Category Archives: culture

Vegetarianism, Skeptics and Cognitive Dissonance

culture, ethics, freethought community 1 Reply

We all have blind spots in our thinking, and sometimes they can be pretty interesting. Other times, not so much. I’ve noticed that when I post an article about vegetarianism on facebook, a number of people can’t help themselves but make ignorant comments, people who I’ve had fairly informed conversations with on other topics. I’m going to use this space to call out that behaviour, and I’ll be blocking out the identities of the people involved (because it’s not about them, but the nonsense they were spouting). Continue reading

Secular Humanism is not about Silencing Belief

civil rights, culture, religion Leave a reply

Sometimes I wonder what getting a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University entails, or even a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from the University of Virginia. Alas, if the Rev. Dr. David Fekete is any indication, it entails not being required to actually know what you’re talking about, and to just blather any old thing without consequence.

Fekete recently penned a screed in the Edmonton Journal claiming that prohibiting prayer as part of government business privileges the belief system of Secular Humanism. From this single erroneous claim, he moves on to declare a number of falsehoods, such as “Secular humanism would have a world evacuated of religion”.

If this is the tripe that the Edmonton Journal prints, then I guess we also have the measure of that rag, in addition to Harvard’s Theological Studies department….

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A Discussion of GMOs

crapitalism, culture, health, politics, science Leave a reply

I recorded a podcast on srslywrong, and it was released last night. I’m fairly pro-GMO (generally speaking), so I was asked to take the pro-GMO side of a debate. It turned into more of a discussion of GMOs rather than a debate, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

I’m interested in feedback here, but bear in mind a couple things:

1) My background is not biology or science. I regrettably misspoke a few times in this (e.g. when I conflated genes for Roundup resistance with genes for the production of BT, and when I had a brain fart about bacteria being prokaryotes).

2) I’m not interested in yelling at people.

3) I’m interested in pushing broad strokes and general understanding, rather than devolving down nit-picky tangents. There’s a whole bunch of areas where I could have jumped down Eric/Cody’s throat for things that he said that I considered to be just plain ‘wrong’, but as they were tangential to the discussion, I left them alone. (and, to his credit, Eric/Cody cut me the same slack.

Click here to go to the podcast.

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Christianity, the Religion of Peace

culture, politics, religion Leave a reply

In the face of the violence that has occurred over the last few years, by people of varying ideological stripes, the narrative that has been written is the enlightened west fighting off the barbaric, uneducated Muslim terrorists. It doesn’t seem to matter a whit how ignorant that particular view is, all that seems to matter is that we (the people doing the bulk of the bombing world-wide) tell ourselves stories about how oppressed we are and how bad ‘they’ are..

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Bradley Miller, Judged

civil rights, culture, law, Philosophy of Law, politics Leave a reply

Professor Bradley Miller has been appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, effective January 16th, 2015. His bio there states that “his main areas of practice were commercial litigation, class actions, administrative law, constitutional law and human rights law”. And yet it would seem that his understanding of human rights is less than complete.

In an article written two years ago in Public Discourse, (Same-Sex Marriage Ten Years On: Lessons from Canada), Miller makes a range of claims that are supportable only if one believes that the right to tear down others is more valuable to society at large than the right to not be torn down.

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“Rational” Should be Treated like a Four-Letter Word

culture, ethics, freethought community, Rhetoric 8 Replies

[This is primarily a talk I gave at a Vancouver Skepticamp recently, with some expansion/clarification at the end in response to some feedback I received]

I’d like to talk about how we use the word ‘rational’ in everyday conversations, and how we use it in skeptic/atheist/freethinker circles. I don’t consider anything I say here to apply to academic disciplines, as they are usually pretty good about operationalising their definitions (or should be, at the least).

I think ‘rationality’ is a profoundly problematic word, as used in the vernacular, and I’d like to encourage you all to drop it from your vocabulary. Now, before ye get all het up and start acting irrationally, hear me out.

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Walls of Words

culture Leave a reply

[This essay is going to focus primarily on the skeptic/atheist community, as that’s the community I mostly interact with. I’m sure it holds true for others too, so don’t read this essay as me claiming that this is somehow unique to skeptics and/or atheists. Additionally, this essay only applies to people who want to discuss things with other people. If your preferred style of communication is lecturing people, and you’re not particular interested in changing (or even hearing) their position: this does not apply to you]

In the years that I’ve been involved in the skeptic/atheist community, I’ve noticed two tendencies that are, unfortunately, completely at odds with one another: making the claim that we really want to discuss things, and doing a massive information dump, laying out our ‘complete’ position on something in one go.

Not only are these two things in tension, they’re actually mutually exclusive. Here’s why.

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Firedrills Good, Active Shooter Drills Bad

civil rights, culture, ethics 2 Replies

Florida has recently been in the news for having ‘active shooter drills’. Alas, Florida is not alone in this, so the rest of the world can yet again sigh ‘only in America’. And let’s face it: this is yet more security theatre, serving no legitimate purpose. Like taking off one’s shoes at security in the airport (thanks for that too, America).

Indicating his complete disconnection from reality, Polk County Public Schools spokesman Jason Gearey said in an e-mailed statement to The Washington Post:

“Unfortunately, no one gets an advanced notice of real life emergencies. We don’t want students to be scared, but we need them to be safe.”

This is, unfortunately, just a jumble of words with no real meaning contained within.

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Speaking IS Doing.

civil rights, culture, ethics, feminism, hypocrisy Leave a reply

As is often the case when someone says some terrible things, a furore occurs between the people who think that that person should be barred from speaking at certain locations (e.g. on a university campus), or even being allowed into a country, and those people who are profoundly confused about ‘freedom of speech’. A recent example of this is regarding Julien Blanc, and Andy J. Semotiuk provides us with an exemplar of confused writing over at that bastion of nonsense, Forbes.

Content note: the following is a discussion of an awful human being who advocates sexual assault (Blanc), and the people who support them.

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Being ‘Homeless’ vs ‘a Resident’

civil rights, culture Leave a reply

It’s a fairly uncontroversial observation to note that Vancouver has a lot of people who are homeless, by which we mean that have no fixed address. Many of these people sleep in shelters, if they can get in on time, or on the streets if they can’t. This is, of course, in addition to the ‘invisible homeless’, people who manage to get by by sleeping on the couches and floors of understanding friends.

While Vancouver does have a large quantity of people who are homeless, they don’t seem to ‘count’ though. Certainly, they count less than people who are ‘residents’, even though those people who are without a fixed address may well have been ‘resident’ in this city longer than many of those labeled ‘residents’. I, myself, can only be considered a ‘resident’ here for less than 2 years, even though I first moved here in 2006. The framing of this article by the CBC certainly seems to imply that I am far more important than any of the people without a fixed address, regardless of how long they’ve lived in this city.

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