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Comments by ThomasB

Go to: Richard Dawkins' live streaming lecture today

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by ThomasB

The visuals look great - I wish I could read lips.

Tue, 17 Mar 2009 12:49:00 UTC | #336859

Go to: Christians and Atheists Battle in London Bus Wars

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by ThomasB

This is wonderful. I really don't see a downside to this. It continues to prove very public discussion, some of which must be very reassuring to nascent freethinkers.

Kudos to all who have donated to the campaigns!

Sun, 08 Feb 2009 16:02:00 UTC | #321465

Go to: Life Is Short...

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by ThomasB

Unfortunately, the cut-and-paste on this article didn't include the author's name: Natalie Angier.

I enjoyed this article as I have the others. I'm looking forward to reading The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

Some of you will recall her essay: Confessions of a lonely atheist, also published in the NY Times.

Wed, 20 Aug 2008 17:28:00 UTC | #221496

Go to: Losing Sight of Progress

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by ThomasB


That phrase "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" certainly is catchy.

Indeed my undergraduate vertebrate anatomy professor liked it well enough and we all dutifully scribbled it into our notes. You can certainly be forgiven for repeating it in this thread.

Alas it's not true and worse, it's misleading. I can't see how it can do better service as an analogy.

Bugaboo's (comment 38, above) link provides a concise explanation.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 07:50:00 UTC | #204569

Go to: Losing Sight of Progress

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by ThomasB

Well it's great that Planet Earth helped Hitch connect a few dots. I hope this immensely popular programme will do the same for many others. I also thought RD was appropriately generous in his written reply.

I can't see how this example could illuminate the world view of a blinkered creationist, when other examples of bad design abound.

When asked why a loving god would create poison ivy, a creationist in Kansas answered thusly:

On poison ivy etc, in the Judaeo-Christian context, we should note the Apostle Paul's remark in Rom 8:19 - 25, i.e creation now is not as it should be -- we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world -- but in God's due time, God will restore all things. And, God's motive is MERCY: giving us a chance to turn back from wrong and rebellion to good and love.

If poison ivy can be seen as evidence of a fallen, sin-cursed world, then lineages of secondarily blind salamanders should be even easier to explain.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 06:54:00 UTC | #204508

Go to: Bill Good Interviews Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by ThomasB

Nice to have RD back in Canada.

Particularly enjoyable was Richard's no-nonsense smack-down of the caller who so lamely presented the "evolution is just another faith" canard.

Alas, the advertisements were difficult to endure.

Wed, 30 Apr 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #164450

Go to: CBC Atheism and Humanism Documentary

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by ThomasB

Some random thoughts:

My overall impressions are favourable. However, as someone who has never embraced any religion, I really didn't identify with most of the "atheists" shown in this program. Their investment in their atheist identity seems closely tied to their recovery from religion.

I surely don't concur with Bonzai's thesis about "U.S. Envy" animating many Canadians in their concerns about faith. Beyond the cultural mosaic of Toronto, one can still hear, now and then, the hoof beats of a crusading and oppressive Christianity. I suspect that at least half of my neighbours here in rural, central Ontario would be happy to see creationism taught in science class. And why would someone living in Canada feel any "envy" for the USA?! Certainly not for their beer.

It was hard to listen to Tom Harpur, whose God is manifested in the "hummingbirds in the hollyhocks." It would have been nice to have seen this fluffery countered with Darwin's intellectually robust flourish:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

I liked the voice-over. Clifton Joseph is something of a renaissance man and is perhaps our unofficial dub poet laureate. His CBC bio reflects an interesting body of work:

Clifton Joseph is a reporter for CBC News: Marketplace, CBC Television's award-winning prime-time investigative consumer show.

Joseph has written for The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Contrast newspaper, and for Toronto Life, Fuse, Freewheellin' and This magazines.

In radio, he has been a producer and host for Ryerson Campus station CKLN's flagship current affairs program Saturday Morning Live, worked for CIUT, and written and reported for CBC Radio programs, including Morningside, Ideas, The Arts Tonight, The Entertainers and CBL News.

In television, Joseph has been a producer and contributing interviewer for TVO's literary show Imprint and technology show The Future. At CTV, he worked as a pop culture columnist and movie reviewer for Canada AM and music/culture reporter for Entertainment Now. At the CBC, he co-wrote the Thick and Thin black comedy special and hosted the 2000 Gemini Awards (industry night). He has also reported for Undercurrents, CBC News: Sunday and CBC News: The National, as well as served as a panelist/contributor for Face Off, Big Life with Daniel Richler, Sunday Morning, Midday, Anne Petrie's Talk TV, The Lead and Jonovision.

