Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

  • [] Former polygamous leader found guilty in B.C. child bride case

    These Blackmore-related cases may be some of the most frustrating criminal cases in my entire experience as a Canadian atheist activist, but finally things are starting to work out. This particular charge, directed at James Oler, is actually a redo, because the previous judge got pedantically asinine about the precise timeline of the girl’s transport to her otherwise clearly-evidenced rape – basically the difference between “he took her across the border to the US to be raped” versus “he took her to the US for innocent reasons… and then while there decided to take her to be raped”.

  • [] A new poll shows support for Bill 21 is built on anti-Islam sentiment

    I’m shocked – shocked, I tells ya! </sarcasm> Seriously, though, if you actually talk to Bill 21 supporters, they’re not just openly frank about their underlying islamophobic motives, they even mock you for taking seriously the spin that it’s aimed at all religions.

  • [] The new kilogram just debuted. It’s a massive achievement.

    This past World Metrology Day () quietly marked a momentous achievement in scientific history. When the metric system – upon which the SI system was based – was first conceived in 1791, it was intended to be a truly universal system. Rather than being based on characteristics specific to a certain time or place – like the length of a king’s foot – the dream was to make a system of measurements based only on natural phenomena, that could be derived by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately, that proved to be practically impossible with the technology of the time, so some compromises were made. Artifacts were used to define the metre and the kilogram – platinum-iridium allowy blocks stored and carefully guarded by the French government. (Other units could be defined by natural means, such as determining the second by the rotation of the Earth, the ampere from Ampère’s law, and temperature from the boiling/condensing and melting/freezing points of water. These have, of course, been refined over time – for example, we don’t use the rotation of the Earth any more because the Earth’s rotation is changing.) When the metric system became SI in 1960, the metre was redefined as the wavelength of a specific emission line of a specific isotope of krypton. But the kilogram continued to be defined using a block of platinum… until this week. , the SI system is now entirely defined by natural constants. That means that from now on, measurements will be universal, able to be determined by anyone, anytime, anywhere in the universe, with a level of precision that will only increase over time as technology advances. It’s kinda cool not just for the scientific implications. If you think about it as meaning that a million years from now, an alien species from another galaxy with absolutely no concept of humanity or human culture could conceivably perfectly reconstruct any of our artifacts with the precisely correct size, mass, and functionality – even colour – that’s pretty awesome.

  • [] A cautionary tale: The unintended consequences of Québec’s Bill 21

    I’m not thrilled with the way this idea is expressed, but I don’t really disagree with it. Pfrimmer is basically saying that all freedoms come with responsibilities, and religious freedom is no exception. Rather than simply having the state take away religious freedom, a more productive and positive model would call on religions to monitor each other, and ensure they’re using their religious freedoms responsibly. (Presumably the nonreligious would also keep an eye on the lot of them.) It’s an interesting way of framing it.

  • [] Study: It’s easier to be a ‘none’ in Canada than in the US

    This article got a lot of angry pushback on social media, which baffled me because its conclusions are not only pretty blatantly obvious to anyone who’s ever spent any time in both countries, they’re also in line with all other data we already have. I actually consider their finding interesting – it’s not news to me that Canadians ditched religion earlier and faster than Americans, but I’d never thought of framing the differences between us as stemming from that earlier start. Seems a bit simplistic to me, because there are some substantive differences between the way Canadians and Americans view religion that started way before the 1970s, but I’ll wait for the report before taking a firm position.

  • [] Busting the myth that Canadians are polarized on climate and immigration

    As someone who studies and writes about polls and surveys all the time, I’m so glad to see other people noticing what I’ve noticed myself: rumours of a US-like partisan divide in Canadian politics are greatly exaggerated. While it’s true that right-leaning parties have had some success recently, a closer look reveals that their victories haven’t been due to any great enthusiasm for their policies or principles. On the contrary, it’s usually antipathy toward the current government that decides the next government more than anything else (and judging by recent polls in Ontario, that trend seems likely to continue). Put another way, if Scheer wins the election in October, it won’t be because anyone is super-enthused about Scheer and the direction he wants to take the country in… it will be because the Liberals were such magnificent fuck-ups that we don’t think they should be allowed to use a fork, let alone run a country. The braying of a very small minority shouldn’t be confused with a general pattern; Canadians aren’t radicals, we’re just frustrated by the incompetence of all potential leaders, and keep desperately casting around to find one who is at least minimally functional.

  • [] Retracted anti-vaccine papers – ultimate list of pseudoscience and bias

    This is an amusing list that I’d really like to see keep growing. Well, to a point – I mean, I’d love to see more anti-vax papers get retracted and listed, but at the same time I’d probably prefer to see fewer anti-vax papers to begin with.

  • [] Beware pro-choice memes normalizing Islamophobia

    I think there is a very important point made in this article that we atheists should take to heart. It’s standard practice to use the groups we disdain as scapegoats for “everything bad”. When I was a kid, it was normal to criticize things by saying “that’s gay” or “that’s retarded”. As I grew up, I learned that using gay people or people with intellectual disabilities as an insult was dehumanizing and bigoted, and I stopped using that language. Well, using Islam and Islam-related language as an insult is also dehumanizing and bigoted. It’s especially obviously wrong when – as shown in the article – not only are the people being compared to Muslims actually vehemently intolerant of Muslims themselves, the Islamic standards are actually better than the Christian standards. So here’s a suggestion: rather than insulting the Bible-thumping, dominionist, Christian assholes by comparing them to Muslims… let’s just make “Christian” the appropriate insult to use on them. We can save name-calling assholes “Muslims” for actual Muslim assholes.

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