The Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood Defamation Trial Blog
The purpose of these legal proceedings against the ABC is to redress the damage done to the reputation and livelihood of Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood (FHA) Directors Jeremy Griffith and Tim Macartney-Snape, and in so doing restore and maintain the freedom for new ideas to be debated fairly and tolerantly in our society.
Significant Case News
- — 1 August 2008
- — 7 December 2007
- — 5 & 6 July 2007
- — 4 July 2007
- — 3 July 2007
- — 2 July 2007
- — 29 June 2007
- — 28 June 2007
- — 27 June 2007
- — 26 June 2007
- — 25 June 2007
- — 13 April 2007
- — 12 April 2007
- — 11 April 2007
- — 10 April 2007
- — 5 April 2007
- — 4 April 2007
- — 3 April 2007
- — 2 April 2007
- — 30 March 2007
- — 29 March 2007
- — 27 March 2007
- — 26 March 2007
- — 24 March 2007
- — 22 March 2007
- — 21 March 2007
- — 20 March 2007
- — 19 March 2007
- — 17 March 2007
- — 15 March 2007
- — 14 March 2007
ABC ordered to pay almost $500,000 in damages
Posted: 1 August 2008
On 1 August 2008, the NSW Supreme Court handed down a comprehensive defamation judgment against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan for their production of a 1995 Four Corners program.
The following is a report summarising the judgment that appeared in The Australian online.
ABC to pay defamed climber $500,000
By Andrew Drummond | August 01, 2008
MOUNTAINEER Tim Macartney-Snape has been awarded almost $500,000 after being defamed on ABC Television 13 years ago.
The New South Wales Supreme Court today awarded him $448,500 after a jury found an April 1995 episode of the Four Corners program, The Prophet of Oz, implied he used his influence to recruit school students to an alleged cυlt.
Mr Macartney-Snape, now 52, and associate Jeremy Griffith are directors of a Sydney-based research group Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood (FHA).
The NSW-registered charity, established in 1983, has more than 100 members throughout Australia and New Zealand and claims to try to understand and improve the “human condition: human capacity for both good and evil”.
In May 2005, a Supreme Court jury found the Four Corners episode and its narrator Reverend Dr David Millikan, defamed Mr Macartney-Snape on two occasions.
Firstly, that: “Tim Macartney-Snape deceives schools who invite him to talk to students about climbing Mt Everest by exploiting the occasion to promote Jeremy Griffith and his teachings”.
And that he “ … abuses his position of influence, derived from his reputation as a mountaineer, to recruit students at schools for Jeremy Griffith”.
Court documents show the damage to Mr Macartney-Snape’s reputation included two schools withdrawing invitations for him to address students.
“It is unsurprising that the impact upon his career as a speaker was dramatic and immediate,” today’s judgment said.
Mr Macartney-Snape said the verdict was vindication for FHA, which has had to endure years of “stigma” due to the Four Corners episode.
“The national broadcaster conspired with a religious fundamentalist to do a complete hatchet job on a groundbreaking scientific idea,” he said in a statement following today’s verdict.
With costs and interest, Mr Macartney-Snape expected the payout to exceed $1 million.
“Thirteen years later, the truth has caught up with the lie,” he said.
“Today’s verdict is vindication for a project which has had to endure the appalling and completely unjustified stigma cast by the ABC for more than a decade.”
While the jury also found Mr Griffith was defamed, Justice David Kirby did not award costs to the biologist, philosopher and author after considering the defences of truth, qualified privilege and comment in relation to the claim.
The ABC declined to comment until its lawyers had reviewed the 355-page judgment.
Parties will make submissions to Justice Kirby on costs and interest at a future date.
Since the above Australian online report, many newspapers throughout Australia have run very similar stories, such as the Daily Telegraph story below.
$1m ruling against the ABC
2 August 2008
TAXPAYERS will foot a huge bill after mountaineer Tim Macartney Snape was yesterday awarded almost $450,000 in damages over a defamatory ABC broadcast.
The Supreme Court ordered the payout after a jury found Mr Macartney-Snape was defamed by a Four Corners program which wrongly implied he deceived schools and abused his influence for his own ends. With costs and interest, the payout could top $1million.
Mr Macartney-Snape — who in 1984 became the first Australian to climb Mt Everest — launched a career in public speaking.
But he told the Supreme Court that, after the program was screened in 1995, “any interest in me as a public speaker was, you know, pretty well shot”.
He sued the ABC and narrator David Millikan over the program, which concerned the work of biologist Jeremy Griffith. Mr Griffith is a co-director with Mr Macartney-Snape of the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood.
The Sydney-based research group claims to try to understand and improve the human condition and the “human capacity for both good and evil”.
The ABC unsuccessfully defended the case on the grounds of truth, qualified privilege and fair comment.
Four Corners discredited
After being awarded half-a-million dollars in damages by the NSW Supreme Court judgment, Tim Macartney-Snape, a twice honoured Order of Australia recipient, said “the verdict is further resounding discreditation of the 1995 Four Corners program about the FHA.”
In 1998, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA), Australia’s official media watchdog, brought down its then strongest ruling ever, against the Four Corners program. It found it to be ‘inaccurate, unbalanced and partial’ and it went so far as to take the unprecedented step of recommending to the ABC that it would be ‘appropriate to apologise’ to the FHA.
The ABA’s 1998 ruling included findings that “the imputation by Dr Millikan that Mr Griffith sees himself as a figure equivalent in stature and eminence as Jesus Christ” was “inaccurate” and that the program “omitted relevant viewpoints on the issue of family turmoil”.
“When the ABC refused to apologise, we were left with no choice but to institute defamation proceedings seeking compensation for the damage in the Supreme Court,” Mr Macartney-Snape said.
“In the judgment today, we won two of the three imputations determined by the judge and we’ve received a very substantial damages award.”
“It is appalling that the ABC dragged this out for so long, especially given the ABA recommended it apologise a decade ago.”
While relieved about his vindication, Mr Macartney-Snape said he was disappointed that his fellow director Jeremy Griffith was not also awarded compensation.
“It is very surprising, given that four eminent international scientists gave such strong evidence in support of Jeremy’s work.”
“As history shows and as this whole experience confirms, new ideas are notoriously resisted by the establishment,” Mr Macartney-Snape added.
Mr Griffith said he was relieved that the damage to Tim’s magnificent reputation had at last been properly redressed and that the credibilty of the Four Corners program had been impugned by the verdict.
He also said, “while the issue of humans’ insecure and contradictory nature is the most confronting and thus contentious of subjects, it is also the underlying issue in all human affairs that must be addressed by science if there is to be a future for the human race.”
At the Supreme Court hearing before Justice Kirby in 2007, scientific experts from the US and Europe took the stand in support of Mr Griffith’s treatise on the human condition. Significantly, their evidence had to be limited to material he published prior to the April 1995 Four Corners broadcast.
Since 1995, Mr Griffith has published a number of seminal works that have attracted international attention and support from prominent scientists who regard his thesis as being at the cutting edge of scientific enquiry. His recent publications include The Human Condition Documentary Proposal (2004), which received commendations from eminent scientists including Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, and the 2003 bestseller A Species In Denial.
Mr Macartney-Snape said that Mr Griffith’s earlier work was formative and radical, similar to the early pioneering work of other great thinkers and artists.
“The breathtaking scope and originality of Jeremy’s work contrasted so sharply with the prevailing mechanistic scientific paradigm that, initially, relatively few could recognise and appreciate its real substance. It’s like the early work of Picasso which was initially met with indifference, but later acknowledged as being brilliant and ahead of its time.”
Among those testifying at the 2007 hearing for Mr Griffith was Professor Harry Prosen, former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
“If we stop asking the serious questions about human life, we may as well stop being conscious,” Professor Prosen said upon hearing of the judgment.
Echoing Mr Macartney-Snape’s views, the Canadian professor added that: “George Bernard Shaw warned of the true nature of scientific progress when he said, ‘all great truths begin as blasphemies’.”
“Jeremy is a rare individual in the history of science, one of the very few honest and courageous enough to so directly confront and explain humans’ non-ideal state.
“I have no doubt that, in time, the extraordinary significance of his work will be recognised the world over,” Professor Prosen said.
Court hears final submissions
Posted: 7 December 2007
A day of oral submissions in Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation action against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan concluded yesterday in the NSW Supreme Court.
This followed the filing of detailed written submissions from both sides regarding the defamatory Four Corners program broadcast in April 1995.
A full courtroom heard counsel for the defendants, Bret Walker SC, then counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark SC, addressing Justice David Kirby on particular aspects of the case.
At the conclusion of addresses, Justice Kirby reserved his judgment.
Court sets timetable for submissions after evidence closes
Posted: 6 July 2007
The defendants closed their evidence this morning, 6 July, ten minutes after the Court day began, meaning the evidentiary phase in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s trial in relation to a defamatory 1995 Four Corners broadcast is now complete.
Indications from counsel for the defendants during the course of the trial that the program’s guest reporter, Reverend David Millikan, or the program’s executive producer, Ian Carroll, might be called to the witness box did not come to pass.
There were no witnesses called yesterday and the Court spent most of the day listening to audio recordings of conversations between Reverend Millikan, Mr Griffith and others which occurred in late January and February 1995, several months before the Four Corners program went to air in April that year.
After lunch yesterday, the defendants tendered a bundle of documents, most of which were admitted into evidence without objection or limitation.
After 30 hearing days, the evidence in the case is now closed. Justice David Kirby set a timetable for the filing of written submissions through August and September and the taking of oral submissions in December. Judgment in the matter is not expected until next year.
ABC scientist rejects purpose in nature
Posted: 4 July 2007
Professor Maciej Henneberg told the Supreme Court today that he rejected the teleological, or purpose driven, approach to science taken by biologist Jeremy Griffith and the renowned paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Appearing for the defendants in Mr Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation action against the ABC, the biological anthropologist from the University of Adelaide was giving opinion evidence pertaining to the scientific standard of Mr Griffith’s work, as expressed in his books Free: The End Of The Human Condition (1988) and Beyond The Human Condition (1991).
