Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birds of a Feather

After posting The Common Thread which speculated on the similarities between Barack Obama's reaction to the Iranian protests and his reaction to the removal of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, I came across this political cartoon by Michael Ramirez.

A picture certainly is worth a thousand words.


Negative Arguments

Over the years one criticism made by Darwinian evolutionists of any theory of divine agency in creation has been that the creationists rely on negative argumentation. Creationists don't offer evidence for divine agency, critics allege, so much as offer arguments against naturalistic evolution.

I've always thought this a strange objection because, in fact, negative arguments, properly understood, are a perfectly legitimate way to argue.

Creationists and other theists often employ the following disjunction: Either the universe and life are best explained by divine agency or they're best explained solely by natural processes and forces. Natural processes and forces, however, are inadequate by themselves to explain either the existence of the universe or many of the facts about life. Therefore these are best explained by a divine agency.

Of course, creationists offer reasons for believing that natural processes and forces are inadequate, but basically their argument can be represented as: Either P or Q; not Q; therefore P, and it's a proper, logical form of argumentation.

So, it's odd that Darwinians would object to it, but their objections are even odder given the fact that, as Cornelius Hunter at Darwins' God points out, the Darwinians argue in exactly the same manner for which they criticize creationists.

Hunter points out that because the evidence for naturalistic "molecules to man" evolution is so thin those who believe it frequently resort to the same disjunction I outlined above. The difference is that their argument goes more like this: Either God had a role in the creation or everything is the result of natural processes. God did not have a role, the Darwinians argue, therefore it must all be the result of natural processes even if we can't explain how it all happened.

It seems to be a case of "Only we Darwinians can argue this way. You creationists can't."

Of course, the only way anyone could conclude that God had no role in the creation of the universe is if one knew a priori that God did not exist. So, it turns out that the defense of Darwinism is often predicated upon the theological assumption of atheism rather on scientific justification.

Yet many people think that if we let creationism or intelligent design into the public schools we'll be introducing religious ideas into the classroom. It's ironic that they don't see that religious ideas are already there. They've been smuggled in via the Trojan horse of Darwinism.


Letting the Process Work

President Obama all but swore on the Bible during the campaign that he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year. Now it appears that that promise, like others made by candidate Obama, may have an expiration date:

Pity poor Robert Gibbs having to go before an increasingly skeptical White House press corps and avoid saying that the President is breaking a fundamental promise of his campaign when, in fact, it looks as though that's a real possibility. It's pretty humiliating to be the subject of hoots of derision from people you thought were your friends.


The Common Thread

Maybe there's a relevant difference between Honduras and Iran that eludes me, but I thought I understood President Obama's reasoning for not interfering rhetorically in Iran on the side of freedom and democracy, until he turned around and became actively involved in Honduras to help a president, an acolyte of Hugo Chavez, circumvent the law to stay in power. Perhaps the appearance of inconsistency is only superficial. There is, after all, one common denominator here: In the case of Iran President Obama's silence (until it was really too late to make any difference) essentially aided the dictators. In the case of Honduras his interference also would have had the effect of supporting a would-be dictator:

The Obama administration and members of the Organization of American States had worked for weeks to try to avert any moves to overthrow President Zelaya, said senior U.S. officials. Washington's ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, sought to facilitate a dialogue between the president's office, the Honduran parliament and the military.

Soldiers stormed the house of leftist President Manuel Zelaya in a predawn raid Sunday, arresting him and removing him from power amid a growing crisis over Mr. Zelaya's plans to try to get re-elected.

The efforts accelerated over the weekend, as Washington grew increasingly alarmed. "The players decided, in the end, not to listen to our message," said one U.S. official involved in the diplomacy. On Sunday, the U.S. embassy here tried repeatedly to contact the Honduran military directly, but was rebuffed. Washington called the removal of President Zelaya a coup and said it wouldn't recognize any other leader.

The U.S. stand was unpopular with Honduran deputies. One congressman, Toribio Aguilera, got prolonged applause from his colleagues when he urged the U.S. ambassador to reconsider. Mr. Aguilera said the U.S. didn't understand the danger that Mr. Zelaya and his friendships with Mr. Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro posed.

On the other hand, maybe the Obama administration understood perfectly the significance of those friendships, and wanted very much for them to thrive. Mr. Obama's ideological sympathies lean much closer toward the Zelayas, Chavezs, Castros, and Ortegas of the world than toward those who oppose them, a fact which makes one wonder what schemes may be afoot to keep President Obama in power beyond his own constitutional term limit.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

The Timesonline informs us of a summer camp in England designed for atheist kids. The camp is funded by famous militant atheist Richard Dawkins whose book The God Delusion enjoyed the distinction of being perhaps the most poorly argued book ever to be a smash best-seller.

Here are some excerpts from the Times' article:

One parent said of his children, "I'm very keen on not indoctrinating them with religion or creeds," he said this weekend. "I would rather equip them with the tools to learn how to think, not what to think."

The emphasis on critical thinking is epitomised by a test called the Invisible Unicorn Challenge. Children will be told by camp leaders that the area around their tents is inhabited by two unicorns. The activities of these creatures, of which there will be no physical evidence, will be regularly discussed by organisers, yet the children will be asked to prove that the unicorns do not exist. Anyone who manages to prove this will win a �10 note - which features an image of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory - signed by Dawkins, a former professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

"The unicorns are not necessarily a metaphor for God, they are to show kids that you can't prove a negative," said Saman-tha Stein, who is leading next month's camp. "We are not trying to bash religion, but it encourages people to believe in a lot of things for which there is no evidence."

