Monday, September 15, 2008

Voter IQ

Before and after the 2004 election there were a lot of snarky comments made about the intelligence and sophistication of people who would vote for George W. Bush. Bush, we were frequently told, was an imbecile, and we had to be imbeciles to vote for him. The insults flew so fast and furiously that if one didn't stop to think about them they might have almost believed them to be true.

But of course they weren't. It wasn't Republican voters, after all, who couldn't figure out how to use a ballot in the Florida election of 2000. Nor is it Republicans who are absolutely dependent upon the least well-educated members of our society for their success.

Nor is Bush the dolt his opponents like to portray him as. Not only did he surpass the relatively modest academic achievements of John Kerry at Yale, but also it turns out that the president is a voracious reader who reads over a hundred books a year. Nor is the stuff he reads just fluff as Steven Hayward notes at No Left Turns. Hayward quotes John Lewis Gaddis:

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they've appeared, and I'm hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I've found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn't read the latest book on Lincoln, or on-as Bush refers to him-the "first George W." I've even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

"Well, so Bush reads history", one might reasonably observe at this point. "Isn't it more important to find out how he uses it?" It is indeed, and I doubt that anybody will be in a position to answer that question definitively until the oral histories get recorded, the memoirs get written, and the archives open. But I can say this on the basis of direct observation: President Bush is interested-as no other occupant of the White House has been for quite a long time-in how the past can provide guidance for the future.

Anyway, the calumnies against the intelligence of Republican voters really is a joke. The Democrats, even as I write, are feverishly at work trying to enlist young people as well as the poor and marginalized, groups not noted for their close following of political matters, in the service of Barack Obama. In other words, the Democrats realize that unless they can get a lot of people voting for them who have no idea what they're voting for, they don't have a chance.



An article on superstition in New Scientist has a quote from Wolfgang Forstmeier, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany.

Forstmeier argues that by linking cause and effect - often falsely - science is a simply dogmatic form of superstition. "You have to find the trade off between being superstitious and being ignorant," he says. By ignoring building evidence that contradicts their long-held ideas, "quite a lot of scientists tend to be ignorant quite often," he says.

I don't know if Forstmeier had Darwinists in mind, but it sure sounds as if he did.


On Creation

Having read the latest attack on Sarah Palin regarding what she believes as it pertains to the Creation, I have grown weary of the Liberal, anti-religious, anti-creationist body of individuals who actually have no understanding of what the Bible has to say regarding the Creation of all things yet they behave as scholarly and intellectual elite who feel compelled in the name of all that they think to be right and true to assault and degrade those who believe differently than they.

Bible-believing people are not evil and represent no threat to anyone except, perhaps, to those who are truly lost just as Jesus was a threat to the truly-lost Pharisee of His day. Indeed, He threatened their status quo to such a degree that they crucified Him.

To this end, I have added a page to Viewpoint that can be accessed via the "Creation" link at the left of this page under Hall of Fame. Perhaps Ms. Palin will find something of value here also.

Sex and Commitment

With the news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy her mother's advocacy of abstinence education has come under some scrutiny.

Those who oppose abstinence-only education make the argument that kids are going to engage in sexual behavior no matter what they're told so we should give them the means to prevent being "punished with a baby", to use Barack Obama's infelicitous phrase.

This argument seems a little like telling youngsters that they shouldn't shoplift, but since a lot of kids are going to do it anyway, we should give them a coat with deep pockets so they're less likely to get caught. Or they shouldn't speed, but since they're going to do it anyway we should give them a radar detector so they don't get punished with a ticket.

To say that something is wrong, but that as parents and schools we're going to help facilitate the doing of it, is to send our kids a pretty confusing message.

The surest way not to get arrested for shop-lifting is to refrain from shop-lifting. The surest way to not lose your license for speeding is to not speed. The surest way to not get pregnant is to not have sex.

There's a tacit assumption at work among those who say that we should face the reality and acknowledge that kids will have sex anyway and that we should therefore give them the means to protect against pregnancy. That assumption is that there's nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage except that an unwanted pregnancy might result.

