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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.

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.


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

Global temperature tracks sunspot activity almost exactly. Number of sunspots now? Zero. Cold times are coming.



People seem not to realise that religious belief was essential to the development of science.

1. The belief that the world is real, objective, and largely independent of our perceptions, and not simply illusion (maya in Sanskrit). That is, that there is something real and enduring there to investigate.

2. The belief that the world is reasonable, and organised in a reasonable, that is, orderly and consistent way, not not simply according to the whim of ancestors or nature spirits or fickle and jealous gods.

3. The belief that the material world is good, and therefore worth investigating, as opposed to the view that the material world inferior, something to be spurned or escaped from.

We take these beliefs so much for granted; that the world is real and objective, that it is ordered according to laws which can be investigated and understood, that nature/the universe is good, and that investigating and learning its laws and systems is a good and worthwhile endeavour, that we forget that only one culture has ever held these views consistently over a long enough period for science to develop.

Science is a creation of the Christian West.

The more science drifts from Christian theology, that is, the more it drifts from understanding reality as independent and objective, and the more it drifts from believing truth is an absolute value in its own right, the more it will be become empty, political, and corrupt.

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Tonga pleads with the world: Global warming is real and is affecting us today. Save our pacific island 😢

Two different islands, neither in Tonga

Two different islands, neither in Tonga

There’s only one problem: the picture shows two different islands, neither of which is in Tonga.

The top photo is Kwajalein Island and the bottom photo is Ebeye Island. Although both in the Kwajalein Atoll they are not the same island and are part of the Marshall Islands, a long way from Tonga!

Isopropyl alcohol, H2O, sodium hydroxide, acetic acid, …. Nope, no chemicals there. Sometimes I wonder if people can really be that stupid. And then I think, yep, they obviously can!

Lots of chemicals in these chemical free wipes!

Lots of chemicals in these chemical free wipes!

This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it.

$3.80 out of $10,000. That’s the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

1.7 cents out of $10,000. That’s the amount of Methane in the atmosphere.

Terrifying, isn’t it?

Naturopaths, homeopaths, etc, – these charlatans make a fortune out of suffering, illness, cancer and depression. Don’t be fooled. Seek genuine, tested treatments from a real medical practitioner.


“About ten months ago, a naturopath by the name of Dorothea Cist commented on my article about ND education and training, claiming:

I have many other cases of, and letters of testimony from, patients who were treated successfully by naturopathic medicine, and often by homeopathy alone. These magnificent cures, by treatments completely unsupported by any double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, were from pathologies as varied as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, grand mal seizures, interstitial cystitis, and bi-polar [sic] disorder.

I asked Cist to clarify. Is she claiming she can cure bipolar disorder with homeopathy?

She didn’t respond, but she didn’t need to. Yes, Cist was asserting she can use magic to cure a mental illness, along with a slew of other complicated diseases.”

“An American scientist has made a remarkable conceptual breakthrough, a design for a non nuclear relativistic launcher, capable of accelerating thousands of deep space probes per year to 0.25C; fast enough to reach the nearest stars in 15 years. The system is extremely scalable – you could start with a small, low cost proof of concept launcher, and work up to bigger devices, capable of launching substantial probes into interstellar space. The system also has a practical alternative use – the full size version is powerful enough to deflect dangerous asteroids into safer orbits.”

“In addition to larger spacecraft, some capable of transporting humans, we consider functional spacecraft on a wafer, including integrated optical communications, optical systems and sensors combined with directed energy propulsion. Since “at home” the costs can be amortized over a very large number of missions. In addition the same photon driver can be used for planetary defense, beamed energy for distant spacecraft as well as sending power back to Earth as needed.”

We could do this now – no new technology is required. Just the will to do it.

A dazzling speech by James Delingpole to the meeting of the World Taxpayers’ Associations in Berlin.

This is a sample. Read the whole thing.

Last year Climate Change Business Journal – calculated that the total annual spend on the climate change industry is $1.5 trillion a year.

All those carbon traders, climate researchers, renewables and biofuels experts, environment correspondents, professors of climate science at the University of East Anglia and the Potsdam Institute, sustainability officers on local councils, and so on, add up the cost of their grants and salaries – and $1.5 trillion per year is the ballpark figure you reach.

So what does $1.5 trillion look like in a global economic context?

Well, it’s roughly the amount we spend every year on the online shopping industry.

$1.5 trillion on the global warming industry; $1.5 trillion on the online shopping industry.

