Home' Greymouth Star : May 30th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, May 30, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1431 - After being handed over by the
church, who judged her a heretic, St Joan of
Arc is burned at the stake at Rouen.
1842 - John Francis attempts to assassinate
Queen Victoria as she rides in her
carriage with Prince Albert.
1883 - Some 12 people are
trampled to death when a rumour
that the recently-opened Brooklyn
Bridge is in imminent danger of
collapsing leads to a stampede.
1912 - Death of US air pioneer
1960 - Boris Pasternak, the Russian novelist
and poet famed for his Doctor Zhivago, dies in
1995 - First boat people from East Timor in
20 years arrive in Dar win.
2000 - Fiji’s army commander imposes
2002 - New York marks the end of the
recovery of human remains from the ruins of
the World Trade Centre.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Peter the Great, tsar of Russia (1672-
1725); Henry Addington, English statesman
(1757-1844); Benny Goodman,
US musician (1909-1986); Clint
Walker, US actor (1927-); Ruta
Lee, US actress (1936-); Michael
J Pollard, US actor (1939-); Marie
Fredriksson, Swedish singer, Roxette
(1958-); Wynonna Judd, US country
singer (1964-); Tom Morello, US
guitarist (1964-); Cee-Lo Green, American
“ To write or to speak is almost inevitably
to lie a little. It is an attempt to clothe an
intangible in a tangible form; to compress an
immeasurable into a mould. And in the act of
compression, how truth is mangled and torn!”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American writer.
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of
God, ser ve one another with whatever gift each
of you has received.” — (1 Peter 4.10).
Federated Farmers is
regarded by everyone
as the most important
organisation in New
Zealand, apart from the government. Mr E
W McCallum, Dominion president asserted
this at yesterday ’s annual meeting of the
West Coast division of Federated Farmers at
Hokitika. He said this was generally accepted
by everyone apart from the farmers themselves
who did not realise the influence they asserted.
“ We are more powerful than we think and we
have a great influence on the government,” he
New Zealand was no longer an isolated
country and it was because of this that he
urged farmers to take a good deal more
interest in current overseas affairs and trade
A Wellington scientist said today that the
explosion on the collier Kokiri on March 13
was caused by methane gas liberated from
coal in the holds. The explosion would never
have occurred had the holds been ventilated
properly, he said.
The scientist, Walter Gordon Hughson,
chief fuel chemist of the DSIR, said methane
gas formed an explosive mixture when it was
mixed in the right proportions with air. “It only
needs a spark to set it alight,” he said.
The death occurred suddenly at his residence
this morning of well-known local identity Mr
Howard Henry Hooper. Born at Palmerston
North, he was educated there before
continuing his studies in China and Paris.
He ser ved in World War One before
returning to New Zealand to complete his
dental studies and in 1935 came to Greymouth
to the practice of Richmond and Reynolds.
uFood for thought
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The fall of Ramadi to
Islamic State troops was
not a big deal. The city
was deep inside IS-held
territory, IS fighters had
controlled 80% of it since
March, and we already
knew that the Iraqi army
cannot fight. Even so,
Islamic State is not going
to take much more of
Iraq. What it does not already hold is either
Shia or just not Arab at all (Kurdistan), and
that is not fertile ground for Sunni Arab
The fall of Palmyra was a very big deal,
because it was clear evidence that the
Syrian army ’s morale is starting to crumble.
It was doing quite well until last summer
and even regaining ground from the
insurgents, but the tide has now turned.
After every defeat and retreat, it gives up
more easily at the next stop. It may be too
late already, but at best the Syrian regime is
now in the Last Chance Saloon.
The Syrian army is very tired and short of
manpower after four years of war, but what
is really making the difference is that the
insurgents are now united in two powerful
groups rather than being split into dozens
of bickering fragments. Unfortunately, both
of those groups are Islamist fanatics.
The Al Nusra Front had to fight very
hard for Idlib, the north-western provincial
capital, in March, but Islamic State met
little resistance when it took over the
Damascus suburb of Yarmouk in April.
Palmyra and the adjacent gas fields, which
the regime fought for months to defend last
year, fell to Islamic State this month after
just four days.
It is never possible to say when a hard-
pressed army will actually collapse, but the
Syrian army is now in zone. If the Assad
regime does go under, Islamic State and
the Nusra Front will take over all of Syria.
What happens next would be very ugly.
Islamic State and the Nusra Front are
both ‘takfiri’ groups who believe that
Muslims who do not follow their own
extreme version of Sunni Islam are
‘apostates’, not real Muslims, and that they
deserve to be killed. About one-third of
Syria’s population are ‘apostates’ by this
definition — Alawites, other Shias, and
Druze — and they are all at great risk.
True, the Nusra Front has been less
outspoken about its intentions than Islamic
State, but that is just a question of timing
and tactics. The basic ideology is the same,
and the Nusra Front in power would be
committed by its own religious beliefs to
exactly the same murderous ‘cleansing’ of
the population. When religious fanatics tell
you they intend to do something, it is wise
to take them seriously.
