Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Wish

This may portend good news for those of you who consumed too much alcohol in your youth or who may be planning to imbibe more than you should tonight:

The apocryphal tale that you can't grow new brain cells just isn't true. Neurons continue to grow and change beyond the first years of development and well into adulthood, according to a new study. The finding challenges the traditional belief that adult brain cells, or neurons, are largely static and unable to change their structures in response to new experiences.

In any event, Bill and I wish all our readers a happy, fulfilling, and spiritually prosperous 2006. And please don't count on your brain cells being able to regenerate themselves if you have a few too many tonight.

Surprising Verdict

This will surprise you, perhaps:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit unanimously affirmed the decision of a U.S. district court judge in Kentucky, upholding Mercer County, Kentucky's inclusion of the Ten Commandments in the display of historical documents in the county courthouse. The unanimous decision rejected the ACLU's arguments that the display violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

In fact, in writing for the court, the circuit justice specifically rejected the ACLU's claims, noting that the ACLU's "repeated reference to the separation of church and state has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state." The court went on to say that a reasonable person viewing Mercer County's display would appreciate "the role religion has played in our governmental institutions and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious reference influences, even in the form of sacred text, in honoring American traditions."

This represents a huge victory for the people of Mercer County and Kentucky generally. For far too long, these counties have been lectured like school children by those in the ACLU and elsewhere who claim to know what the people's Constitution really means. What the Sixth Circuit has said is that people have a better grasp on the real meaning of the Constitution than most courts do. The court also recognized that the Constitution does not require that we strip the public square of all vestiges of religious heritage and traditions. This is by far the most significant Ten Commandments victory since the Supreme Court's decision to allow a display to stand in Texas. In light of the decision of the Supreme Court striking down McCreary County's display, which was identical to this one, this bodes well for us in future cases.

...It is quite likely that this case will be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

It seems plain to almost everyone except lawyers that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to expunge religion from public life but rather to prevent the government from establishing a national church. It will be interesting, if the case is appealed, to see how the Court will rule with Samuel Alito seated on it. Alito should be confirmed by the end of January and his presence on the bench may precipitate a shift toward sanity in the Court's rulings on church/state separation.

Best Economic News of 2005

Arnold Kling at Tech Central Station claims that the best indicator of economic health is a nation's productivity, and by that measure we're doing pretty well. He concludes with these observations:

In a recent TCS interview, Robert Fogel suggested that productivity growth of 2 percent per year would be sufficient to ensure the soundness of Social Security. With three percent productivity growth, even Medicare may be sound.

In The Great Race, I argued that our economic future boils down to two trends. Moore's Law is raising productivity, helping to increase the size of the economy relative to government spending. On the other hand, Medicare is growing, which tends to increase government spending relative to the size of the economy.

In the 2-1/2 years since I wrote that essay, nothing has been done to slow the growth of Medicare. However, if the economy can sustain or increase its rate of productivity growth, the long-term outlook may be reasonably good. We are headed for the scenario that I called "affordable welfare state," meaning that the lavish benefits that we have promised ourselves when we get older will require relatively modest increases in tax rates. Tax revenues will be high because incomes and payrolls will be high.

The politicians have done nothing to slow the growth of entitlements. The mainstream media have totally missed the most important economic news of the early 21st century, which is the strong productivity growth. The state of the economy in 2005 is that it is performing well in spite of both the pols and the pundits.

Almost makes one think that the millenium is right around the corner.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Terminator's Response

Some lefty pols in Arnold Schwarzenegger's home town of Graz, Austria, in self-righteous snittery over his refusal to commute the death sentence of a multiple murderer, one "Tookie" Williams, decided to express their displeasure at their favorite son's barbarism by proposing that Arnold's citizenship be yanked and his name removed from a municipal athletic stadium. What's worst, they proposed that the stadium be renamed after the man who shot four people to death for a couple of bucks (See here.)

The Terminator didn't take this affront meekly, however. Mark Steyn has a "don't miss" column on Schwarzenegger's response to the moral Euro-midgets who serve on Graz's city council. It's a hoot.

Looking for the Leaker

We're heartened by the news that the Justice Department is investigating the leak which led to the New York Times revelation of the secret intelligence gathering operation conducted by the NSA (National Security Administration). We remember how excited the media was over the possibility that the identity of a minor CIA functionary had been leaked by an administration official and their high hopes that someone in the administration (i.e. Karl Rove) would be indicted for it. We await the same degree of breathless reporting, endless speculations, and fervent hopes that someone who really has done serious damage to our national security will be caught and punished.

Since, however, the leaker in this case was trying to make Bush look bad the media will probably hold him or her to a different standard than they would have held Rove or Libby. That the leaker made each of us more vulnerable to those who want to kill us will be a matter of little moment to those who assess the heinousness of a crime in terms of who stands to gain or lose politically.

Honoring Islam

This post by a blogger named Athena is over a year old, but its theme is one which bears repeated mention:

To kill a girl because she has sex is quite sickening, especially when the guy is deemed as only giving into the girl's "seductions." It's even worse when the person who chooses to kill the girl is her father, brother or uncle. I guess it reminds me of the passage in the Bible where Jesus rescues the woman who is about to be stoned and says "he who is without sin cast the first stone."

When a family learns that the girl has threatened their "honor" in the community, they discuss this without the girl's presence, even with the mother, and they just "know" that the girl has to be killed in order to regain their standing in the community-even though the community may not know about the relationship. It's not even a choice, but a duty.

The mother knows this is the fate for her daughter, and even agrees to it, sometimes choosing the manner in which she will die...perhaps being burned alive, her throat cut, stoned or clubbed to death. The family leaves the house, and the person who is chosen to kill her comes in and does it as the family is away so there are no witnesses. The whole community knows of the killing and accepts the family into the community with open arms because they have wiped their slate clean with the blood of their child.

Today I was visiting the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan and my roommate, we'll call her Sally, went with me because she had to meet with the same professor as I. She started crying in the taxi on the way back home telling me about her experience the other night with her Jordanian boyfriend, we'll call him Malik.

Sally and Malik haven't been dating for very long, and I won't go into the details of their relationship, but she really did like this guy, and I liked him as well. He seemed very Western, spoke English well, acted respectably, dressed nice, came from an affluent and well-off family. He even lived in Europe for two years and had relationships with girls there.

They went out to eat last night and she brought up the subject of honor killings. Malik nonchalantly said that he would be willing to kill his sister or support his uncle or dad if they killed her if she had sex. This really upset Sally. They were holding hands and she immediately jerked away. He looked at her quizzically and asked what was wrong. She said she couldn't be touched by someone whose hands would kill his own sister for doing things that this guy enjoys fairly often with females.

Malik just didn't get it. He said it was just his culture. Sally said that she can't be around someone who would kill his own sister, and she asked him what he thought of her, did he even view her as human or was she just some object since she was an American girl? Malik couldn't explain himself, indeed it's a position that cannot be rectified. These people think they are so free here, but they're shackled in their own chains. They try to be so Western, so modern, so rich but they are wallowing in their own backwardness.

There's a stark difference between not condoning promiscuous behavior and killing someone over it, especially when the guy is not held culpable. Malik just explained that he was only being honest with her, and that if most guys here were really honest, they would tell her the same thing. "It's just our culture."

I guess what's really upsetting is that Malik is from the rich in society, which seem to be so much more liberal and modern. You generally think of honor killings as coming from the lower classes, but I will tell you, it's not the case, the sentiment is there in the upper classes as well. And only "20 per year" isn't the case either. Many go unreported because the people in villages support the act and the man is never turned in for his crime.

The only reason there are less honor crimes with the upper class is because the girls have enough money to get abortions. It's common practice here for girls to revirginize themselves before they get married, because if they are found out to not be a virgin when married, they are shamed for the rest of their life and their husband may kill them or leave them. Indeed, it's not just them that is shamed, but also their family and entire tribe. Everyone is so related here, that you shame an entire community, and the only way to expunge that shame is to do away with the girl.

And many of the girls feel like they must have sex with their boyfriends. Even girls wearing the hijab. The hijab is mainly not religious piece of apparel, it's expected and a social pressure. It signifies modesty, but it's just a sick prison. This whole society is imprisoned. On the surface they seem to be taking so many initiatives to liberalize and pursue freedom, but deep down they prescribe to the same beliefs. And you know, women are their own oppressors many times. They do themselves in more than the men by partaking in labeling, gossip and prescribing to arguments they know aren't true. Even one of the biggest feminists I've met here went off on a rant when she heard another woman divorced her husband because he "bought her 3 mink coats last Ramadan and bought her a nice car and gave her everything she wanted."

