The next great leader

by Aaron Wherry

The Mark convenes a number of political actors and observers to discuss the best leaders of Canadian history and, amid the expected salutes to Macdonald, Pearson, Douglas and the like, pollster Frank Graves speculates on what will define the next great prime minister.

Gen X and Gen Y see little of relevance to them in the federal government. They are less interested in ethics, crime, security, and health care, and more interested in climate change and a post-carbon economy, knowledge and skills, human rights and internationalism. In order to build a federal state that is focused on both the future and the present (and less the past), our next leader should be drawn from the half of Canadians under the median age of 41…

It might also be appropriate to find someone who reflects the growing diversity of Canada, and perhaps it isn’t too much to expect that as over half of Canadians are women we might eventually get around to electing a woman PM.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada’s next great prime minister.


The next great leader

  1. Climate-change as it turns out, was the flavour of the month. As recently reported by Norman Spector, in the Globe and Mail, there was NO questions at all about climate change in question period this past week.

    He also mentioned that:

    1.Gilles Duceppe has shares of Suncor, one of the Alberta Tar Sand's biggest players, in his investment portfolio:

    2. France's national government had dropped its plans to introduce a Carbon Tax, after having taken a hit in regional elections;

    3. The NY Times announce that Cap and Trade legislation was deader than a doornail.

      • Really? I'd have put jarrid at about 19, not that it really matters at all, but fun to guess.

  2. Irrespective of whether one believes the science of climate change, doesn't it seem prudent (i.e. conservative) to address the issue of declining fossil fuel reserves and the increasing cost of accessing those reserves by reducing our dependance on them and "conserving" them?

    Is anyone seriously advocating continuing our profligate use of fossil fuels as a solution to increasing demand as China, India, and the "Third World" countries develop? I don't think "Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes" is a responsible option.

  3. I'm assuming that the touting of Rona Ambrose as the "next great Canadian Prime Minister" is entirely tongue-in-cheek. Gaaaack! I really don't think she has the skill to bring, and hold together the disparate factions of the Conservative Party. And while the University of Alberta's undergrad PoliSci program is held in relatively high esteem, the grad program…less so. Most people go to Queen's, McGill, Carleton or any number of other more solid Master's programs. Granted, she may have chosen that option in order to be closer to her family, and that's fine, but the price she pays for that decision is to be taken less seriously. She lacks gravitas.

    • Carleton ?……..Really……I`ve just never heard of someone being excluded from a top job because they lacked the Carleton gravitas.

      • I was refering to the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs more than anything else.

  4. Rona Ambrose spent time out of Canada … does that mean the HarperParty does not think she is a "real" Canadian? If they do, why is there one standard for their own (as shown a la Rahim Jaffer) (Helena Guergis) and another standard for everyone else?

    • Jaffer was let off by the judiciary. If you actually read the British North America Act, 1867 or the Constitution Act, 1982 you will understand that, aside from appointments, the judiciary is free from executive interference in all aspects of the administration of justice (especially since it's a reserve power of the provinces, not the federal government) but that never hurt a senseless Liberal talking point, did it?
      Jaffer's rights of protection against arbitrary search and seizure (under s.11 of the Charter) were violated by the arresting officer. As a result, nothing will stick beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Even if Harper wanted to get Jaffer off the hook, he couldn't. But no, let's not face reality, let's just paint the words 'hidden agenda' all over the issue and simply be done with it.

      • Nope, not what I meant. I meant the HarperParty reaction to him being let off. Quite different from others that have been let go by the "Liberal" judiciary.

        • I'm not calling the judiciary "liberal" by any means, I actually miread your statement. I thought you were calling the judiciary out, rather than the CPC. What I meant was, it's not really parliament's place to critique the judgment, except through legislation, although they're certainly free to talk about it.

          As far as the CPC's reaction, undoubtedly, any party would probably me quite mum about the issue, not wanting to draw more attention to it. Not that it's right in any way.

          Being a CPC'er myself, I'm rather embarrassed at their "outburst" problem of late, and was never a fan of Jaffer in the first place (the radio interview phony thing really turned me off the guy.)

      • Talk about reading into something from a very slanted and misconstrued angle.
        Kudos for references to the constitution! Alas – a frown for artificial relevancy!

    • Susan, have you ever heard about picking up a needle without there being a thread in it? What could one possibly sew together with that? Not much.

