Haters are going to hate: The latest round of xenophobia in Australia

Yesterday, Ed Husic became Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher. He took his oath of office on the Koran.

Apparently, many Aussies have gone on a haters spree over the action.

Firstly, I’m non-religious, so I don’t care. I couldn’t take an oath over any book and while the exercise is supposed to mean the oath is thus done before the eyes of a certain god, I’ve seen enough poor behaviour from religious people, in the name of their god and philosophy to conclude that such an action is meaningless.

Moreover, isn’t a god supposed to be omnipresent? How many gods have the power to forgive any sin – including not living up to such oaths? Such musings leave traditions like this a little weak.

That said, Mr Husic is a Muslim. Would any of the haters like to take an oath over the Koran? I suspect not. So why should Ed do so over the Bible? Would anyone seriously think that an oath in the sight of the “wrong” religion would be of value to oath-taker in relation to their religious commitment?

More disturbing than this is the obvious Christian flare. It’s Gaynor’s “Christian Australia” which has no place in the public sector and ought to remain at best, the private pursuit of the individual in their own space. If such oath-traditions are to be carried out, let the oath-taker do so over their philosophy and get back to their religious traditions in private.

Haters over this action are an embarrassment to Australia and do nothing to improve the xenophobe image that we tend to export to the world.

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society”

I make it a personal rule to avoid anti-science blogs. Simply, it would be a pointless venture. C. H. Spurgeon had it right, long before the Internet was even dreamt up with, “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on”.

Any half-baked idea can be seriously entertained if one avoids scrutiny, hence why the web is a fertile landscape for the dreamer and mad theorist alike. It takes discipline to adhere to strict guidelines of quality control and even more on such a platform as the Internet, which is why I always back up any statements with citation and/or illustrated mathematics for review.

With that in mind, I have no doubt the anti-science dreamers commonly called climate change “sceptics” would no doubt be foaming over Obama’s recent disregarding statement of their movement. That, or the Monckton’s of the world would loftily stick their noses in the air and pompously write his statement off as the rant’s of an extreme lefty matching none other than Fidel Castro (seriously, Monckton has made this insane claim in the past on “Vattelevision”, about 6:25mins into this video; disregarding strong differences between the two’s idea of leadership – for instance, Obama will step down at the end of this term – economic structure, gay rights / marriage equality, etc etc etc).

It’s good to see not only the US finally getting on-board to tackle climate change, but also China – the “final nail” in the coffin* in the argument against action on the basis of the impotence of these two big countries so far. Further, it’s great that Obama understand the difference between equal and fair weighting of a debate – hopefully he can carry that on into the class rooms regarding biology and geology (in other words, another shameful Flat Earth Society: creationism / ID).

This is the type of action that is required from leadership, which helps to undermine frankly anti-science movements (identifiable in their lack of scientific support or criticism of the basic ideas being challenged by such groups). It’s better to be slow rather than late – it gives our children and those beyond the best chance of prosperity and comfort through the actions we take on their behalf.

* Sorry, I just had to use that cliché, so often used against anthropogenic climate change with every typo in an IPCC report or flimsy scientific paper.

Dead-Head Denialism: Challenging “Sceptics” of Climate Change to Fluoridation is Zombie Warfare

It has been a while since I’ve commented on much in the way of climate science and the denial movement. Although aware of the recent noise regarding the supposed “proof” of the unfounded “scare” regarding anthropogenic climate change, citing Otto et al (2013) or foaming bile in reply to the Cook et al (2013) study illustrating that experts within relevant fields of science simply do not share the popular “scepticism” and, in fact, have moved beyond proving it – simply taking it for granted – I’ve chosen to say nothing. (see reflections on each, here and here respectively)

Why?

Because it’s the same damned nonsense that proliferated the internet when I started blogging.

The “Sceptics”

The self-titled “sceptics” illustrate their denialism in this continual rejection of the standing body of evidence. The loathed consensus is nothing more than the body of relevant human knowledge which illustrates that our emissions include gases that have a greenhouse effect and those gases are in concentrations great enough to increase the energy load within our atmospheric reservoir, changing our global climate.

