October 21st 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Reality of family unit must underlie tax system

EDITORIAL Christianity today: the challenges ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED Xenophon: a Mr Fixit or a political yo-yo?

DRUGS POLICY Science elbowed aside in rush for latest silver bullet: 'medical marijuana'

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE Decoys to revolutionary laws redefining sex and marriage

FOREIGN AFFAIRS What is the way out of the Catalan crisis?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Our barmy Army: all politically correct

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The child as weapon in Family Court process

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Faiths and the global future

KOREA Hermit Kingdom versus the Land of Morning Calm

MUSIC Hi-tech lo-fi: Resistance is futile

CINEMA Blade Runner 2049: A cypher unlocking a mystery

BOOK REVIEW The rebels

BOOK REVIEW An attempt to break through the fog


HUMOUR More excerpts from the forthcoming revision of Forget's Dictionary of Inaccurate Facts, Furphys and Falsehoods


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE: George Christensen calls Parliament's attention to activists' end-game

EUTHANASIA Victoria mistakes killing for compassion

Books promotion page

An attempt to break through the fog

News Weekly, October 21, 2017


by Jeremy Bell and John McCaughan

Connor Court, Redland bay
Paperback: 79 pages
ISBN: 9781925501124

Price: AUD$19.95

Reviewed by Peter Kelleher

Jeremy Bell and John McCaughan attempt in this short book to do the near impossible: to reach people who are scarcely amenable to reason and to whom any mention of religion or religious motivation is a matter for apology.

I gather this conclusion from four factors: one, the book is very short, just 79 pages; two, repeated appeals that readers not find totally uncontroversial or reasonable assertions “bizarre”; three, that religion is emphatically left to one side; and four, that the pair try to make an argument from natural law without laying bare that that is what they are doing.

I must emphasise that I find it commendable that the pair proceed in this fashion. Charity and common sense both agree that tailoring your message to your intended audience is indispensible. Whether they reach their audience in the current climate of civil, or uncivil, discourse is doubtful. For the appeal is not only to a readership that is unreachable by any appeal to religion or tradition; it is to a readership in whom emotion trumps reason in every forum.

The authors make every assertion as carefully as if they were walking on eggshells; and given the tenor of the debate on same-sex marriage, in which the “No” camp has been demonised unremittingly as “haters” and “homophobes” by the usual chorus in the mainstream media even as every outrage against them has been an occasion of ridicule or silence or denial – they did well to take such care.

Yet, I must say that in their few pages, for those who will take hour or so to read them, they do an admirable job that would set the most obstinately obtuse mind thinking along the lines of natural law, especially when applied to sex.

The basic premise of the book is that life does have meaning (pace the fundamentalist evolutionists and nihilists) and that choices we make as intelligent creatures consequently also have meanings. Which means what we do with our human faculties has meaning. And that what we call “good” or “bad” merits those characterisations in so far as any act we perform works towards our completion and fulfillment as a human person (good) or works against it (bad).

Much of what the book has to say applies generally to the use of the sexual faculty, not just to the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. So, for  instance, what the authors say about the intimate bond between the two ends of sex – the unitive (what the authors call “romantic love”) and the procreational – can equally apply to the contracepting heterosexual couple as to the same-sex couple: both are separating the unitive end of sex from its reproductive end.

The authors say some fine things and elaborate well on many points. Their exposition on the meaning of pleasure – pages 51 and following – (even just that pleasure has meaning) is a pleasure to read. Their use of the phrase “love giving birth to love” is as poetic as it is descriptive of human reproduction.

The passage on page 25 regarding the sometimes controverted assertion that a happy home is indispensible for children’s development is worth quoting:

“We think the peculiar bitterness of unhappy family relationships in one way tells in favour of this description. Why would an unhappy family life leave such deep scars if we did not all have a burning need for a happy one? Simple, uninterrupted ‘domestic bliss’ may well not exist except in sentimental novels and Hollywood films, yet we long for it all the same and we know that, in some sense, it is what family life should be.”

A couple of false notes creep in as the writers try to allude to as many useful ideas to progress their argument as they can without getting too deeply into waters where their desired readership would likely simply sink. The first is the too blunt assertion that “the concept of ‘goodness’ has no role in science”. Is an invalid conclusion not a “bad” conclusion? Is not CERN’s Large Hadron Collider a “good” collider? After all, it is the analogous use of the terms “good” and “bad” that allows us to move within natural law to the strictly moral use of the terms.

The other false note is when the authors attempt a shortcut via the intuition of a spiritual dimension in nature to assertions about a being above the natural order: that is, a supernatural being. All well there. But then to illustrate that, they defer to Black Elk of the Oglala Lakota tribe of North America.

Perhaps I am being picky; after all, for those who have sat through today’s religious studies programs at school Black Elk may be a household name, while Maximilian Kolbe and Dietrich Bonhoeffer are mere footnotes.

Purchase this book at the bookshop:


All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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