Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Peace Studies Stirs Dissent

Students in a Maryland high school are campaigning to get a "Peace Studies" course taught by retired newspaper reporter Colman McCarthy eliminated from the curriculum:

Last Saturday, Andrew Saraf sat down at his computer and typed out his thoughts on why the course -- offered for almost two decades as an elective to seniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School -- should be banned from the school. "I know I'm not the first to bring this up but why has there been no concerted effort to remove Peace Studies from among the B-CC courses?" he wrote in his post to the school's group e-mail list. "The 'class' is headed by an individual with a political agenda, who wants to teach students the 'right' way of thinking by giving them facts that are skewed in one direction."

He hit send.

Within a few hours, the normally staid e-mail list BCCnet -- a site for announcements, job postings and other housekeeping details in the life of a school -- was ablaze with chatter. By the time Principal Sean Bulson checked his BlackBerry on Sunday evening, there were more than 150 postings from parents and students -- some ardently in support, some ardently against the course.

Since its launch at the school in 1988, Peace Studies has provoked lively debate, but the attempt to have the course removed from the curriculum is a first, Bulson said. The challenge by two students comes as universities and even some high schools across the country are under close scrutiny by a growing number of critics who believe that the U.S. education system is being hijacked by liberal activists.

At Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Peace Studies is taught by Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post reporter and founder and president of the Center for Teaching Peace. Though the course is taught at seven other Montgomery County high schools, some say B-CC's is perhaps the most personal and ideological of the offerings because McCarthy makes no effort to disguise his opposition to war, violence and animal testing.

"I do recognize that it is a fairly popular class," Saraf said. "But it's clear that the teacher is only giving one side of the story. He's only offering facts that fit his point of view."

... the Peace Studies course at Bethesda-Chevy Chase is unique for a number of reasons. Although a staff teacher takes roll and issues grades, it is McCarthy as a volunteer, unpaid guest lecturer who does the bulk of the teaching. He does not work from lesson plans, although he does use a school system-approved textbook -- a collection of essays on peace that he edited.

Uh, oh. This sounds to us as though the individual who is the primary instructor in the classroom is an uncertified teacher. In some states, like Pennsylvania, such insults to the protocols set forth by the educational bureaucracy can land a school district a substantial fine. We wonder how Bethesda-Chevy Chase is getting around this regulation, if indeed it is a regulation in Maryland, besides employing a certified teacher to take roll. Using a certified teacher as an attendance monitor certainly seems like a transparent, and cynical, ploy which may itself be a violation of the certification requirement.

Where's the Maryland State Education Association on this? Most state teacher associations demand that only certified teachers be allowed to teach in public school classrooms. Maybe this case is different because the teacher is volunteering. Or maybe it's different because the teacher happens to be a bona fide lefty. Who knows?

Whither Dick Cheney?

This will have the Left dancing in the streets like Palestinians after 9/11. Insight Magazine is reporting that Dick Cheney will step down from the Vice Presidency soon after the midterm elections in the Fall of this year. The reasons they give make sense:

The sources reported a growing rift between the president and vice president as well as their staffs. They cited Mr. Cheney's failure to immediately tell the president of the accidental shooting of the vice president's hunting colleague earlier this month. The White House didn't learn of the incident until 18 hours later.

Mr. Cheney's next crisis could take place by the end of the year, the sources said. They said the White House was expecting Mr. Cheney to defend himself against charges from his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, that the vice president ordered him to relay classified information. Such a charge could lead to a congressional investigation and even impeachment proceedings.

If Mr. Cheney is indeed in legal trouble then he will be a liability to the administration and probably should resign. Even so, we hate to see him go. In addition to his hard-headed common sense, he brings a refreshing disdain for the enthusiasms of the MSM to the White House, a disdain that only someone with no future political ambitions could afford to indulge. We hope he stays, and if he doesn't we'll miss him.

The Culture Wars Shift Battlefields

Now that Sandra Day O'Connor has left the Supreme Court the cultural conflict over abortion is heating back up. The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case next Fall that will determine whether a federal ban on partial birth abortion will be upheld. Partial birth abortion is called that because it involves a procedure:

...generally carried out in the second or third trimester, in which a fetus is partially removed from the womb, and the skull is punctured or crushed.

You might think that sounds a lot like infanticide. If so, you understand why the legislature has been trying to ban the practice for fifteen years. Two previous attempts were vetoed by President Clinton who could see no contradiction at all between this practice and the widespread belief that we live in a civilized nation.

South Dakota has passed legislation that would ban all abortions in the state except in cases where the mother's life is in physical jeopardy if she takes the baby to term. Challenges to this law will surely wend their way through the court system and, in due course, make their way before the Supreme Court. If so, there are four almost certain votes to strike down the South Dakota law (Ginsberg, Souter, Stevens, and Breyer) and two almost certain votes to uphold it (Thomas and Scalia). The three unknowns are Kennedy, Roberts, and Alito. If just one of them joins the four liberals then Roe will survive, at least for a few more years. The most likely of the unknowns to join the liberals seems to be Anthony Kennedy, but it's not clear that he would. If there's another retirement (Stevens and Ginsberg are most likely) before South Dakota makes it to the Supreme Court then everything will depend on who takes the retiree's place. The Alito hearings will seem like a cub scout initiation by comparison to the hearings that that nominee will face.

Even if the court eventually fails to sustain South Dakota's law the issue is going to keep coming back. It required a complete abandonment of common sense for the majority in Roe to find in the constitution a justification for taking abortion law out of the purview of the states and enough state legislatures are willing to test the newly constituted court that more of them can be expected to advance their own attempts to curb the practice of abortion.

It has always intrigued me that pro-choicers were so afraid to have states decide this issue. Up until recently they have insisted that the overwhelming majority of people in this country supported a "woman's right to choose," but if they truly believe this, why do they worry about allowing state legislatures, which are quite sensitive to the will of the voters, to legislate what the law on abortion will be in the several states? They should be confident that the legislatures will vote to keep abortion safe and legal. They are not confident, however, because they don't really believe that abortion rights enjoy the popularity and support that their rhetoric claims they do.

If Roe is ultimately overturned then the people will decide, through their state legislators, whether, and to what extent, they want abortion legal in their state. It'll be refreshing to see law actually being made by the people elected to perform that task instead of by nine justices who are accountable to no one.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Truly Great Man

It says something about our culture that the news outlets have duly reported the deaths in recent days of three actors, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, and Darin McGavin, but the death of perhaps the most culturally consequential writer of the last fifty years has gone almost completely unremarked. As we noted yesterday, Henry Morris was a giant in terms of the influence he exerted on the debate over the efficacy of natural selection and mutation to account for the phenomena of living things. Virtually everyone on the spectrum of those who are skeptical of the ability of mechanistic processes and forces to by themselves produce living organisms was deeply influenced by him, notwithstanding their disagreements with his young earth creationism.

Even many of those firmly in the materialist camp still felt compelled to address his arguments. At a time when there were scarcely any who could be found to carry the argument for creation to the secular world Henry Morris and a small band of like-minded colleagues waged their solitary struggle against enormous odds with dignity and courtesy.

Total vindication of his efforts may never come, but the American landscape is covered today with a forest of skeptics and dissenters from the Neo-Darwinian paradigm who are carrying on the battle that Morris began. Long after the movies of the departed actors have faded from memory, Henry Morris' legacy will still be ramifying throughout the institutions of our culture. He truly was a great man.

See here for William Dembski's thoughts on Morris' life.

England is Alabama

Things are looking bleak for the future of British medicine:

A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists.

One member of staff at Guys Hospital site of King's College London said that he found it deeply worrying that Darwin was being dismissed by people who would soon be practising as doctors.

Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists, according to a biology teacher at a leading London sixth-form college. "The vast majority of my students now believe in creationism," she said, "and these are thinking young people who are able and articulate and not at the dim end at all. They have extensive booklets on creationism which they put in my pigeon-hole ... it's a bit like the southern states of America." Many of them came from Muslim, Pentecostal or Baptist family backgrounds, she said, and were intending to become pharmacists, doctors, geneticists and neuro-scientists.

Gosh. Can you imagine? Like the southern states of America. Next thing they'll speaking with a drawl and driving on the right side of the road.

I'd like to issue a challenge to anyone who wishes to take it up. Set aside for a moment the question whether materialistic evolution, intelligent design, or special creationism is true, and focus on answering the following two questions raised by the above article:

1) What practical or professional difference would it make to a pharmacist, a doctor, or a neuro-scientist whether they believed that the earth was created 10,000 years ago or 5 billion years ago?

2) What practical or professional difference would it make whether the doctor believed that man emerged from other primates by purely natural processes or was specially created by God to have a biology similar to that of primates?

If you wish to respond please use our feedback button to e-mail us your reply.


