The effect of climate change on Upwelling Systems

The attached report looks at the possible effects of climate change on upwelling systems, particularly the Bonney Upwelling System which activates off the coast between Portland, Victoria and Robe, South Australia.

Upwelling systems occur off many coasts around the world and are caused by winds moving across the ocean surface which in turn draws up cold, nutrient rich water to the sea surface. The result is the attraction of ocean life to the area to feed.

The effect of climate change on these systems are difficult to predict. Some scientists argue that warmer temperatures and greater temperature differences between the air over land and sea may increase onshore wind-speed and increase upwelling. However, others argue the increased wind speed could result in increased turbidity of the water and nutrients not being present at the sea surface as long, or that increased water temperature could lead to greater stratification of the different water levels and therefore less nutrient rich water reaching the surface.

This report explores both arguments and the reasons underpinning them.

Climate change and the Bonney Upwelling System


Woman’s Estate by Juliet Mitchell

Here is my second post consisting of extracts from books I have found enlightening or instructive in understanding a particular topic. Woman’s Estate by Juliet Mitchell defines the historical, current and future struggles of the fight for equality between the sexes and the issues that continue to be hostile to equality being achieved, particularly in a capitalist society.

As I suggested last time, only a full reading of the book can do justice to the detail of the arguments and reasoning behind these extracts. I highly recommend committing the time to reading this work.

I have again attempted to ensure that the extracts provide the context within them but have also included my own subheading to provide further clarification. All italics are the author’s.

Woman’s Estate by Juliet Mitchell (Pelican Books, 1971)

(The historical basis of the movement and connection with similar movements)

“The most economically and socially underprivileged woman is bound much tighter to her condition by a consensus which passes it off as ‘natural’. An Appalachian mother of fifteen children experiences her situation as ‘natural’ and hence inescapable: a college-educated girl spending her time studying ‘home economics’ for an academic degree is at least in a position to ask ‘why?’.” (pg 22)

“Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is affected.” (pg24)

“‘Totalism’, then, is the expression of the protest against all oppressed conditions in the form of an assertion of complete liberation involving the overthrow at one blow of the whole  of capitalist society”. (pg24)

“The university has become the training ground for agents of the consumer society. Students are no longer students in the classical sense of the term. University courses cling vainly to an inappropriate tradition against whose conservative content students protest, while courses introduced to fit organically into their future jobs reveal a banality that condemns both themselves and those jobs.” (pg 25)

“women’s oppression manifests itself in economic and cultural deprivation, that oppressed women are found in all exploited minorities, in all social classes, in all radical movements. That on the issue of the position of women, friends are foes.” (pg 39)

“The sexual exploitation of women and their enforced submission within a society committed – when it feels like it – to the ‘naturalness’ of their reproductive role, has caused the movement to develop the notion of the ‘control of one’s body’. This slogan finds its meaning somewhere between ‘having control of one’s own thoughts’ (i.e. freedom of mind) and ‘workers’ control’ (worker-run factories).” (pg 55)

“‘patriarchy’ is all-pervasive: it penetrates class division, different societies, historical epochs. Its chief institution is the family: having the shakiest of biological foundation, ‘patriarchy’ must rely instead on ‘inherited’ culture and the training of the young. It endures as a power system because it is so well entrenched that it hardly needs to be visible, invoking the ‘natural’ it claims to be irrevocable.” (pg 65)

“Her biological status underpins both her weakness as a producer in work relations and her importance as a possession in reproductive relations.” (pg 82)

(On feminist theory)

“Feminism  unites women at the level of their total oppression – it is all-inclusive (cf. Black Power and ‘totalism’). Its politics match this: it is a total attack. The theory backs this: the first division of labour was the first formation of oppressor and oppressed – the first division of labour was between man and woman. The first domination must be given priority – it must be the first to go.” (pg 87).

“Amoeba-like, radical feminism, would ingest Marxism. The historical basis is not the economic determinism of the classes but the natural division of the sexes which precedes this”. (pg 87)

“As the elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the economic ‘underclass’ (the proletariat), so the overthrow of the sexual classes similarly demands the revolt of its underclass (women). In both cases the revolution is not conquer privilege but to eliminate distinction.” (pg 88)

(The position of women)

“Women are exploited at work, and relegated to the home: the two positions compound their oppression. Their subservience in production is obscured by their assumed dominance in their own world – the family. What is the family? And what are the actual functions that a woman fulfils within it? Like woman herself, the family appears as a natural object, but is actually a cultural creation. There is nothing inevitable about the form or role of the family, any more than there is about the character or role of women. It is the function of ideology to present these given social types as aspects of Nature itself.” (pg 100)

“The ideology of ‘woman’ presents her as an undifferentiated whole – ‘a woman’, alike the world over, eternally the same. Likewise the ‘concept’ of the family is of a unit that endures across time and space, there have always been families….Within its supposed permanent structure, eternal woman find her place. So the notion goes….Any analysis of woman, and of the family, must uncoil this ideological concept of their permanence and of their unification into an monolithic whole, mother and child, a woman’s place…her natural destiny. Theoretical analysis and revolutionary action must destructure and destroy the inevitability of this combination.” (pg 100)

(Physical Weakness and Coercion)

“historically it has been woman’s lesser capacity for violence as well as for work, that has determined her subordination. In most societies woman has not only been less able than man to perform arduous kinds of work, she has also been less able to fight. Man not only has the strength to assert himself against nature, but also against his fellows. Social coercion has interplayed with the straightforward division of labour, based on biological capacity, to a much greater extent than is generally admitted. Women have been forced to do ‘women’s work’.” (pg 103)

(The Reproduction of Children)