These hijab-wearing girls will have sex, because the guys will threaten to leave them, and it's such a large pressure on these girls to get married that they do anything they can to keep a man. Then, if for some reason their guy leaves them, they must get re-virginized through an operation.

It's these girls' own mothers that pressure them so much into marriage. In one family, the girl is 29 and not yet married. Every other night a new guy comes to the house with his mother and they check her out up and down to see if she's suitable. She doesn't like any of them, but the guys that she meets on her own, she can't even tell her parents about...she has to date secretly. This girl's mother was in the Jordanian Parliament and seen as a modern, pro-Western woman.

Anyway, my friend Sally invited Malik over tonight and told him she couldn't see him anymore. He just didn't understand. He's a nice guy, and I know that's weird to say after all this. But, he really is. In a way you can't blame him, he's just following what he's been taught. But who do you blame? And how do you change it? And there's a twist to this story. My other friend, we'll call her Megan, lived with a host family called the Salah's for two months before moving into our apartment with us. The Salah's have a son, Mohammed, who dates the sister of Malik. Malik was over at our apartment one night, and it clicked with Megan who he was and she, like a normal American was excited and said, "Ohhhh, now I know who you are! Your sister is my host brother's girlfriend! I've heard of you!" Malik just looked at her puzzled and shook his head saying, "Uh no..she doesn't date." Because to him, it's just completely out of his mind that his sister would date. We're hoping Malik is still in denial and that nothing happens to his sister...

Don't believe it when people tell you how modern a lot of the people in Jordan are. It's one big facade. They may be one of the most modern Middle Eastern countries, and they drive their 8 series BMWs, the women have the nicest clothes, they engage in talks about "freedom" and "feminism," they seek out capitalistic business ventures, and they can quote Locke and Marx and Hume all they want.

These people are living lies. All the women here are veiled, whether the physical fabric is covering them or not. And the men are just as blind.

Some enterprising journalist should set about to ask every Muslim imam in America to publicly state his opinion on the practice of honor killings and whether he thinks Allah approves of such barbarism. It would be interesting to see the results. Alas, the media are too obsessed with their pursuit of the great white whale of the Bush administration to be bothered with reporting on a matter of real importance to our national health.

We wonder, though, whether such apathy would prevail in our nation's newsrooms if it were discovered that some Christian group somewhere was endorsing honor killings.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the tip. Michelle has more details on the honor killings by Nazir Ahmed of his daughters that we commented on here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Dover Decision III: Is it Science?

With this post we continue our examination of Judge Jones' much acclaimed opinion which he handed down in Kitzmiller v. Dover, and turn to his discussion of whether ID is science sensu strictu. Parenthetically, this is a question we find largely irrelevant to whether it should be permitted in science classes, for reasons we'll explain below.

The judge writes:

As previously noted, the Supreme Court held in Santa Fe that a public school district's conduct touching on religion should be evaluated under the endorsement test from the standpoint of how the "listening audience" would view it; and, if members of the listening audience would perceive the district's conduct as endorsing religion or a particular religious view, then the conduct violates the Establishment Clause.

Moreover, a review of the letters and editorials at issue reveals that in letter after letter and editorial after editorial, community members postulated that ID is an inherently religious concept, that the writers viewed the decision of whether to incorporate it into the high school biology curriculum as one which implicated a religious concept, and therefore that the curriculum change has the effect of placing the government's imprimatur on the Board's preferred religious viewpoint.

Accordingly, the letters and editorials are relevant to, and provide evidence of, the Dover community's collective social judgment about the curriculum change because they demonstrate that "[r]egardless of the listener's support for, or objection to," the curriculum change, the community and hence the objective observer who personifies it, cannot help but see that the ID Policy implicates and thus endorses religion.

Of course, many of those same letter writers believed that Darwinism is a religious concept as well, and they were moved to write because they're tired of that religious view being granted immunity and preference in our schools to the exclusion of all others. Evidently, however, the opinion of these folks on the religious implications of Darwinism is of little interest to the judge.

...we find it incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science. To be sure, our answer to this question can likely be predicted based upon the foregoing analysis. While answering this question compels us to revisit evidence that is entirely complex, if not obtuse, after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area.

Aside from the fact that the judge probably meant to say abstruse, not obtuse, it is ironic that just a few days after his decision a philosopher from Amherst, Alexander George, published a column in the Christian Science Monitor in which he claimed that ID is indeed science, but that it's bad science and for that reason shouldn't be taught. His column pretty much dismantles the arguments of the "ID isn't science" brigades, and is really quite well done except for the interesting fact that, although he effectively argues that nothing about ID disqualifies it as science, he never really demonstrates that it's "bad" science. He merely asserts it.

Anyway, even if it were granted that ID is not science per se, it's certainly part of the domain of the philosophy of science and, specifically, the philosophy of biology. As such there is no reason for excluding it from a science classroom unless it is, indeed, bad philosophy, which no one has suggested it is. There is much philosophy taught in any science classroom, even bad philosophy (such as the standard scientific method), to which no one objects. Indeed, there's one bit of metaphysics that masquerades as science in our classrooms which Judge Jones has himself immunized from criticism - the idea that all of life has arisen as a result solely of blind, purposeless processes. We'd like to hear how the judge would subject that claim, a fundamental tenet of Neo-Darwinian evolution, no less, to scientific scrutiny.

Finally, we will offer our conclusion on whether ID is science not just because it is essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.

Well. It's certainly true that there has been a tremendous waste of resources and time in the adjudication of this question, but one wonders whose fault that is, really. Is it the fault of some misguided board members who tried to the best of their abilities to neutralize the corrosive threat to their students' religious beliefs that the "universal acid" of Darwinism presents? Or is it the fault of the handful of parents and their abettors in the ACLU who were just scandalized that their board would ever dare to do such an innocuous thing as put a disclaimer in a textbook, clumsily worded though it was, suggesting that there may be other theories on the matter of origins that students could investigate if they're so inclined?

We'll have more to say on the Judge's reasoning in a day or so. See here and here for our previous posts on his decision.

Getting it Really Wrong

Mona Charen pulls all the MSM-generated myths about Katrina and New Orleans together in a single column. She points out that from the size of the storm to the number of casualties, to the conditions in the Super Dome, to the disproportionate effect on the poor, to the inability of the poor to escape, the media got just about everything wrong, and in some cases, really wrong.

The question is, why did they blow it so badly? The answer, at least in part, perhaps, is because they saw a chance to hurt Bush, and they took it. The media obsession with discrediting this president has brought much more discredit to themselves than it has done harm to Bush.

Christian Belief V

Taken as a whole the Bible points insistently toward the salvific role of sacrifice, and Christians have long held that this recurrent theme is a kind of prelude to the greatest sacrifice in history: The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Jesus' death is seen by Christians as being more than just a martyr's execution. It has for 2000 years been viewed as a substitutionary atonement for the sin of all mankind.

Our betrayal of God - our falleness - requires, in the Divine economy, that our self-imposed estrangement from Him be permanent. The divine law demands a complete divorce with no reconciliation, but Divine Love also has its demands and it was out of that love that God refused to give up on His beloved. He chose rather to do all He could to redeem mankind from the stringent requirements of the law.

His solution was to take our place, to die physically in our stead, to pay the price for our sin. Somehow, even the temporary death of an infinite God was commensurate to the eternal deaths of finite men. God's death in Christ settled a debt that otherwise could never have been paid and insured that even though we still must endure the fears and sufferings of physical death ourselves, our separation from God need no longer be forever. There is now a chance for reconciliation, both corporately and individually. Because of His death, ours is now more like a birth into a new existence, a reunion with the creator and source of all that is good in this world.

But a question arises: Was the death of Christ sufficient to guarantee that no one at all would be left out of eternal union with God? Christians have historically given several answers to this question. One answer is that this salvation from eternal death is granted only to those who repent of their sin and accept Jesus' forgiveness and own Him as their God. This pretty much limits eternal life to Christians and is a view called "exclusivism" by theologians.

Another answer to the question says that Christ's death paid the price for everyone's sin and therefore everyone will ultimately have eternal life. This view is called "universalism" since salvation is seen as extending to everyone who ever lived no matter what their life was like.

A third view, called "inclusivism," falls between the other two. It agrees with the exclusivists in that it maintains that apart from Christ's sacrifice no one would have eternal life, but it also partly agrees with the universalists in believing that God accepts into His bosom more than just those who've made a willful decision to accept Christ as their savior. It holds that salvation is a matter of the condition and attitude of one's heart toward God.

