Category Archives: ethics

Physician Assisted Dying and the BC Catholic

civil rights, culture, ethics, philosophy 1 Reply

Physician assisted Dying (PAD from here on, aka active euthanasia) is currently being legislated in Canada, so it’s being discussed by a number of outlets, with a variety of opinions being put forward. This is a topic that has a storied history within philosophy, and I think it’s important that we have informed conversations on this topic as much as possible, rather than just repeating the “common sense” nonsense that we’ve grown up with all our lives.

Unfortunately, having a degree in philosophy apparently can also mean learning how to really cement the foundations for that nonsense, and can add an air of authority to what should be obviously ridiculous babble. Kreeft’s nonsense has been written up in that bastion of fact-checking, the BC Catholic, and the amount of errors (or intentional falsehoods?) in that article are staggering…..

I feel that doing a general overview/correction would make it seem that I’ve missed some key line here or there, so I’m going to do a point-by-point rebuttal. Which means that this is going to be a long article. Strap in.

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Boundaries and Abuse

culture, ethics, freethought community, health, personal

I’m going to start with a recent pair of conversations in my life, and use that as a jumping off point to talk about who gets to define what abuse is, and who gets to set boundaries. People in my local community may well recognise the people involved from their behaviour, and while backlash due to that bothers me, it bothers me more that the abusive behaviour is tolerated.

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“Go Home Irish” is just Bigotry

civil rights, culture, ethics, History 1 Reply

I’m Irish. I migrated to Vancouver, BC, in May 2006. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the imperialist and colonial history of Canada, mostly because I felt I had a responsibility to understand where I was living. I’m a citizen of both Ireland and Canada, the former by being born there, the latter as my mum was born here.

Over the years, I learned that Canada, like the US, UK and any other country really, is both a nation of immigrants and anti-immigrant. The group that rose to the top were those descended from the British settler group, the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. And while anti-immigrant racism certainly isn’t unique to the British, anti-Irish sentiment seems to be. That came too.

Let me be clear: there is no comparison to be drawn between what happened to the Natives of Canada and the US, nor to Black people. How the Irish (and Italians) are treated in North America is, frankly, cordial when compared to these other groups. That said, anti-Irish racism and bigotry is a thing.

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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

“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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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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Overtime, Wages and Theft

civil rights, crapitalism, economics, ethics, law Leave a reply

I know a number of people here in Vancouver working in restaurants and bars, and the prevalence of unlawful behaviour is just astounding. Of course, I don’t mean the staff stealing from employers, but employers just stealing wholesale from the staff.

While BC has some fairly mediocre labour laws, it has labour laws that employers are obligated to abide by. Unfortunately, as the laws are civil in nature (rather than criminal), the enforcement of these laws falls on the shoulders of the employees: if the staff don’t report the breach to the Employment Standards Branch, then the company happily trundles on, stealing from the employees.

This isn’t theft, you say? Since the staff have implicitly agreed to this state of affairs, it’s no-one else’s business to intervene? I’m sure that it’s possible that you could be more wrong about this, but it’s not obvious how. Allow me to explain.

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Conscience Clauses and Religious Bigotry

civil rights, ethics, religion Leave a reply

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.

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Langara College and the Bullshit it Peddles

culture, Education, ethics, philosophy, science, skepticism 2 Replies

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…

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