Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Survey For Anti-IDers

One of the most enduring misunderstandings in the ID/materialistic evolution debate is that ID is simply a variant of Creationism and therefore a transparent attempt to smuggle religion into public schools. This is, of course, not the case as Krauze at Telic Thoughts illustrates. He recently sent out a questionaire to a couple of dozen anti-ID bloggers asking them to respond. Here's what he sent:

Dear recipient,

You have been contacted because you contribute to a blog which has been identified as a "pro-science blog". I am conducting a survey on outsiders' perception of intelligent design, and I would appreciate your input. The results will be published on Telic Thoughts, an independent blog about intelligent design, and every reply will be treated as anonymous. Please read the following carefully, and send your answer to [my e-mail address.]

For the purpose of this survey, "creationism" will be defined as "a belief in the literal interpretation of the account of the creation of the universe and of all living things related in the Bible" (source: Dictionary.com). "Evolution" will be defined as "the theory that all modern life forms are derived from one or a few common ancestors via descent with modification".

Please answer the following:

On which points are intelligent design and creationism identical?

A. Both creationism and intelligent design require one to have a particular interpretation of the Biblical creation account.

B. Both creationism and intelligent design require one to accept a particular age of the Earth and of the universe.

C. Both creationism and intelligent design require one to reject evolution.

D. Both creationism and intelligent design identify the Christian God as the creator.

E. Both creationism and intelligent design hold that there is an intelligence behind certain features of nature.

F. There are no points of similarity between creationism and intelligent design.

G. None of the above options accurately describe the relationship between creationism and intelligent design.

(Please check all that apply.)

His respondents were notably uncooperative:

Unfortunately, some ID critics didn't like the scientific method to be applied to themselves. Within 27 minutes, one of the respondents, Wesley Elsberry of The Austringer, had posted the contents of my letter, advising others to reply by choosing "G". And within hours, other blogs had followed, including the highly popular Pharyngula. As another respondent, Tara Smith, said, "If you received [a mail], check out their comments before sending your answer back." Predictably, all of the respondents who replied either chose "G" or refused to participate in the survey (as it was of course their right to do, the survey being voluntary).

The reaction of these "defenders of science" is itself an interesting piece of sociological data, and I might deal with them in a later post. For now, I will leave you with a question: If the poll was indeed "wretchedly incomplete", as Elsberry claims, why did he see it necessary to notify his fellow bloggers immediately after receiving the poll? Was he worried that some might feel that one or more of my options adequately described their perception of intelligent design?

Of course, the reason Krauze obtained such meager results from his survey is that the anti-ID crowd, if they had answered it honestly, would have had to acknowledge that there really isn't much similarity between ID and Creationism after all, and instantly one of their handiest arguments for bamboozling the public would have gone up in smoke. Rather than admit the truth and give up an effective piece of misleading propaganda, they simply refused to answer. This is a strange response by people who otherwise claim to hold truth in such high esteem.

Liberal Heretics

The liberal media are under assault from, strangely enough, .... the left. It's hard to believe, I know, but the southpaw hurlers at places like the Daily Kos are "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" from the likes of - are you sitting down? - The Washington Post and reliable lib warhorse Chris Matthews. All it takes is one little misstep, apparently, one tiny offense against orthodox doctrine, and the Taliban left will be screaming for your infidel head. John Leo has the story. Here's a snippet:

Two skirmishes are under way, one against The Washington Post and its ombudsman, Deborah Howell, the other against Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball." Howell's offense was writing that the sleazy Jack Abramoff had given money to Democrats as well as Republicans. That was inaccurate. A tide of angry and exceptionally abusive complaints flooded into the Post. Howell then corrected herself, writing that she should have said that Abramoff "directed" a considerable amount of his clients' money to Democrats, though he never gave any himself. That was correct, but vicious and amazingly obscene e-mail kept pouring in, so the Post shut down its Web site. (Not a good idea, in my opinion. It would have been better, though more expensive, to let readers vent, while editing out obscenities.)

The campaign against Chris Matthews has escalated into talk of a boycott, though the would-be boycotters prefer to call it an "appeal to advertisers." Matthews is accused of being soft on Republicans in general, and in particular, of comparing Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden. On Jan. 19, Matthews said on "Hardball" that in his new audio message, bin Laden "sounds like an over-the-top Michael Moore." Matthews was citing bin Laden's mention of "the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars to the influential people and war merchants in America." The next night, Matthews suggested that bin Laden was picking up the lingo of the American anti-war left, and asked, "Why would he start to talk like Moore?" Bloggers turned quickly against Matthews, a Democrat, calling him "a broadcasting neo-con," "stupid Bush lover" and "man whore for the GOP."

Ouch. "Stupid Bush lover." I'll bet that hurt.

The lefties are right, though. It's crazy to compare Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden. Moore's probably twice as heavy as bin Laden is.

The Eveready Presidency

We keep hearing that President Bush's approval numbers are in the tank and that he's a weakened president. This is perhaps more wishful thinking than it is an accurate reflection of the American voter's opinion of the president's job performance. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Rasmussen, which has been very reliable in the past, has him at 50%.

It's likely that most people contacted in these polls are only responding according to their perception of a MSM-generated virtual reality. We doubt that most people who are polled have any real idea what Bush is doing or why he's doing it. They just know that the media is hammering on him relentlessly so he must be pretty bad.

Indeed, Bush can be faulted for permitting excessively high spending, something Democrats should applaud him for, actually, and an incomprehensible insouciance toward the hemmorhage of illegal immigration across our southern border. Other than those sins, though, he's doing a fine job under extremely trying circumstances.

Nevertheless, just today another journalist, this time its Tom Friedman, tells us that we can "stick a fork" in this administration if President Bush doesn't do this, that, or the other thing. Some months ago it was E.J. Dionne who used the same metaphor for concluding that Bush was finished, and numerous others have been saying the same thing in different words for at least the last three years. If Bush had as many needles sticking out of him as he has cutlery sticking in him he'd be a porcupine.

Yet Bush keeps right on chugging along, chalking up one victory after another. His critics thought his presidency was finished prior to the '04 election, but he sent John Kerry back to the political oblivion which is his proper abode. The carpers gleefully pronounced his demise after Katrina, but nobody talks much about Katrina anymore, since it's become obvious that much of the incompetence in that tragedy was wielded with stunning profligacy by the inept Democratic mayor of New Orleans and Democratic governor of Louisianna. The Democrats expected that the Valerie Plame affair would send Bush's administration spiralling down in flames, but Bush has walked away from the inferno like one of those guys in the Book of Daniel who were cast into the fiery furnace but were never even singed.

Iraq is going moderately well, the economy is perky, and just today Bush ensconced his second nominee to the Supreme Court on the Bench. He's more like the Eveready bunny than an overdone turkey, and his frustrated opponents like Al Gore and Ted Kennedy are reduced to throwing infantile tantrums - stamping their feet, pounding their fists, and holding their breath till they turn blue. It's quite a spectacle, really.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Brief History of the Evolution of ID

Mike Gene at Telic Thoughts has a fascinating post that traces the early development of the modern Intelligent Design movement. He shows quite convincingly that its connections to Creationism were tenuous at best and that attempts to conflate ID and creationism are inapt.

You've no doubt heard the argument which claims that ID grew out of Creationism and that therefore ID is just creationism "in a cheap tuxedo." Even if it were true that ID descended from Creationism, which Gene's argument rebuts, nothing much about the nature of ID follows from that. It could be noted, for example, that the anti-IDer believes that mankind has descended from ancient microbes, but he would never think to say that mankind is just a microbe in a cheap tuxedo. It is just silly to argue that because two conceptual paradigms share a common lineage that therefore they are identical, or nearly so. If that argument were valid then chemistry would be very nearly the same as alchemy, and Darwinism would just be Lamarkism with make-up on.

And to think that this is the argument that convinced Judge Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover that ID is just Creationism and therefore not real science. It sure doesn't take much to convince someone who's eager to be convinced anyway.

The Coming World Oil Crisis

The Guardian's Heather Stewart reports on the coming world oil crisis:

Oil markets are braced for a nail-biting week, as world leaders demand action against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and analysts warn that crude prices could reach $90 a barrel if the oil-rich state retaliates by blocking supplies. The International Atomic Energy Agency meets on Thursday to decide whether to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has threatened to respond to any punitive action by cutting off the 2.6 million barrels of oil a day it pumps into the markets - 5 per cent of the world's supply.

Kona Haque, commodities editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the worst case scenario of a shutdown of supplies from Iran would be 'absolutely devastating ... I wouldn't be surprised to see the price go over $90 a barrel'. She said fears about Iran are already adding a $10 risk premium to oil prices, which could remain in place for months as the crisis escalates. Davoud Danesh-Jafari, Iran's oil minister, has warned that the result of punitive action against his country would be 'the unleashing of a crisis in the oil sector'.

