Humanists must engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Report

Earlier today I finally had some time to sit down and read parts of the Truth and Reconciliation report and set out why Humanist Canada’s response was woefully inadequate (at best). I Tweeted my responses and then built my first Storify. Hopefully this works. Continue reading Humanists must engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Report

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Libertarian activist puts politics before reality to argue the left puts politics before reality

On the libertarian blog Reason, John Stossel trots out the tired cliche that the left are just as anti-science as the right, and in this case potentially even more damaging. Because non-evidence based views about climate change have no real world consequences right?

He cites the usual tropes as the left-wing anti-science positions, yet fails to actually show any political divide for any of the claims. In fact, public opinion research debunks his two main examples: vaccines and GM. In the US, at least, there is a divide on support for nuclear power and animal research* – but a majority of Democrats still support nuclear power and the question of animal research is far more about values than evidence.

Compare this to the gap between science and reality on the right on evolution, stem cell research, global warming and corporal punishment (to name but a few)

Stossel’s final argument is that the left is styming research into IQ differences between men and women and between different races. Even though he only cites his own anecdote, given history, I’m okay with some pretty critical lenses being applied to anyone starting down this path.

So no, the evidence doesn’t support the claim the left is anti-evidence.
*I’m being charitable and assuming his rant about SeaWorld – an entertainment facility first, research second – is about animal research.

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“I’m glad it’s over”

Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass emailed me a couple days ago to say:

More than three years ago, I wrote a post on Canadian Atheist about prayer in Peterborough municipal council meetings.  In the comments you suggested I contact CFI Canada. I did and CFI connected me with Dan Mayo and Secular Ontario. Thank you for that advice. My case against the City of Peterborough for saying the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of its council meetings has been successfully resolved in my favour.

Continue reading “I’m glad it’s over”

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Fringe party crashes election debate in Hornsey

I can safely say I just got home from one of the most bizarre electoral hustings I’ve ever been to.

Tonight’s debate, hosted by Horsney Parish Church and moderated by Father Bruce Batstone, invited candidates from the five largest parties running in my constituency, Hornsey and Wood Green:

  • Suhail Rahuja from the Conservative Party
  • Gordon Peters from the Green Party
  • Catherine West from the Labour Party
  • Lynne Featherstone from the Liberal Democrats (incumbent)
  • Clive Morrison from UK Independence Party

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The other three candidates were invited to submit questions for the debate.

That’s not what happened though.

Continue reading Fringe party crashes election debate in Hornsey

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How to lose an election

Alberta’s election continues to be far more entertaining than the one here in the UK.

Amid his party’s plummeting polling numbers, Progressive Conservative Premier Jim Prentice needed to re-connect with voters and rebuild trust for his party during the leaders debate last night.

Instead, he told the only woman on stage that “I know the math is difficult…” in a discussion around tax increases. Very soon after #MathIsHard started trending in the province and NDP leader Rachel Notley was able to remind viewers that this is the leader who doesn’t want Albertans to “worry their pretty little heads.”

There’s an adage that governments typically lose elections, rather than opposition parties win them. In this case, I think Prenctice just lost it and Notley has a truly unexpected chance to win it.

For more on the debate, read Don Braid’s analysis in the Calgary Herald.

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10 reasons the Saguenay ruling establishes Canada as a secular country

It’s been only 5 days since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the prayers said by the City of Saguenay discriminated against atheists, and already cities across Canada are reviewing their own practices. But I suspect (although caveated with the standard, I am not a lawyer) this ruling will have wide reaching consequences as there are very few Supreme Court precedents on cases of religious freedom in Canada.

Reading the ruling, I think secularists should feel confident. Here’s my interpretation of my 10 favourite parts of the ruling (in the order they appear).

Continue reading 10 reasons the Saguenay ruling establishes Canada as a secular country

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On PZ Myers and Atheist Ireland – what she said

I can’t add much to this statement from Secular Woman on the recent “public dissociation” controversy. I will admit that this blog was briefly listed as one of the Secular Policy Institute’s affiliates though (because they literally asked everyone they could google). But after they issued their bizarre statement about “shock bloggers” I dissociated myself (though not publicly, till now I guess).

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Lunney unleashed

Citing media “intolerance and bigotry”, anti-science Canadian MP James Lunney has quit the government caucus to sit as an independent. Among Lunney’s claim to the crown as Canada’s least scientifically literate MP are:

  • He doesn’t believe in evolution
  • He’s a chiropractor
  • He’s claimed there’s a link between vaccines and autism
  • He doesn’t believe the climate is changing

In his surreal press release (dated March 31, not April 1), he states that he will address his religious beliefs in Parliament at his next opportunity, which sounds like it will be a hoot. Lunney claims that Christians are being persecuted in Canada, a claim that is thoroughly debunked by the excellent Ottawa Citizen editorial:

Add MP James Lunney to the list of people who somehow have come to believe they’re being persecuted — that indeed, their fundamental human rights are under threat — when people disagree with them on Twitter.

Lunney is standing down before the election in October so we’ll only have a few more of his public gems of wisdom.

Good riddance.

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Got DNA evidence of Bigfoot? Don’t peer review, write a book!

Science Editor Jonathan Leake skewered Bryan Sykes in The Sunday Times today [paywalled] over bigfoot claims. Sykes is publishing a new book in which he’ll present the DNA evidence he claims to have for the existence of yetis and bigfoot. This claim comes despite the lack of any good photographic evidence in the era of cameras in everyone’s pockets.

Sykes previously hosted The Bigfoot Files on the UK’s Channel 4. Leake has some sharp comments on Sykes’ credibility:

Bryan Sykes, who describes himself as a ‘professor of human genetics at Oxford’…

Sykes has not published any research on these creatures…

Sykes is a fellow of Wolfson but he admitted [his Institute of Human Genetics at Wolfson College, Oxford] was mythical. “The journal required some sort of additional address in the college and, hey presto, I became an institute!”

Sykes’s book says he has been professor of human genetics at Oxford since 1997, but university officials said he had not held that post for a decade or so.

My favourite piece is the final comment from another scientist:

Tom Gilbert, professor of geogenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said: “Bryan’s data highlights that a lot of people strongly believe they have evidence for them (yetis etc), but none of it holds up under scrutiny.”

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Edmonton Journal grants space to debunked anti-WiFi conspiracies

Some parents in Alberta are trying to get schools to ban wi-fi on baseless fears and scare-mongering. The kicker: these same parents are fine with wifi in their house. 

It’s not so much the parents who bother me in this story as the Canadian Teachers Federation, the local school councils, and particularlu the Edmonton Journal who all give far greater space to these conspiracy theories than to sound science and expertise.

Continue reading Edmonton Journal grants space to debunked anti-WiFi conspiracies

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