I think that assumption is simply wrong. When we decouple sex from commitment, when we make sex a form of recreation, a number of harmful effects follow. Surely, the morally desperate condition of contemporary society is prima facie evidence that somewhere along the line we've gone terribly wrong with regard to our thinking about sexuality.

Mary Eberstadt at First Things writes compellingly that we are reaping the bitter fruit of our divorce of sex from procreation. I don't know about that, but certainly separating sex from commitment, particularly marital commitment, has been a disaster. It has resulted in a long litany of social problems and dysfunctions - everything from rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, a million and a half abortions a year, the objectification of women, marital infidelity, spouse abuse, illegitimacy, child sexual abuse, STDs, broken homes, shattered lives, and the general sleazification of our culture.

Many social problems that seem superficially unrelated to sex are, in fact, the consequence of a sexually permissive culture. Crime and academic failure, for example, are much more common among fatherless young men, but many children are fatherless because men are no longer required to commit themselves to a woman in order to have sexual access to her.

When sex is isolated from profound commitment people tend to lose respect for each other, their relationship changes, they often find themselves quarreling more frequently, trust between them diminishes, and if and when the relationship ends, one person, often the girl, feels used and embittered. I think it was C.S. Lewis who wrote that the question, "Will you still respect me in the morning?" has become a cliché because the concern is so real.

We call it "making love", but sex apart from commitment is rarely about love despite what the participants tell themselves and each other. The harmful consequences are far-reaching, both emotionally and physically, and the rewards, such as they are, are ephemeral and uncertain.

To think that the only hazard of a physical relationship with someone to whom there is no commitment is an unintended pregnancy is, in my opinion, terribly naive.


Al Qaeda Admits Defeat

Captured documents reveal a level of deep despair among members of al Qaeda in Iraq. The report at Long War Journal reveals a lot of internal dissension and many al Qaeda leaders have given up hope of prevailing against the coalition.

Perhaps we should forward this report to Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the senate, who famously pronounced at the outset of the surge that we had already lost the war.

By the way - I read in last night's paper that 2008 has been the worst year for our military in terms of casualties in Afghanistan, and I wondered: Can anyone remember reading anything in the papers or seeing anything on television about the war in Afghanistan that was not about our troops being killed or our people killing innocent civilians? One might think, for all the media tells us about that theater, that the only thing that's happening there is that our troops are taking terrible losses and the only casualties we're inflicting are on women and children.

It's not unlike the template the media followed in Iraq. As long as there were a lot of casualties among our forces and Iraqi civilians we heard about Iraq day and night. Then when the country began to be pacified, Iraq just about disappeared from the news altogether. A year ago it bade fair to be the dominant issue in this year's presidential election, but since we're succeeding no one seems to want to talk about it.

Harry Reid certainly isn't saying much.


Jason Bourne Needs to Know

Anika Smith at Evolution News and Views has a little fun with actor Matt Damon over Damon's semi-coherent criticism of Sarah Palin's views on how long ago dinosaurs roamed the earth:

You may have seen the video of Matt Damon attacking Sarah Palin because he doesn't know anything about her (his words, not mine). It's like he read a bad Maureen Dowd column and regurgitated the unfunny parts - that is, the whole thing.

The best comment, and the most relevant to our readers, Damon makes at the end:

"I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago. That's an important - I want to know that, I really do, because she's going to have the nuclear codes. You know, I want to know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago... we can't, we can't have that."

Whatever Damon's command of English might be, he's clearly completely ignorant of the issue at hand. Of course, I don't know much about Matt Damon, which frightens me, actually. I need to know if Matt really thinks random mutation acting on natural selection is capable of accounting for the complexity of life and the universe. That's an important - I want to know that, I really do, because he's going to be making million dollar block buster films I'm probably going to be watching. You know, I want to know if he thinks Darwinian evolution can explain that. Because, you know, we can't have such dogmatic, blind adherence to outdated modes of thinking in such a vocal world leader, we can't have that.

For my part I wonder what the age of dinosaurs has to do with having access to nuclear weapons. I'm sure there's a connection or else someone of Mr. Damon's stature would not think it so important, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what it is.