Monday, April 30, 2007

No Time to Leave

An Iraqi pleads for us to stay:

Instead of coming up with ideas to help the U.S., Democrats are trying to stop the effort to stabilize Iraq and rescue the Middle East from a catastrophe.

I am an Iraqi. To me the possible consequences of this vote [to withdraw our troops from Iraq] are terrifying. Just as we began to see signs of progress in my country the Democrats come and say, 'Well, it's not worth it. Time to leave'.

To the Democrats my life and the lives of twenty-five million other Iraqis are evidently not worth trying for. They shouldn't expect us to be grateful for this.

For four years everybody made mistakes. The administration made mistakes and admitted them. My people and leaders made mistakes as well and we regret them.

But now, in the last two months, we have had a fresh start; a new strategy with new ideas and tactics. These were reached after studying previous mistakes and were designed to reverse the setbacks we witnessed in the course of this war.

This strategy, although its tools are not yet even fully deployed, is showing promising signs of progress.

We must give this effort the chance it deserves. We should provide all the support necessary. We should heed constructive criticism, not the empty rhetoric that the 'war is lost.'

It is not lost. Quitting is not an option we can afford-not in America and definitely not in Iraq.

I said it before and I say it again; this war must be won. If it is not the world as you in the United States know it today (and as we here in Iraq dream for it to become) will exist only in books of history. The forces of extremism that we confront today are more determined, more resourceful, and more barbaric than the Nazi or the communists of the past.

Add to that the weapons they can improvise or acquire through their unholy alliance with rogue regimes, combined with their fluid structure and mobility ... well, they can be more deadly than any forces we have faced in the past. Much more.

Read the rest of this impassioned plea at the link.

The lives of twenty five million Iraqis hang in the balance not to mention the fate of the rest of the Middle East and our security here at home. Nevertheless, Harry Reid and John Murtha don't seem to think that any of that is worth staying and fighting for.


Ideas Have Consequences

Mike Metzger of the Clapham Commentary writes an insightful piece on the connection between one's philosophical worldview and one's way of life. Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

...Today also marks the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1899. Hitler, Columbine and Virginia Tech share a common ancestor - Friedrich Nietzsche. But who cares what a German philosopher said?

We're like Andy Sachs, the young assistant to Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. Skeptical that Paris fashion trends dictate her wardrobe choices, Andy smirks at the fancy belts that "all look the same to me." Miranda, one of New York's biggest fashion magazine editors, overhears the remark and wheels around to Andy who backpedals by saying she's "still learning about this stuff." Oops. "This... "stuff?" asks Miranda, "Stuff?" "Oh ... okay. You think this "stuff" has nothing to do with you. You ... go to your closet and select - I don't know - that lumpy blue sweater for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that sweater is not just blue, its not turquoise ... it's not lapis ... it's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002 Oscar De la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Eves Saint Laurent who showed cerulean military gowns ... and then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it filtered down through the department stores ... and then trickled on down to some tragic Casual Corner where you no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin. However that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs ... and its sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of ... stuff."

Too many Christians dismiss Nietzsche because he wrote "stuff." We see no connection between philosophy and terrorism - between worldview and way of life. Yet Nietzsche predicted unending horrors like Hitler and Columbine and Virginia Tech. He said people cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a God who points at us with his fearsome forefinger and says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not." Yet God is dead, Nietzsche said. Our problem is not seeing the inevitable consequences. Without God, life has no meaning or morality. Might makes right. Whoever has the biggest gun wins.

Metzger is exactly right except I think he might include Darwin's influence along with that of Nietzsche. Darwin saw the biological world as one vast, pululating struggle for survival where the fittest squeeze out the less fit in the battle for resources.

Stir together Darwin's concept of survival of the fittest with a dose of Nietszche's atheism and his might makes right ethic, and the toxic vapors of Nazism and nihilistic killers like Cho Seung-Hui quickly condense in the flask of our culture.

Read Metzger's entire essay. It's very good.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Now it All Makes Sense

In an interview recently, Christopher Hitchens, a writer of considerable ability, and an atheist, was asked:

Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?

His answer was:

Well, I don't talk that much to them - maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn't shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, "I'm not fortunate enough to be a person of faith."

We suspect that this revelation has tongues wagging in the editorial offices of Sojourners. Jim Wallis and his staff are perhaps thinking that that explains a lot about this administration.



I once heard it said that if you wait long enough sooner or later every fossil that is touted upon its discovery as another link in the chain of human evolution will be discredited. The discovery of the fossil is invariably front-page news, and its evolutionary significance is thoroughly explored, but its fall from favor, if it is reported at all, is consigned to the more obscure sections of the paper.

I thought of this when I came across this report about Australopithecus afarensis better known as "Lucy." Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 by a team led by Donald Johanson and immediately hailed as an evolutionary common ancestor of the great apes and man. Now it turns out, thirty three years later, that researchers are doubtful that Lucy was ancestral to man at all.

An entire generation has been taught that Lucy was a missing link in human evolution. Now that the link to man seems to have been an illusion the perception still remains, like the grin of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, that there is nevertheless much fossil evidence that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. It may be that we indeed have a common ancestor with the apes, but the evidence in support of that hypothesis seems about as substantial as the cat's grin.

Don't look for this story to get nearly as much play in the media as did the account of Lucy's discovery and the excitement in the scientific community over the confirmation they thought it provided of the evolutionary model of man's descent. Evidence of evolution is news, the debunking of that evidence is not.


Virtual Wall

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has likened the barriers that the U.S. is erecting along its southern border to the Berlin Wall. Does that mean that Mexico is like East Germany?

Speaking of barriers along the border the story linked to above says that most of them are going to be "virtual walls" which should detect 95% of those trying to cross into this country illegally. It'll consist of lights, sensors, cameras and more agents and will essentially halt illegal crossings along the Arizona border, the busiest section for clandestine entries.

Officials expect to complete 28 miles of the high-tech system in Arizona by June, and by next year it should run into New Mexico and parts of Texas.

The only problem with a virtual wall is that, unlike a real wall, it only works if the political leadership in Washington make it clear that they want the laws against illegal entry enforced by the border patrol. At this point there's not much reason to think they do.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Thank Heavens for Sen. Leiberman

Senator Joe Lieberman respectfully, politely, and powerfully grinds the arguments advanced on behalf of the Iraq war funding resolution by Harry Reid and the Democrats into fine powder. In the process he respectfully and politely exposes Senator Reid as an utter buffoon.

Here's an excerpt of Leiberman's speech yesterday on the floor of the senate, but one should read it in its entirety. It's a marvelous example of well-reasoned argumentation.

In his speech Monday, the Majority Leader described the several steps that this new strategy for Iraq would entail. Its first step, he said, is to "transition the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war-to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces, and conducting targeted counter-terror operations."

I ask my colleagues to take a step back for a moment and consider this plan.

When we say that U.S. troops shouldn't be "policing a civil war," that their operations should be restricted to this narrow list of missions, what does this actually mean?

To begin with, it means that our troops will not be allowed to protect the Iraqi people from the insurgents and militias who are trying to terrorize and kill them. Instead of restoring basic security, which General Petraeus has argued should be the central focus of any counterinsurgency campaign, it means our soldiers would instead be ordered, by force of this proposed law, not to stop the sectarian violence happening all around them-no matter how vicious or horrific it becomes.

In short, it means telling our troops to deliberately and consciously turn their backs on ethnic cleansing, to turn their backs on the slaughter of innocent civilians-men, women, and children singled out and killed on the basis of their religion alone. It means turning our backs on the policies that led us to intervene in the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the principles that today lead many of us to call for intervention in Darfur.

This makes no moral sense at all.

It also makes no strategic or military sense either.

He's just getting started.


Dobbs on Illegals

CNN's Lou Dobbs wonders why we're not being told the truth about illegal immigration:

The mainstream media report as if America would no longer be a welcoming nation if we stopped illegal immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why do the national media conveniently and routinely neglect to report that the United States brings in more lawful immigrants than the countries of the rest of the world combined? Each year, we accept 2 million immigrants legally. We give a million legal immigrants permanent residency every year. We bestow citizenship on 700,000 people a year and provide almost half a million work-related visas a year.

Illegal immigration, in fact, has the potential to change the course of American history: Demographers at the Brookings Institution and the Population Reference Bureau paint a troubling picture of the future of our democracy. As more illegal aliens cross our borders and settle in large states like California, Texas and Florida, congressional seats will be redistributed to these bigger states following each decennial Census. States with low levels of immigration will ultimately lose seats as a result. Unfortunately for American citizens, this seismic shift in political representation will be decided by noncitizens that cannot vote.