Haque said that with little spare capacity in the market, prices are much more vulnerable to political shocks: 'We need a lot more supply capacity to have a cushion; it's going to take another couple of years until that happens.'

The oil producers' organisation Opec meets in Vienna on Tuesday amid calls from some members, including Iran, to cut back production and push up prices further. But most analysts believe production quotas will be left unchanged. 'There's no pressure on Opec to do anything,' said Rob Laughlin, oil analyst at Man Financial.

He said the Nigerian situation could potentially be worse for oil prices than fears about a supply squeeze from Iran. Production levels in Nigeria have already been lowered by 200,000 barrels a day in an effort to protect facilities from the rebels, who have deliberately targeted foreign oil companies. 'Nigeria is probably as big a problem as Iran for us. We're pretty politically squeezed, between the Nigerian rebels and the Iranian president,' said Laughlin. The president of Opec, Nigeria's Edmund Daukoru, fuelled market fears on Friday when he told Reuters that his organisation was unlikely to step in with extra supplies if the Iranian crisis worsened. 'If Iran decides to stop production, or is forced to stop production because of a sanction, I don't think Opec necessarily has a role to play there,' he said.

Investment in Russian oil production has been weak since President Putin's tax raid on the oil giant Yukos, and Iraqi output is well below the levels Washington hoped for before coalition tanks rolled into Baghdad. A cold snap in the US, which has so far had an unusually warm winter, could push prices up further in the weeks ahead. 'Should cold weather return to the US, then we'll really be in trouble,' said Laughlin.

The Left's mantra of no blood for oil prior to the Iraq war was silly, but if Iran cuts off production, and Nigeria and Venezuela, the latter not mentioned in Stewart's article, choose to tighten up their supply just to harm the U.S., the public clamor to strike back will be irresistable. Cutting back on oil supply in the present climate would be a clear invitation to war, and the U.S. would probably not be alone in waging it.

Iran seems determined to hasten Armageddon. They are fools and madmen, but they're driving this bus, and the rest of the world has little choice but to try to stop them. Even though the cost of doing so may be nightmarishly high, the alternatives are even worse.

A Conservative Breeze

Is there a conservative breeze blowing across Western civilization? First George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 to become president of the United States. Then Silvio Berlusconi became Prime Minister of Italy, then Angela Merkel defeated Gerhard Schroeder in Germany and Pope Benedict was chosen to succeed John Paul II. Now Stephen Harper has defeated Paul Martin in Canada.

Perhaps the defeat of conservative Jose Aznar in Spain two years ago was a mere aberration. Perhaps there is a growing disenchantment in the West with leftist political parties and their stultifying, counterproductive economic policies and their head-in-the-sand attitudes toward the Islamist threat.

If only the same were true in South America.

Another Finger Points to Syria

FrontPage Mag has this fascinating story from Iraqi General Georges Sada, author of the forthcoming book Saddam's Secrets:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed. The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over. "Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, "It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong."

The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus. That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops. "I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

There's more on this turn of events at the link. We wonder how much play the story will receive in the MSM and suspect the answer is very little. If it turns out to be true, it would be a public relations disaster for the Democratic left which staked an enormous amount of credibility on the assumption that President Bush lied about WMD in Iraq. Fair-minded people have always assumed, of course, that it was possible that the weapons were never found because Saddam moved them to Syria or Iran, but the left has never had much inclination to be fair-minded.

If the story is true, Bush and the Republicans will get a huge boost in their favorability ratings and the Democrats will join the whale dung on the political abyssal plain. So, don't look for MSM stories on General Sada's testimony unless they're attempts to discredit it. The left will never admit that Bush was right and they were wrong.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pure Luck

Isn't it amazing what blind, unguided, purposeless forces can accomplish when they put their mind to it? Here's just one example of the astounding abilities of random mutation and natural selection to create marvels of complex engineering.

The Assault on Freedom

Free speech and freedom of religious opinion is under assault not just in the Islamic world but throughout Western civilization. The politically correct are carrying out their inquisitions and laying the wood around the stakes to which people who dare to speak their minds are bound. Read this chilling summary from Wretchard at Belmont Club:

Two Christian pastors were convicted in Australia for vilifying Islam. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"In Victoria, two hellfire Christian preachers, Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, are facing jail after preaching against Islam in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Ever since, they've been fighting an action brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria under the state's new Racial and Religious Tolerance Act."

That's not too surprising. Everyone knows Oriana Fallaci is facing charges before an Italian magistrate for her criticisms of Islam. What about this: a French member of parliament has been convicted in court of making derogatory remarks about homosexuality. The The Brussels Journal notes:

"Stating that 'homosexual behaviour endangers the survival of humanity' and that 'heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality' can cost you dearly in France. Exactly these opinions, expressed by the French politician Christian Vanneste last year, led to him being sentenced on Tuesday to payment of a heavy fine."

"A court in Lille [Rijsel in Dutch], in the French northern province of Flanders (adjacent to the Belgian Dutch-speaking region of Flanders), ruled that Mr Vanneste has to pay a fine of 3,000 euro plus 3,000 euro in damages to each of the three gay organisations that had taken him to court. The politician, a member of the French National Assembly for the governing UMP, also has to pay for the verdict to be published in the leftist Parisian newspaper Le Monde, the regional Lille daily La Voix du Nord, and the weekly magazine L'Express."

Again you might say, no surprises here either. But what about this: An Austrian cartoonist is facing charges in Greece for writing a satire on the life of Jesus in his home country. The Guardian reports:

"Haderer did not even know that his book, The Life of Jesus, had been published in Greece until he received a summons to appear in court in Athens in January charged with blasphemy. ... 'It is unbelievable that a person can write a book in his home country and be condemned and threatened with imprisonment by another,' said Nikki Conrad, a human rights expert who organised yesterday's press conference. 'But he is not going to just sit back and accept this injustice. He is prepared to take this to the European court of human rights. When Gerhard first got the summons he thought it was a joke. But now he is starting to get a bit nervous.' "

Whole categories of discourse are now being outlawed in the West. At least two celebrities are fighting this trend, probably because they lead active lives of the mind. One of them is Mr. Bean.

"Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson has launched a comedians' campaign against a government bill to outlaw inciting religious hatred. ... Mr Atkinson told a meeting at the House of Commons on Monday night there are 'quite a few sketches' he has performed which would come into conflict with the proposed law."

"He added: 'To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas - even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.' "

The other is Michael Crichton. At a speech entitled "Fear, Complexity, Environmental Management in the 21st Century" that he gave before Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy, Crichton described one the major unrecognized dangers stalking the world: bad information. Crichton meticulously showed how grossly hysterical coverage of Chernobyl reactor incident, for example, caused deaths far more numerous than the incident itself. He went on to trace the history of public policy fads, Global Cooling, the predicted Y2K meltdown, the Population Bomb, Electromagnetic Fields and so on, and shows how we have nearly forgotten them in our rush to replace them with new ones. We live once again, in Carl Sagan's phrase, in a demon-haunted world.

Wretchard posts some interesting commentary at the end of this piece that you might wish to peruse.

It would, of course, be more difficult to persecute Americans in the U.S. for this sort of speech because of the protections guaranteed us by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is unnerving, however, to reflect upon what a Supreme Court which looks to Europe for judicial guidance might do to this body armor for the mind.

This is why it is so crucial that we have people on the Court who rule according to what the Constitution says and not according to what current political fashion dictates. This is why we need more Constitutional conservatives and fewer liberals on the Bench. One shudders to think who a President Kerry would have appointed to fill the last two vacancies and how long our First Amendment protections would survive a Kerry Court.

Not everyone holds George Bush in as high esteem as we think he merits, at least in those moments when we're not thinking about our southern border, but everyone who cherishes the right to voice their opinions, no matter how unpopular, can thank God that neither John Kerry nor Al Gore made it to the White House.

The Necessity of Disarming Iran

Gerard Baker at the Times Online lays out the catastrophe that war with Iran would be for the world:

Those who say war is unthinkable are right. Military strikes, even limited, targeted and accurate ones, will have devastating consequences for the region and for the world. They will, quite probably entrench and harden the Iranian regime. Even the young, hopeful democrats who despise their theocratic rulers and crave the freedoms of the West will pause at the sight of their country burnt and humiliated by the infidels.

A war, even a limited one, will almost certainly raise oil prices to recession-inducing levels, as Iran cuts itself off from global markets. The loss of Iranian supply and the already stretched nature of production in the Arab world and elsewhere means prices of $150 per barrel are easily imaginable. Military strikes will foster more violence in the Middle East, strengthen the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, fuel anti-Western sentiment among Muslims everywhere and encourage more terrorism against us at home.

