Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rick Santorum

The New York Times has a column by David Brooks that a friend passed along and which one wishes every Pennsylvanian, indeed every American, would read. The complete essay follows:

Every poll suggests that Rick Santorum will lose his race to return to the U.S. Senate. That's probably good news in Pennsylvania's bobo suburbs, where folks regard Santorum as an ideological misfit and a social blight. But it's certainly bad for poor people around the world.

For there has been at least one constant in Washington over the past 12 years: almost every time a serious piece of antipoverty legislation surfaces in Congress, Rick Santorum is there playing a leadership role.

In the mid-1990s, he was a floor manager for welfare reform, the most successful piece of domestic legislation of the past 10 years. He then helped found the Renewal Alliance to help charitable groups with funding and parents with flextime legislation.

More recently, he has pushed through a stream of legislation to help the underprivileged, often with Democratic partners. With Dick Durbin and Joe Biden, Santorum has sponsored a series of laws to fight global AIDS and offer third world debt relief. With Chuck Schumer and Harold Ford, he's pushed to offer savings accounts to children from low-income families. With John Kerry, he's proposed homeownership tax credits. With Chris Dodd, he backed legislation authorizing $860 million for autism research. With Joe Lieberman he pushed legislation to reward savings by low-income families.

In addition, he's issued a torrent of proposals, many of which have become law: efforts to fight tuberculosis; to provide assistance to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries; to provide housing for people with AIDS; to increase funding for Social Services Block Grants and organizations like Healthy Start and the Children's Aid Society; to finance community health centers; to combat genocide in Sudan.

I could fill this column, if not this entire page, with a list of ideas, proposals and laws Santorum has poured out over the past dozen years. It's hard to think of another politician who has been so active and so productive on these issues.

Like many people who admire his output, I disagree with Santorum on key matters like immigration, abortion, gay marriage. I'm often put off by his unnecessarily slashing style and his culture war rhetoric.

But government is ultimately not about the theater or the light shows of public controversy, it's about legislation and results. And the substance of Santorum's work is impressive. Bono, who has worked closely with him over the years, got it right: "I would suggest that Rick Santorum has a kind of Tourette's disease; he will always say the most unpopular thing. But on our issues, he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."

Santorum doesn't have the jocular manner of most politicians. His colleagues' eyes can glaze over as he lectures them on the need to, say, devote a week of Senate floor time to poverty. He's not the most social member of the club. Many politicians praise family values and seem to spend as little time as possible with their own families, but Santorum is at home almost constantly. And there is sometimes a humorlessness to his missionary zeal.

But no one can doubt his rigor. Jonathan Rauch of The National Journal wrote the smartest review of Santorum's book, "It Takes a Family." Rauch noted that while Goldwaterite conservatives see the individual as the essential unit of society, Santorum sees the family as the essential unit.

Rauch observed, "Where Goldwater denounced collectivism as the enemy of the individual, Santorum denounces individualism as the enemy of the family." That belief has led Santorum in interesting and sometimes problematical directions, but the argument itself is a serious one. His discussion of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, for example, is as sophisticated as anything in Barack Obama's recent book. If Santorum were pro-choice, he'd be a media star and a campus hero.

The bottom line is this: If serious antipoverty work is going to be done, it's going to emerge from a coalition of liberals and religious conservatives. Without Santorum, that's less likely to happen. If senators are going to be honestly appraised, it's going to require commentators who can look beyond the theater of public controversy and at least pretend to care about actual legislation. Santorum has never gotten a fair shake from the media.

And so after Election Day, the underprivileged will probably have lost one of their least cuddly but most effective champions.

Santorum is a wonderful example of "compassionate conservatism". He embodies so much of what voters claim they want their politicians to be, but he's about to fall victim to an adversary media and an uninformed public. The media doesn't care about qualifications or accomplishments but cares only about three things: Party label, the candidate's stance on abortion, and his stance on the war.

Thus Santorum has three strikes against him and, short of a surge in Republican turnout, he will be replaced next week by a man, Bob Casey, whose only qualifications for the office seem to be that he has the right party affiliation, the right stance on getting out of Iraq, and his daddy was a popular governor. Santorum will lose the election, if he does, largely because the public simply hasn't taken the trouble to compare him with his opponent. It's the sort of thing that sours people on American politics.

The Milk of Human Kindness

Mike Adams reports on an abortive confrontation with uber-Darwinian P.Z. Myers at TownHall.com. Myers is widely known for his kind, gentle and irenic demeanor evidenced by this excerpt from his blog the day before Adams' lecture at Myers' university:

"Mike S. Adams, columnist for TownHall, Horowitzian shill, anti-feminist, creationist clown, homophobic bigot, warrior for free speech, professional racist, gun kook, academic-by-accident, beauty contest judge, and just generally contemptible far, far right-wing nutcase."

"I'm very disappointed in our students. We're far off the beaten track and we don't get that many speakers passing through our area, and they had to go exhibit the poor taste to invite this sorry sack of rethuglican excreta to our campus. Couldn't they have at least tried to find an intelligent conservative to bring out here? Why'd they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for this guy? At least we're seeing our rather dismal right-wing campus rag's fading credibility implode with their sponsorship of such a low-wattage guest speaker."

Well, okay, maybe he's not exactly kind, but such qualities are relative among the victims of arrested development who travel in Prof. Myers' political circles. I mean it could have been worse. He could have called him a "Bush-lover".

Read how the confrontation between the two antagonists ended up at the link. Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.


A number of thoughtful responses to recent posts grace our Feedback page. Check them out.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Do They Want Us to Win?

Byron takes us to task on the Feedback page for oversimplifying a complex issue in Yes or No. In that post I wondered why people like Letterman seem unwilling to give a straight answer to the question of whether they want the U.S. to win in Iraq. Winning in Iraq means, of course, accomplishing our stated goals (What else could it mean?), and these from the beginning have been to establish a free nation based on democratic principles, human and civil rights, and a stable government free from the threat of terrorism.

I don't think the question is nearly as complicated as Byron does, but you can be the judge.

Naturalism is Intellectual Suicide

At a recent book signing for his new anti-religion rant The God Delusion (see here and here for our thoughts on the book), Richard Dawkins was asked by American Enterprise Institute's Joe Manzari how he could square his naturalism with taking credit for his book and blaming those who believe in religion for their choice to believe. After all, Manzari pointed out, if materialism is true then everything is subject to a machine-like, inescapable determinacy which renders praise and blame meaningless and inappropriate:

Manzari: Dr. Dawkins thank you for your comments. The thing I have appreciated most about your comments is your consistency in the things I've seen you've written. One of the areas that I wanted to ask you about, and the place where I think there is an inconsistency, and I hoped you would clarify, is that in what I've read you seem to take a position of a strong determinist who says that what we see around us is the product of physical laws playing themselves out; but on the other hand it would seem that you would do things like taking credit for writing this book and things like that. But it would seem, and this isn't to be funny, that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today. I would take it that that would be the consistent position but I wanted to know what you thought about that.

Dawkins: The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It's not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I've ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn't seem to make any sense. Now I don't actually know what I actually think about that, I haven't taken up a position about that, it's not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don't feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, "Oh well he couldn't help doing it, he was determined by his molecules." Maybe we should... I sometimes... Um... You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won't start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that's what we all ought to... Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is "Oh they were just determined by their molecules." It's stupid to punish them. What we should do is say "This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced." I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood. And so again I might take a ...

Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views?

Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue.

Nothing to do with his views on religion? It has everything to do with them. If determinism is true then his views on religion are based on what he has been caused to believe by the environmental and genetic factors that have shaped all of his beliefs since he was conceived. The truth of determinism is perhaps a factor in that belief, but it is only one factor among many, and his decision to oppose religion was not freely chosen by him but rather a decision which he could not escape.

This is the great dilemma of naturalism. If it is true it entails determinism, as Dawkins affirms, but if determinism is true it destroys intellectual and moral life. Someday perhaps naturalists like Dawkins will see the absolutely suicidal nature of their embrace of atheism.

Yes or No

Why do people on the Left have a hard time giving a straight yes or no answer to the question whether they want the U.S. to actually win in Iraq? Is it that they really don't know whether they do or not?

Do They Know What They're Getting?

