Category

Books

The ‘Great Debate’ on Climate Science

By | Books, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 154 Comments

Some time ago Anthony Watts opened his website to what purported to be a ‘great debate’ on climate science, between William Happer, emeritus professor of physics at Princeton and very recently an adviser to President Trump (Professor Happer and I have corresponded from time to time), and David Karoly, a professor at Melbourne University who has been involved in a number of IPCC reports. I had a particular interest in this debate, because I had debated Professor Karoly myself, some years ago. Apart from saying that there was a lot in what I said that he would agree with, Professor…

Read More

On Faith

By | Books, Climate Change, History, Media, Politics, Religion | 53 Comments

I have never met Cardinal George Pell, nor heard him speak save in television grabs, but I have read a number of his essays, and each of them seemed to be lucid, clearly expressed and sensible — the latter not in every respect, because I do not always agree with him, but logical and forceful in the way his argument is put forward. If you don’t agree with him, you have to be able to argue against him. That is not easy. In the most recent issue of Quadrant Cardinal Pell reviews a book about the situation of the Christian Church…

Read More

Rimsky-Korsakov

By | ABC, Books, History, Music, Society | 13 Comments

A week ago I found it hard to deal with pain, and went to hospital, which fixed things up pretty well after three days. Those three days included the implosion of the Turnbull Government, and all that followed, about most of which I was quite unaware, and when I did know, cared less. Recovery from the pain episode is continuing, and I decided I would write again about something that has been part of my life since I was about eighteen, Western classical music, and in this instance, the life and music of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Why him? Well, not so…

Read More

Waste Not, Water Not

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Politics, Society | 13 Comments

First, a note about my capacity to deal with comments. The treatment I am on causes fatigue, and means also that everything else I do that might once have taken ten minutes now takes twenty. So I’m progressing slowly with responses to comments, and also writing a new piece every few days, not to mention completing a new book. I seem to slip behind everywhere. Where I think I ought to comment I’ll do so in time. Waste  The ABC seems to be hammering me, and all other viewers and listeners, about its ‘war on waste’. The last episode was…

Read More

The changing Australian culture

By | Books, Economy, Education, Food & Wine, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society, Sport, Theatre | 22 Comments

To write a new website essay is now a challenge, but I feel up to it. And I’ve wanted to write about this subject at a little length, rather than as a series of asides. It is built around a most interesting book by the always interesting John Carroll, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University. Land of the Golden Cities is published by Connor Court, and my copy took me a month to acquire. And then I got ill. But reading it brought back a platoon of memories. Here are three. Late 1950s. Two of us, senior undergraduates,…

Read More

Why write a thriller?

By | Books, Language, Society | 23 Comments

First, the bad news. I’ve written briefly about this before, but the fuller news is worse. Over the past six weeks I have had increasing pain in my back, not low down (L5) which has been my companion for 35 years, but quite a lot higher. At about the same time, but perhaps a month earlier, I noticed another pain in my left thigh, a pain which worsened and eventually stopped my playing tennis. My chiropractor (35 years in attendance) could not find anything to stop the pains, and proposed an X-Ray. The observed result was a fracture at T8….

Read More

Is Western Civilisation worth studying?

By | Books, Education, History, Language, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 47 Comments

The back-story to this essay is the bequest of Paul Ramsay, businessman and philanthropist, to ensure that what he saw as the true gifts of what we commonly call Western civilisation were taught and appreciated. He felt that they were being forgotten, ignored — worse, ignorantly rejected, and by those who should above all recognise and respect them. So he put some $3 billion into a Trust some of which was to establish teachers and scholarships in Australian universities to ensure that what he wanted happened. He had in mind, I think, the ‘Great Books’ curriculum famous at Chicago. It…

Read More

Three cheers for Pollyanna

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 85 Comments

One commenter to my last essay thought that I had ‘a Pollyanna view of the world’. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but it gave me the focus for another essay, which follows naturally from the last two. What has been most interesting in the Comments to these two essays about progress has been the determination on the part of some readers to continue to see the world as bad, dangerous, awful, unequal, unfair, what you will, in the face of good global data that don’t say the opposite, exactly, but make the point that for the great majority out…

Read More

Why aren’t more people ‘factful’?

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Media, Politics, Research, Society | 68 Comments

I have written about the Swedish medico and educator Hans Rosling before, and have greatly enjoyed his TED talks, especially this one. He and his son and daughter have produced a book, Factfulness. Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. I had learned from the inside back cover that he has died, and that his book is a kind of summary of his world-view, and his earnest hope that people will become more optimistic about the future. They should, because his story, based mostly on data produced by agencies of the UN…

Read More

The May Off-Topic Thread

By | Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 22 Comments

This thread is for ideas and comments that are not directly relevant to the weekly essay. I’ll start this one with a link to another essay written by Michael Schellenberger, a well-known American environmentalist, who is running for Governor of California. It is not really about the US at all, but about the way in which alternative energy sources are affecting (upwards) the price of electricity, and is therefore directly relevant to we who live Down Under, because the same elements apply. Somewhere I have seen a Part Two, and when I find it I’ll link it too. How Solar…

Read More