Jesus' work on the cross is the price paid to secure salvation for anyone who obtains it, but those who never heard of Jesus, or who for cultural reasons, perhaps, find it exceedingly implausible that Jesus' death was a divine gift are nevertheless not excluded from receiving it. People whose hearts are open to God, people who, indeed, may be infatuated with God, are embraced by Him even though their understanding of His redemption is inadequate or attenuated. After all, whose understanding isn't?

Theological conservatives (fundamentalists and evangelicals) tend to hold the exclusivist position, liberals (e.g. unitarians) tend to be universalists, and moderates tend to be inclusivists.

But what of those who choose not to accept Christ, whose hearts are closed to God, who would prefer that He not even exist and who would find eternity with Him to be a kind of hell? A possible answer to this question is that God compels no one to love Him. He forces no one to accept His embrace. Those who find the very idea of God repellant, who want to have nothing to do with Him, will be given their way. They will be, for as long as they wish and/or as long as they exist, separated by their own volition from the source of everything that is good. They choose for themselves a destiny devoid of the love, peace, happiness, and intellectual stimulation that flows from God.

It's a tragic choice, but God will not force us against our will to choose Him. It might be noted that if this is true then universalism must be false. People can choose not to accept heaven. Read C.S. Lewis' fanciful description of this state of mind in The Great Divorce.

Our earlier posts on Christian Belief can be found here(I), here(II), here(III), and here(IV).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Biting the Bullet

Assorted home intruders, robbers, thugs, and would be spouse abusers all bit the bullet, so to speak, this week. You can read the stories at Civilian Gun Defense Blog. Here's one from The Dallas Morning News:

A convenience store clerk shot a man who was trying to rob the store Tuesday afternoon in Old East Dallas. About 1:45 p.m., two men entered a Shell convenience store off Interstate 30 near Winslow Avenue and began to act suspiciously, police said. When the clerk saw one man reach for gun near his belt, the clerk shot him in the chest. The man was hospitalized in critical condition, and the other suspect fled.

Remember as you read the other accounts at the blog that were gun control enthusiasts successful in realizing their ambitions to disarm the American public, none of these people would have had the means to protect themselves. Even so, the threat posed by their assailants would quite likely still have been just as great. If they were physically superior to their intended victim or if they were carrying a weapon, no laws to restrict gun ownership would have changed matters except that the intended victims would have been completely defenseless.

Pass 'Em a Shovel

Despite the best efforts of the New York Times and its accomplices on the Left, their collective outrage over the fact that the Bush administration would actually be doing its constitutionally-mandated duty by protecting the country from terrorists just isn't resonating in the heartland.

Talk of impeachment has been heard swirling about the fever swamps of the Left ever since the Times ran a story a week or so ago revealing that the National Security Administration has been eavesdropping on telephone conversations between al Qaeda suspects abroad and their contacts here in the States.

This, of course, is seen as an unconscionable infringement on our civil rights by the Left, which, however, only cares about civil liberties when they can be leveraged for their own power and influence.

Independent pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not sure.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans believe the NSA should be allowed to listen in on conversations between terror suspects and people living in the United States. That view is shared by 51% of Democrats and 57% of those not affiliated with either major political party.

Numerous lawyers and constitutional experts have acknowledged that the Bush administration has the Constitutional warrant to do what it's doing and every president since Carter has thought likewise. Nevertheless, the MSM and the Democrats demands that Bush be punished for doing what most people want him to do and think he has the right to do simply reinforce the impression that these are not serious people when it comes to protecting our children from the Islamist plague.

Go ahead lefties, keep digging.

The Dover Decision II: Singling Out Evolution?

Judge Jones, presiding in the Dover ID trial, takes the school board to task for singling out evolution from all other topics in the high school curriculum as the focus of a disclaimer to be read to students. This, he argues, makes evolution suspect in students' minds which the school has no legal authority to do. The disclaimer, he writes: out evolution from the rest of the science curriculum and informs students that evolution, unlike anything else that they are learning, is "just a theory," which plays on the "colloquial or popular understanding of the term ['theory'] and suggest[ing] to the informed, reasonable observer that evolution is only a highly questionable 'opinion' or a 'hunch.'"

....Whether a student accepts the Board's invitation to explore Pandas, and reads a creationist text, or follows the Board's other suggestion and discusses "Origins of Life" with family members, that objective student can reasonably infer that the District's favored view is a religious one, and that the District is accordingly sponsoring a form of religion....

It is important to initially note that as a result of the teachers' refusal to read the disclaimer, school administrators were forced to make special appearances in the science classrooms to deliver it. No evidence was presented by any witness that the Dover students are presented with a disclaimer of any type in any other topic in the curriculum. An objective student observer would accordingly be observant of the fact that the message contained in the disclaimer is special and carries special weight. In addition, the objective student would understand that the administrators are reading the statement because the biology teachers refused to do so on the ground that they are legally and ethically barred from misrepresenting a religious belief as science, as will be discussed below....This would provide the students with an additional reason to conclude that the District is advocating a religious view in biology class.

That's one way of looking at it, but it's not the only conclusion a fair-minded person might arrive at. It could well be that these people see Darwinism, unlike anything else in the high school curriculum, as a challenge and a threat to students' religious beliefs, which even many Darwinians believe it is. Rather than prohibit it, they feel it necessary to try to maintain some measure of religious neutrality by letting students know that the school, even though it teaches Darwinism, is not endorsing the religious implications of Darwinism and seeks to offset those implications by referring students to works that present other possibilities. It might well be that the works the board chose to commend to students were of inferior quality (I have not read Pandas and People), but then they should be criticized for not picking the best resources available instead of castigating them for having the temerity to present an alternative to evolutionary dogma so that students don't get the feeling that the school is trying to undermine their religious convictions.

Second, by directing students to their families to learn about the "Origins of Life," the paragraph .... "reminds school children that they can rightly maintain beliefs taught by their parents on the subject of the origin of life," thereby stifling the critical thinking that the class's study of evolutionary theory might otherwise prompt, to protect a religious view from what the Board considers to be a threat.

The judge is not saying here, is he, that it's wrong for teachers to remind students that they can rightly hold on to beliefs they've been taught by their parents on this or any subject? Is he really saying that it's constitutionally acceptable to undermine in the classroom a student's religious beliefs, but it's wrong for schools to say anything that would protect students from having their religious beliefs subject to corrosive scrutiny? Is this what the constitution mandates, that we send our children to school to have everything they've been taught by their parents called into question, and the school dare not do anything to attempt to soften the blow? How Judge Jones can claim later that he's not an activist judge after writing something as arrogant and as radical as this completely escapes us.

....because [the] disclaimer effectively told students "that evolution as taught in the classroom need not affect what they already know," it sent a message that was "contrary to an intent to encourage critical thinking, which requires that students approach new concepts with an open mind and willingness to alter and shift existing viewpoints".

This is utter nonsense. Which position is most likely to foster "a willingness to alter and shift existing viewpoints," teaching evolution in the classroom and encouraging students to check out dissenting views on their own time, or teaching only evolution in the classroom and not permitting even the mention of any criticisms of the theory and refusing to encourage students to entertain the possibility that there may be other explanations for the design which permeates nature besides the blind mechanisms of neo-Darwinism? How can students alter and shift existing viewpoints if they're only exposed to a single view?

[T]he administrators made the remarkable and awkward statement, as part of the disclaimer, that "there will be no other discussion of the issue and your teachers will not answer questions on the issue." .... a reasonable student observer would conclude that ID is a kind of "secret science that students apparently can't discuss with their science teacher" which... is pedagogically "about as bad as I (plaintiff's witness Dr. Alters) could possibly think of." Unlike anything else in the curriculum, students are under the impression that the topic to which they are introduced in the disclaimer, ID, is so sensitive that the students and their teachers are completely barred from asking questions about it or discussing it.

Apparently the judge is tone deaf to irony. He quotes Dr Alters' testimony that a reasonable student observer would conclude that ID is a kind of "secret science that students apparently can't discuss with their science teacher" which he indicated is pedagogically "about as bad as I could possibly think of." and then proceeds to forbid the teaching of ID and the weaknesses in the Darwinian creation story, an unprecedented judicial action in the experience of almost all high school students. Does he not recognize that by banning ID from the classroom he's doing exactly what he criticizes the board for doing?

Accordingly, we find that the classroom presentation of the disclaimer, including school administrators making a special appearance in the science classrooms to deliver the statement, the complete prohibition on discussion or questioning ID, and the "opt out" feature all convey a strong message of religious endorsement.