“Women’s absence from the critical sector of production historically, of course, has been caused not just by their assumed physical weakness in a context of coercion – but also by their role in reproduction. Maternity necessitates withdrawals from work, but this is not a decisive phenomenon.  It is rather women’s role in reproduction which has become, in capitalist society at least, the spiritual ‘complement’ of men’s role in production. Bearing children, bringing them up, and maintaining the home – these form the core of woman’s natural vocation, in this ideology. This belief  has attained great force because of the seeming universality of the family as a human institution.” (pg 106)

“The notion that ‘family’ and ‘society’ are virtually co-extensive or that an advanced society not founded on the nuclear family is now inconceivable, despite revolutionary posturings to the contrary, is still widespread. It can only be seriously discussed by asking just what the family is – or rather what women’s role in the family is. Once this is done, the problems appears in quire a new light. For it is obvious that the woman’s role int he family – primitive, feudal or bourgeois – partakes of three different structures: reproduction, sexuality, and the socialization of children. These are historically, not intrinsically, related to each other in the present modern family. We can easily see that they needn’t be For instance, biological parentage is not necessarily identical with social parentage (adoption). Thus it is essential to discuss no the family as an unanalysed entity, but the separate structures which today compose it but which tomorrow may be decomposed into a new pattern.” (pg 107)


“Once child bearing becomes totally voluntary (how much so is it in the West, even today?) its significance is fundamentally different. It need no longer be the sole or ultimate vocation of woman; it becomes one option among others.” (pg 108)

(Reproduction and Production)

“Unlike her non-productive status, her capacity for maternity is a definition of woman. But it is only a physiological definition. Yet so long as it is allowed to remain a substitute for action and creativity, and the home an area of relaxation for men, woman will remain confined to the species, to her universal and natural condition”. (pg 109)

“The formal, juridical equality of capitalist society and capitalist rationality now applied as much to the marital as to the labour contract. in both cases, nominal parity masks real exploitation and inequality. But in both cases the formal equality is itself a certain progress, which can help to make possible a further advance.” (pg 113)

(The position of women in the workplace)

“Cultural conservatism by both sexes compounds an economic systems devised to make humanity prey on itself. Men are set against women by their own job insecurity. Only loyalty to traditions of feminine deference saves them. Courtesy unites, by its own hierarchies, what the economy divides.” (pg 127)

“In working-class jobs, women are segregated into ‘women’s work’. In middle-class jobs, women are isolated in ‘a man’s world’. This crucial difference again separates women but this time along class lines. It is difficult for women with such totally different experiences, not just of their class, but of the organization of their jobs, to find common ground either as workers or as women without a Women’s Movement which offers precisely this.” (pg 130)


“Beauty is all, in this epoch of loving and expansive narcissism. He commercial ‘exploitation’ (which comes first?) of this is phenomenal. The ex-Empire (or its remains) has been re-raided to reproduce itself in miniature concentration in Oxford Street: you can eat, dress and adorn – Indian, old Chinese, Arabian, African….And having been offered all possibilities of self-glorification, having produced the sexually radiant you, the commercial dimension of capitalism can re-use you: this time you, yourself, will do to sell the drabber products: cars, washing machines, life insurance. No city in the world boasts such a density of ‘sexual objectification’ on its bill-boards and subway ads, as does London.” (pg 141)

“Illusorily offered the free and glorious expression of ourselves, it turned out to be only for a further alienation: turning ourselves into products which are then confiscated for use in a consumer society.” (pg 142)

“For one of the forces behind the current acceleration of sexual freedom has undoubtedly been the conversion of contemporary capitalism from a production-and-work ethos to a consumption-and-fun ethos.” (pg 147)


“But the family does more than occupy the woman: it produces her. It is in the family that the psychology of men and women is founded. Here is the source of their definition. What is this definition and what is the role of the family in the ideology of it as the basic unit of society today?” (pg 151)

(Ideology of the Family)

“Profits depend more and more on the efficient organization of work and on the ‘self-discipline’ of the workers rather than simply on speed-ups and other direct forms of increasing the exploitation of the workers. The family is therefore important both to shoulder the burden of the cost of higher education, and to carry out the repressive socialization of children. The family must raise children who have internalized hierarchical social relations, who will discipline themselves and work efficiently without constant supervision….Women are responsible for implementing most of this socialization.” (quoted from Peggy Morton: ‘A Woman’s Work Is Never Done’) (pg 152)

“Pre-capitalist society flourishes on individual private property – the peasant has his bit of land, the artisan his tools. Capitalist organization of work deprives the individual of his private property and takes all the separate pieces of private property (land, tools, etc.) pools them, and makes the newly accumulated wealth the private property of a few – the capitalists. The appropriation of individual private property necessitates a form of social organisation of the property (men have to get together to work it) which is simultaneously denied: the mass of men get together to work it, but what they produce and how they produce it is taken by the ‘few’ as their own personal private property. however, the individual private property for the mass of the people does continue side by side with this new process – it continues in the family.” (pg 153)

“”But, of course, the ruling-class interests that pose, in the first place , as universal interests, increasingly decline into ‘mere idealizing phrases, conscious illusions and deliberate deceits….But the more they are condemned as falsehoods, and the less they satisfy the understanding, the more dogmatically they are asserted and the more deceitful, moralizing and spiritual becomes the language of established society.'” (pg 155)

“In any case, the function of the family is not simply one or the other, it is both: it has an economic and ideological role under capitalism. Roughly, the economic role is the provision of a certain type of productive labour-force and of the arena for massive consumption. This is specifically capitalistic.This economic function interacts with the ideology requisite to produce the missing ideals of peasant, feudal society; a place equally and freely to enjoy individual private property. This ideology which looks backwards for its rationale is,nevertheless, crucial for the present: without it people might hanker back to the past as a ‘golden age’; once Utopianism of any sort occurs, after looking backwards, it is liable to look forwards and thus endanger the status quo. The family, thus,, embodies the most conservative concepts available: it rigidifies the past ideals and presents them as the present pleasures. By its very nature, it is there to prevent the future. No wonder revolutionaries come up with the vulgar desperation: abolish the family – it does seem the block to advance, the means of preserving a backwardness that even capitalism makes feel redundant, though, of course, it is essential to it.” (pg 155-156)

