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The Dark Age of Science Denial

By Julian Cribb

Centuries from now, future historians will be able to assign a date to the start of the Australian Dark Age: it began in July of 2019. That was the date the nation turned its back on the enlightenment of reason, evidence, science and rationality and forged into a befogged future of political fantasies and wild, unfounded beliefs. Not unexpectedly, the state failed and darkness settled over the land.

For three and a half centuries human civilization has ascended from the wellspring of knowledge, rational thought, tolerance, the separation of powers and the individual liberties espoused by the Enlightenment. Australia is an offspring of that process. In 1790 Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, acclaimed the newfound land a future empire of the intellect:

“Here future Newtons shall explore the skies,

here future Priestlys, future Wedgewoods rise.”

In Australia in July of 2019 all this came crumbling down.

The political powers, and their corporate masters emerged from the shadows to commence a relentless campaign to demolish the truth and replace it with their own fictionalised credo, one founded wholly on political and selfish expedience, to the neglect of national needs. The process had been proceeding cryptically for several years but in the late 2010s it finally burst, like Leviathan, into public view.

Climate denial had been roiling in the colon of the Liberal-National Parties for over a decade, before finally rising up its gut to digest Turnbull, the last, pallid, defender of scientific truth. Symbiotic with this contagion was a near-hysterical hatred of anyone who wanted to preserve the Australian landscape, its natural beauty and wildlife – those dreaded ‘greens’ (regardless of whether they were green or just people who happened to love or understand their country). Gradually the LNP’s sights began to zero in on those they believed most to blame: the scientists. Those producers of the inconvenient truths which so often contradict, confound and appear to mock the ideological fantasies of the right. Those people who constantly expose the fairies at the bottom of the Liberal garden to be… a fairytale.

Hitherto, the LNP’s emotion-based belief systems were held in check by its sober, respectable and electorally pragmatic centre. Then, along came Trump – and they caved. The view that the truth is now whatever political ideology – not fact – decrees it to be, at any particular moment, has engulfed the entire political machinery of the right, and hijacked the Australian Government.

Donald Trump might be the most unpopular President in US history, or close to it, but he has set new world standards for leadership based almost entirely on falsehood. The Washington Post’s tally of his lies, half-truths and pure bullshit now exceeds 10,000. On average, the US President fabricates ‘something fishy’ 16 times a day, says the Post.[i]

Not surprisingly, the backroom boys and girls of the LNP machine envied his apparent success at getting US voters to go along with whatever came into his mind and his undoubted ability to divert public and media attention with new claims more outlandish still. Most of all, however, they and the Coal Axis who rule them both, admired Trump’s gagging of American science, excluding all mention of climate change – the greatest global threat in human history – from all government utterances. Even the Pentagon, a past-master in the black art of misinformation, has been puzzled how to advert to climate in its many reports on threats to the US, when so censored.

Suffice to say Trump has infused confidence into the element within the LNP (and other governments around the world who deal mainly in lies) that believes that anything you wish to say at the time is the ‘truth’ and that Australian politics, properly, is a contest of lies in which the task of voters is to choose the best liar.

Thus, the LNP Queensland State Convention considered several urgency resolutions relating to science and its ‘use in politics’, in the end opting for a plan to establish an “Office of Science Quality Assurance” which was endorsed by its leader. [ii] Of course, this is nothing other than enforced censorship and an attempt to gag any scientist or scientific report which does not support the going political fantasy. It is pure Trumpery, with a Queensland accent.

This piece of mediaeval book-burning was followed, first by a mafia-like attempt by coalminer Adani to menace the CSIRO environmental scientists whose reports it didn’t like[iii], which was endorsed by the Deputy Prime Minister [iv] and then by general support for the principal of politics censoring science it didn’t like by Federal Resources Minister Matt J Canavan [v], confirming the suspicion of many that the growth has metastasised within the Australian body politic. That there is indeed a plan to silence science, akin to the plan to gag the ABC and media.

The denial of science is the denial of human knowledge, and all that comes with it. It is the denial of the very cornerstone of our modern civilization. It is an attempt to lobotomise Australia by blocking public access to tested facts and established wisdom, to corrupt our political process by committing it to falsehood and to rob Australians of a right to make informed judgements on their own future.