But there’s a key difference between these two industries.

One exists to provide buyers and sellers what they want – to their mutual benefit; the other is a sham.

Buying stuff on the internet: it’s really useful, isn’t it? It has had a dramatically transforming effect on our quality of life, the way you can order a book at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night and have it appear on your doorstep the very next day.

But how did this marvellous industry spring up? Was it because of all the special incentives and tax breaks granted by wise governments? Nope of course not. They weren’t necessary. The online shopping industry sprung up and grew and grew because it was what people wanted, where they chose – of their own volition – to spend their money.

Now compare and contrast the global warming industry – which I call a Potemkin industry – because that’s what it is: a fraud; a sham; a conspiracy against the taxpayer.

Do you want to have a guess how much that industry would be worth if it weren’t for all the money funnelled into it via government grants and taxpayer levies and subsidies and regulatory capture?

Pretty close to zero, I’d say. Take wind farms – my hobby horse. The cost of intermittent, unreliable wind energy is roughly twice the market rate for onshore wind; three times the market rate for onshore. Nobody’s going to pay that kind ofmoney in the open market. The only way it’s going to happen if people are mandated by the government to do so: which is what of course has happened across Europe and in the US.

Warren Buffett has said it: “wind farms don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

They’re inefficient; they kill birds and bats; they spoil views; they’re environmentally unfriendly – rare earth minerals from China; they’re hazardous; they’re expensive; they’re ugly (well I think they are….)

And in few countries is the damage these monstrosities have done more obvious than in Germany, home of the hateful Energiewende.

Energiewende means Energy Transition. It has been a disaster.

Apart from occasional links to news stories of interest, I haven’t written anything about local oil and gas development for over a year. I am often asked why I would support energy exploration in the Bight. And even more often, it is simply assumed that no one could honestly want such development, and I must therefore be in the pay of the oil companies. Alas! Not so. Though if Bight Petroleum or BP or any of those other nefarious organisations felt a desire to send me a large cheque, or even an offer for me visit to an operational rig or working survey vessel, I would gladly accept. The cheque would be best.

Australia’s economic stability depends on reliable supplies of cheap energy, mostly in the form of coal and oil. Many people would rather this were not so, and suggest renewables as a safer, cleaner option. Renewables are becoming cheaper and more efficient. But they are not yet even at the stage when they reliably produce over their lifetimes more energy than it costs to manufacture, transport, install and maintain them. The energy required for that production, maintenance, transport, etc., is entirely provided by fossil fuels. The only other possibility, energy produced by hydro and nuclear power, is not efficiently convertible for use in primary industry or transport; two key areas for remote communities like Kangaroo Island. Like it or not, our stability and economy will depend on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.

Members of remote communities would be the first to suffer if fuel became difficult to obtain, or prices surged. For example, on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the entire life of the community depends on oil. Without oil there would be no ferries or planes to the island. There would be no fishing, no farming, no way for tourists to travel to or around the island, no boat trips or safaris, no food or furniture transported to the island, no building, no roads, no maintenance of infrastructure. In other words, no way to live.
There are a number of reasons why energy production should take place locally wherever possible.

Some of the most important of these are environmental.

Firstly, as a general rule, anything that can be economically or competitively produced locally should be produced locally. This is true of clothing and food; it is certainly true of energy. It is inefficient to produce oil half- way around the world and transport it here if we can develop oil reserves within Australia at the same price. And we can. Local production means saving all of the fossil fuel used in transporting vast amounts of oil around the world, with all of its associated emissions. Just because we have to use fossil fuels for now does not mean we should do so wastefully, or without regard for any environmental impact.

Secondly, oil that is not produced locally has to be produced somewhere else; somewhere, unless it is the US or Canada, with far lower safety and environmental standards than Australia. The lower the standards, the greater the likelihood of loss of life and of lasting harm to biological systems.

Thirdly, about 25% of all oil spilled into the ocean is directly related to oil industry activity (the rest, by far the majority, is mostly natural spills and seeps, like the Coal Point seep field near Santa Barbara, or multiple seeps in the Gulf of Mexico). About 5% of the 25% attributable to the oil industry occurs during exploration and development. The other 20%, five times as much, occurs during transportation. By far the greatest risk of a major spill near Kangaroo Island is the millions of tonnes of oil unloaded at Port Adelaide, which is far closer to KI than any proposed development site. One guaranteed way to reduce ocean spills is to reduce the volume of oil transported over long distances. Of course oil would still need to be transported from local wells to a local refinery, but there is a huge difference between transport over 500 kilometres, and transport over 15,000 kilometres.