Congress will soon take up so-called comprehensive immigration reform, and a bipartisan House bill would probably admit 400,000 guest workers a year. And since any plan calling for eventual legalization would include family members who live outside the United States, the legislation would open our borders to tens of millions of people. The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector estimated that the 2006 version of the McCain-Kennedy bill would have added an additional 66 million immigrants over the next 20 years. The bill may change, but that estimate has yet to be refuted.

There's no question this type of mass immigration would have a calamitous effect on working citizens and their families. Professor Carol Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and author of "Debating Immigration," would like to see more people speak up for the sectors of society most affected by illegal immigration.

"How many African-American leaders have you seen come out and address the impact that high levels of illegal immigration [are] having in the communities when it comes to jobs, when it comes to education, when it comes to health care?" she asked. "And often, these low-skilled, low-wage workers compete in the same sectors for jobs."

Let's have a vigorous open debate on illegal immigration in this country, and let's begin with the facts. Estimates of illegal aliens in this country range from 12 million to 20 million people. Why doesn't our government know how many there are?

Shouldn't this Congress and this president at least recognize that the industries in which illegal aliens are employed in the greatest percentages also are suffering the largest wage declines? And shouldn't there be an economic impact statement researched and delivered to this Congress, this president and the rest of us before any legislation granting amnesty is even considered?

Shouldn't we first bring the facts of illegal immigration out of the shadows?

Well, yes. I'll start. I heard an interesting claim the other day to the effect that ten years ago the average hourly wage in the meat-packing industry was about $19 an hour. Today it's closer to $10 an hour because the industry is able to find so many illegals who will work so much cheaper. The availability of cheaper labor is driving down wages for everyone in the industry.

Why are not the advocates of the poor raising Cain about the effect that illegals are having on wages and jobs in this country?


For Bibliophiles

If you are a bibliophile (a lover of books) then you'll very much enjoy this essay in Comment by Mark Bertrand who sounds like a biblioaddict. Bertrand begins his tale this way:

Before the package from Amazon UK reached my doorstep, someone had given it a good kicking. The corners dimpled inward and a jagged gash ran like a scar down one side of the box, giving the cardboard a battered, sinister air.

I probably yelped at the sight. I don't remember. It all happened so quickly. I hoisted the package and moved it inside to the dining room table, then rummaged around for a knife to undo its taped edges. I peeled back the damaged layers, afraid of what I might find, only to breathe a sigh of relief upon discovering the contents safely wrapped in a protective sheen of plastic.

About this time, my wife came in, arms crossed, shaking her head at my anxiety.

"We have thousands of books already," she said. "The walls are lined with them. But you still had to order more."

When I lifted my new treasure out of the box, she rolled her eyes. But I paid no attention.

Instead, I was mesmerized by the orange slipcase, about a foot and a half long, and the row of tiny paperbacks contained within it, their spines arranged by color in a spectrum that ran from blue to orange. Seventy slender volumes, printed in honor of Penguin's seventy years in publishing, but to me they represented more than a milestone. This set was the answer to a baffling conundrum, a problem that had kept me up at night. This was my solution. This was my Godsend.

This was my summer reading.

If you love books you'll want to read the entire piece, nodding the while and thinking "That's me he's talking about."


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reasons for Unbelief (Pt. II)

A week or so ago we began a series of posts on three main reasons why people find belief in God difficult. We listed those reasons as:

  1. The problem posed by human suffering
  2. Christian exclusivism
  3. Bad experiences with Christians or with a particular church

We talked about the last of these reasons in that first post, and I wish to take up the second reason in this one.

Some people find it very difficult to accept the belief, which is orthodox among conservative Christians, that only those who possess a firm belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will have eternal life. Everyone else is pretty much damned to spend eternity separated from God.

This is a very difficult doctrine to explain to non-Christians and one which many of them find not only implausible but also repugnant. Almost everyone has a loved one, a friend or relative, who has died outside the Church. The thought that that person is lost forever pushes people away from accepting a faith that insists that they're doomed.

There are three ways one might respond to this reaction:

The first is to say that the truth cannot be compromised just because people find it unpleasant. One difficulty with this is that the problem is not so much that people find the doctrine unpleasant but rather that they find it unjust.

The second is to argue that exclusivism is incorrect and that salvation is not limited only to Christians. The problem with this is that the primary source book of Christian doctrine, the Bible, seems to say that it is.

The third response is to argue that whatever Christianity teaches about salvation it is not really germane to the question of whether there is a God. In other words, one is behaving irrationally if one rejects belief in God simply because one rejects a particular tenet of Christian theology.

It is of course the case that unpleasant truths are still truths and that the existence of God does not hinge on the truth of the doctrine of Christian exclusivism, but, even so, there have been some Christians, including luminaries like C.S. Lewis, who think that the second option may also be correct. People who believe this are called "inclusivists," and they hold that it is reasonable to believe that young children, the mentally infirm, and some, perhaps many, people who lived prior to the Christian era will have eternal life. Thus, it is possible, they reason, that those in the present era who never heard of Christ, or who for various reasons were psychologically unable to accept the truth of the revelation of God in Christ, might also be embraced by God.

These Christians insist that Christ's death on the cross is crucial because it's the reason why anyone who receives eternal life does so, but they also believe that there may be many who receive the gift without knowing how or why.

These Christians also insist that this view is compatible both with scripture and with much of the Christian tradition although it must be said that it is a minority view among conservative Protestant theologians, most of whom believe that the Bible squarely rules it out.

In any case, the recent decision of the Catholic church to abandon its teaching on limbo has interesting implications for this issue.

Consider this comment by a Notre Dame theologian:

"If there's no limbo and we're not going to revert to St. Augustine's teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we're left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace," said the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

"Baptism does not exist to wipe away the "stain" of original sin, but to initiate one into the Church," he said in an e-mailed response."

If McBrien is correct, his words lead logically to the acceptance of Christian inclusivism. If it's true that people are born in a state of grace, or that some people who did not - because they could not - make a conscious decision to accept Christ as their savior, will nevertheless enjoy the "beatific vision," it's very difficult to exclude from that experience others who have, for the same or similar reasons, also not made such a decision.

The mentally infirm, or people in the ancient world, or people in the modern world who never heard the gospel, or, perhaps, people who are aware of Christianity but who for deeply seated psychological reasons have great difficulty believing that the God they love actually became a man and who have such a high view of God that the notion that He was human strikes them as blasphemous, might all, like the child, be psychologically unable to make the decision to believe.

It may be, inclusivists argue, that God saves all who love Him and who want to spend eternity with Him. If so, the essential Christian contribution is the emphasis on the fact that it is only through what God did on the cross in Christ that makes it possible for anyone, Christian or non-Christian, to have eternal life. The difference between Christians and non-Christians in this regard, then, is that Christians have a deeper, more thorough understanding of how God has worked in the world than do their theistic cousins. But that doesn't mean that those others who are non-Christians are necessarily outside the grace of God.

Whether inclusivism will ever be accepted by the majority of Christians remains to be seen. It certainly has a very big hurdle in its way for it has to show that it does not distort the meaning of Scripture and this, its detractors believe, it will never be able to do.


Feel the Pride

Michael Roberts, a black owner of several television and radio stations, has finally had enough. See the letter he wrote to his employees here. Let's hope that others follow his example.


White Lies

Novelist Andrew Klavan has a very interesting essay in City Journal which he begins this way:

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don't have to lie. I don't have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don't have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don't have to say that everyone's special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don't have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don't have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It's not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

This is leftism's great strength: it's all white lies. That's its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they're installed. But because it depends on-indeed is defined by-describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence-he's not crippled, dear, he's handicapped; it's not a slum, it's an inner city; it's not surrender, it's redeployment-leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

I don't know that calling these euphemisms "white lies" isn't a bit overstated, but Klavan's point is nevertheless well-taken. We have allowed ourselves to fall into the grasp of a PC culture that makes it a "sin" to use certain words which mask the truth of things. We're so reluctant to appear insensitive or judgmental that we shrink from saying anything that'll make us sound callous or unsophisticated.

What Klavan doesn't tell us, however, is that this is not an exclusive practice of the left, although they are doubtless the biggest offenders in our socio-cultural life, but the right, especially the military, also employs euphemisms, some of which are almost laughable. One example that sticks in my mind was that offered by a military spokesman who, at a news briefing, explained how our troops "addressed" an enemy position with an M-1 Abrams tank.

