Friday, June 09, 2006

Science and Faith …

On one of my Yahoo groups over the past few days, we've been discussing issues of faith and science, and I think the discussion has been good so I wanted to post it here :) .

It began with the following quote …

"Some people believe in faith, some people believe in science, which do you believe?"

"anitsirhc" wrote: ah But John Locke was wrong. Some people…believe in both…andscience imo, is a faith of sorts.

Doug wrote: There's no contradiction in believing in both. But while people may treat science as a faith, and allow faith to confuse their thinking > > about science; the scientific method is most definitely NOT faith based. Your computer works because the science behind it works, faith plays zero role in either its design or operation. JMO Doug

"fciaw" wrote: There is the faith in science…if you take it on faith that the work done by the scientists to prove the theories were done in good conscience and thoroughly without having to go through the proofs yourself in order to accept the principles being presented to you. DB

"anitsirhc" wrote: -weve been thru this with doug (and im happy to do it again)…very
little science is pure and based on "The Scientific Principle". Most
science is a little bit fuzzy….and hence a derivative of "faith"
imo. Faith in science = confounding variables and other such bits of
"fuzz" that makes any given scientific experiement problems.

I think its a fundamental feature of the universe that there is always going to be fuzziness. Science and the scientific method is about taking phenomena that exists on a spectrum, and sticking it into individual colour boxes. By definition, there will always be the hues between the primary colours that make for the fuzz, and thats not something science will ever correct. Science is about defining the colours, not so much about understanding the fact that there no such thing as red in reality … just thing sthat approach red from either side. Science sees "Red" as an actual definable thing, when to the universe it isn't, really. We will never understand the entire universe through science, because the very nature of the scientific method is directed at defining "Red" and "Blue" whereas the universe only present red and blue as ideals that never actually exist in reality.

Animal taxonomy is another example. "Mammal" "Reptile" etc are all generalities, concepts that don't exist in reality. They are boxes we attempt to stuff life into, with great success in some cases. But life doesn't fit into neat little boxes … there are egg laying mammals, and fish with hair; reptiles that 'nurse' their young and creatures who use pouches as an incubation chamber. And them someone sent a sub down to look at a thermal vent … Science will always be at odds with the universe to a certain degree.

Science tries to fit a single, immense, interconnected reality into a series of infinate boxes. Those boxes help us to understand things about the universe, and they enlighten us about relationships and patterns we are likely to encounter. But reality itself is far too big to fit in any of the boxes, really. No matter what box we look at, there's going to be spillover because the universe isn't built so we can conveniently box it up for our understanding … its more complex than that.

Science is of great value in helping us understand parts of the universe, and through that, reality in general … but in the end, it does so through abstract boxes that don't truly exist in reality, and thats the final irony. It is only through abstracting the real world we see around us, that we can come to some understanding of that reality.

CBC News: Killing will spark revenge: father of beheaded American

CBC News: Killing will spark revenge: father of beheaded American
If anyone in the world has reason to celebrate the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, surely Michael Berg is high on the list of names. His son Nicholus was one of the very public be-headings attributed to Zarqawi in 2004, and there are few greater tragedies any person can live through than losing a child. When it happens in such a violent and public way, an urge towards revenge might surely be forgiven.

Which is what makes Michael Berg such a remarkable man IMO. "I see more death coming out of al-Zarqawi's death," he said earlier today on CBC, and he goes on to talk about the tit-for-tat violence that an attitude of revenge brings about. "His death will incite a new wave of revenge. [U.S. President] George Bush and al-Zarqawi are two men who believe in revenge."

He's an eloquent speaker, and it was nice to see him on CBC. I hope he is getting the same airplay on CNN … Americans should hear what he has to say, even if it isn't the popular view. The fact that he lost his son in a very public way, and his son's death was played for propaganda value by BOTH sides gives him the right to speak his own mind. I for one applaud the message.

The World Cup

shirt - Up Up Super Eagles

Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

There are few examples of truly global gatherings, where the entire world not only takes part, but stops and watches as well. Every sport has its 'world championships' but in many cases, those words are more fraud than reality. Take things like the World Series of Baseball, between two American teams in an all North American league.

