Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Journalistic Heroics at U. of Toronto

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

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

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

Murder Over a Cartoon

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

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

Here are the headlines:

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

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

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

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

And there's this:

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

A Catholic Priest and 3 children are among the dead.

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

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

Representative Ron Paul...

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

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

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

From the link:

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

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


Daniel Dennett Undressed

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

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

Wieseltier goes on to add that:

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

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

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

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

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

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