August 15, 2014 | Graham

Let’s rub out bigotry (and Catherine Deveny) Bill

I always thought that George Brandis was right – it is legal to be a bigot in this country – but Bill Shorten has corrected him, a correction which he tacitly seems to have accepted by abandoning his attempt to change section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

According to Bill “bigotry has no place in modern Australia.”

So lets get going on cleaning up bigotry in this country.

I’m not sure what remedies Bill has in mind…maybe jail, or exile to a foreign country, or perhaps in this cyber age, complete isolation from social or any other media, could all achieve this aim.

Perhaps a re-education camp might suffice from which the offender could only be released once they had proven to a medical or psychiatric board that they had fully recovered.

This way we could eliminate either the person, or the thoughts, from “modern Australia”.

I intend to draft legislation, which I’ll ask Bill to introduce as a private member.

But to do this and to work out what penalties or treatments might apply, and indeed, what might constitute bigotry, we need to start dealing with some actual cases.

As my first case study I put forward Ms Catherine Deveny who tweets as @CatherineDeveny.


Catherine labels herself as a comedian, but it’s hard to know who would laugh at a piece of religious vilification like this.

I’m not sure what Bill Shorten has in mind as a definition of bigotry, but it appears to have certain elements.

  • The opinion should be offensive
  • It should be unreasonably held

On these grounds there is no doubt Deveny is a bigot. I’m a practising Christian and I find it offensive. And it is offensive partly because it is untrue.

Anyone who reads the Bible would know that it comes in two parts; that the second part is superior to the first; and that it urges people to even lay down their lives, for others, and not just those they do like, but those they don’t.

The New Testament doesn’t support hate, violence or discrimination.

Parts of the Old Testament do, but so what? You read the Old Testament so as to understand the New.

No intelligent person could reasonably hold Deveny’s view.

However, this is not just any old bigotry. It is what I will call “aggravated bigotry”, because it is aimed at undermining people’s belief in Christianity, and their acceptance of Christians.

So let’s add another limb to define this more severe type of bigotry

  • The opinion is designed to lower the reputation of a person or group

I’ve only just started thinking about this issue, so I’m open to refinements on both my definitions and suggested remedies, so please read this as a tentative work.

But one thing is sure – if politicians are to deliver on this new bigot free world, there is a lot of work to be done, and it has just started.

Posted by Graham at 7:49 am | Comments (26) |


  1. Really the definition of “bigot” is quite simple. It encompasses two types of person:-
    1. Those who believe something I do not believe.

    2. Those who do not believe something I believe.

    Examples are everywhere :ie the judicial bench is full of them. Nearly one half of the all of our parliaments
    are full of them.
    It is safe to say that if you think you are not a bigot you are arrogant, almost a arrogant as Bill Shorten.

    Comment by Old man — August 15, 2014 @ 8:51 am

  2. Graham,
    Your faith may be your own business but your comment on the two different sections of the Bible is ill-founded. Matthew reported Jesus as saying,
    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (NIV, Matthew 5:17–18)
    Jesus was also not above animal cruelty having caused the drowning death of 2,000 pigs, as reported, in Matthew and Luke;
    “And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea”.
    I recently read an interview with Catherine Deveny. She came across as a sensible human being and I am sure she would have a collection of biblical extracts to support her views.

    Comment by John Turner — August 15, 2014 @ 9:46 am

  3. John, you’re clearly bigoted on this issue. Whether you are as bigoted as Deveny I’m not sure. You will not find a serious Christian theologian who will support your interpretation of the scripture. One of the marks of the bigot is to wilfully misunderstand and misrepresent that which they don’t like. In Christ’s world, if you said that you repudiated the law and the prophets you would have been stoned. If you say you have come to “complete them” or whatever translation one uses in relation to this passage, then not only do you survive, but you get to innovate.

    Deveny may have a selection of biblical quotes, but like yours they would be all taken out of context.

    I’m not sure why people who despise a religion and pay little attention to it advance their own analysis of it as superior to people who spend a lot of time thinking about it and researching it.

