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Polly Peck
30 October, 2005  
Capital Offences

God on trial. Lawyers take on “intelligent design” at Canberra’s St Thomas More forum. Polly Peck was there with her notebook and managed to record some of the curious arguments from an all-star cast: Lord Denning, Karl Marx, David Hume, Pythagoras, Socrates, et al


“Cosmic jurors, please take your seats for the most unusual evening of your life.”

So Australia’s largest jury trial with 300 of the public’s finest got underway at Thursday (Oct 27) night’s St Thomas More Forum in Canberra. Those damn enlightened jurists of the “cosmic atheist society” had brought an action to prove once and for all that god did not exist.

Who were these non-believers that require proof for any assertion? There was Lord Denning (performed by Terry Higgins, chief justice of the ACT), Karl Marx (the capital’s DPP Richard Refshauge SC) and David Hume (Christopher Erskine, a Canberra barrister).

For the defence? Thomas Aquinas (Raymond Canning, school of theology, Australian Catholic University), Pythagoras (Dr Graeme Garrett, senior lecture in theology, Charles Sturt University) and Plato (Michael Jarvis, theology graduate, Australian Catholic University).

imageThe instigator of all this was Robert Colquhoun KHS, Sydney barrister and author of God on Trial, playing Socrates (right) – in this context counsel for the creationists with the challenging task of convincing 300 church goers that god exists.

Could you imagine the regular travel of the planets around the sun as accidental, asked Socrates? Or is it simply a coincidence that we have “almost exactly 24 hours in each day”? The continuous birth of humans, animals and plants with identifiable DNA, nature’s many chemicals and the sheer existence of light and sound? How could these things be explained except through almighty creation?

Intelligent designers like that flash rat Brendan Nelson or even Dumbo Dubya Bush would have been warmed to the cockles by Colquhoun/Socrates’ pleadings

He went on to submit to the jury that using Pythagoras Six Numbers it was clear to any reasonable person that on the balance of probabilities our world did not simply come into being. Everything was just toooo perfect.

That tiresome pest of a social conscience, Karl Marx (R. Refshauge), rejected Socrates adoption of the civil standard of proof. Science, he argued was about absolute truths and if you couldn’t prove something was a certainty then it might not have happened.

Ever the flexible advocate, Socrates insisted that the commie had got it wrong and if you were up for murder in the ACT Supreme Court, you wouldn’t accept this claptrap from him.

Then it was on to David Hume (C. Erskine) who opened by dismissing intelligent design as “just speculation”. He sought to draw an analogy between intelligent design and Jackson’s Pollock’s Blue Poles, on view at the NGA. What makes creationism any less speculative than house paint spilt on a garage floor, he asked with a flourish?

Socrates contended that not all evolutionists agree with each other which, he thought, “takes the ground away” from them. The idea that if one side of a debate presents a uniform argument it must be correct, no matter what the substance, seemed to find favour with the mesmerised jurors.

Anyway, Hume was just the great “money maker” of the 18th century, which by no means was Socrates only personal dig of the night. Another interjection by Marx was countered with: “he’s dead, he’s gone, god lives on.”

imageJohn Paul Sartre (also plaid by Refshauge), was also “dead” but should be doubly derided because he’d lured Simone away from the Catholic Church to be his “long term lover,” which shows how little Socrates must know of Mme de Beauvoir (seen here).

Similarly, Nietzsche was dismissed “as the man who died trying to make love to a horse”. As for naughty priests, “human frailty” Socrates thought was the explanation – it had nothing to do with god.

For the substance of Colquhoun’s argument, he reminded the jury on several occasions, and a few more times for good measure, that it was all contained in the tell-all book on sale afterwards with a free signature. “The transcript for tonight,” as he put it.

Polly Peck’s budget didn’t quite extend to a copy of God on Trial, so I can’t offer any more insight than what transpired during Colquhoun’s two-hour sales pitch.

And the result of the trial? Given it was held in a hall full of St T. More devotees who would dare say it was a rigged jury?