"This is an administration that is going to be noted for its incompetence not its accomplishments." Senator Harry Reid 2/24/06

Unfortunately, the words had scarcely passed the Senator's lips when the news brought us this (2/27/06):

The US economy is set for a strong rebound in the first quarter of 2006, shaking off the hurricane-related weakness of the fourth quarter, a survey of business economists showed.

The survey of the National Association of Business Economists called for the economy to expand at a robust 4.5 percent pace in the current quarter -- the fastest since 2003 -- after a disappointing 1.1 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter.

"The NABE panel sees the economy roaring back in early 2006 following the fourth quarter's tepid 1.1 percent growth," said Stuart Hoffman, NABE president and chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. "Our forecasters expect the economy to shake off the effects of last years hurricanes and surging oil price."

Except for Ted Kennedy, no senator makes himself look more foolish more often than does Harry Reid.

The Armed Citizen

This is a fascinating and tragic story that illustrates the value of civilian "right to carry" firearm permits:

There were two big developments Monday in the case of a motorist who was shot and killed along Greenwell Springs Road Friday after a fight with a police officer. Investigators say an autopsy shows the deadly bullet was fired by a bystander, not the officer. Police also announced that no charges would be filed in the case, either against the police officer involved or the bystander who fired the fatal shot into the head of George Temple.

East Baton Rouge Sheriff's spokesman Greg Phares says Officer Brian Harrision was escorting a funeral procession Friday when he pulled Temple over and wrote him a ticket for breaking into the procession. According to Phares, that's when Temple attacked Harrison. Police say Perry Stevens was walking outside of the Auto Zone on Greenwell Springs Road when he heard Harrison yelling for help. Harrison was reportedly on his back with Temple on top of him. That's when Stevens went to his car and grabbed his .45 caliber pistol.

According to Col. Greg Phares, "[Mr. Stevens] orders Mr. Temple to stop and get off the officer. The verbal commands are ignored and Mr. Stevens fires four shots, all of which struck Mr. Temple."

Perry Stevens fired four shots into Temple's torso. Officer Harrison had already fired one shot into Temple's abdomen. With Temple still struggling with the officer, Perry continued to advance toward the scuffle.

"He again orders Mr. Temple to stop what he was doing and get off the officer. Those commands are ignored and he fires a fifth shot and that hits his head. The incident is over with, and as you know, Mr. Temple is dead."

Police are calling the shooting death justified. Perry Stevens has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Col. Phares would not give out any more details relating to the shooting. Both Phares and Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff stopped short of crediting Stevens with saving the officer's life. LeDuff says the entire incident is unfortunate.

"I spoke with his father at the scene briefly," said LeDuff. "I think this is a tragic situation all around."

9 News is told George Temple has a criminal record, and Officer Harrison was involved in a shooting while employed as a prison guard in East Baton Rouge Parish, where he was suspended for three days back in 1995.

It is astonishing that Mr. Temple was still fighting with the police officer after having been shot five times with large caliber bullets. It sounds as if he was under the influence of some sort of drug. There's more to the story:

A witness has come forward to change one key detail in that shooting involving a police officer which has caused such an uproar in Baton Rouge. Auto Zone store records place this witness in the parking lot as the fight and deadly shooting occurred. The witness tells a story not heard before, claiming he heard exactly what was said between the officer and shooting victim, George Temple. Out of fear of retaliation, the witness has requested his identity not be disclosed.

The witness says he was parked just a couple of spaces away from the black Mercedes George Temple was driving. At first, he didn't pay much attention to the man getting a ticket from the police officer, until he heard Temple and Officer Brian Harrison start to yell at each other. The witness says Temple called the officer a punk and said "you're just jealous of my car" not long after the officer and Temple started to struggle.

According to the witness, "You could here them muffled... 'Mother' this and that. 'I told you not to mess with me, I told you -- I'm a beast, I told you not to mess with me. I told you, I told you.' "

The witness says the officer took quite a beating.

Witness: "I mean, Mr. Temple was a big man."

Reporter: "What was the officer saying?"

Witness: " 'Help me, help me!' That's when he started screaming."

That's when a bystander in a neckbrace, Perry Stephens, shot and killed Temple. Even though the witness believes Stephens likely saved the officer's life, he does take issue with one part of Stephens' story. The witness says he never heard Stephens give a threat or a warning before he shot Temple.

"The man probably saved the officer's life... but he did not give out a warning," he says. "But if this would have been on a dark road, we would probably be looking for a cop killer, to be honest with you."

Stephens eventually ended the struggle between Temple and Harrison with a shot to the back of Temple's head.

"I heard [Temple] had a daughter, my heart goes out to the family. But Mr. Temple was aggressive to the officer. If [the officer] would have shot him, I probably wouldn't have even called [channel 9]."

The NAACP is upset with the officer, the investigation and the Baton Rouge Police Department's policies. The witness sees it differently. "I say the officer did everything he needed to do. If I would have been pulled over, I wouldn't have had an attitude, because the officer did everything he was supposed to do."

The witness says he doesn't want any trouble or attention. He says he just couldn't sit on the truth anymore.

Whether Mr. Stephens gave a warning or not is irrelevant to the significant point which is that were there no legally armed citizen at that scene there would apparently be yet another grief-filled funeral for a police officer who was also someone's son, husband, and/or father killed by a thug in the line of duty.

There was a time when it seemed to me that it was irrational to allow citizens to carry weapons in public. That opinion fell by the wayside many years ago as evidence mounted that armed and licensed citizens have saved thousands of lives, including their own, simply by virtue of possessing a weapon, even if it was merely displayed and not used. My former view was finally buried by a reading of John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime, a book I recommend to anyone who doubts that a society in which citizens are armed is actually safer for everyone than one in which only criminals carry weapons.

Pressroom Heroes

Tim Rutten in the LA Times blasts the American media for their pusillanimous non-response to Muslim intimidation while journalists throughout the Islamic world suffer imprisonment or death for writing sensible and truthful columns:

Timidity and indifference are a lethal combination.

It was bad enough when, one after another, major American and Western European news organizations capitulated to violent Islamic extremists and refused to let their readers or viewers see any of the cartoons depicting Muhammad that have triggered what amounts to a pogrom against Danes and other Westerners across the Muslim world. This craven abrogation of the standards by which news judgments normally are made was matched by the cringing, minor-key response that passed for diplomacy on the part of Washington and most of the European governments.

The Western news media's stampede for safety has created quite a draft, and left to swing in the wind are the courageous Arab journalists who printed some of the cartoons in connection with stories and editorials denouncing the violence.

To its credit, the New York Times this week reported that 11 journalists in five Mideastern countries now are facing prosecution for fully reporting this story. One of them is Jihad Momani. The government of the U.S.'s close ally, Jordan, thinks he committed a crime when he wrote:

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras, or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony?"

Truth inconveniences tyranny.

In Yemen, three journalists already are in jail and a fourth is a fugitive. A local imam says, "The government must execute them." Their crime? Writing editorials that urged fellow Muslims to avoid violence and to accept an apology from the Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, which first published the cartoons.

Eleven journalists facing prison, perhaps death, for the crime of publishing sense and where are the outraged editorials in American and European newspapers? Where are the letter-writing campaigns and protests on their behalf from their colleagues in the United States?


In defense of the American media, though, it's hard to devote time to foreign stories about journalists being persecuted for writing the truth when there's so much hay to be made over Dick Cheney's tardiness in informing the MSM that he'd been involved in a hunting accident. The media must allocate its limited resources to those matters which are most important and nothing is more important than pounding Dick Cheney every chance they get.

So if its journalistic courage you want to see, why then, just watch the pressroom heroes pin White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to the wall every time there's a press briefing. David Gregory even called him a "jerk" recently. Now that's genuine Congressional-medal-of-honor level heroism.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Henry Morris (1918-2006)

Word has come of the passing at age 87 of one of the most influential men on the American cultural scene for the last fifty years. Henry Morris, the founder of the Institute for Creation Research, probably did more in that time than any other single individual (except perhaps his partner Duane Gish) to increase skepticism about the claims of materialistic evolutionists. In his many books he tirelessly pointed out the deficiencies of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and his work inspired thousands of others to question the fundamental assertions of the neo-Darwinians.

Morris was a Biblical literalist who held to an adamantine conviction that Genesis 1 and 2, and indeed the whole Bible, is true in all that it asserts. He thus found himself at odds with old-earth creationists like Hugh Ross and a little leery of intelligent design theorists who made no claims at all about Genesis. Morris believed that the earth and life were created in six days 10,000 years ago and that to waver from this belief was to jeopardize the trustworthiness of the scriptures. He had no time for theistic evolution and other variants of what he saw as a capitulation to the Darwinians. Nevertheless, even those who disagreed with him on these and other matters have been profoundly influenced by his critique of the inadequacies of all materialistic explanations of origins.

