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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 […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Smoking = Stupidity

I don’t know how to sugar coat this in some politically-correct, sensitive, caring way that doesn’t overtly offend anyone, but if you haven’t already figured this out by now, here it is: smoking is stupid. Really stupid. Even worse, smoking makes you even more stupid while you do it: Researchers tested the IQs of more […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Facebook, Likes and Big Data

I suppose you could call it ironic. There was a story from a ‘friend’ on my Facebook news feed today called “Quitting the Like” all about escaping Facebook’s data collection processes by simply not “liking” items or comments you see. Right below this ostensibly anti-Facebook story were three related links produced by one of the […]

Politics and its Discontents: I Rather Like This, Don’t You?

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Politics and its Discontents: Recognizing Harper For what He Is

Last evening I watched a PBS special on the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Archival footage spanning over 50 years of the group and their times reminded me of the passionate and committed century I grew up in, a time that saw people marching en masse to protest the Vietnam War, to advocate for civil rights, etc. Outside of the Occupy Movement, rarely has this century seen such activism.

I often think that the forces of corporatism, aided and abetted by their government enablers, have been very successful in largely muting, if not totally silencing, the spirit of protest. (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hate Crimes Against Non-believers Growing

We all know about the hate crimes religious believers commit against one another, against people of a different faith. It’s headlines news, almost daily. Protestants against Catholics. Sunnis against Shiites. Muslims against Christians. Hindus against Muslims. Buddhists against Muslims. Christians against pagans. Christians against Jews. Muslims against Jews. Cults against anyone and everyone against cults. […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Evolutionary Dead-Ends

Some people seem genetically inclined – perhaps I should write doomed? – to believe in nonsense: believe in conspiracy theories, in myths, legends, superstitions and supernatural, in magic, in pseudoscience and pseudomedicine. Nothing – no amount of fact, truth, education, reason or contrary evidence will change their minds. The harder you try to correct them, the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Rights Without Responsibility

“Why do online spaces often feel so fractious?” asks Helen Lewis in a thought-provoking opinion piece in The Guardian last week. It’s something I’ve been pondering for many years. It’s not just the internet, or even social media, nor is it our increasingly uncivil and impolite society: it’s the technology that seems to be dividing […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Pinnacle of Homeopathic Stupidity

“Have Homeopaths Reached Peak Stupid?” asks the headline on Quackometer.net. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting dumber than a belief in homeopathy (aka The One Quackery to Rule Them All), but apparently there are higher levels within their madness that homeopaths continue to scale. This, however, looks like their Everest of stupidity. The story in question […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Comets, Aliens and Conspiracy Wingnuts

The European Space Agency has accomplished one of the greatest engineering and scientific achievements in human history this past week. Not only did it get a space vehicle into orbit around a comet travelling at more than 55,000 km/hr (34,000 mph), it landed a probe on the very rough surface of that comet. Outstanding, brilliant, superb… […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Camping’s madness carries on

Harold Camping has been dead for almost a year, but his legacy lives on. Not just in the broken dreams of his deluded followers, but in the many lives he destroyed through his madness. You would have thought that, having predicted the end of the world several times, and been wrong each one, because of the […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Debunking Homeopathy. Again.

Homeopathy. It’s absolute bunk. But you already know that. All those forms of ‘magic medicine‘* are bunk, of course, but homeopathy has a special place reserved for it in the kingdom of codswallop. Codswallop is dangerous to the mind, and often to your wallet, but homeopathy compounds that by being dangerous to your health, too, […]

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Social Media, Public Opinion, and Jian Ghomeshi

I doubt anyone in North America is unaware of the furor surrounding CBC’s recent firing of radio show Q’s host, Jian Ghomeshi last week. In case you were on the moon when it happened, you can read some of the many stories on the Star and other news sites (just Google it…). It’s a complex story; about […]