“Of course, the ideological concept of the family embodies a paradox which reflects the contradiction between it and the dominant, capitalist method of organizing production. As I have already mentioned, this method of organizing involves social production (a mass or ‘team’ of workers), and the family provides the relief from the confiscation of this social production by apparently offering individual private property. Now the same contradiction is today contained within the family itself. The family is the most fundamental (the earliest and most primitive) form of social organization. When, under capitalism, it was made to embody as an ideal, what had been its economic function under feudalism, a chronic contradiction took place. What had hitherto been a united unit with the overall diversified social structure became, because of changing social conditions, a divided one. The peasant family works together for itself – it is one. The family and production are homogeneous. But the members of a working-class family work separately, for different bosses in different places and through the family interest unites them, the separation of their place and conditions of their work fragments, perforce, that unity….The social nature of work under capitalism fragments the unitary family; thereby it enforces the social nature of the family itself.” (pg 156-157)

“The Women’s Liberation Movement must have a complex reaction to the nuclear family. It must concentrate on separating out the structures – the woman’s roles – which are oppressively fused into it. It must fragment its unity.” (pg 159)

“What does our oppression within the family do to us women? It produces a tendency to small-mindedness, petty jealousy, irrational emotionality and random violence, dependency, competitive selfishness and possessiveness, passivity, a lack of vision and conservatism. These qualities are not the simple produce of male chauvinism, nor are they falsely ascribed to women by a sexist society that uses ‘old woman’ as dirty term. They are the result of the woman’s objective conditions within the family – itself embedded in a sexist society.” (pg 162)

My earlier than expected break

After committing to posting more articles here I was managing to put some writing out into the ether with regularity, until….

…my second son arrived a couple of weeks earlier than expected! That, along with the reduction in free time that results, probably barely pass as adequate reasons for the transmission break.

At the time I was working on a piece about the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 by the Australian Attorney-General and how the current law interacts with Freedom of Speech in the wake of the judgment in Eatock v Bolt. The project was becoming bigger than I expected which might have been noticed by my posting of two previously completed university articles.

I’m still researching for the piece, but may post a shorter version in the near future rather than one that includes significant detail about the philosophical basis of the right to freedom of speech, and where critics of such legislation as the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 say the extent of any curtailment of that right lies.

But for the moment, I’ll leave it to this observation:

Donald Sterling made racist remarks in a private telephone conversation which was recorded and leaked to the media. The result was his ban from the NBA for life and a fine $2.5M. Former player and current Mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, declared that it was message to all bigots that their bigotry will not be tolerated. This has occurred in a country where the right to freedom of speech is of much broader scope than in most countries, but where the general population (at least in this instance) sees the destructive impact on society that can brought about by its abuse.

Where the power of freedom of speech to shape society and empower people by allowing them to question traditional dogma and form their own views is used to defend speech which does nothing but harm others, a line is drawn. This line is built on the acquired understanding over time that unfettered speech used for an inappropriate purpose harms society and citizens, not enhance its aims and give freedom to its people.

Yet, freedom of speech is being used as the argument for why the Racial Discrimination Act should be repealed; it limits the ability of people to freely make racist remarks to the point of them being offensive, insulting, humiliating or intimidating where those remarks are not a fair comment done reasonably and made in good faith. All because a writer in a widely circulated newspaper wrote a number of articles attacking a group of people regarding their identification as Indigenous Australians in a completely misleading manner, and was ordered to publicly apologise. That and because, as Mr Brandis said, “People have the right to be bigots you know”.



Lies, Damn Lies and Killing Sharks (Part 2)

My last post about the Commonwealth of Australia’s approval of shark cull program in the State of Western Australia focused on the use of statistics with low power, and low merit, to amplify the argument that shark attack incidents in recent years are a cause for concern. Similarly the lack of statistics and use of anecdotal evidence to hype the economic downturn alleged to be caused by the flurry of shark attacks was red-flagged as being a poor substitute for proper analysis, particularly where the proposed solution was the targeted killing of animals listed as vulnerable to extinction or near threatened.

This post will look at the remaining points I listed as being the reasons provided by Minister Hunt for granting an exception to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) for the cull, being:

1. A statistically significant increase in shark attack strikes in Western Australia in the years 2010 to 2013 compared to population increase;

2. As a result of point 1, people are scared of entering the water and there is anecdotal evidence of tourist businesses suffering financially;

3. The proposed cull will reduce the incidence of shark attacks and will provide useful information to other states in dealing with the same problem;

4. The West Australian government has implemented measures to reduce the risk of death to other sea life from the exercise; and

5. It is in the national interest (due to points 1 to 3 above) for the cull to be allowed, and therefore within the class of reasons the EPBC Act gives as being the basis for an exemption to be allowed.

3. The proposed cull will reduce the incident of shark attacks and will provide useful information to other states in dealing the same problem

The most striking aspect of this section of the approval is that, when read without any insight into shark control measures already in place in our own country let alone any other country, it would seem that this was a pioneering approach that would be provide new insights in this problem.

New South Wales and Queensland have implemented and maintained shark control measures since 1937 and 1964 respectively. Queensland and KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, which also has shark control program presently operating, utilise netting and drum-lines just like the West Australian culling program proposed to use. Programs have also been implemented in New Zealand, Brazil and Hawaii.

