Friday, June 23, 2006

Highway to Hell

Blackfive has gun camera footage of the takedown of al-Qaeda in Iraq heavyweight Sheik Mansur and several of his colleagues. Scroll down, read the explanation, and then watch the video.

Sic semper tyrannus.

A Modest Proposal

Rebecca Smithers at The Guardian reports on a statement by British scientists calling for better teaching of evolution. Here are a few excerpts:

The world's leading scientists yesterday urged schools to stop denying the facts of evolution amid controversy over the teaching of creationism.

The national science academies of 67 countries - including the UK's Royal Society - issued a joint statement warning that scientific evidence about the origins of life was being "concealed, denied, or confused". It urged parents as well as teachers to provide children with the facts about the origins and evolution of life on Earth.

It points out that "within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science".

Martin Rees, said: "There is controversy in some parts of the world about the teaching of evolution to pupils and students, so this is a timely statement that makes clear the views of the scientific community. I hope this statement will help those who are attempting to uphold the rights of young people to have access to accurate scientific knowledge about the origins and evolution of life on Earth."

The IAP statement highlighted that "evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines..."

I fully agree. Students should be taught the facts about the origin of the earth and of life, among the most salient of which is that scientists have no idea how the cosmos or life on earth came about. Let's present our students with all the facts about how incredibly fine-tuned the cosmos is, how necessary it is that the universe be just the way it is within tolerances so fine that they defy comprehension, or else there would be no earth. Let's teach our students the manifold scientific difficulties of any theory of abiogenesis and how extraordinarily difficult it is to imagine a naturalistic origin to life.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is what the august members of the various academies of science have in mind when they call for teaching the facts. They know that if students are taught the facts about the origin and structure of the universe and the difficulties of any purely physicalistic theory of the origin of life, only the most rabid materialist students would be able to avoid the conclusion that there is an intelligence behind it all.

In fact, I propose a test. Let's do what these scientists urge us to do. Let's teach thousands of students the facts of cosmological fine-tuning and the intractable difficulties with all purely material theories of the origin of life and, at the conclusion, poll them on what they now believe the philosophical implications are. I'm willing to bet that significantly more students in the test group than in a control group will be persuaded that any explanation that omits intelligence is inadequate.

Censored Valedictorian

There's been a lot of discussion about the young lady whose valedictory address was stopped short by her high school administration. The usual story line is that the administrators didn't like her overtly Christian references and cut off her microphone when she started to voice them.

This may surprise some Viewpoint readers, but, if what I've read about the case is correct, I don't blame the administrators.

Brittany McComb submitted her speech for approval and agreed to the changes the school authorities made to it. When she got up to deliver her address, however, she disregarded her agreement and re-inserted those passages she had agreed to delete. Consequently, the administrators cut off her microphone.

Ms McComb calls her act an instance of rebelling against authority, but I'd call it an instance of dishonesty. If she felt strongly about the content of her speech then she should not have agreed to the administrators' editing. Having agreed to it she was obligated to keep her word. To do otherwise was deceitful and does not reflect well on the faith she was so anxious to publically acknowledge.

We can debate whether the administration should have insisted she delete the explicitly Christian references. They may have been wrong to deny her the freedom to say what she wanted about her faith, but whether they were wrong or not, she was wrong to go back on her word, and the authorities were justified in preventing her from continuing.

Smart Dust

This is interesting: U.S. Forces may be using "smart dust" in Iraq and Afghanistan according to Strategy Page:

"Smart Dust" is basically very miniaturized electronic devices. This is similar to stuff like RFID, smart cards, EZ Pass and those rice grain size tracking devices you can have injected into your pets. But Smart Dust takes this all to a new level by being small enough to be disguised as dirt, the kind you can pick up in your shoes or clothing. Each bit of Smart Dust can be given a unique serial number that, when hit with an "interrogation signal" from troops on the ground, or aircraft overhead, is broadcast back. Some forms of Smart Dust are believed to be in use in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's also believed that Smart Dust played a role in the recent death of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

In this case, if someone were able to sprinkle some Smart Dust on Zarqawi's clothing, it would have been a simple matter to track him with great precision. Iraqis have already heard of this stuff, but regard it more as "magic dust." Iraqis have a tendency to exaggerate American capabilities, especially when it comes to technology. But U.S. troops have learned to use this exaggerated reputation to their advantage, threatening Iraqis with magical capabilities that don't exist. That often works, just like smart dust.

It doesn't strike me as likely that this stuff was sprinkled on Zarqawi. If we were close enough to him to do that, if we knew where he was when the smart dust was sprinkled, it seems we would have taken him out then. But maybe not.

Pennsylvania's Embarrassment

Were it not for the fact that he keeps popping up on television talk shows and pushed to the fore by his Democratic colleagues, the kind thing to do with John Murtha would be to drop one's eyes and politely tune him out, like one does a senile grandfather. Unfortunately, Murtha does not allow us to ignore him. Like Cindy Sheehan he seems to be everywhere we turn, and, since his statements are not disavowed by his fellow Democrats, we are justified in assuming that he speaks for a significant segment of that party.

His recent appearance on Meet the Press reflects the utter thoughtlessness and disingenuousness of the modern Democrats with regard to the war in Iraq. In calling for a "redeployment" of our troops from Iraq Murtha suggested that they be removed to "the periphery" and gave Okinawa as a possible site. Okinawa is certainly peripheral, about like Pluto is peripheral.

As Jack Kelly at Real Clear Politics observes, Murtha's recommendation is just crazy:

Let us be clear about the Murtha "strategy." It is insane. It would be easier to defend Germany from Chicago; Alaska from Miami, or Hawaii from Pittsburgh than to defend Iraq from Okinawa. It would take 10-12 hours -- and six refuelings -- for F-16s to fly from Kadena AFB on Okinawa to Baghdad (assuming China and India would grant overflight rights, a dubious assumption). Mr. Murtha may regard this as "very quickly," but the Air Force does not.

As Bugs Bunny would say: "What a maroon!"

Another howler is Mr. Murtha's assertion that U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq would be "welcomed" in Okinawa. For decades Okinawans have been seeking a reduction in the U.S. military presence, both because they covet the land on which U.S. military bases sit, and because of a long history of pacifism. The U.S. recently agreed to withdraw 7,000 Marines from Okinawa.

Mr. Murtha's absurdities were not limited to just these. His claim that our killing of Abu Zarqawi shows we don't need ground troops in Iraq is risible. Just because an Air Force jet delivered the munition that ended Zarqawi's reign of terror doesn't mean that all the tracking and intelligence work and so on would have happened if we hadn't had troops on the ground. If we had heeded Murtha's demands to flee Iraq, Zarqawi would be ensconced today in one of Saddam's palaces leisurely slicing off the heads of everyone who has cooperated with the coalition for the past four years. Murtha doesn't care about this. Betraying those who placed their trust in us doesn't seem to bother him. We can commiserate with them, he says, from Okinawa.

Of course Rep. Murtha doesn't really intend that our troops defend Iraq. If he did he wouldn't be calling for a pullout in the first place. What would be the sense in pulling out only to have to rush back in again? He knows that once we're out there's nothing that would ever get us back in. John Murtha, Kelly's column suggests, is either dishonest, stupid, or senile. In any case he's an embarrassment. Read the rest of his piece to see how Kelly comes to that assessment.