Anyway, read the whole article.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Evil Molecules

"....if it's difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists ... Cho's shooting of all those people can be understood in this way - molecules acting upon molecules."

Dinesh D'Souza writing on the Virginia Tech murders.

He's correct, of course. If all we are is a collocation of atoms then what we do is just the product of chemical reactions in the brain. Those reactions follow the laws of physics, and there's no room in this picture for something like morality and no reason to think that what we do is either good or bad. It's just molecules doing what molecules do.


Biological Animations

Over the last three years Viewpoint has from time to time featured animations of various processes of cell biology that we've come across in our travels around the internet. Now Denyse O'Leary has catalogued the animations and makes a lot of the links available at one location.

Anyone interested in cell biology who would like to use these as a reference or, in some cases, as a means of having your breath taken away, will find this site very useful.


A Very Merciful Religion

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch refugee of Somali descent who fled the Netherlands where her life was in danger because she renounced Islam. Now in the U.S. subtle threats are being made against her life by imams in this country, particularly one Fouad ElBayly of Pittsburgh, PA:

A community debate over religious freedom surfaced in Western Pennsylvania last week when Dutch feminist author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who has lived under the threat of death for denouncing her Muslim upbringing, made an appearance at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Islamic leaders tried to block the lecture, which was sponsored through an endowment from the Frank J. and Sylvia T. Pasquerilla Lecture Series. They argued that Hirsi Ali's attacks against the Muslim faith in her book, "Infidel," and movie, "Submission," are "poisonous and unjustified" and create dissension in their community.

Although university officials listened to Islamic leaders' concerns, the lecture planned last year took place Tuesday evening under tight security, with no incidents.

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center, was among those who objected to Hirsi Ali's appearance.

"She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death," said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976.

Hirsi Ali, an atheist, has been critical of many Muslim beliefs, particularly on subjects of sexual morality, the treatment of women and female genital mutilation. In her essay "The Caged Virgin," she also wrote of punishment, noting that "a Muslim's relationship with God is one of fear."

"Our God demands total submission. He rewards you if you follow His rules meticulously. He punishes you cruelly if you break His rules, both on earth, with illness and natural disasters, and in the hereafter, with hellfire," she wrote.

In some Muslim countries, such as Iran, apostasy -- abandoning one's religious belief -- and blasphemy are considered punishable by death under sharia, a system of laws and customs that treats both public and private life as governable by God's law.

Sharia is based largely on an interpretation of the Quran, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, a consensus of Islamic scholars and reasoning, according to the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. In some countries, sharia has been associated with stoning to death those who are accused of adultery, flogging for drinking wine and amputation of a hand for theft.

One of the most noted cases of apostasy in recent years involved author Salman Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" offered an unflattering portrayal of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The book prompted Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa -- a religious decree -- in 1989 calling for Rushdie's assassination.

Although ElBayly believes a death sentence is warranted for Hirsi Ali, he stressed that America is not the jurisdiction where such a crime should be punished. Instead, Hirsi Ali should be judged in a Muslim country after being given a trial, he added.

"If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment," he said. "It's a very merciful religion if you try to understand it."

Zahida Chaudhary, a member of the education council and education secretary at the Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Monroeville, insisted that Islam is a peaceful religion.

"The Prophet Mohammed was a peacemaker and a role model for humanity," she said. "My understanding is that he was a peaceful person who believed that religion was a choice. He tried to teach people and bring them into it, not punish them."

Perhaps so, but the peaceful Prophet was also reported to have said "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him'" (Bukhari 9.84.57). Peace Be Upon Him.

Islam is a merciful religion like Nazism was a compassionate ideology. The mercy and compassion are for members only.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Truth Will Out

Melanie Phillips has a story in the American Spectator which should be read by every American. It's about what happened to the Iraqi WMD, and it's the kind of story which makes both the administration and its anti-war opponents look both good and bad at the same time.

Unfortunately, neither side wants to look bad and neither side wants to make the other look good, so nobody, apparently, is checking to see if the account in the American Spectator is correct. Politics is trumping the national interest which makes both sides look even worse.

Phillips acknowledges that she doesn't know if the story is true, but like she says, somebody should certainly be trying to find out.


Scientists Should Share

Haldane's dilemma was discovered by the geneticist J.B.S. Haldane in 1957. It states that in a period of ten million years there could only be about 1,670 beneficial mutations in a population of animals that would be ancestral to humans. This is far too few mutations to produce the thousands of adaptations that make humans distinct from their ape-like precursors. In other words, the mutation rate is too slow for humans to have evolved in the time frames normally allotted by evolutionists.

This has been a serious irritant to Darwinian biologists for forty five years, but recently evolutionary geneticist Leonard Nunney claims to have developed a computer simulation that shows that mutations could have occurred much more rapidly than the Haldane limit permits.

This has been hailed as a breakthrough, but there is a problem. Nunney won't share the program with ID critics so there's no way to confirm whether it does what he says it does. Critics are evidently expected to simply take his word for it.

This is truly astonishing. Science is built on being able to repeat the work of others in order to confirm it, but despite Nunney's intransigence, other scientists are touting his work as being a refutation of the Haldane limit and of those who argue that the limit makes human evolution from any proposed ancestor highly dubious.

One wonders what Nunney could possibly fear about sharing his software, and why his colleagues think that he has made a great leap forward when he won't let that leap be examined. One also wonders whether researchers in any other scientific discipline would give a pass to a colleague who wouldn't share data and methodology.

I doubt it.


Illegal Aliens

Human Events claims that the media are not telling us about the seriousness of the illegal immigration crisis. For example, they cite the following facts that are difficult to find in media stories:

  • Only 2 percent of illegal aliens are actually picking fruit and vegetables, but 41 percent are on welfare.
  • 1 in 10 babies born in the U.S. are to illegal aliens.
  • 60 percent of Housing and Urban Development funds go to illegal aliens.
  • 13 Americans are killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals.

If you wish to sign a petition that demands that the media fulfill its responsibility to report the story accurately you can find one here.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Music of the Spheres

Lem passes along a link to a site where the natural internal vibrations of the sun are translated into sound. Stars, were they not suspended in a vacuum, would produce an enormous number of bell-like resonances which would fill the cosmos with music.

Follow the links and you can hear some of the solar resonances. As you listen to them imagine what these would sound like, if they could be heard, coming from billions of stars in a single galaxy.


Compassionate Conservatism

Rush Limbaugh reports that over the course of one three hour broadcast on Friday his show raised $3 million dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to assist in their search for a cure for blood cancers (Limbaugh himself donated $320,000). Three million dollars for a charity from an audience of allegedly stingy, tight-fisted mean-spirited, selfish, uncompassionate conservatives is quite a remarkable achievement.

Conservative talk-radio host Sean Hannity has also raised large sums for children of soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We await results of similar fund-raisers held under liberal auspices. No doubt the Great Souls in the party of compassion, liberality, and generosity have done even better. Or not.

In fact, does anyone know whether similar fund-raisers for charity have ever even been held by any broadcast medium under liberal auspices? Al Franken's bunch at Air America? Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews at MSNBC? The New York Times or Washington Post? Newsweek or Time? Or is the liberal idea of charitable fund-raising just urging government to raise your taxes?


The Loss of Moral Clarity

Julian Baggini writes in The Guardian about what he sees as the death of moral clarity at the hands of post-modern philosophers. When the intellectual movers and shakers of our age abandoned the notion of objective truth and replaced it with the idea that all truth is a matter of one's own interpretation and experience, morality took to its death-bed:

Of course, the works of truth-deniers such as Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty are hardly bestsellers. Yet their ideas do filter through to society as a whole. Consider, for instance, how what passes for common sense about morality has been turned on its head. For millennia, most people believed that right was right and wrong was wrong, and that was all there was to it. Now, university lecturers report that their fresh-faced new students take it as obvious that there is no such thing as "the truth" and that morality is relative. In educated circles at least, only the naive believe in objectivity. What was shocking when Nietzsche first proclaimed it at the end of the 19th century became platitudinous by the start of the 21st.

Perhaps the most powerful idea to filter through from the universities to the streets was articulated by Foucault, who adapted and popularised the Nietzschean idea that what passes for truth is actually no more than power. There are no facts, only attempts to impose your view on the world by fixing it as "The Truth". This idea is now so mainstream that even a conservative like Donald Rumsfeld could complain about those who lived in the "reality-based community", arguing "that's not the way the world really works anymore ... when we act, we create our own reality."