I have an idea for another activity Ms Stein might consider. Take the children to a garden where all the flowers are planted in the form of mathematical equations and then ask them to imagine a plausible way this could have come about purely by chance, wind, rain and erosion without the input of an intelligent agent. Offer the little nippers a million dollars if they can come up with a theory. She won't have to worry about paying the prize, of course, since no one else has been able to do it, either - not even the revered Dr. Dawkins.

Stein, 23, a postgraduate psychology student from London, was inspired to work at an atheist summer camp in America after reading The God Delusion, the bestselling book that sealed Dawkins's reputation as Britain's most prominent non-believer.

Camp Quest was founded in America, where Bible classes and Christian retreats are widespread, by Edwin Kagin, an atheist lawyer from Kentucky. Since launching in 1996, Camp Quest operates at six different US sites, with a new camp due to open in Florida at Christmas.

Amanda Metskas is currently supervising 71 children at a Camp Quest project in Clarkesville, Ohio. Her classes include a session called Socrates Cafe, which debates issues such as definitions of knowledge, art and justice.

I wonder what Ms Metskas' definition of justice is, or more to the point, what reasons she offers to the children as to why anyone, in a world without God, should be just if they can get away with being unjust. That would be a very interesting campfire talk to listen in on.

Moreover, at these camps campfire dialogues are sprinkled with jokes like this one: How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb and the other to film the work being done so the fundamentalists won't claim that God did it.

What a hoot. I'll bet that has the tots doubled over in stitches.

The counsellors also teach the children that lots of famous people were atheists:

"We teach them that even people like Sir David Attenborough are religious sceptics," said Metskas.

Wow. David Attenborough an atheist? How inspiring that must be for the little ones. I wonder if Ms Metskas also mentions that Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Adolf Hitler, and most of the people who wind up in our jails were atheists at the time they committed their crimes.


Historical Irony

I'll bet you didn't know that the discoverer of evolution by natural selection was an intelligent design advocate. No, not Charles Darwin - Alfred Russel Wallace. David Klinghoffer provides us some of the relevant history:

To judge from previews, the new Darwin biographical movie Creation will emphasize the challenge Darwinian theory posed from the beginning to religious belief. Yet the life of evolution's co-discoverer, Alfred Russel Wallace, suggests that properly understood, and that's a major proviso, evolution needn't upset faith at all. On the contrary, Wallace reasoned from what he knew about life's history to a belief that an "Overruling Intelligence" guided life's development, much as intelligent design (ID) does today. Science historian Michael A. Flannery calls Wallace's evolutionary thinking a "preamble" to ID.

An opportunity to evaluate this provocative claim is now before us in the form of Flannery's new edition of Wallace's great work, A World of Life (1910), which slims the dense and massive volume down to a manageable size and includes an illuminating introduction by Flannery. His book is Alfred Russel Wallace's Theory of Intelligent Evolution: How Wallace's World of Life Challenged Darwinism (Erasmus Press).

Wallace famously arrived at his own version of evolutionary theory while Darwin was still sitting on his. When Wallace made contact and shared his thoughts, Darwin panicked and rushed to make his theory public so as not to be scooped. Yet the two men did not formulate their ideas in exactly the same way.

Read the rest of Klinghoffer's essay if this is a topic you're interested in. He packs a lot of very good information into it.

UPDATE: Part II of Klinghoffer's discussion with Flannery is even more interesting than Part I. It can be read http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/06/how_evolutions_codiscoverer_di_1.html here.



One might get the impression from the Reuters report of events in Honduras that right-wing military types have launched another coup to oust an innocent progressive president.

Before concluding that that's the whole story it might be helpful to read the explanation at Fausta's blog. What Reuters chose not to tell us is that apparently the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, was making an illegal, unconstitutional grab for power, and the entire governmental apparatus of the country opposed him. Zelaya was seeking to have a referendum on whether he should be allowed to serve another term as president, but the Honduran constitution cannot be changed by popular referendum. The Supreme Court ruled the referendum illegal and Zelaya went ahead with it anyway. The Court then issued an order for his arrest.

Left-wing leaders in the region - Daniel Ortega, the Castros, and Hugo Chavez, for instance - don't like it very much, presumably because lefties believe as an article of faith that a left-wing leader is entitled to keep power by any means necessary once he has it. Even so, this was a coup initiated by the Honduran judicial system to keep a man from acquiring almost dictatorial power and becoming another Hugo Chavez. It appears, at least as far as I can tell at this point, to be a step taken to preserve democracy and the rule of law, not one taken to circumvent them.

Maybe Reuters will print a clarification today.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rules for Radicals

It's been observed that radical leftist Saul Alinsky exerted a formative influence on the thinking of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, so to understand better the minds of the Secretary of State and my president, and those with whom they surround themselves, I recently undertook to read the book for which Alinsky is most famous, his 1971 Rules for Radicals. I confess I had never read it before, but I wish I had, not because it's a particularly entertaining read - it's not - but because it does shed light on the Democratic leadership in general and President Obama in particular. His frenetic urgency, the polarization of the nation he seeks to effect and exploit, the ease with which he says one thing while doing another, can all be traced to the philosophy and tactics Alinsky outlines in his book.

