The sound of science
For the most part, I can live with what the federal Conservative government is doing, policy-wise, but I can’t abide how they’re doing it. The suppression of scientific research that conflicts with Conservative political goals (“When science goes silent,” National, May 13) is just one pillar in the regime that Stephen Harper is building, working alongside the proroguing of Parliament, pre-emptive personal attacks on opponents (“Trudeau’s other opponent,” National, April 29), and the suppression of his own backbenchers (“A House divided,” National, April 22). Clearly, there is an overarching strategy to suppress or discredit any voice that challenges the government’s agenda. I don’t care whether you’re left wing, right wing, or smack dab in the middle, Harper is killing our democracy.
Jeff Wilson, Melancthon, Ont.
Stephen Harper is fond of bragging about how he looks after the best interests of the taxpayer. Since I am paying the salaries of the federal scientists and paying for their research, should that not confer to me some form of ownership over their results? Should I not be entitled to see and hear the results of their research, since that is my right as a taxpayer? And who better to explain their research results—and consequences of that research on Canadian society—than those same scientists, not some PMO media handler? I thought it was my government. I paid for it!
Jeff Bondett, Havelock, Ont.
“When science goes silent” is more of a battle cry for the enlightened, progressive left to help free public servants to muse freely about their personal views on global warming and solicit a blank cheque from the taxpayer for pet projects. Harper is indeed taking a very different approach. I’d call it responsible government.
I.C. Giles, Toronto
I worked for Environment Canada during the 1980s. In 1989, I took a phone call from the Globe and Mail, asking about the environment minister’s comment in the House of Commons regarding pollution in the St. Clair River. I answered honestly with information that was readily available to all involved in the federal Great Lakes program, including the fact that Canada had disposed of billions of litres of toxic phenols in wells along the river. It seems the minister hadn’t done his homework. My phone was physically removed from my office; all my calls were directed to an “information” officer; all requests for interviews from media were immediately rejected; and the minister stood up in the House and disowned me. This approach under Brian Mulroney’s government to controlling science for political “gain” was new to Canada at that time, but was common in the U.S., as demonstrated by Ronald Reagan’s war on acid-rain science, for instance. It seems our Conservatives have finally caught up to Reagan and Bush.
Daryl Cowell, Tobermory, Ont.
As a retired information officer with the former research branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, I witnessed attitudes and strategies by our elected officials to control and manipulate what scientists told the popular media. From Pierre Trudeau’s information department of the 1980s, where all media interviews were directed, to the current controlling policy of the Prime Minister’s Office, preventing Canada’s best and brightest scientists from telling their stories is wrong. Government policy-makers have always had a necessary role in educating scientists and their supporting staff—indeed, all public servants—about the right way to converse with the media. But that doesn’t include restricting scientists’ and media’s access to each other. Controlling, and especially denying, such connections is wrong.
Mel Reimer, Morden, Man.
Heaven can wait
Isn’t it ironic that the same issue with an article about Harper’s government muzzling scientists has a cover story discussing the most unscientific of all questions, i.e. heaven and the afterlife (“The heaven boom,” Society, May 13)? The kind of facts that Brian Bethune’s story contained might be very well used to prove that if people behave nicely and follow orders, they have a good chance of being entertained by a large army of virgins waiting.
Arben Kallamata, Mississauga, Ont.
Your article contained a lot of vague ramblings about the types of hallucinations common while hypoxic, but not a shred of evidence. Did you realize that about half a million people die every day, so the entrance to heaven is like the customs line at Pearson International Airport after a thousand 747s have landed at once. Do we get an interview with God? And what are we going to be doing for eternity? I like boating and woodwork, and flying, so I am hoping this will be offered. If not, I am not sure I want to go. Can you opt out? Are we just to talk among ourselves? I do not want to go, at least not unless I can see some kind of brochure first.
John Cocker, Stouffville, Ont.
We must be careful how we interpret near-death experiences. Death is a process and dying does not occur in all parts of the body at once. The heart may stop, breathing may cease, but the brain may continue to function for a time after clinical death. Moreover, not all parts of the brain may die at the same time. If more highly evolved brain centres die sooner than more primitive parts, perhaps we may experience long-buried thoughts and images. It is possible that we may even be able to share the experiences of other beings when our mental processes are released from the burden of higher intellectual thought. Might we then possess the sixth sense that we attribute to some animals? Perhaps heaven lies not only about us, but also within us.