    Comment by Graham — August 15, 2014 @ 11:13 am

  4. Well, let’s argue about a book or greatest story ever told, around 2,000 years old?
    Plagiarized, embellished, revised and edited, until the modern version bears little if any resemblance to the oldest one still in existence, in a Munich Museum?
    And in saying that I know I will “offend” some readers, and maintain, the freedom to speak the truth as you or I see it, will indubitably offend some!
    As will a casual remark, (i.e., your missus is quite a looker) that is a normal complementary remark, in our society/social mores, but a literal beheading offence in others!
    No one can go around walking on eggshells as it were, trying to not offend some; or be politically correct for all cultures!
    Which would probably reduce free speech to; Um, Ah, Well, Ah you see, What was the question again, followed endlessly by more of the same and so on?
    And when you may seriously need to know what someone else really thinks!
    You get the picture, we might as well gag all social intercourse/free/robust debate.
    All human progress has been foreshadowed or built on robust debate and disagreement.
    Otherwise, we would be limited to doing what we always done, living in caves and running our food down with a stone on a stick!
    And understand that the four gospels are loosely based on the allegedly original Gospel according to Mathew, (and not the gospel according Mary Magellan) and even then, not an eyewitness account; but written and progressively embellished, around 50 or so years after the event?
    With the final writer, a very well educated John, adding in those (missing) parts needed to make the central character, an actual (walk on water) Messiah, as prognosticated?
    A Journalist would be laughed out of the place, if all his reporting were based on such hearsay, and at least fifty years after the event/fact!
    Yes, the dead sea scrolls seem to back some of this ancient reporting, but also, correct much of what is claimed. i.e., nowhere it is written that females can’t be priests, bishops or literal heads!
    Nor can one find a single verse, that compels celibacy, or an unnatural life.
    An adult Jesus i.e., reportedly spent much of his time in the company of tavern keepers, whores and what have you?
    I guess they were the very people, who most needed his ministry?
    And how better to give it as a convivial chat over a glass of wine, while breaking bread!
    The most relaxing and enjoyable of all social intercourse! (Personally, I prefer a B.B.Q. and a couple of beers.)
    I don’t know how much of the bible is true if any, but it completely beggars belief that we got here by chance!
    And looking back over the years, one can see a purpose for everything, even the bad parts; all of which produced the me that I now am, and an improvement on the selfish little me/me git that I started as, I hope?
    I can’t look at the night sky on not see the work of a creative force; nor do I believe it was all down to serendipity or chance; given, if we are the product of this chance to the power of ten x ten x ten, then a whirlwind could more easily whip through a junk yard and create a fully functional and flyable 747.
    The odds of that are far less than chance alone, creating a far more complex human being, with something around 50 billion brain cells, keeping everything functioning as it should be?
    Hopefully, occasionally?
    (Ensuring the occasional fart doesn’t have lumps in it!)
    Free speech must include the right to offend.
    And in so doing, make all of us somebody’s personally perceived bigot some or all of the time!
    And I think that is maybe what George was saying or implying?
    If he could have been just a little more cogent and compelling, and a little less passionate with his (court jester, just opened the mouth to change socks) words?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — August 15, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  5. Graham,
    re; “In Christ’s world, if you said that you repudiated the law and the prophets you would have been stoned”. So Jesus was like most politicians, men who are scared to affront powerful interests. Reminds me of those making policies in 2014 -prepared to ignore empirical evidence and do the will of their masters. You need to read the last few sentences of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and maybe fathom out where the current policies may lead.

    For starters, I go along with Terry Lane and many others who have stated that all theologians make it up as they go along.

    My view on all religions is based on evidence.

    There is incontrovertible evidence that our forefather specie separated from the forefathers of the other great apes at least six million years ago. Hunting with weapons started at least two million years ago and the big brained species, Homo sapiens, started coming to the fore at least 200,000 years ago.
    Over that long span of time we developed sufficient morality and societal cohesion that we were able to adapt and survive and we almost certainly fought to defend or hunting range (read Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative) from any infringing neighbours.
    Then, some time after the development of agriculture and animal husbandry Moses, a complete politician, convinced his tribe that he had spoken to his god who had given him and the tribe separate and distinct laws with suitable applicable punishments for any breaches(in Moses’s view). Another right was the right to other land then occupied by others. Any non believer even in his own tribe or the occupier of any desired land, man woman, child, servant or beast, was to receive a death penalty. One commentator stated the Ronald Reagan thought that he had come down from a mountain.
    Then a man who might have existed, Jesus Christ, claimed divine being. He may have been an honourable citizen, for his time, but his story was only written at least forty years after his passing to the fate that confronts us, a dead end.
    Give me a rational/humanist/sceptic/atheist any time to an adult who believes in the impossible.

    Comment by John Turner — August 15, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  6. The NT advocates discrimination against women, who are not supposed to be heard in church and must ask their husbands at home about things they don’t understand. When Paul wrote “in Him there is neither male nor female” he presumably didn’t mean to abrogate this verse, though modern liberal readers may take it that way.
    The Bible is certainly used to support violence and a great deal of discrimination. Perhaps Deveny was referring to that.. Moderate Christians may see this as misuse of the text but the homophobic and otherwise backward-looking of Africa and other areas and denominations do not. Sam Harris has commented that moderate Christians, themselves reasonable people of goodwill, inadvertentlty provide a sort of cover for the unreasonable conservatives, by endorsing faith, as opposed to reason.
    Perhaps another factor in Deveny’s choice of subject is that the mockers face different penalties according to which holy book they mock, as Salman Rushdie discovered.

    Comment by Ralph Seccombe — August 15, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

  7. You’re hoist on your own petard Ralph. Who are the significant Christian clerics who pronounced the equivalent of a Fatwa on a work of anti-Christian bigotry? Say “The Exorcist”? None. Those of you who pick on Christians are all bigots without a shred of credible evidence to fly with. In Bill Shorten’s world you should not exist.

    Comment by Graham — August 15, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

  8. Graham
    As for the fatwas, I was saying something similar to your point. Of course, further back in time there were plenty of fatwas, as the Cathars, Jan Hus, Galileo, Giordano Bruno etc bear witness.
    I think it’s possible to make reasoned critiques of most things.

    Comment by Ralph Seccombe — August 15, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

  9. Graham,
    The real bigots are those who ardently defend ancient scribblings, but neglect the work of analytical thinkers like Socrates, Pythagoras, Epicurus, or Lucretius etc, and who claim that those ancient scribblings they favour are a good guide to behaviour in a modern society, particularly a multicultural society such as ours.

    A favourite of mine is Lucretius’ statement,
    “To spend your existence in the grip of anxiety about death is mere folly. It is a sure way to let your life slip from you incomplete and un-enjoyed”. He gave voice as well to a thought, “… inflict this anxiety on others is manipulative and cruel”. Religious leaders are happy to inflict just that anxiety on children from a young age. Some people I know took years to escape.

