Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hitler's Religion

I and a friend who I would describe as a somewhat pallid deist (almost an atheist) have been enjoying a sporadic dialogue by e-mail over the last couple of years.

He recently said something that one often hears in such discussions that I think needs to be explored.

In response to his point that the history of Christianity was littered with the "insanity" of the "murders of millions upon millions" of people, I said that:

"I don't wish to minimize the abuses and horrors that stain the history of the Church but "millions and millions" is a gross exaggeration of the historical record. I think you'd be hard put to document that number. It's not an exaggeration, however, to note that that number accurately reflects the fruit of state atheism in the twentieth century, so one might well ask when the 'insanity' of atheism is ever going to end."

My friend replied with this:

"Fifty to sixty million people died during WWII started by Hitler. Hitler was not an atheist; in fact he was a Christian who believed himself to be some kind of a Messiah on a mission to kill all the Jews."

Now, in fact this is true, if at all, only in the most tenuous sense. Hitler was in fact a deist. His God was the laws of the universe. He used Christian churches, but he despised Christianity and believed that it was incompatible with National Socialism.

You can read about his religious views in his own words here. The link is to excerpts from Hitler's Table Talk, informal discussions written down for posterity for the most part by Martin Bormann between July 1941 and June 1942. Here are a few of Hitler's thoughts Bormann recorded:

Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that almighty being whose law he worships.

Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this almighty, which we call 'God' (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe).

The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.

So it's not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.

[T]he only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little.

And so on. There's much more at the link. These are not the words of a Christian nor of a theist. They are the words of a man who set nature as his god and who was so situated that he was able to carry out the logic of his beliefs. They resulted in the holocaust.


Cindy Sheehan

Gary Randall of Faith and Freedom Network and Foundation hits all the right notes in his commentary on Cindy Sheehan's departure from the anti-war movement. Thanks to Byron for passing it along to "his few conservative friends." I suspect that means that I'm the only one who received it.

Anyway, here's the first half of Randall's piece:

The woman who became the "face" of dissent toward the Iraq war and President Bush is quitting - and going home.

In an essay entitled, "Good Riddance Attention Whore" that she posted on Daily Kos, a popular secularist blog, she said she was broken and disillusioned and was going "to take whatever I have left and go home."

I, of course, have never been a fan of hers. I have not agreed with what she has said nor most of her methods. Her photo opts with Castro and Chavez were offensive to me personally. But, as I read her hurt and confusion, I looked through the politics that have broken her and saw a human being who, I feel, desperately needs something and someone to believe in.

I have noticed that most major news outlets are not quoting the part of her essay that says, "When I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the Left started labeling me with the same slurs the Right used ... It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on."

I do not know this woman, nor do I suggest I have all the answers, but I do know this one thing. Every human being has a need to believe in someone and something.

In her case, she believed in Howard Dean,, and the other components of the extreme Left in this country. While she was grieving the loss of her son, she was quickly pushed to the front to advance the extreme Left-wing agenda. When she wasn't valuable, they threw her "under the bus," as they say. That can happen in both parties.

Read the rest at the link. Her letter is here. One of the things she says is that her opponents frequently claimed that she was just being used by the secular anti-war left. It turns out, evidently, that her opponents were right and that she's come to think the same thing.

One can't help but feel sorry for this woman who, although I profoundly disagree with her about the war and much else, always struck me as a basically good person who tried so hard and sacrificed so much in her belief that she is right and that she could make a positive difference. Now she is worn out and exhausted and her former allies are saying "good riddance" to her. Nice people, those lefties.

God bless her.


Conservative Primers

For the political philosophers among our readers, and those just interested in the history of political thought, probably the best way to gain an understanding of conservative thought is to read Russell Kirk's early fifties classic The Conservative Mind.

Perhaps the second best way is to read the excellent essay by Mark Henrie at The New Pantagruel on Understanding Traditionalist Conservatism. It's an historical overview of the origins of modern conservative thought and it's an enchanting, if somewhat lengthy, read. Even though it's long it's still a lot shorter than Kirk's wonderful book.

The third best way, of course, would be to frequent National Review Online. The folks at NRO bring the principles elucidated by Kirk and Henrie to bear on the issues facing America and the world today. It's very good stuff.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why Do People Resist Science?

Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg ask in an article at Edge, why some people, perhaps a lot of people, resist science.

I think the question is miscast. Very few people resist science. People are, by and large amenable to empirical demonstration. Even counterintuitive theories like Einstein's relativity theory are not rejected by the average person even if he doesn't understand it.

What people tend to resist is a metaphysical agenda masquerading as science and the two examples of resistance that Bloom and Weisberg site are perfect confirmations of that.

The authors are concerned because so many Americans refuse to accept the notion that there is no immaterial soul and they resist the idea that natural processes are sufficient to explain all of life and the cosmos.

Neither of these is a scientific idea, however. They are the metaphysical conclusions of some scientists who are a priori committed to a materialist worldview. If materialism were obviously true then of course it would be puzzling that so many people reject it, but materialism is not science. It's not something that can be proven by empirical investigation like whether the earth is round or revolves around the sun.

The truth or falsity of materialism is a philosophical question so Bloom and Weisberg would have done better to ask why so many people resist the philosophical entailments of materialism.

The answer to that question is much easier to see. They resist it because they see its sterility. They see that it leads to a view of life that renders all meaning, morality, human dignity, and hope just so much illusory baggage. They resist it because, quite frankly, a lot of people think that anything so at odds with their common sense intuitions about life is just false, and if the only evidence scientists can offer in its support is their testimony that it's true they're not going to persuade any but those who want to be persuaded.

And most people simply don't want to be persuaded that their lives are hopeless and meaningless.


Soda Is Very Bad For You

This will make your day. It turns out that a common additive in Coke, Diet Pepsi, and other soft drinks is believed to cause damage to the DNA of our cells and precipitate a host of degenerative neurological diseases as well as cancer. The additive is sodium benzoate. I leave you to read the article while I go check my Diet Rite Cola to see if it contains the stuff.

UPDATE: Diet Rite contains Potassium benzoate. Since potassium behaves chemically very much like sodium it looks like my favorite soft drink may be my undoing.

Maybe the only healthy diet is to starve yourself.


Quantum Theory

I may have mentioned this before but the March issue of First Things has a particularly clear exposition by Stephen Barr on quantum theory. Along the way Barr shows how quantum theory leads some physicists to conclude that there are a near infinite number of alternative worlds, why it is incompatible with physical determinism, and why it is antithetical to materialism.

It's a good article for the layman who knows little about quantum mechanics but would like a simple, basic understanding of its philosophical implications.

The irony of modern physics is that beginning in the early 19th century science in general, and physics in particular, were used as dispositive justifications for a deterministic, materialistic, naturalistic worldview. Science, we were told, had proven that there's nothing to reality but matter and energy, nature is all there is.

Then came the discovery of the world of quantum phenomena and the crucial importance of observers in the twenties and thirties and suddenly the role of mind took on new significance. Physical determinism collapsed along with the idea that matter is the sole component of reality.

The main prop of metaphysical naturalism was now revealing that naive materialism was an inadequate explanation of reality. It was telling us, in effect, that "there are more things in heaven and on earth than we dream of in our philosophy."

Now, in the early years of the 21st century, more and more non-scientists are beginning to grasp the obsolescence of the earlier views. Today, the universe often looks less like a Newtonian machine and more like a grand idea, an idea, perhaps, in the mind of God.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


England's Daily Mail offers a cyber-threat scenario which security experts say is almost certain to one day soon become a reality:

At first it would be no more than a nuisance. No burning skyscrapers, no underground explosions, just a million electronic irritations up and down the land.

Thousands of government web pages suddenly vanish to be replaced with the Internet's version of the Testcard - that dreaded screen '404 - Not Found' or, more amusingly, some pastiche or parody.

Then the Labour website starts to promise a wholesale renationalisation of the railways. The popular response this generates turns to amusement then bemusement as everything from Jaguar to BT is, the sites claim, to be taken back into state hands.

When starts to promise compulsory repatriation and the return of capital punishment, bemusement turns to alarm.

The disruption continues: thousands of popular websites, from eBay to YouTube, start malfunctioning or are replaced by malicious parodies.

Tens of millions of pounds are wiped off the share price of companies like Amazon as fears grow that the whole Internet credit card payment network is now vulnerable and insecure.

