The politics of polling

In the 2004 federal election, polling is hitting the public faster and heavier than anyone can remember, reported the Edmonton Sun June 8. Party polls started showing up after the 1962 general election campaign, but only took off in the late 1980s when computer technology became sophisticated enough for auto-diallers and overnight response collation. Since then, said York University’s Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in the Faculty of Arts, polling has played an ever-growing role in shaping public impressions of politics. Look at the election headlines from the past two weeks: at least half of them have been party leaders’ reactions to their latest poll standings. “Which brings up the whole question of whether people vote in reaction to polls,” he said. “A small percentage of the population always votes strategically – to keep one candidate from winning, instead of in support of another candidate. Problem is, under our system we vote locally, not nationally. What the polls say is happening nationally might not be happening in your riding.”

IQ test no measure of creativity

A story about the history of the intelligence test published online June 8 by Britain’s The Independent quotes Raymond E. Fancher, author of The Intelligence Men: Makers of the IQ Controversy (1985) and a psychology professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts. The term “intelligence quotient” doesn’t emerge until 1912, when the German academic William Stern named the figure produced by dividing a subject’s so-called “mental age” by chronological age. But the tests conducted to provide the numbers used in these equations were formulated exactly 100 years ago by Alfred Binet, a self-taught French psychologist with a passionate interest in hypnosis. Binet’s tests are the grandparents of the modern IQ test. “They were the first tests that really worked to any substantial degree, because they did make some effective diagnoses,” noted Fancher. But Binet was skeptical about the quantification of the results. “So it’s ironic that the IQ, the unitary number of intelligence, became so strongly identified with his name,” said Fancher. “They’re far from perfect. They certainly don’t measure creativity. The real spark of originality is not easily measured.”

Pair puts short films in focus

Tyler Grace, 22, and Nate Mills, 23, wrapped up filming 35 short films in 36 days to show at their second annual comedy Film Bonanza, reported the Orillia Packet & Times June 8. Each film, ranging in length from 30 seconds to 14 minutes, tells a different quirky story with a local angle and features friends and acquaintances. Mills, who completed a fine arts degree at York University this spring, and Grace, a Humber College film student, plan to make the film festival an annual event.

Protection for the unborn

“Andrew Coyne’s column on abortion contains a generous dose of his usual good sense,” wrote Ian Gentles, history professor at York’s Glendon College, in a June 8 letter to the National Post. “One small correction: It is true that Canada is virtually the only country to give no legal protection to the unborn. However, this applies only to the criminal law. In civil or tort law, the child in the womb continues to enjoy legal rights. These include the right to inherit a bequest left to ‘all the living children’ and the right to sue after birth for wrongful injuries. A leading US authority on tort law has summed it up this way: ‘The unborn child in the path of an automobile is as much a person in the street as the mother.’ Of course, those who deny the personhood of the unborn child would rather we were not aware of this grotesque contradiction between our criminal and our civil law.”

On air

  • Joel Lexchin, emergency room doctor and York University health policy and management educator, discussed recent warnings by pharmaceutical companies and Health Canada about the dangers of antidepressants such as selective seratonin uptake inhibitors, hailed 20 years ago as a new way to treat depression without severe side effects, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” June 7.
  • The Canadian Automobile Association has offered suggestions on easing gridlock in Toronto, including a subway to York University, reported CFRB-AM, City-tv and CP24-TV news shows June 7.
  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was interviewed about a case being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this week that looks at whether outlawing private health care for patients who can pay contravenes Section Seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, on CHQR-AM’s “The World Tonight” in Calgary June 7.
  • Gordon Flett, psychology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the three different kinds of perfectionists and a questionnaire he and other Canadian researchers put together that tells you whether you are a perfectionist, on City-tv’s “Breakfast TV” June 7.