Weekly Update: to

by | August 5, 2017

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

[A photo of the interior of a bus with empty seats. Due to a trick of the light, some people have misinterpreted the seats as seated women wearing burqas.]

The bigots rage about Muslims treating women like furniture. Meanwhile….

  • [] Rebuilding research for all Canadians #SUPPORTtheREPORT

    The Harper years were bad for Canada, but particularly bad for science in Canada, and we still haven’t recovered. The Liberal government, as is their way, have made the right noises about committing to undo the damage to Canadian scientific capacity, but have yet to take any meaningful action. Dr. David Naylor has written a report on the status of science in Canada, with recommendations for bringing us back on track. Evidence for Democracy has set up a petition, and materials for you to contact your MP to push for these recommendations to be taken up. Consider writing your MP about the issue.

  • [] There is no defence for ‘Conscientious objection’ in reproductive health care

    This pugnacious paper was published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology and released as an open access paper, and it is a glorious read. Its central thesis – that “conscientious objection” is a term derived from military service, and is incoherent when applied to civilian doctors – is a very interesting perspective on the issue. I can see that it has merit in the abortion (or contraception) discussion, but when I try to apply it to the medical assistance in dying issue… it seems to fall short. What do you think?

  • [] Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting

    This week it was a tough call as to whether the funniest item of the week was the “bus seat burqa” item (above) or this one. I think this one takes the prize, mostly because the former’s humour can be pretty much summed up in a headline… but this one just gets funnier and funnier the more you read about it. What Neuroskeptic did, in essence, was take the Wikipedia article on mitochondira, and do a find-replace to “midichlorian”. But then just for the hell of it, he threw in chunks of text quoting from speeches about “Darth Plagueis the Wise”, while referencing paper by “Kenobi OW”, “Skywalker L”, and “Fett B”. And to add even more icing, there’s the responses by the publishers: “The authors have neglected to add the following references: Lucas et al., 1977, Palpatine et al., 1980, and Calrissian et al., 1983”. Glorious.

  • [] Dislike of Khadr settlement does not entitle critics to disregard law or facts

    If you’re one of those people who still insists that the settlement Omar Khadr got wasn’t justified – yet you still have the gall to insist that you’re a rationalist – here’s a hard dose of reality for you to suck on. This collection of facts and expert legal opinion is probably not going to change the mind of anyone who just doesn’t like Khadr because Khadr’s father was an asshole, and who thinks that justifies him being denied not only Charter rights, but basic human rights enshrined in the UDHR, but here they are anyway.

  • [] Polygamy ban fails to protect women and children

    One of a pair of good opinion pieces on Canada’s polygamy law from The Globe and Mail recently. This one criticizes the polygamy law from a non-religious perspective, arguing that it doesn’t really do what it purports to do, which is protect vulnerable women and children.

  • [] Polygamy should never be linked with religious freedom

    The second of of a pair of good opinion pieces on Canada’s polygamy law from The Globe and Mail recently. This one rejects that religious freedom is a legitimate defence for polygamy, on the assumption that polygamy is a practice that harms women. Granted, but Dueck lacks the nuance of Campbell, and just raises the spectre of sexual abuse, domestic violence, crime, [and] substance abuse… all of which, Campbell points out, we already have other laws to deal with.

  • [] Esseghaier terrorism case highlights tricky collision between mental illness and extremism