Even when the world competition is truly global, the reach of the event is in question. World Cup skiing is certainly a global affair, but economy and environment leave many nations off the World Cup ski circuit. Likewise with hockey … even at the World Championships, or the Canada Cup, it is only the hockey world that arrives. The World Championships for track and field comes closest, perhaps, with nearly every nation on earth entering someone to run or jump or throw, but despite the global participation of athletes, track and field simply doesn't generate the excitement to bring the world together.

And then theres the FIFA World Cup. Football is a game played across the globe, and yes, it IS football. The simple fact is, if you call the game soccer, then June 9th is just another Friday to you most likely, and you could care less about the FIFA World Cup. You are also in a global minority. For the rest of the 5.5 billion people who call it football, June 9th 2006 is the start of a month of football fever.

It IS about national rivalries, of that there's no doubt. When I was in Nigeria, the Super Eagles went through their bracket in the 1994 World Cup, almost making it through to the quarter finals before finally losing to Italy, and the national energy in Nigeria was amazing. As a Canadian, I'd never really experienced a World Cup before, but after Lagos in 1994, I have a small understanding of the frenzy that happens every 4 years, and it was in Lagos that I got a real look at WHY it is the only truly global sporting event, both in terms of participation and reach.

Football is a game that can be played by anyone, anywhere. All you need is a ball and open space … and that's true no matter WHAT level of the sport you play at. Even at the World Cup level, you may have exceptional coaching, you may have genius players, you may have time-proven strategy, but its still just 22 guys kicking a ball around a big field. The reason the appeal is universal is the cost of entry to the game is so small.

For the record, my allegiances are with Poland and England … if they both get bounced, I dunno who I support after that, but lets not go there, lol. But the reality is, its more about the tournament for me than the play … I don't even know that much about the game itself. But especially in a place like Canada, I love to see how it brings people together.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Fiki Bar …


Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

This is a shot of the original Fiki Bar … this version was demolished in 96 or 97 and rebuilt, and while I always had structural questions about Fiki's, I must admit to a certain nostalgia for the original straw and wood shack on stilts.

On the left corner, you can see a darker section … its seperate rooms off the edge of the bar that were used as washrooms. Not a true 'mens' and 'womens' it was more a case of 'hole' and 'seat' … regardless, the end result of either room, as those inclined to engineering might have already noted, was the creek, without any sort of filtration. It was a bit sobering when I saw this picture again to recall that there have, in FACT, been times when i have 'shit in my own backyard' … LMAO, every time I went to Fiki's.

Still, the beer was good, and oddly, it was refreshing to sit on the creek and feel the breeze blow by.

9 Chickweed Lane

9 Chickweed Lane

9 Chickweed Lane cartoon Over the past few years, this has developed into one of my favorite comic strips. From the perspective of a single, middle-aged guy with no kids, the choice of a strip whose main characters are a single, university professor mother raising a ballerina daughter might seem a bit odd, a bit hard for me to relate.

Thorax is certainly one of the characters I relate to. More than any other portrayal in the media, it Thorax I see when I look into my own future as an old man. Depending on the day, that either reassures me or scares the daylights out of me. Thorax' philosophical musings … the above is an EXCELLENT example … are a huge part of the draw for me, but they are only a part of the reason the strip is worth checking out.

Overall, the characters are some of the most real, lifelike characters I've seen, in comics or out. Of course, as a comic strip, McEldowney uses the absurd to his advantage, and Thorax is as absurd as they come. But as any cat lover can also attest, the strips occasional "Hallmarks of Felinity" go beyond an understanding of feline psychology into the almost uncanny territory of being inside the head of a cat. To say he 'nails it' in these strips is a serious understatement.

Not sure how widely syndicated the strip is, but if you have a paper that carries it I suggest you check it out. I read it in the Calgary Sun where I live … I dunno if all Sun's in Canada run it or not, but that's a good start for Canadians.