  5. First of all, she's a conservative. Second of all, she's from Alberta (or are they one and the same?) In any case, next?…..

    • So…what's your point?

  6. Speaking as a 26-year old, I am a member of what will probably be history's worst generation. Like our boomer parents we are entitled, yet unlike them we are unwilling to work hard. We are profoundly unrealistic thinkers, having been cushioned from the harsh realities of the world by our overprotective parents (with whom many of us still live). We have no knowledge – because we think we don't need any thanks to wikipedia. We must remain in contact with our friends through technological means at all times – a part of our constant need for stimulation. That same drive makes us scatterbrained and unfocused, while also destroying our ability to write.

    If you can say one good thing about us, it is that we are pretty nice. This is partly a function of our utter lack of experience. Unlike the cynical generation X, I suspect that my generation will try to rise to the challenges of deficits/the social security crisis, the rise of China, and global warming (I predict that these will be the most salient issues of the next 40 years or so). However, unlike the GI generation, we will fail. Why? Because we are the worst generation in history.

    If you want to know what the county should do, take polls of Gen Y'ers and do the exact opposite. Don't trust anybody under 30!

    • I think it is a little bit too soon to be making that kind of declaration.

    • "Speaking as a 26-year old…If you want to know what the county should do, take polls of Gen Y'ers and do the exact opposite. Don't trust anybody under 30!"

      So….we should do the exact opposite of what you suggest, namely we should do what you suggest. Which is to do the exact opposite of what you suggest…

      self-reference paradox

      • Maybe I'm hopelessly naive and optimistic, but I'm not prepared to write off a whole generation, or two generations, on the basis of gross generalizations, especially those promulgated by mass media. Every generation eventually identifies and promotes their leaders, who, if they are to be effective, have to consider the concerns of ALL generations. They may think and act differently, they may have different priorities, but that doesn't "necessarily" make them "bad" leaders.

    • This is interesting. This very moment has brought my two sisters and I together for having been apart for many years. We all have children of our own, most of them now within the age group you describe, and the very topic under discussion between the three of us "mothers" turn out to be about child rearing and the consequences thereof.

      We, as sisters, differ in our evaluations and sometimes it can be difficult to be frank without being hurtfull. Sometimes mothers can feel offended when being suggested to that the time for letting go (of child rearing) has reached its high point.

      Parenting! Such a hot topic amongst women, specially when being as sisters.

    • You're being too hard on your generation. It's not as if older people are profoundly realistic thinkers or exceptionally mature (I'm 49; trust me on this). And the only reason why people my age didn't spend a lot of time on Wikipedia or on social media when we were younger was because they didn't exist. (Hey, when I was growing up, we didn't even have banking machines, fer crissakes.)

      For what it's worth, I tend to think that history will judge my generation more harshly than yours. For example, it was my generation that was responsible for steep increases in tuition fees that make it harder for people your age to get a start in life (without incurring enormous student debts). And it's people my age who will clog up the economy by all getting old all at once.

    • Somehow I think I'm the only person who actually understood this post.

      For clarity, hosertohoosier was not bashing Gen Y, he was bashing the boomers. Remember who said "don't trust anyone over 30?" Well, their tune has changed seeing as they're all in their 50s and 60s now.

      He (or she?) painted with broad strokes, because that's what THEY do. Many of those things about Gen Y are true, however, the articulate way that s/he presented this shows that a 26 year old can form a sentence with full words, spelled and punctuated correctly.

      S/he used humour and sarcasm so gently that most of you missed it entirely. It's kind of sad in a way.

      Yes, Gen Y, go get 'em. I'm trying to ditch my Gen X cynicism here… you better capitalize on it before it comes back.

  7. "…we might eventually get around to electing a woman PM."

    We don't elect our prime ministers. At least none of us outside the party leader's riding, eh? Or so I learned studying for my citizenship test. Too bad when a national pollster perpetuates the misunderstanding. Harper would approve.

    • Yeah, I find that constant perpetuation of that particular misunderstanding very frustrating as well. Now, what is the likelihood that the CPC will actually elect a woman leader? Kim Campbell was a bust, although to be fair her timing couldn't have been worse. Belinda Stronach also didn't get very far in her attempt to lead the old Progressive Conservatives…

    • Except that studies have shown at about 45% of the people primarily cast their vote because of the Leader, 45% because of the Party and 10% due to the local candidate. So in local contests, Canadians do in practice vote for the Leader and a Party that they want to win a majority.