As poet, Joseph is one of the founders of the dub poetry movement in Canada. He has performed widely across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean. His poems have been anthologized in numerous written and audio compilations, including De Dub Poets with poets Lilian Allen and Devon Haughton with the Truths & Rights Reggae Band, Poetry Nation, Vehicule Press's Paen to the spoken/word-performance poetry movement, and Word Up, Virgin Records' CD of North American spoken word poets and the accompanying Word Up poem-video series commissioned by and aired on Much Music. He's published Metropolitan Blues, a book of poems; released Oral Trans/missions, an album of poetry and music and the video Pimps.

Joseph is the recipient of two Gemini Awards for Best Writing in an Information Program or Series, a Freddie Award from the International Health and Medical Media Awards and a silver medal award from the New York TV Festival for his work on Undercurrents; and a Silver Fleece Award from the Chicago Film Festival for an Imprint documentary on dub poetry. He is also a two-time winner of the Best Dub Poet Award and recipient of The Peter Tosh Memorial Award from the Canadian Reggae Music Awards as well as Juno and CASBY nominations for his poetry.

Wed, 10 Oct 2007 06:09:00 UTC | #74027

Go to: Catholic school board in Halton may ban HPV vaccination

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by ThomasB

#71631 by Spinoza:

It would seem that three out of seven catholic school board members are as awful as you feared - small consolation.

Does this me we needn't warn our sons about catching genital warts from unvaccinated catholic girls?

Wed, 19 Sep 2007 10:44:00 UTC | #68140

Go to: Radical Christians in Iraq

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by ThomasB


Tue, 18 Sep 2007 14:24:00 UTC | #67879

Go to: Creationism raised as Ont. election issue

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by ThomasB

John Tory's statement that "It's still called the theory of evolution," echoes George W. Bush's faith-based assertion that the "jury is out" on the merits of the subject.

It should be noted that John Tory's scientific literacy was not shaped by the publicly funded school system.

Perhaps a failing grade should be given to his science teachers at UTS, a private school in Toronto.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:55:00 UTC | #65002

Go to: OUT Campaign Launched, 'Scarlet Letter' Shirts Now Available!

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by ThomasB

The T-shirt thing seems a bit silly. I'd happily wear a shirt with a Darwin motif that sends an affirmative message endorsing science and reason.

But as someone who was never "IN", I appreciate, and respect, that the declarative "OUT" may have greater appeal to those reveling in their recent emancipation.

Sat, 28 Jul 2007 15:32:00 UTC | #56064

Go to: Don't eat at the Outback Steakhouse on Route 3...

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by ThomasB

I wonder how O'Reilly would have reacted if the pope had been described as a Homo sapiens, whose epidermis is showing?

Fri, 27 Jul 2007 11:55:00 UTC | #55914

Go to: Richler defends atheism

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by ThomasB

Here's my brief exchange with Barbara Kay, for what it's worth.

I share my views with Barbara...

Subject: Einstein's spirituality and Stephen Harper's religiosity

Hello Barbara,

My reply to Daniel Richler would perhaps have more appropriately followed your original piece.

Thank you, Daniel Richler, for responding to Barbara Kay's demeaning mischaracterization of Albert Einstein's spirituality.

As for this average atheist, I can't claim any sense of feeling "violated" or "abused" when our Prime Minister panders to the pious with his "God Bless Canada" bumper sticker slogan.

I do, however, pause in wonder at what these words mean to Stephen Harper, and of the privilege afforded to God-speak in our culture.

How would Canadians respond if he voiced an appeal to Sedna, Nanabush, Apollo or any other, equally plausible, supernatural entity? And just why would any good Christian petition his maker to bless only people of a certain nationality?

I'm reminded of the "humbly bowed" football fans in the Bible Belt praying to Jesus for a home team win.

Barbara misses the point and insults my faculties...

I must say I get the oddest letters from people. Would a Roman or Greek of 200 BC say God bless us? No, since he was not a Jew. He would say Apollo bless us or whatever. What's in your head? One is from a certain culture, one invokes a blessing that is traditional to that culture. Hello, anyone home there? Honestly, I am slack-jawed with bewilderment at the average person's sense of logic in this country. And you probably think you are using your "reason"? If you are the average atheist, uh oh...

I answer Barbara...

Hello Barbara,

Thank you for your reply.

Perhaps my comment was too subtle. Humans do indeed invoke blessings from the god(s)/goddess (es)/spirits peculiar to their sect; however, to an unindoctrinated ear, invocations of God, Allah, Vishnu, Thor and Isis all sound equally (in)appropriate and (im)plausible.

