Just Superb From Julian Burnside

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:21 am

This article is amazing. He both recognises that the facts are often not enough to change minds and, instead of demonising those who disagree with him, seeks to empathically understand them. And, in the process, suggests something that can change hearts and minds1 – listening to those who feel as though they have no voice.


  1. Not all of them, and not all the time – but many more than hostility will


Women in Cabinet

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:48 am

Perhaps predictably, there has been some discussion of the fact that Tony Abbott’s first cabinet includes one woman from a total of 19 ministers. (The fact that there’s no Science minister – science has been subsumed under Industry – is a whole other debate.)

Perhaps also predictably, responses on Facebook have tended to fall along party lines – Coalition supporters think it’s fine, Labor supporters don’t. I guess this post is my attempt to move up a little from that level…

The usual defense is ‘It shouldn’t be about numbers and quotas, it should be about the best person for the job’. And the thing is, I agree!

The bit that those saying this seem to be forgetting or ignoring is that judging who is the best person for the job is not a completely objective process.

So, for example, someone who is on record as saying:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

…might think that ‘physiological reasons’ like the lack of a penis, for example, might be relevant criteria…

Put it a different way: 1 to 18 is 5% to 95%. Do people really think that the talents in Australia for leadership are distributed in those proportions in the community as a whole?

Of course, it’s not the Australian community generally that Tony Abbott has to call on – it’s the subset of it that has chosen to get involved in Coalition politics and has got pre-selected and elected.

So, you know – the best people for the job are probably Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong… but he doesn’t have them available. 😉

OK, that was a less serious point. The more serious point is that if someone’s mental category is ‘the best man for the job’, he’s less likely to select a woman. So the 1 in 19 number is likely not a reasonable selection, even from the experienced members of the parliamentary (including Senate) members of the Liberal and National parties.

That’s one part of the issue. The other is how we attract capable women into politics in general, and support them once they are there. There are still double standards – the fact that Tanya Plibersek has a 3 year old was brought up in relation to her aspirations as Labor leader, for example, while the fact that Bill Shorten also has a 3 year old was not.

Politics in general, but perhaps politics on the conservative side specifically. You’d think that with Goddess Baroness Thatcher as their icon there might be more positivity toward women in conservative ranks, but their policies and positions seem to have gone backward since the turn of this century. There are a number of reasons for that, but that’s another post for another day.

We may never get to 50:50, and the appropriate means are recruiting, supporting and promoting, not quotas, but 5:95 is, in my opinion, a symptom of a couple of related sicknesses.


(Positive but Nonspecific) Dreams From Their Father

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:18 am

(yes, the title does riff off a memoir by one B. Obama – but it’s just a riff)

There’s a meme going around Facebook at the moment that says:

I don’t want my children to follow in my footsteps. I want them to take the path next to me and go further than I ever dreamed possible.

On one hand, yes. Definitely not about molding our offspring to be clones of us – any sort of self-reflection will reveal enough of our own flaws to make that undesirable. And the potential is certainly there for them to exceed our own achievements in all sorts of ways.

On the other hand, that too is a form of pressure… and of course there are always the issues about how we measure.

If Cassie teaches for a few years, then goes back to study psychology and becomes a top clinical psych researcher with books and speaking tours, great! If she decides that after all high school teaching is what speaks to her, and teaches generations of kinds to understand and be excited by science – also great!

If Alex becomes a partner in a top big city law firm and fabulously wealthy, great! If she decides to have a small and casual practice in planning law to pay the bills and a large role in animal rights activism and a farm with many rescued animals – also great!

Who is to say which would constitute ‘going further than I ever dreamed possible’?

So, in terms of dreams for our children – they’re positive but nonspecific. May they be happy, fulfilled, loved… whatever they decide to do.


‘Alternative’ or ‘Pseudo’?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:58 am

Excellent little paper: http://sites.matrix.msu.edu/wp-content/readings/Fagan_and_Feder.pdf

The context is archaeology, and the examples given are from that field, but it could certainly also apply to science and education. This is an excellent and thoughtful discussion of why truth and evidence matter – and why our epistemological tolerance and nuance needs to stop well short of an absolute relativism.