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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Civil rights on the agenda at Conservative Party Convention?

At the Conservative Party of Canada's upcoming policy convention in Winnipeg, kicking off November 13, there will be a resolution:
Modify HRC Jurisdiction


iii) The Conservative Party supports legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The resolution is to be discussed Friday November 14 between 8:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., as part of "Canada's Social and Democratic Framework"

"Democratic" as in "The People's Democratic Republic of Canuckistan", presumably, based on the Commission's recent behaviour, exhaustively catalogued by civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant. But at least discussing the out of control Commission is a start. As Ezra likes to remind us, a year and a half ago, people wouldn't believe that anything that bad could possibly be true. Now they know. And many care.

But we still have a long way to go. As Deborah Gyapong of the Parliamentary Press Gallery writes, the recent media lawyers' conference barred media:
Today I hoped to hear Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin`s keynote speech on libel and various panels on libel chill, and what the conference bills as ``The New Fair Comment Defense`` in the Supreme`s Rafe Mair v. Kari Simpson case. While Ezra thinks the case expands fair comment, I am among the doubters who thinks it merely signals that the most unreasonable hallmarks of hate (see sec. f.iii) can be used against conservative Christians and that`s fair comment, but try it against any other group and the fair comment options suddenly shrink dramatically.
That could be, given a recent Alberta ruling denying that Christians (like the complainant, presumably) could be victims.

(Note: I would strongly discourage any fellow Christian from complaining to one of these commissions. The good citizen neither advises nor submits to arbitrary measures, as Junius said, and these commissions push the word "arbitrary" to its further limits. Christians should be good citizens and help get rid of them.)

Here is Ezra Levant's address:
In the four years that I was publisher of the Western Standard magazine, we received, on average, one threat of a defamation lawsuit each month – or about one every other issue. But never once did any of those threats turn into a statement of claim, let alone a trial.
That's because Canadian defamation law is designed to discourage people who are simply attempting to silence someone. They can end up losing the case, paying a ton of money, and suffering the embarrassment of a judge ruling that they were not defamed. Not so "human rights" law:
We were sued not in defamation law, but in human rights law. And the reason we were sued is precisely because all of the traditional defences that stood our magazine in such good stead in the face of defamation suits, were taken away from us by the government.

Our factual accuracy was of no use. The charge was discrimination or, to use the precise language of the law, we had published something “likely to expose a person… to hatred or contempt”. A plain reading of that will tell you it’s got nothing to do with factual accuracy. It also has nothing to do with reasonableness of opinion or journalistic responsibility. Those defences have been developed over 400 years of defamation law. They do not apply to human rights suits.

Another defence we were not able to use was that damages suffered by the busy-body plaintiffs were remote or non-existent. Again, a plain reading of the law shows that no damages are necessary to convict – as if being “exposed” to someone’s mere feelings was a compensable damage. But even if it was, that’s not what the law requires: we had only to “likely” expose someone to bad feelings. Likely means maybe, maybe not.

As well, the natural check on American-style over-litigation – the financial, time and emotional cost of suing, and the risk of costs being awarded to the defendant – were not in play. The government of Alberta carried the investigation against us, and, had the case not been dismissed, would have prosecuted us before a tribunal. The complainants didn’t have to spend a dime or a minute – and the law prohibited me from collecting costs when I won.

There was no discovery process whereby a plaintiff with dirty hands would be embarrassed to proceed.
No, giving the defendant a chance would spoil the witch hunt.

What will the legacy mainstream media make of the discussion of Section 13? Hard to say. They might choose to pontificate about "diversity" and photograph trendy Toronto Annex tots wearing tee shirts saying "I want my human rights! Keep Section 13!"

Straw in the wind: Recounting an incident from a panel discussion in Halifax on the "right to offend", Canadian civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant described a pro-censorship Toronto journalism prof - and the anecdote is most revealing:
There was a weird moment during the panel when Miller said that Mark Steyn simply wasn't a good journalist -- compared to him, one presumes -- because Miller couldn't find corroboration for one of Steyn's quotes ...

I went to Google as Miller was talking, and found a ton of references for it. ...

It was pretty sad: an ageing journalism professor, looking down his nose at Steyn and accusing Steyn of sloppiness (and disparaging mere bloggers, too), while half the kids in the room could have found what Miller couldn't in about five minutes on the Net. Some "expert" witness.
Levant has captured in miniature the fact that the partisanship of old media is driven by their growing irrelevance.

People are not abandoning old media because they have become outrageously partisan. Old media are outrageously partisan because people are abandoning them. They morph into government media (for a government that is sympathetic to their problems, of course).

Full of nostalgia for the days when news was whatever they told us, they advocate censorship of new media and defend heavy censorship laws, in the name of "human rights".

But it won't work. Incompetence and irrelevance do not magically turn into competence and relevance once government gets behind them. In fact, ...

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Painting with an undirected brush?

Over at Access Research Network's ID Report, Roddy Bullock skewers Scientific American's recent "The Christian Man's Evolution: How Darwinism and Faith Can Coexist." Referring to Francisco J. Ayala, he writes,

Not surprisingly, Ayala's "reconciliation" of faith and science is no more than an arbitrary requirement that both be strictly naturalistic, that is, letting neither be informed by the strong inference in nature of true, intelligent design. With that kind of reconciliation it's also not surprising that Ayala is "unwilling to affirm or deny a personal belief in God" and refers instead "to science-savvy Christian theologians who present a God that is continuously engaged in the creative process through undirected natural selection." ...