But sooner or later, each culture fades and its gods are relegated to the musty cabinet of mythology. There is no reason to believe a different fate awaits the God(s) of the Abrahamic religions. If this is what you are conceding, then isn't this a point for my side, i.e., that we invent our own god(s)?

Barbara does not respond

Fri, 27 Jul 2007 08:47:00 UTC | #55889

Go to: God not out of the question for most Canadians

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by ThomasB

No less irksome is the Preamble to the Constitution Act (1982):

"Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law...."

Fri, 06 Jul 2007 16:31:00 UTC | #51273

Go to: God not out of the question for most Canadians

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by ThomasB


Maybe we're being a little too subtle. You and I aren't on the same page - I don't really believe that supernatural tales have any place in a science classroom. There is no controversy to teach.

There may well be debate among scientists concerning tempo and modes of speciation, units of selection, etc., but these are all being discussed within a very robust and successful evolutionary paradigm.

Who's "entrenched"?

If we are so firmly entrenched in evolution like the religious are so firmly entrenched in religion, then we will be almost as blind as them.

Fri, 06 Jul 2007 15:11:00 UTC | #51265

Go to: God not out of the question for most Canadians

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by ThomasB


Which creationist version of origins would you like to see taught beside (evidence-based) evolutionary theory?

I'm partial to the made-up-in-Canada story of Sedna, which explains the (paraphyletic) derivation of fishes, seals, walruses and whales from the severed phalanges of an Inuit girl who defied her father by marrying beneath her (vertebrate) class.

It's a cracking good tale about a somewhat disfunctional family's experiences with bestiality, filicide, rage, vengeance and mutilation - very Old Testament!

[For your moral edification.]

And then we'll let the students consider the controversy and decide for themselves?

Do you propose that this be done in a science class?

Fri, 06 Jul 2007 09:46:00 UTC | #51206

Go to: God not out of the question for most Canadians

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by ThomasB

JanChan #54196 correctly faults our system of education and while this is depressing, it's not so shocking. We are the same people who tolerate having a 2x college dropout, young earth creationist (Stockwell Day) serve as Minister of Public Safety. Mr Day oversees Canada's preparedness for emerging diseases, the evolutionary nature of which he rejects as a matter of faith.

Regarding comment #54197 by Convertedchristian, I was taught the basics of descent with modification and natural selection in grade 8 (13 yo), in a private school, by a very good teacher - these ideas were communicated with an appropriate sense of their importance and explanatory power.

I wonder how well evolution is taught in our publicly funded, catholic school system.

Fri, 06 Jul 2007 04:06:00 UTC | #51130

Go to: The infinite wisdom of Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 62 by ThomasB

Another letter to the editor from the Globe and Mail.

Grown-up talk that isn't

Shawinigan Lake, B.C.

Thursday, June 28, 2007 – Page A20

A letter writer takes atheist Richard Dawkins to task by stating: "If I didn't think pink elephants could fly, I wouldn't waste time writing books about it or debating the subject" (Three Pickles Short - June 27). Many spiritual leaders not only advocate the belief pink elephants can fly, but are constantly encouraging their followers to book flights.

Thu, 28 Jun 2007 05:13:00 UTC | #49750

Go to: The infinite wisdom of Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by ThomasB

The printed responses in the Globe and Mail to RD's characterization of our Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day have been balanced....balanced between dopey misattributions (to Richard Dawkins) and more thoughtful consideration. Here's my favourite, from today's edition.

The quotations Ted Lund uses in his letter, The Fool's Part Is Played By ... (June 26), leave an unanswered question: Isn't it possible there is no contradiction between Jane Taber's description of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day as ''one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's strongest ministers'' and Richard Dawkins's description of Mr. Day as ''clearly a complete idiot''?

James Forster
Globe and Mail Print Edition 27/06/07 Page A18

Wed, 27 Jun 2007 02:54:00 UTC | #49390

Go to: The infinite wisdom of Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by ThomasB

Here's another interview with RD by a print reporter (National Post) in Toronto.

Celebrity deity-slayer has a bad day
DAWKINS LECTURE; Evolutionary biologist professes belief in aliens
Joseph Brean, National Post
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sun, 24 Jun 2007 09:09:00 UTC | #48688

Go to: The infinite wisdom of Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by ThomasB

A few points:

As Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day oversees the development of policies addressing bird flu. I wonder how his fundamental rejection of evolution allows him to meet the threat of fast-evolving agents of disease.

