Episode 114 – Hail to the Chief!

In this instalment, recorded August 3, 2014, we take a look at the new Atheist TV (http://www NULL.atheists NULL.org/AtheistTV) presented by American Atheists; an Alberta Liberal MLA is making positive waves about ending government support of sectarian and elitist schools (http://www NULL.calgaryherald NULL.com/news/Hehr+Private+schools+divide+pupils+wealth+religion/10063441/story NULL.html) in the province; more conundrums in medical ethics, this time a Calgary fertility clinic that has issues with women wanting “rainbow children” (http://www NULL.calgaryherald NULL.com/health/rainbow+families+Ethnic+donor+stipulation+fertility+centre+floors+local+woman/10063343/story NULL.html); the Texas medical board is yet again trying to get rid of Stanislaw Burzynski (http://www NULL.usatoday NULL.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/24/new-charges-for-burzynski/13111483/) and his unsubstantiated treatments; Richard Dawkins steps in it yet again (http://www NULL.cbc NULL.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2014/07/richard-dawkinss-rape-pedophelia-logic-tweets-ignite-twitter-storm NULL.html), this time on Twitter; and finally, Canada’s ambassador to the Vatican compares abortion to the horrific events that occurred on 9/11 (http://www NULL.theglobeandmail NULL.com/news/politics/harper-appoints-dennis-savoie-as-next-ambassador-to-holy-see/article19889661/). But first, congratulations are in order for one of our very own cohosts…

Episode 80 – Wherein We Witness the Rage of Kris!

Welcome to Episode 80 of the Legion of Reason! This week Kris, Haysn and I talk on a number of subjects, including a study on the poor quality assurance of herbal supplements (http://www NULL.cbc NULL.ca/news/health/herbal-product-contamination-considerable-dna-tests-find-1 NULL.1959278?cmp=fbtl) that may be a significant health risk to consumers, another nail in the coffin (which at this point is overkill) for liberation therapy treatment of multiple sclerosis in a new Canadian study published in The Lancet (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/no-link-between-narrowed-veins-and-ms-canadian-led-study-1 NULL.1489194), and a bill introduced in the Quebec National Assembly by the opposition as an alternative to the Parti Quebecois’ Charter of Values (http://www NULL.cbc NULL.ca/news/canada/montreal/qu%C3%A9bec-solidaire-proposes-unifying-secular-charter-1 NULL.1931400). But first, we discover two of Kris’ hot button issues. Later, you can hear Kris go on a tirade over the Harper government’s refusal to contribute to abortion access for victims of war rape (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/politics/canadian-money-won-t-go-to-abortion-for-war-rape-victims-paradis-1 NULL.1483803). But first, the Edmonton public school system has been bringing in an anti-choice group (http://www NULL.edmontonjournal NULL.com/news/Paula+Simons+Wait+Does+Christian+based+belong+public+schools/8999795/story NULL.html) – such groups being well-known to make up birth control and abortion risks – to teach children about abstinence as a choice in sex education classes. What the hell?

This is the last chance to get a letter to Michael Enright. I will be mailing the ones that I receive on Thursday, October 17. If you have planned to get one in, do it now! And thank you to all those that have sent one in. Your participation is greatly appreciated!

Episode 67 – Yes, there is an Episode 66…

(I just haven’t finished editing it yet…) My trip home from a local jewelry designer was fraught with anti-choice propaganda (https://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/photo NULL.php?fbid=385332644911829&set=a NULL.335048199940274 NULL.67101 NULL.139473299497766&type=1&theater) and forced-birthing agenda nonsense (https://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/photo NULL.php?fbid=385330651578695&set=a NULL.335048199940274 NULL.67101 NULL.139473299497766&type=1&theater), so once again we revisit the abortion “issue”. Bishop Fred Henry opens his big trap (http://www NULL.calgaryherald NULL.com/opinion/Marriage+diminished/8609056/story NULL.html) once again to weigh in on SCOTUS’ overturning of California’s Prop 8 and the Defence of Marriage Act (http://abcnews NULL.go NULL.com/Politics/supreme-court-rules-gay-marriage-cases/story?id=19492896). Why, I don’t know, but let’s just say that every time he loses a shoe he should check his mouth first. We talk about more horror stories involving priests in Milwaukee (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-churchs-errant-shepherds NULL.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) and another Sophisticated Theologian(TM) who think he’s special (http://www NULL.spectator NULL.co NULL.uk/features/8932301/atheism-has-failed-only-religion-can-fight-the-barbarians/) without actually engaging any of the arguments posed by vocal nonbelievers such as Richard Dawkins. But we start with our very own Kris’ recent experience as one of between 75,000 and 100,000 people displaced during the recent floods Calgarians experienced (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/canada/three-confirmed-dead-in-alberta-flooding-as-evacuations-continue-1 NULL.1335330).