Although literature on the results of shark cull activities was limited from my searches, Minister Hunt could have easily obtained a detailed report on the effects, both good and bad, of such a cull. Indeed, the State of Western Australia had already engaged Associate Professor Daryl McPhee of Bond University to provide a report to the West Australian Department of Fisheries in which he explains the objectives of his report as including a literature review of studies and reports on shark exclusion programs in other jurisdictions.

The report is not long (23 pages) and easy to read. It follows from the report that perhaps the only change to result from the program will be analogous to the placebo effect; make people feel like they are safer while the treatment offered has no effectual value.

There are noted problems with using shark attack data from New South Wales and Queensland to assess the effectiveness of those programs however. Associate Professor McPhee’s report doesn’t specify how effective those programs have been and nor could he. Any assessment can’t be controlled for other variables, such as increasing efficiency and expertise in providing aid to injured victims from becoming fatal victims, that will affect the analysis. This point he makes clear. He makes further comments about the variability of the programs in those states and internationally which wreak havoc on assessing the impact of these programs.

Similar to the basis of my critique of the statistical significance of the increase in shark attacks in my last post, a statistical analysis of these existing programs will be beset by problems of low statistical power.  This was amply illustrated by Jessica Meeuwig of the Centre for Marine Futures at University of Western Australia, who was driven to write on the subject given the same pretence as I am now writing. After analysing the data on shark fatalities in Queensland she concluded:

“This highlights the problems we face when trying to understand patterns in shark attacks and the effect of mitigation programs – fatalities are such rare events that differentiating between random coincidence and underlying patterns is fraught with difficulty”.

With that limitation on her analysis put forth, she found that that data indicated declines in shark-related fatalities in areas both with and without drum lines, and that the greatest decline in fatalities was prior to the installation of drum lines.

We already have similar programs in place to look to if this solution is the fancied solution and the data obtained is likely to be no different than that obtained in West Australia; the effectiveness cannot be measured to exclude random chance or independent, uncontrolled variables from being the cause of increases or decreases in shark attack numbers.

4. The West Australian government has implemented measures to reduce the risk of death to other sea life from the exercise

If the preceeding three sections outlined the problems with evaluating the effectiveness of a cull on protecting human life, the problem with this point 4 of the basis for allowing the program is almost opposite. The problem of by-catch of shark programs is of critical concern to those who have researched the effect of netting and drum-line programs.

Associate Professor McPhee evaluates this risk as long established. Citing data from the New South Wales, Queensland and South African programs he lists non-targeted species of shark and other animals such as rays, turtles, dugongs, seals, dolphins and whales as being the worst affected. He further notes the high incidence of by-catch in the initial years of these programs, an important fact should the approval for this program not be renewed in following years but re-implemented again at a later time. These implications, coupled with the dubious evidence of effectiveness of meeting the stated aims of the proposal, led him to recommend the West Australian Department of Fisheries against initiating such a program.

Paterson’s 1990 report “Effects of Long-Term Anti-shark Measures on Target and Non-target Species in Queensland, Australia” found that these measures have continuing deleterious effects on non-target species including the ones listed above. Problematic for such mitigation strategies is that some species affected are also listed species needing protection. While Paterson indicated the program to be a success in decreasing human injuries, a conclusion to be sceptical of in light of the above, his conclusion about the effect on non-target species adds historical weight to the problem of this significant side-effect.

Further, and possibly more importantly for the effectiveness of the program compared to detrimental impacts, he found that anti-shark measures in Queensland were most successful against indigenous sharks, not migratory sharks. The Great White Shark, one of the target species of the West Australian cull and the species most commonly involved in shark attack incidents, is a migratory shark with the West Australian coastline thought to be on the shark’s migration route. Meeuwig’s article above noted that in Queensland less than one percent of the sharks caught were Great Whites, while 97% of the sharks caught were conservation listed.

Development of non-lethal methods and technology as well as the use of current methods with greater effectiveness are noted in the above reports. An example is given of surface to seafloor netting at designated beaches in Hong Kong that completely separate sharks from swimmers, unlike the nets currently used in Australia, with added design factors to limit the fatal effects of netting on sea life. The Department of Fisheries in West Australia has itself been researching the use of repulsion devices that are effective for deterring sharks but have little or no effect on non-targeted species. It also has in place a monitoring program to track shark movements around the coastline.

A study by Caldicott et al looked for consistent factors surrounding shark attacks to find correlations between environmental factors and increased incidents of shark attack; colour, sound frequencies and electrical fields were found to attract shark activity. This information can assist in the development of non-lethal shark-repulsing methods and better education of the ocean-going public to reduce the likelihood of interaction between sharks and people.

The West Australian government, with the help of the Commonwealth Government, has determined that the risk posed by the use of netting and drum-lines is a reasonable risk to take. This is despite what appears to be overwhelming data showing the significant risk posed to numerous threatened species given the indiscriminate death the results from use of this equipment.

5. It is in the national interest for the cull to be allowed given all of the above

‘National interest’ appears to be a term that, despite any attempt to pin it down to a precise definition, can float back to the surface to be used again with an alternate or expanded definition to justify its use. Its use in this scenario must be considered a case study on point.

National interest is given a non-limiting definition in subsection 5 of the EPBC Act as being cases of defence, security or national emergency. I don’t believe the sharks are mounting an offence against Commonwealth and surely, given the oft quoted comparisons of road fatalities, drug and alcohol related fatalities, bee sting fatalities, etc, to shark attack fatalities, the supposed concerning increase in the latter within one State must mean that almost any state of affairs, even if limited to small geographical area and a few adverse outcomes, could see the national interest being used to justify intervention.

