Weekly Update: to

by | August 19, 2017

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

The paradox of tolerance.

  • [] B.C. judge rejects anti-abortion ads on Vancouver-area buses

    The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is a Calgary-based anti-abortion group that has been using graphic imagery to spread their message. Naturally several cities have balked at having the group’s gross-out, bloody images plastered over their municipal property, but the Centre responded with legal bluster and threats about “free speech”, making cities like Peterborough back down. Other cities weren’t cowed, and stood up to the group. Grande Prairie in Alberta won a court ruling against the group… and now Vancouver has beaten them, too.

  • [] “Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Video: 8:04)

    Three people in various stages of leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about what it’s like trying to leave the religion.

  • [] Eclipse of reason: Why do people disbelieve scientists?

    The article points out a fascinating paradox: pretty much no one (not even flat Earthers!) doubts the eclipse prediction… so why do people doubt things like climate changes and vaccines?

  • [] More about school prayer in Moosejaw

    The story of Dusti Hennenfent, who fought and won to stop the recitations of the Lord’s Prayer in a school in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

  • [] Spratt: Why decriminalizing all drugs makes sense

    Ottawa’s medical officer of health has promised to look at new evidence-based approaches, including decriminalization. Here’s an argument for why decriminializing all drugs might be the most rational option.

  • [] Dying with Dignity may challenge Ontario law exempting religious hospitals from offering assisted death

    Dying With Dignity Canada looks like they’re gearing up to take Ontario to court over the rule that allows organizations (rather than individuals) to “opt-out” of providing legal medical services… particularly assisted dying.

  • [] Alternative medicine kills cancer patients

    David Gorski aka Orac has written a very interesting article not so much about the fact that alternative medicine doesn’t work – I mean, duh – but more about the challenges in proving that alternative medicine doesn’t work. It’s not as easy as you’d think, but despite that, the evidence is pretty solid.

  • [] Toronto police, City Hall, U of T and legal expert weigh in on possible Toronto nationalist rally

    A white supremacist group has claimed to be organizing a rally at the University of Toronto, though they have apparently not bothered to tell U of T about it. U of T has responded by saying no fucking way are they holding the event there. This article by Liam Casey is well worth the read, particularly because it clarifies things about free expression in Canada that a lot of people have misconceptions about.

  • [] Government picks up debate on religious symbols

    Québec is at it again. After shelving a proposed ban on religious symbols following the Québec City mosque, the Québec Liberals are reopening the debate to ban religious symbols for anyone giving or receiving public services.

  • [] Ontario Father Says Scientology Destroyed His Family; “We Didn’t Know What Was Going On”

    This is part one of two (part two isn’t out yet).

  • [] Far-right extremist groups on the rise in Canada, expert says

    Another warning that far-right extremism is on the rise in Canada, and we’re so blinkered with our focus on Islamic terrorism, we’re not doing enough talking about it.

  • [] White nationalist groups on the rise in Canada, planning more rallies

    Right-wing extremism is on the rise, but are Canadian right-wing groups really connected to white supremacist and Nazi groups in the same way as their American counterparts? The answer seems to be yes, and to understand that connection, we have to stop using their language – terms like “alt-right” are designed to obfuscate the connection, and make their abhorrent ideologies superficially more respectable.

  • [] Philosophy Has A PR Problem

    It has been fashionable among a certain kind of atheist to dump on philosophy, simply because it’s not science. That anti-intellectual attitude does a disservice to all nonbelievers, because philosophy is important, and has quite a lot to offer. This article debunks several of the myths people seem to believe about philosophy.

  • [] Canadian Muslims Abused By Their Government Have To Rely On The Law

    This round-up of several recent cases shows a disturbing truth about being a Muslim in Canada: If the government violates your rights… which happens distressingly often… don’t expect any kind of help or empathy from the government. The only place you’re going to find justice in Canada is in the courts.

  • [] Quiet Canadian, ugly American: Does racism differ north of the border?

    Here is an interesting question: Why are Canada and the US so different with regards to things like multiculturalism and tolerance? Well, the answer may not be that we’re just sweeter people. It may have to do with our history and our climate.

  • [] Does Canada take the threat of far-right extremism seriously?

    Canadian intelligence and law enforcement agencies are widely criticized for not taking the more prevalent threat of right-wing extremism seriously, and instead focusing exclusively on the much rarer Islamic threat (even to the point of straight-up manufacturing Islamic terrorists out of nothing). The agencies’ defence? That far-right terrorism cannot be a priority because it is too inconsistent.

  • [] Scheer’s free speech promise wouldn’t apply in U of T white nationalist case

    Ah, hypocrisy, thou art a harsh mistress. For those who don’t know, one of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s loonier pledges is to pull federal funding from universities that, quote, fail to uphold free speech. In case you don’t speak conservative dog whistle, that is a coded hint to just about every wackaloon that votes conservative that their pet nonsense will be allowed to get a platform – everything from creationism to climate denialism to far-right, islamophobic bullshit. Well, after Charlottesville, things have changed. Now Scheer is walking back his pledge a bit. Now the idea is that it’s okay if the university wants to ban the group… just not if the students want it. Which is exactly what free speech advocacy is about right? Giving organizations power to decide what speech is acceptable, but not the people? Free speech ain’t as easy a thing as Scheer thinks it is, apparently.