In his evidence-in-chief, Professor Henneberg took the opportunity to elaborate on various criticisms contained in his written report and identified a number of what he described as “untestable hypotheses” in Mr Griffith’s work.
During cross-examination, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Kieran Smark, directed the professor’s attention to various references in Beyond about holism and integrative meaning.
“You understood, didn’t you, that central to Mr Griffith’s approach was that not merely human nature but even the development of matter was a reflection of an underlying purpose in the universe?” he asked.
“Well, I understand this but I strongly disagree with it as a scientist”, said Professor Henneberg.
Mr Smark then mentioned a quote cited in Beyond from Teilhard de Chardin’s defining work, The Phenomenon of Man (1959):
“I can see a direction and a line of progress for life, a line and a direction which are in fact so well marked that I am convinced their reality will be universally admitted by the science of tomorrow.”
But Professor Henneberg remained unmoved. “Teleological explanation of nature is incompatible with the scientific method”, he insisted.
Shortly after, Mr Smark put to the anthropologist whether he accepted that the study of living great apes provided a fertile field for understanding human nature.
“I am sorry to give an ambiguous answer, but I don’t think I do. I can’t say categorically, no. That was one of the reasons I never involved myself in research on living primates”, the professor said.
“Would you accept, Professor Henneberg, it would be fair to describe you as a scientist committed to a hard mechanistic view of science?” asked Mr Smark.
“No, I don’t”, he replied.
“I am suggesting to you that your view of the scientific process is at fairly much one end of a spectrum in relation to how one identifies what is and is not science, do you accept that?” pressed Mr Smark.
“Well, that’s your opinion. I can’t really self assess”, he responded.
After the luncheon adjournment, the defendants called James Moule, the deputy-principal of Concord High School at the time Mr Macartney-Snape gave a school speech night address in March 1995, footage of which was included in the defamatory Four Corners broadcast.
Mr Moule said it was his understanding that Gabi Hollows had originally been booked for the occasion and that she had recommended the mountaineer as a suitable alternative to take her place when she was unable to attend. Mr Moule went on to give the Court his recollection of Mr Macartney-Snape’s speech night address.
“And you can recall amongst the things Mr Macartney-Snape mentioned, that he referred to the ideas of Jeremy Griffith?” asked Mr Smark.
“Yes, but it was only a passing mention,” said Mr Moule.
“And that was not something that particularly concerned you, was it?”
“No”, he replied.
Earlier in the day, Justice David Kirby gave judgement for the defendants on a claim in injurious falsehood brought by Mr Griffith concerning payments of almost $23,000 made to Jackson Wells Communications, public relations consultants first retained in early April 1995, prior to the defamatory Four Corners broadcast going to air.
The key issue in Justice Kirby’s judgement concerned the capacity in which Jackson Wells Communications was retained. Counsel for the plaintiffs had contended that both Mr Griffith and the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood held the retainer and during the course of the trial had tendered a number of documents in support of that position.
However, following submissions from the defendants, the Court formed the view the Jackson Wells retainer was held by the Foundation alone and that Mr Griffith had been involved in his capacity as a director of the Foundation, rather than his personal capacity, notwithstanding that Mr Griffith had paid the invoices from his own account. On that basis, Justice Kirby said the injurious falsehood claim must fail.
Evidence from the defendants continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
Two sides of Four Corners
Posted: 3 July 2007
Counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark, today concluded a three day cross-examination of Four Corners’ producer Deborah Masters in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC.
The Court was played two extracts of film footage taken on 8 February 1995 during a walk in the Snowy Mountains, more than two months before the defamatory ABC-TV Four Corners broadcast went to air.
In the first extract, guest reporter Reverend David Millikan was shown explaining his religious beliefs to Mr Griffith:
Millikan:I’m deeply committed, I have been since I was about 15 or 16 I guess, to a relationship with God which has been, I guess, one of the most fulfilling dimensions in my life. It’s given me a sense of purpose and security and a sense of understanding of myself and all that. Now you talk about God, but I see what you’re saying as being a sort of classic statement of the isolated and autonomous individual and there is no place within your system for a transcendent God.
Griffith: What do you mean by transcendent?
Millikan: The God that is beyond this world. You see, I mean, Christianity says that God is both in the world and God is separate from the world because the world owes its origin to God. Now what place is there [for a transcendent God] within what you’re saying?
In the second film extract, the philosophical discussion between the reverend and the biologist continued:
Millikan: … you see, we have two different really sort of perceptions about the nature of God because, see when I talked about God as transcendent, that seems to me to be essential, I mean I don’t know of any other way to relate to God.
Under cross-examination, Ms Masters acknowledged that Reverend Millikan was “a man whose fundamental Christian belief was unquestionable”. She also agreed that by the time of the Snowy Mountains exchange her view was that Reverend Millikan’s belief in a transcendent God was an aspect that he found completely lacking in Mr Griffith’s ideas.
However, when Mr Smark put it to her, Ms Masters strenuously denied she was aware that Reverend Millikan’s permanent Christian beliefs were significantly shaping the course of the Four Corners program by the time it went to air.
Nonetheless, she later conceded that the program was “laced with religious language and imagery”. Ms Masters admitted that while Mr Macartney-Snape was described in the introduction to the program as “the prophet’s first disciple”, she had never heard Mr Macartney-Snape describe himself in those terms.
After Ms Masters was excused, the plaintiffs called expert witness Paul Lom, a Melbourne-based chartered accountant. Mr Lom, who had filed two reports on the economic loss claimed by Mr Macartney-Snape, was cross-examined by counsel for the defendants, John Sheahan SC, for the balance of the afternoon.
The case continues tomorrow when the defendants are expected to call Professor Maciej Henneberg, a biological anthropologist at the University of Adelaide, and chartered accountant Paul Vincent.
Masters concerned by non-disclosure
Posted: 2 July 2007
ABC producer Deborah Masters spent her third day in the witness box defending Four Corners’ portrayal of eminent Australian mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape and biologist Jeremy Griffith as their defamation trial against the national broadcaster continued.
One of the three defamatory imputations held to arise from the 1995 ABC–TV broadcast was that Mr Macartney-Snape abuses his position of influence, derived from his reputation as a mountaineer, to recruit students at schools for Mr Griffith.
Under cross-examination by Kieran Smark, Ms Masters conceded she was “at least a little troubled” that Four Corners did not disclose to Mr Macartney-Snape allegations about how he promoted Mr Griffith’s ideas made by Howard Whelan before they went to air in the program.
“And one of the reasons why you were at least a little troubled is that you wondered if as a matter of fairness it mightn’t be appropriate in the circumstances to raise at least with Mr Macartney-Snape or some other person with the Foundation whether or not the allegations being made by Mr Whelan was a matter to which they wished to respond specifically?” asked Mr Smark.
“Yes, that’s right”, she responded.
Ms Masters said that after seeking advice from Four Corners’ executive producer Ian Carroll, it was decided the program’s guest reporter, Reverend David Millikan, could canvass Mr Whelan’s allegations with Mr Griffith in the final interview. She agreed it was “a matter of regret” when that did not come to pass.
Ms Masters also described how she had sought to have Mr Macartney-Snape stay back after a school speech to do a further interview, which did not proceed following a debate she had with Reverend Millikan.
“And as it happened, a decision was made and may we take it from your demeanour today it is one that even now you wish had been resolved in a different direction?” asked Mr Smark.
“Well yes, I suppose I do”, she replied.
Later in the day, the Court was shown a compilation of 17 film extracts that were not included in the final Four Corners broadcast. Some of the extracts contained comments and discussion about Mr Griffith’s work from scientists interviewed by Reverend Millikan, such as:
“I initially am attracted to the underlying concept of it which is that there is a fundamental nexus between the instinctive self, through our evolution, the instinctive human being and the intellectual self. I’d never thought of that until I read it in Jeremy’s prose and I think it struck a chord of common sense with me”, said Dr Graham Robertson.
“The book, well, is not without interest as we’ve seen, and in some cases it’s downright intriguing as we’ve seen and that’s what I said”, said Professor Colin Groves.
“I think it’s always very valuable to try to look at behaviours, human behaviours particularly, and to try to gain some understanding of them by looking at our nearest relatives and what little we understand about the fossil record and human evolution”, said Professor Tim Flannery.
Ms Masters agreed she had seen each extract as part of the process of assembling the Four Corners program.
“This was material that, for whatever reason, you decided not to include or you were part of a collaboration that decided not to include in the final Four Corners program, isn’t it?” asked Mr Smark.
“Yes”, she replied.
Cross-examination of Ms Masters continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
Four Corners producer in the witness box
Posted: 29 June 2007
Deborah Masters, producer of the 1995 ABC–TV Four Corners program about biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape, entered the witness box again today as the Supreme Court trial rolled into its 25th hearing day.
Continuing through her evidence-in-chief with counsel for the defendants, John Sheahan SC, Ms Masters described her priorities in producing the Four Corners broadcast:
“To present the story, to clearly have Jeremy’s views and an explanation of them, to have interviews with members of the FHA and why they were there, and obviously Tim, who was a key figure, to raise the concerns held by people like the parents [of FHA members] and Rosie and Howard Whelan … and to get Jeremy’s work assessed by scientists”.
Ms Masters explained to the Court how the ABC’s production team for the program, which also included guest reporter Reverend David Millikan and executive producer Ian Carroll, reached a consensus decision not to include in the broadcast an interview with parents who were supportive of their offspring’s involvement with the Foundation.
“My view was that we had spent a lot of time allowing Jeremy Griffith and Tim [Macartney-Snape] to explain the philosophy and the involvement … we didn’t say all parents were against their children’s involvement within the script, and my view was it was not necessary”, Ms Masters said.
Under cross-examination by counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark, Ms Masters agreed that she was aware of families expressing support for their offspring’s engagement or participation in the Foundation but had made no attempt to contact them.
“You didn’t take any step to find out [about supportive families] on the walk, and that remained the case up until the broadcast, didn’t it?”, asked Mr Smark.
“Yes. Yes. I think David [Millikan] may have, but I’m not entirely sure”, Ms Masters responded.
