In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered: “all the same, it moves”.
Last week, 359 years later, the Church finally agreed. At a ceremony in Rome, before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right. The formal rehabilitation was based on the findings of a committee of the Academy the Pope set up in 1979, soon after taking office. The committee decided the Inquisition had acted in good faith, but was wrong.
In fact, the Inquisition’s verdict was uncannily similar to cautious statements by modern officialdom on more recent scientific conclusions, such as predictions about greenhouse warming. The Inquisition ruled that Galileo could not prove “beyond doubt” that the Earth orbits the Sun, so they could not reinterpret scriptures implying otherwise.
This extract is reprinted from a 1992 issue of New Scientist when the Roman Catholic Church at last accepted that the Earth was round and we were heliocentric. However, what is remarkable is that the Pope asked for advice on the subject, which should have taken no time at all to resolve. Instead it took from 1979 to 1992 for the Report to be acted upon by the Pope.
I do not think we have three centuries for ratification of climate change.
I am not sure that we can as yet class our Government as the modern day equivalent of the Inquisition – high on strigine intolerance; low on intellectual enquiry.
Nevertheless, we are in the grip of the “anti-science” virus, simple in structure but extremely virulent.
In an effort to contain its spread, I would be interested if anybody in the media has asked the Prime Minister whether he believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible, whether the starting date of Earth has been set as 4004BC, as given to the Garden of Eden. Also would he care to interpret the Book of Revelations in terms of his government’s policy?
It is sad that those naïve followers believe this whole sorry contribution of the Prime Minister to this summer’s tragedies will not be repeated; that for the next two years Morrison, with a shepherd’s crook in hand, will guarantee us Australians green pastures and forget this summer ever happened, while Santos contaminates the already over-stretched aquifers of northern NSW and we have the next severe bushfire season in the offing.
Coronavirus – Another one for our Pentecostal Juggler
The coronavirus has been labelled “deadly” in the news bulletins. The whole doomsday scenario is compounded by people looking like white aliens wandering around being ominous. The facts: 13 cases of coronavirus in Australia as of February 1. Nobody has died in Australia. In fact, those infected have left hospital and infection is said to be mild. Doesn’t sell newspapers this last line.
In contrast, last year in Australia there were 217,000 cases of influenza and 430 deaths.
The difference is that there is a vaccine for influenza and none for this coronavirus. In other words, there is no defence except quarantine. Yet there is no hysteric reaction to these dreadful figures in relation to influenza, although single cases are singled out.
Then we have the anti-vaxxers who have been somewhat silent during the coronavirus, but why shouldn’t they be. After all there is no vaccine to complain about as yet.
Returning to the coronavirus, the rule of thumb says 14 days is the incubation period. Therefore there is a logic in locking down the world for 14 days or wait until 14 days after the last case. This is an expensive solution.
That is the problem with blanket bans selectively on person-to-person contact. When you do you lift the bans? The number of university vice-chancellors having Chinese withdrawal symptoms must be an imminent public health emergency in itself and while you have a ban on all Chinese people, then when will it all end?
After all, what is the difference between quarantining the Australians for 14 days in Wuhan rather than the expense of quarantining them on Christmas Island? What was the problem of sending public health experts to Wuhan, and making a list of those already there? Two questions? Have the Australians in Wuhan been there for 14 days? Have any Australians currently in Wuhan contracted the infection? Just arrange a quarantined conduit out of the country making sure that there is no wild animal meat in the luggage. That was apparently what has happened, and there is this scattering of people across the outer reaches of Australia with all the inconvenience that entails.
What was interesting was the admission by Len Notaras on the ABC on Tuesday morning that the Qantas 747 had been specially fitted with air conditioning to purify the air in the cabin. Well, if I had been interviewing you, Les, I would have asked why did it have to be specially fitted. You mean Les the current crop of planes are bags of viruses?
It is something I had always suspected, travelling by plane is an excellent way of picking up airborne disease. Maybe whatever was done to this flight should be done to all flights, whether domestic or international. Wake up, Australia. This admission means that flying currently is a public health risk.