As we argued above, there's no reason why any of these things have to be seen as an endorsement of religion. There's no reason why they cannot be interpreted as the actions of men and women concerned to avoid the appearance of lending the weight of the school district's prestige to a theory that is a manifest threat to the religious beliefs of students and thus violating the clear intent of Sante Fe.

There's more to criticize, and wonder at, in the judge's opinion and we hope to get to some of it later this week. To read our previous installment in this series on Judge Jones' decision go here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Conservative Pride Day?

Are you a forlorn conservative college or high school student who feels isolated and tyrannized by the hegemonic lefty professoriat and social milieu on campus? Are you beset on every side by silly left-wing pieties and intolerance? If so, you'll want to read this article and maybe visit this brand new web site to network with similarly situated ideological minorities:

Though Christopher Flickinger calls himself "dean" and poses in parodistic photos waving a small American flag and looking stern, he says he's never been more serious about eliminating what he claims is pervasive anti-conservatism on college campuses today.

"When I was on campus, I had no help," the recent Ohio State University graduate told "I was harassed, intimidated, shouted down."

Flickinger, schooled in broadcast journalism, said he wants to provide the support he never had as a lonely conservative in college. That's why in November he launched the Network of College Conservatives to act in part as "a link for these conservative students, to let them know they are not alone."

Running the Web site solo from his Pittsburgh, Pa., home, Flickinger said he wants the network to be much more than a shoulder to cry on. Conservative students are still easy targets of liberal intimidation, he claims, but more than ever, they have a growing body of legal and activist support groups to turn to - and he wants his organization to be top among those resources.

Flickinger added that his group plans on "exposing and letting people know what is going on" on campuses by creating a clearinghouse on the Web site for students to pass along information about individual schools and professors.

As welcome a development as this is, we think it's time for conservatives to have more than just their own web-sites. Conservatives need to demand their own dorms on campus, just like other minorities have. Perhaps also a conservative pride day is not out of the question. A conservative history month is a capital idea, and, while we're at it, affirmative action and quotas for hiring conservatives are certainly not too far-fetched.

Anyway, back to earth. Follow the link to read the rest of the article.

Bad Culture Drives Out Good

After reading stories like this we must remember to repeat to ourselves - All cultures are equally valid; No way of life is inherently better than any other; All values are equally good - lest we succumb to the seductions of common sense and begin to think that maybe the troglodytes on the right are correct when they tell us that Western culture really is superior to the way the rest of the world lives. Wouldn't it just be awful to discover that, contrary to what we've been told now for over a generation, the values that arise out of a Judeo-Christian worldview actually are superior to those which arise out of secular or Islamic worldviews? Here's the gist of this tragic tale:

MULTAN, Pakistan - A father, angry that his eldest daughter had married against his wishes, slit her throat as she slept and then killed three of his other daughters in a remote village in eastern Pakistan, police said Saturday. Nazir Ahmad, a laborer in his 40s, feared the younger girls, aged 4, 8, and 12, would follow in their sister's footsteps, police officer Shahzad Gul said.

Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, many by male relatives, after they are accused of staining their families' honor by having affairs or marrying for love without family consent.

But, as we're reminded by the multi-cultis and the diversity hucksters, who are we to judge? What right do we have to impose our values on another culture? If it's right for them then it's right, don't you know? Who's to say that our way is better than theirs? If you think this way of life is horrific that's just your opinion.

Well. It's time to say to our friends celebrating the beauty of all cultures except their own that some ways of life, some cultures, and some values are just plain ugly. Not just subjectively, aethetically ugly, but ugly at a deep, objective, moral and spiritual level. What's more we should not shrink from saying so when the opportunity arises, whether it arises within our own culture or in some other. When we lose the will to pass judgments on behavior then it becomes only a matter of time before bad behavior drives out good, before standards and values all decline, and the Nazir Ahmads of the world become increasingly common both here and abroad.

Too Much to Ask

The Guardian informs us of the unsurprising news that Hollywood types are refusing to go to Iraq to entertain the troops:

Wayne Newton, the Las Vegas crooner who succeeded Bob Hope as head of USO's talent recruiting effort, told USA Today. "Now with 9/11 being as far removed as it is, the war being up one day and down the next, it becomes increasingly difficult to get people to go."

Newton said many celebrities have been wary of going because they think it might be seen that they are endorsing the war. "And I say it's not. I tell them these men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can."

Fear is also a factor. "They're scared," country singer Craig Morton, who is in Iraq on the USO's Hope and Freedom Tour 2005, told USA Today. "It's understandable. It's not a safe and fun place and a lot of people don't want to take the chance."

Let us suggest another factor: Many of these "beautiful people" are narcissistic, self-centered, pampered children who don't care about the troops and don't have any desire to inconvenience themselves for their sake. Yet we treat these people like gods even as the soldiers who are risking, and sacrificing, life and limb for the safety of those same celebrities, are all but anonymous except to their families and friends.

These people are rewarded with lavish lifestyles for doing nothing more than entertaining us. They live in multi-million dollar homes and can have anything money can buy, yet they can't give a few days out of their life to perform for the men and women who risk their own lives for next to nothing in order to ensure that the glitterati can go on living as they do.

We wonder if the celebs would think any differently were the next terrorist attack on our soil directed at Hollywood or if the president leading this war were Bill Clinton.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sounds Like a Plan

Hugh Hewitt posts some letters that appeared recently in the New York Post concerning the secret spying kerfuffle. Our favorite was this one from Richard Slawsky of Milford, Conn.:

I offer a proposal: The U.S. military will withdraw from Iraq, the Patriot Act will not be renewed and the United States will stop monitoring phone calls by potential terrorists.

In return, if there is another terrorist attack on the United States, the Democratic Party will disband and contribute all of its assets to the families of victims, all Democratic senators and congressmen will resign and The New York Times will contribute $1 trillion to the fund for the families.

Fair deal?

Makes sense to us. We wonder whether the Democrats are interested.


Anyone planning on seeing Steven Spielberg's Munich might be interested in reading this review by Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters. Here are Morrissey's opening paragraphs:

After giving the matter quite a bit of thought, I finally decided to see Munich at the theaters in order to make up my own mind about the film and the controversy that surrounds it. The film, which informs the audience that it was "Inspired By True Events", takes the bare bones of the Munich massacre and the Israeli intelligence operation which followed against the Black September organization which plotted it and turns it into ... well, an interesting if ultimately bankrupt morality play.

On its most facile level, Munich is a gripping film. Had it been based on complete fiction -- if Spielberg had had the sense to manufacture a hypothetical instead of hijacking history and twisting it -- then it might have even had a valid point to make. Spielberg has lost nothing as a film director in a technical sense, and apart from Schindler's List, this is his grittiest film ever. Eric Bana gives a wonderful performance as Avner, the leader of the team tasked with taking the battle against Black September to the streets. Ciaran Hinds and Geoffrey Rush are just as good -- Hinds just finished getting significant American exposure as Julius Caesar in the wonderful HBO series Rome, and he will whet appetites here for more.

The cinematography, music, mood, and all of the technical efforts put into the film are first rate, without a doubt. And every last bit of it gets wasted by a silly sense of moral equivalency that comes from a fundamental misrepresentation of the threat Israel faces, and in the strongly suggested allegorical sense, the threat that faces the US and the West now.

A number of pundits have already linked to the reports of historical and factual errors in the Spielberg/Kushner script, but I'm less interested in the details of these deviations than the reason Spielberg employs them. He has the assassination squad argue incessantly about the morality of their actions, the futility of violence, and so on, even while killing off the Black September terrorists one by one.

Most allegorically, they all wonder why they should bother when the PLO replaces the targets they kill with worse people than before. And while the movie gives a couple of references to the scores of terrorist attacks the PLO conducted through the 1970s, they never show any of them outside of the Munich massacre, and only then at the end of the movie after beating us over the head with the faux internalized guilt that springs entirely out of Spielberg's imagination.

You can find the rest of his review at the link.

The Dover Decision I: Endorsing Religion?

Viewpoint intends to run a short series of posts on Judge John Jones' decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover which was handed down last week. It is our opinion that the judge was correct in finding that the defendents were motivated by their religious beliefs and that he was correct to find fault with the consistency of their testimony. He was therefore constrained by Supreme Court precedent to find in favor of the plaintiffs. Nevertheless, much of his reasoning seems to us to be flawed and his decision is much broader than is warranted by his written opinion.

Throughout the first forty pages or so of the judge's opinion on the Dover case he is at pains to show that the disclaimer the school board wanted to have read to biology students in their high school biology classes violated the endorsement test that resulted from Santa Fe Independent Sch. Dist. v. Doe (2000). In that case the Supreme Court ruled that:

School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents "that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."

