Mar 012012
 

239 - Gunning for Liberals 168x100Sometimes an event encompasses so many of government’s problems that it becomes a lightning rod for condemnation by just about everyone.

From the National Post:

“Last week, Jessie Sansone of Kitchener, Ont., was arrested inside his children’s school when he arrived to pick them up after class. He was strip searched and thrown in a cell, while his wife was brought into the police station and his children taken by Family and Children’s Services. After several hours, Sansone was suddenly released with apologies, and told the entire ordeal was triggered when his four-year-old daughter’s teacher reported there may have been a gun in Sansone’s home. The basis of this allegation was a picture she’d drawn of her daddy shooting monsters and bad guys. Sansone is not a firearms owner, and the closest thing to a gun the police found after searching his home was a plastic toy.”

The victims in this story are of course Mr. Sansone, his wife, and their children.

The villains? Let’s make a list;

The teacher who upon seeing what must have been a remarkably rendered drawing for a four year old of a toy gun decides to tell the principle of the school of a potential threat to the welfare of the child.

The principal who calls Family and Children’s Services,

Family and Children’s Services who immediately call the police,

The police, who show up to the school in marked cars and uniforms who handcuff Mr. Sansone and take him away in front of children and neighbours to be stripped searched and held for hours,

The Superintendent of Education at the Waterloo Region District School Board, Gregg Bereznick, who defended the actions of his staff saying that educators are “co-parents,”

And Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty who defended the action of the school.

To be clear at the outset, any adult who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child in their care is being mistreated by anyone should report their suspicions.

That being said here is what was wrong with the behaviour of all of the villains I have listed. They are insane. They are nuts. They are lunatics who should not be in the charge of children, arresting people, running school boards, or running a government. That’s my knee-jerk opinion of course. The same opinion held by almost anyone who has heard this story.

A more considered analysis would take the following form:

It is not unlawful for Canadians to own guns, even handguns under special permission. Therefore if a child draws a parent with a gun shooting monsters and bad people then the proper action for the teacher should have been, “That’s nice, dear. I hope he got them all.” Who among us, males especially, as children have not defaced their school work with drawing of tanks, jet planes dropping bombs, zombies and blood covered NAZIS? Of course the older ones among us remember a time when guns were thought of as weapons to defend ourselves and to hunt with. They still are but unfortunately around the late 1960s the liberal revolution of the state education system implemented a systemic program of indoctrination into the pacification of the populace. I remember as a School Board Trustee on the London Board that some Trustees would even correct other Trustees if they referred to the little dots preceding a point in a written document as “bullets.” They were told to call them “fuzzy dots” or something equally as inoffensive.

Such a dangerous philosophy as pacifism has disarmed us and has given many of us adults and our children the incorrect notion that guns, whether long guns or hand guns, are evil and that they should be abolished. Well that is of course wrong. Guns are tools which can defend your life and that of your family. If anything children are to be taught anything about guns it should be on how to use them. People should be allowed to buy and carry handguns. It flows from our basic right to our life that we have a basic right to defend it and there is no better means than a .44 strapped to your hip.

That leads me to the police. They could have stopped this witch hunt in its tracks by telling the principal that a drawing of a gun does not give them probable cause to arrest and strip search anyone. It does not give them cause to enter into anyone’s house and search it. They should have chastised the principal and the Family and Children’s Services personnel and directed them to stop wasting their time. But, unfortunately the police in this country have been led to believe, erroneously that they are the only ones who should be entrusted with guns. They believe, erroneously that they have an exclusive monopoly on their possession and use and that any civilian in possession of one is a danger to their children and the public.

As the police were taking Mr. Sansone into custody Family and Children’s Services were taking the children into their custody. And these are the villains we must watch the closest. While the police eventually let Mr. Sansone go with an apology, these were the words from Alison Scott, the executive director of Family and Children’s Services “We’re still investigating this one,” The parents should move out of town now that Family and Children’s Services have their eyes on their children.

Superintendent of Education, Gregg Bereznick’s comment about how teachers are “co-parents” has perhaps riled up people the most in this sordid affair. An educator definitely acts in loco parentis or in place of the parents as any adult does who is given temporary charge over a child while the parent is away, such as a baby-sitter. But in loco parentis does not mean that an educator can indoctrinate the child in contrast to a parent’s wishes. In loco parentis is restricted by the nature of the relationship between the parent and the adult given temporary charge of the child. In this case a teacher’s responsibility is to teach the child and not attempt to ferret out dirt on the parents so that the state can arrest them. Co-parenting implies an equal responsibility in the upbringing of the child. This is not the case. It doesn’t even come close to the case and any notion that a teacher might have that he or she is a co-parent of their student must be dismissed here and now and once and for all.

The raisson d’etre of the state education system is the political indoctrination of children. This case illustrates that purpose perfectly. My advice to any parent with a child in public school is to get their children out of there as soon as possible. If not, then I would strongly suggest that when your child returns home you ask them about their teachers and what they have learned and that you de-program them. At the very least teach them to be free thinkers and to suspect that anything a teacher tells them to be true is probably incorrect and that they must prove for themselves that it is correct.

Finally, to the biggest villain of them all, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Although if Tim Hudak and the Conservatives, or Andrea Horvath and the New Democrats were in power I would addressing this to them as well because they are three peas in an intellectual pod. Get out of our children’s minds. Stop filling their heads with lies. Abolish the School Boards, put every public school up for sale and let parents have a choice in where they send their children and their tuition. Dismantle this indoctrination machine called the Public Education System and let Ontario children grow up unencumbered by your anti-intellectual, anti-reason, garbage spewed at them every day in the classroom.