In relation to the objective of airing opinion about the scientific merit of Mr Griffith’s work, Ms Masters said that Four Corners had interviewed Professor Colin Groves, Professor Tim Flannery and Dr Graham Robertson. This preceded the following exchanges between Mr Smark and Ms Masters in cross-examination:
Smark: There was never any interview with Professor Morton, was there?
Masters: No, there was not.
Smark: And there was never any interview with Professor Birch?
Smark: And there was never any interview with any other scientist which was put to air or which was not put to air which was fairly regarded as being supportive in your mind of Mr Griffith’s ideas?
Masters: That’s right.
Smark:It was your perception, wasn’t it, that when the program went to air as at April 1995, the thrust of the program overwhelmingly was that there was no scientific support at all for Mr Griffith’s ideas?
Cross-examination of Ms Masters is expected to continue on Monday before the defendants call Professor Maciej Henneberg to the witness box.
Original and inspiring said Professor Birch
Posted: 28 June 2007
Commendations for the work of biologist and author Jeremy Griffith from world-renowned scientists Charles Birch, Paul Davies and John Morton were tendered in Court today as Mr Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape s defamation action over a 1995 Four Corners program continued.
In a 2003 determination that preceded the current hearing, a Supreme Court jury found that Mr Griffith had been defamed by the imputation in the Four Corners program that, as a scientist, he publishes work of such a poor standard that it has no support at all from the scientific community .
The scientific commendations admitted into evidence today were among various letters and other materials the plaintiffs had exchanged with the three academics, ranging in date from prior to the publication of Mr Griffith s second book Beyond The Human Condition (1991) to the launch of his third book, A Species In Denial (2003), more than a decade later.
In his commendation of Beyond, the Templeton Prize winning Emeritus Professor Charles Birch, who lectured Mr Griffith as a biology student at Sydney University in the 1960s, wrote:
[Griffith] gives us a genuinely original and inspiring way of understanding ourselves and our place in the universe. His vision is one I embrace with enthusiasm and commend to all those who are searching for meaning.
Other documents tendered in relation to Professor Birch outlined the history of his support for Mr Griffith s work, including his Open Day address at the Foundation for Humanity s Adulthood in 1993, a speech he gave at the Foundation s website launch at the Australian Museum in 1998 and a copy of his foreword to Mr Griffith s 2003 bestseller, A Species In Denial.
In addition to material relating to Professors Birch and Morton, the plaintiffs also tendered a commendation for Beyond from the physicist and 1995 Templeton Prize winner, Professor Paul Davies, sent in November 1991, which stated:
What does it mean to be human? Jeremy Griffith s challenging study of our internal conflicts our upset will surely spark fresh debate on the human condition. In this sweeping synthesis, the author draws from the physical sciences, from anthropology, from religion and philosophy, to build a new conception of human beings and our place in the universe. From his penetrating insight into the origins of the human condition Griffith shows how, through understanding it, we may move onto achieve true peace and harmony. Here is a frank, bold and, above all, hopeful message for mankind.
After tendering Professor Davies commendation, counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark, said he was not seeking to lead the Court to the inference that the physicist s position had remained unchanged and he foreshadowed further evidence would be admitted on that subject in the course of the hearing.
After the luncheon adjournment, counsel for the defendants, John Sheahan SC, called the ABC’s Deborah Masters, the producer of the defamatory Four Corners broadcast, to the witness box.
Ms Masters began her testimony by describing to the Court how she was approached in January 1995 by Four Corners then executive producer Ian Carroll to be involved in the making of the proposed program about the plaintiffs. She recounted how three days after Mr Carroll s approach, she and the program s guest reporter, Reverend David Millikan, met with Mr Griffith at his Sydney home.
Evidence from Ms Masters continues tomorrow before Justice David Kirby.
Eminent zoologist stands by Griffith
Posted: 27 June 2007
Affidavit evidence from the eminent New Zealand zoologist, Professor John Morton, was filed today in support of biologist Jeremy Griffith’s defamation claim against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan.
The University of Auckland Emeritus Professor of Zoology and Lay Canon Emeritus of the Diocese of Auckland is known for his work in the fields of biology, zoology, philosophy and theology, including his books Man, Science and God (1972) and Redeeming Creation (1984).
Unable to attend Court due to ill-health, the professor’s affidavit set out his long history of involvement with Mr Griffith, from reading his first book Free: The End Of The Human Condition (1988) and speaking at the New Zealand launch of his second book Beyond The Human Condition (1991) to endorsing his third book A Species In Denial (2003), which he described as ‘superb’.
In his sworn statement, Professor Morton recalled watching the defamatory Four Corners broadcast in Sydney in late April 1995 and annexed a transcript of an interview he gave the next day to the late Andrew Olle on Radio 2BL, in which he discussed Mr Griffith’s work:
“It’s about man’s biological future as it must relate to religion. It’s got overtones of Teilhard [de Chardin] and goes back as old I suppose as William Blake and Wordsworth. What is it? Its message is that mankind has lost some of his primal innocence on this planet. We’ve become over, perhaps two million years of evolution … an intellectual species … over sophisticated, over numerous, overpopulated, overgreedy”, Professor Morton said in the interview.
“I don’t think that we should too often use the word prophet for a fallible human being but make no mistake there is seriousness and there’s a substratum of truth in the book Beyond The Human Condition. I would recommend that listeners read it.”
Earlier in the day, the Court heard an interview of Mr Griffith by Gerard Stone on Radio 5AA, aired on 23 April 1995, the day before the Four Corners broadcast:
“[Millikan] did ring us up about two months ago and said, ‘look I know I wrote a dismissive review, but I believe I got it wrong and I want to now nominate your understanding for an international documentary of seminal thinkers to take humanity to the next millennium’ and he gave us very positive encouragement”, Mr Griffith was heard to say.
“… it turns out [Millikan] totally misrepresented us and he has a deep animosity we suggest towards the understandings in my books, and what happened was, he wasn’t there to really understand what we were putting out, so much as to vilify it and that’s what we’re complaining about.”
Later in the interview, Mr Griffith says, “I’d like to contrast that with Professor John Morton, who’s both a very eminent theologian as well as an eminent biologist and Dr Millikan isn’t a biologist … this is Morton’s view, ‘Griffith’s book should be read by Christians, especially young ones in schools and also taken home by them’, whereas the view that Dr Millikan is presenting [is] that I’m a deluded cυlt figure or something.”
The Court was then shown a reconstruction of an ABC–TV interview conducted by Reverend Millikan in mid-March 1995 during the production of the Four Corners program.
Evidence continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
Millikan on record
Posted: 26 June 2007
The Supreme Court today heard contrasting recordings of the ABC’s guest producer, Reverend David Millikan, as biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the national broadcaster continued.
In the first of several audio and audio-visual records played before Justice David Kirby today, Reverend Millikan is heard speaking to Mr Griffith in a telephone conversation on 24 January 1995, explaining his intentions for the proposed Four Corners program some three months before it went to air:
“The situation is this. This friend of mine he has, he approached me about six months ago, and he said that he is working with a group out of San Francisco who want to put together a series of sixteen films…called ‘Beliefs for the New Millennium’ or ‘Beliefs Beyond 2000’ and it is an attempt to gather together seminal thinkers and ideas that would, that are not part of the mainstream and yet would be sort of, should be put forward for public consideration.”
“… so the deal was, I would get this up here in Australia but I would do it in a way that would give me the right to take the film beyond Australia. So I will do a deal with Four Corners if they want to do this thing, that they put it on in Australia but once it’s been shown in Australia, I have the right to take it off and package it up in another way.”
On the tape, Reverend Millikan goes on to say to Mr Griffith:
“I want to be able to give a clear statement of what it is you are saying and the implications of what you are saying in terms of the sort of the progress, the future of Australia and the world generally.”
Further on in the recording, Mr Griffith is heard responding to Reverend Millikan:
“Yeah well you’ve got all the experience in the world behind you in terms of connections … we are very lucky to have somebody who has had all that experience in the media, has training in theology, and also discipline minded and also has had experience in this tender area of ideas where they can be one or the other you know. So I’m running with you.”
Next up, the Court was shown an audio-visual recording of an ABC-TV interview conducted a month later by Reverend Millikan, with Charles and Gillian Belfield, parents of Sam Belfield, a member of the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood. In the course of the interview, portions of which were included in the Four Corners program, Mr and Mrs Belfield discussed their son’s interest in Mr Griffith’s work and his involvement in the Foundation.
Towards the end of the ABC footage, in an incomplete excerpt not included in the Four Corners program, Reverend Millikan is seen talking to Mr and Mrs Belfield, saying:
“And like I said to you I think this, it’s going to be a hard time for everyone in the group over the next, the first couple of months after [the Four Corners program] goes to air because [Griffith] will ahh he’ll bring ‘em in, he’ll reign ‘em in, just start reasserting, start asserting his authority and becoming more and more intrusive to cut off any avenues of dissention and then they’ll start to drop off. For many of them it will just get too hard and they’ll suddenly sort of feel that they just can’t keep up. And he may take a couple out, he’ll certainly lose access to the schools and the universities because whoever Macartney-Snape …”
Following this, the Court heard an ABC radio interview aired on 5AN Adelaide on 20 April 1995, four days before the defamatory Four Corners program was broadcast. Mr Griffith was heard saying:
“[Millikan] misrepresented himself when he approached us and he’s misrepresenting us, our information and the reason we’re concerned is because of that misrepresentation.”
The trial before Justice Kirby continues tomorrow.
Media watchdog recommended ABC apology
Posted: 25 June 2007
The trial in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation action over a 1995 ABC–TV Four Corners program resumed today in the Supreme Court following a 10-week adjournment.
In a day marked by protracted legal argument, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Kieran Smark, picked up where he left off on 13 April 2007, tendering audio-visual material, correspondence and other documents as part of his clients’ evidence-in-chief.
The plaintiffs’ tender bundle included a letter from Mr Griffith sent on 27 April 1995, just two days after the defamatory broadcast first aired, to the ABC’s then managing director, Brian Johns, claiming the national broadcaster had breached its Code of Practice.