Whether one agreed with him or not, he performed valiant service in questioning the shibboleths of the Darwinian orthodoxy, challenging its votaries in public debate, and doing more, together with Gish, to raise public awareness of its weaknesses than anyone else since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859.

Even when I disagreed with him he was a powerful influence on my own early thinking, and I owe him a lot. He has been around so long that even though he was of advanced years his death comes as a bit of a shock. He will be deeply missed by all who value his wonderful and indefatigable service.

Cui Bono?

Bill Roggio assesses the reports from Iraqi bloggers, the military, and news outlets and concludes that the threat of civil war in Iraq is abating. The Iraqi people are evidently calming themselves enough to ask of the Golden Dome mosque bombing, cui bono? There are lots of possibilities: Iran, "Mookie" al Sadr, Sunni insurgents, but the answer keeps coming up al-Qaeda. No one else, as Roggio points out, really benefits from destroying the mosque - no one except al-Qaeda, of course, which has been trying to foment civil war in Iraq for two years.

Al-Qaeda is indeed the obvious villain in this piece, but what's obvious is, unfortunately, often irrelevant when there's an excuse for disciples of the religion of peace to take to the streets to kill each other.

An Aussie Churchill

Where can we find politicians like this here in America? The following is the last part of a speech given recently by Peter Costello, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia and likely heir to Prime Minister John Howard:

The Australian Citizenship Oath or Affirmation tries to capture the essence of what it means to be Australian, it reads as follows:

"From this time forward [under God] I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey."

To be an Australian citizen one pledges loyalty first:- loyalty to Australia. One pledges to share certain beliefs: democratic beliefs; to respect the rights and liberty of others; and to respect the rule of law.

There is a lot of sense in this pledge. Unless we have a consensus of support about how we will form our legislatures and an agreement to abide by its laws - none of us will be able to enjoy our rights and liberties without being threatened by others.

We have a compact to live under a democratic legislature and obey the laws it makes. In doing this the rights and liberties of all are protected. Those who are outside this compact threaten the rights and liberties of others. They should be refused citizenship if they apply for it. Where they have it they should be stripped of it if they are dual citizens and have some other country that recognizes them as citizens.

Terrorists and those who support them do not acknowledge the rights and liberties of others - the right to live without being maimed, the right to live without being bombed - and as such they forfeit the right to join in Australian citizenship.

The refusal to acknowledge the rule of law as laid down by democratic institutions also stabs at the heart of the Australian compact. The radical Muslim Cleric Ben Brika was asked in an interview on the 7.30 Report in August last year:

"But don't you think Australian Muslims - Muslims living in Australia - also have a responsibility to adhere to Australian law?"

To which he answered: "This is a big problem. There are two laws - there is an Australian law and there is an Islamic law."

No, this is not a big problem. There is one law we are all expected to abide by. It is the law enacted by the Parliament under the Australian Constitution. If you can't accept that then you don't accept the fundamentals of what Australia is and what it stands for.

Our State is a secular State. As such it can protect the freedom of all religions for worship. Religion instructs its adherents on faith, morals and conscience. But there is not a separate stream of law derived from religious sources that competes with or supplants Australian law in governing our civil society. The source of our law is the democratically elected legislature.

There are countries that apply religious or sharia law - Saudi Arabia and Iran come to mind. If a person wants to live under sharia law these are countries where they might feel at ease. But not Australia.

And the citizenship pledge should be a big flashing warning sign to those who want to live under sharia law. A person who does not acknowledge the supremacy of civil law laid down by democratic processes cannot truthfully take the pledge of allegiance. As such they do not meet the pre-condition for citizenship.

Before entering a mosque visitors are asked to take off their shoes. This is a sign of respect. If you have a strong objection to walking in your socks don't enter the mosque. Before becoming an Australian you will be asked to subscribe to certain values. If you have strong objections to those values don't come to Australia.

We need to be very clear on these issues. There are some beliefs, some values, so core to the nature of our society that those who refuse to accept them refuse to accept the nature of our society.

If someone cannot honestly make the citizenship pledge, they cannot honestly take out citizenship. If they have taken it out already they should not be able to keep it where they have citizenship in some other country.

Of course this is not possible for those that are born here and have no dual citizenship. In these cases we have on our hands citizens who are apparently so alienated that they do not support what their own country stands for.

Such alienation could become a threat to the rights and liberties of others. And so it is important to explain our values, explain why they are important, and engage leadership they respect to assist us in this process. Ultimately however it is important that they know that there is only one law and it is going to be enforced whether they acknowledge its legitimacy or not.

It will be a problem if we have a second generation - the children of immigrants who have come to Australia - in a twilight zone where the values of their parents' old country have been lost but the values of the new country not fully embraced. To deal with this we must clearly state the values of Australia and explain how we expect them to be respected.

I suspect there would be more respect for these values if we made more of the demanding requirements of citizenship. No one is going to respect a citizenship that is so undemanding that it asks nothing. In fact our citizenship is quite a demanding obligation. It demands loyalty, tolerance and respect for fellow citizens and support for a rare form of government - democracy.

People will not respect the citizenship that explains itself on the basis of the mushy multiculturalism I have described earlier. We are more likely to engender respect by emphasizing the expectations and the obligations that the great privilege of citizenship brings. We have a robust tolerance of difference in our society. But to maintain this tolerance we have to have an agreed framework which will protect the rights and liberties of all. And we are asking our citizens - all our citizens - to subscribe to that framework.

I do not like putrid representations like "Piss Christ". I do not think galleries should show them. But I do recognize they should be able to practice their offensive taste without fear of violence or a riot. Muslims do not like representation of the Prophet. They do not think newspapers should print them. But so too they must recognize this does not justify violence against newspapers, or countries that allow newspapers to publish them.

We are asking all our citizens to subscribe to a framework that can protect the rights and liberties of all. These are Australian values. We must be very clear on this point. They are not optional. We expect all those who call themselves Australians to subscribe to them. Loyalty, democracy, tolerance, the rule of law: values worth promoting, values worth defending. The values of Australia and its citizens.

I'm almost tempted to emigrate to Australia just to be able to vote for this guy.

Liberal Theology

Janet Howe Gaines specializes in the Bible as literature in the Department of English at the University of New Mexico, and teaches Hebrew. Her account of the story of Jezebel as told in the Bible can be found here.

How bad was Jezebel? The Deuteronomist uses every possible argument to make the case against her. When Ahab dies, the Deuteronomist is determined to show that 'there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the Lord, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel' (1 Kings 21:25). It is interesting that Ahab is not held responsible for his own actions.(8) He goes astray because of a wicked woman. Someone has to bear the writer's vituperation concerning Israel's apostasy, and Jezebel is chosen for the job.

It would almost be humorous if it wasn't so sad. Ms Howe Gaines seems to think that the "Deuteronomist" has an axe to grind regarding Jezebel and apparently misses the point that the "Deuteronomist" was inspired by God and communicated what God would have us to know. While the "Deuteronomist" may be the "writer", it is God who is the author.

This is another example of how liberal theology questions, criticizes, and distorts the Word of God because it offends one's sensibilities. At the link above Ms Howe Gaines attempts to portray Jezebel in a different light. Oh, if it were so but the reality is that God, through Elijah proclaimed she would be eaten by dogs and little would be left of her because of her actions.

It may be that Ms Howe Gains might simply be a frustrated, liberated, feminist desperately trying to posit another perspective of Jesebel in an effort to rewrite history or you may have other reasons to question my position, but before you reach a conclusion, I'd suggest you consider the wisdom of E.W. Bullinger's work regarding those who undertake "higher criticism" in his Numbers in Scripture where he says this:

Heb 4:12
kptikos- (kritikos) " (critic)"

This is the origin of our word "critic." The Greek word is kritikos and "critic" is merely the English spelling of the Greek word, which is transliterated. It means able to judge or skilled in judging; and then , simple a judge, but always with the idea of his ability to judge. kptikos appears only in Hebrews iv. 12, where it is translated " a discerner," Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The whole passage relates both to the written Word, which is a sword ( Eph.vi.17 ): and to the living Word ( Christ), who has a sword.

The structure of the two verses distinguishes between God and his word:-

A 12. God it is whose Word is so wonderful.
B 12. What his word IS ( Living, powerful and a harp sword).
C 12. What his word DOES ( piercing and dividing asunder, etc,).
B 12. What his word IS ( a skilled judge).
A 13. God who is omniscient.

[My note: The above is what is called a structure. It is an outline of sorts that may take different forms. The entire Bible can be mapped as a structure with smaller structures being found within the larger ones. The topic makes for a fascinating study and often is quite useful in determining the context and meaning of a passage.]