(Originally aired on Just Right #239, March 1, 2012)

Nov 242011
 

Pink Floyd The Wall“Give me the child until he is seven years and I will give you the man.” Jesuit maxim.

A recent report by early childhood educators has called for the introduction of two year old toddlers to the public school system.  The authors of the report cite studies by their colleagues demonstrating the supposed benefits to the child for such an early introduction into the structured institution of the state-run school but they have also cited ancillary possible benefits of keeping women in the work-force rather than staying at home rearing their children.

The real benefit, of course is neither seen by the mothers nor the children.  It is realized by the educators.  Not simply in their financial gain from the estimated $1 billion in federal funds necessary for the program but in the propagation of the ideology of the vast majority of public system educators today.

“Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever. “  Vladimir Lenin

It is no secret that the political ideology of the public education system is one that differs greatly from many if not most of the parents who find no alternative for the education of their children.  From the newly hired supply teachers fresh out of teacher’s college to the veteran Directors of Education to the Ministers of Education themselves the ideology of the system can be properly defined as being on the far left of the political spectrum.  There is no doubt in my mind that the purpose of previous governments in making it possible for children to attend half-day junior kindergarten to all-day junior kindergarten to now toddler kindergarten is the promise of molding the child’s mind into one that is amenable  to the ideology of the left.  Few intelligent adults fall for it.

If we take a look at the schooling of previous generations we find many positive results.  Our forefathers were intelligent and socially adjusted people.  They are the people who made the world what it is today and yet many of them did not even finish high school.  Many didn’t have the advantage of kindergarten and yet they thrived.  How can this be? This is flying in the face of all of the current research on early childhood education.

The monolithic public education system has been, and continues to be the source of many social conflicts. In Toronto we have the accommodation of the children of Muslims who leave class to pray in the school gymnasium while no such accommodation is afforded any other religion.  A place of learning the truth of nature such as math and science has been reduced to a mosque.  Can you imagine the conflict going on in the minds of the children when the teacher, after perhaps instructing his students in science then dismisses half the class so that they can pray to some super-natural imaginary deity?

Also in Toronto we see the vilest form of ignorance rear its ugly head after decades of silence; the establishment of schools based on race.  These afro-centric schools, designed to teach black-skinned Canadians about the history of a continent they have never visited rather than the history of the country they were born into are an affront to reason and an insult to the very children they are segregating on the bases of their distant ancestry.

Not too long ago there was a tussle between the parents who preferred their children to be taught how to read using a method of systematic phonetics rather than the “whole-language” method.  The illiteracy rate under whole language was up to 17% of high school graduates.  That’s right, 17% of graduates were illiterate.  It naturally begs the question how could they have graduated.  When I was a trustee on the Board of Education for the city of London I asked the same question to the Director of Education.  His answer was that the Board has never failed a child.  All children graduate under the child-centered learning system otherwise it would be an admission that the system was a failure.

There is the on-going debate of how young a student must be before the teacher shows him how to put on a condom.

There are debates on the teaching of evolution to children of parents who believe that the world is only 6,000 years old.

There the never-ending debates on class sizes, standards of dress, standards of conduct, standards of punishment, standardized testing, group instruction verses individual instruction.

There are the parents who can only shake their heads when their child has to stay home for several Fridays each year because his teachers are taking part in professional development even though these same teachers have two whole months in the summer to keep up with their profession.  Not that such professional development has been seen to improve their teaching skills one iota over the decades.

And while on the topic of teachers we have the teachers’ unions which can and have held every student in the province hostage when they strike to increase their already overinflated salaries.  Given the poor results of their teaching I would think that most of them don’t deserve half of what they get.

What galls many of us though is the political indoctrination of our children into a destructive ideology.  All children in our school system have seen the Michael Moore documentaries calling for such things as gun-control, socialized medicine, and welfare statism.  All have been inconveniently inconvenienced by the propaganda film of Al Gore.  Many of the schools turn their lights off for one day of the year and study in the dark as they worship “Earth Day”.  Many promote “Buy Nothing Day,” perhaps the most destructive instruction that they can get; the idea that consumerism is evil.

All of this overt and unapologetic manipulation of our children’s minds, much of it out of our control, combined with the poor learning results has led me to the conclusion that given the choice of no formal education at all or 20 years at the hands of these so-called educators I would recommend no formal education at all.

It is my opinion that a child will be better off intellectually, spiritually and emotionally if they stayed at home and played on their computer rather than submit to the daily dose of lies they receive at the hands of our publicly funded educators.

It is no secret, at least to those who have studied the matter that teaching a child to read takes very little time.  In a matter of months a child can be taught to read anything.  Over time their vocabulary increases and comprehension comes naturally with experience.  It is this natural propensity for children to learn that these early childhood educators wish to take credit for.

What can be the cure for these grievous miscarriages of education?  Ultimately it is the complete abolishment of the public education system.  But, of course we all realize that isn’t going to happen so how do we proceed from here?

First we reject en masse this report that two year old children go to a state-run school.  It is not necessarily objectionable that toddlers go to school as many are already in competent day-care at that age.  In fact, Montessori and other private schools offer excellent educational instruction for toddlers; far superior to any which could be offered by over-paid government bureaucrats, which is what public school teachers are.  Every one of them, you may ask?  No, but the vast majority of them.

