Quotation marks, a credible counter-argument? A glimpse at future Australian politics

I was convinced to watch the first episode of a new series on ABC 2 called “Shitsville Express”, which sees a group of young Australian’s witness first hand a number of social problems and then asks them to provide what they would see as a solution.

The first episode was about a problem I’ve witnessed a number of times myself; alcohol fuelled assault. I enjoyed the night life with my mates for many years, but the changing scene in Adelaide eventually drew me to prefer inviting people over to my house instead. Having been surrounded on a number of occasions by thugs looking for blood or seeing a group chase after others along the street wears on one’s interest. And this doesn’t even compare to the typical events of Sydney and Melbourne on the weekend nights.

It was an interesting, if pointless, episode with no real outcomes eventuating. However, the youngest of the “budding pollies,” the libertarian, Soibhan Harris, gave me the shits.

The worst of what she had to say got on my nerves because it represented so much of what I attempt to counter on NewAnthro. In her around-up, she demonstrated no change from the event (in truth, no-one was changed, hence the sense of meaninglessness from the show). Soibhan went as far as say, “the academics are wrong. Public health experts are wrong.”

She signalled quotations around the word expert.

Ms Harris, the health "experts" are wrong...
Ms Harris, the health “experts” are wrong…

What on Earth does that even mean and how is that an argument? Her alternative to the premium source of quality data was; “I think it’s up to individuals who make poor decisions and they should be held responsible and that’s what I believe…” [my emphasis]

Ms Harris rejects hard evidence on circular personal opinion. It is the same approach taken by many of the anti-science movements to simply disregard the evidence that counters their position.

I could equally state, “The academics are wrong about the age of the universe. The “geologists” and “physicists” are wrong. The bible tells us the Earth is six thousand years old and that’s what I believe.”

I know Ms Harris is only 21 and we should take her comments lightly, yet statements like this are common, regardless of age, in favour of positions that are simply not backed up by hard evidence on a wide range of topics.

We hear it on evolution, climate science, fluoridation, medical science / alternative medicines, vaccination etc.

What should be instinctive to an audience is to reply with, “why are the experts wrong? What findings do you have that throws the standing conclusions into disarray? Why aren’t these findings written up within academic peer review so that we can improve our understanding of societal health / the natural universe?”

That they will not be able to answer these questions decisively isn’t the point here, but rather that such questions do not instantly come to mind – the vast majority of an audience seems to simply accept a personal belief as a counter-weight to reason.

That does not cut it and is a slap in the face of every technological advancement and death avoided due to expertise academic research. It is an insult to the modern age.

If this is the future of Australian politics, I guess the indefensible Abbott policies no longer seem so bad in comparison.


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