It therefore must be defined in this case outside those three considerations provided for in the Act. Given the claims of economic harm the term must be defined as relating to the economic interest of the country. I could envisage a widespread plague of unrestrained creatures, freed from ecological balance by the drastic reduction in predators, resulting in people being forced to stay on dry land and thereby effecting national tourism, as being a problem deserving of attention under the National Interest. I could see destruction of pristine areas of our natural land and sea environment as being in the national interest due to effects on the fishing industry and tourism, not to mention the loss of national natural assets recognised internationally, as being considered in the National Interest. It seems a long bow to draw to mount a case that one business’ reported reduction in scuba diving pupils is the platform to argue that this action is required in the National Interest

Either the benchmark for what meets the definition of national interest has been dropped to justify any issue of limited geographical, economic or health concern falling within its purview or the issue of shark attacks in West Australia has been bloated to seem like it should fit – I would argue it is the latter.


1. Stating that the increase in shark attacks is statistically significant, while correct, fails to address the limitation of statistical analysis of the shark attack data given the low numbers being used. The uncritical adoption of these tests gives undue credence to the assertion that shark attack incidents and fatalities are increasing for any reason other than chance alone.

2. Basing a decision to take action to minimise shark attacks due to the economic effects on one-off anecdotal reports of a drop people learning to scuba dive is inadequate justification.

3. Allowing the program will not provide any extra information as suggested in the approval as the same methods are already being used elsewhere.

4. There is a significant problem non-targeted species, a large portion of which are threatened species, being detrimentally affected by the program.

5. Given all the above, the issue must fall well below the minimum criteria to be considered ‘in the National Interest’.




Ethics by P.H Nowell-Smith

This is the first of my new series of posts containing selected extracts and quotes from books I’ve been reading.

The topics will fall within the general range of subjects I cover on this blog, from science based topics to philosophy and environment.

All my posts of this nature come with the exhortation that a better understanding of the extracts and the subjects of these books can only be achieved by reading the book, not by relying solely on the parts I’ve picked out as being, in my opinion, the most notable or instructive parts.

Today’s post covers “Ethics” by P.H Nowell-Smith published in 1954.

In brackets I’ve provided the context of the quotes and extracts that follow it, but have attempted to provide extracts that explain the context within the extract itself.

Ethics – P.H.Nowell-Smith – Pelican, 1954

(On theoretical ethics)

“The central phenomenon of ethics is, then, the moral judgement or, as Broad also calls it, the “opinion that something is right or wrong”. It should be noticed from the start that moral judgements are said to be, not emotional reactions or attitudes or expressions of approval and disapproval, but opinions.” Pg 26

“The intuitionists are, in fact, trying to combine in one form of judgement two assets, objectivity and relative incorrigibility. But these cannot be combined since the objective-subjective contrast loses its point if objective judgements are made relatively incorrigible. They use the language of ‘really is’; but the test that they apply to discover whether something really is right or wrong is the test of immediate insight, which is analogous to the test for ‘looks’ and ‘feels’”. Pg 58

(On the logic of Sentences and Arguments)

“Phrases such as ‘speaking offhand…’, ‘I don’t really know but…’, and ‘I should be inclined to say that…’ are used by scrupulous persons to warn the hearer that the speaker has not got what seem to him good reasons for his statement. But unless one of these guarding phrases is used we are entitled to believe that the speaker believes himself to have good reasons for his statement and we soon learn to mistrust people who habitually infringe this rule”. Pg 82

(On reasons for choosing)

“There is an air of tautology about ‘I laughed because it was amusing’, ‘I ran away because it was terrifying’ and ‘I remonstrated because it was an objectionable proposal’ which is absent from explanations in terms of statements of fact. But in spite of this A-sentences do not give complete explanations. This is partly because the explanatory force is inversely proportional to the obviousness of the tautology. ‘I objected because it was objectionable’ implies that I had some reasons for objecting but does not even begin to say what they were.” Pg 119

We often explain both why we did something and why we intend to do something by saying that it is fitting or appropriate to a situation or that it is in accordance with a moral rule. But these explanations are only logically complete if they contextually imply a pro-attitude to doing what is fitting or to obeying the rule; and this, in practice, they always do. But a part of an explanation that is so obvious that it can in practice be left out must not, on that account, be assumed to be unnecessary.” Pg 121

(On egoism and hedonmism)

“To be selfish is not to do what one wants to do or enjoys doing, but to be hostile or indifferent to the welfare of others. It comes out in two ways. (a) A man whose dominant desires were for his own pleasures (in the ordinary, not the philosopher’s sense) and who seldom or never wanted to do good to others would be a selfish man. (b) A man who does what he wants to do or what he likes,, when he does it at the expense of others, is a selfish man, even if what he does is not in itself selfish.” Pg 143

(In the context of G-words – words that imply not merely that the relevant person is likely to have a certain reaction, but that he ought to have it)

“That is not to say that we do not use G-words or ‘ought’ when making up our minds what to do, but that when we so use them we are, as it were, advising, exhorting, or commanding ourselves. If a man prefers one thing to another there is no temptation to represent the situation as one in which two people participate; but we do this quite naturally when a man tells himself that he ought to do something. It is an important fact that, while the personification of Desires is always strained and artificial, it has always seemed quite natural to represent Conscience as a little voice inside me that tells me what I ought to do.” Pg 151

(On advising and exhortation)

“This brings out one general difference between A- and G-sentences. Since the latter belong par excellence to the realm of choosing, advising, and exhorting and since the logic of these activities is such that sentences used to play a part in them must have a pro- or a con-force, G-sentences are always explicitly for or against something. A-sentences, on the other hand, are neutral unless the context shows which force they have. It may not be clear, for example, whether ‘It’s a dangerous (or onerous or responsible) post’ constitutes advice or or against; but ‘it’s a post worth having’ is not so ambiguous.’ Pg 155