      • uhmm, George would that not mean they intend to elect the leader? or that they condition their consideration of the local candidates with their sentiments regarding their respective leader? both of these are different than actually electing the leader.

        regardless of intention we do not elect our PM.

        • Yes, most are intending to elect the Party or Leader. Some will hold their nose to support the general direction of the Party and a few will vote strategically. I voted ND once in Ottawa Center (Broadbent) since it was a battle between the Libs and the ND. Reducing the number of seats the Libs had was the best I could do. It was Party and Leader I was voting for.

          Now I live in a riding that is Conservative or Liberal. I'll vote Conservative no matter what with the current leader. I work long hours during the campaign and put in time in between elections mostly because of the local candidate. If I heavily disliked the Leader but supported the Party and liked the local candidate I would still vote Party. If I felt I couldn't support the Leader and the local candidate, then I would vote for someone else but not Lib, NDP or Green since I could not support their Leader or Party.

          • great. but none of that counters Jody's point: whatever you reason you use to determine which tick box you ultimately select you aren't actually directly electing the PM.

      • Yes, and then they get local representation that they complain about! Those "studies" may be correct, but if they are, this electoral behavior may well be BECAUSE of the mythology that we vote for the PM. This has increased the effective power of the PMO to the level that it is now, which few people seem to be actually happy about.

        If people actually voted for the best local representation, and then HELD THEIR MPS ACCOUNTABLE (!), that would go a long way towards reducing the power of the PMO. If wishes were horses….

        Living in Alberta, and tending centre-left, (somewhere between the NDP and Liberals), I do take party into consideration, but generally vote for whom I consider the best candidate. If the NDP put up an 18 year old "throw-away" candidate, they don't get my vote (I don't have anything against 18 year olds, but it's difficult to see how one could bring a lot of life experience to bear on decision making for everyone).

        • Well the National media can't focus on 308 ridings so they focus on the leader almost exclusively during a writ period. Prior to the election they on the party and leader and MP in major positions. Being national they have to.

          We have had a House where a group of individuals debate issues. We have always had a strong Party system. Way back when the British a had a more free House, the parties developed a stronger role as they did a better job than a group of unfocused individuals.

  8. Great leadership doesn't concern itself with being genderly pre-occupied; nor does great leadership concern itself whether ideas are coming coming out of left or right corners; great leadership concerns itself solely with great ideas coming to fruition.

    And what are great ideas about? Throughout history, it has been proven that when the interchange between the theoretical and the practical side of things are freely allowed for battling it out, when our intellect and our hands are as fighting tools in equal measure, great ideas will surface by inevitability.

  9. Brad Wall, given a few more years,
    looks like he is PM material.

  10. What is so persuasive about Frank Graves's opinion?

    When they start talking about Gen X and Gen Y, I tune out. Those things mean everything and nothing.

  11. I'm still trying to figure out how a woman, any woman, can be a Conservative at all, let alone a Conservative PM. As the CPC seems to like to refer to women's groups as "left wing fringe groups" – does having a female leader not change their dot on the political spectrum because of it? Isn't this a paradox, or somewhat like a oxymoron?

  12. Other than the part about Christianity being poisonous, I thought this was great. (As an aside, you'll note that Christianity acts as an antidote to the notion that cause and effect are unrelated…it emphasized nothing if not personal responsibility)

    I'd change the last line too: this generation aren't rebels at all. It's a generation that insists on perfect conformance to the feel-good image of rebellion.

    • As an aside, you'll note that all religions declare that faith is a legitimate source for claims about reality, and unreality.

      • Yes, a declaration that can be entirely irrational if it is understood to mean "I believe this therefore it is true" or entirely rational if it is understood in the traditional Christian sense.

          • Ok Russell, I think it goes like this:

            "Premise 1: Statement X comes from Source A.
            Premise 2: Every statement from Source A is reliable.
            Conclusion: Therefore statement X is reliable."

            Like every syllogism, it relies on the truth of the premises.

          • You've lost me. Is Source A the Bible?

          • No, Source A would be God.

            I can see the root of the misunderstanding though – there is a variant of Christianity that has sprung up in the last 400 years whose followers often claim that "the Bible is true" is known a priori. That, of course, is irrational.