Alinsky, who died a year after his book was published, is very much preoccupied with finding meaning and purpose in life, mentioning the need for meaning at least a dozen times in Rules. For him meaning was found in challenging the establishment, in working for a more "equitable" distribution of wealth, in seizing power from those who have it and using it to upset the old social order.

His book is clearly and unabashedly an updated version of Machiavelli's Prince. Like Machiavelli, Alinsky's guiding ethic is pragmatism - whatever works is right: "My aim here is to suggest how to organize for power: how to get it and to use it." (p.10)

Nor is he any more concerned with traditional morality than was Machiavelli. To be sure, Alinsky wants to "realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education....," but he never really elaborates on these ideals nor explains why they're goals worth achieving. Nor does he see them as objective absolutes. Instead he says this: "The organizer does not have a fixed truth - truth to him is relative and changing; everything to him is relative and changing. He is a political relativist." (p. 10f)

But if everything is relative then so are the ideals to which the pragmatist aspires, and if they're relative then the decision to value them is purely subjective.

Throughout the course of the book Alinsky says things like:

"Political realists see the world as it is....In this world we are always moral and our enemies immoral; a world where 'reconciliation' means that one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it." (p.13)

"We live in a world where 'good' is a value dependent on whether we want it." (p.14)

"One does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one's individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter." (p.25)

"Ethical standards must be elastic to stretch with the times." (p.30)

"With very rare exceptions the right things are done for the wrong reasons...The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved...therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals." (p.76)

The world as Alinsky saw it consists of basically two groups, the Haves and the Have Nots. There's a third group, the Have a Little, Want Mores, but they're essentially an appendage of the Have Nots.

He argues that pacifism is merely a tactic that one must employ, clothing it in religion and morality (p.45), when the other side has the weapons. He quotes Lenin approvingly: "They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through the ballot. When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet." (p.37f)

His real goal, after all the nods toward justice and equality have been made, is power:

"Power is the very essence, the dynamo of life. It is the power of the heart pumping blood and sustaining life in the body. It is the power of active citizen participation pulsing upward, providing a unified strength for a common purpose. Power is an essential life force always in operation, either changing the world or opposing change." (p.51)

To be successful the community organizer must see himself as something of a God:

"If he or she does not have that complete self-confidence (or call it ego) that he can win, then the battle is lost before it is even begun." (p.60)

"The organizer is in a true sense reaching for the highest level for which man can reach - to create, to be a "great creator," to play God." (p.61)

"Conflict is the essential core of a free and open society." (p.62)

Alinsky professes to hate dogma but is himself as dogmatic as any officer of the Inquisition about the rightness of what he does.

If it's necessary to discredit and humiliate good people (Joe the Plumber?, Sarah Palin?) then so be it. If it's necessary to misrepresent a situation in order to personalize it and polarize it then so be it:

"The most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule." (p.75)

"Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of the angels and that the opposition is are 100 percent on the side of the devil. He knows there can be no action until issues are polarized to this degree." (p.78)

"The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues...for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act....An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent; provide a channel into which people can angrily pour their frustrations." (p.117)

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." (p.130)

The radical must not dither. He must be constant action. There must be a sense of urgency to everything he does or else people will lose interest, or worse, they'll stop to think about whether what they're doing is right. No doubt this is why legislation is pushed through congress before anyone even has the chance to read the bills they're told to vote for:

"[A] conflict that drags on too long becomes a drag....From the moment the tactician engages in conflict, his enemy is time." (p.159)

"There is a way to keep the action going and to prevent it from being a drag, but this means constantly cutting new issues as the action continues, so that by the time the enthusiasm and the emotions for one issue have started to de-escalate, a new issue has come onto the scene with a consequent revival." (p.161)

Saul Alinsky would be very proud of Barack Obama and the current congressional leadership. They certainly seem to have taken his book and its lessons to heart.


The Greater Offense

With the revelations that Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Republicans both, have been engaging in marital infidelities some in the media have found themselves unable to contain their glee at having the opportunity to point out the hypocrisy of members of a party that emphasizes family values being caught in flagrante.

Of course, many Democrats have also been caught with their pants down, but unless their infidelities involved law-breaking it didn't cost them their careers because, well, Democrats don't profess to have high moral standards, or something. Evidently it's not hypocritical when Dems cheat on their spouses because they don't say that one shouldn't do such things.

It's not the infidelity itself, we're told, it's the hypocrisy of touting family values while cheating on one's spouse that makes the Republican offenses so egregious. Okay, but if it were really true that it's the hypocrisy that sends some precincts of the media into transports of pious self-righteousness why do they not likewise slam all those in the Democratic party who demand that we pay our taxes while they avoid paying theirs? Why is a legal, albeit immoral, affair a career-ender for Republicans, but illegal tax delinquency is just a speed bump for Democrats? If hypocrisy is the issue what can be more hypocritical than the man in charge of writing the tax laws (Charley Rangel) and the man in charge of enforcing them (Timothy Geithner) both failing to pay their own taxes? Why is that not a career-ender for these two malefactors?

