Friday, September 29, 2006

Here In America

This song by Diamond Rio deserves a wider audience than what I'm told it's getting on most radio stations. Maybe if Brittany Spears sang it....

Thanks to Dick Francis for the link.


Strategy Page has a fascinating piece on the development and impact of the JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), a bomb guided by GPS satellites. This weapon has revolutionized modern warfare in ways that should please advocates of just war theory.

The essay begins with these words:

Military commanders the world over are struggling to figure out how to deal with the massive changes created by the arrival of GPS guided bombs (like JDAM). The United States has them, most of them, and the ability to stop others from using them (because America control the GPS satellites). The impact of JDAM has been enormous. It has made air power much more effective, reduced casualties for the force using them, and speeded up combat operations. Few non-professionals have noticed this, but generals and admirals of the major military powers have. These changes are enormous, but the mass media has not really noticed what is going on here. So few people are aware of how much JDAM has changed the way wars are fought.

The rest of the column explains how the JDAM has come about, why we have a monopoly on their use, and why just war theorists should hail their development.

Only if We See it as a Gift

Stephen Barr writes a review of E.O. Wilson's new book (The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion) which pleads for a concerted effort to save the rich and vanishing diversity of living things in our world. The review appears in the current issue of First Things (subscription required).

Wilson, as Barr points out, is a naturalist in both the biological and philosophical senses of the term. That is, he's someone deeply in love with plants and animals, and he is also a man who believes that nature is all there is.

Wilson's hope, according to Barr, is that man will eventually adopt philosophical naturalism as his religion and come to revere the natural world so much that he will do whatever he must to save it.

This, I suggest, is a forlorn hope. Naturalism as a metaphysic can offer us no reason why we should save the world. It can give us no reason why we should care whether beautiful species of birds and flowers survive after each of us has died. Once we're dead what does it matter whether every beautiful bird and butterfly goes extinct? There's no naturalistic reason why we shouldn't exploit the earth to make our lives as comfortable as we can while we're alive. If this means that our descendents will not we enjoy the wonders and richness we have experienced, so be it. Naturalism affords no reason why we should care about that. Once we're dead nothing matters.

Ironically, it is only the theist, indeed, the Christian theist, who has a non-subjective, non-arbitrary reason for valuing the natural world. The Christian has at least three such reasons. First, the world and its ecosystems were created by God and are ours to use and enjoy, but they're not ours to destroy. We are merely renters, not owners. Second, the wonders of the natural world are a gift to us from God, a token of His love, and as such they're to be prized, cherished, and cared for just as we would any precious gift given to us by one we love. Third, we're commanded by God to be responsible caretakers or stewards of the world we inhabit.

The Christian, then, has a solid basis for an environmental ethic that prominently features preservation, conservation and responsible management. The philosophical naturalist who adopts these same values does so only as a result of an arbitrary subjective preference. Neither the decision to preserve nor the decision to exploit and destroy are right or wrong in a moral sense in a Godless universe any more than there is a moral right or wrong involved in one's decision to paint his house blue or to paint it green.

I share Wilson's hope that we can preserve most of our planet's natural beauty and biological diversity, but contrary to Wilson, I see naturalistic philosophical assumptions as doing nothing to aid that cause. Preservation and conservation, if they're to be more than just an aesthetic preference that some people have for nature rather than housing developments and shopping malls, have be founded on the belief that we are not mere consumers but rather grateful stewards of God's marvelous gift to us.