After we reject toddler kindergarten we can push to roll back the junior kindergarten program.  We can simultaneously demand that the government offer tax credits to those who choose to send their children to private schools.  Today, only the Catholics are afforded the opportunity to see their tax dollars go to the school system of their choice.  This same choice should be given to all parents.  If you choose to send you child to a private school you should be able to list that school as the recipient of your education taxes.  If you prefer the state to teach your child you could have them direct your taxes, not just to the public system, but to the individual school which your child attends.  It is simply unjust that you must pay for the education of someone else’s child against your will, as we do now.

But what of the poor neighbourhoods, and the children of poor parents?  If we are to continue with a public education system it is not out of the realm of possibility that rather than funding a system we fund the student instead.  This notion that because some small percentage of us can’t afford to educate our children makes it necessary that we fund a monolithic bureaucracy of a school system is like using sledge hammer to push in a thumb tack.  It is overkill.  Help the child who needs it but not the child who doesn’t.

The public education system has gotten away with their incompetence for far too long.  It has become a sacred cow.  The two platitudes the educators will spout if we dare to complain of their ineptitude are the following:

  1. “It’s for the kids’ sake.”  To which we reply; No it is not.  It is all about you, you overpaid, overbearing, bureaucrat with delusions of self-importance.
  2. “You’re just a teacher basher.”  To which we reply; Yes, and deservedly so.

The notion of “teacher bashing” is a bromide quickly spat out by the teachers’ union bosses who feel that their gravy train is being threatened so they retaliate, not with reasoned, cogent argument for why they are destroying the minds of our children but with schoolyard styled name-calling.

Teachers have to be held accountable, but at the root of the poor teachers and their methods are the teachers colleges.  Who teaches the teachers is the question which must be asked.  What are the teachers being taught and by whom?  I lay the blame for most of the problems of the public education system on the institutions of higher learning.  For the rest of the blame just look in the mirror.

When we continue to joyfully accept the nanny state’s offer of “free” day-care in the disguise of education we have only blame ourselves when our children graduate unable to read or write, or when our children find only contempt for us as parents for the years of mindless boredom and macaroni artwork we put them through.

The bottom line is that education is far too important a value to leave to the government.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #227, November 24, 2011)

Oct 062011
 

Neutrino TrackOn September 22nd a team of scientists working on the OPERA project (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) in Italy released results of their observations of neutrinos which apparently have travelled faster than the speed of light.  Anybody who has the most rudimentary understanding of physics knows that according to Einstein nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Not being a physicist what are we as lay people to make of such an announcement?  First, if true this would have tremendous implications for our understanding of the universe.  It would in fact rewrite the text books.  It would be a paradigm shift not seen since Einstein shook the world with his theory of relativity which overturned our Newtonian view of the universe.

Second, whether true or false it would give us further insight, not into the nature of physics, but the nature of science and the scientific method.

Every now and then we get announcements of fantastic claims from various fields of science.  In 1989 Pons and Fleischmann gave us the tantalizing hope of cold-fusion.   Barely two months after the announcement the press called the whole affair a circus and as far as the press was concerned cold fusion was dead.  After critical review by their peers, who were unable to replicate their findings, any last hope of room temperature nuclear fusion was lost.  The lead scientist’s reputations were severely damaged in the academic community.

The Italian scientists, in making public their results which would seem to be as controversial as cold fusion, have placed their reputations on the line as well.  There are significant differences in this case, instead of two scientists making the claim we have 174 authors to the discovery.  They are also reporting on data which they have observed over three years and have meticulously examined for error.  In posting their results they are being very cautious by not ruling out some form of error which they may have overlooked despite their caution.

To quote from the conclusion of their paper:

Despite the large significance of the measurement reported here and the stability of the analysis, the potentially great impact of the result motivates the continuation of our studies in order to investigate possible still unknown systematic effects that could explain the observed anomaly. We deliberately do not attempt any theoretical or phenomenological interpretation of the results.

This is what impresses me most and gives me hope for the future of science that even when faced with enormous pressure to dismiss the results they publish anyway knowing full-well that they have done their due diligence.  The results, if true, are apparently too important to sweep under the carpet for fear of harming reputations and losing grant funding.  There is more than a bit of courage here.

In what other field of endeavor do we see such a rigorous self-examination to ensure that what is being published is accurate and open to scrutiny by peers and the public?

The popular press is filled with pundits and politicians quick to jump on any statement by others and either take it as absolute fact or dismiss it out of hand without consideration for all the facts.  Almost any environmental movement of the day is built on a shaky foundation of questionable science and emotion.  For example, public health officials seem to constantly change their ideal government approved diet plans not out of a rigorous adherence to the scientific method but based on inexact science and powerful lobbying.

Science is all about the truth.  It’s about peeling away thousands of years of falsehoods and superstitions to arrive at truth.  Its methods are open for criticism and refutation.  In fact any good scientist will welcome criticism.  Science begins with the formulation of an hypothesis, and an hypothesis is an assertion which is capable of being proven false.  So at the outset of any experiment the scientist realizes that he may be wrong.  It is his job to prove his assertions.

For thousands of years our knowledge of the universe consisted of stories and anecdotes, fable and fairy tales told by witchdoctors, priests and shamans.  They received their “knowledge” of the universe by word of mouth, by hallucinations under the influence of drugs or severe physical stress, like spending 40 days and nights alone in a desert.

For the past 400 years scientists have developed the scientific method of systematic observation, measurement, and experimentation and of formulating, testing, and modifying hypotheses.  This enlightened method of seeking the truth has brought us out of the dark ages of ignorance and despair and given us a greater understanding of nature and ourselves.

