Letter From Planet Earth: Mummy Wars

Dear Gzorgax

I want to tell you about the mummy wars: a debate over what women should do when human couples produce offspring. Historically, in such cases the young infant has been taken care of by the female, while the male has continued working full-time. More recently women have entered the workforce more fully and have become as interested in their careers as men always have been. Understandably, they’ve struggled to reconcile this choice between work and motherhood.

Men have cleverly solved this problem for eons by feigning  — or actually — being useless in the home, so that even when liberal parents have that discussion about who will bow out of the workforce to raise the kid, it’s still normally the female who does — either that or the parents pay a less wealthy female to do it for them.

So why don’t men just muck in and raise the kids half the time? Well dear friend, on top of the history of female oppression and the devaluing of work on the domestic front there’s also good old biology. Biology is the Earth name for life sciences, a discipline which we use to inform our knowledge of all living things, except humans. Well, we use it whenever we need pharmaceuticals, but we ignore it in studying human interactions. It’s considered politically incorrect in many circles to claim that, on average, there are biologically determined behavioural differences between men and women. Because women obviously deserve equal rights, one way to assert those rights is to say women are equal to men, because they are actually the same and any perceived differences are a result of cultural forces shaped by patriarchy.

How could this possibly be true? Consider that there are obviously biologically determined differences between individuals. Now you could still say that despite this, the two groups, men and women are the same, but only if for every woman there is one and only one equivalent man, so that the two groups act like two sets with corresponding elements, much like a mathematical function. It’s an interesting idea, but it also relies on one of these man–woman pairs being born and in turn dying in perfect unison, to maintain the exact global equipoise of men and women as identical groups.

So I love the idea of battling the mummy wars by having men become stay at home dads — I think men should do it half the time. But is it likely to happen? I don’t know Gzorgax, I’m just a male and though I never claimed to be average, statistically speaking I have a brain that’s better at interpreting systems rather than human emotions, I have ten times as much testosterone as a woman and I get paid more money for doing the same work too. Why is it so hard to convince chaps like me to raise kids? Hopefully, now that gay people are increasingly allowed to have kids, they’ll simply outbreed us heteros and solve the whole problem.

Yours earthily,


This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: Love

“There is a soulmate out there for me.”

The concept of the “soulmate” is well known and all but ubiquitous in modern culture. But can this actually be true?

Soulmates must be paired, if not and if love is distributed randomly in a non-reciprocal way, everyone would be attracted to someone who is attracted to someone else. This would result in a worldwide unrequited love polygon with seven billion sides. Thus, true love is commutative and goes both ways. Let’s explore its other mathematical properties: couples are inverses; a love operation is unlikely to be transitive, as wives rarely sleep with their husband’s mistresses; and associativity is true in Mormon families — the world is an Abelian love group.

Such one-to-one matching immediately raises a few problems. The world must be made up of pairs of people which would require the world’s population to always be an even number. Also, there are more men than women in the world so there cannot be a perfect one-to-one soulmate matching. Perhaps homosexuality is the key; with male homosexuality being more common, male/male soulmates cancel out the numerical advantage. This zero-sum game could mean that that the increase in reported homosexuality around the world is the direct consequence of female infanticide in developing countries. Thus the splash of a bag containing a female baby in a Chinese river causes ripples through a home-birth pool as two queer babies disgorge into a modern Californian family.

But does everyone have a soulmate? If so, then even history’s greatest villains had a chance at true love that would be the envy of many people. Obviously Hitler had Eva Braun, but did Dr Mengele find true love on the run in Argentina or while performing experiments on Jewish Hungarian twins? Did Herr Fritzl find his true love in a basement in Austria, or is he still searching?

And does everyone always have one soulmate? It’s tempting to believe one will receive a new soulmate when a young love is unfortunately killed by accident and you never had a chance to meet, but then everyone else in the world is accounted for too. So when old Ethel kicks the bucket, is Albert left to make the short walk across the hospital hallway from palliative care to trawl the maternity ward for his freshly allocated soulmate?

If one is still convinced, one would need to get smart with their method of finding their mate. There is no way to explore a sexually and intellectually satisfying relationship with enough people to make it likely to find The One just by dating your way through the several billion potentials. The only way to even get noticed by enough potential suitors is to become very famous very quickly. This would be difficult and is typically achieved only by rock stars, minority presidents, Hitler and terrorists. The simplest option would be the latter; a short career as leader of an Islamo-Fascist terrorist cell could bring you to global infamy very quickly. You need not worry that you would alienate your mate, as they must love you (even Eva loved Adolf despite his temper). As a bonus, if the CIA hit squad got to you before your soulmate did, you would at least be guaranteed 72 virgins in heaven. Because the virgins are merely paradisiacal constructs, they’d Lie outside the Abelian love group. Sex with these virgins would not provide closure of your failed mission for your soulmate, but they’d be souls with whom you could mate for eternity.