The mediaeval Dark Ages were a time of eclipse for culture, learning, progress and understanding, much of it under the oppressive aegis of religion and feudalism. Today we stand at the threshold of an Australian Dark Age, when knowledge is sapped and controlled by forces whose sole aim is to bend it to their own selfish ends.

There is only one solution: the people must rise against it.



This article was originally published on Surviving C21.

Julian Cribb is an Australian author and science communicator. He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE) and a member of the Australian National University Emeritus Faculty.

His career includes appointments as newspaper editor, scientific editor for The Australian daily newspaper, director of national awareness for CSIRO, member of numerous scientific boards and advisory panels, and president of national professional bodies for agricultural journalism and science communication.

His published work includes over 9000 articles, 3000 science media releases and eight books. He has received 32 awards for journalism. His internationally-acclaimed book, The Coming Famine (2010) explored the question of how we can feed 10 billion humans this century. His book, Poisoned Planet (2014) examines the contamination of the Earth system and humanity by anthropogenic chemicals and how to prevent it. His latest book Surviving the 21st Century (Springer 2016) deals with the existential crisis facing humanity in our time – and what we can do about it.

Twitter: @JulianCribb

Personal website:

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  1. Jack Cade

    The article is depressing because it is so right. One quibble only – ‘…along cane Trump.’ How can you have glossed over ‘Along came Abbott?’ He is and was a serial liar before Trump even ran. And what is worse, he didn’t even offer false hope the way Trump did. The Australian voter elected Abbott in full awareness of how appalling a person he was, and then Trumped that bad decision by electing the even more appalling Morrison who, as a minister under Abbott, showed Dutton just what Australians would accept from a Home Affairs bully and sadist. And they have only just begun. Morrison et al approached the last election with no programme, and we showed them that we didn’t care. So, whatever abominations they inflict upon Australia, whatever corruption they waive, we bloody-well asked for it and deserve it. We have no defence and no excuses.

  2. Keitha Granville

    Yet not unlike the actual Dark Ages, the people are unlikely to rise up because they are too poor to worry about anything other than where the next meal might be from. This situation also brought about by the government for that very reason.

    Those who try to oppose are squashed with fascist zeal, and even the parliamentary opposition seems to be falling into line.

  3. Andrew J Smith

    Coincidentally ABC RN Saturday Extra did interview about conspiracy theories and how they are used often for political gain and muddying the waters. Meanwhile Abbott now seems to be a transnational political PR hack (paid by taxpayers) for the ’cause’ e.g. presently buddying up with Victor Orban in Hungary attending ‘great replacement theory’ based conferences, masquerading as conservative Christianity.

  4. John Walpole

    14 points of fascism, anyone? I’m afraid at some point in the near future the “ plebs” will HAVE to rise up. Just watching smelly Kelly on insiders reinforces the point of a complyent media. What’s the effing point of these political shows other than to spruik the fascists line. Pathetic the lot of them!

  5. Terence Mills

    Not to forget Rupert Murdoch who cynically has played the role of flag bearer for the dumbing down of sensible and reasonable discourse and the ridiculing of science.

    Recently I saw a television documentary titled FOX News : Divide & Conquer outlining how Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes created the misinformation and fake news service that at one time they ironically called fair & balanced but which quite clearly was aimed at a demographic previously neglected by mainstream media in middle America, playing to the prejudices of the racists, homophobes and white supremacists, so enraptured with the Trump Presidency .

    It was quite confronting as as a documentary as we are seeing the same pattern of cynical non-journalism being fostered by Sky particularly after dark where they foster and applaud the bigotry of a small and insignificant pay TV audience but, following the deal with WIN, they are now also grooming the same sort of regional, disgruntled demographic on Free to air television in regional areas of Australia : a potential audience they tell us of some eight million.

  6. David Bruce

    As you say, political science is not good physics, chemistry nor biology. So politicians of all colours will be wearing their tin foil hats in the near future?

    “What if we told you that the entire biosphere of this planet is about to be blanketed with over 20,000 high frequency radiation emitting satellites, starting with SpaceX’s newly FCC-approved launching of 4,425 satellites into orbit in the next few years?”

