Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Round One

Unfortunately, the first opportunity to stop the Senate immigration bill was lost today on a 64-35 vote which allowed the measure to be reintroduced for debate. Apparently a number of Republican senators who said they were going to vote no were persuaded by the administration to change their vote. Who knows what they were offered to allow this bill to come to the floor.

Amendments that were added to it will be debated until Thursday at which time a cloture vote to shut off debate will be taken. This takes 60 votes to pass. If cloture is invoked then the immigration bill will pass the senate (The vote to pass the bill only requires 51 votes to prevail and is pretty much a foregone conclusion). The bill will then move to the House where the process of debating and voting will be repeated.

Meanwhile, the administration is working furiously to get Republicans on board, even though rank and file voters (of both parties) are jamming D.C. switchboards to express their opposition. If you're a Republican the next time you're sent an appeal for a donation to the party, cut this out and send it to them:

Meanwhile, you can find your senator's phone number here. The National Republican Senatorial Committee number is (202) 675-6000.

For an explanation of what's wrong with this bill read the Heritage Foundation's report on the results of their study of the bill last month.


Putin's Problematic Problem

Vladimir Putin can't be serious. He says in a recent speech that:

"Regarding the problematic pages in our history, yes, we do have them, as does any state."

"But other countries have also known their bleak and terrible moments."

"In any event, we never used nuclear weapons against civilians, and we never dumped chemicals on thousands of kilometres of land or dropped more bombs on a tiny country than were dropped during the entire Second World War, as was the case in Vietnam."

"Problematic"? Is that we he calls the deliberate starvation of 15 million Ukranians by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s? It's true the Soviets never dropped an atomic bomb (though they certainly threatened to do so often enough), but the U.S. nuclear attacks on the Japanese, who had initiated war with us in 1941, took some 200,000 lives. Uncle Joe killed that many of his own countrymen on an average afternoon in the 1930s.

As for dropping bombs on tiny countries, the Soviets didn't refrain from bombing people out of some moral scruple. They didn't bomb because they didn't have to. They destroyed the souls and lives of two generations of East Germans, Czechs, Poles, and Hungarians with their armored infantry forces in the fifties and sixties.

Moreover, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of political and religious dissidents languished and perished in the Soviet gulag during the thirties, forties, and fifties.

The Soviets were also responsible for the spread of communism throughout much of Europe and Africa in the fifties, sixties, and seventies resulting in the deaths of millions more.

In all, almost 100 million people perished in the 20th century at the hands of Soviet or Soviet-supported communists and countless other lives were strangled by their oppressive totalitarianism. Some 20 million of those deaths occured within the Soviet Union itself.

I guess that's a "problematic" history, but it's certainly not a history which should be compared favorably with that of the United States.


Evolution and Religion

Darwinian materialists Gregory Graffin and Will Provine of Cornell sent a detailed questionnaire on evolution and religion to 271 professional evolutionary scientists elected to membership in 28 honorific national academies around the world, and 149 (55 percent) responded. The results were interesting:

Religious evolutionists were asked to describe their religion, and unbelievers were asked to choose their closest description among atheist, agnostic, naturalist or "other" (with space to describe). Other questions asked if the evolutionary scientist were a monist or dualist-that is, believed in a singular controlling force in natural science or also allowed for the supernatural-whether a conflict between evolution and religion is inevitable, whether humans have free will, whether purpose or progress plays a role in evolution, and whether naturalism is a sufficient way to understand evolution, its products and human origins.

The great majority of the evolutionists polled (78 percent) [regarded] themselves as pure naturalists. Only two out of 149 described themselves as full theists, two as more theist than naturalist and three as theistic naturalists. Taken together, the advocacy of any degree of theism is the lowest percentage measured in any poll of biologists' beliefs so far (4.7 percent).

Most evolutionary scientists who billed themselves as believers in God were deists (21) rather than theists (7).

[The respondents] were strongly materialists and monists: 73 percent said organisms have only material properties, whereas 23 percent said organisms have both material and spiritual properties. These answers are hardly surprising given previous polls. But the answers to two questions were surprising to us.

Only 10 percent of the eminent evolutionary scientists who answered the poll saw an inevitable conflict between religion and evolution. The great majority see no conflict between religion and evolution ... because they see religion as a natural product of human evolution (emphasis mine). Sociologists and cultural anthropologists, in contrast, tend toward the hypothesis that cultural change alone produced religions, minus evolutionary change in humans. The eminent evolutionists who participated in this poll reject the basic tenets of religion, such as gods, life after death, incorporeal spirits or the supernatural. Yet they still hold a compatible view of religion and evolution....These eminent evolutionists view religion as a sociobiological feature of human culture, a part of human evolution, not as a contradiction to evolution. Viewing religion as an evolved sociobiological feature removes all competition between evolution and religion for most respondents.

These scientists believe religion is compatible with evolution in the same way they believe that vestigial structures like the appendix are compatible with evolution. It's not that they believe that any religious claims are true but rather that evolution gave rise to religion because it served a particular function in our racial history.

Seeing religion as a sociobiological feature of human evolution, while a plausible hypothesis, denies all worth to religious truths.

Actually this last sentence is a non-sequitur. Even were it the case that religious awareness dawned slowly in man's evolutionary history, it doesn't follow that there's no truth to the beliefs that men came to hold. It's quite possible, perhaps even plausible, that men originally developed a belief in God because that belief conformed to the way the world really is. Indeed, it seems to me much more plausible to think that we evolved strong beliefs that were accurate representations of reality than that we evolved strong beliefs that were fundamentally illusory. If evolution is all about survival value then I think the former would better suit us for our environment than the latter.

Anyway, I have a question. If belief in God is a consequence of evolutionary forces why is not disbelief deemed also to be a result of evolution? How did atheism arise in a population of organisms (humans) that is so overwhelmingly theist? Is atheism a dysgenic mutation, like sickle cell, that coincidentally confers some sort of benefit upon those who have it? If so, what does that say about its truth value?

It would seem that truth has nothing to do with whether one is a theist or an atheist, our beliefs are all programmed by our genes, and apparently the genes for atheism are linked to the genes for studying biology so that those who have one often have the other. In other words biologists are atheists for completely non-rational reasons.

Aren't evolutionary explanations cool?