, 11.03.2017 08:35 AM

Making fun of people who you think are beneath you

One night, we were gathered around the kitchen table in Calgary, me and my pals were, and my Dad was listening to us. The conversation turned to astrology. I started making fun of people who believed in it. 

“What a bunch of idiots,” I said. “They actually believe their personalities can be determined by the position of stars jillions of miles away. Morons.”

My chums joined in. Soon, we were loudly making fun of psychics, homeopathic medicine and the religious, too. 

My Dad, who was a scientist, spoke up. “Gentlemen,” he said, in that quiet way he had, “there is nothing more cruel than mocking others for their harmless personal beliefs.”

And that stopped us cold. 

Anyway. We have a new Governor-General, and she is a scientist too. In recent days, she got together with some fellow scientists and mocked people who believe in God, homeopathy and astrology. 

Here’s direct quotes of what she said:

“Can you believe that still today…we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.

…[or that] taking a sugar pill will cure cancer if you will it good enough and that your future and every single one of the people here’s personalities can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations.”

According to the CBC, here, the folks there all had a good laugh. They thought people who believe those things are idiots, too, and  are therefore worthy of ridicule. Ho, ho. 

But, you know, they’re not. And, just for the record, I’ve always thought astrology was kooky and that holistic medicine was goofy, too. I’ve always lacked proof that God, you know, exists. 


Since that long-ago day my Dad taught us a lesson, I’ve religiously believed this: if a person believes something imaginary is real, and they’re not hurting anyone else, they should be left alone. If someone thinks they’re a “Leo” (as I apparently am), who fucking cares? Would it kill anyone to let them keep believing that?

People get through tough times by believing in imaginary things. For example, can you believe there is actually someone in Canada  who believes her title is “Her Excellency, the Right Honourable, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M, C.D.”? Can you believe that this unelected person believes she is the “vice-regal” emissary of a family in Britain who are “royal” because God personally chose them?

Ho, ho. Can you believe that? Don’t you want to mock a person who believes that? 

Personally, I don’t intend to. If she wants to believe in harmless fictions, let her.


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    Eric Weiss says:

    I have no problem with peoples beliefs, superstitions or conspiracy theories as long as they’re not used a basis for public policy or their beliefs harm others. Astrology, people who believe in homeopathy and your average religious person are for the most part harmless. If those beliefs comfort them and make Help them be better people, great.

    But anti-vaxxers and evangelicals who voted Trump because they think their imaginary friend wants To use him as the conduit to push their agenda of religious bigotry, aren’t harmless and need to be fought against and mocked.

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      Pam says:

      Or fanatics who rent Home Depot trucks and now do people in bike lanes all of whom back the liberals and the democrats…

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    P. Brenn says:

    Hi Warren …you are bang on here …I find it very disrespectful of her….looking for laughs at expense of others – lots of folks have fun with horoscopes, beleive that hot soup cures colds etc etc. No need to belittle them from her perch..I think unfortunately the gifts of intelligence etc that she got has gone to her head …too bad she could add much

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    Paul Schratz says:

    Well said.

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    lou says:

    Well said. Her comments show exactly why the Dauphin thinks she is a perfect choice. Arrogance oozes from her. Is this no better than the deplorable comment?
    FYI, read book. Superb. Mandatory reading for McGill students.

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      BlueGritr says:

      Getting the sense that this GG craves the limelight. That’s the sole domain of our PM, not GG.

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    albertaD says:

    Is religion harmless? Hmm. I’d say no.

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    billg says:

    Going to cut her some slack on this one and wait for the apology, but, jeez louise there seems to be a lot of apology’s for arrogant and entitled remarks lately.
    On another subject, as I get older I’m constantly torn between believing in opposite magical imaginary events, God creating man, or, two molecules appearing out of no where colliding in an empty space that for some reason was there and then creating suns and planets.
    I’m not a religious person, but I defy someone to explain how one theory isn’t as far fetched as the other.

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    Allan Rewak says:

    well said. We need to be kinder and more respectful to each other.

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    Aurelia says:

    Interesting—news organizations didn’t mention that she had ridiculed citizens. That is totally different than discussing science and standing up for it.
    Ridicule in and of itself is harmful to people. It’s bullying, it’s embarassing, and it doesn’t win anyone over to your side.

