Friday, February 25, 2005

Life on Mars

Is there life on Mars? Many scientists hope so.

Three-dimensional images from the Mars Express spacecraft of the European Space Agency suggest that flat, fractured plates near the Martian equator are remnants of ice that floated on a sea just a few million years ago, scientists said on Monday.

The ice, if it turns out to be ice, would fit with assertions that bacteria continue to live on Mars. Liquid water close to the surface, warmed by geothermal energy, could provide an environment for microorganisms.

Scientists are anxious to find life elsewhere in the galaxy because they keenly sense the problem that the uniqueness of the earthly biosphere poses for their philosophical embrace of metaphysical naturalism. If life can be shown to have emerged on other planets then it would lend support to the view that as improbable as a naturalistic origin of life may seem it is not so unlikely as to be uncommon or rare.

The problem is that finding simple life-forms on Mars would prove nothing about the origin of those life forms. Many astronomers believe that a meteor impact of sufficient magnitude on the early earth could have blasted trillions of encysted bacterial or algal spores into space. Some of those may well have rained down upon and colonized Mars and even thrived there for a time so that any life we find there may, for all we know, have originated on earth.

In other words, finding single-celled life forms on Mars would solve none of the intractable difficulties faced by naturalistic theories of the origin of life on earth.

Bush's Immigration Plan

Tamar Jacoby has written an excellent piece in the Weekly Standard on the immigration problem and argues cogently, if not quite persuasively, for the acceptance of George Bush's plan to deal with the problems of our southern border. Jacoby writes:

The Bush plan has two key components: a guest worker program and a transitional measure that would allow illegal immigrants already here and working to earn their way onto the right side of the law and participate legally in the U.S. labor market. Conservative critics lambaste both elements, not just as bad policy, but as inherently un-conservative--out of keeping with core principles and detrimental to Republican interests.

The impulse behind the challenge is understandable. Conservative criteria are different: not just security, but the rule of law, traditional values, and national cohesion--not to mention the interests of the GOP. It's also true that the president often touts his proposal in terms designed to appeal across the political spectrum. He talks about "compassion" and a desire to reward "goodhearted" workers, and sometimes this emphasis obscures the hardheaded, conservative case for his approach--a case that begins but does not end with America's economic interests. In reality, though, demonized as it has been on the right, the Bush plan meets every conceivable conservative criterion--with flying colors.

Jacoby goes on to explain why Bush's plan is the best possible solution. I'm not convinced. Bush's plan essentially allows millions of illegals to continue to burden the rest of society in terms of the goods and services they need and demand. They place an incredible strain on the tax base in southern California and elsewhere, and to say that we just have to accept their presence sounds like a call to surrender to an intolerable situation.

Immigration reform is a natural issue for Democrats who are sensitive to the impact of illegal labor on competition for jobs, and the Democrat that can run to the right of Republicans on this issue in 2008 could take Arizona, New Mexico and maybe even Florida. If that had happened in the last election George Bush would be a rapidly fading footnote to history right now.

The Mercy and Compassion of Islam

BBC News has yet another example of what passes for justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran:

A teenage girl and two young men in Iran have been sentenced to lashes for having sex. The court dismissed the girl's claim that she was raped. It said she had sex of her own free will, the official Iran Daily newspaper reported.

The girl was sentenced to 100 lashes because her accusations of rape and kidnap could have landed her partners a death penalty, the Tehran judge said. Sex outside marriage is illegal in Iran and capital punishment can be imposed. The young men in the case were sentenced to 30 and 40 lashes each.

The Iran paper quotes the girl, who has not been named, as confessing: "I trusted one of these young men, whom I got to know by phone, and went to his place. "But because he betrayed me, I filed the case against him and his friend out of revenge."

International concerns continue to be raised about women's rights in Iran. In December the UN General Assembly voted to censure Iran for human rights violations, including discrimination against women and girls. Tehran rejected the criticism as propaganda.

Under Iranian law, girls over the age of nine and boys over 16 face the death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder, while capital punishment can be imposed in certain cases of illegal sexual relationships.

That lashings were administered to the young girl in this case is horrifying enough, that she received two and a half to three times the number that the boys did is symptomatic of a mindset so depraved that we lack the words to describe it. If this is Islamic law one wonders what in the world the appeal of Islam is to anyone with a shred of human decency or compassion. One also wonders whether the world can afford to permit nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of men who think like these mullahs do.

Cult of Death

A Muslim calls on his co-religionists to "wake up." Kamal Nawash may be a voice crying in the wilderness, but American Muslims would do well to heed his words especially the last few paragraphs:

With all the evidence that Islam is facing a crisis, one wonders what it will take for Muslims to realize that those who commit mass murder in the name of Islam are not just a few fringe elements. What will it take for Muslims to realize that we are facing a crisis potentially more deadly than the AIDS epidemic? What will it take for Muslims to realize that there is a large, evil movement that is turning what was a peaceful religion into a death cult?

Will Muslims wake up before it is too late? Or will we continue blaming an imaginary Jewish conspiracy and entities like The Dallas Morning News for all our problems? The blaming of all Muslim problems on others is a cancer that is destroying Muslim society. And it must stop.

Muslims must wake up, look inward and put a stop to many of our religious leaders who spend most of their sermons teaching hatred, intolerance and violent jihad. We should not be afraid to admit that as Muslims we have a problem with violent extremism. We should not be afraid to admit that so many of our religious leaders belong behind bars, and not behind a pulpit.

Only moderate Muslims can challenge and defeat extremist Muslims. We can no longer afford to be silent. If we remain silent to the extremism within our community, then we should not expect anyone to listen to us when we complain of stereotyping and discrimination by non-Muslims. We should not be surprised when the world treats all of us as terrorists. And we should not be surprised when we are profiled at airports.

Simply put, not only do Muslims need to join the war against extremism and terror, we need to take the lead in this war.

It's not unrelated to Nawash's plea to note that the high school valedictorian who has been charged with plotting to assassinate the President was a Muslim citizen of the U.S. who studied in a Saudi madrassa in Virginia, a school which inculcates into its students a bitter hatred for the U.S. and Israel. Where are the moderate Muslims demanding that "schools" like this be shut down?