  13. We're currently living in an age of "triumphant capitalism", which brooks no dissent, which accepts few limitations. But many reasonable people see that horrible things have been done in the name of capital accumulation (enclosure of the commons, slavery, etc.) and are still being done, and they recognize that reasonable limits should be placed on it. For example, for a long time environmental costs like the degradation of air and water have been viewed as "externalities" by capitalists, but the real costs of of these degradations have been borne by everyone. So it seems reasonable to place limits, or attach costs, to private interests' exploitation of common goods, EVEN if it means by doing so we limit the provision of some other public benefit.

    • I do not view "externalising" as capitalistic, I actually think it's a euphemism for "socialising".

  14. I COULD discuss (at length) the ways in which the current model of capitalism varies from the theoretical models of free enterprise (concentration of wealth, dominance of markets by conglomerates or monopolies, globalization), but I'm sure you're aware of that already. So I'll just say that the PRACTICE of modern capitalism is as far from the THEORY of capitalism as the PRACTICE of communism was from ITS theoretical underpinnings.

    Having grown up exposed to various different cultures (mostly Western European and North American), I have learned that different societies place different importance on various values…and still function effectively in their own way! For example, in North America, individual home ownership is highly valued; it's less important (or even practically achievable) in Western Europe; many people rent their accomodations for their entire lives. That's not necessarily "better" or "worse", it's just the outcome of historical accomodations made between people within the context of their respective societies. It's "functional" to the individual society.

  15. Which is a long-winded way of saying that yes, values ARE relative; relative to the functioning of a particular society in a particular time in a particular place in its development. With the explosion of mass media and mass communication since Gutenberg (and now, especially with the development of the internet), "your" generation…and mine as well… have become increasingly aware of this. Often, people look at the outcome of adopting certain values(within a particular "other" society) and think that adopting those values within their own societies will lead to similar outcomes. "That ain't necessarily so…", but you can't blame people for thinking it is, especially if they're ignoring the historical context. And that goes for capitalism, and any other "ism", too.

    • I am not blaming people for looking at outcomes or otherwise analysing other societies / values and trying to figure out how, and if, that data could be used to improve "our" society. This would be rational.

      What I am blaming people for is — what I perceive, at least — a belief that western civilisation, and particularly capitalism, is inherently evil (this might mean unjust, exploitative, materialistic, individualistic, vain, etc.). From this, they conclude that any society that is different is not evil, and, thus, good. No critical analysis is applied to the "other" society, it is good because it is not "ours". I think this is superlatively irrational.

  16. It is, in my view, perfectly acceptable to impose reasonable moral limitations on behaviour within one's own society, as long as those limitations are functional and necessary to that society. We can fairly debate about what constitutes "reasonable" (for example, in North America, female circumcision shouldn't be acceptable, but wearing the hajib "may" be). Therefore, I don't think that "acceptance of one and all" is the prevailing moral code. I think openness to doing things differently, in a fashion still functional to our society's values, IS a worthwhile value. But we DON'T accept things like chopping off the hands of thieves, the stoning of adulterers, "honour" killings as functional to OUR society.

  17. Your suggestion that we think "other" is a synonym for "better" betrays a certain amount of defensiveness regarding challenges to the status quo in our society. Again, I don't think any "reasonable" person sees it that way. Instead, we observe how other societies and people function (too often in an ahistorical manner, as I've suggested above), and determine which of those societies' values MAY also be functional to our own. Again, a valid and useful arena for debate…which we, in our society, value, right? Should we stand pat, in your opinion? Should we cling to practices and processes that are no longer functional (or even just optimal) to our society, or should we consider other ones, even from other cultures, that may IMPROVE how our society functions?

  18. Although I have frequently defered to the concept of "the reasonable" man/woman, I'm very cognizant that "reason" is, to a certain extent, culturally determined. It seems a little inconsistant for you to first champion "reason" as the "sinful and depraved" influence (ironically, I'm assuming) of capitalist society and then, in the very next paragraph, champion western civilization's religions which are patently NOT based on "reason"! Surely "faith" and "reason" are antithetical to each other? Doesn't it seem to you that this oppostion is an ongoing point of contention within our society, a conflict that has led to gross excesses on BOTH sides of this equation? To be sure, some good has come from it as well (I refer you to Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" for a foundational explanation of how reason and faith can, and often do, support each other), but doesn't it seem obvious that if people are questioning the economic structure of our western civilization, it is entirely consistant for them to also question the spiritual underpinnings?