Some philosophers, such as Bernard Williams and Simon Blackburn, have waded into the public debate in an attempt to put the relativist genie back into the bottle. Books such as Why Truth Matters, by my colleagues Jeremy Stangroom and Ophelia Benson, have also tried to stem the tide. But this is not really a highbrow academic debate about whether there is Truth with a capital T - it is about how abstract ideas relate to the business of everyday life.

Richard Rorty, for example, argues against Truth brilliantly, and it is far from clear that he is simply wrong. The problem is that he does not concede as unequivocally as he should that in practice his theories usually leave the world more or less as it is. Rorty believes as much as anyone else that the Holocaust happened more or less as described in history books, he just refuses to use an allegedly outmoded vocabulary of truth to say so.

Ironically, like many left-leaning intellectuals, Rorty thinks that denying objectivity and truth is politically important, as a way of liberating people from the ways of seeing the world promoted as the Truth by the powerful. However, it turns out that Rorty and his ilk seriously misjudged what happens if intellectuals deny truth stridently and frequently enough. Far from making liberal openness more attractive, such denials actually make it appear empty, repugnant and weak compared to the crystalline clarity and certainty of dogma.

They owe us an apology for failing to either see themselves, or make it clear to others, that in the everyday world we can and must distinguish truth and falsity, right and wrong, even if on close examination these terms do not mean what we thought they did. Science may not be God-like in its objectivity, but it is not just another myth. Moral values must be questioned, but if discrimination against women, homosexuals or ethnic minorities is wrong here, then it is wrong anywhere else in the world. Truth may not be the simple phenomenon we assume it to be, but falsehoods must be challenged.

Unless we can make a convincing case that the choice is not between relativism or dogmatism, more and more people will reject the former and embrace the latter. When they do, those who helped create the impression that modern, secular rationality leaves everything up for grabs in the marketplace of belief will have to take their share of the blame.

That last sentence is puzzling. Modern, secular rationality does indeed leave everything up for grabs, at least in terms of ethics. There can be no right or wrong unless people are morally obligated to do one thing rather than another, but in a secular world there is no moral obligation to do anything. Nothing obligates us, and there's no one to say that what we do is moral or immoral, right or wrong.

Nor am I sure I agree with Baggini when he says that the choice is between relativism and dogmatic certainty. The choice, rather, is between relativism (more accurately, subjectivism) and the belief(not the certainty)that there is objective truth about morals, and that Truth does exist.

If one denies the existence of objective moral truth, as one must if one also denies the existence of God, then one is left with a subjectivism that means the end of any meaningful ethical discourse. Right and wrong become matters of personal taste and preference, like questions about whether one likes Pepsi or Coke. In such a world morality is an anachronism and the idea that there are moral "falsehoods" and that moral "values should be questioned" is absurd. It would be like questioning someone's preference for Coke over Pepsi or saying that their preference for Coke is "false."


A Decent Interval

While the casualties at Virginia Tech were still being ambulanced to the hospitals The Nation's John Nichols was fulminating about how the NRA would despicably seek to spin and exploit this tragedy:

Do not doubt that the National Rifle Association is preparing its "this-had-nothing-to-do-with-guns" press release. The group has no compunctions about living up to its reputation for being beyond shame -- or education -- when it comes to peddling its spin on days when it would be better to simply remain silent. But the NRA will not be alone in responding in a self-serving manner.

Nichols then spent the rest of his article doing himself exactly what he predicted the low-lifes at the NRA would be doing - peddling his own spin in a self-serving manner on a day when it would be better to remain silent. Evidently people like Nichols see nothing wrong with criticizing others who might engage in the same behavior he does engage in.

He succeeds, in other words, in making himself look shameless and ridiculous both at once. Kudos.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Paley Watchmaker

Are you tired of people like us always trying to throw cold water on Darwinian explanations of the origin of life? Are you weary of anti-Darwinians always quoting British astronomer and atheist Fred Hoyle as acknowledging that the chances of blind, mechanical forces producing a living cell are about the same as a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and leaving in its wake a fully assembled, fully functional 747 jet airplane? Do you warm to anti-theistic philosopher Daniel Dennett's description of those who accept the Darwinian paradigm and reject theism as "Brites"?

If so, then this site, called The BRITES (Biological Research Institute for Theoretical Evolutionary Studies), is for you.

If you visit you might note that the Brites have come up with a machine that simulates the origin of life through purely natural processes and it should shut up for good those, like us, who doubt that unguided physical mechanisms could have ever produced a living cell.

Here's a picture of their machine:

You just add the parts of the watch, shake vigorously, and, after enough time has passed for the laws of nature to work their magic, a watch is assembled and ticking. It's scientific.


What a Guy

This is a voice mail of actor Alec Baldwin talking to his eleven year old daughter on the phone. This is the same Alec Baldwin who once suggested on Conan O'Brien's show that the audience ought all go down to Washington, find conservative congressman Henry Hyde and stone him to death, him and his whole family (Go here and scroll down to watch his rant and the audience's howls of approval).

Alec Baldwin has often expressed his contempt for George Bush. Sometimes the quality of a man is measured by the kind of people who hate him. If so, I'm sure George Bush would prefer to be hated by Alec Baldwin than liked by him.

Listen to what he says to his child and ask yourself who the real pig is.


Who's the Sickest?

Here's more anecdotal evidence that we in the West are losing our humanity just as the throngs of people laughing and hooting for blood in the Roman Coliseum lost their's. If you read this put yourself in the position of a family member of, say, Daniel Pearl or any of the other victims of terrorist barbarism, and ask how it makes you feel that this guy thinks it's a joke:

One of Britain's best known authors has been shortlisted for a national writing prize for a story that takes a blackly comic approach to the execution of hostages in Iraq.

Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi - writer of My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia - tells the story of a jobbing cameraman in Baghdad who films executions to earn a living and jokes about it as a way to cope.

The author had the idea for the work, shortlisted for the National Short Story Prize, after seeing grainy video footage on the television news of the scenes leading up to beheadings. This led to him imagining the life of the man behind the camera.

"The idea started with a joke," said Kureishi, 52. "I thought, what if you were a cameraman, having to do these kind of jobs and you had a business card that said 'Weddings and Beheadings'? I thought it was hilarious and told my children about it, but they just stared at me blankly."

He added: "Seeing the footage, I started to think what about that wobbly camera - what is the story of that bloke trembling behind the camera? You're only going to get one take, you know, would be the line."

Kureishi denied his story was disrespectful to victims and their families. "Very black comedy can be a way to look at these things," he said. "We have to have some way of looking at awful things in the world."

The winner of the short story prize, which is worth �15,000, will be announced on April 23. "You can't write anything these days without getting a prize," quipped Kureishi. "Can you imagine, �15,000 for a short story? They're usually published for �75 or �200."

The characters develop black humour partly as a way to cope with the horror of their work. In one scene, the cameraman jokes to a friend: "Don't bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don't go losing your head now, chin up".

It's hard to decide who's the sickest in this story - the savages who perpetrate these crimes, Kureishi for trying to make someone's horrible murder into a comedy, or the people who award prizes for this kind of depravity.

HT: Michelle Malkin


Friday, April 20, 2007

Hoping For Defeat?

Sen. Harry Reid is a confused man, at least if what he said yesterday is any indication:

The war in Iraq "is lost" and a US troop surge is failing to bring peace to the country, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, said Thursday.

"I believe ... that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week," Reid told journalists.

Reid said he had delivered the same message to US President George W. Bush on Wednesday, when the US president met with senior lawmakers to discuss how to end a standoff over an emergency war funding bill.

"I know I was the odd guy out at the White House, but I told him at least what he needed to hear ... I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically."

If the war is lost how can it be won "diplomatically, politically and economically"? But let's not quibble over logic. Here's another question: Who in Washington ever said that the war could be won by military tactics alone? What the good Senator apparently doesn't understand is the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Military force is a necessary condition for success in Iraq, but it's not sufficient, and no one, Senator Reid's epiphany notwithstanding, ever said that it was.

We'd also like to know how he knows that the surge, which is only 60% complete, isn't working. Of course there's been a lot more mayhem in the last week but one week is no measure of long-term success in war any more than it is in baseball.

I'm afraid that what Senator Reid is doing with his defeatism is projecting his hopes onto the reality in Iraq. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I can't help thinking that Reid is so heavily invested in our failure that the last thing he wants to see or encourage is success. Victory in Iraq would mean that Democrats would be banished to political outer-darkness in '08. Bush would win the praise of history, the Republicans would win back Congress as well as the White House, and the anti-war Democrats would be viewed by historians as the biggest bunch of losers since Neville Chamberlain and his cronies.