He then says this:

But multiplied together, squared, and then cubed, the weight of these arguments does not come close to matching the case for us to stop, by whatever means may be necessary, Iran from becoming a nuclear power. If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of Hitler. What the country itself may do with those weapons, given its pledges, its recent history and its strategic objectives with regard to the US, Israel and their allies, is well known. We can reasonably assume that the refusal of the current Iranian leadership to accept the Holocaust as historical fact is simply a recognition of their own plans to redefine the notion as soon as they get a chance ("Now this is what we call a holocaust"). But this threat is only, incredibly, a relatively small part of the problem.

If Iran goes nuclear, it will demonstrate conclusively that even the world's greatest superpower, unrivalled militarily, under a leadership of proven willingness to take bold military steps, could not stop a country as destabilising as Iran from achieving its nuclear ambitions.

No country in a region that is so riven by religious and ethnic hatreds will feel safe from the new regional superpower. No country in the region will be confident that the US and its allies will be able or willing to protect them from a nuclear strike by Iran. Nor will any regional power fear that the US and its allies will act to prevent them from emulating Iran. Say hello to a nuclear Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.

Iran, of course, secure now behind its nuclear wall, will surely step up its campaign of terror around the world. It will become even more of a magnet and haven for terrorists. The terror training grounds of Afghanistan were always vulnerable if the West had the resolve. Protected by a nuclear-missile-owning state, Iranian camps will become impregnable.

And the kind of society we live in and cherish in the West, a long way from Tehran or Damascus, will change beyond recognition. We balk now at intrusive government measures to tap our phones or stop us saying incendiary things in mosques. Imagine how much more our freedoms will be curtailed if our governments fear we are just one telephone call or e-mail, one plane journey or truckload away from another Hiroshima.

Iran simply cannot be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons. As disastrous as war might be for the world, a nuclear Iran, as Baker eloquently argues, would be far worse. We must pray and hope that the Iranians can be persuaded to back down, but we must prepare for the eventuality that they won't.

Retired Major General Robert Scales discusses the military difficulties inherent in an Iraq-type war against Iran - and how he thinks an attack on Iran should be fought - in an editorial in the Washington Times here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

End of the Spear

Christianity Today has a review of End of the Spear. We haven't yet seen the movie, but it's based on a truly amazing story. For those not familiar with it, in 1956 four young missionaries were murdered by Ecuadoran indians. After their deaths, two of the widows and a sister of another of the slain men went to live with the tribe from which the killers came. Because of the beauty of their witness, eventually much of the tribe, including the killers, was converted to Christianity.

It is very difficult to imagine the selflessness of bereaved women who might have been understandably embittered toward the murderers of their loved ones, instead going to live among the killers to win them to the Truth. It is an amazing story of love, forgiveness, redemption, and human nobility, and from all that we've heard and read the movie tells it faithfully and powerfully.

Another Humanist For ID

Another non-Christian, non-theist endorses the basic idea of Intelligent Design. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who describes himself as a secular humanist, said this:

Mr. VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It's the scientists themselves are behaving tribally.

NPR: How are the scientists behaving tribally?

Mr. VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn't possibly have produced such machines.

NPR: Does that mean you would favor teaching intelligent design in the classroom?

Mr. VONNEGUT: Look, if it's what we're thinking about all the time; if I were a physics teacher or a science teacher, it'd be on my mind all the time as to how the hell we really got this way. It's a perfectly natural human thought and, okay, if you go into the science class you can't think this? Well, alright, as soon as you leave you can start thinking about it again without giving aid and comfort to the lunatic fringe of the Christian religion. Also, I think that, you know, it's tribal behavior. I don't think that Pat Robertson, for instance, doubts that we evolved. He is simply representing a tribe.

NPR: There are tribes on both sides here in your view?


NPR: May I ask what tribes, if any, you have belonged to over the years?

Mr. VONNEGUT: Well, it's an ancestral tribe. These were immigrants from north of Germany who came here about the time of the Civil War, but anyway, these people called themselves free thinkers. They were impressed, incidentally, by Darwin. They're called Humanists now: people who aren't so sure that the Bible is the Word of God.

NPR: Who are denounced by some religious people as secular humanists?

Mr. VONNEGUT: Well, that's exactly what I am. The trouble with being a secular humanist is that we don't have a congregation. We don't meet, so it's a very flimsy tribe, but there's a wonderful quotation from Nietzsche. Nietzsche said, Only a person of deep faith can afford the luxury of skepticism. Something perfectly wonderful is going on. I do not doubt it, but the explanations I hear do not satisfy me.

So much for the canard that ID is a Christian meme and that the designer has to be the God of the Bible. David Berlinski, Michael Denton, Antony Flew, and now Kurt Vonnegut are none of them Christians nor theists. Yet they're all impressed by the evidence that life displays purpose and intention.

Is Judge Jones paying attention?

Swann vs. Rendell in PA

We'd like to point out that a recent poll in Pennsylvania showed Lyn Swann leading the incumbent Democratic governor Ed Rendell 46% to 44%. There are so many odd results on this poll, however, that we can't put too much confidence in Swann's lead. For just one example, Republican respondents said that they'd like to see Condaleeza Rice run for president by 46% to 32% margin, but on the previous question, when asked who their choice for president would be, Rice wasn't even mentioned in a list of nine candidates.

It's hard to say what significance a poll has at this point in the election campaign, but it does seem that Rendell is vulnerable, especially to a black opponent with the name recognition of someone like Lyn Swann.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Humble <i>Brights</i>

From the website of the Brights, an organization of people who hold to a naturalistic worldview:

Although some individual Brights may have negative views of persons who hold supernatural beliefs, the Brights movement does not proclaim superiority or a disdain for others.

This may be, but if they don't feel that they're intellectually superior to the rest of us why do they call themselves "Brights"?

Good Publicity

The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture has graciously put up two posts on our series on Judge Jones' decision in the Dover trial. The first announces the series, and the second is a very positive sampling from it. Check them out, especially the second.

Palestinians Vote For War

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters believes that the Palestinians, in bringing Hamas to power, have, for all intents and purposes, voted for war with Israel:

Unless someone can show widespread voter fraud on behalf of Hamas, the Palestinians should be judged by the choices they have made this week. They have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel over the two-state solution favored publicly (if not fervently) by Fatah. Europe and the United States need to wake up from their delusional dreamland of a situation where both sides in this conflict want a peaceful conclusion and a world without hatred for their children and grandchildren. Clearly, the Palestinians want war, and they have made no secret of using their children and grandchildren as bomb fuses in order to perpetuate it.

The first item on our list should be an absolute end to all aid to the Palestinian territories and government. The US should not subsidize Hamas, nor should it give money to a people whose only aim appears to be genocide.

Second, the US should allow Israel to respond militarily to any and all provocations -- no more pressure from Washington on Tel Aviv to moderate their responses to suicide bombings and missile attacks. And if Hamas and the Palestinians still want to wage war after that, then let the IDF roll across the West Bank and Gaza Strip and push the whole lot of them right into the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. That's what total war means, and as soon as the world stops preventing the Palestinians from the risks of their own choices, the sooner they will conclude that war is the worst possible choice for them.

It's hard to find cause for optimism in the results of this election. The Palestinian people know what Hamas stands for, and, in what will probably have been an act of ethnic suicide, they pulled the lever for them. There is no people in the history of the world who have so deliberately thrown in their lot with terrorism. Any hope for peace in the Middle East has gone by the boards. Short of a miracle, war is as inevitable in Palestine as anything in human affairs can be.

The Palestinians had a chance to establish a state in Gaza and the West Bank if they would be willing to live in peace with the Israelis, but in yet another manifestation of the Islamic death wish, they loudly proclaimed in the election Wednesday that they are not so willing. They have chosen their fate, and the U.S. should, as Morrissey insists, stop subsidizing them immediately. We can not, and must not, have anything to do with a terrorist state, much less send them taxpayer money to finance their crimes. May God help the innocent Palestinians who didn't want Hamas and who will surely get caught in the middle of the coming conflict. Their government certainly won't.

UPDATE: Emanuele Ottolenghi writes that Hamas' electoral victory was not what they wanted and will be its undoing. It's a very interesting column. You can read it here.

The Alito Vote

It appears that the vote to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court will take place Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. So far about 86 senators have declared their intentions, 55 saying they will vote for Alito and 31 declaring that they'll oppose him. It looks like the vote tally will come out around 58 to 42. Of the remaining fourteen votes, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe are the two likeliest Republicans to vote nay. Among Democrats there are four who are possible yes votes: Conrad, Dorgan, Landrieu, and Pryor.

There's been talk of a filibuster, John Kerry has called for one, but it's going nowhere. To end a filibuster requires 60 votes and even some of the Democrats who intend to vote against Alito have said they will vote to stop one. With 58 senators already on record as supporting Alito and several others opposed to a filibuster it doesn't look like the Democrats will be able to pull it off. Even Harry Reid has said it won't happen.

