Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gonzalez Replies

Guillermo Gonzalez responds in the Iowa State Daily to calls on campus for his professional emasculation. He also replies in the Des Moines Register to its article criticizing him for breaching the bounds of science in his book Privileged Planet. Gonzalez is a proponent of cosmic ID and for that offense against secular morality he must be punished. We discussed the matter here a week ago. Here is Gonzalez's letter to the Des Moines Register:

In her Aug. 24 commentary, "Stick to Science, ISU," Rekha Basu writes about an anti-intelligent design petition led by Hector Avalos, an associate professor of religious studies at Iowa State University and faculty adviser to the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society.

Basu noted that I'm a national leader in the ID movement who "has said publicly he wants to find a graduate student to pursue that line of study," based on an August-edition Geotimes report on comments made at a Smithsonian presentation. In answer to a question about progress in ID, I said that I hoped graduate students would take up some of the suggested research presented in the book I co-authored. I didn't say I was going to have a graduate student working on ID. In any case, I don't have funding to do so.

I am often misrepresented by the press and certain ideologues at ISU.

First, I am not a fundamentalist. I don't believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old or that a global deluge created most of the geology we see today. I am convinced that most of the mainstream theories in geology, physics and cosmology are a pretty good representation of reality.

Second, ID is not scientific creationism (or just creationism). Creationists seek evidence to prove a particular interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Bible. They start with a specific set of prior religious commitments and seek evidence that conforms to those commitments. ID theorists start with the evidence of nature and remain open to possible evidence of design. This approach is no different from the approach taken by many of the founders of modern science.

Third, scientific theories can and do have metaphysical implications, but those are distinct from the theories themselves. Richard Dawkins once said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. That implication doesn't invalidate Darwin's scientific idea. Similarly, ID research can have positive religious implications. Perhaps that explains some of the animosity toward ID.

Finally, "The Privileged Planet," which I co-authored with Dr. Jay Richards of the Discovery Institute, presents an original argument for design based on evidence drawn from the physical sciences. We do not discuss biological evolution in the book or in the documentary video based on it. Our argument is testable and should be challenged on the evidence.

The inquisition Hector Avalos is attempting to engineer isn't science. It's an attack on academic freedom.

-Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor of astronomy, Iowa State University, Ames.

It's important to reiterate that Gonzalez does not challenge Darwinian orthodoxy in his book. His argument is that the incredible fine-tuning of the structure of the cosmos makes it in dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways extremely well-suited for the emergence of higher life forms such as man. Were the values and properties of the forces, constants, and constituents of the universe not almost exactly what they are, life could not have arisen. None of this has anything to do with evolution nor is it denied by anyone in science, but Gonzalez thinks that such precision is more than just a flukish coincidence, he thinks it is an indication of purposefulness.

This belief, which is a philosophical inference drawn from the scientific facts and not itself a scientific matter, is held in contempt by atheistic materialists on the faculty who fear that such telic talk has about it the odor of Christian fundamentalism and who see it as a challenge to their own philosophical suppositions. Thus, lest others be persuaded by Gonzalez's arguments, they feel the need to stifle and gag him.

As Gonzalez says in his letter, this controversy is not about science, it's about religious philosophy, and there's no one so intolerant, so hostile to the free exchange of ideas, as an academic who sees his cherished anti-theistic philosophical convictions, to which he has devoted his entire professional life, come under withering assault. Gonzalez, like Richard Sternberg and others before him, is getting a taste of their despotic fury.

Sounds of Silence

Time for a rock concert or two to raise money for disaster relief in the Gulf, or do the rockers and beautiful people only raise money for relief in Africa? How much assistance will we be receiving from the rest of the world, especially the oil-besotted Arab world? Will the mucky-mucks at the U.N. be calling those who don't help relieve the human misery along the Gulf coast "stingy"? Just asking.

Here's a list of the countries which have promised economic aid in the wake of this catastrophe so far:

No doubt the list will be longer by tomorrow.

The Great Raid

Hugh Hewitt commends to us what he avers is an outstanding movie. I haven't seen it myself, but I've heard so many good things about it that I intend to do something I rarely do - go see the movie in the theater. Here's what Hewitt says:

It is time to rescue The Great Raid.

The Great Raid is in theaters now, though it may not be for long unless movie-going America quickly realizes that there is a wonderful and inspiring film in its midst, one that celebrates courage, sacrifice and endurance, and which unabashedly proclaims that hope (plus superior firepower and tactical surprise) can conquer all. It is a movie which deserves a vast and appreciative audience.

It is 1945, and Douglas MacArthur has returned to the Philippines. More than 500 American survivors of the Bataan Death March languish at the Cabanatuan prison camp, and the Japanese plan to exterminate them, rather than allow them to survive and bear witness to Japanese war crimes. The men of America's untested 6th Army Ranger Battalion set out to save these prisoners. This exceptional movie tells the stories of the warriors who went to save the captives, the prisoners who endured unspeakable cruelty, and the Filipino resistance that came to the aid of both.

As with Saving Private Ryan, audiences have been lingering at the end of the film. There is spontaneous applause. And there are tears. The generation that fought to liberate the Philippines is passing away, but those who survive and the best of their children and grandchildren are appreciating the movie.

The Great Raid has received favorable reviews from esteemed and honest critics such as Michael Medved and Roger Ebert. But the bulk of the high-brow reviewers have rejected the movie. The New York Times's Stephen Holden represented the caucus of the dismissive when he wrote that "it is not the actors' fault that their characters fail to establish any emotional connection; they aren't given the words for the task." Holden damned the film as "a tedious World War II epic that slogs across the screen like a forced march in quicksand," and slammed it for "its scenes of torture and murder [which] unapologetically revive the uncomfortable stereotype of the Japanese soldier as a sadistic, slant-eyed fiend."

Holden isn't reviewing a movie; he's defending his own politics, as he's done before. In an October 2003 review of the documentary Fog of War about former Kennedy/Johnson administration Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Holden rebuked McNamara for serving during World War II under Gen. Curtis LeMay, thus being "part of the team that made the decision to firebomb 67 Japanese cities, killing large numbers of civilians. In Tokyo alone, more than 100,000 civilians died one night in March 1945." It is not difficult to conclude that any war movie that celebrates American resolve while neglecting to savage American hubris and American cruelty is going to fare very poorly at Mr. Holden's hands. This is the political agenda that The Great Raid is up against, and it is not limited to the New York Times and Stephen Holden. To praise The Great Raid is to praise America, and that's too much to ask of many film critics, especially in this era of the global war against terror.

Director John Dahl's dad served in the Philippines, and he told me that as he came to understand the story of The Great Raid, he also came to realize--again--the incredible modesty of the generation that beat back Hitler and Tojo. So modest are they that they have refused to proclaim their stories. We are lucky that directors such as Spielberg and Dahl have come along to do it for them.

The West is once again under siege, as it has been in the past and will be again in the future. Brave men have always risen up to defend the West--even when the odds were long--and to take the necessary but often harsh measures required to preserve civilization. Wars to preserve freedom can require terrible, but just, measures. Enemies of freedom can be the worst sort of human beings, and their defeat may indeed require devastating blows.

Now in the middle of another such struggle a movie has arrived which celebrates the very virtues that allow free men to survive, and many in the chattering class have dismissed it as crude and "disconnected" from their emotions.

"The secret to happiness is freedom," wrote Thucydides. "And the secret to freedom is courage." Courage is on display in The Great Raid.

Celebrate courage and thus freedom. Take everyone you know to see The Great Raid.

If any of our readers have seen this film please let us know your opinion of it via our feedback forum.