  • [] An inconvenient truth about An Inconvenient Truth

    One of the items above asks why some scientific facts are universally accepted, while others are political footballs. The suggested reason has to do with how much those facts require from us – how much action on our part is implied by accepting those scientific facts. But here’s another possibility. Perhaps climate denial is a political issue precisely because it was popularized by a politician.

  • [] Every Single State Constitution Includes At Least One Reference to God

    This is an American thing, obvs, but I thought it was fascinating regardless. I’d wonder if the same thing were true for Canada, but Canada doesn’t really have a simple, single constitutional document like the Americans are used to. Figuring out which constitutional documents are federal and which are provincial, and which are still relevant, is problem enough before even getting to figuring out whether there are any God references. Anyone want to take a swipe at it?

  • [] Quebec’s debate on religious accommodation turns to buses, subway

    As mentioned above, Québec is back at their stupid hijab ban thing. This time, though, it’s getting a lot more push back. The hijab ban has always been a political ploy, so it’s nothing new to point that out (though this article does anyway). But what’s new is that people are really sitting down and looking hard at the proposed bill, and realizing just how mind-bogglingly fucking stupid it is. For example, with its current language, people wearing a “religious symbol” wouldn’t be allowed to ride the bus! Also terrifying is the idea that they wouldn’t be allowed to receive medical treatment.

  • [] Malaysia

    Greta Vosper has written an open letter to Minister of International Affairs Chrystia Freeland about the threat made to Malaysian atheists. The story, in short, is that a group of Malaysian atheists got together and took a picture of themselves for their Facebook page. The Malaysian government, on seeing that picture, made some terrifying comments about how the picture would help them hunt down the atheists and punish them for causing anxiety among Muslims. (An Islamic organization, the Islamic Renaissance Front later stood up for the atheists, telling the police to back off.) Vosper’s letter calls on the government to speak out against such threats.

  • [] White Nationalism Needs Canadians To Think We’re Over Racism

    The argument is that the fact that we’re so unwilling to call out racism in Canada is why racism is thriving here. If we want to beat this movement back, we need to start being brutally honest about Canada’s racism problems.

  • [] Popper and the Paradox of Tolerance

    There is a meme floating around calling back to some of Karl Popper’s comments on the “paradox of tolerance” in society. Of course, things are more complicated than can be summed up in an infographic, no matter how well made. Dan from Skepchick digs a little deeper into it.

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18 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Jim Atherton

    •[14-Aug-2017] Alternative medicine kills cancer patients

    Alternative medicines should be held to the same standard as drugs. They should be required to prove through clinical trials that they are safe and effective compared to the best currently available treatments before receiving Health Canada approval for sale in Canada. It is my understanding that currently in Canada they are not required to prove safety or effectiveness. They are only required to be registered with Health Canada.

    1. Indi Post author

      While I agree with the sentiment, in practice it’s just not that easy.

      For example, how would you define “alternative medicine”? It might seem easy for something like a homeopathic pill that claims to alleviate some symptom or cure some disease… but what about ginger? Ginger, the plant, the spice. Is *that* an “alternative medicine”? Because there are people making health claims about ginger, like that it cures cancer. So… what… are we going to ban the sale of ginger because it hasn’t passed clinical trials for curing cancer?

      And it gets even more complicated, because ginger *has* passed clinical trials for curing some things, like nausea (https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/84/3/367/264600/Efficacy-of-ginger-for-nausea-and-vomiting-a). But of course, it hasn’t passed clinical trials for curing any form of cancer. So… what do we do?

      And alt-med people can be pretty cagey. Even if you ban them from making outright claims right on the crap they sell, they can easily get around it. For example, they can sell ginger pills “for entertainment purposes only” (or something similar), and *NOT* make any claims on the bottle that it cures anything… but then get people to spread the idea on alt-med sites that it cures cancer, aging, and everything. How do we stop that? We can’t ban people from lying on social media.

      It’s a really thorny problem. We *do* need to protect people from being fleeced by alt-med fraudsters… but the question of how to go about it is tricky.

      1. Jim Atherton

        For a really good analysis of just how ‘thorny’ the problems are I would suggest reading “Natural Causes:Death,Lies and Politics in Americas Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry”. These books are available thru the Toronto Public Library.

  2. Jim Atherton

    •[13-Aug-2017] Eclipse of reason: Why do people disbelieve scientists?

    I think if you really look into the matter you will find that some of the biggest doubters of science are some of the people who actually know the most about it. To find out what I mean I suggest reading the following 2 books.

    1.Toxic Overload-written by a doctor
    1.The Origins of Everything in 100 Pages (more or less)-written by a scientist

    1. Indi Post author

      I disagree. Sure there are *some* people with relevant degrees peddling bullshit (for example, Dr. Oz is actually a doctor, and Andrew Wakefield was once), but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as big a problem as you make it sound. Sure you can find a few quacks and cranks in any discipline… but they are always *FAR* outnumbered by legitimate scientists and doctors.