    “This is not just a concern of a few natural health advocates. US meteorologists, for instance, issued a statement in June of this year that they are worried 5G will disrupt their ability to properly sense the weather. And why? Because 5G radiation is preferentially absorbed by water molecules (the molecule that all of life is built upon!) — a fact that represents a form of electromagnetically-induced, planetary climate change and adverse health effects that virtually no one is talking about.”

    Extract from the 5G Crisis Summit | Josh del Sol & Sayer Ji…

  7. Andrew J Smith

    Terence Mills agree, like boiling frogs and the same is occurring elsewhere, focus upon ageing and declining regional electorates lacking services, infrastructure and voice, get them fired up over non issues and lies, then have them vote the right way….for more of the same.

    More broadly Adam Curtis documentary ‘Century of the Self’ explains how psychology and focus groups have been used to manipulate how people (more importantly, electorates) choose, consume and vote.

  8. Phil Pryor

    That, filthy lying, resentful, half hebrew horror Murdoch, the magnificent media maggot, a Yankee Wankee, whingeing, whining, conniving, thieving, manipulating wonder, tax dodger, wife duper and dumper, profiteer, political pervert and government gouger, grabber, gross grub, is one of the worst happenings in western political history. He is an institutional liar, never ever aiming at the truth. No facts, science, reason, enlightenment, decency motivates him, drives him. He is utterly devoted to getting his metaphorical dick into a huge accumulated metaphorical herd, biting and fighting and slighting all and sundry. He is a fantasy fuhrer, a dickhead duce, a conqueror of the dirty deep world of delusion, deviousness, depravity. Lower than a worm’s willy, Murdoch has put an exaggerated, inflated, gross ego in front of any decency or consideration. He is his own manifestation of a dream of world conquest, the ultimate fraud of a post nazi attempt at domination. No Stukas or Panzers for Murdoch, just relentless mafia like manipulation, coercion, pressure, control.

  9. Kaye Lee

    David Bruce,

    That quote came from the site – a website operated by Sayer Ji which opposes vaccination, hates GMOs, is vehemently anti-fluoride and promotes a wide range of assorted cancer woo.

    Probably the truest statement on the website is the disclaimer at the bottom: “This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.”

    The guy is a fruitcake. I really wish you would check the credibility of your sources before filling up these pages with every bit of quackery you can find.

    That is one of the problems we face – rubbish being spread on the internet without people verifying from other sources.

  10. Andreas Bimba

    Phil Pryor, I have to call you out on your comment “That, filthy lying, resentful, half hebrew horror Murdoch” – this is an unacceptable and hurtful racist slur. Spreading racist, xenophobic and sexist slurs is something that Murdoch himself is justifiably accused of.

    Julian’s article is sadly true but along the lines of Jack Cade’s comment where he rightly wrote that Tony Abbott was a turning point for the worse, I would go even earlier to the election of Johnny the rat Howard as a decisive turning point for the worse in Australia. Even some of the neoliberal reforms of previous Labor governments (Hawke and Keating) were ill considered and damaging but this accelerated greatly under Johnny the rat. This is when the agenda of the corporate oligarchy became the central driver of policy rather than the best interests of the Australian people or of the nation in total and this then set the conditions for the fossil fuel and allied business sectors to later frustrate most attempts to transition to environmental sustainability.

  11. Winifred Jeavons

    I hereby declare that Queensland does not exist ! It is a figment of the imagination, that can no way be considered to be a State of Australia. It is as mythical as Noah’s Ark , to be discussed only as a precautionaly tale , a warning about what happens when people believe in a god made of flammable rock. A god with very nasty mannners, at that.

  12. Olivia Manor

    Well said Andreas Bimba, calling out Phil Pryor’s racist slur. One’s ethnic background has no relevance to being a horrible individual.
    As for the deniers, Queensland and NSW are in the grips of early devastating bushfires, and it’s not even summer! And one only needs to look at the devastation brought by Dorian in the Bahamas, to see what climate change looks like. Given that a large number of government ministers are from QLD, how much longer will they bury their head in the sand when their electorates, burn out, are wiped out by cyclones or go under water? The costs are going to be massive, and how many times can you quote Dorothea McKellar, or say “ this is a once in a lifetime event” when they are happening more and more often and with increasing ferocity.

