Richard Dawkins on Evidence in Science, Life and Love: A Letter to His 10-Year-Old Daughter | Brain Pickings

Richard Dawkins on Evidence in Science, Life and Love: A Letter to His 10-Year-Old Daughter | Brain Pickings
When his daughter turned ten, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins — arguably today’s most vocal atheist and celebrated skeptic — wrote her a simply worded but tremendously thoughtful letter about how we know what we know, stressing the importance of evidence over blind belief. The letter, found in the 2004 essay anthology A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (UK; public library), is a fine addition to history’s best letters of fatherly advice and an important reminder that it’s never too early for critical thinking.
Dawkins writes:
To my dearest daughter,
Now that you are ten, I want to write to you about something that is important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball whirling round one of those stars, the Sun?
The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.
Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling, smelling….) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough from the Earth to see with their own eyes that it is round. Sometimes our eyes need help. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball — the planet we call Venus. Something that you learn by direct seeing (or hearing or feeling…) is called an observation.
Often evidence isn’t just observation on its own, but observation always lies at the back of it. If there’s been a murder, often nobody (except the murderer and the dead person!) actually observed it. But detectives can gather together lots of other observations which may all point towards a particular suspect. If a person’s fingerprints match those found on a dagger, this is evidence that he touched it. It doesn’t prove that he did the murder, but it can help when it’s joined up with lots of other evidence. Sometimes a detective can think about a whole lot of observations and suddenly realize that they all fall into place and make sense if so-and-so did the murder.
He then offers an oblique addition to the finest definitions of science:
Scientists — the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe — often work like detectives. They make a guess (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to themselves: if that were really true, we ought to see so-and-so. This is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction, should eventually find himself back where he started. When a doctor says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis that you may have measles. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that the child has measles.’ Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays, which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations.

ut perhaps the most moving part of his letter deals with love, exploring the difference between naming feelings with concrete labels and intuiting them from the living fabric, the “evidence,” of experience:
People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.
He relates this to the importance of intuition in scientific discovery, something a number of famous scientists have attested to, but only as a starting point:
Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence.
After returning to the perils of tradition, Dawkins concludes with some practical advise reminiscent of the Baloney Detection Kit:
What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.
Your loving,
A Devil’s Chaplain is excellent in its entirety — highly recommended.


CBC: non-religious targeted for 'blasphemy' on social media

Over a dozen people in ten countries have been arrested for acts of "blasphemy" on social media networks this year, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Their new report, which the organization describes as the first of its kind, takes a closer look at freedom of conscience laws in 60 countries around the world, including Canada. It has tracked, among other things, an uptick in the number of non-religious people being targeted for their activities on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

"As more people are able to share their thoughts with a public audience, it seems that more people are able to take offense at those thoughts and to provide public proof of them," the authors note, adding that some governments even go after those who "like" or re-tweet other people's posts.
The group highlights several specific cases, including that of an Egyptian teen sentenced to three years in jail for posting "blasphemous" cartoons online and a Greek man charged with "insulting religion" after creating a Facebook page that poked fun at believing in miracles.

This trend of prosecuting blasphemies on social media sites, they note, is "most marked" - but not exclusive to - Muslim majority countries.

"Across the world the reactionary impulse to punish new ideas, or in some cases the merest expression of disbelief, recurs again and again," the report's editor, Matt Cherry, said in a statement.

But social media isn't the only arena in which non-religious people are met with hostility or outright violence.
The report also argues that non-believers are increasingly being targeted by groups who seek to ban them from raising children, marrying believers and entering politics, among other things. The organization says atheists could even face execution in Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

While the report notes that Canada's constitution and legal system largely protect freedom of belief, the authors take issue with public funding of religious, largely Roman Catholic schools - some of which they say discriminate against qualified but non-religious teachers or can exclude non-religious students.


The Continuum of Humanist Education- online courses

The Continuum of Humanist Education // Current TV
More free online courses from the COHE
COHE is the Internet’s first website offering interactive courses in humanist thought.  COHE is a service of The Humanist Institute, a non-profit U.S. organization with a mission to educate leaders and potential leaders to shape and deliver the message of Humanism.  Our vision is to be an outstanding center for Humanist education, drawing students from all branches of Humanism.
Each course in the Continuum of Humanist Education is authored by qualified experts in their field. Read the faculty bios below to find out more about each course's author:
  • Matt Cherry
    Introduction to Humanism
  • Dr. Steven Goldberg
    Humanist Activism & Organization
  • Dr. Massimo Pigliucci
    Science and Humanism
  • Dr. Reid Johnson
    Psychology and Humanism
  • Dr. Tim Gordinier
    Law and Politics
  • Dr. Jeaneance Fowler
    Religion and Spirituality
  • Lewis Vaughn
  • Howard Radest
    Philosophy and the Humanist Connection


Commemorating World AIDS Day  - December 1, 2012

Commemorating World AIDS Day  - December 1, 2012

World AIDS Day is on December 1, 2012.  It brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.  Leading up to this annual observance is the Canadian HIV/AIDS Awareness Week (November 24 – December 1).  Communities from across the country will be hosting events and/or activities to commemorate the importance behind the day.  The goal – to increase awareness on the continued struggles as well as to highlight the perpetual hope for a cure.  It is a demonstration of international solidarity in the face of this pandemic.  World AIDS Day is also an opportunity for public and private partners to advocate and shepherd continued progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for people living with the disease around the world. 
World AIDS Day is dedicated to the memories of those who have lost their battle to the disease but also to honour those who continue to live with it.  The day also celebrates the amount of progress already achieved in the global response to HIV/AIDS. 
To look for an event in your area, click here:   


