Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The Jihad Against Cartoons

If you haven't yet seen the cartoons that have "precipitated" the spontaneous riots among Muslims offended by depictions of their Prophet, and most people haven't because very few people are showing them, you can view them here. If you're expecting something truly horrifying or degrading you'll be greatly surprised.

Omar at Iraq The Model has some interesting thoughts on all this:

We have a piece of wisdom here that says "The bird got mad at the grain field!" which as you can see means that sometimes people make stupid decisions that can harm only their own interests, yet they think that by doing what they did they would harm those they're boycotting. This saying applies to all Muslim countries in general and to our interim government in particular.

Our brilliant transportation minister Salam al-Maliki who is a Sadrist, by the way, announced that his ministry will suspend all projects and contracts with Denmark and Norway and said that Iraq will stop accepting any donations or offers concerning Iraq's reconstruction! Who are they harming by doing this? Denmark? No, ... they are harming no one but Iraq and Iraqis.

I give up! I have to comment on the general situation...I swear that 90%+ of the protestors in Muslim countries have not seen the cartoons and do not know the name of the paper, and when I say that I'm sure of it because I have access to the web 24/7, and I spent a really long time searching for the cartoons and couldn't find them until a friend emailed me a link.

You know that those cartoons were published for the 1st time months ago, and we here in the Middle East have tons of jokes about Allah, the prophets and the angels that are way more offensive, funny and obscene than those poorly-made cartoons, yet no one ever got shot for telling one of those jokes or at least we had never seen rallies and protests against those infidel joke-tellers.

What I want to say is that I think the reactions were planned to be exaggerated this time by some Middle Eastern regimes and are not mere public reaction. And I think Syria and Iran have the motives to trigger such reactions in order to get away from the pressures applied by the international community on those regimes. However, I cannot claim that the Muslim community is innocent for there have been outrageous reactions outside the range of Syria's or Iran's influence but again, these protests and threats are more political than religious in nature.

One last thing, even if the entire EU apologizes it won't change a thing; fanatics in our countries here had always considered the west their infidel arrogant crusader enemy and no apology no matter how big or sincere can change that.

Omar is no doubt right. This is not about the cartoons. This is another skirmish in Islam's long war against the West, and the West will never win that war by trying to appease the Islamists.

Speaking of appeasement, the hypocrisy in some of the American MSM is fulsome. Many press organs which refuse to run the drawings out of sensitivity to Muslim beliefs nevertheless had no such compunctions about showing Andres Serrano's Piss Christ or Chris Ofili's dung splattered Holy Virgin Mary. The reason the major newspapers are not showing the cartoons is that they have been intimidated and cowed by Muslim threats. They'll show material offensive to Christians because they do not fear Christians. They fear Muslims and with good reason. The least they could do is be honest about it.

Metaphysics in Science Class

The morning paper brings word that the Dover School Board has unanimously approved the biology curriculum for next year and that the good people of Dover, having struggled mightily to successfully purge their science classrooms of the metaphysical taint of ID, have added a unit in which they will discuss the ethical implications of cloning!

To arms, citizens! How can the same people who campaigned against the previous board because they wanted a mere mention of intelligent design to fall upon their students' ears now approve a unit in a biology class that is so clearly a matter of values (metaphysics) and so obviously unscientific? Where are the hearty defenders of scientific purity? Where are the staunch advocates of allowing only those matters to be discussed in public school science classes which can be subject to empirical testing? Where are Judge Jones and the ACLU?

Perhaps the failure of the board and the Dover biology teachers to see the richly amusing inconsistency of their position is understandable. One can scarcely pick up a book written on some topic of science today without finding discussions of topics which are not in any sense empirically testable but which many scientists evidently find to be suitable topics for a book on science nonetheless. Presumably, many of these topics would not precipitate the levitation of a single eyebrow were they to be discussed in a public school science classroom (except possibly #14 below) yet every one of them is a metaphysical, not a scientific, idea. Here's a tentative list of such topics off the top of my head:

1. Many universes: The idea that ours is just one of a nearly infinite number of universes all of which are closed off from each other defying detection.

2. Oscillating universe: The theory that our universe has expanded and collapsed an infinite number of times.

3. String theory: The idea that the fundamental unit of material substance are unimaginably tiny vibrating filaments of energy.

4. Other dimensions: The theory that the four dimensions of space-time are only part of physical reality.

5. Principle of uniformity: The assumption that the laws and properties of the universe are homogenous throughout the universe.

6. Assumption of uniformitarianism: The idea that the same processes and forces at work in the world today have always been at work at essentially the same rates.

7. Scientific method: The idea that there is a particular methodology that defines the scientific process which ought to be followed.

8. Law of parsimony: The principle that assumes that the simplest explanation which fits all the facts is the best.

9. Assumption that human reason is trustworthy: The notion that a faculty which has evolved because it made us better fit to survive is nevertheless a dependable guide to truth which is an entirely different matter than what's most propitious for human survival.

10. Assumption that we should value truth: The idea that truth should be esteemed more highly than any competing value, like, for instance, personal comfort.

11. Preference for naturalistic explanations: A preference based upon an untestable assumption that all knowable truth is found only in the natural realm.

12. Materialistic abiogenesis: The belief that natural forces are sufficient in themselves to have produced life.

13. Assumption that if something is physically possible then given the age of the universe it probably happened.

14. Anthropic principle: The idea that the fine-tuning of the cosmos points to the conclusion that the universe has purpose.

15. Assumption that the cosmos is atelic. I.e. that it has no purpose.

16. Assumption that there's a world external to our own minds.

17. Reductionism: The conviction that all phenomena, including mental phenomena, can be ultimately explained solely in terms of physics and chemistry.

