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Topic: Privacy – A Thing Of The Past?

Posted by on 17September,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments


    The Humanist Café

Wednesday, September 20, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Privacy – A Thing Of The Past?

Moderator: John Pope

Believe it or not, Canadian citizens do not have a specific right to privacy.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not specifically mention privacy or the protection of personal information. However, it does afford protection under Section 7 (the right to life, liberty and the security of the person), and Section 8 (the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure).

Americans have the Fourth Amendment which states “…The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…”

After 9-11, security concerns led to increased mass surveillance.  This has increased over the years with new surveillance and internet technologies.

Canada cooperates with the US.  Data about you are being collected and stored by the US government through the “Five Eyes” spying and intelligence-sharing agreements between the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. These programs spy on most of the world’s digital communications.

“PRISM is a code name for a program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects internet communications from at least nine major US internet companies.”  -Wikipedia.  Read more:

How does this affect the average Canadian?

“Every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write, site you visit… is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.”  -Edward Snowden, CITIZENFOUR.  Read more:

“Government use of surveillance devices must be restricted: privacy experts”  Read more:

The report mentioned in the above article:


Why are many Canadians unconcerned about electronic surveillance and information gathering by government?

Are the services and conveniences provided by our electronic devices more important than our need for privacy?

How dependent are we on these devices?  How dependent is our society?  Would chaos erupt if they were all turned off at once?

Can we ever retrieve lost privacy once all of our data has been liberated?

[Your question here]

See you there!  Bring your critical thinking cap.





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Mass Media, Propaganda, & Democracy

Posted by on 11August,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments


The Humanist Café

Wednesday, August 16, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Mass Media, Propaganda, & Democracy


Presenter:  Alan Danesh

Political Scientist and Jurist

Moderator: John Pope


Most people are easy prey for propaganda because of their firm but entirely erroneous conviction that it is composed only of lies and “tall stories” and that, conversely, what is true cannot be propaganda. But modern propaganda has mostly disdained the ridiculous lies of past and outmoded forms of propaganda.

It operates instead with many different kinds of truth, half-truth, limited truth, truth out of context. However in recent decades certain leading states have resorted to pure lies in preparation for their foreign aggression, which has led to these states and their leaders being totally discredited later on when the lies have become known world-wide.

Contrary to what most people believe, the chief aim of propaganda is not to change opinion but to intensify existing trends towards conformity, and, above all, to lead its intended audience to action.

Mass propaganda is only possible in technological societies, as Jacques Ellul has shown in his monumental work Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s attitudes.

Central in Ellul’s thesis, is that modern propaganda cannot work without “education”; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda.

On the contrary, he says, education, or what usually goes by that word in the modern world, is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda. the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as “facts” and as “education.”

The mainstream mass media, which are readily digested by the “educated” classes, but to which the illiterate peasants of the old are immune, are today the main vehicle of propaganda for engineering public opinion, or what Professor Chomsky calls “manufacturing consent.” The uniformity of perspective, seen in every direction, makes it impossible for the “submerged” media-audiences to see or imagine an alternative reality, just as the bottom-living fish of the oceans cannot perceive the lands that harbor the diversity of life known to us.


To access Ellul’s two major works:


To access Noam Chomsky’s work: Media Control


Erin Steuter and Deborah Wills:

At War with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror


Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder:

How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda


Douglas Kellner:

Spectacle and Media Propaganda in the War on Iraq


Paul Craig Roberts:

The Reign of Propaganda


Questions for discussion:


Are Western democracies “spectator democracies”?

Could democracy survive without well-informed citizens?

Is democracy an impossibility in the age of mass propaganda?

Is it possible, or ethical, to counter propaganda with propaganda?

What avenues must we choose to bring about “participatory democracy”?

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Islamophobia, Democracy, Misinformation, and Human Rights

Posted by on 29July,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments


The Humanist Cafe

   Wednesday, August 2, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
     James Bay New Horizons
     234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Islamophobia, Democracy, Misinformation, and Human Rights

Presenter – Dr. Barrie Webster

moderator – John Pope

Populist thinking and the conventional news media would have us believe that much of what is wrong with the world today is the fault of someone other than ourselves. Currently, Muslims and Islam are a good example of this ‘other’.