My friend Byron promises me that I will enjoy this article by Andrew Ferguson at the Weekly Standard about James Webb. Webb is the unlikely Democratic challenger contesting Republican George Allen's Virginia senate seat in November. Byron is right about Ferguson having written a good article, and he does a nice job of showing how the Democrats in Virginia are swallowing an awful lot of principle in order to support Webb who is about as far right as a politician gets these days. Webb's only attraction for the Democrats is that although he is a hawk and a decorated Vietnam war hero he has been against the Iraq war from the beginning. Such a stance, in the eyes of Democrats, evidently covers a host of other sins which are conveniently papered over by the media.

But there's more to Webb than even Ferguson's piece brings to light. It all works together to make this Virginia race especially fun to watch. As I wrote to Byron:

Webb certainly is an anomaly, and it's amusing to watch the liberal networks try to dance around the problems he poses for the Democrat party. Not only are there problems such as were outlined in the WS article, but just when the media was blasting his opponent, George Allen, for displaying a Confederate flag in his office, it was discovered that Webb named his son after Robert E. Lee. Just when the media was delighting in Allen's use of the epithet macaca, it was revealed that Webb used to drive with his teenage buddies through Watts during the riot years yelling "nigger" at blacks and aiming toy guns at them to scare them witless. Just when the media were soaring in the throes of ecstasy recounting James Foley's disgusting e-correspondence with boys, they find out that Webb's novels are laced with disgusting allusions to pederastic sex and other forms of socially unacceptable sexual expression.

Even so, he's not a Republican, and so lots of people will vote for him despite the fact that they strongly disagree with him on almost everything he stands for except the Iraq war, ignoring the fact that he's probably a bigger hawk than anyone in the current administration.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Recommended Reading

If you happen to be looking for something to read for a spiritual shot in the arm, check out anything by Andrew Murray (1828-1917). If you're not, check it out anyway. Some background can be found here.

Murray was a prolific writer. I saw over 45 titles on a web site and I would suggest that any serious Christian's library is incomplete without at least one of them.

Recently a dear friend lent me Andrew Murray on Prayer which is actually a collection of six of his books. The first book in Andrew Murray on Prayer is titled Abide In Christ. It's divided into 31 chapters each one being like a mini-sermon, intended to be read one for each day of the month as a devotional. Here's chapter 3 of Abide in Christ, Trusting Him to Keep You.

"I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus." - Phil. 3:12

More than one admits that it is a sacred duty and a blessed privilege to abide in Christ, but shrinks back continually before the question: Is it possible, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Saviour? Eminent Christians, to whom special opportunities of cultivating this grace have been granted, may attain to it; for the large majority of disciples, whose life, by a divine appointment, is so fully occupied with the affairs of this life, it can scarce be expected. The more they hear of this life, the deeper their sense of its glory and blessedness, and there is nothing they would not sacrifice to be made partakers of it. But they are too weak, too unfaithful - they never can attain to it.

Dear souls! how little they know that the abiding in Christ is just meant for the weak, and so beautifully suited to their feebleness. It is not the doing of some great thing, and does not demand that we first lead a very holy and devoted life. No, it is simply weakness entrusting itself to a Mighty One to be kept - the unfaithful one casting self on One who is altogether trustworthy and true. Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us - the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform.

It is this quiet expectation and confidence, resting on the word of Christ that in Him there is an abiding place prepared, which is so sadly wanting among Christians. They scarce take the time or the trouble to realize that when He says "Abide IN ME," He offers Himself, the Keeper of Israel that slumbers not nor sleeps, with all His power and love, as the living home of the soul, where the mighty influences of His grace will be stronger to keep than all their feebleness to lead astray. The idea they have of grace is this - that their conversion and pardon are God's work, but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians, and follow Jesus. There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs. They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness. No, wandering one; as it was Jesus who drew you when He spake "Come," so it is Jesus who keeps you when He says "Abide." The grace to come and the grace to abide are alike from Him alone. That word Come, heard, meditated on, accepted, was the cord of love that drew you nigh; that word Abide is even so the band with which He holds you fast and binds you to Himself. Let the soul but take time to listen to the voice of Jesus. "In me," He says, "is thy place - in my almighty arms. It is I who love thee so, who speak Abide in me; surely thou canst trust me." The voice of Jesus entering and dwelling in the soul cannot but call for the response: "Yes, Saviour, in Thee I can, I will abide."

Abide in me: These words are no law of Moses, demanding from the sinful what they cannot perform. They are the command of love, which is ever only a promise in a different shape. Think of this until all feeling of burden and fear and despair pass away, and the first thought that comes as you hear of abiding in Jesus be one of bright and joyous hope: it is for me, I know I shall enjoy it. You are not under the law, with its inexorable Do, but under grace, with its blessed Believe what Christ will do for you. And if the question be asked, "But surely there is something for us to do?" the answer is, "Our doing and working are but the fruit of Christ's work in us." It is when the soul becomes utterly passive, looking and resting on what Christ is to do, that its energies are stirred to their highest activity, and that we work most effectually because we know that He works in us. It is as we see in that word IN ME the mighty energies of love reaching out after us to have us and to hold us, that all the strength of our will is roused to abide in Him.

This connection between Christ's work and our work is beautifully expressed in the words of Paul: "I follow after, if that I may apprehend that whereunto I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus." It was because he knew that the mighty and the faithful One had grasped him with the glorious purpose of making him one with Himself, that he did his utmost to grasp the glorious prize. The faith, the experience, the full assurance, "Christ hath apprehended me," gave him the courage and the strength to press on and apprehend that whereunto he was apprehended. Each new insight of the great end for which Christ had apprehended and was holding him, roused him afresh to aim at nothing less.

Paul's expression, and its application to the Christian life, can be best understood if we think of a father helping his child to mount the side of some steep precipice. The father stands above, and has taken the son by the hand to help him on. He points him to the spot on which he will help him to plant his feet, as he leaps upward. The leap would be too high and dangerous for the child alone; but the father's hand is his trust, and he leaps to get hold of the point for which his father has taken hold of him. It is the father's strength that secures him and lifts him up, and so urges him to use his utmost strength.

Such is the relation between Christ and you, O weak and trembling believer! Fix first your eyes on the whereunto for which He has apprehended you. It is nothing less than a life of abiding, unbroken fellowship with Himself to which He is seeking to lift you up. All that you have already received - pardon and peace, the Spirit and His grace - are but preliminary to this. And all that you see promised to you in the future - holiness and fruitfulness and glory everlasting - are but its natural outcome. Union with Himself, and so with the Father, is His highest object. Fix your eye on this, and gaze until it stand out before you clear and unmistakeable: Christ's aim is to have me abiding in Him.

And then let the second thought enter your heart: Unto this 1 am apprehended of Christ. His almighty power hath laid hold on me, and offers now to lift me up to where He would have me. Fix your eyes on Christ. Gaze on the love that beams in those eyes, and that asks whether you cannot trust Him, who sought and found and brought you nigh, now to keep you. Gaze on that arm of power, and say whether you have reason to be assured that He is indeed able to keep you abiding in Him.

And as you think of the spot whither He points - the blessed whereunto for which He apprehended you - and keep your gaze fixed on Himself, holding you and waiting to lift you up, O say, could you not this very day take the upward step, and rise to enter upon this blessed life of abiding in Christ? Yes, begin at once, and say, "O my Jesus, if Thou biddest me, and if Thou engagest to lift and keep me there, I will venture. Trembling, but trusting, I will say: Jesus, I do abide in Thee."

My beloved fellow-believer, go, and take time alone with Jesus, and say this to Him. I dare not speak to you about abiding in Him for the mere sake of calling forth a pleasing religious sentiment. God's truth must at once be acted on. O yield yourself this very day to the blessed Saviour in the surrender of the one thing He asks of you: give up yourself to abide in Him. He Himself will work it in you. You can trust Him to keep you trusting and abiding.

And if ever doubts again arise, or the bitter experience of failure tempt you to despair, just remember where Paul found His strength: "I am apprehended of Jesus Christ." In that assurance you have a fountain of strength. From that you can look up to the whereunto on which He has set His heart, and set yours there too. From that you gather confidence that the good work He bath begun He will also perform. And in that confidence you will gather courage, day by day, afresh to say, " 'I follow on, that I may also apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.' It is because Jesus has taken hold of me, and because Jesus keeps me, that I dare to say: Saviour, I abide in Thee."

