Saturday, 27 March 2010

Gary Ablett Sr. on things he doesn't understand

Gary Ablett is a well known former AFL player, as is his eldest son, Gary Ablett. However the young Gary Ablett seems to have the intelligence not to "write" an article on the Herald Sun website.

His father clearly doesn't. "What kind of world do we want to live in?" he asks, and proceeds to use 2,777 words to argue that it's essentially "one with God in it".

This is an article already embroiled in scandal, he plagiarised a few sections from American evangelical websites and then some.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Misquotes and morality

The article opens with two quotes:

THERE is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." (Herbert Spencer)

The famous King Solomon, considered the wisest man of his day, also said, "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him". (Proverbs 18:13)

Only one of these quotes is actually correctly attributed. Herbert Spencer never said that quote. According to Wikiquote it's misattributed to him. It is, in fact, a quote by William Paley. Yep, that's right, the watch guy.

I think that says a lot for this article, or at least whoever fact checks for the Herald.

However don't think this article is just about misquoting, it's also about morality, and looking back to another unspecified time in the past (probably somewhere from 1973 to 2009). He says things like:

...[T]hat we should each begin to grow and learn; aspiring to live better, more meaningful, more productive and more effective lives. Surely we should each be focused on discovering how we as individuals and communities can learn to live and work together in order to produce a far more peaceful, stable, secure and loving environment?

Sadly, in this once great nation of Australia, this does not seem to be the case, which is why I feel burdened and compelled to speak out.


Today, our newspapers, televisions and computer screens are full of shocking and horrible crimes, detailing a very serious decline in morals and values in our community. We read stories that describe a rapid deterioration in standards of behaviour wherever we look. Our culture struggles under the massive weight of increasing problems associated with hatred, anger, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide, family breakdown, the devaluing of human life and dignity, and a growing disrespect for law and order, to name just a few - all of which work together to create and subsequently feed an enormous and expanding hole in the moral fabric that once upon a time held our society firmly together.

And also,

However, over recent years we have shifted further and further away from the inclusion of anything godly in our planning, decision-making and policy-setting; so while we watch our standards crumble and our moral foundations erode away, we somehow simultaneously manage to sit back and wonder why society has no sure and stable footing left on which to build a strong and solid culture?

All of which suggest a desire to go back to earlier times, since we know that looking nostalgically back at the past is the best way to determine if our society is crumbling instead of looking back at it in a critical light.

Now when I gave a range I started at 1973, why that specific year you ask? Well by 1973 the White Australia Policy was practically finished. Perhaps I should have said 1975, when the Racial Discimination Act 1975 (Cth) was passed, outlawing the previous immigration policy.

Honestly I would have started at 1984, which is the year that the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), but considering Ablett is a footballer, and the brouhaha with Lara Bingle and the proliferation of nude photos among AFL players, I figure that it's probably not the best starting date.

However, it is somewhat laughable to hear Ablett opine about the decline of morality when he has, in his words:

People also know and remember me because of some of my off-field moments, which were not so successful.

Not so successful off field moments? People know about him? It must have been in the media, the very people he states shows a decline in morality.

Jason Ball, in this post from the Young Australian Skeptics also has noticed this rather hypocritical stance.

On February 17 2000, 20 year old Alisha Horan was found dead in room 1265 of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne. The man with her in the room? Gary Ablett Sr. The man who provided the drugs? Gary Ablett Sr.

We are reading an article opining the decline in morals, from a man who was directly involved in the death of a young woman. A man who, according to this article from The Age, declined to answer most of the questions he was asked at the coroner's inquest because he might incriminate himself.

Or as he claims, because the Horan family wanted him to protect their daughter's reputation.

This is one of the "off-field moments, which [was] not so successful". Seriously, Ablett opining about the decline in morals is about as hypocritical as David Richardson (of "Barcelona Tonight" fame) telling us we need stronger journalistic ethics.

His answer is God.