    • I do not think reason is sinful and depraved, I was trying to adopt the tone of the people whom I'm describing — perhaps I should have italicised. What I was attempting to convey in that paragraph was an attitude that, at least I perceive, to be prevalent among people my age (born in the early eighties) that thinks capitalist countries lack sufficient mysticism and spirituality (I wish they lacked more!). I view reason and faith (mysticism and spirituality included) as opposites (yes, antithetical), so I am inferring that the people whom I'm describing are contemptuous of capitalist countries because they have, in some way, too much reason.

      I have not read anything by Weber, although I have listened to a few (forgotten) lectures about him. The book sounds interesting and I will try to read it.

      To the last question, questioning is always good.

  19. And then, after defending western civilization's religions as not necessarily "inferior", you describe it as "poison"! Talk about confusing! I don't have much time for most organized religion because it imposes a hierarchy of status and power and demands obeidiance even in the face of mounting documented EVIDENCE that the status and power are often abused. And there are enough hierarchies of status and power that I already have to contend with; why would I accept another if I don't want to?

  20. On the other hand, I see a functional (to societies generally) aspect of religion that need not be undervalued. Most societies' religions have proscripts against say, murder, or adultery, that help maintain civil order to varying degrees. NOT that they're entirely effective, or consistantly observed, but they do establish an adherence to a "civil" code based on a higher individual and collective good…or God. This is actually quite useful in societies where the civil authority may be questionable, or corrupt, or even just obviously humanly imperfect. Spirtuality of various kinds may also provide meaning to those who might otherwise fundamentally question the point of their existance, conclude that they have nothing to lose, and act in distinctly "anti-social" ways. Do you really see a value in taking that away from people, no matter what the label? Do you think that it would really benefit capital interests (since that seems to be your priority) if garment workers in the Phillipines and elsewhere DIDN'T have the comfort and meaning their religions provided them?

  21. Our society's questioning of the values of the "mundane pursuit(s) as to how to maximise production and accumulation of wealth" is not due to that pursuit in and of itself, but rather to how that wealth is distributed, which, I think you'll agree, is the basis of politics itself. I have NO problem with some people gaining more from their own industry and application of available resources (some of which is available only due to an accident of fortuitous birth), the question for me is the responsible use of wealth. When wealth is concentrated in the hands of a very few people and organizations, as it is in today's economic system, it is too often used in a frivolous and self-indulgent manner that not only does not benefit society generally, but actually undermines the values underpinning the society. When people at the "bottom" of our economic structure are working very hard yet not acheiving any kind of economic stability because their relative "powerlessness" makes them exploitable by those at the "top", one can understand why their adherence to the status quo is somewhat tenuous, to say the least.

  22. If those at the "top" redistributed the wealth they've "earned" through their organization of labour and capital on things like better wages or working conditions, rather than on, say, $5,000.- Cartier watches, gambling excursions to Montenegro, multiple houses that remain mostly vacant, and other overly ostentatious ("in your face, suckers! I'm rich!) frivolities, I dare say social order would be easier to maintain. The fact that they don't actually do that consistantly justifies "taxation as redistribution of wealth", and then the germaine question becomes "How MUCH is ENOUGH?" to accomodate actual needs and reasonable "wants".

  23. There's really no point in trumpeting the virtues of capitalist accumulation as a GENERAL societal value if it is self-evident that the overwhelming majority of the benefits of that accrual fall to a very select FEW. Of COURSE people are going to question that value, and those at the "top" of our economic system have brought it upon themselves through the profligate, ostentatious, frivolous, and WASTEFUL deployment of wealth, the accumulation of which is dependant, to a large extent, on the provision of infrastructure (education, transportation, security, etc.) by the ENTIRE society.

  24. You're a little inconsistant, also, with respect to your position regarding "life-coaches" vis-a-vis "reason". I don't particularly subscribe to inherent advantages of one or the other colour of shirt to wear to a job interview; I would like to think (somewhat naively I concede), that my own abilities and skills will overcome whatever disadvantage I may suffer if I just wear a clean white shirt. However, the notion that people respond better to various stimuli, like colour, is not something just pulled out of someone's ass, but subsequent to actual research, using reason! I agree that some self-styled "life-coaches" may be charlatans, and they may be using their knowledge inappropriately and inflating the impact of what colour shirt one wears to a job interview, but that's a judgement that those who employ them have to make for themselves, I would think. Caveat Emptor, and all that!

