G’DAY WORLD 194 – Brian Watson, Investment Banker

Today, in the next episode of my “Melbourne’s Leaders” series, my guest is Mr Brian Watson. Brian is the founder and Executive Chairman of Georgica Associates Pty Ltd, a private equity asset management and advisory firm in Melbourne. He was based in New York with J.P. Morgan from 1987-1999, as Global Head of Equity Underwriting from 1990-1995 and head of Global Private Equity Business from 1995-1999. He returned to Australia in 1999 and was Chairman of J.P. Morgan Australia from 1999 – 2000 and Managing Director of JP Morgan Partners (JPMP) Australia from 1999 – 2002. JPMP Australia invested across a broad spectrum of private equity opportunities in Australia.

He also sits on the board of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, was Chairman of the Government’s Venture Capital Industry Review, and was appointed to the Board of Guardians of the Federal Government’s Future Fund.

During our chat he talks about the motivations for excellence, attitudes towards setbacks and failure, the state of the Venture Capital industry in Australia, the purpose of the Future Fund, and the future of stem cell research.

Brian Watson photo

If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you don’t miss future episodes by subscribing to our feed.

The G’Day World Theme Song is “Save Me” by The Napoleon Blown Aparts.

Happy Australia Day?

Scienta’s post on why not everyone in Australia likes to celebrate the coming of the Europeans reminded me of a podcast I listened to this morning in a similar vein.

The latest episode of Learn Out Loud’s excellent “Great Speeches in History” podcast has a speech by Frederick Douglass who confronts the country at the height of the Civil War. I’d never heard of Douglass before and in the podcast I learned that he was was an American abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. Called “The Sage of Anacostia” and “The Lion of Anacostia,” Douglass was one of the most prominent figures of African American history during his time, and one of the most influential lecturers and authors in American history.

Frederick Douglass

He was born in 1818 as a slave in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass escaped slavery on September 3, 1838 boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland dressed in a sailor’s uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free black seaman. After crossing the Susquehanna River by ferry boat at Havre de Grace, Douglass continued by train to Wilmington, Delaware. From there Douglass went by steamboat to “Quaker City”—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His escape to freedom eventually led him to New York, the entire journey taking less than twenty-four hours. He spent the rest of his fighting against slavery, for equal rights for African-Americans and became a newspaper publisher.

In the amazing speech linked to above, he absolutely eviscerates the USA’s self-image as being a “The Land Of The Free” and a Christian nation. Here’s a short quote:

“I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes – a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection.”

Definitely listen to it, it’s a powerful 8 minutes.

Getting back to Scienta’s post, she says:

It’s Australia Day here down under, which is supposed to be a celebration of Australia as a nation. Unfortunatly, the date chosen happens to be the day Australia was invaded by the British and for many is a Day of Mourning. As a nation I think it’s time we selected a date that’s a little more appropriate for celebration, one that’s less drenched in blood. Celebrating slaughter is not very Australian.

Subscribe to G’Day World via email

When I was with the Tangler boys last week, I asked them for suggestions on what they would like to see us do to make podcasting easier for the mainstream to get into. Mick and Marty gave me a long speech about how RSS is still way too difficult for the masses but how much easier email updates are. Personally I hate email but maybe that’s because I have to deal with a lot more of it than most folks.

Anyway, today I’m introducing the G’Day World Email Feed! Click on the link below and you’ll start getting emails of the blog posts and the podcasts sent to your inbox. Don’t fear – the 20mb attachment doesn’t come down in your email, just a link to the mp3. If you have any feedback on this service or any ideas for how we can make podcasting more user friendly, please let me know!

Subscribe to TPN:: G’day World by Email

G’DAY WORLD 193 – On Scientology.

I was listening today to an episode of The Infidel Guy’s show and he was interviewing a bloke by the name of Dan Garvin. Dan Garvin was a Scientologist for 27 years and a Sea Org member (their senior ranks, so-called because all the secret stuff happens on an ocean liner) for 25 years. He worked for ten years in their intelligence, PR, and Legal branch, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). Dan got out two and a half years ago because a series of realizations that lead him to atheism and skepticism. All this got me thinking about how ludicrous the claims of the Scientologists are. But are they any more ridiculous than the claims of other religions?

