anyone who claims to be female, is. I think she would explain it something like this: It should be up to each person to decide for themselves what their gender identity is and how they go about deciding that identity (by which I mean deciding in the sense that 'Newton decided there was gravity' not 'choosing' as in 'I decided to have Chinese for dinner tonight') is up to them, we shouldn't and can't tell them they are wrong, if they say they are female then they just are. These seem to me to be the two options for how to define gender (as apart from biologically defined sex, for which 'gender' is sometimes used as a synonym) but neither of them result in anything meaningful.
  8. You are right that many languages have 'grammatical gender' but this is quite separate from the concept I discuss. Grammatical gender can have its uses such as clarifying that an object is associated with one sex or the other e.g. skirts are feminine. But grammatical gender is often nothing more than convention and serves no purpose. Objects that have no relation to the sexes are referred to as either male or female (e.g. in German the moon is masculine and the sun feminine) and sometimes objects which are related to or themselves of a particular sex are referred to as a different gender or no gender at all (e.g. in German the word for girl is neither male nor female, while in Irish the word for girl is masculine and the word for stallion (a male horse) is feminine). In any case, English does not use grammatical gender except for those pronouns relating to objects which are themselves male or female e.g. she, her, him, he, etc. How do we know who to call 'he' and who to call 'she'? Well because males are 'he' and females are 'she'. But how to decide who is male and female? One possible meaning of male/female is that they are of the male/female sex i.e. they have male/female sexual organs, chromosomes, etc. Another possible meaning (which isn't necessarily mutually exclusive of the first) is that they are of the male/female gender, and it is this sense of gender that I don't believe has, or can have, any meaning. Note that you cannot use grammatical gender to define gender in general, you end up with an argument that looks like this: Female pronouns should be used to refer to those of the female gender A person is of the female gender if they should be referred to using female pronouns I should be referred to using female pronouns, therefore I am female, therefore I should be referred to using female pronouns This just creates a circle as you can see. There must be a concrete definition of the thing to which the particular pronoun is assigned e.g. In Polish, masculine grammar should be used to refer to trams A tram is a powered vehicle that travels on rails set into a road The object in question is a powered vehicle that travels on rails set into a road, therefore the object in question is a tram, therefore the object in question should be referred to using masculine grammar So we do need a definition of gender for it to be the determinant of grammatical gender, or we must abandon it and use only sex. Another alternative would be to abandon both uses and simply refer to people as 'he' or 'she' depending on which they prefer. This would rob language of a useful distinction however. Even if removing the differentiation between male and female in grammar was desirable, the obvious thing to do would be to refer to everyone as 'it' or to use a single, 'human' pronoun. Even if we wanted to let people choose pronouns, why limit ourselves to two? Why not allow people to dictate that they must be referred to as any word they please? In any of these cases 'gender' or really, 'grammatical gender', becomes nothing more than empty titles.
  9. I've been having a discussion with a friend of a friend, and the course of this discussion has led me to think that 'gender' is an anti-concept or something very like one. I would be very interested in what you think. Quoting Rand: And: [The second quote is less relevant than the first, but I include it for completeness.] The discussion went as follows: My friend observed a news article about a man who is currently/was previously a man, and his decision to live 'as a woman' from now on. He has not had surgery to alter his sex. The article referred to the subject throughout as 'she' and 'her', and my friend commented that it was great to see an article that used the correct pronouns throughout. I said that surely it would be correct to use either male or female pronouns since he/she can refer both to gender, and also sex. Since he is of the male sex but (self-identified as being) of the female gender, both pronouns are valid, it merely depends on the usage i.e. if we want talk about his sex, we say 'he', if we want to talk about his gender, we say 'she'. Her response was that this is strictly correct but that it is polite to refer to people how they wish to be referred to. Her friend (the friend of the friend) made a more interesting response though. Her argument is not merely that referring to this person as female (leaving out their male sex) is polite, but that they actually are female and are not male. That is to say that either gender and sex are synonymous, relating to the mind not the body, or that gender is a valid concept while sex is not (I am not sure which precisely she believes). My original position was that he is both male (sex) and female (gender), but she argued that there is no duality, he is simply female and nothing else. We do have working definitions of 'male' and 'female' that are based around the presence of different reproductive organs and the makeup of genes. A simple set of definitions would be: A male is a human with a penis A female is a human with a vagina Or: A male is a human with XY chromosomes A female is a human with XX chromosomes These specific