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Issues & Experts >  Issues & Experts Archive > Politics, electoral reform, skeptics, religion - Issues and Experts

Politics, electoral reform, skeptics, religion - Issues and Experts

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October 27, 2004
US presidential race nears finish…The polls show US President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry neck-and-neck as the election campaign south of the border inches towards election day. SFU historian Michael Fellman, who specializes in US political history, suggests in a column penned for The Tyee that it will be Kerry at the finish line, noting the influence of a potentially larger voter turnout than usual www.thetyee.ca. Political science professor Alexander Moens has just published a biographical book on President Bush and can look at the race from the perspective of the Bush camp. SFU historian Nicholas Guyatt can also look at the election race. The new faculty member spent the past seven years south of the border and has been following the issues.

A blueprint for a new electoral system…The Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform, which has been looking at ways of revamping the way we elect politicians provincially, is recommending a new blueprint. The assembly's choice, Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, a system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, will go before the electorate in the next provincial election. Lynda Erickson, a political scientist at SFU, is available to comment on the pros and cons of the assembly's choice. Political scientists Patrick Smith and Kennedy Stewart are also available to comment. Stewart is pleased with the blueprint and the process used to arrive at it. However, he recommends that First Nations people be guaranteed a set number of seats because they weren't adequately included in the process. Smith calls STV “a very good proportional system that puts a lot of say in the hands of ordinary voters, which is why parties sometimes don't have it as their preferred choice.”

Why and when do smart people act stupid?....It's a question that SFU psychology professor Barry Beyerstein's colleague, Dr. Ray Hyman, can answer. The professor emeritus from the University of Oregon, and a fellow member of the committee for the scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal, will look at foolish behaviour during his talk at the psychology department colloquium on Friday, Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m. in AQ 3153. Hyman will also give a lecture to the BC Skeptics on Sunday, Oct. 31 at 2 p.m. in SFU's west mall centre (room 3520) on the psychology of deception and human error. Hyman is a highly respected researcher in cognitive psychology and a critic of parapsychology - as well as a designer and performer of magic tricks. Beyerstein can also comment on Hyman's talks - and look at ghoulish Halloween rituals.

Nazi dolls incite anger…Why would a company mass produce and sell dolls depicting members of a Nazi SS combat division, originally created to guard concentration camps? Who would buy them? Why would stores carry them, given all the negative publicity they could attract? Consumer behaviour and marketing expert Judy Zaichkowsky can tackle these questions related to the response to the sale of Totenkopf Division dolls in Canadian stores.

Secret PIN numbers not so secret…As much as we may strive to keep our banking information, especially our personal identification number (PIN), safe, the possibility of thieves accessing it is ever growing. SFU criminologist Ehor Boyanowsky can offer some thoughts on the likelihood thieves are able to recruit store cashiers to replace real bank debit machines with “Trojan” card readers. The devices record debit-card information, including PINS. Once accessed the information is allegedly transferred to counterfeit cards, then used to rack up purchases worldwide.

Choosing different religious paths…In his new book Borderland Religion: The Emergence of an English-Canadian Identity, SFU historian Jack Little paints a fascinating historical portrait of how Canadians and Americans came to pursue different religious paths. Little can talk about how a failed end-of-the-world prophesy by the radical and powerful US based Millerite movement was the impetus for Canadians rejecting the fire-and-brimstone religious culture still shaping American identity.

Igniting Dialogue through Storytelling…SFU education professor Kieran Egan studies imagination and calls storytelling an effective way to spark dialogue. “Stories have the capacity to capture detail, nuance, and emotion while engaging meaningfully with people and communities about complex situations,” he says. Egan, who is chair of SFU's imaginative education research group, will discuss how well-told stories can have the power to attune people to their shared interests on Friday, Oct. 29, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at SFU's Igniting Dialogue through Storytelling workshop. Egan has writtten more than 20 books and his approach to education is used by teachers around the world.