Thursday, February 24, 2005
So what's happened in the last week? I went down to Caleb's surprise birthday party. Lots of fun. It was good to see everyone again. Playing WarHammer was fun too. I haven't played games in ages. Thanks to Caleb to introducing me to Scrubs. So very, very funny.
I also found out that referencing work on this blog may be dangerous. My students apparently have blogs and they could easily find mine by looking for blogs in Coquitlam. Oh well, we'll see how it goes.
Speaking of work though... My "wear a suit to work" thing from last week continues. (Well some days I only wear the shirt & tie). (And pants). There were noises made about putting forward a professional face and I say either go big or go home. Khaki's and a shirt isn't really much more professional that a good pair of jeans and the same shirt in my opinion. So here's to wearing suits. We'll see how long this lasts.
But it's midnight. Time for bed.
Friday, February 18, 2005
So I figured I'd transfer the discussion here. It also lets me carefully say exactly what I mean.
So what do I think of abortion? (Fair warning, this is going to be a long post).
The ethics of abortion rests on a very simple question. When does human life begin? If it begins at conception then abortion is wrong in all normal circumstances. If it begins at birth then there's nothing unethical about abortion at all. A couple of things: First, I'm excluding the possibility of life beginning before conception or after birth because I think those ideas are just silly. Secondly when I say "normal circumstances" I consider abortion to save the life of the mother when both mother and child would die otherwise to be perfectly ethical no matter when life begins. This is a very unlikely scenario, but that's what makes the other situations "normal circumstances". So I think that you can justify those very few abortions for the same reason that I think it's ethical to separate siamese twins who will eventually die without an operation even though the operation will kill one of them immediately. When faced with a losing situation, save who you can.
The important thing for me here is that if a fetus is "human", has a soul or however you phrase it, arguments about women's rights are completely irrelevant. A human's right to life automatically over-rules another human's right to convenience or a chosen lifestyle. If a fetus is not "human" or does not have a soul, then arguments about looking human or DNA or anything else are also completely irrelevant. Human rights trump non-human rights.
So when does human life begin? What I'm really asking is when are souls created? Animals are "alive", but killing them is not equivelant to murder. What is it that makes us people and when do we become people?
As a Christian I believe the Bible to be the revealed word of God, and there are several passages that suggest very strongly that life begins. One passage that I hadn't heard referenced this way until recently is the record of Mary visiting Elizabeth in Luke 1. For those of you who don't believe that the Bible is the word of God, I think it stands somewhat self-evidently that life beginning at birth is silly. How would moving a body in space, (from inside the womb to outside it), have any effect of the humanity of the child? So I think it's safe to say that life begins at some time before birth.
As I said I'm dismissing the "life before conception" possibility, so what about at conception itself? The Bible isn't terribly explicit at this point for the obvious reason that there was a shortage of ultra-sound equipment at the times. The bible wasn't written in the 21st century and therefore doesn't reflect a 21st century view of biology. The writers of the Bible simply didn't think it those terms. So just because an explicit "life begins at conception" reference isn't found doesn't mean that it doesn't begin then. Having said that, an explicit reference does not exist so we can't prove it that way either. What we do know is that there aren't a lot of clearly defined radical instantaneous changes as human fetuses develop. There's conception and pretty much everything else is gradual.
Given all of that however, I'm not prepared to go out on a limb and say that the Bible is cut and dried on life beginning at conception because it simply isn't. It's cut and dried on a lot of things, but this isn't one of those subjects because it simply wasn't an issue when the text was written.
At the same time, there are a lot of weird implications if you say that a zygote is a human being. Someone with more biology could help me out with this one, but I believe that the majority of conceptions end in spontaneous abortions? So if all conceptions result in humans then most humans are naturally aborted? Most human beings never saw the light of day? Possible, but it doesn't seem intuitive.
So I'm positive that life begins before birth, but I'm not sure when life actually begins. So what's the obvious ethical choice? Err on the side of caution. If you don't have abortions, then you can be 100% certain that you haven't murdered anyone. If you pick a point between conception and birth, you might not be murdering children, but then again you might be. Not a gamble I feel particularly comfortable taking.
So.... Is that a pro-life position or a pro-choice one? I call it reasonable.
But that wasn't the only issue Caleb & I discussed. The other is what I would do if I were a politician in Canada facing the issue and I said that I would not immediately outlaw all abortions. I stand by that. I think that abortions may be murder and I'm pretty certain that at least some of them are. So why not go ahead and outlaw them all?
