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A couple of days ago I posted an article essentially saying that same sex relationships may be as loving and worthy of respect as heterosexual relationships, but they are a different thing, with different meaning to society, so it is wrong to get the government to force everyone to pretend they are the same.

Of all the odd responses I got, which included various names and obscene suggestions, this was surely the oddest: “How are they different? Give me one way they are different, you ignorant bigotted piece of sh%t.” I had three different variations of this question, including “Your an ar^$hole how th f$%k are they differnt?”

It surely cannot be the case that large numbers of people really cannot see any difference between a long term relationship between a man and woman which is open to the possibility of new life, and a relationship between two men or two women.

There are multiple differences. But the most fundamental is this: society can survive perfectly well without homosexual relationships. No society can survive without heterosexual relationships. This is why every society in every place and every part of history has given special recognition and protection to long-term heterosexual relationships. That is what marriage is.

To paraphrase gay activist Milo Yiannopoulos: ” I am in love. I would like that relationship to be recognised and celebrated. But It’s not a marriage. We all know it’s not a marriage. It is silly to pretend it is. Just call it something else.”

To be fair, people do and say silly things all the time. They don’t much matter. If some same sex couples want to go through a ceremony and say they are married, fine. I don’t want to stop anyone doing what makes them happy. But I do object to anyone trying to get the government to force everyone to pretend to agree, or labelling any disagreement “hate speech.”

Last word from gay Irish journalist Richard Waghorne:

“Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman.

Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not. I am conscious of this when considering my own circle of friends, quite a few of whom have recently married or will soon do so in the future. Many, if not most or all of them, will raise children. If, however, I or gay friends form civil partnerships, those are much more unlikely to involve raising children.

So the question that matters is this: Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference? A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.

This is why the demand for gay marriage goes doubly wrong. It is not a demand for marriage to be extended to gay people – it is a demand for marriage to be redefined. The understanding of marriage as an institution that exists and is supported for the sake of strong families changes to an understanding of marriage as merely the end-point of romance.

If gay couples are considered equally eligible for marriage, even though gay relationships do not tend towards child-raising and cannot by definition give a child a mother and a father, the crucial under-standing of what marriage is actually mainly for has been discarded. What that amounts to is the kind of marriage that puts adults before children. That, in my opinion, is ultimately selfish, and far too high a price to pay simply for the token gesture of treating opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships identically. And it is a token gesture.

Isn’t it common sense, after all, to treat different situations differently? To put it personally, I do not feel in the least bit discriminated against by the fact that I cannot marry someone of the same sex.”

Credit for some of the above, including the long quote from Richard Waghorne, to Bill Muehlenberg’s thoughtful, detailed and meticulously researched book “Strained Relations.”

I have gay family members, and have had gay friends all my life; people who are dear to me, whose feelings I value, and whose opinions I respect. I have been to gay bars, events and festivals with gay friends, been propositioned by men more times than I can remember, and am happy to greet my gay friends with a kiss on the cheek. In the same way as my other friends, they deserve my love, loyalty and support.

Nonetheless I will be voting No.

These are some of the issues:

1.We are told that if Australia does not legislate to redefine marriage we will be falling behind other civilised countries.

2. We are told redefining marriage is a matter of justice and equality.

3. We are told that nothing else will change. The only thing that will be different is that gay couples will now be allowed to marry. It won’t affect anyone else, so no one else has any right to have a say.

4. We are told there is no “slippery slope,” that no further changes to the definition of marriage will be made after this.

5. We are told there is no connection between same sex marriage and the teaching of gender fluidity.

Let’s consider these claims.

1. The fact that some other society is doing something is not in itself a reason for us to do it. Even if it were, so far approximately ten percent of the world’s nations, representing less than ten percent of the world’s population, have legislated to change the meaning of marriage. This is a long way from an overwhelming or compelling majority.

2. To claim that redefining marriage is a matter of justice is to prejudge, to take for granted, what is being discussed. To say something is just is to say it is right. That is exactly what is at issue.

Things can be equal in different ways. People are equal in dignity and value, regardless of gender, race, intelligence or physical ability. But that is not to say they are same in every way. Men and women are different. People have different levels of intelligence, different abilities, different interests. It is entirely reasonable and fair to distinguish people on the basis of these factors. If you are short and slow, you probably won’t get picked to play basketball. If you have never sat down at a piano in your life you probably won’t be invited to perform a piano concert at the Sydney Opera House.

Marriage has varied from society to society, for example in the permissible difference in ages, the degree to which the partners may be related, or sometimes, the number of people involved. What has never changed is that it is a permanent bond between male and female. Even in societies with a high degree of tolerance for homosexual acts, it has never been suggested until twenty years ago that a relationship between two men or two women was identical to a life-long commitment between a man and a woman with openness to new life, or that it had the same meaning to society.

Recognising this difference, that these two things are not the same and therefore not equal, is not unfairly discriminatory any more than saying a dog cannot be a cat, no matter how much it wants to be, or that a square cannot be a triangle.

This not to suggest that same-sex relationships cannot be as loving, as stable, as worthy of respect as a marriage, but simply simply to note that they are different things. This is similar to the argument employed by some of the many same sex attracted opponents of the re-definition of marriage. “We know our relationships are different,” they say, “so why do we need to appropriate hetero-sexual institutions to feel validated?” Not better or worse, just different. It is ignoring reality to insist they be called by the same name.

3. Since the early 2000s a number of countries have redefined marriage to include same sex partnerships. Of these, only Ireland has made the change as the result of a vote by the people. In all others it was changed by judicial fiat, as in the United States, or by government without direct reference to the people, as in New Zealand and the UK. Fifteen years is not a long time over which to study impacts on society, but some things have become clear.

The first is that redefining marriage does not change what same sex attracted people can do. In Australia, same sex partnerships have exactly the same protections under law as marriages. The have the same rights in relation to superannuation, succession, taxation and government benefits. Same sex attracted people can find a celebrant, get dressed in white, invite their friends, go through a ceremony, and say they are married. They can claim their relationship is exactly the same as a relationship between a married couple, and means the same thing to wider society. The legalisation of “same sex marriage” does not change that at all. What does change is that everyone else is now obliged to agree.

The promised protections for conscience and free speech in Ireland have been undone two years later. The US has seen a seemingly never-ending targeting of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim bakeries, florists, venue operators, printers, photographers, etc, etc, etc, or anyone who still believes about marriage what everyone believed until twenty years ago. No one is permitted to disagree. Last year there were demands that Fixer Upper, a popular house renovation TV show, be taken off the air because activists had discovered that the couple who made the show went to a church whose pastor had expressed the view that marriage was between a man and woman. In 2014 the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his position after it was discovered that he had made a donation in support of the traditional view of marriage. In Denmark Lutheran pastors are now forced by law to conduct marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.
Redefining marriage changes nothing that same sex people can do, or the protections they have under law. It simply forces everyone else to comply.

4. Once the essence of the meaning of marriage – a lifetime commitment between male and female – is removed, It is difficult to see how further changes can be avoided without cries of unfairness and discrimination. This story sent to me by a friend sums up the situation:

Good morning. We want to apply for a marriage license.”
“Names?” said the clerk.
“Tim and Jim Jones.”
“Jones?? Are you related? I see a resemblance.”
“Yes, we’re brothers.”
“Brothers? You can’t get married.”
“Why not? Aren’t you giving marriage licenses to same gender couples?”
“Yes, of course, that’s the law. But we haven’t had any siblings. That’s incest!”
“‘Incest?’ No, we are not gay.”
“Not gay? Then why do you want to get married?”
“We love each other. Besides, we don’t have any other prospects.”
“But we’re issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who’ve claim they’d been denied equal protection under law. If you are not gay, you can get married to a woman.”
“Wait a minute. A gay man has the same right to marry a woman as I have. But just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I want to marry a woman. I want to marry Jim.”
“And I want to marry Tim, Are you going to discriminate against us just because we are not gay?”
“All right, have it your own way. Here’s your license. Next.”