However, lets hope nobody gets coronavirus while they are clustered together on Christmas Island, in “discrete” family cluster rather than the “discreet” family cluster as set out in the ABC media release
The problem is that you can impose a ban with your jaw jutting out as if you are a person of resolve. Let us see the same chin jut to show the same resolve in lifting the ban.
At present, the World Health organisation is giving the Prime Minister an out by saying the travel bans are unnecessary. He could take the advice and say Australia will be lifting the ban as soon as everybody is released from Christmas Island. Strength against hysteria is the stuff of leadership, rather than being swept along.
- How many cases?
- When was the last case reported in Australia?
- What has been the outcome of those diagnosed in Australia?
Report to the nation on the facts.
Just an Opinion?
Polymath & serial blogger
I first met Malcolm Turnbull in person in the First Class International airport lounge in San Francisco.
I was there as an accidental intruder. I had not long entered the hallowed space and thought it strangely small for a Business Lounge, but having realised the airline’s mistake said not a word.
Suddenly, and breathtakingly, a little whirlwind entered, comprising Malcolm Turnbull and a praetorian phalanx of trim bespoke young men (his preferred tableau I later learned).
At once he began declaring that he was a very important person and had come to America for just one day as a very important person – hence the Gilbert & Sullivan rendition from the Pirates of Penzance.
Although I am a large man, I can be remarkably invisible when I choose, and so that is what I chose.
What transpired in my mind’s eyes were the lyrics from Penzance, sung in front of his claque of fawning courtiers which commences (sic):
“I am the very model of a modern Major-General I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights Historical From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical…”
It can be an astonishingly satirical tour de force.
I immediately enjoyed the rendition, yet horrified by the spectacle, and decided that I had stumbled upon a Gilbert & Sullivan tableau in this airport lounge. Whether he actually completed the above rendition or not, Turnbull struck me then the most arrogant person I had ever met.
Many other politicians and indeed Prime Ministers have taken the stage since then.
Roll forward to the Centenary of Federation at the beginning of 2001 and my second meeting with Turnbull. My son was a youth ambassador and a recipient of the Centenary Medal. As a loving parent I accompanied my son to the celebration.
This time Turnbull was more formal, he may have been one of the presenters, but there was no dent in his confidence even given his trouncing in the 1999 Republic referendum.
It was all about Malcolm again rather than those being presented with their medals, an attitude reinforced when I briefly met him.
So I concluded at that time that his hubris was so great that a public career was unlikely, but he survived metaphorically a bloody pre-selection. Yet in spite of all his personality quirks, he is (and was) a very appealing man – highly intelligent, articulate, a real thinker and financially successful. Like many others I wanted him to succeed when he eventually did become Prime Minister.
Time passed and his world changed several times.
Australia adopted populism early, very early, and has more experience than many other nations of its impact, whether bad or worse (I’m afraid there is no “good” on this scale).
And so we have had a blizzard of failed Prime Ministers.
As for Turnbull, in my opinion he failed miserably even though he became Prime Minister against my expectations.
I am still puzzled though, as to why he subverted his entire belief system to the trolls in the Liberal/ National coalition only to trigger “his own suicide vest” when he realised he had utterly failed.
And I am still wondering.
Stop the Train. I want to get off.
I was reminded of a journey I made on the Indian Pacific once. The number of British TV celebrities who seemed to have traversed the continent in a bubble of fine wine and food recently has prompted this memory.
However, when I boarded the Indian Pacific all those years ago, my destination was not Perth. It was Ivanhoe in Western NSW and was the most convenient way to get to Wilcannia where I had a series of meetings. I did not want to drive that long way from Sydney nor was it convenient for my host, the late William Bates for me to fly to Broken Hill. However, he could pick me up in Ivanhoe in Western NSW. It just so happened that Ivanhoe was a station on the Indian Pacific Railway. It was not a regular stop.
Ivanhoe is a hamlet of about 300 people, but William said he would pick me up if the train could stop there. The problem was that the Indian Pacific passed through Ivanhoe at two or was it three in the morning. The train agreed to stop. One lone person with a suitcase alighted – me.
Now, Ivanhoe has another problem, which having been there before, I knew about. The station was about one and half kilometres from town. This was because the train stop was originally a fettlers’ camp rather than being part of town.
