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Québec in 2005

I have been extremely fortunate to be able to travel to new places and to meet new people every winter for the last twelve years but this year I have had to stay in Montréal to have my right knee replaced by a steel one (actually a titanium - chromium alloy). I would have loved to take pictures during the operation (I had spinal anaesthesia), but they didn't even let me look!

Consequently, I have no new photos of the surgeon sawing at my knee or far away exotic places to show you.  However, Montréal being far away and exotic for some people on this small planet. I will visit Montréal with you this summer   as if we both came from some far away place like Tibet or Swaziland. We will also visit Rimouski, some 560 km down the St-Laurence River.


My new bionic knee (that you can see on the left), is guaranteed for twenty years so I can run around until I'm 91 if I live that long. Knee and hip replacements are more and more common as life expectancy increases in developed countries. This mild form of bio-engineering is very well accepted by society as it has given a new lease on quality living to thousands of mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts who otherwise would have been confined to a wheelchair.

Bio-engineering will however go much further in the 21st century. We have already developed technologies to restore sight and hearing with primitive retinal and cochlear implants that will be improved to match and perhaps surpass natural vision and hearing. Such advanced bio-engineering is just around the corner but it is not as well accepted as knee and hip replacements. Especially if it produces bionic humans with better than normal vision or hearing. Jealousy and the fear of bionic "super humans" are probably the real motivations of bio-luddites who oppose advanced bio-technologies on the grounds that they interfere with "human dignity".

Religious fundamentalists fear that the growing scientific knowledge about how the brain works will demystify the concept of an immaterial "soul". We can expect their resistance to bio-technology in the name of that undefined quality they call "human dignity" to intensify as ongoing research demonstrates how consciousness emerges from the operation of the brain. Computer science and bio-technologies are growing at such a rate that some now speak of "transitional" human hybrids enhanced with computer implants that will lead us to the "post human consciousness" of androids like Star Trek's Commander Data.

Androids definitely belong to the realm of science fiction at this time but no one can say that it will remain so forever. Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" was wild science fiction when it was published in 1865, but Apollo 11 landed on the moon and returned to earth only one short century later (1969). Who knows, maybe man will be able to create androids in a couple of centuries... or much earlier.

This is a bit frightening but I think it is better to face rather than deny the possibility that consciousness emerges from the complexity of our material brains without the need of the slightest immaterial component. Personally I think that man will develop whatever biotechnologies he can in spite of all opposition, censorship or interdiction to do so. At the end of the day, denial of scientific progress is pointless, it only serves to exacerbate the conflict between those who seek new discoveries on the frontiers of knowledge and the fundamentalists who strive to impede them. At the end of my life I would prefer to think that I had contributed to the positive evolution of my society, even only a little, than to realize that I had fought all my life to prevent change and lost.

Evolution has ups and downs. We are presently in a severe down since the Israel-Palestine situation has provided zionists and american christian fundamentalists on one hand and islamic extremists on the other all the faith-based justification they need to claim god  blesses the respective torturing and killing of each other.

In spite of this momentary regression, I see a long term tendency, from the dark ages to our times, towards more critical thinking and less blind religious faith in most of the countries that I have visited in the last decade. The struggle to enhance man's capacity to make his own evaluations is however still essential as gains of critical thinking against religious manipulation are often compensated by a growing manipulation by the mainstream media.

The world wide explosion of alternate channels of communication on the internet might however tip the balance in favour of critical thinking. The internet makes it possible for anyone to express their opinions about anything. The internet made possible the founding in 2003 of the rapidly growing virtual constituency of The Brights, regrouping all those whose vision of the world is free of supernatural or mystical elements. That definition fits me perfectly, so I not only joined the movement but also set up the French language web site to promote it in Québec.

The flood of multi faceted and contradictory information available on the internet contains a lot of chaff with the grain. They who surf the net regularly like myself must therefore be careful to exercise critical thinking before accepting the validity of what they read.

The contrast between the "truth" as projected by the american mainstream media and as reported by alternative internet channels peaked during the months preceding the invasion of Iraq by the USA in march 2003. Mainstream media won, they managed to convince 60 to 70 % of Americans that a pre-emptive strike was called for because of the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction while more than 80% of the world public opinion outside the USA were against the war.

That massive brain washing of the otherwise reasonable American population prompted me to produce the essay " Reflections on Truth" (in late 2002) and to realize how important it was to develop self defence against intellectual manipulation. Montréal does have " Les Sceptiques du Québec.", a skeptical group that exposes fraudulent claims of the paranormal like CISCOP in the USA, and Le Mouvement laïque Québécois that keeps a watchful eye on the separation of Church and State but both have only limited means.

These two groups are doing a good job but they need to be helped so in December 2004, a few friends and I launched a foundation, that we once thought of calling it the Foundation for Critical Thinking, in order to provide financial support to any group that promotes critical thinking.

The rejection of religious and political dogma is the first self defence against intellectual manipulation but that must be followed by the elaboration of adequate replacement values on which the individual can base his exchanges with his social environment. The international humanist movement seeks to replace dogma based morals and ideology by human ethics based on a rational analysis of the evolving social context. That framework provided a more complete answer to our needs so we adopted secular humanist principles and established the Humanist Foundation of Québec and the Humanist Association of Québec. (Income generated by the ads on this site is paid directly to the Humanist Foundation.)

I missed travelling abroad in the 2005 winter but my new bionic knee and all that social involvement kept me too busy to complain about the cold outside. I hope to be travelling again next winter, maybe to some of the African countries I have not visited yet.

Don't forget to visit Montréal and Rimouski!



I continue developing this site for the pleasure of sharing the joys of discovery with you. Meeting wonderful people of all skin colours, ethnic origins and beliefs has inspired me to set up the Humanist Foundation of Quebec to promote critical thinking and intercultural tolerance.

You may download and use the globetrotter's photos provided you mention "Photo by Bernard Cloutier" with a link to this site below each photo. High resolution versions can be acquired from our agent



If you feel like it, you may exchange comments and impressions with other readers in the questbook or express them to me privately by the e-mail link. Putting a link on your web site, if you have one, would invite your viewers to enjoy free virtual travel as I hope you did.




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