  25. The same goes for the "teachings" of "The Secret" and "The Alchemist". They're not new ideas, they're old ideas packaged for today's consumer, just as "The Power of Positive Thinking", or "How to win Friends and Influence People", or any number of "self-help" books were packaged for the contempransous consumer. If one focuses on a particular goal, or envisions a particular outcome, there IS sufficent evidence(gained through…wait for it…reason!) that there will be a greater likelihood that one will acheive that goal or enjoy that outcome. I agree that "wishing" it isn't enough, but "focusing" on it to the point that all one's decisions are informed by that focus, MAY be more effective than NOT focusing…with the qualifier that there are a whole lot of other factors, some beyond our immediate control, that also have an effect on acheiving our goals, etc. In any case, it doesn't hurt; it may not HELP as much as its proponents suggest, but it's not entirely useless, either.

  26. I don't know anyone who "shuns" money; we all need it as a medium of exchange, unless we are in the position to directly barter our skills, labour and possessions for things and services we need to survive. And we need "enough" money to survive reasonably and ensure some stability in our futures. How much is "enough"? Well, that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? It's probably a lot less than most people think, but more than some "free-market" capitalists seem to concede.

  27. We bemoan the "excesses" of capitalism, not necessarily capitalism itself. As I said at the onset, our current version of capitalism betrays its own virtues in its excesses, and brings the system into considerable disrepute. Similarly, with respect to "western" medicine, we're suitably and appropriately skeptical of its claims, especially when it seems that the cures are worse than the disease (think of all those American commercials for prescription drugs that qualify themselves with myriad "possible side effects" that seem worse than the ailment they're addressing!). We question the value of extending life as a quantity while ignoring its quality. We question the priorities of modern medicine when we see money and research put into technologies and processes that addresse relatively minor ailments or the simple effects of aging (tummy tucks and facelifts? Botox? ) while millions have no or little access to basic medical needs. We question modern medicine because its priorities seem to be askew, especially in "for profit" regimes like multinational pharmaceutical companies that won't license generic and affordable options that will benefit many, many, more people.

    • "As I said at the onset, our current version of capitalism betrays its own virtues in its excesses, and brings the system into considerable disrepute"

      Our CURRENT version of capitalism? That is confusing. Perhaps you mean that capitalism as term, as such, pure and all, does have its inherent problems regardless of era.

      Capitalism betrays its own virtues in its excesses, and brings the system into considerable disrepute, but not because of specific "times" attached to it. Capitalism betrays its own virtues in its excesses because at some point within capitalism, the meaning of money takes on another form. Where such turning point takes place is difficult to indicate, yet the turning point itself changes the meaning and workings of the term 'capitalism".

      • I always interpret "our current version of capitalism" to mean capitalism watered-down to the point where it has lost all of its flavour.

        • It has lost something along the way, that's for sure!

          I followed your conversation with party of one, and I think I understood what you were trying to say, that indeed so many people are two-faced about the meaning of capitalism. But then so many people are two-faced about so many things these days. Somehow, as if the human mind is capable of keeping things separated from the self, within! I don't believe people do this on purpose, but are in fact not aware of doing this separated disconnect within. That is truly amazing: evolution happening before our eyes!

  28. In both the cases of capitalism and modern medicine, there's an element of "The Emperor has no clothes". We've been oversold on the virtues of both, but, thanks to modern communication and education, we know better than the extravagant claims made by proponents of both. And similarly, we know that while both have their virtues, it's reasonable to limit their excesses, and ensure that the benefits of those systems are appropriately distributed.

    So there's some of the causes of "your" generation's (and mine, and everybody's, I think!) ambiguity with respect to modern life. I really appreciated your post, as it was provocative (of this response, at least!), and provided me with the incentive to explore some of the claims you made. Sorry about the length, but lots of issues demand more than the flip response often prevalent on blogs. I even signed up for IntenseDebate so I could write at length about this! Damn, that didn't work! Maybe I should start my own blog…Thanks for posting!

