Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Hazards of Being Al-Qaeda

Der Spiegel has an interesting article on the growing conflict between Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda forces in Iraq. It appears that the head-cutters have worn out their welcome and they find themselves having to fight not only the Americans but also a substantial number of hostile Sunni Iraqis.

Too bad.

The article is filled with interesting anecdotes. Give it a look.


Kudos to Senators Mikulski and DeMint for their letter to Secretary of State Rice on behalf of Robert Stethem:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) today urged Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to take immediate action and formally request that the Government of Lebanon arrest and extradite convicted killer Mohammed Ali Hamadi to the United States. Hamadi was serving a life sentence in Germany for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner and killing of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, 23, of Waldorf, Md. He was paroled after 19 years in December 2005, and is known to be hiding in Lebanon.

TWA flight 847 from Athens, Greece, to Rome was hijacked to Beirut, Lebanon, where hijackers beat, shot and killed Petty Officer Stethem and dumped his body on the tarmac. He was the only casualty during the hijacking ordeal, in which 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days.

To read the text of their letter go to Michael Yon's site linked above.

Is ID Really Not Science?

Philosopher of science professor Bradley Monton of the University of Kentucky has written an excellent analysis of Judge Jones' (the presiding judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover) argument that Intelligent Design is not science. Monton, it's important to note, is not an advocate of ID, but he thinks that the Judge was simply wrong to conclude the following:

...ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

Monton analyzes each of these criteria and shows that each is philosophically unsustainable. Anyone interested in the ID-isn't-science-and-therefore-shouldn't-be-taught-in-public-schools argument should read Monton's piece. One of the many interesting passages is this one where he quotes a scientist named Mark Perakh who opposes ID:

[P]hysicist Mark Perakh, in his anti-ID book Unintelligent Design, writes: a definition of science should not put any limits on legitimate subjects for the scientific exploration of the world. Indeed, although science has so far had no need to attribute any observed phenomena to a supernatural cause, and in doing so has achieved staggering successes, there still remain unanswered many fundamental questions about nature. Until such answers are found, nothing should be prohibited as a legitimate subject of science, and excluding the supernatural out of hand serves no useful purpose.

Those who exulted in Judge Jones' opinion on the unscientific status of ID are simply unaware of the depth of the controversy over this question among philosophers and scientists. Monton concludes his paper with these words:

I maintain that science is better off without being shackled by methodological naturalism. Our successful scientific theories are naturalistic simply because this is the way the evidence points; this leaves open the possibility that, on the basis of new evidence, there could be supernatural scientific theories. I conclude that ID should not be dismissed on the grounds that it is unscientific; ID should be dismissed on the grounds that the empirical evidence for its claims just isn't there.

Of course, this last assertion actually presents a problem for the anti-IDers. The reason they want ID ruled out of bounds is precisely because they know that if people are "permitted" to think that ID is science they will find the evidence for design in the cosmos and in life, pace Monton, extremely compelling, at least intuitively. Better to discredit ID a priori by declaring it non-science and short-circuit the desire on the part of interested lay-people to examine the sorts of systems ID proponents say constitute evidence for an intelligent architect of the universe. Philosophers like Monton who place a higher premium on truth than on any particular metaphysical dogma will make it increasing difficult for the anti-IDers to succeed with that strategy in the years ahead.