Originally broadcast on Just Right #220, October 6, 2011.

Jul 282011
 

Flag of NorwayUpon first hearing the news of the bombing and shooting in Norway my first thought, as I’m, sure it was the first thought of many, was that this was yet another attack by Islamists on the West.  We now know of course that the perpetrator, Anders Breivk, was a Norwegian Nationalist.  A Christian, not a Muslim.  What a rarity. How unique.  This hasn’t happened since when, Timothy McVeigh in 1995?

The event lasted just three hours but the political fallout has only just begun.  Over the past few days the pundits, radio talk show hosts, newspaper editors and journalists have all tried to make sense of such a heinous act and they have come down on two sides.  The established liberal media have tried to paint Breivik as a typical member of the burgeoning right wing movement in Europe which they claim is against multiculturalism, islamophobic and nationalistic.  The conservative media, pundits and talk show hosts have immediately taken issue with the labeling of Breivik and have, quite rightly, tried to paint him as a lone criminal not at all representative of those who are in favour of restricting Muslim immigration into traditionally non-Muslim countries.

One of the conservative pundits, Mark Steyn, said it best when he said “So, if a blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavian kills dozens of other blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavians, that’s now an “islamophobic’ mass murder?”

Quite telling of the double standard of the liberal press is an article in the American Spectator which juxtaposed the headlines of the New York Times for the Norwegian massacre with their headlines of the Ft. Hood massacre in 2009.  To recap, the Ft. Hood massacre was carried out by Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan who described himself as a ‘Solder of Allah’ and shouted “Allahu Akbar” before killing 13 and wounding 29 US servicemen on the Army Base in Texas.

The headlines for the Norwegian Norway massacre are:

“Oslo suspect wrote of fear of Islam and plan for war

“Norway attacks put spotlight on rise of Right-Wing Sentiment in Europe

“Killings in Norway Spotlight anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.

“As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist

Right Wing Extremist is Charged in Norway.

Here are the headlines for the Ft. Hood massacre:

“Army Doctor held in Ft. Hood Rampage

“Mass Shooting at Fort Hood

“Little Evidence of Terror Plot in Base Killings

“Major is arraigned in Fort Hood Killings

The bias is stark.  No mention is ever made by the New York Times of the Ft. Hood mass murderer being Muslim and shouting “Allahu Akbar” before his rampage while within hours of the Norway massacre the perpetrator is labeled as Christian, Right Wing and islamophobic.

The real Islamophobe is the newspaper editor who refuses to mention that a terrorist is a Muslim, Why?  Because he fears retaliation.  He fears Islam.  This makes him the islamophobe.

Unless the West, and the rest of the civilized world, comes to grips with the overwhelming violence committed by Muslims in the name their religion the carnage will continue.  Not the kind of carnage that Anders Brievic inflicted on his young, defenseless victims, which although horrific to contemplate, is an aberration and pales in comparison to the continuing carnage and atrocities carried out daily by Jihadists.

I would ask you all to consider how many deadly Islamist terrorist attacks have occurred worldwide since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.  Don’t count attacks in combat such as in the Afghanistan war.  Don’t count incidents of ordinary crime involving Muslims killing for money or some other non-religious motive.  Only count terrorist acts committed out of religious duty designed specifically to instill terror.

Do you think it might be 10 or 20 or even 100?  As of two days ago there have 17,506 Islamic deadly terrorist attacks worldwide.  Just last week alone there were 40 attacks resulting in 101 deaths and critically injuring 264.  Last month alone there were 184 attacks in 18 countries resulting in 930 murdered and 1,527 critically injured.

This data comes from a web site called thereligionofpeace.com which has kept records of Islamist attacks worldwide since 9/11.  Since Breivik’s attack there have been at least 15 Islamic atrocities committed around the world resulting in 47 deaths, with almost no press coverage in the West.

We in the West seem to have been inured by Muslims killing people.  That is what makes the Norwegian massacre noteworthy.  A white man, a Christian has murdered other white people in a politically motivated bombing and shooting spree.  This is a novelty.  This is news.

When a Muslim does the exact same thing every day all over the world we dismiss it.  The question is why.  What would happen if we publish a You-tube video of the Taliban hanging an 8-year old boy in order to punish his father for not joining their organization?  What would happen in the West if we were inundated daily with pictures and videos of the daily beheadings of infidels like us, of the daily bombings, of the splashing of acid in little girls’ faces for daring to go to school?

Why is the press afraid of telling the truth and letting us see the horrors of this cultural war we are in.  Why?  Because it would fly in the face of their cherished beliefs that all cultures are the same.  That we can all just get along if we only held hands in some grassy meadow and sang Kumbaya.  Well we can’t.

People like Breivik must be brought to justice for their actions.  The light of day should be shed on his motives, as much as they can be determined.  But just as we do with Breivik we must also do to the thousands upon thousands of Muslim Breiviks of the world who continue to kill and maim in the name of politics and religion.  Every death of an innocent is tragic and must be accounted for whether he is a white-skinned Christian child in Norway or a dark skinned Muslim child in Darfur.  The killing of innocents must stop and all terrorists, whatever their religion, their politics, or their skin colour, must be held accountable for their actions.  If the press and the other media refuse to do it then who will?

(Originally air on Just Right #210, July 28, 2011)

May 262011
 

201 - Man on the Moon + City Scape 168x100Will mankind colonize the galaxy and tame that final frontier?