Links from the show:
Infidel Guy interview with Dan Garvin
Wikipedia “Scientology“.

If you haven’t already, make sure you fill out my SCIENCE v FAITH poll.

If you enjoyed this podcast, make sure you don’t miss future episodes by subscribing to our feed.

The G’Day World Theme Song is “Save Me” by The Napoleon Blown Aparts.

Is Science Based On Faith?

In the comments to my recent post on rationality, Tony Goodson said “Science is just as faith based as Religion!!”

Tony, I’m glad you said this, because it’s hearing rubbish statements like “Science is just as faith based as Religion!!” which has forced me to become more vocal about this whole issue. If that’s the kind of nonsense that people still believe these days, then as a society we are in a pretty bad situation. The fact that some Christians run around telling each other these things is just another example of why I believe it is a negative force in the community.

Science is the OPPOSITE to faith. The scientific process is all about finding evidence to prove or disprove a theory. Science is always moving forwards, trying to disprove earlier theories, searching for new theories, trying to gather better data.

Faith and religion only survive by IGNORING evidence and by desperately clinging to bronze age ideas. They are completely opposite ways of looking at the universe.

Developing a hypothesis in order to test it against the evidence is a completely rational approach. It has NOTHING to do with faith.

The “Big Bang” theory, again, has NOTHING to do with faith. I’d love to know who is spreading this kind of meme and how they get away with it.

The Nobel Prize in Physics last year was awarded to two Americans for precisely measuring the faint light that revealed the seeds of today’s galaxies and superclusters. Which, according to MSNBCaffirmed the big-bang theory to even the most stubborn skeptics.” “It’s just a magnificent verification of the big bang,” said Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

So it’s about as proven as scientific theories get (which doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot get replaced by a new theory in the future if competing evidence becomes available, although that seems highly unlikely). The difference, of course, between the big bang “theory” and god is that the first has overwhelming hard evidence to support it and the second has none.

The fact that I still come across so many people (usually Christians) who are completely clueless about the how the scientific process works is totally bewildering. I’ve been wondering lately whose fault it is.

The Christians for not picking up a book about science once in a while and for being gullible when they hear this kind of stuff from the million-dollar pastor on the stage with all of the lights?

The scientific community’s fault for not doing a better job at communicating these things to the public?

The fault of the media for not getting the word out to the public?

Even my six-year olds know more about how it works than many adults I seem to come across.

Speaking of my boys, one of them said to me today “Daddy I don’t believe in God. Do you know why?”

“Why, T-Bone?”, I ask him.

“Because who invented God?”, he replied.

And he’s only six.

Getting Tangled with Marty and Mick

While I was in Sydney yesterday I popped into the Tangler offices to catch up with Marty Wells and Mick Liubinskas for a beer.

Tangler boys

I got to see and hear more about where Tangler is going and I’m finally starting to understand the vision – and it is very cool. The boys threatened to force me to play another round of liar dice with them if I divulge too many details, but keep an eye on their site if you want to see how online conversations are going to change. I can’t wait to integrate it into TPN.

Cameron Reilly

By the way, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that Mick was the marketing manager at Sharman Networks aka Kazaa. I can’t wait to get him onto the show to talk about what THAT was like.

In Defense Of Rationality

Lately I have been accused by a few people, in email and in person, of “attacking” Christians and suggesting they are all “stupid”. Perhaps I should clarify myself. I’ve been writing this out in email and saying it in person, so I thought I should include it here just in case more people are taking me the wrong way.

I don’t think I’ve intentionally made any personal attacks on people who disagree with my position and, if I have, please point them out to me so I can correct them. That said, I’m not being politically correct either and I understand that. I think it’s time that the human race had this discussion, openly, honestly, and in public. Too much is riding on the outcome of it.

And I really don’t think I’ve suggested that people who believe in god are necessarily ‘stupid’ (although I’m sure some are). In fact I’ve said many times that the people who amaze me the most are the ones that are intelligent and well educated and *still* feel the need to
subscribe to bronze age mythologies about supernatural beings. I can understand peasants in the middle ages buying it. I can even understand modern uneducated peasants in the middle east buying it. But well educated, middle class people in the West? It has me mystified and, quite honestly, more than a little scared.