The “sceptics” pretend to be reasonable – stating that all they want is sufficient proof for the position – but then reject the available body of scientific evidence and consensus (not simply two sides to the same coin, but effectively, the same thing). Yet, they up and down jump hysterically whenever they catch a whiff of a paper that sounds like it supports their position. That is not scepticism; that’s denial of the potential that one’s position could be wrong.

They don’t wait for sufficient evidence of any position, but instead for their favoured position to be proven right. And just like the creationists, they’ll have to wait for the second coming which will never happen.

The Dead-Heads

On zombies and denial, I came upon a great article by Readfearn, in which he links to a recent publication of the American Behavioral Scientist devoted entirely to the climate change denialism phenomena, which I’ve since been reading.

It all comes back to the same point; denialism, regardless of the subject matter, from climate change or evolution to what I’ve recently challenged – water fluoridation – such positions, that is, a rejection of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are simply symptomatic of deeper ideological biases.

Creationists understand that they need creation to validate their faith (the most honest of the Abrahamic followers). The anti-vax, anti-fluoridation and even the anti-wind farmers all share a fear in the unknown; “they are exposing us to something – it must be a trap!”

And climate change feeds on many, be it, free market ideologies, fear of imposing governmental input, generational differences that rub people up the wrong way etc.

As such, correcting the wrongs, as we tend to attempt within media, is like wiping the puss without fixing the infection. Or burying the zombie still intact.

This is why the zombies exist; we fail to realise that you must lob off the dead brain within (no Mad Monckton, I’m not suggesting you should be killed – it is a metaphor).

All humans are susceptible to such leanings. We all want to think we have a good handle on the workings of the world and often don’t take too kindly when core principles of this are shattered. It’s easier to go on believing in our core values / beliefs and instead to shoot the messenger, than take the time to reflect on ourselves, admit to personal fault and adapt.

Deniers keep on denying not because they are deniers, but because they are human; individuals with certain principles that make sense to them.

Sceptics will change and can remove themselves from personal attachment to ideas where they need to, but there are far fewer of them than anyone of us is likely to admit.

So, what is the answer?

Change is a slower moving creature than we wish it were.  I have no doubt the deniers of climate change, evolution, anti-vaccination etc will exist beyond my life span. The same will be for individuals and groups opposed to same-sex rights, as do exist pockets of racists and sexists today, even within generally progressive states.

However, to challenge them with any potency, it isn’t enough to expose their denial. In fact, it’ll have little to no effect on the very people one aims the effort at.

Rather, the best approach must be to work instead on the core values leading the charge. If you promote the scientific accuracy of evolution, your primary focus must be the Book of Genesis. Without that, there is no justification for creation.

If it is one of the “they are exposing us to…” mobs, you need to refer to epidemiology as well as get to the root of “they” and the motivations of this entity. For instance, the anti-fluoridation crowd suggest fluoridation is marketing. However, one of the primary benefits pointed out by WHO, alongside the obvious health benefits, is its cheapness. Where are the fat fluoride barons?? These are very much a secret enemy conspiracy ideations.

With climate change, in reality, the question is clearly pointed at how well the free-market ideology can sustain human activity. One doesn’t need to look at climate change, but can look at the accelerated need for primary resources, increasing waste production, the rate of population growth and environmental degradation (from where many goods and services are derived); each one of them is essential to the free-market currently promoted. The nine planetary boundaries highlighted by Rockström et al (2009) are all negatively impacted by our current economic objectives.

Zombies die when you remove the dead head driving the drooling creature aimed solely at bringing everyone down. The dead head in this case is the thoughtless ideological principles driving denial against overwhelming contrary evidence. These outdated memes are the undead that really need to be challenged.

How the Enlightenment Has, So Far, Let Us Down

As a child, learning of the Enlightenment, I came to think of it as a revolution. To me, I saw it as a point where our species finally developed a critical tool kit, leading us to empirical evidence and thus a solid basis for understanding. I saw it as a turning point from ancient unfounded thinking to the modern era, leading to the industrial revolution and ultimately all that surrounds us today. I felt pride for our achievements and lucky to have been born in such an enlightened age.