  29. On the surface of it, that's a pretty interesting post. But dig a little deeper, look at the underlying causes of "your" generation's ambiguity towards the status quo, and one might understand it better. I mean, since you think "your" generation has taken a hacksaw to the connection between cause and effect, it may be useful to examine that connection, no?____I don't know anyone who seriously (or whom I can take seriously!) thinks the most vile words in the English language are "business", "profits", or "capitalism". However, I know many who thinks that there are other important values that can and should be considered BESIDES the virtues of capitalism, and that the worst excesses of capitalist development should be tempered by those values. ____

  30. And there are many other "values" (moral, economic, or otherwise) that are held in varying degrees of importance in other societies. I think it is a mistake to try to apply moral and economic values from one society to others, even if it is blindingly obvious (to those from the society wishing to do that) that those values would materially or spiritually benefit the other society; the varying historical patterns of economic and societal development means that sometimes you CAN'T get "there" from "here", at least without a wholesale upheaval of the society, to the point that the "cure" for that societies problems may be worse than the "disease". I think the current situation in Afghanistan demonstrates that clearly.

  31. Are you telling me that faith is legitimate because God says it is?

    • No. I may be dim but even I can see obvious circularities.

      Taking something on faith just means believing because the source is taken to be reliable even though we haven't verified the statement ourselves. We all do this every day – we could not function if we had to empirically verify everything we believe.

      If the source of information is thought to be a being that can neither deceive nor be deceived (and yes, that assessment would have to come from external empirical evidence and the deductions derived thereof) then it is reasonable to believe whatever statements come from that source. In fact it would be irrational not to.

      The challenge is to establish (a) whether such a source exists, and (b) whether any statements have been imparted to us from that source. These are the two premises above. They have to be established from empirical evidence, but once established it is only reasonable to put faith in the conclusion.

      • To summarise, faith is rational once you have proved that God "exists"?

        • Just proving that God exists isn't good enough. God could exist but not interact with humans, in which case no faith (at least, with respect to God) is necessary. In order for faith to make sense, one also has to have reason to think (either with certainty or at the very least "likelihood") that God has revealed something. Then it makes sense to believe that "something" by faith.

          • So, faith is legitimate once you have proved that God exists* and proved that he(?) interferes in the affairs of men. It seems to me that one would have no need for faith if all of that has been proved.

            *Can God exist? Surely, existence means to be real, ie. within reality. If existence can be claimed of "things" that are not real, can anything not exist?

          • "It seems to me that one would have no need for faith if all of that has been proved. "

            Note: it just has to be "likely" or even "reasonable", not "proved" for faith to be "reasonable".

            Anyway, faith would still be necessary just as it is in any other case where one accepts knowledge without individual verification. I know that there are people who claim to have been to Hawaii, and I put faith in their claims that Hawaii exists even though I've never seen it because I don't think they'd all lie or be deceived about this. So my faith in Hawaii is reasonable. Likewise for statements which one attributes to a divine entity – if that attribution is correct then it's perfectly reasonable to put faith in said statements no matter how unverifiable they are.

          • Anyway, faith would still be necessary just as it is in any other case where one accepts knowledge without individual verification.

            There is an immense difference between what is verifiable and what is not. Accepting claims from another individual about reality is very different than accepting claims abut unreality, if they are both faith, they are not nearly to the same degree. To say that faith in Hawaii is equivalent to faith in Heaven (for example) is absurd.

            If I claim that your twin brother exists, how will you prove me wrong? If your definition of existence applies to things that are not part of reality, like "God", then there is no criteria by which any "thing" cannot exist.

          • "Faith", as I understand it, it just the decision to believe something one hasn't personally verified. I'm not saying faith in Hawaii is equivalent to faith in heaven, but they are certainly both examples of "faith" for someone who has seen neither.

            " If your definition of existence applies to things that are not part of reality, like "God"…

            My definition of existence doesn't apply to "things that are not part of reality". If something isn't part of reality then it doesn't exist outside of our imagination. I'm not sure why you keep insisting that God falls into this category, unless you know of some inherent contradiction in the notion "God" that makes such a notion a physical impossibility.

          • So, to be clear, "God" is something that I could find, see, and touch, if I knew where to look?

          • Quite possibly yes, but I'm not seeing how that's relevant unless you think that something has to be visible and touchable in order to be physically real… is that your position?

          • Yes. Something, to be real, must be matter.

          • For one thing, not all matter can be touched or seen. Some is just inferred from its effects: quarks, for example. Dark matter, for another example. Any material thing outside our light cone. The sensations of touch and sight themselves, etc. You'd say these examples aren't real?