Does Reid, or any prominent Democrat besides Joe Leiberman, really hope for an outcome to the war that entails the euthanasia of his party and quite likely his career? Maybe, but I doubt it.


Rapper Ethics

Rapper Cam'ron says there's no situation -- including a serial killer living next door -- that would cause him to help police in any way, because to do so would hurt his music sales and violate his "code of ethics."

It's good to know that rappers indeed adhere to a code of ethics, but I must admit to having been a little surprised that Mr. Cam'ron thought it ethical to withhold from the authorities information on the whereabouts of a serial murderer.

Different strokes for different folks in our relativistic age, I suppose.

Speaking of different strokes, rappers and ethics, here's another paragon of virtue from the rap world, a gentleman by the name of Akon, demonstrating his code of ethics. Be cautioned that it's pretty much X-rated. So are the lyrics posted at the site.

How long will our culture treat these people as though they were worthy of our admiration?


What're You Reading ?

John Mark Reynolds was asked on the Hugh Hewitt show to name thirty books every college student should read. He names the bible first and then offers this list.

Iliad, Odyssey, History of the Peloponnesian War, Ethics (Aristotle), Metaphysics (Aristotle), Meno, Republic, Timaeus, Oedipus Rex, Bacchae, Orestia, On Friendship and On Duties (Cicero), Aeneid, Meditations, History of the Church (Eusebius), Confessions, City of God, Histories (Tacitus), Consolation of Philosophy, Summa Theologica (selections!), Divine Comedy, Canterbury Tales, The Prince, The Institutes (selections from Calvin), Shakespeare (Hamlet, Lear, As You Like It, Henry V, Julius Caesar), Faerie Queen (at least Book I), Leviathan, Second Treatise on Government, Pensees.

I wonder how many students graduate from college having read even half of these.

Reynolds goes on to identify ten novels everyone should read on their own and ten works American students should read. He lost me a little bit here because I don't understand what Marx, Darwin, Nietszche, Freud and Sartre have to do with American students in particular. Anyway, it's a good list and it's hard to quibble with his recommendations (Except I would definitely include the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo in his list of important novels).

If you're a college student you might want to ask yourself how your reading measures up.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost makes some interesting additions.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Newsweek Poll

Newsweek has recently released poll results which may be of interest to some of our readers:

A belief in God and an identification with an organized religion are widespread throughout the country, according to the survey.

Nine in 10 (91 percent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 percent) say they identify with a specific religion.

Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll's respondents identifying themselves as such. Another 5 percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam.

This is intriguing but I wonder what the breakdown is between nominal Christians and those who take their faith seriously. It seems doubtful that 82% of the country is committed to living out the mandates of the Gospel to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

In any event, the following statistics were stunning:

Nearly half (48 percent) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34 percent) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. Seventy-three percent of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41 percent of Catholics agree with that view.

In other words, even among college graduates belief in what is called Young Earth Creationism is held by substantial numbers of people.

This must drive the Darwin boosters at the National Center for Science Education batty. After seventy five years of almost exclusive inculcation of evolution into students in American public schools a third of college grads still believe in that form of special creation most derided by Darwinians.

It would be interesting to see, were the question properly put, how many college-educated respondents would say that they accept some form of intelligent design, or even old-earth creationism.

There's more to this poll at the link.


Visiting Fathers

This essay by Joe Carter is must-reading for men, especially fathers. I wanted to save it for Father's Day, but it's too good and too important to hold onto.

Not everyone will agree with him, but he makes an important point nonetheless, and he makes it powerfully - children need fathers. Read the comments at the end. Also, the book he mentions by David Blankenhorn is excellent.


Partial-Birth Abortion

Late in pregnancy the baby's body is removed from the mother except for its head. Scissors are then inserted into the base of the skull, killing the child. The brains are then vacuumed out, the head is crushed, and removed from the mother.

This is called dilation and extraction or partial-birth abortion.

Most people, if they understood the details, would call it infanticide, but it had been legal until 2003 when President Bush signed legislation that banned it. Challenges to the law wound their way through the courts until finally yesterday the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the law prohibiting this barbaric practice was constitutional.

How did the major candidates for President respond? All of the Republican candidates - McCain, Giuliani and Romney - praised the decision. All of the Democrats deplored it. Senator Clinton saw it as an erosion of our constitutional rights. Senator Obama said that he strongly disagreed with the Court's ruling. John Edwards said he could not disagree more strongly and that "This hard right turn [!] is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake - starting with, as the Court made all too clear today, a woman's right to choose."

Indeed. In the last year from which statistics are available, 2000, there were 2200 of these gruesome procedures. Edwards is telling us that if a Democrat is elected president in '08 the next Supreme Court justice to be nominated will be one who thinks partial-birth abortion is just fine. Perhaps this is why some people are saying that the Democrats have embraced the culture of death.

This is also why elections matter and why it matters whether Republicans or Democrats control the levers of power. Both of George Bush's Supreme Court appointees voted to uphold the law banning this procedure but now that the Democrats control the judiciary committee there's very little chance that a like-minded justice will be appointed to fill the next opening.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Christian Terrorists

The tragedy at Virginia Tech reminded me that in every case of terrorism in American schools the perpetrators have been, as far as we know, atheistic nihilists.

So, that being the case, if you are a public school administrator planning a mock drill for your school to prepare your students for a terrorist assault and you want to make the exercise as realistic as possible who would you cast in the role of the murderous gunmen?

If you said nihilists, or even Muslim fanatics, then you're not thinking like some public school administrators.

The obvious selection would be a Christian conservative in that role, don't you see? That's the scenario scripted by several public schools around the nation, at any rate. Of course there have been exactly zero instances, at least that I'm aware of, where Christians have actually stormed a school and perpetrated violence, but that's a detail that seems to have escaped the notice of these administrators.

See here and here for details.

Not incidentally, there's apparently some evidence that Cho Seung-Hui hated Christianity, as did at least one of the Columbine killers. When is it going to dawn on the MSM that the problem isn't just the availabilty of guns, it's a worldview whose logic entails that life is meaningless, there is no moral value, there is no life after death, that human beings have no worth or dignity, and which hates Christianity because it holds that all of these assumptions are false?


Overly Hasty

My friend Byron writes to point out, correctly, that I overstated the case when I said that Michelle Malkin "has the goods" on Barack Obama's hypocrisy. Obama did indeed meet with the vulgar rapper Ludicris, and they evidently talked about "empowering youth", but there's no hard evidence in the story Malkin cited that Obama does anything but deplore the misogynist and violent lyrics that have made Ludicris wealthy. It may even be that Obama condemned Ludicris in their meeting for the toxic waste dump that is his "art", but the article doesn't say one way or the other, and I was overly hasty in assuming that he gave Ludicris a pass.

I thus should not have implied that Obama was hypocritical in condemning Don Imus for calling the Rutgers women "nappy-headed 'hos", and I apologize to Mr. Obama, if he's listening.


What Can We Do <i>Now</i>?

Yesterday we considered some possible causes of the school shootings that we experience every year in this country and argued that, in the long-term, we need to do two things: We need first to recover our confidence in, and commitment to, the Judeo-Christian worldview because only this provides us with a ground for valuing other human beings.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition human beings are valuable because they are made in the image of God and are loved by Him. Since we are prized by the Creator, to the point of sacrificing the life of His Son for us, we have tremendous value. Moreover, since this life is not all there is our lives have meaning. They're not just the meaningless exercise in absurdity that they would be were there no God and no immortality.

The second thing we said that we need to do is to utterly repudiate the culture of death, violence, and horror that has enthralled so many of our young people. Constant exposure to death and its accoutrements, along with video simulations of killing, coarsen and harden people, inuring them to the suffering and humanity of others.

Whether our culture ultimately turns itself around and accepts the need to do these two things or not, there are some short-term measures which have been suggested. The most common proposals are these three:

  1. We can make it illegal to manufacture, sell, or own guns, and try to eliminate guns from society.
  2. We can pass more laws restricting gun ownership.
  3. We can loosen gun regulations so that school officials and some staff can have access to firearms.

Number one would be the ideal, of course, but it is virtually impossible. If gun manufacture was banned in the U.S. manufacturers would simply move off-shore and guns, like drugs, would still be available to those who wanted them, which would be primarily thugs and other criminals.

Number two is pointless as long as criminals still have guns. It's foolish to prevent responsible gun owners from protecting themselves as long as criminals still have the means to terrorize the innocent. People have a right to defend themselves and their families, and any government that takes that right away and leaves people defenseless against armed criminals makes itself ipso facto an illegitimate government.