Is there something about being a person of the left that makes it impossible for them to see their own hypocrisy in pillorying Mark Sanford while giving certain Democrats, whose offenses are not only hypocritical but also illegal, a pass?


Friday, June 26, 2009

No Taxation Without Reading the Legislation

Once again Democrats have distinguished themselves by voting to pass legislation that few of them have even read. They did the same thing, you'll recall, with the stimulus bill. Doesn't it just astound you that we Americans continue to elect to congress people who are so irresponsible that they vote for bills whose contents are unknown to them? And to think we pay these people a salary and benefits.

That no one who voted for this bill had read it is obvious from the fact that a 300 page amendment was incorporated into an already 1200 page bill at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Apparently, these illustrious personages don't much care what's in the darned thing, they just want to be told by their leadership which button to push so they can get back to their cocktail parties and golf games.

The bill is supposed to be an energy bill, but it's no more about increasing energy than the stimulus bill was about economic stimulus. According to most commentators this legislation will result in a net loss of both (relatively) cheap energy and jobs, will raise the cost of everything we buy, including energy, several thousand dollars per year, and cause hundreds of businesses to move overseas.

All is not lost, though. The bill still has to pass the senate where even Majority Leader Harry Reid said it hasn't got much of a chance. For once I hope Senator Reid is right. Meanwhile, who will deliver us from congresspersons determined to run the ship of state onto the shoals of socialism and sell our children into financial bondage? Where is the modern Patrick Henry who'll stand and demand of our congressional representation, "No taxation without reading the legislation!"?

I should mention that fifty brave Democrats weathered the ferocity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's arm-twisting and voted against her bill, and eight Republicans apparently committed political hari kiri by voting for it. I suspect that those eight Republicans are going to have the fight of their political lives in 2010. At least one can hope.


Color Blind

Via Hot Air - a really amazing optical illusion. Check it out.


Go Ahead, Make My Day

There are reports out of Tehran that Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the man who was robbed in the recent election and whose de-election has sparked so much protest and carnage in Iran, may be arrested for his insolence and sedition. This would be a good thing for two reasons:

First, if Mousavi were to spend the rest of his life in an Iranian prison it would be a much-deserved fate. He approved the kidnapping of the embassy employees during the Carter administration and was instrumental in the deaths of hundreds of American marines and others in bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Former CIA agent Robert Baer explains in Time magazine:

When Mousavi was Prime Minister, he oversaw an office that ran operatives abroad, from Lebanon to Kuwait to Iraq. This was the heyday of Khomeini's theocratic vision, when Iran thought it really could export its revolution across the Middle East, providing money and arms to anyone who claimed he could upend the old order. Mousavi was not only swept up into this delusion but also actively pursued it.

It was Mousavi who appointed Iran's ambassador to Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur, the Iranian caught red-handed planning the Marine-barracks bombing. Mohtashemi-pur also coordinated the hostage-taking in Lebanon. As a reward, Mousavi gave him the Interior Ministry, where Mohtashemi-pur went on to crack down on what was left of democracy in Iran.

And it is not as if Mousavi kept his support for Iran's secret war on the U.S. a secret. In a 1981 interview, he had this to say about the taking of American diplomats in Tehran in 1979: "It was the beginning of the second stage of our revolution. It was after that we discovered our true Islamic identity."

Mousavi is also an advocate of Iran's nuclear weapons program. His arrest and imprisonment is certainly not something that should be regretted.

Not only would having this man incarcerated in Iran's medieval prison gulag be a tiny glimmer of justice for the families of the Americans whose deaths he facilitated, it would also further inflame Iranian young people who see Mousavi not as someone who shares their aspirations of freedom and democracy, so much, but as a symbol of their hopes to be rid of the current regime. His arrest would further destabilize the mullahcracy in Tehran and that, too, would be a good thing.

Unfortunately, for both these reasons, the mullahs will doubtless refrain from arresting him as long as they can avoid it.


ACES and Jokers

The editors of National Review are decidedly unenthusiastic about ACES (American Clean Energy and Security act) that the Democrats are probably going to bring to a vote today. Here's the summation of the reservations they discuss in their column:

So here are the cards Democrats want to deal us: ACES would impose costs at least ten times as large as its benefits, would not reduce the deficit, and would not really cap emissions. It's a losing hand.

Go to the link to read the details. Also, if you didn't see our link to John Boehner's page that we posted Thursday, you should check it out to understand why this bill is going to result in a huge tax imposed on every American who buys or grows food and who uses gasoline and/or electricity, and why the promise of millions of new jobs is simply smoke blown in our eyes.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Had Enough

The publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media, Sherman Frederick, explains why he's leaving the Democrat party:

I don't think I could have picked a worse time to go Republican. However, because KXNT-AM radio's Alan Stock revealed my party switch last week, I feel the need to explain.

First, I'm not trying to time anything. Enough was enough. Could stand no more. So, when it came time to renew my driver's license on June 9, I also gave the Democratic Party the pink slip.

I pushed the DMV clerk the paperwork. She shoved it back and said I didn't have to fill out that form if my address remained the same.

"No, I want to change party affiliation."

"Oh," she said. "Had enough of the president, have we?"

"Up to here. I quit."

Republicans offer our only hope in slowing the Obama "change" juggernaut before the America of unbridled optimism and opportunity goes the way of the buffalo. I don't want my great-grandchildren growing up in cradle-to-grave government care, where only the privileged few may afford a car, or own a home, or get non-rationed health care.