terms are variations of what we call 'sex' e.g. "His sex is male because he has a penis." They are not individually exhaustive or mutually exclusive, however; one may meet neither definition and therefore be sexless, or meet both definitions and therefore be of both the male and female sexes. These definitions meet Rand's requirements: They take all of the things subsumed under the term (all men, all women) and differentiate them from all other things in existence by way of a defining characteristic (particular reproductive organs or chromosomes). To say "He is male," is to convey the information that the person in question has a penis, XY chromosomes, and so on, while to say "She is not male," conveys that they do not have a penis or XY chromosomes. Therefore the concept is useful. Its usefulness is increased because we can also draw certain likelihoods from this information e.g. If we know he has a penis and XY chromosomes, we can be 90-98% sure he has a sexual preference for females, we know it is likely he will be physically larger and stronger than the average person with a vagina, we know he is likely to cut his hair short, and so on. These are not defining characteristics of the male sex, but they are tendencies of those who meet its definition so the word goes beyond conveying merely the information contained within its definition, to a whole range of likelihoods associated with those meeting it. I had initially simply accepted that the person in the article is of the female gender since they say so, but her argument that gender = sex (or that gender is a valid concept but sex is not) got me thinking. We can define sex, it is a valid and useful concept, but what about gender? Thinking about this, and her alleged definition in particular, has lead me to believe that gender is in fact an anti-concept. When I asked her what the definition of female was, she replied that a female is someone who identifies as female. This is circular. You cannot define something with reference to itself. To demonstrate this, replace the term 'female' in her definition with its own definition and you end up with: "A female is someone who identifies as someone who identifies as someone who identifies as someone who identifies as someone who........ [ad infinitum]" Therefore this definition is logically impossible. This internal bankruptcy renders the term useless. Using this definition, when one says "I am female," no information is conveyed. The point may be clearer if we imagine we are proposing a new word with the exact definition she uses for female: The new word will be called 'frammastan' A frammastan is someone who identifies as a frammastan There is no point in introducing this word. It is merely a jumble of letters, which is what 'female' is reduced to under her definition. This would be bad enough by itself, but her argument is specifically to obliterate the concept of sex as independent of gender (defined as 'whatever one identifies as'). Not only is it meaningless, it is destructive of another, valid concept i.e. it is an anti-concept. This is only one person's attempt at a definition though, so perhaps we can arrive at an objective definition of gender that actually has some meaning. We know what makes someone of the female sex, but what makes someone of the female gender? We do have a set of characteristics that we expect to find in females and not males, a fondness for the color pink, for example. But then is anyone who likes pink a female? And anyone who does not like pink excluded from the female gender? We might say that one is female if one is more feminine (see below) than the average human, and that one is male if one is more masculine than the average human. This kind of definition I think works adequately with something like 'tall'. Even if we cannot specifically name the average height of a human, we have a pretty good idea of when someone is taller or shorter than the average. But how do we know what the average degree of femininity/masculinity is? How do we objectively weight different feminine/masculine traits in this calculation? Do liking pink and liking shopping both weigh equally? Does any fondness for the color pink in any way lead to one additional unit of femininity, or does it matter how much one likes pink? I cannot think of any way to define genders in this way that is not arbitrary, does not lead to absurdity, or that serves any useful purpose. Now, I do think it is possible to define 'feminine' and 'masculine' in non-biological terms (which is something like gender). These are matters of degree, everyone falls somewhere on a scale of femininity/masculinity. We can say that liking the color pink is a feminine trait and contributes to one's femininity, but that does not make one 'a female'. Precisely what traits to consider masculine/feminine is probably simply a matter of what is commonplace among those of the male sex (corresponding to masculine) and of the female sex (corresponding to feminine), perhaps there is a more sophisticated formulation but I don't think that is important here. 'Male' and 'female' genders, however, are discrete concepts - one is either, or both, or neither, but we must be able to determine if someone does or does not fall under those terms. Some people must be excluded (not everyone is of both genders or there would be no need for two terms) and we do not talk about being more or less male/female than someone else. Since there is no rational way to categorize people into these two camps, and since the above definition ("your gender is whatever you identify as") is meaningless, and since the concept is (I believe) used to destroy the concept of sex (which has meaning and use), gender is an anti-concept. It is also, I think, a worrying example of a kind of anti-reality thinking that can be described as "Wishing will make it so."