Interpretation of thorny human rights issues (e.g., the case of Omar Khadr), bring this to the fore. Crawford Killan, retired professor from Capilano College penned the following opinion piece:

And Vancouver secularist, Ben Feral Selinger, ardently agrees. “Do you believe that you, as a Canadian, have the right to be presumed innocent, until proven guilty, as well as the right to a fair and quick trial?”

Hatred for Muslims is also a convenient rallying tool for those on the far right

And the trend towards normalizing this sort of thinking and the push to convert western civilization to accept a right-wing libertarian life-stance is backed by enormously powerful and well-heeled forces.

Misinforming the Majority is a deliberate strategy of right-wing Libertarians, such as the Southern economist, James McGill Buchanan (who won a Nobel Prize in economic sciences), and Charles Koch, who financed him.

The interview with Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains, discusses Buchanan’s thesis.

Do we value democracy? How many of us have relatives who have fought in various ways to defend it? What is the extent of the influence of our economic system? The following example is drawn for the UK:

And the following interview with Noam Chomsky is instructive:

Questions to Ponder

Can we be critical of religious dogma such as that found in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and at the same time find the strength to resist the drive to harness the hatred fomented in the name of secularism to further the aims of the far-right?

Could someone please explain the previous question?

Is not extremism, whether religious, secular, or political, anathema to Humanism?

What about far left extremism?  What does that look like?

Islamophobia is defined fundamentally as ‘the fear of Islam’, but it is more commonly used to mean ‘hatred toward Muslims and Islam’.  Does hatred always stem from fear?

See you there!  Bring a theist.

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Population and The Environment – The Under-Reported Relationship

Posted by on 17July,2017 in General | 0 comments

The Humanist Cafe

Wednesday, July 19, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Population and The Environment – The Under-Reported Relationship

moderator: John Pope

The environment and population increase have both been major Humanist Cafe discussion topics.  This time, we can discuss the media role in framing the problem and the ‘experts’ role in suggestion solutions.

Here is a recent article which will serve as the basis for our discussion:

“What’s the single best decision you can make if you want to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) being released into the atmosphere?

That’s the question UBC researcher Seth Wynes and his co-author Kimberly Nicholas set out to answer in a new paper published this week.

Their answer? Have fewer children.”

To many people, including Humanists, these numbers do not seem surprising at all.  What is surprising is the fact that this kind of research has gone under-reported for years, and population increases as the major contributing factor are taken for granted.

Because of increasing global droughts and floods, the lack of access to fresh water has been becoming a very serious issue around the world.  And yet rarely is population increase mentioned as a direct cause of the problem.  The following Population Institute of Canada explains:

“Nunavut’s population is growing faster than any other province or territory in Canada; its capital city is now home to 7,740 residents, an increase of 15.5% since 2011.

But while the CBC article mentions a growing population as a contributing factor to the possible water shortage, there’s no suggestion of population stabilization as part of the solution.”

Here is more information on water scarcity:

Here’s an article which is an example of how the solution proposed does not address the most serious cause of the problem.  A researcher proposes solutions:

“The challenge now is to rapidly adapt farming to climate change with modern varieties and feed a fast-growing global population…”

No mention of family planning here – just attempts to increase production and supply.

“We have to gear up for more challenging agro-ecological conditions, we need to be able to use swampy areas and develop varieties that can be grown in salty or flooded areas.”


Is homo sapiens the only animal species that will have bred itself out of existence by soiling its own nest?

Why are there so few articles by environmentalists about how population increase is a major contributing cause of climate change?

Does anybody seriously expect national leaders around the world to consider addressing this problem?

What role does religion play in the lack of coverage of this issue?

Will homo stupidous ever learn to control and balance its global population?

See you there.  Bring a friend or 2.


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The End Of Petrol In 8 Years – Really?