Canadian Muslim Leaders call for Summit …

Just listening to a press conference on CBC Newsworld with leaders from CAIR-CAN … the Canadian Council on American Islamic Affairs, and they are calling on provincial and Federal governments to hold a summit on extremism in their community, and to help address those extremists in their midst's. This attitude highlights what I see as a fundamental difference in the environment of Canada, as opposed to places like the UK, or Holland, or France, or even the US.

All week, as news coverage of the arrests has unfolded in Canada, I've been watching members of the Canadian Islamic community come onto Newsworld and talk about what happened. Unlike after other arrests in other parts of world, the voices coming to speak are without exception voices of calm reason who are clearly opposed to any extremism in their midst's. There is a call here for quick action, for collaboration between government and community to ensure that peaceful, law-abiding Muslims in Canada are not controlled by a small minority of extremists.

The CAIR-CAN spokesman today spoke eloquently about the actual community, and about the danger of rushing to judgement. He spoke eloquently about the need to work together with non-Muslim Canadians, and the government, to further relations.

But I think one of the key differences was highlighted by Mark Kelley in his report on the National the other night. In places like France, Muslim's who immigrate, even those who become citizens, face serious social impediments to advancement. In France, or Holland, "French" or "Dutch" people represent those cultures in public at all times. Its vital to their 'history' and their national character in some ways.

But Canada is different. Look at our advertising as an example. Its true that 20 years ago Canada was a very white-bread place in public, even though the real Canada was a true rainbow. But today, an Indian family discusses hime loans on one CIBC ad, while the average coffee house ad is full of Asian or Middle Eastern actors. Canada really IS a multi-cultural place today, and while there are Canadians who resent that, its become very much a fact in 2006. The coloours and hues we see when we look around both he real world AND the 'public space' in Canada today are many and varied.

And while Canada does have poverty, and we do have slums and ghettos in a manner of speaking, one key difference that I can see between Canada and elsewhere is that those slums are RARELY racially related. Immigrants coming to Canada don't have a huge issue with fitting in, we don't have huge suburbs of disaffected youth who are refused entry into normal society. We don't have these things because it doesn't matter what religion you are, what colour your skin is in Canada … it matters if you are a part of the community or not.

After other arrests and attacks, I haven't seen the locla Muslim cimmunity react in the same way. Elsewhere, there's always been hostility, resentment, a seething undercurrent of hatred that I simply don't see here in Canada. I can't explain why or how Canada has come to the point where everyone involved can look at these arrests simply as justice being done, and why it hasn't brought out bad blood. The only answer I have is that there is no bad blood to bring out here, that Canada is an example of a place where the Muslim community IS integrated into the rest of society, and that there's no seething undercurrent of Canadian mistreatment of our Muslim population.

And therein lies my perspective for how we ensure it stays that way. We can't let these arrests change the way we deal with anyone. The point is, the were a SUCCESS … its ridiculous to use them as a reason to crack down on a community that has responded with passion both for their own community and for Canada as a whole. I say we go ahead with the summit … its good PR at a time when the world over, Islam and the rest of the world are at odds. But whenever I hear people talk about radicalism being at the core of Islam, I have to question their motives.

As Muslims have been pointing out all week in Canada, it is a tiny minority of their population that choose violence. The CAIR-CAN spokesman today likened it to the Italian community being expected to answer for the Mafia continually. And I can't help but think back to a decade ago, as I wandered up a street in Lagos amongst several different BBQ pits celebrating the wedding of the brother of a friend. My friend herself was 'unusual' by most people's assumptions, a well educated, intelligent Muslim woman I played tennis with twice a week for 3 years named Omodele. When her brother's wedding came around, and she didn't have a 'date' to take, she asked me to be her escort.

There were two different ceremonies … one for the Muslim groom, and one for the Christian bride, and at both ceremonies, the two families came together in fellowship and friendship. It was a remarkable experience, but its also the 'poster' for why I KNOW Islam isn't an extremist religion bent on world conquest and the subjugation of all others … because I know there are millions of Muslims the world over who are just like you and me. My friend Dele is a lawyer, educated by her Muslim family. She was still umarried in her late 20's when I knew her, though she married a few years after I knew her to a Muslim man. She continues to practice law by all accounts, though its been some years since I have spoken with her.

