Miranda Devine is (still) a social teratoma

Oh my goodness, it’s her again.

I’ll just ignore the irony of her headline (this isn’t a tweet), and I’ll take a look at what she’s trying to say.

Since when is Miranda Devine qualified to dictate what gays must do? She’s not even gay, or so she says. It doesn’t actually matter, she still wouldn’t be qualified. No one is.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman is a pioneer in the nascent field of neurolaw. He’s trialling an fMRI-based update of biofeedback cognitive training intended to strengthen the prefrontal cortices of criminals, to help them gain the conscious control necessary to suppress their antisocial impulses. Eagleman and his colleagues are hoping to minimize recidivism among those convicted of things like casually snatching old ladies’ bags and beating up gay people on a whim.

I propose that Miranda Devine submit herself to Dr. Eagleman’s trials. She’d make a very interesting subject. Her offences against social progress are simultaneously reactionary and calculated. She’s obviously a careful communicator, but she clearly neglects to account for the potential societal effects her articles might have.

This pattern is typical among violent offenders and social parasites – they plan right up until they’ve executed the deed, and largely ignore the consequences. Devine is careful not to break the law, but then I never said she was a bag snatcher. She’s worse precisely because she isn’t a criminal.

One could argue the wholesale abuse homophobes like Devine broadcast is more psychologically damaging to the gay community than a cut lip and a few bruises inflicted by an inarticulate cretin on Chapel St. I don’t see how that conjecture would be controversial.

These antisocial types invariably refuse to accept the consequences of their actions. Devine actually goes one further – she actively defends her fellow offenders in order to absolve herself of responsibility. Such is the way of the ‘nuclear family’ regressive movement.

I was extremely disappointed to hear Jeff Kennett – a widely respected advocate for mental health – speak out against the rights of homosexual couples to raise children. Kennet was promptly repudiated by sensible people everywhere. Then in her article, Devine despicably appropriated Kennett’s earnest attempt at rapprochement on Joy FM into her nasty agenda.

Now, she could be making progress on the foresight front. She did find an online analogue to plugging her ears and cacophonously doxologizing deafness. As a friend pointed out, her most recent manifestation of digital diarrhoea didn’t come with a comment box. Though that might have been the work of a fractionally less crude editor. (Update: there is now a comment box and the responses read like they were written by sock puppets.)

The big problem with Miranda Devine’s latest thesis is her claim that anyone who disagrees with her is simply intolerant. Phrased like that, you could say, well, fair enough. But Devine isn’t merely airing an opinion – she’s making claims that have facts bearing on them. As discussed elsewhere on this blog, opinions that run counter to facts are not opinions anyone is obliged to respect.

We simply know from numerous studies that children raised by gay parents are no more likely to be gay than their ‘traditionally raised’ peers. (And even if these children are more likely to be gay, so what?) The evidence also tells us that children raised by gay parents are no less well-adjusted than their ‘traditionally raised’ peers. These real-world facts leave her case against gay marriage decidedly flaccid. Miranda Devine is wrong when she pleads otherwise, and this is important to notice.

These sorts of factual slips are what got Andrew Bolt in trouble. Devine can claim ‘freedom of speech’ all she likes; but again, freedom of speech was intended to subvert propaganda, not to justify its perpetuation. If she honestly believes that she should be allowed to say what she likes, she’s not allowed to whine when she’s rebuked.

I’m yet to hear a compelling argument supporting the notion that allowing homosexuals to marry will somehow threaten the institution of heterosexual marriage. And whenever I hear conservatives say ‘homosexuality is a choice,’ I always think ‘well, maybe for you – but not for me,’ and I’d wager that other straight people feel exactly the same way. I’m also yet to meet a totally homosexual person who feels the converse, namely that ‘heterosexuality is a choice’. Honestly, if your sexuality is threatened by the right of someone else’s to theirs, you’re not comfortable with your own biology. There’s obviously something you’re not telling yourself.

Science tells us that homophobic men are much more aroused by gay porn than other men who identify as heterosexual. Suppression isn’t healthy – just look at what pastor Ted Haggard went through. There’s an echoing refrain here. Think about it, where does the motivation for homophobia – whether it’s expressed as self-loathing or pathological fear – come from? How often do you see homophobia aired today without somehow stemming from the doctrines of some primitive cult?

But it’s too easy to just blame religion. Regular readers and anyone who knows me will be aware that I think using religious convictions to justify anything is an act of intellectual high treason. Playing the God card appears to be nothing more than appealing to a socially accepted justification for inveterate bigotry. My mother identifies as a Catholic (now an atheist –Ed) and she has a very strong moral sense, one that largely mirrors my own as an atheist. She justifies her morality with reason, not faith. And that’s a good thing too, because she quite reasonably believes most Catholic ‘moral’ teachings are antiquated and invidious.