The upshot of all this is that on Tuesday George Bush will have his second Supreme Court nominee confirmed. With three years left in his presidency he's quite likely to get yet a third opportunity. The Left, already guzzling Maalox like it was water, will be apoplectic.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

E.O. Wilson on ID

In a recent column in USA Today biologist E.O. Wilson writes that evolution is a fact and there's no point in denying it. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is untestable and it's pointless to try to make it into a science:

Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection.

Although as many as half of Americans choose not to believe it, evolution, including the origin of species, is an undeniable fact. Furthermore, the evidence supporting the principle of natural selection has improved year by year, and it is accepted with virtual unanimity by the biologists who have put it to the test.

Scientists are not opposed to the search for intelligent design, only to the claim that it is supported by scientific evidence. To think otherwise is to misunderstand the culture of science. Discoveries and the testing of discoveries are the currency of science; they are our silver and gold.

If positive and repeatable evidence were adduced for an intelligent force that created and guided the evolution of life, it would deservedly rank as one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. I doubt that there is a researcher alive who would not race to make such a breakthrough if the minimum criteria of science could be met.

Wilson here commits a common mistake in this debate. He assumes that ID is something which requires its own evidence, as though the evidence for design is somehow qualitatively other than the facts that can be found in any cosmology or biochemistry text. The evidence for ID is the evidence that is discovered by the scientist every day in his laboratory. That evidence belongs to everyone, not just the researchers who glean it, and the evidence is mountainous.

To suggest that the current dispute is about evidence is to misunderstand things entirely. The dispute is over how best to interpret evidence that scientists have been accumulating now for centuries. The crucial question is not which side has the most evidence but whether what we have discovered about life and the cosmos should be seen as the product of chance accident and serendipidity or whether it should be seen as the product of intention and purpose. Complaints about the lack of evidence for a designer are red herrings in this controversy.

He goes on to write that:

Biology is biology, conservative Christianity is conservative Christianity. The two world views - science-based explanations and faith-based religions - cannot be reconciled.

What then are we to do? Put the differences aside, I say. Meet on common ground where we can find it. An excellent example taking form is the cooperation between science and religion, the two most powerful forces in the world, to protect Earth's vanishing natural habitats and species - in other words, the Creation, however we believe it came into existence.

Oops. Where does this come from? If religion, the realm of values, should stay out of science, and vice versa, how does a scientist make a value judgment such as that we ought to save the earth's natural habitats? A Christian can certainly conclude this from the mandate we have to be stewards of the earth, but how does a scientist who, qua scientist, can say nothing of values and morals and scriptural mandates, arrive at this conclusion, much less take it for granted.

Wilson finds that he can't live consistently by the principles he espouses, and so from time to time he, and other scientists, slip off their lab coats, enter the metaphysician's study, and think no one will notice. That's fine in their personal lives but it is disingenuous of them to use their authority as scientists to pontificate on values while at the same time they try to hold up a wall of separation between the realm of facts (science) and the realm of values (religion, philosophy).

Wilson wrote a wonderful book on ants. Anything he tells me about ant behavior I will certainly accept on his authority. But as a philosopher ... well, he's a great entomologist.

Great Game Plan

So a major terrorist organization swept to victory in Palestine. Iran is on the verge of getting nuclear weapons. Bin Laden is threatening us with more death and destruction. And what are the Democrats trying to do? Get George Bush impeached for surveilling telephone calls in which one of the parties is a foreign terrorist suspect. Yesindeedee, that'll be a winner with the American people in November.

Combat Zones: Foreign and Domestic

A friend passes along this observation:

If you consider that there have been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a combat death rate of 60 per 100,000.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation's Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington D.C.

We don't vouch for the accuracy of the figures, but if they're correct perhaps Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, and Ted Kennedy will organize the exodus.

Alternate Universe at the NYT

The New York Times treats its readers to one of the most implausible analyses of the GWOT, perhaps, that has appeared to date in any major newspaper. The editorial, titled al-Qaeda is Winning, is written by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon:

Had Americans ....listened [to Osama's tape] with the ears of those for whom the message was intended - Muslims around the world - they would have heard something very different. Instead of a weak Osama bin Laden, they would have heard a magnanimous one who could offer a truce because "the war in Iraq is raging, and the operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favor." Mr. bin Laden staked his claim to leadership of the Muslim world on 9/11, striking us as others only dreamed of doing. On the tape, he shows strength by taking credit for America's humiliation in Iraq and continues to do what we are not: fighting for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

Yes, but even Islamist true-believers must know that truces are not offered, especially by Islamists, when the correlation of forces is in their favor. They are not signs of strength. They're offered when one side feels the need to regroup, reorganize, catch their breath and slow down a superior force. If Osama is using words like "truce" it's only because he sees the jittery leadership of his movement casting sidelong glances toward the skies in a worried search for predator drones, and he sees his forces in Iraq being cut to pieces, not just by Americans, but by Iraqi militias. He's losing in Iraq, he has lost in Afghanistan, and if any more of his lieutenants are visited in the middle of the night by hellfire missiles his organizational structure will begin to crumble. That's why he's calling for a truce.

It is too early to say how this tape will affect Muslim opinion, but there is no doubt that Mr. bin Laden's strategy has been paying off. According to a poll released last month by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and Zogby International, when Muslims in several countries were asked what aspect of Al Qaeda they "sympathize" with most, 39 percent said it was because the group confronted the United States. Nearly 20 percent more sympathized because it "stands up for Muslim causes," which is really just a polite way of saying the same thing.

How is this poll result any different than those obtained in polls after 9/11 or prior to the invasion of Iraq? Indeed, in the wake of 9/11 one could buy Osama t-shirts in the markets of almost every Muslim city, but they're considerably more scarce today than they were then. Al-Qaeda has alienated large swatches of Muslims through their attempted WMD attack in Jordan, their murderous attacks in Saudi Arabia, the attempts on the life of Pakistan's Prime minister Musharraf, and the savagery of their war on Iraqi civilians. To say that bin Laden's strategy is working seems needlessly pessimistic.

Two other phenomena also show the movement to be strengthening. The first is the emerging breed of self-starter terrorists with few or no ties to Osama bin Laden, like the Madrid and London bombers, and others who have been arrested before they were able to carry out attacks in Pakistan, Australia and elsewhere. The second is the emergence of an indigenous jihad in Iraq. Much is said about the foreign fighters in Iraq, but the truly dramatic development is the radicalization of Iraqis who will continue the insurgency or travel abroad to kill, like those who bombed three Western hotels in Jordan in November.

Perhaps Benjamin and Simon are a pair of twenty-somethings with short historical horizons, but the "self-starters" are not a novel development. They've been around since the 1970s. The indigenous jihad in Iraq is, even as you read this, largely occupied fighting al-Qaeda foreigners and running for political office. Those who are still engaged in trying to run the infidels out of their country find themselves more and more often confronted by competent Iraqi military units rather than Americans.

Despite so much evidence that the jihadists are winning sympathy, America has provided no counter-story to their narrative.

The evidence to which the authors refer exists only in their own minds. Unless they are aware of facts that have not yet been made public there's very little reason to think that the jihadists have more sympathy among their co-religionists today than they did six months or a year ago and lots of reasons, as we've outlined above, to think that they have less.

The American counter-story, for those who have been paying attention, has been the progress made by the people of Afghanistan and the purple fingers of the people in Iraq.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What's the Big Deal?

There's lots of outrage in the conservative blogosphere over this column by Joel Stein, and we're not really sure why. Here are some of his more provocative passages:

I don't support our troops.... I've got no problem with other people - the ones who were for the Iraq war - supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away.

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken - and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there - and who might one day want to send them somewhere else.

The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.

I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

Frankly, we don't know what all the fuss is about. Stein is simply saying honestly and without rancor what almost every liberal Democrat thinks but doesn't have the courage to admit because it would be political and social suicide to do so. Stein's right. It makes no sense to say the war is an immoral unsupportable undertaking but that you nevertheless "support" the troops. Exactly how does one support the troops if they're perpetuating what one believes to be a great wrong?

Fault Stein for being wrong about the war. Fault him for thinking Kosovo was worth fighting for but Afghanistan and Iraq are not, but don't fault him on the one point about which he's correct. Rather fault his fellow liberals for lacking the integrity to admit that they agree with him.


Clarice Feldman of The American Thinker has a pair of posts here and here on the Damadola airstrike that sheds some light on exactly how well-planned the attack was and who was killed in it. Feldman thinks Zawahiri was among the casualties but that no one wants to say so definitively since his corpse has not been recovered.