Prior to space flight we, in our ignorance, had created myths regarding our moon and nearest planets and today we are creating myths and fantasies about deep space.  We envisage other races, mostly human in form and oddly enough most speaking English.  We fantasize about traveling to other star systems as easily as one might travel across town to visit a friend.

Yet, just as our myths of Amazon women on the moon were dispelled when we first landed there our myths about other species among the stars and traveling about the galaxy in the blink of an eye will be dispelled.  In fact, with remarkable advances in astronomy and our ever increasing knowledge of the laws of physics and the limitations of nature we can dispel many of these fantasies now.

By our most conservative estimates to date we can surmise that there are millions of planets circling the stars of our galaxy.  The Kepler mission to detect planets surrounding about 100,000 stars in the constellation Cygnus has, in only few months of operation provided us with 1,235 possible planet candidates to add to the 552 extra-solar planets we have already confirmed exist.  Given that Kepler is only looking at .25% of the sky we can extrapolate that number to 494,000 planets.  And Kepler can only detect planets that cross in front of their parent star so that small number swells to millions if we consider planets orbiting at a different plane than edge on to us.

Even with these discoveries of extra-solar planets the nearest earth-like, that is rocky, planet we can find in a Goldilocks zone (not too hot and not too cold) is 20.3 light years away.  Gliese 581 g may theoretically be suitable for life although the planet is over 3 times the mass of Earth.

A few years ago a message was sent to that star system by radio astronomers.  Let’s speculate that we get an answer back from an intelligent civilization.  We would receive a response 40 years later.  It would be a little difficult to carry on a conversation, even at the speed of light.  So could we possibly travel to Gliese 581 g?

The British Interplanetary Society speculated on sending a 450 tonne unmanned payload to Barnard’s star which lays only 6 Lys away.  They calculated that a vast spacecraft 190 meters in length weighing about 50,000 tonnes and powered by internal confinement fusion could reach a velocity of about 12% c and reach Barnard’s star in about 46 years.  It wasn’t designed to decelerate and be put into orbit so double that time if you want your payload to stay there.  So an unmanned scientific mission to Barnards’ star would take about 92 years.  The same vessel traveling to Gliese 581 g would take 307 years.

If we were to send a manned vessel it would have to have to be a generational ship where people would be born, live, and die for many generations before it reached its destination so it would have to be orders of magnitude larger and therefore requiring much more fuel and would take instead of 307 years perhaps tens of thousands of years to reach only the nearest earth like planet.

The cold hard reality is that one cannot propel any appreciable quantity of matter anywhere near the speed of light so a visit to any nearby star is absolutely out of the question not only with the crude technologies we have now but with near-future technologies like internal confinement fusion.

But what about such exotic notions like warping space, anti-matter engines, worm holes etc.?  These are pure fantasy, just like Vulcan mind melds.  The only thing we know of that can warp space is matter, and gravity is so weak just consider this:  Every time you lift your arm you are defeating the gravitational pull of the entire planet.  That’s how week our own massive planet warps the space around it.

Worm holes exist only as speculative mind games of cosmologists and even if they did exist to “enter” one would crush you and your ship to an infinitesimal size.

No, traveling to the stars will have to be left to our far distant offspring who would be living in vast vessels probably not too dissimilar to science fiction’s Babylon 5 space station.  It would roam interstellar space taking tens of thousands of years to visit even the closest of stars.  Once there they might colonize any habitable planets or even terraform what uninhabitable planets that may be there.  More likely still is that they would not see the necessity of leaving their space station home.I do not envisage humanity leaving our solar system for countless thousands of generations to come.

I don’t consider this a pessimistic view.  I consider it a practical view given what we know of the laws of physics.  If our knowledge of these laws change it will have to be an entire paradigm shift in thinking which is not out of the realm of our imagination but to speculate that our current knowledge of physics is far off the reality mark and that the true nature of the universe has yet to be discovered and such a discovery would allow us to travel to other planets as easy as thinking about it is without merit.  There is nothing to suggest that we can warp space or exceed the speed of light.  There is nothing to suggest that what we know about the laws of physics is so incorrect that the fantasies of a show like Star Trek can be realized.

What we can do however is something that may give us a vicarious trip to other worlds and possible extra-terrestrial civilizations.  Given the current rate of astronomical invention and discovery even using known laws of physics we should soon be able to image the thousands of planets that exist near us in space and although it may be tediously slow to communicate with any intelligent life we may find out there, an exchange of information with extra-terrestrials may be possible, if and when we find them and if they consider it in their best interest to tell us about themselves.

A more reasonable approach to off-earth colonization won’t involve travelling by the fictional “soliton waves” of  Star Trek: The Next Generation or by focusing thought though some kind of lens, it will involve propellants that don’t defy reason and logic.

Chemical rockets can get us to the moon and I have no doubt that within a reasonable amount of time, say 200 hundred years or, so we may have a sizeable permanent habitat there.  But I don’t think that what is going to drive colonizing the moon will be government or resource mining, it will be tourism.

To date there have already been 7 space tourists including one Canadian, Guy Laliberte, the CEO of Cirque du Soleil.  Each has paid as much as $35 million to ride about the International Space Station as a guest of Russia.

It will be people like these who will bankroll a space tourism industry which will see routine sub-orbital flights for people wishing to experience free-fall, space station hotels for extended stays and a chance to get into the 100 mile high club and eventually hotels on the moon.  The money these tourists pay for such adventures will allow offshoot industries to help build and maintain the space stations and the moon habitats and these off shoot industries will have to house the workers and support staff.  The moon’s first permanent settlements may start out resembling any small adventure tourist destination here on Earth.

