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How does this uncritical anti-science nonsense end up on the front page?

Am I the only one who’s completely horrified by the Australian media’s embrace of the ongoing publicity campaign by the Catholic Church over the canonisation of Mary MacKillop? Not content with wall-to-wall coverage of the announcement just before Christmas, we’re now being treated to nonsense like this and this (and this!) on the front pages of the newspapers.

Rather than fulminate at length, I’m going to confine myself to a few questions. How is it even remotely okay for major newspapers to be publishing uncritical articles about “miracles” on their front pages in 2010? Have we really lost the fight against the anti-science mob that comprehensively? If such claims were made by another, less established religion or belief-system (let’s say Scientology, or perhaps the Exclusive Brethren) would they be allowed to go through to the keeper so easily? And what does that tell us about the power and influence of the big churches, and the Catholic Church in particular? And finally, and perhaps most pertinently, why are editors who are so resistant to the scientific evidence surrounding climate change so uncritical when it comes to this sort of religious claptrap?

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15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Damien Millar #

    The worst parts of nationalism and magical thinking all bound up.

    January 12, 2010
    • “Our Mary” is one thing when it’s a princess, another altogether when it’s a saint.

      January 12, 2010
      • blackdog04 #

        Is it your computer or mine? … by some miracle, the date says it’s 12 January 2010 – hmmm … what would I do differently this year?

        October 17, 2010
    • It’s not a mistake, just an old post I retweeted (demonstrating I was way ahead of the times in bitching about MacKillop).

      But yes, to have 2010 back again . . .

      October 17, 2010
  2. Absolutely. A calm assessment of the prevalence of spontaneous remission would have been welcome, together with an estimate of how many millions of other people with cancer did NOT get Magic Mary’s help…

    January 12, 2010
  3. janiece #

    I was listening to a radio story on this very thing last night on the ABC while driving home, and I thought: what if someone said they had put on Harry Potter-esque robes and waved a wand and said magic words and clapped their hands three times and thereby cured this woman? What if that person was on the news in said robes and pointy hat? How would people respond? And is there much difference? Seems like this sacred cow (either the religion or the saint: you choose) is one of the few remaining sacred cows.

    January 12, 2010
  4. godardsletterboxes #

    Oddly, we were having a discussion about the whole notion of sainthood for some reason last night (which may or may not have had to do with Dungeons and Dragons, which says something in itself). The whole bunkumness of the miracle thing is a shocker – and the entire “saint” thing is so political anyway. In the past you could have saints who were alive, but now that would be an absolute no goer because of the manner in which it would disrupt the power structures of the Catholic church. The idea of saints in a period of rationality is silly, particulary the lengths gone to try and locate a verifiable miracle. If we can’t believe in other forms of magic, why should we believe in this.

    January 12, 2010
  5. Yes, but it could be something to do with Tony Abbott, of course.

    January 12, 2010
  6. I agree with Damian that it’s all about nationalism – if we can be good at cricket and rugby league and swimming and beer-drinking and bushfires, then surely we can also knock up a saint. Australia always wants what everyone else wants, and to-date we haven’t had a saint, so we better get ourselves one, and by any means possible.

    January 12, 2010
  7. darcymoore #

    Recently, the fact that our secular, political leaders are such high profile Christians has really been bothering me. Most people I have discussed this with do not seem to be too concerned. However, like you, the recent uncritical media attention about saints and miracles has really annoyed and seems to compound this issue in my mind. It must impact on their leadership. Have we forgotten that ‘Coalition of the Willing’ was led by Christians, Bush and Blair, which heavily influenced their political and military decison-making.

    KRudd and TAbbott, especially Abbott, really need to focus and act on the science of climate change being a little more concerned about carrying on the Enlightenment Project rather than giving a nod to superstitious claptrap (regardless of the race to the bottom for votes).

    BTW, bit worried that Nigel, in the comment above, wants to ‘knock up a saint’.

    January 12, 2010
  8. Tony Isaacs #

    I noticed that on all of the stories that I’ve see so far, comments are disabled. Funny that.

    January 12, 2010
  9. darcymoore #

    Assuming that Abbott is quoted accurately, you can see the impact of his Belief on his language – “the only way to get the Queensland Government to listen is to appeal to a higher authority” – in the first news article I read this morning:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/12/2790883.htm?section=justin

    It is not just language, of course. Why not develop some untrammelled wilderness areas, says Tony, sticking up for Indigenous community’s right to economic progress.

    *insert appropriate blaspheme here*

    January 13, 2010
  10. Holy Jo #

    You know bugger all about saint making and seem well content to remain in ignorance.

    January 14, 2010
  11. Only goes to prove one thing: that editors are not interested in the truth, only in sales

    January 15, 2010
  12. sailor1031 #

    Now if Mother Mary could regrow severed limbs for amputees I’d think maybe, just maybe…….but then I’d think No this is either a fake or something science doesn’t yet understand.

    January 15, 2010

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