I’ve written a number of posts on the problems of Intelligent Design, and how it’s merely a cover for Creationism, but the problems go deeper than that. Functionally, its proponents pretend that they have ‘nothing in particular’ in mind when they argue for a designer, and under that cover, they attempt to shoe-horn Creationism into the class-rooms of North America.

Intelligent Design masquerades as a ‘scientific theory’ about how human life originated and evolved over time, and its proponents claim that it’s entirely distinct from Creationism, an obvious lie when you review the origin of Intelligent Design. There are, however, other ways to demonstrate this lie.

Continue Reading

Recently, a Jason Mitchell of no less than Harvard University published a piece of writing entitled “On the emptiness of failed replications“, within which Mitchell decries the focus on replications within Social Psychology, and (to, I hope, a lesser degree) within science as a whole. I found it an interesting read, and an excellent example of how references/citations can serve the purpose of signalling (i.e. name-dropping) rather than adding anything substantive to a paper. Invoking Quine and Kuhn certainly signals that one has a passing familiarity with Philosophy of Science, but the rest of the essay quickly highlights how mistaken that impression is.

While I think it’s important for popular science sites to highlight this kind of thing, as Annalee Newitz at io9 did, the article just abuses Mitchell: there’s no explanation of how he’s wrong. This is, I think, a common problem within skeptic/atheist/science-enthusiast circles whereby “let’s point and laugh” is often substituted for understanding the problems. Here’s my breakdown of Mitchell’s article.

Continue Reading

In many parts of Canada (and, of course, other parts of the world), there are two systems of schooling in place: a secular system that does not explicitly endorse any particular religious faith (though can implicitly do so), and an explicitly religious system. In Canada, both of these are funded by the government, and it’s deeply problematic.

According to the Globe and Mail, proponents of the system believe that “(…) Catholic schools provide better education, structure and discipline than public ones (…)”, a claim which is certainly up for debate. In any case, religious schools typically have a list of requirements for both students and employees that go beyond the workplace, and impact their daily lives beyond school property. Many require that teachers be of a particular religion (in the case of Canada, it’s usually Catholic), or that they abstain from certain behaviours (mostly, unsurprisingly, focused on homosexuality). Others limit people who may speak at their schools, again largely denying access to people based on their sexual preferences.

Funding for schools that are religious is just simply wrong, one the grounds of discrimination, economics, and quality of education.

Continue Reading

There was an article written recently in The Telegraph, a British paper, discussing a statement by Lady Hale, the UK Supreme Court Deputy President, that there should be some sort of “conscience clause” put into law to protect religious folk who wish to exercise their beliefs, and not be at risk of losing their jobs over it. On the face of it, this seems like an entirely reasonable suggestion.

But, with a bit more analysis, it’s complete tripe.

Continue Reading

When I first came to Vancouver from Ireland, I found out about the student loan program that was available in Canada and discovered that I could actually afford to go to University. I’d just missed the enrollment deadline for the University of British Columbia, but a helpful advisor there suggested a number of avenues I could take. One of which was Langara College.

My two-ish years there were well-spent, studying a variety of topics, learning how much I sucked at mathematics, how much I hated chemistry, and how interesting I found philosophy. Twas a good period, and I believe that the academic faculty there, in most all disciplines, are great teachers.

But then there’s the “Health and Human Services” bullshit that it peddles…

Continue Reading

How we argue with people sends signals to those around us. We are socially signalling the kind of person we are, and giving them cues as to whether or not they want to engage with us. This is, I think, an important point in rhetoric and persuasion, and can determine how we approach an argument. We can, of course, choose to remain ignorant of the signals that we send (thus sending the signal that we hold the people around us in contempt), or we can go too far and focus too much on ‘how’ the argument is presented such that the content is diluted to nothing.

An example of the former is a tweet by Secular Outpost (@SecularOutpost):

This is, frankly, sending up a flare that displays to all and sundry “I am a giant asshole, and I am not here for constructive conversation, but to have fun at the expense of those around me”. Disagree? Alright, let me walk you through it. Continue Reading

Montreal teen, Lindsey Stocker, was suspended from her school (Beaconsfield High School) for having an opinion. Her opinion was that the school (Beaconsfield High School) was policing the clothing of the girls of the school rather than policing the unacceptable behaviour of the boys in the school, and thus contributing to a culture whereby women and girls are held responsible for the behaviour of men and boys.

By suspending her for expressing her opinion, the buffons who operate Beaconsfield High School have exemplified her argument.

Continue Reading

I have to admit, I’m a life-long fan of Star Trek. I grew up watching reruns of The Original Series, went through Secondary School (High School) with Picard in The Next Generation, thoroughly enjoyed the myth-building in Deep Space Nine, and wound down with Janeway in Voyager. We shall not speak of Enterprise here…

Now, The Next Generation had a number of woefully bad episodes. Some were just egregiously sexist and racist, many were just terribly written, and almost all were awfully costumed. But in *concept*, most of them were a fairly decent story idea. Most. One in particular stands out, and (perhaps because of this?) it seems to be the most quoted The Next Generation episode: Darmok.

A short synopsis is that the Enterprise crew attempt to communicate with another species who communicate entirely in metaphor. Thus the Universal Translator can convert what they’re saying into English (I’m assuming), but it fails to convey any meaning due to lack of context. An example would be me attempting to communicate something by saying “David, at the exam”. You have no idea if I mean success, or failure, or lateness, or elation, or whatever.

And this is, I think, the worst episode concept in the history of Star Trek. Bar none. Yes, really.

Continue Reading

On May 14th, it hit the news that the University of Saskatchewan had done the unthinkable: they had fired a tenured professor for the crime of ‘having an opinion’. It’s worth noting here that the opinion wasn’t racist, mysogynist, called for the armed overthrow of the Canadian government, declared that the Moon People were our new overlords, or anything that could reasonably be considered ‘extreme’. Not in the slightest. Dr. Robert Buckingham, then executive director of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health, was fired for issuing a letter in which “he explained his issues with TransformUS, a restructuring plan at the university, and detailed efforts by the administration to ensure that senior leaders toe the institution’s line.”

Fortunately, a mere 7 days later, this was reported as being resolved, with the president of the University being fired instead, and the Dr. Buckingham having his tenure reinstated. Note that, according to the CBC article of May 21st, he had not been reinstated as the executive director of their School of Public Health.

While this may seem shocking to some, to those paying attention to what’s happening in the education systems world-wide this is merely an inevitability, and it’s not the end of the road by any means. This is merely the next step in the corporatisation of the University, that is that (world-wide) Universities are being turned into corporate entities with duties primarily to shareholders, not the general public.

Continue Reading

I’m an immigrant to this city, though I’m legally a citizen. I moved here in May 2006, and I knew precisely one person prior to my arrival (my brother, Christopher). I moved here from Ireland, a country known for gregarious socialising. In the years since moving here, I’ve encountered a wide variety of people, have a large number of acquaintances, and a couple of circles of friends. Occasionally, I hear someone complain that “Vancouver is a cold city” or “it’s difficult to meet people here”.

To be frank, I can’t see that as anything other than bullshit.

Continue Reading