It would be great if Day were the only fundamentalist in our minority government. The troubling truth is that the PM and about 70 of the MP's in his caucus are evangelical Christians. On godly matters, these MPs are effectively muzzled by PM Harper who rightly recognizes that his party will never achieve a majority if his Ministers freely speak their beliefs. For the most part, the media have given Conservative government a free ride on this, with the enlightening exception of this article:

Harper's agenda turns out to be hidden only to those who don't know where to look. Within weeks after the election, the first leak about his upcoming legislative package outlined a plan by Justice Minister Vic Toews, one of the most conservative evangelicals in his cabinet, to raise the age of sexual consent to sixteen from fourteen. The media greeted the scoop with a barely concealed yawn, but the Evangelical Fellowship, which had been lobbying for years on the issue, recognized it as a custom-tailored bulletin. Says Epp Buckingham, "We took it as a message that we were being heard."

Borrowing a page from Bush's White House, which boasts a deputy responsible for "Christian outreach," Harper has installed a point man for the religious right, among other groups, in his government, under the title "director of stakeholder relations." But evangelical activists know that a more direct route to the prime minister is through his parliamentary secretary, Jason Kenney. After the election, many in the Ottawa press corps were astonished when the Calgary loyalist who served as a critic in every recent Reform/Alliance shadow cabinet didn't win a portfolio. But these days, Kenney may have more clout than any minister, playing emissary to groups with whom Harper doesn't wish to leave prime ministerial fingerprints, above all on the religious right. Despite being a Catholic, Kenney is a regular on the evangelical circuit, turning up at so-con confabs and orchestrating discreet meetings with the boss. "Jason," says one Ottawa insider, "has a lot more influence than you might think."

Sun, 24 Jun 2007 08:24:00 UTC | #48682

Go to: An Inquisition in science's name

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 65 by ThomasB

This part is particularly offensive (to reason) and wrong....

In Canada, for example, where you are lecturing this week, the most spiritual members of the population are aboriginal peoples. Many profess to believe something "spiritual" resides not only in every human, but also in animals, rocks, and trees - by your lights, an unscientific notion.

Canadian society is diverse - hundreds of faiths are represented. What is his evidence for stating that any one group "is the most spiritual"? I find this claim specious: others would call it racist. As to the nature of that spirituality, let's consider some evidence before we accept, on faith, the animism claimed to characterize our native people.

In Nunavut (eastern Arctic) people of aboriginal ancestry (Inuit) predominate. These are the least assimilated native people in North America and yet their religious affiliation is overwhelmingly Christian (92.1%), thanks to residential schools and missionary sects. Here's the breakdown from the 2001 Canada Census:

Anglican: 59.7%
Roman Catholic: 23.3%
Pentecostal: 4.4%
other Christian: 7.4%
no religion: 6.0%
Native spirituality: 0.1%

Manning would have been correct to state that aboriginal Canadians are highly religious. They also happen to be Christian. As an aside, I wonder how well this serves them...

The school board in the Inuit community of Salluit forbade a biology teacher from delivering a lesson on evolution because it "expects teachers to respect the culture of the people they are privileged to live with, and to teach." And what is that so zealously defended culture? The Pentecostalism of course!

Here's the full, sad story:

Preston Manning's characterization of the faith practiced by aboriginal Canadians is racist and myth-based.

Thu, 21 Jun 2007 19:18:00 UTC | #48145

Go to: An Inquisition in science's name

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 55 by ThomasB

Here's the best of five responses printed in the June 21 edition of the Globe and Mail:

In An Inquisition In Science's Name (June 20), Preston Manning tries to draw an analogy between the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins and the 17th-century cardinal Robert Bellarmine. The cardinal insisted, with the power of the Roman Catholic Church behind him, that everyone must believe what he believed, on faith and without question - or else. Mr. Dawkins, on the other hand, suggests we question everything. Accept nothing on faith.

As Mr. Manning correctly points out, the cardinal's approach leads to intolerance and oppression. But that is the way of religion. Mr. Dawkins's way leads to enlightenment. There is simply no analogy here.

Author(s): Bill Longstaff
Document types: News
Dateline: Calgary AB
Section: Letter to the Editor
Publication title: The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Jun 21, 2007. pg. A.18

Thu, 21 Jun 2007 18:18:00 UTC | #48130

Go to: An Inquisition in science's name

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 46 by ThomasB

"Stupid" was not the first word that came to mind. I think it's crafty and will no doubt appeal to some of the most Catholic of believers.