I suspect most people see the Enlightenment in much the same way. However this is entirely wrong.

Yes, a small group of our species turned from philosophical reasoning to the more concrete tools that would develop into scientific methodology which in turn created the technological wonders of recent centuries, but this wasn’t universal.

Even today, in affluent countries where individuals are exposed to greater education than ever before, opinion and reason are simply not given their due weighting. Look for instance at media where the hard won lessons of research compete on even grounds with the cleverly designed opinion of a few and the reader is more often unaware of the absurdity.

How often have I heard, “because I believe in [a favoured holy scripture], I think…” as an opening of an answer to a question about the natural universe as though it were virtuous and sensible.

When one chooses to tackle any alternative to scientific reasoning, from the various alternative medicine ideologies (eg, natural therapy, anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination etc), religion to the popular climate change “scepticism”, one finds the same fundamental problem; faith in an idea that holds little to no empirical grounding. Such belief ultimately rejects reality as it is understood in favour of the unsubstantiated idea.

What’s more, the larger community tends to give them the respect of airing; everyone has an opinion and each opinion deserves a voice.

We don’t honestly believe this as there are many ideas that are abhorrent. For instance, racial discrimination is nowadays increasingly left to pockets of disliked groups to complain about within their sub-communities (I suspect gender preference discrimination will follow the same fate over the coming decades).

Yet where the idea holds no emotional response or social rejection, we fail almost entirely to demand solid evidence for the supposed factual claim as part of its right to airing. The Enlightenment may have provided the conception of modern scientific methodology, but it has not improved the awareness of critical reasoning for the vast majority of our species. We are by and large as drawn to myth and misconception as anyone else beyond the scope of the Enlightenment.

For all the talk, debate and correction one finds within various media in response to a certain falsehood, we achieve meagre returns outside of where doubt already exists within the faithful. The devout remain devout if not even further solidified to their delusions for all the effort undertaken to correct the misinformation.

The emphasis must therefore be on education. Religion has applied this for millennia; knowing all too well faith is more likely ensured if the mind is hijacked at a young age. We must shore up the minds of our youth with dedicated teaching in critical thinking prior to insult of erroneous memes and outright assault from faith. In essence, ensuring our children are not credulous through the provision of a personal critical tool kit – by educating them from a young age how to test an idea (that is, how to think, not what to think) – we are effectively vaccinating them against invasive detrimental memes.

A few generations hence with such dedicated effort and maybe we might be able to come close to the common perception of the Enlightenment.

Who Has the Right Over an Idea?

It is a persistent question that is ever becoming more relevant. We have ruled out privileged hereditary or divinity as exclusive bearers of ideas and sources of knowledge, but where is the line truly drawn?

I would argue that it shouldn’t matter if someone like myself, Mr. Long-aristocratic-nose-Monckton or even if my son was the author. An idea stands for what it is; an idea based upon whatever reason and evidence the author provides.

If fault is inherent, this needs to be exposed and dealt with. If the opponent to the idea cannot fault it, either the idea holds some truth or the opponent fails to have the capacity to provide a meaningful evaluation. This is independent of authorship.

In an age where an idea travels around the world at the speed of light, the authority behind authorship is rendered even more enfeebled. One need only look at many of the more devoted misinformers to see just how little authority plays a role to the general person compared to what is popular or consistent to one’s perception. Chris Monckton; Merilyn Haines; Anthony Watts; such people are the experts to their fans, regardless of their shortcomings and abstract reality. One can be a genius to whomever is receptive to “the message”.

For that reason, the focus must be – as it always has be on NewAnthro – on critical thinking and analysis of ideas. Nothing can be held above criticism and all matters must be open to discussion.

The onus, therefore, must be shifted to the reader to avoid credulously accepting an idea without review. We would all prosper if we were not so easily lead up the garden path.

It is the receiver, not the transmitter, whom wields the power and momentum of an idea.

Bernard Gaynor on Bernard Gaynor’s Feelings Towards Gay Rights

I’ve had brought to my attention the most amazingly stupid article [Thanks you, Simon].