I believe our friends at Hearts and Minds can help you out if you'd like to read more from Mr. Murray.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

He Wants Our Vote

Cartoonist Glenn McCoy reads Osama's mind:

Red-Letter Christians

Mark D. Tooley writes a mostly straightforward and informative piece on "Red-Letter Christians" for Front Page Mag. The term Red-Letter Christians refers to the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red and, Tooley informs us, "these new 'red-letter' communicators and activists want to steer Christians away from concerns about marriage and abortion and towards anti-war activism and environmental causes":

Red-Letter evangelist Tony Campolo, in a column for Beliefnet.com, explained earlier this year what this new activist group is all about:

"We are evangelicals who are troubled by what is happening to poor people in America; who are disturbed over environmental policies that are contributing to global warming; who are dismayed over the increasing arrogance of power shown in our country's militarism; who are outraged because government funding is being reduced for schools where students, often from impoverished and dysfunctional homes, are testing poorly; who are upset with the fact that of the 22 industrialized nations America is next to last in the proportion of its national budget (less than two-tenths of 1 percent) that is designated to help the poor of third-world countries; and who are broken-hearted over discrimination against women, people of color, and those who suffer because of their sexual orientation."

Campolo insists that his fellow Red-Letters are not Republicans or Democrats but are simply people of faith who want to "jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics."

Toward the end of his essay, Tooley expresses his own concerns about the movement:

In short, Red Letter Christians want to demote the issues to which the Bible speaks directly in favor of other issues dear to the secular Left that rely on a grossly expansionist interpretation of the Bible. For the Red Letter crowd, Jesus' concern about the poor means a larger federal welfare state. The Bible's story of God's creation of the earth must mean that the U.S. has to endorse the Kyoto Accord. Messianic prophecies about world peace are interpreted to demand disarmament and abrogation of U.S. sovereignty.

In reality, the Bible and Christian tradition outline the plan of salvation and a code for decent living. They offer broad principles for ordering human life; they do not, as the Red Letter crowd wants to claim, offer specific legislative policy demands that conform conveniently with the platform of the Democratic Party.

In other words, the Bible commands us to do justice and care for the poor. It doesn't instruct us on what, in our particular socio-historical circumstance, is the most effective or just way to carry out that mandate. Good people can disagree on whether tax cuts for the better off are, or are not, an effective way to deal with poverty. The Red-Letter folk, however, seem to impose their liberalism on Scripture, interpreting it as demanding of us pretty much what modern liberals want to see enacted into law. They sometimes seem genuinely puzzled by the fact, for example, that other Christians don't see in the Bible a mandate for the modern social welfare state or for pacifism.

The irony of this is that Leftist Christians often complain that Republicans identify conservative ideology with the will of God which, they rightly say, is a form of idolatry. But then they turn around and write books like God's Politics in which they argue that if God were president he'd run the country pretty much the way Ted Kennedy would.

I think this is a problem people like Jim Wallis and others who claim to be offering a political third way create for themselves. Their ideological alternative, when articulated, sounds very much like a Nancy Pelosi speech and, as such, causes some to wonder whether their third way follows from a faithful rendering of Scripture or whether Scripture is being interpreted to conform to their political convictions.

Friday, October 27, 2006

<i>The God Delusion</i>

A review of Richard Dawkins' new book The God Delusion by atheist Kenan Malik in the UK Telegraph is as revealing about Malik in particular and atheism in general as it is about Dawkins' book. Malik, who, like most reviewers, doesn't care for the book, nevertheless thinks that Dawkins offers devastating arguments against belief in God:

Dawkins is Britain's most famous atheist and in The God Delusion he gives eloquent vent to his uncompromising views. He begins by demolishing the two major arguments in favour of religion. For many people it is impossible to imagine how the complexity and intricate design of the natural world could have arisen by chance. Hence the need for a conscious designer - God.

It is true, Dawkins responds, that the probability of life having arisen by chance is as vanishingly small as the likelihood of a Jumbo Jet having being constructed by a hurricane sweeping through a scrap yard. But how much more improbable is the idea of an intelligent designer capable of taking all that scrap and turning it into a 747? After all, that intelligent designer, a far more complex entity than a Jumbo Jet, had himself somehow to be created. Evolution, Dawkins suggests, provides the only coherent alternative to both blind chance and 'intelligent design' because it creates complexity through innumerable small steps, each of which is 'slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so.'

There is so much askew with this analysis that I despair of being able to fit it all in one post. Nevertheless, I'll try:

1. How does one assign a probablitity to the scenario of a designer turning scrap into a jet? How do Dawkins and Malik know that such a feat by a cosmic designer is improbable? Clearly, they don't. They apparently assume that God doesn't exist and then conclude from that fact that it's therefore highly improbable that a designer created the universe. In other words they employ as a premise the very conclusion they want the reader to accept. This is called begging the question.

2. Why does Dawkins say, and Malik tacitly agree, that the designer has to have been created? Why do they assume that the designer could not have necessary existence? That is, why assume that the designer is not a being which does not depend upon anything else for its existence? It is certainly possible that such a being exist and that it is ontologically responsible for the design of our world.

3. Even if it is granted that the designer might require a cause how does that help the atheist? Dawkins is in the position of demanding that someone be able to say who designed the computer before he is permitted to claim that the computer is designed. The demand appears for all the world like an instance of changing the subject rather than having to meet the evidence for design head on.

We have good reason to believe that the universe requires a cause (i.e. it has contingent existence), and it may be that the cause of the universe is itself also caused, but so what? Once Dawkins grants that the universe has a cause beyond itself, a transcendent creator, he's pretty much forfeited the argument to the Intelligent Design people. What the ID theorists want to assert is simply that the universe is designed by an intelligent agent. Dawkins replies: "Okay, but what designed the intelligent agent?" - not seeing that the question comes too late to salvage his argument. The obvious answer that the IDer can give to the question is that he has no idea who or what designed the designer, nor does it matter. All he's arguing for is the proposition that the universe is intentionally designed. More than that he neither does, nor can, say.

4. Dawkins and Malik seem to misunderstand the nature of probablities. Probabilities are not additive, they are multiplicative. An innumerable number of very small probabilities does not add up to a large probability. It yields, rather, an impossibly tiny probability. In other words, the probablity of three events occuring together, if the probability of each event is 50%, is not 150%, it's .5 x .5 x .5 = .125 or 12.5 %. Increasing the number of highly improbable events does not make them more probable, it makes them less so. Surely Dawkins and Malik understand this.

The second major argument for God is that He is a necessary source of moral values. 'If God is dead, everything is permitted,' as Dostoevsky put it. In fact research shows that the moral sentiments of believers and atheists are not that distinct.

Malik misses the point here. The problem is not that believers and atheists hold different moral values, it is that if atheism is true there is no significant meaning to the concept of moral right and wrong. Atheists in their personal lives can certainly adopt the same values as believers, but the decision to do so is purely arbitrary. They could as easily adopt the opposite values and there would have been nothing wrong with doing so, because right and wrong are purely subjective in a Godless world.

Take, for example, the value of not hurting others. Why should someone adopt this rule of conduct? Why is it wrong to hurt people? Some might say it's wrong because we don't want people to hurt us, and that is certainly true, but that's not a reason to refrain from hurting others. There's no reason why I shouldn't hurt someone if I want to and if I can get away with it. It's certainly not wrong to do so, unless there's a moral authority which transcends human autonomy which forbids us from treating others unjustly.

Morality flows out of God's nature like light flows out of the sun. Were the sun not to exist neither would sunlight. Were God not to exist neither would moral value. Nothing, as Dostoyevsky noted, would be "wrong" in a moral sense.

In any case, Dawkins points out, moral values are not fixed but have changed over time. Where once slavery was justified through Biblical invocation, today most Christians believe that the practice is contrary to God's will. It is not that God has changed his mind but rather that, as social beliefs have progressed, so Christians have begun interpreting God's word differently. But if we can make up our own minds as to what is right and wrong, Dawkins asks, why do we need God in the first place?

This is rather surprising coming from someone of Dawkins' eminence. That opinions of what constitutes right and wrong behavior change is no argument against the assertion that God is a necessary condition for moral value. At most it suggests only that God's existence is not a sufficient condition for a proper apprehension of what is right and what is wrong. Moreover, there are certain moral principles that do not evolve over time, like the principles of doing justice and showing compassion. These are timeless although the way we implement them in any given age may change with circumstances.

The important point, however, is that if God does not exist there is nothing wrong with being unjust or uncompassionate. Others may not like that you choose injustice over justice, but what they like or dislike is not morally binding upon you.

Take, for instance, Dawkins's claim that religion is a form of child abuse. He believes with the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey that children 'have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas' and that 'we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe in the literal truth of the Bible than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out'.

