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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Intellectual freedom threats in Canada: Legal guru fingers "human rights" commissions, Internet

As Jacquie McNish reports in the Globe and Mail today, Julian Porter, Maclean's Magazine's defender, weighs in on the human rights commissions blunder into media issues:
After four decades of suing or defending prominent authors, journalists and businessmen entangled in some of Canada's most memorable libel cases, Mr. Porter warns that it is getting harder to defend reputations or preserve freedom of speech - rights honed over centuries of case law.

One culprit, he said, is quasi-judicial bodies such as human rights tribunals, which are operating far "beyond their jurisdiction."

When these agencies investigate slander and defamation charges, he argues, they operate outside the bounds of civil court procedure. Defendants cannot rely on traditional libel defences such as truth, fair comment or good intent.

Of course he is right, but we need to see what underlies the trend: The increasing willingness, as sociologist Steve Fuller has noted, for people to see themselves as animals makes traditional concepts of civil rights difficult to sustain. Government nanny monsters like the "human rights" commissions destroy individuals' lives with little restraint and no compunction, let alone accountability, because those individuals do not matter. Social engineering matters. In the same spirit, a farmer might get rid of an ornery cow.

Porter, as might be expected, is less than pleased that the Canadian Human Rights Commission dropped the complaint against his client, historic Maclean's Magazine. It is widely understood by those who have been following the advance of these "human rights" tyrannies that this is a tactical withdrawal only. The Commissions will go back to persecuting less powerful people, especially traditional Christians, until they gain enough heft to go after the likes of Mark Steyn and Maclean's again.

He also blames the growth of blogs on the Internet, run by people with few or no assets for undermining traditional libel law. Here, of course, one wonders about Porter's sense of proportion. As I have said before, the Internet is a horizontal medium, not a vertical one. The fact that someone is dissing someone else on the Internet usually matters about as much as a backyard shoutout among the clotheslines. It was, however, a bonanza for Commission creep, because the Commissars can treat every scold as if he or she were editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail, relentlessly expanding their power to punish and destroy in the process.

Every area into which they waddle becomes their territory forever, with the federal government's blessing.

Many of us would far rather someone who can afford to appeal (like Maclean's boss Ted Rogers) be convicted by the Commissars. That way, the Supreme Court will almost certainly send the Commissars waddling back to a portfolio they can handle - and perhaps eventually into extinction.

See also: "An open letter to Guy Earle (A late nite comic charged with giving offence)

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British sociologist charges: Hostility to intelligent design is bigotry, not science

A friend writes to say that Steve Fuller's book Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism (Cambridge,) is now available.

Fuller is the Warwick U sociologist who made the mistake of trying to understand the intelligent design controversy by actually looking at the evidence. He appears in the Expelled film, so even the fact that he calls himself a secular humanist will not be enough to rescue his reputation. I would imagine the reviews will be terrible because most reviewers need to prove that they are good little boys and girls by trashing the book. One result is that - increasingly - the books the good littles trash are the only ones worth reading on this subject.

From the cover flap:
In Dissent over Descent Steve Fuller argues that the search for intelligent design in nature has been science’s overriding concern for its entire history.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is itself best understood as the work of a failed ID theorist. Not even Richard Dawkins, for all his condemnation of religion, can get away from ID talk.

In this eagerly anticipated new book, iconoclastic sociologist of science Steve Fuller argues that hostility to ID is based less on science than sheer anti-religious bigotry. In fact, science and religion have gone hand in hand for most of Western history.

Fuller shows that even theological speculations about divine justice and biblical literalism have fostered the advancement of science. However to grant these points the significance they deserve, several myths about science need to be overturned.
My friend notes that his book "is not presently available from, but can be ordered from at nearly 30% off and free worldwide postage."

Here's a bit from Zoe Corbyn's 2006 profile of Fuller (Guardian Education):
His latest, The New Sociological Imagination, which is due out next month, is about saving social science from being squeezed out by fields such as evolutionary psychology and socio-biology. "Part of the problem is the influence of Darwinism. People are getting quite used to thinking about humans as animals." The result, he says, is that the study of the more humanising aspects of the human condition, the focus of social science, are in jeopardy.
Which is interesting, because evolutionary psychology - an attempt to apply Darwinism to psychology - is an almost fact-free discipline. It is based on the dubious assumption that modern-day attitudes can be understood by assuming that these attitudes helped our pre-human or early human ancestors survive and leave offspring. (To see what I mean, assume that your own attitudes can be understood as those that helped your great-great grandparents survive and leave offspring.) The underlying idea, of course, is that your mind is an illusion generated by your selfish genes attempting to perpetuate themselves.

(And if you think that doesn't make any sense, be assured, vast tracts of the Darwinism rammed down your throat would not survive scrutiny any better.)

When Fuller gave evidence at the Dover trial (for the defense), he ran into an army of Darwinbots on full tilt:
"There were people calling the university, calling for me to be fired, saying they wouldn't send their children there."

Amazingly, however, the U did not cave (and maybe didn't even grovel):
The university's response has been to use it as an opportunity for a larger public debate. "There's been an enormous amount of discussion on campus about it," says Fuller.

Fuller thinks that anyone who takes on the Darwinbot army had better be in a very secure position.

Note: Regular readers of this space will note that blogging has been light recently. I have been away for the Canada Day holiday (July 1).


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