Following such small steps we may find the mega rich willing to fund tourism to Mars although such a technical undertaking may take several hundreds of years  to get to the level where it can be done routinely.

Aside from the moon and Mars I believe that there are no other destinations in our solar system which merit any form of permanent habitat primarily due to the extremely hostile nature of every other planet and moon.

This being said I do think that the majority of off-world colonization will be in space stations which may be set up in orbit around the other planets and their moons.

Practically speaking I see the colonization of our own solar system happening, yes, but happening very slowly, perhaps taking several thousands of years.

In the far distant future we may one day terraform Mars, making an atmosphere thick enough to live in without a space suit and perhaps even breathe without an oxygen mask.  This process will, from my understanding. take tens of thousands of years but I believe it most likely will be done.

Any such grand adventures will only occur with private industry running the show and government protecting their right to do so.  But eventually we will have two planets to call home and several, perhaps hundreds or thousands of enormous self-sustaining space stations orbiting every celestial body in the solar system and some even venturing out into deep space to slowly and gradually add to an ever expanding sphere of humanity.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #201, May 26, 2011)

May 192011
 

Monty Python God 168x100And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

Jerry Falwell came to prominence in 1979 with the creation of the so-called “Moral Majority.”  A group of evangelical Christians whose aim it was to influence the politics of the United States in such a way as to have society conform to their notion of what was moral.

The target of this group was the Republican Party and in 1980 it was credited by some with getting Ronald Reagan elected President.

The one defining characteristic of evangelicals that is crucial to understanding how they influence, not only the conservative right wing in the United States but also the newly created Conservative Party in Canada is their literal interpretation of the Bible as the word of their Abrahamic God.  Evangelicals believe that their God created the Earth in seven days.  They believe in Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood and they believe that the world is about 6,000 years old.  Most importantly they believe that everybody must be “saved” by recognizing Jesus as their personal “savior.”  To this end they have become involved politically in an attempt to change the laws of the US and Canada to lead the population out of their “sinful” ways and into a path more “moral” whether we choose it or not.

I have written before about how alike the Conservatives are to the Liberals in their economic policies. They are both socialists.  Up until the early 1990s there was little difference between the two spectra of the left wing; Conservatives were interchangeable with Liberals.  With the alienation of Western Canada by the Mulroney Conservatives in the 1980s we have seen an attempt by the evangelicals to infiltrate the halls of Parliament Hill through the creation of the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance (for which I ran for as a candidate) and now the Conservative Party of Canada.

On many of the issues of personal behavior we can see a clear difference between the new Conservatives and the Liberals.  Examine this list of issues and consider how a Conservative might approach the issue versus a Liberal.

  • Abortion
  • Suicide
  • Assisted Suicide
  • Embryonic Stem Cell Research
  • Pornography
  • Drugs
  • Prostitution
  • Homosexuality
  • Gay “Marriage”
  • The Death Penalty
  • Sunday shopping laws
  • Human Cloning (if such a thing were possible). and
  • The teaching of creationism in schools

Evangelicals, believing that your body, being a gift from their God, belongs to their God and that you should have no choice in tampering with their God’s creation.  You cannot take your own life, you cannot adulterate your mind with drugs, you cannot tamper with natural reproduction etc.

A liberal, on the other hand, is more prone to allowing us a choice when it comes to our actions.  This difference is due, in part, I believe from their religious beliefs, if they exist, of Liberals versus the religious beliefs of Conservatives (at least contemporary Conservatives).  The following comparison of the professed religions of party leaders should illustrate what I’m talking about:

Liberal Leaders:

  • Louis St. Laurent – RC
  • Lester B. Pearson –United Church (which does not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible)
  • Pierre Trudeau – RC
  • John Turner – RC
  • Jean Chrétien – RC
  • Stephane Dion – RC
  • Paul Martin – RC
  • Michael Ignatieff – Russian Orthodox

Here are the professed religious beliefs of some recent conservative Leaders

  • Joe Clark – RC
  • Brian Mulroney – RC (which brings us to 1988)
  • Preston Manning = Christian and Missionary Alliance
  • Stockwell Day = Pentecostal
  • Stephen Harper = Christian and Missionary Alliance

All three of the past conservative leaders since 1988 profess religions which are evangelical.

It should come as little surprise that the majority of Liberal leaders were Catholics.  The Catholic believes that in order for an action to be moral the person must have made the action freely without compulsion.  He must have had a choice.  This tenant of Catholicism is partially responsible, I believe, for the relaxing of personal behavior legislation beginning with Trudeau.  For example the abolishment of the death penalty which occurred under Trudeau but was attempted to be brought back in by the Conservatives under Mulroney.  But Mulroney being a Catholic himself allowed a free vote and the attempt by the more evangelical Conservatives failed.

From the rise of the political evangelical movement in Canada beginning in 1987 to the recent majority government of evangelical Stephen Harper Canadians can expect, at the very least, a continuation of restrictions on personal freedom such as our repressive drug laws.  We can expect some private member’s bills in the next five years attempting to roll back the clock on legislation which had gotten the government out of the bedrooms of Canadians.  Look forward to a renewed effort to censor adult content on television, look forward to a crack down on prostitution and teenagers smoking pot.