If parents are going to be prevented by law from teaching their children bad ideas we might start with the idea that we have emerged by sheer happenstance out of the cosmic goop and that as finely tuned as the universe is, and as living things are, it's all just a colossal accident. We may also, if we're going to ban bad ideas, forbid parents from teaching their children that right and wrong, meaning and purpose, justice and injustice, human rights and dignity can all exist even if there is no God. That's more than just a bad idea, it elevates an impossibility to the status of a conviction.

Malik closes with this:

The moral of the story is that if you want an understanding of evolution or an argument for atheism, there are few better guides than Richard Dawkins.

If Dawkins is the expert who instructs us in how to demolish theism the theist certainly has little to fear. The explosives he employs as instruments of demolition are more dud than dynamite.

The Real Story

Talk radio host Glenn Beck narrates this short video which presents what he calls the real story of Iraq. What the video tells us is important, but it should be kept in mind that there's much more good news about Iraq that the MSM isn't telling us than what Beck can fit into this clip.

The Democratic Lineup

The coming November elections are enormously important for the future of this country which is why it is so distressing that the Democrats seem poised to take over the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate as well. It's not so much that the Democrats are simply not prepared nor qualified to lead the nation in times such as these, but that the campaign they have waged in this election cycle has been so empty of substantive ideas. They have not sought to offer a competing vision of what our nation should be so much as they have simply offered themselves as the "un-Bush".

The fact that the Democrats are touting Barack Obama as presidential timber for 2008 shows the thinness of their talent. With few qualified candidates they must rely on Hillary Clinton, currently a freshman senator from New York, and Obama, who has completed just two years in the Senate and has accomplished next to nothing in that position so far.

The Democrats are a party bereft of ideas. Listening to their candidates in debates and in interviews is frustrating because they rarely give a direct or relevant answer to a question. Sometimes they say nothing in very attractive fashion as Barack Obama does, but it's still nothing. They seem to be counting not on the power of their ideas to sweep them into office but rather on the power of their media allies to convince the public that it's time for a change.

Bob Casey campaigns against Rick Santorum almost solely on the basis of Santorum's record of voting with George Bush 98% of the time. That, and the fact that Santorum maintains a residence near D.C. He refuses to answer simple questions in interviews about what he would do differently than Santorum and how he would do it. Reading his non-answer to questions put to him by a Philadelphia Inquirer interviewer induces in one the uneasy feeling that this potential U.S. senator is little more than an empty suit running on his father's reputation. Worse, in order to achieve that lofty perch he will have to unseat one of the best qualified, best informed, and most effective legislators in the Senate in Rick Santorum. Watch Tim Russert's interview of these two men, compare Casey's answers to those of Santorum, and you'll get a sense of the vast distance between the two.

Another Democratic senatorial candidate, Harold Ford of Tennessee, first denied and then admitted he was at a Playboy Super Bowl party last January. There may have been nothing wrong with being at the party, but if so, why did he deny being there? It's bad enough that politicians lie about the big stuff, but it's crazy that they lie about things they apparently feel they have no reason to feel guilty about. "I like football and I like girls," Ford informs us by way of exculpation, but this just makes him sound Clintonesque and that's not a reassuring quality.

Democrat John Murtha, one of the leading anti-war voices in their party, has been revealed on a never-before-released FBI videotape negotiating a bribe in 1980 about which he has been lying for the past twenty five years. He thinks he's talking to a representative of a rich Saudi, but it's in fact an FBI agent. The serious conversations start at about the twenty minute mark on the tape. Murtha was on the House Ethics committee at the time and intends to run for House majority leader if the Democrats win in November. One supposes that he'll be able to negotiate a lot of bribes from that office. Watch the tape. It'll turn your stomach. And this is the guy passing moral judgment on Bush's policy in Iraq.

Alcee Hastings, who was once impeached by a Democratic Congress for bribery and malfeasance, is in line to chair the House Intelligence Committee should the Democrats succeed in gaining control of the House.

The fact that these two miscreants, Hastings and Murtha, are in line for such important positions if the Democrats prevail on November 7th confirms Republican charges that Democrats don't take national security seriously and certainly can't be trusted with it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Possible Cancer Cure

Here's good news concerning the ongoing search for cures for cancer:

South Korean [scientists] have said they have developed a new genetically altered strain of virus which is highly efficient in targeting and killing cancer cells. The new therapy developed by the team from Yonsei University uses a genetically-engineered form of the adenovirus, which normally causes colds. When injected into cancerous tumors, the virus quickly multiplies in the cancer cells and kills them, the team said.

The new adenovirus can target only cancer cells and does not harm normal cells. Following three rounds of injections, more than 90 percent of cancer cells in the brains, liver, lungs and womb of mice disappeared within 60 days.

There are still many more tests to be done and treatment for humans is probably several years away, but this certainly sounds on the face of it like a wonderful breakthrough.

Happy Quds Day

Even Germany at its nadir in the late 1930s and early 40s never had a celebration as grotesque, as moronic, or as evil as that which Steven Stalinsky reports on in this piece for The New York Sun:

It is disturbing when the entire leadership of one nation, along with hundreds of thousands of its citizens, comes out with celebrations and parades every year that call for the annihilation of another country.

It is more twisted that no world leaders or international bodies, including the United Nations, have denounced the activities surrounding Quds Day, an Iranian holiday introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini that is marked on the last Friday of Ramadan.

Most of the Western press outlets that reported on the popular holiday simply downplayed it as just another "anti-Israel" day. However, this year's revelries focused both on calling for the annihilation of America and embracing Iran's nuclear program.

Among the notable scenes captured were children in Condoleezza Rice costumes; effigies of President Bush, Prime Minister Olmert, and Prime Minister Blair being lit on fire and dragged through the streets; the burning of American and Israeli flags; and hundreds of posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah featuring the caption "I swear to Allah that Israel is weaker than [a] spider house." The posters called for a boycott of such "Israeli" goods as McDonald's, Kit Kat bars, Intel, L'Oreal, Nestl�, Disney, and Marlboro.

"The president of America is like us. That is, he too is inspired ... but [his] inspiration is of the satanic kind. Satan gives inspiration to the president of America."

Mr. Ahmadinejad delivered his Quds Day speech under a banner that read, "Israel must be wiped off the face of the world." He described the holiday as "a day for confrontation between the Islamic faith with the global arrogance."

In another speech, he said Israel was "doomed" and promised that the Israeli "regime will be gone, definitely."

The words "the Zionist regime is a cancerous gland that needs to be uprooted" were written in a communiqu� from the Iranian Foreign Ministry in honor of the holiday. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held a meeting for other Islamic countries' ambassadors to Iran and told them that Israel's existence would be shattered and that death bells were tolling for the Zionists.

A who's who of the Iranian leadership marched in the main Quds Day parade before crowds chanting "death to Israel" and "death to America."

The chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi...."The world arrogance and Zionism today are shivering from Muslim vigilance and are on the threshold of annihilation," he added.

Mr. Rafsanjani also led Quds Day prayers on December 14, 2001. Then, he warned of a coming confrontation between the "pious and martyrdom-seeking forces" and the "highest forces of colonialism," which "might inflame a third World War."

Sadly, Mr. Rafsanjani is considered one of Iran's more moderate leaders.

Sure, these people are buffoons, but buffoons over-flowing with hatred and armed with nuclear weapons are frightfully dangerous buffoons.

Try, if you can, to imagine Americans, or any Western people, celebrating a holiday in such a fashion, and you catch a glimpse of the vast moral and civilizational gulf that exists between the West and the world of Iranian Islam.

Shepherd of the Flock

Jordan Hylden attends a public lecture given by Bishop Gene Robinson, the prelate, you'll remember, who left his wife to live with his boyfriend, and who, perhaps due to his boldness in being willing to sacrifice his family and renounce his marriage vows in order to better accommodate his sexual orientation, subsequently qualified for ordination as a bishop in the Episcopal church.

Mr. Hylden came away from the address somewhat confused by all that he heard there and writes about his puzzlements at First Things. It's at once both a sad and amusing tale.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Do As They Say, Not As They Do

A friend directs us to this link at which we are let in on the transportation habits of a few of Hollywood's demigods who urge us to cut back on our consumption of fuel, who admonish us to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and who ask us to follow their example and drive smaller more fuel efficient vehicles like they do.

But then why do they fly by private jet?

Is Jesus a Liberal?

Joe Carter takes on the interesting question whether Jesus is a Liberal. He examines Jesus in the light of ten criteria suggested by law professor Geoffrey Stone which define what it means to be a liberal and concludes that the answer is .... yes and no.

