Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dissenting From the Vatican

I have a great deal of respect for the Catholic church and for the ethical thinking it produces, but these statements from the Vatican on the occasion of the execution of Saddam Hussein are difficult to agree with:

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican spokesman on Saturday denounced Saddam Hussein's execution as "tragic" and expressed worry it might fuel revenge and new violence. The execution is "tragic and reason for sadness," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said, speaking in French on Vatican Radio's French-language news program.

Why is it tragic that the world is rid of a mass murderer? Why should we be sad that a man who gassed and murdered thousands of children is gone? We should take no delight in seeing a man die but neither should we be sad that he will no longer be around to terrorize innocent people. Rev. Lombardi should reserve his sympathy for the victims of terror and oppression rather than the perpetrators.

In separate comments to the station's English program, Lombardi said that capital punishment cannot be justified "even when the person put to death is one guilty of grave crimes," and he reiterated the Catholic Church's overall opposition to the death penalty.

Why, exactly, can capital punishment not be justified? Surely God commands it in the Old Testament and nothing in the New Testament rescinds the command. It may be that as Christians we should reserve execution for the most heinous criminals, but it's hard to imagine a criminal more heinous than Saddam Hussein.

In an interview published in an Italian daily earlier in the week, the Vatican's top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, said executing Saddam would mean punishing "a crime with another crime."

This is as much sophistry as it is inanity. Cardinal Martino essentially places the execution of a mass murderer after a trial by a legitimate court in the same moral category as the horrific murders of hundreds of thousands of people. If taking Saddam's life is a criminal act, one wonders, why would it not also be criminal to take his freedom? Or his property?

What makes an act criminal is that it violates both the state's legal code and the natural law. Executing Saddam does neither of these.


Is ID Testable?

Intelligent Design is often criticized for being untestable. There is no experiment, the argument goes, that we can imagine that might give results that could show ID theory to be false. GilDodgen at Uncommon Descent offers a passage from Lehigh biochemist Michael Behe who states that this is the exact opposite of the truth. ID is testable, Behe insists, it's Darwinian natural selection that cannot be falsified:

The National Academy of Sciences has objected that intelligent design is not falsifiable, and I think that's just the opposite of the truth. Intelligent design is very open to falsification. I claim, for example, that the bacterial flagellum could not be produced by natural selection; it needed to be deliberately intelligently designed. Well, all a scientist has to do to prove me wrong is to take a bacterium without a flagellum, or knock out the genes for the flagellum in a bacterium, go into his lab and grow that bug for a long time and see if it produces anything resembling a flagellum.

If that happened, intelligent design, as I understand it, would be knocked out of the water. I certainly don't expect it to happen, but it's easily falsified by a series of such experiments.

Now let's turn that around and ask, How do we falsify the contention that natural selection produced the bacterial flagellum? If that same scientist went into the lab and knocked out the bacterial flagellum genes, grew the bacterium for a long time, and nothing much happened, well, he'd say maybe we didn't start with the right bacterium, maybe we didn't wait long enough, maybe we need a bigger population, and it would be very much more difficult to falsify the Darwinian hypothesis.

I think the very opposite is true. I think intelligent design is easily testable, easily falsifiable, although it has not been falsified, and Darwinism is very resistant to being falsified. They can always claim something was not right.

Eventually it's going to sink into the minds of even the most obdurate that the intelligent design advocates' claim that intelligence is a necessary cause of specified and irreducible complexity is at least as scientific as the claim of the Darwinians that intelligence was neither necessary nor involved in the creation of biological information or the fine-tuning of the universe.

It's interesting that Judge Jones decided a year ago that ID, unlike scientific theories, was not empirically testable and therefore could not be taught in Dover School District science classes, but Darwinism, which rests on the equally untestable claim that intelligent agency had no role in the appearance and development of life, could. Maybe even Judge Jones will someday be persuaded that his judgment was ill-informed.


The Kalam Cosmological Argument

Joe Carter offers a good discussion of what is called the Kalam Cosmological argument for the existence of God promoted most notably by philosopher William Lane Craig.

As Carter stresses, an argument is not necessarily a proof. It's always possible to deny one of the premises of the argument and thus evade its force. Even so, if the premises seem reasonable to believe and the argument has a valid structure, then it is reasonable to accept the conclusion. In the case of the Kalam argument the conclusion is that there exists a transcendent, logically necessary, personal, very powerful, very intelligent creator of the universe.

The only question is whether it is reasonable to accept the premises of the Kalam argument. Read Carter's summary and see what you think.