Eventually, reports start to flood in that hundreds of thousands of personal bank accounts have been raided overnight.

Panicked bank chiefs and PR men go on TV to try to reassure, promising that this is no more than an electronic glitch, but thousands of anxious citizens take to the streets, many in tears, and pour angrily into the banks to demand their savings in cash.

When the ATM system goes down, the government steps in. A task force is appointed. There is a rush on hard cash that leads to a shortage of notes and coins.

Soon, it is clear that the United Kingdom (and much of Europe) has been subjected to a sustained and effective cyber-terrorist attack. Disaster is narrowly avoided when a series of sophisticated viruses disrupt the workings of the National Air Traffic Control System.

Slowly, the computer network is disinfected; the viruses, botnets and worms that are the electronic versions of bombs and bullets are defused and rendered harmless. No one has died, but the attack has cost Britain �10bn, and share prices take months to recover.

Such a scenario, say some experts, is not only possible but likely in the near future.

In fact, the article notes, a similar scenario actually occured in Estonia last year. The account is in the story at the link.

Imagine if U.S. banks or Wall Street were attacked and your life's savings were wiped out over night. Were this to happen on a large scale it could easily produce immense panic and chaos in the country. Just thought I'd mention this in case you were feeling too cheery this morning.


Re: Letter to a Young Woman

My friend Matt writes to comment on last week's post titled Letter to a Young Woman:

[In Letter to a Young Woman] you paint, perhaps without knowing it, a solid picture of a Christian approach to cognitive behavioral therapy. Spiritual Depression by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones is the best book I've read in a similar vein. Cognitive behavioral therapy is VERY trendy right now. And with research on brain plasticity, and on the effectiveness of CBT over meds, it's a very intriguing approach to depression and anxiety, but also to life in general. (Listen here)

The basic thesis is that emotions are the physical responses that our body has to thoughts. Change the thoughts, the feelings follow. Follow your feelings, and they'll control you and bury you in falsehood. You have to, as Lloyd-Jones says in taking his cue from Psalms 42 and 43, upbraid yourself. Take yourself by the shoulders and speak truth to yourself even if you don't feel it. And then, instead of trying to be happy and spending all your time asking if you DO FEEL happy, get on with your life and do good things. Be virtuous. Love God. Happiness follows.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing that letter.

I'm glad it was well-received.


Re: The Real Thing

Byron writes to offer some balance to yesterday's post titled The Real Thing. I think he's largely correct in his criticisms of Michelle Malkin's post to which I linked, and I've posted his e-mail on our Feedback page.

In my reply to him I wrote that:

There is very little in your reply that I can argue or disagree with. I think you're right that Malkin tends to be selective in her outrage and that there's a difference between protesting what is done with our tax dollars and what is done by those over whom we have no control.

That's why in my post I referred to the silence, not of American human rights advocates, but of the international human rights community. Their silence (at least so far) on the tactics of al Qaeda is inexcusable, in my mind, because they stand against all human rights abuse, not just that sponsored by nations to which they pay taxes.

They should, by their raised voices, be setting a standard by which Muslims around the world can measure the conduct of those who act in their name. If they remain silent when manuals such as this are discovered it sends the message that Muslims are not expected to abide by the same standards of decency that others are.

So far, though they were outspoken about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, I have heard nothing about the horrific acts perpetrated by AQ. But perhaps they have said, or will say, much that I just haven't heard about.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Tribute

These are the sort of men we honor on Memorial Day. Take a little time to read through their stories and thank God that our nation can still produce such valor.

To all who have served our country in uniform, and especially to those who are combat veterans, we at Viewpoint offer you our profoundest gratitude.


Suspicious Eyes

Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah was killed a couple of weeks ago by coalition forces. Now comes word that he may have been betrayed by associates and that paranoia is spreading through the Taliban leadership. No one knows who can be trusted and who can't.

I'd like to think that this is the result of our intelligence agencies planting the seeds of suspicion among the Orcs. Perhaps it is.


The Real Thing

So where are the voices of those international human rights advocates who consider it torture to yell at a prisoner or to deprive him of a Koran when real torture rears its hideous head? As Michelle notes, what we're hearing from them is pretty much the sound of silence. Torture, apparently, is only a matter of grave concern when it is Americans placing underwear on someone's head.

Go to Smoking Gun and see what real torture looks like and then ask yourself what was done to detainees at Guantanamo Bay that is even remotely like this.

You might also reflect on what kind of world we will be living in if these people are allowed to prevail, as they will if the Reid/Pelosi wing of the Democratic party has its way, anywhere around the globe.


Mookie on the Hot Seat

Bill Roggio has some interesting analysis of Muqutada "Mookie" al Sadr's return home from his earlier hiatus in Iran to which he had fled when Baghdad grew too dangerous for him. It seems that his return to Iraq has triggered a preset coalition plan to make it all but impossible for him to resume his role as leader of the Mahdi army. Read Roggio's piece as well as reader comments.

I wonder whether the increased tempo of these operations would be possible if President Bush hadn't increased troop levels in Anbar province.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Immigration Reform

Charles Krauthammer gives a nice overview of what the new immigration bill being debated in congress will, and will not, accomplish. Here's a part of his column:

Today, preference for legal immigration is given not to the best and the brightest waiting on long lists everywhere on Earth to get into America, but to family members of those already here. Given that America has the pick of the world's energetic and entrepreneurial, this is a stunning competitive advantage, stunningly squandered.

The current reform would establish a point system for legal immigrants in which brains and enterprise count. This is a significant advance. However, before we get too ecstatic about finally doing the blindingly obvious, note two caveats:

(a) This new point system doesn't go into effect for eight years -- eight years of a new flood of immigrants chosen not for aptitude but bloodline. And who knows if a different Congress eight years from now will keep the current bargain.

(b) It's not enough to just create a point system in which credit is given for education, skills and English competence. These points can be outweighed by points given for -- you guessed it -- family ties, which are already built into the proposed new point system. There are already amendments on the Senate floor to magnify the value of being a niece rather than a nurse. (Barack Obama is proposing to abolish the point system entirely in five years.) A point system can be manipulated to give far more weight to family than skills -- until it becomes nothing but a cover for the old chain-migration system.

In our view the bill is unsatisfactory because it does not really guarantee that our porous borders will be fixed. It also grants amnesty to those who are here illegally which itself would not be a problem if it weren't for the fact that it allows illegals to eventually apply for citizenship and become eligible to dip their hands into taxpayers' pockets.

They're calling this proposal compromise immigration reform, but it's really no compromise at all. It gives the open borders advocates just about everything they want.

Our own suggestion, if I may humbly say it, is a genuine compromise and the only plan we've seen that is both just and compassionate. We offered it here last month. Peggy Noonan says much the same thing in a recent column but with far more grace and style than we could ever hope to achieve. Her piece is worth reading.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Justifying Murder

Jason passes along a Fox News report that contains this troubling passage:

Younger U.S. Muslims under the age of 30 are much more willing to accept homicide bombing in the defense of Islam than are their older counterparts, the study found. While 69 percent of Muslims under 30 say homicide bombings are never justified, 2 percent say they're often justified, 13 percent say bombings are sometimes justified and 11 percent say they are rarely justified. Only 9 percent of older U.S. Muslims said homicide attacks are at least rarely justified.

In addition to young Muslims' attitudes towards homicide bombings, the study found that only 40 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. Another 28 percent said they don't believe it.

That's one in four young Muslims in the U.S. who are willing to support homicide bombings against other Americans, at least sometimes, and more than one in four who don't believe Muslims were responsible for 9/11.

Muslims complain when they are looked upon with suspicion in airports and other venues, but they need to direct their complaints not at those who feel the anxiety but at their own communities which are producing young men who are willing to condone such savagery.

It is certainly understandable that Americans feel uneasy around their Muslim countrymen when twenty-five percent of them are morally and psychologically prepared to see you and your family blown to smithereens if they believe you to be "a threat to Islam."


Resplendent Quetzal

I've just returned from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica where I spent a week touring the Pacific side of the country searching out the marvelous bird-life to be found there.

The bird below is considered by some to be the most beautiful bird in the world, and this picture, as fine as it is, doesn't fully capture the creature's beauty. It's a Resplendent Quetzal and they were flying around my cabin at Savegre Lodge each morning we were there.