Number three may not be ideal but it is certainly the most practical of the three options. Last October I wrote on Viewpoint that:

[Researchers have found] that greater efforts to restrict guns leads, counter, perhaps, to conventional opinion, to more gun crime. [These researchers] make a good case that the "gun-free zones" set up around schools are a farce. Such feel-good nostrums accomplish nothing more than to assure the psychopaths who roam the halls of every large public school in the nation that if they decide to go on a killing rampage there'll be no one able to hinder them.

The allure of exerting total, unstoppable power over others is irresistable to certain twisted minds, and "gun-free zones" don't do anything to keep them from bringing weapons into schools to carry out their horrific fantasies. They only prevent school staff from being in a position to stop them once the carnage begins.

Anyone who smuggles a gun into a school can massacre students for a long time before police arrive, and despite all the precautions that schools take to prevent such tragedies there's really no practical way an unarmed staff can prevent a student who wishes to murder his fellow students from actually doing it.

As a parent of a high school student I know I would feel better if I knew that at least some appropriate school personnel had been thoroughly trained in the use of firearms, particularly in a school environment, and were allowed to keep weapons, under lock but easily accessible, in the building. If they were, the chances that someone would attempt, or succeed in an attempt, to perpetrate mass murder in the halls and lobbies of a school would be greatly diminished.

Some people will understandably blanche at the idea of having guns in school, but they're already there. Some schools have armed guards roaming their hallways and some have armed kids roaming the hallways. A lot of schools probably have both. The question is not whether we will have guns in our schools - we already do. The question is who in the school do we want to have access to them.

Public school administrators, provided they are trained and licensed, should be allowed to keep firearms under lock and key in their office and properly trained college instructors should be allowed to do likewise. Had anyone in that classroom building at Virginia Tech been armed who knows how many lives could have been saved.

Guns are probably here to stay in our culture, and as long as they are criminals and psychopaths will be able to get them. The answer is not to declare schools off-limits to guns, but to let those who would commit mayhem in a school know that they would probably not get far before they were challenged.

Virginia's legislature recently defeated a proposal that would have allowed college students as well as staff to carry arms. I think this was a ridiculous proposal and should have been defeated. I can't imagine allowing students to walk around campus armed, but I do think that staff should have quick access to weapons, if they so choose.

The deterrent effect would no doubt be substantial. It's only because most school killers know that they'll be able to have their way for at least half an hour before the police arrive to stop them that they even try it. If they knew that they'd have only a minute or two they might not think those few minutes worth the cost.

If someone had been allowed to confront Cho Seung Hui with a weapon in the halls of that classroom building on Monday it might have saved dozens of lives and prevented untold grief. That, it seems to me, is the direction in which we should move until the day comes when we need no longer fear to send our children to school.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Plenty to Go Around

There seems to be a surfeit of hypocrisy among Don Imus' detractors (though none here at Viewpoint, of course). Michelle has the goods on two of the big fish, Al Sharpton and Barack Obama.

For readers who may not realize the kind of sleaze rappers like Ludicris put out on the air waves to be soaked up by our kids, Michelle also offers some lyrics at the Obama article. For strong stomachs only.



The tragedy at Virginia Tech conjures up a flood of thoughts. Two questions in particular are on everyone's mind: Why do these things happen? What can be done to stop them?

Like a lot of people, I think that the answer to the first question is two-fold. First, too many young people are in the grip of a murderous nihilism because as a society we have rejected the only belief system which gives us any basis for valuing human life and for treating others with respect and kindness.

Secondly, our young are immersed in a culture of violence and death in which they hear about killing, talk about killing, laugh about killing, and practice killing in their video games for hours every day.

Those two toxic elements form a time bomb in a person, a binary weapon, which, when the ingredients are mixed, becomes an explosive killer.

By abandanoning the Judeo-Christian worldview that was the mortar which held society together for three centuries, and replacing it with an atheistic materialism that offers no ground at all for morality, no basis for conferring worth on other people, we stripped our young of any basis for thinking of others as valuable in their own right.

In the absence of a God, people are valuable only to the extent that others value them, but atheistic materialism offers no reason why anyone should value another human being. If we're nothing but animals then, like animals, we can be slaughtered if someone has the power and the inclination to do it.

Add to this spiritual emptiness an entertainment culture of film, music, and video games so many of which are grotesquely violent and pornographic and the surprise is not that young people wantonly kill but that they don't do it more often than they do.

People immersed in what passes for entertainment in much of our culture become desensitized to death. They learn to see others as targets to be "blown away", not as people to be loved.

Some will object that lots of people play these games, listen to violent music, watch movies depicting mass slaughter, and yet they don't kill others. But this misses the point. People reside on a spectrum at one end of which are the most psychopathic among us. The more we revel in bloodshed and horror the more the spectrum gets shifted. Everyone becomes a little more desensitized, a little more hardened. Everyone tends to see others as a little less valuable than they would have, and some who would not otherwise be inclined to actually carry out their murderous fantasies now are and others who would not otherwise be inclined to harbor such fantasies now do.

Tragedies like yesterday's will recur as long as we continue to erode away the religious foundation upon which any morality must stand and substitute in its stead a culture that glories in violence, death, and horror. Just as we are what we feed our bodies, we are what we feed our minds.

If this is correct, and I'm convinced that it is at least a major part of the problem, then the long-term solution to mass murders in our schools is to recapture the spiritual understanding that we have lost in this country and to reject the culture of death the adults among us so blithely tolerate and our young so eagerly embrace.

We'll take up the short-term solution in another post.


Monday, April 16, 2007

The Imus Execution

I don't agree with everything Pat Buchanan says in this essay, but I agree with much of it. Don Imus deserved censure and firing for what he said, but the hypocrisy surrounding his lynching has grown galling. His offense was not that he uttered racist remarks or called the girls "nappy-headed." His offense, in my mind, was that he called the girls "whores," a gratuitous insult that was utterly reprehensible.

Imus lived by the arrogant, mean aspersion and he died by it, so it's hard to feel sorry for him. Had he called my daughters what he called the Rutgers women, I would have been incensed. But, having said that, to have this episode magnified into an act of vicious racism, which it was not, and to have the media set up Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, two of the most shameless race baiters and bigots of our time, as moral inquisitors is worse than absurd.

The real problem, as Buchanan points out, is not with people like Imus - who has done much good despite his execrable radio persona - the real problem is with a dysfunctional, degenerate entertainment culture, populated in large measure by black rappers, actors, actresses, and music video dancers, which facilitates and celebrates the degradation of women. Yet these people not only don't get punished, they are often richly compensated. Not only do the Sharptons and Jacksons of the world not demand that the financiers and enablers of this debasement of our culture stop rewarding those who actually do the dirty work, but they are not infrequently seen enjoying their company.

But read Buchanan's column. He says it better than I can. And see here and here for more of our views on this whole sordid affair.


Christ Killas

The latest attempt to employ art in the cause of destroying Christianity is a loathsome piece of work by a person named Eric Medine who has produced a video game that depicts Christ as a homocidal maniac that the player needs to shoot in order to win. The game is called "Christ Killa."

The press release of the gallery displaying the game says this:

Described as the ultimate arbitration between politics and Christianity, "Christ Killa" is a video game linked to video projectors and television monitors. A first person shooter in which the player shoots hordes of homicidal Jesus Christs, the game landscape is filled with Googled images of Christian propaganda posters, religious shrines such as St. Peter's in Rome, and clichèd representations of Christ who constantly mumbles messages of tolerance and compassion.

The audience is invited to participate in the carnage by playing the video game and watching short videos of the game in action. The winner with most Christ kills will be awarded with a trophy at 9:00PM.

Sounds like great fun, I suppose, for those of a certain warped and undeveloped mentality. Michelle Malkin, after showing other memorable examples of art that sought to degrade or demean the person of Christ, issues this challenge to the edgy and intrepid "artist," Mr. Medine:

You want edgy? Go ahead and create "Mohammed Killa." Replace the Homicidal Jesus Christs with Homicidal Mohammeds mumbling clichèd messages of peace from the Koran. Fill the "game landscape" with Googled images of Muslim propaganda and sacred mosques while the Homicidal Mohammeds blow themselves up in crowded schools, restaurants, buses, and markets.

Put that on exhibit. Go ahead. Be a maaaverick "artist." Show us how brave you are at offending all people of faith.

Of course, people like Medine generally decline such invitations as Michelle's. They'd rather stick to offending people who are no threat to them. To do "Mohammed Killa" would require a degree of courage beyond the attainments of most emotional and psychological juveniles.


