Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unscientific Opinion

At the heart of nearly everything we know and believe about the world is the issue of trust or credibility. In a sense, only those things which we experience ourselves can be truly known. No one however accepts as true only those facts which they have proven for themselves. Everyone believes something or other based on what somebody else has told them. This is simply an act of faith. If you accept what someone says about something when you have no knowledge or experience of that thing yourself, then you are saying that you trust what that person says. They have authority and you accept that authority as a basis for truth. This kind of knowledge can also be thought of as indirect knowledge.

I am not a scientist. My mind struggles occasionally with logical deductive reasoning and I don't have a great head for facts and figures. I failed chemistry and I suck at maths. My opinions on climate change ( I have decided to ban the term "global warming" from my personal vocabulary)therefore are pretty unscientific.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a different kettle of fish. This allegedly authoritative Nobel Prize winning 2007 report was supposed to reflect only peer reviewed science. The concept of peer review is extremely important in the establishment of scientific fact. The IPCC has had its credibility eroded with the revelation that some of its facts on glacial melts are rubbish: mere speculation by an independent Indian scientist who himself is evidently not an expert in the field. The full story, as reported in the media last week, can be read elsewhere. My point is that I just don't trust what the scientists are saying about climate change.

Climate Change skeptics are in the minority we are told by climate change believers but according to one concerned believer who was interviewed on ABC radio last week, the skeptics are winning the publicity war. The vociferous minority is doing a great job of either convincing the average citizen that the whole "end of the world" shebang is malarchy, or at the very least lulling them into a false sense of security. At this point, I am not even convinced that the skeptics are the dummies and deniers they are painted out to be.

Even if I am in the minority, who is to say that the minority is wrong? About two thousand years ago, a small group of dedicated men who held a very counter cultural and unpopular view of the world, actually changed it for the better.I could cite numerous examples but think about how often a small voice emerges from obscurity and ridicule to true greatness.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Whales V Babies

An article by Sean Parnell in The Australian newspaper on Monday January 18, 2010, was about the imminent scrapping of the controversial initiative which current opposition leader Tony Abbott put in place while he was Health Minister in the former Howard government. He funded a Catholic charity to help run a pregnancy hotline designed to hopefully dissuade women from having abortions. This was part of his efforts to lower the abortion rate in Australia.

Some said, good on you Mr Abbott while others said, not your business Mr Abbott. These comments simply reflected the well known divide between the Pro Life and Pro Choice camps. The abortion issue is not one which I wish to directly tackle here, but I do want to mention some statistics.

Rough estimates put the number of abortions in Australia each year at 100 000. According to The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform( a pro life organization),each year around the world, 42 million abortions occur. That's 115 000 every day. 42 million! That's twice the population of Australia. Every year. The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform says that 1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient).

Take a quick look at another killer of people: cancer. In 2005, cancer killed 83,000 Australians and 7.6 million people worldwide. Less than abortions but still shocking numbers.

Here's the thing. In light of these statistics, I find it hard to get worked up about whales being killed and Tasmanian Devils being wiped out by their own nasty version of cancer. Sure, it's sad and I don't want to see any species become extinct but numerous species have already vanished from the earth and my life is really none the poorer for their absence. How terrible a tragedy would it really be if whales disappeared from our oceans?

People have always fought for what matters to them. They sacrifice time and money for the things they value but for most people these treasures are much closer to home than the Tasmanian wilderness or the Southern Ocean. Nevertheless, most of us want to make a difference in the world, don't we? So good on those who fight for the helpless whales, the poor Tasmanian devils and the abused environment but don't tell me that they matter more than people.

As long as innocent unborn children are being murdered for convenience, I won't shed a single tear or give a second thought to those damned whales, and I'll pray for the success of those who are in a position to dissuade women from having abortions, and for those researching a cure for cancer because people are more important than creatures.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Things that Make you go AArrgghh!

How do you know when you are blessed? How do you know when your life is a pleasant sailboat ride on a flat river, or a picnic at the beach on a clear day of twenty five degrees with a gentle breeze? How do you know when you have got it good?

The answer: when all you can think to complain about is trivia. Not having anything at all to moan about is unnatural, dare I say inhuman. We were born to find fault and to grumble and to be irritated by little things. It's our nature. Don't deny it. Even if you excel at holding your tongue, you still whinge inside.Admit it. At the risk of overstating my case, complaining is all part of the inbuilt capacity of mankind to recognize and yearn for justice.

Having said all that, I must confess that my life is sweeter than a truck load of American champagne (Coca-Cola). Do you know what caused me to get emotionally disturbed last night? The DVD recorder.

Two thirds of the way through a movie called I Hate Valentine's Day, it froze. We couldn't skip or scan or even stop. We waited for play to resume, then we waited some more. We pressed buttons. Carefully and hopefully at first, then furiously and anxiously. Finally, we switched it off, turned it back on, ejected the disc, cleaned the disc, reinserted the disc and waited. And waited. And waited. At this point I left the room as I was on the precipice of violence. I wanted to hit that damn thing. Our previous DVD player misbehaved often. We were frequently forced to unplug it, then plug it again to get it to work, but this DVD recorder cost six times the amount of money and it isn't old and it's an LG! AArrgghh!

