Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Kind of Men We Honor

On this Memorial Day weekend it's appropriate to call to mind the courage of the American young men whose memories and service we honor. To this end we might read this citation on the Navy Cross awarded to Corporal Jeremiah Workman, United States Marine Corps:

For extraordinary heroism while serving as Squad Leader, Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division, US Marine Corps Forces, Central Command in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 23 December 2004. During clearing operations in Al Fallujah, Iraq, Corporal Workman displayed exceptional situational awareness while organizing his squad to enter a building to retrieve isolated Marines inside. Despite heavy resistance from enemy automatic weapon fire, and a barrage of grenades, Corporal Workman fearlessly exposed himself and laid down a base of fire that allowed the isolated Marines to escape. Outside the house, he rallied the rescued Marines and directed fire onto insurgent positions as he aided wounded Marines in a neighboring yard. After seeing these Marines to safety, he led another assault force into the building to eliminate insurgents and extract more Marines. Corporal Workman again exposed himself to enemy fire while providing cover fire for the team when an enemy grenade exploded directly in front of him causing shrapnel wounds to his arms and legs. Corporal Workman continued to provide intense fire long enough to recover additional wounded Marines and extract them from the besieged building. Although injured, he led a third assault into the building, rallying his team one last time to extract isolated Marines before M1A1 tanks arrived to support the battle. Throughout this fight, Corporal Workman's heroic actions contributed to the elimination of 24 insurgents. By his bold leadership, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty, Corporal Workman reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Thanks to Chester for the info.

Where Is Your Conscience?

From the link:

Amnesty [International] claims at least 50 "prisoners of conscience" in China have been arrested with the help of Yahoo. Among them, civil servant Li Zhi, who was jailed for eight years in 2003 after posting comments that criticized government corruption.

And the position of Yahoo is:

"We balance the requirement to comply with laws that are not necessarily consistent with our own values against our strong belief that active involvement in China contributes to the continued modernization of the country--as well as a benefit to Chinese citizens--through the advancement of communications, commerce, and access to information."

It is beyond my ability to comprehend that any individual would invest money in any of the companies mentioned in the article linked above. The fact that they do indicates that their moral judgment is lacking or they are completely ignorant of world affairs. If corporations, under the concept of globalization, are permitted to behave in such a way with impunity it's only a matter of time before we, here in America, will most certainly be subject to the same abuse.

It's clear that the leadership of much of corporate America is morally bankrupt. Consider the recent convictions of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. While the judgment on their behavior was long over due, it appears that at last justice has finally been served concerning them yet it's apparent that these miscreants are so deluded that they don't believe they did anything wrong. Ken Lay said "I am stunned with the findings of the jury"! Personally, I'm stunned that no victim of the Enron debacle who lost their life savings in terms of pension and investments because of his lies hasn't put him in the crosshairs of a telescopic, high-powered rifle and squeezed the trigger.

Dear readers, given all of the above, don't believe for a minute that this won't effect you. You may not have any stock in Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia or a host of others but it really doesn't matter. It's about the moral character of the people in charge of corporate America as well as the moral fabric of the politicians in office. Together they are surely controlling where this once great country is headed. Unfortunately, too many of them have been weighed in the scales and have been found sorely wanting.

Ultimately, the moral content of the American individual will determine the future of America. Isn't it interesting that America, the greatest super power, the wealthiest nation on the planet, is nowhere referenced in the Biblical book of Revelations?

Robert Miller's Reply

Robert T. Miller replies to my letter in First Things with a number of arguments which, in my opinion, fall short. His response appears in block quotes below and my replies follow:

Richard L. Cleary runs together several things that ought to be kept separate. Multiverses, strings, and multiple dimensions are unobservable entities posited to explain observed phenomena, such entities are no less scientific posits than subatomic particles or gravitational fields, which are equally unobservable.

A designer is also an unobservable entity posited to explain observed phenomena. In this it is analogous to multiverses, etc. To state that other worlds, strings, and so on are "no less scientific posits" as particles and fields is simply false. Particles and fields are detectable and measurable, which is why they are part of empirical science. Other worlds, dimensions, etc., like a designer, are not measurable, or at least at present we know of no way to quantify them.

Discussions of the scientific method or standards of scientific reasoning, while not scientific posits, are properly part of science education, which not only conveys scientific knowledge but teaches the methods and principles by which such knowledge is gained.

In other words, the undergirding philosophical principles of science, i.e. the content of the discipline of the philosophy of science, is a legitimate topic for science education. Intelligent Design is, at least, a philosophical hypothesis with implications for the work of science. Why then should it not be a suitable topic for a science classroom? Mr. Miller offers an answer:

The philosophy of science by contrast, is a subdivision of philosophy that treats philosophical questions arising from science, like whether scientific laws are mere regularities or metaphysically necessary truths.

This is incorrect. The questions he mentions comprise only part of the philosophy of science. Discussions of the methods and standards scientists observe and practice are also part of the philosophy of science and Miller is making an illicit distinction here by trying to separate them. The point is that science is often, in practice, inseparable from the philosophy of science. Mr. Miller wants to exclude the latter from the teaching of the former in order to quarantine ID, but what he's proposing is heuristically undesirable. It would reduce science instruction to the sheer presentation of facts and eviscerate it of everything that gives it life and fascination.

All of these are different from Intelligent Design, which is a philosophical theory in direct competition with a scientific theory.

This is also incorrect. ID is in conflict or competition with no scientific theory. It is in direct competition, rather, with the metaphysical claim that the cosmos and life are exhaustively and plausibly explicable, in principle, solely by reference to physical forces and processes. If Mr. Miller thinks that this claim is a scientific assertion then I would ask him to explain how it can be tested. Furthermore, even were he correct that it is a scientific assertion he would be in the awkward position of assigning the claim scientific status while arguing that the denial of the claim is philosophical.

As a I have already said, as a matter of policy, we ought not to teach philosophical theories in science classes; as a matter of constitutional law, if for religious purposes we teach nonscientific theories in public schools, or even scientific theories not accepted in the scientific community, we also violate the establishment clause.

What Mr. Miller does not seem to realize is that everything a Christian does is done for religious purposes. For the Christian there is no sacred/secular dichotomy. All of life is lived in service to God. What is "secular" is whatever the Christian happens to do that non-Christians also do. Christian school board members who serve their school district do so because they believe that they are thereby serving God. Mr. Miller's interpretation of the establishment clause would constitutionally exclude Christians from making curriculum decisions, or, indeed, any decisions about the governance of a school. It would indeed, followed to its logical conclusion, exclude Christians from serving on school boards altogether.

Moreover, if Mr. Miller's interpretation of the First Amendment is correct why does it apply only to theists? After all, many atheists have a religious motivation for demanding that only materialist explanations be taught in schools. Mr. Miller seems willing to allow the atheist's religious motivation while excluding the motivations of those who might wish to avoid giving Christian students the impression that their school's teachers reject some of their basic beliefs about the world. Is that what the framers of the constitution intended?