October 11, 2017

Resisting the Culture of Death

"Death Skull" by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, October 12, 2017

Resisting the Culture of Death

Support Bill 34

I support Manitoba's Bill 34, which provides conscience rights to healthcare professionals who refuse to kill or help kill patients.

Introduced by Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, this bill is presently making its way through the Manitoba legislature.

Why is Bill 34 important? Because medicine should care for those who suffer, not kill them.

Also, we should heed the lessons of history.

Consider this passage from Dr. Leo Alexander (1905-1985), medical advisor to the U.S. Chief of Counsel at the Nuremberg Trials, in which representative Nazis were convicted of crimes against humanity (this is from Dr. Alexander's paper "Medical Science Under Dictatorship," New England Journal of Medicine, July 4, 1949):

 "Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived."

Dr. Alexander continues: "This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans."

Dr. Alexander warns: “But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitatable sick."

I don't believe a Nazi Party is on Canada's horizon (thank goodness). But I do believe that some philosophical principles of what Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) called the “culture of death" are becoming prevalent in our society.

Medical, social, and psychological problems require medical, social, and psychological solutions—not killing.

If we're concerned about suffering patients, then we should increase the quality and availability of palliative care, not require doctors to kill.

No discrimination against pro-life Members of Parliament

I think the Liberals' blocking of pro-life MP Rachael Harder as chair of Canada's Status of Women committee is unjust.

Yes, I have pro-life biases. So don't take my word on this. Instead, consider the following extended quote from the pro-choice editors of The Globe and Mail:

“The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has sent a terrible message by blocking the election of a Conservative MP to the position of chair of the House of Commons committee on the status of women solely because of her opposition to abortion."

“Think of it this way: Were Rachael Harder, the Alberta MP in question, fired from a job in a private company, or from the public service, for the same reason, she would be the victim of a violation of her Charter rights...."

“The right to abortion is one we support, but there is a higher principle at play here—the right to hold beliefs, and to act on them legally, without interference from the government, and without being discriminated against by society."

“The Liberal government's shameful actions this week send a contrary message—that it is perfectly acceptable in Canada to discriminate against people who oppose abortion."

Some pundits defend the Liberals by arguing that a pro-life appointment to the Status of Women committee is like appointing a racist to the Human Rights Commission. But this is a faulty analogy.

Racists have no good reasons for their racism. However, pro-lifers like Harder have good reasons for their pro-life position. There is scientific evidence, e.g., biological humanity of the unborn, and moral principle, i.e., all human beings have the right to life—whether young or old, black or white.

Canada's Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that Canada's parliament should limit abortion justly, suggesting a gestational-age approach. To date, Canada's governments have failed us.

Most Canadians now favour at least some abortion restrictions: e.g., no abortion merely because baby is a girl, no late-term abortions.

Clearly, our democratic government should encourage parliamentary debate, not unjust discrimination that favours the culture of death.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence

For further reading on the issues of abortion and physician-assisted suicide (a.k.a. medical assistance in dying), please see Apologia archives for my columns on these topics.

For an insightful 3-minute video by some Manitoba healthcare professionals who favour Bill 34, please see Call for Conscience - Manitoba

September 20, 2017


By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, September 28, 2017


I just read our government's new booklet Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Students in Manitoba Schools. My verdict: It's rife with problems.

Here are four.

1. Sex is “assigned”?

The document correctly tells us “Sex refers to one's genitals and reproductive organs and other biological characteristics such as chromosome and hormone prevalence,” but it also says “These anatomical details … are generally assigned at birth.”

This is open to serious misunderstanding (especially by radical postmodern academics inclined to think language creates or distorts reality rather than accurately reflects and communicates truth).

“Assigned” suggests, mistakenly, that a nurse or doctor is the source of a newborn’s anatomical details (as, say, a math teacher assigns a value to a variable). Though the document later defines “assign” as classify, the truth (more clearly stated) is that biological facts concerning sex at birth are discerned (as real), not merely classified. 

2. Questionable claims set out as immune from criticism.

Gender is “one's internal sense of self, regardless of biology,” and “Students have the right to self-identify. Self-identification is the sole measure of a student's gender identity.” Professionals and parents “cannot change a young person's internal sense of self.”

But we should ask: Really? Isn't it true one's internal sense can be out of touch with reality—and we correct such mistakes?

Sure, we have the right to self-identify, but that doesn't mean our self-identification is always right (just as having a right to an opinion doesn't make our opinions always right).

Think of anorexia nervosa, in which one's feeling/ internal sense (of being fat) is mistaken. Feelings about one's self aren’t always true.

Surely, if a biological boy feels he is a girl or a biological girl feels she is a boy, their feeling/ internal sense is also mistaken.

In view of dangers with sex-change/ “transition” surgery—in transgender-friendly Sweden the rate of suicide for those who have sex-change surgery is 20 times greater than normal!—isn't encouraging transition to the opposite sex like offering liposuction to an anorexic?

3. The document asserts “students have the right to use the washroom that aligns with their gender identity” and then suggests students who disagree (because of religious beliefs, privacy concerns, or discomfort of having a member of the opposite biological sex in the washroom) should be “offered accommodations or alternative facilities such as access to a nearby all-gender or universal single-stall washroom, or other alternatives.”