The judge then mounts a sustained argument to the effect that the Dover disclaimer was indeed a religious message and that it indeed violates Sante Fe. His argument, however, gets things exactly backward.

He tries to show that ID is creationism by showing that it grew out of earlier creationist thinking and that since creationism is religious so, too, must ID be. He also argues at length that most of the proponents of ID are Christians and that they have a religiously inspired agenda and that therefore ID is a violation of the establishment clause of the First amendment to the constitution.

Let's unpack this. The first claim, that ID must be religious, even though it doesn't appear to be, because it evolved from (forgive me) creationism, is silly. Because one theory emerges from the embers of another doesn't entail that it necessarily bears all or even many of the traits of the other. Modern theories of the atom are all descendents of Democritus' belief that such entities exist, but the belief that there are atoms pretty much exhausts the similarities between the modern and the ancient views. Modern chemistry is directly descended from alchemy but chemistry is not alchemy. It is logically illicit to infer that because ID is a descendent of creationism it is therefore creationism in disguise.

The only thing that ID and creationism share in common is a belief that the universe is not the product solely of blind, unintelligent processes. Indeed, it could be argued that ID shares more in common with Darwinian evolution than it does with creationism since it is compatible with almost everything contained within the Darwinian paradigm except its materialist exclusivism.

The second claim, that many ID proponents are theists in their personal lives and have a religious agenda may be true, but it bears not at all upon whether ID is a religious theory. It is, after all, the case that many, perhaps most, ardent evolutionists are atheistic materialists and desire to promote materialism in the public schools. Should we conclude from this, therefore, that evolution is an atheistic theory? Should we refrain from teaching evolution because it advances the atheists' agenda? Of course not. The theory should stand on its own merits and not on the beliefs or agendas of its advocates. Likewise with ID.

Suppose, for example, that some new theory of geology had tremendous explanatory power but also had as one of its entailments that the earth could not possibly be more than a few million years old. This theory would be seized upon by creationists as vindicating their position and would be rejected by materialists as unsound because it doesn't allow enough time for evolution. Should the theory be banned from schools because it has religious implications and is embraced by religious people? If not, then why ban ID from schools simply because it has religious implications?

When Darwinism, i.e. the view that natural forces are the sole factors in producing the universe and liife, is taught in class many students see it, correctly or not, as an assault on their most deeply cherished religious convictions. Indeed, this is how many Darwinists themselves see it. The number of atheistic biologists and others who point to their study of evolution as having put the kibosh on the religious beliefs of their youth is legion. Since our courts have privileged Darwinism and permited this perceived assault on students' religious beliefs in the name of science, it seems incumbent upon those in authority who would wish that their schools not give the appearance of favoring religiously corrosive views over the views held by many students to take some action to demonstrate their neutrality on these matters. The school authorities must not, in allowing only Darwinism to be given an official hearing,

"send the...message to [students] who [reject Darwinism for religious reasons] 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community' "

The authorities have a moral and legal responsibility to inform students that even though the view that the universe and life are the product solely of natural forces is going to be taught in the classroom, students who do not accept that view should not feel that they are isolated outsiders. There seems nothing at all wrong with informing students that there are dissenting voices in the scientific community on this matter, that a growing number of scientists believe that natural forces by themselves are inadequate to explain the fine-tuning of the cosmos and the specified compexity of living things, even though the dissenters may still be only a small minority. It seems more than strange that it should be illegal to encourage students to explore those dissenting points of view so that they don't feel their convictions threatened.

Judge Jones' reasoning seems especially contorted in the light of a statement from Edwards v. Aguillard which he actually cites in his opinion:

Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family. Students in such institutions are impressionable and their attendance is involuntary.

Apparently, the judge feels that this caution only applies to students whose families object to the religious implications of creationism. If the family or the student objects to the religious implications of Darwinism well, then, Judge Jones tells them, that's just tough.

We'll have more on the flaws of the Judge's justification for his decision in a day or two.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

In the Crosshairs

The New York Daily News reports this story about plans to assassinate President Bush:

WASHINGTON - Before he was captured last spring, Osama Bin Laden's top operational commander was solely focused on killing President Bush and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharaff, the Daily News has learned.

The capture last May of Al Qaeda's No. 3 leader, Abu Faraj Al-Libi, apparently thwarted plots to assassinate the two partners in the global war on terror, said a senior Pakistani official, whose information was corroborated by two senior U.S. counterterrorism officials. "Al-Libi had one mission: Kill Bush and Musharraf," the Pakistani official told The News. "He wanted to kill Bush in the White House, preferably."

"It was clearly something they wanted to do. There's no question about that. It's the holy grail of jihad," a senior U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed. Al-Libi organized several failed assassination attempts on Musharraf before he was nabbed, officials have said. But the plot by Al Qaeda's international operations chief to send assassins to the U.S. to kill Bush was only disclosed this week.

The officials asked for anonymity because details of the Bush plot are still highly classified. The officials added that there is little evidence the U.S. mission advanced beyond initial planning by Al-Libi in Pakistan. Two years before Al-Libi's capture by Pakistani and CIA operatives in Pakistan's mountainous North-West Frontier province, near where many believe Bin Laden is hiding, American officials were informed by Musharraf envoys that the top Al Qaeda thug was bent on assassinating Bush, officials said.

Officials said it was not known if Bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, personally ordered Al-Libi to hit the U.S. President. Al-Libi replaced 9/11 attacks mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. Al-Libi's aide and successor, Abu Hamza Rabia, was killed this month in Pakistan by a missile fired from an unmanned CIA predator drone, sources said.

How many liberals calling for Bush's impeachment because of the "secret surveillance" being conducted by the NSA are right now in the Islamists' cross-hairs, do you suppose? No doubt the answer is zero. On the other hand, how many of them do you think would be demanding that that same surveillance be expanded if they found out that they themselves were indeed being targeted? Probably about the same number that are currently wailing about Bush's alleged abuse of power.

The Spirit of Iraq

There's a photo montage which does a nice job of capturing the spirit of the recent Iraqi elections at Michael Yon's blog. Go here and follow the link. While you're watching you might keep in mind what it cost to bring this gift to the Iraqis and how important it is that we not listen to the John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi Defeatocrats when they urge us to just give up and get out.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christian Belief IV

The question remaining from our previous post in the series on Christian belief is why the words of a 1st century Jewish rabbi should carry such enormous metaphysical weight with Christians today. The answer, we said, is that for two thousand years Christians have believed that Jesus was not just a rabbi, not just some specially chosen messenger from God, not just a prophet, but that he was God Himself.

Certainly this is what the Bible teaches about Him and what He said about Himself. Consider a couple of examples from Paul writing about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth...all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col.1:15-17)

...our great God and savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13)

And here's John describing Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (Jn 1:1-3)

And the Jews were seeking to kill Him, because He...was...making Himself equal with God. (Jn 5:18)

And Thomas:

Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28)

And here is Jesus speaking of Himself:

The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM." Therefore they picked up stones (to stone Him for blasphemy since I AM was a name God assigns to Himself in the Old Testament to indicate His timelessness) (Jn 8:57-59)

"I and the Father are one" (and the same). The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them..."for which [of my works] are you stoning me?" The Jews answered Him..."for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." (Jn 10:30-33)

"He who has seen Me has seen the Father." (Jn.14:9)

It is the belief in the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus that separates Christians from other monotheists. It is a belief unique to Christianity among modern world religions. It is also what makes Christmas so significant and special to believers. As the world turns toward Christmas eve we've resolved to keep well in mind why it is that Christians have always thought this birth, this child, to be full of mystery, wonder, awe and love. The Creator of the world, despite our rejection and betrayal of him, is born into the world as a human, to human parents, in the meanest surroundings, so that ultimately He may one day coax us back to Himself. Christmas reminds us all of the depth of His devotion to us. It reminds us that God chose to identify Himself with us in our humanity by sharing in our suffering and enduring an awful physical death, all of which He did as an expression of purest love. It was completely gratuitous. He needn't have done it, but for reasons we can't really understand on this side of eternity, it was apparently the only way He could win us back.

Christmas reminds us that God became man and dwelt among us, but couldn't Jesus have been mistaken about who He was? Couldn't He have been lying? Couldn't He have been deranged? Yes, He could have been any of these which is why we are not just left with a record of what He said about Himself but also a record of what happened at the end of His life. It was these events which authenticated the claims that He and others made about who He was.

More on that after Christmas. In the meantime, we wish all of our readers a wonderful Christmas filled with the love of family and friends.