UN passes first resolution condeming female genital mutilation

UN passes first resolution condeming female genital mutilation | The Raw Story
NITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly on Monday passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation, which opponents say more than 140 million women worldwide have had to endure.
Though outlawed in most nations, the measure represents the first time the traditional practice in African and Middle East nations has been denounced at such a high level in the United Nations.
More than 110 countries, including more than 50 African nations, co-sponsored the resolution in the General Assembly’s rights committee, which called on states to “complement punitive measures with awareness-raising and educational activities” to eliminate female genital mutilation.
About 140 million women worldwide are believed to have been subjected to the practice in which a young girl’s clitoris and labia are removed, in the belief that this will reduce libido and keep a woman chaste. About three million women and girls each year are said to be forced to undergo the procedure.
“We will continue to spare no efforts with a final objective: ending female genital mutilations in one generation. Today, this goal appears closer than ever,” said Cesare Ragaglini, UN ambassador for Italy, which has played a leading role in international efforts to eradicate the practice.
He called the UN resolution a “powerful tool” against widespread resistance because it would take condemnation and calls for new measures to another level.
“It is up to us now to exploit it in a more effective way,” Ragaglini said.


Avaaz - Hours to stop Uganda's horrific anti-gay law

Avaaz - Hours to stop Uganda's horrific anti-gay law

To President Museveni of Uganda, Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Members of the Parliament, and world leaders:

We stand with citizens across Uganda who are calling on their government to withdraw once and for all the Anti-Homosexual Bill, and to protect the universal human rights embodied in the Ugandan constitution. We urge Uganda’s leaders and key partner countries to join us in rejecting persecution and upholding values of justice and tolerance.
The Ugandan Parliament is set to pass a brutal law that may carry the death penalty for homosexuality. If they do, thousands of Ugandans could face execution or life imprisonment -- just for being gay.

We've helped stop this bill before, and we can do it again. After a massive global outcry last year, Ugandan President Museveni blocked the bill's progress. But political unrest is mounting in Uganda, and religious extremists in Parliament are hoping confusion and violence in the streets will distract the international community from a second push to pass this hate-filled law. We can show them that the world is still watching.


Humanist Society paper on Creed submitted to OHRC is now published

In response to the Ontario Humanist Society presentation by Humanist Chaplain Dr. Gail McCabe to the Ontario Human Rights Commission  Policy Dialogue on Creed, held at the Multifaith Centre in January, 2012, we have received this notification of the publication of our paper:

Dear contributors,
I am pleased to inform you that your papers produced for the January 2012
Policy Dialogue on Creed are now online on our website at the following url:

You may also be interested in visiting the OHRC webpage linked below, which features updates and documents produced as part of the current creed policy update.

Please also see the url link below to papers that were presented at a March
2012 Legal Workshop on Creed, Human Rights and Freedom of Religion at York

We welcome your feedback on the content of any of these paper. Please direct these to  I am also currently working on a Discussion Paper that we hope to put out some time in the new year, at which time yourfeedback will also be very much welcomed.

Thank you once again for your thoughtful contributions.

Best Regards,
Remi Warner Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach
Ontario Human Rights Commission
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 900,
Toronto, ON CANADA   M7A 2R9

Write for Rights with Amnesty International on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10th

Write for Rights with Amnesty International on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10th
Humanist Groups may wish to organize a Write for Rights on Human Rights Day, Dec 10
Prepare yourself to save a life on December 10th 

Narges Mohammadi
is detained in Iran for defending women's rights. See her letter-writing action.
It's time to get ready to Write for Rights!
We've shown that together we can save lives, and you can once again be a part of our massive, life-saving effort on December 10, as Amnesty International mobilizes its full world-wide membership to take action.

Be a part of Write for Rights 2012 by SIGNING UP NOW.

You can choose to write one or several letters, sign an online petition, or organize a Write for Rights event with your friends, family or colleagues - one of hundreds of events we anticipate across Canada, and one of thousands taking place around the world on International Human Rights Day.

Last year Amnesty International supporters in 80 countries wrote over 1 million letters on International Human Rights Day!  

We know that the influence of letters or a huge petition tips the balance and persuades a government leader to do the right thing. We know that our efforts get results.

Will it be YOUR letter that tips the balance and saves a life? 

Each letter-writing case featured this year also allows you to write a letter of solidarity and bring hope to people who can feel hopeless.

Sign-up to write on your own | Sign-up to organize a letter-writing event with friends, at your school, at your office

If you are unable to join us, please consider buying a symbolic Amnesty International Book of Stamps, to fund the work required to bring so many people together on this amazing day. Each Book of Stamps represents the cost of mailing an international letter for each of the 12 individuals or communities we're trying to help this year.

Thanks to people like you, Write for Rights has grown from a tiny seed of an idea to become the world's biggest human rights event. 

You can help us achieve an even greater goal: we want the whole world to know that December 10th is International Human Rights Day - a day that everyone takes an action to saves lives and end human rights abuses.


Evolution Made Clear for Kids in "Pepper’s Special Wings"