Following objections from the defendants, Justice David Kirby allowed Mr Griffith’s letter to be admitted, limited to relevant evidence of complaint in respect of four subject matters, being “the selection of some parents [to appear in the program] but not others; some experts but not others, the reference to Mr Griffith being a Jesus Christ figure which he did not claim to be and Mr Macartney-Snape abusing the hospitality of schools who invited him to speak.”
Also tendered was a letter in response from Mr Johns on 29 May 1995, which dismissed Mr Griffith’s concerns and preceded the filing of a formal complaint with the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) and a subsequent ruling from the media regulator in 1998.
Mr Smark then sought to admit correspondence between the public bodies, including a letter dated 8 July 1998 from the ABA’s then deputy chairman, Gareth Grainger, to the ABC that stated:
“The ABA’s investigation resulted in a number of adverse findings against the ABC concerning accuracy and balance within the ‘Four Corners’ program. In light of these findings the ABA is of the view that out of fairness to the complainant it would be appropriate for the ABC to broadcast some form of apology”.
Also put forward were letters exchanged later in July 1998 showing the ABC protesting the investigative process that led to the ABA ruling, and the media watchdog maintaining its position.
The new counsel for the defendants, John Sheahan SC, objected to the purpose for which the plaintiffs sought to tender the ABA correspondence:
“The question whether someone else called upon [the ABC] to apologise and [it] refused raises what is in truth a wholly collateral issue”.
After hearing submissions, Justice Kirby admitted the ABA correspondence into evidence subject to limitation, saying:
“In some respects it may be arguable that, flawed or not, this was an opportunity from a relevant body of jurisdiction for the ABC, in a timely way, to search its soul as to whether it had been guilty of the things that were said against it”.
After the luncheon adjournment, Mr Macartney-Snape returned to the witness box to give evidence about events relating to the scientific support for Mr Griffith’s work.
The trial continues tomorrow in the NSW Supreme Court.
Trial adjourned to June
Posted: 13 April 2007
The trial of biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s Supreme Court defamation action over a 1995 ABC–TV Four Corners program was adjourned today for two months.
Originally scheduled to finish by Easter, the hearing has run longer than expected and Justice David Kirby today set aside a further two weeks in late June and early July to hear the balance of the evidence.
The trial is scheduled to resume on 25 June 2007.
Belfield’s evidence finishes
Posted: 12 April 2007
The Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood CEO Sam Belfield today concluded a long and challenging period of cross-examination, ten days after first entering the witness box in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC.
During four days of cross-examination from counsel for the defendants, Bret Walker SC, which finished this afternoon, Mr Belfield endured intense scrutiny of his two decades of involvement in the FHA. This preceded a brief re-examination by counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark.
Over the course of his testimony, Mr Belfield traversed a myriad of issues from how his interest in Mr Griffith’s biological treatise developed in the early 1990s, how his involvement in the FHA deepened, how the Four Corners program came about and the fall-out that followed, to his current role as FHA CEO and personal effects he experienced along the way.
In particular, he was pressed at length about the cause of his estrangement from his parents, Charles and Gillian Belfield, who had been highly critical of their son’s involvement in the FHA in an interview contained in the Four Corners program. Under persistent cross-examination by Mr Walker, Mr Belfield repeatedly refuted that he had written to his father in a hostile and disrespectful fashion on account of his father disagreeing with Mr Griffith’s ideas.
In the course of re-examination this afternoon, Mr Smark asked Mr Belfield to explain why he had written to his father as he had. Mr Belfield said there were a number of aspects, including a conversation he had with his father following the Four Corners program, in which his father gave “an ultimatum that he was going to sell his soul to destroy the Foundation”.
“In the period shortly thereafter, my father made what, in my view, were shocking allegations of a personal nature about Jeremy Griffith, and in fact, other directors of the Foundation … he also made allegations to me about my relationship with [my girlfriend] Susan”, Mr Belfield added.
Mr Belfield then recounted how, in late 1995, he refused his father’s request to cease working for the FHA.
“In the conversation that ensued, I was provided with what I understood to be a legal document and I was asked, in the light of my decision not to cease working for the Foundation, to sign that which would have the effect of excluding me from any right or entitlement to the family enterprise. Although being very upset, I acceded to doing that”, Mr Belfield said.
The Court heard how he tried to raise the issue again with his parents the following year, in April 1996.
“I said to my mother at that time, ‘I think we need to talk about what’s happened in 1995’. A lot of things were said and done that I felt we needed to work through. Raising that issue had the effect of precipitating a letter from my father shortly thereafter where, amongst other things, he said to the effect, ‘I’m going to have to purge all things to do with the Foundation from our lives and so long as you’re a part of the Foundation, we don’t wish to be involved with you so long as that remains the case,’”, Mr Belfield recounted.
After Mr Belfield’s evidence finished, the plaintiffs called Sandy Cullen-Ward, mother of FHA members Em, 33, and Fi, 31, who outlined how she supported her daughters’ interest in Mr Griffith’s ideas, which began in the early 1990s.
Mrs Cullen-Ward said her daughters’ involvement in the FHA had been beneficial to them and described how she and her husband held an FHA open day at their home in Brisbane in 1994, attended by almost 100 people with an interest in its work.
She went on to explain how, prior to the defamatory Four Corners broadcast, she became one of the signatories to an open letter that was sent by a group of parents of FHA members to Brian Johns, then Managing Director of the ABC.
“Having recently read a transcript of a radio interview with Dr Millikan, we, as concerned parents, wanted to just let Mr Johns know that we were most unhappy with the way the program was being put together and the way Dr Millikan was presenting his ideas,” Mrs Cullen-Ward told the Court.
A copy of the 18 April 1995 letter to Mr Johns tendered to the Court set out the parents’ concerns:
“In the radio interview, Dr Millikan claims that “…he (Jeremy Griffith) is surrounded by parents and families who are really quite distressed.” We are writing to tell you that there are many more parents who are either supportive or tolerant.
“If the views expressed by Dr Millikan in the radio program are an indication of what the Four Corners program is about then we strongly object to this mish-mash of half truths and prejudices being put forward as serious investigative journalism. It is an affront to the proud history of the ABC and a slur on the directors and members of the FHA.
“We ask you to look at the program and satisfy yourself of its truthfulness and balance”, the letter concluded.
The case continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
Griffith feared Four Corners ‘bucket-job’
Posted: 11 April 2007
“Today will be a film day”, said counsel for the plaintiffs Kieran Smark as he introduced the 18th day of biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan.
At the request of the defendants, the Court was shown an audio-visual presentation prepared by the plaintiffs prior to the defamatory Four Corners program going to air in April 1995 that featured Mr Griffith expressing his concerns about the pending broadcast:
“We haven’t seen the program yet, we’ve been told though that it’s a bucket-job, by people working inside the ABC, on a new religious sect, that’s the way we’ve been described…”
“The program is coming to air in a couple of weeks and we fear the worst. It is going to be the insensitive, superficial treatment that we went to great lengths to try to make sure it wouldn’t be. We were deceived by Dr Millikan we feel.”
In the video presentation, Mr Griffith went on to discuss the history of new ideas and the background to the program:
“Galileo, when he said that the world was not the centre of the universe, had to live under house arrest for the rest of his life…”
“Teilhard de Chardin was excommunicated from his Jesuit faith at one stage for daring to try to interpret religious truths and Darwin’s idea of natural selection was nearly stopped because in the famous debate in 1860 at Oxford Bishop Wilberforce stood up and…said Darwin’s views were ‘contrary to the revelations of God in the scriptures’.”
“The story of the journey of human ideas is in fact the story of entrenched resistance, the old paradigm resisting the new.”
“And the Foundation believes that it is now in the grips of the equivalent of a Bishop Wilberforce who finds these ideas untenable, an anathema and now that we’ve found Dr Millikan’s article from a year ago in National Outlook [it] reveals just how deep his animosity towards these understandings are, and how great therefore is his deception”, Mr Griffith was seen saying.
Earlier in the day, the Court heard a 2BL Radio interview with the late Andrew Olle, broadcast the day after Four Corners aired, featuring the University of Auckland’s Emeritus Professor of Zoology John Morton giving an outline of Mr Griffith’s work:
“It’s about man’s biological future as it must relate to religion. It’s got overtones of Teilhard [de Chardin] and goes back as old I suppose as William Blake and Wordsworth. What is it? Its message is that mankind has lost some of his primal innocence on this planet. We’ve become over, perhaps two million years of evolution, an intellectual, technological, acquisitive, mischievous, inspired sometimes species. We’ve lost the old intuitive and emotional oneness with the non-human created world…”
“I believe Jeremy is making a prophetic utterance … I don’t think that we should too often use the word prophet for a fallible human being but make no mistake there is seriousness and there’s a substratum of truth in the book Beyond The Human Condition. I would recommend that listeners read it”, the Court heard Professor Morton saying.
These recordings were among a range of audio and video material played today before Justice David Kirby relating to the defamatory Four Corners program first broadcast on ABC–TV on 24 April 1995.
The case continues in the Supreme Court tomorrow.
Tim Flannery gives evidence
Posted: 10 April 2007
The well-known author of The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers Professor Tim Flannery gave evidence today in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s Supreme Court defamation trial against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan.
Under cross-examination by counsel for the plaintiffs Kieran Smark, Professor Flannery, who featured briefly in the defamatory Four Corners broadcast in 1995, told the Court of several conversations he had with the program’s guest producer Reverend Millikan prior to being interviewed.
When asked whether Reverend Millikan had told him that Mr Griffith “was acting like a cυlt leader”, Professor Flannery said while his memory was poor, “I believe words to that effect would have been uttered”.
Professor Flannery agreed that such an allegation would have had an “unconscious effect” on him noting that, “my trust that investigative journalism was at the heart of the process would have reassured me or given some validity to the process”.
However, he added “I am afraid to say that my faith in the idea that investigative journalism is very close to the heart of the employees at Four Corners has not been borne out”.
He also agreed he was relying upon Four Corners to present to the public a “fair and balanced report” of Mr Griffith’s work when he participated in the broadcast.