Thankfully since many of the newly elected Conservatives are not of the evangelical persuasion the likelihood of these motions passing are slim.  Especially given that Harper, evangelical or not, who no doubt wishes to be reelected will not give his support to this Conservative hidden agenda.  The genie of personal freedom has slowly been let out of the bottle, thanks mostly in part to the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to put it back in will mean that the Party that does so will be quickly relegated to the left side of the house.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #200, May 19, 2011)

Apr 082010
 

science vs religionSince Galileo there has been a battle between science and religion to see which is the better way to discover the truth about the universe.

Before I get into this I better clarify what I mean by the terms science and religion.  The word science comes from the latin “scientia” meaning “knowledge” and science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on a method of gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

Religion is a bit more difficult to define succinctly because it can mean different things to different people but by religion I mean the belief without evidence, that there exists a personal God who created the universe and takes a direct interest in the goings-on of everybody on this planet.

Recently, we have seen attempts by both sides to blur the lines between the two views.

In an article in the Globe and Mail Saturday, April 3rd, by Erin Anderssen entitled “Scientists investigate if atheists’ brains are missing a ‘God Spot’” we find that

An international scientific network has been formed to collect research on atheism.  Pitzer College in Los Angeles is expected to announce the first secular studies department in the world this spring.”

It would seem to me that any University is a place of reason, insight, research, rationality and therefore is almost by definition a place of secular study.  To have to actually set up a department of secular studies only goes to highlight how universities are failing us and have, to an increasing degree, become places of mysticism and irrationality.  The lines are blurring.

From the same article

Last December social scientists gathered at the University of Oxford for a conference on atheism.”

It is well worth noting here that the vast majority of scientists are atheists.  Fully 93% of members of the Academy of Sciences in the US are atheists (meaning they don’t believe in a personal God which interacts directly with human beings).

During this conference they posed the question, “If religion or spiritual belief is the human default position, how does atheism happen?”  This question can only be gotten away with in Universities of today.  If there is a “default” position at all it is atheism.  A child is born with no inherent, or default, knowledge of any religion, God, or spirituality in a religious sense.  Newborns are cognitively tabula rasa.  They may, as they grow, develop a sense of wonder and awe at the world around them but that is not the kind of spirituality these scientists are questioning.  A child must be taught about a God.  Quite often religion is taught in a disciplined environment where any contrary beliefs are punished either physically or psychologically, for example you try to understand and adopt the beliefs of your parents in order to please them.  So religion is NOT the human default position.  To put It briefly we are born atheists and the majority of us are quickly indoctrinated into a religion by mere happenstance of where we are born.

With this faulty premise in hand the social scientists are asking such questions as “Do atheists’ brains work differently?; Are atheists smarter than people who believe in God?; Is religion innate?”  These questions point to a complete lack of understanding about epistemology.  Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with the science of knowledge and how we know what we know.  Higher order concepts such as God, religion, or spiritualism do not come from any special part of the brain.  There is no ‘God Spot’ any more than there is a Liberal spot or a Santa Clause spot.

This kind of research, while scientifically futile, is also understandable because it has happened before.  There has always been research to try and prove neurological differences in the races or the sexes.  Some of the research is actually valid but to suggest that that atheists’ exist because they lack a ‘God Spot’ in the brain is a futile attempt to dismiss the different philosophies without looking into why people believe the things they do.

Dr. Jordan Grafman, a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md. has actually done research on believers while they prayed and found that the areas of the brain involved were the expected areas of memory and feeling; no special section was suddenly activated.  In other words there is no ‘God Spot’ no special part of the brain which distinguishes believers from non-believers.  Of course once you consider that since there are atheists who once believed in God and likewise believers who were once atheists you quickly realize that you could have easily predicted the outcome of Dr. Grafman’s experiment.

The question “is religion innate?” is interesting because it is not simply asking about belief in a God as such but in the common observation that people want to attach some kind of meaning to phenomena we can’t explain.   Of course it is only natural to want to attach meaning to the unknown and before science and reason it probably would have been natural to consult a priest, shaman or soothsayer to come up with the answer.  Before priests and shamans in would have been common to concoct some other fictional character as a causal factor in unexplained events like Apollo, Zeus, the angry volcano spirit.

Today of course science has provided us with many of the answers to many of our questions and has, as it should, come up with many more questions for us to answer.  But today we no longer find it natural to turn to mystics for answers but to science.  At least I would hope so.  Religion has historically been an invention of man to establish an order to society; to group individuals under a common set of values and moral codes in order to facilitate community.   For this I say that religion has served a useful purpose.  But to continue to use religion as a social ethical glue is no longer necessary and given our understanding of science and reality can be harmful.

Ayn Rand said that “Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason.  But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy.  And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points.  They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very —how should I say it? — dangerous or malevolent base?  On the ground of faith.”

Current statistics on the growth of atheism prove that man can live moral, peaceful, cooperative lives without belief in a deity.

80% Swedish

50% British

33% French

23% Canadians

5-9% of Americans

If there is anything to learn from the growth of science and the increasing number of atheists it is that as a species we are evolving.  We are maturing philosophically.

Science trumps religion as a means of discovering the universe.  Religion is static, unyielding, resolute, fixed.   Like the 10 commandments holy books could be written in stone.  While certainly there are many Christians, Muslims and Jews who interpret ‘sacred’ writings in different ways there are billions of human minds closed off to science and discovery because they take the words in these books to be the ultimate in truth.  There is no room for discover, inquiry, or growth.

Religious people often describe atheists are being arrogant, know-it-alls who think they are superior and more intelligent than people who have faith in a personal God.  The exact opposite is true.  For any scientist to continue to go to work in the morning it is with the belief that they are ignorant, they lack knowledge, they have yet to answer a question, and they have yet to discover something.  This is a form of humility.  Contrarily there are legions of religious people who make it a career to preach to people, to convert, to proselytize.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #146, April 8, 2010.)