“Hi. We are here to get married.”
“Names?”
“John Smith, Jane James, Robert Green, and June Johnson.”
“Who wants to marry whom?”
“We all want to marry each other.”
“But there are four of you!”
“That’s right. You see, we’re all bisexual. I love Jane and Robert, Jane loves me and June, June loves Robert and Jane, and Robert loves June and me. All of us getting married together is the only way that we can express our sexual preferences in a marital relationship.”
“But we’ve only been granting licenses to gay and lesbian couples.”
“So you’re discriminating against bisexuals!”
“No, it’s just that, well, the traditional idea of marriage is that it’s just for couples.”
“Since when are you standing on tradition?”
“Well, I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.”
“Who says? There’s no logical reason to limit marriage to couples. The more the better. Besides, we demand our rights! The law guarantees us equal protection.”
“All right, have it your own way. Here’s your license. Next.”

5. If men and women are different, then a relationship between two men or two women is different from a relationship between a man and a woman. Claiming equality between same sex relationships and marriage can only be maintained if men and women are interchangeable. This depends on the claim that gender is fluid, can be changed, and is largely a matter of choice. A man can become a woman, or a woman a man, because there are no essential differences between the two.

Once marriage is redefined to include same sex relationships, general acceptance of gender fluidity becomes a necessity. This needs to be taught. And taught it will be. In the UK, couples who believe marriage is between a man and a woman are no longer considered suitable to act as foster parents. But in an astonishingly hypocritical policy, children can be taken from ordinary English families which are in trouble, and sent to be fostered with Muslim families, despite the fact that under Sharia law homosexual acts are punishable by death. In Canada children can be removed from families which do not support their children’s gender choices, or facilitate gender transitions if desired. California is currently considering legislation which makes it a jailable offence to call someone by other than their preferred pronouns.

To summarise:

I love my gay friends and family members. I would oppose any legislation which gave them less protection under law, or limited their choices.

Demands to redefine marriage are not about tolerance for homosexual acts, or for same sex attracted people. Their relationships already have equal status in every way relating to succession law, benefits and taxation, etc.

If same sex attracted people want to say their relationships are exactly the same as a life-time commitment between a man and woman, and mean the same thing to society, most people would not be bothered about this.

If they want to go through a ceremony and say they are married, most people would wish them well.

But if they want to get the government to force everyone to agree with them, that moves over the line from the rightful and realistic expectation of tolerance, to Stalinist enforcement of compliance.

The campaign to redefine marriage is not about letting same sex attracted people do what they want. They already can. It is about demanding the government create a society in which no one is permitted to disagree. That is not tolerance and freedom. It is the exact opposite.

Societies are successful when their policies and practices align with reality. Success for a society means the ongoing ability to provide resources and safety to ensure that children can grow to maturity, and in turn, have children of their own. Once this basic necessity is ensured, success can also be measured by life-span, low infant mortality, growth in scientific and mathematical understanding, in political participation and freedom, and in literary, musical and artistic output.

At the most basic level, if one group of cave dwellers insisted on hunting for mammoth in rugged mountains were mammoth were few in number, they would be less successful than another group who hunted on the plain where mammoth where plentiful. If one society believes the universe is worth investigating, and is ordered according to rules which are consistent and can be understood, such a society will be more successful than one which believes nature is ruled over by a god, or gods and demi-gods, so fickle that any attempt at understanding nature is doomed to failure, or a society which believes nature is an illusion, or that matter is intrinsically evil and not worth investigating.

The belief that the universe is worth investigating and can and should be investigated is so familiar to us that it seems obvious. But it was the view of no one at all until 2,000 years ago, and has become the majority view of mankind only in the last one hundred years. It has become the majority view of mankind not so much because of any direct evidence that it is true, but simply because it works.

The alignment with reality that leads to success for a society is not simply a matter of insight into the nature and rules of physical reality, but also of a realistic assessment of human nature. For example, socialism has never worked in practice and never will work, because it fundamentally misunderstands human nature. It is too generous in its assessment. It is difficult to motivate or inspire people to take pains and labour if they do not see some benefit of their work flowing to themselves or their families.

Because the most basic requirement for a successful society is to provide conditions in which children can be raised and go on to raise future generations, societies everywhere have taken measures to recognise and protect the family. The choice to live together and raise children has been regarded as something in which the wider society has an interest. This is more than respect for and celebration of the mating/loving relationship between male and female. In almost every known society there is official recognition by the community of long term sexual relationships between male and female, which involves notions of binding or tying together, from which exit is made difficult, and outside of which sex is regarded as illicit, or at least discouraged or viewed as not fully meaningful.

For most of the last 2,000 years, the West has regarded marriage as being between one man and one woman for life. The Western tradition includes other requirements before a couple can be considered married. Free consent must be given by both parties. If one party is unable or unwilling to consent, no marriage has taken place.  There can be no coercion. This means that neither party to the marriage can be intoxicated or otherwise impaired to the extent that there could be doubt about his or her ability to understand and enter freely into the marriage agreement. The parties must be of marriageable age. How this has defined has varied, but in the West it has meant as a minimum that both parties must have passed through puberty. The parties must not be within restricted degrees of relatedness. The list of prohibited degrees included in the English Prayerbook forms the basis for law in most English speaking countries and prohibits marriage between close relatives, but not cousins. The relationship must include the reproductive sexual act. A marriage which is not consummated may be annulled; it was never a marriage.

Other societies have had varied these requirements. In some, a man may have more than one wife. In a very small number, a woman may have more than one husband. In some societies the marriage of older men to very young women is common. Others have different rules about how closely related the parties can be. In every society, however, the relationship is regarded as a permanent and civilly or religiously recognised and bonded sexual relationship between male and female.

This is a very different view of marriage to the rather cloudy notion that has overshadowed recent discussion. Marriage has not in any previous society ever been regarded as purely a matter for the parties concerned. Indeed, part of what makes a marriage is the public commitment, and public recognition and recording of this commitment. Marriage is not simply a relationship in which there is respect and care for one another, although those will be part of any successful marriage.

For example, imagine two brothers, one seriously disabled. They share a house. One has devoted his life to caring for the other. This is clearly a relationship based on a high degree of trust, love, and commitment. But almost no one would describe this relationship as a marriage, even if the two expressed a wish that they be considered married. What if they began having a sexual relationship? If they then asked their community to recognise their “right’ to marry, and went through a form of ceremony claiming as much, would that mean that a marriage existed between them? If not, why not?

A few days ago news outlets reported a mother and daughter being arrested for incest after living together in a sexual relationship after having been through a marriage ceremony. http://www.people.com/article/what-you-need-to-know-about-patricia-spann-the-oklahoma-mother-who-married-her-children The mother had previously married her son. That marriage had been annulled at the son’s request on the basis that it was incestuous and therefore not a genuine marriage. The mother and daughter are both adults and entered freely into the relationship. Are they in fact married? If not, why not?

Some people in such relationships claim they are genetically predisposed to be sexually attracted to close relatives. They are born with urges which makes it difficult for them to form sexual relationships with others. Sex with close relatives seems right and normal to them. If they were born that way, they ask, how can it be wrong? In recent years there have been reports of people marrying dogs, dolphins, inanimate objects such as bridges, and even themselves, a state of being called sologamy. Most people would not consider these relationships marriages, although they would probably be content to let people in them call themselves married if they wanted to, as long as others were not forced to agree.

One argument for not regarding those relationships as marriages, no matter how much care and respect the partners have for one another, is that no societies ever, anywhere have done so. Whatever other variations there have been in understanding what a marriage is, it has never included relationships with animals, or with oneself. Nor has it ever included relationships with members of the same sex. Even in societies which had a high degree of tolerance for homosexual relationships it was never suggested that those relationships were identical in nature and function and in their meaning to society as a long-term relationship between male and female.

This is not to suggest that those relationships are inferior. There may be homosexual or polyamorous or inter-species relationships which are every bit as caring, respectful and committed as heterosexual relationships. It is simply recognising what ought to be and until recently was, obvious; that they are not the same thing.

I asked a random sample of friends whether they thought it would be appropriate for the government to insist that everyone agree it was a marriage when 1. A woman married a dolphin 2. A group of three men marry each other. 3. A man marries himself. The answers were no, no (with one exception) and no. The one exception was “Why shouldn’t they, if they want to. They are not doing anyone any harm.” But she had missed the point. The question wasn’t about whether it was acceptable for the three men to go through a commitment ceremony and think of themselves as married, but rather, whether it would be appropriate for the government to force everyone else to agree.

When I asked why these things should not be considered marriage, or rather, why the government should not insist that everyone agree they are, the answers were remarkably uniform. Essentially; “It’s silly. They are not the same thing.”

