Be careful what you wish for

So, Kevin Donnelly, newly installed as Pyne’s curriculum advisor wants more religion in Australian public schools. Donnelly bases his arguments on the claim that “Australia is a predominantly Christian country“. More generally, his argument is that we need to inculcate a commitment to the”institutions, values and way of life” of the Australian majority.

Before making arguments like this, Donnelly might want to take a look at the 2011 census data which shows that barely 50 per cent of those aged under 25 stated a Christian religious affiliation. In a dicussion of this last year, we found a combination of demographic effects and switching, which implied that Christians will probably be a minority of the population by the 2020s, as they already are in the UK.

Since around 30 per cent of young people attend private schools most of which state a Christian affilation, it’s a safe bet that the majority of public school students are non-Christian. Certainly, “no religion” is the biggest single denomination for the under 25 age group. So, if you accept Donnelly’s “majority rule” argument, there’s a strong case for saying there should be more explicit atheism in public schools.

More generally, Christians should think carefully before lining up for this kind of culture war. Australia has been mercifully free of the kind of “new atheism” represented by people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Atheists, agnostics and the religiously indifferent have been happy to live and let live, without feeling the need to engage in denunciation of religion. But if Christian activists like Abbott and Donnelly want to use their current bare majority to impose their religous views on the rest of us, they ought to expect the same when they become a minority, as is virtually inevitable.

Religion is currently favored in all sorts of ways in Australia, from tax deductions and exemptions to publicly funded chaplaincy programs. There hasn’t been much fuss about this, but if the right chooses to engage in a religious culture war, all that will change.

155 thoughts on “Be careful what you wish for

  1. Paul Norton @ #32 said:

    You might want to hurry slowly before invoking Stove as an authority.

    Playing the geriatric man, not the epistemological ball, eh? Perhaps an indication that PN is out of his philosophical league? I don’t care what Stoves ideological sins are. His argument in defence of tradition are strong, long accepted by Mother Nature in her capacity as custodian of the genome. She takes great care in ensuring hi-fidelity reproduction. And is always terminating pregnancies when they deviate too far from long-standing specifications.

    Of course I am not against innovation, per se. Without some change their would be no adaptation to change. My position FWIW on the subject of human change, is:
    – constructivism in instrumental innovation, using scientific method as quality control
    – conservatism in institutional renovation, using ecclesiastic authority to dampen reckless change

    TBS, Stoves misogynist rant was not one of his finest moments. Franklin or Kimball acknowledged he may have over-stepped the mark this time.

    In mitigation, at the time of writing (1990) Stove was a sick (he later committed suicide when diagnosed win cancer) and embittered old man whose university department had recently been over-run by a plague of feminists. That would be enough to send most men off the deep end.

    FWIW on the gender equality issue I am with Galton. Men and women derived from the same breeding population will be on average equal in general intellectual capacities. Although obviously having special advantages in particular departments of thought, women excelling in the analysis of social relationships, men at physical relations. With men tending to over-represent at the tails do the distribution (geniuses and morons). Whilst women tending to regress to the population mean.

    Larry Summers recently produced a more moderate and intellectually fortified version of Stoves argument. I have yet to see a convincing rebuttal. Of course Harvard sacked him for it. But what do you expect? Even a Master of the Universe cant argue with the Zeitgeist.

  2. @Jack Strocchi
    Your statement of your position on the subject of human change is wrapped in such elaborately abstract language as to make its practical significance impossible to discern in the absence of illustration. Or, more simply, without examples nobody can tell what you mean.

  3. @Luke Elford

    I’m not really sure how the US represented an Enlightenment state during the period when it was either operating the largest and harshest slave system in history or executing the most efficient and profitable genocide in history. Is there any serious argument that those activities were more admirable than the papacy’s teaching about slavery?

    All I’ve said is that the story is a lot more complex than the stark US good papacy bad claim in your original comment.

  4. The ABC is reporting that Pyne is expanding the review panel.

    But, in the report it says: Pyne “has today confirmed Dr Donnelly and Professor Wiltshire will appoint experts to review different education areas.”

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