Posts Tagged research
There has been a lot of attention on Turnbull’s recent Michael Kirby Lecture but I only just got around to reading it. Overall, it’s very hard to fault him – he systematically goes through the different arguments against legalising gay marriage and quite convincingly debunks them. Whatever your views on gay marriage, it is worth reading as food for thought.
HOWEVER, he did not quite follow his reasoning to the logical conclusion – a conclusion that I reached a while ago. And no, I am not saying “so near and yet so far” because he said that he wanted civil unions rather than pushing a bill on gay marriage at this time. Here’s what I’m talking about:
So there is a clear distinction already between what constitutes a valid marriage in the eyes of the state and in the eyes of the Church.
Of course this distinction is more clear cut in countries where a marriage is recorded by a civil official at a registry office or town hall and then, subsequently, by a religious ceremony where one is conducted. I don’t doubt that explains why the legalisation of gay marriage has been less controversial there.
In Australia however ministers of religion are authorised to perform both the civil function, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the religious one on behalf of their denomination.
My point here is that the question as to whether same sex couples’ unions should be termed a marriage by the state is not one which calls for a religious answer. No denomination can be compelled to recognise any particular form of marriage – it is entirely up to them.
So here’s the question: if that is true (which it is), WHY IS THE STATE STILL TRYING TO DO JUST THAT? And why is Turnbull supporting it? So long as the state figures it should be defining the word “marriage”, there will be problems that will be unnecessarily divisive and create a lot of avoidable public outrage. Why not let people who get married define what “marriage” should mean for them?
He only briefly supports state-regulated marriage substantially once, like this:
Study after study has demonstrated that people are better off financially, healthier, happier if they are married and indeed, I repeat, if they are formally married as opposed to simply living together. 
And his footnote said this (my bold):
 There is widespread evidence that marriage leads to better mental health, greater wealth accumulation, more stable households and better well being of children raised in a household. A 1998 study by the RAND Corporation, for instance, found that the median household worth of married households was almost four times higher those who were never married, with a median wealth of U.S.$132,000 compared to $35,000. Lupton, J., & Smith J., (1999), “Marriage, Assets and Savings”, available online here. The study measured 7600 households containing a member born between 1934 and 1941 (so between 51-60 years old). A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found varying levels of serious psychological distress according to different the different categories of marital status. Among adults aged 18–44 years, 6 per cent of those who were divorced or separated experienced serious psychological distress compared with, 3.6% of those living with a partner, 2.5% of never married adults, and 1.9% of married adults. Schoenborn, C., (2004), “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999–2002”, available online here. The study also found married couples enjoyed much greater physical wellbeing…
Did you see what was wrong? Turnbull is a highly-educated and very intelligent person, so I am a little disappointed that he would be making such a basic mistake.
Those results are not causative – they do not necessarily show that getting married has any benefits at all. What they could just as easily indicate is that people who are generally more wealthy, and who have better mental and physical health are more likely to get married and, if married, are less likely to be divorced.
I would put my money on the latter being the case, rather than the former – I see no logical reason why the piece of paper proclaiming you to be “lawfully wedded” would make one iota of difference to your income or wellbeing, however I can definitely understand why a couple in good health and with steady incomes would be more likely to spend their lives together happily than a couple living paycheck to paycheck while battling psychological illness.
STATE MARRIAGE is a harmful institution. Legal interests should be attached to demonstrated co-dependency and not on a ceremony conducted by an official with a license. Marriage should be conducted by the clergy, or by some kind of communal leader, or whoever the hell else wants to do it – that is not something that the Federal Government needs to have anything to say about.
Turnbull is definitely on the right track, he just needs to take that extra leap.
Experts who venture “opinions” (sometimes merely their own inference of fact), outside their field of specialised knowledge may invest those opinions with a spurious appearance of authority, and legitimate processes of fact-finding may be subverted.
- High Court of Australia Chief Justice Murray Gleeson in HG v R (1999) 197 CLR 414.
These kinds of legal principles apply well beyond the courtroom. What Gleeson said rings true in everyday life and the media especially. It is precisely this phenomenon that results in crackpots like Noam Chomsky being listened to when they spout conspiratorial, pseudo-historic nonsense.
Being a decorated expert in linguistics or any other discipline does not mean that someone has any authority to speak about politics. Similarly, being a top geologist does not necessarily mean that someone will have any expertise in climate science; and being a climate scientist is not the same as being an economist.
We all need to be a little bit more skeptical about “experts” speaking outside their field of expertise – particularly when they are saying the opposite to what people who are genuinely experts in that field are talking about.
I came across an article the other day called ‘Visible Whiteness: Coming to Terms with White Racial Identities’ by Andrew Hickey and Jon Austin from the Centre for Research in Transformative Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education at the University of Southern Queensland. (for anyone interested, (2009) International Journal of The Humanities 7(2): 15).
Yes, that does say “Centre for Research in Transformative Pedagogy”. Someone, somewhere, is funding this. Probably from our tax dollars.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it is that bad. My eyes started rolling from the first sentence.
IN THIS AGE of global terror and theWest’s re-affirmed awareness that cultural values in other parts of the world do not always readily lend themselves to the logic it applies, it is issues of race and difference that hold a significant place in our global psyche.
And it only got worse from there.