Will the Real Conservative Please Stand <i>Out</i>

Jason sends a link to a column by Jonah Goldberg in which he laments that conservatives have no dog in the 2008 fight. Goldberg's right about this, of course, and in fact, conservatives haven't had a dog in the fight since 1984. The Bushes (W. and H.W.) are more conservative than Michael Dukakis, Al Gore or John Kerry, but they're actually something of an ideological hybrid. Nor are any of the top three candidates in this year's Republican field conservatives, at least not on most economic and social issues.

Whether this is good or bad we leave to the reader to decide for him or herself. We mention it only to contrast it with the MSM's inability to distinguish between Republicans and conservatives. In the MSM's world there are the good guys in the Democratic party and there are conservatives who must be defeated by any means necessary. The conservatives can be identified because they have the scarlet letter R (for Reprobate, perhaps) next to their name.

Goldberg points out why this is such a false picture of the way things really are and why, at this moment in history, liberalism actually dominates both political parties. It's an interesting essay.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reasons For Unbelief (Pt. I)

Some atheists, like Sam Harris, insist that the reason for their unbelief is that there's just not enough evidence to persuade them that there is a God, but how much evidence would be enough? Would any amount of evidence ever suffice to persuade those who don't wish to believe? Blaise Pascal once said that the fact of the matter is that there's enough evidence to convince anyone who's not already dead set against it. Whether this is true or not, one has the suspicion that the alleged lack of evidence often serves as a rationalization for skepticism about a God that the skeptic doesn't want to believe in anyway.

Be that as it may, there are, of course, other reasons people offer as justifications for disbelief. Three of these are:

  1. The problem posed by human suffering
  2. Christian exclusivism
  3. Bad experiences with Christians and/or churches

Setting aside the question of whether any of these is an understandable explanation for why a person may wish to have nothing to do with Christians or the Christian church, it should be mentioned that, except perhaps for the first, these are not good reasons not to believe in God. The matter of God's existence is an issue entirely independent of the question of the truth of any sectarian religious doctrine.

Even so, let's consider them in reverse order. Some who hold no belief in the existence of God argue that Christians have too often shown themselves to be no better than anyone else, and of course there's much truth to this. Christians are sinners just as others are. All of us are weak, we stumble, we fail - often. How does it follow from this, though, that there is no God?

The poor behavior of some Christians is irrelevant to the question of whether there is a good and just Creator. It is instead simply an indication that some Christians, like most people, have a hard time synchronizing their behavior with their beliefs.

Likewise, the murderous behavior of Muslim extremists who claim to be acting on behalf of God does not in any way make it less likely that God exists. At most, it only makes it much less likely that their conception of God is accurate.

One moral advantage, however, that Christian theists have over skeptics is that they have an objective ideal (Christ) of what they should be like toward which to strive and a powerful motive (gratitude) for doing so. The non-theist has neither of these. He has no moral reason to behave other than in ways which conform to his feelings. If the Christian theist feels like doing something hurtful to another he might do it, but he knows it's wrong, and he feels guilt. The non-theist has no reason to think it's wrong and no reason to feel guilty.

The person who rejects God because of disillusionment with Christians is making an irrational choice. The rational course would be to ask God to connect her with people who take their faith seriously and who strive, however imperfectly, to live their lives in conformity to the ideal set for us in Jesus Christ. There are, after all, multitudes of them out there.

More on this topic later.


Saturday, April 14, 2007


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From Darwin to Hitler

I recently finished Richard Weikert's outstanding book From Darwin to Hitler (2004). Weikert has written a tour de force in which he argues compellingly that the Nazi holocaust was not an isolated historical aberration but was rather a logical consequence of the conflation of two streams of thought that had been flowing through Germany for seventy years.

The first stream was an increasing secularism that reduced Christianity and Christian morality to an irrelevance. The Christian emphasis on compassion for the weak, poor, and oppressed was supplanted by an emphasis, deriving in large part from Neitszche, on strength and will. The Christian belief that morality was grounded in the will of a benevolent, omniscient God was replaced with the belief that morality was a product of the struggle for advantage among groups competing for their very survival. Once German intellectuals lost faith in a transcendent moral authority it was but a short step to an egoistic, pragmatic version of might makes right.

This meshed neatly with the conlusions of a Darwinian world-view which stressed the survival of the fittest, the inferiority of some kinds of people vis a vis others, and the possibility of improving the fitness of the human species through genetic selection and the removal of competitors.

These ideas manifested themselves in the 19th century in the German eugenics movement which sought to improve mankind through selective breeding and the abortion and euthanization of the sick, infirm, and deformed. As the twentieth century approached more German scholars and opinion makers extended these principles to the competition between races so that "inferior" peoples were seen as subject to the Darwinian laws of extinction. It was no distance at all from there to the conclusion that war against the inferior kinds of humans was morally justified in Darwinian and Neitszchean terms.

In a secular world might makes right and the interest of the stronger is the only defensible ethic. Survival in the competition for resources and living space was ipso facto proof of one's fitness and the ends of survival and dominance justified any means for many prominent Germans prior to the 1920s.

Weikert doesn't simply assert these historical and philosophical trends, he documents them from the writings of numerous infuential German thinkers from the 1860s through the 1920s. In fact, if the book has a shortcoming it is that after awhile the mountain of evidence Weikert amasses begins to get in the way of reading the history.

The author is at pains to insist that Darwinist materialism doesn't necessarily lead to Hitler. It might not have, of course, but what he shows beyond cavil is that the path that history followed was indeed widened, paved, and lit by the ideas of Darwinists and atheists following their assumptions to what they saw as their logical conclusions. It was an historical march made much easier by the demise of a robust Church in Germany and by the notion that any morality worthy of the name had to be grounded in the improvement of the human species.

Whether Weikert is right or wrong I leave to historians to decide but that he is persuasive cannot be gainsaid.

His book is scholarly, and the reader looking for something casual or light will probably find it difficult to finish. Reading it to the end, however, will surely repay anyone who perseveres.


Not Hard to Refute

Due to the number of people who have written to tell me that they didn't think that the argument in Hard to Refute was hard to refute at all, I feel I need to announce that the post was a parody.


Duke's Shameful Legacy

Vincent Carroll of The Rocky Mountain News offers his opinion of what he sees as the most astonishing feature of the Duke rape case:

...the most astonishing fact, hands down, was and remains the squalid behavior of the community of scholars at Duke itself. For months nearly the entire faculty fell into one of two camps: those who demanded the verdict first and the trial later, and those whose silence enabled their vigilante colleagues to set the tone. K.C. Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College, has followed every twist in the Duke scandal on his Durham-in- Wonderland Web site. He chronicles the faculty's performance as the hysteria mounted.

"In late March (2006)," Johnson writes, "Houston Baker, a professor of English and Afro-American Studies, issued a public letter denouncing the 'abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us' and demanding the 'immediate dismissals' of 'the team itself and its players.' A week later, on April 6, 88 members of Duke's arts and sciences faculty signed a public statement saying 'thank you' to campus demonstrators who had distributed a 'wanted' poster of the lacrosse players and publicly branded the players 'rapists.' By contrast, no Duke professor publicly criticized Nifong's conduct."

David Evans, one of the accused, told 60 Minutes that he moved out of the house where the rapes of a black stripper allegedly occurred because of menacing mobs. The Duke president, no profile in courage, canceled the lacrosse season and fired the coach. As recently as a few months ago President Richard Brodhead was still defending the 88 professors who trampled on the presumption of innocence, going so far as to describe some of them as victims, too.

A few Duke professors did acquit themselves well or eventually locate some semblance of a spine. Law professor James Coleman denounced Nifong's handling of police lineups. Seventeen members of the Duke economics department signed a letter in January criticizing Nifong and assuring student athletes they were welcome in their classrooms.

But for the most part the faculty either supported the branding of three athletes as racists and rapists, didn't care enough about their plight to speak out, or were cowed into suppressing any call of conscience.

Would those athletes, facing a similarly dubious claim of rape, have fared any better at America's other elite universities? The idealist yearns to answer yes. The realist, sad to say, knows better.

As we said the other day, the faculties of elite American universities are predominately leftists for whom the most important thing in life is their ideology. They have committed themselves to certain core assumptions about gender, race, and class that led them to conclude prior to the production of any evidence, and solely on the basis of a black woman's allegation, that those young white men were guilty as charged.

Everything else followed as night follows the day. The university president fired the lacrosse coach, holding him responsible for the putative sins of his players. The young students were made the object of invective and slander by such stalwart defenders of the rights of the accused as the New York Times. The leftist community across the nation, quick to march on behalf of convicted cop-killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, had no time for the Duke white kids.