Words are meaningful not only because of what they include, but because of what they exclude. For example, the word cat is meaningful because it includes cats, and also because it excludes all other objects, including other four legged mammals. Some objects are in (all cats) and some objects are out (all other things). Let’s say some squirrels felt distressed at being excluded from the world of catness. They begin to call themselves cats. No one much minds. But then they begin to insist that other animals also call them cats. “Don’t you believe in equality?” they ask. It is hard to argue with that. Everyone wants to be on the side of equality. So eventually the government passes a law saying that all animals are cats, and no one has the right to discriminate. It is hard to argue with that. No one wants to be guilty of discrimination.

Except for one thing. Squirrels are not, in fact, cats, and therefore are not equal to cats. Nor are horses or chimpanzees. Even if they want to be. And this very useful word, cat, is no longer useful at all, because its meaning has become so wide, so equal, so non-discriminatory, that it has no meaning at all. If a word can mean anything, it has no meaning at all.

Sometimes SSM activists claim that redefining marriage will not affect anyone but themselves. It won’t affect anyone else, they claim, so why should anyone else even have a say?

How would legitimising sex with minors affect your relationship with children you know? It would, even if you never had any such intentions towards them, because it would change the whole dynamic of child/adult relationships.

How would allowing brother and sister to marry affect your relationship with your siblings? It would, regardless of your feelings for your siblings, because it would change the way siblings relate to one another. And if you object to a father marrying a daughter, or two brothers marrying each other, what is wrong with you? Don’t you believe in marriage equality? Haven’t we moved past the time when society can tell people who to love?

Any change to the definition of marriage affects all existing marriages. We thought we were entering into one sort of covenant, now it turns out that we have actually entered into something quite different, something other than an open to life, lifetime commitment between one man and one woman.

Forcing people to call a variety of types of relationships by one word will not alter the fact that they are different. This is not a religious judgement. It does not suggest that gay relationships are less loving or noble. They are just different.

Those who oppose the redefinition of marriage are not trying to stop anyone doing what they want. SSM activists are the ones who want force others to change their behaviour. Anyone who doubts this is simply not paying attention. In Australia, same sex relationships have exactly the same rights under law relating to succession, taxation, benefits, superannuation, etc, etc. People in same sex relationships are free to go through a ceremony, invite their friends, get dressed in white, have a wedding cake, go on a honeymoon. The proposed changes in the law will not change what same sex attracted people can do, and are not intended to. They are intended to force everyone else to agree, or pretend to agree, that two things that are different are the same.

This article lists a few of the changes in the UK since marriage was redefined there. https://www.spectator.com.au/2017/09/whats-changed-in-britain-since-same-sex-marriage/

In other jurisdictions in which marriage has been redefined, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim businesses, and anyone who believes what everyone believed about marriage until twenty years ago, have been subject to Gestapo type targetting and  persecution.

The notion of “marriage equality,” that is, that a relationship between two men or two women is in every way identical to a lifetime commitment between a man and woman, and has the same meaning to society, rests on the claim that gender is a social construct which has no basis in reality. If there are real differences between men and woman, then a relationship between two men is a different thing from a relationship between a man and woman. Consequently, coercing people to agree that two men or two women can be married, is inextricably linked to attempts to force people to accept “gender fluidity.”

In Canada, children can be removed from their family home if parents do not affirm their gender choices and encourage and assist “gender transition” (ie, life-changing and destructive hormone therapy and surgery)  if the child desires it. California is currently considering legislation which would make it a jailable offence to call someone by other than their preferred pronouns.

Demands to redefine marriage are not about tolerance for homosexual acts, or for same sex attracted people. Their relationships already have equal status in every way relating to succession law, benefits and taxation.

If same sex attracted people want to say their relationships are exactly the same as a life-time commitment between a man and woman, and mean the same thing to society, most people would not be bothered about this.

If they want to go through a ceremony and say they are married, most people would wish them well.

But if they want to get the government to force everyone to agree with them, that moves over the line from the rightful and realistic expectation of tolerance, to Stalinist enforcement of compliance.

The campaign to redefine marriage is not about letting same sex attracted people do what they want. They already can. It is about demanding the government create a society in which no one is permitted to disagree. That is not tolerance and freedom. It is the exact opposite.

I have some friends who are atheists. They seem like normal intelligent people most of the time, so it baffles me that they can accept so bizarre and irrational a belief system. Of course, most of them would be thoroughly confused by that statement. “We’re not saying we believe in anything,” they might say. “We are just saying we don’t believe in something, namely, God. What’s irrational about that?”

But that is not good enough. God explains stuff. Like Life, The Universe and Everything. If you remove God as the explanation, you have to come up with another one. If you want your theory to be convincing, it has to explain the evidence better than God. “What evidence?” atheists might ask. “I don’t see anything that needs explaining.”

To be clear, I am not talking about the impact of religion on society and history and individual lives, and whether it has been positive or negative; that is interesting, but it is another discussion. Nor am I talking about the content of other belief systems. Theravada Buddhism, for example, doesn’t believe in a damn thing, including God, except that there is not a damn thing to believe in, including yourself. Others believe in a variety of gods or spirits. Some people like the idea of angels, but have no idea where angels come from or what they do. I am not (at the moment) interested in any of those things, but only in the question of whether everything we see and experience is better explained by belief in God, or by some other theory.

Nor am I talking about the fact that atheism means that human life, art, suffering, work, families; the whole of human effort and endeavour, is pointless. In the end everything we do and feel will amount to nothing, mean nothing. Or that atheism means there is no objective morality. Morality, right and wrong, is simply whatever we believe it to be. There is no good or bad, just differing opinions. Societies can agree on some things and make them into laws, other societies can agree on different things and make them into laws. They can even call each other names because they disagree. It doesn’t matter. There are no objective standards, so outside your own culture’s view, it is meaningless to talk about right and wrong.

Many if not most atheists simply ignore these corollaries of their beliefs. Most of them still try to do what is right, and act as if their lives and lives of the people they care about had some meaning. That is interesting, but it is not why atheism is irrational. Atheism is irrational because it is not a reasonable explanation of the facts.

Let’s think about the tooth fairy for a moment. The tooth fairy explains something; that from time to time teeth disappear from under a pillow and are replaced with money. If you decline to believe in the tooth fairy, then you need to offer a credible and economical theory which also explains this phenomenon. By economical I mean a theory which does not require the invention of some other unseen entity or entities for which there is otherwise no evidence. This is a rephrasing of William of Ockham’s famous “razor”: when trying to explain something, do not multiply entities beyond necessity. Or, don’t make up more stuff than you need to. Or, the simplest explanation is often the best.

For example, an alternative explanation which required the existence of an entirely new class of supernatural beings would not be acceptable. For example, OK, there are no tooth fairies. What is actually happening is that there is an alternative universe inhabited by creatures called Morbongs. There is a serious deficiency of calcium in their universe, and they have invented machinery which can detect loose teeth in ours. When they find a tooth under a pillow they open a portal between their universe and ours, take the tooth, and leave something in exchange. Usually money, but sometimes a button or a bit of cat hair. The appropriate response to this explanation, even though it explains the phenomenon completely, is to suggest its proposer has had a bit more bong than is good for him.

The tooth fairy is trivial. That is, believing or not believing in the tooth fairy won’t affect your life much at all. Belief in God is not trivial. Theism or atheism is not a choice people can ignore. No, let me refine that. It is not a choice a thoughtful person can ignore. Nothing can make more difference to your understanding of what your life, and life in general, is about, than whether you believe in God or not. Either there is a God who has created the universe for some purpose and (at least in the Christian and Jewish view) invited you to share in that purpose both now and for all eternity; or we make our own way, nothing is objectively right or wrong, and nothing we do or decide matters anyway. This a bigger difference than between living in Antarctica and living in North Queensland. Your daily life would be different, your sense of the world around you would be different, even little choices, how far can I walk or cycle, what clothes do I wear, what food is available, are vastly different. The difference between believing the universe has a purpose which you can be part of, and believing the universe has no purpose, couldn’t care less about you, and you are not ultimately part of anything, is orders of magnitude greater. Thoughtful consideration of the evidence for theism and atheism is incumbent upon every intelligent adult.

Atheists need to be able to offer a credible and economical theory which explains:

Why there is anything rather than nothing?

Given that there is something, why is the universe so finely tuned for life?

Why is there such abundant life on earth and in so many forms?