    I notice that you have not contradicted my anti-creationist arguments. Here is another. We live on a planet 4.5 billion years old (largely built from the debris of the end stage of an earlier star) in a universe at least 13.7 billion years old. You seem to think a god did it and that she only became concerned about one species a comparatively miniscule number of thousand of years ago.

    With regard to your comments to Ralph Seccombe; Many people were put to death for failing to endorse completely the then views of some religious leader. Of course the Crusades and the Inquisition come to mind. The proportions of the then population tortured and most cruelly slain would put present wars in the shade.

    In the Inquisition the youngest witch put to death was only four years of age. You are on a complete loser trying to defend religion of wellbeing or kindness grounds. Much of the still existing wealth of the established churches was accumulated feloniously in the more violent times.

    In my thinking I didn’t previously categorise you with some of the odd balls often running comments on your site.

    Comment by John Turner — August 15, 2014 @ 5:33 pm

  10. ” Those of you who pick on Christians are all bigots without a shred of credible evidence to fly with.” Oh come on, Graham. That statement neatly illustrates one of the things that most infuriates non-believers in societies like ours— that any questioning of religious belief or practice is out of bounds. It also goes close to marking you as somebody who, on this occasion, demonstrates little knowledge of or respect for logic.
    Where is this “picking on” of which you complain? Non-believers are often gobsmacked by the things that Christians believe but most of us have not the slightest desire to “pick on” Christians for holding those beliefs. Non-believers do happen to know about and applaud the good works done by many Christian organisations even if many individual Christians, as opposed to Christian organisations, still put about the nonsense that no-believers do not do these things.
    If Christians want to ensure that they’ll not be “picked on”, all they need to do is (i) refrain from lobbying government to make everyone behave as they believe is required by their current interpretation of scripture, and (ii) stop abusing children by insisting that they believe things that are either demonstrably untrue or incapable of being shown to be true. Examples of the latter are that Jesus loves us and is moved by our prayers. You can believe that prayer is efficacious if you like but don’t assume that everyone else does or should. (In a multicultural society like ours, it is an arrogance for any sect, Christian or otherwise, to assume that autonomous non-believers should keep their incredulity under lock and key when religious leaders choose to inflict their rituals on the public.)
    And don’t tell your children that they have to believe that Jesus loves them and hears their prayers unless you are honest enough to reassure them that most people in the world don’t believe what you believe and that they don’t have to either.
    “You will not find a serious Christian theologian who will support your interpretation of the scripture.” Well, no you won’t while you limit “serious Christian theologian” to those who specialise in coming up with a re-interpretation of the inerrant and inspired word of God as recorded in scripture each time a scientific discovery blows away the credibility of the traditional interpretation. But you will find hordes of serious scholars who will painstakingly explain the ever growing body of evidence that throws into doubt the credibility and provenance of much of the NT. I think the current consensus is that nearly half of the 27 books of the NT including about half of the letters attributed to Paul are forgeries.
    Your bad logic day was on show in other places including: “Catherine labels herself as a comedian, but it’s hard to know who would laugh at a piece of religious vilification like this.” Why do you assume that she was speaking as a comedian expecting her comment to raise a laugh? Surely you did not inappropriately represent her as a comedian in this context just so you could fire off the cheap shot that her attempt at humour failed? Do you assume that because she is sometimes a comedian, that is all she ever is? What if she was just an intelligent woman expressing an unfavourable opinion of a book that is excessively lauded given that it is error filled, of extremely doubtful provenance, and quite unable to give rise to consistent interpretations across all the religions that revere it?