  13. Jack Cade


    Denying Queensland’s existence is like denying you have an arse. My view is that, if Australia had haemorrhoids, Queensland is where they’d pop out.

  14. Lambert Simnel

    Yes. It is like the poms denying the existence of Steve Smith

  15. Jack Cade

    When the Liberals were considering knifing Shallow Mal, there was a swag of ‘Dutton’s a really nice bloke’ shite in the Murdoch Press. Then we had a ‘Scott gets down on his knees and prays for Australia’ tripe.
    I’m just watching a film on SBS world movies about the nazi treatment of undesirables – with the help and support of priests and a nice young nurse – a nun – who gives the undesirable children a raspberry drink ( which kills them). Nazi doctors and nurses, priests and nuns.
    But all I see is Dutton and Morrison. The Dickson electorate is well-named.

  16. totaram

    You cannot even get people to vote against getting ripped off at every step in return for a few handfuls of “tax-rebates”, and you want people to rise up against “science denial” (whatever that might be, because most people don’t have the foggiest notion what “science” is). So, while I sympathise with your call, I doubt very much that you will have even the slightest success. It is too late already. The complete surrender of the country to a few oligarchs who now own the entire “free press” has already led to a dumbing down that ensures this government will be re-elected for many terms to come, unless there is some freak catastrophe. We are all comfortably ensconced in a hybrid of “1984” and “Brave New World” and the chance that we will “rise up against it” is dwindling rapidly. Climate Change will ensure some kind of catastrophe, but the very same MSM will assure us it is the fault of some horrible “outsiders”, and we will be convinced we need to take up arms against them etc. etc. This is a well-known and tried and proven technique and we know how it ends. This time the end will be much worse. The technologies at our disposal are much more fearsome that what existed in the 1930s.

  17. Lambert Simnel

    I am as one with Jack Cade as to such surmisings.

    I cannot but conclude that there will be a day of reckoning for this indolent race, that in such blase fashion turned their children’s and their own futures over to such people in such carefree fashion.

  18. wam

    The ‘dark'(unfortunate word in the modern context) ages lasted a thousand years but it shaped the fear needed by christianity. in the european male cultures,
    The churches are still dining out on that fear with christians of the tired, lonely and gullible being catered for by hand gyrations and hypnotic song on the side,?
    Truth is a much abused good word, julian!
    Is it true bob brown and his loonies voted with the rabbott in 2009 to kill Australia efforts on climate change??? Why is that not a reasonable starting than “The process had been proceeding cryptically for several years but in the late 2010s it finally burst, like Leviathan, into public view.”?
    For many, there is nothing cryptic about the 100% of scientists and all educated humans who know climate change to be a millions of years ongoing natural process.
    Too slow, too complex for the vast majority to understand, leaving us to accept noise from the loonies or the conservatives, with their vested interests and the media’ It may be possible to drag some lnp voters, and even some rabbottians, into accepting a concept of greenhouse gas emissions having a causal effect on global warming but it is impossible to shake this belief in climate change being natural and over an unimaginable time scale.

    Mr Cade,
    Opus dei cannot lie because their intent is pure. We had a prime minister who could neither read about or hear about anything that may pollute the purity of his faith. Science information could not be risked, so unread or censored..
    Thus the rabbott is an amoral blinkered ignorant bigot without any possibility of change.
    As for scummo? God will look after me. Thanks, bobby!

  19. guest

    Andreas Bimba,

    The phrase “half hebrew” used by Phil Pryor might well apply in the situation where Murdoch has sided with wealthy Jews to invest in oil found in the Golan Heights which have been taken from Syria.

    Murdoch is intent on protecting and increasing his own economic interests and has no concern for anyone else. He has been told he is not worthy to be a newspaper proprietor in England.


    You keep say that climate change is slow and natural, which may be true in the past.

    What makes the climate change humans have experienced in the past two and a half centuries is the fact that it is neither “slow” nor “natural”.

    The rise in global warming in the last few decades has been the faster than any equivalent rise in temperature. In the past such a rise has taken centuries.

    That humans have influenced that rise is shown in the presence of carbon isotopes in the atmosphere which come only from the burning of fossil fuels.