I KNOW from Dele and others that Muslims are no different than you or me. The extremists in their community have managed to hijack their politics in MANY places, but its not representative of the general community of Islam in the world, at least not the ones I have met, both here in Canada and elsewhere.

Its your karma ... use it wisely

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lions and lawyers and rights, oh my …

One of the details emerging from the bail hearings held yesterday for 15 of the 17 people charged in the recent terrorist sting here is a bit disturbing. Yesterday's bail hearing's were postponed, essentially because defence lawyers had been given no time to confer with clients, and very limited information on the specifics of the charges against their clients. Several lawyers for defendants arrested over the weekend have expressed concern today, on Newsworld, that they have still not been given the opportunity to speak privately with clients … instead, all communication has been through glass, over a prison phone, with guards present.

Canada is a country supposedly governed by the rule of law, and one of the cornerstones of that is that ALL defendants require the best defence available. Lawyer/client confidentiality is a key element of this, and so far, from what I have seen in the media, these defendants have been given no chance to speak privately with lawyers, and that is a severe violation of theri rights in this process.

W hat I find distressing is that I can't see what benefit we gain from keeping them from their lawyers? Do the police involved not realize its an immediate reason to question the motives and fairness of any upcoming trial? Do people the lawyers are conspiring with their client, and so the criminal conspiracy will be furthered by talking privately? Those are VERY serious allegations that need to be proven before they can be claimed, and they'll be followed by the lawyer themselves being charged as well.

There is only one way that this can go forward properly … a criminal trial where these accused defandants are tried under the rule of law. That means they are offorded the same rights as any other criminal in Canada. The right to face their accusers and the evidence against them … so far, it seems key details of the charges are being kept from defendants and defence attorney's. The right to council … so far, it seems that private consultations between lawyers and clients are not permitted, and that is a severe breach of the rights of the accused.

Part of the issue is media attention, and I think keeping details out of the media is probably a good idea. If it was only reporters complaining about lack of information or access, I'd have little problem here. What concerns me is that defence attorney's of accused men, people who by law are required to be 'part of the loop' are complaining about being forced to talk to clients with guards present. It doesn't matter what these men are charged with … they have the right to speak privately with lawyers.

Canada is supposedly still governed by the rule of law, and the rule of law is plenty strong to deal with this case. Let these men talk to their lawyers, and make sure the lawyers have the information they need to do their jobs. If we don't treat these guys just like any other accused men, innocent till proven guilty, entitled to a lawyer, a fair trial, and all that jazz, then it doesn't matter that we caught them early. Sure, we may have saved a few lives by stopping the explosion, but we've already conceded our rights, and as such the whole damn 'war on terror' to the 'enemy.' Because what DOES seperate us from them is just that … the rule of law and all that jazz. Lets make sure we don't lose the war while we make so much effort fighting the battles.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Enemy Within … from The National on CBC

Tonight the CBC ran a documentary that I mentioned in a recent post, about a rising backlash against Muslim immigrants in places like Holland and the UK. Mark Kelley did a very thorough job of looking at both sides of the issue, talking with a variety of politicians and regular people. Ultimately, it provided a lot to think about with regards to how we deal with other cultures.

The trouble, it didn't talk much about multiculturalism, at least not of the Canadian variety. There was a lot of discussion about how Muslim immigrants, and second and third generation citizens interact with "Dutch" or "UK" society, but it was more about the conflicts, not the similarities. There were a couple of points where he almost makes it to the truth … talking to the Dutch politician Fatima Alladuk is one of the places he approaches the answer, as he does just beofre that when he observes the Muslim who speaks fluent Dutch and was born in Holland can never be as Dutch as the guys in bar with the fake Rembrandt. When he discusses the issue with the friend of Theo van Gogh, he comes SO close to the answer when they observe that margianalization is the cause of the divisions.

