Category Archives: Health

A less than usual election coming up

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 60 Comments

On October 15th the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory will go to the polls to elect their representatives, and through them their Government. No one much outside the ACT will pay much attention, but I do, since I live there and will be voting. Of course, the result, whatever it is, will be seen as a pointer to the next Federal election, and denied by the other side, dismissing it as simply local. But there are a number of reasons why those interested in politics at all should watch what is happening, because this one is not simply the usual poll….

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The distinction between true scepticism and denial

By | Books, Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 201 Comments

I came across the phrase in the title, and followed a link to a recent journal article which for once was available on open access. Entitled ‘Science and the Public: Debate, Denial, and Skepticism’,  it looked interesting. You can read it here. The four authors come from different fields, and propose to outline ‘the distinction between true scepticism and denial’. They also offer some guidelines to help researchers, and interested members of the public, decide how to deal with enquiries, on the one hand,  and problems which people see in published science, on the other. The reader is brought into the area of ‘climate change’…

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Left and Right in Australian politics

By | Climate Change, Education, Environment, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 48 Comments

The last two essays have looked at the various meanings of  ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ as the terms are used in politics. In this essay I look at their application in our own country. I have spent some years in the UK and the USA,, and visited other parts of the world on a regular basis. In Britain it was clear to me at once that their politics, despite the apparent similarity of parties called ‘Labour’ and ‘Labor’, was not the same as ours, and the longer I was there the more I saw the differences rather than the similarities. Britain…

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It doesn’t have to be a circus

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Politics, Religion, Research | 32 Comments

The driver who took us home from the airport suggested that the election result was a bad thing because the outcome was uncertain. I said the result was the result we had, and that the politicians would simply have to make it work. That was, after all, what their jobs were about. Politics is the art of the compromise. He was unpersuaded. A clear outcome was what he had been seeking, and it seemed to him, I thought, that anything else was bad for the country. We didn’t solve that one before the car arrived at our freezing house, unheated for…

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Where does our responsibility stop?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 61 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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What sort of election campaign are we having?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, History, Indigenous, Language, Media, Politics, Society | 9 Comments

I was a young (in fact the youngest) member of the political science department when I was invited to join a senior colleague in commenting on the ABC’s 1966 election night extravaganza; James Dibble was the anchorman. I had not appeared on television before, and it was all new and somewhat forbidding. Once it started, though, I forgot about the cameras. I did know a lot about elections and vote counting, where seats were, who the candidates were, and so on. There were a couple of politicians on our panel, but I can no longer remember clearly who they were. Perhaps…

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Managing comments on the website

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Language, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 43 Comments

I’ve had to think hard about how best to moderate the comments on this website. A number of the recent posts have had more than 100 comments, and one has passed 200. Just following them is a decent amount of work, and it gets in the way of other writing important to me. My own practice has been to respond to anyone who I think is seeking a real answer to something, or who has found a weakness in what I have written, or who seems to have misunderstood what I wrote. I learn from such encounters. If I find I…

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Towards ‘a mature discussion’ in Australian society

By | Climate Change, Education, Health, History, Language, Media, Politics, Religion, Research, Society | 170 Comments

At the discussion on arts funding that I mentioned the other day, one of the panel spoke well about the need for ‘a mature discussion’, in which each side really listened to the other, and thought about what they had heard. I was reminded at once of an encounter I had experienced at the University of Canberra, in my last year there. My resourceful deputy, Meredith Edwards, who knew a great deal about how you can translate good research ideas into effective policy, suggested that we meet with two union leaders under a neutral arbiter and have a ‘mature discussion’ about matters…

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What should we do about the United Nations?

By | ABC, Climate Change, Health, History, Media, Politics, Society | 55 Comments

The CoP21 meeting held in Paris at the end of last year, about which I wrote at the time, must have been the largest international meeting ever held, with the total attendance  approaching 50,000 ‘delegates’ and hangers-on, including 3,000 journalists. The numbers about attendance keep appearing. I was pleased that Australia’s contingent seems to have been reasonably modest. Canada’s, at 383 (including several photographers), was apparently larger than those of the USA, UK and Australia put together. In Justin Trudeau the Canadians appear to have their very own home-grown version of Kevin Rudd. The whole show prompted me to look again at the…

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Should the public funding of basic science stop?

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, Media, Politics, Religion, Research | 5 Comments

I have commented favourably on Matt Ridley’s work a few times (for example, here, and here). He is an entertaining writer, well-read and wide-ranging. He wrote a typically engaging piece in the Wall Street Journal a week or so ago, and when I had finished it I had an unexpected reaction: I just didn’t agree with him. His essay is called ‘The Myth of Basic Science’, and its general argument is that the old linear model of technological development — that basic research leads to applied research, which leads to commercial applications, which lead to technological development — is flawed…

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