Rising above Natural Selection

We need to rise above natural selection. Otherwise, as a species, we will continue to become dumb and dumber.

Who has the family of five? Not the physicist or philosopher. She’s chosen not to have any kids. And not the biologist or sociologist. He stopped at two.

And who’s having the family of ten? The people in ‘developing’ countries who either don’t have access to contraception, let alone a grade twelve education, or who subscribe to some indefensible religio-cultural belief about family.

How do we rise above natural selection? That’s the question no one wants to ask. Because the answer is so clear. And so awful.

But not nearly as awful as a species of idiots.

Philosophy – Misunderstood

I think philosophy is one of the most misunderstood subjects. That it took so long to become a high school course, I think, attests to this. Even within academia, however, there seems to be confusion. Two PhDs expressed surprise at the title of my masters’ thesis in Philosophy (“The Issue of Consent in Sex and Sexual Assault”); both seemed to think that philosophy was stuff like ‘If a tree falls and no one’s there, does it make a sound?’ or ‘Does the table really exist?’ Philosophy is that. But not, at all, only that. Read the rest of this entry »

Libraries: what are they and so what?

So I was working in my local public library the other day – well, trying to work. I was distracted by the kid on the computer next to me who was playing a computer game. My first point. Is it appropriate for kids to be allowed to play computer games on the computers in public libraries? I suggest that libraries are repositories of knowledge that people either peruse to borrow or access on-site.[1] Given that, playing computer games should not occur in a public library. Libraries aren’t entertainment centers. Yes, perusing and accessing knowledge can be fun. But that doesn’t mean that that which is fun is necessarily perusing or accessing knowledge.

Furthermore, Read the rest of this entry »

The Illegality of Assisted Suicide

Let’s say assisted suicide is illegal because it’s often a tragic, premature, perhaps even ill-informed, death. But so is unassisted suicide.

And there are alternatives to assisted suicide – better pain management, for example, or counselling. Same goes for unassisted suicide.

Assisted suicide violates our social values, our respect for life. Yeah, well. And yet unassisted suicide is legal because ‘It’s your life’. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to Summer People Everywhere

This is not “a recreational paradise” or “a summer playground”. This is our neighbourhood.

Those labels are marketing ploys used by real estate agents and business owners eager to make money on sales. They do not speak for us. We live here; they do not.

Many of us have lived here for five, ten, twenty years. Half of us are retired; half of us still work. We live here because we want to live on a lake in a forest. We love to look out at the water and see the sun sparkle, the moonlight shimmer. We love to hear the birds and see the squirrels at our feeders; we stand in awe when we see the occasional moose or bobcat. We sit out in the evening and look up at the starry sky. We open our windows at night to hear the loons as we fall asleep. We love the peace and quiet; we bask in the solitude.

So when you ‘summer people’ come here on the weekends and do whatever the hell you want, of course we consider it an invasion. And of course we want our neighbourhood back.

When you come here, you’re not leaving the city and driving to a place where you can ‘let loose’ – you’re simply leaving your own neighbourhood and entering ours.

When we have asked, politely, that you not drive so fast in your pick-ups, we were told we don’t own the road. (And to prove it, you sped up as you passed us, spraying gravel in our faces.)

When we have asked, politely, that you not come so close to us on your seadoos, you have screamed at us “You don’t own the fucking lake!”

True enough. But this is not a public campground: it is not empty before you arrive, it does not exist solely for your pleasure, it is not empty when you leave. Did you really think no one lives here?

Right. Okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics in Government: The Problem with Representation

Long ago and far away, I was one of several high school students to participate in a Federal-Provincial Government Simulation. Each of us took on the role of a provincial or federal minister and met for three days of plenary sessions, committee meetings, and caucuses.

I was the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, and I remember well the instructions of our Prime Minister: be vague; don’t commit yourself to anything; if you don’t know what they’re talking about and have never heard of it before, tell them they’re out of order; constantly assure them with such phrases as ‘We will consider that’, ‘You have our support’, and ‘That will be discussed at a later date’ – in other words, don’t say ‘I don’t know’, ‘That’s a good point’, or ‘This is a weakness with our policy, any suggestions?’. I was to represent and defend the federal government’s position. Period. (That and always disagree with the opposition’s position.)