  10. Scholars in recent years have tended to conclude that there is no clear line that can be drawn between all humans and all animals because the various delineating characteristics that might be considered are either present in many animals, or are lacking in all animals but also lacking in children and severely mentally disabled human beings. If this is correct then it appears to leave two possible conclusions: either animals have a moral standing comparable to humans and we must seriously rethink our treatment of them, or animals have no moral standing but neither do children or the severely retarded and we can consider using them as we do animals e.g. killing them for food, clothing, sport etc. Now I understand that objectivist rights come from man's nature as a reasoning being who needs to live as such. And we can exclude animals from this consideration because they live by means other than reason (though not necessarily of course, if a chimpanzee suddenly started thinking and acting similarly to a human we would have to accept it as 'man' though not human, but this is currently counterfactual). But then what of young children and the severely retarded? They are not capable of reason. Perhaps children can be accounted for through a potentiality argument i.e. they cannot or do not depend on reason right now but they will in the future if left to develop normally. Equally perhaps those who become severely retarded through disease or brain damage having previously lived normal lives can be accounted for through their previous capacity for reason. But what about children born severely retarded? They fundamentally lack the capacity for reason that other humans have, had, or will have. Do they have no moral standing (at least beyond a kind of ownership that their parents might hold over them, which would presumably disappear if their parents died and would allow for parents to kill their disabled child if they so wished, as one may kill a farm animal or pet). I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
  11. Thank you for your replies. Here is an updated presentation. Bluecherry, I won't be making the presentation until January so I've got ages yet. I just want to get it out of the way now so it won't be interfering with exam preparation, essay writing etc later on. I agree about the recognition of rights versus 'deciding' who has rights. I think your idea of putting the axioms first and then addressing consistency afterwards is a good idea. So I now start by saying that the following are self evident: existence, consciousness, and identity. I may be wrong, but I assume that some philosophers would disagree with these axioms. What might they say against them and how can they be refuted? I mean to say, how can one effectively illuminate their self-evidence? I'm unsure about my 7th slide. I say that we can observe people chasing things, so we know there are values. These imply a choice, which implies a standard for gauging values against one another. I then say that this standard is life. I think that is quite a jump, however. How could I effectively justify this leap? Why is life man's ultimate value? I've addressed the problem with my use of the word 'violence' by instead defining the term 'coercion' and using that from there on in instead. I'm also not happy with slide 9. After I define coercion I say that a man using coercion is unreasoning because he is trying to make someone think on his own terms which is impossible. I then say that he is tying to make someone act contrary to their own reason, the implication being that this is a bad thing. But I'm not sure how to make it explicit and to say what I am trying to say more strongly... I have deleted the slide where I addressed the idea that 'moral concepts of rights do not exist' as it was somewhat redundant and confusing. I have also deleted the line about man being responsible for his own actions. It may well not come up (usually it would come up in for example discussions of poverty where people say "WE'RE responsible for poverty in Africa because WE caused it by... [colonialism, corporatism, whatever]") and I don't think I have the time to justify it or fully explain what I mean. I have made various other changes such as specifying 'free market capitalism', cleaning up my slides on types of rights etc. Eiuol, When I say effort I mean that a man lives by his own effort if he makes something himself, if he trades something (ultimately it is his effort that got him what he traded for), or if he is given something freely (his effort of being virtuous has brought him whatever it is he was given). I mean to exclude theft etc. You say that theft is detrimental to those who do it. How is this the case? Suppose I defraud a a company, one I will never have dealings with in the future. I come away with a large sum of money that I can spend as I please and which makes me very happy. My crime was perfect and I will never be found out. How has stealing harmed me to a greater extent than the benefit it has brought?
  12. Hi, I'm doing a class presentation at university on rights, which I will be making from an objectivist standpoint, and I have some points I would much appreciate some help with. I have been told specifically to say what I think about the subject, not just give a literature review. It is for a class on applied political theory (with a heavy ethical/philosophical emphasis), my topic is 'theories of rights', and the suggested points to explore are: What are rights? What rights do we have? What should happen if rights are violated? Are there such things as group rights? What are human rights? How should we decide who has rights over a natural resource? I've written most of it, in the form of the Powerpoint presentation here.* The weakpoints in my argument as it stands, that I can see, are as follows: 1) Why must consistency or inconsistency be preferable, why can't they be equally valuable/valueless? 2) Why must man survive by his own efforts? Why not each survive by a mixture of his own efforts and those of others, or exclusively on the efforts of others? Is it better for a man to starve than live on the effort of others? That is, if man's value is his own life, surely his life can be improved and thus his value obtained by stealing from others? What restricts 'his life' to 'his life which doesn't involve violence' without resorting to a circular argument? -------------------------------------- I'd be grateful for your thoughts on these issues and suggestions for their resolution, as well as any other problems you can see and comments on my presentation in general. Thank you *I know it is very text heavy, right now it is just for me to work from. When I have got the content finished I will distill it down to bullet point summaries for actual use in the presentation. There are also some formatting issues that I will correct.
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