‘The Persuasive Theory is an incorrect account of the use of moral language; but it enshrines an important truth. Advising is something that we choose to do and we must, therefore, have some reason for doing it. This reason may be a desire to persuade someone to do something and a man who gives advice (unless he gives it ironically) must, as we have seen, hope that it will be taken. This does not mean, however, that advice can never be disinterested. A man who advises another on the choice of a career may be concerned solely for the welfare of the recipient of his advice, and the farther who gives death-bed advice to his son can hardly hope to gain by it. The Persuasive Theory, but implying that man who gives advice must have an ulterior motive, makes an unfortunate and unnecessary concession to the doctrine that all human action is necessarily selfish.” Pg 157-8

(On exhortation – rhetoric, propaganda or suggestion – technique used by evangelical preachers on emotional congregations and advertisers who instil desires into their victims by suggesting that they already have them)

“It is important to notice that this is a secondary use of language, parasitic on genuine advice; and this fact is fatal to the ‘Persuasive’ Theory of moral language. A man can only learn to seek, accept, and reject advice if, in the majority of cases, accepting the advice does in fact lead to the result he himself desires. … Unless moral words had first been used in a way which connects them with our own interests – whether these be selfish or unselfish – we could never have come to be persuaded or dissuaded by their use and they could not act, as they sometimes do, as levers with which to manipulate the conduct of others”. Pg 158-9

“To tell someone that something is the best thing for him to do is to advise him to do it, but not irresponsibly. The speaker implies that he has good reasons for his advice, that he knows what the problem is and that his advice is relevant. The same predictive and causal elements are present as in the case of A-sentences; and advice may, as before, be given disingenuously, improperly, mistakenly, or unfortunately if one or other of the contextual implications is absent.” Pg 162-3

(On appraising and what we consider good)

“But in many cases the criteria now used are connected to natural criteria only through a long process of change and have become modified to such an extent that their original connexion with natural pro-attitudes has been entirely lost. And in such cases it often happens that we do not use the criteria we do because people have the pro-attitudes they have, but we have the pro-attitudes we have because the criteria are what they are. It may be that on one can now remember exactly why certain criteria were originally chosen to be the standards of judging something to be good or bad of its kind and that people are now prepared to admire, praise, and pat highly for objects because the conform to the accepted criteria, rather than accepting the criteria as ‘proper’ ones because, under them, the things that they admire rate highly. Taste is dictated by fashion, not fashion by taste.” Pg 173

“Sentiments, as Hume noticed, seem to vary in rough proportion to the propinquity of their objects. We are not moved by the iniquity or remote historical characters as we are by those closer to us; and we feel more approval for and sympathy with those near to us than with those who are more remote. Yet our moral judgements do not vary in the same way.” Pg 176

“…moral appraisals must be universal. Anyone who makes a moral appraisal even of a remote character must be willing to apply the same criteria universally. And it follows from this that he must be willing to apply them in practical contexts. If I am not prepared to condemn anyone whose behaviour is like that of Verres in all relevant respects, then, in calling Verres a villain, I am not making a genuine moral judgement; and the relevant respects are all of an empirical, objective kind.” Pg 177

“Ethical Naturalism is the attempt to trace logical connexions between moral appraisals and the actual pro- and con-attitudes of men, their desires and aversions, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. One-track naturalistic theories always fail to do justice to the complexity both of the facts and of the logical connexion, since they suggest that there is only one thing towards which men have a pro-attitude, pleasure, or that all pro-attitudes are desires. And these theories are both psychologically and logically misleading.” Pg 181

“There is one peculiarity which right’ shares with ‘good’ and ‘ought’ and with no other words. Except in ironical or other secondary uses it is always a pro-word. We saw that while A-words must always carry a pro-force when used in the contexts of choosing and advising, they do not always carry the same force, and we have to gather whether they are pro- or con-words from the context. This is never the case with ‘right’. Some words that are akin to ‘right’, such as ‘just’, ‘fair’, and ‘honourable’, are almost always pro-words, but they admit of exceptions. They imply a code of rules but they could be used in cases where we want to advise a man to disobey the code. We might think, for example, that this was a case in which justice should give way to mercy and we should then say: “It would be the just thing to do; but in this case I don’t think you ought to do it”. But the word ‘right’ is seldom, if ever, used in this way.” Pg 189-90

“But we use ‘you ought’ sentences precisely when we are not in apposition to issue orders; and this fact and the fact that these sentences must be backed by reasons provide an important clue to their logic. Although ‘advice’ is far too weak a word for many ‘you ought’ sentences, their logic in primary cases is always that of advising, never that of commanding. For they are addressed to a rational agent as solutions to this problem of choice and, in consequence, they imply a pro-attitude on the part of the recipient. The author of a command, on the other hand, is not logically bound to be concerned with the pro- and con-attitudes of his subordinates, though, of course, he may be.

It is for this reason also that it is a mistake to define moral ‘oughts’ in terms of God’s commands or ‘God’s will’. For the mere fact that a command has been issued by a competent authority, even by Go, is not a logically good reason for obeying it. …We do in practice often appeal to the existence of a command in backing up an ought-sentence, in the same sort of way that we appeal to the existence of a rule; but this procedure contextually implies a general pro-attitude on the part of the recipient towards obeying the commands of that authority, as such” Pg 192

(On differences of opinion about whether a course of action ought to be taken)

“It might seem that this situation is still analogous to a dispute about an empirical matter. For if Jones says “It’s a dog” and Smith say “No, it isn’t”, they can both be right in the sense that each has used the correct form of words to express what he intended to say, but they cannot both be right in the sense of saying what is true. But, as we have seen, there is in empirical matters a test of truth which is independent of the beliefs of the speaker, namely the correspondence with the facts, so that in these cases there is a point to the distinction the two senses of ‘right’. But if the dispute is a moral one there is no test of this kind.” Pg 194-5

“The theory that men can only aim at their own happiness is plausible only if ‘happiness’ is covertly used as a general word covering ‘whatever men aim at’. Since this conflicts flagrantly with its normal use it is not surprising that some teleologists have slipped into covert egoism.

