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Unfriending the Future: Motivated Empathy in Science and Political Advocacy

Kruse

Speaker: Michael Kruse: Executive Director of Bad Science Watch

Hosted by: University of Toronto Secular Alliance

Date: March 7th 2017, 7 to 9 pm

Location:

Hart House, Debates Room
7 Hart House Circle
Toronto

 

Admission Information:

 

About the Event:

When we are faced with the irrational and conspiratorial claims of the alternative medicine community the science minded community often responds with anger, incredulity and frustration. Sometimes these messages are not from the easy targets of the fringe but from our own family and friends. But how often has our argumentative response been effective? It is worth taking a look at not only our goals and our tactics, but our audience as well.  We know that psychological phenomena like the backfire effect combine with ideological anti-corporate attitudes to work against any rational arguments, we have seen it happen time and again. This was the state of frustration we were in when we started Bad Science Watch. We made a decision to think about our audience and set goals focused on making real change.  This talk will focus on the role that empathy plays in picking targets and setting goals and the success we have had in creating a message that has resonated with our audience and supporters.

 

About Bad Science Watch:

Bad Science Watch is an independent non-profit consumer protection watchdog and science advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians by countering bad science. We are driven by a vision of a safer, healthier, and more prosperous Canada where critical thinking and sound science are paramount in the making of important societal decisions.

http://www.badsciencewatch.ca/

 

 

About the University of Toronto Secular Alliance (UTSA):

The University of Toronto Secular Alliance (UTSA) is an organization dedicated to building a community at U of T for those adhering to non-religious worldviews including atheists, agnostics, Secular Humanists, and Freethinkers.  Through our weekly meetings and events, we provide a forum where all ideas and beliefs can be examined, critiqued, and challenged through discourse that is civil, intellectual, and insightful.  Find us on Facebook: @uoftsecular

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Update on Parliamentary Petition e-382 calling for the elimnation of Canada’s anti-blasphemy law

On January 30, 2017 the federal government tabled a response to an electronic Parliamentary petition (E-382) calling for the repeal of Canada’s blasphemous libel law (Criminal Code Section 296).

Despite the generally accepted view that Canada’s blasphemy law is an outdated and dead law that would never be successful if used today, this is still an historic situation. The federal government has reviewed archaic legislation and repealed obsolete law before, but this is the first time that the blasphemy law has been clearly identified for attention (that we are aware of).

The government’s response to e-382 may be found on the Parliament of Canada website and states:

The government is committed to maintaining a fair, relevant, and accessible justice system for all Canadians.
In her mandate letter, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has been asked to conduct a broad review of our criminal justice system. The Minister’s overarching goal is to ensure our legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness, and respect for the rule of law as well as the Constitution of Canada.
The crime of blasphemous libel, although included in the original Criminal Code of 1892, has not been the subject of a reported legal case since 1935. In 1979, a charge of blasphemous libel was laid in Ontario in a case involving the showing of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but the charge was stayed.
Blasphemous libel, along with numerous other provisions of the Criminal Code, are presently under review by the Minister and her officials. The Minister looks forward to addressing these provisions in the course of her mandate.

This is an encouraging situation.  Canadian secular humanists, and indeed any Canadian concerned to reduce faith-based tension and victimization in Canada and around the world must encourage our Parliamentarians to finally repeal this bill.  Whether the repeal is part of an omnibus bill or a dedicated legislative action – the blasphemy law must go!

Blasphemy laws are an attempt to protect faith-based concepts and ideas from criticism.  But this approach underlies much of the tension, victimization and violence throughout the world.  When rational discussion of ideas is considered a criminal act, the results often include alienation, isolation, frustration and a desire to strike back.

We must also remember that Canada’s position on human rights issues around the world is greatly respected.  When Canada opposes blasphemy laws here in Canada and around the world, an important message of inclusion, stability and good governance is sent.
It seems that the Canadian government, on this issue, is open to taking steps to advance an open Canadian society.  CFIC members are encouraged to educate their local Members of Parliament about the importance of this step. Consider using the CFIC website for further information regarding this bad law. Simply type “blasphemy, Canada” into your search engine!
 
