Chris Lawson is an Australian doctor and science fiction writer. He was born in Melbourne in 1966 and spent six years of his youth in Papua New Guinea before its independence. He grew up in Melbourne and now lives on the Sunshine Coast where he practises family medicine and teaches at the University of Queensland. His short stories have appeared in international anthologies. Chris blogs at Talking Squid.
Why do you blog? > I don't really know.
What has been your best blogging experience? > The feedback, discovering that despite all indications to the contrary there is a large community of people devoted to understanding the world rationally and changing it for the better.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > The feedback, discovering that there is another large community of people who have a visceral hatred of understanding the world rationally and don't mind spitting bile.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Contrary to common advice, you don't have to post every day. It's more important to post when you have something to say than to maintain a schedule.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, Albert Camus, Charles Darwin, Galileo.
What are you reading at the moment? > Roald Dahl's Boy.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Mikhail Gorbachev, Andrei Sakharov, George Orwell, The White Rose movement, the International Red Cross.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > This is an impossible question! If I have to choose, then Keith Roberts's Pavane. I'd give a different answer tomorrow.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to be fairly anti-feminist during the 80s and early 90s when the movement was dominated by postmodernism and anti-autonomous arguments (like the feminist opposition to IVF because the feminists knew what women were supposed to want more than the women themselves did) and even young educated women were distancing themselves from the label. Now that there has been a resurgence of violent gynophobia around the world and feminism has swung away from the Butlers and Dworkinses, I've changed my mind.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Secular humanism (which unfortunately gets wrapped up with atheism in most discussions; I am an atheist but I don't think atheism is essential to a healthy society whereas I do think secular humanism is).
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Ten years ago I would have said postmodern anti-rationalism, but that's dying on the vine. Now I'd say ideological, especially authoritarian religious, anti-rationalism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Robert Heilbroner's The Worldy Philosophers, a book about the lives and works of the major economists that I never thought I would enjoy, but my father insisted I read it and I'm glad he did. What I learned from it is that most of the economic and political ideologies in common circulation are pale shadows of the works that inspired them, often distorted to the point of opposition. We expect books to be twisted by their opponents, but it's just as bad among their proponents. Karl Marx is misrepresented by many on the left; Adam Smith is misrepresented by many on the right.
What would you do with the UN? > Keep a presence there for the sake of communication and create a Union of Liberal Democracies to further our common interests.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think the best is yet to come, but I wish I could be more certain of it.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I have a number of very close friendships with people who have radically different political views, but I don't think I could live with it in a marriage.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Compassion (and not the fake compassion of 'hate the sin, love the sinner, (now whisper) but punish 'em anyway').
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Obstinate refusal to face facts in combination with insistence on getting one's own way.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Lie? Me?
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Rugby league players.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Recreational fishing.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Fundamentalists gaining access to weapons of mass destruction.
What would you call your autobiography? > The Old Self-Destruct Button.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > The Big Sur, California.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Fossil hunting in Antarctica.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > It's a toss-up between Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Jack Benny.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Heather Mackay, Peter Landy, Allan Border.
What teams do you support? > The Carlton Football Club in Australian Rules and the Aussie cricket team.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd live on a large forested property and pay someone else to take care of my ever-creeping administrative rubbish.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Actually, I've discovered that dining with people you admire can lead to sudden, irreversible disenchantment. So I'd time-snatch Hitler from 1930, Stalin from 1924, and Pol Pot from 1963 and serve cyanide roulades for the appetizer.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]