But Kelley never quite gets to the root of the issue. He accuses the architect of the Dutch Burkha ban of creating a racist policy, but Kelley lets him slide out of the chareg without sticking to his guns. Its defended by the claim that majority approval makes it democratic … "If it is democratic, how can it be racist?" And the answer to that is simple … its the singling out of people not because they are violent or extremist or dangerous, but because they wear a head scarf.

Does the Burkha ban include a Sikh turban as well? How about Hindu ornamentation, or a Christian cross? If it doesn't, then clear distinction is being made between one religion and others, but no distinction is being made on the basis of any ACTUAL criminal or dangerous activity. Instead, simple belief in a certain religion is being used as criteria, and Kelley should have cornered him on this. The reason the plot was uncovered in Canada had NOTHING to do with religion, even though the plot itself involved people who might have had 'religious' intent … the plot was uncovered because some people were doing illegal things, namely, trying to build a bomb among other things.

Ms Alladuk clearly identified the issue when she pointed to economic ghettonization as the cause, but that seemingly gets ignored by everyone. In France, the riots of earlier this year were called Muslim riots, but they were economic, not religious, and the root cause of immigration backlash like we see in Europe is economic and social, not true security.

The simple fact is, what matters isn't the religion someone believes in. If someone I employ wears a Burkha to work, it makes absolutely no difference to me, anymore than a cross would. If I see someone in Muslim dress on the street, there is no logical reason, even in today's world, to fear anything, and the arrests in Canada show that. They show that by focussing on ACTUAL threats, instead of religious profiling, we arrest terror cells before they build their bombs.

It was an fascinating report … and I think that, ultimately, Mark Kelley got the point across that its Fatima, and the well-spoken Muslim gentlemen in the bar just before her segment, who represent the true Muslim face, and who also seem to have the best handle on whats going on. If this 'war on terror' forces us to lose the tolerance that makes us who we are, then we have already lost that war. The issue will always be people who are involved in criminal activities … religion will never have anything to do with that. I hope we in Canada never forget that.

Quotations …

Usually, I'm more interested in in-depth arguments than one-liners, but there are times when a thought is expressed so eloquently that all necessary argumentation is done in just a few simple words. If they don't convince you of their truth, they at least make you think deeply about the issues involved.

On my google page, one of the modules pulls up 4 new quotes everyday, from The Quotations page. Often times, they are forgettable, but every once in awhile, one comes up that is worth sharing. Yesterday, they hit the trifecta, so to speak, with 4 quotes worthy of serious discussion. So I'll throw them out and comment on them as you will …

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.


Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

The more things change, the more they remain… insane.


Michael Fry and T. Lewis, Over the Hedge, 05-09-04

A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes.


James Feibleman

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.


Chuck Reid

Canada’s homegrown terrorists …

I've been holding off writing about this, waiting for more information to come out. About the only thing I am certain of at the moment is that we don't know a lot of details, and that more details will emerge in the weeks and months to come. For now, 12 adults and 5 youths are under arrest on a variety of security and terrorism related offences, though current indications are that there may very well be more arrests.

There are obviously a few larger questions swirling around this story. While it's heartening to know the cell was uncovered and broken up before anything happened, and the police, apparently, were in full control of the attempts to acquire amonium nitrate by the group, the fact the group was an apparent 'Canadian' entity, involving not recent immigrants, but established Canadians, so to speak, is somewhat disturbing.

We've already seen some of the knee-jerk reactions. PM Harper, over the weekend, said it was because they hate "our way of life." In his closer on The Hour tonight, George called that assertion ridiculous, and he's bang on the money. Its way too simplistic, and it in fact plays into the hands of extremists. Osama bin Laden made specific reference to that attitude in a recent tape as being part of the problem with leaders of the west, and that we now have a leader speaking in the same rhetoric as Bush is a bit disturbing.

One of the dangers is that we'll see a backlash. There was some vandalism of Islamic buildings in Toronto over the weekend, but more worrisome to me is the idea that this will provoke some sort of change in our immigration policy, or laws, directed specifically at Muslims. The final segment from The Hour tonight was a teaser for a documentary on the National tomorrow, examining the reaction in Europe to rising Muslim fundamentalism. I'll be fascinated to see the report, but whenever people talk about Muslim extremism as a seperate thing, I wonder why our normal body of laws don't apply any more.