What I have said is that people who believe in religion are irrational and that isn’t meant as an insult. It is just a statement of fact. And here’s my justification. Tell me where you think I am wrong.

Rationality is, by definition, based on logic and reason. And religion is not based on such things. It is based on faith: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Because faith is not based on logic or reason, it is therefore, by definition, “irrational”.

As I said before, if you think I’m wrong about the “irrational” tag, tell me why. Or if you think I have attacked anyone, show me how and I will promptly apologize.

I’m certainly not suggesting that changing anyone’s perceptions by force is acceptable. Not at all. But changing them through argument and debate is fine. In fact, that’s probably the only way. Issues like this should get debated strongly and people will, in the end, decide what they want to decide. But I *hope* more and more people, when presented with the facts, will agree that religion is an inherently negative force that is holding back humanity. 200 years ago, most people believed slavery was acceptable. Most people believed “blacks” were inferior to whites. Most people believed blacks and women should not be allowed to vote. There were all ideas which had been around since recorded history, subscribed to by Christians and religious people of all denominations, and most people subscribed to them. And they were fundamentally wrong and immoral by today’s standards. A small few fought openly against them and, eventually, public
perception changed. I believe the same thing will happen with religion. How long it will take, I don’t know. But I feel compelled to do my part.

I do believe religious beliefs harm the rest of the world – directly and indirectly. Direct examples are obvious (justification for oppression, war, violence, segregation, preventing scientific
progress, human rights, AIDS, etc). Indirectly, all religious people subscribe to what I believe in an inherently negative view on humanity. We are all born bad (sinners) because the God of the Old
Testament didn’t want Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He didn’t want him to KNOW. That’s such an inherently negative view on the human race. And then Yahweh told “his people” to murder anyone who didn’t believe in him and he took care of millions himself (flood, brimstone, plague, etc). THEN Christians believe he sent his only son (or came himself depending on which Christian you ask) down to earth to be tortured and murdered for reasons which escape me. And Christians somehow think this is all okay. I think it horrifying and to teach this kind of stuff to kids and tell them it is somehow “holy” and honourable defies imagination.

The other indirect way I think religion harms the human race is that is teaches people that faith without evidence is not only acceptable but preferable to searching for solid evidence. And that viewpoint has to hold us back from understanding the true nature of the universe. It slows down scientific progress, if for no other reason than there are millions of kids who grow up without a solid appreciation for the scientific process. One of those kids might have been the next
Einstein or Darwin or Da Vinci. We need all hands on deck if we are going to survive on this planet. Bronze Age mythologies aren’t going to help us figure out global warming, or preventing an asteroid collision, or the next mega-volcano eruption. Yes I know that Darwin was raised a Christian. Remember though that pretty much EVERYONE in the West during the early part of the 19th century and earlier was a Christian. To be otherwise was to make yourself a social outcast and, until at least 1800, put your life in danger. And yes, of course, some great thinkers broke through and managed to hold both thoughts (faith and reason) in their minds. They straddled the fence. But surely our chances of finding new Darwins would be better if people weren’t told
“believe without evidence” as well as “search for evidence”. They are incongruous thoughts. There is a good reason that the vast majority of scientists in the West today are atheists.

Yes, some of the leaders of the fight against slavery, etc., were Christians. Again, EVERYONE was a Christian until the Enlightenment and even today, 90% of Americans claim to believe in a personal God. But of course that also means that there were far, far more Christians defending slavery and those other crimes than there were fighting against them. How is that justified by the Christian community? Isn’t it true that until the mid-20th century, “Love Thy Neighbour” really finished “… if they look like you. Persecute everyone else.”? Take the American South. They went to war over the defense of slavery. And today they think of themselves as the Bible Belt. Don’t you find that slightly ironical?

When the Christians from Europe invaded the Americas, Australasia, PNG, NZ, The Pacific Islands, they justified the wanton murder of the indigenous peoples because they were “heathens”. Again, religion was the justification for wide-scale genocide. I think it’s pretty easy to see that, over 2000 years, Christianity has been responsible for far, far more murder and bloodshed than it has good works.

But hey, if you disagree, tell me how and why and I’m always listening.