A Brave Humanist Voice Goes Silent

Dr. Henry Morgentaler has died. He was a tireless crusader for reproduction rights of women and a brave one at that, willing to face criminal charges as part of part of his strategy to see Canada’s draconian abortion laws struck down. He succeeded in 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada said in its ruling

“The right to liberty… guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her private life. … The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state.”

The SCoC got this exactly right, and is the basis for bodily autonomy rights. In what to me amounts to an apology for its treatment of him and a realization that he had a profound effect on the rights of women in Canada, Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008.

In the comments of various news items covering Morgentaler’s death, the anti-choice forced-birthers have come out of their holes to bleat like sheep. Invariably, all arguments for taking choice away from women fall into only a few categories:

  1. “Morgentaler killed innocent children/babies!” False equivalence. Fetuses are not children, they are not babies. Mapping what makes up a person onto a blastocyst is simply ridiculous.
  2. “Science proves that life begins at conception!” No, it does not. Life is an unbroken chain leading back 3.5 billion years. No one is arguing that a blastocyst is not alive. It’s just that it’s not at all relevant. Science most definitely cannot determine something as subjective as the beginning of personhood. But, again, it doesn’t matter as this is also irrelevant, for reasons I will discuss below.
  3. “There’s always adoption!” Oy. Forced birthing. Anyone putting this forward is simply a terrible person. Some people choose this option. But the key word is choose.
  4. “If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex!” There’s so much wrong with this one. First, it’s a form of the naturalistic fallacy (that which is natural is good). Foxglove is natural, but your heart may stop if you eat one (it’s a source of the cardiac drug digitalis). Second, engaging in sex is not (repeat NOT) consenting to pregnancy any more than driving a car is consenting to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. Third, it’s just glib, patronizing moralization.

But even if I gave credence to any of the above emotional arguments it doesn’t matter. Heck, even if I allowed that a blastocyst is fully a person it doesn’t matter.

Look at it this way. Let’s say I was having multiple organ failure and that the only chance of survival is to parasitically use someone else’s body to take over those functions no longer available in my own. For some reason yours is the only suitable candidate. Do I have the right to forcibly make use of your body? Obviously, the answer is “no”. I would clearly be violating your rights.

“Well”, you might say, “That’s different! You would actively engaged in forcibly using my body. A fetus isn’t given the choice.” As true as it is irrelevant. The question of malicious intent is moot. Either way your rights are violated, and that is the only consideration.

If society decides that abortion violates a fetus’ right to life, it is not possible that taking away a woman’s choice when choice is available is not a violation of her rights. In my example, it would be a granting me the right to violate your rights. And that’s a problem, since if no reasonable person would grant me the right to commandeer your body to keep me alive, taking away a woman’s right to reproductive choice is giving rights to a demographic which no other group has or can have. It makes no sense except on an emotional, and therefor irrelevant, level.

And that’s the lasting legacy of Henry Morgentaler. What he did was get society to understand that reproductive choice is a human right. He was very much a pioneer in this country.

Episode 49 – Following Alice Down the Rabbit Hole

Welcome once again to the Legion of Reason! Kris, the ever feisty Twylla, Haysn and I make like Alice and dive into the insanity that can result from the intersection of religion, alternative-to-medicine and conspiracy paranoia. Yes, we have found an example of the skepticism trifecta! Next up we anti-vaccination proponent Jenny McCarthy (of the Jenny McCarthy bodycount infamy). She was invited as a guest fitness instructor for an Ottawa cancer fundraiser called “Bust A Move”, but was dropped after a backlash by skeptics. Victory is ours! And we are going to have a special guest co-host next Sunday, but you’re going to have to listen to the damn episode to find out who! And the coming Darwin Day on February 12 has officially been recognized in the province of Saskatchewan and the city of Vancouver! Great accomplishment! And several Conservative backbenchers attempt yet another end-run around the fact that abortion is legal by – wait for it! – claiming that abortions being performed after 20 weeks gestation are “possible homicides”, and want the RCMP to investigate! Oy… But first, we discuss the question of whether prosthyletizing in the workplace is – as a recent Billy Graham Ministries video makes it out to be – appropriate behavior. Spoiler alert: the answer is HELLS no!