    The whole Chiheb Esseghaier case is a fucking disaster. From early on there were signs that Esseghaier was just not mentally well. There were the bizarre aspects of his plot – for example, he wanted to dig a massive ditch in the tracks that the train would fall into, and then there was the idea to set off the Yellowstone supervolcano. Even his co-conspirator Raed Jaser walked away from the plot because Esseghaier was so unbalanced (Jaser later claimed he had no interest in terrorism in any case, and was just trying to scam money out of the lunacy of Esseghaier), and the only reason the plot was formed at all was because of the FBI informant funding it and egging the unstable Esseghaier on. Esseghaier’s bizarre court behaviour was sensationalized in the media; notably the judge put a media blackout on reporting any of the criticism of the involvement of law enforcement in the trial – including a ban on reporting the ban! – but happily allowed reports of him denying the authority of Canadian law because it wasn’t Quranic, ranting about how he is like a prophet, and spitting at lawyers. There was an early assessment that Esseghaier wasn’t fit to stand trial, but the judge dismissed it… now there are two more assessments that agree with the first finding. From a wider perspective, if you’ve been keeping score, law enforcement’s record on actually stopping terrorists is abysmal – it’s really just a long list of them literally fabricating terrorist plots out of whole cloth and entrapping mentally ill people.

  • [] Is the world really better than ever?

    I think it’s undeniable that from any sane perspective, the world is far better off now than it ever has been in the past. But the question is what do we take away from that observation? This article is a fascinating deep dive into the idea peddled by a group of neoconservative optimists that because things are better now than they’ve ever been, we should stay the course and not change what we’re doing too much, and the counterarguments to that view.

  • [] From the Enlightenment to the Dark Ages: How “new atheism” slid into the alt-right

    Salon has a well-deserved reputation for publishing terrible anti-atheist articles, but this particular piece – while certainly sharing the conclusion of some of their shittier atheist hit-pieces – deserves a serious look. Torres not only packs the article with damning facts about the behaviour of prominent New Atheists, he backs up the facts with well-reasoned arguments about why that behaviour is simply not acceptable from purported rationalists.

  • [] Jason Kenney launches bid to lead UCP by pitching to religious right

    Conservative leadership wannabes are engaged in a fierce race to lowest common denominator, and Kenney is doing is best to go the lowest. As usual for politicians at that level, Kenney is canny enough not to come right out and say he wants to have religious or ideological beliefs taught in the classroom; it’s all done with coded language and dog-whistles about “choice in education”. But the religious voting bloc is certainly getting the message.

  • [] The “Human” in “Humanist” Includes Trans

    It astonishes me that there are people with the chutzpah to call themselves humanists that deny the validity of transgender identities and even transgender rights. The inspiration for this article is Trump’s “ban” on transgender soldiers in the military, but the arguments debunked are relatively universal among anti-transgender folk.

  • [] An anti-immigrant group mistook empty bus seats for women wearing burqas

    This story has no Canadian connection… it’s just that it’s fucking hilarious. A Norwegian named Johan Slåttavik was bored one night, so he posted a picture to a Facebook group called Fedrelandet viktigst (“Fatherland First”) that appeared (from a certain perspective) to show a bunch of burka-wearing women on a bus. His only comment was basically, “hey, what do you think of this?” Well, the bigots went nuts, ranting about how terrible it was, about how it made them fear for their country and culture, about how the mysterious women could be hiding weapons under their clothes. Thing is… it wasn’t a picture of would-be terrorists invading Scandinavia. It was a picture of empty bus seats. (I’ve included it in the update at the top – see for yourself.)

  • [] Gurski: ISIL‘s demise is a reason to celebrate – but not too much

    There’s been good news recently on the Daesh front – the odious “caliphate” has been falling apart thanks to a series of military victories. But as this piece warns, we can crush an organization, but the ideas that spawned it will live on… and may come back to bite us again later in even worse form. If we’re going to defeat Islamic extremism, we have to take aim at the underlying inspirations and ideas.

  • [] Globally, People Point to ISIS and Climate Change as Leading Security Threats

    This is one of the most fascinating reports to come out of Pew in a while. It’s all about what people think the greatest threat facing their country is. The options are basically: Daesh, climate change, cyberattacks, the economy, and the influence of a few different countries (the US, Russia, China). Of all the options, the only one that can seriously be considered a major threat by any rational analysis is climate change. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, Europe and the US are far more afraid of Daesh of all things, even though basically any other cause you could name has killed more Europeans and Americans than Daesh. It really gives you insight into they psychology of the various countries, and the detachment between what we fear and what actually threatens us. Daesh was the #1 choice for every country in Europe and North America except Sweden (climate change), Spain (climate change, but only by 1% over Daesh), Greece (the economy), Hungary (refugees), and… Canada (climate change).