Evolution Made Clear for Kids in "Pepper’s Special Wings"  
(Local Ontario author and Humanist)
 – In order to give parents a fun and effective tool when teaching young children evolution and the science behind it, author Mary Anne Farah has written Pepper’s Special Wings, a children’s ebook that uses the Peppered Moth species, a recent example of natural selection, as its inspiration. Mary Anne Farah
“Children have the right to know the truth about how life evolves and species change,” says Farah. “The well-documented story of how the Peppered Moth species eventually changed due to pollution darkening the plants where they congregated was perfect for a children’s book. The new survival advantage for moths with darker wings is an easy example to explain to children with no need to use words that may not have yet been learned, such as species, population, predation and camouflage.”
The story of Pepper the moth covers more than just evolution, however. While Pepper’s Special Wings relates to small children about how Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection works, children will also identify with Pepper’s struggles with the recurring childhood themes of self-esteem, self-image, bullying and being teased.
“Children will see that sometimes being different is what makes them amazing!” Farah said.
The book is a hit with the kids who have read it. “I like the story. It shows how the moth that was teased for being different made something big and became not different,” said Rami M., 7, from Pennsylvania. "I love the pictures and colours,” said Jasmine L, 7, from Ontario. “I like how Pepper was lucky and that she had babies.”
Pepper's Special Wings Page 22
The book also contains questions and points of discussion parents can use to talk about the topics in the book with their children.
“Mary Anne did a lovely job of explaining accurately how a species can adapt the way it looks as a result of changes in the environment, as well as informing readers about camouflage, predation and natural selection,” Parent Education Manager Nikki Taylor said of the book. “This was done sensitively and in a way that would not feel threatening for most children. I found this book to be very informative and age-appropriate.”
Pepper’s Special Wings is being launched in conjunction with a new website from the American Humanist Association, The press release with details can be found here.
The ebook is available at and other major online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The ISBN number for Pepper’s Special Wings is 978-0-931779-28-2.
Humanist Press is the publishing house of the American Humanist Association, providing material for the humanist/freethought/atheist market since 1995. The American Humanist Association ( advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists and atheists in the United States. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, its work is extended through more than 150 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: Pipeline: COC and Maude Barlow, UofT, Nov. 17 10-5

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: Pipeline: COC and Maude Barlow, UofT, Nov. 17 10-5
Resistance, education and alternatives

Sat. Nov 17, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sidney Smith Hall, 100 St. George St., University of Toronto
Lunch provided, building is accessible

Special guests will include Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians), Art Sterritt (BC Coastal First Nations, Executive Director), Wes Elliott (Haudenosaunee land defender) and Vanessa Gray (Aamjiwnaang First Nation) as well as resource people on labour and environmental justice issues.

Uncovering the Heart of Each of the World's Religions: ATHEISM, NOV 14

(39) Is it True? Uncovering the Heart of Each of the World's Religions
UTSSA is sponsoring the info session on Atheism this week.  If you are in Toronto, please go and support them.
5:30pm - 7:30pm Wed Nov 14 University College 15 Kings College Circle Room 52 (Free Pizza)
Atheism (Professor Larry Moran, U of T, Secular Alliance)
A Lecture and Discussion Series.

Oct. 24: Islam (Amjad Tarsin, Muslim Chaplain, U of T) *past*
Oct. 31: Christianity (Kyle Hackmann, Grace Toronto Church)
Nov. 7: Judaism (Yishaya Rose, Chaplain, Chabad House, U of T)
Nov. 14: Atheism (Professor Larry Moran, U of T, Secular Alliance)
From 5:30pm-7pm with a light dinner in Room 52 University College

Sponsors: Muslim Students Association, Secular Alliance, Multi-Faith Centre, Power to Change


America's First Ever Hindu Congresswoman Will Take the Oath of Office Over the Bhagavad Gita

America's First Ever Hindu Congresswoman Will Take the Oath of Office Over the Bhagavad Gita
Last night, Hawaii not only elected Japan-born Mazie Hirono to be the first ever Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, they also elected Democrat Tulsi Gabbard as the first ever practicing Hindu to the US House of Representatives. Hawaii has been declared a Fox News Disaster Zone.
Thirty-one-year-old Gabbard is the daughter of two conservative Hawaii politicians and first ran for office at age 21. After her first term, she voluntarily served on a 12-month tour of duty with Hawaii's National Guard, and then became the first woman in the history of the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy to be designated a "distinguished honor graduate."
When she's sworn in this January, she'll take her oath of office over a Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text for followers of the Vaishnava branch of Hindu.

The first openly atheist member of congress was Pete Stark
Stark is the first openly atheist member of Congress, as announced by the Secular Coalition for America.[4] Stark acknowledged that he is an atheist in response to an SCA questionnaire sent to public officials in January 2007.
On September 20, 2007, Stark reaffirmed that he is an atheist by making a public announcement in front of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, the Harvard Law School Heathen Society, and various other atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and nonreligious groups.[5] The American Humanist Association named him their 2008 Humanist of the Year,[28] and he now serves on the AHA Advisory Board.


Malala Yousafzai receives support from activists in Pakistan and Middle East | Avaaz

Malala Yousafzai receives support from activists in Pakistan and Middle East | Avaaz
Help Us Build This. Send us your ideas ...

People power

Muslims stand with Malala

by Avaaz Team - posted 16 October 2012 12:31
Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban for supporting girls' education, is now recovering at a hospital in the UK. As she has fought for her life, citizens across the Muslim world have come together to denounce the fanatics who did this despicable thing, and who claim to act on behalf of the Muslim religion.
Support Malala's bravery and drown out the hate by sharing these inspiring images with everyone you know:


Roy Speckhardt: Religious Freedom on the Brink

Roy Speckhardt: Religious Freedom on the Brink
\editorial in HuffPost by Roy Speckhardt, CEO of the American Humanist Association

"....But unfortunately, violence in the Middle East and elsewhere continues the long-running tendency to link blood and blasphemy. We haven't outgrown the outdated attitudes from ancient civilizations where people like Anaxagoras were condemned to death for denying or questioning the existence of gods and a law was adopted that denounced " those who do not believe in the divine beings or who teach doctrines about things in the sky."
It seems as though many in the world are far more eager to use religion as a tool for consolidating power than are interested in protecting religious freedom and free speech. Countries such as Pakistan, Greece, and Egypt are imprisoning those who dare to speak their mind about religion and belief in general. This undemocratic crackdown on speech is worrying not only because it threatens the concept of religious freedom, but because real human beings around the world are suffering from the effects of this renewed tyrannical campaign that goes on where the attempts to impose blasphemy laws at the UN left off in 2011...

he idea that every human being is free to think and express their beliefs without fear of violence or unjust imprisonment is being threatened by governments that are more concerned about protecting religious beliefs than human rights.
Should we place the right to speak one's mind over that of protecting the "honor" of religious beliefs? Or do we want to continue following the dictates of the ancient past; copying laws established to forbid certain types of world views and killing people for violating them. The answer should be obvious: we need to ensure that a person's freedom of thought and speech is paramount. The sacredness some hold for religion must never be written into the law, and blasphemy must never be justification for violence, government-sanctioned or otherwise. If we fail to agree on these basic principles of free expression the world will quickly become a much less democratic and free place than it is today.