Billy Graham video: That Awkward Moment When You Try to Share Your Faith (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=0fQ4K3lyZFE)
Saskatoon’s Shiloh Biblical Institute of Natural Medicine (http://www NULL.sbinm NULL.com/)
Director Carol Bird’s bio (http://www NULL.sbinm NULL.com/#!faculty-and-staff/c1a8i)
Supposed leaked Pentagon video: FunVax (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=2MuXgpl2Sxg)
Official Darwin Day recognition in Saskatchewan (http://saskskeptics NULL.com/2013/02/03/2013-saskatchewan-darwin-day-recognition/) and in the city of Vancouver (http://darwinday NULL.org/proclamations/vancouver-canada-darwin-day-proclamation-2/)
Julia Belluz’s Science-ish article on the Jenny McCarthy debacle (http://www2 NULL.macleans NULL.ca/2013/02/01/how-did-anti-vaccine-campaigner-jenny-mccarthy-earn-a-platform-at-an-fundraiser-for-cancer-care/) in Mcleans

Episode 42 – The Tragic Case of Savita Halappanavar and Human Rights Apparently not for Alberta Home Schoolers

Welcome once again legionnaries! Once more into the breech! Woo on the left of us, religious nonsense to the right of us… Ours is but to do and evaluate claims based on evidence. In this episode Twylla and I discuss recent changes to the Alberta Education Act removing references to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act (http://www NULL.cbc NULL.ca/thecurrent/episode/2012/11/14/the-exclusion-of-the-charter-and-human-rights-in-the-new-alberta-education-act/) that contain nasty ideas of tolerance and opposing discrimiation, and by doing so advance education into the 19th century. We discuss these events with a few exerpts from a panel discussion on CBC Radio’s The Current (http://www NULL.cbc NULL.ca/thecurrent/episode/2012/11/14/the-exclusion-of-the-charter-and-human-rights-in-the-new-alberta-education-act/). But we start off with a discussion of the unfortunate case of 31-year old dentist Savita Halappanavar (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20321741) who died in late October from septicaemia. According to her husband Praveen doctors at the University Hospital Galway in Dublin, Ireland would not terminate her miscarrying fetus because, they told him, Ireland was a “Catholic country” and that they couldn’t terminate the the pregnancy while the fetus was alive, the fact that the Halappanavars are Hindu notwithstanding. We look at an assessment by MD blogger Jen Gunter (http://drjengunter NULL.wordpress NULL.com/) based on what information is available and her conclusions on the level of care Savita received. We also look at some anti-choice newspaper comments (http://www NULL.independent NULL.ie/opinion/analysis/eils-mulroy-prochoice-side-must-not-hijack-this-terrible-event-3294723 NULL.html) pleading that Savita’s death should not be ‘exploited’ (http://www NULL.catholicherald NULL.co NULL.uk/commentandblogs/2012/11/15/the-tragic-death-of-savita-halappanavar-should-not-be-exploited-to-sweep-away-irish-abortion-law-under-which-she-could-legally-have-been-saved/) to end the draconian and backwards abortion laws of Ireland. That’s like saying we shouldn’t exploit burn victims to create laws banning flammable children’s clothing.

On a lighter note, I’d like to do an episode segment on what to give your secular and/or atheist friends, family, husband, wife, life partner, significant other, you name them for Christmas. Yeah, that’s right, I said CHRISTMAS! The holiday is secular and in no way requires us to be religious to celebrate it regardless of the etymology of the word, so bite me Pat Robertson. Some of us happen to think it’s a good idea to give gifts external to religous reasons, so there! But I’m rather unimaginative when it comes to this kind of thing, opting for giving books, and I’m sure our listeners have far better ideas than that. We’d love to hear your suggestions, so email us at the_legion@legionofreason.com!

Speaking of books, I mentioned two on “free will” in the episode that I think are very important to any discussion on the subject. The first, and the one that had the most influence on me, is Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/The-Atheists-Guide-Reality-Illusions/dp/0393344118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353713529&sr=8-1&keywords=alex+rosenberg). The second is Sam Harris’ essay

Also, one correction NULL. I mention the scandal in Saskatchewan with the Grant Devine Conservative government there which resulted in the disbanding of the PC party there NULL. Thirteen MLAs were charged and at least six were found guilty of fraud NULL. I said 15 were found guilty and subject to prison time NULL. That’s memory for you NULL.

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LoR – Episode 17

In this episode we have a look at what can only be described as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cynical end-run around his own promise to not re-open the abortion debate by allowing a backbencher to proceed with a private member’s bill to discuss when a fetus is a human being. Since Ontario MP Stephen Woodworth claimed he wants to look at the science we take him at his word, and after looking at his words we see how they are framed to draw a conclusion that you can’t get to if you simply look at the science. Also, Twylla visited with Dallas skeptic Bart Cantwell in the Lone Star State and we present the interview that ensued.

Pro-life or Anti-choice?

[First posted to the Freethinkers Mailing List (https://groups NULL.google NULL.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/freethinkers-club/CgKr5zBAd70)]

After carefully mulling it over, I recently decided to start calling the “pro-life” camp “anti-choicers.” During the recent abortion flare-up, I got called out for it on FB, which led to this:

Continue reading “Pro-life or Anti-choice?” »