DAVE ROBINSON – background and interests
Never was a person luckier than one raised in the Devonshire countryside, later to settle in Australia, "the land of milk and honey" (wish it were still so*). Since arriving here in 1971, I've moved house many times, living with my family in Sydney's western suburbs, the NSW Northern Tablelands and South-east Queensland, and (after settling the children in Brisbane) with my spouse in the Sunshine Coast and more recently in far north Queensland's Clifton Beach, an outer suburb of Cairns and unquestionably my favourite abode so far. However, we have now found a picturesque spot near Brisbane, which we intend to make our final home. The vagrant life is entertaining but not necessarily to be recommended. There's something more solidly human about picking a pleasant patch in the country and building up a permanent home and lifestyle there from scratch. In today's world few people are able to go down this road.
(* November 2014 - More like a land of coal and cattle and leaning evermore in that direction under a string of incompetent prime ministers and Queensland premiers.)Dave Robinson is an exceedingly common name. Because of my amateurish interest in philosophy, I had better mention at once that I am not the Dave Robinson who is a professional philosopher and author of the fascinating book "Introducing Philosophy" and several other related books in the same series.
Interests – Mainly music, philosophy, humanism, wildlife and
Idols and heroes - These include Beethoven, Kant, Einstein, Darwin, David Attenborough and his film crews, all the great classical pianists, and perhaps most of all, our war veterans and "diggers", both dead and alive (blurb and link to slides here, slides only here, signature poem for this site Invictus and, in very different vein, one of my undecipherable doodles here.) And I should not forget my wife, whose efforts in voluntary community work I especially applaud. Many Australians, believe it or not, have never heard of one or more of the four celebrities heading this list, but few would fail to recognise my idol of the moment, that remarkable youngster, Bindi Irwin, daughter of Terri and deceased “crocodile hunter”, Steve Irwin. Long may she reign! (but I don't hold the same opinion about the crocs - see Crocs - Are there too many? ). Recently (2012) Bindi has taken up a strong stance on overpopulation, for which I commend her. Undoubtedly it is far and away the world's number one problem. Furthermore her charisma and ability to communicate have developed to such a wonderful level that I'm beginning to think she has to be the one to wake everyone up to this most dire situation (see below and here). Alas, Bindi seems to have opted (2014-15) for a career in acting and talent shows!
*Worst are those ignorant and deranged pet owners who consume prime pork and other meat without feeling profoundly guilty. They could start to make amends by watching this video and chucking their pet dog or cat on the barbeque (I don't think!)Disinterests – These are things that leave me totally unmoved (except, perhaps, for a feeling of baffled amusement), although in most cases I acknowledge their worth and generally believe the world would be a poorer place without them. Examples are Shakespeare, Oprah and Ellen, athletics (including the Olympics), gossip, line dancing, computer games and about 95% of movies.
Music – Chiefly classics, from Vivaldi (1678-1741) to Prokofiev (1891-1953), and traditional and mainstream jazz, including our very own "father of Australian jazz", the illustrious Graeme Bell: just retired from playing (4/3/06) at the age of 92, he's one of my model human beings (alas now deceased, 14/06/2012, at age 97. See biographical obituaries on internet). Although the raison d'etre of music is the creativity of the composer, in some ways I revere performers more than composers. Composition as such is much like talking or writing, and the greatest composers are just the best poets and novelists of music. Performance, on the other hand, seems to involve feats of memory and dexterity calling for more brain cells than any mere human being could possess, so I count many performers, especially pianists, among the gods (speaking metaphorically, of course).
Although lacking musical ability, I enjoy constructing stuff with a keyboard/computer midi set-up, mostly piano music and ballads (but have done nothing in the last three years). For this I mainly use Cakewalk Pro software. You can find a couple of pathetic audio samples and some scores here.
Philosophy – A combination of the Western empiricist tradition with a kind of idealist absolutism and various other elements (see My philosophical outlook and Wotser Proper Filossofer?). I'm mainly interested in trying to put everything under the one umbrella - for example, fields of knowledge as diverse as mathematics and logic, physical facts and sensory experience, and ethics and aesthetics.
