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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

McKillop, McSchmillop ... James Bradley tells it like it is

Over at City of Tongues, James Bradley asks how uncritical anti-science nonsense ends up on the front pages of major newspapers.

Rather than fulminate at length, I’m going to confine myself to a few questions. How is it even remotely okay for major newspapers to be publishing uncritical articles about "miracles" on their front pages in 2010? Have we really lost the fight against the anti-science mob that comprehensively? If such claims were made by another, less established religion or belief-system (let’s say Scientology, or perhaps the Exclusive Brethren) would they be allowed to go through to the keeper so easily? And what does that tell us about the power and influence of the big churches, and the Catholic Church in particular? And finally, and perhaps most pertinently, why are editors who are so resistant to the scientific evidence surrounding climate change so uncritical when it comes to this sort of religious claptrap?


mace said...

Assuming Bradley's question is not rhetorical the answer is obvious.The commercial media is not now, and never was, in the business of providing news but to disseminate advertizers' 'messages'. Since most of the public appears to be superstitious to some degree, what better carriers for adverts are there than stories about UFOs,religion,the 'para-normal' and predictions of Armageddon.
As to the scepticism in regard to AGW, once most of the smart money moves to 'greener' industries,the 'scepticism' will evaporate.

Ramases said...

I completely agree with this. There has been so little scrutiny of these ridiculous claims. It would not happen in any other arena that I can think of - at the very least another point of view would be sought and someone qualified in medical matters asked to comment. The Vatican has note even released the actual evidence they supposedly scrutinised.
The "respect" for religion is operating again here, and critical analysis is not considered polite when religion is involved. In nearly any other context these claims would be a laughing stock.

Another aspect that has gone unscrutinsed is the legacy of McKillop herself.

I have seen supposedly "liberal" commentators describing her unquestionly as a "gutsy, independent, fighter for social justice". Mary MacKillop was NOT, absolutely not in any way, anything like this. She was the opposite.

Mary MacKillop fought against social justice not for it. Her main legacy is her contribution to the creation of the backward Catholic education system that has been a blight on Australian young people and Australian society ever since.

The time in which she lived, the mid to late 19th Century, saw in Australia the establishment of the public education system. While not perfect it was an enormous step forward for its time, based on the notion of inclusion, tolerance, quality, the concept that education should be open to all regardless of background or ability to pay and on the notion that the provision of a real education taught by professional and qualified teachers was more important than teaching fairytales. Above all it was based on the concept of secularism, the belief that the education of children should be inclusive to all, should not teach religious or sectarian values and should concentrate on educating children not indoctrinating them with bullshit.

Of course the Catholic church hated this "Godless" education system and went about creating their own to counter it. That was the church's motive - not the welfare or education of kids but the indoctrination of their own backward belief systems.

The Catholic education system was and is appalling. The quality of education for many decades was very low, taught by unqualified priests and nuns. The abuse many children suffered under it is well documented, both the extreme cases of sexual abuse and the continued lower level of abuse many children suffered under their backward punishment regimes. Not to mention the totally inappropriate indoctrination of religious values at a school so many kids have bad to suffer under for so long.

The kids Mary MacKillop taught would have been much better off in the public system, and Australian society would have been and still would be much better off without the Catholic education system.

Mary MacKillop was the absolute opposite of a fighter for social justice. She was a backward individual who did damage to Australian society. We would have been much better off without her work.

Appologies for X posting some of the last part of this post.

Lee-Anne said...

I think to some degree what we have is the "...Our Mary…" factor in action as much as an expression of an increased religious fervour (which is still part of it and of concern). Tribalism…or Nationalism… or a combination of the two upon which any sensible popular driven media will hook, plus undoubtedly some serious and influential lobbying. There is as well anecdotal evidence (and I am sure actual) that by and large people hold onto their childhood developed superstitions, religious or other, whilst as adults functioning (generally) without the desire or need for formal religious observance (bar weddings, funerals and odd rituals celebrating new life). I personally know many people who still “believe” in a god and still “fear” a devil but claim they are “…not religious!”. It can’t be dismissed as merely a populist reaction but I’m sure the “Our Mary” factor is partly to blame, the media will increase or look for ways to increase what their viewership indicate they want to know about “…it is about time we had our own Saint”. For many arguably, beyond this aspect, the care factor is not out of any formal religious motivation. It is also the case that our media is not confident or sufficiently skilled to challenging a position, they only “report”, and they will report to the bias of their viewer ship in the worst cases.
It fits in context with other media fermented embarrassments such as the UK’s Prince William and his current visit to our shores, the behaviour of ‘fans’ and the media is fawning...(they'll be claiming him "our" Prince “Willy” soon). The Australian media seem particularly concerned that he visited New Zealand first or indeed at all. It makes you cringe. Though the ‘fans’, to whom the media answer, like the celebrity but don’t much care about the Monarchy debate so we’ve not heard anything too intrusive about it in conjunction with this ‘reportage’.
To counter the confirmation of “Our Mary” as the first Australian Saint with messy arguments about superstition and the rational is what should happen but it won’t and it wasn’t going to - not without popular support.
As an aside re Bradley’s climate change debate comment, I'm wondering if it is recognised how 'religious' in tone is some of the argument surrounding the global warming debate from the affirmative camp - where any criticism of the science/evidence is treated as if it were a 'heresy' or backward form of denial in the critic. Attacking the critic is more frequently the result now without any actual debate occurring. This reaction by the affirmative camp to any genuine questioning renders climate change arguments/science suspect…for another forum/discussion though.