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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Canada: A message to readers

Regular readers of this space will know that I founded this blog in May 2005 to address the burgeoning intelligent design controversy. (= evidence that the universe and life forms show intelligent design). And that is what I mostly do.

However, as a loyal Canadian, I have recently had to address an issue that concerns my ability to report the news: The growth of "hrcs" - unaccountable "human rights commissions" in Canada. To learn more about their activities - which sound scandalous and utterly contrary to our legal tradition - go to Ezra Levant's site. Here is an excerpt:

Next Tuesday is the hearing in Ottawa where staff of the Canadian Human Rights Commission will have to answer questions, under oath, about their investigative and prosecutorial techniques. Whether or not that hearing will be open to the public is something we don't yet know; right now, it's in camera. Maybe Maclean's magazine's lawyers can blast those locked doors open.

We know a bit about Dean Steacy, one of the CHRC investigators who will be on the stand next week. He's the fellow who refused to accept a human rights complaint from a citizen whose brother and sister were, according to gossip, racists, and because the bigotry complained about was on the website of an "anti-racist" group. Steacy is the one who cruises anti-Semitic websites under a pseudonym. He's the one who declared that freedom of speech has no place in HRCs, since it's an American concept. In other words, we know all we need to know about Dean Steacy: he rejects our British inheritance of free speech as un-Canadian and he puts his own personal views ahead of the rule of law.

I wish all this is not true. But my heart sickens because I fear it is. And if so, it is a scandal. As are many other aspects of the Commissions' operations, apparently.

It took me a while to come to the point of definitely saying something. I dread the Commission's toils. Like Mark Steyn and Macleans Magazine, I am Canadian, and so potentially under threat.

They have already been charged.

Maybe if intelligent design is regarded as a human rights danger, as the Council of Europe thinks it is, I will be caught, simply for reporting the news.

Wondering how it all got to be so bad here I asked myself a question about recent news events that might shed some light:

Why does Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

1. on the one hand: Give enough support to gay marriage to split his Anglican communion. (I get mail every other day on the Anglican split, so don't bother writing to tell me it isn't happening. It is.)

2. on the other hand: Suggest that sharia law might be okay in Britain (and whither the gay lifestyle THEN?)

It's not that I disapprove the Archbishop's views. Having become a Catholic in May 2005, I would need a good reason for even expressing an opinion on his views at this point.

It is more that his views seem incoherent.

My disagreement bifurcates. I don't want sharia, in large part because Ontario Muslim women recently did not (and if THEY don't, why should I?)

But also, I don't think marriage in the Christian tradition is an infinitely plastic idea, which is why I became a Catholic rather than continue to be involved in pointless disputes. Our Pope, B-16, would simply say that he does not have the RIGHT to authorize same-sex marriage. So we can all go back to praying, collecting funds for the poor and fasting on Fridays, right?

But the idea split leads me to ask, what unites these ideas in Rowan Williams's mind, when they seem so disparate in mine?

Finally I began dimly to see: His real policy is "anything at all except historic Western culture!"
So I began dimly to understand. Our understanding of human rights grows out of our historic culture.

A culture in which words have certain meanings derived from ideas and events. Magna Carta. The Bill of Rights. The Constitution.

If we try to interpret human rights apart from that tradition, we get these "hrcs" whose agendas bear no relation to historic rights and can be dominated by the most intense fanatic available.

Anyone who reads this space regularly will know that I am NO friend of anti-Muslims or anyone who promotes hate.

But our government desperately needs to restore the idea of law - and equality before the law - in its pursuit of whatever its employees and freelancers or other aggrieved parties decide is "hate".

I was recently accused of "hate" myself by some boffin at a Christian group. The boffin graciously announced that the matter would not be pursued. I am glad for that. But, given the normal and non-actionable things I actually said, I would not want to live in a country where such a complaint could be pursued. \

And if that country is indeed Canada, I will fight to change it.


Intelligent design: What is the controversy about?

In Touchstone magazine, intelligent design "godfather" Phillip Johnson, a retired Berkeley law prof, writes,

The controversy over evolution is at bottom not a dispute about evidence, but a dispute about whether words like “evolution” should be defined precisely and used consistently, and about whether a scientific conclusion is indisputably correct if it is endorsed by a consensus of contemporary scientific authorities. That is why I thought it appropriate for a law professor to take a professional interest in biological evolution, since lawyers are trained to insist that terms in a legal document be precisely defined, and are taught to check any consensus judgment of experts against the primary evidence.

Examples of vague or slippery definitions and appeals to the authority of consensus abound in writings about evolution, especially those writings that urge potentially skeptical people to trust the experts, rather than to examine the evidence for themselves.

For the rest, go here.

Funny thing, when I was young they used to tell me that science depended on evidence, not on a consensus of learned heads. I was regularly regaled with tales about how the mammals beat the dinosaurs because we were smarter than them, and Galileo beat the Church because ... and then I grew up ...

Note: Touchstone belongs to the same stable as Salvo, sponsored by the Fellowship of St. James. I write a regular column for Salvo.

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