It was truly a wonderful sight, but only one of the many that my travelling companion and I enjoyed throughout the week.

The photo was taken by Ralph Paonessa.


Friday, May 25, 2007


Neil Turok offers us a fascinating and mostly comprehensible article on the present state of cosmological investigation into the origin of the universe. Turok writes at Edge where he explains that his own theory is that the universe is embedded in a huge "brane", short for membrane, that sits in space oscillating slowly back and forth (Imagine a huge, flexible pane of plastic suspended in space upon which are tiny dots representing galaxies). At an infinitesimally small distance from our brane there is another which also oscillates very slowly. This second brane is invisible to us because light only travels along our brane. Throughout the infinite past the two branes have collided with each other an infinite number of times, each collision producing an incredible release of energy in an event similar to the Big Bang.

It all sounds very bizarre, but the theory apparently has won a number of cosmologists to its side and may well be the consensus explanation a decade from now. For my part, however, I have a difficult time accepting any theory which posits an infinite number of collisions over an infinite amount of time. I also wonder how these branes come to have the properties they do, but read the article for yourself. It's very well done.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Conservative/Muslim Alliance?

Dinesh D'Souza has written a book (The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11) guaranteed to offend everyone. His thesis is that the terrorist attack on the U.S. is the fault of those who have debased our culture over the last forty years and that American conservatives have more in common with Muslims than with western liberals.

Well, it's true that liberal nostrums have had a deleterious effect on our popular culture, and it's true that the Muslim critique of American culture is one which conservatives largely agree with, but that's not the problem.

The problem is that conservatives and Muslims envision widely disparate remedies for the diseased portions of our popular culture. Muslims believe that the only solution is to embrace Koranic law whereas conservatives tend to believe that the answer lies in a return to traditional Christian values, and in many ways those two solutions couldn't be more different.

The fact that both Muslims and American conservatives see the same problem does not entail that we share in common the values and beliefs necessary to address the problem. After all, Mohatma ghandi and Joseph Stalin both saw Adolf Hitler as a problem but it requitres a great deal of rhetorical flexibility to stretch to the conclusion that therefore the two men had a lot in common.

Anyway, Cathy Young dissects D'Souza's argument at Reason magazine.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Letter to a Young Woman

I recently had occasion to write a letter to my daughter on the subject of happiness. I thought I might share part of it on Viewpoint.

Hi Princess,

I've been thinking a lot about the talk we had the other night on what happiness is and how we obtain it, and I hope you have been, too. I wanted to say a little more about it, and I thought that since I was going to be away, I'd put it into a letter for you to read while I'm gone.

One of the things we talked about was that we can't assess whether we're happy based on our feelings because happiness isn't just a feeling. It's more of a condition or quality of our lives - sort of like beauty is a quality of a symphony. It's a state of satisfaction we gain through devotion to God, living a life of virtue (honesty, integrity, loyalty, chastity, trustworthiness, self-discipline), cultivating wholesome and loving relationships with family and friends, experiencing the pleasures of accomplishment in career, sports, school, etc., and filling our lives with beauty (nature, music, literature, art, etc.).

One thing is sure - happiness isn't found by acquiring material things like clothes and toys. It's not attained by being popular, having good looks, or being high on the social pecking order. Those things seem like they should make us happy, especially when we're young, but they don't. Ultimately they just leave us empty.

To the extent that happiness is a feeling we have to understand that a person's feelings tend to follow her actions. A lot of people allow their feelings to determine their actions - if they like someone they're friendly toward them; if they feel happy they act happy - but this is backwards.

People who do brave things, for instance, don't do them because they feel brave. Most people usually feel terrified when in a dangerous situation, but brave people don't let their feelings rule their behavior, and what they do is all the more wonderful because it's done in spite of everything in them urging them to get out of danger. If they do something brave, despite their fear, we say they have courage and we admire them for it.

Well, happiness is like courage. You should act as if you're happy even if you don't feel it. When you do act that way your feelings change and tend to track your behavior. You find yourself feeling happier than you did before even though the only thing that has changed is your attitude.

How can a person act happy without seeming phony? Well, we can act happy by displaying a positive, upbeat attitude, by being pleasant to be around, by enjoying life, and by smiling a lot. Someone who has a genuine smile (not a Paris Hilton smirk) on her face all the time is much more attractive to other people than someone whose expression always tells other people that she's just worn out or miserable.

One other thing about happiness is that it tends to elude us most when we're most intent on pursuing it. It's when we're busy doing the things I mentioned above, it's when we're busy serving and being a friend to others, that happiness is produced as a by-product. We achieve it when we're not thinking about it. It just tags along, as if it were tied by a string, with love for God, family, friends, beauty, accomplishment, a rewarding career, and so on.

Sometimes young people are worried that they don't have friends and that makes them unhappy, but often the reason they don't, paradoxically, is that they're too busy trying to convince someone to be their friend. They try too hard and they come across to others as too insecure. This is off-putting to people, and they tend to avoid the person who seems to try over-hard to be their friend. The best way to make friends, I think, is to just be pleasant, friendly, and positive. Don't be critical of people, especially your friends, and especially your guy friends, either behind their backs or to their faces. A person who never has anything bad to say about others will always have friends.

Once in a while a critical word has to be said, of course, but it'll be meaningless at best and hurtful at worst, unless it's rare and done with complete kindness. A person who is always complaining or criticizing is not pleasant to be around and will not have good, devoted friends, and will not be happy. A person who gives others the impression that her life is miserable is going to find that after a while people just don't want to hear it, and they're not going to want to be around her.

I hope this makes sense to you, honey. Maybe as you read it you can think of people you know who are examples of the things I'm talking about....

All my love,



The Case For Bombing Iran

Norman Podhoretz makes the case in Commentary magazine for bombing Iran. It is a thoughtful and important piece regardless of what you may think about his conclusions. It should be read by every American, if for no other reason than to understand the perils which face us a few short years down the road.


Sometimes We Hear

The local Sunday paper ran my guest editorial yesterday. It's the third in the series to which I was invited to contribute. Here's the column:

Judge John Jones, presiding in the Dover Intelligent Design trial, deigned to settle the controversy surrounding ID by pronouncing it a religious belief and thus constitutionally unfit for public school consumption. Those who approve of the judge's decision have ever since been intoning the refrain, "Judge Jones said it, I believe it, that settles it." I for one, though, am not convinced that the judge has settled anything, at least in this part of his decision.

As any philosopher or theologian will acknowledge, it's notoriously difficult to determine what exactly religion and religious belief actually are; so difficult, in fact, that it's not at all clear what it is that makes ID "religious."

Sometimes we're told that ID is religious because it invokes a supernatural entity. But what does it mean to be supernatural? Is something supernatural if it is outside the natural universe? If so, what is it about being extra-cosmic that makes it a religious entity? The belief, commonly discussed in science books, that there are other universes besides our own is surely not a religious belief yet these are entities which transcend our universe. If it's not religious to believe that there are universes which reside beyond our own, why is it religious to believe that there's an intelligence which resides beyond our universe?

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because the designer must be the Christian God. What does the critic mean, however, by the term "God," and why must the Christian God be the designer? The God of traditional theism is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, eternal, necessary, omnipresent, and personal. Why must the designer who creates the universe and life possess these same attributes? Why couldn't the designer be a being of considerable power and intelligence without being the omnicompetent God of Christian belief? To insist that the designer must be God, i.e. that than which nothing greater can be conceived, as St. Anselm famously defined him, is an inappropriate and illogical attempt by ID's opponents to force religion into a theory that is not inherently religious.

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because its advocates are frequently Christians. But if the metaphysical commitments of a theory's advocates are all that are necessary to make a theory religious why is the naturalistic Darwinian view not considered to be an atheistic belief since many of its advocates are certainly atheists? Furthermore, if the naturalistic view is indeed an atheistic hypothesis why is it permitted to be taught in our schools?

Sometimes we hear that ID is a religious belief because the entity that it posits can't be detected and has to be accepted on faith. But what is meant by saying that the designer can't be detected? Does it mean that we just can't see the designer and thus have no direct evidence that there is one? Or does it mean that the designer is in principle undetectable? If it means the former, we should point out that there are dozens of entities scientists postulate which cannot be directly observed - quarks, neutrinos, and dark matter, for example - but they can be studied and their existence inferred from their effects. Likewise, there is abundant evidence of design in our world from which we can infer the existence of a designer. It may be that we can't study the designer directly right now because our technology doesn't allow it, but that doesn't mean that we'll never be able to study it.