Eventually it resumed playing right where we left off, but how annoying is it when things don't work properly? Never mind the fact that most people in the world don't even know what a DVD recorder is, let alone own one, and the idea of watching a movie for entertainment must be as alien to them as peace is to the residents of Gaza.

I can't go on. I can't believe I'm writing about this but there is another thing. The noise of this DVD recorder. Is it supposed to sound like an air conditioner on high? And why is the volume of DVDs always one third lower than the television. TV volume on 10, DVD volume on 30. Why? Does anyone know? Is there a really good technological reason for it? Like I said, I can't go on. AArrgghh!

What is the most annoying thing?
Towels left on the floor in the bathroom
garbage filled to overflowing
DVD recorder freezing during a movie
fridge door not closing properly
other drivers
missing socks
TV shows you like being taken off air
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Road Deaths: A Losing battle

Another Festive season has passed and more lives have been lost on our roads. For most of us, the Christmas/New Year period is a time of relaxation, of rest, peace and happiness. It is also when we cherish time with our loved ones and make precious memories together.

On December 28 a petrol tanker slammed into three cars on the NSW South Coast. The crash and resulting inferno killed the driver of the truck. It also killed the two daughters of David Bridge, who was behind the wheel of the first car impacted. Bridge and his partner were dragged from their Subaru with severe burns. Six days after the crash, he died and his partner is still in a critical condition. It makes me want to cry when I think about this tragedy. Put yourself in the shoes of the woman who, even if she wins her fight for life, has lost her family. Consider the devastation felt by their extended family and friends. The sadness we feel from a distance is nothing compared to the shattering intensity of intimate suffering.

Australia's national holiday road toll for 09/10 stands at 67. In NSW, where 23 people died in motoring accidents and a further 877 were injured in serious accidents, 1,828 people were charged with drink-driving offenses and a total of 14,301 speeding motorists were caught by police. That's just in the holiday period.

Despite extensive education campaigns and police traffic offense road blitzes like Operation Safe Arrival which closed last Sunday night, and in the face of unavoidable publicity surrounding these tragic deaths, 13 more people died on NSW roads than in the same period last year. Are we fighting a losing battle?

The evidence seems to suggest that no matter what efforts at prevention are made, accidents happen and people die. Of course we cannot simply accept this fact, roll over and say, why bother trying to stop what is inevitable. Every effort possible must be made to minimize risk and to protect people from injury or death but are we swimming upstream? Is the task too monumental?

Here's a couple of statistics to give us hope:Between 2003 and 2008, national road deaths decreased by an average of 1.4% per year.Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people killed per 100,000 resident Australian population declined from 7.6 to 6.9. Ten years ago, the figure was 9.4. Sounds like victory to me.

Given the number of cars on the road, the condition of those roads, the way many people drive, and how it only takes a split second to make a dangerous error in judgment or to lose concentration, it is actually a miracle that there aren't more accidents, injuries and deaths. It really is a miracle.

Be careful out there.

sources: (January 3, 2010)
Road Deaths Australia Statistical summary 2008
(Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional
Development and Local Government)

The End of the World Again

Apparently, this past decade was the hottest decade since records began in 1910. What about the previous decade? You know 1900-1910? What about the previous hundred years? Thousand years? Two thousand years plus since the birth of Christ (historical fact)? Is the earth really hotting up or should I say heating up? Are we headed for disaster? Is this the end?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christ Almighty

Jesus! Jesus Christ! Christ Almighty! Have you ever uttered these words? Felt frustrated? Blurted them out. Angry? Spat them out. Or simply desperate for an adjective which you could use in mixed company? Maybe they are words you use automatically. Just a part of the way you express yourself. Throwaway words without any meaning.

We recently celebrated Christmas. Strangely, Jesus gets mentioned quite a bit at Christmas. Many people from the church of C & E, attend Christmas services even when they would never ordinarily think of entering a church other than by invitation for a wedding, or a funeral or a christening. Songs are played and sung which are about Jesus. They are called carols but they are actually songs of worship. Consider "Come All Ye Faithful": O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. The story of Christ's birth (the Nativity)is told, and re enacted.

Jesus gets more attention and respect during the Christmas period, otherwise known innocuously as the festive season. For this reason alone I wish it was Christmas all year.

However, even at Christmas, there are some who continue to use the name of Jesus Christ as a swear word, as a cheap combination of sounds stripped of true meaning. A more acceptable curse. Mere words on par with other expletives, except these don't need to be deleted. No one really minds a few "Goddammits" or "Christ Almightys".

In old speak, they call it blasphemy but really it is simply disrespectful, both to Christians and to Jesus Christ himself. It is offensive.

Jesus Christ is a real person. His life, death and resurrection are historical facts. For Christians, Christ is Almighty and his name is special. It is powerful. It is not just a name. It represents hope and love and salvation. In fact, the Bible says it is the only name by which men can be saved. It is a name worthy of respect and honour, a name to be used with reverence, a name to speak with deep affection and gratitude. Try using it that way some time and see how your life will turn around.

Which of these swear words is most offensive to you?
Jesus Christ
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