Here we have in A and A, God the omniscient one; and in B, C and B we have his word. And we learn that the Word of God is a judge now, so wonderful that it distinguished between the thoughts and the intentions of the heart and judges them. The Master Himself bares witness that the same Word will be our judge there after---John xii.48, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

What a solemn truth, And how much more solemn, when man now dares to take this one word "critic" or " Judge," Which God has thus, by His only once using it, appropriated to His Word, and applied it to himself, And what is it that man is going to judge? Why the every word of God! thus making himself the judge of that Word which is to judge him! If the word kritikos were of frequent occurrence, and used of various things or persons, man might perhaps be led to look on himself as a judge of some one of them. But God has used it only once, and He has thus confined it to one thing--- His Word. Therefore it is a daring presumption for man to transfer the word to himself. Not only does man do this, but he calls his work " higher Criticism."

Now there is a criticism which is lawful, because it judges not God's Word, but man's work as to the manuscripts; this is called Textual Criticism , which is quite different thing. But this " Higher criticism, is nothing but human reasoning; It is nothing more than the imagination of man's heart---those very thoughts and intentions which the Word its self judges!

What confusion! What perversion! and what folly! for the further man's criticsm departs from the domain of evidence and enters on the sphere of reason, the " higher" he calls it!

That is to say, the less like a skilled judge he acts, the higher he exalts his judgement! Poor man! Oh that you would submit yourself to this Word For it must either judge you now in this day of grace, and give you conviction of sin; or it will be your judge in the last day, when every mouth will be stopped, and you will be " speechless" and " without "excuse."

God has given us a message through this account of Jesebel and it is sad that it can be so difficult for some people to accept it. Perhaps Ms Howe Gaines will explain her rationale to God when she meets him. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31) and I suspect people who play fast and loose with the Scriptures, much to their dismay, will come to that realization.

Thought For Today

From E.W. Bullinger's Numbers in Scripture

Where there are more wills than one, there can be no peace, no rest. There must necessarily be conflict and confusion. This is the secret of all disturbance in families, parties, and nations.

We sometimes hear of a "Dual Control," but it is a fiction. It exists only in words, not in reality! This is the secret of rest for the heart now-"One will." As long as there are two wills there can be no peace. As long as our will is not subject to God's will, we cannot know what rest is.

This is where the Lord Jesus, as man, found rest in the midst of His rejection. In Matthew 11, John the Baptist doubts, vv. 2, 3; the people of that generation reject Him, vv. 16-19; the cities which saw His mightiest works do not believe, vv. 20-24. Then we read in the next verses (25,26), "AT THAT TIME Jesus answered and said, I THANK THEE, O FATHER, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes, EVEN SO FATHER; for so it seemed good in Thy sight." And then turning to his weary servants, the subjects of similar trials and disappointments, He says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

In other words, rest is to be found only in subjection to the Father's will. This is the secret of present rest for our souls. This is the secret of Millennial peace and blessing for the earth.

How simple! and yet what strangers we are to this rest! How the Lord's servants are rushing hither and thither to find this great blessing, and yet do not enter into it! Why is this? It is because we do not believe that His will is better than our own? If we were occupied with the Lord instead of with ourselves, with the Blesser instead of with our "blessing," we should soon have such a sense of His grace and glory and power as would convince us that His will is better than ours; and then, instead of being busy with ourselves and enquiring how we are to give up our will, we should see that His is so good that we really loathe our own, and desire only His.

This blessing is not gained by any "act of surrender" or "act of faith," but our own will simply vanishes in the contemplation of his will as we see it to be all-gracious and all-good.

Man's modern methods all begin at the wrong end. They begin with ourselves, they occupy us with ourselves, and hence the failure. The Divine method puts "God First," and thus the end is assured.

It is when our hearts are so before God and so with God, that we learn the wondrous wisdom of His way, and the perfection, sweetness, and blessedness of His will. We yearn to possess it, we long for it, and desire to come into its joy; and our own will vanishes without an effort, and without our knowing it, until we discover afterwards what has happened by a happy experience.

In Millennial days this will be the blessing of the whole earth. For in that day there shall be one King, one will, "one Lord, and His name one."

What a spiritual giant.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Dems' '08 Nominee

Who's Hillary's competition for the Democratic nomination in '08? Dick Morris says it's going to be Al Gore:

Gore has three things going for him: A perception that he was robbed of the White House and Hillary's possible stubbornness in continuing to back the war. The third thing? The weather. As the evidence of global climate change impresses everyone who doesn't work at the White House, Gore looks more and more like a man whose time may have come.

We don't know whether to laugh or cry.

The Murder of Ilan Hamili

Ilan Halimi was buried Thursday in France. Here's what happened:

Halimi was found dying, covered with burns and cuts, on Monday February 13. He had been kidnapped three weeks earlier, after a Muslim gang sent a blonde to seduce him. Halimi had agreed to meet with her after meeting in a chat room. Immediately after his abduction his mother went to the police, saying he was kidnapped by anti-Semites. Sources in the community said three Jewish youngsters had managed to escape similar abdications in recent months.

The police told Halimi's mother, Ruth, to stop all telephone connection with the kidnappers, as a way of forcing them to use electronic mail, which was traceable. The police did not know that during the five days in which the kidnappers tried in vain to contact Halimi's family, Halimi suffered terrible torture. One of the kidnappers said, "We put our cigarettes out on him because he was a Jew."

A few days after Halimi was found, the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told the media that the murder was a criminal event, and "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action."

The reports about Halimi in France did not mention that he was Jewish. Halimi's family was livid. His mother accused the authorities of ignoring the anti-Semitic factor. "Had Ilan not been Jewish, he would not have been murdered," she said. She was widely quoted in the French media, and the authorities began to retreat.

On Tuesday French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that "the murder had anti-Semitic motives." "They kidnapped and murdered him because he was Jewish - in their words, the Jews have money," he said.

This coming Sunday a huge procession in his memory is scheduled to take place in Paris. Jewish organizations, French political parties and anti-violence groups are to join in the demonstration.

It seems that it is human nature to enter a state of denial about serious threats to one's safety and that of one's family. Even as the hyenas circle the herd the gazelle graze nervously in hopes that the killers will pass them by.

Caroline Glick finds this phenomenon rampant in the governments of both France and Israel and is deeply disturbed by it. The civilized world is being challenged by Islamism to defend itself, and in too many quarters the response is to cower and to pretend there is no threat.

This timidity only emboldens those who are even now circling their psychologically weakened prey, darting in to take a nip, wearing it down, draining away its will to live. When the hyenas sense that the West has lost its will to fight for its civilization they will surge upon it, rip it to pieces, and gorge themselves on its remains.

The murder of this young Jewish man at the hands of French Muslim kidnappers is not just a horrific atrocity, it is a synecdoche for the future the Muslim world envisions for the West. Ilan Halimi and others, like Theo Van Gogh, are just the first drops of the approaching storm.

Strange Bedfellows

This news strikes us as a little odd (subscription may be required). The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest organization of scientists:

...appealed for the help of mainstream religion in its quest [to quash Intelligent Design], arguing that religion and science were not incompatible. Many religious leaders had stated they saw no conflict between evolution and religion, noted the AAAS. "We and the overwhelming majority of scientists share this view."

And there's this:

Eugenie Scott, the director of the National Center for Science Education, told a weekend news conference it was time for the faith community to "step up to the plate," The Times of London reported. She said the idea one is either a Christian creationist or an atheist is believed by many people.

If we're reading this correctly the scientific community, or at least the portion of it committed to a Darwinian view of life, is trying to enlist churches and religious organizations in an effort to persuade their members that when Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett et al. declare that evolution is absolutely incompatible with religious belief they don't know what they're talking about. Indeed, The AAAS and Ms Scott seem to think that if religious folk would simply understand that Dawkins and Dennett speak only for most biologists, not all of them, and if the religious leadership would just get on board with the Darwinians, the dim-witted masses would eventually be confused enough to go along.

Why do the AAAS and the NCSE feel the need to do this, anyway? Aren't the arguments that the scientists themselves muster in favor of materialistic evolution persuasive enough? Are they tacitly admitting that they're losing ground, or failing to gain it, and, in desperation, they must seek to make allies of the very organizations that they in fact regard as their foes?

Whatever the case, we can be sure that if Eugenie Scott and her colleagues thought for one moment that they were sweeping the field there would be no appeals to the "faith community" to do anything except get out of their way.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Wonderful Story

If you haven't heard the story of Jason McElwain yet, read about him here and watch the video. It'll make your day.

This Just In...

Congressman Ron Paul is preparing legislation that will compel the Fed to continue publishing M3, and plans to introduce the bill in the Financial Services committee later this month.

