Payette Gate

Canadian politics are boring. So boring in fact, that we turn anything we can into scandals, just to have scandals to talk about.

See last year’s “elbow gate” or as it is also known: “how a person bumping into another person in a crowded room became a cause for uproar.” (Those people shouting over bumping elbows have clearly never been on Montreal’s Metro during rush hour, but that is neither here nor there.)

Our latest non-scandal/scandal was everywhere in today’s news.

This morning, commentators were denouncing Governor General Julie Payette. Across the internet, commentators (including at the CBC) were crawling out of the woodwork to condemn her for “criticizing” religions and that she somehow “mocked” and disrespected millions of Canadians in the process all because of a speech she made at a scientific conference.

Let’s review what happened.

Payette appeared as the keynote speaker at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa. One assumes her career as an astronaut (I.E. scientist) had something to do with this.

During her address, she observed (with some incredulity) that “we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”

Despite her tone, one should probaby assume that Payette wasn’t taking the pulpit to be offensive, but to address the general state of things concerning the scientific community.

Let’s recall that Payette wasn’t invited to speak at the pulpit of a Church or to give a sermon. She was speaking at a conference for scientists, as a scientist, about “science stuff.”

In such a context, it would seem that arguing that religious beliefs and astrology have no place in science is somewhat matter-of-fact and not out of place.

Why?

In case there was ever any confusion, science and religion are not in competition. Nor are they interchangeable. As processes, they are both concerned with exploring fundamentally different things.

Science is a critical pursuit, a form of investigation – whether it be the natural world, the laws that govern it, or the ways in which humans interact on a sociological level. You start with a hypothesis, review the data, and draw your conclusions based on the evidence at hand.

Science is impersonal and kinda boring.

Religion, on the other hand, is a different sort of pursuit. Religion investigates personal truth, the meaning of this world, and our place in it. The process doesn’t begin with a hypothesis, but a conclusion (see opening verses of the Bible… it does not begin with an investigation whether God did or did not create the world in seven days, but a statement). These conclusions then inform people how to live their lives.

Religion is personal and dynamic.

It is also has nothing to do with science.

So, saying that divine intervention has no place in a scientific inquiry should be as matter-of-fact as pointing out that scientists have no place storming into a church and telling people how they should be praying or singing.

Wouldn’t that be fun? I didn’t think so either.

Let’s try keep each to their own. If we can’t, then at least not lose our collective minds every time something we disagree with happens to drip all over the news.

The Quebec Charter of Secularism

The secular charter. Where to begin?

The bill that Pauline Marois has been teasing about all summer finally made it’s way into public view in the recent weeks and “surprise!” it’s every bit the xenophobic, self-centered and, dare I say it, racist document that people feared it would be.

The best description of the bill that I’ve heard so far is “Privileged white person hopes other privileged white people will support bill that removes privileges from non-white people”. While this might sound a little blunt, it isn’t far from the truth of what this so-called charter is looking to accomplish.

The double standard of it all is what sickens me. The PQ are focusing their war of values on the symbols of Islam, Sikhism and Judaism, essentially depriving people who are traditionally “not white” from being able to display their faith and cultural heritage in public, all the while willing to leave crosses (depending on their length) in public spaces because they are very much part of the “Quebec Identity”.

I’m 100% behind the separation of Church and State; the human race has witnessed far too many atrocities when a narrow-minded religious enterprise was able to enact its policies with the full power of the state behind its swings. However, this isn’t about Church and State being bed-buddies, this about the State deciding which Church has a place in it’s society.

As well, the state has little to no right to interfere with the personal lives of its citizens in areas where no one is being harmed. Yes, there are crazy religious cults out there and crazy over-zealous practitioners of virtually every religion (yup, there are even xenophobic, violent Buddhists out there, believe it or not) but this is Canada and the par for the Canadian course is peace and tolerance.

Religions in and of themselves are not bad; a Koran lying on the table, or being recited in an old man’s head as he walks down the street, isn’t harming anyone. The problem with religions is how they are interpreted and then how those interpretations are put into practice.

I’ve also never heard of a man’s turban being used to kill someone, but I’ve heard rumours that crosses were once a popular method.

People should be enraged when people are deprived of their religion and culture just as equally as they should when religion is forced upon others.

Equally so, if this bill passes, who’s to say we won’t see an even more severe one come two or three years down the road? If it’s public offices today, why not extend it to all Quebec business, and then parks and public spaces and just forget altogether that Canada (Quebec included) is a nation made up of many nations? Oh wait, that’s sort of what they are trying to do. Nothing like a little “us vs them” mentality to keep a society healthy.