Tiktaalik Has Arrived!

The Canadian Mint’s latest in its Prehistoric Creatures series, arrived in the mail today.  As you may already have read here, the latest coin is of Tiktaalik, the late Devonian fish that represents the evolutionary transition from fish to amphibians (take that creationists!) with its arm-like fins that include a shoulder, elbow and wrist quite like a crocodile. You can read more general information about Tiktaalik on Wikipedia, learn more detials about how Tiktaalik’s structure supported tetrapod-like locomotion in the recently released paper or read an easier to understand synopsis of the new findings in Greg Mayer’s post on Why Evolution is True. If you don’t already know, on April 9, PBS will be airing a three-part series based on Neil Shubin’s (Tiktaalik’s discoverer) book Your Inner Fish. Currently Canadians aren’t able to see the streamed previews on PBS.org but I’m sure we’ll be able to watch on TV when the series comes out!

In the meantime, here is my Tiktaalik coin (not glowing & glowing as a skeleton), more fabulous work by Julius Csotonyi!

Diana's Tiktaalik Coin

Diana’s Tiktaalik Coin

Diana's Glowing Tiktaalik Coin

Diana’s Glowing Tiktaalik Coin 



CFI Canada has introduced a new feature on its website: CFI Discourse

CFIDiscourse provides a forum for discussion of topics and issues related to CFI Canada’s mandate to promote science, reason, and secular values.

The first contribution to the discourse is from Jon Morrison, Associate Director of Apologetics Canada. It’s great that Canada has an apologetics organization because religion has a lot to apologize for.

Let’s start with Morrison’s title: “A Christian in Favour of Atheist Billboards.”   It’s so exciting to see a Christian approve of atheist billboards. Don’t you feel all warm and fizzy inside? Do you really care that a “Christian man” is “in favour of the campaign.” Probably not, but Morrison has a point:

What is most real about this world? Does prayer do anything? Most people are too busy to stop and think about it. I think a billboard would shake us all up a bit and get us talking.

So let’s get talking! Read Morrison’s contribution and leave a comment:

This discussion forum is open to everyone!

Hearings on Bill 60: The Quebec Charter

On Thursday, February 13th 2014, David Rand and Jacques Savard, representatives of the association Atheist Freethinkers appeared before public hearings of the Commission des institutions of the Quebec National Assembly, on the subject of draft Bill 60 entitled “Charter affirming the values of secularism and religious neutrality of the state and equality between women and men and governing accommodation requests.”

The video is in French; however, David Rand has provided an English translation of the presentation. The AFT position is very clear:

We, Atheist Freethinkers support the proposed Bill 60, but not without some reservations. We commend the government for having the courage to propose quasi-constitutional legislation which declares that public institutions must be religiously neutral, thus taking a major step in Quebec’s long process of secularization which began more than half a century ago.

During his presentation Rand discussed some of the “shortcomings” of the bill and proposed some additions:

we propose that a new Article 1, officially proclaiming state secularism, be added to Bill 60 just before the existing article 1:


1. Declaration, definition and principles of secularism and neutrality

  • The Quebec state is secular in order to protect the independence of political and administrative functions of the state from the influence of religious beliefs and institutions.

  • The Quebec state is neutral with regard to the various religious beliefs and institutions, in order to respect everyone’s freedom of conscience, which it has a duty to protect.

  • Neutrality in matters of religion requires that the state abstain from granting privileges to any religious belief or organisation in any way. This obligation of neutrality also applies to organisations and agents of the state.

At the end of his presentation, Rand spoke on behalf of unbelievers:

At no point does legislation define freedom of conscience. Neither does it state explicitly that this freedom may take the form, among others, of freedom of apostasy, the freedom to change one’s religion and the freedom to be an atheist. Explicit mention in law of apostasy is particularly important because several religions punish it severely, even going so far as the death penalty.


Accordingly, we strongly recommend the explicit inclusion of freedom of unbelief and freedom of apostasy in legislation. . . . We also ask that these freedoms be formally and explicitly enshrined in Article 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in order to protect unbelievers and apostates against the discrimination of which they are too often the targets.

Bravo David Rand and AFT!

“Homophobia on the Syllabus”

G. Elijah Dann shared a link on the Canadian Atheist Facebook page to his Huffington Post article, “Trinity Western University Put[s] Homophobia on the Syllabus.”

Dann starts by discussing Bill Maher’s comment on Real Time with Bill Maher:

“There are 80 countries with anti-gay laws punishable by death in about 10 Muslim countries. India, not a Muslim country … just passed a harsh anti-gay law.” Maher summed it up: “This is something the world has a long way to go to get over.”

Dann “realized Maher could’ve added one more country to the list where the ‘getting over it’ has some way to go: Canada” because “negative attitudes towards homosexuality are emanating from a Christian institution: Trinity Western University.”

The article Dann references is almost a year old and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada “granted TWU preliminary approval of its proposed law school program” in December 2013.  However, for Dann

The most interesting part of TWU’s covenant, however, is the voluntary, obligatory commitment to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” [Emphasis Dann]

Dann treats us to a “Spoiler Alert” about “marriage throughout time” and talks about the kind of religious discourse and political language and “the absence of details” in the discussion about TWU and its covenant that would make George Orwell grimace.

For Dann, “the language of morality” is “shameful”:

Especially in Canada. And abundantly so for a law school bristling to be taken seriously.

Members of UBC law school, lawyers and legal experts in Nova Scotia and the Faculty Council at Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) agree.

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