Sunday, July 24, 2005

How the U.N. Wastes Your Money

Donald Trump blows the whistle on Kofi's latest billion dollar boondoggle. Radioblogger has the fascinating transcript of Trump's testimony before a senate committee investigating the proposed renovation of the U.N. building.

It's a little lengthy, but it's well worth the time. Don't miss it.

Somehow, we're sure, Kojo must be involved with this.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the tip.

Battered Left Syndrome

Ted Lapkin diagnoses the Left's political version of the battered wife syndrome:

With each new beating, the scarred and bruised victims of spousal abuse tend to excuse and rationalize the actions of their tormentors. A stubborn unwillingness to accept the proposition that their partners are violent louts plunges these woeful women into a morass of self-deception that spawns only further violence.

The far Left has similarly proved unable to liberate itself from the web of rose-tinted delusions that it has spun about the nature of Islamic extremism. After each al Qaeda outrage, leftist ideologues are quick to castigate their own countrymen for a catalogue of sins, both real and imagined. With a perverse combination of self-loathing and adoration of the enemy, the radical Leftist mantra preaches that if only we were nicer, the jihadists could not fail to love us. It's our own fault if Osama bin Laden doesn't realize what good people we are.

And all the while, these "progressive" academics, pundits, and politicians engage in ridiculous intellectual contortions designed to mitigate the guilt of the terrorist perpetrators. When push comes to shove, some intellectuals believe that Islamism is simply an understandable reaction to what they describe as "Western imperialism."

A case in point might be London mayor Ken Livingstone who said just a day or two ago that were it not for the sins of the West these atrocities would not be happening. Matthew D'Ancona of the U.K. Telegraph writes of the mayor:

So it was all the more depressing to hear him revert to type yesterday as he spouted the fatuous Left-wing mantras for which he earned his notoriety in the 1980s. While claiming that he felt no sympathy for the suicide bombers and (naturally) that "killing people is wrong", he resurrected the pernicious old doctrine of moral equivalence, beloved of the Left in the Cold War. "I don't just denounce the suicide bombers," he said. "I denounce those governments that use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy" - by which he meant Israel, and, one presumed, America.

So, too, he deployed the whiskery argument that western imperialism is at the root of all evil. If we had only left the Arab nations alone after the First World War, the mayor said, "and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this would not have arisen".... Does Mr Livingstone really think that the legacy of the Great War is what drove the Leeds terrorist cell to commit their atrocities?

Is he truly blaming the murder of 56 commuters on the Balfour Declaration, and the 1920 San Remo Conference? And would the mayor be willing to tell the bereaved relatives of Shahara Islam, the 20-year-old from Plaistow who was buried on Friday, or of James Adams, 32, from Peterborough, and Monika Suchocka, 23, a Pole who was living in north London (both of whom were named as among the dead on Tuesday), that their loved ones would still be alive if not for the Treaty of Versailles?

Read the rest of Lapkin's column here.

More on the Creationist Convention

Ronald Bailey at ReasonOnline continues his reporting on the Creationist Conference at Lynchburg, VA. The final session was a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) critique of Intelligent Design and a discussion of human evolution. Here's how Bailey reports the lecture on ID:

Science and scripture cannot contradict one another, and if they appear to do so, then there is something wrong with the science. God created the world in six 24-hour days, according to Georgia Purdom, an assistant professor of biology at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, OH. "It's what God said, and that's enough, and that's the way it has to be," said she. Purdom testified to the attendees of the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference that five years ago she "felt called to understand what I believe and why I believe it." Answering this call brought her to read Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996) by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe. The book introduced her to the "intelligent design" movement.

Initially attracted to intelligent design theorizing, Purdom eventually found it unsatisfactory. Thus the question in her talk: "The Intelligent Design Movement: How Intelligent Is It?" Purdom rejects evolution because it is built on the notion that the process of natural selection relies on death, pain, suffering, and disease to produce our contemporary world. According to creationists, death did not enter the universe until Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:19). "I couldn't believe it because it did not fit with the God I know; the God with whom I have a personal relationship," insisted Purdom. Intelligent designers share the same problem with evolutionists-both ignore Scripture.

Purdom explained that intelligent design was just "refurbished natural theology" of the sort made famous by Anglican divine William Paley in his Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802). Paley famously argued that if someone stumbled over a watch in a forest that he would immediately perceive that "the watch must have had a maker." Paley claimed that the complex mechanisms of organisms in the natural world point to the same conclusion. Purdom believes that both natural theology and intelligent design are fine as far as they go, but they don't go far enough. The problem is that nature is a general revelation while scripture is a special revelation and special revelation trumps general revelation.