Plugging Leaks

A guy writes to a blog at National Review Online with a clever idea for how to investigate the leaks from the NSA and CIA concerning domestic surveillance and other matters:

Forget about prosecuting anyone for now. Justice should set up a special full time grand jury, meeting five days a week, to questions everyone connected in any way with the leak, including congressional staffers and elected officials. Everyone gets a grant of immunity for any underlying crimes before testifying. The only thing they can be prosecuted for is perjury.

It would take about an hour to put each person on record against future perjury charges. Do you know reporter x? Did you talk with reporter x, what was the nature of your conversation etc. etc.

Witnesses are required, as a condition of employment by the CIA, to reveal their testimory to CIA counsel. Those who leaked have three options. They can refuse to testify and be held in contempt, since immunity has been granted and fifth amendment protections are irrelevant, at which point the CIA has grounds for dismissing them. They can tell the truth, admit to leaking, and be fired. Or they can lie and hope that Riesen and company won't give them up after sitting in jail for six months. Most will probably tell the truth and resign their positions.

The point here is that instead of dragging this thru the legal system for years, the whole issue could most likely be resolved in a matter of weeks. The removal of these employees would have a powerful deterrent effect as well.

Interesting idea, but we still think the leakers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The Real Setback in the Dover Trial

There is much to criticize in the 139 page decision handed down by Judge John Jones after the Dover ID trial, and we'll take a look at some of that in the days ahead. The undoing of this case for the defense, however, was the perceived, or actual, dishonesty on the part of a couple of the Dover school board members. The saddest legacy of this whole affair is not that the board sought to inform students that there are legitimate alternatives to the materialist narrative on origins but rather the discredit that some of them brought upon the word "Christian" by publicly denying having said what they evidently did say and, worse, by denying it while under oath.

Secularist and Darwinian blogs are touting their conduct as typical of Christians in general, and ID advocates in particular, and surely the message will be repeated and amplified by the media, in ways both subtle and not so subtle, that anyone who advocates ID is a liar and that Christians can not be trusted in positions of civic responsibility.

Christianity Today concludes a fine report on the court's decision with these words:

When it comes down to it, though, which do you think God cares more about? That those who act in his name got a school district to call Darwinian evolution a theory, or that the entire world now considers them perjurers?

The impression left by the conduct of a few people, no matter how well-meaning their original intention, has probably done far more to set back the cause of ID than all the expert testimony offered by the plaintiffs and all the negative media commentary spawned throughout the trial. People will accept or reject ideas they don't feel particularly competent to evaluate themselves on the basis of whether or not they feel they can trust those who do have expertise to be telling them the truth. To the extent that one or two of the board members have been called liars by the trial judge and to the extent that those individuals are identified with Intelligent Design, ID will have been wounded and discredited in the eyes of a public that is largely confused about the philosophic and scientific questions ID addresses.

The lesson for all of us, whichever side of this debate we're on, is that no matter how right we think we are, our opinions on matters like these are not so important that we should ever sacrifice our integrity to promote them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christian Belief III

Continuing our series on basic Christian convictions we turn next to the idea of eternal life. One of the things we learn in the Bible is that death is not the end of our existence. Man has always yearned to live, to survive the death of his body, but apart from any revelation from God he has no reason to think that there's any life beyond this one.

The New Testament makes it clear, however, that the death of this physical body is not unlike the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Just as the butterfly emerges transformed from the chrysalid, so, too, we are assured, we take on a whole new form of life and being.

This makes, or should make, an enormous difference in the way we view this life. If the atheistic materialist is right and death really is the end for each of us, then this life has precious little meaning. Death obliterates everything, nothing we do ultimately means a thing. Our lives are like the flash of a firefly's light in the dark night. It appears and then it's gone, forever. If death is the end then there's no reason at all why anyone should live one way rather than another. Nothing really matters, so whether one lives like Adolf Hitler or Mother Teresa it's all the same. When Hitler and Mother Teresa died they both ceased to exist, their fate, their destinies were the same so what difference did their decisions about how they would conduct their lives ultimately make?

If death is the end, there's no ultimate justice, no recompense for those who've done terrible things and caused great suffering. Such people will not be punished and those who've done wonderful things fare no better than those who didn't. So what's the point? If death is the end then we're just temporary assemblages of atoms that are destined to become topsoil. There's no dignity or value in being just a lump of flesh and bone. If atheism is true then man has no dignity or worth. He's just an animal to be herded and manipulated to suit the whim of whomever has the power to impose his will on the rest.

Christians, however, believe that when we die something of us lives on. Call it our soul, the totality of information that gives an exhaustive description of who we are. This information that describes us exists in the mind of God and is reinstantiated in some other body, some other mode of expression, when this material body is no longer able to function. Because our soul is information in the mind of God, it never ceases to exist. It's always in His database, as it were, ready to be downloaded at the next iteration of our existence. Because of this each of our lives, being eternal, is infinitely important and meaningful. Because of this we can hope that justice does exist and we have a reason for believing that the moral choices we make really do matter. Our eternal destiny may hinge upon them.

Why do Christians believe this? What do they base their hope upon? Consider just a few of the words of Jesus on the topic:

"Whoever believes [in me] may have eternal life." (Jn.3:15).

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life." (Jn.3:36)

"But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst but the water that I shall give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (Jn.4:14)

"Already he who gathering fruit for life eternal." (Jn.4:36)

"My sheep hear my voice...and I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (Jn.10:28)

It's clear that Jesus believed that there was life after physical death, but this raises a question: Why should we place confidence in the words of an itinerant rabbi who lived in an obscure corner of the world two thousand years ago. The answer is that Christians have always believed that Jesus was not just a rabbi, not even just a man, but that he is in some sense divine. That He is God.

That'll be our topic in the next post in the series.

Christmas Message

I'm (Bill) going to be away for the Christmas holiday and probably won't have access to post anything so I thought I would leave you with a singularly unique thought that might be inspirational during this special time of the year.

I came up empty with nothing to say that would capture the significance of Christmas...until I found this which says it all much better than I ever could...

God bless all of us during this celebration of God's gift to us, the birth of Christ.

Creation Myth For Young Materialists

Joe Carter has a clever creation story for young materialists that deserves as wide an audience as possible so we post it here, with Carter's introduction, in its entirety:

Throughout history children have been awed and thrilled by retellings of their culture's creation story. Aztec's would tell of the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes, Phoenicians about the Zophashamin, and Jews and Christians about the one true God -- Jehovah. But there is one unfortunate group -- the children of materialists - that has no creation myth to call its own. When an inquisitive tyke asks who created the sun, the animals, and mankind, their materialist parents can only tell them to read a book by Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins.

No child, though, should have to go without an answer which is why I've decided to take the elements of materialism and shape them into an accurate, though mythic, narrative. This is what our culture has been missing for far too long -- a creation story for young materialists.


In the beginning was Nothing and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it explode. The explosion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

For no particular Reason - for Reason is rarely particular -- Time and Chance took a liking to this wet little blue rock and so decided to stick around and see what adventures they might have. The pair thought the Earth was intriguing and pretty, but also rather dull and static. They fixed upon an idea to change Everything (just a little) by creating a special Something. Time and Chance roamed the planet, splashing through the oceans and scampering through the mud, in search of materials. But though they looked Everywhere there was a Missing Ingredient that they needed in order to make a Something that could create more of the same Somethings.

They called to their friend Everything to help. Since Everything had been Everywhere she would no doubt be able to find the Missing Ingredient. And indeed she did, hidden away in a small alcove called Somewhere, Everything found what Time and Chance had needed all along: Information. Everything put the Information on a piece of ice and rock that happened to be passing by the planet Pluto and sent it back to her friends on Earth.

Now that they had Information, Time and Chance were finally able to create a self-replicating Something which they called Life. Once they created the Life they found that it not only became more Somethings it began to become Otherthings too! The Somethings and the Otherthings began to fill all the Earth -- from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky. Their creation, which began as a single Something eventually became millions of Otherthings.

Time and Chance, though, where the bickering sort and were constantly feuding over which of them was the most powerful. One day they began to argue over who had been most responsible for creating Life. Everything (who was constantly eavesdropping) overheard the spat and suggested that they settle the debate by putting their creative skills to work on a new creature called Man. They all thought is was a splendid plan - Man was a dull, hairy beast who would indeed provide a suitable challenge - and began to boast about who could create an ability, which they called Consciousness, that would allow Man to be aware of Chance, Time, Everything, and Nothing.