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 16, 2014 @ 12:42 am

  11. John; the biblical account of Moses may be one of those falsehoods, that is being revealed by science, (archaeological evidence,) to be myth and legend rather than fact.
    And if Moses is just legend, then so also all the beliefs attributed to him!
    Like a chosen people, inheriting land given to them by the very hand of God, and some 14 commandments, carved in stone by the very hand of that same terrifying God; who allegedly wrote these same commandments, for a people who could neither read nor write.
    People are dying and wars are being fought over this same scripture, treated as if it were literal fact, by people who need God on their side; if only to occupy land belonging to others!
    Covert not they neighbor’s goods.
    And given the transfer of money and title, private land must also be included as a good!?
    As for we humans being the creation of chance, that somewhere in our distant past crawled out of the primordial soup as simple one celled organisms?
    Well, there is simply no deposits of nitrogenous coke, to support that faith based theory, which arguably has less scientific credence, than a whirlwind whipping through a junkyard and creating a fully functioning flyable 747.
    Moreover, we are carbon based lifeforms, who needed trillions of stars to die and be reborn; time and again, just to create said carbon.
    And then we needed certain conditions to be exact and exactly timed, to ensure that life even began here on planet earth.
    Too many steps and lab like precise timing, to be chance?
    That said, and even if there is a creative force, as some would postulate?
    We can’t simply assume it hears our evocations, any more than we can hear microscopic bacteria plead with us, for their very life or existence.
    However, it is possible to assume as thinking and rationalizing life as we know it, was designed; it incorporated some of the divine spark of the creator?
    As we do when we transfer our DNA to our own offspring.
    It hard to bring any scientific evidence to any current theory, when all we really know is, everything including us and all creation, is energy!
    And energy can neither be created or destroyed, merely altered!
    Therefore, all the energy that now exists as all creation, had to exist in another form, prior to the appearance of our universe and everything in it!
    And the big bang theory, is being replaced by a more credible projection of altered preexisting dark matter, as being responsible for all energy based matter.
    The bible states we were created in the image of God!
    Well an image is something that reflects light back to the observer, like say a glass!
    And given “in” is the operative word; if we are in that image, we could be no more or less than the water “in” said glass or image, given both that and we, in all our constitutional parts, are just energy!
    In the beginning there was just energy, and since then nothing of any real consequence or substance has changed!
    When you or I think a thought there is a transference of energy between one brain synapse and another.
    So even our thought may be just energy!
    If E= M and T= E, then T can = M!
    Some postulate that our perceived existence is just a dream we all share?
    And possible, given we all can and do have dreams so real, its actually impossible to distinguish them from literal reality, while in them. We can even dream we are dreaming!
    I can create a personal reality, in deep meditation, more real than reality.
    Where the climate and temperature is perfect, and where the food is abundant, picked from the tree, when and where the inclinations directs; and far better tasting and sweeter than anything that is produced by this imperfect reality.
    Little wonder some find the literal euphoria inherent in truly deep meditation, more addictive than any drug!
    The only thing we should believe as gospel, is the almighty irrefutable truth.
    And if you want to be able to personally sort the wheat from the chaff in all such matters, just learn to meditate.
    It’s not hard, with only two types prevented; small children unable, given their attention span is to short; and or, those crippled with inherently criminal minds, who are then unable to shut down the psychotic monkey chatter and or paranoia, that is their inherent/damaged personalities!
    And it’s hard not to see some of the current kill and or be killed belief systems, emerging from just such damaged minds.
    If You or I were to hear the voice of God speaking to us in our head, and telling us we should murder Mr Monty just down the road, then take over his farm and animals, we’d likely be incarcerated; as indeed, would all those who believe such Evangelical evocations; and or, act out on them in the name of this or that deity!
    As my neurosurgeon once remarked, [while trying to find any semblance of a still existing reflex], it is quite disconcerting to hear voices coming out of thin air; but even more so, when you actually understand what they’re saying!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — August 16, 2014 @ 11:35 am

  12. Get real people – governments should never legislate against peoples thinking or expression of opinions. A mark of civilised society is tolerance – Lets hear all the opinions even if some people are outraged or disgusted by them. One of the most serious problems in modern society is the deliberate dumbing down of the people. Free thinking is not encouraged – Education is solely designed to produce a useful member of society and not to empower the people with knowledge.
    Is it going to be illegal to think bigoted thoughts or just express them.
    btw Catherine made me laugh – thanks for making my day a bit lighter.

    Comment by Geoff Davies — August 16, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

  13. Careful Alan, you’ve already made a couple of the four assertions that immediately expose evolution deniers as being ignorant of what evolution is. The four are:
    • evolution is a chance event,

    • the goal of evolution is to produce perfection,

    • if evolution were real, there would be lots of fronkeys running around (“fronkey” = frog/monkey hybrid),

    • it would be easier for a windstorm blowing through a junkyard to assemble all the components of a jet aircraft than for evolution to have produced a human being (this being the derisory Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit attributed to Fred Hoyle and since thoroughly exposed as nonsense by Richard Dawkins and others).

    CHANCE EVENT: The incidence of outrider characteristics in a population of organisms might be down to chance but the process by which nature selects some of them and discards others is the complete opposite. Consider neck length. In any population at any time, most members will have average neck lengths but, by chance, some will have unusually long necks and others unusually short ones. Suppose now that having a long neck increases its owner’s chances of surviving to reproduction age; perhaps environmental change or over eating has caused all the low hanging fruit to disappear so that only those with long necks can reach what’s left and survive to maturity. They will produce offspring with a good chance of inheriting their parents’ long necks, as will their offspring’s offspring …. Meanwhile, short necks will disappear because their sometime owners proved unable to reproduce themselves. In short, natural selection, NOT CHANCE, has systematically and logically caused a major change in a species’ characteristics making it better able to cope with its present environment.

    PERFECTION: All that evolution does is cause a species to retain and develop any characteristics that give its members an improved chance of surviving to maturity and reproducing themselves. While evolutionary change might, coincidentally, cause a species to “improve” in some sense, that is not its objective. Its only objective is to select and preserve characteristics that give the organism an increased chance of coping with its present environment. Indeed, if the environment in which organisms exist were to change back to how it had been millennia ago, it could be expected that the organisms would also tend to revert to what they had been like then.

    FRONKEYS: Fronkey citers do not understand that most of the changes that occur in organisms do not give those organisms an environmental advantage and are discarded. The reason that there are no fronkeys is either that no combination of characteristics likely to lead to a frog/monkey hybrid ever occurred or, if one did, it was discarded by natural selection because it offered its owner no survival advantage.

    BOEING 747: The wind blowing through Fred Hoyle’s junkyard is assembling pieces utterly randomly. Hoyle was right to say that the odds against a functioning jetliner being made in this way are prohibitive. But, as Dawkins and others have carefully explained in destroying Hoyle’s analogue, evolution does not proceed by chance but by the logic of natural selection.

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 16, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

  14. Sorry Geoff, but the government wanted to legislate to make Australia more like your version, but they were apparently defeated by public opinion and the Greens and ALP because they say it is not legal to be a bigot in Australia. That being the case, let’s make sure we have an equal opportunity policy on bigotry.