To limit the extent of this discussion, I am not going to discuss the first. Atheists can decide for themselves whether they believe in an infinite regression of causes, or if they don’t like that idea, that some things just happen, with no preceding energy or matter or cause at all. Nor am I going to discuss the third. It is clear the earth is very old – billions of years old. I have no argument with that. But it is also clear that neo-Darwinism (the combination of evolution through natural selection and Mendelian genetics) has none of the explanatory power high-school textbooks ascribe to it, and is in serious trouble. That is a (very long) discussion for another time.

So let’s focus on this one question: How and why is the universe we inhabit so finely tuned for life?

The theist’s answer is simple; God made it that way. What do atheists have to say?

How finely tuned is it? What does that even mean anyway?

I will review the ruminations of Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, FRS, FREng, FMedSci, a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995, and was President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010.

In his book Just Six Numbers, Professor Rees notes the extraordinary extent to which the values of six key variables mean the universe conforms to just those requirements which enable the formation of stable atomic structures and other factors without which galaxies, stars and life itself would be impossible.

This is there merest flick through each of those six numbers (you don’t have to understand all of these, so skip this section if you want):

N, the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism to the strength of gravity for a pair of protons, is approximately 1036. According to Rees, if it were significantly smaller, only a small and short-lived universe could exist.

Epsilon, a measure of the nuclear efficiency of fusion from hydrogen to helium, is 0.007: when four nucleons fuse into helium, 0.007 (0.7%) of their mass is converted to energy. The value of ε is in part determined by the strength of the strong nuclear force. If ε were 0.006, only hydrogen could exist, and complex chemistry would be impossible. According to Rees, if it were above 0.008, no hydrogen would exist, as all the hydrogen would have been fused shortly after the big bang. Other physicists disagree, calculating that substantial hydrogen remains as long as the strong force coupling constant increases by less than about 50%.

Omega, the density parameter, is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the Universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1. If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. On the other side, if gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.

Lambda, commonly known as the cosmological constant, describes the ratio of the density of dark energy to the critical energy density of the universe, given certain reasonable assumptions such as positing that dark energy density is a constant. In terms of Planck units, and as a natural dimensionless value, the cosmological constant is on the order of 10-122. This is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. If the cosmological constant were not extremely small, stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.

Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10-5. If it is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent.

D, the number of spatial dimensions in spacetime, is 3. Rees claims that life could not exist if there were 2 or 4 dimensions of spacetime nor if any other than 1 time dimension existed in spacetime.

Simply put, while the possible settings are calculated in different ways, the odds of the universe having just the variables it has are less than 10-120. To get a (very rough) idea of just how unlikely this, imagine covering the whole of mainland Australia with 5c pieces. One has been painted red. Then imagine a blind man tossing a dart out of an orbiting space station and hitting just that 5c piece. Then imagine the space station circling round again, another blind man tossing a dart out at random and again hitting the only red 5c piece. Then imagine this happening ten times in a row. Would it be rational to believe this “just happened” or happened by chance?

Professor Michael Turner, astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab and President of the American Physical Society in 2013, said “The precision (of the fine-tuning of the universe) is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.”

Atheists are in the position of having to say this is just co-incidence.  Co-incidences happen all the time. A guy buys a lotto ticket for the first time, using his and his wife’s birthdays as the numbers, and wins. Two sisters with blonde hair are playing golf on different sides of the world. They are both struck by lightning at the same time. But the unlikeliness of these events vanishes into insignificance compared with the unlikeness of our universe.

Fred Hoyle, another famous British astrophysicist, said: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Another quote from Fred Hoyle: “The chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids is similar to the chances of a star system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cube simultaneously.”

And from a few others (these are just for reference. It’s not important to read all of them if you don’t want to; just the first few and the last few will do):

George Ellis (British astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.”

Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming.”

Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design… The universe must have a purpose.”

Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”

George Greenstein (astronomer): “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”

Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.”

Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

Roger Penrose (mathematical physicist, Professor of Mathematics, Mathematical Institute, Oxford): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.”

Tony Rothman (physicist): “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.”

Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” Since he wrote this, Tipler since has converted to Christianity, see his latest book, The Physics of Christianity.

Ed Harrison (cosmologist): “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God “the design argument of Paley” updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”

Edward Milne (British cosmologist): “As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him [God].”

Barry Parker (cosmologist): “Who created these laws? There is no question but that a God will always be needed.”

Drs Zehavi and Dekel (cosmologists): “This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with ‘common wisdom’.”

Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.”

Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia): “The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.”

Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”

Carl Woese (microbiologist from the University of Illinois) “Life in Universe – rare or unique? I walk both sides of that street. One day I can say that given the 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the 100 billion or more galaxies, there have to be some planets that formed and evolved in ways very, very like the Earth has, and so would contain microbial life at least. There are other days when I say that the anthropic principal, which makes this universe a special one out of an uncountably large number of universes, may not apply only to that aspect of nature we define in the realm of physics, but may extend to chemistry and biology. In that case life on Earth could be entirely unique.”

Antony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author, and debater) “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

See Flew’s book There is a God, in which he describes (in lengthy detail) how both science and philosophy finally convinced him God was the best and only complete explanation of real world and rational evidence.

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.”

Robert Jastrow (astrophysicist): “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

Of course there are still some who cling, kicking and screaming, to their bizarre and outdated atheism. Stephen Hawking is one. He and some others agree that it is simply impossible that the universe we inhabit is a  product of chance. There is no arguing with that. Their alternative is to posit the existence of an infinite number of universes. The argument goes like this: our universe is ridiculously unlikely. The number of alternate configurations which would not give rise to stable structures or life is greater than the number of atoms in the universe. Therefore there must be an infinite number of universes, so that for anything that is possible, there is a universe in which that possibility is realised. This theory is called the multiverse, or sometimes, the Landscape.

In inventing an infinite number of universes, physicists like Hawking are in the same position as our earlier friend who invented the Morbong and their calcium-deficient universe to explain the disappearance of teeth from under pillows. The amusing thing is, if Hawking and his chums are right, a calcium-deficient universe populated by intelligent Morbongs who steal teeth from a neighbouring universe really does exist. So do tooth fairies. There is a universe, in fact millions of them, in which Morbongs and tooth fairies compete for dwindling tooth supplies. It is not those who believe in God who believe in the tooth fairy, but atheists like Hawking. Their own theory requires them to.

If they don’t want to believe in God, atheists have to believe one of these two things:

* We live in a universe which, quite by chance, has exactly the variable settings needed for complex life to develop, even though the chances of that are less than one in a number billions of times more than the number of atoms in the universe; or
* We live in one of an infinite number of universes for which there is no evidence whatever, including one in which desperate Morbongs open inter-universal portals to hunt for lost teeth, one in which everything else is the same except you got up ten seconds earlier this morning, one in which the lump of snot you blew into your handkerchief yesterday was a hundredth of a gram lighter, one in which …  Well, you get the idea. Enough universes so that everything that possibly could happen, happens.

The first choice is irrational. The second choice is free of any evidence, and so bizarrely uneconomical that William of Ockham would have thought you were mocking him.

Neither of those choices makes sense. There is only one that does.

First, the Bible is not a single book. It did not land with a thump one evening on St Peter’s doorstep, complete with leather zipper cover and thumb-tabs. It is a collection of books written in different languages and different cultures over a period of 3,000 years. It includes a variety of types of literature; history, folk tales, fables, proverbs, law and poetry. Some of these work quite differently from the way the same kind of literature works now. For example, Hebrew poetry is not recognised by rhyme or rhythm as is most English poetry, but by parallelism; the repetition or development of an idea in succeeding lines. All of these things must be considered when trying to decide on the meaning and application of a verse of Scripture. Some kinds of literature in the Bible, apocalyptic, for example, are not forms we are familiar with at all, and with those, particular care must be taken not to impose meaning by the application of rules of interpretation which do not apply.

Second, any passage must interpreted in the context of its time and culture. For example, Deuteronomy 22:29 commands that a rapist must marry his victim and is not allowed to divorce her for as long as he lives. Our reaction to this is likely to be “What the flaming heck?” or words to that effect. But to understand this one does not even have to go back to Mesopotamia in 3,000BC. In most Middle-eastern countries now, a woman who complains she has been raped is likely to find that she is the one who is beaten, imprisoned and despised by her community, or killed by her own family for bringing shame upon them. 5,000 years ago, being raped meant a woman was defiled and unlikely to find a husband. Since it was unusual for women to work outside the home or to own property, this meant she could choose between life as a beggar or as a prostitute. Abject poverty or ridicule and shame. The law in Deuteronomy meant this could not happen. If a man raped a woman, he was responsible for her welfare from that day on. He could not divorce her, as he could other wives. As long as she lived, he was required to care for her. Would that work now? Of course not. But then, it was a creative and humane solution.