I believe without a doubt that our nation is in crisis and is in its current predicament because we have deliberately disconnected ourselves from our Christian heritage and history. We are a nation that was originally founded upon the word of God and established on the authority of biblical truth. Our political system, our judicial system and most of our schools and hospitals were begun by godly men and women who based their lives and work on godly principles.

Americans may recognise this argument from Evangelical Christians in the US.

And yet, these godly men decided to preserve our Christian heritage in our country by putting section 116 in the Constitution Act. Yep, the Commonwealth isn't allowed to establish any religion, force people to worship or use religious tests for office. Funny how they decided to do that.

Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.

Now we'll look at the part of the article that made Ablett the genius he his today. Since he is the guy that many of us quote.

Clearly Ablett didn't let work evade his eyes, and I guess he must have called it "research".

Perhaps he was listening to Tom Lehrer's "Lobachevsky" when he did it (but I don't think he did), but he stole some of his arguments from other websites and people.

As stated in the second link in this post, the paragraph on humanism was nicked from here, and PZ Meyers points out here that the peanut butter argument came from Chuck Missler.

The former is just laziness, the latter is the same old regurgitation of debunked arguments. But don't think Ablett needs to plagiarise to attack science, he's perfectly able to do that himself.

In which a career footballer tries to argue against evolution

It started with a convention:

One of the things that triggered my response was that I became aware that there was an atheist convention in Melbourne last week. Richard Dawkins, a renowned atheist, gave a message entitled, "From goo to you through the zoo".

Now it is bad enough misleading us by telling us we descended from convicts but to tell us we descended from "apes" - come on!

And ends with this passage.

Too bad reality doesn't change when you are confronted with ideas that you don't believe in. But his hatred of evolution continues.

Man might look like an ape, act like a goat, eat like a pig, think like a jackass, be as stubborn as a mule and as cunning as a fox, but a man is still a man and has been that way right down through recorded history. I openly confess to being no scientist, nor will I try to pretend to be one. However, it is not hard for the average person to understand some of the basic laws and principles within the scientific world. There is so much misinformation out there called "science", masquerading as "truth", and because we've been taught to believe these falsehoods it takes an abundance of information to get these misconceptions unseated. So please bear with me as I may need to get quite technical to get my message across.

I've bolded the most important sentence in this passage. Remember folks, get your science from actual scientists, not former-AFL players who think they actually understand what it is they are arguing against. However he has decided to pretend to be someone who actually understands what it is he is arguing against.

For example, molecular biologist Michael Dentin pointed out in his book, Evolution, A Theory in Crisis, that even Charles Darwin had to admit he had absolutely no hardcore empirical date, no concrete evidence, no substantial scientific facts, nothing to prove any of the major evolutionary transformation he asserted. The fact is that fossil records do not support Darwin's theory. Experts have come to realise that the gaps in the fossil records and the absence of precursor and intermediate forms are such that they can no longer be ignored or his theory be taken seriously. It was Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution himself, that confessed in a letter to Ossy Gray on September 5, 1857 that "one's imagination must fill up the very blanks".
I don't really know whether Ablett is quoting from Denton, or writing his own drivel here, and as far as I'm aware the quoted bit doesn't appear anywhere except in this article. Hell I can't even find the existence of an Ossy Gray. I think I've found the letter in question here (and also here, select page 120) to an Asa Gray, and it appears that Ablett is not beyond using a quote mine. Well I guess it's not lying when you're lying for Jesus.

The part of the letter that includes this bit is actually as follows:
VI. One other principle, which may be called the principle of divergence plays, I believe, an important part in the origin of species. The same spot will support more life if occupied by very diverse forms: we see this in the many generic forms in a square yard of turf (I have counted 20 species belonging to 18 genera),—or in the plants and insects, on any little uniform islet, belonging almost to as many genera and families as species.— We can understand this with the higher, animals whose habits we understand. We know that it has been experimentally shown that a plot of land will yield a greater weight, if cropped with several species of grasses than with 2 or 3 species. Now every single organic being, by propagating so rapidly, may be said to be striving its utmost to increase in numbers. So it will be with the offspring of any species after it has broken into varieties, or sub-species or true species. And it follows, I think, from the foregoing facts, that the varying offspring of each species will try (only few will succeed) to seize on as many and as diverse places in the economy of nature, as possible. Each new variety or species, when formed will generally take the place of and so exterminate its less well-fitted parent. This, I believe, to be the origin of the classification or arrangement of all organic beings at all times. These always seem to branch and sub-branch like a tree from a common trunk; the flourishing twigs destroying the less vigorous,—the dead and lost branches rudely representing extinct genera and families.