Whiteness must be excavated if any serious understandings of race hope to move beyond simple paternalism or ‘false charity’. To do anything else is to maintain a view of race that situates the exploration within the realm of the Other whilst implicitly continuing the invisibility of whiteness by drawing attention to ‘othered’ outcomes of race alone. Whiteness, too, must be explored for a full appreciation of how race operates as our ‘most dangerous myth’.
As I have been discovering recently, the Americans have been doing some amazing research into racial identity issues over the last decade. There are empirical studies showing how people perceive race, how people define their own identity and what the societal implications are of these things.
In Australia, we seem to just have wankers citing Edward Said and talking about the “Other”. The whole article barely cites one source post-2000 that wasn’t written by Hickey or Austin.
If you’re still reading, you’re getting to the best part. After 3 pages of this academy circle-jerk about how society normalises “race” as something “non-white”, they get to the actual “activity” that they are running:
The project commenced with a ‘racial audit’ of the school undertaken solely by Austin and Hickey as the project’s principal researchers. … The audit was performed using a visual ethnographic approach, whereby the captured images were applied ‘as a referent for the development of theory’ (Harper 2005: 748). This inductive process sought to uncover the ways race was represented in the physical environment of the school from the perspective of the ethnographic outsider- both researchers had limited connection with the school prior to the project and cast their observations as ‘professional strangers’ (Agar 1996) to the site.
Translation: “we went to some school we had never been to before and took photos.”
To spare you another five pages, here is the rest of the activity:
- Show photos to kids as trigger for discussion on racism.
- Make kids take their own photos
- Get kids to make flyers about racism
- Have follow-up discussion
There. No Said references, no bullshit about “the ‘generative themes’ that emerged from the collected images and to develop an interpretation grounded in the students’ emerging knowledge of race as a socially mediated, historically signified and arbitrarily constructed mechanism of human stratification”.
That’s a session plan, like I used to design when I did youth leadership-type things. I did that voluntarily and I was not made a “professor” for it.
Seriously, this kind of thing makes those academic staff cuts look pretty great right now.
Yes, that does say “postcard style racial awareness artifact”. And no, you are not hallucinating: that is some highschool kid’s art project.
I am going to finish this rant the way that I started it: SOMEONE IS FUNDING THIS, PROBABLY OUT OF OUR TAX DOLLARS. Please make it stop!
I am currently reading a book about positive psychology called Flourish by Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology. I came across through a review of an essay collection, edited by John Brockman, called This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. One of the concepts excerpted by reviewer Maria Popova was Seligman’s “PERMA” theory, which I found intriguing – enough to do some more research and then buy his latest book for my Kindle.
Science and public policy have traditionally been focused solely on remediating the disabling conditions, but PERMA suggests that this is insufficient. If we want global well-being, we should also measure and try to build PERMA. The very same principal seems to be true in your own life: if you wish to flourish personally, getting rid of depression, anxiety, and anger and getting rich is not enough, you also need to build PERMA directly.
Just FYI, PERMA stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning and Achievement; which, according to Seligman, are the five pillars of wellbeing. The book is a self-help book to an extent, but it is very different from other self-help books that I have partially read (I can never seem to make it to the end of them…). The biggest difference is probably Seligman himself: he is not some self-help guru who has become famous through inspirational speeches about “taking CONTROL of your OWN life” or anything like that, he is a very highly respected professor of psychology at an Ivy League university and has been since before he started dabbling in positive psychology.
The result of this is a stark difference between Seligman and regular self-help gurus. For example, when Seligman claims that a certain technique improves wellbeing, he goes into extensive detail about the evidence for his claim, including not only personal anecdotes and case studies but actual randomised placebo-controlled psychological studies, which are referred to in his footnotes. There are other differences too – for instance, he has footnotes; and he considers actual policy implications of his theories; and he does not ever include sentences like:
“You can achieve AMAZING RESULTS in just ONE MONTH using the three-step system of Activation, Motivation and Vacation.”
i.e. His acronyms do not all sound like sales pitches and he uses capital letters the way God/The Queen intended.
One thing that I have gained from the book is the idea that I should encourage more positive emotions in things that I do. Looking over this blog since Saturday, I have written about:
- The growing popularity of armed intervention.
- The lack of technical literacy in homophobic British aristocrats.
- The little-reported war crimes trial of an African warlord who enslaved children.
- The Conservative argument for gay marriage and how this is being warped by the Catholic Church in America.
- Andrew Bolt attacking Bob Katter over a homophobic add.
- Rush Limbaugh losing sponsors for sexist comments and how Judaism interprets the contraception debate.
- How the Treasurer of my country seems like a paranoid conspiracist.
- How another African warlord is being turned into a perverse pop icon by people arguing one way or the other based on a stupid video or a stupid Tumblr and not bothering to actually learn anything about the guy in question.
Now, there is not a lot there that’s positive – even the things that are positive are because of something negative (i.e. positive results from Limbaugh’s abhorrent comments). As a result, I am now making a commitment to find at least one piece of good news for every two pieces of bad news, just to make Major Karnage a slightly happier place (hey, it’s a start).
So what’s the good news for today? Well, you just read it!
… nah, I’m not going to just cop-out like that. Here’s a baby reciting Shakespeare: