Why I Am a Christian

Friday, 3 March 2017

Lies, Damned Lies, and Suicide Statistics

     Ages ago, when I submitted my scientific studies for publication, they were in turn submitted to a couple of anonymous reviewers who, I presume, had undertaken studies in a similar field, and they made recommendations - not all appreciated - on how my data could be presented, and their possible implications. Likewise, when I was asked to review someone else's paper, I also made recommendation - which I hope were appreciated. That is how peer review works. So how could a prestigious journal publish a paper whose data make no sense whatsoever?
    Take, for instance, the recent paper by Raifman, Moscoe, Austin, and McConnell, entitled
Difference-in-Differences Analysis of the Association Between State Same-Sex Marriage Policies and Adolescent Suicide Attempts,
 which was widely touted as proving that the introduction of same-sex "marriage" (SSM) in America reduced adolescent suicide by 7% overall, and 14% among homosexuals and lesbians. Right away, an alarm bell rang. How could even a large reduction among a very small minority result in such a large overall reduction? It was time to examine the document in detail.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fanthorpe's Fantasies

"Brinton couldn't believe the inscription when he read it in the cold white moonlight. He was looking at his own grave. He tried to read the date but the light wasn't strong enough to be certain. He returned to the graveyard by daylight . . . but the grave had gone.
He left the town in horror, but the grave followed him. He was drawn to burial grounds like iron to a magnet. It was always the same. By moonlight he saw the grave, but never the date. By day he saw nothing. One night he saw the month. Then the day; at least he saw the year. He knew he was due to die in one week. What could he do? Can a man forestall his fate? Can a mortal outwit the dark designs of destiny? Was it all in his mind? Perhaps Roger Brinton was mad? The asylum is warmer than the grave. The day before he was due to die he saw the grave again . . .  the earth was newly turned . . . it was waiting for him!"
    This was the blurb on the back of a paperback I found in a secondhand shop in the 1970s. It drew me in, but when I read it my immediate impression was that it was mediocre. Still, it took some sort of hold on me. I threw away novels by Robert Heinlein and Stephen Donaldson after I had read them, but never that worn paperback by Bron Fane. Also, there were indications inside that a couple of characters formed part of a series so, after a lapse of thirty years, I decided to ask the internet about the mysterious Mr Bron Fane. What I found was astounding.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

What's Got Into the "National Geographic"?

     The National Geographic Magazine, to which my family has been subscribing since 1963, frequently contains article which are not, strictly speaking, geographic in nature. For many decades they have provided grants for the study of wild animals, the results of which have been published in the magazine, but at least they can be justified as being set in exotic foreign places. Ditto the forays into archaeology, and history. Nevertheless, it is hard to see the geographic justification of articles on the King James Bible (December 2011), food (December 2014), or beauty (January 2000). This is not to say that I objected to these articles; I found them very interesting. However, in January 2017 they dropped all lip service to their original charter, not to mention common sense, when they jumped onto the latest bandwagon, with an entire issue dedicated to the "gender revolution".

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What Are We Going to Do About the Polygamists?

     I was expecting this. A problem which is endemic in Europe has now reached Australia - or has at least been acknowledged here: the Government is financing Muslim polygamy. Last Sunday's newspapers reported how Centrelink is providing spousal benefits to second (and later) wives because it is cheaper than giving them single parent benefits. The husbands are not prosecuted for bigamy because the marriages have not been officially registered. Let me state here, with all due respect (and not much is due): this problem exists simply because the powers that be have lacked the moral courage to nip it in the bud.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Why I Am a Christian

     The short answer, of course, is that I was blessed to have been brought up that way. I have always felt God's guiding hand on my shoulder. I have always lived in His presence, and known the peace of mind and the exaltation that brings. But when you grow to man's estate, and it is obvious that what you were taught is rejected by many, it behoves you to determine whether it can be justified intellectually as well as experientially.
     For myself, my degrees were in science, with particular emphasis on zoology. But over the decades I have sought to satisfy my curiosity about such fields as history, anthropology, and psychology. A cynic once declared that I have read widely, but not deeply. By that as it may, it provides an advantage over those whose studies have been intense in a single field and limited in others. It has always appeared incongruous to me that any educated person could be a non-believer - especially if his field is astronomy or ancient history, when he must face the issues head on.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Why I Would Have Voted for Trump If I Were an American

     Watching from the other side of the Pacific, I see that my long held predictions about the United States have at last come true: the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum. It is not so much who won the election, but the fact that it was a choice between the two worst candidates. As one of our commentators put it, it was between "a vulgar and undisciplined popularist and a morally compromised machine politician". Another put it more succinctly: between the mad and the bad. (And Sanders wasn't so great, either.) No, I wasn't surprised at the Trump win. I need only refer to the prediction given by Wayne Root, but other commentators from both the left and the right had made the same point: when voting is non-compulsory, the really important factor is the enthusiasm of the candidate's followers. As an outsider, I am not going to talk about Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, the insecure laptop, or Wikileaks. Nor am I going to praise Trump's virtues because, basically, I can't think of any. Indeed, if it were my country, I would be really be concerned about a loose cannon rolling around the corridors of power. Nevertheless, I had been hoping - nay, praying - for a Trump triumph, for two good reasons.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

None of My Best Friends Belongs to a Minority

     You frequently hear said by people wishing to appear tolerant, that "Some of my best friends are [insert name of appropriate minority]. But I don't believe them. No, I am not saying they are liars; they merely suffer from a deficit in logical expression. What they really mean to say, I suspect, is: In my daily life I deal with a lot of different people, many of whom belong to [such-and-such minority], and I get along well with them all. To illustrate my point, let me analyse the first statement.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Working Women and the Housing Crisis

     John and Marsha are yuppies in the original sense: Young Urban Professionals. Buying a house was not a problem - that is, until they started a family. Then they had to renegotiate their mortgage. They do not think they can afford more than two children; the cost of housing is just too great. Julian is a 40-something bachelor. Despite receiving half the proceeds of a house sale a decade ago as a legacy, he is still renting. He does not think he will be able to afford to buy a house unless he acquires a second income by marriage - and, of course, children would be too expensive. Time is running out if he wants to get a thirty year mortgage. Our society has never been so affluent, yet its natural reproduction rate is below replacement and we are struggling to own our own homes.
     Meanwhile, back in the world we used to inhabit, my father was an unskilled labourer, and my mother took only part time and casual work. Yet they managed to pay off a house and raise two children. What on earth has happened in the interim?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Why I Don't Respect the "Respect" Campaign

     "You must be the last man who still does that," said my cousin's daughter, as I manoeuvred to walk on the outside of her on the footpath. But childhood training runs deep, and I was brought up to be a gentleman. So I would normally be sympathetic to the government advertisements encouraging respect for women. But when it showed a man telling his son, "Don't throw like a girl," depicted as a bad thing, I decided to look up the government website it recommended.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Tradition and Doctrine

Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est
     One evening, as I was walking back to the station after working overtime, a man passed me a pamphlet and invited me to his church, which I gather was of a fundamentalist or pentecostal persuasion. I thanked him, but pointed out that my own church was only a mile from my home, that at the time I had no car, and that, in any case, I was at the time their sole liturgical assistant, so my absence would have caused problems with the congregation. That should have been sufficient, but he continued, and somehow the conversation got around to baptism. I referred him to the Didache.
     "What was that?" he asked.
     "It was a church handbook used at Rome in the middle of the second century." I replied.
     It soon became obvious I had raised matters completely arcane to him, and eventually he countered: "Look! I'm not interested in looking at anything except the Bible."
     He should have been. He didn't understand that tradition has been the greatest determinant of doctrine in all ages.