On ‘expertise’, ‘experts’ and ‘science’

By | Other | One Comment

This essay hovers around the notions of ‘expertise’ and ‘experts’, concepts used in ‘science’ that have been much to the fore in the last thirty years or so, and especially in the last few months, when competing cries of expertness and science have been uttered about COVID-19 and what to do about it. The words have Latin origins and come to us through Old French. But the core of ‘expertise is the notion of something having been tested by experience, an ‘expert’ likewise being someone who has had experience, and is skilful. In the 19thcentury an intensified sense of skilful…

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More on the culture of the ABC

By | Other | 84 Comments

Several years ago I wrote a piece for the Sydney Institute Quarterly (SIQ) on what I saw as a mismatch between the ABC’s charter and the way in which news was presented. It was a ‘more sorrow than anger’ piece, because I had a long association with the ABC, as a talking head on radio and television, an advisory committee member for NSW, and a junior organiser of concerts in a country town. I had even tried, and failed, to get my piano music played, when there was an opportunity to be heard by an expert. He said I wasn’t one,…

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Beethoven is 250

By | Other | 8 Comments

In April 1770 James Cook sailed past a large mountain on the south coast of what would eventually be called New South Wales, and named it Mt Dromedary. Later in the day he named Pigeon House Mountain, because the sight reminded him of a pigeon house. In July he was beached off the coast of what would be called Queensland, because he had discovered what would later be called the Great Barrier Reef, and it caused a hole in his ship’s hull. It took him six weeks to repair the damage. At the end of the year, probably December 16th,…

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Food miles

By | Other | 18 Comments

   The other night I was watching a cooking program, and part of it was about a restaurant where everything was locally sourced. The chef talked about ‘food miles’ and I decided that I would explore the concept, which is what it looks like: you should eat locally and avoid adding to the world’s carbon footprint. Now the ‘miles’ measurement came from the UK, and some time ago, but for someone in Canberra one hundred km would be the more sensible measure. I thought about it all while I happily ate my ruby red grapefruit. My breakfast starts with half such…

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Morrison and Trump, a comparison

By | Other | 33 Comments

Commenter Stu has asked that I do a ‘compare and contrast’ between Scott Morrison and Donald Trump. I was intending to write about the performance of the Prime Minister since his election, and am happy to broaden the subject to include such a comparison. I don’t have a lot of space, so my comments will be brief, and set out under a set of headings that make sense to me. Current standing Scott Morrison is doing very well in the polls, though he was doing rather badly earlier in the year. Earlier this month some 64 per cent of those…

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Planet of the Humans

By | Other | 348 Comments

I am not much of a TV watcher, and even less for watching documentaries, unless they are about cooking, for I make a lot of my own breakfasts, and dinners if I don’t much like what the facility provides (it is usually good). There seemed to be a deal of fuss about ‘Planet of the Humans’, and I thought I should spend hour and forty minutes watching it. The title is a take on ‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968), which I did see long time ago, and have almost completely forgotten. This documentary stars Jeff Gibbs, who is also a…

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Facts and Opinions

By | Other | 210 Comments

SBS, which I watch quite a bit, has a piece on Coronavirus, in lots of languages, too. And one of its claims is that what you will find there are ‘facts, not opinions’. I pondered a bit about that distinction, and went to see if I could distinguish them.  What can legitimately be called a ‘fact’ about the virus? Its classification, I suppose, as a ‘positive-sense, single-stranded RNA genome. The genome size for coronaviruses ranges from 26.4 to 31.7 kilobases.[7] The genome size is one of the largest among RNA viruses. The genome has a 5? methylated cap and a 3? polyadenylated tail.’ (This is from Wikipedia. There is more of the…

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The High Court and Cardinal Pell

By | Other | 186 Comments

I wrote about Cardinal Pell’s trial and his incarceration more than a year ago,and was then deeply troubled by the whole business. I did not think he had received a fair trial, and probably could not have received one, given the almost visceral fury with which he had been pursued in the media. How could twelve jurors have shut their eyes and ears to what they had seen and heard in the preceding months? Victoria did not have the possibility of a judge-alone trial, which might have produced a fairer outcome. Cardinal Pell appealed, and it took more than 400…

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Working from home

By | Other | 112 Comments

One thing about the pandemic and its consequences I am pretty confident about is that when the virus is properly under control more and more of us will continue to work from home. For knowledge-workers it just makes greater sense. Perhaps even for Wilson, as below: I have had the great good fortune to have been able to work from home throughout my working life. At the time it was just the way it was. As a married postgraduate student with children I was able to live in a student apartment that had a sort of study built into it. Along…

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Choices, choices …

By | Other | 35 Comments

I carry in my memory a Ginger Meggs cartoon in which Ginger wants to go to the movies, but needs his mother’s approval (and probably money). He finally persuades her by saying that the plot involves a husband who has to choose to save either his wife or his best friend. Father Meggs comes home to find a cold dinner and a note: ‘Heat it yourself, you brute! I’ve gone to mother’s.’ Choices like that are the devil, and as the Covid-19 plague increases we are beginning to see two sorts of choices being pointed to. One is whether we…

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