Friday, November 25, 2005

Illegal Aliens

This is frightening in its implications. After all, this man was in charge of the Canadian military at one time:

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada's Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell incident was unparalled. The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer's speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."

We ourselves find it just a little hard to believe that the same president who won't raise a finger to prevent illegal aliens from flooding this country through Mexico is secretly funding the construction of military bases on the moon to kill aliens from space who haven't harmed a soul, as far as we know, and who don't demand welfare benefits, smuggle dope, or even take jobs from Americans.

There's even more lunacy in the original story, if you can imagine it. This, for example, from a spokesperson for a Canadian "Exopolitics" organization:

"Time is on the side of open disclosure that there are ethical Extraterrestrial civilizations visiting Earth," The spokesperson stated. "Our Canadian government needs to openly address these important issues of the possible deployment of weapons in outer war plans (sic) against ethical ET societies."

How does this spokesperson know that the aliens are "ethical"? Has he spoken with any of them? Has he posed ethical questions to them like, "Is it ever right to be an illegal alien?" Or, "If their exhaust emissions are depleting the ozone layer, shouldn't they stay away?" Until important questions like these are answered the spokesperson will have to forgive our doubts about the aliens' alleged ethics.

Going, Going, Gone

Here are fifteen things which are going, or probably will go, the way of rabbit ears, mens' dress hats, corner grocery stores, typewriters and record players over the course of the next twenty years. By the year 2025 it will likely be harder than it is today to find:

Phone booths, SUVs, movie theaters, newspapers, pennies, utility poles, service stations (esp. full service), camcorders, neckties, encyclopedias, bank tellers, recent tombstones, independent auto mechanics, wooden pencils, and standard transmissions.

Perhaps readers can suggest more candidates for our endangered species list.

No Way, Jose

This open letter to Jose Padilla reveals much about the mindset of the American Left. It drips with concern for a man who is believed to be a terrorist and who plotted to kill Americans. The writer, a lawyer with the ACLU, commiserates with Padilla because his rights were allegedly abridged by the government, and maybe they were. But can't the ACLU insist that American citizens receive their due process rights without making it sound like those who may have been denied certain rights are ipso facto persecuted innocents regardless of what may be the facts of their case? The writer sounds very much as if he believes that anyone who is believed to be a threat to Americans should receive our sympathies. Here's part of the letter:

I'll bet you're thankful that now you will have lawyers who can invoke American law to investigate and defend you against those charges, instead of having the Justice Department release an affidavit from a mid-level Pentagon official, quoting hearsay from unnamed sources, alleging that you were planning to detonate a "dirty bomb," although the "plot" was "still in the initial planning stages" and "there was no specific time set for the operation to occur" and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged that he "didn't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and [your] coming in here obviously to plan further deeds" and that the government admitted that the information provided by the unnamed sources "may be part of an effort to mislead or confuse US officials" and that one of the sources had "recanted some of the information that he had provided" and that later press reports indicated that one of the sources identified you after being subjected to "waterboarding," a form of torture in which the suspect is made to think he is drowning.

I'm sure you are thankful for the day in 2003 when the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the government had no authority to hold you, an American citizen, as an "enemy combatant," despite the fact that you still had to remain in that Navy brig as your case was appealed to the US Supreme Court.

And I'll bet you were thankful on April 28, 2004, when on the evening of the same day your case was argued in the Supreme Court, CBS News released the horrible photographs of the torture taking place in Abu Ghraib, alerting people to the dangerous and lawless lengths to which the Bush administration would go in its War on Terrorism.

I know you were thankful when the Justice Department called a press conference at the very time that the High Court was considering your case, to announce that you were not really being held for all that stuff about a "dirty bomb" but rather because they said you were planning to blow up apartment buildings in the United States by using natural gas.

Evidently, if Padilla is only guilty of planning to blow up an apartment building with natural gas instead of a couple of city blocks with a radiological weapon he can't really be such a bad guy. We should feel deeply sorry for him.

No, we shouldn't. We should feel contempt for him even as we agree that he needs to be granted every right that the American Constitution affords him. Even if he didn't actually plot to carry out the crime, but merely talked about doing it, he's still a despicable figure. There'll be time enough for sympathy if he's found to be completely innocent. Give him his legal rights, whatever they may be, but don't expect the rest of us to feel sorry for the man unless it turns out that he had nothing to do with plots to harm Americans nor expressed approval of such plots.