A much needed International Day of the Girl - Opinion

A much needed International Day of the Girl - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
According to UN Women, half of sexual assaults globally are committed against girls under 16. The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2002 alone, 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence.
In the US, 83 per cent of girls experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools, and Canadian statistics reveal that 64 per cent of all reported sexual assaults are against children.
Girls are sexually abused by school-principals, teachers and classmates. Medical research conducted by Human Rights Watch in South Africa found that almost 38 per cent of victims identified a schoolteacher or principal as their rapist. Schools are not exactly safe places for girls.
The pervasiveness of violence against girls led the United Nations to declare the International Day of the Girl. In the wake of the 2006 Secretary-General Study on Violence Against Children, the UN appointed a Special Representative on the issue, and in 2009 the International Girl Child Conferencein The Hague stressed the importance of gender inequalities among children. The failure to respond to violence against girls expresses the political tolerance vis-à-vis such crimes and international efforts are increasingly geared at changing social inertia

School-related violence undermines girls' physical and psychological well-being, often causing them to drop out and hindering their educational achievement. In the long run, violence against girls impacts women's self-esteem, agency and empowerment into adulthood.
Girls who drop out of school will be more vulnerable socio-economically and more likely to submit to domestic violence later in life. They will also be less likely to become political leaders. If we want more women running for elections, as Ecuadorian political parties do, we must make schools safer environments for girls. Women's empowerment begins with girls' empowerment.

Day of the Girl: One in three girls married before 18, UN warns

One in three girls married before 18, UN warns - Telegraph
This is Tehani. She got married when she was six, some 19 years younger than her husband.
The young wife poses for a portrait photo with her 25 year-old husband in her home town Hajjah, in northwestern Yemen. Two years later, aged eight, she recalls: "Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him."
Her story is one of thousands being told in a new report published by the United Nations on Thursday, to mark the UN Day of the Girl. The report, Marrying Too Young, End Child Marriage, makes it clear that despite near-universal commitments to end child marriage, the practice remains rampant.
If nothing changes, developing countries will witness an increase in child marriage, the report predicts. Between now and 2020, there will be 142m child marriages and 151m in the subsequent decade, it warns.
The figures are already bleak. One in three girls in developing countries, excluding China, will probably be married before they are 18. One in nine will be married before their 15th birthday, the study reveals.
Most of these girls are poor, less-educated and living in rural areas, the UN says. With the right education and information, young girls in developing countries can avoid the pitfalls of child marriage - but they need urgent support.
"Girls need, education, health, social and livelihood skills to become fully empowered citizens. Most immediately important is helping already married girls to avoid early pregnancy and when pregnant have access to appropriate care during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, including access to family planning," the report said.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund, which works to promote and protect the human rights of girls, said: "Child marriage is a human rights abuse. It constitutes a grave threat to young girls’ lives, health and future prospects.

Science & God: Will Biology, Astronomy, Physics Rule Out Existence Of Deity?

Science & God: Will Biology, Astronomy, Physics Rule Out Existence Of Deity?
Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there's good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.
Carroll argues that God's sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. "As we learn more about the universe, there's less and less need to look outside it for help,"..
As he explained in a recent article in the "Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), a foremost goal of modern physics is to formulate a working theory that describes the entire universe, from subatomic to astronomical scales, within a single framework. Such a theory, called "quantum gravity," will necessarily account for what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. Some versions of quantum gravity theory that have been proposed by cosmologists predict that the Big Bang, rather than being the starting point of time, was just "a transitional stage in an eternal universe," in Carroll's words. For example, one model holds that the universe acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates over and over under its own steam. If, in fact, time had no beginning, this shuts the book on Genesis. [Big Bang Was Actually a Phase Change, New Theory Says]
Other versions of quantum gravity theory currently being explored by cosmologists predict that time did start at the Big Bang. But these versions of events don't cast a role for God either. Not only do they describe the evolution of the universe since the Big Bang, but they also account for how time was able to get underway in the first place. As such, these quantum gravity theories still constitute complete, self-contained descriptions of the history of the universe. "Nothing in the fact that there is a first moment of time, in other words, necessitates that an external something is required to bring the universe about at that moment," Carroll wrote.
Another way to put it is that contemporary physics theories, though still under development and awaiting future experimental testing, are turning out to be capable of explaining why Big Bangs occur, without the need for a supernatural jumpstart. As Alex Filippenko, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a conference talk earlier this year, "The Big Bang could've occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universe...