This preceded an exchange between he and Mr Smark about the emergence of Dr Alfred Wegener’s now famous theory of continental drift that was met with indifference and derision by the scientific community when introduced in the 1920s.
Professor Flannery acknowledged how Dr Wegener drew from beyond his particular disciplines to develop a synthesis that suggested a new way of looking at how the world works, a “paradigm shift” in science.
The professor went on to outline the differences between the holistic and reductionist approaches in science, discussing how his use of a holistic approach could be seen in his 2005 book The Weather Makers and the significance of what he called the “top down approach”.
“[This holistic] group of scientists are interested in broader questions, multidisciplinary questions, such as evolutionary history or climate. And for that group the reductionist’s approach doesn’t have the power, I think, to produce profitable and useful hypotheses in understanding,” he said.
“[You] look across the data as a whole rather than try to burrow into any one piece of it in any detail. You look across the data to try and comprehend the nature of these very complex systems…the reductionist approach is limited when it comes to comprehending very complex systems.”
“The human brain has been argued to be the most complex single piece of matter in the known universe,” he concluded.
Following Professor Flannery, the Court heard evidence from the FHA’s CEO Sam Belfield for the balance of the day.
The case continues tomorrow in the NSW Supreme Court.
Prominent Australians defend Griffith and Macartney-Snape
Posted: 5 April 2007
Several prominent Australians provided character statements for biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape as their defamation trial against the ABC rolled into its 16th hearing day.
Statements from Cranbrook School headmaster Jeremy Madin, Fred Hollows Foundation director Gabi Hollows and Everest mountaineer Michael Groom were among five tendered today relating to the plaintiffs, their reputations and the damage caused by the 1995 Four Corners program.
In his statement, Mr Madin described how he first got to know Mr Griffith when they attended Geelong Grammar School together and during hikes at Corio, Timbertop and in Tasmania.
“He was a person who had an extraordinarily inquiring mind who had a particular interest in natural sciences. He was always keen to explore, he didn’t necessarily accept the received wisdom – he was keen to figure things out himself”, Mr Madin stated.
“Jeremy Griffith has a reputation of being honest about his beliefs, he is thoughtful, he pushes the boundaries and he raises interesting ideas – whether or not you agree with them.
“When I heard about the Four Corners programme I was surprised that someone was impugning his reputation … I have never, apart from the Four Corners programme, heard an impugning thing said about Jeremy.”
The Cranbrook headmaster said Mr Griffith is “considered to be of fine character” within the circles he moved and he marvelled at the biologist’s determination, citing his five year search for the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine which began in the late 1960s.
A witness statement was also filed by Mr Griffith’s long time friend, Queensland-based property developer Ian ‘Rare’ Russell, in which he described how the two became friends while attending the University of New England together in the mid-1960s.
“I immediately liked Jeremy, he was a fellow that everyone liked because he was so gregarious, he was outgoing, he was good at sport, he had a great smile and an engaging personality”, Mr Russell stated.
He went on to say that Mr Griffith “was perceived as idealistic – he was unaffected and young at heart”.
“I do not think people ever questioned his integrity – up until 1995 he had a reputation of having unquestionable integrity.”
“After the Four Corners program old university friends and others asked me if Jeremy was a madman, or if he was running a cυlt. He was totally misconstrued on that program”, Mr Russell added.
“I have noticed with Jeremy that he is not the same person that he used to be – he seems to me to have been scarred by the Four Corners program. I have seen that friends haven’t stood by him after the program I can tell he has been badly hurt by the program.”
A third statement for Mr Griffith was filed by another long time friend, one of Australia’s most successful furniture designers Bruce Dowse, maker of the Post & Rail and Pacific Green brands.
Mr Dowse recounted how they became friends 25 years ago through their mutual involvement in furniture making when Mr Griffith was based in the Tweed Valley in northern NSW, and later in Sydney where Mr Griffith had a furniture gallery.
“Prior to 1995, Jeremy was known as an honest reputable person who had a tremendous amount of integrity. He was known as someone who really wanted to do good stuff”, Mr Dowse stated.
“I think Jeremy’s ideas are a good thing – whether he is right or wrong; he is giving people the opportunity to understand themselves.
“In 1995 I watched the Four Corners programme. He came over badly in that – a lot of people believed it. I think that the situation is completely the opposite.”
Also filing witness statements were Fred Hollows Foundation director Gabi Hollows and climber Michael Groom.
In her statement, Ms Hollows described how she and her late husband Fred Hollows became good friends with Mr Macartney-Snape in the mid-1980s and how the broadcast had hurt and damaged the mountaineer.
“Prior to 1995, Tim was highly revered by many people – he is an extraordinary man. He was known as strong and steady. He was known as one of nature’s true gentlemen – very respectful of nature and things greater than you”, she stated.
“So many people were thrown by Four Corners. Tim was deeply hurt by it. I am aware that he had friends that would not defend him after the programme. A lot of people were wary of being associated with Tim after that programme. He had previously been on the top of many lists to be guest speaker … the Four Corners programme caused people to raincheck or cancel this invitation.”
In his statement, Everest mountaineer Michael Groom recounted how he first climbed with Mr Macartney-Snape in India in 1982 and again on Annapurna II the following year. Mr Groom went on to successfully summit Mt Everest in 1993 and again in 1996 as part of the ill-fated “Into Thin Air” expedition in which many climbers died.
Mr Groom’s statement detailed how demand for his services as a professional speaker has continued to grow since 1991 and that his diary records showed that he gave over 240 paid speeches from 2000 to 2006.
Earlier in the day cross-examination of the FHA’s Chief Executive Officer Sam Belfield continued as counsel for the defendants, Bret Walker SC, took him through a forensic examination of Mr Griffith’s work, some of the FHA’s newsletters and other material.
The trial resumes in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, 10 April 2007.
ABC told of Griffith’s concerns prior to broadcast
Posted: 4 April 2007
In his third day in the witness box, the FHA’s Chief Executive Officer Sam Belfield described the shock and violation biologist Jeremy Griffith felt after the defamatory Four Corners program aired in 1995.
“Mr Griffith was shocked, distressed,” said Mr Belfield. “In particular by the extent and treatment of his ideas in the program…he felt violated by the program.”
As a result of Four Corners, which the ABC televised a second time the following week, Mr Griffith became “incredibly stressed”, he said.
Earlier, Mr Belfield gave evidence about a range of actions the plaintiffs initiated in the weeks prior to the defamatory broadcast including the retention of public relations company Jackson Wells Communications.
The Supreme Court was tendered a bundle of documents including letters sent to the ABC from both Jackson Wells and Mr Griffith alleging that the program’s guest producer Reverend David Millikan had misrepresented himself and raising serious concerns about the nature of the pending broadcast.
A letter of 6 April 1995 from Jackson Wells to the then executive producer of Four Corners, Ian Carroll, set out the plaintiffs’ position:
“Given that the Foundation believes Dr Millikan misrepresented the purpose of his assignment, and was not candid about his real views, we believe your decision to deny a debate is unjust.”
A letter the next day from Mr Griffith to Reverend Millikan took up a similar theme:
“… you said you were nominating the understandings in my books for a 16 part international documentary on new ideas for the next millennium – the series you said (24/1/95) is ‘an attempt to gather seminal thinkers who are not part of the mainstream but who should be put forward…I’m interested in what you are saying in terms of the progress for the future of Australia and the world.’”.
“… We cooperated with you on the basis of taking you at face value but you turned all that goodwill, spirit and trust around, misrepresenting to us yourself, your interest and the nature of the program”, wrote Mr Griffith.
Further correspondence preceded a Jackson Wells memorandum of 13 April 1995 directed to the then Managing Director of the ABC, Brian Johns, calling for his personal intervention:
“Dr Millikan is using the apparatus of the ABC to pursue some kind of personal obsession against the Foundation and Jeremy Griffith, its director, in particular.”
“This is being done through a range of methods including selective reporting, misrepresentation and the perpetuation of half truths…The circumstances of the program’s making are steeped in obsessive behaviour and deceit.”
After evidence-in-chief concluded, Mr Belfield was cross-examined by counsel for the defendants, Bret Walker SC, for the balance of the day.
The trial continues tomorrow.
Walks, talks and video-tape
Posted: 3 April 2007
In a day punctuated by legal argument, the Supreme Court heard further evidence from the FHA’s Chief Executive Officer Sam Belfield as Jeremy Griffith and Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC continued.
Mr Belfield described how his interest in Mr Griffith’s biological treatise developed through his attendance at a range of talks, walks and other gatherings organised by the FHA over the two years preceding the defamatory Four Corners broadcast in April 1995.
He recalled a particular gathering in Brisbane in January 1995 where Mr Griffith recounted a recent conversation with the second defendant, Reverend David Millikan.
“I wasn’t sure of the details, but understood that this person [Reverend Millikan] had got a prior assessment of Mr Griffith’s work incorrect, wrong” Mr Belfield said.
The Court heard how an ABC–TV Four Corners film crew, including producers Reverend Millikan and Deborah Masters, joined an FHA bushwalk in the Snowy Mountains near Jindabyne over several days in early February 1995.
Mr Belfield agreed the film crew were free to move around the camp site, but said he was not aware that he was being recorded by Four Corners during an “emotional” conversation with his sister concerning their family which was subsequently included in the broadcast.
After some protracted legal argument about evidentiary issues, the Court was shown video footage of a talk on the human condition which Mr Griffith gave on the third day of the Snowy Mountains walk.
“The real battle, I’m suggesting, is a psychological one. Humans have been capable of immense love and sensitivity, but we have also been capable of greed, hatred, brutality, war, murder…that’s the riddle of the human condition”, Mr Griffith was seen saying.
The footage showed Mr Griffith elaborating on his synthesis and reflecting on the historical journey of new ideas.
“Before Darwin’s time, people thought the question the origin of the reason of the variety of life … seemed to them insoluble in those days but then Darwin came along, and Wallace, with the idea of natural selection…I suggest the great mystery of our time, that future children won’t have to grapple with, is the question of good and evil.”