    To try to argue between climate change and global warming is just splitting hairs, trying to offer deniers an excuse to deny.

    With regard to Murdoch, he is also one of those who has pushed hard to get the Ramsay Institute’s plan to set up a study of Western Civilisation established in universities.

    The hypocrisy of that position is the way in which he deliberately sets to muddle the discussion is seen in the denial rubbish orchestrated by Graham Lloyd and others in the “newspapers”.

    It is a position quite contrary to the science of Western civilisation.

    An outstanding feature of denial publishings is the way they contradict each other and so there is no coherent science of climate change denial.

  20. Ross Barrell

    Olivia. On the news tonight on the ABC, one of the reports about the fires said something like. this is an omen, a warning of worse to come. They spoke of climate change as the driver of weather like this. Could we be approaching a tipping point?

    This is the face of climate instability. It is in our face now. It is not good enough for politicians to express sadness and condolences for people who have lost everything. It is for them to change course and implement meaningful policies that will kill Australia’s CO₂ emissions. Nothing else will amount to anything.

  21. wam

    thank you guest
    This wilful lnp troll’s point is:
    Global warming is in real time NOW as shown by the glacial melts and rising sea levels. It is also natural but exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions much of which come from human activities.
    However not one climate has changed, Adelaide is still Csa and sydney Cfa and not one will change for aeons unless, as many people have intoned, a cataclysmic occurrence like a bloody big lump of rock crashes to earth.
    To my simple logic. The point of a greenhouse is to raise the temperature ie global warming.
    The burning over a mere 200 years of fossil fuel that took billions of years for the natural sequestration process must interfere with the natural process.QED global warming is a better description of the situation.
    However, because a billion white people got rich on fossil fuels i9t is arrogant to assume the other 6 billion can stay poor whilst we continue our dominance of coal, oil and gas. I cannot think of a more urgent research, installation and production of renewable energy

  22. Annette Spendlove

    Could we all just stop the Queensland hating. it really is very tiresome. Seriously people it wasn’t just in Queensland that the voting didn’t turn out as predicted. Certainly the people of Dickson were unfortunately targeted by Clive and the lies from the lnp were very effective. (I saw first hand the lies during the bi-election for Longman (the electorate next to Dickson) – the billboards of the lnp were extremely viscious) This is not an electorate of deep thinkers, so the lies stood as fact.

    The lnp did some dirty work in Melbourne, as well, putting up election posters which looked just like the AEC information posters, same colour, same font.

    We have to remember that this vile lying lot only scraped in – they have a 1 seat majority. If only another seat could have gone to Labor in one of the other states. Seriously, it’s not entirely the fault of the people of Queensland.

  23. LOVO

    Annette, fair enough. We’ll save it till State of Origin 😉
    Which reminds me, I got a straight banana at the supermarket the other day and immediately thought someone up there hasn’t been doing their job. 😄
    Also, apparently, 4 out of every 3 Queenslanders don’t have an understanding of math. 😈
    Jest sayin’😆

  24. corvusboreus

    The popularity of science denial is best demonstrated not in the public ‘debate’ around the complexities of anthropogenic influences affecting climate change / global warming (or whatever the phuq you want to call it), and but in the correspondent denial of over a century of scientific data documenting sea rise.
    According to Google, and Wikipedia, the and the published findings of every credible scientific institution on the planet, the oceans have long been rising, and in recent years the rate of oceanic rise has accelerated rapidly (currently around 5mm per year).
    Understand that this is merely a statement of verified data, and not an ascription of cause.

    And yet a large number of strayans still deny that the oceans are rising.
    This denial of basic science is not just restricted to a few loopy conspiracy theorist bloggers (hi db) but is also rampant amongst career journalists (pro-trolls) and politicians.
    The same media whores who viciously attacked a Swedish teenager for accepting a speaking engagement and saying 500 nonprofane words actively endorsed Tony Abbott (ex-PM and then member for Warringah) when he took a paid gig (whilst still on the public purse) and flew over to blighty to tell a bunch of extremists that the entire scientific field of oceanography was either incompetent or corrupt.

    How the hell can we communicate uncertain complexities when simple facts are so widely rejected?

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