Did You Know?
CFIC began our strategies to oppose Canada’s blasphemous libel law in 2014!  Change – even on an issue as self-evident as opposition to blasphemy laws is a long term commitment.  Please support CFIC with a donation today.  We are Canada’s leading secular humanist organization.

 

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A conversation, a challenge, a risk.

“Should women abandon religion?” Four female panelists face-off in a wild, whip-smart public debate about religion and misogyny. With opinions flying from a progressive Muslim lawyer, an Orthodox Jewish spiritual leader, an excommunicated nun and a lesbian atheist pundit, Unholy delivers a hilarious, no-holds-barred look at contemporary women in organized religion.

Gretta Vosper writes:

Join me at Unholy on Friday, February 2nd. I’ll be up on stage, not in the gripping conversation that is the responsibility of four awesome actors, but the one that will take place afterward, the one that will point to where we can go from here, as women, as citizens, as people who are tired of stories that tell us we aren’t good enough.

$20 rush tickets are available Tuesday-Thursday

$15 PWYC tickets are available for Sunday matinees.

www.nightwoodtheatre.net

 

 

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CFIC Discourse #5: Blasphemy

As Christmas approaches, there is one item on my wish list that requires a response from the federal government. Last December Ali Ehsassi sponsored a petition to repeal Section 296 of the criminal code, which allows prosecution for blasphemous libel. Although it has not recently been enforced and we have the Charter of Rights protecting freedom of expression, we need to set an example for countries that not only have these laws, but also enforce them.

All countries should respect religion, but should not have laws on their books that allow people to use religion to oppress different faiths or the absence of faith. In the United States there are laws on the books that make it illegal for an atheist to hold political office. They make no attempt to enforce them, but with the crazy direction they have taken in the last election, I’m not holding my breath for the future.

This year we opened our arms to Muslim refugees who were brutalized by religious zealotry on their way out and stigmatized as terrorists on the way in. Let us tell them that they can freely practice their faith in Canada because we value freedom of expression and modern civilization does not condone laws that penalize religious discussion.

This letter by CFIC member Russell Pangborn was recently published in the Toronto Star

UPDATE:  See also Purging Criminal Code of defunct ‘zombie laws’ no simple task, which cites the anti-blasphemy law among a list of targets for legal reform.

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US to tighten rules on homeopathic “medicines”

According to a policy statement[1] released in Nov 2016 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) homeopathic products will soon have to submit to the same regulations that govern other products sold as drugs in the Unites States.  Classified as drugs under the FTC Act decades ago, homeopathy has nonetheless enjoyed a de facto exemption from scrutiny.  This is partly because of a sympathetic lobby and the prevailing notion that it was, at worst, a harmless nuisance – not something to waste regulatory effort over[2].  However, decades of work by medical and skeptical groups, including the Center for Inquiry, has paid off and, in the words of Dr. Stephen Novella, of Science Based Medicine, “the FTC has finally decided to do its job” [3].

In their summary the FTC acknowledges that there “is no basis under the FTC Act to treat homeopathy drugs any differently than other health products”. The summary goes on to say that despite the lack of reliable scientific evidence, claims by homeopathic labeling must “be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence”.  Unfortunately this was followed by an allowance that homeopathic products could still make unfounded health claims as long as it was clearly stated on the label that the claims are not based on science or evidence. This kind of change may not affect the average consumer of homeopathic products, so we are not sure it will have any real effect, but we are optimistic that this signals a shift on the part of the FTC, bringing it more in line with the UK and Australia, where government crackdown on homeopathy is more aggressive.   Perhaps Health Canada will take note and consider regulating all homeopathy products in our country with “truth in advertising” as a core value.

Blythe Nilson

Science Chair