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nmudiff is awesome

Man, I wish I had known about this before! nmudiff is a program to email an NMU diff to the Debian Bug Tracking System. I often make quick little changes to debian packages to fix bugs or typos, and it's always been a bit of a pain to generate a patch to send to the maintainer. nmudiff uses debdiff (another very useful command I just learned about) to generate the patch, and email it to the bug tracking system with the appropriate tags.

Kangaroo Courts in Canada

The /. crowd isn't known for its love of the political right, so I was surprised to see the reactions to this story which came up in my RSS reader over the weekend: Author Faces Canadian Tribunal For Hate Speech. The "Human Rights Commissions" here in Canada don't have a great track record in terms of treating people as innocent until proven guilty, or requiring actual evidence, or anything else that you normally expect from a system that has the power to pass legal judgement on people. The gist of the story is that a well known Canadian Author, Mark Steyn, will be put "on trial" before one of these "Human Rights Commissions" for his book, America Alone. I haven't read the book, so I won't speak to its claims or accuracy. It could certainly be considered controversial, and I'm sure many people wouldn't like what he was trying to say. What this issue is all about is a person's right to freedom of speech and our distorted notion of tolerance. Are people offended by Mark Steyn's book? Most definitely. Do people have a right to not be offended by the free speech of others? I don't think so. We (here in Canada anyway) have gone a bit overboard in our promotion of "tolerance." We've abandoned a healthy attitude of tolerating behaviour that while not illegal or immoral is somehow distasteful to us (maybe just because it's different?) and embraced tolerance as a sort of prime directive, or 0th commandment, "Thou shalt not offend thy neighbour." The trouble is, my neighbour being offended has more to do with my neighbour's values and state of mind than it does with my actions, so in the name of "tolerance", the state has begun to legislate what is and is not offensive.

Evolution or Darwinism or Dawkinsism or Creationism or whatever its called these days...

There's a great new piece up on What You Ought to Know called Darwin's Intelligent Design. I think he does a pretty good job to distinguishing between natural selection / evolution / intelligent design / creationism. He also takes a few shots at Dawkins, which is always a good thing :) It's part of their Open Your Mind week. Very good stuff, you should check it out! I've been subscribed to their RSS feed for a few weeks now, just to find out all the stuff that I ought to know. So far I've really enjoyed the videos. Keep it up guys! (Sorry, I don't know the guy's name)

Site update

I upgraded to WordPress 2.5 yesterday. Everything seems to have gone well, except I forgot to re-generate my .htaccess file, which caused all the permalinks on the site to fail, as well as the RSS feed to fail. I've also stopped showing Google ads on my site. I did this because somehow ads for abortion clinics kept popping up. Google doesn't give you that much control over what kind of advertisements are shown, and since I'm not at all comfortable with these kinds of ads, I've pulled them for now. For those "in the know", this has nothing to do with recent events :)

Please support Bill C-484

Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act is slowly making its way though the House of Commons. This is a very important bill, as it would create an additional criminal offence for somebody who attacks a pregnant woman and causes the death of the unborn child she carries. You can see how your MP voted in the second reading of this bill on March 5th here. If your MP didn't vote in favour of the bill, please write to him/her! If they did vote in favour of the bill, write to them anyway to thank them for their support. You can get the contact information for your MP here. Written letters are best, but e-mails work too.

Re: Manifestestations of a more confident atheism

Christian, Because man is a rational creature, he wants to understand the universe in which he lives. Both religion and science are ways for man to pursue this quest for truth. I don't understand how Ricky's testimony, while honest, is convincing. He doesn't give any reasons for this conversion other than the fact that his older brother asked him, "Why do you believe in God?", and he felt that neither he nor his mother had a satisfactory answer. I suppose he was saying that if his mother didn't have a satisfactory answer, then one must not exist? Nothing against his mother, but just because you can't explain something with 100% certitude doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Most scientifically-aware people would agree that the speed of light is the fastest that anything can travel in our universe, but would be hard pressed to explain why. So, I would invite you to investigate why other people have decided that atheism just doesn't make sense, and how faith and reason can and should complement one another. Religion, if true, can stand up to inquiry and criticism. Great authors and thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton have made this discovery. More recently, Jen at Et Tu? has a written a very moving story of her conversion from atheism, as well as a piece on why she believes in God in the first place. I made this discovery myself about three years ago now. Part of the reason was that I realized that the natural sciences can't explain the "why" of things. At the time I didn't think that there was necessarily a purpose to life, the universe, and everything...but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was that the scientific method worked at all? We rely on our reason, logical and mathematical principles to explain the phenomena of the world around us. But why do our reason, logic, and math have any capability to explain? Math and logic cannot be explained by science, rather, they form the foundations of science. So why are math and logic true? At the same time I was coming to the realization that there is a limit to human knowledge. I figured that since there is an infinite amount of knowledge to know (e.g. the set of transcendental numbers or the digits of pi), and since no person or group of people will ever live for an infinite amount of time, then some things will always remain outside the realm of knowable things. This meant to me that I could never disprove the existence of God...but could I prove it? This is the position of the agnostic: that we can't really know one way or another. The position of the Christian is that not only does God exist, but he wants to tell us about himself; so much so that he became one of us. I began reading more about what the Catholic Church had to say in the matter. The Church's bold claim is that it is the earthly institution that was founded by none other than God, the Creator of the universe who became man. To my surprise, I found it to be an intellectual treasure trove. The Catholic Church is, and always has been, a great defender and promoter of reason and the sciences. Nothing in Christianity is contrary to reason. At the same time, it reminds us of the limits to human knowledge, and reveals truths to us that our reason could have never reached on its own. All of this is my long-winded way of saying to you, and to all people of good will, that Christianity is not the enemy of reason, nor of science, nor of any legitimate human endeavour. It deserves a serious and honest analysis before it is discarded as logically fallacious or as merely an emotional crutch. Cheers