Not counting Zawahiri, it looks like six senior al-Qaeda leaders were in the houses that were struck. Feldman quotes milblogger Dan Darling:

I have a Weekly Standard piece on the death of Abu Khabab coming out pretty soon, but for those who are interested here are all of the al-Qaeda leaders who have been listed as being killed in Damadola at present according to media reports:

Abu Khabab al-Masri (WMD committee head); Abd Rahman al-Masri al-Maghribi (al-Zawahiri's son-in-law, al-Qaeda commander); Abu Ubeidah al-Masri (Kunar operations chief); Marwan al-Suri (Waziristan operations chief); Khalid Habib (southeastern Afghanistan commander); Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi (southwestern Afghanistan commander);

Add to that Maulana Faqir Mohammed and Maulana Liaqat (local leaders of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sha'riah Mohammed, apparently) and it looks like that was quite a dinner they had planned. I would have settled for nailing Khabab alone, but this looks like the biggest single decapitation strike on the al-Qaeda leadership since Tora Bora.

If the terrorists are now realizing that they can't hide forever even in a desolate place like Waziristan, if they're realizing that they're nowhere safe, it will have the effect of considerably ratcheting up the stress and weariness that must already afflict them. This in turn, one hopes, will lead to careless decisions, producing more casualties, which will lead to yet more stress, and so on in a runaway feedback loop.

The problem for the senior leadership is there's no way out. They can't surrender nor can they just quit their war and go home. To do either would be the psychological nail in the coffin of global jihad. The only path left to them is to fight and sooner or later be suddenly killed by an unseen predator drone and a hellfire missile. That realization must be extremely hard on those men and their families, but they asked for this hell in which they live and which they've created for others. They have made it clear that they are at war with the West, a fight to the death.

There's no easy way out for us either. We must either fight or, eventually, capitulate to Islamic will. Either we relentlessly pursue the al-Qaeda leadership and thoroughly demoralize those who follow them or we can look forward to a world where our granddaughters wear burkhas and our grandsons memorize the Koran. Either we defeat them or watch darkness descend over the world. There's no other alternative.

Orlando ID Debate

Barry Carey at withallyourmind attended a debate in Orlando between anti-IDer and philosopher of science Michael Ruse and pro-IDer theology and history of science professor Thomas Woodward. Carey is posting a series summarizing the debate. Here are his initial impressions:

On Thursday, 1/19/06, I attended a debate between Thomas Woodward, Professor of Theology and History of Science, and Michael Ruse, Florida State University Philosopher of Biology. The debate was called, "Intelligent Design versus Darwinian Evolution". The question posed was this: "Does nature demonstrate a design planned by a superior intelligence, say God, or can it be sufficiently explained by purely naturalistic processes such as evolution through natural selection?"

I have a number of thoughts that I might share in my next few blogs. First, let me comment on the general tone of the debate. The two gentleman were civil enough, but it was obvious that each employed a different strategy. Professor Woodward attempted to present Darwinism as a theory with serious problems and Intelligent Design as a scientific theory which is preferable to Darwinism. Professor Ruse on the other hand assured the audience that every respectable scientist embraces Darwinism and that ID is "creation light" and the result of a few "idiosyncratic evangelicals in America". I must say that I was once again surprised that the Darwinian argument was much less focused on the science and much more directed on presenting a caricature of Intelligent Design. Ruse was a very funny and personable speaker, however, I was very disappointed in the substance of his presentation.

His second and third posts on the debate can be found here and here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Daniel Dennett at the NYT

In an otherwise unremarkable Q&A with Tufts atheistic philosopher Daniel Dennett in the New York Times Magazine interviewer Deborah Solomon says this:

Solomon: If we knew for sure that God existed, it would not require a leap of faith to believe in him.

Dennett: Isn't it interesting that you want to take that leap? Why do you want to take that leap? Why does our craving for God persist? It may be that we need it for something. It may be that we don't need it, and it is left over from something that we used to be. There are lots of biological possibilities.

Viewpoint: Yes, and among those possibilities is that evolution shapes us to conform our beliefs to reality. It would be odd if natural selection molded the human species to embrace with our whole beings beliefs which were radically at odds with the way the world is. It's not impossible, of course, but it's strange that Dennett doesn't seem willing to consider the possibility.

As to his question as to why anyone should want to "take that leap" - actually more of a step than a leap - the simplest answer is that unless one does take it one must admit that there's no meaning to life, no basis for moral judgment, no hope for ultimate justice, no basis for human worth, dignity, or rights, no reason to think there is an enduring self, no hope that those we love who have died are not gone forever, and indeed, no reason for thinking that love itself is anything more than body chemistry, no reason why we should trust our reason to lead us to truth, nor any reason why we should value true beliefs over false ones.

In other words, apart from taking that "leap" human existence is nothing but a depressing tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. The rational response to a universe in which there is no God is hopelessness, despair, and nihilism. That Dennett himself doesn't wind up there suggests only that he doesn't follow his beliefs to their logical conclusions, no doubt because he couldn't live with those conclusions.

Someone may wish to "take that leap," furthermore, because they find the materialist explanation for the breathtaking fine-tuning of the physical universe and the astonishing organization and complexity of living things to be little better than a fairy tale. It may be that one takes the leap because believing that accident and coincidence, purposeless chance and unguided force, are responsible for creating structures and phenomena which even materialists describe as brilliant and ingenious, is quite literally incredible.

Solomon: I take it you do not subscribe to the idea of an everlasting soul, which is part of almost every religion.

Dennett: Ugh. I certainly don't believe in the soul as an enduring entity. Our brains are made of neurons, and nothing else. Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul.

Viewpoint: This is one way of looking at things, I suppose - the soul, life, emotions, and consciousness are nothing but atoms which have reached a certain critical mass and give rise to certain astounding emergent phenomena - but it's not the only way. We need not accept Dennett's dehumanizing reductionistic materialism, a view which, by the way, is thoroughly unscientific because there's no way to test it in order to grant that he might be right that there's no soul, in the classic sense, residing in persons.

It could be that the soul is not some gossamer, wraith-like entity that inhabits our body like a ghost-in-a-machine, to use Gilbert Ryle's famous metaphor. Perhaps instead we can think of it as the sum total of information which describes us as a person. It is, on this view, the totality of our history, our personality, hopes, dreams, loves, and fears. It encompasses a complete description of our physical, emotional, and moral selves. It is a comprehensive account of every aspect of our being all stored like a computer file folder in the data base that is the mind of God. As such it is eternal and indestructible unless God chooses to delete it. Even at the death of the body we have the potential to exist as long as God holds us (the information which describes us) in being in His mind. God may, if He chooses, reinstantiate us when our body gives out by downloading selected files from our folder into another suitable structure in some other reality.

Thus Dennett could be correct that we (our bodies) are comprised solely of material substance (I don't think he is, though, because I have my doubts that matter alone can fully explain consciousness) but he could still be wrong in asserting that there is no soul.

In any event, materialism of the sort that Dennett espouses is an existentially sterile view of life which people hold, not because they're compelled by science to accept it, but because it enables them to avoid having to believe in God, the concept of which they find repugnant.


The Political Teen has a video clip of a recent SNL spoof of some of our favorite Democrats. It'll make you chuckle, especially the guy who does Jesse Jackson. He sounds more like Jackson than Jackson does. Go to the link and scroll down to Download.


Looking for a good movie to see with the kids? Christianity Today recommends Hoodwinked!:

Kids were laughing, and even more surprising, their parents were laughing all the way through this inventive, fast-paced caper. Hoodwinked! dismantles the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood, uncovering the various untold stories behind each major player-Red (voiced by Anne Hathaway), the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (Jim Belushi), and Granny (Glenn Close). A host of new characters play memorable supporting roles, including the funniest mountain goat you've ever seen (Benjy Gaither, son of the gospel music legends Bill and Gloria Gaither), a grizzly policeman (Xzibit), a hyperactive squirrel (Cory Edwards), and a frog who should get his own series on PBS' "Mystery!" (David Ogden Stiers).

Box office analysts had predicted a showdown between the basketball movie Glory Road and the Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday. But now you can call Edwards' film "The Little Red Riding Hood that Could." Edwards, already working on a sequel, is something of a pioneer, as a Christian working in the world of big screen animation-as Peter T. Chattaway notes in his review at Christianity Today Movies, Edwards is also known for his stand-up comedy and for hosting Reasons to Believe with Hugh Ross.

Edwards recently told me that Looney Tunes cartoons were a big influence on him and his co-writers, Todd Edwards and Tony Leech. "People keep asking how you write for adults and for kids, and I still haven't figured out a good answer. All we did was write what we thought was funny." He points out that Chuck Jones and Pixar's John Lasseter have claimed the same thing. "We just write for us. I don't know if that means we're a little bit childish, but we wrote what was funny for us. And I think kids are faster and more quick-witted than we sometimes think. I've written kids' 'product,' but I never write down to children. Even when there's a few jokes they can't quite grasp, they're glad to be a part of it. They're glad to be laughing with the adults."