Third, for Christians, the meaning of all Scripture is found in Jesus. This principle cannot be overstated. All Christian biblical interpretation must be Christocentric. If it isn’t, then it is missing the point. Obviously Jews see this somewhat differently! This does not mean we are in a desert trying to work out what things mean by ourselves. Clear guidance can be found in the writings of the early church. That context; of the sermons, letters and other writings of the early Church fathers, provides a vital foundation to our reading and application of Scripture. For example, Christians have never believed the Mosaic law applied to them as law. Sometimes useful for guidance and discussion, yes. Binding as law, no.

Fourth, the fact that something is recorded in the Bible, whether as law or history, does not mean God thinks it’s a great idea. The history of David’s adultery with Bathsheeba and subsequent murder of her husband are a cautionary tale, not something to be emulated. Most of the Book of Judges is the same. It is a history of a time when “men did what was right in their own eyes” (pretty much like now). It was one messy disaster after another. Just because something is in the Bible does not mean God is saying it is a good thing.

This leads to the final point. There is a huge difference between description and prescription. There is a massive difference between Biblical descriptions of war, almost always portrayed as a result of human greed and sinfulness, and which portray the struggle of a desert people to come to an understanding of God which was utterly different from that of the cultures around them; and prescription – calls to violence which are binding upon the people of God in every place and for all time. Descriptions of violence can found in the Old Testament in plenty. Prescriptions for violence in perpetuity, never.

This means it is not just ludicrous, but ignorant in the extreme, to pick laws or records of violence out of the Old Testament and use these an argument that all religions are the same.

For Christians, Jesus is the perfect example of how to act. And that’s great. Jesus was honest, caring, respectful, courageous, self-sacrificing. For Muslims, Muhammad is the perfect example of conduct. Not so great. Muhammad was a serial rapist and murderer, a bandit, a torturer and a paedophile (a fifty-three year old man who rapes a nine year old girl is definitely a paedophile). Since he is the perfect example of conduct, nothing he did can be considered wrong, or made illegal in a Muslim country.

The Sharia law, which is based on the Quran and the Hadith (stories of the acts and sayings of Muhammad) are considered Allah’s perfect law for all people for all time. Every Muslim is required to consider him or her self subject to that law regardless of the laws of the country in which they may be living (hence the demands for Sharia courts) and to work for the imposition of Sharia law on the entire population. This is prescriptive, not descriptive. There can be no change or alteration in Sharia. Its outcome in practical and political terms is massively different. To give just one example, Muslims are less than one third of the world’s population, but make up more than two-thirds of its refugees. People are literally dying to get out of Islamic countries. Does these mean we condemn all Muslims? Absolutely not. They are the primary victims of Sharia and of violence by other Muslims. Is this a philosophy we would like to be influential here? Heck no.

A nice article which makes sense about education and learning to read, and which mentions my new book Jennifer Jones: Dark Turnings.

 

 

I just finished the author website for Wynford Wilde. This is the place to go for news on upcoming adventures in the Jennifer Jones series, starting with Dark Turnings, which is now available for Kindle or in paperback.

Describing myself as a best selling writer was just wishful thinking a week ago, but within three days of being launched my short story Encomium had shot to number two on the bestseller list in its number one Amazon category, and the top ten in two others:

Wynford Wilde’s sci-fi adventure Encomium hits number two on Amazon’s bestseller lists after only three days

My new book was released today, 5th of May 2017.

I like it, but more importantly, people who have read it tell me they enjoyed it too.

A fast-moving fantasy adventure for young adults. In the tradition of The Hobbit, it has the same moral heart as The lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Every time there is a major Christian festival, someone pops up with the claim that of course, this was really a pagan festival that Christians appropriated. And then the rest of the herd pass on whatever silly graphic has been created this time around to make the same claim.

Every single one of these claims is silly, tedious and ignorant. Not to mention intrinsically unlikely, given the determined opposition by Christian leaders East and West to any watering down or mixing of the Gospel message with local culture or religion.

Take the graphic going around FB over the last few days showing a statue of Ishtar, with the claim her name is pronounced Easter, and that, like obviously dude, that’s where Christians got the whole idea of Easter from.

There is not a single thing in that post/graphic which is true. Not even the statue – a statue of the queen of the night from the Old Babylonian period – some 2,000 to 1500 years before Christ. It could later, in the neo-Babylonian period (c600 to 500BC) – have been thought to be an image of Ishtar (pronounced Ishtar, as it is spelled, not Easter). But there are other possibilities, and archaeology is uncertain.

Ishtar was a minor goddess in the Akkadian/Assyrian/Babylonian pantheon. The Babylonians were defeated by the Persian Cyrus the Great in about 550BC, and the few temples dedicated to Ishtar fell into desuetude or were converted for use by Achaemenid deities. The Achaemenids then underwent a religious revolution of their own with the rapid growth of Zoroastrianism, before being defeated by the Greeks led by Alexander the Great at Gaugamela in about 331BC.

At Alexander’s death, the Eastern part of his empire was taken over by his general Seleucus Nicator. His dynasty, the Seleucids, maintained control over a large but declining empire that included most of the Middle-East until being defeated by the Roman general Pompey in 63BC.

By the time we get to 1st Century Judea we are more than 500 years from the time anyone had any serious interest in Ishtar, and 1400 kilometres away by normal trade routes.

There are no references to Ishtar in 1st Century Greek or Roman literature, and it is unlikely anyone living in Judea or Galilee or Samaria had ever even heard of her. Suggesting that because Ishtar and Easter sound vaguely alike they must mean the same thing makes as much sense as saying chocolate and choo-choo train sound alike so they must mean the same thing. It is just silly.

Quite apart from this, the word “Easter” was not used to describe the celebration of the Lord’s passion until over five hundred later, in England. Everywhere else, even today, the word for that celebration is Pascha, derived from the Hebrew word pesach, meaning Passover. It very early became a custom for Christians to give each other gifts of red-dyed eggs on the morning of Pascha, partly because they had been fasting from eggs and meat for the last forty days, and this was time for celebration, but more importantly, to symbolise passing over into new life won through the blood of Christ.

The Venerable Bede, the great historian of the early English Church, offered an explanation for the use of the term Easter in chapter fifteen of De Ratione Temporum (On the reckoning of Time), written about 725 AD:

“Nor is it irrelevant if we take the time to translate the names of the other months. … Hrethmonath is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time. Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”

In other words, Bede says that the name of the month of April, when the Pascha normally occurs, was Eosturmonath, and gradually Christians in England began to call the Paschal feast by the name of the month in which it occurred, so it became the feast of Easter.

However, careful as Bede usually is, this sounds like a “just-so” story; an explanation invented after the fact, and without any evidence. Kipling’s delightful Just-so stories were amongst my favourites as a child, and I can still tell you how the camel got its humph.

Bede is the only person to refer to a goddess by the name of Eostre. All later references to Eostre, or Ostara, or whatever other transliteration is given, including works by the Brothers Grimm, are based on this single sentence. It is likely that Bede simply assumed that because other Saxon months were named after gods and goddesses, Eosturmonath must have been too, so he deduced the existence of a goddess Eostre.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica has another explanation:

“There is now widespread consensus that the word derives from the Christian designation of Easter week as in albis, a Latin phrase that was understood as the plural of alba (“dawn”) and became eostarum in Old High German, the precursor of the modern German and English term.”

In other words, the Christian use of the phrase “In albis” – “at the dawn” (of new life, new beginnings, new hope) became in Old German “eostarum” dawning. Eosturmonath was named after the Paschal celebration. The word Easter ultimately derives from Christian use of the Old High German word eostarum, meaning dawn.

Whether Bede was right, or modern scholarship and the Encyclopaedia Britannica are right, the Pascha was well-established throughout the empire and beyond, long before a small group of Christians in England began using the name of the month to refer to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Proposed Jetty at Smith Bay on Kangaroo Island

KI Plantation Timbers (KPT) is planning to build a deep water jetty at Smith Bay on the North coast of Kangaroo Island. This plan has been controversial, mainly because of the possible impact of changes in water quality on the abalone farm which occupies land adjacent to the proposed jetty.