Nov 192009
 

Star TrekMy first recollection of Star Trek wasn’t its philosophy or its depiction of a positive future of heroes and adventure.  It was being frightened at the image of Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver”.  I was only six or seven years old after all.

Despite that I was an avid fan of the show since it first aired I have seen every episode of the original series too many times to count.  But as I grew up I began to be just as much a critic of the show as a fan.  Sure it was great entertainment, projecting a positive sense of life into our homes on an almost daily basis (once it was syndicated) but it was also full of contradictions.  It is, after all a TV show and the writers are just that, writers, not philosophers or great intellectuals, but writers for television with the goal to entertain and sell a script.  There are bound to be inconsistencies and contradictions.

Some of more glaring contradictions involved the show’s treatment of deities in such an advanced society.

God and religion featured prominently in many episodes of the Star Trek canon.  The second pilot to the series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” had crewman Gary Mitchell develop the powers of a God only to be killed by Captain Kirk.   In “The Paradise Syndrome”, Kirk himself fancied himself a God (Kirok) when he lost his memory among a tribe of North American Indians.  In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Bajoran’s have their Prophets with Captain Sysko as their Emissary.  The Jem’Hadar and the Vorta regard the Founders as Gods. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Edo of Rubicun III worshipped an orbiting lifeform as their god.  The Klingons killed their Gods as they were “more trouble than they were worth.”  The Starship Voyager was considered a god called the “ground shaker” to Kelemane who offered it fruit in the hope that the “God” would stop shaking the ground.

In the original series episode “Bread and Circuses”, the crew find themselves on a world identical to earth where Rome never fell.  Some of the inhabitants describe themselves as Sun worshipers and we are led to believe that they are actually deifying the sun in the sky.  As the show ends, though, Uhura lets the Captain know that it wasn’t the sun up in the sky that they worshipped but the son of God.  “A philosophy of total love and total brotherhood” says Dr. McCoy.  Well I don’t know where he got that notion but if you ask me which one I would I rather worship, the sun in the sky or the Abrahamic God in whose names millions have been killed and tortured to this day, I’ll take the sun in the sky please.

The crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation would more objectively and correctly consider primitive alien cultures who worshipped deities as just that, primitive.  This was a refreshing treatment of the supernatural which most likely arose with the easing of sponsor censorship and a liberalization of our society’s approach to religion.

If anything, these little morality plays certainly would make a person reconsider their notion of the God concept and I believe that Star Trek is probably responsible for a great percentage of atheists in the world; if not atheists then certainly a great number of skeptics and free thinkers.  This is a remarkable accomplishment.

If only the writers had a better grasp of Capitalism.  Their first attempt to portray what they regarded as a race of pure capitalists was the Ferengi, an ugly goblin-like, squat race of deceiving, conniving, untrustworthy con-artists who brandished whips and kept their woman naked and at home.  Around the same time we had Captain Picard declare that

“People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things’. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. “

From what I saw, Picard possessed a lot of ‘things’ from the clothes on his back to a saddle, to a star ship.  Apparently, everyone in the 24th century is on the dole.

Once again Star Trek contradicts itself in DS9 when we see that the Federation actually used a system of ‘credits’ or gold-pressed latinum to trade with.

I may be nit-picking, but sometimes when a great show like Star Trek comes along you expect perfection and forget that thousands of different people from all kinds of philosophies and backgrounds came together over the last 40 odd years to create this epic.  It could never be perfectly consistent.

Some of the things you might think we would all agree on I have my doubts about.  What about the Borg?  Nasty, right?  Who would want to be a Borg?  Well really if you think about it the only thing about the Borg which was frightening was the lack of choice when it came to being assimilated (no trifling item to be sure).  But I was thinking the other day (when I went and bought a bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone so as not to run afoul of the new law banning hand held devices while driving) that we, as a culture, appear to be getting closer and closer to the technology of the Borg.  We were glasses to improve our vision; we have headphones to talk to almost anyone in the world at any time; we have prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, artificial hearts, and the Kindle and iPad which allow us to carry a good chunk of the total knowledge of our species in our pockets.  In many cases, at least with the bluetooth earpiece while driving, resistance is futile.

Here is another little contradiction in Star Trek.  In the episode called “The Savage Curtain” Abraham Lincoln calls Uhura a charming Negress but is ashamed when he realizes that he might have offended her.  She replies that people in her time have learned not to fear words, and yet Captain Picard gets a dagger through his heart in the episode “Tapestry” when he takes on a Nausican for calling him a coward.  Didn’t he watch the original series before he joined Star Fleet?

I could go on.  I haven’t even mentioned “Spock’s Brain”.

All in all there have been 726 episodes of Star Trek (if you include the animated series) over 30 seasons.  There have been 11 feature films (If you include Star Trek V which I would really rather forget).  If you sat down and watched everything Star Trek from “The Cage” to the latest film, 24/7, and didn’t take a bathroom break (remember there are no toilets on the Enterprise) you would spend over 30 days glued to the tube.  Anybody who has seen all the episodes at least once is going to be altered by what they have seen; some for the better, those who are comforted by the show’s acceptance of atheism, and some of for the worse, those who believe the show’s definition of capitalism.  It is no doubt great entertainment but we should view it critically and in the immortal words of William Shatner we should “Get a life.”

(Originally aired on Just Right #129, November 19, 2009)