Wednesday, February 2, 2005

The Litmus Test

John Podhoretz asks an intriguing question:

When you heard about the stunning success of the Iraqi elections, were you thrilled? Did you see it as a triumph for democracy and for the armed forces of the United States that have sacrificed and suffered and fought so valiantly over the past 18 months to get Iraq to this moment? Or did you momentarily feel an onrush of disappointment because you knew, you just knew, that this was going to redound to the credit of George W. Bush?

There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication. And [the Left] knows it. And it's killing them.

This really is a kind of litmus test for the quality of our character, isn't it? Were we genuinely glad for the Iraqi people, or at least relieved, that things went well for them and their country on Sunday, or did we feel indifference or even somewhat of a letdown that there wasn't more chaos and carnage? If it was the latter then we need to have a serious conversation with ourselves about the state of our soul.

For an example of someone who stands in urgent need of just such self-examination read the piece at Good News From Iraq is up, and, as usual, it's packed.

Those who were surprised at the enthusiastic turn out at the polls last Sunday could not have been following Chrenkoff's fortnightly posts. If they had been, January 30th would have been no surprise at all.


In the wake of November 2nd our inbox was clogged with e-mails from updating us every hour on the "crisis" in Ohio and the "evidence" that Republicans had been up to election day hanky-panky. About Washington state, however, where there are genuine indications of fraud in the gubernatorial balloting, TruthOut has had almost nothing to say. Doubtless that's because the tentative winner in that election was a Democrat and because the evidence of voter fraud points directly at Democrats as the culprits.

National Review Online notes that:

[I]n King County alone, there are 3,700 unaccounted-for ballots or voters. Some precincts have more ballots than voters, for a total of 2,900 "extra" ballots. Other precincts have more voters than ballots, for a total of 800 "extra" voters. These mystery voter-less ballots and ballot-less votes obviously are enough in themselves to put [Democrat Christine] Gregoire's 129-vote margin in serious doubt.

Other irregularities abound. The Seattle Times has reported that 129 felons voted in King and Pierce counties. At least 348 provisional ballots - which are supposed to be closely inspected to see if they are legitimate - were directly fed into machines and counted in King County. Some 55,000 optical-scan ballots (ballots on which the voter marks a bubble) in King County were "enhanced" so that the voters' supposed intent could be determined, with no uniform standard governing the process. Roughly 500 voters used the address of the King County Administration building as their home address.

We're convinced that TruthOut and its friends in the MSM, like Keith Olberman at MSNBC, who were so sure that there was perfidy afoot in Ohio on November 2nd, will join with the editors of National Review in calling for a re-vote in Washington. It is the Left, after all, which was incensed in 2000 because they had incorrectly persuaded themselves that the winner in Florida had stolen that states' election, and it was the Left which was outraged in 2004 at what they had mistakenly assumed were voting irregularities in Ohio which favored the winner.

We're confident that their tardiness in joining the ranks of those demanding a re-vote in Washington has nothing to do with ideological hypocrisy, as some have alleged, and is, on the contrary, due merely to their getting their legal teams together to insure that justice will be done. Or something like that. At any rate, they'll be out there demanding a re-vote soon, you can count on it.

A Disintegrating Tyranny

There is a remarkable article in the U.K. Times Online concerning the political and social disintegration currently underway in North Korea. Not every member of the axis of evil needs to be confronted militarily. Some of them, evidently, are rotting from within and will, with luck, topple at the first strong wind.

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the tip.

The Continuing ID Conflict

The culture wars continue. We were reminded by this article in the Wall Street Journal of a quote from Darwinian biologist Richard Lewontin:

It's not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

The WSJ article says this:

The question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) may be presented to public-school students alongside neo-Darwinian evolution has roiled parents and teachers in various communities lately. Whether ID may be presented to adult scientific professionals is another question altogether but also controversial. It is now roiling the government-supported Smithsonian Institution, where one scientist has had his career all but ruined over it.

The scientist is Richard Sternberg, a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The holder of two Ph.D.s in biology, Mr. Sternberg was until recently the managing editor of a nominally independent journal published at the museum, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, where he exercised final editorial authority. The August issue included typical articles on taxonomical topics--e.g., on a new species of hermit crab. It also included an atypical article, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories." Here was trouble.