I did my job well. And I guess because so many others did the same, it was three days of go-nowhere achieve-nothing head-butting and face-saving. Any strategizing at caucus was not to solve a real problem, but simply to protect ego: insist, and be confident about it, that our way is the best way. Obviously there weren’t any real discussions.

I went away disillusioned and discouraged. But I realize now that it was a political simulation, not a government simulation.

Then again, who am I kidding: after reading one Hansard or watching one televised parliamentary session, I knew it was a government simulation. So my question is, how did government ever get mixed up with politics? Read the rest of this entry »

Baby Androids

It finally dawned on me after reading one too many ‘failed android’ stories. I can’t remember whether it was sci-fi or AI, but suddenly I saw the problem: they always try to create an adult without a childhood.

If it weren’t for Mary Shelley, I’d be tempted to put the blame on our sexist society: leave it to the men to ‘forget’ childhood, to forget that we don’t come out of the womb fully formed, to forget that we are as much a product of our nurture as our nature. After all, the most men aren’t responsible for it, they don’t participate in it, they don’t work at daycares, they don’t teach elementary school.

You want to create an android? An artificial life form that can think and feel, that can respond to questions, to situations, like an ordinary human being? Then create a baby android. One with the capacity to learn, to benefit from experience, to grow, to develop. In fifteen or twenty years, eureka!

Fiscal Conscription

It’s income tax time. Do you know where 9.2% of your taxes will go?

Well, let’s just say that you bought the bullets. (Out out damned spot, you say?)

Then again, $2500 (if your taxable income is about $25,000) might buy more than a few bullets. Maybe you can pay for a whole box of screws for one of our nuclear submarines. Or maybe you even can buy a bit of gas for one of those fancy helicopters.

Sure, better your money than your life, but wouldn’t neither be better still? Wouldn’t it be good if at least you had a choice about serving the military?

I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if it really were the Department of Defence. There are many arguments in favour of waging a war and, in truth, I find a few convincing; sometimes killing is the best of a bunch of really bad options.

But we live in a world in which countries routinely sell weapons to their enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Property Tax

Property tax (money one must pay to the government based on the land, and the building/s on the land, that one owns) is odd in that unlike sales tax (money one must pay to the government based on the goods and services one purchases), it is payable every year, not just once when you buy it. It is, in this respect, more like income tax, which is payable every year. But if you don’t pay your property tax, you lose your property; if you don’t pay your income tax, you don’t lose your income. (Well, you might, if you’re imprisoned, but that’s an indirect result, whereas losing one’s property for failure to pay one’s property tax is a direct result). What justifies this difference, this having to keep on paying property tax even though you own the property (that is, even though you’re not renting, not paying to use someone else’s property)?

One response may be Read the rest of this entry »

Income Tax Deductions

In Canada, if one agrees to pay someone else’s way in life, one gets to pay $7,500 less in income tax. I’m referring, of course, to the spousal deduction.

If one decides to make some people and pay their way, one gets to pay $7,500 less per person in income tax. The deduction for kids.

What’s the ethical basis for these deductions? If you’ve agreed to pay someone else’s way in life and therefore pay less income tax, who picks up the slack? Me! How is that fair?

Maybe we can answer that question if we first answer the question ‘Why are there any deductions at all?’ That is, why shouldn’t we all just pay a percentage of our total income, period?

Are the deductions corrections for other errors? University tuition is too high, so those who pay it get to deduct a certain amount on their income tax as compensation? Well, fix the high tuition! And in the case of spousal and dependent deductions, what error is being corrected?

Or are deductions a sort of social engineering? Is the spousal deduction meant to encourage men to have wives? Why? Why is it such a good thing to have, or to be, a ‘kept woman’? And is the species in danger of becoming extinct? Is that why we need to encourage people to make more people?