Saturday, November 20, 2004

The NBA's Darkest Hour

It's hard not to sympathize with the Pacers' players on this one. Anyone who does what these fans did deserves to be slugged. The shame of it is they'll probably sue the NBA and garner a boodle. Anything these jerks win through litigation ought to be assessed in fines for behavior beneath contempt.

The video can be seen here.

We also fault the league for allowing beer to be sold at these events. The combination of moronic fans and alcohol is highly combustible and the result of that combustion has never in history exalted the human species.

The NBA, like MLB and the NFL, only allows the sale of beer because it's a cash cow, so it's as hard to work up sympathy for their tarnished image as it is for the cretins who threw the beer.

An Arab John the Baptist

MEMRI, The Middle East Media Research Institute, posts this remarkable essay by the progressive Egyptian intellectual Dr. Amr Isma'il whose articles are regularly published on the secular Arab website Dr. Amr Isma'il wrote an article condemning the Arabs' lack of self-criticism and the Islamists' abuse of the term "democracy." The following are just a few excerpts from the article, which appeared on the Arabic website

"Why can't we see things as the rest of the world sees them? Why do we always feel that someone is conspiring against us, and that he is the cause of our problems and our cultural and economic backwardness?"

"Why do we talk among ourselves by means of bullets, bombs, and car bombs, and when we disagree we hasten to accuse [our interlocutor] of unbelief?"

"Why are we the only nations in the world that still use religion, Islam, and the name of Allah in everything - in politics, economics, science, art, and literature. We kill in the name of Allah, blow up cars in the name of Allah, and slit throats in the name of Allah and Islam, and then we protest when others depict the Muslims as terrorists. We indiscriminately kill doctors who went to provide medical care to Afghans, and then we protest when the world describes these acts as acts of terror. We blow up embassies and trains [and consequently] children, women, and citizens with no connection to our cause are killed, and then we protest when the world describes these extremists, who view themselves as Muslims, as terrorists."

"We do not ask ourselves why no other religious group perpetrates these acts of atrocity, and when a terrorist country like Israel does so, it does not say it is killing in the name of the Lord or in the name of Allah, but claims it is doing so out of self-defense. Why Allah is [held responsible] for our bad deeds and for our desire for revenge...."

"Why can our brain not understand that democracy has proven itself to be the best regime and that it has brought progress and prosperity to those countries that have adopted it? Why can our brain not understand that democracy is not just the election ballots, but is an entire framework, the most important [aspect] of which is freedom of choice, in religion, in belief, in attire, and in the freedom to express political and cultural opinions, even if they differ from what is accepted, as long as they do not incite to violence. Why don't we understand that democracy is complete equality between people, regardless of sex, color, or religion."

"We have reached a crossroads. If we want Islam as a political solution, not as a religion ... we must be strong and admit honestly that Islam - according to the belief of groups of political Islam that follow bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri's organization - stands in utter contradiction to democracy in its true meaning....Let all the political Islamic groups, and first and foremost the 'Muslim Brotherhood,' cease their policy of concealing [their real opinions] and show their true faces [and reveal] that they are trying [to bring] an Islamic rule that at best will be no different from Iran, and at worst, [no different] from the Taliban."

The obvious question raised by such refreshing reasonableness from an Arab is how many of his fellow Arabs agree with him? Is Dr. Amr Isma'il the voice of the Muslim majority or is his a voice crying in the wilderness?

Mixing it Up in Chile

This may be the first time that a president has rescued a secret service agent. We can't help think of the contrast between Bush coming to the aid of his agent and John Kerry calling his a "son of a bitch" because he collided with him while snow boarding, or whatever it was.

Karl Popper and Intelligent Design

Viewpoint subscribes to a daily quotation service from Philosophers' Magazine Online and one recent quote we received is from Karl Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery. Popper says:

"In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality."

What he means by falsifiable is that any claim that aspires to the status of a scientific statement must be capable of being empirically tested. There must be some imaginable result of such testing which, if it occurred, would disprove what has been asserted. The claim might be true and such a result might never be obtained, but at least we should be able to imagine a finding which would disprove our assertion.

For example, there seem to be no conceivable facts discoverable by empiraical investigation which would falsify the claim that God exists. Therefore the claim that He does is not a scientific, but rather a metaphysical, claim.