  • [] Same-sex marriage illustrates how Canada got it right on rights

    Canada is far from perfect on many issues, not least being its dedication to LGBT rights and equality. But it needs pointing out sometimes that in the grand scheme of things, we’re not all that bad. Canada has been remarkably progressive on LGBT rights issues, and this article argues it’s largely due to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It was thanks to the Charter that the government’s hand was forced to legalize same-sex marriage long before Canadians were comfortable with the idea… but once it was legal and the sky didn’t fall, Canadians very rapidly accepted it as normal, and even wore the fact that we had legalized it ahead of many other places as a badge of honour. Yes, there’s certainly a whole hell of a lot of hard work to do, and we should absolutely not get complacent. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to appreciate the things we got right.

  • [] Understanding freedom of conscience

    This is an interesting piece because it brings the focus on a freedom we don’t normally think about: the very first freedom mentioned in our Charter as a matter of fact, before even the freedom of religion. Its thesis is that conscience is too often considered a religious freedom (because the most frequent forms of conscientious objection are religiously motivated), when in fact conscientious objection need have no religious justification at all. I highly recommend reading it in tandem with the Fiala/Arthur paper mentioned above for some insight and nuance into the topic of conscientious objection by medical practitioners.

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9 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Derek Gray

    Re: “From the Enlightenment to the Dark Ages: How “new atheism” slid into the alt-right”

    Yes, this one is a huge improvement over last week’s version of this argument. Lots of direct links and a wide range of people-examples instead of a major focus on a known critically bad example and dubious 3rd party support. And even links to rebuttals so you can decide whether to agree or disagree with his interpretation of certain quotes. I’ve only read it once quickly but the quality of argument looks markedly better.

  2. Randy

    While the midichlorians thing is cute, of far more relevance is the hoax article on the Conceptual Penis, which was not only accepted but received positive reviews. EVEN AFTER being revealed as a hoax, some postmodernists were still trying to claim it had value, even if the authors didn’t understand their own work. You can’t make this stuff up.

  3. Randy

    I support your seeming support of legalization of polygamy (and polyamory generally). As a gay person, I am aware that LGBT people are by no means “the last” minority. And while no person is born polygamous, my rights do not hinge on being born gay either. Certainly we are all born with the right to form our own family relationships, and sexual relationships, without government meddling.

  4. Randy

    “I think it’s undeniable that from any sane perspective, the world is far better off now than it ever has been in the past.”

    You are plainly not being rational.

    We have nukes in more hands than ever, many of them irrational (including now the USA).

    We are in the middle of an extinction event.

    We simultaneously have potentially catastrophic climate change.

    And the meaning of human life may disappear as our robots discover how to do even THAT better than us.

  5. Randy

    “Salon has a well-deserved reputation”. Let’s leave it at that, shall we?

  6. Randy

    “we can crush an organization, but the ideas that spawned it will live on”

    If you bother to read their prophecy, you will note that they EXPECT to be crushed…

  7. Randy

    “we have to take aim at the underlying inspirations and ideas.”

    As primarily a religious organization, Islamic State has been careful to back up all of their claims and actions with reference to islamic scholars, hadith, and the Quran.

  8. Randy

    “It’s all about what people think the greatest threat facing their country is”

    People choose to label Islamic State as an important threat because it’s something they can actually do something about. These are people, after all.

    Solving cancer might take more time.

  9. Randy

    “It was thanks to the Charter that the government’s hand was forced to legalize same-sex marriage long before Canadians were comfortable with the idea”

    While true, let’s not confuse a positive outcome with a positive document. The Charter is such a mess, I can’t even begin to disparage it in a mere comment.


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