Prog Blog’s Flickr Photostream

Politics and its Discontents: Is it Critical Thinking Or Political Bias? – Part One

I have written about the virtues of critical thinking many times on this blog, and I have also frequently observed the difficulty of achieving it; without question, I regularly fall short of the ideal. One of the impediments to such thinking is the task of separating one’s biases from the process, or at the very least recognizing those biases in assessing people and situations.

Take Stephen Harper, for example. Few would dispute that his propensity for exerting control and influence is massive. His contempt of Parliament, the judiciary, and all those who oppose his views and agenda requires no recounting (Read more…)

Scripturient: Jade Helm 15 and the Madness of America

For a guy who gets great entertainment from reading the wild and wacky conspiracy theories that sprout like mushrooms online, I was surprised that I missed the rapid growth of the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy. I only noticed it as a surface ripple until this past weekend, when I realized it had blossomed into a […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Signs – of the Apocalypse?

Councillor Cam Ecclestone made a comment at council earlier this month that he had been contacted by several residents concerned about the new sign on the Rexall Drug store on Huron Street, its size and colours. Coun. Doherty chimed in about it with similar comments. Aside from the question why anyone would contact a member of […]

Politics and its Discontents: A Reconsideration

While I have written about the importance of critical thinking many times on this blog, I have always considered it an ideal, a destination that we should strive for throughout our lives. Never is the journey complete; never are we entirely free from our cultural, political and social contexts and values, all of which act as filters through which we interpret events and ideas. It’s all part of being human, and I am acutely aware of the biases through which I see things.

One of my biggest biases, of course, is political in nature. I detest the Harper regime and (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Fishy Thoughts

Canadians, the headline reads, now have shorter attention span than goldfish thanks to portable devices. The story in today’s National Post underscores a growing problem that is fuelled by technology: our dwindling attention spans. The Microsoft study of 2,000 Canadians found our collective attention span has dwindled to a mere eight seconds, down from an […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Ontario’s Sex Education

As Frank Zappa sang in his 1968 song, What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?: What’s the ugliest Part of your body? What’s the ugliest Part of your body? Some say your nose Some say your toes I think it’s your mind, your mind, I think it’s YOUR MIND, woo woo I’m not a fan […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Someone’s Paying Attention

I was glad to see the Connection is attending and reporting on some of the council standing committee meetings. The media need to be there to shine a light on what seems to the rest of the town as a secretive, unaccountable process. At least the Connection is paying attention. The story that came out of […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Turning Positives into Negatives

Once upon a time, when George Cerny was the publisher, the Enterprise-Bulletin newspaper was an avid and active local promoter: the indefatigable cheerleader for the town; for its events, activities, clubs and organizations. It was the proud voice of Collingwood. No so, today. The paper seems to have lost that community passion. Today it comes across as bitter, ideologically-driven, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Not Getting It

In a recent opinion piece in the Enterprise Bulletin titled “Swayze overused by council?” EB reporter/editor Paul Brian comments, I think the overuse of Swayze is outlandish and it is not congruent with the tough financial situation of the town.* Like much of the EB’s increasingly vague reporting since former editor Ian Adams left, the paper’s current […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Written by God?

I don’t pay as much attention to American politics as I suppose I should, in part because despite the entertaining craziness of some of their politicians, the internal politics seldom affect Canadians, and also in part because the craziness not only baffles me – it scares me. But this week I paid attention when I […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Another TEOTWAWKI

TEOTWAWKI – The End Of The World As We Know It – has been predicted ever since humans looked up in wonder at the sky and decided it was peopled with invisible beings. Beings who wanted to do us harm, it seems. And as quickly as we people the sky, there developed an industry predicting […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Ontario’s Assault on Health Care

Earlier this month, the Ontario government took a shot at real medicine when it became the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy. What the government should have done, if it had any real concern about our collective health or our health care system, is ban it. Instead, although it at first seemed an April Fool’s […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Responsibility of Free Speech

In January, 2015, Marie Snyder, on her blog, A Puff of Absurdity, raised the question of how free should speech be. I share her concerns about the apparent limitlessness of our rights: our right to free speech is not matched to any inherent responsibilities, civic or moral, to behave in a mature manner, nor does […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Canadian Ambivalence Towards Religion