But there are other potential grounds for God. Physicists have observed that many of the physical constants that define our universe, from the mass of the electron to the density of dark energy, are eerily perfect for supporting life. Alter one of these constants by a hair, and the universe becomes  unrecognizable. "For example, if the mass of the neutron were a bit larger (in comparison to the mass of the proton) than its actual value, hydrogen would not fuse into deuterium and conventional stars would be impossible," Carroll said. And thus, so would life as we know it. [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]
Theologians often seize upon the so-called "fine-tuning" of the physical constants as evidence that God must have had a hand in them; it seems he chose the constants just for us. But contemporary physics explains our seemingly supernatural good luck in a different way.
Some versions of quantum gravity theory, including string theory, predict that our life-giving universe is but one of an infinite number of universes that altogether make up the multiverse. Among these infinite universes, the full range of values of all the physical constants are represented, and only some of the universes have values for the constants that enable the formation of stars, planets and life as we know it. We find ourselves in one of the lucky universes (because where else?). [Parallel Universes Explained in 200 Words]
Some theologians counter that it is far simpler to invoke God than to postulate the existence of infinitely many universes in order to explain our universe's life-giving perfection. To them, Carroll retorts that the multiverse wasn't postulated as a complicated way to explain fine-tuning. On the contrary, it follows as a natural consequence of our best, most elegant theories....

Judged by the standards of any other scientific theory, the "God hypothesis" does not do very well, Carroll argues. But he grants that "the idea of God has functions other than those of a scientific hypothesis."
Psychology research suggests that belief in the supernatural acts as societal glue and motivates people to follow the rules; further, belief in the afterlife helps people grieve and staves off fears of death.
"We're not designed at the level of theoretical physics," Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, told LiveScience last year. What matters to most people "is what happens at the human scale, relationships to other people, things we experience in a lifetime."


Bill Nye to creationists: ‘Question your beliefs’ if they conflict with evolution

Bill Nye to creationists: ‘Question your beliefs’ if they conflict with evolution
Television “science guy” Bill Nye found himself at the epicenter of some controversy in the Christian blogosphere recently, but he’s sticking to his guns, telling The Associated Press on Monday: “If [evolution] conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs.”
Nye, 56, gave the interview in response to a conservative group called Answers in Genesis, which took exception to a recent video that featured Nye asking religious parents to stop teaching creationism to their children. The group runs Kentucky’s “Creation Museum,” and published several videos featuring CEO Ken Ham and two of the museum’s own “science guys” arguing that science disproves evolution. A followup third video features Ham rebuking “intolerant Bill Nye defenders” for commenting on his Facebook account after he disabled comments on the group’s earlier videos.
“Really it’s a clash of two world views,” Ham said, describing his disagreement with Nye. “A clash of the absolutes, of Christianity based upon God’s word, and moral relativism based on man’s word.” He went on to describe evolution as man’s justification for moral relativism, and insisted that LGBT people should not have equal rights because of his belief that men and women were created solely to reproduce.
“Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology,” Nye said in an August interview with BigThink. “It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology and not believing in tectonic plates. You’re just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.”
Nye added: “And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

Outrage over anti-Islam video threatens to reignite blasphemy debate at U.N.

Outrage over anti-Islam video threatens to reignite blasphemy debate at U.N. | McClatchy
The divide in world opinion over what constitutes free speech will be on display again next week at the United Nations, where heated arguments over a proposed blasphemy law were an annual feature for the past decade. This time it’s the global reaction to a YouTube video that disparages Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that’s sure to roil the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Muslim leaders have vowed to discuss the offensive video from their U.N. platforms, sowing concern among free-speech activists of a fresh push toward an international law criminalizing blasphemy. Human rights groups and Western democracies resisted such an initiative for years and thought they’d finally quashed the matter after convincing enough nations that repressive regimes use blasphemy laws to imprison or execute dissidents.
“I expect that we’ll regress to where we were a couple of years ago,” said Courtney C. Radsch, program manager for the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign at Freedom House, the Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes democratic values.
“Human rights are not about protecting religions; human rights are to protect humans,” added Radsch, who’s followed the issue closely at the U.N. “Who is going to be the decision-maker on deciding what blasphemy is?”

Read more here:

Who Would Jesus Marry? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches

Who Would Jesus Marry? | (A)theologies | Religion Dispatches
"...there is abundant evidence, both in contradictions within the Bible as it was canonized in the late fourth century and from extra-biblical artifacts that show that women did have leadership roles from the earliest days of the church, as both priests and deacons. The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” fragment adds to a bounty of evidence that women did hold both lay and ordained ministry leadership roles in the earliest Church and their status as such, as the with the nuptial status of priests, has been a matter of ongoing debate and divergent practice throughout the history of the church, however firmly Rome has believed it has spoken.
In this light, the questions that will stir again among my graduate students, and I suspect among many church-goers generally, will likely not have much to do with the authenticity of the fragment and what it may or may not, in itself, say about the marital status of Jesus or the leadership status of women. Rather, they will be asking again to what exactly—if the Church continues to disregard the evidence of history and the voices of the faithful in engaging the world as it is and as it can be—are its current leaders listening?


Ontario Humanist Society « LTE re Prayer at Council Meetings, Owen Sound/Grey County

Ontario Humanist Society « LTE re Prayer at Council Meetings, Owen Sound/Grey County
From Terri, a Humanist in Owen Sound:
Recently our MP wrote a letter to the editor talking about how and why prayer has a place at meetings of government (Christianity is OUR tradition), and how those who oppose it are the ‘whining minority’.