And Christian or not, anyone who swallows Ayala's "science-savvy" line of reasoning lacks rational thinking ability. Like referring to an artist "continually engaged in the creative process through an undirected paintbrush," such a thought is pure sophistry, disconnected from any rational reality. The foisting of such silliness upon us all is exactly why, as the Scientific American article states, "convincing most of the American public [of the ability for Darwinism and faith to coexist] remains the challenge." Despite the best of Darwinists' exoteric ramblings, most Americans still think right. You might say we are designed that way.
It is curious indeed that people who think that the entire universe is undirected never think of permitting anyone with an undirected paintbrush to work on their rec room.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Vindication for ID guy: Forrest Mims one of "50 best brains in science"

My friend Forrest Mims, survivor of Darwinist thug attacks, has recently been named one of the "50 best brains in science" by Discover Magazine (December 2008, page 43). The cover story informs us, "there may be no amateur scientists more prolific than Forrest Mims." It is not on line yet.

The Discover article classes Mims as an Outsider and reads, in part, "There may be no amateur scientist more prolific than Forrest M. Mims III, 64, of south central Texas. He has published in major scientific journals such as Nature as well as countless general-interest publications. Mims began teaching himself science and electronics at age 11 and says he never received any formal training apart from a few introductory college courses in biology and chemistry." I am told the list includes some other relative unknowns, as well as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking (on the cover), Michael Griffin (head of NASA), James Hansen (global warming guru), E. O. Wilson (sociobiologist and evolutionist), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders), Neil deGrasse Tyson (PBS Nova), Harold Varmus (NIH), and J. Craig Ventner (human genome).

The selection panel has good reason for its view of Forrest. For a man with little formal science training, Mims has done an astonishing amount of research that has been published in a variety of journals. He has written many popular articles, as well as books. He is probably best known for the books and lab kits on electronics projects that he had developed for Radio Shack over the years. He even has a claim to minor historical fame as a co-founder of MITS, Inc., which introduced the Altair 8800, the first microcomputer, in 1975.

Encouraged by her family, his daughter Sarah Mims had a journal publication while still a high school student.

However, Forrest told me yesterday that when he was first told by a Discover editor to expect his name to come up, he worried that it was a vulgar hit piece, retailing the "Scientific American" affair or the "Eric Pianka" episode.

In 1989, Scientific American abruptly withdrew from a promising relationship with Forrest when he refused to subscribe to Darwin's theory of evolution:

Mims had offered to write the column “Amateur Scientist” for SciAm.
His offer was gladly accepted in principle, pending an interview to discuss the details with editor Jonathan Piel. Mims canceled his current assignments and boarded a plane.

It should have been a great meeting. And it was, at first. Piel liked Mims’s proposed topics. The deal was pretty well sewn up—until Mims happened to mention, in a list of publications for which he had written, some Christian magazines, where he wrote about how to take kids on long distance bicycle trips.

Piel asked bluntly: “Do you believe in the Darwinian theory of evolution?”

Mims said no.

Suddenly, the temperature plunged below freezing.

[ ... ]

In the months that followed, SciAm editors pestered Mims about his religious beliefs, and even about his opinion on abortion. The magazine grudgingly assigned him a trial column. Editors liked it. More assignments were ordered. Maybe things would work out after all, Mims thought. Maybe he had finally passed all of the Darwinists’ tests.

However, during one phone call, Piel again raised the subject of Mims’s Christian beliefs. He professed worry that, if word got out that Mims was a Christian, a “public relations nightmare” might ensue.

By then Mims had realized the sad truth: SciAm was not simply going to assign him a column ... (By Design or by Chance?, pp. 187-88)
He moved on, of course, and told me later (2003) that not getting the column was probably the best thing for his science career: “It changed me from a mere science writer to a citizen scientist with many peer-reviewed papers.” Here is his own account of the affair.

Then there was the 2006 Eric Pianka affair, when a Texas Academy of Science spokesman told the videographer not to record the address given by award-winning environmental doomsayer Pianka. Spotting this, Mims took notes and was able to record some of the address via the audio on his camera. He could not record all of it, however, because the camera audio did not work when he was using the video to film the visuals Pianka provided.

The inflammatory statements he published, based on his notes and recording, were later disputed by the Academy, causing him much personal anguish. It was readily apparent that the Academy, embarrassed by Dr. Pianka's "anti-human race" views, had steamed into in full denial mode. Its efforts to discredit Mims appear to have failed.

Here is a link to a partial transcript of the Pianka episode.

In 2005, I wrote about Forrest and Sarah here:
With her parents' encouragement, Sarah started to study the atmosphere in Texas in 2001. She discovered that some of the airborne dust had blown all the way from the Sahara Desert in Africa. But in 2002, she discovered something even more remarkable: Dust from nearby regions was full of soot, and the soot carried bacteria and fungus. These life forms, she found, had escaped from faraway fires. In other words, contrary to what many think, fire did not kill them, it actually spread them. Sarah confirmed her findings in 2003, and they were published in Atmospheric Environment in 2004. If other studies confirm them, the use of burning as a method of clearing fields may need to be rethought.

[ ... ]

... while doing research at the Mauna Loa Observatory (Hawaii) after the Scientific American debacle, Mims was confronted by a tourist who asked him, "Are you a scientist? A real scientist?" The tourist only wanted someone to show him how the instruments worked, but for Forrest, the question meant far more. He realized that the doors that shut us out are not wood and steel but ideas and philosophies, including our own. If he did science, he was a real scientist, and that was enough.

[ ... ]

Incidentally, things have changed at Scientific American. The magazine has since published a column based on an instrument that Mims designed, as well as a news feature about his study of airborne bacteria in Brazil. Perhaps up-and-coming Christian scientists like Sarah will find the scientific world more open to different perspectives. (Today's Christian, January/February 2005, Vol. 43, No. 1, 46)
Congratulations to Forrest Mims, a voice for real science in the midst of a mass of taxpayer-funded propaganda for unbelievable beliefs that happen to be held by scientists.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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