Pope Francis and exorcism

Hot on the heels of his announcement that science and religion are compatible and that evolution is accepted by the Catholic Church, Pope Francis turns around and praises exorcists for combating ‘the Devil’s works’, and warns of a rise in Satanism and the occult. It’s like two steps forward and four hundred years back with the Catholic Church as they are dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Peter Rowney, Lemon Tree Passage
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Peter Rowney (Short Takes 10/11), Pope Francis’ announcement on evolution was neither new nor forward thinking. The Catholic Church has endorsed theistic evolution for over 60 years – since the reforms of Pope Pius XII. A step forward for the church would be to distance itself from evolution and adopt a theory on the diversification of life that better accommodates the empirical data.

Gary Robertson, Pacific Pines

Newcastle Herald – Short Takes – 17/11

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LETTER: Stop race that stops nation

ANOTHER beautiful spring day in the lucky country, unless you’re a racehorse.

This afternoon the nation will grind to a halt, as Australians of all ages  gamble hundreds of millions of hard-earned dollars on 20 odd horses being whipped around some turf in Flemington.

For just one day, everyone will become an expert on equine form and track condition, forgetting the fact that gambling is just a tax on people who don’t understand probability.

Milliners, caterers, bookies and vets will all make a killing this Melbourne Cup day, some more literally than others.

Have you ever noticed that real horse lovers aren’t into horse racing? It might be the sport of kings, but it’s also a sport of cruelty, much of which is hidden to protect our fragile sensibilities.

What kind of bizarre world do we live in, where we fly thoroughbred horses around the world in jumbo jets to win prizes in a running contest? What’s wrong with flies crawling up a wall? Now that’s an Australian tradition!

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2669937/letter-stop-race-that-stops-nation/?cs=315

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LETTER: Keep my windfall to invest in R&D

Oct. 31, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

I’M unsure yet as to how I’m going to spend my windfall refund of $13.23 from Hunter Water in November (‘‘Carbon tax windfall’’ Herald 31/10).

Personally I would rather forego the piddling amount of cash in favour of supporting a carbon pricing scheme that promotes and encourages research and development into renewable energy sources and discourages large companies from relying on fossil fuels.

Is the ‘‘windfall’’ really enough  to convince people that Tony Abbott and his band of merry men have the best interests of our children’s future at heart? Trick or treat indeed.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2664995/letter-keep-my-windfall-to-invest-in-rd/?cs=315

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Christian prayer not way to go

ACCORDING to William S. Wheatman’s logic [Examiner, Letters, October 23], every time we write the date, we are acknowledging the existence of Jesus Christ.

Does that also mean that when we write the word Thursday we are acknowledging the Norse god of thunder?

Or when we write Easter we are acknowledging the pagan goddess of fertility?

Council’s refusal to acknowledge those constituents who are not Christians, and their insistence of praying to Jesus demonstrates they are out of touch with the modern demographics of Australia and the rising tide of secularism.

I am delighted to hear that Mr Wheatman has been asthma free and been able to play football since he prayed to Jesus at the age of 16.

It is a shame though that Jesus was not as impressed with the prayers of all those little children that did suffer from asthma and all the other terrible childhood afflictions and diseases and abuse.

I guess they just didn’t pray hard enough.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/2656893/christian-prayer-not-way-to-go/?cs=772

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Edward Gough Whitlam 1916 – 2014

Australia has lost a great Prime Minister and a great statesman with the passing of Gough Whitlam. Even his political enemies and detractors hold a grudging respect for this man who was a giant in both stature and influence. His family and friends must surely be proud of a life well lived. My condolences to his children and grandchildren.

The legacy of his short time in power during the early seventies is a testament to his inspiration and ideology. His Labor government was the instigator of land rights for indigenous Australians, the Racial Discrimination Act, the end of the White Australia policy, multiculturalism, free tertiary education, free health care, environmental protection, just to name a few.

He wasn’t perfect, as few of us are, but he didn’t shy away from his convictions when it would have been politically expedient to do so, and our politicians of today could do much worse than to follow his example. My advice to those who fear our current government is slowly eroding many of the progressive social policies that Gough Whitlam and his government enacted is to “maintain the rage”.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

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CSIRO chief and water divining

It was recently reported that the newly appointed head of the CSIRO, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and possibly Australia’s most gullible scientist, Dr Larry Marshall, is promoting the “technology” of divining or dowsing for water, as a solution to Australia’s drought problems. Go back and read that again, I’ll wait.

No, it’s not April 1st.

“I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said. Perhaps Dr Marshall is unaware of the Australian Skeptic’s prize of $100,000 for anyone who can successfully locate underground water by divination with a consistent success rate above random chance. With recent funding cuts, the CSIRO could certainly do with the extra money.

The fact that a diviner can sometimes find water is no more impressive than a fisherman sometimes catching fish or a punter sometimes backing a winner. In Australia there have been several conclusive blind trials done on dowsing, clearly showing that even sincere practitioners suffer from confirmation bias, an effect that the head of any science department should be familiar with. Perhaps the CSRO could investigate the possibility of transmuting coal into gold in their new Alchemy Research Department?

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2639993/letter-divination-just-random-chance/?cs=315

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It was recently reported that the newly appointed head of the CSIRO, entrepreneur Dr Larry Marshall, is promoting the “technology” of divining or dowsing for water, as a solution to Australia’s drought problems. He claims that he’s “seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy” but has “no idea how they do it,” and that “the CSIRO can ‘push the envelope’ with such projects and contribute to improving agricultural productivity”.

New CSIRO head wants to help farmers find water

As a result I would like to nominate Dr Marshall for the Australian Skeptic’s prestigious Bent Spoon Award for the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle Perhaps Dr Marshall is unaware of the Australian Skeptic’s prize of $100,000 for anyone who can successfully locate underground water by divining or dowsing with a consistent success rate above that of random chance. With recent funding cuts the CSIRO could certainly do with the extra money.

The fact that a diviner can sometimes find water is no more impressive than a fisherman sometimes catching fish or a punter sometimes backing a winner. In Australia there have been several conclusive blind trials done on dowsing and divining, clearly showing that even sincere practitioners suffer from confirmation bias, an effect that the head of any science department should be familiar with. I feel that Dr Marshall is an ideal candidate for the Bent Spoon Award. As the head of the CSIRO and a spokesman for science in Australia he is responsible for representing science as an evidence based discipline and not one based on anecdotes and confirmation bias.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.skeptics.com.au/features/bent-spoon/nominations/

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Australia’s “Judeo-Christian” Heritage

Few Australians would be naive enough to deny that the founders of our nation were Christians. (Christian leaders made an impact – Herald 20/10) The explorers and pioneers were often men of faith. Given that our nation was forged in an era when almost everyone was a Christian and our monarch was the supreme head of the Anglican Church and all schools were operated by the church, one would have to be in denial to ignore the influence that Christian belief had on our fledgling society. But that was a hundred years ago, when churches forcibly removed babies from their unwed mothers and aboriginal children from their families. Blacks weren’t citizens and women weren’t allowed to vote. We are now light-years removed from the 1800s and blind faith in religious morals has been replaced by a more profound and enlightened understanding of the human condition and the world around us. We live in a bold new era where women, blacks, gays, and heaven forbid even atheists, can participate in society without seeking the approval of the church and those who would impose their interpretation of biblical morals on the rest of society.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

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