This sketch is most imperfect; but in so short a space I cannot make it better. Your imagination must fill up many wide blanks.— Without some reflexion it will appear all rubbish; perhaps it will appear so after reflexion.— | C. D.
I added the previous paragraph for context, but it's rather clear that the quote in question is about Darwin's crappy diagram rather then him stating that evolution doesn't have enough evidence and that you need to use your imagination.

I'm wondering if the Herald Sun actually employ spell and fact checkers, since this article seems to require both.

Beyond that, this paragraph is just wrong, and the article is just getting wronger as you continue through it.
With testimonies like this from the author of evolution himself, I submit to you that the theory of evolution is not only lacking in facts, but has absolutely no foundation whatsoever. If it was only ever a theory, how did it find its way into our classrooms and society as fact?
So we have a "testimony" from Darwin that is a quote mine the misuse of the word "theory".

The next three paragraphs are the peanut butter jar argument. I'm not really going to discuss this, but I would like to say that he has mistaken abiogenesis for spontaneous generation. He also uses the creationist definition of "information" which is I believe "whatever the hell you want it to mean".

To inform us about information
This begs the question that since information is not inherent within matter itself, nor can it be derived from natural law, "where did it come from?"

Take today's newspaper, for example, with the codes and printing on it. To try and derive the information in the newspaper from the natural laws that govern the paper alone is impossible because the information needs to be printed on to the laws that govern the paper.

To attempt to derive the morning's news from the chemistry of the paper alone without the input of information is absurd. Even in a simple newspaper we can appreciate "Intelligent Design". It is the same as a genetic code imprinted according to the laws of information and language on to matter.

Hey look, it's another standard creationist argument. Well, I guess the Herald Sun has newspapers that reproduce, so clearly that proves evolution wrong.

Let's just ignore the fact that we write newspapers to be different every day and that there is massive change between editions.

And we see that pesky "information". I wonder what it could mean? He still hasn't made that clear to us. At least we know it's about genetics. If DNA is like a newspaper then I'd say that Gary Ablett Sr.'s would read something like this:

5' Gary Ablett Sr. Born again Christian, therefore no understanding of science, AFL player, intelligence limitations to be implemented, prone to using drugs and making stupid arguments. 3'

If he hadn't already mentioned that we need God, we would be wondering how long until we get to "needs designer" (next paragraph in his article) and then "who is the designer (hint: G-d)".

Never play probability games with Ablett

More standard creationist canards are presented, this time the old "DNA is too improbable to form" coupled with the "hurricane through a junkyard" and that biological evolution is used to make aeroplanes.

Some of the renowned and respected scientists and mathematicians through the world have concluded that something as complex as the "DNA" molecule of every living thing occurring by chance is 10 to the power 130. In other words, one chance in 10 with a hundred and thirty zeros after it ... that is a huge number.

So remember folks, don't play a game of cards with him for money. He'll try and use crappy statistics to get out of paying you.

Too bad things like non-random selection and the simple fact that the probability of an even occurring that has already occurred is 1, does not factor into this man's head. Perhaps he'd forget his 6 times tables or something.

Where the Bible is quoted to attack science

It's the classic Romans quote. You know, Romans 1:23-25 where Paul says that everyone knows that God exists and you're an idiot for not accepting it?

Well it's in there, and he's calling everyone who doesn't believe what he does and idiot. It's a great way to convert people, until you get to the person who would rather be an idiot then blindly believe the things you do.