A new Angus Reid poll underscores the changing, ambivalent nature of Canadian attitudes towards religion, but there are many things about the poll that concern me and make me question its methodology and whether an inherent bias influenced the results. First of all, what is “religion”? That may seem obvious, but there are conflicting definitions, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Bad Thinkers and the Unknown Knowns

I came across an interesting piece on bad thinking online recently. In it, the author argues some of the points I’ve mentioned in the past about people who believe in conspiracy theories, gossip and other online codswallop: The problem with conspiracy theorists is not, as the US legal scholar Cass Sunstein argues, that they have […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Extraordinary Claims

As the poster for the Centre for Inquiry notes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s a popular catchphrase for the skeptical movement, but should be an intellectual policy for everyone. Regardless of what is being claimed, it requires evidence at the same level of the claim. Anecdote is not evidence, please note, especially personal anecdote […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Conrad Black: Off the Rails

I generally read Conrad Black‘s columns for their entertainment value, but I also read them for the language. Black is the best tosser of pithy epithets since Spiro Agnew*. And like the former US VP, he’s a pompous git who puffs up his intellectual feathers like a pigeon in heat – that puffery of sound […]

Politics and its Discontents: An Imperiled Democracy: Civic Illiteracy In Canada

I imagine that bloggers have any number of reasons for doing what they do, ranging from writing as catharsis to sharing information and insights in the hope of informing and/or changing people’s views. And while I read a number of blogs on a daily basis that further inform my worldview, I am under scant illusion that our collective efforts have much chance of altering people’s perspectives, largely due to the self-selection involved in the reading process. In other words, progressives tend to read progressives’ blogs, while regressives reactionaries read the scribblings of fellow travellers. Rarely do the twain meet. The (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Lucy and the 10% Brain Myth

We watched the film Lucy on iTunes last night and, while reasonably entertaining, its plot is founded on a persistent bit of pseudoscience: that people only use 10% of their brain capacity. It’s so widespread a myth that Wikipedia has a page on it that opens: The 10 percent of the brain myth is the widely perpetuated […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: It’s Official: Homeopathy is Bunk

“Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds,” reads a headline in The Guardian this week. Well, that’s hardly news. But it repeats saying anyway. It’s a story about the latest in a series of studies that again and again debunk homeopathy as a treatment and conclude it is useless. Australia’s National Health and […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Bad News For Balderdash

A recent story on New Scientist gives a glimmer of hope for those of us who bemoan the swelling tsunami of claptrap and codswallop that fills the internet: THE internet is stuffed with garbage. Anti-vaccination websites make the front page of Google, and fact-free “news” stories spread like wildfire. Google has devised a fix – […]

Politics and its Discontents: Could It Be A Virus?

Stupidity, it has been said, is contagious, and one has to wonder whether a particularly virulent virus is running through the Conservative tent these days. First there was Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls suggesting that evolution shouldn’t be taught in schools, as he doesn’t believe in it. Now comes word of similar sentiments on the part of one of his federal cousins, B.C. Conservative MP James Lunney.

Coming to the defense of his fellow fundamentalist, Lunney tweeted: “[Just] stop calling #evolution fact!” tweeted Lunney, who said he had no problem calling it a “theory.”

A man (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: How Marx Presaged Today’s Canada

“The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country,” wrote Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, in 1848, in the Communist Manifesto. I came across this paragraph in Prof. David Harvey‘s book, A Companion to Marx’s Capital, recently and the quote from the Communist […]

Politics and its Discontents: A Worrisome Trend

Thursday’s post lamented the fact that opinion and personal beliefs are increasingly being regarded as legitimate challenges to facts. As was noted, accepting the facts of evolution and climate change are now often presented as a matter of choice. If the signs are any indication, these worrisome affronts to critical thinking are likely only to grow.

Toward the end of the post, I offered several possible contributing factors to this elevation of irrationality. One of them was this: Perhaps people take living in a supposedly democratic age as license to suggest that any view is valid.

Two columns by The (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Marx, Darwin and Machiavelli

What do these three men – three of the world’s greatest thinkers – have in common? Science? Economics? Politics? Their impact on culture and society? Their foresight or insight? Their importance to the development of modern thought? Their continued relevance today? The depth and breadth of their wisdom? The quality of their writing? Yes, they […]