Chance, who had always been a bit of a dawdler, got off to a slow start so it was Time, who never rested, that was able to complete the task first. Time rushed around, filling the gooey matter inside each Man's head with Consciousness. But as he was gloating over his victory he noticed a strange reaction. When Man could see that Everything had been created by Time, Chance, and Nothing his Consciousness would fill up with Despair.

Chance immediately saw a solution to the problem and used the remaining materials she was using to make Consciousness to create Beliefs. When Chance mixed Beliefs into the grey goo, Man stopped filling with Despair and started creating his own Illusions. These Illusions took various forms - God, Purpose, Meaning - but they were almost always effective in preventing Man from filling up with Despair.

Nothing, who tended to be rather forgetful, remembered her creation and decided to take a look around Everything. When she saw what Time and Chance had done on planet Earth she was mildly amused but forbid them to fill any more creatures with Consciousness or Beliefs (which is why Man is the only Something that has both). But Nothing took a fancy to Man and told Time and Chance that when each one's Life ran out that she would take him or her and make them into Nothing too.

And that is why, my young friends, when Man loses his Life he goes from being a Something created by Time and Chance into becoming like his creator - Nothing.

The End

Well, it's certainly the end if you're a materialist.

Behe on Dover

BeliefNet has an interview with Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe on the Dover verdict. Behe's not impressed:

What is your reaction to Judge Jones' decision in the Dover intelligent design case?

I'm very disappointed in it, because not only did he say that the school board was motivated by religious feelings, but he said that intelligent design itself is religious. And I simply disagree with that. It seems that he simply adopted all of the arguments of the plaintiffs and just dismissed out of hand the arguments of the witnesses for the defendants [the Dover Area School Board, which instituted the policy of reading a statement informing students of gaps in Darwin's theory of evolution and directing them to an intelligent design textbook titled "Of Pandas and People."] So, it's a drag.

Judge Jones says the motivation behind the school board's policy was primarily religious and so violated what is known as the Lemon test, arising from the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman,-that the primary motivation for public policy decisions cannot be the promotion of a religious perspective.

I don't know what the motives of the Dover board were. I didn't listen to their testimony. But the question is, can ID be investigated solely because of interests other than religious ones? I think the answer is clearly yes. It's an explanation that immediately suggests itself when one learns about the complexity of life. And so does not necessarily arise from religious motivations.

You can find the rest of the interview at the above link.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

LaShawn Barber

LaShawn Barber has been accused of hating black people because she refuses to endorse quotas, affirmative action, and other nostrums out of the liberal goody bag. She gives a marvelous apologia at her blog. Here's a taste:

I am more critical of blacks than I am of whites because, no offense, I care more about what happens to blacks. That is, I care whether they're valuing education as highly as they should, whether they're pushing themselves and their children to be the best and not wallowing in excuses or hurling unfounded charges of racism.

Having grown up black among black family and friends, I noticed a certain undercurrent that didn't have a name. Whether a person actually suffered from racial discrimination or not, there was an urge to "keep whitey on the hook," a term I picked up from John McWhorter. He articulated it so well in Authentically Black. We are never to allow whites to forget our historical grievances, whether an individual white person was guilty of discrimination or not. Most whites seem intimidated by blacks who do this. I dare say some of my white commenters are probably intimidated as well, despite their boldness on this blog.

I vowed to take the opposite approach. Rather than using this blog to bit** and moan session about slavery, institutional racism and such, I'd use it to "keep blacks on the hook." It's a fresh approach and much more interesting than telling whites how racist they are. Blacks need to be reminded, constantly, of our responsibility in this mess.

One of the government policies I hate is skin color preferences, which I've written about ad nauseum and will continue to do so as long as it exists. So-called affirmative action was intended to include more blacks in the candidate pool, but it has become the biggest entitlement program ever conceived. It has nothing to do with so-called racial discrimination and everything to do with lowered standards.

Apparently, it's difficult to find black job candidates and potential university students with credentials comparable to whites. On the one hand, some blacks claim that credentials are comparable, but whites need a "push" to hire or admit. On the other hand, some blacks claim that "comparable" is relative. Just because a black person has a lower score, it doesn't mean he's not qualified for a job or admission. It is reasonable, however, to set hiring and admissions criteria, and if your score is below the threshold, you are, by those standards, not qualified. Unfortunately, some blacks - not all, thank goodness - see racial motives behind everything.

I hate "affirmative action" because it's immoral, unconstitutional, embarrassingly unfair, and undignified.

If blacks with comparable credentials are being passed over, blanket skin color preference policies are not the remedy. Courts are where such disputes should be heard. If blacks are passed over because they don't have comparable scores, we need to address the problem at a much earlier stage. We all know how dumbed down government schools have become. Get the socialist bureaucrats out of the front offices and demand better for your kids. Fight for school choice, support rigorous standards, and advocate excellence, not mediocrity. And for the love of God, stop making excuses. Discipline your children to turn off that idiot box and study. Embrace and reward studious behavior and penalize laziness.

Despite government policies designed to force equal outcomes, thanks to human nature, it ain't going to happen. We each have different or varying degrees of talent, drive, and motivation. This is where "diversity" bites liberals on the rear end. In a society as diverse as America, individuals will never have equal stuff. You won't find equal outcomes within the same biological family, for crying out loud, so how can you expect to find it within a diverse country???

Equal opportunity is the best we humans can hope for and what the Constitution guarantees. That document does not have the power to ensure equal distribution of material wealth, nor should it. I'm glad to know that more people are publicly expressing their disdain for skin color distinctions imposed by government.

Go to her blog (linked above) for a lot more. She's feisty and decidedly un-PC. Would that more people, both black and white, thought as she does.

Go Ahead, Make My Day

The Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot...again, according to this column by John McIntyre at RealClear Here are some highlights from McIntyre's essay:

The public resents the overkill from Abu Ghraib and the hand-wringing over whether captured terrorists down in Gitmo may have been mistreated. They want Kahlid Mohamed, one of the master minds of 9/11 and a top bin Laden lieutanent, to be water-boarded if our agents on the ground think that is what necessary to get the intel we need. They want the CIA to be aggressively rounding up potential terrorists worldwide and keeping them in "black sites" in Romania or Poland or wherever, because the public would rather have suspected terrorists locked away in secret prisons in Bulgaria than plotting to kill Americans in Florida or California or New York.

The public also has the wisdom to understand that when you are at war mistakes will be made. You can't expect 100% perfection. So while individuals like Kahled Masri may have been mistakenly imprisoned, that is the cost of choosing to aggressively fight this enemy. Everyone understands that innocents were killed and imprisoned mistakenly in World War II. Had we prosecuted WWII with the same concern for the enemy's "rights" the outcome very well might have been different.

One of the major problems working against Democrats is many on their side appear to be rooting for failure in Iraq and publicly ridicule the idea that we actually might win. When this impression is put in context of the debate over eavesdropping or the Patriot Act, Democrats run the significant risk of being perceived to be more concerned with the enemy's rights than protecting ordinary Americans. This is a loser for Democrats.

If Democrats want to make this spying "outrage" a page one story they are fools walking right into a trap. Now that this story is out and the security damage is already done, let's have a full investigation into exactly who the President spied on and why. Let's also find out who leaked this highly classified information and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. If the president is found to have broken the law and spied on political opponents or average Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism, then Bush should be impeached and convicted.

But unlike Senator Levin, who claimed on Meet The Press yesterday not to know what the President's motives were when he authorized these eavesdropping measures, I have no doubt that the President's use of this extraordinary authority was solely an attempt to deter terrorist attacks on Americans and our allies. Let the facts and the truth come out, but the White House's initial response is a pretty powerful signal that they aren't afraid of where this is heading.

Bush hit a low point last summer and Fall with the PR disaster of Katrina and the Harriet Miers nomination and his relative silence about the war in Iraq. The Democrats, seeing an opportunity to capitalize, rushed in like a mob of thugs each vying to get a good kick in on the president, but in the process they reminded the country why they don't want Democrats in control of national security. In word and deed they painted themselves as the party of defeat and retreat, the Defeatocrat party, as they're now being called in the blogosphere.

The president has apparently had enough of the pummeling he's been taking, and has come off the ropes with hard combinations to the Defeatocrats' vitals. His approval ratings are beginning to climb into the high 40's as the public becomes more aware that Iraq is not at all the mess that the Dems have portrayed it, the economy is robust, and we haven't had a terrorist attack on our soil since Bush took the war to the Middle East. If the Democrats want to question Bush's integrity on the secret surveillance and hold investigations, all they'll succeed in doing is showing the public how diligently the president has been working to protect them from al Qaeda. George Bush should send a memo to Harry Reid, "Go ahead, Harry, make my day."