He concludes with this:

Advances in microbiology, DNA et al have dealt the final death blow to Darwinism.

DNA is a digital code.

Darwinism cannot explain the origin of life because it cannot explain the origin of information.

I think these three sentences summarise how ignorant he is of the actual science.

I guess he's been reading Ken Ham or something, because someone who has actually looked at what science actually says would not draw such stupid conclusions.

Ending the article with a poem

I'm not going to bother with the last couple of paragraphs. It's just more of the same. Evolution is a lie, no God leads to the self destruction of our way of life. And this:

God's word tells us we are a very special and unique and precious creation, made in God's image for an eternal relationship with God and a purpose and a destiny that is mind-blowing. And God loves and values us so much that He was willing to leave His glory, take on human nature and enter into His own creation to undo the damage done by a dark intruder, and provide a mechanism by which you and I can qualify and be eligible for that relationship, purpose and destiny which is there for the asking. But that is all I will say, as I am aware this is a sensitive area for some. I do not wish to come across as a Bible basher or a religious fanatic, for this is not a church.

A remarkable piece of dissonance here. The thing is Mr. Ablett, you do come across as a Bible basher and/or a religious fanatic. It's that simple. All the stuff above the bold? Bible bashing and religious fanaticism.

It closes with a poem that basically blames godlessness for Colombine. It's as if he wants people who think for themselves to not be swayed by his argument.

Much of his article was a rant against evolution. Since he opened his article with a fake quote from Herbert Spencer, I think I'll let him have the last word.

The quote comes from The Development Hypothesis:
Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution as not being adequately supported by facts, seem to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Baseline for LCN DNA Analysis

This came up in a discussion about JonBenét Ramsey. The main point in the discussion was that a baseline was needed for touch DNA analysis, which became synonymous with Low Copy Number (LCN) analysis. There is quite a bit of background here that needs to be covered as well, because this case will is also an example for this post. If you want to read the short answer, just scroll all the way down to the last line.

Background and Evidence

In 1996 she was found dead in the basement of her parents' home in Boulder, Colorado and the case is still unsolved. There has been much discussion of who actually committed the crime, some arguing the parents did it, others an intruder, but there is no resolution in sight. In a way it echoes the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance here in Australia in that there are people who think that Lindy Chamberlain killed her daughter and blamed the dingoes.

Back in 2008 the Washington Times reported that the Boulder DA had cleared the Ramseys (although Patsy Ramsey had died in 2006). Forensic Scientists had analysed touch DNA on the leggings that she was wearing on the night she died. This DNA matched DNA found on her panties.

Now it gets a little tricky here. DNA was also found under her fingernails the belonged to an unknown person. Now according to CBS News 48 Hours this DNA also matched that on her panties. I'm having trouble finding corroborating evidence for this, but assuming that it's all true we've got DNA from under her fingernails, DNA on her panties, and touch DNA from her leggings. Apparently these all match.

It's the last one that caused this discussion, but there is still a little more to cover.

What is "touch DNA"?

"Touch DNA" is a term that describes DNA that is left by touching an object.

The concept relates to Locard's exchange principle, which essentially explains the idea behind trace evidence. Whenever you do something you will leave a trace behind. It may not necessarily be DNA but it will be something from you. This includes hair samples, fibres, footprints and fingerprints. The opposite is also true, you will take something from the place you are at. This includes dirt in your shoes, other fibres or hairs and the like.

Touch DNA is an extension of this idea. Since some of the things that make up fingerprints includes skin cells it is possible to extract DNA from a fingerprint. However such DNA does not have to come from a fingerprint, it may come from other body parts as well, so your clothes will contain extractable and examinable DNA as well.

This article from the FBI analysed DNA gathered from clothing. They gathered DNA from both the inside and outside of the clothes and analysed it for DNA. Interestingly they found samples of DNA from other people including spouses and in one case from someone who nobody knew at all. The fact that this was from a newly opened package of hosiery made things all the more interesting.

This article was cited as evidence as to why a baseline was needed.

