Wednesday, October 12, 2005

He'd Do it Differently

Former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday he had no intention of ever running for president again, but he said the United States would be "a different country" if he had won the 2000 election.

Of the truth of this statement we have no doubt. One difference almost surely would be that under a President Gore we'd still be haggling with the U.N. to bring pressure to bear on Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden to the International Criminal Court.

Creationism, Evolution, and ID

The Detroit Free Press runs an excellent column by Brian Fahling which persuasively makes the case that Intelligent Design and Creationism are philosophically disparate paradigms and that Darwinian evolution is much more like Creationism than is Intelligent Design. This claim may surprise some, but Fahling provides a cogent explanation as to why it is so.

This article should be required reading for anyone who insists on using the disingenuous construction, "intelligent design creationism." The two frameworks share very little in common. Indeed, the essay should be required reading for anyone who sides with the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case underway in Harrisburg, PA.

The heart of Fahling's argument is this:

Creationism is an a priori argument drawn from a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation. In the context of a public classroom, that means the God of the Bible is the starting point and assumed ground of life's origin and the origin of the cosmos. Drawing from a literal reading of Genesis, creationists postulate a "young Earth" and six 24-hour days of creation. All empirical data are subject to and analyzed within this interpretive grid.

Intelligent design, however, is an a posteriori argument; it is the inference drawn from examination of complex structures in living organisms and the universe.

As a matter of science, intelligent design theory is much more disciplined and modest in its claims than either the theory of evolution or creationism. Intelligent design theory merely infers, but does not attempt to identify a designer. Unlike creationism and the theory of evolution, intelligent design theory does not make dogmatic religious or philosophic claims about the origin of life.

Creationism and the theory of evolution, unlike intelligent design theory, are insular in their approach to science. Creationists reason downward from an article of religious faith and conduct their science within that paradigm. Evolutionists, too, reason downward from an article of faith and conduct their science with the same dogmatic zeal and selectiveness of their creationist counterparts.

Like creationism, the theory of evolution is an a priori argument drawn from the evolutionist's article of faith which holds that the origin of life and the cosmos can only be explained by undirected natural processes. This is a metaphysical claim, not scientific fact. Still, it is not in dispute that one may infer an evolutionary process from the data, but that is not what the evolutionist does.

Good science requires an open mind. There is more than a little irony, then, in the evolutionists' attempt to paint intelligent design theory with the creationist brush when it is the evolutionists who have the most in common with the creationists.

The only flaw in Fahling's piece is when he writes this:

Creationism requires a student to first affirm the creed that God created the heavens and the Earth, and the theory of evolution requires that a student affirm the creed that there is no God. Both are exclusive claims, neither is scientific, neither can be empirically verified.

Everything Fahling says here is true except that evolution does not require what Fahling claims that it does. One can be an evolutionist and still believe God exists. Ken Miller of Brown University is a very prolific writer on behalf of evolution and is a practicing Catholic. Michael Behe is also a Catholic, and he believes that God somehow pre-programmed evolution to produce the forms, processes and structures of living things.

It is the case, however, that Darwinian evolution requires an a priori commitment to the principle that whatever God's status may be he was not involved in the development and radiation of living things. This is, in fact, a religious a priori commitment, of course, so Fahling's larger point is still valid that Creationism and Darwinian evolution are more religiously and philosophically like each other than either is like Intelligent Design.

Fahling adds that:

Intelligent design theory, on the other hand, does not require that any creed about the origin of life and the cosmos be affirmed. It merely points to the evidence and suggests that the best explanation (though not the only explanation) for the design found in nature and the cosmos is a designer, whoever or whatever that may be.

In this respect ID is philosophically unlike either of the other two paradigms and, most importantly, is more scientific than either of the other two. We wonder if this fact will be emphasized in the Dover trial.

The Case For Confirming

Paul Mirengoff at the Weekly Standard makes the case for confirming Harriet Miers:

Two questions control the confirmation issue: Is Miers qualified and should she be rejected on ideological grounds? At this juncture, neither question strikes me as very close. Miers has achieved just about everything a lawyer can accomplish--head of a substantial law firm, head of the state bar association, and top legal adviser to the president. She also has a background in local politics. Only by insisting that a Supreme Court nominee possess either judicial experience or a portfolio of scholarly writings can one pronounce Miers unqualified. But this has never been the standard, and it's not clear why (ideological considerations aside) Republicans should invent a new standard with which to deal a blow to a Republican president.

On the merits, moreover, judicial experience or legal scholarship should not be a requirement for the Supreme Court Justice position. This background may well be highly desirable, and not just for purposes of intelligence gathering about a nominee. Yet some knowledgeable commentators think it's highly desirable for some justices to possess a more practical, less rarified background. Reasonable minds can differ, which suggests that the president should have the option of appointing outstanding lawyers with no judicial or scholarly experience.

The argument that conservatives should reject Miers because she doesn't seem to be the right kind of conservative, and may not be a conservative at all, seems problematic as well. For the past four years, conservatives have argued that ideology does not constitute a proper basis for voting against a president's qualified nominees. We have deplored Democrats who voted against qualified mainstream conservatives. We would have become apoplectic had Sen. Arlen Specter not supported a conservative nominated by his party's president. On what principled basis, then, can conservatives now vote down a nominee who is either a moderate or, more likely, some sort of a conservative? Miers plainly is not "outside the mainstream."

In the case of Harriet Miers, ... we are talking about someone who might be another O'Connor but is just as likely to vote with Scalia in the vast majority of big cases. In this situation, it seems imprudent to blow up the confirmation process---and possibly the Bush presidency and the Republican party--to block her nomination. Thus, conservative senators should be prepared, barring new and damning information, to vote in favor of Miers. The rest of us should be prepared to hold our breath until we start seeing what she writes.

We agree. If Miers turns out to align consistently with Scalia and Thomas on the big cases then whether she's the finest constitutional scholar available becomes less important. After all, Republican presidents have given us a lot of highly intellectual justices who waltzed to the left once they were seated on the Court. Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter come to mind. Given a choice between a fine legal scholar and a reliably conservative (i.e. originalist) vote we'll happily take the latter.

Sadly, though, we could have had both.

Putting Earle on Defense

Tom DeLay's lawyer, acting on the adage that the best defense is a good offense, has subpoened Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle's records. Mr. Earle, like most bullies, is unaccustomed to having his victims fight back. Even so, DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, believes there has been a serious breach of professional ethics on the part of Mr. Earle and intends to demonstrate prosecutorial misconduct. This is shaping up to be a real donneybrook.

The lawyers at PowerLine have some good background on this story.