This is the letter I wrote in response. I’ve had great feedback and thought you and others might want to see it.
Sept 18, 2012 (published Owen Sound Sun Times)
To the Editor, I write this in response to the recent letter from MP Larry Miller.
Mr. Miller,
In your Letter to the Editor, you explained that opening meetings with prayer is a tradition in Grey County, and how the ‘whining minority’ totally ignore the rights of the majority.
You may be aware that years ago, our leaders recognized that some majorities were capable of impinging on the rights of minorities, and thereby created laws that protected everyone. They are called ‘human rights’.
Majorities once felt that slavery was a time-honoured tradition, and vigorously defended their right to continue the practice. The same is true for denying women the vote. Finally courts had to protect the ‘whining minorities’ against those majorities. Times were thankfully changing.
Mr Miller:  How is it that you don’t recognize the Lord’s Prayer as specific to the decisions YOU have made about your life? You believe in a deity, and chose to follow the Christian faith. Not everyone has made these choices, and vocal or quiet, those who haven’t, feel excluded.
You say that those of us who object to prayer in government meetings are merely being “politically correct”, that we’re complaining that  “our rights are being trampled, kicked around.” Did it ever occur to you that many people have been quietly looking on from the sidelines for years, and are only now revealing their displeasure at your sense of entitlement?
For the first time in many, many years, people who have not chosen the Christian faith  are openly objecting to religious invocations, your naming the tradition “ours”, when in fact it was YOURS.  Why is this so difficult to understand?
I am proposing that we begin with an invocation representing everyone, wishing our elected officials a thoughtful and productive meeting.  Here’s my suggestion: A Councillor says:
“As we approach our work here today, may we be mindful of our role as leaders in Owen Sound/the Province of Ontario/Canada, etc., a place of great beauty and opportunity. As we face our decisions, may we be guided by strong ethics, sound judgement, wisdom, fairness and carefully acquired knowledge. May we never forget the trust placed in us by the people of Owen Sound/the Province of Ontario/Canada.”
And thankfully, religious people can continue to pray in their homes, churches and synagogues.
Terri Hope,  Owen Sound


UTSA Symposium, Monday Sept 24, 7-9 Hart House

=..somewhere in Greece, a very, very long time ago, a certain Dimitri asks a question of his friend:

Dimitri: If Atlas holds up the world, what holds up Atlas?
Tasso: Atlas stands on the back of a turtle.

Dimitri: But what does the turtle stand on?
Tasso: Another turtle.
Dimitri: And what does that turtle stand on?
Tasso: My dear Dimitri, it’s turtles all the way down!

Just how big are these turtles?
In the beginning did God create man or was the other way around? In a mulch-religious world what is the appropriate relationship between multicultural ideals and free speech?
Are science and theology complimentary domains?
Are moral values relative or absolute?
What philosophies can best guide use to a socially just and economically balanced society?

The University of Toronto Secular Alliance is hosting its first symposium of the 2012-2013 academic year, on Monday, September 24th, in the Music Room, Hart House.

Join us for an evening of conversation, light debate, and of course, beer; as we attempt to answer some of the Big Questions regarding religion and secularism, morality, law, sexuality, the universe, and everything in between.

This event is FREE and open to all students, faculty and staff members. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided. There will also be a raffle with a bunch of cool stuff we're giving away! And of course, we will conclude the evening by relocating to a designated pub for a drink...or two.

We look forward to welcoming new students, and catching up with returning ones.
See you Monday.

Join the conversation.


Religion No Longer Adequate For The Dalai Lama | Religion Dispatches

Religion No Longer Adequate For The Dalai Lama | Religion Dispatches
When His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) posted on Facebook this last Monday that “religion is no longer adequate,” every journalist with a religious beat was up in arms over his words. What did this mean for the millions of practicing Buddhists, not to mention for his millions of spiritually-curious online followers? But his atheistic-toned words should not come as a surprise. Back in June, he tweeted that he is “increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”


Philosopher Graziella Luppo leads a philosophy debate in the village of Corigliano d'Otranto in southern Italy

Philosopher Graziella Luppo (back, C) leads a philosophy debate in the village of Corigliano d'Otranto in southern Italy via AFP
Italian townspeople ponder existential questions in new civic focus

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the new unlikely heroes of a remote Italian town where local authorities are promoting philosophical thinking for a better way of life.

A philosophy trail leads past a sofa that pronounces deep thoughts when you sit on it, a park with no lights to encourage pondering and posters in the town’s streets ask questions like “Why were you born?” and “What is fear?”

“This is a revolutionary experiment,” the ebullient mayor of Corigliano d’Otranto, Ada Fiore, herself a philosophy teacher.Fiore said her mission was to get the 5,800 residents of this town in the southern Puglia region to take time out to ponder existential questions.

“All we are saying is ‘look at the direction the world is heading in, it’s not okay,’ she said, adding that Italy’s real problem was not the economic crisis but “the crisis in the relationship between man and his surroundings”.

She admitted the project which she launched in June had “objective difficulties” noting that some schoolchildren had not proved very receptive.But the philosophical consultations she helped organised are proving popular, with around one in five of the mediaeval town’s inhabitants flocking to the 15 euro ($19) an hour sessions hosted by philosopher Graziella Lupo...

The town council also organises regular philosophy debates and seminars in schools and public buildings to keep residents on their toes.Not everyone appreciates the initiatives, with psychologists in particular warning that it could be dangerous to look into people’s subconscious.
The mayor dismisses such misgivings, saying the philosophy she is encouraging is “exclusively on the conscious level” with no probing into people’s pasts.

Marianna Burlando, a psychologist at a local hospital, is also in favour since “psychology owes a debt to philosophy”.
“Philosophy is the mother of all humanistic disciplines. I think we should try and dialogue!”


Vital Discussions of Human Security and Peace
Lecture Series for 2012-13 academic year. Co-Sponsored by University College Health Studies Programme, Canadian Pugwash Group, Science for Peace, and Voice of Women for Peace.

Thursdays, 7-9 pm, usually in Rm. 144, University College,
15 Kings College Circle, U.of Toronto. All welcome. No charge.

13-Sept. Walter Dorn, Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group (room 052)
Wars Waged by the USA and Canada: Just, Unjust and Everthing In Between

20-Sept. Ellen Michelson, recent Green Party candidate (room 052)
Fixing Canada's Electoral System: Four Fallacies

27-Sept. Danny Harvey, Professor of Geography, University of Toronto.
Global Warming and Human Security: Food and Water

4-Oct. Barry Wellman, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto,
Networked individualism

11-Oct. Helmut Burkhardt, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Ryerson University.
Security for All: But How and at What Price?