For the very simple reason I wouldn't technically be able to do it. Canada is a democracy (and if you missed it I'm a firm believer in the value of democracy) and you simply can't outlaw something a majority of the population wants and expect your law to survive. If my political career would be the only casualty of such an action that might be different, but in reality there's no way an "all abortions are illegal" law would survive the democratic process even assuming you managed to get around the activist court/charter issue and get the law passed by parliament. If somehow you managed to get the law passed, the backlash would set the pro-life movement back immeasurably and you'd be worse off than you were before.
So what would I do? First of all, I'd make the things illegal that the majority of people agree on. I really doubt that partial birth / dilation & extraction abortions have a lot of support. I mean really, does anyone think these are a good idea? Even Clinton said abortion should be safe, legal & rare? Why rare? Because most people think that it's a bad idea. So outlaw the things that most people think should be outlawed.
Then next thing I would do is to make abortion alternatives ridiculously available. If we're against abortions we need to be willing to put in the effort to make alternatives available and easy. Along with this goes the demand that everyone should some respect for women & girls who make the tough decision to keep their baby when they could get an abortion. I still remember taking the bus home from high school and seeing a very pregnant girl on the bus. I was a teenager, so when I saw her I had the teenage reaction: slut. Walking home I had a bit of a revelation. She could have had an abortion and then she wouldn't have had to put up with condemning looks from arrogant idiots like me. I would have been none the wiser. Instead she chose the difficult path. That takes courage that I don't know that I would have had in her situation. I don't know who that girl was but she made a tough decision and a right one.
Finally I would continue saying that abortions are a bad idea and should be eliminated. I would keep giving my reasons why (which I think are pretty rock solid) and try to convince the people to go along with me. When I got a good majority agreeing with me, then passing a law would be trivial. It's not a terribly cool plan and it doesn't appeal to our need to fight very well, but I think it's the right thing to do because it might actually work.
So that's what I would do if I was the Prime Minister.
So if you're pro-choice do you find any of this threatening? Why? Why not?
If you're pro-life does this satisfy you? Seem like a good plan?
What does anyone think?
And since I'm posting pictures of cute animals, here's a picture of the sweetest cat I know. Thank you Nicole. You know I want to steal Sulu, but I'll try to stop myself.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Monday, February 14, 2005
I've anticipated it's approach like a herd of rampaging buffalo, but when it actually arrived I forgot about it until I read about it one someone else's blog. Sort of like forgetting my 21st birthday until I noticed the date on the newspaper I was reading in the evening. There isn't anything quite like absent mindedness for giving you peace of mind.
So... reflections on being 28 and single on this Valentine's Day. I really just don't care. Someone told me at church last night that my hairstyle made me look my age again and like I wasn't trying to look younger any more. (And here I thought my last hairstyle was the style of a guy who just let his hair grow too long again). Despite my stupid comment about what constituted being "old" I made when I was 16, I really don't think I mind being 28 anymore. My circle of real friends stretches from 19 year olds to 36 year olds. When will that ever be true again? Being single may be messing up my plan to have many children, but my plan for a bloodless coup of the Canadian political scene doesn't seem to be progressing too well either. I love life anyway. :)
Okay fine... The herd of rampaging buffalo thing was just me trying to come up with a cute turn of phrase.
But it's a beautiful west coast day. Cloudy with sun and I've got the day off. No this does not make up for Saturday. Yesterday was nice though.
So how's this for news. Jason Kenney, the Conservative MP from Calgary SouthEast, speaking at a meeting of the Punjabi Press Club in Brampton, Ontario has said that gays already have the right to marry. Just not to someone of the same sex. NDP MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East), says this is "absolutely absurd" and "If there was an award for making an idiotic statement, this guy would get it". (Source: Province Newspaper Feb. 14 pp. A12)
Well Kenney wasn't the first to say it. My good friend Alistair said it before he did. But is it really an idiotic statement? "Gays the right to marry + qualifier" doesn't necessarily make it idiotic. It depends what that qualifier is. So is the qualifier idiotic? (Yes I really want feedback on this).
Basically the statement rests on the assumption that heterosexuals and homosexuals are fundamentally the same. This is different from having equal rights. Men & Women have equal rights, but they are not the same and so those rights are expressed differently. I have the right to use a public restroom, but not the ones that are for women. A woman has the right to enter a room which I do not. But it would be silly to call that a restriction on my rights. Leaving aside the gay issue for the moment, I have right to marry a single woman, while she has the right to marry a single man. Our rights are equal although differently expressed. I can't "enter the room" of marrying a man.
So let's address the gay issue now. Are homosexuals fundamentally the same as heterosexuals or not? The idea that gays do not have equal rights unless they can marry people of the same gender assumes that they are fundamentally different. If they were the same, then a gay man's rights would be expressed the same way as mine: as the right to marry someone of the opposite gender if he chose to do so. That's the way our right to enter public restrooms are expressed. A gay man goes in the same restroom as me. We don't say he needs to go in another room. If they are fundamentally different then there a lot of consequences to that we should consider.