An Islamist victory in Syria could entail
the death of millions. It would also cause
panic in the neighbouring Arab countries,
Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Yet no
nearby Arab country will put troops into
Syria to stop the looming disaster, because
they cannot imagine fighting fellow Sunnis
in Syria, however extreme their doctrine, in
order to save the regime of Bashar al Assad.
You do not get the choices you would like
to have. You only get the choices that are
on the table, even if you are the president of
the world’s only superpower. At this point
Barack Obama has only two options: save
the Syrian regime; or let it go under and
live with the consequences.
It is not even clear that he can save it.
He cannot and should not put American
troops on the ground in Syria, but he could
provide military and economic aid to the
Syrian regime — and, more importantly,
put US air power at the ser vice of the
Even that might not save Assad ’s regime,
but it would certainly help the morale
of the army and the two-thirds of the
population that still lives under his rule.
With more and better weapons and US air
support, the Syrian army might be able to
catch its breath and regain its balance. It
would be a gamble, and if Obama did that
he would be alienating two major allies,
Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But if he does
not do it, very bad things may follow.
US planes are already bombing Islamic
State (and the Nusra Front too, in practice)
all over northern Syria, but they did not
bomb the IS troops attacking Palmyra. That
was a deliberate decision, not an oversight,
even though Palmyra would probably not
have fallen if Obama had given the order.
The US President did not do that because
he is still stuck in the fantasy-land of an
American-trained ‘third force’ that will
defeat both Islamic State and the Assad
regime in a couple of years’ time. Saving
the Syrian regime is a deeply unattractive
choice, because it is a brutally repressive
dictatorship. Its only redeeming virtues
are that it is not genocidal, and does not
threaten all of the neighbours.
Obama may have as little as a couple
of months to come to terms with reality
and make a decision. Waiting until the
Syrian regime is already falling to intervene
is not a good option; decision time is
now. His reluctance to decide is entirely
understandable, but rescuing Assad is the
least bad option.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in 45
Syria: The last chance saloon
Members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front during an offensive to take control of the north-western city of Ariha from forces loyal to
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Among my personal enjoyments are
Silverbeet sandwiches, going to the
movies and, at times, running in the rain.
I’m not so keen on canned corn, nor
being at meetings that seem to go on
forever. Because each of us is unique it
is acknowledged that we are all different
and therefore we should not generalise
and assume that others experience life,
situations and tastes similar to ourselves.
It is said one person’s meat is another
person’s poison. Because we are inclined to
come at things from different perspectives,
we are better to assume differences rather
Likewise we can also judge and
categorise people. We can divide them
into the clever and not so clever, the
makers and shakers and the also-rans, the
fortunate and the not so fortunate etc. Yet,
as we know, even the clever and strong
can experience some weakness and the
less fortunate have their own particular
strengths and weaknesses. So often we can
be so wrong in our assumptions.
However, having acknowledged this
and allowing for our cultural differences,
there are still things that are common
to all of us. We are all on the journey of
life and one example is coming to terms
with the reality of death. There is also the
never ending search for personal meaning
in our lives. For those with faith there is
the spiritual dimension involving hope,
prayer and what God expects of us. It is
comforting to know that we are not alone.
As part of our human development,
when we resonate with what others are
experiencing, let us hope we can offer
them our friendship and support as we
continue to journey with the challenges
of life that come our way. May we
appreciate our individual differences but
also rejoice when we discover that others
are on similar journeys in their particular
experiences of life. May we celebrate our
differences and our sameness.
Fr Peter Costello
St Patrick’s Church, Greymouth
Appreciating our differences and our sameness
hat do Charles
have to do with
the reasons people
Perhaps more than we realise, say a pair
of Victoria University academics who
explore the link between crime and human
evolution in the new book Evolutionary
criminology: Towards a comprehensive
explanation of crime.
In the book, Dr Russil Durrant and
psychology lecturer Professor Tony Ward
argue that understanding patterns of
offending requires an approach spanning
wider than the offender’s psychology and
social and developmental background.
If we want to understand why men are
much more likely to perpetrate crimes
than women or why crime is often related
to social and economic disadvantage, Dr
Durrant said, then we have to consider
‘selection pressures’ faced by our species in
“Around 90% of homicides are
perpetrated by males and most of those are
directed against other males,” he said.
“ We argue that humans largely follow a
pattern of sexual selection similar to what
we see in other mammalian species. ”
This included males competing for
access to status and resources, which in
evolutionary terms would have led to
increased reproductive success.
“It is important to recognise, however,
that there is nothing inevitable about
male violence — although risk-taking
and fighting is one way that males obtain
status, there are alternative routes that
separate us from other mammals, such as
demonstrating skills, valuable knowledge
and prosocial behaviour,” Dr Durrant said.
“It would make sense, then, to focus
on policies and programmes that enable
males to pursue status through non-
Dr Durrant answered a few questions
about his research.