Earlier in the day, the balance of a recording of an FHA Open Day in 1993 featuring discussion between Mr Griffith, Emeritus Professor Charles Birch and audience members was played to the Court.
Evidence from Mr Belfield continues tomorrow.
Damage from allegations ongoing, Court told
Posted: 2 April 2007
The owner of international adventure travel company World Expeditions told the NSW Supreme Court today of the damaging impact of the defamatory Four Corners program on one of his company’s leading representatives, Tim Macartney-Snape.
Nick Kostos, who regards Mr Macartney-Snape as among the finest trek leaders in the world, acknowledged that it was the climber’s association with Wilderness Expeditions that influenced his decision to buy the competing agency in 1992.
“Tim was a pre-eminent Australian mountaineer, in fact one of the pre-eminent mountaineers in the world, and if he was associated with our company it would be a tremendous competitive advantage,” he said.
The businessman went on to describe the negative effects the 1995 broadcast had on his colleague’s reputation and the complaints and cancellations that followed.
“My impression of the show was that Tim was a member of a cυlt and was brainwashing children,” Mr Kostos said. “We had clients ring up and complain that we were associated with Tim Macartney-Snape…asking why are we supporting someone who is in a cυlt.”
“After the program we had a cancellation rate that we have never experienced before…it was extremely difficult to attract people,” he said.
Mr Kostos said that “due to the controversy of the program, not only Four Corners but in the media generally” his company made a commercial decision to move the feature on Mr Macartney-Snape from page three to the back of its marketing brochure.
He went on to say how negative perceptions of Mr Macartney-Snape and the FHA were ongoing some 12 years after the broadcast, recounting that just two months ago he had been asked by an acquaintance whether Mr Macartney-Snape was “still involved with brainwashing children”.
During cross-examination, Mr Kostos said that after the broadcast he asked Mr Macartney-Snape if he was “a member of a cυlt” or “brainwashing children” and that the mountaineer had said “No”.
“I regard him as a person of high integrity and that was enough for me,” he said, adding, “I made a decision to support him no matter how many complaints we had.”
Taking the stand shortly before lunch, the FHA’s Chief Executive Officer Sam Belfield explained to the Court how he became interested in biologist Jeremy Griffith’s work after reading Beyond The Human Condition in 1993 while a rural science student at the University of New England.
He recounted how later that same year he attended an FHA Open Day in Sydney where Emeritus Professor Charles Birch, the Templeton Prize winning biologist, gave an address alongside Mr Griffith, one of the Professor’s former students from Sydney University.
An audio-visual recording of the Open Day showed Professor Birch giving his perspective on the “two huge themes” in Mr Griffith’s work, namely “the nature of the world” and “the nature of human nature”.
The Court saw footage of Professor Birch reflecting on the difficulties of the “mechanistic paradigm” of science and outlining how “science can’t deal with subjectivity…this is something that is very difficult to get your teeth into and yet it is the most important thing in the world”.
Evidence from Mr Belfield continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
ABC’s expert commended Griffith’s book
Posted: 30 March 2007
The defendants’ expert primatologist, Professor Colin Groves, concluded two days of cross-examination this afternoon in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation action against the ABC.
Under questioning yesterday by counsel for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark, Professor Groves acknowledged that in 1991 he wrote a supportive commendation for Mr Griffith’s second book, which began, “Beyond The Human Condition is a bold attempt to find an ethical meaning in biology and anthropology. The book’s use of the fossil evidence for human evolution is innovative and intriguing.”
The ANU-based academic agreed he had been invited by the FHA to comment on the book and had given his commendation “in good faith” after having considered Mr Griffith’s work.
Professor Groves then recounted his first meeting with the second defendant, Reverend David Millikan, prior to the defamatory Four Corners broadcast in 1995, during which the Uniting Church minister told him “that Mr Griffith was acting like a cυlt leader, splitting up families”.
“And indeed, when you provided your expert evidence in this case you did so in part by reason of your belief, which continues to this day, that Mr Griffith is leading an organisation that is in substance a cυlt?” Mr Smark asked.
“Yes” the Professor responded.
When cross-examination resumed this morning, Mr Smark pressed Professor Groves as to whether he had complied with the Supreme Court’s expert witness code of conduct in preparing his reports as to the scientific standard of Mr Griffith’s work.
“Do you consider that by the time you came to give your expert reports, you were holding strong adverse views about Mr Griffith and the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood as being a matter which might be viewed objectively as a basis of bias?” asked Mr Smark.
“I can see there might be that appearance,” Professor Groves responded.
On several occasions, Mr Smark suggested to Professor Groves that the inclusion of negative sentiment towards Mr Griffith in the conclusion of his report was an indication that the Professor’s reports were informed by a bias he held against the first plaintiff.
However, Professor Groves sought to deny that the antipathy he felt towards Mr Griffith meant his whole report was biased.
“I will admit freely that I was aware of this obviously when I wrote the report but I set it aside to the extent that I could,” he said.
“At the end I decided to make an admission, which some people, indeed Mr Smark, has interpreted as bias.”
Professor Groves agreed with Mr Smark that the overall thrust of the Four Corners program was to portray the FHA as a cυlt-like organisation rather than attempting to set out the views of Mr Griffith in a scientific way.
After cross-examination of Professor Groves concluded this afternoon, the plaintiffs tendered an audio-recording of talk-show host Brian Carlton interviewing Mr Griffith about the nature of his biological ideas in a Radio 2GB broadcast on Boxing Day in 1994.
The trial will continue on Monday morning in the Supreme Court.
ABC calls primatologist
Posted: 29 March 2007
Biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC and Reverend David Millikan adjourned before lunch today to allow Justice David Kirby to finish reading Mr Griffith’s books.
“I want to get both Free and Beyond under my belt by next week. I am reading them fairly carefully and annotating them. The larger book [Mr Griffith’s 2003 book, A Species In Denial] and other material will have to wait until my holidays,” said the Judge.
Earlier in the day, the defendants opened their evidence by calling ANU-based primatologist Professor Colin Groves to the witness box to testify as to the scientific standard of Mr Griffith’s work. After tendering several reports, Professor Groves gave further evidence on what constitutes scientific endeavour and the role peer review plays in that process.
Cross-examination from the plaintiffs’ counsel Kieran Smark rounded out the morning session, when Justice Kirby adjourned until 12pm tomorrow.
Judge adjourns to read Griffith’s work
Posted: 27 March 2007
Cross-examination of cognitive scientist and philosopher, Lieutenant Colonel Dr William Casebeer concluded shortly after proceedings commenced this morning in the Supreme Court.
This preceded some general discussion by Justice David Kirby, with both Dr Casebeer and counsel for the various parties, about the origins of consciousness, humans’ instinctive heritage and how those issues are presented in biologist Jeremy Griffith’s 1991 book, Beyond The Human Condition.
“This subject is that fascinating I would dearly like to take over cross-examination,” Justice Kirby quipped at one stage.
The discussion finished with Justice Kirby asking Dr Casebeer if there was anything else he wanted to say about Beyond The Human Condition.
“No, other than what I have said in my statement. In conclusion, I would like to wish both parties luck with these issues. They are challenging, interesting and important,” Dr Casebeer said.
Around 11am, the Judge ordered an adjournment of the trial until Thursday to enable him to spend the balance of the day and tomorrow reading through the substantial volume of written material tendered in evidence by the parties, including several of Mr Griffith’s published works on the human condition.
The case resumes at 10am on Thursday when the defendants are expected to call primatologist Professor Colin Groves to the witness box.
“A thought-provoking hypothesis” says expert
Posted: 26 March 2007
Cognitive scientist and philosopher, Lieutenant Colonel Dr William Casebeer, gave evidence today in biologist Jeremy Griffith and mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s defamation trial against the ABC and the Reverend David Millikan.
In his tendered report, Dr Casebeer reviewed the central hypotheses of Mr Griffith’s thesis set out in his second book Beyond The Human Condition and explained why he considered it both scholarly and scientific.
“That a conflict could arise between instinct and the intellect is a familiar idea from the evolutionary sciences—ethologists and evolutionary psychologists alike would find this familiar,” he wrote.
“The holism discussed in the chapter on the relationship between science and religion is now a mainstay in sciences that study complexity and emergent properties and phenomena,” he added.
Dr Casebeer’s report went on to say that Mr Griffith made several original claims in the book, including “a thought-provoking hypothesis about the origins of human angst from the process of empathy-related indoctrination and learning that is unique and interesting”.
“Mr Griffith’s book is provocative and well-written, and surfaces a large number of important issues in an intelligent manner…the issues it is grappling with are too important to reject out of hand,” his report concluded.
The Court heard Dr Casebeer criticise several aspects of a report filed for the defendants by Australian primatologist Colin Groves as being “unscientific”. He said Professor Groves had conflated the three senses that describe human consciousness: phenomenal consciousness, self awareness and theory of mind.
Under cross-examination by counsel for the defendants, Dr Casebeer maintained his view of the scientific substance of Mr Griffith’s theories.
(/casebeer) is the fourth international scientific expert to take the stand in defence of the scientific and scholarly standard of Mr Griffith’s work, following evidence earlier in the trial from anthropologist (/profhartwig), psychologist (/profchurchill) and psychiatrist (/prosen).
Earlier in the day, the plaintiffs tendered copies of two speeches by Sir James Darling, the former headmaster of Geelong Grammar School and former chairman of the ABC, including ‘’(/sir-james-darling-longer-essay) and ‘The Education of a Civilized Man’.
Mr Macartney-Snape described how those speeches influenced him in the preparation of his 1993 speech day address at Geelong Grammar School.
“Dr Darling, as Mr Griffith pointed out, had identified all the elements required to get to the bottom of the human condition. Not only had the person approaching the problem to be sensitive and tough, they needed to take a teleological approach and had to reconcile science and religion.
“Remarkably he even identified the root cause of the human condition…the conflict between instinct and intellect,” he added.
The case continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
Parallels with Darwinism
Posted: 24 March 2007
Bret Walker SC put mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape’s renowned endurance to the test this week as he defended himself and Jeremy Griffith’s biological thesis during three days of detailed cross-examination that concluded on Friday afternoon.