So if William Bates had forgotten to come or was delayed because of other business, I had a bit of a walk to town, even though I assumed William would have made a booking at the local pub.
My fear of being forgotten was soon allayed. A pair of headlights dazzled me. William was waiting for me. He got out of car and helped me with my luggage.
“I hope you don’t mind sharing a room with me, doc. The local member has come to town and taken all the other rooms.”
“I hope you don’t snore,” was all I said.
Let me say that the mattresses in the Ivanhoe Hotel reminded me of the kapok ones upon which I slept in my youth. I remember that we did have an early start, so sleeping was a brief interlude. In the morning when we emerged from the Ivanhoe Hotel, confronting us was the local member complete with his election-friendly, hail-fellow-well-met demeanour. We chatted as we waited for the café to open, since it was the only place you could get breakfast. William thought the member was a bit of tosser, but he was nevertheless helpful.
Then leaving the electioneering member, William and I departed along the Cobb Highway, a wonderful name for a dirt track through the Manara Hills with their amazing Aboriginal stencilled hands, until it joined the paved Barrier Highway, just out of Wilcannia. Now that is a journey. In fact, of all the road trips in Australia I have made (and they are many) the trip through the Manara Hills has some of my fondest memories – but that is another story.
William Bates was a Barkinji man, and I was privileged to know him. I met with him often in those days. A good man; when I mixed with many Barkinji he taught me a great deal about his Nation. The problem with so many white fellas is they tend to see Aboriginal people through a lens not a prism. I do not know whether, since that the Barkinji shaft of light has diminished with the cultural encroachment, which has occurred.
I must admit that the emergence of Darren Chester is one of the most sensible happenings since the demise of gun-toting Bridget and the attempted Assumption by the Penitent Joyce. McCormack has survived but it will be Littleproud who will eventually succeed to wear the Golden Akubra, assuming the numbers remain as they are and the party does not become an overseas branch of Bharatiya Janata Party.
During the East Gippsland bushfires, Chester was there in the bushfires, showed a steely but compassionate resolve, and like the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, acted as a leader. He lives on the edge of the bushfire area in Lakes Entrance. At times, the fire would have come perilously close, I imagine from my knowledge of the area.
It is obvious that he has been appalled by Barnaby’s antics and those of his coterie of loud-mouthed Queenslanders. Pauline Hanson spooks the Queensland nationals into eating coal at every meal to exorcise themselves. To some extent the spookiness carries over into the NSW Nationals with the Shooters and Fishers Party triumphantly taking the last Murray cod from the river to show who is boss – us or Nature. The mantra for this party seems to be that to be a conservationist is to be sissy. However, if Ricky Muir’s showing in the 2019 Senate election is any guide, this party has very little traction in Victoria.
Chester is far enough away from these sideshows to be an objective voice.
He once had plenty of timber in his electorate, and still has. The timber industry, with its penchant for chopping down one of the climate change antidotes will have more than its normal axe to grind. There is so much harvesting of burnt trees to be undertaken particularly the pine before the bugs beat the industry to it that they will hardly be able to cope.
Notwithstanding, the forestry industry is a longstanding culprit in leaving behind wood and scrub remnants after the logging. Hazard reduction is more that burning a bit of undergrowth. It is an industry in itself, and Chester’s constituents won’t be impressed if this means a pall of smoke over his electorate for most of the year. Have to become smart!
Yet in a perverse way, the bushfires assist Chester not only because he showed courage in face of fire but also he has the chance to assure proper conservation policies and oversee if the sustainable logging mantra can be turned into a win-win situation.
Nevertheless, he must help assure the country that his Party does not remain Coal Comfort Farm even though he is speaking from his Veterans’ Affairs portfolio. There is much more to be said.
Darren Chester was once a journalist. So were John Curtin and Alfred Deakin. Role models are very useful when you have to withstand bullying and anti-intellectualism.
Bushfire smoke hangs like a pall over Parliament House as ACT burns.
Hail stones as big as golf balls litter Parliament House lawns, broken car windows, bureaucratic sobs heard as far away as Civic.
Politicians return to Parliament House to find Trough no longer in full working order having been sabotaged by gun-toting Girl from the Bush.
All in 30 days. Wow! This climate change sure is something!