If the above claim means that the designer, being transcendent, is in principle undetectable then we might ask how that makes it different from the multiverse which is believed to transcend our world and the existence of which scientists nevertheless hold out hope of one day being able to confirm. Or we might ask how an undetectable designer differs in this regard from sub-atomic strings which are also in principle unobservable.

A century and a half ago there was very little we could learn about atoms, the cell, or the composition of the stars because we had no good way to observe these things, nor could we imagine ever being able to do so. Since then advances in technology have made them accessible to us. Perhaps a century from now technology will enable us to observe and study the cosmic architect - that is, if it still exists.

We don't know that the designer does still exist, of course, because ID, not being a religious belief, does not identify the designer with the eternal God of traditional theism who cannot not exist. Only those who don't understand ID or who choose to misrepresent it, two groups which include almost all of its opponents, some of its advocates, and Judge Jones, do that.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stark Difference

Jerry Falwell seems almost to have stirred up more controversy in death than in life. There's an interesting contrast between the reactions of two men of the political left, one a Christian and one an anti-atheist, to Falwell's death.

The Christian is Jim Wallis who disagreed with Falwell politically, and even religiously, on almost everything. Here's what Wallis wrote (unlinked e-mail):

I watched much of the cable television coverage of Jerry Falwell's death and legacy. And I did a lot of grimacing, in response to both the uncritical adulations of his allies (who just passed over the divisive character of much of Falwell's rhetoric), and also the ugly vitriol from some of Falwell's enemies (who attacked both his character and his faith). And there were even some who attacked all people of faith. I ended up being glad that I had passed up all the invitations to be on those shows. On the day of Rev. Jerry Falwell's death, I was content to offer a brief statement, which read:

"I was saddened to learn that Rev. Jerry Falwell passed away this morning at age 73. Rev. Falwell and I met many times over the years, as the media often paired us as debate partners on issues of faith and politics. I respected his passionate commitment to his beliefs, and our shared commitment to bringing moral debate to the public square, although we didn't agree on many things. At this time, however, what matters most is our prayers for comfort and peace for his family and friends."

Two days later, I might add that Falwell, in his own way, did help to teach Christians that their faith should express itself in the public square and I am grateful for that, even if the positions Falwell took were often at great variance with my own. I spent much of my early Christian life fighting the privatizing of faith, characterized by the withdrawal of any concern for the world (so as to not be "worldly") and an exclusive focus on private matters. If God so loved the world, God must care a great deal about what happens to it and in it. Falwell agreed with that, and blew the trumpet that awakened fundamentalist Christians to engage the world with their faith and moral values. And that commitment is a good thing. Jerry and I debated often about how faith should impact public life and what all the great moral issues of our time really are.

But many conservative Christians are now also embracing poverty, HIV/AIDS, Darfur, sex trafficking, and even the war in Iraq as matters of faith and moral imperatives. It would have been nice to hear on those TV shows that Jerry Falwell, too, had moved to embrace a broader agenda than just abortion and homosexuality. Rev. Falwell, who was admittedly racist during the civil rights movement, was in later years honored by the Lynchburg NAACP for his turn-about on the issue of race, showing the famous founder of the Religious Right's capacity to grow and change. But two nights ago on television, I saw the pain on the face of gay Christian Mel White, who lamented that despite his and other's efforts, Falwell never did even moderate his strong and often inflammatory language (even if maintaining his religious convictions) against gay and lesbian people. They still feel the most wounded by the fundamentalist minister's statements; that healing has yet to be done.

Ralph Reed said that Jerry Falwell presided over the "marriage ceremony" between religious fundamentalists and the Republican Party. That's still a concern about the Religious Right for many of us, and should be a warning for the relationship of any so-called religious left with the Democrats. But perhaps in the overly partisan mistakes that Jerry Falwell made - and actually pioneered - we can all be instructed in how to forge a faith that is principled but not ideological, political but not partisan, engaged but not used. That's how the Catholic Bishops put it, and it is a better guide than the direction we got from the Moral Majority. But Falwell proclaimed a public faith, not a private one. And I am with him on that. As I like to say, God is personal, but never private. So let's pray for Jerry Falwell's family, the members of his Thomas Road Baptist Church, and all the students at his Liberty University. And let's learn from his legacy - about how and how not to best apply our faith to politics.

Now go here and listen to atheist Christopher Hitchens. The difference in tone and humanity couldn't be more stark.

Kudos, by the way, to Sean Hannity for his response to Hitchens.


Charles Townes

The man who invented one of the most useful pieces of technology in the 20th century, and who won the Nobel Prize for his work in 1964, turns out to believe that the universe is designed. This will not please such as Richard Dawkins who doesn't see how a scientist can be a theist, much less a scientist of the caliber and brilliance of Charles Townes.

There's an interesting piece on Townes at Uncommon Descent along with a link to an interesting interview with him.


Monday, May 21, 2007

How Certain Is She?

Richard Mouw discusses an article which appears in The Chronicle of Higher Education in which the editors asked a number of academics to imagine what would be "the core of the message" they would give if asked to be the commencement speaker this year at Virginia Tech. The results, according to Mouw, were rather banal.

In my opinion, one of the silliest came from novelist Lionel Shriver. Mouw says this about her imaginary speech:

The most blatantly "postmodern" preachment comes from the novelist Lionel Shriver. She acknowledges that the graduates may come away from this experience with a "leeriness" about other people, especially a distrust of "the strange, the suspiciously quiet" types in their midst. That posture of suspicion, she insists, can serve them well in life. But it will be most productive, she urges, if it is directed, not primarily toward others, but instead is directed inward. "Question your certitudes," she proclaims. "Never forget that the more fiercely you believe a thing, the more likely it is that you are wrong."

Hmmm. I wonder how certain Ms. Shriver is of that.


Beating Poverty

As the election season bears upon us we're likely to hear increasing talk, especially from candidates such as John Edwards, about the responsibility government has to do more to help the poor. This sounds compassionate and right until one pauses to ask what more government can do to help people mired in poverty. Most who are poor in America are not poor for any reasons that government is suited to remedy. They remain stuck in the underclass because they lack certain virtues which most of the non-poor possess and which government is ill-qualified to instill.

Find 100 men who are living under the poverty line. My guess is that at least 90 of them will be uneducated, unmarried, and in possession of both poor work habits and probably a substance abuse problem.

Find 100 women living below the poverty line and at least 90 of them will be poorly educated, unmarried yet with children, and perhaps shackled to a substance abuse problem.

What can government do for such people? They have already been offered twelve years (or more) of free education which most of them squandered. Government can't keep them from indulging in drugs and alcohol, nor can it force them to wait until they're married before they have sex, nor can it force them to get married.

Yet these are the keys to the gates of the middle class.

Until the underclass in America develops the virtues of prizing education, getting married and staying married, and avoidance of self-destructive behaviors, they and their children will remain impoverished, economically and culturally.

The best thing government can do, probably the only thing it can do, is to be as insistent in communicating this message as it has been in communicating the evils of smoking, unprotected sex, racism, and sexism.

Beyond this it can do little. Expecting government to solve the problem of poverty is like expecting hospitals to solve the problem of obesity.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Scientific Authority

Bill Dembski reports on a surprising fact about Richard Dawkins. The man who claims to be a scientist has only one peer-reviewed paper to his credit, a paper written the year he received his Ph.D and which has never been cited by any other scientist.

In other words, Dawkins' only claim to fame is that he has written popular works on evolution, but he himself has not done any actual research since his student days in the 1960s.

This is interesting because one of the (unfair) criticisms of intelligent design theorists is that they don't publish in peer-reviewed journals and don't actually do scientific research. Yet someone like Richard Dawkins, who has much to say about the controversy between Darwinism and ID and who really has no more scientific authority than "a suburban school teacher," are given immunity from such criticism.


Tough Questions

Here are some difficult questions to ponder concerning human embryonic stem cells:

1. You oppose the use of embryonic stem cells in research laboratories and in medical applications because in order to obtain the stem cells a human embryo must be destroyed. You and your spouse are having difficulty getting pregnant, however, and seek the service of a fertility clinic so that you can have children. The clinic tells you that they will produce several fertilized ova and that of these only one will be kept alive, the rest will be discarded. Do you forego having children rather than participate in this practice?