The only institution positioned to stop the progression of the Obama welfare state is the Republican Party, coupled with independent-minded Americans like me.

Frederick offers more reasons for his switch at the link. It's unfortunate for the country that he's right about the Republican party being our only realistic alternative to the Democrats. Too many Republicans actually don't see themselves as an alternative at all, but rather as Democrats-lite. Even so, the principles of the party - small government, low taxes, prudent spending, personal responsibility, individual freedom, adherence to the Constitution, respect for life, and caution in our foreign involvements - are still embraced by the majority of its members and are the only realistic hope for rescuing our nation from the serial irresponsibilities of the Obama administration.


The Stoning of Soraya M.

The same people who shoot young women to death in the streets of Iran have no qualms about stoning them to death either. One such victim of Islamic "justice" was Soraya M. Her story has been made into a film that is scheduled for release tomorrow. The film is titled The Stoning of Soraya M. Here's the trailer:

If it's showing near you, and you see it, let us know what you thought of it.


Taking Out the Taliban

Fox News showed this video yesterday morning. Note the caution exercised by everyone involved to avoid civilian casualties. Note, too, that being a Taliban is a tough way to make a living:


Cap and Trade Tomorrow

Congressman John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, has published the following fact sheet on the bill, sometimes referred to as "Cap and Trade," to be voted on in the House on Friday:

Democratic leaders have announced a so-called "deal" to bring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) national energy tax up for a House vote on Friday. Senior Democrats have already started to tout a number of trivial concessions and compromises that made this "deal" possible. But, the fact is, the consequences of this "deal" are no different from the consequences of the initial legislation introduced by Democrats earlier this year. It still amounts to jobs-killing policy that will increase costs for every American and will further harm our economy and American workers at a time when they can afford it least. Following are the Top 10 Facts about the House Democrats' so-called "deal" to bring Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax to the House floor later this week:

1. Speaker Pelosi's National Energy Tax Will Impose a National Energy Tax on Every Single American. If you drive a car, buy food or a product manufactured in America, or have the audacity to flip on a light switch, you'll pay more under Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax. Here's what Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) had to say about the tax: "Nobody in this country realizes that cap and trade is a tax. And it's a great big one." And of course, President Obama agrees, saying that electricity rates will "skyrocket" under this scheme.

2. Speaker Pelosi's National Energy Tax Will Cost American Jobs, Shipping Them Overseas to China & India. According to a study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax will cost 2.3 to 2.7 million jobs each year, even after the creation of new "green" jobs. It will impose tough new requirements and increased costs on American manufacturers - higher costs that they won't face overseas, in places like China, India, or Mexico. This will cost American jobs in two ways: either domestic manufacturers will move overseas directly, or American companies in energy-intensive industries will be driven out of business by overseas rivals that undercut their prices. These job losses, and their ripple effects throughout our economy, were excluded from an incomplete analysis recently completed by the Congressional Budget Office. The Brookings Institute recently released a report that confirmed a national energy tax would reduce economic growth, increase costs, and kill jobs.

3. Speaker Pelosi's National Energy Tax Will Cause Electricity Bills to "Skyrocket." Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax will increase electricity bills for every American and small business. President Obama even admitted that it would cause electricity rates to "necessarily skyrocket." And Duke Energy, a major utility company that would receive free allowances under the Democrats' plan, has already requested a rate hike of 13.5 percent in anticipation of the energy tax.

Read the rest at the link and contact your congressman. You may not have been aware that this bill was up for a vote tomorrow because the left is trying to focus our attention this week on other matters so that legislators don't have constituents putting pressure on them. Nevertheless, it's a terrible bill that will accomplish nothing except expand the power of government, diminish our freedom, and make us all poorer.

"Don't go gently into that dark night but rage, rage at the dying of the light." Dylan Thomas.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Re: Body and Soul

There are two excellent responses to our recent post titled Body and Soul on our Feedback page. In the first, Dave links to this video which illustrates how there could be ten dimensions to reality:

The video posits extra dimensions which are just too tiny for us to experience, but it could be that these dimensions are not tiny at all. It could be that they are macro-dimensional, but we lack the cognitive structure to apprehend them. If our minds were structured differently perhaps we could experience these other dimensions, but as it is anything that exists in them is beyond our ability to perceive. The situation could be like our inability to perceive radio waves apart from a device to translate them into something we can perceive, even though these waves are all around us.

Anyway, in the second response Mike offers up a lovely meditation on beauty. He writes:

Once one gives this some thought, it becomes clear that the world we perceive through our five senses sends us some strong hints of a much greater reality. At the core of every perception of genuine beauty, there is a dissatisfaction--an ache for something more. Trying to take in everything present in something beautiful with only our five senses is like holding a shot glass under a waterfall. The experience of perceiving real beauty is simultaneously an experience of longing for something greater than what is perceived; beauty has a trajectory. It is a signpost. And the very character of the longing evoked by beauty is reflective of He to whom beauty points us (He who is the foundation for the reality that cannot be experienced with only five senses).