Some of them are still convinced that the young men are guilty. A lawyer on television last night said that she's convinced that "something happened in that house." Well, yes, I'm sure something did happen. I'm sure that some of the people in the house, perhaps the three that were charged, wanted her to do more than she was willing. They probably insulted her when she refused and maybe even called her nasty names, inspiring her, out of anger, to concoct the rape story as a means of revenge. If so, their behavior was shameful and degrading, but it wasn't illegal. Nor was it much different, unfortunately, than what happens on campuses all across the nation every weekend.

District Attorney Mike Nifong, and the Duke faculty and administration, would have happily put these students in prison for a dozen years or more, simply on the assumption that if a black woman claims that rich white boys raped her then it must be true. It's true because leftists have inculcated into each other for decades that women don't lie about rape. It's true because it captures what the left believes has been the narrative of race, class, and gender in this country throughout our history (For a modest example, see the second part of this essay). It's true because all truth must be interpreted through the lens of that historical experience - there are no "objective" facts of the matter which we need be concerned about.

The sacrifice of these students on the altar of ideology served a higher purpose. Belief in the guilt of these privileged, white males has "purchase," it "resonates" with and validates the left's entire worldview, and, like their unwavering belief in the innocence of Alger Hiss, the tale of what happened in that house will live on in the mythology of the left for generations to come.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Hard to Refute

How can anyone doubt that living things, or at least bananas, are intelligently designed after seeing this?


The Un-Principle

Allahpundit throws down the gauntlet to the Pelosicrats: He asks them, in effect, to please explain precisely what principles guide their policy on foreign interventions. His request was triggered by this astonishing statement by Senator Joseph Biden:

Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democratic presidential candidate, called Wednesday for the use of military force to end the suffering in Darfur.

"I would use American force now," Biden said at a hearing before his committee. "I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it."

In advocating use of military force, Biden said senior U.S. military officials in Europe told him that 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now."

"Let's stop the bleeding," Biden said. "I think it's a moral imperative."

Allahpundit wants to know why it's a moral imperative to intervene in Darfur where we have no national interest but not a moral imperative to stay in Iraq even though leaving there too soon could precipitate a humanitarian disaster that would far exceed the one in Darfur.

He also wonders what guides the Dems' decision to refuse to talk to George Bush about funding our troops in Iraq when they're willing to travel all the way to Syria to talk to the murderous tyrant Bashar Assad who supports Islamic terrorism throughout the world. The Dems also refuse to debate on Fox News but they have no qualms about being seen and feted in Damascus, the hub of world terrorism. Exactly what principles are consulted in the making of these decisions?

The Democrats seem totally incoherent about how the U.S. should exercise its power and influence in the world because, I suspect, their prescriptions are not arrived at as a result of the application of any kind of principle at all, except the principle of political expediency. The rule seems to be: Observe what George Bush is doing, condemn it, and urge something different. That's a principle of sorts, I guess, but not one that commends the moral or intellectual gifts of those who govern by it.


Conclusive Proof

The debate is over. The Darwinians have won. This computer simulation proves it. All those who invested their epistemic lives in Intelligent Design must now slink abjectly onto the dust heap of history.

If you watch the sim be sure to read the comments. My favorite is #7: " showing something that was programmed to change proves that things change without programming is beyond me." Me too.


NorK Defectors

According to Strategy Page high-ranking defections are becoming a real worry in North Korea:

April 8, 2007: The North Korean regime has issued a strong "reminder" to its diplomats, and other personnel stationed abroad, that they are not to have more than one child with them on a foreign posting. This suggests North Korea is worried about possible defections by diplomats, consular officials, business agents, etc., who've got their wives and kids with them in some foreign country. If they can only take one child with them, those that remain home essentially become hostages to their good behavior. The North Korean government has become increasingly alarmed at the number of diplomats defecting and, even worse, those who stick around, but in the pay for American, South Korean and Chinese intelligence agencies.

The response to this order was startling; many of these parents have refused to send children back to North Korea. To old North Korea hands, such defiance to authority is startling. But these North Korea government officials know their country is a basket case, and are willing to risk losing their jobs, rather than send any of their children back to a home country that is, day-by-day, becoming a hellish parody of the communist "workers paradise."

Historians of communism consider North Korea the pinnacle of police state perfection. Josef Stalin would be envious, or maybe proud, because Stalin was one of the founding fathers of North Korea. The degree of state control in North Korea is far in excess of anything ever achieved in the Soviet Union. But this was achieved using a population already disciplined by centuries of efficient feudalism, and several decades of Japanese colonialism. The Japanese were very disciplined, very strict and very brutal.

By comparison, the North Korean communist government was something of a relief. Moreover, the North Korean communists worked the nationalist and cultural angle successfully. Because of the total control of the media, the North Korean communists created an alternate universe for their subjects to live in.

As small numbers of North Koreans managed to escape over the years, and make their way to South Korea, usually via China, it was amazing to see the culture shock. The North Korean refugees were numbed by the degree of difference between the fantasy view of the outside world created by the North Korea communists and the reality.

But in the last decade reality has seeped into the Perfect Police State, changing the attitudes of the guards as well as the inmates. True Believers have been gradually replaced by Practical Pretenders. What's happening now, with North Korean government officials openly defying their government while pretending not to, is the best example of how North Korea culture is evolving. It's weird, it's wretched, and, in a perverse way, wonderful.

Yes but is it enough to cause them to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Einstein's Religion

People on both sides of the debate about the existence of God occasionally cite the views of Albert Einstein as providing support for their side. This is tricky business since Einstein's views were unorthodox. He was not a theist who believed in a personal God nor was he an atheist who discarded the idea of God altogether.

He was, in fact, a good example of a modern deist who believed that there is some force or intellect which established the moral and physical laws of the universe but which does not interfere with those laws in any way. Einstein did not believe in life after death and did not believe that humans possessed free will, although he did believe that we have to live as if we are free.

The current issue of Time has an interesting column by Walter Isaacson on Einstein's religion which explores these beliefs in more detail. It's worth a read for those curious as to what, exactly, Einstein thought about God.


It's All Your Fault

I was watching Meet the Press last Sunday morning and was appalled to hear Chuck Todd of NBC News suggest that were he a Republican what he would advise them to do is let the Democrats have their way on the Iraq war, let things devolve into chaos after we pull out, and then capitalize on Democratic ineptitude in the 2008 election.

I was astonished that a prominent news commentator would so baldly place political success above peoples' lives. Rarely is a public figure willing to be seen as so utterly unprincipled as to sacrifice tens of thousands of innocent lives in order to make political hay out of the debacle. Yet that's what this Democrat cynically advises the Republicans to do.

Here's the exchange, which was triggered by discussion of Bush's promise to veto the Democrats bill authorizing funding for the troops and setting a timetable for withdrawal:

MR. CHUCK TODD: What I don't understand [about] what the White House is doing is that every time Democrats propose something that allows them to potentially take co-ownership of the war, Bush actually stops them, and politically it actually puts the Democrats in an advantageous position because they can sit there and say, "Well, you know what, we've tried to take some responsibility for this war. The president won't do it. He's vetoing this legislation. This is still Bush's war. This is still a Republican war." And that's sort of the frustration that I'm sensing from some Republicans, not, not inside the White House, but on Capital Hill and on the campaign trail a little bit, to sit there and say, "Guys, let the Democrats share some ownership of this thing or this war's going to make 2006 seem like a party." In 2008 it's going to be a real death knell for the Republican Party.

MR. RUSSERT: So if you're a real cynic, you can say all right, let the Democrats have their way, let them set the deadline of March or August of '08.

MR. TODD: And let them own this war. That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Start bringing the troops home then. Chaos breaks out, you say that's the Democratic solution.

MR. TODD: That's right. "We tried it - we tried it - we tried it your way," and then suddenly it's a referendum on, well, do you want the Republicans to run this war or the Democrats to run this war? And you've gotten a taste of what it would look like if the Democrats ran this war.

And then what? What does Todd think we should do when Iraq spirals into chaos and the whole Middle East is in flames - point fingers at each other and say, "It's all your fault"? This is an incredibly repugnant piece of advice, as impractical as it is immoral. Todd, of course, would love to see the president acquiesce to timetables for withdrawals and he's trying to argue that this would in fact be a good political move for the president. On the contrary, it would be utterly reprehensible and Todd's cynicism should be lambasted by his media colleagues.

But of course it won't be.