Blog

Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.


We can dislike the niqab, while still respecting religious freedom

As some would have us believe, Quebec’s Bill 62 doesn’t explicitly mention niqabs or burkas, and anyway, such face coverings are cultural and not religious. Therefore, we’re told, that the renewed debate about the niqab and freedom of religion is completely unnecessary.

If only that were so.

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#MeToo and Humanist Compassion - Oct 16, 2017 Newsletter

If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably seen a number of people posting "Me Too" over the past 24 hours.

The campaign, started by actor Alyssa Milano, asks people who've been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply say "me too." Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women but also some men and gender non-binary people, have since spoken up and many have shared their stories.

I've been lucky to not face the unwanted looks, comments or gropes that so many of my friends and acquaintances have. And I've thankfully never been in a situation where I was afraid that someone wouldn't take no for no.

But I have been reading and listening to these stories. And that makes me think about what I, as a Humanist, can do to promote human flourishing and to defend personal autonomy, which are both denied by this harassment.

As an organization, I am proud to say that our board unanimously adopted a Code of Conduct recently. This document simply sets out that our events should be open and welcoming and free from discrimination and harassment.

I wish we lived in a world where a "me too" campaign or codes of conduct weren't necessary. But instead we live in one where people attending a skeptic conference cheered for a harasser. It's one where I'm nervous about sending this email because I've heard the apologetics for harassment from our own supporters and followers.

But speaking up against injustice is too important. The Humanist movement is built upon progressive values. We must embody them and we must defend them.

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Who will be the doctors of death in a time of assisted dying?

By Craig Goldie, Queen's University, Ontario

Medical assistance in dying (MAID) became a reality in Canada when legislation was passed in July 2016. This is the hastening of death through a lethal dose of medication — either by self-ingestion (assisted suicide) or physician injection (euthanasia).

More than 2,000 Canadians have received MAID, administered by a number of physicians. Few of those doctors are palliative care specialists, who are purposely keeping their distance from MAID to avoid further stigmatization as the physicians of death. They do not want to be associated with treatment failure, or viewed as only providing care to those who have either given up or been deemed hopeless.

This has left MAID without leadership or co-ordination, leading to unequal access and confusion among the public and health-care providers.

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Why does Star Trek work when it warps science?

By Bryan Gaensler, University of Toronto

I’ve been alive for 44 years, and I’ve been watching Star Trek for 44 years.

I was a baby sitting on my father’s lap for re-runs of the original series. I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the drive-in. And on I watched, through another 11 films and 624 television episodes, and finally, this month, to the brand new Star Trek: Discovery.

Yes, I’m a Trekkie.

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Over 500 for Humanist Marriage

Four weeks ago we launched our petition calling for the Government of BC to give Humanists equal standing with the many religious groups that are able to perform marriages in the province.

Since then, over 500 people joined our call!

On Thursday, we put those first 500 names in the mail to the Health Minister. We reiterated our simple call: Give Vital Statistics a definition of religion that includes Humanists.

Read our letter.

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Post Secular

Research from across North America and all over Western Europe show us declining church attendance among almost all sects of Christianity. Census data from a variety of countries also shows that self-described believers themselves are declining. As well, results from polling organizations demonstrate that the actual content of beliefs from remaining believers has also changed.

All of this data indicates both that active believers are declining and that the belief-content has been trending, over time, away from the literal, away from the conservative and from the supernatural. But why now, at this point in history? And why are believers still generally increasing in other faiths, as in Muslim-majority countries?

My new book, Post Secular, tries to answer these questions. It's a nonfiction work about the growth of secularism and non-religion around the world.

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Humanist Marriage petition FAQ

Last week we launched a petition calling on BC’s new Minister of Health to allow Humanists to perform marriages. Since then we’ve spoken with SpiceFM, CBCEarly Edition and CKNW and had nearly 500 people sign the petition.

In those conversations, and over social media, we’ve fielded a number of questions about our petition. While our report The Case for Humanist Marriage in BC answers many of those concerns, it’s worth doing a quick response to the most frequently asked questions.

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Is Canada less racist than the USA?

By Melissa J. Gismondi, University of Virginia

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, it’s worth asking: Are Canadians really less racist than Americans?

A recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine — with a photo of a smiling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the cover - asks: “Why can’t he be our president?” It’s just the latest example of the global media’s current fascination with Trudeau and Canada and their supposed stark contrast to Donald Trump and the United States.

As a Canadian scholar at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, I’ve watched with fascination for months as media pundits both abroad and back home have promoted the idea of “Canadian exceptionalism.”

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Sex matters: Male bias in the lab is bad science

When I first started doing experimental biology, I noticed that we only looked at males.

I was in a fly lab — a very good one — and we could have looked at males or females, or both, but we didn’t. We collected female flies to mate, of course (flies need males and females to reproduce, just like humans), but we ran all of the experiments on males. We weren’t alone.

Many labs I interacted with did the same thing. In fact, most of the labs I talked to only worked with males. Some couldn’t remember when they had last tested a female subject. Maybe coincidentally, maybe not, all of the labs I can remember talking with were run by men.

If pressed for a reason why they only tested males, the usual answer was that biology was biology and what we find in males, we find in females, but females were more variable. I’ve even written a sentence stating this in a paper.

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Rebuilding science capacity in Canada after a decade of destruction

Canada is emerging from a decade in which our government systematically dismantled the research capacity of our nation.

The Liberal government has touted their support for science and evidence-based policies. One of their first actions was to put together an expert panel to review how fundamental research is funded in Canada to take stock of the current ecosystem and see where improvements are needed.

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