The offending review-essay was written by Stephen Meyer, who holds a Cambridge University doctorate in the philosophy of biology. In the article, he cites biologists and paleontologists critical of certain aspects of Darwinism--mainstream scientists at places like the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. Mr. Meyer gathers the threads of their comments to make his own case. He points, for example, to the Cambrian explosion 530 million years ago, when between 19 and 34 animal phyla (body plans) sprang into existence. He argues that, relying on only the Darwinian mechanism, there was not enough time for the necessary genetic "information" to be generated. ID, he believes, offers a better explanation.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Mr. Sternberg's supervisor. According to Mr. Sternberg's OSC complaint: "First, he asked whether Sternberg was a religious fundamentalist. She told him no. Coddington then asked if Sternberg was affiliated with or belonged to any religious organization. . . . He then asked where Sternberg stood politically; . . . he asked, 'Is he a right-winger? What is his political affiliation?' " The supervisor (who did not return my phone messages) recounted the conversation to Mr. Sternberg, who also quotes her observing: "There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down."

In October, as the OSC complaint recounts, Mr. Coddington told Mr. Sternberg to give up his office and turn in his keys to the departmental floor, thus denying him access to the specimen collections he needs. Mr. Sternberg was also assigned to the close oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements unrelated to evolution. "I'm going to be straightforward with you," said Mr. Coddington, according to the complaint. "Yes, you are being singled out." Neither Mr. Coddington nor Mr. Sues returned repeated phone messages asking for their version of events.

Mr. Sternberg begged a friendly curator for alternative research space, and he still works at the museum. But many colleagues now ignore him when he greets them in the hall, and his office sits empty as "unclaimed space." Old colleagues at other institutions now refuse to work with him on publication projects, citing the Meyer episode. The Biological Society of Washington released a vaguely ecclesiastical statement regretting its association with the article. It did not address its arguments but denied its orthodoxy, citing a resolution of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that defined ID as, by its very nature, unscientific.

It may or may not be, but surely the matter can be debated on scientific grounds, responded to with argument instead of invective and stigma. Note the circularity: Critics of ID have long argued that the theory was unscientific because it had not been put forward in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Now that it has, they argue that it shouldn't have been because it's unscientific. They banish certain ideas from certain venues as if by holy writ, and brand heretics too.

Materialists certainly take Lewontin's words seriously. Any scientist in the church of naturalism who gives succor to the opposition is henceforth anathema. Like a gaggle of middle-school girls shunning one of their number who has transgressed some social protocol, Sternberg's co-workers studiously avoid acknowledging him when they pass in the halls. Is there anything more childish? They probably giggle among themselves in the break-room at how cleverly they execute their indignant snubs.

The alleged complaint against Sternberg is that he used his position as editor of a journal that deals primarily with taxonomy to permit an article on a subject that was not related to taxonomy. This, however, is ludicrous. Science journals like Science and Scientific American, though their mission is to address matters of science, sometimes run articles on foreign, social, or economic policy and no editors are ostracized from the community and have their careers threatened for it.

Another charge against Dr. Sternberg was that Meyer's paper was not original and simply re-worked some of his earlier published material and that featuring it damaged the reputation of the journal. This is an odd reason to punish the editor, though. How can you damage the reputation of a publication that no one ever heard of prior to this incident? Indeed, if anything, Sternberg should be rewarded for garnering publicity for the journal that it never would have gotten otherwise no matter how many papers it published on wildly popular topics like the discovery of a new subspecies of midge in New Jersey marshlands.

Sternberg's real crime, of course, was that the article he ran was critical of Darwinism as an explanatory model for how novel morphological patterns arise in nature. If the paper had been favorable to Darwinism it would have passed completely unremarked by the inquisitors at the Smithsonian no matter how modest its scientific quality might have been. As it was, Sternberg allowed a paper into his journal that dared to question the adequacy of Darwinian theory, so he must be cast out like the academic leper he so obviously must be.

Darwinism is a religion which brooks no challenges, and heretics need be punished severely. Maybe their bodies are no longer burned at the stake, but their careers are. It's unfortunate that middle-schoolers in adult bodies have that kind of authority.