And why not? The Federal Reserve is a private institution. There's nothing "Federal" about it as it is owned by major financial institutions in this country as well as in foreign countries. And they have no "Reserves" to speak of. The U.S. Treasury controls Fort Knox.

The Federal Reserve should be transparent in terms of its actions and anything less is not acceptable. Apparently Ron Paul agrees.

You can read about it here.

It will be interesting to see how this effort turns out.

Premature Hysteria

The media appear delirious over the possibility of civil war in Iraq. Everywhere we turn we're told the Iraqis are "on the verge" of a full scale collapse into war between Shia and Sunni. This may be, but, as usual, the media is long on hysteria and short on analysis. For the latter we need to turn to the blogosphere where Bill Roggio breaks down the criteria for civil war. He lists the following indicators:

1) The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.

2) Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.

3) Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.

4) Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.

5) Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.

6) Major political figures - Shiite and Sunni - openly call for retaliation.

7) The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.

8) Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol.

9) Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.

10) Iraqi Security Forces begins severing ties with the Coalition, including:

Disembeddeding the Military Transition Teams.

Requests U.S. forces to vacate Forward Operating Bases / Battle Positions in Western and Northern Iraq.

Alienates Coalition at training academies.

11) Iraqi Security Forces make no effort to quell violence or provide security in Sunni neighborhoods.

12) Iraqi Security Forces actively participate in attacks on Sunnis, with the direction of senior leaders in the ministries of Defense or Interior.

13) Shiite militias are fully mobilized, with the assistance of the government, and deployed to strike at Sunni targets. Or, the Shiite militias are fully incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces without certification from Coalition trainers.

14) Sunni military officers are dismissed en masse from the Iraqi Army.

15) Kurdish officers and soldiers leave their posts and return to Kurdistan, and reform into Peshmerga units.

16) Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.

17) Coalition military forces pull back from forward positions to main regional bases.

As Roggio notes, as of yet none of these things have happened, and the media's hysteria is thus appallingly, but unsurprisingly, premature.

Muslim Logic

A Danish newspaper prints cartoons which offend the delicate religious sensibilities of the Islamic faithful and frenzied Muslims the world over burn ... American flags.

Muslim terrorists, probably from al-Qaeda in Iraq, blow up an ancient and revered mosque in Samarra and outraged Muslims the world over burn ... American flags.

Apparently to be a Muslim requires of one a superhuman capacity for cognitive contortionism.

Father Coyne

Father George V. Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory, gave a talk recently in which he displayed an unforgiveably deficient understanding of the basics of Intelligent Design. The text of his lecture can be found here. In his abstract he remarks that:

I would essentially like to share with you two convictions in this presentation: (1) that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry....

This, of course, is simply and inexcusably wrong. Intelligent Design evokes no God at all, much less a God which it belittles by making too small or paltry. Critics of ID insist on repeating this allegation every chance they get, but they cannot point to anything in the technical literature of ID where a prominent spokesperson has said that ID evokes God. We hope the good Father went to confession after this speech to purge himself of his sin of bearing false witness.

He goes on to ask:

How did we humans come to be in this evolving universe? It is quite clear that we do not know everything about this process. But it would be scientifically absurd to deny that the human brain is a result of a process of chemical complexification in an evolving universe. After the universe became rich in certain basic chemicals, those chemicals got together in successive steps to make ever more complex molecules.

What is scientifically absurd is Father Coyne's display of blind faith in the ability of blind, mechanical processes to produce the most amazing structure we know to exist in the universe. It's true we don't know everything about this process, so why does Father Coyne suggest that the brain is solely the product of chemical processes which, in his telling of it, rather magically "got together" to form this organ? How, if we don't know everything, can he a priori rule out intelligence as being a factor?

Finally in some extraordinary chemical process the human brain came to be, the most complicated machine that we know.

Yes. This might be called the fairy godmother style of science writing. Mother Nature waves her magic wand, and presto, there's the brain. All it took was a few chemicals, some pixie dust, and a lot of time and there you have it. No intelligent guidance is necessary, just random mutation and the mysterious powers of natural selection. Coyne makes it sound so easy, yet no one has any idea how mindless, purposeless forces could ever have achieved such a miracle. They just "know" that they did.

Do we need God to explain this? Very succinctly my answer is no. In fact, to need God would be a very denial of God. God is not the response to a need.

This is the sort of nonsense that gives theologians a bad name among sensible people. In any event, no IDer ever said that we do need God to explain it. They've only claimed that it is inexplicable apart from intelligent input. They do not insist that the intelligent agent is God. Nevertheless, Father Coyne resolves to make this a lecture on theology so let's look at his theology:

We should not need God; we should accept her/him when he comes to us.

One wonders what the fathers of the Church would have to say about such a ludicrous statement. If God exists, He is, inter alia, the ontological ground of all being. If God exists, and Father Coyne believes that He does, then we "need" Him because should God cease to will our existence we, and the world we inhabit, would simply go poof. God is the glue that holds all things in being. For a Catholic priest to assert that we "should not need God" is, at best, bizarre.

But the personal God I have described is also God, creator of the universe.

Where did that come from? The "creator of the universe"?! The God "we shouldn't need" is the creator of all that is? The God who plays no role in the origin of life or the emergence of the human brain is nevertheless essential to the existence of the whole cosmos? He planned it all out, evidently, designed it, as it were, down to the last detail, but He has no role to play in evolution, and it demeans Him to say that He does? Why does father Coyne feel it necessary to claim that God is the creator of the world, but think that it's necessary to exclude Him from any role in the development of the brain?

If this is the current state of theological thinking in the Catholic Church today Pope Benedict has his work cut out for him. Somebody please forward the Director of the Vatican Observatory a copy of the works of Thomas Aquinas.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dubai or Not Dubai. That's the Question.

Good arguments can be found on both sides of the controversy surrounding whether we should allow the United Arab Emirates to own any part of any of our seaports. For those interested in reading up on the arguments Rich Karlgaard has links to what he titles the best takes on both sides of the debate. Go here to check them out.

The True Heirs

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has done it yet again. This time he's posted an excellent piece in defense of the thesis that modern materialists are not the true heirs of the enlightenment and that it is actually the "neo-creationists" who should lay claim to that pedigree. He writes:

Whatever else might be said about the Enlightenment, it's rather obvious that the advocates of intelligent design are the philosophical heirs to the period's natural theology. For anyone to claim that materialism is the true progeny of that period is laughably misguided and a sad example of the decline in liberal education. Anyone with even a basic grasp of intellectual history should see where the truth lies. While they may not be direct descendents of that period's thinkers, these "neo-Creationists" could certainly be considered the illegitimate children of the philosopher and deist Voltaire.

The attempt to found science on atheistic materialism is not a new development. During the Enlightenment, atheists often championed the idea that the universe could have been created without a Creator. The French philosopher Voltaire, for one, was quite aware of that point of view - and rejected it thoroughly.

Read the rest of his fine essay at the link.

Potpourri Rant

Muhammad Cartoons. As a result of the now infamous printing of Muhammad cartoons, many people have been killed, property has been destroyed and million dollar bounties have been set by Muslim clerics for the death of those responsible for their printing. Interesting enough, the Koran says that no image of God shall be created as it would interfere with the spiritual relationship of the believer with God. Fair enough, the Bible suggests the same thing. But the Koran says nothing of images of Muhammad. So what we have is mindless maniacs killing and burning with no foundation for their actions.

The Dubai debacle. President Bush has refused to enforce the Constitutional mandate of the Federal government to protect our borders. One only has to look at the sad state of affairs regarding the border of Mexico to realize this. Now he insists on giving a company in Dubai authority to operate ports on the east coast. Hello? Interestingly enough, Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill while in office yet he threatens to veto any legislation to thwart this event. The bigger question is why the US isn't able to operate its own ports, but that might be an issue for another post.

If it is the case that we want to reward Dubai for allowing us to utilize their air strips for our interests in the Middle East it seems to me that typically, we offer financial aid to countries for being allowed to operate out of their air strips. I seem to recall offering Turkey billions to use theirs.

It's ironic that the Constitution mandates protection of our borders as the primary responsibility of the Federal government. Most if not all other responsibilities are/were delegated to the individual states, except for trade agreements with foreign countries, etc.

Given this lunacy, it's just a matter of time before Bush outsources airport security to Al Quada or Hamas.

Iran oil exchange in euros and discontinuance of M3. On March 20 Iran is scheduled to open an oil exchange that will accept euros for oil. Only days later, the Federal Reserve will discontinue publishing the M3, a measure of the growth of U.S. dollars. It's difficult to believe these events are unrelated and just a coincidence.

The latest Treasury offering:

"It was a terrible auction," summed up one trader at a U.S. primary dealer. "The bid-to-cover stank, the indirect bid was bad."