2. You object to destroying embryos for stem cell research, but fertility clinics destroy excess embryos anyway. Do you object to these embryos, rather than being discarded, being used instead by researchers trying to find cures for various diseases and disorders?

3. If you oppose killing embryos for stem cell research should you not also oppose the practice employed by fertility clinics of producing multiple embryos if only one is going to be implanted in the mother's uterus?

These are tough questions, even for those who lean to the pro-life side of debates over "life issues." One thing that some readers may not be clear on is that, contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing stopping researchers from using human embryonic stem cells in their labs. The only restriction is that the federal government will not subsidize the research. Private money is free to do whatever it wishes, though, and there have been some remarkable recent developments.

For instance, see this article for some interesting information about advances made in the use of human embryonic stem cells in the treatment of serious eye and heart problems.

One hopes that stem cells taken from other sources will prove to be even more fruitful in treating injury and illness, but even if other kinds of stem cells prove useful questions #1 and #3 above remain.


Friday, May 18, 2007

A Soldier's Perspective

U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell offers a dramatic animated narrative of a typical operation in Iraq. God help our young men who have to endure this kind of stress day in and day out.


Without a Trace

You've no doubt heard of the case of the disappearing honeybees. This editorial offers a nice summary of the problem along with what many entomologists think are potential causes. Here are the key graphs:

As many as a quarter of the nation's commercially kept bees went missing last year, presumed dead, in a phenomenon now called colony collapse disorder. Inspector Paul Jackson said it is as much a mystery in Texas as it is in 24 other states and half a dozen nations. He said it happens overnight without warning signs of distress and with no evidence left behind. The bees simply disappear.

Jackson has yet to find a pattern in this worrisome phenomenon. One beekeeper may lose 5,000 hives in a day's time while another down the road 10 miles loses none. In Texas, as elsewhere, it is the large commercial colonies that are most affected.

Pollination is the name of the game. Beekeepers in Texas and several other states send thousands of hives to pollinate crops around the country, moving them from state to state and crop to crop. Texas hives are deployed as many as four or five times a year, carried about the country on 18-wheeler trucks.

This constant mobility has been cited as a possible cause for the disappearing hives. The resulting stress depresses bees' immune systems, making bees vulnerable to a host of diseases and parasites. And their road food diet of high fructose corn syrup has been compared to a human diet restricted to soft drinks. Other possible causes include pesticides and other poisons and genetically modified crops that might introduce pesticide into the pollen.

The penultimate sentence about the bees' road food diet has me concerned that my daughter might be in danger of suddenly disappearing.


Bad Science

In an article about the controversy surrounding global warming a couple of scientists are quoted on their view of what science is:

James Wanliss, a space physicist who teaches at Embry-Riddle ...[said] "I fear that attempts are being made to purposefully subvert the public understanding of the nature of science in order to achieve political goals," he wrote in an e-mail. "Science is not about consensus, and to invoke this raises the hackles of scientists such as myself. The lure of politics and publicity is no doubt seductive, but it nevertheless amazes me that so many scientists have jumped on the bandwagon of consensus science, apparently forgetting or ignoring the sad history of consensus science."

Another Embry-Riddle scientist, John Olivero -- professor and chairman of the department of physical science -- allowed that skepticism is an essential tool of the scientific method.

"Science lives with internal conflict all the time," Olivero said. "Part of what we have to do is continually challenge each other."

That process, they say, leads scientists closer to truths that may be elusive for lifetimes.

I see. Science is about dissent and conflict, not consensus. Does this mean that the Darwinians on campuses all around the country who are demanding that non-Darwinians be silenced because they stand outside the scientific consensus are acting in a manner harmful to good science? Perhaps merely to ask the question is to answer it.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Update on Guillermo Gonzalez

Readers interested in the case of Guillermo Gonzalez which we wrote about below (Paying the Price) can find a lot of additional information here. Go to the link and scroll down through the various articles on this travesty.


Gentle Darwinians

There is among devotees of both Nietzsche and Darwin a view that the two men were both gentle academics who would have been appalled had they seen how their writings were distorted and perverted to justify eugenics and nazism.

Peter Quinn, writing in Commonweal, puts the kibosh to such romanticizing and demonstrates that the subsequent history of Europe was not at all inconsistent with what both men believed and taught.

The article is a little long but, it's an important contribution to the debate over the consequences of atheism and naturalism in the modern world.


Wilson Vs. Hitchens

Christianity Today is hosting an online debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and theologian Douglas Wilson. The topic is whether Christianity is good for the world. Round One can be read here and I have to say that I think Wilson already has Hitchens on the ropes, which is not an easy thing to accomplish with someone of Hitchens' intellectual gifts.

Read both Hitchens' opening statement and Wilson's response. It's well-worth the time and it'll cause you to eagerly anticipate Round Two.

UPDATE: Round II is here. Wilson continues to press the key issue: Hitchens wants to talk morality but he doesn't see that atheism undermines all notions of right and wrong. Here's Wilson on the subject:

Now my question for you is this: Is there such a thing as atheist hypocrisy? When another atheist makes different ethical choices than you do (as Stalin and Mao certainly did), is there an overarching common standard for all atheists that you are obeying and which they are not obeying? If so, what is that standard and what book did it come from? Why is it binding on them if they differ with you? And if there is not a common objective standard which binds all atheists, then would it not appear that the supernatural is necessary in order to have a standard of morality that can be reasonably articulated and defended?

So I am not saying you have to believe in the supernatural in order to live as a responsible citizen. I am saying you have to believe in the supernatural in order to be able to give a rational and coherent account of why you believe yourself obligated to live this way. In order to prove me wrong here, you must do more than employ words like "casuistry" or "evasions"-you simply need to provide that rational account. Given atheism, objective morality follows ... how?

The Christian faith is good for the world because it provides the fixed standard which atheism cannot provide and because it provides forgiveness for sins, which atheism cannot provide either. We need the direction of the standard because we are confused sinners. We need the forgiveness because we are guilty sinners. Atheism not only keeps the guilt, but it also keeps the confusion.

Hitchens responds in Round III, but, as Wilson shows, his reply is completely inadequate.


Paying The Price

If ever you hear it said that there's no discrimination on campus against people who hold views in opposition to the reigning Darwinian orthodoxy e-mail them the story of Guillermo Gonzalez. The Darwinist clergy, like the inquisitors before whom Galileo stood, are determined to expunge all traces of dissent and heresy from the halls of academe which was once, before the left took over, a bastion of diversity and non-conformity. Now everyone must march in lockstep, or goosestep, or face the wrath of the guardians of the true faith.

Gonzalez is not the first to suffer excommunication from the academy, nor will he be the last, but just as shutting up Galileo did not prevent the facts about the cosmos from spilling out, denying Gonzalez tenure will not derail the march of truth either.

Read the story at the link and ask yourself how much more qualified can a scientist be than Gonzalez is and how much more of a narrow-minded bigot can a college president be than Iowa State's Gregory Geoffrey is.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fred Responds to MM

Michael Moore, the left-wing Hollywood film-maker and political activist, has challenged Fred Thompson to a debate and lays out his reasons here. He's apparently miffed, inter alia, that Thompson criticized Moore's coziness with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro while himself enjoying fine Cuban cigars.

Thompson's 38 second reply is a political work of art. It's hard to imagine any other candidate of either party being able to pull off such a riposte, and it's impossible, unfortunately, to imagine President Bush even trying it let alone succeeding.

I don't know if Thompson would be a good president, but he sure would be a good "communicator."


Swimming in a Cesspool

Even were I inclined to more secular liberal political views I think I'd abandon them when I realized who I'd be sharing the bed with. A good man dies and many on the secular left are dancing with delight. The moral depravity of these people, their utter inhumanity, is enough to turn one's stomach. Consider a few excerpts from around the blogosphere:

"F**k Jerry Falwell, too bad he didn't die years earlier. Enjoy your time in hell, you racist, homophobic a*****e. Hopefully someone runs a train on your corpse."

"Morning [sic] the death of Jerry Falwell is like morning [sic] the death of Adolf Hitler."

"screw you, Jerry and your whole Christian Taliban 'community'."

