Opinions expressed on the BC Humanist Association's blog do not necessarily reflect those of the BCHA or the Board of Directors.
“Jewish” used to be considered a religious category. However, for many Jews, that is changing. Increasingly, people who live outside of Israel and identify as Jewish think of themselves as members of an ethnic or cultural group.
For years, researchers have expressed concern that Jewish communities would assimilate and dissipate as religious identification waned. They pointed to intermarriage as an indicator of declining community cohesiveness. For example, they found that in the U.S., half of Jews who are married or in a common law relationship are partnered with non-Jews.
A recent survey reveals that something different is happening in Canada.Read more
Fifty more people are dead after an extremist walked through two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, gunning down people while they were saying their Friday prayers. The shooter's manifesto referenced (among others) Alexandre Bissonnette who was recently sentenced to life in prison for shooting up a Quebec mosque in January 2017.Read more
By Clifton Mark
‘We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else …’ Barack Obama, inaugural address, 2013
‘We must create a level playing field for American companies and workers.’ Donald Trump, inaugural address, 2017
Meritocracy has become a leading social ideal. Politicians across the ideological spectrum continually return to the theme that the rewards of life – money, power, jobs, university admission – should be distributed according to skill and effort. The most common metaphor is the ‘even playing field’ upon which players can rise to the position that fits their merit. Conceptually and morally, meritocracy is presented as the opposite of systems such as hereditary aristocracy, in which one’s social position is determined by the lottery of birth. Under meritocracy, wealth and advantage are merit’s rightful compensation, not the fortuitous windfall of external events.
Most people don’t just think the world should be run meritocratically, they think it is meritocratic. In the UK, 84 per cent of respondents to the 2009 British Social Attitudes survey stated that hard work is either ‘essential’ or ‘very important’ when it comes to getting ahead, and in 2016 the Brookings Institute found that 69 per cent of Americans believe that people are rewarded for intelligence and skill. Respondents in both countries believe that external factors, such as luck and coming from a wealthy family, are much less important. While these ideas are most pronounced in these two countries, they are popular across the globe.
Although widely held, the belief that merit rather than luck determines success or failure in the world is demonstrably false. This is not least because merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called ‘grit’, depend a great deal on one’s genetic endowments and upbringing.Read more
By Cristina Sanza, Concordia University; Brittney Borowiec, McMaster University; David Secko, Concordia University; Farah Qaiser, University of Toronto; Fernanda de Araujo Ferreira, Harvard University; Heather MacGregor, University of Toronto; Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Concordia University, and Pouria Nazemi, Concordia University
Eat blueberries for the antioxidants. Exercise daily at a moderate intensity for optimal heart health. Get the vaccine to prevent the disease.
Our decision-making and conduct is influenced by what we read, see or hear. And many parts of our lives, from the food we eat to our quality of sleep, can in some way be linked back to scientific research.
The media — aiming to inform or engage — can end up peppering readers with sensationalism, hype or inaccurate science stories that shape our day-to-day lives and how we perceive the value of science. But this could be avoided if science journalists update the way they report stories.
And if readers understand what accurate, balanced science journalism should look like, they’ll able to distinguish the good stories from the not-so-good ones, and make informed choices.Read more
By Maria Kasmirli
‘Freedom’ is a powerful word. We all respond positively to it, and under its banner revolutions have been started, wars have been fought, and political campaigns are continually being waged. But what exactly do we mean by ‘freedom’? The fact that politicians of all parties claim to believe in freedom suggests that people don’t always have the same thing in mind when they talk about it. Might there be different kinds of freedom and, if so, could the different kinds conflict with each other? Could the promotion of one kind of freedom limit another kind? Could people even be coerced in the name of freedom?Read more
In December, we started recruiting volunteers to help transcribe every daily prayer said in the BC Legislature since 2003.
Together, we transcribed 871 prayers delivered in the BC Legislature from 2003 to the present. The team comprised 52 volunteers from across the province (and beyond) and we accomplished this amazing feat in a month and a half.Read more
Questions arise from time to time about the structure and procedures behind the Sunday meetings that the BC Humanist Association hosts in Vancouver. Rather than continue to respond to these inquiries as they land in my inbox, I thought it might be prudent to share some of our thinking here.Read more
Recently, a Calgary woman filed two human rights complaints with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The employee, Barb Hamilton, says she was pushed out the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) because of her sexuality and was refused employment on the grounds of marital status, religious belief and sexual orientation.
Hamilton says she knew of 10 LGBTQ students in the school where she was principal who had hurt themselves, including by cutting themselves or attempting suicide because of homophobia at home or school. She says she went to the district for help but nothing changed.
Many Canadians may believe that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. But my research into religiously inspired homophobia and transphobia in Canadian Catholic schools since 2004 shows there are other LGBTQ-identified teachers who suffer similar fates.
I personally experienced this risk when I taught high school English for CCSD.Read more
Since the announcement that I won the Nobel Prize in physics for chirped pulse amplification, or CPA, there has been a lot of attention on its practical applications.
It is understandable that people want to know how it affects them. But as a scientist, I would hope society would be equally interested in fundamental science. After all, you can’t have the applications without the curiosity-driven research behind it. Learning more about science — science for science’s sake — is worth supporting.Read more