But isn't this backwards? Shouldn't male and female washrooms (and change rooms and shower rooms) be segregated by biological sex (because of concerns about privacy and discomfort), and shouldn't those who mistakenly feel they are the opposite sex go to the nearby all-gender or universal single-stall washroom or other alternatives?

Why should the vast majority of non-transgender students participate in and affirm the delusion of a miniscule minority? This is disrespectful to all parties. (For more on the bathroom issue, see here.)

4. The document assumes that “gender transitioning” should be supported and that all is well and good with “gender diversity.” But these assumptions are dubious.

References are made to pro-transgender/ pro-gender-diversity resources. But no counter-considerations or criticisms are acknowledged.

The document appeals to the American Psychological Association for support. But is the APA trustworthy?

Former APA president Nicholas Cummings stated in 2005: “At the present time the governance of the APA is vested in an elitist group of 200 psychologists who rotate themselves in a kind of 'musical chairs' throughout all the various offices, boards, committees, and the Council of Representatives. The vast majority of the 100,000 members are essentially disenfranchised.”

Cummings adds: “special interest groups have used faulty—even false—science to promote political agendas.” This casts doubt on the APA as a credible scientific authority.

More recently, the American College of Pediatricians published the document Gender Ideology Harms Children. Clearly, all is not well with gender transitioning and gender diversity.

Space does not permit me to address other problems with Manitoba Health's new document: e.g., teachers are required to use students' preferred pronouns (does this compel teachers to speak falsely?); students can have a sex change without parental consent (huh?!); etc.

Dear parents, teachers, and school boards: Wake up. Say yes to safe schools, but no to sexual stupidity.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.

For further thought


Other Apologia columns on transgender matters

Note to critics: Please read at least a few of my (relevant) suggested readings/ viewings before commenting. Thanks.

July 23, 2017

The ineffable

By Hendrik van der Breggen
July 23, 2017

The ineffable

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed here do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

July 19, 2017

Notes from the sidewalk

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, July 20, 2017

Notes from the sidewalk

Often I walk the streets of Steinbach. Sometimes I take notes. These are from 2017.

January 28—blessed

Went for a walk today, and it was good for my soul.

(a) Dropped off some books at the library and at the front desk met a good Facebook friend whom I've never met previously in person.

Then (b) stopped at a local convenience store and purchased my favourite pipe tobacco (sometimes out of stock, but not today); purchased pipe cleaners (almost always out of stock, but not today); plus was approached at the till by an elderly gentleman who says he reads my newspaper column regularly, likes them, and clips them out to save them (I was half expecting a heated debate).

Then (c) dropped by the store that sells my restored pipes and was given some cash (nice!). On my way home (d) helped an on-foot, lost, out-of-town woman find the street on which her daughter lives (we had a nice chat in our search).

I am blessed.

May 30—tears

I walk for exercise and to keep from succumbing to depression.

On my walks I often bump into a fellow who is, so to speak, "vulnerable." He has some mental issues, wanders the streets, and usually asks me for money (which I give him in small doses). I pray for him fairly regularly, usually without much thought.

Today he ran up to me. My immediate response was to think about how much cash I had in my pocket and how much (little) to give him.

But HE took out his wallet and said, "You've given me much, so today I want to give you something." He then handed me a 20 dollar bill. I offered to give it back to him, but he refused. Then he said, shaking my hand, "I care about you."

I walked home in tears.

● June 6—saddness

In recent years I often enjoyed short visits with a 90-plus-year-old gentleman named Alex. Alex regularly read my column, and he encouraged me. I learned about Alex's rich life and quickly grew to admire him.

In one of our conversations Alex mentioned he was in the second wave of troops that hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. I asked Alex how long that was after the first wave. He said six minutes. (Yes, when I think of Alex I think of the extended battle scene at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.) It also turns out that Alex helped liberate the Netherlands, where my parents were living under Nazi occupation.

Alex Tarasenko, Sergeant Major: January 23, 1921 - December 26, 2015. I salute you. And I miss you. Rest in peace

P.S. Alex was married to Helena for 70 years. Helena passed six months after Alex. Their house has been sold and demolished.

Today I walked by the space that once was their home. The emptiness is profound, even painful. I remember them with gratitude.

June 10—fear

Sometimes on my walks I stop at our local Thrift Shop. Often when I stroll through the book section I whisper, "Please guide me." Today after I whispered that prayer, the words "Gulag Archipelago" immediately came to mind. A split second later I spotted volumes 1 and 2 of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago for $1.00 each. I purchased them.

Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago describes a society (former Soviet Union) that slipped into dealing with politically incorrect citizens by creating a far flung system of prisons and forced labour camps in which millions perished.

I wonder if we in the West are headed in this direction.

In chapter 2 of book 1, Solzhenitsyn describes the history of the prison system. These words haunt me: "[I]f people had been heroic in exercising their civil responsibilities, there would never have been any reason to write either this chapter or this whole book."

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.