    Homeopathy has harmed people when it’s being substituted for real medicine. But again, no one will end homeopathy by bullying the users.

    I’m sure someone will pop up and say religion has harmed people–although I would argue that the true harm comes from power hungry creeps who use religion as a cover to harm others.

    I’m a strong believer in science and evidence, and a lover of the morning comics, of both non-fiction and fiction, and science fiction. But damn the day someone bullies someone else is the day I stop believing in them.

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    BillBC says:

    good for you. I imagine that she’ll be more careful in the future, unless she’s a fool, which I doubt she is.

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    Luke says:

    I don’t think she made fun of God believers. Just those with literal interpretations of origins of life and the universe. Seems an important distinction.

    Also, these kinds of beliefs are not always harmless. She is right to slam climate change deniers. They are a significant problem. And those who would wish their personal beliefs in God and creationism replace scientific consensus on matters of life, Earth, and universe origins in educational curricula are worth voicing concerns about. Finally, the homeopathy types can indeed cause harm if their views become misconstrued as factually relevant and inform the public’s medical decision making.

    Anyway, I completely agree wth your Dad’s point, as long as the harmlessness criterion is met. It is why it pains me to hear those militant atheists being all holier than thou to anyone within earshot. I’m an atheist, but that shouldn’t and doesn’t make it acceptable to go around dumping on religious people. So I don’t.

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      Pam says:

      Science is NEVER settled. I have worked in medicine for 30 years what was set in stone when I started is sometimes now considered dangerous. Climate science is based on flawed computer models THAT HAVE NOT GIVEN ACCURATE PREDICTIONS! So you claiming to believe science and then saying it’s settled marks you as a climate cultist much like people who believe vacinnes are bad despite evidence they aren’t. Maybe you too should check your arrogance at the door

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        David says:

        We had a model back in 1967 that was pretty primitive, but got the climate sensitivity fairly close to right: https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/03/15/the-first-climate-model-turns-50-and-predicted-global-warming-almost-perfectly/#451b13cf6614

        From the article: “What we’ve seen from the pre-industrial revolution until today matches that extremely well. We haven’t doubled CO2, but we have increased it by about 50%. Temperatures, going back to the first measurements of accurate global temperatures in the 1880s, have increased by nearly (but not quite) 1 °C.”

        Current models have fairly similar climate sensitivity. We have a lot of different modeling centers now, with different assumptions, different small-scale models, different parameterizations and initializations — and they all produce broadly similar results. Is this a conspiracy, or is this consensus around verifiable results?

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        doconnor says:

        I guess in these 30 years of medicine you never gave anyone any treatments because the science on thier effectiveness is NEVER settled.

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        Luke says:

        Did you notice how you wrote a sneering, snide, and condescending rebuttal just to call me arrogant? I did.

        You are doing a poor job of knowing what you don’t know. You are not a climate scientist. You are not a scientist in he planetary sciences of any kind. I suspect you don’t know anything more than I do about climate science and climate modelling. And because I don’t know a great deal about climate science, and I know this about myself, I am not going to engage in a silly argument over your all-caps premise that an entire discipline of competent scientists is worth discrediting because you report unspecific predictive modelling failures and bear a general disdain for science because of advances in medical science over decades. Neither party is well informed enough to have any credibility on the matter.

        Essentially the entire community of atmospheric scientists agrees that climate change is a thing that is real, and has been nudged forcefully ahead by human activities. The former is just a matter of factual measurements, whereas the latter derives from interpretation of many factors both human and otherwise. There is no credible reason for a person to have an under-informed opinion to the contrary. People are wise to know what they don’t know, but many of us have no idea. My own opinions on many things change as I learn, because the more I learn the more I realize how little I know. And so I use what I do understand and the conclusions of a large swath of researchers to derive a reasonable opinion on the topic of climate change.

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    doconnor says:

    There are people here who make fun of the people who have faith in Trump. I guess it is a matter of the degree of lack of evidence.

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    mike says:

    belief is not benign
    it is your basic program rejecting all new information
    if you choose to believe in errant unprovable crap
    you become immune to logic and science
    think of how many blind alleys we are currently going down
    because those with control reject the facts due to their beliefs
    tho it can be said
    that greed and self interest will also have you tend towards a belief in the face of facts
    i may not have learned many lessons over the years
    but to not attempt to come to reasonable conclusions with believers is one

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    Matt says:

    Not only we Payette’s comments wrong, Trudeau and Environment Minister McKenna’s shameless praise of her comments were also very wrong.