Gay is not the only or the best known philosopher to have made this mistake; Mill also seems, at time, to have supposed that ‘right’ means ‘conducive  to the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ and Moore expressly says that “the assertion ‘I am morally bound to perform this action’ is identical with the assertion ‘This action will produce the greatest happiness of the greatest possible amount of good in the Universe’.”, although neither Mill nor Moor slips into egoism”. Pg 222

(On the purpose of moral rules)

“(i) Duties of beneficence. There are two reasons why beneficence should be considered a duty. In the first place benevolence is one of our natural pro-attitudes. It is one that conflicts with other pro-attitudes and it is one that tends to be stronger in our calmer and more reflective moments. If to do good to others is one of a man’s dominant aims he has a good reason for making this type of conduct a duty; for if he does so his desire to do good to others will now be backed up by his desire to do his duty, which is an exceedingly powerful motive. In this way he is more likely to try to do good to others even at moments when he does not much want to do so, and so come to fulfil his dominant aim more completely than he would if he did not adopt this rule.” Pg 231

(On conscientiousness)

“Aristotle held that a man was not really good unless he enjoyed doing what is good, and I am inclined to agree. The sense of duty is a useful device for helping men to do what a really good man would do without a sense of duty; and since none of us belongs to the class of ‘really good men’ in this sense, it is a motive that should be fostered in all of us. But it plays little part in the lives of the best men and could play none at all in the lives of saints. They act on good moral principles, but not from the sense of duty; for they do what they do for its own sake and not for the sake of duty.” Pg 259

(On the paradox of representing all motives other than the sense of duty as ‘forces’ which oblige me to act as I do, since this entails that I do not act freely when I do what I want to do)

“There can be no such thing as intentional or even voluntary wrong-doing, and therefore no such thing as just blame or punishment. In the mouth of a Socrates or a Spinoza there would be nothing strange about this conclusion; for Socrates though no wrong-doing could be voluntary and was puzzled to know how any man could deserve blame, and Spinoza was prepared to push the theory to its inevitable conclusion and say that blame is never justified.. A wise man tries to understand why men behave as they do; only a fool blames.

But the theory of the self-propelling conscience is often found in conjunction with the view that conscientiousness is the only virtue and acting against one’s conscience the only vice. And it is this combination that is paradoxical, since on this theory a conscientious action is the only type of free action, all actions prompted by desire being unfree.” Pg 264

(On freedom and Responsibility)

“For in the great majority of cases of moral difficulty what is difficult  is not to decide to do what one knows one ought to do, but to decide what one ought to do. This sort of difficulty arises in three main types of case. (I) A humble and unimaginative person who accepts a customary code of morals without much question may find that two rules conflict; the voice of conscience is in this case ambiguous. (ii) A more self-confident, imaginative, and reflective person may wonder whether he ought, in the case before him, to do what the customary rule enjoins. He knows very well what the rule enjoins; but what prompts him to depart from it is no “part of his desiring nature”, but a suspician that the rule is one that, in this particular case, he ought not to follow. (iii) A man of fixed moral principles (whether or not they are those customarily adopted) may find himself in a radically new situation that is not catered for in his code. What is he to do? It is here, if anywhere, that the idea of an unpredictable ‘creative’ choice seems to make sense. He takes a leap in the dark, but just because it is a leap in the dark I doubt if we should be inclined to blame him if he leapt in what turned out to be the wrong direction.

Men who belong to a generation for whom the questioning of accepted principles has been no mere academic exercise and who have found themselves faced with momentous choices in situation not covered by their traditional rules will be less likely than their father perhaps were to suppose that the only sort of moral difficulty is that of resisting temptation.” Pg 288-9

“And if, as some suggest, desires are internal forces which operate on the will, do they exculpate in the way in which external forces do? The problem of free will is puzzling just because it seems impossible, without indulging in sheer dogmatism, to know just where to stop treating desires as ‘compelling forces’.” Pg 291

“If I regard something as immoral, then, however trivial it may be and however great may be the non-moral advantages of doing it, I cannot debate with myself whether I ought to do it; and we discover what our own moral principles are very often by putting this sort of question to ourselves.” Pg 308

“A principle is not usually called a moral one unless the person who adopts it is prepared to apply it universally. If a man says that he does something as a matter of principle, he cannot (logically) make exceptions unless another moral principle is involved. However narrow in scope it may be, a moral principle must be applied to all cases that are alike in all relevant respects.” Pg 309

“What sort of principles a man adopts will, in the end, depend on his vision of the Good Life, his conception of the sort of world that he desires, so far as it rests with him, to create. Indeed his moral principles just are this conception. The conception can be altered; perhaps he meets someone whose character, conduct, or arguments reveal to him new virtues that he had never even contemplated; or he may do something uncharacteristic and against his principles without choosing to do it and, in doing it, discover how good it is. Moral values, like other values, are sometime discovered accidentally. But the one thing he cannot do is to try to alter his conception of the Good Life; for it is ultimately by reference to this conception that all his choices are made. And the fact that he cannot choose to alter this conception neither shields him from blame nor disqualifies him from admiration.” Pg 313-4

A long time ago….

….I posted my last article on this blog. Over a year has passed since I argued about climate change denial and logical fallacies, John Spooner and Craig Kelly in the cross-hairs of my directed rage.

I can’t pinpoint the precise reason for my inaction. Work, study and family have played their role in keeping me busy, but there was also some dilemma in my mind as to the direction of this blog. To date, it has jumped from veggie gardening, to short-story telling, commentary on anti-vaccination attitudes, various ‘green living’ adaptations in different aspects of the home and climate change.