I will consider the reasons this development is being planned along with reasons for the choice of this site. I will then list some of the possible benefits to Kangaroo Island if the project is successful, before discussing some of the objections, both to the site, and to the proposal as a whole.

I have no personal interest in KPT whatever. This discussion is motivated by a desire for fairness and accuracy in discussions of development on Kangaroo Island, and for the best possible outcome for KI and its residents.

Why Build a Jetty?

Just under one half of one percent of Kangaroo island has been planted to renewable timber. About two-thirds of this is native hardwoods, and one-third Pinus Radiata. Almost all of these plantations are located West of Parndana. The estimated value of harvestable timber is a completely renewable $50 million per year, of which $20 million per year will flow back as direct income to Kangaroo Island. That value is only realisable if a cost-effective way can be found to transport harvested timber off the island. Taking wood chips or timber in trucks across the length of the island for transport on Sealink ferries and further transport from there to a deep water jetty is not economically viable. Even if it were financially sustainable, wear on kangaroo Island’s roads, and additional environmental and safety concerns, particularly during tourist season, make this an undesirable option. A deep water jetty in proximity to plantations is the only realistic option.

Why Smith Bay?

A dozen different sites have been considered by KPT. The project needs a sheltered site on the North coast as close as possible to existing timber plantations, where land is reasonably level, and with rapid drop off into deep water so that large vessels can berth reasonably close to shore. Smith Bay matches all these criteria. In addition, adjacent land is already cleared, so there is minimal impact on land environment, and the seabed where the jetty is planned has previously been dredged, meaning minimal impact on the marine environment.

What are the Potential Benefits to Kangaroo Island?

Once operational, KPT will directly employ people in 120 FTE (full time equivalent) positions in timber planting and maintenance, sawmill operation, transport, administration, jetty operation, etc. In addition a further 100 FTE positions will be created in direct support; contract and supply, etc. With family members, this is likely to lead to the addition of over 400 people to Kangaroo Island’s population. This means additional rates income for Council, additional money spent in local businesses, additional students in local schools, possibly to the extent of its being feasible for Parndana to offer classes up to Year Twelve again. In total, some $20 million additional income to Kangaroo Island, not as a once off, but in perpetuity.

A project which has the potential to bring such major and ongoing financial and social benefits to Kangaroo Island should not be rejected unless there are overwhelming, compelling, evidence-based reasons to do so.

What are the objections?

Does Kangaroo Island Really Need a Port of This Size?

This is not really an objection, although it is sometimes framed as one. Firstly, it is not a port, it is a jetty. And at 150m in length, it is about the same size as other jetties on the island. The simple answer to the question is yes. The jetty needs to be 150m in length for large ocean-going vessels to be able to berth.

The Planned Port is a Monstrosity Which Will Ruin the Look of the Bay.

Firstly, it is not a port, it is a jetty. Secondly, the look of the bay has already and tragically been destroyed by the establishment of an industrial-type complex right on the foreshore. And finally, is Christmas Cove a monstrosity? Is the Vivonne Bay jetty? On the contrary, our jetties are some of our most loved and photographed landmarks.

An International Port is a Major Quarantine and Exotic Pest Risk.

It is not a port, it is a jetty. Any overseas vessels berthing at the Smith Bay jetty will already have passed customs and quarantine inspection at Fremantle or Port Adelaide. This is the same process that applies to cruise ships which currently visit the island. Cruise liners visit the island in similar numbers to those planned to dock at Smith Bay, but are much larger vessels.

Before considering other objections let me be clear; the abalone farm at Smith Bay is a completely inappropriate development for KI, both from an environmental and an aesthetic point of view. It should never have been approved. It has changed a lovely rocky bay on the North coast into what looks like an industrial wasteland, one which pumps millions of litres of high nitrate, high bacterial waste into the ocean. The World Wildlife Fund has raised a number of concerns about land-based abalone farming, including noise, odour and dust, high energy use (How much energy? Yumbah was quoted $1.35 million for electricity for operations in SA in 2017), unsustainable kelp harvesting for food, or use of fish meal and algae in manufactured feed, the impact of waste disposal including the pumping of waste water directly into the ocean, including waste nutrients, chemicals, shell grit, faeces and sludge, and the risk of disease. Unlike some claimed objections to the proposed jetty, this is a real, evidence based concern. An outbreak of Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis, traced to a land-based abalone farm at Port Fairy owned by Southern Ocean Mariculture Pty Ltd, has devastated wild abalone along 1200 kilometres of the Victorian coast and continues to spread at a rate of about 5kms per month. An abalone farm in Santa Barbara, California, released Candidatus Xenohaliotis Californiensis into the environment, causing devastation to native black abalone populations. That species is now listed as endangered. Why would anyone want this on Kangaroo Island?

In addition, the abalone farm makes a minimal financial contribution to KI. It is owned by Yumbah, which also owns abalone farms at Port Lincoln, Narrawong and Bicheno. Profits are not returned to the island, and abalone grown here is not marketed as a Kangaroo island product.

Sadly, the time to make these objections, and to launch a campaign to save Smith Bay, was before the abalone farm was established. It is now an operational business, and any concerns or objections it has need to be considered. However, I will just add that the proposed jetty site at Smith Bay is not only the obvious, most economical and most environmentally appropriate site on the North coast, it has previously been dredged and used as a jetty/landing. Due diligence prior to the establishment of the abalone farm would have shown this to be the case, and suggested that another site would have been a better option. To establish a business adjacent to a site previously used as a jetty and likely to be used as a jetty again, and then complain because your business is incompatible with a jetty, is like buying a house next to the airport and then complaining about flight noise.

Worst Case Scenario – A Ship Sinks or Capsizes Resulting in Major Spill of Fuel or Cargo

The plan is for twelve ships per year to berth at a sheltered deep water jetty. Roughly the same number of ships will berth at Smith Bay as cruise liners visit the island each year, except that cruise liners are substantially larger. This is about the same number of ships that dock at Penneshaw every weekend, carrying far more hazardous cargo. In no business or endeavour is it possible to proceed by inventing the scariest possible scenario and then claiming that anyone in favour of the project wants this dreadful thing to happen. Risk assessment has to be based on historical evidence and the real, assessable likelihood of various possibilities.

Ports and Shipping are Incompatible with Aquaculture.

No, they are not. China is the world’s largest producer of farmed abalone, and much of its aquaculture takes place near major shipping lanes and population centres. Many Australian abalone farms are in close proximity to ports; Port Lincoln, Port Fairy, Narrawong – directly across the bay from Portland, to name just a few.

The Federal Government is Deeply Concerned About the Environmental Impact of this Project.

A recent letter to The Islander claimed that “the Federal Government is so concerned that they have placed Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act controls over the project.”

It is not a matter of being “so concerned” at all. The Act is triggered whenever an issue is raised about the potential environmental impact of any development. In this case, there have been reports that the proposed jetty may impact nesting areas of endangered birds. This concern is answered simply by pointing out that the bird species reported as potentially impacted do not nest in any area that will be disturbed or affected by the development.

Water Quality Will be Negatively Affected

It is important to understand exactly what is being planned. The jetty at Smith Bay will be operational for two months of the year. During that time it will service between ten and twelve ships. That is, the Smith Bay jetty will service as many ships in a year as travel to and from Penneshaw in an average weekend. Ferries docking at Penneshaw carry, load, and unload creosote treated timber, gas, oil, petrol, building materials, fresh produce and livestock, as well as passengers and vehicles. The ships at Smith Bay will load only an entirely natural product, treated with no artificial fertilisers or pesticides. Natural timber will be stored temporarily on the site, sufficient for the next load. If there is rain, runoff from sheltered timber stacks is no different from rain falling on natural native forest. Nonetheless, the site will be designed to ensure that any runoff is collected and secured.

Water quality at the jetty at Penneshaw is consistently high. There are hundreds of times more ship movements than are planned at Smith Bay, with far more hazardous products, on a shallow sandy bottom, yet the water quality is unaffected. In fact, the water inside the rock wall where the ferries dock is frequently clearer than outside, for the simple reason that the protection offered by the rock wall reduces the amount of sand and organic matter picked up by wave motion, and helps to ensure consistent water quality in the protected area.