Posted by on 1July,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments

The Humanist Cafe

Wednesday, July 5, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: The End Of Petrol In 8 Years – Really?

moderator – John Pope

Let’s exercise our critical thinking skills in our usual open discussion format by examining the claims in the article attached.

The article begins with this:

“No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.

This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba, founder of technology consultants RethinkX . His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.”

The article “The end of petrol and diesel cars? All vehicles will be electric by 2025, says expert”  -The Telegraph, UK appears here, but requires a sign in and download which I have done for you in the attachment.

Questions for discussion:

What claims in Seba’s report are questionable?  Why?

If this prediction is of such great importance (to “greens”), why has the dominant media ignored it?

Is this just another example of futurology at work?

...and if Seba is right:

  1. What lifestyle, economic, and social changes will these changes in energy procurement create?
  2. Will world co2 emissions be reduced?  Will this this actually slow global warming?
  3. Will these evs be affordable?  Wouldn’t it be cheaper for people to just drive their old gas engine dinosaur until it dies?
  4. Where will the energy to fuel millions of evs come from?
  5. [Your question here]

See you there!  Bring someone new.

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Dystopian Societies From Fiction To Reality

Posted by on 18June,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments

The Humanist Cafe

Wednesday, June 21, 7:00 to 8:30 pm

James Bay New Horizons

234 Menzies St., James Bay

Topic: Dystopian Societies From Fiction To Reality

Presenter: Michael Rae

Moderator: John Pope
You have all probably heard of Thomas Moore’s novel Utopia.  Dystopia is the opposite, or not a Utopia, and sometimes such works are referred to as Apocalyptic.

Dystopian books and movies have been around for a long time, some of the most notable ones were  in the early 1900’s,  i.e. Metropolis by German film director Fritz Lang and British writers  H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley.  These could all be considered science fiction but Orson Welles scared many Americans into believing that Martians had invaded Earth by broadcasting a reality type version of Welles ‘War of the Worlds’.  Two of the more  recent Dystopian works, “Blade Runner and The Hunger Games, seem closer to reality than to SF and contain many of the same settings, i.e. totalitarian states run by an ultra rich 1% elite with the rest of the population virtually enslaved.

Now Dystopian works are flourishing propelled by climate change , refugees, populism and the rise of proto-fascist regimes.

Hanna Arendt in her tomb on Totalitarianism makes one think of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany and what Naomi Klein refers to as “Shock Doctrine”. This also mirrors in many ways what is happening in the US as Trump disrupts all political discourse with a constant Twitter feed of distracting comments that allow his smarter cabinet members to put in place policies that further their capitalist aims at the expense of the rest of the population.

As Arendt explains, this creates a mass following of people who want to believe what they hear because they have given up hope of any alternative and have lost faith in the cant of established politicians. We see the effects of this in France, the UK and many other European countries. There is hope in Macron‘s victory in France and the surge of Corbyn in the UK, but right wing successes in Europe move it closer to authoritarian regimes and the danger displayed in many dystopian works.

Questions for discussion:

Who has seen these movies or read the books they are based on?

What other dystopian works have had a big impression on you?

Do you think we are living in a dystopian world or just about to?

If we do not pay attention to the artists who foresee the consequences of our actions who do we turn to?

Can scientists warn us as powerfully as art?
See you there!  Bring a friend or two.

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Binary Thinking – Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, Skepticism, and Religion

Posted by on 3June,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments

Binary Thinking –

Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, Skepticism, and Religion


Introduced by Barrie Webster

Moderated by John Pope

Is being a Humanist a simple yes/no proposition?

What is Binary Thinking?

“Some religious theists have a binary (“black and white”) approach to various aspects of life and the universe.”  Do some atheists, Humanists, and Skeptics also tend in this direction?

“There is an appealing simplicity about “true and false” and this characteristic makes Boolean algebra so useful in computer engineering where you can work in “on and off” rather than exact variable voltages.”

Is There an Alternative?  The False Dilemma.

Binary Thinking vs. Directional Thinking

“We are often forced into binary thinking when we participate in groups like CFI, for instance.”

