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Friday, October 10, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Mark Steyn, MacLean's acquitted

From Mark's blog:

Steyn Today
Friday, 10 October 2008
CANADA vs FREE SPEECHFREE AT LAST! (pending appeal)Their Marsupial Majesties at the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal have dismissed El-Mo's complaint against Maclean's and voted unanimously to acquit the hatemongers:

[(full monster ruling here)]

The panel has concluded that the complaints are not justified because the complainants have not established that the Article is likely to expose them to hatred or contempt on the basis of their religion. Therefore, pursuant to s. 37(1) the complaints are dismissed.

We'll post the full ruling as soon as we can (the piece of wet string holding together New Hampshire's Third World Internet service fell down down during the night so we have a few technical problems). I'll be discussing the verdict later today after 6.30pm Mountain Time with Rob Breakenridge on 770 CHQR Calgary.

Here's the National Post story.

This is good news, but it is NOT a solution. Canadian journalists and publishers must not be dragged through kangaroo courts - in which civil liberties mean nothing - just because someone is offended by something they wrote.

Essentially all that happened was that they woke up and blinked when they realized that they were no longer trampling mere "little people." They may need to back off for a bit, plan their attack strategy better. That is as much of a victory for civil rights as Canada can manage at this time.

The view from O'Leary:
For what it is worth, Mark Steyn said little more or different re Islamic extremists than Phillip Longman has said about Christian fundamentalists and Mormons. (They have more kids, so their influence will grow ... ) See also Shoot Borovoy's Monster Now.

Will it? That is a contestable - and contested - argument, to be sure. For one thing, it has always been true that religious people had more kids. If that changed the political landscape, North America would long ago have evolved into a theocracy, but it hasn't.

The useful discussion would be why it hasn't, not wasting a lot of time, money and grief on tribunals and commissions trying to police thought.

Here's Deborah Gyapong of the Parliamentary Press Gallery

The good news is that more Canadians are waking up.

Here's way more Steyn Maclean's trial feedback than your betters want you to know, courtesy FreeMarkSteyn.

Update EST 3:09 PM: Here's the press release from the publishers of The Tyranny of Nice:


TORONTO (October 10, 2008) -- Today, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal handed down a not-guilty verdict in the case of Maclean's magazine and its columnist Mark Steyn. The case, prompted by charges of "flagrant Islamophobia" made against Steyn and Maclean's by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), focused critical attention on Canada's controversial Human Rights Commissions.

Today, the Tribunal ruled that Mark Steyn and Maclean's did not violate the human rights of the complainants merely by reporting facts and accurately quoting sources.

The Steyn trial, along with other lesser known but equally troubling cases, are chronicled in the new book The Tyranny of Nice: How Canada crushes freedom in the name of human rights, written by Kathy Shaidle and Pete Vere. Authors Kathy Shaidle and Pete Vere commented today on the verdict in the Steyn & Maclean's case:

"Unfortunately, this decision is only a partial victory for Mark Steyn, Maclean's magazine and every other writer and publisher in Canada. This Kafkaesque trial cost taxpayers dearly, while many Canadians struggle to make ends meet.

"More importantly, it cost Canada its international reputation as a free, just and tolerant country. While Steyn and Maclean's won, most defendants are found guilty; the HRCs boast of a nearly 100% rate of conviction. We can only hope that this case and all the others chronicled in our book will help make the continued existence of Canada's out of control, draconian Human Rights Commissions an issue in the coming federal election.

"If elected Prime Minister, what will Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Jack Layton or Elizabeth May do to rein in the powers of human rights commissions and protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press?"


Kathy Shaidle (co-author):

Pete Vere (co-author):

Further comments:

Pundita says: When the Maclean's hearing began in B.C. I observed something to the effect that what happened in the hearing room would help decide the course of Western civilization. The remark must have seemed laughable to people who were unfamiliar with the issues. If they've read The Tyranny of Nice I doubt they're laughing now: [...]"

Also: Want Nice? Move to Canada and give up on human dignity, okay? Free speech and intellectual freedom: Some thoughts Oops, a political party has actually noticed the problem. Political science profs nervous about coming here.

Note also further reports from Further reports from Reuters, the CBC, The National Post, The Vancouver Sun and CTV, plus comment from Andrew Coyne, Mark Hemingway, Michelle Malkin, The Weekly Standard, the Canadian Arab Federation, Hot Air, Jay Currie, Stage Left, Deborah Gyapong, The Western Standard, the Hyacinth Girl, Scaramouche, and Kathy Shaidle & Pete Vere, with more at Free Mark Steyn! And there's never been a better day to pick up a copy of The Tyranny Of Nice.

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Darwinism and popular culture: Still not clear how mind emerges from mud

Recently, I wrote about Stephen Craig Dilley's paper in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies attacking Larry Arnhart's "Darwinian conservatism" here (October 4, 2008):

Darwinism and popular culture: Darwinian conservatism means "disintegration of morality"?

That's St. Edward's University's Stephen Craig Dilley's view in a recent edition of Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (Vol XX, 2008, whose theme this year is globalization).

Dilley is responding to Larry Arnhart, who has been promoting Darwinian conservatism (= why traditional Christians and others should embrace survival of the fittest).

His book-length efforts have been contested, and have prompted a book-length rejoinder from John West.

I have now had a chance to read the paper, and it is a powerful critique. Essentially, Dilley argues, Arnhart does not explain how the mind or free will could arise through Darwinian evolution. He uses the word "emergence" a lot, but not in a way that makes clear precisely how mind is supposed to have emerged from mud.
What is curious about Arnhart's lines of evidence is that five out of six are not so much arguments about how Darwinian evolution can manufacture a volitional mind, but rather statements about the mind itself. That is, most of Arnhart's purported evidence only supports the claim that there is, in fact, a mind capable of substantive choice, but fails to explain how an entity with these capacities arose. ... He describes the data, but does not explain their origin.
Well, when defending a theory of evolution, the money shot is explaining the origin of the subject. The result is
Arnhart's ordinary experience tells him one thing, while his Enlightenment convinctions tell him another. He thinks that material cause-and-effect are sufficient to produce human form and function, yet he also believes that humans are not just cogs in the cosmic machine, but that they choose their actions and are responsible for their behaviours. Indeed, he is caught between his worldview and the evidence of normal experience - a tension that lies at the heart of any attempt to unite reductionist Enlightenment science with traditional western and non-Western ways of thinking. Arnhart tries to diffuse this tension by the emergence thesis, yet this effort falters.
I can't find where Arnhart has replied as yet, but here's his blog with the search box set to "Dilley".

Readers who are interested in mind-brain issues should also check my Mindful Hack blog.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Darwinism and popular culture: Fish story evolves in pop science media

British physicist David Tyler looks at a recent find in cichlid fish which has been vastly hyped as evidence for rapdi appearance of new species. He means hype like this Nature News story (1 October 2008), which proclaims "What you see is how you evolve: Differences in vision could give rise to new species."

Here's the abstract of the paper Tyler discusses:
Speciation through sensory drive in cichlid fish

Ole Seehausen, Yohey Terai, Isabel S. Magalhaes, Karen L. Carleton, Hillary D. J. Mrosso, Ryutaro Miyagi, Inke van der Sluijs, Maria V. Schneider, Martine E. Maan, Hidenori Tachida, Hiroo Imai & Norihiro Okada