18. Assumption that the universe arose out of a "vacuum matrix" rather than out of nothing.

19. Ethical claims regarding the environment, nuclear power, cloning, and genetic engineering.

20. Memes: According to biologist Richard Dawkins memes are the cultural analog to genes. They are ideas or customs that are believed by Dawkins and others to get passed along according to their survival value rather than their truth value. An example of this, unfortunately, is the concept of the meme itself.

No doubt a little thought would yield a lot more examples, and if readers can think of any others, please let us know.

Mind you, we're not passing judgment on the truth of any of the above, nor are we saying they shouldn't be discussed in a science classroom. They should. We're merely noting that with so much philosophical theorizing flying about in the scientific literature and in public school science classes, it seems a little ironic that people are catapulted into outrage and hysterics at the mere suggestion that a teacher might also mention to our children that some scientists believe that intelligence played a role in the creation of the universe and the appearance of life. Some metaphysical ideas, apparently, are less acceptable in a science classroom than others, although one wishes there were consistent, reasonable criteria for determining acceptability.

There's been much written about the need to keep non-science topics out of the science classroom lest students' thinking be contaminated by exposure to unscientific views. This plea is really a ploy, of course, designed to keep a particular allegedly non-scientific view, Intelligent Design, out of the public school while allowing other non-scientific views and topics, which pose no danger to the regnant materialist orthodoxy, free access to our students' hearts and minds.

The Dover board, oblivious to the bias they're displaying, sees no contradiction in having students talk about ethical issues in a science class after having just replaced a board that was voted out because they sought to introduce a topic from the philosophy of science into the science classroom.

It's sad that such is the blindness of those who make these decisions, but we have to laugh nonetheless. It's too funny not to.

Explaining the Left's Incivility

Michael Novak has a great analysis of the left's tactics in general and those of Senator Kennedy in particular in First Things. They may sound like madmen and lunatics but their hysterical viciousness takes a calculated toll:

Conventional wisdom seems to say that the Left has gone around the bend, is jumping off cliffs, is stark raving mad.

But there is a method in the madness of the Left. There has always been a method in it. The Left is not engaged in an "argument," it is engaged in a revolution in the name of all that is just and right and good. Therefore, it does not aim to out-argue its opponents, but to shame them, to drive them from the field in ignominy, to make them figures of ridicule, moral indignation, and revulsion.

Go back and read your Lenin. Revisit the show trials. The point is that no one dares defend such bad people. (This tactic works. Think twice before defending Bush on a college campus. How much indignation can you bear?)

Better yet, watch Ted Kennedy in action. His attacks on Judge Alito, like his earlier attacks on Judge Bork, were not intended as arguments, and certainly showed little regard for fact. They were all bluster, moral indignation, character assassination, ridicule, ostracism. If words could kill, his were the words of an assassin.

This leftist tactic has worked for over one hundred years, because there are not many people who can stand unafraid before it. Most do not want to attract attention to themselves, lest its indignation and vituperation and moral ridicule be turned loose upon them. The tirades in which these words are launched-Senator Kennedy's neck muscles bulge, his flesh turns bright red, his voice rises ever higher so as to forbid anybody-anybody-from interrupting him-are meant to enforce acquiescence, not consent. They are meant to intimidate, not to present an argument. They are meant to reduce to subservience all who are obliged to listen, even friends and associates (however embarrassed they might be).

Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin had mastered this Leninist trick himself, and turned it upon the Left. His every tonality and accent dripped ridicule and moral disdain.

It is a method that can be learned by anyone. But Lenin was the first to put it in handbooks and train hundreds of agitators, organizers, cells, and units to use it.

Playing tapes of Senator McCarthy in some of his famous hearings and Senator Kennedy in the recent judiciary hearings would, I believe, be quite instructive as to the method.

But why does this method work? As a method of last resort, it has the merit of intimidating good people into silence. It strikes fear into most hearts. Ridicule and moral opprobrium, and manifestations of sheer hatred for one's very being, are not easy to bear, especially for conscientious and upright and morally sensitive people. Such persons, like Mrs. Alito, feel like bursting into tears. Those near them feel powerless and weak, unable to help, unable to make appeal.

Moreover, hatred spreads. Once the speaker licenses moral ridicule toward the accused, and destroys in him any semblance of moral character, truthfulness, or decency, on what ground will such a person stand? What shred of dignity is left to cover him? Such a person is unfit to be seen in the company of better people-the intention is to banish him. Don't even consider him! Reject him! Cast him out!

To say that Senator Kennedy has become a bully is not enough. He is a destroyer of the moral dignity of persons.

When I was a boy, Democrats dominated everything. But Democrats since 1952 have held the White House only fitfully. They have lost the Senate. They have lost the House. They have lost the Supreme Court (which, although it is supposed to be independent of politics, was reconfigured to become the major motor of progressive reform). They have lost religious people, once their main base of support. They are losing popular appeal.

But by turning back to their Old Left handbooks, the Democratic leadership has found the acids that destroy opposition. Even though the nation is in a deadly war, they constantly attack the credibility and truthfulness of the President, ridicule him, call him names, morally assassinate him. That acid seeps through society.

As to building a better country, there is not much in this method to commend it. But for destroying the moral standing of the other side, it has had proven effect for many decades. It is not crazy for Democrats to conclude that, having lost so much, they have little more to lose.

And even if it is crazy, there is method in it. Canonical method, approved method. In a democracy, alas, destroying the "in" power sometimes is sufficient for boosting the electoral success of the "outs."

That, plus the fact that character assassins are simply execrable human beings, and such people, not wishing to be bound by the sorts of constraints imposed by traditional morality feel most at home among those who hold with Lenin that the only thing that's moral is what advances the revolution, and whatever hinders it is immoral. In other words, people given to a vicious and vile style of politics are generally going to be more comfortable on the left.