I think Carter's analysis based on Stone's ten criteria is correct, but I have some disagreements with Stone's criteria. For instance, the first one states that:

1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others.

It's true of classical liberalism that its adherents embraced this principle, but it's not the case that those who call themselves liberals today hold self-criticism and open-minded inquiry to be a value. Indeed, it is in the strongholds of contemporary liberalism, the universities, where we find this ideal most frequently ravaged and stultified by political correctness and inquisitorial speech codes.

2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference.

Unfortunately, the modern liberal is himself tolerant and respectful only of those things of which he approves. He is completely intolerant, in many cases, of things like racism, sexism, homophobia, tobacco, gun rights, and religion. He is tolerant of those who praise and support left-wing totalitarianisms but absolutely intolerant of anyone who might support right-wing authoritarianism.

3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate.

Perhaps so, but when incidents like the Columbia University episode occur in which speakers are prevented from presenting their views by thuggish tactics, there's usually very little said about it by liberals. When public debates or lectures are disrupted it's invariably people of the left who do it.

4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind.

This may have been true prior to 1970, but since then liberals have sought to have their legislative agenda enacted not through the peoples' congress but through the courts where the people have no voice. Liberals oppose the overturn of the constitutionally egregious Roe v. Wade because they fear having the issue thrown back into the state legislatures where the people have far more influence than they do with the Supreme Court.

Anyway, read Carter's assessment of whether or not Jesus was a liberal at the link.

More Rudeness on the Left

Too bad Connecticut Republican senatorial candidate Alan Schlesinger doesn't have a snowball's chance of winning on November 7th. We could use people like him in the Senate, but sadly, a vote for Schlesinger only makes more likely a victory for Ned (the Red) Lamont.

At a recent debate between the candidates a couple of hecklers tried to shout down Independent Joe Leiberman, who unfortunately reacted with a somewhat hang-dog wimpishness. Of course, Lamont didn't react at all because, after all, these were his peeps out in the audience shouting Old Joe down, but Schlesinger did.

Watch the episode here.

Parenthetically, why are people who try to prevent others from voicing their ideas invariably people on the left? Is there something about being a liberal/lefty that carries with it a penchant for rudeness and obnoxiousness? Just asking.

Demolishing the Pillars of Modernity

Bruce Chapman at Evolution News and Views has a piece about a review by atheistic philosopher Thomas Nagel of Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, which Nagel finds unsatisfying. He begins his review with this observation:

In his new book, he [Dawkins] attacks religion with all the weapons at his disposal, and as a result the book is a very uneven collection of scriptural ridicule, amateur philosophy, historical and contemporary horror stories, anthropological speculations, and cosmological scientific argument.

The review itself is available at The New Republic (by subscription), but Chapman provides a good summary of it:

Examining the inevitable clash of chance and necessity with design, Nagel describes the "overwhelming improbability of (an original self-replicating molecule)...coming into existence by chance, simply through the laws of physics...Dawkins (he goes on) recognizes the problem, but his response to it is pure hand-waving."

Darwinism and Dawkins reach a theoretical as well as factual dead end on origins. "That is why the argument from design is still alive, and why scientists who find the conclusion of that argument unacceptable feel there must be a purely physical explanation of why the origin of life is not as physically improbable as it seems." Multiverse theories are merely an unpersuasive and "desperate device to avoid the demand for a real explanation."

He agrees with Dawkins that "the issue of design versus purely physical causation is a scientific question." (We agree with them both on that. Would someone please tell Judge Jones and the ACLU?) But, paradoxically, to try to win the debate on that question, Dawkins and other neo-Darwinists are reduced to the philosophical "reductionist project" that Nagel says "tries to reclaim some of the originally excluded aspects of the world, by analyzing them in physical-that is, behavioral or neurophysiological-terms; but it denies reality to what cannot be so reduced. I believe the project is doomed-that conscious experience, thought, value, and so forth are not illusions, even though they cannot be identified with physical facts..."

Dawkins also would yoke all religion to the sins of the kind of fanatics who attacked on 9/11. Of course, fanatical religionists are bad, Nagel notes, but that is hardly an argument against design. "Blind faith and dogma are dangerous; the view that we can make ultimate sense of the world only by understanding it as the expression of mind or purpose is not," he concludes.

As Chapman points out in the beginning of his article, much of the best intellectual work done in the last half century has been in the service of deconstructing, refuting and discrediting the intellectual edifices built by the great architects of modernity, particularly Marx and Freud. It certainly looks as if Darwin is next on the list.

Viewpoint will have more on The God Delusion this weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sticking With Us

Brit Tim Hames of the UK Times Online responds to colleague Matthew Parris who urges Britain to abandon their commitment to U.S. foreign policy goals in Iraq:

I am not inclined to castigate the US Administration for what has occurred in Iraq. As Matthew correctly says, it is far from obvious that deploying many more troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled would have made sense, or that the "de-Baathification" of the Iraqi Army and bureaucracy was a miscalculation. For a start, "de-Baathification" was scarcely a deliberate US policy. These institutions simply disintegrated when their leader disappeared. The largest single mistake, in retrospect, rests elsewhere. The problem has not been the Bush Administration underestimating how much Iraqis might come to loathe the West for the "occupation" but a failure to grasp the extent to which, thanks to Saddam, Iraqis had come to fear and hate each other.

That inter-communal hatred is the present cause of Iraq's troubles. American soldiers have died in tragic numbers this month not because of any so-called insurgency that wants to drive the US out of Iraq but because they have been attempting to prevent rival religious and sectarian militias from killing their enemies. The effort to hold together a central government in Baghdad (a drive, ironically, designed to reassure the defeated Sunnis) does not command sufficient consensus to sustain it.

What needs to be done now, as James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, appreciates, is to secure a decentralised settlement and convince the Shia majority to divide the oil revenues in a way that each camp will consider fair. In such a situation, as Kim Howells, the Foreign Office Minister, has outlined, US and British forces could be withdrawn steadily throughout 2007 without chaos.

I would not bet against Iraq's future. That country retains extraordinary attributes. To declare it dead and buried a meagre three years after Saddam's demise is, to me, premature folly.After all, would the recovery of Germany and Japan have been anticipated in 1948, three years after their surrender? Or the fate of Russia accurately assessed in 1994, during the chaos of the Yeltsin years, three years after the Soviet Union was disbanded? Or would anybody have expected that China would be where it is today in 1992, three years after the Tiananmen Square massacre?

The question that those of us in the pro-war camp have to confront is whether by, say, 2010 Iraq, the Middle East and the wider world will be demonstrably the better for Saddam's overthrow than if he and his sadistic sons had been left in power. My answer to that question remains, unambiguously, in the affirmative.

There it is then. Others can choose to condemn the Americans and head for the lifeboats, but not in my name. The offer of Mrs Beckett's assistance is kind, Matthew, yet I do not seek the shelter of a liferaft. I will stay with the ship and take my chances. If the vessel does ultimately capsize, despite my expectations, I will throw a bottle over the side containing the message: "I still think that 'we kicked the door in' is a more noble sentiment than the Little Englander's cry of 'leave those foreigners to their misery'."

Would that our own Democrats and our own media had as much sense and as much loyalty as does Mr. Hames.

What's in a Name?

The New York Post has an excerpt from Mark Steyn's new book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it. Steyn is one of the wittiest commenters on contemporary events, and at one point he makes this rather obvious but no less disturbing observation:

Not long after 9/11, I said, just as an aside, that these days whenever something goofy turns up on the news chances are it involves some fellow called Mohammad.

A plane flies into the World Trade Center? Mohammad Atta.

A sniper starts killing gas station customers around Washington, D.C.? John Allen Muhammad.

A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri.

A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet.

A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed.

A British subject self-detonates in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammad Hanif.

A terrorist cell bombs the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed.

A gang rapist preys on the women of Sydney, Australia? Mohammad Skaf.

A group of Dearborn, Mich., men charged with cigarette racketeering in order to fund Hezbollah? Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, Mohammad Fawzi Zeidan and Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud.

A Canadian terror cell is arrested for plotting to bomb Ottawa and behead the prime minister? Mohammad Dirie, Amin Mohamed Durrani and Yasim Abdi Mohamed.

There certainly does seem to be an appalling correlation between brutal, vicious criminality and people named Muhammed. Wonder why.