The concepts of truth and integrity are central to my thinking, and, I believe, central to both science and ethics. Truth comprises mainly everyday objective facts, and meaningful explanations and ideas which are wholly consistent with these facts and which have calculable effects in the real world. Integrity refers to our willingness to recognise truths, to repel garbage and to live in tune with reality. One of my many maxims is "Truth before God, God before Scriptures", which rather too politely sums up my resoundingly negative attitude towards theism and the traditional religions (see below). Like the logical positivists, I believe there are clear criteria of truth, and that religion is the chief enemy of truth and integrity (though they certainly have many other dangerous foe). We have to thank Aristotle, undoubtedly one of the greatest (and dullest) philosophers of all time, for setting us on the road to truth. Among more recent sages Kant is my model of innovation and imagination (and impenetrability!), A J Ayer and A C Grayling my models of clarity. K.R. Popper's book The Open Society and Its Enemies is possibly one of the most significant books of the 20th century (though Herbert Marcuse, in "One Dimensional Man", seems to find many more insidious constraints on human freedom than does Popper).
In popular philosophy, "The God Delusion" (2006) by Richard Dawkins is essential anti-religious reading. (I have only just finished it, January 2007. For me, a few succinct pages in Ayer's little book, Language, Truth and Logic, were enough to get religion out of the way, but Dawkins covers a much wider field. I haven't read any of Sam Harris's stuff apart from these TruthDig contributions, which contain some of the best anti-religious material I've found so far.)
Unquestionably the worst book I've ever read is the only book that's read by many millions of people the world over (no marks for guessing, but before crossing the road stop, look right, look left, then guess). On an equally crass but less alarming level, I'm horrified by some of the views held by neo-sociologists and the "loony left/bleeding hearts brigade" (as Brisbane journalist Lawrie Kavanagh used to call them) and the corresponding destructive trends that have emerged in Australian society.
I am also an "anti-antidiscriminationist" insofar as I do not subscribe to the view that stereoyping, prejudice and "isms" of the politically unacceptable kind are never justifiable. For example, while there are several different kinds of racism, I would argue that not all of them are wrong in all circumstances, which leads me to speak of "rational racism" (and other rational "isms"). Thus it is not always wrong to judge an individual (with regard to, say, employment prospects) on the basis of your general knowledge of his race and the associated cultural background of his homeland, such as statistical information about education standards, crime levels, language proficiency, religion and so on. Indeed it is sometimes difficult to tell where mere recognition of racial charactersistics ends and stereotyping begins. Of course, I believe there are some kinds of antidiscrimination, such as against religion and certain religions and cults in particular, which provoke rational rejection in a much wider range of circumstances. But other things being equal I see no reason why, as an employer, one should be licensed to select a Harvard graduate rather than one from a lesser university, while possibly meeting with disapproval for favouring a graduate with an Australian background over one with a Pakistani background.
My optimistic intention is to use these pages mainly to present some ideas about logical theory, criteria of meaning and truth, connections between truth, integrity and "moral" behaviour, existence, an empirical view of maths and logic and the ethical philosophy of Central Humanism and associated issues.
Global concerns – Many global issues are becoming morally significant, and amongst these I include population growth, conservation, especially of natural forest, carbon pollution and vegetarianism. Some notes on these issues can be found here. Global politics and economics are currently (2010-12) in an incredible mess and seemingly getting worse. Much of the Middle East can only be described as a lunatic asylum, which spells danger for us all. Birth rates are also high in the Middle East, but in general African nations easily top the list (30-50/1000). To be honest I'm more apprehensive about the danger posed by certain increasingly overcrowded countries to Australia than the terrible hurt they inflict upon themselves. Maybe the "rich" nations should be feeding them common sense instead of corn.
A persistent problem - indoctrination – There are, of course, very many problems with the human race as such and it's hard to say which of them is most fundamental. Some say 'greed', some say 'the aggressive nature of the male of the species', others say 'the wealth/poverty divide' and so on. One fault that really bothers me is the inability of people to draw the line between trust and gullibility. However, I think number one on my list of human evils goes to the 'mis-education of children', which results in the perpetuation of barbarism, the destructive social mindset that people rarely come to recognise for what it is. I'm referring especially to informal education - the stuff that gets passed down from parent to child through the generations, representing the cultural heritage. The brain of every child becomes more or less hardwired with cultural garbage, ranging from what they think they should eat to the outlandish fantasies of the traditional religion of their particular society. What they come to see as a way of life for themselves is really a way of death for humanity.
"Every child has the right to be shielded against religious indoctrination"If we're going to brainwash our kids with anything, let it be with creative, caring, conservationist ideas and objective truths rather than with ambitions of destruction, greed, hatred, and trading in nonsense. But above all they should be taught to think for themselves. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ideal of "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" has little relevance for human beings who lack the capacity for autonomous, rational thought. I need hardly add that I am passionately, unconditionally and irrevocably opposed to the religious indoctrination of young children. Although religious propaganda is by no means the worst misfortune that may threaten the life of a child, it is one of the most widespread and ought to be considered a serious offence.