Late on Thursday, evidence was tendered about a club the FHA established in 1992 named after Thomas Huxley, renowned supporter of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
Under cross-examination, Mr Macartney-Snape insisted the “Darwin-Huxley parallel” was not confined to him and Mr Griffith. “The Huxley Club was set up for anyone interested,” he said.
On Friday, Mr Macartney-Snape vigorously refuted Mr Walker’s suggestion that references to Mr Griffith’s ideas in his speech day address at Geelong Grammar School in 1993 were inappropriate.
“If Thomas Huxley had hypothetically answered an invitation to talk at a speech day at Eton and he talked about Darwin’s ideas, I think there’s a good similarity there. I don’t think people would see him as recruiting people to the Darwinian model. He was simply introducing them to new, interesting ideas,” he said.
“I would hope that Huxley would have expected the students to make up their own minds,” he added.
Pressed by Mr Walker, Mr Macartney-Snape reiterated that his support for Mr Griffith’s work was well known in the general community at the time of his speech day addresses.
“My support of Mr Griffith was well known in many publications, including my own book, which by that time had been published and sold extensively around Australia.”
Asked to elaborate by Justice David Kirby, the climber outlined a range of publications and events in which he said his support for Mr Griffith’s work was clear.
“There was an article in The Bulletin in 1988 about the launch of Mr Griffith’s first book, in which I am quoted. In 1990 I took the FHA symbol to Mt Everest and in my public lectures around Australia after Everest, many thousands of people attended … and I mentioned my support briefly to explain why I had the flag there. Plus there was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age colour supplement in 1991. And there was Millikan’s review.”
The case continues on Monday morning. The plaintiffs are expected to call Belgium-based Major Dr William Casebeer, philosopher and cognitive scientist, to give evidence as to the scientific and scholarly merit of Mr Griffith’s work.
Elite mountaineer pays tribute to Macartney-Snape
Posted: 22 March 2007
Elite New Zealand mountaineer and ex-SAS officer, Athol Whimp, gave evidence today in the Supreme Court for his fellow climber Tim Macartney-Snape.
Mr Whimp, winner of the Piolet d’Or, the prestigious French award for mountaineering achievement, was asked about Mr Macartney-Snape’s reputation within elite mountaineering circles and paid tribute to his accomplishments and character.
“Based on Tim’s two ascents of Mt Everest without oxygen, the style in which they were carried out, and the style of Gasherbrum IV and other climbs that preceded his first Everest ascent, Tim was regarded as a very strong climber who performed very well at high altitude, a climber who climbed in what we term a very good style.”
“Tim was and is seen as a very genuine and authentic person and a very honest person,” he added.
Earlier in the day, during cross-examination by the defendants’ counsel, Mr Macartney-Snape continued his criticism of Reverend David Millikan’s role in the production of the ABC–TV Four Corners program which defamed both him and his colleague, biologist Jeremy Griffith.
“We have heard Mr Millikan on several occasions say he would treat us fairly and that the intended program was to be included in a bigger series about thinkers whose ideas were worthy of taking humans into the next millennium.
“But we know from the letter to [Four Corners executive producer] Ian Carroll that was a lie,” he added. “We know from Backchat just how ruthless and artful was his intent.”
The Court heard Mr Macartney-Snape outline how an episode of the ABC–TV program Backchat relayed negative viewer feedback resulting from the Four Corners broadcast.
“The ABC has taken nine negative responses from the mountain of mail and only taken one response that was sceptical of Four Corners. By that I can only presume this is fair evidence as to the program’s effectiveness in denigrating the plaintiffs,” he said.
Mr Macartney-Snape said the FHA’s “open house” policy was misused by the ABC in the production of the Four Corners program, including what he described as the unauthorised use of the FHA’s Hi-8 footage and the inclusion of out-of-context quotes.
“The vision, the sound, the choice of explanations, the voiceover, it’s the whole mix that creates the impression.”
He said the Four Corners film crew used long-range microphones to record, without their knowledge, a group of FHA women having a personal discussion which was later used in the broadcast.
The case continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court.
“Nobel Prize” for misrepresentation, Court told
Posted: 21 March 2007
After re-watching the Four Corners program that defamed him and biologist Jeremy Griffith for the first time in 12 years today in the Supreme Court, Tim Macartney-Snape was clearly emotional, recounting his initial response to the program in 1995 as being “totally stunned”.
“I remember thinking at the time that if there was a Nobel Prize for documentaries and the category was to totally twist and misrepresent the truth, then that was the all-time winner,” he told Kieran Smark, barrister for the plaintiffs.
“I cannot tell you how angry I became at how an honourable and, by all human sensibilities, a good group of young people were utterly trashed.
“And it was not by some commercial operator from which you might expect sensationalism, but the ABC. I mean this is a media organisation owned by the public which has a responsibility to air important issues. They took the most important issue of all, the issue of understanding ourselves, what more noble cause is there than to understand ourselves? It goes right back to Socrates and Plato.”
Mr Macartney-Snape spoke of the betrayal he felt when he first watched segments of the program pertaining to his career on the public speaking circuit, and the damaging effects the Four Corners broadcast had on his professional and personal life.
“I felt betrayed, embarrassed that every school I went to thought I had this agenda – which was complete and utter rubbish. I felt terrible.”
When asked how his feelings changed over time, Mr Macartney-Snape replied, “The enormity of what was perpetrated slowly sunk in. [The Four Corners program] was an incredibly well-crafted documentary and it gradually dawned on me that any interest in me as a public speaker was pretty well shot”.
“I felt ostracised … people stopped ringing me. There were a few people who rang but it was a lonely time,” Mr Macartney-Snape said. “I had to keep my chin up and keep going,” he added.
The mountaineer also recounted how he had to contend with the broader effects of the program. The Court was shown footage of Mr Macartney-Snape being interviewed by Liz Hayes on Channel Nine’s Today program upon his return from climbing in South America just three weeks after Four Corners aired.
“Let’s look at some of the claims your critics are making. They say of course, one of the things they accuse you of is using opportunities like school speeches to do recruiting for the group,” Ms Hayes was shown asking.
The footage showed Mr Macartney-Snape responding, “Yes well that’s a lie. Any of the thousands of students and parents of students who have heard me talk at schools and public lectures and corporate lectures will know that I do nothing of the sort.”
Mr Macartney-Snape said he was “insulted” by the terms of a statement made in open Court by the defendants four weeks before the trial began in which they asserted that they did not intend to convey the defamatory imputations in Four Corners. “It felt like someone kicking you in the face, and then saying they didn’t kick you in the face but sorry if you are hurt.”
The case continues tomorrow in the Supreme Court before Justice David Kirby.
Macartney-Snape defends exploration of the mind
Posted: 20 March 2007
Taking the stand today in his defamation action against the ABC, Everest mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape reflected on how his support for biologist and fellow plaintiff Jeremy Griffith’s explanation of the human condition evolved.
He told the Court how his upbringing, education and climbing achievements each contributed to his interest in understanding human nature.
Prior to scaling many of the world’s highest peaks, feats for which he was twice awarded the Order of Australia, Mr Macartney-Snape studied biology at the Australian National University.
“I started to read thinkers like Arthur Koestler, Carl Jung, Laurens van der Post and others. I’d always had a fascination with palaeontology. Not far from where I had grown up [in Africa], there was an archaeological site and my father knew the palaeontologist Louis Leakey,” he said.
The Court heard how Mr Macartney-Snape first met with Mr Griffith and discussed his ideas on the human condition at a social function in 1987.
“We started talking about the origins of consciousness, a subject that had always interested me. Apart from that I liked him. He’s a forthright and likeable person,” he said.
Mr Macartney-Snape described how his fascination in and support for Griffith’s work grew over the ensuing years. He recounted how he placed the FHA’s flag on the summit of Mt Everest during his historic second ascent of the mountain in 1990 and how he later wrote the foreword for Mr Griffith’s second book Beyond The Human Condition.
In discussing the profundity of Mr Griffith’s work, Mr Macartney-Snape emphasised that “the human condition is a very very difficult subject to engage in,” citing poet Gerald Manly Hopkins, “O the mind, the mind hath mountains, cliffs of fall, frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.”
“We are born into the world expecting ideal conditions and when we don’t see those ideals, and we can’t live up to the ideals, gradually over time we resign and discover the world doesn’t want to talk about it. We then use the most powerful psychological tool available to us, we use denial to block out those ideals,” Mr Macartney-Snape added.
“I know about denial as a climber, and we use it in mountaineering to get through painful suffering, yet Mr Griffith has wandered in there and in my view, and those of us who support his work, he has safely explained for us all that we are fundamentally good.”
Mr Macartney-Snape spoke of the influence of Sir James Darling, former headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, which both he and Mr Griffith attended as students. “It goes back to one man, Sir James Darling, headmaster at the school for a very long time. His writing, mainly from speeches, was influential in confirming for Jeremy, and in turn for me, the validity in uncovering a new paradigm.”
Evidence from Mr Macartney-Snape will continue tomorrow.
Expert primate psychiatrist commends Griffith’s work
Posted: 19 March 2007
Tim Macartney-Snape and Jeremy Griffith’s defamation proceedings against the ABC entered its fourth day in the NSW Supreme Court.
The first witness called today was former President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and expert in non-human primate psychiatry, Professor Emeritus Harry Prosen from the University of Wisconsin.
Professor Prosen has worked in the field of psychiatry for over 40 years, and most recently received global acclaim for the psychological rehabilitation of a bonobo chimpanzee, known among primatologists as ‘Brian’.
The professor told the Court that he first came across Mr Griffith’s work in 2004 when pre-eminent primatologist Dr Gay Reinartz asked him to assess a documentary proposal on Mr Griffith’s biological synthesis of the human condition.
In his tabled report Professor Prosen concluded, “In my opinion, Mr Griffith’s work, including Beyond, is of the highest scientific merit.”
Professor Prosen has cited Mr Griffith’s work in a book to be published this month titled Bonobos: Encounters in Empathy.
“There are times in the history of science where there is the need for someone to stand back and look at the whole—that can be valuable to scientific research,” he told the Court during cross-examination by senior counsel for the defendants.