Looks like our foreign benefactors are starting to have second thoughts about investing in the U.S., and small wonder.

All of the above makes this link all the more prescient.

That this article is making mainstream news is an indicator that the first of three phases of the gold bull market has come to an end and the second phase is about to begin.

The first phase is what is known as the stealth phase where the smart money starts establishing a position in a market. This can last for years before the general population gets wind of the opportunity. Note that the bull market began in 1999 when gold hit a bottom of $252.

The second phase is when the investing public catches on and starts acquiring a position driving prices much, much higher and lasts the longest of the three phases. Articles in the mainstream press and Internet fuel this.

The blow-off phase is when the taxi drivers, shoe-shine guys, and trash collectors are telling you about their positions in the market. Prices go vertical. Personally, this is the time I would start easing out of my position.

Lastly, in case you had any doubts about what an American company would do for profits, visit this link.

In the United States, Cisco is known (among other things) for building corporate firewalls to block viruses and hackers. In China, the government had a unique problem: how to keep a billion people from accessing politically sensitive Web sites, now and forever.

The way to do it would be this: If a Chinese user tried to view a Web site outside China with political content, such as CNN.com, the address would be recognized by a filter program that screens out forbidden sites. The request would then be thrown away, with the user receiving a banal message: "Operation timed out."

Great, but China's leaders had a problem: The financial excitement of a wired China quickly led to a proliferation of eight major Internet service providers (ISPs) and four pipelines to the outside world. To force compliance with government objectives, to ensure that all pipes lead back to Rome, they needed the networking superpower, Cisco, to standardize the Chinese Internet and equip it with firewalls on a national scale.

According to the Chinese engineer, Cisco came through, developing a router device, integrator and firewall box specially designed for the government's telecom monopoly. Cisco also appears to have offered a significant initial discount in the price of the firewall boxes.

As a result of this, many Chinese have been arrested and imprisoned simply for seeking the truth. They will either rot in jail or be executed and their organs harvested and sold. Yet we hold China as a favorite nation trade status.

People running companies like Cisco turn my stomach. They're no worse that those at IBM who sold technology to Germany to track the Jews prior to our involvement in World War II. Their only motive is profit, no matter what the consequences.

514 Heretics

Over 500 scientists with Ph.Ds have signed a statement expressing their dissent from Darwinian evolutionary theory:

The Scientific Dissent From Darwinism statement reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

The list of 514 signatories includes member scientists from the prestigious US and Russian National Academy of Sciences. Signers include 154 biologists, the largest single scientific discipline represented on the list, as well as 76 chemists and 63 physicists. Signers hold doctorates in biological sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, computer science, and related disciplines. Many are professors or researchers at major universities and research institutions such as MIT, The Smithsonian, Cambridge University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, the Ohio State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Washington.

And these are just the scientists who are willing to go public with their doubts. It may be that they are but the tip of the scientific iceberg. So much for the silly claim that all scientists accept the Darwinian paradigm and that there's no debate about it in the scientific community.

Jonathan Witt at Intelligent Design the Future chastises the New York Times for their clumsy attempts to pooh pooh the significance of the dissenters. See also this critique of the Times' report. Does anybody actually trust these people any more to be fair, accurate, and objective?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


On Monday we linked to an e-mail exchange between Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett, both atheistic evolutionists strongly hostile to Intelligent Design. It's worth emphasizing one paragraph of the correspondence written by Ruse to Dennett:

I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design - we are losing this battle, not the least of which is the two new supreme court justices who are certainly going to vote to let it into classrooms - what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues - neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas - it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims - more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of good will.

Quite an admission, that. Coming from such an eminent authority it is guaranteed to produce outrage and shock among the faithful, and to shake the confidence of any whose confidence in naturalism is already unsteady. It will also have a salutary effect on those in the academy who might be leaning toward ID but who at present feel too much professional pressure and intimidation to risk coming out publically in its favor.

Dembski had Ruse's permission to print this exchange, but we wonder whether Ruse had Dennett's permission to give it to him. If not, there could be serious umbrage brewing among the disciples of Charles Darwin, and this, sadly, even before the warm afterglow of Darwin Day fellowship has faded away.

Gumbel and Race

Bryant Gumbel, who is an African American television personality, recently had this to say about the Winter Olympics:

So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.

Hmm. Let's do a thought experiment. Suppose there was a meeting of, say, African American mathematicians, and some conservative white reporter doing a story on the convention made the comment:

So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest intellects, despite a paucity of whites that makes the meeting look like an NAACP convention.

What do you suppose the media reaction would be? Would the reporter be allowed to keep his job? I suggest that that reporter would probably find himself, like Larry Summers, out of a job. My point is not to suggest that Mr. Gumbel is a racist or that his comment is inappropriate. I don't know whether he's a racist, and I don't believe, actually, that there was anything wrong with what he said. My point is simply to point out the racial double standard in our society. Blacks are permitted to say almost anything about racial differences without being seriously criticized, but if whites make similar remarks it could cost them their jobs and their careers. Summers came under fire at Harvard for making perfectly reasonable remarks about gender, not about race, but the principle is the same.

This situation is not only unjust, it's absurd. All it does is exacerbate ill-feeling among white males toward minorities and women. It's time to agree that whatever is appropriate or inappropriate to say of one race or gender should be appropriate or inappropriate to say about another. Neither race nor gender should be taboo subjects, nor should any race or either gender be granted a position of privilege, preference, or deference in the public discourse.

Let's stop criticizing and destroying people because they make perfectly sensible, even if sometimes mistaken, statements just because those statements don't meet the stringent standards of our hypersensitive social thought police.

Al-Qaeda Gambles on Civil War

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail analyzes the Golden Mosque bombing and points his finger at al-Qaeda in Iraq. Interestingly, there are suspects in custody, and no doubt strenuous "interrogations" have begun to determine who's behind the attack.

The attempt to drag Iraqi's Shiites and Sunnis into a bloody civil war intensifies. The dome of the Shiite Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, or Golden Mosque, has been destroyed by a well planned and well executed commando-style raid of insurgents dressed as Iraqi police. According to CNN, "A group of men dressed like Iraqi police commandos set off explosives." It appears suspects are now in custody, "Ten people -- all dressed as Iraqi police commandos."

The likely culprit is al-Qaeda in Iraq, or groups underneath the newly created Mujahedeen Shura Council. Zarqawi has desired a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis since his entry into the conflict, as he clearly stated in his letter to Osama bin Laden. al-Qaeda in Iraq has gone to through great pains of late to deny this, and will very likely not take credit in such an overt attack on the Shiite faithful. Silence and uncertainly will play into their hand, and feed conspiracy theories on who committed such an act. But the nature of the target and the sophistication of such an attack undeniably points to al-Qaeda. The detained "commandos" will be thoroughly interrogated, and the FBI will likely be called in to determine the nature of the charges used to destroy the dome.

You can read the rest of Roggio's post here.

Can't We Be More Like Europe?

Liberals like John Kerry and Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Ginsberg frequently point to Europe as the model the United States should emulate in our laws and cultural attitudes. It is unclear, though, how long this Euro-infatuation will continue in light of this sort of thing:

Right-wing British historian David Irving pleaded guilty yesterday to denying the Holocaust and was sentenced to three years in prison, even after conceding that he wrongly said there were no Nazi gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Irving, handcuffed and wearing a blue suit, arrived in court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books -- "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust. "I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," Irving told the court before his sentencing. He faced up to 10 years in prison. He also expressed sorrow "for all the innocent people who died during the second world war."

But he insisted that he never wrote a book about the Holocaust, which he called "just a fragment of my area of interest."

"In no way did I deny the killings of millions of people by the Nazis," testified Irving, who has written nearly 30 books. Irving's lawyer immediately announced that he would appeal the sentence. "I consider the verdict a little too stringent. I would say it's a bit of a message trial," Elmar Kresbach said.

Irving, 67, has been in custody since his November arrest on charges stemming from two speeches that he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews. He has contended that most of those who died at concentration camps such as Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.

The court convicted Irving after his guilty plea under the 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."

Irving's trial came amid new debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing of unflattering caricatures of the prophet Muhammad has triggered deadly protests worldwide.

Now, we have no sympathy for holocaust deniers, but we do have a lot of sympathy for a free press and the free exchange of political ideas. Apparently, European courts do not. We will wait patiently for those liberal champions of the bold maxim which proclaims a willingness to fight to the death for another man's right to say that which is despicable, to come out foursquare in defense of Mr. Irving. They'll arrive on scene, we are sure, to carry the free speech fight to its enemies just as soon as they can emerge from hiding from the Mohammedans whose death threats have made the prospect of actually having to expend one's life in the battle for journalistic freedom seem uncomfortably likely.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Journalistic Heroics at U. of Toronto

Rhymes With Right notes that the University of Toronto student newspaper, which refused to show THE CARTOONS, did not scruple to run a drawing showing Jesus kissing a middle eastern man (presumably Mohammed, but you don't know that from the picture) on the mouth in a tunnel of love.

