Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Twilight of Atheism

Marvin Olasky recites examples of the hyperventilations found in the anti-God books of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens and then notes this:

So why, despite the evidence, are authors such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens so doctrinaire in their denunciations? Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath offer a reason in their book, The Dawkins Delusion: "Until recently, Western atheism had waited patiently, believing that belief in God would simply die out. But now a whiff of panic is evident. Far from dying out, belief in God has rebounded."

Alistair McGrath wrote an earlier book which he titled The Twilight of Atheism and in which he expands on the idea that atheism is a dying belief system. It's a good book, offering as it does a helpful historical overview of the rise and decline of atheism, and well worth a read.

One evidence of the intellectual feebleness of the atheist's position is the form that their argument almost always takes. They assert that belief in God is intellectually untenable and then they support that conclusion by trotting out all sorts of irrelevant eccentric religious beliefs that people hold. Arguing that belief in God is nonsense because some religious expressions are absurd is like arguing that physics is quackery because there have been scientists who have believed nutty things.

Yet that's the kind of argument that Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens offer. But it's all they've got so they have to go with it and hope that if they wrap an empty argument in enough stridency a lot of people will be impressed.


Very Odd

Something very significant is going on with Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution, and it seems to be going largely unremarked.

Virtually all the critics of the book have been scientists. Why is that and why is it significant? If Intelligent Design isn't science why don't these scientific critics just pass the book on to philosophers or theologians? They don't, and they don't criticize the book on the basis of it not being science, either. They critique it, not very sucessfully in my opinion, on the basis of the merits of its scientific claims.

Now this is very odd. If ID is not science then many scientists are reviewing a book that discusses matters on which they have no expertise, and no one seems to think this inappropriate. Somebody call Judge John Jones who ruled in the Dover case that ID wasn't science. Maybe he can help us understand this phenomenon.


The Evolving Case for Surrender

Now that even erstwhile anti-war liberals are conceding that the military is successfully moving toward suppressing the terrorists in Iraq a lot of war opponents are shifting their rationale for pulling out.

They're now placing their chips on the argument that the Maliki government is a failure and that nothing can be done to pump life back into it.

This may be true, but how does it follow that we should therefore withdraw from Iraq?

Suppose the military situation gets to the point where we are taking only one or two casualties a month, or a year, from Iraqi insurgents. Suppose further that the current government remains dysfunctional moving only glacially toward the benchmarks Congress has set for them.

Why should that be a reason for withdrawal? If we leave there will be, all hands agree, a vacuum that will turn into a slaughterhouse. If we leave civil war will ensue resulting in famine, disease, retribution, and millions of deaths. If we leave the region will probably embark upon a nuclear arms race to defend themselves against Iranian hegemony. If we leave there will almost surely be an attack against Israel. This is more than speculation, it's common sense given the history and nature of the region.

If our presence there staves off this holocaust, if it helps maintain a modicum of stability, why should we not stay? What possible argument can there be for abandoning the region to the kind of consequences likely to follow upon our withdrawal?

We stayed in Japan for sixty years after WWII, and we're still in Europe. We're also still in Korea fifty seven years after the end of that civil war, and we remain in Bosnia ten years after President Clinton said we'd be out. The stakes are just as high if not higher in Iraq as they are in any of these regions.

Nevertheless, some argue that the failure of Iraq's government to reach Western standards of political harmony means we have to get out as soon as possible. Joe Klein, for example, writing in Time delivers himself of these four utterly incomprehensible rationales for surrender:

  • Is there any role we can play in alleviating the coming internecine Iraqi chaos? (My guess is, not much of one...although a U.S. military drawdown, starting now, might induce some sobriety on the part of the various Iraqi factions.)
  • Is there any danger that the Iraqi chaos will spill the country's borders and become regional? (Yes, of course, but not necessarily the broad regional cataclysm that people like John McCain posit.)
  • Is there anything we can do to limit the possibility of regional conflict? (Yes, but the good we can do is mostly diplomatic, not military.)
  • Is there anything left for our military to do in Iraq? (Yes, continue to press the case against the jihadis. But that can be done with far fewer troops.)

Let's take each of these in turn: What a drawdown will do is cause Iraqis who were willing to stick their necks out because they thought we were going to be there to protect them to start turning back to clan and militia for their protection. Millions of others will seek to flee the country to avoid the inevitable retribution of the terrorists. It will be Cambodia 1975 all over again.

Klein states blithely that the cataclysm won't necessarily be broad, but this is an asinine assertion. Of course there's a logical possibility that a cataclysm will be relatively contained, but why take the chance that the bare possibility will be actualized? The liklihood is that the whole region will be at war. Iran will move into Iraq to protect Shia Muslims from Sunni. Turkey will seek to settle their Kurdish problem once and for all. Syria will want to grab oil fields. There will be enormous pressure on Sunni Muslim nations to come to the defense of their fellow Sunnis.

Once we have withdrawn there is nothing that will get us to go back in. Israel's neighbors will see that as a golden opportunity to mount a large scale attack on the "Zionists" and fulfil their dream of destroying the Israeli state.

Regional conflict can only be prevented by diplomacy, Klein says, but he fails to understand the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Diplomacy is necessary to achieve stability but by itself it's not sufficient. Diplomacy unsupported by military force and peace is useless, especially in that part of the world. It reduces to offering people bribes to play nice, but our bribes don't interest them, and they don't want to play nice.

The last assertion is the most astonishing. The reason we're having success against the jihadis is because we increased the number of troops. Now Klein says we can have that same kind of success with fewer troops. On what does he base this? It couldn't be done before the surge, but the armchair general writing from his cozy New York office is certain it can be done now.

If Klein's argument is the best that the advocates of surrender can muster then one grows more confident than ever that we simply have to stay on the course we're on for the sake of the Iraqi people and for the peace of the whole world.