The audacious Jennifer Senior apparently enjoys professional danger. She's written an article in New York magazine which explores the work of two researchers who live even more dangerously, Henry Harpending, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Utah, and Gregory Cochran, an independent scholar. She writes that:

The two shopped around a paper that tried to establish a genetic argument for the fabled intelligence of Jews. It contended that the diseases most commonly found in Ashkenazim-particularly the lysosomal storage diseases, like Tay-Sachs-were likely connected to and, indeed, in some sense responsible for outsize intellectual achievement in Ashkenazi Jews....Most American academics expected the thing to drop like a stone.

Yet to invoke the genome as an explanation for anything more complicated than illness or the most superficial traits (like skin color) is still considered taboo, as Harvard president Larry Summers discovered when he suggested the reason for so few female math and science professors might lurk in scribbles of feminine DNA (rather than, say, the hostile climes of the classroom, the diminished expectations of women's parents, or a curious cultural receptivity to Pamela Anderson's charms).

Though Jews make up a mere 0.25 percent of the world's population and a mere 3 percent of the United States', they account, according to their paper, for 27 percent of all American Nobel Prize winners, 25 percent of all ACM Turing Award winners for computer science, and 50 percent of the globe's chess champions. (What the paper doesn't say is that these numbers seem to be tallied for optimum Jewishness, counting as Jews those who have as few as one Jewish grandparent to claim; it also wrongly assumes these winners are all Ashkenazim. But still.) Cochran and Harpending also cite studies claiming that Ashkenazim have the highest IQ of any ethnic group for which there's reliable data, perhaps as much as a full standard deviation above the general European average, which means, at the far end of the spectrum, that 23 per thousand Ashkenazim have an IQ over 140, as opposed to 4 per thousand Northern Europeans.

Freud and Marx, Einstein and Bohr, Mendelssohn and Mahler. The brothers Gershwin. The brothers Marx. Woody Allen. Bob Dylan. Franz Kafka. Claude L�vi-Strauss. Bobby Fischer. The list of accomplished and brilliant Jews seems endless and begs an explanation.

Harpending and Cochran's study, though, has produced a great deal of consternation and criticism, not because people don't think that Jews really are smarter than the average Caucasian but because there's a very dangerous flip side to the discussion. If intelligence is correlated to ethnicity or race then...are we heading toward another Bell Curve debacle which brought no end of invective and criticism upon the head of author Charles Murray? Here lies ground the prudent academic dare not tread upon, and in order to avoid it all statements of the obvious, for example, that Jews and Asians seem to be disproportionately brilliant must be treated as if they carried HIV.

The problem with saying such things out loud in public is that people's minds immediately fly to another obviously disproportionate giftedness, that of African-American athleticism. So what's wrong with that, you ask? Silly you. You must be from Mars.

As William Buckley is fond of putting it, he who says A must say B. The flip side of the prowess displayed by Jews in the realm of the mind is that it certainly seems that Jews and, to a lesser extent, Asians are athletic underachievers (at least in most of the sports popular in America). But now we've gone and done it, because this observation invites the forbidden question of why African-Americans, taken as a whole, seem to be conversely situated.

Studies like the one Senior writes about are not welcome in the PC world of academe where uncomfortable racial implications of research are best swept quietly into the closet. If Jewish, and Asian, intellectual achievement is largely genetically explained then, the dread question is, does the failure of African Americans to do as well in the classroom as they do on the athletic field also have a genetic explanation? And this question, it is objected, plays right into the hands of racists. To which I, being one who is gifted neither intellectually nor athletically, say phooey.

Genuine racists, those who could and would do harm to people simply because of their race, are an insignificant fraction of the population today, at least among whites, despite what the race hustlers would have us believe. It's time we start addressing uncomfortable facts about ourselves like grown-ups instead of stuffing them in our national anxiety closet when they conflict with what we'd like them to be. We are better served by confronting difficult truths, if indeed truths they be, than by hiding from them. The more thoroughly we understand ourselves the more effectively we can work to make life better for all Americans. We say, let's take our hands from over our mouths, eyes, and ears, and let's do the research. Let the facts fall where they may. We shouldn't fear knowledge.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Well, Is It or Isn't It?

Compare this statement by Jamie Gorelick President Clinton's Deputy Attorney General in 1994 --

"The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General.

"It is important to understand, that the rules and methodology for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the president in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities." - Jamie Gorelick testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 14, 1994 (Thanks to Byron York).

With this statement by Jamie Gorelick today:

"The issue here is this: If you're John McCain and you just got Congress to agree to limits on interrogation techniques, why would you think that limits anything if the executive branch can ignore it by asserting its inherent authority?" 12/20/05 Washington Post, p. A10. (Thanks to Cliff May)

Ms Gorelick's legal opinions concerning what presidents can and cannot do seem clearly to be a function of which party the president is a member of.

Follow Up

Not too long ago I posted an article that discussed the merits of acquiring gold when it had just reached the $540 per ounce area. In it, I pointed out that one might save $10 or $20 dollars if they waited for gold to drop back to a lower level but I also pointed out the risk of being left at the station only to see that the gold train had pulled away...without them.

Perhaps you spoke with your broker about gold. Well, this was most likely one of the guys who was touting the NASDAQ in 2000. I suspect they're not going to recommend gold simply because they stand nothing to gain. They're job is to sell paper...stocks. That's how they make commissions and their living. No, one has to stop listening to the siren songs of the last decade and look around a see what is going on and make their decisions accordingly.

Today, the price of gold has closed at $492 per ounce. Wow, was my statement really bad? Was your broker right after all? Well not really. The number one rule of investing is to not miss a bull market. The only way one can do that is to establish a position and be in...through the short-term highs and lows. Since the price of things fluctuates going up and down, the prudent individual invests over time using a mechanism known as dollar cost averaging. This means they make their acquisitions over time which smoothes out the variations. If I purchased an ounce of gold at $540 and a month later the price is at $460 and I purchase another ounce, my average cost is $500. Similarly, if after I purchased my first ounce, at some time in the future gold is at $620 and I purchase another ounce, my average cost is $580.

The take away message is that there is only one point to remember: in a bull market, (in 2000 gold was at $250 per ounce) the important thing is to establish one's position. The good news is that one doesn't have to plunge into the market hoping, against the odds, that they have gotten in at the bottom. They can implement a disciplined, orderly, regularly scheduled program of acquisition knowing that the ups and downs are smoothed out as they do so. It's next to impossible to buy on the exact low and the risk of trying to do it is that you may find yourself out of the market looking at higher cost to get in.

The price of gold is rising in what is called a channel. The channel can be illustrated by drawing two parallel lines on a graph of the price of gold over years. The lower line traces the lows of the price and the upper line traces the highs. They tend to illustrate the overbought and oversold state of a given item. Given that in 2000, gold was at $250 per ounce, the channel illustrates a bull market is in play. Also, given our governments proclivity to print money, it's no wonder. Last month, gold broke out of that channel to the upside and may be in the process of establishing a new channel at a higher angle of ascent, or it may return to the boundaries of the original channel. It doesn't really matter as ultimately, the trend appears to be up.

So, from a technical analysis perspective, given our channel work, the price of gold could possibly go to the lower line of the channel, approximately $460 - $480 (depending on the time frame) and if that level holds, the price should continue up again to the upper channel line of approximately $520-$540. On the other hand, if the price of gold fails to meaningfully penetrate the upper line of the channel ($480 - $490) a new channel could be established meaning that the rise of gold would be more vertical.

Got that? If not, feel free to drop us a line on the Feedback page and I would be happy to provide more explanation.

Through the last five years of the '90s, the slogan in the stock market was "buy the dips". Sure, it was a bull market and people became conditioned to buy any dips almost guaranteeing a profit. That behavior also ensured the bull market...until 2000 when the bull market was perceived to be a bubble and finally burst. Unfortunately, as the markets continued to plummet, they "bought the dips" like conditioned white rats (see B.F. Skinner on behavioral modification, reinforcement history and classical conditioning) during the corrections higher only to find the trend ultimately going lower. Since I believe the bull market in gold has 5 to 10 years to go, the "buy the dips" strategy makes sense once again but personally, I would only use it as a supplement to my basic strategy of dollar cost averaging mentioned above.

Lastly, gold is insurance against the loss of one's wealth through the erosion of inflation and a general disenchantment and distrust of fiat currencies around the globe. Since it appears that this erosion is going to continue for the foreseeable future, it explains why the trend in the price of gold is up and it matters little if one acquires gold at every periodic bottom. What matters is that they acquire gold.