Religion, in all its forms, is a malignant disease - an anti-truth, anti-life virus that is capable of infecting even scientists (like Francis Collins, for example). Thinking of religion as anything but a disease inevitably leads to exasperation and loss of respect for the sufferers. But I must admit I do think of it in more aggressive terms when the victim is an otherwise intelligent, well educated, responsible human being. Such a person is fully accountable to himself, so his integrity and moral fortitude are called into question. It is a complete mystery to me how any reasonable person could have a shadow of doubt that all the traditional religions are deeply immoral. It's unethical for people to take seriously, and to run their lives in compliance with, a heap of glaringly obvious falsehoods, fairytales, deceptions and meaningless nonsense. And it's even more unethical to force-feed your children with this type of garbage, at a stage when they cannot possibly assess its worth. It's unethical because it's mind-destroying and dangerous. As I have contended elsewhere (e.g. see here), religion is unquestionably the excrement of the human mind, and those who drag their children through it - well, let's try to stay polite and say they are doing them the greatest disservice.
Wildlife – Nothing, but nothing, astonishes me more than the enormous diversity, complexity and beauty of life on our planet. The unrelenting ambition of Homo sapiens to destroy it has turned me into an extreme cynic. 95% of human beings are my enemies. With that frame of mind as a backdrop, my personal wildlife hobby is (now becoming more of a "was") mainly bird-watching (feathered kind!), and the bush-walking that goes along with it. My childhood was greatly enriched by two little books: The Observer's Book of British Birds and The Observer's Book of British Butterflies. The same books that instilled in me the collector’s passion for stealing birds’ eggs and pinning butterflies to cork boards eventually gave me the love and respect that put an end to those insensitive hobbies. To this day I fondly remember the contrasting regal colours of Vanessa atlanta and the silver song of Phylloscopus sibilatrix. When I came to Queensland I soon realised this immense, sun-baked region is a naturalist's paradise: I'm definitely no expert, but I'm convinced there's stuff out there - perhaps even warm-blooded - that doesn't get a mention in any book.
Travel and cultures - "Wherever you go, go with all your heart” (Confucius). Have travelled widely, especially in India and Europe. Delights for the senses, food for the mind, people never to be forgotten, but there's a devil of a lot to be done out there. No place like home. I'm torn between global humanitarianism and patriotism (though there's no particular reason why they should not coexist).
Soccer – the king of sports. I follow the English game as much as I can, which isn’t very much. (Don’t have Foxtel etc). These notes, mainly about Queensland soccer, were getting a bit long and ragged, so they’ve been transferred to here.
Graphic arts etc – While I have no talent whatsoever as an artist, I find the graphic arts more enriching than poetry (but less so than music). My favourite schools are impressionism and most of the related "isms". See this page for some fine examples.
Miscellaneous – I've had a long interest in computer keyboard design and have researched the subject thoroughly. Everyone knows the standard keyboard layout (like that of the piano!) is ridiculous. But what to do about it? On the home page there's a link to the best solutions I can offer.
My "professional expertise" is in the far-removed field of poultry husbandry and nutrition. During a lifelong career in the poultry industry I sometimes went out of my way to justify its practices and give moral support to the farmers. I now think I was totally mistaken. Well, not quite totally - I still believe the "middle-of-the-road" stance adopted by most farmers, researchers and the public is the least justifiable. There are four unassailable objections to intensive animal production (“factory farming”), namely food wastage, cruelty, health hazards and environmental degradation (though recent research suggests that products from grazing animals, such as beef, lamb and milk, have a larger "carbon footprint"). Why I didn't understand the arguments long ago I really don't know. Anyway, I've finally become a staunch opponent of the "battery" cage system of egg production, and of the nonsensical research aimed at propping the system up (or knocking it down). A cage is a cage is a cage. And as for chicken, I never want to touch another piece as long as I live! Let others have the pleasure of licking their damned fingers!
After purchasing, inhabiting and selling about 12 houses in Australia, I consider myself to be well versed in real estate, but not wise. Our average stay in any one location (including rented premises) is less than three years. Each new home is like a holiday. Keeping abreast of the market and scanning the "for sale" pages on the internet has become a bit of a pastime.