    There is a hell of a lot of bigotry on display in this thread. People who say whatever they like to try to discredit something they appear to have a pathological hatred of.

    Some of the examples are so stupid you wonder why anyone would put them. Such as the idea that Christianity is discredited because some Christians have persecuted other Christians. That is the logical equivalent of saying that democracy is discredited because some democracies have persecuted others.

    What none of the posters has been able to show is that the Christian Bible “supports hate, violence and discrimination”. All they have shown is that some parts of the Bible, read entirely out of context of the rest, could be said to support some of these. But they can only do that by cherry-picking some facts and ignoring others.

    That is the mark of a bigot. It doesn’t matter what the facts are, he or she is not prepared to change their mind to accommodate them.

    Comment by Graham — August 16, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

  15. Graham,
    You really haven’t argued in favour of your faith and the atheists etc., have to accept that. The reason for calling religion a faith is because there is no evidence to actually justify the beliefs.
    In my view Robert Ardrey summed the human experience succinctly when he wrote,
    “Had man been born of a fallen angel, then the contemporary predicament would lie as far beyond solution as it would lie beyond explanation. Our wars and our atrocities, our crimes and our quarrels, our tyrannies and our injustices could be ascribed to nothing other than singular human achievement. And we should be left with a clear-cut portrait of man as a degenerate being endowed at birth with virtue’s treasury whose only notable talent had been to squander it. But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished? The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.”

    In his The Hunting Hypothesis he added to those thoughts,
    “Much has happened in the sciences since I published those lines, for it has been a time of discovery and controversy. Just as in the time of Darwin himself, the evolutionist has been drawn, quartered, boiled in oil, burned at blithe stakes. We are pessimists; we endanger the human future. Yet I can today no more discover pessimism in those lines than I could when I wrote them in 1961.”
    Man is a marvel — yet not so marvellous as to demand miraculous explanation. Man is a mystery transcending all our arithmetic, and will remain so, I have little doubt, whatever the revelations of our future sciences.

    And finally we must know that the territorial imperative – just, one it is true of the evolutionary forces playing upon our lives – is the biological law on which we have founded our edifices of human morality. Our capacities for sacrifice, for altruism, for sympathy, for trust, for responsibilities to other than self-interest, for honesty, for charity, for friendship and love, for social amity and mutual interdependence have evolved just as surely as the flatness of our feet, the muscularity of our buttocks, and the enlargement of our brain; out of the encounter on ancient African savannahs between the primate potential and the hominid circumstance.”

    I prefer the hope of the risen ape concept to the fallen angel and that concept’s hope for some fanciful heavenly reward. My only disappointment is that I will not see the adoption of those solutions which are sensible to some on humanities existing problems.

    Comment by John Turner — August 16, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

  16. All those trying to turn the conversation into some bizarre argument about Christianity, it is actually about whether the Bible is a book that promotes “hate, violence and discrimination”. No fair reading of the book supports that conclusion. The Christian Bible urges you to love your neighbour as yourself. Can’t get any further away from “hate, violence and discrimination” than that. It also says that in Christ all are equal.

    Christians have been in the forefront of making human rights universal and looking after the poor and the underprivileged.

    They do this on the basis of what the Bible teaches them.

    To suggest anything else is not just bigoted, it is defamatory.

    Comment by Graham — August 16, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

  17. Graham, your opening sentence was, “I always thought that George Brandis was right – it is legal to be a bigot in this country – but Bill Shorten has corrected him, a correction which he tacitly seems to have accepted by abandoning his attempt to change section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.”

    There is no suggestion here that this thread was ‘actually about whether the Bible is a book that promotes “hate, violence and discrimination”’ as you now, perhaps disingenuously, claim. So maybe the problem with it is that readers are unsure of what you were trying to say.

    You seemed at the start to be supporting Senator Brandis’ view that bigots have a right to hold and express bigoted views. But almost immediately you took shelter behind the prevailing view of many in countries like ours that religious belief and practice, per se, are immune from criticism — as they are in some Islamic countries though, fortunately, not yet protected by the same kind of horrific state sanctioned punishments for dissenters as applies in them, and that therefore Catherine Deveny was not entitled to say what she said.

    If you believe that people have the right to criticise what people in general do, say or think, do you or do you not agree that this right extends to what religious people do, say or think? You give the strong impression that you don’t.

    I think you display extreme sensitivity (and questionable logic) when you equate difficult questions about religious beliefs with personal attacks on those holding them. Picking on Christians was your way of putting it.

    It is not “picking on” individuals who profess Christian beliefs to question why they believe such normally impossible happenings as the virgin birth, the resurrection, bodily assumptions in to heaven (always assumed to be “up there”), and the daily conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ by the mere mumbling of an incantation by an ordained (necessarily male) priest. I have many friends who believe such things who would never accuse me of picking on them even though they know that I do not share their beliefs.

    What non-believers pick on, and what all rational members of society certainly ought to pick on, is the assumption made by some Christians that they have a right to impose their implausible beliefs on others, and particularly on their defenceless children. And not only a right to do this but a right to expect legal and financial support from the state to advance their proselytising. There are heavily subsidised Christian schools that even as we write are teaching children not to believe the nonsense about evolution that the science curriculum requires them to teach; that tell their students to turn off that deluded old fool, David Attenborough, when he comes on the TV.

    Granted that the NT makes many commendable statements as you say, it also contains many errors, self contradictions and forged additions. That’s OK. It’s only an ancient book put together by largely unknown and probably uneducated authors who lacked the knowledge that today’s authors can refer to. What is NOT OK is for Christians to deem that such a book is inerrant because it is the inspired word of God, and that therefore ordinary people must not be allowed to find fault with it.