"whatever it was that got him was so excruciatingly painful that he went screaming in pain and terror. And now that he's roasting on the Ninth Level of Hell where he belongs...Today is a good [day] for an a*****e to die!!"

"F**k You Falwell.. hopefully Pat Robertson is next."

"So how soon is the funeral, and where? Some serious grave-dancing is in order, here."

"Burn in hell, a*****e."

The reaction from the reporters? Grins and chuckles mostly. One grizzled veteran journalist said, "I hope they (CNN) remember all the horrible things he said." Another reporter simply said, "It is a good day."

For such as these politics is total war and disagreement over politics or religion makes one a mortal enemy. Your opposition to their politics or their atheism makes your death a denouement fervently to be desired. You deserve no respect, no kindness. To them the fact that you hold views different from their own makes you nothing but scum and pus.

Jerry Falwell was not the most adroit spokesperson for Christianity, but he was a man who tried all his life to do good. He had a big heart as even Larry Flynt, of all people, attests. But none of that matters to those consumed by hatred for all things Christian and/or conservative. The man's death and the grief of those who loved him is cause for celebration and gloating. What is it about left-wing ideology and/or atheism that attracts such people?

They are more to be pitied than condemned, however, for they have chosen a path in life that leads them to be deeply unhappy and miserable. Despite their obnoxious response to Jerry Falwell's death, we should hope that they will somehow find their way out of the moral cesspool they have chosen to swim in.


Third Anniversary

Just a word to mention that today marks the third anniversary of Viewpoint. Our first post went up on May 16th, 2004. Today, 3,380 posts and some 185,700 reader visits later, I want to thank all who have taken an interest in what we've been doing here and especially thank my brother Bill for his help in keeping the site up and running. Without him there'd be no Viewpoint.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell was found dead today in his office at the age of 73. Falwell had a habit of saying the most indefensible things that became skewers in the hands of those wishing to discredit Evangelical Christianity, but he was a man whose heart was in the right place even when his mind wasn't. He accomplished a lot of good for the Church and for our country not the least of which was his success in encouraging fundamentalist Christians to forsake their traditional aversion to politics and to get involved in public debates.

He was a man of great optimism, vision, and enthusiasm, and his death will be a great loss to both the church and the university which he founded.


Best Rèsumè, Best Ads

What does it say about our politics that two essential novices with no political accomplishments to their credit (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) are leading the polls among Democratic candidates for the presidency while this guy is an also-ran?

Well, he may not be a media favorite but he certainly has some good ads. Check them out at the link.


Sustainable Development at the U.N.

Many people think the U.N. is a joke, and that august body itself seems determined to confirm them in their opinion. Recently Zimbabwe was designated to head the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development. That's the same Zimbabwe which was once a prosperous nation named Rhodesia but whose fortunes collapsed after the former government was replaced, following a costly civil war in the late 70's, by a collection of thugs, tyrants, thieves, and incompetents under thug-in-chief Robert Mugabe.

It's the same Zimbabwe which is the proud possessor of the world's highest inflation, at more than 2000%, and mass unemployment. Human and civil rights abuses are rife. Entire families of farmers have been evicted from their homes and their land confiscated to be given to people who don't know the difference between a sheep and a cow.

As if to celebrate their new status as the head of the U.N.'s Commission on Sustainable Development it was announced on Wednesday that households in the country will be limited to four hours' electricity a day so that wheat farmers will have enough power to irrigate their crops.

That's the same U.N., by the way, that appointed Libya to chair its Commission on Human Rights in 2003. In the halls of the U.N. building irony, like cosmic radiation, is completely unperceived by those through whom it passes.



The Democrats, or at least many of those who frequent the blogosphere, fancy themselves the reality-based party. They have a grip on the real-world and the rest of us, we're told, are delusional.

It's going to be harder than ever to make that claim sound convincing if what Rush Limbaugh reported the other day is correct. He cites a Rassmussen poll that found that 35% of Democrats believe that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attack beforehand and 26% aren't sure whether he knew or not. That's 51% of the rank and file Democrats in the U.S. who think that Bush was, or might have been, complicit in the 9/11 atrocity against this nation.

If this is the reality-based party one wonders what reality they're tuned into. They sound more like the kind of people who go around wearing tin-foil hats in order to pick up messages from outer-space. And they vote. God help us.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Hannity vs. Hitchens

Sean Hannity takes on Christopher Hitchens over the existence of God in this exchange from his Sunday night television show.

Hitchens' argument for why he hopes there is no God strikes me as silly. Why should anyone hope that there is no Guarantor for meaning, morality, justice, human worth and dignity, or eternal life? Why would anyone not hope that there is a Guarantor who insures that love and goodness will ultimately prevail in the universe? Why would anyone hope instead that all is meaningless, empty, pointless, and absurd?

Anyway, watch the video. It's a good introduction to the thinking of modern anti-theists like Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.


Mullah Dead Fellah Dadullah

Mullah Dadullah, the top Taliban field commander and one of the most sadistic of the Taliban, has been killed by Afghan troops. He will be replaced, of course, but, in the meantime, according to Bill Roggio's analysis, his death is a serious blow to the Taliban's plans for a spring offensive.


See No Evil

Details of the capture of the six jihadis who threatened to attack Fort Dix can be found in this story. I was struck by the concerns of the clerk who alerted authorities. He's quoted as saying to a co-worker:

"Dude, I just saw some really weird s-," he frantically told his co-worker. "I don't know what to do. Should I call someone or is that being racist?"

If the "Flying Imams" and a large swath of Democrats had their way a person like this clerk could indeed be sued if it turned out that the individuals on the tape were innocent. Republican Peter King led a move in Congress to pass legislation that would immunize against lawsuit people who express concern about behavior that seems threatening, but, though the measure passed, 121 House Democrats voted against it. If these 121 sages had prevailed, there would be no legal protection for people like the teenage Circuit City employee who thought the authorities should know about the "really wierd" behavior he saw on that video.

In our politically correct world it may be safer to take the chance that these jihadis were really not up to anything malevolent than to assume they were and risk losing everything you own.

It's no wonder he was concerned about whether he was doing something for which he could get in trouble by informing the police about what he saw. In a Democrat state like New Jersey, he was.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Democrats Debate

A Hillary supporter debates an Obama voter in this amusing video.


That Eminent Tribunal

My friend Jason is a historian who recently came across this quote which he thoughtfully shared with me. Who do you think said it (Hint: It was an American president):

"At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court ... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

The words are those of Abraham Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address, in which The Great Emancipator is referring to the Dred Scott case that affirmed that slaves were the lawful property of their masters. What Lincoln said about the Supreme Court in his day could easily be said of courts in general in our own.

One salient difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives believe judges and justices should rule based on what the law says as much as possible, whereas liberals tend to believe that courts should act to make law if the legislature is too slothful in doing so. This is called "legislating from the bench," and it's the major political point of contention whenever President Bush appoints jurists to the federal bench or the Supreme Court.

Republicans want to be sure that the nominee will respect the Constitution and decide based on what that document actually says, whereas liberals want to be sure that the nominee will feel free to rule in ways that suit their progressive inclinations regardless of what the law and the Constitution say.

Thus, liberals will not vote, for example, to confirm a judge who believes that Roe v. Wade was a bad judicial decision. It doesn't matter to them that there's nothing in the Constitution to support Roe. Society needs abortion on demand, and it would never, it was apparent in 1973, be legalized by the legislature. So, in the liberals' view, it was perfectly appropriate for the Supreme Court to circumvent Congress and each of the state legislatures and grant women the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Roe is just one example. The left, recognizing that the people's representatives would be unlikely to enact a leftist agenda through the process established by the Constitution, would be delighted to have us "resign our government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."


Friday, May 11, 2007

A Division of the House

There is division at the conservative website National Review Online, and it's over, of all things, Darwinism. Andrew Ferguson has a good essay on the cordial dispute in The Weekly Standard.

You can also find more on the matter here.

I expect there to be much tension in the conservative movement in the years ahead, especially if conservatives get hammered again in '08. There will be a lot of finger-pointing and one of the targets will be Christian conservatives. Secular conservatives will blame the Dobsons, Falwells, and Robertsons for any electoral misfortune and the ID/Darwin issue will probably become part of the recriminations.