Herbert Johnson, Kitchener, Ont.
One phrase that stuck out in your afterlife article was the “utter lack of judgment” several people felt during their near-death experience. Does this mean that many people’s belief in an afterlife requires an element of justice for an afterlife to make sense (think of Romans 12:19, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”)? How would this change attitudes toward religion if the afterlife does not fit the relevant tenets of the religion?
Adrian Stonell, Oakville, Ont.
Thanks for a balanced, well-written article on the existence of heaven. Of course heaven exists! Just look at the evidence! A neurosurgeon feels it must be true after having experienced a low-flow state and knocked off a few neurons. Sure, some people call that “hypoxic brain damage,” but let’s stick with “spiritual awakening.” Of course, if he’d dreamt about being a chili-dog on Mars, we’d have to go with the hypoxic thing. Hold it: I just heard hoofbeats outside my window. It must be zebras! Because I want it to be.
Bruce Campana, Sooke, B.C.
The closing phrase of Brian Bethune’s fascinating article, “many believers confidently expect that God isn’t judgmental either,” is quite in line with the scriptural “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Therefore, as we all travel the same route with the same terminus, why fret about whether or not we experience anoxia during the dying process, too much carbon dioxide in the blood, REM intrusion, or whatever? It’s all gonna be good!
Frank DeVries, Abbotsford, B.C.
On their own
In “Helping themselves,” (International, May 13), writer Adnan R. Khan asks which side to send money to in the Syrian war, and calls it a tough decision. Actually, it’s an easy one. Don’t send my tax dollars to anyone. Let the Syrians sort this out themselves.
Gerald Allgaier, Kamloops, B.C.
Why are U.S. Republicans (mostly) crying foul over the creation and tactics of Organizing for Action (“Obama’s own tea party,” International, May 13)? For years now, haven’t they enjoyed the support of their own OFA? It goes by the name of the National Rifle Association.
Calvin Collier, St. Alban’s, N.L.
A few cents
The devastating garment-factory tragedy in Bangladesh should be a wake-up call to us all (“What does that $14 shirt really cost?” Business, May 13). While I appreciate Loblaw chairman Galen Weston’s promise to compensate the victims’ families, more has to be done to raise the wages of garment-factory workers. If we consumers insist on the lowest cost possible for clothing, we are part of the problem. Retailers are also contributing to the problem with their high profit margins. How about we share the cost of increasing the workers’ wages? I’ll pay a few cents more for the shirt, and would ask retailers to increase their costs slightly as well. That way, we can both be part of the solution.
Linda Pisco, Thunder Bay, Ont.
Global firms arranging their affairs to record profits in lower tax jurisdictions is tax avoidance, not tax evasion (“Nowhere to hide,” Business, May 13). Every taxpayer has the right, enshrined in law and court rulings, to organize their affairs to pay the least amount of money possible in taxes. By calling the use of transfer pricing “evasion,” the article implies that transfer pricing is illegal—when, properly done, it is not.
J.L.D. Woodruff, Toronto
I have earned three world-class degrees at Canadian universities. Those degrees, opportunities provided by our government and the support of our trade commissioners, helped my business be successful internationally. And, of course, that education and support were paid for in part by taxes. With international success came opportunities to hide income overseas, but we didn’t. To me, that would be theft, plain and simple. I do hope the Canada Revenue Agency will nail those who are, in effect, stealing from the rest of us.
Bob Ryerson, President, Kim Geomatics Corporation, Manotick, Ont.
This is how it goes down
Anne Kingston’s reference to Latin verb declensions (“A full-blown Latin revival,” Help, May 13) betrays confusion about the distinction between the inflected forms of nouns and verbs. Even after more than 50 years, I’ve not forgotten that nouns have cases and are declined whereas verbs have tenses and are conjugated. The most important legacy of having studied Latin is a sensitivity to grammar and the belief that the distinction between who and whom, and lie and lay still matters.
John Coenraads, Victoria
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