Monday, December 6, 2004

Update on the Fight Against Cancer

Here's some good news from the front of the war on cancer, specifically Leukemia. Leukemia occurs as a result of blood cells, usually white blood cells, mutating and reproducing out of control and crowding other cells to the point that they can't function properly. Treatment often consists of using a drug called Gleevec which binds with an enzyme in cancerous cells thereby interfering with their growth and proliferation. Unfortunately, some of the cancerous leukocytes mutate so fast that the Gleevec can't wipe them out.

Now a new drug has been developed which is able to attach to many of the cells that Gleevec misses:

The new drug is being tested in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, which affects about 4,400 Americans a year and 10,000 people around the world. The drug is known by its experimental name BMS-354825. During the trial, also financed by Bristol-Myers, 31 of 36 patients with advanced CML who had not been helped by Gleevec had a complete hematologic response, meaning their bodies stopped producing leukemia cells.

This is a good illustration of why government must not take the profit out of drug R&D by imposing onerous regulations and unreasonable caps. Companies like Bristol-Myers have to have the economic incentive to create these products or else they'll simply stop working on them. It would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone was motivated by love and research had no cost associated with it, but we don't. So perhaps we can live in a world where lawyers can't sue drug manufacturers out of business or cause the manufacturer's insurance premiums to go so high that the average person can't buy the drugs or can't buy their own insurance to pay for the drugs.

Can God Do Anything At All?

Evangelical Outpost points us to a blog called Prosthesis where the question whether God can do the logically impossible is entertained. The answer, apparently, is yes and no.

Dooyeweerdians answer the question "Can God do the illogical?" with "Yes and No." It depends on what is meant by the question. If the question means, "Is it logically possible for God to do the illogical?" then we could just say that that sentence has no meaning. It is like asking if God could create a circle that was so blue that it becomes a square. The Dooyeweerdian says that God created the laws of logic for His creation.

[B]ecause the laws of logic set the limits for what we can conceive, even if God did do the logically impossible, we would not be able to conceive of it. Because God is accommodating to us and because doing the logically impossible would have absolutely no meaning to us....the answer is "No."

However....the question "Can God do the illogical?" might also [be phrased] "might God have made the laws of possibility other than what they are?" The answer to this is "Yes." Since the laws of logic were created for this creation, there isn't any reason to believe that God "could" not have created differently.

All this is based upon the assumption that God created the laws of logic which are therefore contingent upon Him and which He can therefore transcend. However, were He to do so, we could not discern what was happening since we cannot conceptualize outside the framework provided by those laws and would be unaware of any phenomena occurring extra-logically. So God can transcend logic, but we couldn't know He was doing it.

What if the laws of logic are not discretionary, however, but rather are ingrained, like Love and Goodness, into the very nature of God? What if logical laws, like the moral law, are infused into the created order such that any world God creates would be governed by the same logical principles? If God suffuses the creation with his own nature then the laws of logic could not be other than what they are, nor can God violate them without somehow transcending His own nature. It might, then, be quite impossible for God to create a square circle or to create a world in which it would be true to say that God did not create it.

Theologians who maintain that logic is a contingent set of rules created by God generally wish to hold on to a very high view of omnipotence. They wish to be able to say that there are no limits of any kind constraining what God can do. This may be the case, but if God is the sort of Being who can do anything at all theology would seem to be pointless. After all, how can one talk about whether God exists when one of His attributes would be that He can both be and not be at the same time?

Freedom is on the March

William Kristol writes in The Weekly Standard that American success in Iraq is and will continue to ramify all across the Middle East and the Arab world:

The sounds one hears emanating from the Arab Middle East are the sounds, faint but unmistakable, of the ice cracking. Though long suppressed and successfully repressed, demands for liberal reform and claims of the right to self-government seem to be on the verge of breaking through in that difficult region.

The key to turning these random sounds of discontent into the beginnings of a symphony of self-government is, of course, success in Iraq. Here, the last month's news--the mainstream media to the contrary notwithstanding--is promising. Bush's reelection victory; the successful offensive in Falluja and the failure of the "Sunni street" to rise up in outrage; the inability of both the terrorists and antidemocratic political forces to deter the Iraqi and American governments from moving ahead with the January 30 elections; the president's willingness to increase U.S. troop levels, and his commitment to victory--all of this enables one to be cautiously optimistic about the prospects in Iraq.

And if Iraq goes well, the allegedly "utopian" and "Wilsonian" dreams of fundamental change in the broader Middle East won't look so far-fetched. Failure in Iraq, it's widely recognized, would be an utter disaster. What's less widely recognized is that the rewards of victory could be considerable. The most obvious and tangible benefits would of course be for the Iraqi people, and secondarily for American geopolitical credibility. But the indirect effects in the Middle East should not be underestimated.

If the Iraqi experiment with democracy is successful what will be the consequences in Iran? Iran is a Shi'a nation living under the cruel dictatorship of the Shi'a mullahs. What will the Iranian masses think and do if and when they see their next door Shi'a brethren breathing in the bracing air of freedom? The very prospect gives the mullahs anxiety attacks. This is why we are witnessing the paradox of Iranian Shi'a assisting the Sunni and Baathist insurgents, who were instrumental in killing a million Iranians in the 1980s, fight against Shi'a Iraqis. The Iranian oppressors are already nervous that there is a free Afghanistan on one border. Place a free Iraq on the other and the chances that they would be able to sustain their crushing theocracy would diminish to almost zero.

Moreover, if Iran liberalizes, Syria will be politically and militarily isolated, and the Baathists there would doubtless be overthrown by a people sick of their cruelty and corruption. A more liberal Saudi Arabia and Egypt would then follow almost inevitably. Freedom, as the President likes to say, is on the march. The despots, tyrants, and other losers know this, and that's why they're fighting with all they have to stop it.

It all hinges on American will in Iraq, but if we are successful, and we will be if we stick with it, the world will be transformed.