Letter From Planet Earth: Epistemology

Dear Gzorgax

So the other day I saw an interview with a very kindly, warm-hearted woman who claimed to have survived inoperable cancer by praying to Mary Mackillop: a long dead Earthling organism whose remains are now presumably so decomposed that barely a fragment of what was previously her living self remains and therefore one of the least qualified people to do anything to affect another person’s biological health.

You might be wondering what help or counselling we are offering this clearly harmless, but delusional or stupid lady who believes in such, as it were, rot. None. In fact, the interviewer didn’t question her extraordinary claim at all. You might further wonder why the remainder of the news program and the remainder of the news week weren’t devoted to this extraordinary discovery of several magical processes which invalidate most of the claims about the universe on which you and I base our actions every day.

Well, Gzorgax, on our planet we have an interesting relationship to knowledge about the world, which I’ll try and outline as simply as I can. When knowledge is very well established, through experiment, data collection, peer-review, etc., like the claim that the Earth is getting warmer owing to post-industrial age human activity, we approach with incredulity. In fact in such cases of near unanimity of opinion among the very people who have learnt the most about the topic, we make sure to give equal credence to dissenting, ill-informed voices, in some bizarre obeisance to favouring even pathological scepticism. Which is fine I guess.

But we relax a little bit when talking about something where there is some written, historical record of events, intermingled with obvious confabulation. Take, say, Islam, which is a system of belief founded by a middle ages warlord who shagged a nine year old girl and who claimed to speak regularly to a god no one else could hear or was even allowed to claim to be able to hear, lest they be slaughtered by armies of that selfsame child-statutory-rapist. In such cases we challenge adherents only when they go too far and actually put their beliefs into practice by killing non-believers.

The least amount of scepticism is reserved for those who profess to believe in stories of creation which aren’t even written down and based on historical record, but are instead oral traditions of indigenous peoples. In such cases, because of a mix of condescension, respect and guilt for wrecked cultures, we generally don’t judge these claims at all, despite their obvious status as sub-standard fairy tales rather than coherent ontologies.

You might be worried that our civilisation is on the verge of collapse because we employ this reverse burden of proof for claims based on an inverse relationship to how much evidence the claimant can furnish. But luckily we have a failsafe called “hypocrisy” which means that people don’t actually believe any of this fluff and live their lives as if we live in a causal universe based on scientific laws and not mumbojumbo. So even while they’re praying, they still see their doctors and take their medicine.

Yours earthily,


This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Perlustrating Asseverations: The Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This packet of asseverations is normally delivered by Americans but has been a ubiquitous liberal catechism for more than 200 years. For the sake of brevity, we address each claim in sequence as succinctly as we can.
1. Self-evident. This bold opening sees the authors claim access to a priori truths about the world, without gathering evidence from the world. It’s a brazen opening which defies the work of most analytic philosophy from the last three centuries. One could certainly request a bit more epistemological parsimony from messrs Jefferson et al.

2. Men are created equal. This first, allegedly “self-evident”, “truth” is evidently false. Men (and women) are created un-equally. Being created equal should strictly involve being identical in every way, an exceedingly rare condition which applies to very few pairs and occasional trios of people. A looser definition of “equal’ is also incorrect, as some people are born with congenital defects, diseases, mutations and often they’re born dead — hardly a state one would consider equal to those born live.

3. Men have unalienable rights to life, liberty. A review of the literature quite quickly shows that men’s rights are alienable, if not morally then at the very least legally. Children, committed people, sub-functional cretins, people in comas and those who abnegate their rights every time they strap on a gimp mask and go hell for leather without a safety word are all examples of people relinquishing their allegedly inalienable rights. This fact should have been particularly evident in 1776. To wit, whereas some people were born as descendants of wealthy plantation operating slave owners, such as Thomas Jefferson, and therefore born with massive inheritances and the right to vote and not be molested, others were born as descendants of slaves who worked on said plantations and who could not vote and were molested.

5. Pursuit of happiness. A point of clarification here: this right is also clearly not unalienable, but even if it was the Declaration doesn’t further specify that we will be unimpeded in this pursuit. But is this a right worth mentioning? Have we not also the right to pursue a near infinite list of other states of being too? We find this claim to be, if true, trivial in its consequences.