Persuading the Norks

Charles Krauthammer makes a case for allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons should North Korea persist in developing a nuclear arsenal. It is truly a shame that it has come to this, but it really makes little sense, for Japan or for us, for Japan to be forced to rely on American protection from North Korea. George Bush won't be president forever, after all.

Some of Krauthammer's strongest points are contained in these paragraphs:

Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago -- even the once-and-no-longer great, such as France; the wannabe great, such as India; and the never-will-be great, such as North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaeda state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the "Dear Leader" shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan's joining this club.

Japan is not just a model international citizen -- dynamic economy, stable democracy, self-effacing foreign policy -- it is also the most important and reliable U.S. ally after only Britain. One of the quieter success stories of recent American foreign policy has been the intensification of the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Tokyo has joined with the United States in the development and deployment of missile defenses and aligned itself with the United States on the neuralgic issue of Taiwan, pledging solidarity should there ever be a confrontation.

The immediate effect of Japan's considering going nuclear would be to concentrate China's mind on denuclearizing North Korea. China calculates that North Korea is a convenient buffer between it and a dynamic, capitalist South Korea bolstered by American troops. China is quite content with a client regime that is a thorn in our side, keeping us tied down while it pursues its ambitions in the rest of Asia. Pyongyang's nukes, after all, are pointed not west but east.

The question Americans have to ask themselves is: Which is better, to try to dissuade the North Koreans by arming Japan or by threatening to bomb the bejabbers out of Pyongyang. No other strategy is likely to work, least of all negotiations.

Negotiations only succeed when the other side is willing to compromise or when they see that there is too great a price to pay for not agreeing to terms. In the case of the North Korean program to build nuclear weapons there can be no compromise. Thus the only way to persuade the Norks is to convince them that proceeding with their nuclear buildup will result in the neutralization of their military. This means either arming Korea's neighbors with nuclear weapons or administering a severe and sustained dose of shock and awe.

The former, entailing as it does the spread of nuclear weapons, is exceedingly undesirable, but the latter will mean war on the Korean peninsula and possibly beyond. Given the choices, a nuclear Japan seems to be the better of two very bad alternatives.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sitting it Out

Ramirez offers his opinion of the silliness of the threat by some Republican voters to sit out this election because of disappointment with their party's shortcomings:

Smuggling Religion into Science Class

We've been told ad nauseum, as you well know, that Intelligent Design should not be taught in schools because it's religious, and religion has no place in public schools, especially in science class. ID is just a Trojan horse used to smuggle religion into public schools, the story goes, but Darwinism is genuine science and as such should be taught to our children in their science classes.

Well. Uncommon Descent has a page full of quotes taken from biology textbooks, many of them used in public high schools which it would be good to review. Here are a couple of examples. Read these and see whether you agree that Darwinists have no religious agenda and that Darwinism carries no religious freight.

"By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous." (Evolutionary Biology, by Douglas J. Futuyma 3rd ed., Sinauer Associates Inc., 1998, p. 5.)

"Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless-a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us." (Biology: Discovering Life by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller 1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992, pg. 152; 2nd ed.. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994, p. 161; emphases in original.)

The real difficulty in accepting Darwin's theory has always been that it seems to diminish our significance. Earlier, astronomy had made it clear that the earth is not the center of the solar universe, or even of our own solar system. Now the new biology asked us to accept the proposition that, like all other organisms, we too are the products of a random process that, as far as science can show, we are not created for any special purpose or as part of any universal design." (Invitation to Biology, by Helena Curtis & N. Sue Barnes 3rd ed., Worth, 1981, pgs. 474-475.)

"The advent of Darwinism posted even greater threats to religion by suggesting that biological relationship, including the origin of humans and of all species, could be explained by natural selection without the intervention of a god. Many felt that evolutionary randomness and uncertainty had replaced a deity having conscious, purposeful, human characteristics. The Darwinian view that evolution is a historical process and present-type organisms were not created spontaneously but formed in a succession of selective events that occurred in the past, contradicted the common religious view that there could be no design, biological or otherwise, without an intelligent designer. ... The variability by which selection depends may be random, but adaptions are not; they arise because selection chooses and perfects only what is adaptive. In this scheme a god of design and purpose is not necessary. Neither religion nor science has irrevocably conquered. Religion has been bolstered by paternalistic social systems in which individuals depend on the beneficiences of those more powerful than they are, as well as the comforting idea that humanity was created in the image of a god to rule over the world and its creatures. Religion provided emotional solace...Nevertheless, faith in religious dogma has been eroded by natural explanations of its mysteries, by a deep understanding of the sources of human emotional needs, and by the recognition that ethics and morality can change among different societies and that acceptance of such values need not depend on religion." (Evolution by Monroe, W. Strickberger 3rd ed., Jones & Bartlett, 2000, pg. 70-71)

There's much more at the link. For some reason this sort of thing elicits no lawsuiits from outraged parents who don't want their tax dollars used to smuggle religion and metaphysics into their children's science class and stuffed down their throats. However, let the school board require teachers to merely inform students that maybe what they're reading in their textbooks isn't the whole story about origins, and the entire scientific establishment, abetted by the ever-vigilant ACLU, mobilizes to support any parent who feels that their child is going to be scarred for life by the constitutional sacrilege.

Ted Kennedy and the KGB

CNS quotes presidential biographer Paul Kengor from his new book (The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism) as having come into possession of a memo written in 1983 from the Soviet KGB chief to General Secretary Yuri Andropov. Kevin Mooney of CNS writes:

In his book, which came out this week, Kengor focuses on a KGB letter written at the height of the Cold War that shows that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) offered to assist Soviet leaders in formulating a public relations strategy to counter President Reagan's foreign policy and to complicate his re-election efforts.

The letter, dated May 14, 1983, was sent from the head of the KGB to Yuri Andropov, who was then General Secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party.

In his letter, KGB head Viktor Chebrikov offered Andropov his interpretation of Kennedy's offer. Former U.S. Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) had traveled to Moscow on behalf of Kennedy to seek out a partnership with Andropov and other Soviet officials, Kengor claims in his book.

At one point after President Reagan left office, Tunney acknowledged that he had played the role of intermediary, not only for Kennedy but for other U.S. senators, Kengor said. Moreover, Tunney told the London Times that he had made 15 separate trips to Moscow.

"There's a lot more to be found here," Kengor told Cybercast News Service. "This was a shocking revelation."

It is not evident with whom Tunney actually met in Moscow. But the letter does say that Sen. Kennedy directed Tunney to reach out to "confidential contacts" so Andropov could be alerted to the senator's proposals.

Specifically, Kennedy proposed that Andropov make a direct appeal to the American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized in August and September of 1983, according to the letter.

"Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S-Soviet relations under Reagan," Kengor said. "But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders."

In other words, if this is true, Senators Kennedy and Tunney and other leftists in our government were conspiring with the Soviets at the height of the cold war to bring about the defeat of an American president. At the very least this is reprehensible. At worst it's treason. It also illustrates the point that liberals and leftists never see any enemies on the left. To them the enemy is always the United States and the Republican party.

Hot Air and Human Events have more on the story.

This whole business offers yet another reason why the Democrats simply cannot be trusted with the national security of this country. Had Ted Kennedy and his allies been successful Reagan would not have been re-elected in 1984, the Berlin Wall would not have fallen and the cold war would not have ended.

NYT: Oops, Our Bad.

The New York Times finally admits that they made a mistake in publishing their "expose" on our secret program of tracking terrorist banking activities. According to Michelle Malkin they only have one excuse: They hated Bush so much that it completely blinded them to their professional obligations and their responsibilities to the nation.

Read her account of of the pathetic mea culpa rendered by Times editor Byron Calame here.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Colbert and Dawkins

Stephen Colbert interviews atheistic Darwinian Richard Dawkins. It's pretty funny. Along the way Dawkins impresses the audience with the question, "If God designed the world then what designed God". Despite the audience's enthusiasm for the retort it's really little more than a red herring. The answer, of course, is 1) nothing, and 2) it doesn't matter.

1) The universe is the totality of all contingent (or designed) things and therefore the creative cause of the universe cannot itself be contingent or else it'd be part of the universe.

2) Once it is agreed that the universe has a creative cause, as is tacitly done in Dawkins' question, the argument is over. In order to pose his question Dawkins has to tacitly accede to the theist's main point which is that the universe has a cause responsible for all of its order, design, and personality. Whether that cause is itself caused by something greater than itself makes no difference to the argument that the universe has a cause outside of itself and does not alter the fact that the theist has won the point.

