Voices That Should Be Heard

The “woke” elite that run the cancel culture in Australia believe that they have the inalienable right to determine what might be put forward in debate in Australia. If this is allowed to continue only debate affirming identity politics and left wing ideals would be admitted into the public domain.

Tony Abbott appears to be seen as a polarizing voice among the “woke” brigade. He recently went to Taiwan and was brave enough to say what most of us think –that China poses a real threat to us and it would be unconscionable to allow them to overwhelm a democratic Taiwan. But no sooner had he made his speech than the usual suspects were berating him for unduly provoking China.

Well, as you might have gathered by now, I am a fierce proponent of free speech and I see no value in suppressing people expressing their heartfelt opinions whether it be for cowardly concerns of offending a totalitarian government or the fragile sensitivities of proponents of identity politics.

But Abbott has alerted us to another flaw in Australian politics as it relates to our Covid response. He rightly asserts that our response has been too much oriented towards savings lives at any cost, But of course the draconian measures our state governments have been reduced to in order to purportedly save lives have drastically diminished the quality of life of most of us.

A week or so ago broadcaster Jessica Rowe had the temerity to interview Pauline Hanson on her podcast. Despite the fact that Rowe confined her interview to issues of lifestyle and personal matters and avoided politics altogether she was immediately vilified by the “woke” brigade for having the temerity to talk to Hanson on any issue at all. The perverted logic appeared to be that talking to Hanson without challenging her politics was tacitly condoning her politics. Could it not be the case that discussing issues with another human being might elicit something of interest whatever their political persuasion.

Further it seems rather incongruous that one of the more strident voices on the pile-on of Jessica Rowe was Grace Tame, current Australian of the Year. Tame’s claim to fame is that she fought hard to have female victims of sexual assault be able to give voice to their experiences. You would have thought that such a person would be reluctant to shut down the voice of another woman trying to give voice to her own experiences!

This week also we saw ex James Cook University academic, Peter Ridd, lose his case against his previous employer regarding freedom of speech. Ridd has maintained that researchers, particularly in his own area of research, the health of the Great Barrier Reef, have not applied proper quality assurance processes to their research but instead have been reluctant to challenge the conventional wisdom that the Reef is in decline as a result of climate change. The University went to extraordinary lengths to silence Ridd. Rather than debate the issue they were determined to silence him. Ridd had the courage to stand by his convictions even at the cost of losing his plumb university appointment. He certainly deserves to be heard.

The University’s approach seems to directly contradict scientific method that requires central scientific theses to be robustly debated and encourages testing such theses against alternative ones. This for the last four hundred years or so has driven scientific progress. Are our scientific minds now so fragile that they cannot subject themselves to this demanding process?

Remember the furore psychologist and philosopher, Jordan Peterson caused when he refused to use made up pronouns when referring to those identifying as transgender as his Canadian University mandated? He protested that such regulation curtailed his freedom of speech. He was subsequently cancelled from speaking engagements at other universities and elsewhere by those trying to impose political correctness on him.

Another famous personage, the author J K Rowling, was on the receiving end of criticism and political action for daring to state that gender is biologically determined and is not an arbitrary social construct as the postmodernists would have us believe.

It astounds me that political correctness can be used as a weapon to stop people speaking what is widely acknowledged by relevant experts as the truth. We have known for a century or more that two of the major influences that shape human behaviour are Nature (our biological inheritance) and Nurture (our social learning). These influences are additive. No amount of socialisation can replace or cancel what Nature has imbedded in our brains (and particularly the more ancient components of our brains).

It is true that compared with other animals we have a greater capacity to learn. One of the reasons for this has to do with evolutionary physiology. When our ancestors came down out of the trees and learnt to walk this resulted in the modification of the pelvic structure of women causing the birth canal to be more restricted. Evolution responded to this challenge by having human babies delivered in a more immature state (hence smaller) than other animals, When a Wildebeest gives birth on the Serengeti Plains, the calf needs to be up and running within hours to ensure it is not a convenient dinner for a lion or a hyena. Consequently most of its behaviours are determined by its biology. When a human child is born its brain size will approximately double in its first year of life. But it begins as a helpless dependent animal that will require parental support for years. This helplessness has its disadvantages for sure but the concomitant advantage is that it has a far greater capacity to learn.