On Bernard Gaynor’s blog, Bernard Gaynor talks about Bernard Gaynor’s comments regarding homosexuality and Bernard Gaynor’s opinion on what the PM and opposition leader’s feelings are towards homosexuality are and what they both would think regarding a teacher’s attitude towards homosexuality (honestly, he speaks about himself in the third person).

Here’s a couple gems reported by Bernard Gaynor quoted from Bernard Gaynor;

“Furthermore, considering both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard oppose gay marriage it makes perfect sense that they would also be uncomfortable with teachers promoting a lifestyle that has serious negative health consequences and is opposed to the values of the majority of Australians.”

“Australia has always been a Christian country and the vast majority of Australians continue to hold Christian values.”

“It would be a sad day for Australia if its Christian population was prevented from freely practicing its religion.”

Serious negative health consequences? Can he please elaborate?

And why on Earth would a typical teacher spend their time promoting anything but for the syllabus?

As for the religiosity of Australia, the Census data states that of the Christian beliefs, 25.3% of Australians are Catholic, but 22.3% of Australians are list themselves as having no religion in 2006 (stats that have shifted towards no religion in 2011). Yes, if you group all Christians, the majority of Aussies are Christian, but why would you do that? Nowhere else has the religious war been greatest in the past 2000yrs than between different Christian groups.

Lastly, how does having teachers liberal on the subject of gay and lesbian rights prevent a Christian from freely practicing? I must have overlooked The Sydney Mardi Gras’s objective to crush all Christians… or demand they “party down.”

No, the only prevention of human rights being carried is the subjection of the equal rights for all Australians based purely of religious bigotry and stupidity such as that expressed by Bernard Gaynor reporting on Bernard Gaynor.

The Right Of Religious Schools and Hospitals to Hire Whomever they Choose

There has been an amount of talk in Australia this week regarding the right of religious schools and hospitals to discriminate candidates on ideological grounds; something Gillard has hinted that she will do little to stop.

I suspect that I am different from most non-religious in that I believe such institutions ought to be allowed to do so. However, before you rush to the comment section to drill me into the ground, please hear me out.

Firstly, you would never expect an openly hardcore conservative to be employed into a liberal political party. This is just as much on ideological grounds. “But,” I hear returned to me, “this is different; the political ideology is core to the business plan. It is essential to the party to employ people whom align with these principles.”

True, but are religious schools or hospitals really that different? Do not students of religious schools endure religious studies as part of their schooling? Do not medical hospitals make all kinds of hat tips to their religious figures and often hold ethical standings for or against some medical procedures, such as circumcision and abortion?

I would argue that IF they truly are religious schools or hospitals their ideologies very much are part of their core business plan, which would be the only reason as to why they would discriminate anyway.

That said, they are therefore not really providing a public service.

Instead they are pushing ideologies under a guise of such humane activities, only to let down their students and patients when they need them most. If children leave a religious school with any interpretation of the universe other than that a god is not essential (whether or not one indeed exists, of which no solid evidence exists) and an understanding that they and their community are thus responsible for their moral development, the school has failed. If a rape victim is denied an abortion, then the hospital has failed.

If such failures are part of the business model, we can rightly assess that they are not enterprises of public service and are not eligible for government funding or accreditation for their activities.

Let them carry on by all means, but by removing every unearned mark of respect, such establishments will erode. They only have so much infiltration because everyone of us – devout or otherwise – hand it to them on a gold plated tray with the post-it label “virtuous.”

That they fail in key aspects of education and health care demonstrates that they are anything but virtuous.

On the other hand, if they choose not to fail, then they become secular by sheer need and would not discriminate on ideological grounds.

If they do not teach on a set world view (there indeed is nothing wrong with religious studies if done without indoctrination – covering it from a psychological, artistic, historic perspective for instance), but let the young minds learn and develop unfettered by a favoured ideology, then why would they discriminate against a gay or atheist / other religion teacher? If they held their views on abortion to themselves and saved a woman’s life otherwise threatened by the embryo or assisted a rape victim and provided her with mental health support (focused on up to date psychology, not religious practices), then why would they care about anything but the qualifications of the doctor currently applying for a role?