Materialism: The Teenage Princess

One of the charming quirks about the behavior of young girls - my daughter's friends, for example - is that they instinctively defer all decisions involving the group to a particular individual as if she were somehow anointed by God for preeminence. There need be no verbal communication in these interactions, they just happen as a matter of course, as if everyone tacitly understands that there's a hierarchy of status which no one in the group is to challenge.

If one of the lower ranking girls should have the temerity to dissent from the dictates of the alpha female the unfortunate young lady would suffer immediate social excommunication and be banished from the royal court. I once asked my daughter why girls accept this state of affairs as normal, to which she replied with a shrug which suggested that she had no idea and that no one really wonders about it except me.

I thought of this, oddly enough, after reading writer Susan Ives' complaint that "Intelligent design disrespects faith, discounts faith, destroys faith."

Faith, Ives avers, is:

...belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Faith falls into the realm of metaphysics - literally, "beyond physics," the branch of philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of reality and the origin and structure of the world. When we try to prove and promote the metaphysical through the physical - when we muddle faith and science - we are, in effect, saying that faith is not enough, that faith, like science, requires proof. Faith that requires proof is no faith at all.

Ms. Ives constructs a strange argument. Suppose it were the case that science demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe and everything in it were indeed the product of purposeful, intelligent engineering. Would Ms. Ives then feel that her faith was devasted beyond repair? Would she greet the news with fascination or would it throw her into a religious crisis? Simply to pose the questions, I think, is to answer them.

Her confusion stems from a Kierkegaardian view of faith that makes it the more virtuous the less evidence there is to support it. Her view is that metaphysics and physics are sealed in airtight compartments without either ever leaking into the other. This is pretty naive. The idea that faith is somehow vitiated by empirical evidence is really quite peculiar. Jesus, after all, offered his disciples plenty of empirical evidence that he was the Son of God and he expected those demonstrations to strengthen their faith, not destroy it.

All of that aside, though, Ms Ives completely misrepresents Intelligent Design. ID is not an attempt to "prove" that God exists. Nor is it an attempt to demonstrate some tenet of religious faith to be true. It is simply a conclusion inferred from observations of the physical world that powerfully suggest that the universe in general, and life in particular, appear strongly teleological. If this teleology is not just an illusory appearance but a factual reality, it would certainly be of religious interest, just as Darwin's claims have been of religious interest to people, many of them atheists, but so what? Should we shrink from investigating the nature and structure of the cosmos just because it might bolster one's faith or encourage another one's skepticism?

Ms. Ives seems to be implicitly arguing that Christians and other theists should not be engaged in the scientific enterprise, nor should they be doing philosophy, because the more they understand about God's creation, and the more scientific and philosophical support they find for their religious beliefs in the creation they study, the more damage they'll do to their faith. This is ludicrous, of course. Most of the great scientists of the past, Newton, Boyle, Maxwell, Galileo and so on were Christians who delighted in the attempt to understand more about God through their science. They were all "intelligent design" proponents though the term wasn't in use during their era, and they saw no problem in deriving nourishment for their faith from the fruits of their science.

What does all this have to do with teenage girls? Well, Ms Ives is either arguing that Christians should not undertake to study the world or she's advocating a teenage girl version of theory precedence, viz. that Christians engaged in science and philosophy dare not presume to arrive at conclusions at odds with the reigning materialist paradigm. Materialism is the tacitly acclaimed alpha theory that all must acknowledge, to which all must pay deference and which no one dare flout on pain of social ostracism and intellectual banishment. It's the metaphysical assumption whose rightful place, like that of the teenage princess, at the very top of the theoretical hierarchy is always assumed and never challenged.

Why Ms Ives should think materialism should be granted this place of epistemological privilege, though, and what there is about materialism that has earned it such lofty status, she doesn't say. Perhaps the reason she doesn't is that, as with the teenage princess, there really is no good justification for the deference materialism expects to be shown. It survives atop the heap only so long as people like Ms Ives unthinkingly assume it just belongs there.