The problem with Popper's falsifiability criterion is that it removes from the realm of science, and places squarely in the category of metaphysics, a number of assertions which scientists would like to have us believe are indeed scientific claims. An example is the claim that life began as a result of purely natural processes in the inaccessible past, or that genetic mutation and natural selection are adequate mechanisms for accounting for the great diversity of living things we find on our planet, or that consciousness arises from inert matter. None of these claims is really empirically testable. No conceivable discovery of science could show them to be false. Yet they are taught as science in our public school classrooms every day.

Meanwhile, secularists fight tooth and nail to keep Intelligent Design theory out of the classroom on the grounds that it's a metaphysical theory and as such has no place in the science curriculum. Science, we are told, limits itself only to material or natural explanations. Intelligent Design invokes a non-material source of design, an intelligence, and is therefore a philosophical, not a scientific explanation.

This is very odd since the decision to accept only naturalistic explanations is itself the result of a philosophical predilection for materialism. Scientists simply assume that materialism, a philosophical theory, is the only reliable presupposition for scientific investigation. In other words, scientists don't really banish metaphysics from the practice of science or from the classroom, they only banish metaphysics which they don't like. Sounds very scientific, don't you think?

Natan Sharansky on Bush, Reagan

There's an interesting piece by Joel Rosenberg on Natan Sharansky, the famous Russian dissident who had been imprisoned in the Soviet gulag and is now a member of the Israeli parliament, in National Review Online.

Sharansky has written a book called The Case For Democracy which is being read by President Bush and his top advisors (Yes, contrary to what his critics report, the president apparently does read books). The Mr. Bush invited Sharansky to the White House for a visit and Rosenberg reveals this about the meeting:

At precisely 2 P.M., Sharansky and Dermer were ushered into the Oval Office for a private meeting with the president. They were scheduled for 45 minutes. They stayed for more than an hour. What the president told Sharansky was off the record. What Sharansky told the president was not.

"I told the president, 'There is a great difference between politicians and dissidents. Politicians are focused on polls and the press. They are constantly making compromises. But dissidents focus on ideas. They have a message burning inside of them. They would stand up for their convictions no matter what the consequences.'

"I told the president, 'In spite of all the polls warning you that talking about spreading democracy in the Middle East might be a losing issue - despite all the critics and the resistance you faced - you kept talking about the importance of free societies and free elections. You kept explaining that democracy is for everybody. You kept saying that only democracy will truly pave the way to peace and security. You, Mr. President, are a dissident among the leaders of the free world.'"

Rosenberg comments: "From one of the most famous dissidents of era of the Evil Empire, such is not faint praise."

Power Line has some more good reading on Sharansky. They cite an interview by Tom Rose of The Weekly Standard who asked Sharansky: "Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?" Sharansky answered:

"I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union."

"It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin's "Great October Bolshevik Revolution" and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution--Reagan's Revolution."

When Sharansky was released from the Gulag in a prisoner exchange engineered by the Reagan administration in 1986, Sharansky himself had the opportunity to tell Reagan the story:

"The first time I met President Reagan I told him this story. I felt free to tell him everything. I told him of the brilliant day when we learned about his Evil Empire speech from an article in Pravda or Izvestia that found its way into the prison. When I said that our whole block burst out into a kind of loud celebration and that the world was about to change, well, then the president, this great tall man, just lit up like a schoolboy. His face lit up and beamed. He jumped out of his seat like a shot and started waving his arms wildly and calling for everyone to come in to hear "this man's" story. It was really only then that I started to appreciate that it wasn't just in the Soviet Union that President Reagan must have suffered terrible abuse for this great speech, but that he must have been hurt at home too. It seemed as though our moment of joy was the moment of his own vindication. That the great punishment he had endured for this speech was worth it."

One reads stories like these and can't help but be amazed at the largeness of the men they praise. Sharansky also, without saying a word about them, manages to make Reagan's and Bush's critics look mean and paltry by comparison, like ankle-biters nipping at the heels of giants.

Speaking of which, Time magazine will be coming out with its annual man of the year award in a month or so, and there is no one who deserves it more than George Bush. Nor, sadly, is there any world figure less likely to get it.