There's more from both these guys at the Feedback page. Give it a look.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Terrorism Is a Dangerous Business

Bill Roggio's Long War Journal reports that:

The US carried out its second Predator airstrike inside South Waziristan today. Unmanned Predator aircraft killed more than 65 Taliban fighters in a follow-on attack near the headquarters for Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The Predator strike aircraft fired three Hellfire missiles as Taliban fighters gathered for a funeral of Khog Wali, a leader in Baitullah's army in South Waziristan who was among six Taliban fighters killed in the first US airstrike earlier today.

Commander Sangeen, a Taliban commander from Afghanistan, was reported to be among those killed in the strike at the funeral. Predators are said to have fired on Taliban vehicles as they attempted to leave the scene of the attack, Dawn reported.

Sixty five terrorists is a lot for a single strike, and apparently there were some big names in the group. President Obama must have signed off on this attack which, in my opinion, earns him some serious credit. The Bush administration had the opportunity to take out a couple hundred Taliban at a funeral two years ago and to their everlasting shame apparently declined. Who knows how many innocents have since lost their lives because those terrorists were spared?

Anyway, I wonder how many mourners will show up at the funerals of the Taliban killed in yesterday's strike. No doubt a lot of condolences will be sent along by email.

Check out Hot Air for more commentary on the missile strike.


Another One Bites the Dust

Generations of students have been taught that birds descended from dinosaurs and that a particular bird, Archeopteryx, is not only an intermediate species between the two taxa but proof of their evolutionary relationship. Well, now it appears that all those students will have to unlearn that "fact" of evolutionary history. It turns out that there's conclusive evidence that birds did not arise from dinosaurs and that the common ancestor, if there is one, between the two groups is unknown.

This story from Science Daily recounts the bad news for those who for decades have cited Archeopteryx to refute those benighted creationist claims that there are no transitional fossils between dinosaurs and birds:

Researchers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental new discovery about how birds breathe and have a lung capacity that allows for flight - and the finding means it's unlikely that birds descended from any known theropod dinosaurs.

The conclusions add to other evolving evidence that may finally force many paleontologists to reconsider their long-held belief that modern birds are the direct descendants of ancient, meat-eating dinosaurs, OSU researchers say. It's been known for decades that the femur, or thigh bone in birds is largely fixed and makes birds into "knee runners," unlike virtually all other land animals, the OSU experts say. What was just discovered, however, is that it's this fixed position of bird bones and musculature that keeps their air-sac lung from collapsing when the bird inhales.

However, every other animal that has walked on land, the scientists said, has a moveable thigh bone that is involved in their motion - including humans, elephants, dogs, lizards and - in the ancient past - dinosaurs.

The implication, the researchers said, is that birds almost certainly did not descend from theropod dinosaurs, such as tyrannosaurus or allosaurus. The findings add to a growing body of evidence in the past two decades that challenge some of the most widely-held beliefs about animal evolution.

"For one thing, birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from," Ruben said. "That's a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories.

"But one of the primary reasons many scientists kept pointing to birds as having descended from dinosaurs was similarities in their lungs," Ruben said. "However, theropod dinosaurs had a moving femur and therefore could not have had a lung that worked like that in birds. Their abdominal air sac, if they had one, would have collapsed. That undercuts a critical piece of supporting evidence for the dinosaur-bird link.

The newest findings, the researchers said, are more consistent with birds having evolved separately from dinosaurs and developing their own unique characteristics, including feathers, wings and a unique lung and locomotion system.

There's more at the link. It's a fascinating thing about the whole evolution/creation debate that it seems like so many of the major discoveries in biology in the past two decades support what creationists have been saying since the 1950s. It must be terribly frustrating for the Darwinians, convinced as they are that creationists are a bunch of scientific simpletons, to see their favorite icons tumbled seriatim from their pedestals into the dustbin of history.


Apostate from Atheism

The pseudonymous Jenn Q. Public recounts her long march from atheism in an interesting essay at American Thinker. She begins with these lines:

Do you believe in God? Really? And you're willing to admit it in public?

Oops. Sorry, for a moment I slipped back into the arrogant Atheism of my youth.

Before my parents had children, they decided to raise their kids in a secular home. We had gifts at Christmas time and chocolate covered matzoh during Passover, but there was no religion and certainly no God.

When I was in grade school, God was just a kind of nondescript character who popped up in Little House on the Prairie books from time to time. He seemed like a decent enough fellow, but was more or less a bit player who didn't have much to say.

After my grandfather died when I was seven, his Baptist minister lifted me up in his arms and told me, "It's all right, Grandpa's with God now." At that moment, I could feel my dress was hiked up in the back and all I could think about was pulling it back down. But later, I asked around and discovered that God was our Heavenly father, whatever that was supposed to mean.

I figured, who better to ask about my Heavenly father than my earthly father, but when I did he laughed.

He wasn't amused in a "kids say the darnedest things" kind of way. He was laughing derisively at the idea that my mother's family believed in God. And thus began my introduction to Atheism.

There are people who call themselves atheist who are simply nonbelievers, and then there are the big "A" Atheists for whom Atheism is almost a religion. This quasi-religious doctrine isn't neutral on the existence of other religions; rather, Atheism is a virulently anti-theistic creed characterized by sneering contempt for religion and a profoundly dogmatic bigotry toward people of faith.

Want to know how Atheists see the rest of us?

If so, click on the link. It's a good read.