But before we look at that we will need to look at what LCN DNA analysis is.

What is LCN DNA Analysis? How does it relate in this case?

Low Copy Number Analysis, also called/considered a subset of Low Template Analysis, is the analysis of small amounts of DNA. Normally this analysis is used when regular Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) analysis doesn't provide a testable amount of DNA. The sample sizes that we are looking at here is less then 200 pg (about 2x10-13kg). Normally samples contain about 0.5 to 2ng (5x10-13kg to 2x10-12kg) of DNA usually because you amplify it with PCR. The University of Leicester has a page on the subject.

PCR is best describes as a DNA photocopier. It uses the same proteins that are used in DNA copying, although the taq polymerase comes from Thermus Aquaticus, a thermophilic bacteria, so the polymerase is able to withstand higher temperatures, like those used to separate the DNA strands. It should be noted that it copies the DNA of everything that's in the sample, so contamination is a very real problem and great care is taken to prevent it.

Normal PCR amplification uses about 28 cycles. LCN adds an extra 6 cycles, so the amplification process uses 34 cycles.

As far as I'm aware there is, as yet, no data available as to how much touch DNA was gathered. It was assumed that it was a very small amount, so naturally it was assumed that LCN analysis was used.

Has LCN DNA Analysis been used in other cases?

In Australia such analysis was used in the murder of Peter Falconio. DNA was found on cable ties that were used to bind Joanne Lees. The DNA was found to belong to Bradley John Murdoch, who was later convicted of the murder. The court was told at the time that the odds of it belonging to someone else were 1 in 150 quadrillion.

In 2007 it was used in the Omagh bombing case in the UK. After concerns from the justice in the case the CPS suspended the use of LCN, and ordered a study. In 2008 the CPS announced that there was no inherent unreliability in the analysis.

It has also been used in cases like the murder of Anna Lindh, a Swedish politician, where the DNA came from a knife handle, and in the murder of Marion Crofts. This pdf from the Forensic Science Service has a few more examples.

So why a baseline?

The logic behind the baseline is that with the small amounts of DNA involved there might be an increase in the number of people falsely accused by DNA evidence.

Therefore a baseline of some sort should be found to see if the DNA is coincidental or not. The idea being once you have the baseline you will be able to discriminate between "coincidental" and "relevant" samples.

In my opinion though there is no way to statistically determine whether a sample is coincidental. The DNA needs to be processed and looked at in light of the other evidence. In the Ramsey case it's that this DNA appeared on the leggings, the panties, and under her fingernails. It was found to be the same DNA. But how did it get there?

DNA Transfer

LCN analysis is rather recent, the earliest case is from 1999, but the concept of DNA transfer is older, but has not been studied in great detail. There are plenty of articles out there though.

One of the issues brought up in the Ramsey discussion was that the DNA could have been transferred by JonBenét herself. Theoretically this is possible, but there is limited evidence that it did occur.

It depends on how it transferred, and also how much DNA was found. If we were to see transference we would see much DNA under her fingernails, and less on the clothing in the order that she put them on.

Now DNA transference can be ordered. Firstly we have primary transfer. This is DNA transferred when when you touch a doorknob, or a mouse, or shake hands with someone. The DNA is being transferred directly from you to the person or object. This is essentially a given.

Next is secondary transfer. This is when DNA is transferred to a third party. So let's say Person A shakes hands with Person B. Some of Person A's DNA will be transferred to Person B. This is primary transfer. Then Person B uses the same hand to open a door. Some of his DNA will be transferred (again primary), and some of Person A's DNA will be transferred. The latter is secondary transfer. Person A didn't touch the doorknob but some of his DNA is on it.

There have been studies that examine this. Lowe et al. examined this in the 2002 paper The propensity of individuals to deposit DNA and secondary transfer of low level DNA from individuals to inert surfaces (abstract here). They started by determining how good a DNA shedder the subjects were. Once they determined who was a good shedder and who was a poor shedder they washed the hands of the poor shedder and got them to shake hands with the good shedder. The poor shedder then touched an object and they used LCN analysis to see which profiles they found.