Is applying evolutionary theory been
done before much in criminology or is
this one of the first cases of it happening?
Evolutionary approaches have been
pretty much neglected in criminology.
Although psychology now often
incorporates evolutionary perspectives in
its efforts to understand human behaviour,
criminologists have largely ignored
The book that Tony and I have written
is the second book length treatment on
the topic and there are a small number of
scholars who have taken up this approach
It is worth noting, however, that there
is now an extensive literature on applying
evolutionary approaches to understanding
topics like aggression and violence in
other disciplines such as psychology and
Thus are main task is to provide a way of
integrating this literature with mainstream
Is this a big ‘missing puzzle piece’
against other factors around offending?
We don’t want to overplay our hand too
Although we think that an evolutionary
approach can advance our understanding
of criminal behaviour — and related
topics, like punishment — it is not
going to replace existing explanations or
The question of what value an
evolutionary approach adds is, however,
obviously an important one.
Take the case of the relationship
between adverse early environmental
experiences — such as abuse, neglect,
economic deprivation — and offending.
Although we know that these are major
risk factors for offending, it is not clear
— I would argue at least — that we have
a comprehensive grasp of why this is the
It may seem obvious, for example, that
individuals from poorer backgrounds are
more likely to offend because they have
fewer opportunities for making a decent
living compared to those who are less
However, although some offending is
clearly linked to economic necessity the
relationship is less clear when we consider
the elevated risk for engaging in various
types of violent and sexual offences.
An evolutionary approach highlights
how adverse early environments can
shift what evolutionary developmental
psychologists call “life history strategies”
— harsh and unpredictable environments
act as cues that indicate that the future is
likely to be a dangerous and risky place
and hence promotes greater risk-taking,
intra-sexual completion, and — for males
— “mating” effort.
When your chances of dying prematurely
are greater, then — from an evolutionary
point of view — it pays to engage in
behaviours that promote reproductive
success now rather than later.
These changes are likely to be reflected
in higher rates of antisocial and aggressive
The key point here is that humans
have evolved to be flexible and certain
environmental contexts can shift
behavioural responses along more
We think that an evolutionary approach,
therefore, can actually help us to make
a stronger case for the importance of
policies that reduce poverty and inequality
and that can effectively address child abuse
Understanding why this is the case, we
think, is essential for developing effective
How far are we going back when we
talk about evolution in this context —
centuries, thousands or millions of years?
If we want to understand the evolution
of human behaviour then we need to
consider the selection pressures that
shaped both our physical characteristics
and our behavioural characteristics
since the lineage that led to our species
split from the common ancestor of
chimpanzees some five to seven million
Of course, evolution is an ongoing
process so the more recent past is also
And, if we accept that culture can also
evolve (which we do) then centuries and
decades become important time frames to
How can we physically measure or
demonstrate that this plays a part in
criminal behaviour? Is it possible or
confined to theory?
Our main approach is to outline how
evolutionary can help us to explain that
patterns that we see in criminal behaviour.
For example, we know that men commit
a lot more crime than women, that
offending peaks during late adolescence,
and is related to social and economic
We think that a complete explanation of
these findings — and others — requires
us to consider both distal explanations
— such as our evolutionary history —
alongside more proximate accounts, like
the characteristics of offenders and their
We, or anybody for that matter, can’t
prove, for example, that the tendency
for males to fight each other much more
than females in all cultures and all time
periods reflects an evolutionary history
of male-male competition that relates to
reproductive success but this account helps
us to understand why male-male violence
is more common than female-female
It is also consistent with other differences
between men and women — for example,
that men are more prone to risk-taking,
are on average physically larger and
stronger than women and so forth.
In this respect it helps us to understand
a range of different findings not possible
with other approaches, by themselves.
How directly relevant might this new
research be to policy development?
One of the things that we would
really like to emphasise is that taking an
evolutionary approach does not commit
us to the idea that our behaviour is
Humans are an enormously flexible
species and this reflects, in part, the
importance of culture and learning in
shaping our behaviour.
When we think about crime, we know
for instance that rates of homicide vary
enormously both cross-culturally and over
Rates of homicide in Europe, for
example, were over thirty times greater
500 years ago than they are now.
This reminds us that the evolution of
norms, values, and institutions can affect
the propensity of individuals — especially
males — to engage in aggressive and
An evolutionary approach adds value
because it can tell us why, in this case
males, engage in such behaviour in the
first place — in a nutshell because it
increases their social status and hence,
in ancestral environments, reproductive
We argue that knowing this encourages
us to develop programs and policies that
can help allow us to create environments
that enable men to pursue social status
through more pro-social channels.
To take a very specific example, anti-
bullying programmes that simply promote
‘zero-tolerance’ are not likely to be effective.
Once we recognise the ‘function’ of
bullying — to obtain dominance and
social status — then we are in a position to
provide alternative pro-social means that
allow bullies to obtain this end without
— N Z ME-New Zealand Herald
Crime and evolution
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