In addition, abalone farms in China, South Africa, Australia, the US and other countries operate in a wide variety of locations, with widely varying input water quality and temperature. Input water is filtered, usually through a sand filter, and temperature controlled as required. Provided inputs and filters are managed correctly, they can, and already do, cope with natural day to day changes.

KPT is conducting and will conduct ongoing tests of water quality at the proposed site. The only likely change once the jetty is operational is that there may be a slight reduction in the amount of sand and other suspended matter because of the protection offered by the jetty. There is no objective, evidence-based reason to believe there will be any long term changes which will affect the operation of the abalone farm.

Even if all the Above is True, Water Quality Will Definitely be Affected During Construction.

Two of the advantages of the Smith Bay site are that it slopes steeply down into deep water, and that some dredging has already taken place. The use of a floating pontoon also reduces the need for disruption to the sea bed. Nonetheless, some dredging will need to take place, and large quantities of rocks will need to be placed to construct the jetty out of mostly natural materials.

Fortunately, a wide variety of mitigation procedures are available to minimise silt plumes. These include hydraulic dredging, use of a closed clamshell, ensuring there is no barge overflow, use of silt curtains, and dredging and construction only when tide or current is flowing away from critical areas. Other measures may be available to the abalone farm to alleviate any concerns it has about water quality during construction, including changes to filtration processes, moving or extending water intake locations, enhanced use of water storage and recycling, etc. KPT has employed consultants to consider all available options, and has offered to meet with representatives of Yumbah (the owners of the abalone farm) to discuss these and other measures to ensure the abalone farm is able to continue to operate without interruption. So far this offer has not been taken up.

Summary

Objections offered so far either have no basis in real world evidence and experience, or in the case of temporary changes in water quality during construction, can be mitigated to ensure continued safe operation of the abalone farm. The development of a jetty at Smith Bay offers substantial ongoing social and financial benefits to the residents of Kangaroo Island and should proceed.

PDF available if you want to downlaod this post in a more easily readable and printable form: KI Plantation Timbers

What is it about Trump that some conservatives find so distressing?

You’d expect progressives to be disturbed, of course, even before you get to policies. Trump is a manly, no nonsense, successful businessman. When you do consider policies, the nightmare deepens. He is unashamedly proud of his country, and has made it clear that when it comes to foreign policy and trade, he intends to put its interests first. He is pro-life, and supports police and the military. He supports Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself.  He does not buy into currently popular (and in some circles mandatory) issues like global warming and multi-culturalism.

A horror story for progressives. But why are some conservatives also lining up under the #nevertrump banner? Only a few percent; not enough to influence the outcome of the Republican Convention. But a few percent of conservatives who refuse to vote, or vote for a third party candidate, may be all it takes to get Hillary Clinton over the line and into the White House.

First in the litany of Trump’s faults is this: He’s a fascist! The word fascist comes from Latin fasces, a bundle of rods tied together, sometimes with a protruding axe blade. In Roman times it was symbol of magisterial authority. The meaning is that the state is stronger when all its members think and act in concert. Fascism subsumes the interests of individuals and families to the perceived needs of the state, in the belief that citizens are eventually better off if everyone serves the same purposes and works towards the same objectives.

Explaining in detail why this is wrong and does not work would take a much longer essay than this. The question for now is, “Is this the position that Donald Trump espouses?” Hardly. Trump’s central policy positions are small, low-tax, non-interventionist government, free speech, and individual and family rights. The exact opposite of an authoritarian, all-encompassing central government.

Well, then, he’s a racist! Racism is not intrinsic to fascism, although the two are often conflated. Is Trump a racist? No one has been able to point to specific instances where Trump has abused or disadvantaged anyone on the basis of race. He has been publicly supported by black and Hispanic staff and former staff, by black pastors and business people, by immigrants of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, many of whom who share his concern over illegal immigration. It is assumed in some circles that if you believe illegal immigration is a problem, you must do so on the basis of race, because you are xenophobic. Showing that to be untrue is as easy as going to Youtube and looking for Hispanics for Trump.

Well then, he is an islamophobe! Here, as others have pointed out, it isn’t a phobia if there is genuinely something to fear. Since September 2001 over 28,000 terror attacks have been made on civilians specifically in the name of Allah and Muhammad. In the name of all other religions? About one tenth of one percent of that figure. ISIS, and before ISIS Al Qaeda, have called on all muslims everywhere to undertake random murders of civilian populations in non-muslim countries. Very few will take up that call. But very few will speak out against those who do, or explain how the Quran’s command to “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” is to be set aside while at the same time maintaining the Quran’s commands apply for all time to all muslims everywhere. There is sufficient reason to be concerned, despite the French Prime Minister’s pronouncement after Nice that we must get used to living with terror, or Waleed Aly’s claim after the Boston bombing that terrorism is not an existential threat, merely an irritant. How to deal with Islamic terror is another question, but recognising that it is a problem is a good first step, and taking ordinary people’s fears about it seriously is a good second step.

Well, then, Trump is a sexist! This coming from the Clinton camp is, like, um, really? Are there no mirrors where you live? Coming from conservatives it is even more baffling. In an interview published in The Sunday Times on July 3rd, Trump’s daughter Ivanka described her father as having lived feminism:

“He always told me and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to if I married vision and passion with work ethic. He’s also surrounded me with strong female role models who have done just that since I was a little girl. People talk about gender equality. He has lived it. He has employed women at the highest levels of the Trump organisation for decades.” Opposed to this is Trump’s admission that he finds attractive women attractive. Of course this is unspeakable bastardry in modern progressivism, but from conservatives it sounds more like desperation to find something, anything, on which to base their disapproval.

In addition, Trump makes the fatal error of actually treating women and men equally. In the world of gender equality, this is as big a blunder as finding women attractive. In business and political debate, Trump appears not to notice the gender of a competitor. For example, he noted that Carly Fiorina was so unattractive it was unlikely anyone would vote for her. In fact, pretty much no one did. If he had said this about Ted Cruz or John Kasich no one would have batted a butt hair, let alone an eyelid. But just as equality in race means treating people differently on the basis of their race, so gender equality means treating people differently on the basis of their gender. You mustn’t say mean things about women!

Unless of course, you are a progressive, and a woman has said something that is outside the progressive agenda. Then all the rules cease immediately. So, for example, when Australian media personality Sonia Kruger suggested a temporary ban on muslim immigration, she got this (and hundreds of others) from compassionate inclusive Twitter persons: “You useless f%#king c&^t. The reason you spew this sh#t is cause your mouth is always full of c*%k.” Or this from a person deeply concerned about the impact of racism, to Rita Panahi, an Iranian born Australian, after she defended Sonia: “Ohh right curry muncher … say racist things about every person in a religion then say pay a visious price the things that mole said was visious but you won’t say that will you curry muncher.” Melania Trump has been described by a supporter of open borders as “a stupid bitch with a dumb accent.” A desire to welcome immigrants and ensure they are treated fairly is demonstrated here by insulting a successful immigrant woman who speaks four languages for her “dumb accent.”

Having exhausted all of the above, #nevertrump will eventually come out with the claim that Trump is stupid and cannot string a coherent sentence together. One has to step back in wonder at this argument. An unintelligent person who is not able to communicate built up an initial investment of $1 million into a multi-billion dollar real-estate and entertainment business. Nope. Just nope.  Trump is an entertainer himself. He communicates his vision clearly and effectively, and without the aid of a teleprompter. Watching his question and answer sessions at rallies you see a man who listens intently, conveys his interest to the questioner, and responds, generally, with a thoughtful and straightforward reply. Generally? Yes. Trump sometimes trips over his words. He sometimes responds or comments in ways that might have been more delicately put, or required more time and detail to explain. It is very easy to put together a video of such moments and portray him as a mindless bumbler. But doing so says little about Trump, and a great deal about the agenda of the video maker. One of the qualities ordinary people like in Trump is that he is not rehearsed. He does not give the impression of saying what he thinks will win approval. He doesn’t need to.

Finally, “He’s not a conservative!” Yes, he is. There is not a single Trump policy position that does not fit under the very wide umbrella of freedom-loving, free-market conservatism. It is certainly possible to disagree about some aspect of social policy, or trade, for example. But any position taken in these discussions is a long way from large government socialism. At best, #nevertrump can claim that Trump’s opinions now are not what they were twenty years ago. No intelligent person’s opinions are what they were twenty years ago. Values clarify as one gets older. Practical experience and knowledge of the world is gained. The world changes, problems and issues change, and ways of dealing with them change. There would be much more reason for concern if Trump’s opinions had not changed with changing times.