The final environmental concern that would be alleviated by responsible local energy development is that of ocean noise.

Waves slapping against the sides of an empty tanker are in the same order of magnitude as the sounds generated by acoustic imaging. Acoustic imaging allows engineers to map the ocean bed and underlying structures in great detail. This reduces the need to drill test wells, and keeps interference with the sea bed to a minimum. Acoustic imaging is carefully monitored when in operation to protect nearby marine life, especially marine mammals. It has been rigorously researched over the last thirty years to examine possible impact on marine life. No long term impacts on any marine species have ever been observed. There is, for example, no correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beaching of whales. Australian research has also shown no impact beyond a momentary startle on smaller fish, worms, corals, etc. And of course, acoustic imaging takes place in any one area for only a few days. The noise of tankers plying the oceans is constant, is not monitored for effect on wildlife, and has not been subject to the same research. Where we are unsure of effects, we ought to exercise caution, and where we can reduce human impact on the environment, we have a duty to do so. Local energy development will significantly reduce ongoing ocean noise pollution.

In addition to environmental benefits, local production of oil also provides for greater reliability of pricing and supply. The Middle-East is simply too unstable to for us to rely on for such a vital resource. In the past we had little choice, but now it is clear that Australia has oil and gas reserves which may rival those of Saudi Arabia. We do not need to obtain oil from unstable, violent or war-torn regimes. In addition, Saudi Arabia has repeatedly shown that it is willing to manipulate the price of crude oil to suit its own purposes. It has done so over the last twelve months, reducing the price dramatically, in order to make Western investment in energy development uneconomical, and to encourage continued dependence on Arab oil producers. It can just as easily increase the price when it believes itself in a position of strength, and has done so in the past.

Price and stability of supply are important factors when considering where to source oil supplies. So are human rights. Many of the Middle-East oil producing states have appalling human rights records. These are places where children are executed, where women are stoned to death for adultery, where hungry men who steal a loaf of bread for their families have their hands cut off, where gays are hanged. When we support these undemocratic regimes, which are only able to maintain their hold through massive security spending, we are extending and facilitating the suffering of millions of people who deserve better.

Local energy production reduces our dependency on dictators, and reduces their ability to keep their populations under control. It makes us more responsible members of the world community.
Finally, money that is spent on development here in Australia provides employment and investment in Australia. Instead of sending money overseas, resource development companies pay royalties which help fund schools, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure and services in Australia.

Why do I support responsible local energy development? It’s better for the environment. It’s better for energy pricing and security of supply, which makes it better for Australian industry including manufacturing, farming and tourism. It’s better for human rights. It’s better for the Australian tax-payer, because local development helps fund local infrastructure and services.

I have constructed a short, five question survey which covers some of the points above. If you are interested, please feel free to complete it.

Responsible Energy Development Survey

Once more unto the breach …

This is an important issue – for Kangaroo Island and for the state as a whole. I am still hopeful it will be possible to have a harmonious discussion focussing on the facts.

Why would anyone want oil and gas exploration near Kangaroo Island?

Our society, and every modern liberal democracy, depends on cheap energy. The primary sources of that energy are oil, coal and gas. These energy sources enable us to travel, to heat our homes, to run industry and agriculture, to provide health and education services. No energy means none of these things.

Developing countries need this energy too, to provide these same services, including basic health care, to their people. While foreign aid might be helpful in emergencies, what developing nations really need is power stations, cheap energy. And that depends on cheap fuel.

We all rely on oil and gas, KI residents more than most. While we might prefer oil development to take place somewhere else, it would be immoral to deny developing countries the energy sources Western nations have used to pull themselves out of poverty over the last centuries. Responsible energy development is an important part of our commitment to being part of a global community.

In addition, developing energy resources within Australia improves national security, and reduces our dependence on, and financial contributions to, corrupt and frequently brutal Middle-eastern regimes. It also helps to preserve forests and wildlife. If you are worried about your child starving, or dying because you have no access to clean water or cannot obtain basic medical care, you are not going to be concerned about the state of forests in Indonesia, or the whale hunt at the Faroes. The more prosperous a country or people, the more time and resources go into preserving and caring for the environment.

So private energy resource development should be encouraged unless in a particular situation there are pressing reasons why it should not.

