Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Some Hard Evidence, Please

Front Page Magazine's Jamie Glazov has an interview with Joseph Farah of World Net Daily in which Farah claims that the Islamists have plans to detonate nuclear weapons in American cities and that the weapons are already here waiting for the signal.

Such claims are much easier to make than to refute, but I came away from this interview disturbed. Not just because of the nature of Farah's alarm call, but also by his refusal to really explain what his basis is for believing that such a calamity is on the way.

His evidence seems to be that we all know that al Qaida wants to execute a spectacular strike murdering tens of thousands of Americans. We know that Russian nukes are missing. We know that our Mexican border is porous. We know that people like Dick Cheney have said that another terror strike is inevitable. Therefore, Farah concludes, a nuclear strike is imminent. Well, maybe, but the evidence Farah gives us is pretty thin.

Nor does he enhance his credibility when he slyly implies that George Bush hasn't sealed our borders because he's part of a master plan "for global governance being plotted in meetings of groups like the Council on Foreign Relations. You can read its reports. And, I believe this open-borders policy is a direct result of those plans, which have been secretly adopted by our highest leaders, including President Bush."

This response as well as the hemming and hawing he tries to pass off as answers to Glazov's request for supporting reasons for his dire prophecies makes one wonder whether Farah isn't just a part of the black helicopter crowd.

He may be right, of course, or he may be just guessing. There's no way to falsify his claim since no matter how long we go without a strike he could still argue that it's going to happen soon. One way to measure his accuracy, though, is by seeing what happens on August 6th. Farah says this:

Again, according to captured documents and captured al-Qaida leaders -- and some defectors -- the plans are to detonate multiple nuclear weapons in major U.S. cities -- either all at once or over a period of days. You can guess most of the prime targets -- New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. The only surprise, according to my sources, is that al-Qaida's list is not based on the cities with the most population. The list is based on where most American Jews live. So you see some cities like Miami and Las Vegas and San Francisco on the list. Dates are very important to al-Qaida, as we have come to know, and one of the dates mentioned in connection with this "American Hiroshima" plan is Aug. 6, the anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima in 1945. No year has been set, but it is worth noting that this Aug. 6th is the 60th anniversary of that attack.

Of course, if nothing happens on the 6th that doesn't mean that it won't happen next year on the 6th. Or the year after that.

In any case, Farah hopes he's wrong. So do we. We just think that unless he had more to go on than what he shares with us in this interview it would have been better to have not said anything. Conservatives don't need to have their spokespersons passing off their own speculations as if they were solid fact. One does not go about scaring the bejabbers out of people without having credible reasons for doing so. Credibility, especially in a matter as frightening as this, is too precious to squander.

That Was Then, This is Now

Teddy Kennedy can always be counted upon to look foolish the more closely one reflects upon his pronouncements.

The Senator has said of President Bush's recess appointment of Ambassador John Bolton that it was "a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent."

However, according to the sleuths at Powerline, in 1999 things were different. Back then he urged the recess appointment of Bill Lann Lee to the top civil rights post at the Department of Justice. Republicans, who constituted a majority of the Senate, were unwilling to confirm Lee because of his advocacy of racial quotas. According to the Washington Times of November 5, 1999, Kennedy stated, "I have long urged recess appointments to break this logjam -- this irresponsible, unconstitutional Republican leadership position which fails to give people their due and fails to meet the constitutional standard." President Clinton eventually gave Lee a recess appointment.

Perhaps the Senator's brains are so pickled he can't recall what positions he held six years ago. Or perhaps he just doesn't care about either consistency or truth. There are, after all, no Geneva accords governing the rules of engagement in political combat.

Teaching Intelligent Design (Pt. I)

The inestimable Charles Krauthammer falls victim to the temptation to disregard Dirty Harry's dictum that "A man's got to know his limitations." Krauthammer, who's right about so much he comments upon in the political sphere, makes the mistake of wading into unfamiliar philosophical waters with all the confidence of one who has tested them many times before. He writes:

To teach faith as science is to undermine the very idea of science, which is the acquisition of new knowledge through hypothesis, experimentation and evidence. To teach it as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of religious authority. To teach it as science is to discredit the welcome recent advances in permitting the public expression of religion. Faith can and should be proclaimed from every mountaintop and city square. But it has no place in science class. To impose it on the teaching of evolution is not just to invite ridicule but to earn it.

Krauthammer simply embraces here the old canard that Darwinian evolution is science and Intelligent Design is religion when in fact neither proposition is correct. Both views might perhaps be best understood as important hypotheses in the philosophy of science. As such, either they're both suitable for discussion in a science class or neither are. I've argued on numerous occasions on Viewpoint that the former position is the more sensible. When science instruction ignores the philosophical implications and underpinnings of the empirical side of science it reduces to a sterile, barren collection of facts of significantly less interest to students than it would otherwise have.

To argue that the philosophy of science has no place in a science class is as silly as arguing that the history of science has no place in a science class. Yet we wouldn't dream of stripping our discussions of Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Kepler, and Darwin of their historical context. No one would suggest that we should henceforth omit all mention of dates because they're not matters subject to experimentation. It's absurd to suggest that Galileo's disagreement with the Church or the story of the Manhatten Project or an account of the work of the early alchemists is inappropriate in a science class. If it's perfectly appropriate to discuss the historical background of scientific ideas and progress then by what logic do we not extend the same acceptance to discussions of the philosophical context and ideas of science?

President Bush has recently urged that ID be discussed in school along with Darwinism. He presumably has no more expertise in this area than does Krauthammer, but he certainly has better instincts.

In another post I'd like to discuss a few ways in which I think ID could be presented by science teachers without frightening the children, or liberals, with the boogeyman of religion.