I wrote six months ago that the only way the Republican Party could lose the election would be to nominate Trump. He was not my preferred candidate. But he received more votes in the Primaries than any other Republican candidate ever. Men and women who have never voted before turned out to vote for Trump. A recent survey of bellwether counties in a bellwether state (Florida) showed Trump leading in every county. Some of team #nevertrump claim it is not a binary contest between Trump and Clinton Mk II. There are, they say, other options. Maybe in some parallel universe, but here in the real world the next President of the United States will either be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. At this point, continuing to undermine Trump and the Republican campaign is effectively lobbying for Clinton.

There never was any real-world evidence to support the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

According to Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT, the ‘consensus’ was declared before the research had even begun: “Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age.”

It has always been a media/political creation rather than a creation of science. John Cook of 97% fame, for example, is a cartoonist by trade, while Bill Nye the science guy is not a scientist, but an actor on a children’s TV program.

Just a couple of key things to note:
CO2 has never been a driver of climate. CO2 levels have been more than ten times higher than they are now, eg in the Mesozoic Era when corals flourished without any ill effects on anything, and positively beneficial effects for green plants.
There is no correlation between human use of fossil fuels and changes in global climate.

There is a very clear correlation between solar activity + PMO and AMO and changes in global rainfall and temperature.

Now very low solar activity is leading some scientists to take the view (one I have shared for the last fifteen years) that what we really need to be concerned about is the possibility of deep and extended cooling, and even of the end of the current inter-glacial. That would be genuinely catastrophic unless we focus now on developing all available energy sources, and improving crops to cope with much cooler conditions.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2013/05/26/to-the-horror-of-global-warming-alarmists-global-cooling-is-here/#349298c569bb

How to turn off Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 is not as bad as the horrendous Windows 8, but it is looking like being as much of a dud as Vista, if not worse.

Ignore the fact that the built-in apps are hideous. The mail app is the least intuitive I have ever seen, and the hardest to set up the way you want.

The same criticisms apply to Edge, the groundbreaking new web browser. Except it isn’t. It is a clunkier and harder to use version of Internet Explorer that suffers from the same disease as Windows 10 itself, and the mail app, and, and, and … namely, common settings which most users will want to access and change to suit their own needs and style of use, are made almost impossible to find, or are in half a dozen different places.

In Windows 7 you could right click anywhere on the desktop and find most settings in one place – easy! In Windows 10, simple settings like changing your screensaver or customising desktop icons are virtually hidden.

But all those irritations pale into insignificance next to the bizarre decision to force updates whether users want them or not.

You can type update settings into the search box, and eventually, if it is a good mood, it may respond with a list that includes Windows Update Settings. If the wind is blowing in the right direction, when you click on that item, it may eventually open a box, and if you click on the Advanced link in that box, it will tell you absolutely nothing about how to turn updates on or off. You can’t. Microsoft will give them to you whether you want them or not.

It does promise it will not download them over a metered connection, that is, through a mobile network where you pay depending on the amount you download. But it doesn’t work. Most of the older USB mobile dongles do not work with Windows 10. Consequently many people who rely on mobile connections now use mobile WiFi devices. But Windows 10 does not recognise these as a metered connection, just as a wireless network. So if you pay for a 30 day 3GB allowance on your mobile WiFi device, because you only get a few emails and check the news occasionally, your entire download allowance can disappear overnight in forced Windows updates.

You can force it to set specific connections as metered, even though it doesn’t tell you you’ll need to do this. Try to find it… Type metered connection into the search box. Nothing. (It’s Start, Settings, Network and Internet, WiFi, Advanced options.)

Either Microsoft has a policy of deliberately alienating its users, or it is staffed by people who never actually use computers in the real world.

At least you can turn off updates using the Group Policy editor. Most users would not, but it provides a straightforward way for IT technicians to change key system settings.

No, you can’t. Because gpedit.msc is not included in Windows 10 Home. You can find the install files on the internet and install it and run it. But you won’t find it on any official Microsoft site, and downloading it from anywhere else is extremely risky. Not to mention that the install process is not easy, especially if you have a 64 bit system, because you have to manually copy files and folders from one system folder into another.

The only workable option is to disable the Windows update service in the Services console. To do this, press the Windows key and r at the same time. Type services.msc and click OK.

In the box that opens, scroll down until you see Windows Update. Right click and a menu will open (see attached screenclip). lick on Properties. Then change Startup type to Disabled. Click OK, and restart your computer.

Keep in mind that not installing updates does leave your computer less secure. But until Microsoft gives users an easy to access and effective way of controlling when updates are downloaded and installed, this may be the only option for users with a limited download allowance.

And in the meantime, can someone please develop an operating system which will run Windows programmes, but is designed for users and not for Microsoft technicians.

update1

update2

New Social Network Launched on 4th July

Could this Australian start-up be a Facebook Killer?

New online community https://www.blissyoo.com is a very small David to Facebook’s Goliath, but founder Peter Wales is undaunted. “Even Facebook started with just one member,” he said.

Mr Wales said large numbers of people were unhappy with Facebook. “There have been reports of Facebook removing posts and photos, for example of plus size models, or breast feeding mothers, or because they don’t share Facebook’s political views. One woman reported being banned simply for complaining about people being banned. Last month Facebook deleted Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlqvist’s personal account after she reported a 1500% increase in sexual assaults in Sweden over the last ten years, while Twitter deleted the account of gay activist Milo Yiannopoulos following the Orlando nightclub shooting.”

“We have a commitment to freedom of speech. That was our primary reason for developing Blissyoo,” said Mr Wales. “Ordinary people have had enough of someone else deciding what they can say, and what their opinions should be. Blissyoo lets people post their thoughts and stories without interference, and lets them choose what news they want to read.”

Other Facebook competitors have come and gone, but Mr Wales, from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, is confident Blissyoo has enough similar features for Facebook users to feel at home, while offering new features to make the switch worthwhile.

“Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg and a few others very, very rich,” he said. “But users who do all the work of providing content get absolutely nothing. Blissyoo has a revenue sharing system so users who post regularly get a share of advertising revenue from their timelines.”

The new network launched on July 4th, and Blissyoo mobile and chat apps are available in Android Playstore and the iTunes Store.

“We encourage our users to make suggestions, and to be an active part of the Blissyoo community,” said Mr Wales. “Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have billions of dollars and thousands of staff. We have a small team dedicated to our members and to freedom of speech. That commitment is the reason Blissyoo was created, and will be a permanent feature.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could not be reached for comment.

Just back from handing out how to vote cards for a candidate I only halfheartedly support and who will not get my first vote.

Interesting that Sportsbet, who are generallty far more reliable than any media pundits, predict the following:

Coalition: 79
Labor: 66
Greens: 1 (Adam Bandt – Melbourne)
NXT: 1 (Rebekha Sharkie – Mayo)
Other: 3 (Bob Katter – Kennedy, Cathy McGowan – Indi, Andrew Wilkie – Denison)

There will certainly be a huge swing away from Jamie Briggs in Mayo, but unless some very strange things happen with preferences, Jamie will still be returned.

I also doubt Cathy McGowan in Indi. Voters have had a chance now to see how unstable Cathy McGowan is, and I would not be surprised to see Sophie Mirabella returned, especially given Victoria will have what I suspect will be the only statewide swing to the LNP.

Andrew Wilkie in Denison? Only if voters have been smoking too much wacky weed.

The Coalition will be returned with a reduced but working majority.

On the other hand, I would not be surprised if Eden-Monaro, which has been a reliable bell-wether seat for many years, bucks that trend and slips back to Labor.

The Senate is where it will get interesting. Nick Xenophon has achieved precisely nothing, and is a rampant populist. But he has charisma, and sometimes latching onto passing trendy causes does work, temporarily. He may pick up a few more seats in the Senate. That may not be as much of a problem as some LNP leaders think. Despite his desperate need for approval, he is not irrational.

Family First may also pick up an extra seat, as may the LIberal Democrats. The ALA may also collect a couple. While howled down by both major parties, their views and policies do reflect those of a growing number of Australians.

The result will be a (hopefully) chastened Malcolm Turnbull, Jamie Briggs and LNP leadership, but a workable majority in the House, with the balance of power in the Senate held by minority parties, but (again hopefully) minority parties with sensible and experienced candidates, who will support pro-growth and security policies.

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