Are there pressing reasons why oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight should not proceed?

There are three main reasons opponents to development have put forward.

1. Oil rigs and other equipment near Kangaroo Island will spoil the landscape, reduce the natural beauty of the area, and consequently reduce its appeal to visitors.

The nearest practical development point for an oil rig within Bight Petroleum’s exploration zones is approximately one hundred and fifty kilometres west of the West coast of KI. If this is on KI or even near KI, then so are Gawler and Keith. If the Eiffel Tower was perched at Cape Borda, and you were standing at the top with a telescope, you would still not see an oil rig at that distance.

2. Acoustic imaging used to map geological structures on the sea floor is harmful to whales, dolphins and other marine sea life.

Acoustic imaging has been used for the last forty years. One of the reasons for this is that it helps developers pinpoint likely productive sites, reducing unnecessary drilling and environmental impact. The possible effects of acoustic imaging on marine life have been extensively researched during this time. No university or other study has ever found any correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, or any other negative effect, for example on reproductive rates or migration patterns. Recent intensive study conducted in Australia by Woodside Petroleum, the CSIRO and Penn State University likewise found no negative effects on sessile and territorial marine life.

Anti-development activists have sometimes suggested that the hearing of whales and dolphins could be permanently damaged by the noise of acoustic imaging. Sperm whales vocalise at about 235dB. The average acoustic array produces about 230dB. Even if the whales were 2 metres from an active array, the sound they heard would be less than the sound of their own vocalisations. To suggest that their hearing could be damaged by this is equivalent to claiming our hearing would be permanently damaged by listening to chatter at a tea party.

3. The possibility of a serious spill.

Spills are far more likely during handling and transportation than during exploration and development. The most significant risk of a serious oil spill near Kangaroo Island is from the transport of oil products to the island.

Australia’s worst development spill, and third worst oil spill overall, was at the Montara well in the Timor Sea. The two worst, from the Princess Anne Marie oil tanker in 1975 and the Kiriki tanker in 1991, were both transport spills. Prevailing winds and currents pushed the oil slick from Montara one hundred and eighty kilometres from the well site. At that distance, the slick was patchy, intermittent, and a few microns thick – less than the almost invisible amount of oil left behind by a well-maintained outboard motor. A spill of this magnitude occurs about once in every 100,000 years of well operation.

If a similar spill occurred at the closest point for any development in the Bight, a few streaks of oil a few microns thick could just reach the Western shores of KI, if wind and currents were behind it. But during the calmer months when development would be taking place, prevailing upwellings would push any spilt oil away from, not towards Kangaroo Island. Oil even from a one in one hundred thousand year spill would not approach Kangaroo Island. In addition, safety standards are improving all the time. The worst year for oil spills in the nineties was better than the best year in the seventies.

In other words, even if a spill occurred, no oil would reach the shores of Kangaroo Island, and the chances of such a spill occurring at all are tiny – one in one hundred thousand years of operation.

To summarise: The proposed oil exploration and development is not “on KI.” It is not even “near” KI in any normal meaning of that word. No oil rigs or other development would be visible from anywhere on Kangaroo Island. Forty years of research has shown no harm to any form of marine life from acoustic imaging. There is no correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, and no evidence of hearing loss in any marine species. Even if a spill equal to the worst in Australia’s history occurred at the development site, oil would not reach the shores of KI. The chances of such a spill’s occurring are approximately one in 100,000 years of well operation.

There are good economic, humanitarian and environmental reasons why responsible oil and gas development should proceed. There are no compelling, truthful, reality-based reasons it should not.

I have been a fan of Professor Elizabeth Loftus’ work for many years, so I am pleased to see her getting a hearing in the press at last.

From the Australian ABC news site:

When an eyewitness gives evidence in a trial, how much faith should we place in their testimony? At first brush the answer would seem to be, why not trust them? After all, if an impartial witness says with certainly they saw something—why be sceptical?

However, Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned professor of both law and psychology based at the University of California’s Irvine campus, urges caution. Professor Loftus has been at the forefront of complex and controversial debates around the nature of memory for many years, and her research has made her a much sought-after expert witness in both criminal and civil trials. In fact, she has testified in over 250 trials.

Professor Loftus says eyewitness testimony is the major cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. In one project where more than 300 cases of wrongful conviction were established using DNA testing, the major cause of these wrongful convictions was faulty eyewitness testimony.

Read the rest ..