Clearly then, being religious does not justify being intolerant; religion merely offers a feeble excuse for the atavistic bigotry it inculcated. It arguably reinforces it today too. Religion is always a crutch for the fearful and it too often serves as a vehicle for the wicked. It doesn’t matter which religious cult you want to identify with, nothing you say will ever be immune to scrutiny. The slaughter of sacred cows is the price of democracy and free speech.

I stand up for gay rights because I know that Christopher Hitchens was right when he said that homosexuality isn’t just about sex, it’s about love. He said this when he was defending his friend Stephen Fry during a debate against a certain stridulous conservative British politician and a mendacious archbishop hailing from Nigeria. Both of these creeps represented Miranda Devine’s own Catholic church. The same church that has allowed AIDS to ravage Africa by perpetuating the odious lie that condoms spread HIV.

It’s ironic that the representatives of a superstitious Mafia claiming to preach love and tolerance readily proliferate so much hatred, suffering and death.

Miranda Devine and her priggish colleagues do not convey moral teachings that any decent human being should respect. They speak out against social justice and human rights. They seek to restrict the liberties of people they have no right to judge.

Attempting to feed vulnerable gay kids whose parents read this refuse and concerned ‘traditional’ parents of gay kids the notion that homosexual love is not as worthy of respect as heterosexual love is an act of unforgivable cruelty. Devine’s new column is the latest incarnation of a virulent cultural strain of surreptitious theocracy. It’s anti-democratic, it’s antisocial and it’s sub-criminal. It’s the cancer eating our discourse; a disease eroding decency.

But it is sort of welcome. We at least have some sort of metre by which to measure social progress, though admittedly the results themselves aren’t very encouraging. Devine clearly has the right to say and publish what she likes because she elucidates what the idiots are thinking. What she lacks is the right to avoid a good impugning. That’s freedom of speech in action, baby.

Telling people how to respond to criticism is not something Miranda Devine has any business doing. Like her, I’m comfortable waxing acerbic about things that irritate me; but unlike her I know what I’m doing and I’m proud of it. I don’t care who I offend, but I recognize the right of others to feel offended. I would never consider back-peddling or making excuses for my views. But I will change my views if the facts change. If she wants to know what it is to be vile, she should proofread her own text before she posts it.

If fMRI-based biofeedback isn’t available for public offenders like her, she at least needs to talk to a counsellor. Someone has to tell her that she can’t vitiate the malice behind her convictions by invoking Jesus.


Devinely inspired, again

Apparently [the] alarmist clock is still ringing on anthropogenic climate change – at least it is according to that paragon of scientific learning and wisdom, the inimitable Miranda Devine.

In response to her latest abuse of The Daily Telegraph’s server space, I posted a slightly edited version of the following comment:

So she acknowledges that 97-98% of climate scientists (this is known as a scientific consensus) believe that human activity is dangerously altering the climate, then she quotes one dissenting atmospheric physicist and one unqualified meteorologist (different from climatologist, GOOGLE IT) on the subject. Good work Miranda. Two dissenting opinions against how many qualified climatologists? You’re a journalist, you tell me. I am, after all, a mere student.

This probably looks to those who suffer the same pathological parochialism as Miranda like an egregious display of bigotry or intolerance. Do you lot also find the physicists who refer to well-established equations that describe gravity and the laws of motion intolerant to any cretinous prejudices you each might hold about the way matter moves through space and time? Or, as with climate science, are you all simply annoyed that you clearly lack the cognitive acumen and education to comprehend how and why those esoteric-looking numbers and symbols work?

Also, the charge of “superstitious nonsense” is a bit rich coming from a self-professed Catholic. I mean, don’t you people actually believe that magical words turn a cracker and wine into the flesh and blood of the mythological victim of a 2,000 year old human sacrifice?

I think my favourite part of Devine’s dizzying screed was when she called Al Gore’s outrageous displays of sound evidence which plainly contradicts the claims of deniers “insidious”. Yes, evidence, obviously the work of the devil. And besides, as Homer Simpson has aptly pointed out: facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true; facts shmacts.

Miranda Devine: your god, not mine

I resent the charge that modern Australian society is the product of a Judeo-Christian heritage. In fact, if Miranda Devine wasn’t such a shining example of a literate simpleton I’d be offended by her saying so; and perhaps if she had any semblance of authority, we all should be.

The dextral dickhead columnist is yet again pining for the 1950s. This time her ire has been roused by the proposed switch from religious dating conventions (BC and AD) to secular dating conventions (BCE and CE) in the Australian school curriculum. At least she’s giving the rabidly inane homophobic rambling a rest.

