My perspective on Climate change #15 ‘But what about the precautionary principle?’

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 18 Comments

I was at a dinner once where one of the guests gave vent to his objections to genetically modified foods, on the grounds that he didn’t want to eat chemicals. I’ve forgotten what we were eating, and our hostess pointed out quickly that her bill of fare contained no synthetic or other ‘tampered with’ food. I stayed out of that one, but I did wonder what the complainer knew of chemistry. Everything we eat, and indeed everything that we are, is a complex of chemicals. Human beings have  become quite skilful at determining the nature of some chemicals, and creating…

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Books that have been important to me #1 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

By | ABC, Books, Education, History, Language, Society | 20 Comments

I’m starting a new series of essays on books that have been important to me, those  to which I return for another read, which is probably the test of an important book. I was a voracious reader from an early age, and would read anything at hand, including encyclopaedias. I studied English at the honours level at high school, and then spent three years studying English literature as an undergraduate, which put me off reading books for pleasure for a decade. Well, not quite. I turned to science fiction, and read widely in that genre, and went into detective stories too. In 1964…

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Yet another test of ‘really existing’ academic freedom

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 45 Comments

The Great Barrier Reef is nearly always in the news, and from time to time I wonder if out there there isn’t a spinmeister who checks the media reports to make sure that the GBR never drops out of public gaze. It is of course an icon (the term comes from the Greek word for a religious image — I say no more). We tremble lest the UN decide that we aren’t looking after it properly and take it away from us, amid the righteous scorn of the rest of the world. Richard Branson tells us that it has become an industrial dump….

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Where does our responsibility stop?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 59 Comments

Some readers will have come across a cry from the heart with the title ‘I’m 73, and I’m tired’. I read it with some sympathy, and an appreciation of why someone who served as a State Senator in Massachusetts and had been a Marine would write such a piece. Because I like to be sure that what I’m reading is the real thing, I did some research, and discovered that the author Robert A. Hall is real, and he did write it. He also wrote an earlier version when he was 63, with much the same message, but different details. It has been…

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The primary school then and now

By | Climate Change, Education, History, Indigenous, Music | 63 Comments

Since my wife and I are now in the category of ‘grand friends’, we see the schools of our grandchildren from time to time, and are made most welcome there. Today’s primary schools seem to have a strong sense of community, and quite a few parents, mostly mums, give an afternoon or a day as teachers’ helpers. We went to the Friday assembly of our Frankston grand-daughter last week, and I was at once taken back to my own primary education, at Ainslie Primary School in Canberra, in the 1940s. The first contrast was the traffic jam around the Melbourne school, and…

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The battlelines #14 My perspective on Climate Change

By | Climate Change, Environment, History, Language | 61 Comments

The ‘climate change’ issue is the most interesting encounter between politics and science that I think has ever occurred, and it is still occurring, after nearly thirty years. I’ve little doubt it will be with us for quite a while. Only a prolonged period of lower temperatures will erase the global warming scare, and if that occurs we are likely to have another scare, this time about a return to the Ice Age. Human societies respond to scares, even when their members are well educated. The environmental movement will continue for a long time because one can always point to…

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The race to be the silliest: alternative energy and the election

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 41 Comments

I had mentioned in a previous post that I would look at the Greens’ policies in due course, and I’ve started. But the other night a smiling Greens Senate candidate for the ACT, Christina Hobbs, told us in the news that she had  a plan that would Renew Canberra. How would she do that, always supposing the city needs ‘renewing’? Why, by boosting alternative energy, of course. Now, before I get stuck into her policy it’s worth remembering that the Greens can say almost anything their supporters like, because they are not going to be in power (the probability of a Greens…

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How not to argue #13 My perspective on climate change

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 68 Comments

There is a continuing debate about global warming and about climate change, despite the cries that ‘the science is settled’. It is, in my view, a most sloppy debate, mostly because of the argumentative style of many of those who involve themselves in it. My own rule is to look at the arguments and see if they are backed up by good evidence. I was taught so as an undergraduate, and it has been the basis of my scholarly work. But there are other styles, most of them fallacious in whole or in part. Indeed, there are scores of them (you can see…

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If we were really serious about educating the child…

By | Books, Education, History, Politics, Society | 17 Comments

Bill Shorten is still thumping away about education as being the key issue for the coming election, For him it’s simply a matter of more money for schools. We have been hearing this for a long time. In the 1960s the great school, college and university building program began. Then it was about having enough buildings. Now, apparently, it is about having money for teachers, smaller classes, and so on.  I’m sure there would be some limited good in flooding schools with more money, but I think Mr Shorten has lost sight of what education is about. What follows is a short version…

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‘Climate change’ and the election

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 40 Comments

I await each morning radio news with the expectation that Mr Shorten will have a new expensive promise for us, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. What does disappoint me is that his accounts of how his party would be able to pay for them are so empty, and there is never a mention of reducing the budget deficit. No journalist seems able or interested in asking questions of this kind. On the one occasion when one did, Mr Shorten’s response was that the wealthy would pay more in tax, and they could afford to. Surely somebody, somewhere, sometime…

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