Soft on National Security

If this turns out to be as it appears it'll be just one more reason why Democrats can't be trusted to handle national security:

WASHINGTON - House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra has suspended a Democratic staff member because of concerns he may have leaked a high-level intelligence assessment to The New York Times last month.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press Thursday night, Rep. Ray LaHood (news, bio, voting record), R-Ill., a committee member, said that an unidentified staffer requested the document from National Intelligence Director John Negroponte three days before the Sept. 23 story about its conclusions.

The staffer received the National Intelligence Estimate on global terror trends on Sept. 21.

"I have no credible information to say any classified information was leaked from the committee's minority staff, but the implications of such would be dramatic," LaHood wrote Hoekstra, R-Mich., late last month. "This may, in fact, be only coincidence, and simply 'look bad.' But coincidence, in this town, is rare."

A spokesman to Hoekstra, Jamal Ware, confirmed that a committee staff member was suspended this week. He said the staff member is being denied access to classified information pending the outcome of a review.

"Chairman Hoekstra considers security highly important, and the coincidence certainly merits a review," he said.

So far there hasn't been much said about this in the MSM, I mean not compared to, say, the really super-important scandals like Dick Cheney's hunting accident, Scooter Libby mentioning that Valerie Plame works for the CIA, and Mark Foley's licentious correspondence with a male page. Those scandals were about really important things and, besides, they featured Republicans.

I wonder what the media would be doing with this story were the suspected leaker of genuinely significant national security information a Republican?

This Week's Feedback

Today we highlight several of the many interesting reader responses we've received to last week's posts. We are taken to task by one reader for Limbo while others offer thoughts on Thirty Eight Ways to Win, YEC v. ID, and one young lady offers a different perspective on Orange Bowl Brawl. Their thoughts can be found on the Feedback page. Enjoy.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Robert T. Miller writing at First Things is made uneasy by word that the Roman Catholic International Theological Commission might abolish the doctrine of limbo, a "place" where children go if they die unbaptized.

The attempt to harmonize the standard theological doctrines of salvation with the perfectly understandable hope that children who die have eternal life has resulted over the centuries in a number of theological contortions, limbo being one of them.

Miller describes limbo as a state wherein, according to Thomas Aquinas:

...the souls of the unbaptized infants enjoy the complete fulfillment of human nature, including a natural knowledge of God, the greatest possible for unaided human reason. The only thing such souls lack is the supernatural vision of God that is possible only through grace, and, according to Aquinas, they do not even regret not having that supernatural vision because they understand that it is a gift over and above anything human nature could merit and so not something they could ever have reasonably hoped to attain. They no more regret not having the beatific vision, Aquinas says, than a peasant regrets not inheriting a kingdom.

In limbo the child neither suffers the torments of hell nor exults in the joys of heaven. It is neither heaven nor hell, which is certainly a better fate than awaits the unfortunate child according to those whose theology follows the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by by Christ....So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word (Chap. X, sec. III).

This suggests the inference that there are infants who die who are not among the elect and which therefore go to hell for eternity. This is difficult, to understate the matter, to reconcile with the notion of a perfectly good and loving God. That such a God would cause to be created persons who live for a few hours and are then consigned to suffer the agonies of hell forever simply because they are human and thus a descendent of Adam is not a proposition one would think to be easy to defend.

Other Christians, wishing to avoid treacherous apologetic terrain, simply assert that all children who die before the "age of accountability" are saved forever by God. This seems much more in keeping with the teaching of Jesus about the love, mercy and compassion of God, but it also presents difficulties of a different kind.

For example, what is the age at which one becomes spiritually accountable and is there Biblical warrant for such an idea? More significantly, if it is granted that children and mental incompetents are saved without having to make a decision for Christ because they simply can't, that seems to crack the door open for the conclusion that perhaps such a decision is not necessary for others as well. If children can't make a decision for Christ because of a lack of comprehension, then neither can those who were born both before and after Christ who never heard the gospel.

And if we allow the possibility that at least some of these might benefit from the work of Christ on the Cross though they know nothing about it, then why not those who have heard the gospel but who for reasons of psychology rather than spiritual hostility find themselves unable to believe it?

We have now wandered far from the reservation staked out by the Westminster Confession and into the regions of what is called Christian inclusivism. Inclusivism is the belief that Christ's death on the cross atones for the sins of all humanity, not just some as in the Reformed view, and that all people are born saved by God's grace until they themselves explicitly reject God and/or spurn His forgiveness and offer of salvation.

This notion may be completely wrong, although it's not easy to see that it is, but it has at least one advantage. It allows us to put aside notions like limbo and unelect children suffering forever for the sin of an ancestor over 10,000 years ago.

According to this view Jesus takes to his bosom every child who dies early. His sacrifice has covered whatever price must be paid for these little ones, so that they can enjoy the presence of God forever. No limbo, no eternal damnation, just unending joy and happiness in the presence of God.

This seems to me to be a much better fit with what the Bible tells us about God than the belief that God allows some infants to be born for no purpose other than to be dispatched to an eternity of misery. If this is wrong, though, and if the Westminster Confession accurately states the way things really stand then parents would actually be doing the moral thing by seeking to have their unwanted children aborted. If the aborted child is one of God's elect then the abortion would not succeed. If the child is not among the elect then the abortion spares them a completely meaningless eternal suffering. Unless, of course, the child is damned from the moment it is conceived in which case it becomes even more difficult to imagine why God would do such a thing.

For Miller's part, he holds fast to the doctrine of limbo:

So, in my view, the argument from the universal salvific will of God is inadequate to support the view that all unbaptized infants are saved....the view that all unbaptized infants are saved is decidedly a modern one, a view very much in the spirit of our times. Ours is a culture that can't bear the thought of anyone going to hell, even the people who, for all the world, seem to deserve it. Thus we have the near universal custom at Christian funerals of proclaiming that the decedent, no matter how morally dissolute his life, is now enjoying the banquet of heaven in the company of the saints, without even a short stay in Purgatory. The spirit of the age hates hell, and so hates limbo as well, which it cannot adequately distinguish from hell.

With due respect to Mr. Miller it seems to me that part of what it means to be a Christian is that one not be able to "bear the thought of anyone going to hell, even the people who, for all the world, seem to deserve it". Does Mr. Miller suggest that we should rejoice that our non-Christian loved ones are destined to everlasting suffering?

Indeed, the spirit of the age does hate hell. This may be the only point of agreement between the spirit of the age and Jesus Christ who Himself hated hell so much that He died so that men, and children, may be spared from it's terrifying maw.

The Possessed

This piece of cheery news comes to us by way of the Drudge Report:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called Israel a "counterfeit and illegitimate regime that cannot survive", in a live broadcast on state television.

"The Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive," he said in a speech to a crowd in the town of Islamshahr in southwestern Tehran.

"The big powers have created this fraud regime and allowed it to commit all kind of crimes to guarantee their interests," he added.

Ahmadinejad sounds for all the world like a psychopath bent upon plunging the world into nuclear war. He's striving strenuously to build a nuclear weapon and scarcely anyone in the world is interested in doing much to stop him except George Bush and the Israelis.

We have said this before, but it bears repeating: The only thing worse than going to war to disarm Iran would be to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

The Threat to Liberty Posed by Gay Rights

We have several times throughout our two and a half years of existence at Viewpoint argued that legalizing gay marriage would have the almost inevitable consequence of opening the door to the legalization of any union which any combination of persons wished to form. Marriage is currently the union of one man and one woman, but once the gender of the persons in the union no longer matters neither will the number. There would be no logical reason why the number of people entering into marriage should be limited to two. Once the Rubicon of gay marriage is crossed courts would eventually and ineluctably compel legislatures to legalize polyamorous unions.

Now comes an article by Maggie Gallagher in the Weekly Standard which claims that another consequence of legalizing gay marriage, or at least legitimizing the arguments which culminate in legalized gay marriage, will be the erosion of both religious liberty and our freedom of speech. As one lawyer puts it in the article "when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict sexual liberty should almost always prevail because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner". Despite the fact that the First Amendment of the constituition guarantees freedom of religion and despite the fact that there is no corresponding constitutional guarantee of sexual liberty, this lawyer asserts that the latter should nevertheless trump the former. This is more than a little disturbing.

A prelude to the coming storm occured last March when Catholic Charities in Boston decided it was getting out of the adoption business because the courts decreed that they had to allow gay couples to adopt children. This violated the teaching of the Catholic church, and so, rather than accede to what they saw as immoral and unbiblical policy, they simply stopped serviung as an adoption agency.