      For example, with the two examples you gave, the first one features someone who *seems* to actually be a medical doctor (specializing in human metabolism). I’m not sure, because some bios only list her as a *N*D, not a MD (http://www.unitedagents.co.uk/cv/9323/books). In any case, she appears to be obscure as *hell*. She doesn’t seem to have a practice, and I can’t even find any of the journal articles she’s supposed to have published – she doesn’t seem to be attached to a University either (she’s virtually always mentioned along with Stirling University, but she was only a visiting fellow there). I can’t even find her CV. The only bios I can find about her point out that she works with the UK association that determines which foods are “organic”. In other words, she *may* have a legitimate medical degree (and it may have come from a legitimate university – I can’t tell), but she doesn’t seem to be a doctor or scientist of any note.

      As for the second example… what makes you think that book is an example of crankery? From all I turned up, it seems to be a fairly run-of-the-mill pop-sci book, written by a legitimate scientist (a geophysicist from the looks of it). I haven’t read anything that makes it sound anti-scientific.

      1. Jim Atherton

        The point I was trying to make is that not all scientist agree on all science, it’s not just non-scientific people who disagree. You seem to have very good ways to check an authors credentials, whereas I generally accept what I see written. According to the book cover title the authoress of ‘Toxic Overload’ in an M.D. (I take that to mean medical doctor) with a PhD. (As far as I know only legitimate universities grant doctorates). At any rate what particularly interested me was her warnings about the use of metals (as I recall she said mercury) in vaccines to make them more effective. I’ve always known that mercury is extremely deadly to human which is why you certainly don’t want to break one of those old mercury thermometers and get the stuff on your skin.

        As far as the second book goes the author covers most of human history which as it happens covers a lot of very significant climate change. The author doesn’t seem to me to be making any particular judgements about global warming other than to state the earth’s climate has always changed in very dramatic ways and the reasons why are still not completely understood scientifically by any means.

  3. Randy

    Oh, I get your little cartoon! On an atheist webside, RELIGIOUS intolerance is OK, provided it comes from brown people. But racist intolerance (except your own of course) is not tolerable. Makes perfect sense!

    We should clarify what we mean when we say we won’t “tolerate” someone else’s opinion.

    It does NOT mean we lie about them.
    It does NOT mean we shut them down.
    It does NOT mean we act violently to them.

    It means we (or just I) present a better way forward. Words are to be met with words. That’s all.

  4. Randy

    In the case of buses, I think it’s cowardly to shut down these “graphic” ads. Again, if you disagree with the content, the only proper response to them is more words (or pictures).

    Disagreeing with the form of the content is puritanism. In any case, we should all be familiar with what the human fetus looks like, not from drawings but from photos. This need not be a mysterious topic, and it’s bizarre the the only people with any photos to show are the anti-abortion types.

  5. Randy

    “Liberals are reopening the debate to ban religious symbols for anyone giving or receiving public services”

    Good. It’s hard to see any justification for cosplay at work, much less government work.

  6. Randy

    “philosophy is important, and has quite a lot to offer”

    Not really. Not only hasn’t philosophy managed to improve anyone’s life in the last century, it has utterly failed to even educate the public about what is knowable. And instead it’s become a pathetic popularity contest, an echo chamber, of who got published and who got tenure as “A Philosopher” and was subsequently never heard from again on the outside.

    And shame on the author for obfuscating the reality.

  7. Randy

    “the answer may not be that we’re just sweeter people”

    No, the answer is that we are not a people, not a country, at all. The moment people start feeling like they belong here, things will change, and become riskier.

  8. Randy

    “the much rarer Islamic threat”

    I suppose I missed it when the Nazis attacked parliament.

  9. Randy

    “just about every wackaloon that votes conservative”

    I think it’s critical to note that, despite the idiotic name of this website, you do not speak for, nor do you fairly represent, Canadian atheists.

    (I’ve voted in more elections than I can remember, and I have never once voted Conservative, but I will be, in part thanks to you).

  10. Randy

    “Now the idea is that it’s okay if the university wants to ban the group… just not if the students want it”

    This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. Down south, where they do have something a bit closer to free speech than we have here, this is standard on public university campuses. Everyone is free to come and rant in the public spaces, sort of like a speaker’s corner, but if you aren’t invited (e.g. by students) then the university is not obliged to rent you space like a lecture hall.

    It’s a reasonable system that allows a lot of speech to be heard, and in particular ensure that speech that any group of students WANTS to hear is going to be heard.

  11. Randy

    “a political issue precisely because it was popularized by a politician”

    Not only that, but a BAD politician. Everything that guy touches… (internet too… what a mess)

  12. Randy

    “we need to start being brutally honest about Canada’s racism problems”

    Let’s start by removing race from our constitution and all of our laws. The idea that someone’s rights depend on who their parents were, or what their skin colour is, is wrong. We know it’s wrong. Always. And yet, it’s so very Canadian.

    And let’s also be clear… “First Nationalism” is just as wrong as “white nationalism” and “black nationalism” (recently on display interrupting pride parades)


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