How does this relate to inter-racial marriages? I'm not sure about anyone else, but I think that restricting inter-racial marriage is wrong because a black man is not fundamentally different from me. Since he is fundamentally the same he should have his rights expressed in the same way mine are expressed. The right to marry a single woman. If a black man was fundamentally different, one could legitimately argue that our marriage rights should be expressed within our own fundamentally distinct groups. (Races)
So is Kenney's statement idiotic? I don't think so. I think he's working on a different set of assumptions that Davies. Davies assumes that gays are fundamentally different from straight people. I wonder if she knows that?
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Oh, and there's something seriously wrong with any meeting where quotes like these ones are peppered all over the place:
- “ideas we want to unpack”
- “adaptive approach”
- “reflecting on unpacking the issues”
- “that would have been really divisive in the community”
- “we’ll come up to the solutions to a lot of the issues and you’ll own them”
Well we're now actively trying to prevent the meeting from producing anything. I ended up in the Finance group a little while ago and we quickly identified problems and started working on solutions. The leader guy came round and noticed that we were doing solutions... Apparently we weren't at the solutions part of the discussion, so we needed to "unpack the problems" more. Gah! We identified the problems and began working on solutions. That's what you're supposed to do. But instead we sat around and reworded the problems until we were allowed to work on solutions...
It never fails. (Some) people hate change. Suggest something that unfamiliar and you get "we looked at that before and we decided that X was better". Well apparently X wasn't such a good idea because it didn't work and now you've got this huge problem. Gah!
This "Search Conference" is actually interesting on a level that has nothing to do with the subject. Watching the dynamics of the people is strange. You know all the complaints (sensible) people have about meetings? (i.e. bureaucratic navel gazing) This day is such a good example of that problem. It's... educational. So maybe I can learn how to navigate through messes like this.
Update: Two Days Later...
How wise it to post complaints about a work meeting on your publicly accessible blog that at least one co-worker knows about? I guess I'll find out. But since you didn't show up to the event yourself Ron, I suppose you won't see me out.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Also, this really isn't set up for discussion. When there's the beginnings of a good discussion, the discussion quickly scrolls away as new posts come up. Blogger just isn't the same as a good discussion system like scoop. Any techies have any ideas for me?
Well... Coffee break's over.
Monday, February 07, 2005
He was also very sensible in his explanation of how to have party policies without turning MP's into mindless automatons voting the party line. "Not every issue can be fully debated at a party convention". How very true. I also liked that he didn't say that MP's should vote the way their constituents want. Instead he said that MP's are responsible to constituents for their vote. My sentiments exactly. My MP is accountable to me and the other voters. Not to the party whip. Now if only we had a government that agreed.
Update: 7:30AM February 8th
I was listening to the CBC's World Report while driving in to work today. Mr. Stoffer's comments made the news. Layton has apparently talked with Stoffer and remains insistant that NDP MP's will be forced to vote party lines. No word yet on what he's going to do to Bev Desjarlais, the Manitoba MP who says she will vote against the bill. Also on the news was an NDP MP who's name I didn't catch talking about how the irony was that Mr. Stoffer supported the bill so they wished that he had "kept his mouth shut". I'd say that's missing the point. I think Mr. Stoffer was commenting more on a healthy representative government than he was on the merits of the bill itself. So kudos again to Stoffer.
Friday, February 04, 2005
A couple of different things I've been reading have been pushing my "Free Speech" buttons. I'm not a "stripping naked in the street and screaming obscenities at the passers-by is how I express myself and you can't stop me because I've got free speech" nutjob, but I do believe in the principle. And I was under the impression that it was a widely accepted principal in western society. Is it? I'm beginning to doubt that.
First there was Father Raymond J. De Souza's column in the National Post on Jan 31st. (I stop reading the paper for a year and they suddenly get an interesting columnist). Sorry, I can't link to the article though because for some silly reason neither the Post nor the Globe will put their back issues online for people like me to link to. (Different rant for another day). Anyway... Father De Souza was criticizing Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew's recent remarks that religious leaders should not involve themselves in the gay marriage debate. (In fairness to Pettigrew I don't know the full context of his remarks, if De Souza had been writing a blog perhaps he might have provided links). That said, I suspect that Pettigrew is not be maligned if we say that he thought that religious leaders should keep their mouths shut on the debate.
Then there's the thread I was reading on slashdot. Yes I know it's slashdot and they're all "Linux cures cancer" nuts, but they're also supposed to be rabid free speech advocates. The topic was actually Canada's response to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in the US, but anything on Canada on slashdot seems to generate flame wars between Canadian Liberals and American Republicans, and somehow someone managed to segway into Canada's restrictions on free speech mostly as a result of the Human Rights Act. I ended up posting, (I post as issachar everywhere, if you're interested), and a lot of the Canadians I was conversing with seem convinced that Free Speech only extends to the point at which you offend other people. I'm rephrasing his statements, but you can read directly if you like.
