Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 7
April 1998

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....

Nostalgia's not what it used to be. The same could be said of facts. Perhaps it's time to demote some of our facts. Click here to read "Raw Facts and Wilted Knowledge: An Essay in Practical Epistemology."

Today people outdo one another in their outrage over sexual harassment. Is there still room to raise critical questions? Click here to read "Hot-Button Ethics: Reflections on Harassment, Imposition and Autonomy."

Will the new presentation technologies change the way we teach? Click here to read "He Who Has an Ear: Reflections on Lecturing to the Impaired."

Catch up on events at Redeemer College. Click here to read "End-of-Term Report: Winter Term 1997-98."


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. If I inform you of a website, I will simply pass on the address. But for the most part I will comment here on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

Not scientifically proven .... One of the points I try to get across in my Introduction to Philosophy course is that non-empirical considerations play quite a role in reaching scientific conclusions. Political factors -- and even economic ones -- sometimes play more of a role in science that idealistic young students seem able to accept. The difficulty with making such a point is that it needs illustration in the form of actual stories. Such stories would take time to tell, and time is in short supply in any survey course. Moreover, the stories would sound petty in certain cases. Are they worth telling, even if they are true?

Just recently I read a book that nicely brings out some of these points, but it's too long to assign to students. The book is And the Waters Turned to Blood: The Ultimate Biological Threat, by Rodney Barker (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997). The book tells a pollution-and-biohazard story about rivers and coastal waters in North Carolina. The environmental tale told in the book is fascinating, but also discouraging, especially when it goes into the politics and economics of science. Government does not get high marks either. People on the public payroll who are supposed to protect the environment and take action in the face of hazards often seem intent on doing nothing. Their reason? It's not scientifically proven that ....

Beyond valentines. When Quebec was holding its latest referendum on "sovereignty" back in 1995, the rest of Canada watched in worried silence. But after a while we began to hear that we needed to send valentines to the French Canadians in Quebec -- to tell them that we love them and want them to stay in Canada. This process culminated in the famous unity rally in Montreal just before the vote.

The initial hesitance to get involved was rooted in a policy of politeness toward Quebec. Most federalists in other provinces seemed to think that it was best not to get Quebec riled up. "Let's not talk about it" was also the unofficial policy of the federal government, in which there was heavy Quebec representation. Whatever you do, don't offend the separatists or give Lucien Bouchard another chance to talk about how Quebec has been "humiliated."

That policy, buttressed by a last-minute flurry of valentines, managed to win the referendum -- but just barely. It has been succeeded by a policy of tough talk by federalists. Even the federal government got into the act.

A fascinating example of the new approach to the question of unity is Lawrence Martin's book The Antagonist: Lucien Bouchard and the Politics of Delusion (Toronto: Viking, 1997). This is a book well worth reading, and it has many folks in Quebec hopping mad. It presents Bouchard as a man of "successive sincerities" (Adrienne Clarkson's phrase, see p. 117) who has often switched political allegiance and direction and is therefore not to be trusted. Some critics have even pointed to parallels with Hitler (see pp. 243ff). The old policy of politeness seems to have evaporated. Lucien Bouchard has the right to get hot under the collar -- how about you?

General information

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material. Please regard the materials in Myodicy as copyrighted by me, except in the case of articles written by someone else. What is written in Myodicy should not be regarded as reflecting any official position or policy of Redeemer College.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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