But despite what the “woke” warriors might want to tell you, it doesn’t have the option to learn its gender. That is a biological given from the start. It will learn various behaviours from those in its social sphere. It might even learn to assume more masculine or more feminine traits but its fundamental essence has been biologically determined. Its socialisation may make it uncomfortable with its gender but whatever it does it can never eradicate the biologically determined imprints that gender imposes on its brain.

So in this respect the postmodernists who would have us believe that gender can be a choice are obviously wrong. Peterson eloquently makes the case for the different behaviours between biological males and biological females. Those who try to shut down rational discussion on these issues only do so because there is no rational way they can refute this argument. As usual cancel culture is driven by intellectual cowardice.

Peterson and Rowling certainly deserve to be heard.

Let us move on now to the climate debate.

One of the fallacies behind the climate debate is that climate change is a recent phenomenon. It is postulated by those who now live in fear of climate change that the increasing CO2 emissions initiating from industrialisation have so altered the earth’s atmosphere that more radiant heat from the sun is captured in the atmosphere resulting in rising temperatures. Yet geological records indicate that that the earth’s temperature has varied considerably over the eons. For much of the earth’s history global cooling has been more of an issue than global warming. In recent millennia there have been six major ice ages. During these major cooling events the earth’s atmosphere has contained far more CO2 than it does now. For much of the earth’s history CO2 has been a major component of the earth’s atmosphere. Today CO2 could rightly be described as a trace element in the atmosphere.

Historically, humankind has prospered in the times the globe was warmer rather than colder. Just like the present, historical warm times saw great economic prosperity and population growth. And even today more people die from the effects of cold than from the effects of heat. But those that make the headlines on climate issues warn of climate apocalypse and demand urgent action without concern about what we have learnt about the long cycles of global temperature change.

And unfortunately anyone who doesn’t agree that we should take drastic action to ameliorate global warming is treated as a pariah. For example the Danish Economist, Bjorn Lomborg, who is often pilloried by the climate zealots as a global warming denier, sensibly suggests that the huge expenditure that is being assigned to prevent climate warming might be better spent elsewhere. And surely it is reasonable that when spending scarce public funds that spending should be prioritised in order to ensure we optimise the benefits of the spending. Lomborg suggests, for example, human welfare would be better advanced if we spent more on eliminating hunger or defeating malaria. This is not an unreasonable argument and Lomborg deserves to be heard.

Now in today’s digital world much social discourse is carried out via social media. There is an awful lot of rubbish included in such discourse. The social media organisations seem to tolerate most of this with little interference. When they do intervene it seems mainly those from the right who are shut down. Twitter for example deplatformed Donald Trump. Trump is a narcissistic megalomaniac but he still makes more sense than Joe Biden! What’s more there are far more dangerous people still allowed a platform (for example the Taliban) who pose a far greater threat than Trump.

YouTube banished Sky News Australia for seven days. They weren’t explicit about why they took that action but commentators surmise it was because they gave maverick MP Craig Kelly a platform to contest conventional treatment of Covid patients. I have seen Kelly present a couple of times and he usually references respectable medical authorities to support his point of view. I can’t see why Kelly should be prevented from airing his unorthodox points of view. I don’t see such intellectual pygmies as Prince Charles, Meghan Markle or Greta Thunberg being deplatformed.

The frustrating aspect of cancel culture is that those deplatforming voices that don’t conform to the conventional or politically correct point of view don’t give us credit for our ability to make up our own minds about these challenging ideas. But I suppose that is the problem – they don’t want us to make up our own minds, they want to impose their opinions on us.

In the sixteenth century Galileo, aided by his development of the telescope, came to the conclusion that the sun, not the earth, was at the centre of that part of neighbouring space that we now call the solar system. Unfortunately this was not palatable to the Church who resorted to biblical references to maintain the ancient belief that the sun circled around the earth. That was the “politically correct” belief in the sixteenth century and Galileo was forced under duress to recant his contrary beliefs. It leads me to wonder in the twenty first century whether many more truths are not being acknowledged because they are not “politically correct”!

I think that with few exceptions all voices should be heard.

I don’t agree with many of Pauline Hanson’s ideas but I don’t think that they are any more irrational than the ideas of Adam Bandt, the leader of the Australian Greens. Yet Bandt seems to have free reign to put his opinions forward in the media.

It seems to me that cancel culture is driven by people who don’t have the intellectual capacity to counter the ideas of people who challenge them. Our liberal democracy was developed through the ability to contest conflicting ideas. It will surely wither if unpopular ideas are suppressed.