Edwards, who said he "never thought that my first film would be animated," had also served as producer on Chillicothe, a 1999 independent, live-action film directed by his brother Todd which won favorable reviews at festivals. He also created Wobots, a computer-animated sci-fi adventure for kids released on DVD. Hoodwinked! has made him think about more animated projects, and he describes the experience as "a control freak's dream. 'Can we move the sun over there? Can we delete these trees?'" But he confesses, "I can't wait to get actors in front of cameras again, after being in a room with computers for three years."

Christian film critics are especially impressed at how the film entertains without stooping to crass humor.

Chattaway begins his review by asking readers, "Looking for something a little like VeggieTales, only a little more grown-up and a little more mainstream? Looking for something a little like Shrek, but without the innuendo and other kinds of adolescent humor? Either way, Hoodwinked! may be the movie for you."

He calls the film "a wacky, computer-animated riff on classic stories, with a few decidedly modern twists and a handful of pop-culture references. It's also safe for most kids." He points out that some of the jokes are "out of date" and that the animation is less sophisticated than what super-studios like Pixar and Dreamworks turn out. But he concludes that "there's something to be said for keeping the special effects out of the way and letting audiences enjoy the humor for what it is. Hoodwinked! isn't a classic for the ages, but it's suitable entertainment for audiences of any age."

"It is a rare movie that is truly funny for both kids and their parents," says Stephen McGarvey (Crosswalk). "Yet the comical Hoodwinked! is a surprisingly hysterical offering after a year of underwhelming computer animated films. [The movie] ... provides a clever bit of comic storytelling while steering clear of the innuendo or crudity common in even children's movies these days."

Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) says, "Hoodwinked! is clean, clever and fast-paced. ... [U]nlike Shrek's shotgun tweaking of all tales fairy, this witty CG feature deconstructs a single fable and does it without resorting to crude language, double entendres or bathroom humor. Furthermore, I didn't feel like I was doing penance sitting through it a second time with my kids. Older, more sophisticated viewers will appreciate the story for its intricate architecture, snappy dialogue, outstanding voice work ... and subtle cultural references."

Mainstream critics aren't quite as enthusiastic. Some are discrediting it for not living up to the animation standards of a Pixar or Dreamworks picture, but this was a hurriedly made, lower-budget feature from an fledgling animation studio. The fact that the film is consistently funny, clever, and entertaining in spite of its B-grade CGI makes it a worthwhile time at the movies.

It's no surprise that a children's movie that doesn't feature violence, sexual innuendo, bathroom jokes, or hint at gay romance would not be well received by mainstream critics. All the more reason, we suppose, to make it a point to go see it.

Osama is Just Alright With Him

In case there was any doubt as to where the allegiance of many on the American left lies one might note the reaction of author/historian William Blum to having his book receive a favorable endorsement from none other than Osama bin Laden himself. Blum responded with these words:

"This is almost as good as being an Oprah book....I was not turned off by such an endorsement....I'm not repulsed, and I'm not going to pretend I am."

Of course not. It's a great privilege for such as William Blum to have his book praised by a dread enemy of the United States. The man who would gleefully and deliberately incinerate every American child, if only he could, honors Mr. Blum with his endorsement, and Mr Blum is star-struck by the praise.

In fact, we hear that Mr. Blum was reported by neighbors to have been overheard singing in his shower the words to the old Byrds/Doobie Brothers song:

Osama is just alright with me, Osama is just alright, oh yeah

Osama is just alright with me, Osama is just alright

I don't care what they may say

I don't care what they may do

I don't care what they may say

Osama is just alright, oh yeah

Osama is just alright

I don't care what they may know

I don't care where they may go

I don't care what they may know

Osama is just alright, oh yeah

Sorry. We got a little carried away.

Monday, January 23, 2006


A trio of young men of my acquaintance have started up a new blog called Insense that addresses matters of religion, music, science and whatever else strikes their fancy. They're doing a nice job with it, and it deserves a look.

Bork's Last Laugh

Cass Sunstein laments that Robert Bork is having the last laugh. Samuel Alito, he claims, holds to a view of the Constitution indistinguishable from that of Judge Bork who was refused confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 because he believed that the document should be interpreted according to the original intention of its framers. This appalled scholarly luminaries like Ted Kennedy and Arlen Specter who saw the right to an abortion going up in smoke if it had to actually have Constitutional warrant. Bork was slimed and subsequent nominees, who were loath to endorse the judicial propriety of Roe v. Wade, nevertheless were skittish about abjuring it. Thus, we got Anthony Kennedy and David Souter.

As Sunstein observes, however, John Roberts began a reversal of this trend:

Significantly, however, John Roberts did not follow the script set by his Republican predecessors. His overall message was much simpler: He would follow the law. At the same time, he announced, "I do not have an overarching judicial philosophy that I bring to every case." He explained, "I tend to look at the cases from the bottom up rather than the top down."

Samuel Alito largely followed Roberts's script, but at key points he was much more specific. Asked about his general approach, he said, "I think we should look to the text of the Constitution, and we should look to the meaning that someone would have taken from the text of the Constitution at the time of its adoption." He also said that "it is the job of a judge, the job of a Supreme Court justice, to interpret the Constitution, not distort the Constitution, not add to the Constitution or subtract from the Constitution."

Although Alito offered various qualifications, this is Bork's view in a nutshell. Remarkably, Alito's statements to this effect have received essentially no public attention....One reason may be that unlike Bork, Alito did not argue for disturbing results, such as the abolition of the privacy right. But the most important point is the development of a new script for confirmation -- one that emphasizes fidelity to law, an idea that might well include favorable references to Bork's approach to the Constitution.

This is a fundamental change, one that signals a huge victory by Republican politicians.

Imagine. Expecting judges to have fidelity to law represents a fundamental change in the way we confirm people for judgeships. No wonder the liberals are upset. Bush is filling the Court with people who will be faithful to the law instead of people who will be making it up. This must be why Hillary thinks this is the most incompetent administration in history.

Suitcase Nukes

Wretchard at Belmont Club has a fascinating discussion of the difficulties facing a rogue state which wishes to deploy small nuclear weapons ("suitcase nukes") against a Western nation like the United States. He argues that in order to bring us to our knees the aggressor nation would have to kill about one fourth of our population which means they'd have to deploy some 150 such weapons. This creates severe logistical problems that sharply raise the risk to the aggressor. Go to his site to read his rationale. Also be sure to read the comments, some of which suggest that the explosive yield Wretchard assumes a suitcase nuke to possess is too high.

Meanwhile, however, one possibility Wretchard doesn't mention that must be taken into consideration is that a rogue nation like Iran really wouldn't have to deploy so many weapons against us but rather might choose to risk a gambit something like this:

Working through terrorists such as al-Qaeda, they successfully smuggle two or three suitcase nukes across the ridiculously porous Mexican border and into selected American cities. They might then detonate one in, say, New York, or worse, Washington, D.C. They would then have the terrorists take credit and announce that there are dozens more such weapons scattered in cities all across the country, and any reprisal by Americans will result in another weapon being set off, then another, etc. They also would probably announce that unless the United States abandons the Middle East entirely, including Israel, the weapons will be exploded.

If there's skepticism or hesitation among American leaders, the terrorists could detonate a second bomb to convince us that they're not bluffing. We would have no way of knowing how many more they have, nor would it matter. The public panic would be unmanageable, and whoever was governing would have to cave to the terrorists' demands.

The real threat, therefore, is not 150 suitcase nukes. The real threat is two or three such devices at the disposal of a suicidal fanatic like the current Iranian president - or, as we've written before, a single warhead detonated high in the atmosphere whose EMP could render useless every electronic device in this country. In a split-second we'd be back in the 19th century and economic and social chaos would reign throughout the land.

These are not happy thoughts, and they lend a certain urgency to attempts to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of those who despise us enough to blow up most of the world just to kill us.

As Sick as a Society Can Be

Palestinians, thwarted in their obsession with killing Jews by the Israeli-built "wall," are not turning to more peaceful pursuits. Nosiree. When you've got a lust for blood you'll kill somebody even if it has to be your own wives and sisters. Sharon Lapkin writes about the sickening upsurge in "honor killings" of women in the West Bank and Gaza in 2005.

The entire article should be read, but here are just a few examples of the cultural depravity that infects Arab communities across the globe, even, Lapkin points out, in Britain:

Soraida Hussein, head of research for Jerusalem's Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling said, "Honor killing is nothing new... what is new is the whole wave of killing in 2005." In May 2005, the BBC reported, "In recent months there has been an increase in honour killings in the West Bank and Gaza...Women's rights activists say they cannot explain the upsurge."