The consequences will not be limited, however, to adoption. Read this excerpt from Gallagher's very informative column:

Consider education. Same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions...in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs. One of (general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, Marc) Stern's big worries right now is a case in California where a private Christian high school expelled two girls who (the school says) announced they were in a lesbian relationship. Stern is not optimistic. And if the high school loses, he tells me, "then religious schools are out of business." Or at least the government will force religious schools to tolerate both conduct and proclamations by students they believe to be sinful.

Stern agrees...that public accommodation laws can and should force truly commercial enterprises to serve all comers. But, he asks, what of other places, such as religious camps, retreats, and homeless shelters? Will they be considered by courts to be places of public accommodation, too? Could a religious summer camp operated in strict conformity with religious principles refuse to accept children coming from same-sex marriages? What of a church-affiliated community center, with a gym and a Little League, that offers family programs? Must a religious-affiliated family services provider offer marriage counseling to same-sex couples designed to facilitate or preserve their relationships?

"Future conflict with the law in regard to licensing is certain with regard to psychological clinics, social workers, marital counselors, and the like," Stern wrote last December--well before the Boston Catholic Charities story broke.

Will speech against gay marriage be allowed to continue unfettered? "Under the American regime of freedom of speech, the answer ought to be easy," according to Stern. But it is not entirely certain, he writes, "because sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace principles will likely migrate to suppress any expression of anti-same-sex-marriage views." Stern suggests how that might work.

In the corporate world the expression of opposition to gay marriage will be suppressed not by gay ideologues but by corporate lawyers who will draw the lines least likely to entangle the company in litigation. Stern likens this to "a paroxysm of prophylaxis--banning 'Jesus saves' because someone might take offense."

Or consider a recent case at William Paterson University, a state school in New Jersey. A senior faculty member sent out a mass email inviting people to attend movies with a gay theme. A student employee, a 63-year-old Muslim named Jihad Daniel, replied to the professor in a private email asking not to receive messages "about 'Connie and Sally' and 'Adam and Steve.'" He went on, "These are perversions. The absence of God in higher education brings on confusion. That is why in these classes the Creator of the heavens and the earth is never mentioned." The result: Daniel received a letter of reprimand for using the "derogatory and demeaning" word "perversions" in violation of state discrimination and harassment regulations.

Precisely because support for marriage is public policy, once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage are likely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including the loss of tax-exempt status. Because marriage is not a private act, but a protected public status, the legalization of gay marriage sends a strong signal that orientation is now on a par with race in the nondiscrimination game. And when we get gay marriage because courts have declared it a constitutional right, the signal is stronger still.

The culture war against religion that the secular state has been waging at relatively low intensity for the last three decades is soon about to erupt into a very bitter battle. If gay marriage is codified it may well be unconstitutional to preach against it from the pulpit or to do anything which puts teeth into one's belief that it is incompatible with God's will for men and women.

This is why it's crucial that the next Supreme Court justice be an originalist, which is why it's crucial that the president who nominates this justice and the senators which confirm him or her be themselves constitutional conservatives.

Which is why your vote in November is so very crucial.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What's at Stake

Go to Michelle's blog and click on the video to see the new Republican ad. It'll get your attention. Michelle compares it to a Democrat ad that is best described as pathetic but symbolic of the current campaign. They have offered no answer to the question of what they'd actually do if they're returned to power in Congress. Their whole campaign seems to have been pretty much a plea to the voters to elect them for the single reason that they're not Republicans.

The Democrat ad is a good example of the vacuousness of this kind of politics.

The Twilight of the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis

"...the evidence that macroevolution has happened is all around us, in the patterns of biogeographical distribution of species and in the fossil record. What is not so obvious is the mechanism(s) by which such macroevolution has occurred. Prof. Giertych is probably right in asserting that the "modern synthesis" mechanisms grounded in theoretical population genetics are insufficient to explain macroevolution. However, scientists within the field of evolutionary biology have been saying the same thing for over a century." Allen MacNeill, Cornell University evolutionary biologist.

Well, they may have been saying this for over a century, but, if so, they haven't been very public about it.

At any rate, MacNeill isn't saying that evolution never happened. He believes quite the opposite. What he's saying is that the traditional Neo-Darwinian view that evolution is the product of a synthesis of natural selection and genetic mutation is an inadequate explanation. Large scale evolution (macroevolution) simply cannot be explained in terms of any purely mechanistic processes of which we are aware.

MacNeill is not known to be overly sympathetic to Intelligent Design, but what he's claiming is what ID theorists have been asserting for two decades to considerable resistance from the Darwinian establishment which, according to MacNeill, has largely been in agreement with them. That's pretty strange.

Read the rest of MacNeill's comment here.

Meanwhile, you can catch an audio interview with a leading ID proponent, Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, on The Sci Phi Show. To hear it go here and click on the link to Michael Behe on the Sci Phi Show.

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for posting the links for the Sci Phi shows.

The Imperiled French

Arnaud de Borchgrave at The Washington Times updates us on the state of the intifada in France. Here are a few excerpts from this deeply disturbing story:

An average of 14 policemen a day are injured in bloody clashes with jobless youths. France's Interior Ministry said 2,500 police officers had been "wounded" this year. The head of the hard-line trade union "Action Police" Michel Thooris wrote to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to describe conditions in housing developments turned slums as "intifada." Police cruisers are pelted daily with stones and "Molotov cocktails" (gasoline-filled bottles with burning wicks that explode on impact) and Mr. Thooris said cops assigned to what was rapidly degenerating into "free fire zones" should be protected in armored vehicles. Entire tall buildings empty into the streets to chase police and free an arrested comrade.

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists," Mr. Thooris told journalists. Mr. Sarkozy, the leading center-right candidate for next year's presidential election, responded by dispatching cops in body armor, equipped with automatic weapons and rubber bullets, stun and teargas grenades into several Paris suburbs with orders to "restore control" from "organized crime."

Jean-Marie Le Pen's far right National Front (FN) appears to have opted for a can't-lick-'em-join-'em strategy, a rapprochement with France's large immigrant Muslim community -- with undertones of anti-Semitism. Mr. Le Pen's reasoning appears to be the recognition that Islamicization is in France to stay with 25 percent of France's under-20 population Muslim (40 percent in some cities), second- and third-generation North Africans.

FN's tough stance on immigration is tempered by support for Arab and Islamist causes in the Middle East (Hamas and Hezbollah are two favorites). There are an estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims among France's 62 million and Islam is now France's second religion. Mosques are well attended on Fridays; churches aren't on Sundays. More than 50 percent of France's prison inmates are Muslims.

Anti-Semitic incidents have proliferated in France in recent times, but the news seldom makes it across the Atlantic and when it does, it must still fight to be heard above the constant melodrama of constant trivia. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse attacked with Molotov cocktails; in Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish soccer team with metal bars and sticks; a bus that takes Jewish children to school in Aubervilliers attacked three times in the last 14 months; synagogues in Strasbourg and Marseilles and a Jewish school in Creteil firebombed in recent weeks; in Toulouse, a gunman opened fire -- all ignored in mainstream U.S. media. The metropolitan Paris police tabulated 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents per day in the last 30 days throughout the country.

The No. 1 best-selling book in France is "September 11: The Frightening Fraud," which posits no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon. A similar book in Germany sold more than 1 million copies.

Neither multiculturalism nor integration of Muslim communities seems to be working anywhere in Europe. Moderate Muslim voices cannot rise above radical hubbub.

Nothing like this has happened yet in the United States but if the situation is allowed to fester and deteriorate in Europe it won't be long before the same troubles visit our shores.

I read an article recently, I can't remember where, that claimed that Europe is all but lost. Whereas today we look forward to enjoying a holiday in Paris, London, or Rome, that is a luxury our children will not have. By 2030, Europe will be predominately Muslim and very probably hostile to Americans. The secularist or Judeo-Christian European remnant will either emigrate or live out their years in dhimmitude (Enforced second class subservience to Muslims and Sharia law). Europe will be a much different place, a much more dangerous place, twenty years from now than it was twenty years ago.

Whether this prediction comes to pass or not it certainly does seem that the trend lines all point in that direction.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Sal Cordova at Uncommon Descent offers an answer to a reader's question about the nature of the rift between Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates. Along the way he offers a list of the IDers (and ID sympathizers) who favor an old age (on the order of billions of years) for the earth.

It's an interesting post and it sheds light on a perplexing dispute between two groups which should be allies against the common Darwinian opponent.