    And to the extent that this is part of what Senator Brandis meant, he is right.

    I’m not sure what you read but you must know that for every so-called “serious Christian theologian” scrambling to reinterpret eternal Christian “truths” as science exposes their implausibility, there are dozens of highly respected scholars who are assembling all the evidence needed to show that comments like Catherine Deveny’s are not deserving of the protest you tried to excite in response to them.

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 16, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

  18. Okay glen, you may be right, but your statement, the logic of natural selection suggests an overseeing intelligence, as does the very first step in the process you claim as evolution, which might be more logically explained as designed/inbuilt adaptation, and then only as the changing environment demands such change. Simply and accurately recording the changes, just doesn’t explain their emergence into reality, as the very first forms, of rudimentary life, even though environmentalists claim that this accurate record of biological events or adaptation, actually explains the origin of life! Simply put; the so called science of evolution does no such thing! No matter how glibly put! Unproven theory remains just that, and only becomes fact when proven rather than rise in the belief systems of some, to the most convincing prognosis!?
    We can create a virus in the lab, or if you will pseudo life!
    Even so, we need precisely controlled conditions and an overseeing intelligence!
    And also underlines the process, or the logic of natural selection producing gradual improvements and or even more adaptability.
    Nowhere have I claimed fallen angels, but it has an equal chance of explaining our existence, and indeed, our very humanity, and empathy!
    The very fact you feel you need to verbal Glen, completely destroys any and all following argument, however logically you may present it!
    And indeed, the verbal really does label those who use this deceitful debating tactic, as mere ideologues at best, or right raving fanatics at best!?
    Incomplete science explains nothing, but may simply pose even more questions!
    The problem with fundamentalists is their universally closed minds Glen; be they maniacal Muslim miscreants claiming heaven sent sanction for the brutal acts of mass murder; or equally stubborn inflexible environmentalists, who believe their articles of faith, (the missing elements in the so called science) with even more fanatical fervor, if that is possible?
    One of the processes of evolution, is the gaining of knowledge.
    So we replace a six thousand old planet, flat as a pancake and in the centre of the known universe with everything revolving around it, the then best available most convincing prognosis?
    To one with one around 4.5 billions years old, and less than a microscopic grain of sand, in comparison to the now seemingly endless universe?
    Which may be just one of many as numerable as the discernible stars?
    As to how we and all life came into being?
    Well if you find a creative intelligence unacceptable, then all you are left with is even more improbable magic!
    As for the purpose of life?
    For the environmentalist, it boils down to just the survival of the fittest, a dog eat dog world!
    Perhaps that’s what they want, and just need to justify their baseless inhumanity, or lack of NORMAL human empathy, with many making very old trees or local flora and fauna, much more important, than a brand new baby boy!
    Or the sheer magic that is woven into around birth, or indeed, the maternal instinct that comes with it; or that such love is so robust and entirely unconditionally strong enough, to sacrifice of one’s very life to protect said babe; is just the product of completely cold impartial evolution.
    Love is the strongest most irrepressible power in the universe, and if their is a God, that is where I believe he or she is to be found, as an everywhere present all powerful force.
    I mean it might seem as soft and flexible as water, but we know what even just dripped water can do to hard inflexible rock.
    One might be able to construct a might tower, with just random chance as the builder, and then only need to back said materials over a cliff and let wind weather and chance create said tower, replete with lifts, hallways, doors, windows, waste evacuation, temperature controls etc.
    I think just chance would require even more time 4.5 billion years just to create a brick or simple building block; let alone said highly complex tower.
    But if your articles of faith say that is the most logical conclusion, for not just the building blocks, but much more complex completely autonomous living organisms?
    You remain free to do so, or even believe in magic if that explains away the explainable.
    Me, I’m prepared for the jury come back in with the answers, if they can ever actually be found?
    Certainly, not in my lifetime or even those of my great Grandchildren! Or indeed, not even the most grandiose illusions of grandeur!
    A group of people all sharing a common conviction, (religious or otherwise) doesn’t make them right!
    However, I like some of the Christian message, the most important as, insomuch as you do to the least among you, you also do unto me.
    And or, treat your neighbor as yourself, or do unto other as you would be done unto! Or the good Samaritan message!
    And just how much better would this world be, if we just eliminated false witness, or its equally dishonest debating equivalent, the too clever by half verbal
    Even without a God or creative force, great codes to live by!
    And if we all of us could manage just that much?
    There’d be no war, no poverty or want, no completely impartial bombs dropped on mums and their babes; and no suppressed or discriminated against minorities.
    The more science I learn, the more inescapable is the evidence of an overseeing intelligence.
    What I don’t know is why or what.
    I do believe life has a purpose, rather than the random selection that would be the only product of so called evolution.
    I prefer an environment, where the purpose is the realization of dreams, and personal improvement, as life’s lessons work their magic or force for change; and or, endlessly repeated where they don’t compel said change?
    And if you don’t like the seeming trial and error of creation or better yet, intelligent design?
    Well Edison created literally thousands of imperfect light bulbs before he created the first working type incandescent lamp.
    And I’m sure he would be gobsmacked by how far we have improved on that, (evolution?) with the latest being energy efficient cold LED lights!
    I believe the creation and it’s progress since, is the product of intelligent design, not random selection, (trial and error) albeit, that may well have played a part in the first working design, as it likely did with the first flyer, or powered flight.
    All discovery is preceded with much trail and error, i.e., natural selection.
    Or if you will discarding that which doesn’t work with examples of those that do, and then as improvements make some designs obsolete, or unable to compete.
    Finally, if evolution is real and compelling change and ever increasing complexity on all life, as some would seem to suggest?
    Why then are there still single cell organisms?
    Perhaps they’ve just gone on strike and like the African ant eater, refuse to cooperate with a force as improbable or tenuous, as so called evolution?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — August 17, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  19. Graham you said
    “What none of the posters has been able to show is that the Christian Bible “supports hate, violence and discrimination”. All they have shown is that some parts of the Bible, read entirely out of context of the rest, could be said to support some of these. But they can only do that by cherry-picking some facts and ignoring others.”
    Try Exodus 20:18 “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live”
    Following a Papal edict to enforce Exodus 20:18 was a quarter of a millennium of men and women ( mostly little old ladies ) being burnt at the stake. The last trial in Britain was in 1701 when the jury found a woman guilty but the judge sought a Royal Pardon from George1. It was granted and the Enlightenment began.