The plaintiffs then called Michael Collins Persse, a long-standing senior master at Geelong Grammar School and current curator of the school’s archives.
“Tim has always been valued by members of the school community, particularly those who knew him well, as a person of great integrity and humanity,” he told the Court.
When asked by barrister for the plaintiffs, Kieran Smark, of Mr Macartney-Snape’s reputation for honesty, Mr Collins Persse said it was unsullied since his school days, and that his speech day address that he presented at Geelong Grammar in 1993 was “noble work, challenging … it was greatly admired.”
Evidence in chief from Mr Macartney-Snape was introduced late this afternoon, and will continue tomorrow in the Supreme Court at Queens Square.
Former Geelong Grammar headmaster stands by Macartney-Snape
Posted: 17 March 2007Media Release
Leading educators took the stand this week in the NSW Supreme Court defamation action brought by Tim Macartney-Snape and Jeremy Griffith in relation to a 1995 ABC-TV Four Corners program.
The defamatory broadcast imputed, among other things, that Mr Macartney-Snape had deceived schools that had invited him to talk about climbing Mt Everest.
The Court heard yesterday from the eminent educator John Lewis, former headmaster of Eton College in England and previously Geelong Grammar School in Victoria where Mr Macartney-Snape gave the speech day address in 1993.
Mr Lewis said he considered the selection of Mr Macartney-Snape, a former student of the school, as “highly appropriate”.
“Tim’s reputation was very high, he was admired for his courage and endurance but also because he was evidently and patently a humble and humane person,” he said.
A column Mr Lewis subsequently wrote in the school’s newsletter described Mr Macartney-Snape’s speech as being “about what should be the mainsprings of human endeavour and aspiration”.
Mr Lewis’ testimony followed evidence the previous day from Gordon Stewart, former headmaster of Concord High School, who related his experience of Mr Macartney-Snape’s speech night address to the school in March 1995, footage of which was included in the Four Corners program.
Mr Stewart said the ABC told him the program was intended to be a “tribute to Tim for climbing Mt Everest” and that he was assured by the ABC that neither he nor the school would feature in the program.
The educator said he subsequently watched the program, adding, “I was filmed speaking which was something I did not expect and the school was identified in a context I did not think was relevant to the night.”
When asked if he expected that Mr Macartney-Snape would be presenting his values and beliefs, Mr Stewart said “yes”.
Also giving evidence yesterday was University of Dallas psychologist and editor-in-chief of The Humanistic Psychologist, Professor Scott Churchill who tendered a report as to the scientific and scholarly standard of Mr Griffith’s published work before being cross-examined at some length by counsel for the defendants, Bret Walker SC.
The case continues in the Supreme Court at Queens Square on Monday.
Court told of Four Corners’ malicious intent
Posted: 15 March 2007
15 March 2007 Media Release
The NSW Supreme Court heard today that Everest mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape and science author Jeremy Griffith were misled into participating in a 1995 ABC-TV Four Corners program.
Opening submissions from Kieran Smark, barrister for the two men, continued today in their defamation case against the ABC being heard before Justice David Kirby.
Mr Smark said there were several key incidents that occurred in the preparation for the defamatory broadcast which revealed guest producer Reverend David Millikan’s malicious intent.
“In an inquisitional style interview, marked by the presence of bright hot lights on Griffith, it became clear, which hadn’t been clear until this time, that the leopard had not changed his spots and that David Millikan was still unrepentantly adverse and hostile to Jeremy Griffith’s ideas,” he said.
Reverend Millikan’s comments following a letter of concern from Mr Griffith to the ABC were also alleged to reflect his animosity towards the plaintiffs.
Mr Smark said unused film footage recorded Reverend Millikan saying, “the letter he [Griffith] wrote to us [ABC] on Monday had a sort of threatening tone to it and he’s obviously opening up the possibility of taking us on legally and maybe trying to injunct the program or something like that which I would relish. It would cost him a lot of money and get him absolutely nowhere. And open up the possibility of us to use the sort of legal mechanisms to harass him.”
Mr Smark described the consequences of the ABC Four Corners program for Mr Macartney-Snape and his speaking career as “dramatic and immediate”.
“The impact for Mr Griffith was no less devastating. He was overwhelmed by negative responses.”
Mr Smark went on to criticise the ABC’s failure to apologise despite two recommendations from the Australian Broadcasting Authority in the years following the broadcast.
He said the terms of an ‘apology’ to Mr Macartney-Snape tabled in Court by the ABC on 15 February 2007, almost 12 years after the program and less than a month before the trial began, did not retract the imputations against Mr Macartney-Snape and was in fact a further aggravation.
Following submissions, the plaintiffs called California-based Professor Walter Hartwig, a biological anthropologist and the editor of The Primate Fossil Record (2002), a definitive reference work on human/primate evolution, who gave evidence as to the standard of Mr Griffith’s work.
Mr Smark foreshadowed further experts would be called tomorrow, including Professor of psychology, Scott Churchill from the University of Dallas and Emeritus Professor Harry Prosen, former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
The case continues tomorrow at the Supreme Court at Darlinghurst.
Evolution of humans and ideas at stake in landmark trial
Posted: 14 March 2007
14 March 2007 Media Release
The long awaited defamation trial over the ABC’s treatment of Everest mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape and biologist Jeremy Griffith in a 1995 Four Corners program began today in the NSW Supreme Court.
The opening submissions from Kieran Smark, barrister for the two plaintiffs, presented an overview of the case before Justice David Kirby.
“This is a case in several senses about evolution, about the evolution of humans and also about the evolution of ideas and the way that process can be fostered or hindered by media,” Mr Smark said.
“In this country, freedom of expression permits broadcasters, including the national broadcaster, to make publications about individuals and their ideas without restraint, but the consequences of that is that they remain answerable for those publications and that’s what this proceeding is about.”
Mr Smark said it was also a case about three men, the plaintiffs Mr Griffith and Mr Macartney-Snape and Four Corners guest producer and second defendant Reverend David Millikan. The plaintiffs first met Reverend Millikan at the 1991 launch of Mr Griffith’s second major work, Beyond The Human Condition. Beyond was described by Mr Smark as being broad in scope drawing from a number of disciplines including biology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology and primatology.
He went on to say the promotional flyers distributed at the book launch contained prominent commendations from two scientists, namely Professor Charles Birch and Professor John Morton that were indicative of the significant scientific support at that time for Mr Griffith’s work.
Mr Smark highlighted Reverend Millikan’s subsequent review of Mr Griffith’s book for the Bulletin magazine, in which Reverend Millikan said Mr Griffith’s conclusions were “a scandal”, and questioned Griffith’s “lack of belief in God”.
He outlined key events in early 1995 leading up to the publication of the Four Corners program which he said evidenced a malicious intent by Reverend Millikan.
Mr Smark also criticised the editing of the program which caused the powerful imputations in respect of Mr Macartney-Snape that the jury found to arise.
The conduct of Reverend Millikan “showed an obsession with Griffith’s ideas and whether those ideas have room for a transcendent God. It is relevant that David Millikan was, from 1991 to 1995 offended, appalled or otherwise adverse to Jeremy Griffith’s ideas, rightly or wrongly, because those ideas did not have room for a transcendent God, and that was unpalatable to Reverend Millikan.”
The opening submissions continue tomorrow. The plaintiffs are also expected to call biological anthropologist Professor Walter Hartwig from Touro University, California to give evidence.
The National Broadcaster on Trial
Posted: 13 March 2007
After 12 years, a landmark trial in the NSW Supreme Court
as research group takes on ABC in ‘knowledge versus dogma’ conflict
13 March 2007 Media Release
A four week trial begins tomorrow in the NSW Supreme Court to determine defences and damages following the ABC’s defamation of Australian biologist and author Jeremy Griffith and renowned Everest mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape AM in a 1995 Four Corners TV program.
The trial follows a 2003 jury verdict that found the ABC defamed the two directors of the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood, a Sydney-based research foundation dedicated to advancing biological understanding of the human condition: humans’ capacity for both ‘good and evil’.
“What’s at stake in this trial is the principle of freedom of expression in this crucial area of scientific enquiry,” said John Biggs, a spokesperson for the Foundation.
“Humans’ fundamental responsibility as conscious beings is surely to find knowledge, ultimately self-knowledge, understanding of the human condition no less.
“While this issue of our contradictory nature is the most confronting and contentious of subjects, it is also the underlying issue in all human affairs that has to be addressed if there is to be a future for humanity.”
Mr Biggs said the ABC’s misrepresentation of Mr Griffith’s work in this field highlights the dishonesty and great danger of the public broadcaster’s politically correct culture. “It is a culture that dogmatically imposes idealism at the exclusion of any tolerance and analysis of humans’ less than ideal reality,” he said.
“Rather than be a proponent of free and independent thought, the ABC supported guest producer Reverend David Millikan’s attack on a ground-breaking scientific synthesis that he found threatening to his faith.
“This is a very serious development—especially for a country valued for its initiative, its tolerance and its love of a fair go.”
Significantly, Mr Griffith’s work is increasingly attracting international attention and support from prominent scientists who do see it as being at the cutting edge of scientific enquiry.
Professor Harry Prosen, former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, said of Mr Griffith’s recent book, The Great Exodus, “there has never been a more important book”.
Mr Griffith’s 2003 book, A Species In Denial, has become a bestseller, and his biological synthesis for a proposed documentary series about the human condition has received commendations from over 100 of the world’s leading scientists and thinkers including physicist Stephen Hawking and Nobel Laureate Charles Townes.
Despite the growing appreciation abroad, it has been a 12 year struggle for Mr Macartney-Snape and Mr Griffith to clear their names in Australia, Mr Biggs said. “This legal challenge was forced upon us when, despite the Australian Broadcasting Authority ruling the program ‘inaccurate, partial and unbalanced’ and recommending that the ABC apologise, the ABC refused to do so.”
The trial, before Justice David Kirby, will commence at the Darlinghurst Courthouse with opening submissions from barrister Kieran Smark outlining the plaintiffs’ case.