Saturday, July 21, 2007

Viking Treasure

Here's an interesting story for anyone who enjoys antiques and archaeological artifacts:

LONDON (July 21) - One of the biggest Viking treasures ever found has been discovered on an English farm by a father-son team of treasure hunters, the British Museum announced Thursday.

The trove of coins and jewelry was buried more than 1,000 years ago, a collection of items from Ireland, France, Russia and Scandinavia that testified to the raiders' international reach.

"It's a fascinating find, it's the largest find of its type of over 150 years," said Gareth Williams, an expert at the British Museum who examined the items.

He said it was the largest such find in Britain since the 1840 discovery of the Cuerdale Hoard, a mass of 8,500 silver coins, chains, and amulets.

The BBC reported that the treasure could be worth as much as $2 million. "This is a discovery that isn't just once a generation, but once a century," said Jonathan Williams of the British Museum.

David Whelan, 60, and his 35-year-old son Andrew were trawling [with a metal detector] through a farmer's field near Harrogate, in northern England, on Jan. 6 when their detector squealed. The pair began digging, finding a silver bowl more than a foot beneath the soil.

The pair turned the bowl over to archaeological experts, who discovered it was packed with coins and jewelry. The bowl, a 9th century gilt silver container probably seized by Vikings from a monastery, had been used as an improvised treasure chest before being buried.

"We thought it was marvelous," David Whelan told The Associated Press. "But we didn't know for nearly a month what was in it."

In all, more than 600 coins and dozens of other objects, including a gold arm band, silver ingots and fragments of silver were found in and around the container.

Some of the coins mixed Christian and pagan imagery, shedding light on the beliefs of newly Christianized Vikings, said Gareth Williams, a curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum.

The booty was likely accumulated through a combination of commerce and warfare, Williams said. Its quantity indicated that at least some of it was taken by force, perhaps in raids on northern Europe or Scandinavia, he added.

The items were manufactured as far afield as Afghanistan, Russia and Scandinavia.

Go to the link for more on the find, including photos.


Brave New World

Leon Kass has written an interesting though lengthy article in Commentary titled "Science, Religion, and the Human Future." The essay offers us a perceptive look at where the naturalistic, materialistic metaphysics of "scientism," the belief that science is the key to all knowledge and whatever can't be known through the scientific method is not worth talking about, is taking us. Kass has many excellent things to say in the piece, but perhaps the most important is his claim that scientism is self-refuting. I find this important because of what it entails about the future. Here's what Kass says:

[O]n the scientists' own grounds, they will be unable to refute our intransigent insistence on our own freedom and psychic awareness. For how are they going to explain our resistance to their subversive ideas, save by conceding that we must just be hard-wired by nature to resist them? If all truth claims of science - and the philosophical convictions that some people derive from them - are merely the verbalized expressions of certain underlying brain states in the scientists who offer these claims, then there can be no way to refute the contrary opinions of those whose nervous systems, differently wired, see things the opposite way.

And why, indeed, should anyone choose to accept as true the results of someone else's "electrochemical brain processes" over his own? Truth and error, no less than human freedom and dignity, become empty notions when the soul is reduced to chemicals.

This is frightening stuff when you consider the inmplications. If all knowledge is just a series of chemical reactions in the brain there's no "true" opinion anymore than there are "true" reactions. Moreover, no one can be held responsible for the opinion they hold since it is a product of environmental factors over which they have no control. In other words, all knowledge is determined by our brain chemistry.

This being so, how does one promote one's ideas of what's true among people whose brain chemistry is ill-disposed to accomodate it? The ineluctable answer is that truth and tolerance will give way to compulsion. Different groups will seek to impose their will by the exercise of power. If dissenters are troublesome, then like Rousseau and totalitarians before and since have advocated, they must be eliminated.

This is the logical endpoint of the view that man is just a chemical machine. Machines have no worth beyond their usefulness to their masters. They have no dignity and they have no rights.

Kass continues:

No one should underestimate the growing cultural power of scientific materialism and reductionism. As we have seen, the materialism of science, useful as a heuristic hypothesis, is increasingly being peddled as the one true account of human life, citing as evidence the powers obtainable on the basis of just such reductive approaches. Many laymen, ignorant of any defensible scientific alternative to materialism, are swallowing and regurgitating the shallow doctrines of "the selfish gene" and "the mind is the brain," because they seem to be vindicated by scientific advance. The cultural result is likely to be serious damage to human self-understanding and the subversion of all highminded views of the good life.

Materialist science cannot answer the question, How should we use our technology? The question is nonsense in a worldview bereft of moral value. So, eschewing the moral questions, scientism ...

... tacitly preaches its own version of faith, hope, and charity: faith in the goodness of scientific progress, hope in the promise of transcendence of our biological limitations, charity in promising everyone ultimate relief from, and transcendence of, the human condition. No religious faith rests on flimsier ground. And yet the project for the mastery of human nature proceeds apace, and most people stand on the sidelines and cheer.

Like the German citizens of the 1930s, they stand on the sidelines and cheer as we hurtle toward a brave, new, and horrifying world.


Suicide by Political Correctness

The Senate failed yesterday to pass the "John Doe" amendment to the Homeland Security bill. The vote was 57-39, but sixty votes were needed for passage. Every nay vote was cast by a Democrat. Michelle Malkin has the details, including the roll call (Be sure to scroll down to watch the video).

For those of you who may not have been following this issue, the John Doe amendment was attached to the Homeland Security bill by rep. Peter King of N.Y. King wanted to immunize against lawsuits citizens who may erroneously report activity that looks like it may be terror-related. The amendment grew out of the case of the six Muslim imams who were behaving in such a bizzare fashion in an airport and aboard their U.S. Air flight last year that a number of passengers reported them to authorities. The imams are now suing these people, who have been designated as John Doe, and they stand to lose everything they own because they were concerned for their safety and the safety of their families.

It's not hard to imagine the chilling effect a successful lawsuit would have on others who observe strange behavior. It is hard, though, to imagine how anyone could vote against this amendment. Little wonder that the country does not trust Democrats to handle national security. These people disqualify themselves every chance they get from having the right to hold the reigns of power. Heaven help us if they get more of it in 2008.

Andrew McCarthy at NRO writes:

The Democrats' maneuver here is also an obnoxious assertion of state power over the individual: If the state subpoenas you for information, you are compelled to provide it to the authorities whether you want to or not; but if you want to provide it voluntarily in order to protect your community, the Democrats say, "prepare to be sued."

What possible good reason is there to silence people who want to tell the police they saw suspicious behavior? Under circumstances where we are under threat from covert terror networks which secretly embed themselves in our society to prepare and carry out WMD attacks? Planet earth to the Democrats: To execute such attacks, terrorists have to act suspiciously at some point. There are only a few thousand federal agents in the country. There are many more local police, but even they are relatively sparse in a country of 300 million. If we are going to stop the people trying to kill us, we need ordinary citizens on their toes. Again, this is just common sense.

Unfortunately, common sense is not a resource in abundant supply among congressional Democrats.

The good news is that the amendment may be revived in conference. You can find your senator's contact information here and find your House representative's phone and e-mail here. Or you can call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be put through to your Congressperson.