30 November 2013


Because I tried to philosophise.

Usually I try to leave philosophy to philosophers, like Patrick Stokes, a friend who shares my disdain for pseudoscientific claptrap, who introduced me to the concept of 'Unscience', and who spoke at the Australian Skeptics National Convention last week.

Given the task of writing poems for the convention that aligned with the topics of each talk, I tried my hand at rhyming about ethics and conspiracy theories.

I still think I should leave philosophy to philosophers.

For centuries, rather a lot of philosophy’s
Centred on ethics and morals and stuff.
Addressing the question of whether the measures
Of rightness and wrongness are useful enough.

It’s clear we don’t need to explain a no-brainer like
“Biting your nanna is horrible” but
Examples that cover the span of humanity
Rarely turn up so precisely clear-cut.

For instance, the good in a proper democracy
Stems from the value in freedom of choice.
But humans aren’t perfect, and choosing imprudently
Gives us Clive Palmer or Barnaby Joyce.

And what about puppies? We clearly love dearly
Their fluff and their frisk and their flop-footed stride.
But might we be keener to harm them or farm them
If puppies had chocolate and money inside?

And what about people who hear a conspiracy,
Having no doubt that the theory is true?
Are they more inclined to have virtue or hurt you?
Are they good or bad from an ethical view?

There might be no harm in believing the weaving
Of fiction and fact from which theories are wrought.
But when these tall stories have traction, and action
Turns violent, such theories need serious thought.

It’s fine to be loosely ensconced in such nonsense,
Like, “Fluoride is driving me crazy! What fun!”
‘Cause up to a point they’re just plain entertainment
And little, if any, real damage is done.

But when theorists stock up at gun shops, the fun stops.
When vaccines are shunned and small babies are lost;
When farms are burnt down to defend an agenda,
Then surely an ethical line has been crossed.

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