Nature 455, 620-626 (2 October 2008) doi:10.1038/nature07285
Abstract: Theoretically, divergent selection on sensory systems can cause speciation through sensory drive. However, empirical evidence is rare and incomplete. Here we demonstrate sensory drive speciation within island populations of cichlid fish. We identify the ecological and molecular basis of divergent evolution in the cichlid visual system, demonstrate associated divergence in male colouration and female preferences, and show subsequent differentiation at neutral loci, indicating reproductive isolation. Evidence is replicated in several pairs of sympatric populations and species. Variation in the slope of the environmental gradients explains variation in the progress towards speciation: speciation occurs on all but the steepest gradients. This is the most complete demonstration so far of speciation through sensory drive without geographical isolation. Our results also provide a mechanistic explanation for the collapse of cichlid fish species diversity during the anthropogenic eutrophication of Lake Victoria.
He comments:
"The strongest evidence yet" involves a correlation between the visual system, body colour and ecology. Instead of this being used to support a hypothesis of sexual selection based on body colouration, the authors claim to have demonstrated sexual selection in action. This has been picked up by the media as fact: "a fish species in the cichlid family has been observed by scientists in the act of splitting into two distinct species in Lake Victoria" (Source). The cover of Nature proclaims that this is "a textbook example of evolution in action".

Let us suppose that the hypothesis is tested and confirmed, and the "sensory drive speciation" is validated. What are the implications for our understanding of evolution? It means that an ancestral fish population can split into two or more populations on the basis of colour. The daughter populations have differences in sensitivity to light frequencies and differences in body colouration. These may be accompanied by other ecological adaptations. There is no new genetic information - just fine-tuning of existing genetic systems. There is no evidence that these new species lack the potential to interbreed. Indeed, the differences are so slight that hybridisation to produce fertile offspring can be predicted with some confidence.
Talk about textbook examples - as the study authors themselves observe, for their particular proposed path, "empirical evidence is rare and incomplete." Now, to their delight, they have finally found an example (if the two schools of fish don't just interbreed back into hybrids after a few decades).

The problem isn't with the researchers, who sound suitably cautious. It's the pop science media that jump on something like this, inflating it far beyond what the current state of knowledge would justify. That wouldn't matter if they were just speculating about some celeb's bumpy tummy, but unfortunately, they help skew science textbook and science teaching. Tyler concludes,

The punchline: ID scientists are not opposed to the teaching of evolution in schools, but want it taught properly - allowing critical appraisal and the recognition of spin. Let speciation in cichlid fish enter the textbooks, not as a proof of evolution, but as an example of how evidence is brought to bear on current hypotheses of the origin of species.
That would be higher quality teaching, but would lead to too many embarrassing questions. My guess is, both the pop sci mags and the textbooks will stick to "proof of evolution" for the present.
Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Morning coffee: Are you a redneck? A red diaper baby? And does it matter?

Surprisingly, whether you are left or right may not matter as much as you might think, according to an interesting new political litmus test.

Whether you are authoritarian vs. libertarian may predict your politics just as effectively.

Hat tip to Franklin Carter , Editor and Researcher, at the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada, for this entertaining and instructive litmus test.

I took the test and here is my score:

Economic Left/Right: -2.25

Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.13

So I tilt slightly to the left, and am a bit more on the libertarian side than the authoritarian.

Actually, the questions are a bit manipulative, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun! For example,

Question 1, If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.
If economic globalisation is "inevitable", it will "serve" nobody, it will just happen. Positioning will determine the winners and losers, just as in the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Revolution.

Forced to choose, I prefer it serve humanity, so I checked Agree. But the very idea that my opinion would change anything sounds erroneous in principle.

Don't miss the explanation for the test at the site's home page:
Welcome to The Political Compass™

There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook. That's about as much as we should tell you for now.
These observations are especially relevant to the intellectual freedom issues we face in Canada today. For example, far leftists and Islamic activists agree on supporting and extending our illiberal "human rights" commissions.

Does that make sense, given that they disagree on so much else? Yes, if you keep one thing in mind - both groups are authoritarian. Both benefit from the growth of the authoritarian state, even though they would take it in radically different directions.

As a contary example, Calgary commentator Rob Breakenridge and I disagree strongly on the intelligent design controversy but we both oppose the "human rights" commissions. That is probably* because neither of us is authoritarian.

So kudos to Compass!

(*I bet if he took the test, we could establish that).

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