To get stuck into the nuts and bolts of Devine’s thesis: where in the Bible is a democracy like ours supported? Or intelligence praised? What we actually find in the scriptures is a great deal about the virtue of blind faith in an all-powerful but deeply insecure Invisible Father Figure who wants us to feel guilty about being born and as penance, to worship His bloody murder of His own son (who is really Him in disguise). Logically, blind faith in such flagrant absurdities is violently incompatible with the scepticism intrinsic to a functioning democracy.

According to the Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, to drop the ‘Before Christ’ and ‘Anno Domini’ (Latin for “in the year of our lord”) designations from dates represents an “intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history.” (This is one of the several quotations present in Miranda Devine’s tedious whinge, I’ll get to the rest.) Intellectually absurd? Really? What about the fact that there is very little evidence that Jesus of Nazareth actually existed? While we’re at it, even Isreali archeology has totally debunked the historical claims made in the Old Testament. But then, it’s supposed to be a ‘faith thing’, yeah?

One hopes that the argument being alluded to is that we’re writing the influence of the Bible out of history. (You can never be sure with these people.) We’re not. Children will still study the Dark Ages in the history curriculum, and the Bible was undeniably the beacon of the stultification of reason and progress that put the ‘dark’ in the Dark Ages. Familiarity with the Bible is also a prerequisite to gaining a proper appreciation of the works of Shakespeare. But what of the supposed biblical influence on modern Australian society?

Fred Nile, a serious contender for this year’s coveted No. 1 Dextral Dickhead Award, said making the letters that follow dates more accurate was “an absolute disgrace … the direction of the national curriculum is towards almost a Christian cleansing to remove from our history any references to the role Christianity had in the formation of Australia and still has today.” This act of intellectual high treason was echoed by the (aptly named) Federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne. Well, Fred, Chris, one could quite trivially make the case that a cleansing of the role of Christianity in our present society can only be a good thing. Watch me.

Last year, I attended the annual StepAhead Australia conference for spinal cord injury research. Many of the speakers agreed that curing literally thousands of complete spinal cord injuries is well within the grasp of modern science with the help of unused IVF embryos. So what’s stopping these treatments from being clinically trialled and deployed? The occasionally pervasive and reliably pernicious influence of Christian leaders on Western society, of course. Not bad, hey?

What happens when secularism increases in other democratic countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway? Well, a cursory glance at the facts about the de-Christianized state of these countries supports the notion that we’re much better off without the superstitions, magical thinking and bankrupt morality of the Middle Eastern Bronze Age.

Australia was demonstrably not founded on Christian values, and we should thank goodness for that. Monotheism is inherently totalitarian, as demonstrated in countries like Iran where they still take the Man in the Sky seriously. Christian regimes are no better. Two minutes on Wikipedia will show you that the Vatican that existed when Australia was being settled was not a fine example of moral integrity, and things haven’t really improved in the interim. And as polemicist Christopher Hitchens rightly points out: the Church of England was founded on the family values of Henry VIII, and its ‘divine’ mandate has been abused to bolster some of the more objectionable behaviours the British Empire committed when they still believed their ridiculous theology was true. (Actually, the Church of England did sanction the genocide of Australia’s aboriginal population when the British first settled, so I should probably concede that the brutality of Christianity did have some influence on our nation’s early history, in synergy with the brutality of the settlers.) Even without factoring in the cruel homophobia and blatant sexism integral to these faiths, the case for Australia being in any way a Judeo-Christian society is a deeply problematic one.

What is so good about Judeo-Christian values, anyway? Why would anyone want to claim them as the valid foundation of a just society? The Ten Commandments aren’t stellar by any modern standard. Apparently God was more concerned about his sheep whoring with rival deities than with preventing child rape. If you must draw morality from a religion, what about Buddhism, which really does teach compassion (despite its flaws)? Or Jainism, perhaps the only religion that is actually centred around pacifism (Jainist extremists will fret over accidentally stepping on an ant, rather than decide to bomb unbelievers)? How about the reasoned ethics of Aristotle?

To get back to Jesus: turning the other cheek can be deeply unethical, but then the man-god Himself wasn’t exactly consistent with that point, was He? (See Luke 19:27.) Is sending sinners to roast for all eternity, as Jesus supposedly taught, an example of turning the other cheek? The profound inconsistencies in the Christian scriptures creates an egregious problem for everyone who wants to call their morality Christian. When practically everything can be justified by a proactive reading of the scriptures, the fact is that anyone can correctly claim their morality as Christian; therefore to call Australian society Judeo-Christian is at best meaningless, and at worst disingenuous.

To further complicate things, in order to meaningfully attach the label ‘Judeo-‘ to ‘Judeo-Christian’ in the strict context of religious ideology, you kind of have to profess the goodness of some really heinous shit in the rabbinical literature, including the Old Testament. Does Miranda Devine really propose we do that? Old Testament teachings certainly would have resonated with our nation’s early history, but we currently live in the 21st century.

