Sunday, September 5, 2004

Do the Right Thing

Not that the President would ever see, much less heed, Viewpoint's advice, but we think it would be a wonderful thing for him to personally travel to Russia, if there is a memorial service for the slaughtered children of Beslan, and carry with him the sincere and profound sympathies of the American people.

To grieve with them in their devastation, to symbolically wrap our arms around them in a gesture of sympathy and consolation, would not only be the right thing to do, it would bond our two peoples together to an extent that words could never accomplish.

Some have pointed out that Putin is not to be mistaken for a friend of the U.S., that he feels we are partly responsible for Russian weakness and for Islamic antipathy toward Russia itself. This may be nonsense, but be that as it may, a visit from George Bush to identify with the citizens of Beslan in their bereavement would go a long way toward diminishing those kinds of suspicions.

It would be a wonderful expression of compassion and solidarity, and we hope he does it.

Feel free to forward this suggestion to the White House if you agree.

Intelligent Design and the Pursuit of Truth

Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute is a philosopher of science who has published a paper on Intelligent Design in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. According to The Scientist this provoked Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education, to lament that: "It's too bad the Proceedings published it. The article doesn't fit the type of content of the journal. The bottom line is that this article is substandard science."

The article was peer-reviewed, however, by three reviewers who each hold faculty positions in biological disciplines at prominent universities and research institutions, one at an Ivy League university, one at a major U.S. public university, and another at a major overseas research institute. All found the paper meritorious, warranting publication, according to Richard Sternberg an editor of the Proceedings.

Reaction to the publication of the paper is interesting. Opponents of ID have always been quick to point out that ID theorists have never been able to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals, implying that their work is of poor quality. ID theorists have responded to this charge by arguing that it's very hard to overcome the bias that editors have against any work that challenges the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy. Now a paper has passed muster and rather than welcome the opportunity to engage ideas which may help us move closer to the truth, the Darwinians are in a snit because the journal didn't reject the paper out of hand.

So much for the unfettered pursuit of truth that scientists are supposed to be engaged in.

John Stuart Mill wrote in his masterful work On Liberty, perhaps the finest statement of the advantages of free speech and free inquiry ever written, that when a belief system is protected from criticism and challenge "the creed remains, as it were, outside the mind, incrusting and petrifying it against all other influences addressed to the higher parts of our nature; manifesting its power by not suffering any fresh or living conviction to get in, but itself doing nothing for the mind or heart, except standing sentinel to keep them vacant." Those who are outraged that the Proceedings published Meyer's paper could do worse than spend a couple of hours with On Liberty.

Reflecting on the reaction to his paper, Meyer notes that: "I have received a number of private communications from scientists expressing their agreement or intrigue with the arguments that I develop in my article. Public reaction to the article, however, has been mainly characterized by hysteria, name-calling and personal attack."

Viewpoint wonders if the three peer reviewers have changed their phone numbers yet and if they still even have their jobs. If you're interested in reading Meyer's paper itself go here, but the reader should be aware that it's a technical work.

Dr. Freud, Call Your Office

Viewpoint has long thought that the political left in this country had lost it's sanity and certainly lost whatever class it might ever have had. Three reports from Mark Steyn reinforce the conclusion. The first tells of a play, first published in The Nation, which subjects both George and Laura Bush to withering ridicule. Steyn's description includes this passage:

As the play goes on, however, Mrs. Bush becomes increasingly distressed by the children's deaths - and the brutality of her husband's acts, both in Texas and the White House. She tells the children about her favorite author, Dostoyevsky, and how he narrowly escaped execution. "If my husband had been in charge back then, Dostoyevsky would've been dead for sure," she says. "My husband, he executed everyone they told him to, everyone they let him, I should say, my God, a hundred-and-something people and he never even missed his early, early bedtime, nor for that matter, from what I could see as I sat up reading and rereading Dostoyevsky, ever even stirred in his sleep!"

No doubt this was boffo with the East-Side crowd that was in attendance and for whom serious thinking about moral questions just makes their heads hurt. Admittedly, it's much easier and lots more fun to have one's own superficial judgments reinforced by collectively holding the man who does have to make difficult decisions in derision. Small people have always tried to tear down their betters in order to make themselves feel more important.

The second report was on a Paul Krugman article for the New York Times. Krugman's columns during this election cycle have often bordered on the bizarre and have frequently been well across the border of nasty and vile. This one manages to be both, a not uncommon achievement for Mr. Krugman.

Krugman says he believes the United States needs a "mega-Watergate" scandal to uncover a far-reaching right-wing conspiracy, going back forty years, to gain control of the U.S. government and roll back civil rights....Krugman told the crowd that the president is simply a front man for larger and more sinister forces.

"There's complete continuity going back, really, I think - but this is my next book - you really need to go back to Goldwater. A lot of this has to do with civil rights, and the people who don't like them."...Krugman described the conspiracy as "the coalition between the malefactors of great wealth and the religious right." He offered no further details about who, precisely, is in the conspiracy but said that "substantial chunks of the media are part of this same movement."

"The answer, I think, my great hope now, is that we need an enormous unearthing of the scandals that we know have taken place," Krugman said. "We need a mega-Watergate that rocks them back."

Krugman offers no evidence to support his claims, but of course, even if he did, and someone refuted it, that would only prove that the skeptic is part of the conspiracy and that the conspiracy is too insidiously clever to allow itself to be exposed by evidence. Besides, as among true believers of any stripe, evidence is irrelevant. One knows in one's heart that it's true, and in a post-modern world where truth is subjectively justified that's the only proof one needs. This is all so nutty as to be absolutely hilarious if it weren't impolite to laugh at the tragedy of a man losing his sanity before our very eyes.

The third report is yet another illustration of the coarseness of those on the left who seem to be incapable of engaging in political discourse without wallowing in verbal sewage. The event was called The Big Tent Extravaganza sponsored by Planned Parenthood. It was billed as a celebration of unity between members of both parties who support a woman's right to an abortion. Steyn writes:

Comedian Lewis Black, had a message for GOP delegates who might hold other views. It is un-fu**ing-believable that since the time I was 15 we have been having to argue this sh**," Black said. "There comes a point where you say, f**k you, enough is enough. There is no argument. It's not your body, a**hole. Shut the f**k up."

The lesbian comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer said of religious conservatives, "I support any religion that brings people up. Anything that brings people down, your ass is mine. That's f**king bullsh**." Westenhoefer also described her fundamentalist sister as "a whack-job Christian," and added that "Mormons are whack jobs, too." And she launched into an extended discussion of the actor Mel Gibson and his movie The Passion, saying, "He's a f**king a**hole."

Singer Lou Reed, who played an elegiac song on the death of John F. Kennedy, wore a BUCK FUSH t-shirt. And the crowd wildly cheered criticism of the president and yelled out slogans like "Fox News sucks!" - all standard fare at protest events this week.

These are the sort of individuals who despise Bush and support John Kerry. This fact by itself should tell us almost all we need to know about both men.