“You’re either with us or with the child pornographers.” (Vic Toews, Minister of Justice in the Harper government; now Court of Queen’s Bench, Manitoba).

“If you want to talk about what I don’t believe, then I am an atheist.  If you want to talk about what I do believe, I’m a Humanist.”  (Pat Morrow, Manitoba Humanist, September 2011)

“You don’t need Religion to have morals.  If you can’t determine right from wrong, then you lack empathy, not religion.”   (Anonymous – quoted by many)

Binary thinking comes naturally to all of us.  It is commonly used in newspaper reporting, in judging the actions of others, and in neatly pigeon-holing people so they can easily be condemned for their professed beliefs.  It is exploited shamelessly by political parties during election campaigns to condemn opponents – identifying the most effective binary choice is often key to winning.  And the advertising industry loves it to create images favouring specific consumer products.

How often do you experience binary thinking?

Do you as a Humanist habitually use binary thinking?


Discussion begins 7 pm Wednesday, June 7





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The New B.C. Family Law

Posted by on 13May,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments

The Humanist Cafe

Wednesday, May 17, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
     James Bay New Horizons
     234 Menzies Street James Bay

The New B.C. Family Law

Presenter: Alan Danesh

Moderator: John Pope

On November 23, 2011, the BC Legislature gave the third and final reading to Bill 16, the new Family Law Act and it received Royal Assent on November 24.  All provisions of the new Family Law came fully into force on March 18, 2013. It replaces the Family Relations Act that was enacted in British Columbia in 1979.

The Family Relations Act and similar family laws enacted in other Provinces have been unjust to the point of criminality. These laws have caused millions of acrimonious separations and divorces throughout the past three decades, prevented vast numbers of people from marrying or living in common law relationships, broken up marriages, and have led to the suicide or murder of many men and the murder of many more women. As predicted by the far-sighted editors of the Vancouver Sun at the time, they have led to mercenary love affairs and marriages and have poisoned the relationship between women and men. Far from creating equality, such laws have hardened the class structure of the society by preventing many people from living with or marrying someone poorer than themselves.

To see the full text of the new B.C. Family Law access the following link:





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Neoliberalism – a Pervasive Framework. How might it be affecting Mental Health and Suicide?

Posted by on 6May,2017 in Humanist Cafe | 0 comments


The Humanist Cafe

Wednesday, May 3, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
     James Bay New Horizons
     234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Neoliberalism – a Pervasive Framework. How might it be affecting Mental Health and Suicide?

Presenter: Dr. Barrie Webster
Moderator: John Pope


What is Neoliberalism? Where did it come from? Here is a good place to start:


First, there was liberalism: as we move from the political right to the political left, we have classical liberalism, economic liberalism, liberal egalitarianism, and modern liberalism. Not to mention libertarianism further to the right. Neoliberalism is not simply liberalism reborn. It is more like classical liberalism. Many agree that neoliberalism is “the dominant ideology shaping our world today”.


Neo-liberalism is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Associated with neo-liberalism is the tendency for the rich to grow richer and the poor to grow poorer. Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The challenges facing capitalism over the last 25 years, particularly its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it ‘neo’ or new. Hence,neoliberalism.


The important tenets of neoliberalism include such statements as “The Market” is a better processor of information than the state; “politics operates as if it were a market”; “corporations can do no wrong”; “competition always prevails”; the state should be “degovernmentalized” through “privatization of education, health, science and even portions of the military”; a good way to initiate privatization is to redefine property rights; “the nation­state should be subject to discipline and limitation through international initiatives”; “the Market . . . can always provide solutions to problems seemingly caused by markets in the first place”; “there is no such thing as a ‘public good’”; “freedom” means economic freedom within the Market (from Mirowski, 2011).


What do we mean by a neoliberal society? see “The Neoliberal Theory of Society”


Adam Smith’s ideal society was one of isolated individuals, each pursuing his own self- interest. As Margaret Thatcher notoriously proclaimed: ‘there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families’. Smith’s ‘romantic’ critics argued that this model ignores the most distinctive characteristics of human society – morality, religion, art and culture – that provide higher values than the individual and elevate humanity above the animal condition of seeking immediate gratification.

