Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Wages of Coal

As we take time out from praying for the Utah miners and their families perhaps we might be reminded that almost 700 coal miners have died in the U.S. between 1990 and 2006. If we add to that total the health risks and economic damage caused by acid rain and other by-products of coal-burning the human cost of using this resource to produce electricity has been staggering.

The question thus presents itself: How many people have died in the U.S. since 1990, or since 1970, for that matter, from nuclear power? The answer, I think, is zero.

So why do we still rely on coal to produce our energy and refuse to build more nuclear reactors?


The Hazards of Extrapolation

Darwinians have long scoffed at the notion that there are limits to the miracles that natural selection and genetic mutation can perform. They're fond of taking evidence of relatively small variations in the genotypes and phenotypes of a population of organisms - what's called microevolution - and then extrapolating from those tiny changes to the enormous diversity of living things we see in our world. In other words, the argument goes, if one bacterium can develop a resistance to a certain antibiotic, then given enough time bacteria can develop into elephants, or something like that.

It is the argument of Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution that this extrapolation is not grounded in empirical evidence and is, in fact, an assumption based upon materialist metaphysics. If natural processes are all there are, the reasoning is, then the extrapolation just has to be licit, and the diversity of life simply must have arisen by slow gradual changes over long periods of time.

Behe's counter-argument is technical and empirical, but there's an earlier case made against this kind of extrapolation which is much less technical, just as persuasive, and pretty humorous besides. I don't know if the author had Darwinism in mind when he wrote it but what he says about the hazards of extrapolation certainly applies to the Darwinian view of life:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. This is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolithic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token, any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. -----Mark Twain

Darwinians begin with the fact that things change and deduce from that humble observation that the entire cosmos is a result of purely physical, mechanical processes. Like Twain says, one gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. Perhaps that's part of the appeal of Darwinism.


Bush's Immigration Legacy

Word comes that the Bush administration is going to crack down on illegal immigration. Tragically, the news is a little late for the three college students murdered in Newark last week by an illegal alien. I wonder if the families of these students are cheered to learn that illegal immigrants with rap sheets a mile long might finally find themselves a little less welcome in this country:

Jose Carranza had at least three prior arrests and was facing an aggravated assault charge in a separate case at the time of the killings.

According to court records ... Carranza was indicted twice this year - in April on aggravated assault and weapons charges; and in July on 31 counts including aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 13. He was free on bail on the indictments.

This picture may well become the symbol of George Bush's immigration legacy.

Perhaps the grieving families of Carranza's victims should be consoled by the fact that officials turn the other way when slugs like Carranza slither by because it means that American businessmen can hire plenty of cheap labor.

It's too bad those families can't sue George Bush and every other official who either declined, or made it difficult, to deport Carranza when he first fell under the notice of authorities. Maybe if they stood to lose their shirts these people would fulfill their obligations to enforce our laws.