18-Oct. Timothy Donais, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University.
Peacebuilding and Local Ownership

25-Oct. Pia Kleber, Prof. of Drama, Comparative Literature, U of Toronto.
A Cultural Approach to Human Security

1-Nov. John Hannigan, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto.
Disasters Without Borders: The International Politics of Natural Disaster

8-Nov. Doug Saunders, Journalist with The Globe and Mail.
The Myth of the Muslim Tide

15-Nov. Ron Craig, Prof of Communication & Design, Ryerson University.
New Strategies for Dealing with Global Problems

22-Nov. Lloyd Helferty, Engineering Technologist, Biochar Consultant.
Biochar and Food Security: Dealing with the Droughts

29-Nov. Peter Bessau, International Affairs, Natural Resources Canada.
International Model Forest Network: Canada's Contribution to Forest Sustainability Since Rio

10-Jan. Aysan Sev'er, Professor Emerita of Sociology, U. of Toronto.
Honour-Killings: Women's Safety in Honour-based Cultures

17-Jan. John Bacher, Preservation of Agricultural Land, Ontario.
Toward a Billion More Trees in Ontario

24-Jan. Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Your Canada, Your Constitution, Founder of Democracy Watch, Director of in Toronto.
What Makes Up an Actual, Working Democracy?

31-Jan. Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Staff of Greenpeace in Toronto.
Lessons from Fukushima: Implications for Nuclear Safety International

7-Feb. Valerie Zawilski, Associate Prof. of Sociology, Western University.
The Sexual Slave Trade in Kosovo

14-Feb. Seva Gunitsky, Asst. Professor of Political Science, U of Toronto.
Competing Visions of Democracy in the Post-Soviet Space

28-Feb. J.C. Luxat, Professor of Nuclear Safety, McMaster U, and Richard Denton, M.D. President, Physicians for Global Survival.
The Nuclear Safety Issue

7-Mar. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
Can We Be Free of Nuclear Weapons and Still Have Nuclear Power?

14-Mar. Peter Victor, Professor of Environmental Studies, York University.
Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster

21-Mar. Harriet Friedmann, Professor of Geography, U. of Toronto.
From "Feeding the World" to Sustainable Farming

28-Mar. Jack Veugelers, Professor of Sociology, U. of Toronto.
The Far Right in France

4-Apr. Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Science, York University.
The Making of Global Capitalism: The Canadian Model.


'A Great Silence Is Spreading Over the Natural World' |

'A Great Silence Is Spreading Over the Natural World' | Common Dreams

'A Great Silence Is Spreading Over the Natural World'

Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording nature's sounds. But such is the rate of species and habitat loss that his tapes may become our only record of the original diversity of life

"The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: Soon enough
You will be quiet too"

- Robert Hass
When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks. 
Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species in many of the world's pristine habitats.
The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish. Some gnash their teeth, others use their bladders or tails to make sound. Sea anemones grunt and belch. Every creature on the reef makes its own sound.
But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction.
Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary's Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world's pristine habitats.
But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places...
A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening," he writes in a new book, The Great Animal Orchestra. "Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence.
....But the wild natural world, comprised of vast areas not managed by humans, rarely exists now except in a few isolated places such as the Alaskan wilderness, the far Canadian north, Siberia, the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, and the Brazilian Pantanal which are still rich with natural sound, he says.


PETITION: Support villagers opposing raised water levels by two dams

PETITION: Support villagers opposing raised water levels by two dams
FirstPost.India reports, “Over 130 villagers in Madhya Pradesh have been protesting in neck-deep water for the past week to seek compensation from the government over the construction of a dam. Thirty four residents of Gogalgaon village in Khandwa district have been standing submerged in water for the past 4 days. The villagers are demanding compensation for their land which was submerged after the height of the Omkareshwar dam was raised. The Supreme Court had earlier said the villagers should be compensated adequately and rehabilitated, which the protestors claim has not been done. …There were similar protests in Khardna in Harda district where 90 villagers affected by the Indira Sagar project are seeking compensation for losing their lands.”

The Council of Canadians and Blue Planet Project have signed a petition that states, “We have learnt with deep shock that the water level in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams in the Narmada Valley have been illegally raised causing submergence of numerous lands and houses of oustees of these dams. …We have also learned that many oustees have been standing in Omkareshwar dam water and also in Indira Sagar dam, demanding reduction in water level and rehabilitation before submergence. It is extremely disturbing that the oustees have to embark on Jal Satygraha to get their due rehabilitation rights. We, therefore request you to immediately order reduction in water level in Omkareshwar dam to 189 meters and in Indira Sagar Dam to 260 meters and rehabilitate all the oustees by giving agricultural land and other rehabilitation entitlements.”
To sign this petition, which will be delivered to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, please go to


UPDATE: Spanish doctors resist order to not provide medical care to immigrants

UPDATE: Spanish doctors resist order to not provide medical care to immigrants
An inspiring story and photo of resistance against austerity and racism in Spain.
“1650 doctors from all over Spain including Galicia and Catalonia, announced that they REFUSE to comply with the provisions of the Spanish Health Ministry, ordering them NOT to provide medical care to immigrants. They insisted that their medical oaths and moral obligations exceeds all governmental order.”
On June 30, the Harper government implemented cuts to health care for refugees in Canada. Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki writes, “These cuts include access to vision care, dental care, prescription drugs and mobility devices for all refugees. For many refugees it also includes restrictions on primary and basic health care. This includes medical assistance during emergencies like heart attacks and even during child birth.” Doctors spoke out against these cuts being implemented, including briefly occupying a Conservative cabinet minister’s office in Toronto,, but the Harper government refused to listen and made the cuts.

