The Bent Spoon

By skepticlawyer

bspoonEvery year, the Australian Skeptics bestow the ‘Bent Spoon’ Award on the ‘perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle’. Upon receipt of the award, part of the small print is that anyone wishing to acquire the trophy must remove it from our keeping by paranormal means.

Well, I have to say that I’ve found an entirely apposite nominee, and perhaps even a winner: Danny Nalliah and his numbnutted friends at Catch the Fire Ministries — for linking the Victorian bushfires with the repeal of Victoria’s old abortion law. Obviously the God that Danny and friends are into is a right old smiter, and he’s been busily smiting Victorians in their hundreds.

Anyone who uses this appalling disaster to paddle their political/religious canoe deserves a thorough public kicking (and that also goes for both sides of the Climate Change debate). If you think you’ve got something intelligent to say, then make submissions to the Royal Commission. That’s what it’s there for. There is something beyond nauseating about doing it when fires are still raging and the death toll is still mounting, as this statement from the Australian Skeptics points out:

Representatives of the Australian Skeptics condemn the Catch the Fire Ministry for their uncritical, discriminatory beliefs and exploitation of the tragic events to promote their ministry.

I should also point out that Danny and friends were the same bunch of noodles that many civil libertarians defended when they were under entirely unjustified attack from the Islamic Council of Victoria. We (meaning the forces of free speech and free debate) won that particular argument, largely defanging Victoria’s silly religious vilification law. If nothing else the behaviour of Nalliah and his cahoots shows how graceless the recipients of support from those who really do believe in freedom of speech can be.

(And no, I’m not going to link to Catch the Fire’s website. You can find their appalling statement via the Skeptics’ site).

UPDATE: There’s an excellent links roundup available at this site. Derryn Hinch in particular is incandescent.


  1. Posted February 12, 2009 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    SL: What if they /do/ catch an arsonist, and the [self-censored*99] is a member of Catch The Fire, or an anti-choice [self-censored again] who was exposed to Nalliah’s prophecy published in November about Victoria on fire? Your thoughts as a libertarian free-speecher?

  2. Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    It would depend on the Victorian law with respect to incitement (never the easiest of cases to prosecute, but it’s there on the books). Alas if it doesn’t come up to snuff as incitement, then we are stuck with Nalliah’s speech and that of his merry band of ideologues.

    Doesn’t stop me taking the piss out of them, though 😉

  3. Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I said it at HAT and I’ll say it again. He doesn’t need to be locked up for incitement or conduct liable to cause a breach of the peace, he needs to be locked up for his own protection!

  4. Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    I’m kinda glad I’ve got a nasty headache keeping me awake… ‘coz I looked at some of the comments on Nalliah’s “prophecy” back in Nov 2008. What do you think of "Trevor"?
    After reading that, it’s even to keep me awake WITHOUT the headache.

  5. Posted February 12, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Dear SL

    I think it is entirely appropriate to have a debate now about the causes of the fires and what we can do to ensure they are less likely to occur in the future. That is one way to honour the memory of the those who have died. It also helps people understand the issues better, even people who might eventually make submissions to the Royal Commission. I am surprised a defender of free speech thinks it is not appropriate to exercise free speech.

  6. Posted February 12, 2009 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    People can exercise free speech whenever and wherever they like. However, short of violence or other legally significant impediment, they should expect to live with the consequences of what they say.

  7. John tons
    Posted February 12, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    This post comes at a time when I am mulling over some ideas concerned with Global Justice. There appear to be at least two worlds out there. Firstly there is the world inhabited by the sceptics and the like – they tend to prefer evidenced based reasoning in which to ground their theories. It is this world that many of us (myself included) imagine is inhabited by the vast majority of the human race. Then there is the real world, the world that seems to be inhabited by more people than we fully appreciate. This is the world of the credulous for whom the scientific method means consulting some sort of sacred text, these are the people who send death threats to David Attenborough, who are determined to impose their view of the world on that increasingly shrinking island of sanity.
    On the one hand we need to defend their right to free speech on the other we need to find a way of vaccinating the world against their bigotry.
    Bent Spoon award? you need a 200 piece cuttlery set.