When you strip Christianity down to its core teachings, to an outsider it’s clearly a cult of human sacrifice which revolves around the observance of necessary redemption by proxy because humans are born hopelessly abject (as the result of the original sins of a couple that simply didn’t exist) and in need of saving. I don’t think human sacrifice, self-hatred and vicarious redemption are very moral or (dare I say) very Australian. For perhaps 200,000 years before this Jesus figure is supposed to have existed, was the human species bereft of altruism, tribalism and empathy? If so, how did they learn anything, or even survive together? What about the overwhelming evidence garnered from recent advances in neurobiology that suggests solidarity and altruism had to be innate in humans from the dawn of the species?

Perhaps I’m not being fair. There is a general consensus of what constitutes Christian morality professed by the majority of those afflicted by this virulent memeplex, fundamentalists and moderates alike. This generally accepted narrative teaches that anyone can be saved from eternal punishment, regardless of how disagreeable or antisocial their behaviour is (see Acts 13:39). What you can’t be forgiven for is questioning the existence of the Holy Spirit. So the only thing you’re really not allowed to do is ask difficult questions, because to do so will quite literally land you in the lake of fire. Fortunately, this attitude isn’t exactly enshrined in Australia’s laws.

Often parroted by the faithful and accomodationists on the secular side is the refrain that Christianity can make people be more charitable. In contrast to this common misperception, neuroscientist Sam Harris conjectures that Christian values can be understood to be inherently psychopathic; good deeds are supposedly ‘rewarded’ with a ticket to heaven, sins are to be avoided because they lead to, well, that aforementioned eternal suffering thing. Never mind just being good just because it’s the right fucking thing to do. I don’t even need to break out the Euthyphro dilemma to demonstrate just how incredibly flawed the idea of theistic morality actually is. Australian values simply do not gel with biblical values.

A parsimonious and more optimistic explanation in light of evolution for the apparent charitableness of some devout Christians is that they are simply indulging their natural altruism, and they are choosing to dress this up in the language of Christianity. The same must be said of those who push the notion that there is anything biblical about the society we live in. But language is clearly misleading. Moreover, if religious groups want to claim acts of goodness done by themselves or their fellow adherents as earnest expressions of faith, then they automatically have to claim the countless wicked acts committed in the name of faith too. I’m not saying that religious faith inexorably leads to cruelty, I’m simply addressing this bullshit on its own terms. People are good or wicked regardless of their faith. But sometimes, really evil things can only be done with a great deal of faith.

I don’t believe that we live in a psychopathic or delusional society. Australia was not founded on the principles of guilt, blind faith or superstition. Australia, like any real democracy, is a direct product of the Enlightenment, also referred to as the Age of Reason. The Enlightenment was marked by a rise in secularism and the wider dissemination of ideas which lead to modern democracy. Since it was the Age of Reason that gave rise to our society, our public schools should be run in accordance with that noble tradition. To deny children secularism is to deny them the progressive spirit that has driven the phenomenal progress made in recent history.

We live in the Common Era, not Anno Domini. No one aside from a handful of illiterate Middle Eastern tribes was sitting around waiting for the messiah to show up before two thousand years ago; and only a fraction of their very literate descendants are still waiting. The Chinese were inventing writing and gunpowder. The Sumerians had cities built and complex mathematics long before the God of Abraham and Jesus was even dreamt up.

The thing about facts is that they’re indifferent to incoherently nebulous concepts frequently invoked by Devine and her ilk like ‘political correctness‘. Sorry Miranda, you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts. The little facts indicate that the big fact is, to put it simply: we do not live in a Judeo-Christian society. No one is murdered for not keeping the Sabbath holy. We prefer psychiatry to exorcism. Most people have sex before they get married. The Australian summer is far too uncomfortable to make modest dress practical. People tend to be afraid of death despite what they say they believe about the afterlife. Miranda, we’re really not that stupid.

This seems like a fairly innocuous topic to get worked up over, but it has its consequences. When we pay lip-service to the intellectually barren notion that Judeo-Christian values are influential on our culture, we give vocal Christian leaders like Fred Nile, Bob Katter and the Pope a chance to have their poisonously ignorant public ejaculations taken seriously. Generally we don’t listen to them, but sometimes those in power do, and that’s why we can’t have nice things like stem cell therapies or institutionalised tolerance for homosexuality. I propose we just drop it. The idea that our society is in any way biblical really is an absurd thing to cling to.

Australian society as it is today is not a product of anything that could accurately be called a Judeo-Christian heritage. Our society is the product of the values rooted in the tradition of the Age of Reason. The values integral to our democracy exist in spite of our frequent mistaken nods to a dubious Judeo-Christian tradition. It’s time we grew out of our superstitions and ritualized lip-services. So no, I’m not insulted by Miranda Devine because as ever, she clearly has no idea what the fuck she’s talking about.