Bellarmine has apparently not mended his ways as a monumental deceit sustains his missive. The Cardinal writes as though faith has learned its lesson in the 400 years since Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. From the pool of influential people who presently act or speak "in the name of either faith or science", Bellarmine has chosen to scold a temperate Oxford professor who dares to question religion. The rhetorical coupling of faith and science is a willfully misleading construct because of course science does not share with religion a history of, or tendency towards, abrogating the rights and freedoms of those who see the world differently.

Since Mr. Manning has some sense of the evil of Cardinal Bellarmine's response to heresy (ca 1600 CE), I hope he will take the time to write the present-day leaders who sanction, in the name of faith, the kidnapping and conversion children to soldiers, mutilating the genitals of children, honour killing, flying planes into skyscrapers, and the blowing up the temples and practitioners of rival faiths.

While he's at it, Preston Manning might send a letter to the L'Osservatore Romano sharing his enlightened attitude towards traditional aboriginal beliefs. Only last month Pope Benedict XVI declared that "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture" because indeed the native South Americans were "silently longing" to become Christians when they were conquered.

Here in Canada our people of native ancestry continue to receive compensation payments for the horrendous abuses committed by Christian Brothers in government sponsored residential schools. In Manning's suggestion that now atheists pose some sort of threat towards aboriginal people there lies a very sad irony that is entirely at his expense.

Thu, 21 Jun 2007 13:57:00 UTC | #48103

Go to: Interview with Richard Dawkins

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by ThomasB

This was so well done.

The one devout caller invoked the "behaving well out of fear of God's judgment" phenomenon and in a sense, RD's derision was appropriate. But I found the caller's self-referential scheme somewhat chilling. Is it possible or likely that some people, like this caller, who are predisposed or inclined to hurt others, seek out, perhaps in an adaptive way, highly prescriptive (and punitive) institutions like religion and the military?

Is a religious person with a conduct disorder, i.e., one who cannot empathize but fears hellfire, less likely to do harm than an atheist with a conduct disorder?

Wed, 20 Jun 2007 11:32:00 UTC | #47902

Go to: The God Delusion - Dawkins Feature

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by ThomasB

Refreshingly, the critics were not the usual tiresome faith-heads, but rather, advocates for science who find some fault in RD's tone.

If one can be damned with faint praise, then surely RD's argument was elevated by faint criticism from Krauss and Ruse during the panel discussion.

Tue, 19 Jun 2007 16:39:00 UTC | #47714

Go to: The Future Forum Presents: Christopher Hitchens and Marvin Olasky

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by ThomasB

Lets face it, most atheists, myself included are quite intolerant and hateful against religion in a way that we are not towards types of irrationality.

The only thing that annoys me at all like this is belief in Astrology.

Belief in UFOs, Bigfoot, Elvis sightings etc don't elicit any response at all.

Why do we hate the God concept so much ? And why is it that we don't hate Hindu gods like we hate the Christian and Muslim one ?


I do not observe in my fellow atheists anything akin to your very palpable negativity. Only you can address your particular antipathy toward Christianity and astrology (!) - you might find some clues to the source of your anger in the "Converts' Corner", or maybe you were just born under a bad sign.

Good luck.

Thu, 14 Jun 2007 12:08:00 UTC | #46995

Go to: Christopher Hitchens on The Hour

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by ThomasB

howtoplayalone wrote:

I don't want to say a bad word about Canada, where I lived for half a year, but I listened to CBC everyday, and thought it came close but didn't match NPR (I might be wrong), and I thought the TV interviewers -- although I admit I didn't watch much -- were equally lame. I'm just throwing that out. I'm probably mistaken. Speak up, Canadians, and correct me.

I've got CBC in my DNA - my mother was a 30 year employee - and CBC Radio has been in the background of more of my days than not. I agree with your thoughts on the quality of CBC programming. With a few bright exceptions, much of the programming is really mediocre, but still better than our commercial radio.

CBC's producers clearly have NPR/PRI on their radar. Last year they rebroadcast some episodes of "This American Life" and a few weeks ago, they cloned NPR's "This I believe" personal essay feature. The first few Canadian essays were weak but I expect they'll improve with time.

Tue, 12 Jun 2007 10:42:00 UTC | #46614

Go to: Don't Know Much Biology

ThomasB's Avatar Jump to comment 50 by ThomasB

I too heared the sinister undertones in Brownback's (Holy Ghostwritten) op-ed in which he also posited that "Faith seeks to purify reason..."

When haven't the pious attempted to purify reason, and the reasonable? William of Ockham, Galileo Galilei and Baruch Spinoza would have perfectly understood Brownback's pledge to the faithful for the (continued) purification of science in America.

Mon, 11 Jun 2007 16:46:00 UTC | #46436