Friday, February 24, 2006

A Wonderful Story

If you haven't heard the story of Jason McElwain yet, read about him here and watch the video. It'll make your day.

This Just In...

Congressman Ron Paul is preparing legislation that will compel the Fed to continue publishing M3, and plans to introduce the bill in the Financial Services committee later this month.

And why not? The Federal Reserve is a private institution. There's nothing "Federal" about it as it is owned by major financial institutions in this country as well as in foreign countries. And they have no "Reserves" to speak of. The U.S. Treasury controls Fort Knox.

The Federal Reserve should be transparent in terms of its actions and anything less is not acceptable. Apparently Ron Paul agrees.

You can read about it here.

It will be interesting to see how this effort turns out.

Premature Hysteria

The media appear delirious over the possibility of civil war in Iraq. Everywhere we turn we're told the Iraqis are "on the verge" of a full scale collapse into war between Shia and Sunni. This may be, but, as usual, the media is long on hysteria and short on analysis. For the latter we need to turn to the blogosphere where Bill Roggio breaks down the criteria for civil war. He lists the following indicators:

1) The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance no longer seeks to form a unity government and marginalize the Shiite political blocks.

2) Sunni political parties withdraw from the political process.

3) Kurds make hard push for independence/full autonomy.

4) Grand Ayatollah Sistani ceases calls for calm, no longer takes a lead role in brokering peace.

5) Muqtada al-Sadr becomes a leading voice in Shiite politics.

6) Major political figures - Shiite and Sunni - openly call for retaliation.

7) The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars Association openly call for the formation of Sunni militias.

8) Interior Ministry ceases any investigations into torture and death squads, including the case against recently uncovered problems with the Highway Patrol.

9) Defense Minister Dulaimi (a Sunni) is asked to step down from his post.

10) Iraqi Security Forces begins severing ties with the Coalition, including:

Disembeddeding the Military Transition Teams.

Requests U.S. forces to vacate Forward Operating Bases / Battle Positions in Western and Northern Iraq.

Alienates Coalition at training academies.

11) Iraqi Security Forces make no effort to quell violence or provide security in Sunni neighborhoods.

12) Iraqi Security Forces actively participate in attacks on Sunnis, with the direction of senior leaders in the ministries of Defense or Interior.

13) Shiite militias are fully mobilized, with the assistance of the government, and deployed to strike at Sunni targets. Or, the Shiite militias are fully incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces without certification from Coalition trainers.

14) Sunni military officers are dismissed en masse from the Iraqi Army.

15) Kurdish officers and soldiers leave their posts and return to Kurdistan, and reform into Peshmerga units.

16) Attacks against other religious shrines escalate, and none of the parties make any pretense about caring.

17) Coalition military forces pull back from forward positions to main regional bases.

As Roggio notes, as of yet none of these things have happened, and the media's hysteria is thus appallingly, but unsurprisingly, premature.

Muslim Logic

A Danish newspaper prints cartoons which offend the delicate religious sensibilities of the Islamic faithful and frenzied Muslims the world over burn ... American flags.

Muslim terrorists, probably from al-Qaeda in Iraq, blow up an ancient and revered mosque in Samarra and outraged Muslims the world over burn ... American flags.

Apparently to be a Muslim requires of one a superhuman capacity for cognitive contortionism.

Father Coyne

Father George V. Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory, gave a talk recently in which he displayed an unforgiveably deficient understanding of the basics of Intelligent Design. The text of his lecture can be found here. In his abstract he remarks that:

I would essentially like to share with you two convictions in this presentation: (1) that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry....

This, of course, is simply and inexcusably wrong. Intelligent Design evokes no God at all, much less a God which it belittles by making too small or paltry. Critics of ID insist on repeating this allegation every chance they get, but they cannot point to anything in the technical literature of ID where a prominent spokesperson has said that ID evokes God. We hope the good Father went to confession after this speech to purge himself of his sin of bearing false witness.

He goes on to ask:

How did we humans come to be in this evolving universe? It is quite clear that we do not know everything about this process. But it would be scientifically absurd to deny that the human brain is a result of a process of chemical complexification in an evolving universe. After the universe became rich in certain basic chemicals, those chemicals got together in successive steps to make ever more complex molecules.

What is scientifically absurd is Father Coyne's display of blind faith in the ability of blind, mechanical processes to produce the most amazing structure we know to exist in the universe. It's true we don't know everything about this process, so why does Father Coyne suggest that the brain is solely the product of chemical processes which, in his telling of it, rather magically "got together" to form this organ? How, if we don't know everything, can he a priori rule out intelligence as being a factor?

Finally in some extraordinary chemical process the human brain came to be, the most complicated machine that we know.

Yes. This might be called the fairy godmother style of science writing. Mother Nature waves her magic wand, and presto, there's the brain. All it took was a few chemicals, some pixie dust, and a lot of time and there you have it. No intelligent guidance is necessary, just random mutation and the mysterious powers of natural selection. Coyne makes it sound so easy, yet no one has any idea how mindless, purposeless forces could ever have achieved such a miracle. They just "know" that they did.

Do we need God to explain this? Very succinctly my answer is no. In fact, to need God would be a very denial of God. God is not the response to a need.

This is the sort of nonsense that gives theologians a bad name among sensible people. In any event, no IDer ever said that we do need God to explain it. They've only claimed that it is inexplicable apart from intelligent input. They do not insist that the intelligent agent is God. Nevertheless, Father Coyne resolves to make this a lecture on theology so let's look at his theology:

We should not need God; we should accept her/him when he comes to us.

One wonders what the fathers of the Church would have to say about such a ludicrous statement. If God exists, He is, inter alia, the ontological ground of all being. If God exists, and Father Coyne believes that He does, then we "need" Him because should God cease to will our existence we, and the world we inhabit, would simply go poof. God is the glue that holds all things in being. For a Catholic priest to assert that we "should not need God" is, at best, bizarre.

But the personal God I have described is also God, creator of the universe.

Where did that come from? The "creator of the universe"?! The God "we shouldn't need" is the creator of all that is? The God who plays no role in the origin of life or the emergence of the human brain is nevertheless essential to the existence of the whole cosmos? He planned it all out, evidently, designed it, as it were, down to the last detail, but He has no role to play in evolution, and it demeans Him to say that He does? Why does father Coyne feel it necessary to claim that God is the creator of the world, but think that it's necessary to exclude Him from any role in the development of the brain?

If this is the current state of theological thinking in the Catholic Church today Pope Benedict has his work cut out for him. Somebody please forward the Director of the Vatican Observatory a copy of the works of Thomas Aquinas.