During a particularly brutal spate of honor killings in early 2005, five Palestinian women were murdered in four separate incidents over a short period of time. Faten Habash spent six weeks in a hospital after she threw herself from her family's fourth floor apartment window. Upon her return home, her father bludgeoned her to death with an iron bar.

Two days later, Maher Shakirat attacked his three sisters. The eldest, Rudaina, was eight months pregnant and had been admonished by her husband after he claimed she'd had an affair. Maher forced his sisters to drink bleach before strangling them. The youngest, Leila, escaped but had serious internal injuries from the effect of the bleach.

Rafayda Qaoud shared a bedroom in her Ramallah home with her two brothers. After they raped and impregnated her, she gave birth to a baby boy who was adopted by another family. Her mother then gave Rafayda a razor blade and ordered her to slash her own wrists. When she refused to commit suicide, her mother pulled a plastic bag tightly over her head, sliced open her daughter's wrists and beat her with a stick until she was dead.

Palestinian feminist Abu Dayyeh Shamas claims that: "Men feel they have lost their dignity and that they can somehow restore it by upholding the family's honour. We've noticed recent cases are much more violent in nature; attempts to kill, rape, incest. There is an incredible amount of incest." One women's group reported over 400 cases of incest in the West Bank alone in 2002.

Anthropologist James Emery explained in 2003, how "among Palestinians, all sexual encounters, including rape and incest, are blamed on the woman." Men are always presumed innocent and the responsibility falls on the woman or girl to protect her honor at all costs. When 17-year-old Afaf Younes ran away from her father after he allegedly sexually assaulted her, she was caught and sent home to him. He then shot and killed her to protect his honor.

And when a four-year-old toddler was raped by a 25 year-old man in 2002, her Palestinian family left her to bleed to death because her rape had dishonored the family.

Emery described a Palestinian merchant explaining this cultural view of femininity as "A woman shamed is like rotting flesh, if it is not cut away, it will consume the body. What I mean is the whole family will be tainted if she is not killed."

Little wonder that the Israelis wanted to build a wall between themselves and these people. They're demonic. Read the rest of the article here.

If Satan is real and not just a metaphor for human depravity his greatest triumph must surely be in convincing people that they are acting in God's will when they do great evil.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Power to the People!

We've posted on this little drama unfolding in Weare, New Hampshire several times in the past year. Now it appears to be working its way into the mainstream news:

CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 21) - Angered by a Supreme Court ruling that gave local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development, a group of activists is trying to get one of the court's justices evicted from his own home.

The group, led by a California man, wants Justice David Souter's home seized to build an inn called the "Lost Liberty Hotel." They submitted enough petition signatures - only 25 were needed - to bring the matter before voters in March. This weekend, they're descending on Souter's hometown, the central New Hampshire town of Weare, population 8,500, to rally for support.

"This is in the tradition of the Boston Tea Party and the Pine Tree Riot," Organizer Logan Darrow Clements said, referring to the riot that took place during the winter of 1771-1772, when colonists in Weare beat up officials appointed by King George III who fined them for logging white pines without approval. "All we're trying to do is put an end to eminent domain abuse," Clements said, by having those who advocate or facilitate it "live under it, so they understand why it needs to end."

The petition asks whether the town should take Souter's land for development as an inn; whether to set up a trust fund to accept donations for legal expenses; and whether to set up a second trust fund to accept donations to compensate Souter for taking his land. The matter goes to voters on March 14.

About 25 volunteers gathered at Weare Town Hall on Saturday before setting out in teams to go door-to-door. Organizer Logan Darrow Clements gathered nine signatures in less than an hour, with only one resident declining to sign.

He also distributed copies of the Supreme Court's decision, Kelo vs. City of New London, to residents. The court said New London, Conn., could seize homeowners' property to develop a hotel, convention center, office space and condominiums next to Pfizer Inc.'s new research headquarters.

The city argued that tax revenues and new jobs from the development would benefit the public. The Pfizer complex was built, but seven homeowners challenged the rest of the development in court. The Supreme Court's ruling against them prompted many states, including New Hampshire, to examine their eminent domain laws. Supporters of the hotel project planned a rally Sunday at the town hall. Speakers were expected to include some of the New London residents who lost the Kelo suit.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare resident who is sponsoring two pieces of eminent domain legislation in New Hampshire, said he expects the group's proposal to be defeated overwhelmingly. "Most people here see this as an act of revenge and an improper attack on the judicial system," Kurk said. "You don't go after a judge personally because you disagree with his judgments."

And why not? Why should judges be exempted from the consequences of the decisions they foist on the rest of us? Are they gods residing on Mt. Olympus? If so, perhaps Lost Liberty should look into the development potential of that real estate.

We say, if the Lost Liberty group can get the Souter place for a hotel then let the good Justice taste for himself the bitter pill that his vote in Kelo has forced down the throats of a lot of ordinary folks. Power to the People! etc.


A University of Delaware philosophy prof seems to have rendered atheistic philosopher Daniel Dennett temporarily speechless according to this account by Stephen Barr at First Things:

The philosopher Daniel Dennett visited us at the University of Delaware a few weeks ago and gave a public lecture entitled "Darwin, Meaning, Truth, and Morality." I missed the talk-I was visiting my sons at Notre Dame and taking in the Notre Dame-Navy football game. Friends told me what I missed, however. Dennett claimed that Darwin had shredded the credibility of religion and was, indeed, the very "destroyer" of God. In the question session, philosophy professor Jeff Jordan made the following observation to Dennett, "If Darwinism is inherently atheistic, as you say, then obviously it can't be taught in public schools." "And why is that?" inquired Dennett, incredulous. "Because," said Jordan, "the Supreme Court has held that the Constitution guarantees government neutrality between religion and irreligion." Dennett, looking as if he'd been sucker-punched, leaned back against the wall, and said, after a few moments of silence, "clever." After another silence, he came up with a reply: He had not meant to say that evolution logically entails atheism, merely that it undercuts religion.

Jeff Jordan's question underlines how the self-appointed defenders of the scientific method are trying to have it both ways. Don't allow religious philosophy to intrude into biology classrooms and texts, they say, for that is to soil the sacred precincts of science, which must be reserved for hypotheses that can be rigorously tested and confronted with data. The next minute they are going around claiming that anti-religious philosophy is part and parcel of the scientific viewpoint.

One of the glories of science is that people come together to do it who have all sorts of religious beliefs, philosophical views, cultural backgrounds, and political opinions. But as scientists they speak the same language. It is a wonderful fellowship. I have written research papers with colleagues (and friends) who are fierce atheists and think my Catholic beliefs are for the birds, and they know that I think their atheism is for the birds. Yet we respect each other as scientists. People like Dennett who wish to equate science with their own philosophical views (presumably out of vanity) risk doing immeasurable harm both to science itself and to its prestige. He is entitled to his philosophical opinions, but he is not entitled to claim them as the utterances of Science.

I believe it was Dennett who coined the term "brights" for those who reject religion on scientific grounds. Dennett would of course make his own list of "brights", but poor Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Lavoisier, Amp�re, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin and almost every other founder of modern science wouldn't make his list. I am sure they don't mind, however. They will make the list of people who have actually contributed to human knowledge.

Scott Gilbreath at Magic Statistics finds a couple of other blunders perpetrated by the Darwinian priesthood here and here.

Some anti-IDers have been wrong so often about so much that one wonders how they can still have any credibility left among educated people, let alone refer to themselves as "brights." There must be more at issue here than just a mere scientific idea to account for why otherwise intelligent people are willing to say the silliest things in order to keep others from accepting the fundamental premise of ID - that life and the cosmos are largely the product of intention and intelligence.

The War Against the Church

Cinnamon Stillwell at The American Thinker writes a piece entitled The Passion of the left: Hating Christians in which she discusses the accelerating war against Christianity being waged by the secular left.

Even without reading Stillwell's piece it would be clear to anyone who grew up in the fifties that modern American culture and society are radically more hostile to Christian belief today than at any time in the last fifty years and probably more than at any time in the history of our nation.

The reasons for this are several, but surely one is that Christianity is seen as an impediment to the political and social agenda of the left. Were it not for American Christianity there would be clear sailing for abortion rights, gay marriage, the demise of sexual restraints in our culture, and economic socialism, among other left-wing ambitions. George Bush is hated by the left not only because he has thwarted their political ambitions but also because he is unabashedly Christian. The left despises God and hates anyone who places Him ahead of the authority of the state. They have contempt, moreover, for all those red-staters whose faith in God surpasses their faith in the wisdom of the left-wing intellectuals who deign to favor us with the fruits of their wondrous cogitations on all questions social, political, cultural, and philosophical.

