Friday, June 27, 2008

Good News from Iraq

Vito calls our attention to this article in USAToday which really is heartening news:

WASHINGTON - Roadside bomb attacks and fatalities in Iraq are down by almost 90% over the last year, according to Pentagon records and interviews with military leaders. In May, 11 U.S. troops were killed by blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) compared with 92 in May 2007, records show. That's an 88% decrease.

Military leaders cite several factors for the drop in attacks and deaths. They include:

� New vehicles. Almost 7,000 heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles have been rushed to Iraq in the last year. "They've taken hits, many, many hits that would have killed soldiers and marines in uparmored Humvees," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a recent interview. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made obtaining at least 15,000 MRAPs his top priority last year.

� Iraqi assistance. Ad hoc local security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, have provided on-the-ground intelligence to U.S. forces looking for IEDs, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commanded a division in Baghdad from February 2007 until May. Each member of the security forces earns about $8 per day. Lynch has hired about 36,000 of them to man checkpoints and provide intelligence on the insurgency. He said about 60% had been insurgents.

� Improved surveillance. Lynch said his troops used new security cameras that could see bomb builders up to 5 miles away. "If they're out there planting an IED, we can go whack them before they finish," he said.

Also, Lynch said, the 14-ton MRAPs have forced insurgents to build bigger bombs to knock out the vehicles. Those bombs take more time to build and hide, which gives U.S. forces a better chance of catching the insurgents in the act and then attacking them.

Perhaps the left and other anti-war folk will join with us in rejoicing that American casualties are diminishing. Let's hope it continues.


N.T. Wright on Colbert

N.T. Wright is one of the best known contemporary theologians and he has written what is perhaps the definitive work on the resurrection of Jesus titled The Resurrection of the Son of God. He has more recently written a book titled Surprised by Hope in which he argues that heaven is not the final destination of those who have eternal life.

Wright recently appeared on the Stephen Colbert show to discuss his book which, of course, is hardly a setting conducive to a serious consideration of his ideas. Nevertheless, here's the interview:


The God Delusion, Ch. 8

In chapter 8 of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins continues to pile implausible assertions on top of puerile arguments. He delivers himself of the claim, as an instance, that evolutionists believe in evolution because the evidence supports it and would abandon their theory overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it.

Now that may be true of him personally, though I very much doubt it, but it's certainly not true of evolutionists as a whole. Consider the famous admission of evolutionist Richard Lewontin who doubtless speaks for many in his camp:

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

That doesn't sound to me like a man particularly open to evidence. When Dawkins insists that absolutist belief systems are a source of evil in the world and that religion is absolutist, he should be reminded of the above passage from Lewontin.

The unmistakable trademark of the faith-based moralizer, Dawkins goes on to assure us, is to care passionately about what other people do (or think) in private. This reprehensible behavior is typical of religious people, especially those who condemn homosexuality and other forms of sexual libertinism.

Whether many Christians really care what others think and do in private I cannot say, but it certainly is typical of many of Dawkins' friends, if not he himself, to care about other people's private thoughts. If a student or faculty member of a high school or college knows all the facts of evolutionary theory but personally disbelieves their truth, many atheistic materialists have publicly admitted that they would, were it in their power, deny them a degree or a tenured faculty position.

We've noted on this blog several examples of Darwinists who care very passionately indeed about what people think in private about evolution. Why is it despicable to concern oneself with what others think in their hearts about sex but not despicable when it is private doubts about Darwinism that must be purged root and branch from peoples' hearts and minds?

Professor Dawkins is at pains in chapter 8 to defend abortion on demand and along the way ridicule religious believers for their opposition to it. He observes that Paul Hill, a Pensacola man who killed an abortionist and his bodyguard in 1994, was driven to his deed by his religious beliefs. By the lights of his religious faith, Dawkins states, Hill was entirely right and moral to shoot the abortionist.

Be that as it may, the irony of Dawkins' complaint here against religion is that by Dawkins' own lights he cannot say, though he does anyway, that Hill was wrong or immoral to shoot the abortionist. Dawkins has to import a theistic understanding and foundation of morality in order to make his case that Hill's act was contemptible because on atheistic grounds there simply is no justification for using the word "wrong" and no reason to think that murder is anything more than an offense against one's own subjective moral preferences.

Dawkins' main justification for killing the unborn, surprisingly enough, is not that they're not human but that, regardless of their humanity, they don't really suffer from being aborted. This is an astonishing argument. If we were to adopt it how could we avoid taking the short step to agreeing that no killing would be immoral as long as the victim didn't suffer? Where would this stop? Infants and the elderly could be put to death so long as it was done painlessly, but there'd be no reason to stop there. Everyone who couldn't defend themselves in a Dawkinsian world would be fair game for the stronger provided the killers did their deed without inflicting pain. Children, the weak and infirm, the poor, all would be vulnerable to Dawkins' enlightened thinking. Dawkins, though he apparently doesn't foresee it, would have us living in a Hobbesian world of war of every man against every man. To follow his logic would be to travel straight back to the holocaust.

Having proffered the stunningly stupid thesis that what essentially makes murder wrong is not that it takes a human life but rather that it inflicts pain, our intrepid philosopher is now prepared to traipse insouciantly on to chapter 9 where he will make the case, or at least attempt to make a case, that teaching children to be religious is a form of child abuse.