Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Evolution vs. Naturalism

Alvin Plantinga, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, has for several decades been pressing the argument that it is literally irrational to be an evolutionary naturalist. Naturalism is the view that there is no God nor anything like God. It holds that nature is all there is. For the purposes of Plantinga's argument we can think of naturalism as being synonymous with atheism.

Plantinga argues that if evolution is true we have no reason to believe that naturalism is. He notes, for instance, that:

Richard Dawkins once claimed that evolution made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. I believe he is dead wrong: I don't think it's possible at all to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist; but in any event you can't rationally accept both evolution and naturalism.

This is a claim that strikes many atheists as risible until they examine the argument that lies behind it. Once they do, the snickers cease.

Books and Culture has an essay by Plantinga in which he lays out his case in clear, easily comprehendable fashion. It's an important argument, one that both Christians and atheists should make themselves familiar with. Give it a few minutes of your time.


Whatever You Can Get Away With

There are lots of possible explanations for Senator Obama's apparent ability to hold every side of a contentious issue. One such possibility, the one to which I subscribe, is that the senator is simply the product of his post modern times, an era in which "texts" have no fixed meaning, and truth is, to quote the late Richard Rorty, whatever your peers will let you get away with saying.

David Bueche at The American Thinker agrees and offers a catalogue of Obama's statements on Iraq to illustrate what the MSM, another product of the Rortian school of epistemology, is letting him get away with. The display of rhetorical gymnastics to which Obama has treated us over the last year and a half is worthy of a gold at Beijing. Here's Bueche's recitation:

  • January 10, 2007, on MSNBC: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."
  • Also from January 2007: "We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war. And until we acknowledge that reality, uh, we can send 15,000 more troops; 20,000 more troops; 30,000 more troops. Uh, I don't know any, uh, expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to, uh, privately that believes that that is gonna make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground."
  • May 25th, 2007: "And what I know is that what our troops deserve is not just rhetoric, they deserve a new plan. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe that the course that we're on in Iraq is working, I do not."
  • July, 2007: "Here's what we know. The surge has not worked. And they said today, 'Well, even in September, we're going to need more time.' So we're going to kick this can all the way down to the next president, under the president's plan."
  • September 13th, 2007: "After putting an additional 30,000 troops in, far longer and more troops than the president had initially said, we have gone from a horrendous situation of violence in Iraq to the same intolerable levels of violence that we had back in June of 2006. So, essentially, after all this we're back where we were 15 months ago. And what has not happened is any movement with respect to the sort of political accommodations among the various factions, the Shia, the Sunni, and Kurds that were the rationale for [the] surge and that ultimately is going to be what stabilizes Iraq. So, I think it is fair to say that the president has simply tried to gain another six months to continue on the same course that he's been on for several years now. It is a course that will not succeed."
  • November 11, 2007: "Finally, in 2006-2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled them and initiated a surge and at that stage I said very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there."

In early 2008, as statistical proof of The Surge's incredible success became indisputable, Mr. Obama abruptly reversed his assessment of the situation and his recollection of his own recent history:

  • January 5, 2008: "I had no doubt, and I said when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence."

And now this:

  • July 21, 2008: When asked if - knowing what he knows now - would Mr. Obama support the Troop Surge. He replied, "No." When asked to explain he added, "These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult," he said. "Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that what I am absolutely convinced of is, at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with, and one that I continue to disagree with -- is to look narrowly at Iraq and not focus on these broader issues."

This is astonishing. Having claimed that he was saying all along that the surge would reduce violence and increase security when in fact he had for a year been insisting on precisely the opposite, he now says that even had he known that Iraqi lives would be saved by the surge and that stability would come to that land, he still would have opposed increasing troop levels.

It's one thing to have opposed the surge because you thought at the time that it would cause more harm to befall the long-suffering Iraqis, but to say that you would have opposed it even if you knew that it would end the violence and bring peace to that land is the babbling of one who is either morally or intellectually ill-equipped to serve as Commander-in-Chief.


Sudden Death

Unconfirmed reports out of Pakistan say that an unmanned drone aircraft fired a missile that killed Abu Khabab in southern Waziristan in Pakistan today. Abu Khabab headed up al Qaeda's WMD program and had worked on chemical agents that could cause mass deaths in a terror attack. He had a 5 million dollar bounty on his head which has presumably been dissociated into atom-sized particles. Perhaps he saw the missile coming and had a moment to reflect upon his crimes.

Meanwhile, another Taliban raid in Afghanistan resulted in losses approaching 70% for the attackers:

The Taliban launched their assault on the Spera district center at 2 AM local time, the International Security Assistance Force reported in a press release. The attacking force, estimated at 100 Taliban fighters, attacked using small arms and machineguns.

The Afghan National Police manning the outpost held off the attack and radioed US forces for backup. The US responded by sending ground forces and supporting fire from artillery as well as helicopter and aircraft.

US and Afghan forces then surrounded the Taliban force and pounded the position with small-arms fire, artillery, and airstrikes.

The Taliban force was routed. "The number of insurgents killed is in double-digit figures," the International Security Assistance Force reported. Arsala Jamal, the governor of Khost, said between 50 and 70 Taliban fighters were killed. "A small number" of police officers were reported killed. No US troops were reported killed or wounded during the engagement.