Then there's our wonderful election gag laws. Now the government decides how much you can promote your ideas in an election. And this is acceptable to people?
What happened to "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it". What happened to meeting bad ideas with good ones? What happened to advocating what you believe is good instead of just trying to silence anything you think is bad?
Freedom of Speech means that you let people say what they like even if you despise what they say. Fred Phelps makes my blood boil and he maligns God. (I won't provide that bastard with a link, google him if you must). Michael Moore lies in "Bowling for Columbine" and fills "Farenheit 9/11" with childish insinuations of crackpot conspiracy theories and generally pisses me off. The pseudo-intellectual sitting in the Mayan the other day trying impress a couple of girls with his "Sure the holocaust was bad, but let's focus on the middle east problems are all Israel's fault" fantasy on the anniversary of the liberation of Auswitz irritated me immensely. And of chorus there's the regular posters on slashdot & K5 who compare my faith to believing "in the giant easter bunny in the sky". But I am not trying to force these people into silence. I'll argue their points, they do have the right to express those points. Free Speech is essential for a functioning democracy and I can't undertand how people can be so shortsighted as to sacrifice the idea of free speech to silence their opponents of the day.
And where does this idea that religion has no place in the political (or public) realm come from? That's not the separation of Church and State. The separation of Church and State exists so that the State cannot establish a state religion, and to ensure that religious authorities cannot dictate to the political authorities. It doesn't mean that religious authorities should stay out of politics. Just that religious doctrine can't over-ride our laws. Religious ideas can and should inform our laws? Why? Because people are religious and their deeply held beliefs will inform their political beliefs. And people's political beliefs will inform the laws we pass. You don't want religious ideas informing the law? The only way to prevent is to keep the religious out of politics. That's not a democracy and I'm not interested. When did the so-called tolerant secular left become so amazingly intolerant and how do they still manage to represent themselves as the beacons of tolerance to the world?
But I did say that I'm not a Free Speech nutbar, so here's the only restrictions I believe can be justified.
1) Advocating violence (not making people feel bad, actually advocating physical violence).
2) Restrictions on some limited kinds of expression to deal with the special vulnerabilities of children. So you can't hand out pornography to grade schoolers and restrictions on broadcast TV content for content inappropriate for children. Outlawing child pornagraphy. Things like that.
3) Slander & Libel. Of course accusing someone of either of these means having to prove that the slanderer actually said something that wasn't true (or they should have reasonably known wasn't true).
That's it. Did I miss anything?
Update: 7:30AM February 8th
One of the threads on slashdot continues. Why is it that when I try to make a point about Free Speech the issue morphs into some guy attacking a straw man characterization of what I believe on a different issue? So then I'm supposed to correct the implications about my beliefs about homosexuality, (and Christian beliefs on the subject in general), while separately arguing for Free Speech for people I don't agree with. I wonder if I've really got my point across...
Update: 1:00PM February 14th
Reasonable Restriction #4:) Restrictions on speech during time of war. See posting for comment.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Of course all this means that I have to find a place to live before April 30th. Lovely.
I met Shona outside the Commodore Ballroom at 7:30 for the the 8 o'clock show, so we had time to sit and chat before the opening band. For those of you who know what I mean, the demographics of the line were a little interesting, although there were plenty of guys there by the time the concert started. (Which was a bit disappointing, I was hoping to be taller than most, so I could see over people's heads).
The opening act was a guy called Lindy and he was actually pretty good although I can't say I care for his website. I ended up buying a CD of the music from Sally, the girl who plays bass for him. Nothing about her on the site though so I guess the act is all his.
Tegan & Sara are very, very good live. It's the kickoff to their Canada tour, and if tonight's show was typical, they should sell out their venues. They didn't play "Come On" which is my current favourite of theirs, but the show was fantastic. They get quite a good banter going on stage too and they're really friendly with the audience. Sara played a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" for one of the encores which was cool too. (A little different from Springsteen's version).
It's 1:30 in the morning and I've got to work tomorow so I'm going to sign off, but for those of you who missed the Vancouver show, Tegan & Sara will be playing in Seattle on March 10th, fresh from the UK. I'm planning on going.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Life is strange though. I'm invigilating my first exam. Well not mine. Chemistry 11. Apparently the ministry of education doesn't want teachers running their own exams. Fortunately I don't really have to think to do this. If I recall correctly I did pretty well in chemistry in high school, but I'd fail the exam if I took it right now. :P