Purdom sums up intelligent design as saying, "If it looks designed, it is designed." But still, how are intelligent design theorists going to determine if something is designed or not? "You can't just look at something and tell if it is designed," she says. This is where she still finds Behe valuable. In Darwin's Black Box, Behe explains the concept of "irreducible complexity" using the homely example of a mousetrap. A standard mousetrap is irreducibly complex because it will only catch mice if it has a board, a spring, a trigger and so forth. If any part is missing, it will catch no mice. The existence of irreducible complexity in organisms similarly points to an intelligent designer. Behe offers examples of several irreducibly complex biological systems such as the biochemistry of sight and the operation of the bacterial flagellum which must have the existence and coordinated action of many different proteins and other molecules or they will fail.

Purdom points especially to the complexity of the mammalian blood clotting cascade. We do know that genetic mutations disable blood clotting in people. For example, one version of hemophilia is caused by a lack of the blood-clotting Factor VIII, which is perhaps analogous to a mousetrap missing its spring. Purdom thinks that this is a knockdown argument against evolution, which is supposed to work by small gradual successive steps. If a new modification is not immediately functional, then it's gone. "Evolution doesn't believe in keeping leftovers," declares Purdom.

But is the mammalian blood clotting system irreducibly complex? While the work is far from complete, researchers are making progress in figuring out how that system came into existence over hundreds of millions of years. Strangely, Purdom rejects a well-known pathway for creating novel functions at the molecular level-gene duplication with subsequent modification of the redundant gene, which leads to new functions.

In any case, while accepting a good bit of the Intelligent Design movement's arguments, Purdom points out that Intelligent Design also allows for macroevolution-that is, new species can arise from earlier species. This a definite no-no since the Bible clearly states that God "created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, after their kind." If all creatures reproduce only their own "kind," then there is no way for evolution to produce new species.

However, according to Purdom, "the biggest problem is that Intelligent Design theory divorces Creator from Creation. They do not presume to pierce the veil of the Designer. They won't say 'who done it.'"

Purdom is also annoyed that ID advocates will not talk about the optimality of design. She pointed to a statement by ID godfather, Philip Johnson who recently said, "I suppose the Creator could have made it so that we would live forever and be bulletproof. Flawless design may not be his point."

In Purdom's creationist interpretation of Genesis, God made a perfect world in which Adam and Eve were the moral equivalent of immortal and bulletproof; however, it is now flawed due to Adam's sin. Even more horrifying to Purdom is the statement by Baylor University professor and Design Inference author William A. Dembski, "One looks at some biological structure and remarks, 'Gee, that sure looks evil.' Did it start out evil? Was that its function when a good and all-powerful God created it? Objects invented for good purposes are regularly co-opted and used for evil purposes."

Can Dembski be implying that God created evil in the world? Purdom replies that Christians know that "sin has broken this world, including all of nature." To illustrate evil in nature, Purdom offers the example of the nature documentary showing an idyllic scene of a "zebra grazing peacefully, and then a tiger leaps out and bites its head off." (Of course this documentary would have to be filmed in a zoo, since that's the only place in which African zebras are likely to encounter Asian tigers, but never mind.) The problem with ID theory, as Purdom sees it, is that it implies that God is the author of evil unless you have Biblical understanding of how evil came into the universe through Adam's fall. ID is flawed because it lacks "the Bible as a foundation and framework." Purdom ended her lecture with a Power Point slide illustrating the ultimate argument from authority: "God Said It, That Settles It."

Notice Purdom's criticism of ID: It's compatible with macroevolution and it's agnostic about who the intelligent designer is. It's ironic that many oppose ID being presented in public school science classes because they think it's just Creationism in scientific drag. The secular critics protest, wrongly, that ID'ers want to eliminate evolution and bring God into the schools, precisely what Creationists fault them for not wanting to do. Too bad Bailey chose not to point this out.

Also note Bailey's response to the claim that the blood clotting cascade is irreducibly complex: Scientists are making progress toward explaining how it could have evolved. Isn't it odd that this system is so intricate and exquisitely contrived that intelligent researchers can't figure out how it got put together, but they're nevertheless convinced that it was done by blind, undirected forces acting solely by chance?