6. There is a Creator. The entire passage assumes there is an agential, capitalised force which has endowed people with the above rights. Not only is there no evidence to demonstrate the existence of this god, there is also, as we have seen, evidence to demonstrate that even if he did exist, he was singularly inept at endowing people with unalienable rights. We find, therefore, that at best this Creator is a rhetorical flourish from the deistic authors, at worst an impotent demi-god who exists but can’t even uphold said rights, something which is relatively easy for Earthly judiciaries and legislatures, despite their general incompetence.

We propose a more sober rewrite might go something like:

We hold these postulations to be well supported by evidence, that very few men or women are created equally (identical twins excepted) and that they are endowed by natural evolutionary processes with highly developed prefrontal cortices providing them the capacity to appreciate abstract concepts such as justice and liberty and that being cognizant of these concepts might frequently lead to them wanting to assert some claim to unmolested furtherance of them via rights to life, liberty and the (in all likelihood, unsuccessful) pursuit of subjective states of well-being.


Perlustrating Asseverations: Extrapolation

“Proving statements wrong by extrapolating them to extremes is an ironic way to disprove silly beliefs.”

Ideas are often argued against by extrapolating them to serious, damaging conclusions. For instance: if you allow two men to be married, then eventually you’d have to allow polygamous marriage, then bestial marriage — these worrying endpoints, when contrasted with the originally innocuous proposition, make the original sound unreasonable. The argument is also referred to as a “slippery slope”.

The problem with a slippery slope argument is that it is only just an informal fallacy because it takes deduction too far. If A causes B, then B causes C, then by deduction A causes C — so runs the classic formulation. However, if A, B, and C are as different as the three possibilities of marriage described above, the deductive links are too tenuous for the argument to hold. The true conclusion is more likely to be some middle ground, which can be more accurately determined from some related situational precedents.

There are other problems with extrapolation; indeed, if everyone extrapolated in this way all the time, the simplest interaction would immediately become problematic. A simple coffee order in a cafe may result in a statement on the implications of the purchase and how it may benefit the local economy, but then would make the outrageous leap to consider the effects on the global economy — perhaps with notions of unfair trade and other topics uninteresting to the barista, or the purchaser’s friends, who must endure the dubious extrapolation politely. The extrapolator may even incorporate other nonsense concepts like socialism or — more idiotically — karma, in a barrage of wordy, extraneous philosophising.

Inevitably in such a situation, one of the hitherto patient friends would soon break and comment on how the purchaser should “lighten up” and then extrapolate and claim the purchaser’s views will lead to enviro-nazism and fanaticism. The ineluctable conclusion would be a bloody battle, using coffee cups smashed on the edges of tables as weapons. Invariably, a stray gouged-out eye here, or an arterial spurt of blood there, would cause a disruption to the neighbouring table, forcing them to take up arms, wielding teaspoons and hardened biscotti, as they too follow the slippery slope towards mass carnage, closing with inappropriate Latin acronyms as they scald the faces of their interlocutors with reasonably hot cappuccino.

The conflict would soon escalate to a war in which the enamel weapons have been traded in for real guns. News reporters, if they hadn’t already succumbed to stroke and aneurysm from the sensationalism in this world, would soon report on this horrific global, bloody battle, now disrupting the very world economy whose imperfections were first critiqued so innocently at an ANU coffee shop. What began as a simple extrapolation of an assertion, ends in an example of the same unverifiable, hypothetical consequences redolent of the speculative deductions made in everything from climate modelling, to economic forecasts and even Kantian ethics.

Ideally, people would not wantonly extrapolate all the time and instead approach reasonable compromises. Such reconciliations, unfortunately, are not always possible. Some sentiments, for instance yes/no statements, overextended claims to truth, or blind religious beliefs, have no middle ground; and some of these have no real world precedents to examine either. In such cases deduction, ridiculous or not, serves as a valid criticism of these ridiculous asseverations.


You Can’t Review That: The 21st Century So Far

To be fair, this is a mixed bag. First off the good stuff: telecommunications.The Internet threatened to be a receptacle for the sum of human knowledge, but sanity quickly prevailed and it became a delivery vehicle for a diverse, pluralistic pornography and a collection of forums which finally allowed strangers to call each other “faggot” as much as they had always wanted to.

This century has also been a zenith for cultural enrichment. The preeminent artistic modes — Hollywood and pop music — finally realised that creating new content was a foolish endeavour and have used the 21st century to replay all pop-culture from the last two decades of the 20th century, as some kind of clever homage to our immediate past. This has been fantastic.