    Where is the “out of context” here?
    Does not that text encompass all of “hate violence and discrimination”?

    Exodus 20:18 has been deleted from some modern versions of the bible and in some “sorcerer” replaces “witch” which is not gender specific anyway. Exodus 20:18 has been in the Bible for almost 2 millennia however.

    It is true to say that non evidence based belief (religions and ideologies)have for more than a millennium been the greatest cause of premature death. They are a blight on humanity. We will only have a true civilisation when we outgrow both.

    Comment by Old man — August 17, 2014 @ 11:36 am

  20. Alan,
    Your concept of time and evolution is leading you to become confused.
    Evolution’s claim is that organisms only survive in environments that suit them and the most suitable characteristics in each species, in any period of time, will be the characteristics which will become more dominant.

    In the north of Australia, over the last 20 years, a smidgeon of time in evolutionary terms, the heads and mouths of goannas have changed substantially. Why? Because large heads and large mouths allowed their owners to eat cane toads and disappear out of the reproduction chain.

    That is what Darwin found in the Galapagos Islands. Finches, on various islands in the chain, changed to fit into the environmental niches available on their island.

    Stamford University still has on their site a video by modern researchers, Peter Grant and his wife, who noted the selection effect of a long drought on beak sizes in just a few years. That video was Lecture 5 in a series titled, Darwin’s Legacy, produced to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. I still have the video in my files but they are still available at;'s-Legacy

    The initial chemical reaction which allows a long strand of an organic chemical to reproduce still eludes science but maybe not for much longer.

    You could also read the story of the Lenski experiment. That is available at;

    This is a long way from a discussion on bigotry I never like to let comments based on ignorance of evidence persist unanswered.

    Comment by John Turner — August 17, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

  21. As you say (“Students miss out as group moves in”, 16/8), it is extremely tough on the many students required to twiddle their thumbs while other kids go off to scripture. But spare a thought for those who go. If they score a Generate Ministry “teacher”, they’ll be exhorted to reject what the Australian Science requires them to learn about our evolutionary history. They’ll be taught, “we have fallen from angels” when the rest of the world knows that we have actually risen from apes.
    Generate Ministry “teachers” have to affirm a Statement of Faith that says, “We acknowledge that … God made us in his own likeness and image”. To believe this, they must think that humans have always looked as we do now. Otherwise, they’d have to specify exactly which of us shares God’s likeness: Barak Obama, Xi Jinping, Clive Palmer or Jennifer Hawkins perhaps? Homo erectus? Australopithecus africanus? apes? Maybe one of our primitive ancestors from billions of years ago.
    We can only wonder how Generate Ministry “teachers” explain away BBC natural history programs on TV. Perhaps they advise their students to change channels to avoid having to watch deluded old men like Sir David Attenborough making fools of themselves.
    “Simply and accurately recording the changes, just doesn’t explain their emergence into reality, as the very first forms, of rudimentary life, even though environmentalists claim that this accurate record of biological events or adaptation, actually explains the origin of life! Simply put; the so called science of evolution does no such thing! No matter how glibly put!”

    Hi again Alan. Like you, I’m no expert in evolution (or most other things for that matter) but I’m sure your assertion that evolutionary scientists claim to have explained the origin of life is just wrong. What they claim, and all they claim, is to know lots about how life, once begun, evolved.

    There are scientists working on your question about did life begin and I understand they are confident of being close to an answer? No matter what the answer proves to be, it is not going to change the historical evidence about evolution and unlikely to change much about knowledge of how it caused change. But it could change views about natural selection because it (unlike evolution) is a theory.

    That said, perhaps you need to learn more about what “theory” means in science. It does not mean a hypothesis or a guess as it often does in unscientific discourse. It means an accepted explanation for how some observable fact works. When we say that gravity is a theory, we are not still talking about whether a dropped stone will fall or rise. We take it as a fact that a dropped stone subject to no outside force will fall to the ground. Gravity is not that fact but the theory that explains it.

    Likewise, evolution is not a theory. It’s a fact, established in the same way as we know that a dropped stone will fall. It’s a fact because it has been observed to happen innumerable times and has never been observed to not happen. Natural selection, like gravity, is the explanation of how and why the there is a fact called evolution. Being a theory, it will change just as certainly as will the theory of gravity if we ever observe a heavy object (like Jesus, for example, or the Virgin whose assumption into heaven was celebrated two days ago) unaffected by outside forces rise rather than fall. It’s possible, but it’s so unlikely that we call gravity a theory— a universally accepted explanation of a natural event. It ain’t a guess!