We are awed by the newspaper staff's courage and cleverness in publishing such an incisive bit of social commentary. We are steeped in admiration for their journalistic hubris in taunting those violent Christian fanatics who are even now probably preparing to burn down the university in their outrage. We are humbled to know that such satirical geniuses walk among us, and we wonder if anyone on the staff at that paper is older than thirteen.

At any rate, we cannot improve upon Rhymes' commentary on the newspaper's decision to run this illustration, nor could any parody we can come up with do justice to the editor's ludicrous defense of that decision. Check it out for yourself.

Murder Over a Cartoon

The news brings word of more depressing incidents of Muslim hatred and viciousness, this time in Nigeria. Don't these disciples of the religion of peace know how to express indignation and anger without killing people? Are their religion and culture so reflexively violent that any insult is considered a justification for cruelty and brutality?

There are places in the United States, to be sure, where you can get killed for being from a different neighborhood, or for being a different race, or for just making eye contact with someone, but we tend to think of the wanton killers in these cases as marginally human savages. How can we think any more of people who kill over a vaguely insulting cartoon appearing in a newspaper thousands of miles away?

Here are the headlines:

Nigeria confirms that 35 persons were killed, 30 churches and five hotels were also burnt in violence the past three days.

For the third day in a row, Nigerian Muslims rampaged through the streets leaving 13 dead on Monday in Bauchi after at least 25 reported deaths in two previous days of violence.

The Red Cross put the death toll in Maiduguri and Katsina at 28, but the Christian Association of Nigeria said it had counted at least 50 dead bodies in Maiduguri alone.

There are gruesome reports of Christians being burned to death in their churches over the weekend.

And there's this:

One group threw a tire around one man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze.

A Catholic Priest and 3 children are among the dead.

Also you might check out the protest posters here and here to get a sense of what at least some Muslims in New York are thinking about your future.

The irony, lost I'm sure on the protestors, is that these messages are sponsored by an organization called the Islamic Thinkers Society. It's hard to believe that anyone who was really thinking would conclude that the murder of innocent priests and children in Nigeria is an appropriate response to the provocation of cartoonists in Denmark, but there you have it.

Representative Ron Paul...

tells it like it is. It's truly unfortunate that we don't have more congressmen like him...or even another one for that matter.

Yes, while the Arab / Jew (Israel) conflict is as old as the Biblical account of Jacob's rip off of Esau's inheritance, there is a new dynamic that has come on the scene.

The honorable representative from the state of Texas, Ron Paul, has offered a must read explanation of how America has stepped into the quagmire and, in my opinion, why every American should be ashamed and outraged. I know I am.

From the link:

Realizing the world was embarking on something new and mind boggling, elite money managers, with especially strong support from U.S. authorities, struck an agreement with OPEC to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions. This gave the dollar a special place among world currencies and in essence "backed" the dollar with oil. In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. This arrangement helped ignite the radical Islamic movement among those who resented our influence in the region. The arrangement gave the dollar artificial strength, with tremendous financial benefits for the United States. It allowed us to export our monetary inflation by buying oil and other goods at a great discount as dollar influence flourished.

I strongly urge our readers to visit the link above and read the article in its entirety.


Daniel Dennett Undressed

Leon Wieseltier endears himself to millions by taking on the pompous Daniel Dennett in last Sunday's New York Times Review of Books and administering, in the course of a blistering review of Dennett's new book, a sound and condign spanking to the Tufts philosopher's nether parts. Throughout the review Wieseltier mocks Dennett's characteristic arrogance and self-congratulatory poses, observing, for example, that:

In his own opinion, Dennett is a hero. He is in the business of emancipation, and he reveres himself for it. "By asking for an accounting of the pros and cons of religion, I risk getting poked in the nose or worse," he declares, "and yet I persist." Giordano Bruno, with tenure at Tufts!

Wieseltier goes on to add that:

[P]eople who share Dennett's view of the world he calls "brights." Brights are not only intellectually better, they are also ethically better. Did you know that "brights have the lowest divorce rate in the United States, and born-again Christians the highest"? Dennett's own "sacred values" are "democracy, justice, life, love and truth."

It's deeply ironic, as we've had occasion to remark before, that an atheist would take any pride at all in the values he adopts. Surely someone of Dennett's exalted philosophical reputation recognizes that any values in a godless world are purely arbitrary. His embrace of democracy, justice, etc. are simply matters of his own subjective preference and are completely free of any possible objective or intrinsic moral worth. Dennett's fondness for these is no more laudatory than would his fondness for ice-cream or pizza be. They're all merely matters of personal taste.

Even so, it is in his criticisms of the book's content (The book's title is Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon) where Wieseltier inflicts the deepest wounds:

Dennett's natural history does not deny reason, it animalizes reason. It portrays reason in service to natural selection, and as a product of natural selection. But if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? The power of reason is owed to the independence of reason, and to nothing else. (In this respect, rationalism is closer to mysticism than it is to materialism.) Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.

It is ironic that so many atheists who pride themselves on their rationality and trust in the deliverances of their reason fail to realize that if reason is simply a product of purposeless processes adapting us for survival there is no basis for trusting it to give us truth about those matters which cannot be somehow independently verified, like, for instance, the existence of God. Reason presumably evolved to equip us to survive in a stone age environment, not to find truth in a modern setting, and no argument that an atheist might offer on behalf of reason can possibly avoid begging the question by employing reason to try to demonstrate the trustworthiness of reason.

In a somewhat related matter, Bill Dembski somehow came into possession of this fascinating e-mail exchange which took place last Sunday between Dennett and atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse. The exchange offers a unique glimpse of the infighting beginning to swell within the Darwinian ranks over the challenge posed by ID. Scroll to the first e-mail from Ruse and work back. It's good fun.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ruse v. Dembski

Michael Ruse, an anti-ID philosopher, and William Dembski, one of the leading intellectual lights of the ID movement, had a debate in Marietta, Georgia recently. Part of the exchange, as recounted in the Baptist Press News, went like this:

Ruse...returned to his argument that Intelligent Design presupposes the Christian God.

"Are you seriously suggesting that some grad student on Andromeda is running an experiment and we're it?" Ruse asked. "Of course you're not. You're invoking God, and that's just not acceptable in science, and not necessary."

"So the grad student on Andromeda is more acceptable than God?" Dembski quipped.

Ruse said his problem with ID theory is the unnamed designer and the refusal to answer the "God question."

"I don't think you can keep it just hanging and simply say, 'Oh well, I don't have to answer that question,'" Ruse said. "I think that's cheating."

"I've always said that naturalism, if you like, is ... an act of faith," Ruse said to an outburst of applause from the audience. "I would feel more comfortable saying it is a metaphysical commitment. I don't think metaphysical commitments are stupid."

Those who are not naturalists, Ruse claimed, have other "burning concerns" they deem more important than science. He suggested that Christians are motivated by fear of facing God after life, a concern that outweighs a commitment to science.

Ruse makes several important admissions in the above passages. He acknowledges that naturalism, and by extension, whatever is uniquely entailed by it, is an act of faith. In other words, the commitment to a mechanistic view of evolution is not a result of scientific discovery but of metaphysical preference. Why, then, is this meatphysical preference privileged in public school classrooms to the exclusion of competing views?

He also suggests that if one is committed to a Christian metaphysics then one will tend to subordinate one's science to that commitment, whereas a commitment to naturalism incites one to place science first in his life. What Ruse says here, however, is simply not true. If one is committed to naturalism (i.e. the view that nature is all there is) then one is just as likely to subordinate one's science to that metaphysical conviction as a Christian is to subordinate scientific evidence to his conviction. If the evidence one gathers in the field points to an entity beyond nature, the naturalist is faced with the choice of ignoring the evidence or rejecting naturalism. A person committed to naturalism, however, will find the latter course exceedingly difficult and will be much more inclined to reject the evidence.

In other words, the naturalist is no more likely to be governed by the results of his science than is the Christian. It's past time that naturalistic philosophers realize that their naturalism has all the fieldmarks of a religion and stop pretending that it is somehow more intellectually respectable than Christianity.

Early Retirement?

Looking forward to retirement? You better hurry before this fellow's idea catches on:

The age of retirement should be raised to 85 by 2050 because of trends in life expectancy, a US biologist has said. Shripad Tuljapurkar of Stanford University says anti-ageing advances could raise life expectancy by a year each year over the next two decades.

That will put a strain on economies around the world if current retirement ages are maintained, he warned.

