Wednesday, February 22, 2006


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

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

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

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

Gumbel and Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Qaeda Gambles on Civil War

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

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

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

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

Can't We Be More Like Europe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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