CURRENTS: Sciience for Peace and Urban Sustainability, Sept 7, GSU

[Mary is a member of SfP, and am passing on this invitation]

INVITATION to drinks and music for: the Launch of CURRENTS  (

A working group of  Science for Peace to address issues in urban sustainability and food security by means of creating a Centre for Urban Sustainability of Toronto:  A hub for an intensive urban agriculture and energy management for GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area)

Come and learn more about it at the Graduate Student's Union, Bancroft Avenue, Toronto. 4:30 pm Friday, September 7,  2012


Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT): An afternoon with Heather Mallick, Sat. Sept 15, 1...

Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT): An afternoon with Heather Mallick, Sat. Sept 15, 1...:

SPECIAL EVENT : An Afternoon with Heather Mallick
Saturday, September 15, 2012, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
Location: OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, 2-214

The Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT) invites you to a a conversation with Heather Mallick. Toronto Star columnist, author and lecturer. 

As a controversial, thought-provoking, staunch defender of human rights, HAT has named Heather Mallick Humanist of the Year for 2011 in honour of her outspoken expression of humanistic values. Free admission. Join us for the conversation!

Humanist Chaplains Office Hours Fall 2012

Welcome Back!

Chaplains Gail McCabe and Mary Beaty will hold regular chaplains office hours at the Multifaith Centre (Koffler House) on Thursday afternoons, 2-4pm.   Appointments are always available.  We are also available to meet on campus outside of these hours, for consultation, or a friendly chat.

1)Go to Spadina Subway Station on the Bloor-Danforth Line
2)Catch the streetcar / bus from inside Spadina Station
3)Exit at Willcocks Street and exit onto the east side of Spadina

The Multi-Faith Centre (located in the Koffler House) address is:
569 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, ON M5S 2J7

Parking if Driving (see map below)
Options for parking
1) Street Parking on Russell, Huron, and Spadina Streets
2) Paid parking inside Spadina Crescent (One Spadina in Centre of Spadina Street)
3) Underground parking in the Bahen Centre on Huron Street between Russell and College

Mary Beaty:  416-591-9980

Tony Blair meets Desmond Tutu: A Step Towards the Dock

George Monbiot – A Step Towards the Dock
When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to the Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done(1). Tutu broke the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another – and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.
The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg Principles as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”(2). This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter(3).
Without legal justification, the attack on Iraq was an act of mass murder. It caused the deaths of between 100,000 and a million people, and ranks among the greatest crimes the world has ever seen. That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisies Tutu has exposed. 
That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair’s cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His Attorney-General warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN Security Council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.”(4) Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.....
But while the case against Blair is strong, the means are weak. Twenty-nine people have been indicted in the International Criminal Court, and all of them are African(15). (Suspects in the Balkans have been indicted by a different tribunal). There’s a reason for this. Until 2018 at the earliest, the court can prosecute crimes committed during the course of an illegal war, but not the crime of launching that war(16)....Though the Nuremberg tribunal described aggression as “the supreme international crime”(17), several powerful states guiltily resisted its adoption. At length, in 2010, they agreed that the court would have jurisdiction over aggression, but not until 2018 or thereafter. Though the offence has been recognised in international law for 67 years, the international criminal court (unlike the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, which hear cases from before they were established) will be able to try only crimes of aggression committed beyond that date(18).

Episcopal bishops affirm same sex marriage, transgender rights

Episcopal bishops affirm same sex marriage, transgender rights | The Raw Story
The governing bodies of the U.S. Episcopal Church have approved a rite for the blessing of same sex marriages and extended the church’s nondiscrimination policy to include transgender people, making it the first major U.S. religion to do so. According to Reuters, the Episcopalian Chamber of Bishops met at the church’s General Convention in Indianapolis on Monday and voted overwhelmingly to approve the measures, prompting activist Rev. Lowell Grisham of the pro-equality group Chicago Consultation to say, “Today the Episcopal Church affirmed the human dignity of a deeply stigmatised population that is far too often victim to discrimination, bullying and abuse.”
Activist Donna Cartwright, a founding member of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), spoke to Raw Story from the convention in Indianapolis.
“We’ve worked hard on this for a number of years,” Cartwright said, “This is a great day.”
Cartwright explained that the Episcopal Church’s General Convention meets every three years and is a bicameral governing body made up of the Chamber of Bishops, the church’s highest ranking leaders, and the House of Deputies, which consists of clergy and laity. The generally more conservative Chamber of Bishops passed the new measures by wide margins and they are expected to win approval in the House of Deputies later this week.
According to Reuters, the Episcopal Church is the 14th largest denomination in the U.S. and Episcopal clergy have been able to bless same sex unions with permission from the church for several years. The new liturgy is called “Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” and it will be included in the church’s official masses and liturgies beginning in December.
Cartwright said it’s gratifying to see that the church’s endorsement of same sex marriage and its inclusion of transgender people are now enshrined in the church’s canons. The votes, she said, are bringing the official values of the church in line with the values of a just and inclusive society.
“We’re riding a wave that includes all LGBT people,” she affirmed, “It’s a great day, and we’re continuing to work to make sure that transgender people and all LGBT people are welcome in the church and its ministries.”


The Transformation of the Ancient Schools of Philosophy: David Hume and Adam Smith

Jackman Humanities Institute - The Transformation of the Ancient Schools of Philosophy: David Hume and Adam Smith
 May 11th, 4:00 pm End: May 11th, 6:00 pm
Adam Potkay, William R. Kenan Professor of Humanities, William and Mary College
The Transformation of the Ancient Schools of Philosophy: David Hume and Adam Smith
UC Croft Chapter House, Friday 11 May at 4:00 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public.   Jackman Humanities Institute at (416) 946-0313.