Turns out the poor shedder is a poor shedder for 6 hours after they wash their hands, and they managed to find the good shedder on the object.

However, Ladd et al. found in A systematic analysis of secondary DNA transfer (1999) (here) found no transfer, they also found that primary transfer was:
[H]ighly dependent upon the individual handling the objects or performing the handshaking.
Next is tertiary transfer. In the example with Person A and Person B tertiary transfer would be if Person C touched the same doorknob that Person B did. Some of Person B's DNA would be transferred to Person C's hand, and so would some of Person A's. The former is secondary transfer, while the latter is tertiary transfer.

I have not found any papers that deal with tertiary transfer. The closest that I could find was from G. N. Rutty in An investigation into the transference and survivability of human DNA following simulated manual strangulation with consideration of the problem of third party contamination (abstract) . The article doesn't examine tertiary transfer but uses it as a theoretical pathway as to how the unrelated DNA got on the "victim's" throat. Beyond that I've found nothing.

Parameters and Logic.

There are quite a few parameters that need to be examined. So beyond the level of DNA transfer, we would need to look at shedder type, so the odds of being a good/poor shedder, washing in general, how the people touch the object, and I think it would be fair to say the kind of object that they touch.

We are looking at a vast number of possibilities, and the reason for that is just to determine whether a sample is coincidental or not.

But we also have to look at the evidence. There is very little evidence for transfer beyond secondary. Anything above that appears to be theoretical.

But we must remember that logic would need to be applied based on the evidence.

So one possibility is that JonBenét came in contact with some guy's DNA. That somehow got under her fingernails. One suggestion for that is "dirty hands". She then touched her clothes with these fingers and the DNA transferred. So clothes wise we are looking at DNA that is at least secondary transfer DNA, but could actually be in levels that haven't been examined yet. The other thing is that when stuff gets under fingernails it usually stays there until removed.

The stranger possibility was that the DNA was on the panties when some guy at the factory touched them. I don't see that as logical at all, especially considering that the DNA under the fingernails was found and analysed far earlier then the leggings.

My own opinion is that it was a bunch of primary transfers. The DNA got under her fingernails by scratching, which is primary transfer. The DNA got on the leggings and the panties when the person touched them, which is more primary transfer.

But now I think it's time to answer the question.

Is a baseline even possible?

In my opinion it's simply no. LCN DNA already relies on standards set by the relevant government. It still needs to match 13 loci in the US. In the UK they would still need to match the 10 loci, and according to the University of Leicester the last 6 cycles are amplified in duplicate and alleles that appear in both can be used in a profile.

The legal standards will not change because the analysis is different.

One thing that I have noticed is that there are no baselines for other pieces of trace evidence. This is probably the most damning factor in the argument for a baseline. Why should one type of trace evidence have a baseline while all other types of trace evidence be exempt from such a baseline.

It's simply because there is no way to statistically discriminate between relevant and coincidental evidence. In a crime everything collected is potential evidence. It doesn't matter if it's touch DNA, a fibre, or blood spatter on a carpet, it's all evidence until it can be determined that it isn't. In a way it's backwards to what we would think. It's evidence until it isn't, not it's not evidence until it is.

Once we know that, say the vomit in the sink, actually belongs to a paramedic who didn't tell anyone that he threw up, it's potential evidence and should be processed accordingly. That's the reason why it's called an investigation. Because you investigate leads. There are no statistics that will allow you to discriminate evidence.

Lastly there is one other reason why a baseline is stupid. It's just one big red herring.

More on Ubisoft's DRM

If you're reading this then you've most likely read my previous post regarding Ubisoft's DRM for Assassin's Creed II.

I want to write my own review of the game, but I don't know how many spoilers I want to include (if any) but I want to get this out there.

First off, my opinion of the DRM now that I've actually got the game is that it's not as bad as I first thought.

It doesn't use that much bandwidth, probably because I've turned off the cloud saving.