Experience showed that the benefits of free trade flowed overwhelmingly to the more economically advanced and/or politically powerful parties. Free trade brought prosperity to the most advanced producers, but it imposed destitution on those who were unable to compete, provoking periodic crises in which less advanced producers were bankrupted, masses of people were thrown out of work, and the trade of whole nations came to a standstill. Small producers saw the source of their difficulties in the power of the bankers, who denied them access to the credit they needed to sustain themselves, while capitalists of less advanced countries sought tariff protection for their national industries. For the liberal political economists, of course, periodic crises and bankruptcy were part of the healthy operation of the market, the stick that accompanied the carrots offered to the more enterprising producers. To them, the market was not just an economic, but also a moral force, penalizing the idle and incompetent and rewarding the enterprising and hard-working, for the greater good of society as a whole.

It is argued that the evils associated with capitalism cannot be directly ascribed to capitalism itself, but represent the failures of those who are unwilling or unable to live up to its standards. Liberalism is, therefore, not so much the science of capitalism as its theology. God cannot be blamed if sinners find themselves in hell; the way to avoid hell is to live a virtuous life. [How do Humanists relate to this argument?]

Neoliberalism represents a reassertion of the fundamental beliefs of the liberal political economy that was the dominant political ideology of the nineteenth century, above all in Britain and the United States. The arguments of political economy were based on intuition and assertion rather than on rigorous analysis, but their strength rested on their ideological appeal rather than on their analytical rigour.

Neoliberalism owes its strength to its ideological appeal, but neoliberalism is not merely an ideology; it purports to rest on the scientific foundations of modern liberal economics. Modern neoliberal economics is no less dogmatic than its nineteenth century predecessor in resting on a set of simplistic assertions about the character of the market and the behaviour of market actors.

The point for neoliberalism is not to make a model that is more adequate to the real world, but to make the real world more adequate to its model. This is not merely an intellectual fantasy, it is a very real political project, to realize which neoliberalism has conquered the commanding heights of global intellectual, political and economic power, all of which are mobilized to realize the neoliberal project of subjecting the whole world’s population to the judgement and morality of capital.


What is the Effect of Neoliberalism on mental health and suicide rates?

If you are short of time, make sure you read this reference and its attendant sources of information. It clearly states the nature of the problem being addressed in this Cafe.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report showing rates of depression increased 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. Depression is now estimated to afflict over 300 million people worldwide. Further, approximately 800,000 people commit suicide each year. According to the WHO, poverty and unemployment are leading causes.


WHO highlights poverty and unemployment as leading causes of depression, yet suggests exercise, school-based prevention programs, therapy and medication to solve it. If poverty and unemployment are major causes of depression, shouldn’t our remedies address economic drivers of poverty and unemployment, rather than narrowly focusing on school programs and exercise? Is expanding mental illness solely a health issue, or is it also a foreseeable response to expanding economic stress?

Neoliberalism advocates “freeing” the market from government constraints through tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, reduced government spending for social services and reduced protections for workers. Resulting economic growth is supposed to ensure that benefits “trickle down”

bringing everyone increased prosperity and the freedom to purchase whatever social services they desire. Except decades of robust data prove neoliberalism is not all it’s cracked up to be, even by economic standards. The IMF itself — a major proponent of the ideology — states neoliberalism has been oversold because it exacerbates inequality and unemployment.

That leaves the distinct impression that a causative association between neoliberalism and depression leading to suicide is a credible hypothesis.


Suicide – prevalence: epidemic?


There are multiple causes of suicide, but depression appears to be a major cause. Depression is being experienced not only by those demoralized by military experience but also by those affected by economic deprivation.



Global threats, from extremism to mental illness to humanitarian emergencies, can only be addressed if we take seriously the economic systems that foster them.



Mirowski, P, SCIENCE-MART: Privatizing American Science (2011) as reviewed in American Scientist, April 24, 2017 by Sheldon Krimsky.


See you there!  Bring a friend.  Donations accepted.


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