Its not religious freedom to plot the murder of your neighbours, and CBC Newsworld over the weekend was FULL of Canadian Islamic leaders saying just that. We already have laws that address murder, and criminal conspiracy, and all manner of organized evil … I wonder why this incident might point to laws that would specifically apply to Muslim extremists. The fact is, it seems to me that, so far anyway, the incident shows that our existing laws work just fine in identifying and stopping these groups before they strike.

There is responsibility on all sides. The general public needs to refrain from operating under a mob mentality, and the Islamic population needs to be vigilant against perversions of the message. Ultimately, its extremism we are fighting here, and not anything to do with Islam inherently, and any laws we make that address Islam directly will be morally weak.

There is a difference between the public space in Canada, and in European locales now considering laws specifically targetted at Muslims. In places like Holland and the UK, they've let the notion of tolerance and freedom go to extremes. For years now, firebrand Imams have been preaching violent revolt to people across Europe, with impunity. But in Canada, things are somewhat different, or so we are led to believe. Canada has hate speech laws, and laws against incitement to violence. Certainly, criminal conspiracies involving the destruction of public buildings are easily prosecutable, and despite the penchant for Canadian tolerance, any suggestion that such plots constitute religious freedom will be identified as just what it is, hate speech and incitement to violence.

Ultimately, Canada's public space is supposed to be different. What I've seen so far since these arrests has bolstered my feelings that things can be different here. There are very few other place sin the world where tolerance has legal limits, as it does in Canada, and because of those limits, I think its far more robust than it might be elsewhere. Part of the reason Canada MAY be able to get out of all this is that we've ALWAYS said its unacceptable to yell fire in crowded theatre, to threaten your neighbours out of hate, or to incite them to violence against others. We are a tolerant people … its one of our hallmarks, but the the limit of that tolerance is your intolerance. Canada has ALWAYS striven to be intolerant of intolerance, no matter where it comes from, and thats why we shouldn't need laws aimed at Muslims. It doesn't matter who you are, telling others to go out and kill people is GOING to get you arrested, and no one is going to buy the religious freedom argument. Thats WHY we have laws against hate speech and incitement to violence … so we can deal with those people when necessary.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Flowers and Flags ...

03Jun2006-Trip 020

Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

This is another shot I took at the Brooks reststop. Kind of an odd angle, but I was laying on my stomach reaching into a garden to try and get it, lol.

The Dixie Chicks … not ready to back down, thankfully

Sometimes, we let musical genre's define how we look at the people who listen to that music. We look at heavy metal, and see long-haired druggie headbangers who can't string two coherent words together. We hear country music, and sometimes, we think right-wing redneck.

The Dixie Chicks have always defied those lines. Never really a strict country act that played by the Nashville rules, nevertheless until their 2003 concert, The Chicks were developing a solid following throughout the country music scene.

And then cam the George Bush comment, and the boycott by country radio. Many people assumed that the radio and the industry were the peoplewho defined what got played and what didn't, what sold and what didn't. But somewhere long the way, someone forgot that music isn't about politics or business … its about music.

"Shut up and sing" is the common refrain from conservatives when musicians start to talk about inconvinient politics. The Dixie Chicks have answered by doing just that … singing a new album that despite limited play on country radio, and some VERY bad press by a variety of people, is selling better than any other coutry album this week.

The "Shut up and sing" argument loses some strength when what comes out is something like "Not Ready to make Nice." Its the perfect answer to "Shut up and sing" … a musically sound number with poeticly political lyrics. And in fact, they address that thought directly, and I think I'll let them finish this off for me. Just want to say "Good on ya" to the Chicks for listening to all those folks who said "Shut up and sing." Keep singing Ladies :)

And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I'm not ready to make nice,
I'm not ready to back down,
I'm still mad as hell
And I don't have time
To go round and round and round

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Up the slide …

03Jun2006-Trip 012

Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

I took this picture yesterday, in the playground at the rest stop at Brooks. It was just kind of a whim when I saw the slide, but I kinda like how the refections turned out.