    Trudeau’s praise was doubly hypocritical as he claims the be a practicing Catholic, routinely attends religious ceremonies for other faiths, and has said in the past he partakes in the holistic “medical” practice of “cupping”. Not to mention the OCED said just this week the Trudeau Liberals have been all talk and no action on reducing carbon emissions while the US who pulled out of the Paris accord are actually reducing emissions

    Had she said we must continue to do everything we can to combat climate change, perfectly fine. But that isn’t what she said. Payette has turned the GG’s office into a political wing of the governing Liberals.

    And hey, would Ms. Payette care to tell us the carbon footprint of the two space shuttle launches that took her into space? Would she have the guts to walk into an Assembly of First Nations meeting and say what she did about beliefs?

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      Matt says:

      Correction – OECD

      Here’s the link to the story:


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      Tim Sullivan says:

      They were neither wrong nor incorrect.

      You may argue that they were not apropos, they may have been inappropriate, but wrong from a moral sense, they were not. Truth is not wrong, by definition. Nor were they incorrect. If or anyone of a different view, go an publish your scientific, peer-reviewed paper and show they were incorrect. The current science consensus is on her side.

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    Steve T says:

    Agreed, and I find this so unfortunate. I was optimistic about Payette; she seems very bright, and I’ve always put astronauts on a pedestal in general. But, as others have noted, it seems she may suffer from the sneering attitude that affects some others in the current government.

    On a semi-related matter, I was glad to see the Supreme Court’s decision this week regarding the ski resort and indigenous “spirit land”. As the SCC noted, protecting freedom of religion doesn’t mean an absolute protection on every manifestation or idol that the religion believes in. It’s the same basic reasoning why we made gay marriage legal. Just because something offends a particular religion doesn’t mean we ban it for everyone.

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    james says:

    I don’t think you’re quite on the money here. Calling out pseudo science needs to be more aggressive in stamping it out. I say this as Dogan who makes mass most weeks.

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      Danny says:

      It does need to be called out.
      Julie Payette is not the person to call it out. That is not her role as Governor General.
      That is the role of elected government officials, scientists, respected journals, etc

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    Nasty Bob says:

    Well homeopathy isn’t all that harmless – recently two children have died out this way because parents thought a tincture of dandelion or some sort of snake oil would cure whatever ailed them. What would have worked was a shot of antibiotics .

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      james says:

      I agree, add to that the 11-year-old Ontario First Nation girl who refused chemo & later died because some charlatan invented “traditional healing” & her parents accepted this hogwash. I can add my wife’s late uncle who basically committed suicide by listening to a preacher in the USA that his cancer would be cured by prayer; & money sent to this creep in the US. There is faith & there is stupidity. I’m all for the GG bringing this up.

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      x says:

      Yeah, it’s a good thing “conventional medicine” petroleum derived pharmaceuticals never killed anyone. Oh wait, 100,000 per year in the US alone (when “correctly prescribed” by a “medical professional,” oops! And you’ve amply demonstrated that you don’t know the first thing about homeopathy.

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        doconnor says:

        The first thing about homoeopathy, is that they create medicine by diluting a substance to the point that not a single molecule of the original substance remains.

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        Steve T says:

        Excellent one-paragraph summary of the conspiracy-theory basis of homepathy.

        Take a basket of half-truths or outright falsehoods (petroleum-based pharmaceuticals???), mix with an unverifiable or sketchy-origin statistic (100,000 dead due to prescriptions), and mix until confusion ensues amongst those just looking for something “different”.

        There are thousands, if not tens-of-thousands, of scientifically verified double-blind tests that evidence the value of prescription medication. Thus far, there have been zero scientifically-based tests verifying the effectiveness of homeopathy.

        There may be a placebo effect, which may actually make some people feel psychologically better, but then let’s call it what it is. You could just give them a glass of water and tell them it will cure their flu, and not charge them for it. Same effect.