This would be wholly inappropriate since the matters in contention should be judged on their own merits, independently of any political use to which one side or another has sought to put them. I fear, though, that they won't be.


Pardon Our Hiatus

Woe beset us here at Viewpoint this week when my computer decided that, having outlasted its warranty, it would simply die. Being without a machine I was unable to post on Viewpoint or respond to e-mail for the past four days.

I am now, however, the proud owner of a new computer, a Dell Optiplex 320, which, I'm assured by the guy I bought it from, is far superior to the old Compaq Presario which now rests in a computer morgue. I have no way of knowing whether he's correct about that, but at least I'm back on line and hope to be able to keep Viewpoint going.


Shoe Bomb

Here's video made by the FBI who tested a "shoe bomb" such as Richard Reid tried to detonate on an airliner. The FBI wanted to see exactly what an explosive device like the one Reid sought to employ would do to a plane. The video is chilling. Had the passengers aboard that plane not overpowered Reid, who is serving a life term in prison for his crime, 197 people would today be dead.

The test simulates an explosion in a pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet.


Monday, May 7, 2007

It's Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy swept to victory yesterday in an election that saw 85% of eligible French voters turn out. He's the first mainstream candidate to run openly as a conservative in France in generations and his election signals a deep discontent with the political and social status quo in that nation. The Washington Post says that Sarkozy in his victory speech proclaimed that:

An unabashed admirer of America, Sarkozy, 52, had a special message for the United States, which has had troubled relations with France under President Jacques Chirac, who led international opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq.

"I'd like to appeal to our American friends to say that they can count on our friendship," he said. "But I would also like to say that friendship means accepting that your friends don't necessarily see eye to eye with you."

France's economy is troubled due largely to a 35 hour work week, the inability to fire slackers, and an onerous welfare system. According to the Post:

[Sarkozy's] election signals a shift to the right in French politics and could herald a major transition for French society. Sarkozy has promised to boost economic growth and employment by cutting taxes, reducing deficits, shrinking government and loosening labor laws -- the kind of free-market policies embraced by the United States and Britain, but long eschewed by French leaders.

In selecting the passionate, pragmatic and pugnacious Sarkozy, who is a lawyer by training, voters rejected Royal's prescription of continuing big spending programs to protect and expand France's vast social welfare state.

Another festering problem in Franmce is immigration and the emergence of a highly alienated underclass of North African Muslims among whom joblessness and poverty are commonplace.

Sarkozy, who takes office May 16, has promised tough law-and-order measures and tighter immigration controls that many opponents fear could alienate the country's underclasses and fuel social tensions. Opinion polls throughout the election showed that large numbers of voters were concerned that Sarkozy had an authoritarian streak that could fracture French society.

So, for some voters the choice was between solving very serious problems at the risk of stirring up popular discontent or maintaining social order and allowing the problems to fester and worsen. Most French voters, to their credit, apparently opted for the first course.


Great Ape Project

Ryan passes along a link to the site of an organization called the Great Ape Project, whose goal it is to secure for the great apes the same basic rights as humans award themselves. They say on their site that:

The Great Ape Project seeks to end the unconscionable treatment of our nearest living relatives by obtaining for non-human great apes the fundamental moral and legal protections of the right to life, the freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and protection from torture.

Now no one could object to protecting these animals from torture and gratuitous killing, but if they are given the right to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty that would mean that it would be a violation of their legal rights to put them in zoos. I'm not sure what I think about that.

I also wonder where the granting of such rights would stop. Once we give rights to apes do we put ourselves on a slippery slope that winds up conferring similar rights on all mammals? All vertebrates? If not, why not?

Another question that occurs to me is upon what are such rights as the apes are said to deserve based? Where do the apes' rights come from? As with humans, rights are based either upon the fact that we are creatures of God and thus have worth and dignity or they are based on nothing more than the arbitrary preference of those who advocate for them.

If it's the former then, as stewards of God's creation, we have the responsibility to care for what He cares about. If it's the latter that is to serve as the ground for the apes' rights, however, then I'm afraid that these grand animals will gain little lasting benefit from the efforts of their advocates.


Rare Bird

A very rare bird, a Yellow-billed loon, has been gracing the Susquehanna river in Wormleysburg, PA for the past couple of days. The bird breeds in the arctic along the north slope of Alaska, and although it is sometimes spotted off the Atlantic coast, it is extremely rare inland. It is even rarer to find one in breeding plumage so close to shore and so easy to view.

People have come from all over the east to see it, and as far as I know, no one who has come for it has failed to observe it.

For those not able or not interested in making the drive, here's a photo courtesy of Thomas Brodie Johnson.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Celebrating Other Cultures

The idea, popular during the last thirty years of the twentieth century, that no culture is superior to any other, just different, has become increasingly implausible in light of our growing familiarity with the Middle-east. Indeed, many of those who live in the region make it hard for us to think that large numbers of these people are anything but savages:

A 17-year-old girl has been stoned to death in Iraq because she loved a teenage boy of the wrong religion.

As a horrifying video of the stoning went out on the Internet, the British arm of Amnesty International condemned the death of Du'a Khalil Aswad as "an abhorrent murder" and demanded that her killers be brought to justice.

Reports from Iraq said a local security force witnessed the incident, but did nothing to try to stop it. Now her boyfriend is in hiding in fear for his life.

Miss Aswad, a member of a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, was condemned to death as an "honour killing" by other men in her family and hardline religious leaders because of her relationship with the Sunni Muslim boy.

They said she had shamed herself and her family when she failed to return home one night. Some reports suggested she had converted to Islam to be closer to her boyfriend.

Miss Aswad had taken shelter in the house of a Yezidi tribal leader in Bashika, a predominantly Kurdish town near the northern capital, Mosul.

A large crowd watched as eight or nine men stormed the house and dragged Miss Aswad into the street. There they hurled stones at her for half an hour until she was dead.

Go here for more on this story. I didn't bother searching for the video. The pictures at the link are disturbing enough.

These "honor killings" are unfortunately not aberrations in the Middle-east. They are a widely accepted practice among the various ethnic and religious groups in the region and should give pause to anyone who still believes we should "celebrate" multi-cultural diversity. It should also make each of us thankful that we were born here and not in some part of the world where women are held in such contempt that they could be stoned to death for loving a boy of a different religion.


The French Election

An interesting election is brewing in France for the office of the president. Voting for the two candidates, socialist Segolene Royal and her opponent, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, will take place Sunday. Sarkozy, who is more favorably disposed to the United States than any French president since WWII, has a commanding lead and Royal has resorted to the time-honored tactic of warning that if her opponent wins there will be blood in the streets.

Scaring the bejabbers out of the voters may help her, but I suspect that a lot of French citizens think there's already blood in the streets, at least in the Muslim suburbs, and that the socialists who've been running France haven't done much to stop it. If so, Royal's prediction may actually help Sarkozy more than hurt him.

See this article for a good summary of where matters stand on the eve of an election that has important implications for future support of American foreign policy.


Friday, May 4, 2007

For Movie Buffs

You have to be a real movie aficionado to compile a list of the 50 most overrated and 50 most underrated films, but Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost is up to the task. I'm afraid that I haven't even heard of most of his underrated selections and some of the films he deems overrated I thought were pretty good (Ghandi, Passion of the Christ, Witness). Anyway, those who enjoy this sort of list-making should evaluate his choices for themselves.


Oklahoma Has Had Enough

With several thousand immigrants crossing illegally into Oklahoma every day at a cost to the state taxpayers of $200 million annually for public benefits and other resources, the state legislature has sent the governor legislation designed to make Oklahoma a less attractive destination for illegals:

The Oklahoma bill builds on measures passed by other states but has a stronger focus on deterring unauthorized employment, he said.

"It lays the foundations for state and local action in a very broad scope of public activities," Hethmon said.

The legislation addresses the root cause of illegal immigration - exploitation of illegal immigrant labor, he said. Among other things, the bill contains employment, labor law and civil rights provisions to protect citizens and legal immigrants who lose their jobs at companies that employ illegal immigrants to perform the same or similar work.

"Stealing American jobs is now a civil rights violation in Oklahoma," Hethmon said.

The measure targets employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens in order to gain a competitive advantage. Key elements of the bill focus on determining worker eligibility, including technology called the Basic Pilot program, which screens Social Security numbers to make sure they are real and that they match up with the person's name.