  8. Jeremy
    Posted February 12, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I imagine (without knowing) that Nalliah isn’t stupid enough to think that blaming the fires on abortion laws will play well to the wider community, much less change the community’s attitudes to said laws. But I doubt that’s who he was speaking to or why he spoke.
    Rather, big disasters always raise problems for fundamentalists, because their own flock would surely have some problems with wonderful old God burning a bunch of country towns just for the fun of it. How is God (in making the bad weather) different to the arsonists (or whatever) in lighting the spark? The only response that a fundamentalist can make is that the disaster was in some way just.
    So, while I entirely agree that what Nalliah said was inane (factually and politically), I disagree that this is somehow a bad exercise of free speech. Reassuring your flock during a big dilemma with statements that are central to your religious beliefs can scarcely be regarded as in an extreme exercise of free speech.

  9. Sylvia Else
    Posted February 12, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Well, CFM’s views are absurd, and quite offensive, but I don’t see that they qualify for nomination for the Bent Spoon Award. If they’re the best candidate, then the psychics of Australia must be having a very bad year.

  10. Posted February 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    my biggest problem with religion generally has been

    The apostle Paul addressed this. People typically perceive “The Fall” as pertaining solely to human beings. But as Paul notes, “the whole creation” has been corrupted by The Fall. Hence, shit happens.

  11. Posted February 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Or alternatively, you go the Pelagian route and accept that when humans were given ‘free will’ God meant it, and that omniscience and omnipotence doesn’t mean he/she/it chooses to control every tiny thing a la the deterministic tradition established post-Polycarp.

  12. Posted February 12, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Nalliah may well have been speaking for his own flock’s benefit but, if so, he’s presumably hoping they have bad memories. His original dream was about a madman gunning people down in the street – then a fire.

    Unless I wasn’t paying attention, there was no mad gunman walking the streets of Victoria last week – and surprisingly, no mention of one in Nalliah’s re-telling of his dream.

    I congratulate Danny on his BS nomination and wish him success in the competition.

  13. Posted February 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    LE: On Maimonides, etc
    In the Koran, God KNOWS that particular individuals will end up in Hell, but feels sorrow at their suffering.

    Similar problems arise about power, knowledge and will as soon as you have a deity that is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and all-loving. (and why isn’t there an “omni-” for “all-loving”, hmm omniamorous? too Casanova… omniagapic… yuk mixed roots… panagapic?)

  14. Posted February 12, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Looking at my old post on these questions – I see the great medieval Rabbi Maimonides (aka the Rambam) also looked at this issue:

    As in Rambam, thank you ma’am?

    and why isn’t there an “omni-” for “all-loving”, hmm omniamorous?

    Ah, so you’re familiar with Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood, then?

  15. Posted February 12, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    This post has been an interesting illustration of just how badly the Explanation Fairy ™ has deserted me, at least in the last fortnight.

    What I was trying to say: Nalliah and friends should be subjected to scorn, but not silenced. The best response to speech is more speech, and if people say silly things, then they should expect other people to expose them to scorn.

  16. John Greenfield
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    When the government passes its Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – coming ready or not – god help us if it includes “right to religion”.

    Any Charter should remain completely silent on the matter. Just as we would not want a “right to socialism” nor should we impose a right to any other religion on our polity. A pox, locust plague, and jihad on all their houses

  17. Posted February 13, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Any Charter should remain completely silent on the matter. Just as we would not want a “right to socialism” nor should we impose a right to any other religion on our polity.

    Umm, doesn’t the democratic process mean we HAVE a right to socialism? Or facism? If that’s the will of the majority.

    My only qualm would be to make sure the wording means a right to religion of the individual’s own conscience rather than that selected by the state they happen to be born in. As in ‘you can have any religion you want as long as it’s ours’…

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] – skepticlawyer awards Mr. Nalliah the Bent Spoon Award Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)There you have itFitna is an instrument for […]

  2. […] at LP. Then I had people thinking I’d abandoned my willingness to defend freedom of speech in this post nominating Danny Nalliah and his wingnut friends for the Australian Skeptics’ ‘Bent […]

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