Transparently Ordinary

Obama acolyte Michael Isikoff of Newsweek expresses dismay and disappointment with his hero:

As a senator, Barack Obama denounced the Bush administration for holding "secret energy meetings" with oil executives at the White House. But last week public-interest groups were dismayed when his own administration rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for Secret Service logs showing the identities of coal executives who had visited the White House to discuss Obama's "clean coal" policies. One reason: the disclosure of such records might impinge on privileged "presidential communications."

The refusal, approved by White House counsel Greg Craig's office, is the latest in a series of cases in which Obama officials have opted against public disclosure. Since Obama pledged on his first day in office to usher in a "new era" of openness, "nothing has changed," says David Sobel, a lawyer who litigates FOIA cases. "For a president who said he was going to bring unprecedented transparency to government, you would certainly expect more than the recycling of old Bush secrecy policies."

Well, of course nothing has changed. There was never any intention that anything would change. I guess I'm too much of a cynic, but it surprises me that anyone would think that a Chicago politician's promise to make government more open would actually be kept.

Radical activist Saul Alinsky, Obama's tactical mentor, writes about this very matter of saying one thing in order to get power and then doing another once you have it in his book Rules for Radicals. He observes and recommends that once "the Have-Nots achieve success and become the Haves, they are in the position of trying to keep what they have and their morality shifts with their change of location in the power pattern." He goes on to cite historical examples that illustrate the "principle."

The matter of transparency in government is just one example of how President Obama has implemented the tactic endorsed by Alinsky. His rapid-fire passage of the stimulus bill is another. Having promised in the campaign that he would always insure there would be time to carefully consider any legislation he proposed, he pushed the stimulus bill through the Democrat-controlled legislature so fast that no one who voted for it had a chance to even read it.

Barack Obama may be historic in being our first African-American president, but in many other ways he's just an ordinary political opportunist bent on doing whatever's necessary to gain, hold, and expand his power. The sooner journalists like Isikoff realize this the better it will be for all of us.


Body and Soul

In a post yesterday on the possibility of technological immortality and resurrection, I promised to share some thoughts on the nature of the body and soul. What follows are some random musings on the topic. They're purely speculative of course, but who knows, some of them may be right.

First, I think it very likely that whatever body we have in the next life, and I do believe we will be embodied, it won't be like this one. The bodies we currently enjoy, or are cursed with, are, or appear to be, three dimensional, but it's possible that the next world is more than three dimensional. If so, then we'll look completely different to each other there than we do here, assuming we will be able to perceive the additional dimensions.

To illustrate this imagine what a sphere would look like to inhabitants of a two-dimensional world. In a world in which there is no up or down a sphere would appear to be a straight line, like looking at a sheet of paper edge-on. Of course, this is not at all what a sphere looks like in a three-dimensional world. Likewise, even if we had the same body in eternity that we have now (a terrible prospect for some of us)it probably would not look at all the same.

If such a world does exist then perhaps death is like a character in a movie stepping off the two-dimensional screen to join the people in the three-dimensional theater much like Jeff Daniels does in The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Further, in this body we have five senses but there's no reason to believe that everything that exists is apprehensible with those five senses or that those senses could not be more acute than they are. There could be all sorts of phenomena in our world to which we are totally oblivious because either our senses lack the necessary acuity to perceive them or we simply lack the requisite senses to perceive them.

Consider what the world would look like if we could see radio waves, for example. What colors would they be? What if we had the same powers of smell as a dog? How much different would the world be?

Or imagine a man born blind and deaf walking along a city street. How would he imagine his world? He would be aware of the pavement at his feet the breeze, perhaps, in his face, the smells of the city, but that would be about it. Every now and then he'd be jostled but he would have a very limited notion of what the cause of the jostling looked like. Now imagine that suddenly he acquires both of the missing senses. I think the torrent of sensations that would pour over him would knock him to his knees in wonder and astonishment.

Maybe we are like the man with only three senses, except we have five. Even so, the world may exhibit all sorts of phenomena that we simply cannot experience because our five senses are not adequate to apprehend them all. Perhaps when we die we take on a new body, like the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, and that new body enables us to experience things we could never experience before. Indeed, the bodies we have now may by comparison be no more real or substantial than the shifting arrays of phosphor dots that make up the image of a person on a television screen are like the person watching the TV.

So much for the body. What about the soul? What is soul? I prefer to think of the soul not as a ghost-like thing that resides in our bodies but rather as the totality of information comprising an exhaustive description of who we are. It's every true fact about us - our genealogy, our personal biography, our personality, our infirmities, our vices and virtues, our appearance at every moment of our life - everything. This information is our essence and it's held or stored in the mind of God which makes it eternal, or potentially so.

When we die perhaps God downloads it, or selected parts of it, into some other body, some other vessel, and thus we are reinstantiated. Because our soul is information in the mind of God, it never ceases to exist. It's always in His database, as it were, ready to be downloaded at the next iteration of our bodily existence, and to give us continuity from life to death to life.

Of course, some individuals may never have their essence reinstantiated, or God may even choose to delete it, in which case the person is annihilated. That may be what many religious traditions interpret as hell.