But there has also been some unwanted repetition, like the rehashing of tired old motifs like the environmental movement and the suggestion that we should alleviate poverty in Africa. Fortunately, these have been overshadowed by more vital concerns over what ratio of toning to strengthening exercises one should do while at the gym.

And now the bad. Where is the generational challenge of our century? The forging of a meaning through a mass bloodletting? The Lost Generation had the glory of the War to End All Wars, which (excepting its titular claim) was largely successful; and the Greatest Generation had the ecstasy of the death camps. Hopefully swine flu or some kind of savage resource war will allow us the catharsis of a mass death toll from which we will emerge morally enriched.

Three stars.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2011.

Letter From Planet Earth: Eugenics

Dear Gzorgax,

It’s time I came clean: I’ve been allowing my university’s newspaper to publish my side of our correspondence over the last few months. Surprisingly, despite the publication of these epistles and despite the fact I’ve now included, among other hot potatoes, a description of the Prophet Muhammad as a “child rapist”, I’ve not received a single complaint or been rewarded with a single fatwa. So understandably old friend I feel I have carte blanche to say what people on Earth really think, even if it’s impolitic. So I’ll move straight on to eugenics.

A study by some quack doctors this month is circulating and it has the unsettling finding that when you control for socioeconomic background, children of heterosexual parents do better than children of homosexual parents. We’ll overlook the questionable methodological rigour of the study and grant it its findings. This presents us with a very uncomfortable truth which, even if we don’t like it, we must face up to, though it conflicts with our ideas of freedom. Maintaining a clear minded, realist position we must admit the obvious policy implication: we shouldn’t let poor people have children.

You see, the differences between the gay and straight parents were pretty small, but when you compare parents and don’t control for socioeconomic background the findings are fucking stark. I mean, I’m not usually all about stopping certain people from having kids, but if we’re considering effectively neutering gay parents on the grounds of parental skill, then let’s call a spade a spayed and start by sterilising poor people, criminals, scientologists, weirdos and reality TV contestants.

We tiptoe around this issue of eugenics, kind of because Nazis and Communists took it into some dark territory in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Now it’s considered gauche, to say the least, to suggest eugenic policies, unless of course you’re trying to stop gay people living normal lives. Funnily enough, one could construe any effort at changing the reproductive habits of different kinds of people as a eugenic policy. The baby bonus, abortions, contraception, welfare payments for single parents, no-fault divorce — all these things have changed people’s reproductive choices. Are they not then part of an inadvertent eugenic, or more polemically still, dysgenic policy agenda?

When you get educated people talking, Gzorgax, really talking I mean, often late at night after much wine has passed, you can find that people who would blanch at talk of Hitler’s and Stalin’s attempts to remove unwanted elements from society, will have their own severe views about runts in the litter. Probe into any social ill, like our more dire public schools, the third generation unemployed, repeat offenders, the problems with public housing, or Summernats and you’ll find people are wont to conclude, only half jokingly, that we “shouldn’t let them breed” or, more boldly, “that we should just drown them at birth”. And indeed who can argue that slaughtering the babies of criminals won’t reduce crime? We’re a nation of eugenicists Gzorgax and we don’t even know it.

Yours earthily,


This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

You Can’t Review That: Monogamy

Unlike the additional sex partners you fantasise about, this rare practice is actually more attractive than it appears. It boasts clearly superior protection from STIs and is also advantageous from budgetary and logistical viewpoints.

You can use monogamy as a way to organise your weekly schedule to include sex, without the need for any of the preparatory overtures of meeting, seduction and dating. You can also forget all that worrying about awkwardness when two of the people you’re procuring animal affirmation from (in a sexual relationship with) bump into you at the same time. You’ll also save on phone bills, coffee or meal expenses and won’t have to change your sheets as often.

There are of course downsides. Monogamy can result in a frustration of psychosexual urges, as you find yourself unable to seize and deflower any young thing carrying the imprimatur of sexual conquest. Commentators in earlier decades suggested this could be avoided by making sure your significant other represents your own parent of the opposite gender. Cold comfort for same-sex couples, who have nonetheless recently realised the advantages of monogamy and are converting to it in droves.

More importantly, though, monogamy allows you to control your partner’s libidinous urges, meaning you avoid feelings of jealousy towards their lubricity which somewhat vitiates the stifling of your own nymphomania, or satyriasis, as the case may be.

The most popular alternative to monogamy remains marriage, which is a method of avoiding monogamy from within the comfort of a heterosexual economic union. Monogamy has it beat for entry costs and success rates, but it can’t really compete in terms of social status

Slightly less cynical than voluntary celibacy, three stars.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2011.

The blog of Jamie Freestone and Mathew McGann