Admittedly, my interests change with some regularity. I discover or re-discover some topic that I become consumed by, shortly to be replaced by the next topic (currently, my passion is statistics, demonstrated by the current audiobook “Naked Statistics” playing on my way to and from work, the book “How to lie with statistics” eagerly waiting to be read in my study and repeated trips to Tamino’s “Open Mind” blog). This interest replaced the previous interest in feminism and prior to that was ethics and morality. Usually there is some link from one interest to another, sometimes it is finding a book at a second-hand shop on a topic that I’ve wanted to learn more about.

I have somewhat become like a deer in headlights as a result, not knowing what topics to write about in order to attract and keep the interest of people wanting to read more about a specific topic.

My answer to the dilemma in fact came from a section of the book on feminism I’ve nearly finished reading. In providing a history of the women’s liberation movement, the writer draws comparisons between the numerous political movements in recent history, such as the African-American movement towards equality and the workers movements. The book discusses that even within these progressive movements, proponents of the movements can still hold regressive attitudes towards other issues of equality, in this case towards the feminist movement.

The point made by the author is that to be properly progressive, to seek fairness throughout all aspects of society, limiting yourself to just one cause or topic without seeking to enlighten yourself with or help rectify the problems in other areas fails to recognise the connections between various forms of repression and destruction, let alone rectify forms of repression within an otherwise progressive movement.

The issues of sexism within the atheist movement provides but one example.

In what most likely is a case of deluding myself into justifying the maintenance of the status quo, I’ve therefore decided to continuing blogging about whatever I so choose, if it can reasonably be considered that someone reading my articles will be assisted in bettering themselves or the people and/or environment around them. Whether it be describing how to make a greenhouse, why vaccination is important or what to look for when considering the statistics behind reports of some new breakthrough medical treatment or behind an argument as to why global warming is a hoax/myth/evil communist plot, I will do my best to understand the content of the topic completely and write on it.

To this end, I’ve also decided to add articles posting assignments I’ve completed that address a topic that I consider important or helpful (I believe P.Z Myers gets his students to blog about their studies which inspired the idea, and is an approach that will help me with content) and posts that contain quotes from books that I’ve read (in part to help me remember more of those books in future).

I don’t intend on publicising this post through twitter as I normally do, given the navel-gazing nature of it. This is more to keep me honest in maintaining the pledge to put up a new post at least once a month whilst I’m studying, and more often when I’ve taken a study period off.


The deaths of vaccination aid workers and the anti vaccination movement

Reports of the death of 8 aid workers in Pakistan committed to eradicating the Polio virus through vaccinations worldwide is nothing but appalling. These deaths result in part from the spread of misinformation about efficacy and side effects of the vaccine on children, and the parallel to the vocal anti vaccination movement seen in countries such Australia and the United States is striking.

The Polio virus (poliomyelitis) has been the subjected to extensive eradication efforts since 1988 through a global vaccination program, much in the same way the Smallpox virus was successfully fought in the mid 20th century. In the 1950’s Polio existing in almost every country and caused over 500,000 cases of death or paralysis.

The virus is 99% eradicated worldwide, with only Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan harboring endemic strands of the virus. Angola, the DRC and Chad had managed to reduce reported cases to zero but have recently suffered setbacks caused by reintroduction due to importation from the three remaining endemic countries. 

Children under the age of 5 are those predominantly effected by the virus.

Civil conflict in the 3 remaining endemic countries continues to uphold the implementation of a global herd immunity against the disease. The primary strategy imposed to interrupt vaccination in these countries, as reported by the World Health Organisation and it’s partners in the program, are of misinformation about the efficacy and the harmful effects of the vaccination (particularly, that the vaccine causes sterility) and forceful interruption of the effort.

As tragically demonstrated, this interruption can be by violent means.

Recent statistics in Australia show that the number of people not having their children immunised is increasing. This is particularly so with the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccination. The decrease in vaccination rates comes at the same time vocal anti vaccination groups gain traction and trust amongst parents seeking information about the vaccine.

The main culprit of the misinformation about MMR (or the main purveyor of truth in the face of conspiring governments and pharmaceutical companies, if you stand in the anti vaccination proponent’s shoes) is one Andrew Wakefield. Mr Wakefield published a paper in 1998 which concluded that the combined MMR vaccination carries a risk of causing autism, and is regularly held up by the movement as proof of it’s claims.

However, testing of Mr Wakefield’s data and conclusions by other scientists led to the overwhelming finding that his methods were not only fraught with unscientific data compilation, cherry picking data to suit his conclusions, medical records and data were tampered with by Wakefield, and that he stood to gain financially from his conclusions.

A fully referenced overview of his research and findings was reported in the British Medical Journal, which can be found here.

In 2010, the Lancet retracted the paper, a rare move by any journal, saved only for the most egregious cases of erroneous papers.

And yet, he continues to give advice to parents against the vaccination, and provide fodder for anti vaccination groups to disguise their agenda when providing ‘unbiased and balanced’ information to parents scouring the Internet for trusted information. The Australian Vaccination Network is one such group which provides this type of information whilst protesting that any attempt to contradict them, point out the errors in their arguments or stop their misleading and deceptive actions, as a conspiracy against them or an attack on democracy and freedom of speech.

Even their name is misleading. The Minister for Fair Trading in New South Wales has recently ordered for the organisation to change their name or face deregistration.

In the United States, similar organisations use celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy to promote their message in a haze of unscientific, feel good mantras about what is best for children.

Whether it is militant groups in the Middle East and Africa or apparently trustworthy organisations in the western world, the spread of information only leads to the realisation of an avoidable risk of illness and mortality amongst children, whether they are unvaccinated or yet to be vaccinated.


This post has been written hastily and largely without references. I am happy to provide references within a reasonable time if requested.