    ” Unproven theory remains just that, and only becomes fact when proven rather than rise in the belief systems of some, to the most convincing prognosis!?”

    Nah! Following on from above, I think you’ve got this wrong. Unproven theories are just guesses or hypotheses.

    ” We can create a virus in the lab, or if you will pseudo life! Even so, we need precisely controlled conditions and an overseeing intelligence!”

    You don’t need an overseeing intelligence at all if the ingredients that you say were intelligently selected and combined in the test tube could also have been assembled by chance. And given the unthinkable age of the Earth, the possibility that such combinatons will have arisen is so strong as to be virtually certain.

    I’ve just looked ahead to the rest of your response and I’m reluctantly coming to the conclusion that you are prepared to resort to personal attack when you find your theses rebutted. I sensed this possibility quite early when you accused me of being glib. I’m also having increasing trouble understanding your sentences. So I think it best to call a halt.

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 17, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  22. I’ve just noticed with much embarrassment and not a little horror that a letter I’d sent to a newspaper appeared as the first few paragraphs of my last post. I’m not sure what can be done about this but please note that the first three paragraphs of my last post have nothing to do with this thread and should not have appeared. My post begins with the words: “Hi again Alan. Like you, I’m no expert in evolution.”

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 17, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  23. Even got the apology wrong. My previous post should start with Alan’s quote:Simply and accurately recording the changes.” I’m getting too old for this.

    Comment by Glen Coulton — August 17, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

  24. Glen,
    Don’t be too embarrassed. In my last comment the last two sentences came out as a single sentence. A full stop went missing!

    Comment by John Turner — August 17, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  25. When Dawkins destroyed Hoyle as claimed, the very same conclusions destroyed chance as an originator of the universe.
    Energy can neither be created or destroyed, and the universe, which is just immensely unimaginable transformed energy, all of it, including you and I, is just that, or energy!
    Cells are but groups of molecules, that are but groups of atoms, which are but various forms of simultaneously attracting and repelling energy.
    All this energy didn’t just pop into being with a great big bang, but simply had to exist elsewhere as hitherto, unknown unseen energy; or if you will dark energy.
    The very fundamental basis of science is, that energy can neither be created nor destroyed!
    Some cultures believe that the dark space between the stars (dark matter) is the true all powerful force, that created the universe and all that’s in it, from itself?
    And possible, if eternal dark matter as now postulated, is all there was?
    And now oversees its expansion.
    And that means that we live in a universe that’s able to think?
    Can the universe really think?
    Well you and I can and we are but an integral part of it.
    The simple recycling or rehashing of a fundamentally flawed belief systems, any belief system, doesn’t make it true, or even the most plausible.
    Not all that long ago, we believed in a big bang as the most plausible prognosis for the creation from nothing, as our expanding and therefore should be slowing down universe AND EVERYTHING IN IT! All Creation or so called evolution, or its designed adaptability
    That was until we found out we were living in an expanding an continually accelerating universe!
    Meaning that postulation, [garbage in garbage out] and all that depended on it, went out the window! [Now that was the real big bang!]
    So given exponential and accelerating expansion, what will happen when that acceleration transverses the speed of light?
    Perhaps we should ask an all knowledgeable all seeing Mr Dawkins, who might even postulate, we will all disappear up our own fundamental orifices, never to be seen again. Poff! Abracadabra, magic!
    I mean from nothing + nothing, you get more nothing and not a supposed big bang or indeed, any other explanation, that then flows from that.
    Maths doesn’t prove anything, and or applied Dawkins style, could simply prove that the universe and everything and everyone in it, is just a figment of my highly fertile imagination!
    Perhaps it could prove I am God?
    Perhaps God has an inimical sense of humor, and the joke’s on us?
    Ha, ha, ho, ho he, he. Oh my aching ribs.
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — August 18, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

  26. Alan,
    I don’t understand what you meant when you wrote, “When Dawkins destroyed Hoyle”. One physicist might destroy an earlier physicist’s theory but that is as far as destruction goes.

    My understanding is that mass is what burst into being at the big bang and that mass then became energy in accordance with Einstein’s E = Mc^2 conversion formula. That formula means that a small amount of mass is equivalent to a very large quantity of energy. Then of course there is anti-matter.

    Lawrence Krauss’ book covers the concept of nothingness and claims that nothing is a concept that has little or no meaning. Although, many years ago, I did reasonably well in a second year university physics subject, modern nuclear ideas had not at that time intruded far into that level of university studies.

    As Prof J B S Haldane wrote; “When I set up an experiment, I assume no God , angel, or devil will interfere in its course, and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.”

    He went further and said, “Science education and religious education are incompatible. The clergy has ceased to interfere with education at the advanced stage with which I am directly concerned but, they still have control over that of children. This means that the children have to learn about Adam and Noah instead of about Evolution, about David who killed Goliath instead of Koch who killed cholera, about Christ’s assent into heaven instead of Montgolfier’s and Wright’s.

    Worse than this, they are taught to accept statement without adequate evidence, which leaves them prey to quacks of every kind in later life, and makes it very difficult to accept the methods of thought which are successful in science.
    (from Facts and Faith)

    Comment by John Turner — August 18, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

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