Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Casey and the Dems

Jason sends along a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning the convention address scheduled for tonight by Pennsylvania senator Robert Casey, son of the late PA governor. Casey, Sr., those of a certain age will recall, was humiliated by the Democrats at the 1992 convention because he was pro-life. Tonight his son gets what the father was denied, a chance to speak to his party on the issue of abortion. Whether he will take up that topic and do so forcefully is anyone's guess, but it'll be interesting to see if he seeks to "avenge" his father.

The WSJ article by William McGurn questions, inter alia, how anyone who is pro-life can align himself with a party whose standard bearer voted against protecting infants born alive after an "unsuccessful" abortion. It's a question that has occupied us here at Viewpoint as well. How can a party who is collectively outraged that we might make terrorists uncomfortable in their incarceration at Guantanamo turn around and have tingles running up their legs at the thought of a president who is willing to tolerate murdering birthed babies if the mother doesn't want the child?

McGurn's column is a good piece with a lot of background on both the Casey debacle of 1992 and the current thinking of the Democratic party on the issue of life.


Persistent Confusion

Uncommon Descent presents a video made by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which seeks to discredit intelligent design (ID). The video features remarks made by biology teachers from the Dover Area School District as well as Francis Collins, noted head of the human genome project. These people share in common two things: They're all theistic evolutionists (TE), and they're all confused about what ID is.

Theistic evolutionists believe that God used natural processes like evolution to bring about the diverse forms of life we find on our planet but that there is no empirical evidence of his having done this. One can know that God is the creator through the eyes of faith but not through empirical investigation, according to TE.

ID, on the other hand, says that however life came about, it's the product of intelligent purpose and that there are marks of that intelligent agency in the design of both the cosmos as a whole and of life in particular.

With all that in mind watch the video and see how many confusions find voice in the words of the speakers:

One Dover teacher says that God created the world but he did it through evolution. She looks for natural causes, she tells us, of the phenomena she observes. Yet she seems unaware that there's no conflict between what she says and what a proponent of ID would say. The teacher seems to think that the belief that God uses natural causes entails the further belief that there is no evidence of intelligent agency in the effects of those causes, but of course it does not.

Francis Collins claims that it's a great tragedy of the ID "furor" that it gives the impression that you have to be in one camp or another. This is a terrible position to put people in, he laments, but what he says is simply untrue. There are in the ID camp evolutionists, atheists, agnostics, deists, Jews, Muslims and Christians. The only camps that ID divides people into are those who believe that there's empirical evidence of intentional design in the creation and those who believe that there isn't. For someone who accepts the bible as authoritative, as theistic evolutionists often do, to balk at the proposition that the cosmos shows evidence of having been intentionally designed is curious since the bible itself makes the same claim (see, for instance Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20).

Another Dover teacher states that he "Never had a problem seeing how God's hand works in nature", a claim that puts him comfortably in the ID camp - although ID doesn't identify the designer as the teacher does - but is an awkward position for a theistic evolutionist to take. I doubt that this teacher realizes that by seeing "God's hand" in nature he's closer to the dreaded ID position than he is to his fellow theistic evolutionists.

It's also stated in the video that ID isn't science because it's not testable and invokes supernatural explanations. Both claims misconstrue ID. There are predictions made on the basis of ID assumptions which can be tested. For example, ID'ers argue that so-called "junk DNA" will be found to have function. This, in fact, is starting to be born out, but even if ID cannot be tested that doesn't make it any less legitimate as a topic of discussion in a science classroom than, say, the many-worlds hypothesis.

ID says that natural processes alone are inadequate to account for the multiplicity and complexity of biological information. That fundamental claim enjoys the same level of testability as the contrary assertion that natural processes are adequate to account for the world. If the latter is a legitimate claim of science then so is the former.

Another claim made in the video is that ID proposes that evolutionary theory has gaps and that the gaps are filled by God. This too is false. ID does not identify God as the designer, although he is certainly a possible candidate.

Nor does the designer, whoever or whatever it is, "fill" the gaps. The gaps result from the sheer implausibility of natural processes being able to explain, for example, how living things arose in the first place. Just as intelligent scientists may someday be able to direct such processes so that they can do under direction what they could never do by themselves - i.e. organize themselves into an independent living cell - so too, intelligent input is posited by ID to help natural processes and laws bridge other apparent gaps in the development of living things.

Finally, it's claimed in the video that ID pits science against religion, but, on the contrary, ID has no formal religious component whatsoever. A designer of the universe is not necessarily an object of worship or the object of religious devotion. ID itself (as opposed to some of its advocates) has nothing to say about religion just as evolution (as opposed to some of its advocates) has nothing to say about religion. Indeed, TE is more religious than ID since theistic evolutionists believe that God exists and created the world. ID does not make any claims about who the designer is, which is why one can be an atheist and still embrace ID.

Here's the point that needs to be repeated, apparently, over and over: Intelligent design is not in conflict with evolution. It's in conflict with the claim that natural processes are adequate by themselves to account for evolution, and it's in conflict with the claim that there's no empirical evidence of any intelligent agency in the design of the universe or of living things.

I'm beginning to think that the failure to understand ID, or at least to represent it correctly, is a kind of metaphysical blindness. Like any blindness you can't heal it by simply describing the things the blind person can't see. These people are persistently confused, and their inability to grasp the simple claims of ID borders on being a kind of philosophical or intellectual handicap.


Colin Powell for Veep?

Would he accept an offer from McCain to serve? Would rank and file Republicans accept a pro-choicer on the ticket? The answer to both questions is unclear, although he would probably be more acceptable to them than either Joe Leiberman or Tom Ridge, two other pro-choicers being mentioned as veep candidates.

One thing is clear, though, Powell would cancel whatever advantage Obama's selection of Biden gave him with moderates and independents, and may even cut slightly into Obama's dominance among black voters.

It's disappointing that there are so few conservatives of national stature in the GOP that every major candidate in the primaries, and every name being bandied about for VP, is a "moderate". Where have all the Reagans gone?

Ed Morrissey has some additional thoughts on a Powell selection at Hot Air.


Antisemitism in the DNC?

Is the Democratic National Committee anti-semitic? Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says they certainly cause one to wonder.