Christians find themselves in a challenging position as we move deeper into the 21st century. Beset on one side by the intellectual and cultural assaults of the secular left - which are creating an inhospitable social environment for those who wish to practice their faith - and on the other by the threat of a virulent Islamism which threatens the physical existence of Christians and Christianity everywhere, Christians can no longer afford to sit back and take no interest in the affairs of the world. There's too much at stake.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Morally Stunted

I know. I shouldn't generalize about the entire Left just because so many demented and dysfunctional souls find solace on their web sites, and I'm not. But ... really....

The results of a poll at one of the biggest blogs in the nation go way beyond just differences in political ideology. They're symptomatic of an absolute, unvarnished, 100% pure moral retardedness. Anyone who would say that they despise George Bush more than Osama bin Laden is a moral thalidomide baby whose moral faculties simply never developed.

Doing it Right

Evangelical Christians often cast common sense to the winds in their attempts to convert non-Christians to the faith. Jews, for example, often find attempts to win them to Christ alternately amusing and insulting. One Jew, Mark Oppenheimer, has written a fine piece at Slate on how some Christians are beginning to realize the counter-productiveness of efforts that fail to convey respect for the person whose soul the Christian wishes to win. It's an article every evangelical should read.

It's understandable that Christians, given what we believe about the truth of the gospel, the afterlife, and eternity, should feel an urgency to win to Christ people we care about. Yet, it seems to me that the most honorable path to accomplishing this is to act in such a way that the other individual feels that they're respected and cared about as a person and not that they're simply an object or a statistic.

This might mean that the best way to share one's faith in many circumstances is to refrain from talking about it unless the other person shows a genuine interest. If we're living the way we should, and if we're the sort of man or woman to whom others feel comfortable talking about intimate matters, then they'll be much more likely to ask and be much more open to what we say. If they don't inquire, I don't think that forcing the conversation onto religious matters does anything to make them receptive and will often simply alienate them. I think it was St. Francis who said that we should preach the gospel without ceasing and sometimes we should even use words. There's much wisdom in that.

Hitchens' Optimism

Christopher Hitchens is optimistic about Iraq. His article at Slate concludes with this:

If all goes even reasonably well, and if a combination of elections and prosperity is enough to draw more mainstream Sunnis into politics and away from Baathist nostalgia, it will have been proved that Bin-Ladenism can be taken on-and openly defeated-in a major Middle Eastern country. And not just defeated but discredited. Humiliated. Is there anyone who does not think that this is a historic prize worth having? Worth fighting for, in fact?

I leave that thought with all those who have been advocating withdrawal, or taking a fatalistic attitude to an overrated "insurgency," or who hold the absurd belief that al-Qaida would have left Iraq alone if only we had done the same. If their advice had been followed, and the coalition had pulled out in 2004, the Zarqawi forces would have tried to take the credit, and their boast might even have been believed. This would have been a calamity of a global and epochal order. Now, however difficult and messy the rest of the transition, that at least will never be the outcome.

Reading the whole thing is worth the time.

Hillary Clinton said Monday that "This administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country." The wife of the man who slept and dithered while al Qaeda plotted should be more careful about her asseverations of incompetence, but that notwithstanding, she couldn't be more wrong. If things continue on their present course in Iraq, the economy remains strong, and Bush is able to reform either social security or immigration policy, he will probably be viewed by historians as one of the most accomplished presidents since Roosevelt, and perhaps since Lincoln.

He has liberated 50 million people from oppression, successfully (so far) prevented a terrorist attack on our soil, presided over an economic recovery in very difficult circumstances (inheriting a recession, 9/11, and several very costly natural disasters), appointed two (and perhaps yet a third) extremely competent jurists to the Supreme Court, has done more for the status of minorities and women in his cabinet than anyone before him, and has done all this in the face of constant vitriolic calumnies from his political opponents, without ever returning their fire in kind. He has shown far more grace, virtue and class than have the carping, vitriolic, ankle-biters who, out of sheer hatred, attack every move he has made.

Few presidents have accomplished even a fraction of what George Bush has achieved, especially in the face of such relentless and withering opposition, and surely, pace Mrs. Clinton, his predecessor did not.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On Believing the Impossible

Joe Carter could never be an atheist because he finds himself incapable of believing impossible things. To see what he means go here, and be sure to check out the excellent dialogue in the comments section.

Hall of Fame

Bill has collated the series we did on Christian Belief and the Dover ID trial to make it easier to access each of them in their entirety. The links are in the left margin of this page under the somewhat pretentious heading of "Hall of Fame."

Ann Sums Up the Week

Ann Coulter summarizes the week's political news by skewering Hillary's inanity and Teddy's hypocrisy in a column carried by RealClearPolitics.com. She also praises Samuel Alito and, perhaps surprisingly, Ray Nagin. Here's the gist:

So Hillary Clinton thinks the House of Representatives is being "run like a plantation." And, she added, "you know what I'm talking about." As Hillary explained, the House "has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

Yes, that's what was really missing on plantations during the slavery era: the opportunity to present a contrary view. Gosh, if only the slaves had been allowed to call for cloture votes. What a difference that would have made!

Madam Hillary also said the Bush administration "will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country." While Hillary is certainly qualified to comment on what the all-time worst presidential administrations were, having had firsthand experience in one of them, I think she might want to avoid the phrase "go down in history."

Ever since Bork, Republicans have been terrified of nominating candidates with something in their background that might possibly suggest the nominee did not get down on his knees (another phrase Hillary should avoid) and thank God for Roe v. Wade every night. That's how we ended up with mediocrities like David Hackett Souter and Anthony "Third Choice" Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Besides being stunningly qualified, the characteristics of the current stellar Supreme Court nominee include these:

His mother immediately told the press, "Of course he's against abortion."

He had expressed support for the Reagan administration's positions on abortion in a 1985 memo.

He refused to accede to the Democrats' endless browbeating and tell them that Roe was "settled law."

And the Democrats couldn't lay a finger on him. Sam Alito marks the final purging of the Bork experience.

In my mind, the only potentially disqualifying aspect of Alito's record was that he wasn't a more active member of CAP, a group opposed to quotas, set-asides and the lowering of academic standards at Princeton. Then this week, we found out Sen. Teddy Kennedy still belongs to an organization that doesn't admit women. Oh -- also, he killed a girl.

I'm fairly certain I've mentioned that before -- I don't recall, Mr. Chairman -- but I don't understand why everyone doesn't mention it every time Senator Drunkennedy has the audacity to talk about how "troubled" and "concerned" he is about this or that nominee. I bet Mary Jo was "troubled" and "concerned" about the senator leaving her trapped in a car under water while he went back to the hotel to create an alibi. It's not as if Democrats can say: OK, OK! The man paid a price! Let it go! He didn't pay a price. The Kopechne family paid a price. Kennedy weaved away scot-free.

But the Democrats are "troubled" about Sam Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton 30 years ago. If they're "concerned" about lifetime appointments for people with memberships in "troubling" organizations, wait until they hear about Bob Byrd! (Former Kleagle, Ku Klux Klan.)

Now that Zell Miller is out of office, the only office-holding Democrat I like anymore is Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans. I had never heard of him until Hurricane Katrina, but after his "gaffe" this week, he's my favorite Democrat. I like a politician who casually spouts off insanely politically incorrect remarks in front of large audiences and TV cameras.

Nagin cheerfully told a crowd gathered for a Martin Luther King Day celebration that New Orleans would soon be "Chocolate City" again. I don't know who's supposed to be offended by that. I'm not. Perhaps all the white mayors who know they couldn't have said it. True, life's unfair. Oh well.

When it comes to choice-of-word crimes, I'd prefer detente to mutually assured destruction. Lead us off the chocolate plantation, Mayor Nagin!

There are a couple of thoughts we might tack on to Coulter's column. Unlike some, I don't see that there was anything racially pernicious in what Hillary said about the House of Representatives being run like a plantation. Some commentators tried to turn this into some sort of racial gaffe. It wasn't. What was wrong with it was that it was dumb and completely untrue. Democrats have more rights as a minority party today than Republicans did under the Democrats until 1994 when they took control, and the Democrats enjoy those rights because the Republicans changed the rules when they came to power.

Secondly, Coulter is at least partly right in her tongue-in-cheek assessment of Nagin's clunkish remarks. The number of people who are afraid to say anything that has racial overtones, especially if the remarks can in any way be construed as disparaging to members of a minority, has soared in the past two decades. Consider the abject grovelling to which Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis, Tom Brookshire, and Trent Lott, to name a few, were made to undergo to atone for their "insensitivity". This is as absurd as it is unwarranted. We need a racial conversation in this country, but we'll never get one as long as people are afraid of being tarred as bigots as soon as they open their mouths, and forced to do self-flagellatory penance.

Nagin's comments weren't very adroit and he can be criticized for his exclusionary vision of New Orleans, the utter blockheadedness of his vision, and his arrogation of knowledge of God's will in the matter, but his honesty and clarity are refreshing. Criticize him for being dumb, but let's not be too quick to label people racist.