Created by the federal government to verify the eligibility of government employees, use of the program is mandated in Georgia, said the author of the Oklahoma legislation, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore. It is free to employers who voluntarily sign up, he said.

Public agencies will be required to use the program beginning Nov. 1 and private companies by July 1, 2008.

Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations for The State Chamber, a business and industry group in Oklahoma City, said the group initially opposed the bill but took a neutral position after changes were approved in the Senate.

The changes widened so-called "safe harbor" provisions that allow employers to avoid sanctions for hiring undocumented immigrants if they use the Basic Pilot program and other methods to verify worker eligibility, Seney said.

"All of that goes out the window if you are participating in one of these safe harbor areas," he said.

Terrill said the measure would limit state driver's licenses and identity cards to citizens and legal immigrants and would require state and local agencies to verify the citizenship and immigration status of applicants for state or local benefits.

"The land of opportunity is becoming the land of entitlement," Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, said while debating for the bill.

The measure would not affect emergency medical and humanitarian services, such as visits to hospital emergency rooms and enrollment in public schools, that are required by federal law.

For our proposal for addressing the problem of illegal immigration see here.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Public Menace

Imagine that this was not a Democratic governor but, say, a Republican Vice-President:

Gov. Jon S. Corzine apologized to New Jersey residents on Monday as he left the hospital 18 days after a devastating traffic accident in which he was not wearing a seat belt and was being driven at more than 91 miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway.

"I set a very bad example," said a contrite Mr. Corzine, who broke his left femur, his sternum and 11 ribs in the accident, speaking from a wheelchair just outside Cooper University Hospital in Camden. His voice breaking with emotion, he added: "I hope the state will forgive me. I will work very hard to set the right kind of example."

And then what happened?

After the brief comments, Mr. Corzine was helped into a black GMC Savana van, with tinted windows, that he bought and had specially modified for his wheelchair, and left the hospital in a six-car caravan about 1:45 p.m. His vehicle followed a black state police Crown Victoria, and was followed by a Chevrolet Suburban - like the one he was riding in at the time of the crash - a Mercedes station wagon, and two other cars. The motorcade did not use emergency lights, as it had been just before the accident.

The governor's motorcade moved with the flow of traffic on Interstate 295, at some points sustaining speeds up to 70 miles per hour several minutes at a time, according to the speedometer of a vehicle traveling alongside; posted limits were 55 and 65.

Dick Cheney accidentally wounded a companion in a hunting accident and by the media reaction you would have thought that he had deliberately tried to murder the fellow. Corzine, on the other hand, appears to be a chronic threat to public safety, but the media scarcely takes notice. Makes you wonder about their ethics and sense of responsibility.


The NYT, No Less

What will John Murtha and Harry Reid, both of whom having declared the war lost, say about their biggest media ally running this piece on progress in Iraq:

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

"Many people are challenging the insurgents," said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, "We know we haven't eliminated the threat 100 percent."

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders' encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, as part of its new security plan.

Quick! Pull the troops out! Bush might win this thing after all!


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tragedy? Not So Much

Last week's San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about a shooting in a pizzeria that began with this:

Catarino Piedra, 41, kept a gun underneath the counter at the Coliseum Pizza and Taqueria that he owned in East Oakland because his drivers had been robbed many times while making deliveries.

Allen Joseph Hicks III, 22, was an accused batterer on probation for a drug conviction and an aspiring rap artist whom everybody in his neighborhood knew as "Boonie."

The lives of the two men intersected tragically [emphasis mine] at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday when Hicks, armed with a pistol and joined by two other men, tried to rob Piedra inside the popular pizzeria at 89th Avenue and International Boulevard. Fearful that the assailants might hurt him, his wife and three children -- all of whom were inside the restaurant -- Piedra pulled out his 9mm semiautomatic pistol and opened fire, killing Hicks, police said.

In the chaos, Piedra may have accidentally shot and wounded his 17-year-old son, who was not seriously injured, police said.

Piedra acted in self-defense and won't be charged with a crime, Alameda County Assistant District Tom Rogers said Friday.

"I was scared," Piedra told The Chronicle in an interview Friday. "I had to defend my family. I was in fear for me and my kids."

I confess its hard to see just what the tragedy is when an armed thug threatens a man's family and gets killed by the father. Perhaps the SFC would have thought that had the police intercepted Cho Seung Hui as he was about to commit his horrific crime and shot him dead that that too would have been a tragedy. There is a sense, of course, in which any premature loss of life is usually a tragedy and a sense in which it is a tragedy that anyone lets his life deteriorate to the point where he's sticking up pizza stores, but is it tragic that an armed robber who threatens a man's family gets shot? As Glen Beck would say: not so much.


Selecting Generals

My friend Kyle sends along a link to an article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in which he offers a stinging critique of our armed forces' senior officer corps and how these officers are selected. He also makes some recommendations for reforming the process. His piece is guaranteed to be the talk of the officers' clubs.

The essay is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is that Yingling is an active duty officer who is taking quite a career risk by saying some of what he says.

I'm in no position, of course, to comment on whether his criticisms are valid, but I do wonder about his proposed remedy. He urges that Congress undertake to reform the process by which generals are selected. This strikes me as somewhat like asking the three stooges to reform public manners. Congress can't even reform itself let alone reform the military. Moreover, there are many in the majority party in Congress who hold the military in very low esteem, even to the point of loathing. Putting the armed forces in the hands of these people seems like a prescription for the complete emasculation of our military force.

Even so, Yingling's criticisms should be read by everyone who takes an interest in the defense of our nation and the success of the war on terrorists.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Falling Like Dominos

Well, it's an unconfirmed report, but if it turns out to be accurate then the successor to Abu al Zarqawi, who was sent packing to his 72 virgins by a laser guided munition last June, seems to have lasted all of eleven months in office before being introduced to the Grim Reaper by Sunni militiamen who are tired of al Qaeda's heavy-handed ways.

Abu Ayyad al-Masri, who took over the reins of al Qaeda shortly after al-Zarqawi found he had exhausted all of his good luck last June, was believed to have been killed in a battle between al Qaeda and Sunni militia who want al-Qaeda out of Iraq.

The short tenure of the leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq gives new meaning to the concept of term limits. We suggest that when al-Masri's successor takes over, if indeed al-Masri is dead, the first thing he should do is appoint his successor.


Re: For Bibliophiles

Several respondents commented on our post titled For Bibliophiles. Their comments are good reading and can be found on the April Feedback page.


Di Fi's Non-Scandal

If Senator Dianne Feinstein were a Republican she'd be on her way to the slammer, but since she's a Democrat, well, it seems no one can be bothered by the evidence of her, ah, lapses in judgment:

The problems stem from her subcommittee activities from 2001 to late 2005, when she quit. During that period the public record suggests she knowingly took part in decisions that eventually put millions of dollars into her husband's pocket - the classic conflict of interest that exploited her position and power to channel money to her husband's companies.

In other words, it appears Sen. Feinstein was up to her ears in the same sort of shenanigans that landed California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) in the slammer. Indeed, it may be that the primary difference between the two is basically that Cunningham was a minor leaguer and a lot dumber than his state's senior senator.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, or CREW, usually focuses on the ethical lapses of Republicans and conservatives, but even she is appalled at the way Sen. Feinstein has abused her position. Sloan told a California reporter earlier this month that while"there are a number of members of Congress with conflicts of interest ... because of the amount of money involved, Feinstein's conflict of interest is an order of magnitude greater than those conflicts."

And the director of the Project on Government Oversight who examined the evidence of wrongdoing assembled by California writer Peter Byrne told him that "the paper trail showing Senator Feinstein's conflict of interest is irrefutable."

You can read the sordid details at the link. Here's how the story ends, probably in more ways than one:

In spite of the blatant appearance of corruption, no major publication has picked up on the story, the Senate Ethics Committee has reportedly let her slip by, and she is now chairing the Senate Rules Committee, which puts her in charge of making sure her colleagues act ethically and avoid the sorts of conflicts of interest with which she is personally and so obviously familiar.

When you're a liberal in Washington, evidently, the world is your oyster and taxpayers' dollars are yours for the taking. Meanwhile, our vigilant media is busy trying to ferret out the really important stuff like whether any Republican bigwigs' telephone numbers are on the "D.C. Madam's" rolodex.