Dr. Tuljapurkar is right, of course. There's no reason to maintain economic structures designed around the demographic facts of life in the 1930s in an era in which those facts no longer obtain. We have to admit, though, that 85 sounds a bit extreme. We were expecting the retirement age to be raised to 67 - 70, at least for the near term.

Hiding the Truth

Over at Evangelical Outpost Joe Carter takes the abortion establishment to task for withholding from women all the relevant potential consequences of having the procedure done. In any other area of medicine the failure to tell women what the long term effects of their having a procedure might be would be considered malpractice but not when it comes to abortion. Pro-choicers are presumably afraid that were the potential harm of abortion procedures widely disseminated not only would women be more reluctant to have them, but it would be far easier for opponents to pass legislation curtailing or banning the practice.

Carter writes:

When most people prepare to undergo elective surgery, they expect to be fully informed of the risks involved in the procedure. But what if a doctor refused to tell you that after you recovered you would be at an elevated risk of developing suicidal behavior, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental problems? What if you were told that the justification for withholding such information was that you had a "civil right" to have the surgery and that the evidence concerning risk of mental illness "didn't matter"?

Most people would be outraged if such information had been withheld from them. Yet there is one medical procedure in which the risks are paternalistically withheld from the patient. That procedure, of course, is abortion.

In one of the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever conducted on the subject, a research team led by Professor David M. Fergusson, director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study, found that women who had abortions were significantly more likely to experience mental health problems.

"I remain pro-choice. I am not religious. I am an atheist and a rationalist," said Fergusson in an interview on Australian radio, "The findings did surprise me, but the results appear to be very robust because they persist across a series of disorders and a series of ages. . . . Abortion is a traumatic life event; that is, it involves loss, it involves grief, it involves difficulties. And the trauma may, in fact, predispose people to having mental illness."

Although he is still accepting of abortion, Fergusson believes women and doctors should not blindly accept the unsupported claim that abortion is generally harmless or beneficial to women. In his report, Fergusson singled out the American Psychological Association (APA) for criticism over its handling of research on women's post-abortion psychological adjustment. "It borders on scandalous that one of the most common surgical procedures performed on young women is so poorly researched and evaluated," said Fergusson. "If this were Prozac or Vioxx, reports of associated harm would be taken much more seriously with more careful research and monitoring procedures."

It's awful hard to make a credible claim that the chief concern of pro-choicers is the welfare of women when the welfare of women seems to be largely irrelevant to what women are told prior to their abortion.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sometimes We Hear It's Religious

Judge John Jones, presiding in the Dover Intelligent Design trial last Fall, deigned to settle the controversy surrounding ID by pronouncing it a religious belief and thus constitutionally unfit for public school consumption. Those who approve of the judge's decision have ever since been intoning the refrain, "Judge Jones said it, I believe it, that settles it." Unfortunately, the judge knows almost nothing of what he's talking about. In declaring ID to be a religious belief he simply parroted the approved position of the Darwinian establishment. The rationale he gives for his conclusion is paper thin, so, his proclamation notwithstanding, the controversy continues.

We might pause to marvel that so many people who believe ID is a religious theory could not even define what a religion, and a religious belief, are. We might also ask why so many people do believe ID to be "religious"? Here are some of the reasons we hear from those who agree with Judge Jones:

Sometimes we're told that ID is religious because it invokes a supernatural entity. But what does it mean to be supernatural? Is something supernatural if it is other than the natural universe? If so, what is it about being extra-cosmic that makes it a religious entity? The belief, commonly discussed in science books, that there are other universes besides our own is surely not a religious belief yet these are entities which transcend our universe. If it is not religious to believe that there are universes which reside beyond our own, why is it religious to believe that there's an intelligence which resides beyond our universe?

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because the designer must be the Christian God. What does the critic mean, however, by the term "God," and why must the Christian God be the designer? The God of traditional theism is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, eternal, necessary, omnipresent, and personal. Why must the designer who creates the universe and life possess these attributes? Why couldn't the designer be a being of considerable power and intelligence without being the omnicompetent God of Christian belief? To insist that the designer must be God, i.e. that than which nothing greater can be conceived, as Anselm famously defined him, is an inappropriate and illogical attempt by ID's opponents to force religion into a theory that is not inherently religious.

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because its advocates are frequently Christians. But if the metaphysical commitments of a theory's advocates are all that are necessary to make a theory religious why is the naturalistic Darwinian view not considered to be an atheistic belief since certainly many of its advocates are atheists? Furthermore, if the naturalistic view is indeed an atheistic hypothesis why is it permitted to be taught in our schools?

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because the entity that it posits can't be detected and has to be accepted on faith. But what is meant by saying that the designer can't be detected? Does it mean that we can't see the designer and have no direct evidence that there is one? Or does it mean that the designer is in principle undetectable? If it means the former, we should point out that there are dozens of entities which scientists study which cannot be directly observed - quarks and neutrinos, for example - but they can be studied and their existence inferred from their effects. Likewise, there is abundant evidence of design in our world from which we can infer the existence of a designer. It may be that we can't study the designer directly right now because our technology doesn't allow it, but that doesn't mean that we'll never be able to study it.

If the above claim means that the designer, being transcendent, is in principle undetectable then we might ask how that makes it different from the multiverse which is believed to transcend our world and the existence of which scientists nevertheless hold out hope of one day being able to confirm?

A century and a half ago there was very little we could learn about atoms, the cell, or the composition of the stars because we had no good way to observe these things, nor could we imagine ever being able to do so. Since then advances in technology have made them accessible to us. Perhaps a century from now technology will also enable us to observe and study the cosmic architect - that is, if it still exists.

We don't know that the designer does still exist because ID, not being a religious belief, does not identify the designer with the eternal God of traditional theism who cannot not exist. Only those who don't understand ID or who choose to misrepresent it, a group which includes almost all of its opponents, some of its advocates, and Judge Jones, do that.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hard Truths

A moderate Muslim is given a voice in the LA Times and offers us two truths about Muslims, one of which is that there are no moderate Muslims.

Be that as it may, his essay is worth reading. The writer, Mansoor Ijaz, says, for example, that:

I am an American by birth and a Muslim by faith. For many of my American friends, I am a voice of reason in a sea of Islamist darkness, while many Muslims have called me an "Uncle Tom" for ingratiating myself with the vested interests they seek to destroy through their violence. Mostly, though, I try not to ignore the harsh realities the followers of my religion are often unwilling to face.

The first truth is that most Muslim ideologues are hypocrites. What has Osama bin Laden done for the victims of the 2004 tsunami or the shattered families who lost everything in the Pakistani earthquake last year? He did not build one school, offer one loaf of bread or pay for one vaccination. And yet he, not the devout Muslim doctors from California and Iowa who repair broken limbs and lives in the snowy peaks of Kashmir, speaks the loudest for what Muslims allegedly stand for. He has succeeded in presenting himself as the defender of Islam's poor, and the Western media has taken his jihadist message all the way to the bank.

The hypocrisy only starts there. Muslims and Arabs have done pitifully little to help improve the capacity of the Palestinian people to be good neighbors to their Israeli brethren. Take the money spent by any Middle Eastern royal family at a London hotel or Geneva resort during one month and you could build enough schools and medical clinics to take care of 1,000 Palestinian children for a year. Yet rather than educate and feed Palestinian and Muslim children so they may learn to settle differences through dialogue and debate, instead of by throwing rocks and wearing bombs, the Muslim "haves" put on a few telethons to raise paltry sums for the "have nots" to alleviate the guilt over their palatial gilded cages.

The most interesting graph, however, is this one:

In fact, the most glaring truth is that Islam's mobsters fear the West has it right: that we have perfected the very system Islam's holy scriptures urged them to learn and practice. And having failed in their mission to lead their masses, they seek any excuse to demonize those of us in the West and to try to bring us down. They know they are losing the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, for life in all its different dimensions, and so they prepare themselves, and us, for Armageddon by starting fires everywhere in a display of Islamic unity intended to galvanize the masses they cannot feed, clothe, educate or house.

Whether this is entirely true or not, it contains an excellent insight. The West, whose values were shaped by Christian influence and where Christians still seek to fulfill the mandate given by Christ to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, is really the only source of compassion and succor in the world for those who suffer. The wealthy, oil-besotted Arabs do little for those they're in the best position to help, and non-theistic Asian nations have hardly distinguished themselves by their altruism.

It is Christianity which is the hope of the world's destitute, and were that flame ever to flicker and go out, as the secularists among us fervently hope it will, the world will rapidly descend into a Hobbesian nightmare of war of every man against every man. Once Christianity no longer provides the impetus for relief to the suffering stranger, there will not be a different impetus, there will be no impetus. Those who, like the people devastated by the tsunami in 2003, will suffer with no hope of rescue or relief.