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    Mark Hudson says:

    ‪To me being Canadian means you respect different points of view. To reject and denigrate anyone that holds a differing viewpoint is a perversion on Canadian democracy‬.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    She really needs to lighten up. Astrology is for fun. When you read the general traits, you can recognize them in a person of that sign but the more you go specific, the more you miss the mark. Could be random.

    As for God, nearly died three times. Tend to chock up still being alive to his or her intervention. But that, for some, could also be random.

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    Matt says:

    Interesting article in the National post today.

    Our universe should not exist,CERN antimatter study confirms.

    A new cutting edge experiment reveals the vast depths of human ignorance about the cosmos. Why didn’t antimatter and matter annihilate each other after the Big Bang?


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    Charlie says:

    So, debate aside, the issue that I think we should take away from Payette’s decision to make these comments is just how ill-prepared she appears to be for this ceremonial role.

    To be clear, the previous GG had voiced opinions himself and has made his personal judgements clear on certain issues. Which is fair; I don’t have a problem with the GG being an advocate on issues that have a positive societal impact.

    The problem with Payette’s remarks is that a) it comes as her first main address to the public on her own and b) reflects the air of arrogance in the unique cultural secularity of Payette’s Quebecer background.

    Moving from a relatively private existence to a public stage requires recalibration of ones proclivity towards voicing strongly held opinions in a way that assumes your entire audience is sympathetic. That is public communications 101.

    That no one cautioned Payette to not weigh into otherwise innocuous material in a confrontational manner is surprising to me.

    Her comments about divine intervention in particular rings too familiar with the sort of scoff and dismissal that is common in Quebec. Yes, climate change is real; yes, astrology is a joke (one that participate in purely for semi-amusement on a regular basis) — but to go as far as to mock perspectives held by people in a country you now represent coast to coast, is a wholly unnecessary mistake.

    It also speaks to the very real problem that a Liberal-run Ottawa runs into. As a western Liberal voter; its very hard for me not to see validity in the criticism that a certain eastern elitism begins to develop in Ottawa when a Montreal PM appoints a Montreal GG who then makes remarks like these.

    The way GG Payette chose to go about her public comments is what you would expect from a scientist who’s gone into space but not how you’d expect the head of state to speak towards her citizens, especially while new on the job.

    In her defence, I totally get where she was coming from. But I sincerely hope she understands that she has been given an opportunity to bring people into the pews and not just preach to the choir.

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    Kevin says:

    I’m as guilty as the GG in looking down my nose at creationists, mea culpa. But to do that in an official role, in a public announcement? Probably not…

    But I think her remarks were off-the-cuff and stupid. I imagine there are a couple of speechwriters on staff who were nursing major hangovers the next day.

    Your article called to mind Pops Staples from way back when:
    If you don’t give a heck ’bout the man with the bible in his hand, y’all
    Just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing…

    Respect yourself, respect yourself…

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    MaryLou says:

    I heard she sings in a choir. I wonder what she thinks of mathematicians who say Bach’s music could be proof of God’s existence. Don’t ask me to explain it, I’m not a math wizard. I just wonder if she would roll her eyes at that idea.

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      Tim Sullivan says:

      Who wouldn’t?

      So there is some beautiful music in the world. How, pray tell, does that prove the existence of God?

      Do children dying of cancer prove the non-existence of God?

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    John says:

    I like little boys. My IP is

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    Pedro says:

    Science – is NOT truth. The investigation, observation and rigorous recording of events and measurement of phenomena. Some “scientists” venture into conjecture and theorizing of schemes that explain and, on a statistical basis predict new phenomena. Extremely helpful. For many years, Greek potters used Aristotle’s theory of 4 elements to produce better, tougher pots to hold olive oil in bumper crop years. Idiots, I guess, for believing in a simpleton’s “scientific” theory. I would love to be a fly on the wall in 500 years to hear “elites” laugh at the stuff the hoi-polloi believe in from 500 years previous. At least the Greeks had hubris right.

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    Pedant says:

    Warren – I really wish someone in our MSM would do the following :

    1) Ask PM Trudeau if he agrees with Payette regarding her comments on religion

    2) Ask Her Excellency if her derision of religion extends to Islam and to First Nations spiritual beliefs

    Our gutless media will never ask those questions, but it’s fun to imagine the two of them squirming and contorting their answers to comply with politically correct mores.

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