            Also there are many non-material things that I'd call real: truth, for example. Distance, for another. Time. Irrational numbers. Probability. The laws of physics. Language. Forces. Kindness.


  32. Seriously.

    Truth does not exist (is not real), it is just a logical construct that applies to our statements about reality. Distance, time, probability, physics, etc. — these are descriptions of reality, they are not real things.

    • The senses of sight and tough can't be seen or touched. Are they not real? If not, why would things you perceive with them be considered any more real?

      • I feel I do not have a good enough background in the science to give you a good answer. I don't really know what an electron is. I have looked it up on Wikipedia and it says that the "electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton", does this not mean that it is a physical thing?

        • So far as I know it is indeed a physical thing, but you can't touch or see it. All you can do is infer it from its effects (i.e. measure its effects, and then infer its existence). Does that mean it isn't real?

          • If it has a mass and takes up space (however tiny), it is real.

          • This is a different criterion: instead of "something I can find, see, and touch" it's anything that has mass and occupies space.

            Also, it sounds like we agree that something's existence can be inferred even if we can't observe it directly.

            As an aside, I commend you on your patience and intellectual honesty in these discussions – this is very rare in my experience.

            Ok, one more example for you: light. It occupies no space and has no mass. Is it real?

          • I can't say much on the light as waves / particles topic, but light has speed, and can be interfered with (ex. shuttering the windows will keep light out) — so, what exactly it is, I'm not sure, but I think it is something (ie. real).

            Also, I'm not sure that I'm changing the criteria. You are saying that I am swapping "something that I can find" for "something that has mass". Mass is a property (among others) by which a thing is to be found.

          • Mass is not something we can see or touch – that was my point.

            Light has no mass, nor does it occupy space as evidenced by the fact that it goes through other things and even through other light without being disturbed. So now we have something with neither mass, nor occupancy of space which is nonetheless real.

            Reality involves more than things with mass and things which we can directly sense.

          • It will obviously be impossible to prove the non-existence of God if "his" existence is defined as such that proof is inapplicable to. Your twin brother might exist similarly.

            I do not mean to say that only things we can see and touch are real. Seeing and touching are two ways we can gather physical evidence — evidence of existence — but not the only ways.

            Admittedly, I do not know enough about the science to argue about things like radiation. I would love to know more about physics, and would equally love to devote time to learning it, but it is unlikely I will have the time to do so in the near future (I still haven't got to the Nicomachean Ethics).

            However, I do feel it is illogical to posit that anything can exist without physical evidence (although, this is not to say that things cannot exist in such a way that a human is unable to gather the evidence, but, it seems to me, in this case, "things" should be considered non-existent until proven otherwise).

            I am not sure if you are telling me that God's existence has physical evidence (I keep using "physical evidence", though it seems to me to be redundant), or if God's existence does not require physical evidence to be known.

          • Fitting debate during Easter time.

            Could the sentence: "Noli me tangere" reveal something of significance?

          • It could, if I knew what it meant.

          • It would be possible to prove God's non-existence if God is the sort of thing that can't possibly exist, as mentioned above. But not if God is something that could exist but doesn't: true. I thought you were arguing the former.

            In that case one has to admit the possibility that God could exist and leave it, as you say, to the physical evidence.

            I'd point out, though, that "physical evidence" doesn't have to mean "I can touch or see God" (although that may well be true too). It is sufficient if we can infer the existence of God from His effects, just as we do with electrons.

            From this I think it follows that faith is not necessarily unreasonable – our original point of contention. If God can exist then it is not unreasonable for someone to think that He does exist….and if they think this (based on evidence) then it's also not unreasonable to trust the things they think He has said.

            In my opinion there is plenty of such evidence; in fact I would say it is either certain or at least highly likely that God exists – that however is a different debate.

          • Could you explain to me the inferring of existence from effects. I'm having difficulty conceptualising it.

          • You have a balloon. Over time it gets smaller. You infer the existence of a hole in the balloon.

          • Sorry, I had forgotten about this debate.

            My point about God's (non-)existence is this: if God created the world — ie, created existence — then he must have not existed prior to the creation, or else he created himself.

            (I know the concept of before existence is rife with contradictions, but this is an inevitability when using reality-bound language to describe the reality of unreal things.)

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