The discussions as they stand demonstrate appalling politically correct weakness. It is attempting to bash a round peg into a square hole and will lead to so many stupid legal ramifications and hurt feelings by unsuccessful candidates. Plus it would be damn hard to build up a strong case – who is to know what really went on in the minds of the review panel?

However, what I suggest above is far more black and white; either such establishments provide the public service they suggest they are, or they are not. That ought to stand as basis as to whether or not they are deserving of the standing, funding and accreditation they hold. That’s it. No changes to laws. No-one rushing to court if they fail to score the position. Simple.

On such a basis, the hiring process can get on getting on without this rabbit hole currently consuming discussions and threatening to waste hours of court time.

The God Behind Hurricane Sandy

I’m continually staggered how unflinchingly ignorant some people can be in the face of compelling scientific evidence that human activity can impact on the natural world. The basic physical science behind greenhouse gas absorption has long be established, is fairly easy to understand and leads an erringly to a single conclusion; more greenhouse gas, more greenhouse behaviour. Gigatonnes of CO2 must lead to warming.

Still, some people just don’t buy it.

And yet, such people are quick to call upon notions that simply have no correlation with reality. For instance, you have religious leaders insisting that “God” created Hurricane Sandy in response to homosexuality, such as John McTernan. It is incredible that we were able to model Hurricane Sandy’s expected path – all thanks to a little thing called science (oh, and the countless research hours therein) – yet divinity is supposed to trump well defined, repeatable reasoning!

I’ve yet to hear a valid argument as to why homosexuality is abhorrent and unnatural. With a sound head for biology and free from the blinkers of dogmatic and unquestionable ideologies, I cannot equate such a conclusion and, more importantly, why on Earth the sexual preferences of some people within their private lives should be so passionately the contemplation of others… The real depravity I find is just that; religious zealots obsessing so much over the sexuality of others.

If a deity can create a storm of the magnitude or Sandy and biblical floods, then surely, in its endless power, wrath and fury, it could hit the private homes of such people it disagrees with, with lightening, meteorites and plague. Or, more empathetically, such a deity surely could make people not only in its image, but with its desired sexual interests.

Such inconsistencies prevail in stock contrast to scientific endeavours… Inconsistency, ignorance and pure fabrication are all eradicated by the peer review process. Of course, the main opponents to scientific reasoning simply do not understand this however.

Thus, I propose a scientific experiment, if anyone feels inclined to undertake it.

Hypothesis: Natural disasters are more frequent and cause greater detrimental impact to local societies (both in financial value and related death toll) where homosexuality is either more widespread or tolerated.

I suspect it would be more difficult to identify where it is more widespread (due to obvious restrictive forces working against acknowledgement) and, I suspect, because the proportion of the population that is gay is probably independent of other factors (ie. it’s probably fairly consistent globally).

However, there is certainly meteorological data available from most of the global met agencies as well as census data relating to natural disaster death tolls and financial impact. One can even look at how lenient local laws are towards homosexuality and the frequency and estimated turnout rate of gay pride events as indicators to “merit the wrath of a deity”.

With this data and a little statistical know-how, one could surely churn out a paper to test this hypothesis and could submit it to a serious scientific journal for peer review. If successful and statistically significant, the authors may have a valid argument towards to existence of a deity concerned about our sexuality.

As I think it’s a wasted effort, I will not even point out starting points for such data. I doubt such bigots would even take up such an offer for it’s far easier to make something up about weather than to undertake a valid and critical analysis.

That’s also why we no longer believe in Zeus, Ra and others like them; we understand enough about lightening and sun to have killed such myths. The same can be said about any homophobic deity and the creation of storms.

What a Difference Time can Make

The following image is doing the rounds at the moment and I hope it’s true (admittedly, I haven’t looked into it)..

image

If true, it just goes to show what corrosive, invasive memes can do if properly fertilized (not the general religion but the more orthodox, radical versions of a religion)…

With the above in mind, I can’t help but contemplate with dread the future of the Evangelical movement in the US. For instance;