But it still sucks and I still don't like it. Right now I have to make sure that anything else that's downloading isn't, and that includes Windows updates, so no downloading pod- or vodcasts while playing single player games, or frankly, downloading anything because the game becomes a little glitchy.

At one point I wanted to play the game and had to spend some time figuring out why my internet connection wasn't working properly, which if I was playing any other single player game, even those using Steam, I could play offline without worrying.

But the most annoying thing is being interrupted in cutscenes or a fight where all of a sudden you get a message telling you that it's trying to re-connect to the server. Then I have to see what is causing the problem, if it's indeed something on my end or actually just some stupid thing out of my control.

It ruins the experience. Especially when you're at say, the pivotal moment of the reveal and then you're given the crappy gaming equivalent of the intermission in Monty Python, only with fewer colours and no organ music.

But if this Escapist article is anything to go by, other people are just as annoyed when the server happens to go down. That is something beyond their control.

Personally I believe that Ubisoft should not take the stance that those of us who bought/received legitimate copies of this game as our approval of the DRM. The reason that there are people who aren't pirating the game is because they want to acknowledge the work of the programmers, not the idiots who thought the DRM would be a good idea.

At least Steam give us an offline mode.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Some Sharia in Australia?

From an article from the ABC.

Dr Zachariah Matthews, the president of the Australian Islamic Mission wants certain aspects of Sharia to be implemented as a "parallel legal system".

My own opinion is that it's a stupid idea.

And I think that is a stupid idea for all religious groups. There shouldn't be a separate legal system for people of certain religions at all. I don't care if it is Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha'i, Christians or even Scientologists.

Nobody should have access to their own special courts because of their religion, nor should they get any special privileges given to them because of these courts.

The two examples given in the article are:

"When it comes to Muslim family law there are issues relating to the legal age of marriage," [Dr. Matthews] said.

"In Muslim law, for example, as in Singapore, the legal age for both parties is 16 rather than as it stands currently [at] 18.

"There's also the issue of the waiting period [between] separation and divorce, which is currently specified at 12 months. In Muslim family law that could be a lot shorter."

The first one looks, to me at least, as a way around current consent laws. The Sex Discrimination Act 1991 (Cth) raised the marriageable age of women to 18 from 16, bringing it in line with men.

It is, however, possible to marry at a younger age, because if you are older then 16, but younger then 18 you can go to a judge and get an order permitting the marriage, according to section 12 of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth).

I also must wonder where Dr. Matthews got that age from. From what I've found the legal marriageable age in Singapore is 21 and the Registry of Marriages in Singapore has a whole section regarding what needs to be done if you are under 18 and want to get married, which includes a counselling session.

Taking a quick look at this list on Wikipedia most Muslim countries have marriageable ages comparable to non-Muslim countries, and a younger age appears to be typical for women.

The point on divorce just looks like queue jumping to me. From what I'm aware the intention of the year long wait is to allow for the possibility of reconciliation and also to allow both parties to calm down and work things out amicably. Religious requirements for divorce already cause problems in some cases according to letter of advice to the Attorney General and that's considering that marriage is, under the Marriage Act, secular and not religious.

I mentioned earlier that we shouldn't play favourites regarding religion, the reason I mentioned that was because of the end of the article:

But Dr Matthews says the minor changes proposed would only apply to Muslims.

"As long as that concession does not infringe on the rights of others and society at large, then the question I'm asking is, are we not mature enough or sophisticated enough to manage that type of diversity?" he said.

There's the rub. The examples given regarding marriage, in my opinion at least, do infringe on the rights of others. They are suggesting that Muslims should be treated differently and have different recourse on civil matters. Marriage and divorce are not religious matters under Australian law, they are civil matters.

And as such they should be dealt with in civil courts, not religious ones.

Perhaps I'm being a bit hasty here, all the news articles that I could find seem to cover the same thing. I haven't managed to find a copy of the speech that Dr. Matthews gave, so I don't know if I'm taking what he said out of context. But based on what I've read I feel my points are valid.