Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Good News For NSW Schools
A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry has recommended that ethics classes continue in the state's public schools. The inquiry was set up after Christian Democrats Upper House MP Fred Nile put forward a private members bill last year seeking to abolish the classes. Reverend Nile's bid came less than a year after the classes were introduced by the former Labor government as an option for students who do not attend weekly scripture classes. Nearly 500 groups and individuals made submissions to the inquiry, which has now recommended the classes continue. But the Upper House committee says there should be another review of ethics and special religious education classes in 2014-15. Opposition spokeswoman Carmel Tebbutt has welcomed the endorsement, but says there was no need for an inquiry in the first place. "The Government I think supported this inquiry because they wanted to gain the support of Upper House member Fred Nile on a range of issues," she said. "This inquiry led to a lot of anxiety among parents and schools."
What I've wondered with the ethics classes is why any person would oppose them. Does anyone not want children to learn how to think through ethical dilemmas? The only way I can make sense of it is that there are those who put ideas of morality and ethics solely in the domain of religion, so teaching any human form of critical thought would be to diminish the divine purposes in our actions. What other reason is there to oppose it? Any that are actually grounded in what is taught or what the outcomes are for students?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 21

Sunday (20/05): Ne Obliviscaris - Portal Of I
Monday (21/05): Sting - Dream Of The Blue Turtles
Tuesday (22/05): Marcy Playground - Marcy Playground
Wednesday (23/05): Bossk - .1
Thursday (24/05): Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
Friday (25/05): Warrel Dane - Praises To The War Machine
Saturday (26/05): Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Monday, 21 May 2012

Thought Of The Day

Any argumentative refutation of a belief that's largely based on experience is going to fall short, because any description of the experience on which the refutation is based will always seem inadequate by comparison.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 20

Sunday (13/05): Cormorant - Metazoa
Monday (14/05): Lo! - Look And Behold
Tuesday (15/05): Revocation - Chaos Of Forms
Wednesday (16/05): Wreck And Reference - No Youth
Thursday (17/05): Yes - Close To The Edge
Friday (18/05): Faustcoven - Hellfire and Funeral Bells
Saturday (19/05): Anathema - Weather Systems

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 19

Sunday (06/05): Beastie Boys - Solid Gold Hits
Monday (07/05): Amorphis - Tales From The Thousand Lakes
Tuesday (08/05): Shihad - Love Is The New Hate
Wednesday (09/05): Iron Thrones - The Wretched Sun
Thursday (10/05): Horseback - Half Blood
Friday (11/05): Kraftwerk - Die Mensch-Maschine
Saturday (12/05): Twilight - Monument To Time End

Friday, 11 May 2012

Postmodernism In Action

One of my favourite line from Michael Specter's TED talk went something along the lines of "you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts". Of course being able to see the difference in one's own position can be difficult, but in terms of discourse that distinction needs to be made.

What was impressive about this article on The Drum was that it made the point by showing it in action - our former prime minister shooting down someone who had no idea what they were talking about beyond their own feeling of something being wrong. The exchange is too good not to quote fully:
Caller: Good morning.
John Laws: Okay, the Prime Minister is here.
Caller: Yes, good morning. Just a very broad question, Mr Keating, is: why does your government see the Aboriginal people as a much more equal people than the average white Australian?
Paul Keating: We don't. We see them as equal.
Caller: Well, you might say that, but all the indications are that you don't.
Paul Keating: But what's implied in your question is that you don't; you think that non-Aboriginal Australians, there ought to be discrimination in their favour against blacks.
Caller: Not... whatsoever. I... I don't say that at all. But my... myself and every person I talk to - and I'm not racist - but every person I talk to...
Paul Keating: But that's what they all say, don't they? They put these questions - they always say, "I'm not racist, but, you know, I don't believe that Aboriginal Australians ought to have a basis in equality with non-Aboriginal Australians. Well, of course, that's part of the problem.
Caller: Aren't they more equal than us at the moment, with the preferences they get?
Paul Keating: More equal? They were... I mean, it's not for me to be giving you a history lesson - they were largely dispossessed of the land they held.
Caller: There's a question over that. I think a lot of people will tell you that. You're telling us one thing...
Paul Keating: Well, if you're sitting on the title of any block of land in NSW, you can bet an Aboriginal person at some stage was dispossessed of it.
Caller: You know that for sure, do you?
Paul Keating: Of course we know it for sure!
Caller: Yeah, [inaudible].
Paul Keating: You're challenging the High Court decision, are you? You're saying the High Court got this all wrong.
Caller: No, I'm not saying that at all! I wouldn't know who was on the High Court.
Paul Keating: Well, why don't you sign off, if you don't know anything about it and you're not interested. Good bye!
Caller: Yeah, well, that's your ...
Paul Keating: No, I mean, you can't challenge these things and then say, "I don't know about them".
John Laws: Oh well, he's gone.

If only more people were willing to do that today. While it's easy to blame spineless politicians and pandering journalists for not taking a stand for facts over opinion, it's not like this phenomenon is isolated to those in power. They aren't setting a standard, they are appealing to it. It's us as citizens who need to be cognisant of the distinction, and not just tribal or reactionary in our rush to judgement.

It makes matters worse that the power of the media and authority figures also plays into discussions, that standing up for "facts" has become synonymous with defending the ideology of authorities. It's not a matter of simply looking at where the expertise lies on climate change, but now it's a matter of where the media bias lies. As Jonathan Green laments: "Five years ago we had something near to a national consensus based on unambiguous science, a consensus cynically talked down often through shorthand distortions and misrepresentations pitched at the uninformed." The scientific consensus is still there, but support of the science among politicians reflects ideological lines. Something has gone horribly wrong!

There's a certain irony in that as a society we're equipped with more knowledge, more access to that knowledge, and more ways to gain knowledge, that we're in a situation that seems a practical application of postmodernist ideas about truth. It's not just that we're ignorant, we're not required to hold to any higher aspiration. "It's my belief" has somehow become a respectable conversation stopper, and attacking the media spin or personal biases as if attacking the argument has become an acceptable strategy. When there are right and wrong answers, or at the very least right and wrong approaches, then "it's my belief" shouldn't be left alone, nor pandered to.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Thought Of The Day

Pascal's Wager isn't an argument for the reasonableness of a belief in God, it's a concession that God isn't a matter of rational argument. Thus any pretence of rational justification has been merely a foil for an unshakeable faith.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Album Of The Day: Week 18

Sunday (29/04): Woods Of Ypres - Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light
Monday (30/04): Circle Of Ouroboros - Eleven Fingers
Tuesday (01/05): Green Day - Insomniac
Wednesday (02/05): Coroner - No More Color
Thursday (03/05): Weezer - Weezer (Green Album)
Friday (04/05): Terrorust - Post Mortal Archives
Saturday (05/05): Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In The New Real