At any rate, because each of us is potentially eternal, each of our lives is infinitely important and meaningful. Because bodily death isn't the end of our existence we have a basis for hope that justice, meaning, and moral value exist and we have a reason for believing that the choices we make in this life really do matter. After all, our eternal destiny may hinge upon them.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Civil War Animation

Civil War buffs will want to check out this site which features animations of all the major battles. It's often difficult to get a sense of how the warring forces maneuvered throughout an engagement from static diagrams of their positions. This site explains the troop movements in ways that show their complexity and make those movements much more clear. It's pretty cool.

Thanks to No Left Turns for the tip.


What's Needed Now

Remember back after 9/11 when then President George W. Bush tagged Iran, North Korea and Iraq as the axis of evil? Do you recall the withering scorn to which he was subjected by the left for such an improvident accusation? Well, Iraq has been neutralized but Iran and North Korea are working together to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems and both are among the repressive regimes in the world today. In light of the news coming out of both of these countries Bush's label looks absolutely accurate and his liberal detractors look absolutely foolish, a look to which they've perhaps grown accustomed by now.

On Saturday as Iranian citizens were dying in the streets, our current president went out for ice cream. Yesterday, while Iranians were pleading for his support, he played golf. I have no problem with this, actually, and don't criticize him for it. I only wonder how the liberal wing of the media would have reacted had George Bush done likewise in similar circumstances. Keith Olbermann would have been at his snarly, snarky "Have you no shame, sir?" best. But Mr. Obama unwinds in the midst of a historic crisis and there's nothing but acceptance from the traditional left-wing media.

Anyway, enough about the left's lack of objectivity and fundamental fairness. The more important question is how should the president respond to what's happening in Iran? I understand that he doesn't want to spoil the possibility of negotiating away Iran's nuclear ambitions by offending the Iranian mullahs, but there's almost no chance that those negotiations are going to succeed with Iran any more than they have with North Korea. Nor is there any reason why he can't give a major address and lay out the moral case for why the government should stop killing its people and live up to the basic principles of democracy. Surely, Mr. Obama, of all people, can do this in a non-threatening manner without humiliating the Iranian government.

The president deserved the benefit of the doubt about his relative silence in the first few days after the election, but now that time has passed. That doesn't mean we need saber-rattling. It doesn't mean we need to move a couple of aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf. It does mean that we need moral leadership. We need an international Martin Luther King to stand up for freedom, democracy and the right of citizens to redress grievances in the Muslim world just as Reagan did in the communist world. Islamic nations around the globe, but especially in Iran, need to hear a powerful, landmark speech in defense of basic human rights. Who better than the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, to provide that leadership and give that speech?

UPDATE: After completing these thoughts I came across this essay by Victor Davis Hanson in which he lists several reasons why Obama should now speak out and several possible reasons why he might not. Read it. It's excellent.


Technological Immortality and Resurrection

Mike Labossiere has an interesting post up over at Talking Philosophy in which he thinks about Ray Kurzweil's idea that in the future technology will be able not only to keep us alive indefinitely but also enable us to resurrect the dead. Here are a few excerpts from Labossiere's post with some of my comments thrown in:

Oversimplifying things, Kurzweil envisions a future in which humans will be immortal and the dead will return to life. While these are common claims in religion, Kurzweil's view is that technology will make this possible. While some describe his view as a religion, I'd prefer to use a made up word, "techion" to refer to this sort of phenomena. As I see it, a religion involves claims about supernatural entities. Kurzweil's view is purely non-supernatural, but does have most of the stock elements of religion (the promise of a utopian future, immortality, and the raising of the dead). So, it is sort of a technological religion-hence "techion."

I'd want to quibble here with Labossiere. I don't think religion needs to be supernatural at all. Pantheisms, humanisms, and ideologies of various sorts are not necessarily supernatural, but are still religious. Even so, that's not really important to the rest of the post:

In the abstract, technological immortality is quite simple: just keep repairing and replacing parts. In theory, this could be kept up until the end of time, thus granting immortality. Even with our current technology we can repair and replace parts. For example, my quadriceps tendon was recently repaired. I have friends with artificial hips and other friends who gotten tissue and organ transplants. It is easy to imagine technology progressing enough to replace or repair everything.

Technological resurrection is a bit trickier. While we can "jump start" people who have died, Kurzweil envisions something more radical. His view is that we might be able to take the DNA of dead people and rebuild them using nanobots. This, he claims, could create a new body that would be "indistinguishable from the original person." Of course, having a body that is indistinguishable from the original is hardly the same as having the original person back. It would, rather, be a case of having a twin. To recreate the person, his plan is that information about the original (such as things the person wrote and recollections of people who knew them) would be used to recreate the mind of the original.

Turning to immortality, the key question is this: would the identity of the person be preserved through the changes?

This problem is, of course, like the classic ship of Theseus problem: how much of the original can be replaced before it is no longer the same entity? Of course, it is also complicated by the fact that a person is involved and the identity of persons is a bit more complex than that of objects.

Actually this problem already exists since we are constantly replacing cells and tissue throughout our life. None of us is made of the same stuff that comprised us ten years ago. It's very difficult to say how a person in his seventies is the same person as he was when he was five.

Now, for resurrection....True resurrection, as noted above, has two key aspects. First, the original body has to be recreated. If you get a different sort of body, then you have been reincarnated.

This doesn't seem quite right, either. We don't think of butterfly metamorphosis as a kind of reincarnation, but surely the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis with a completely different sort of body than it had as a caterpillar. I don't think our resurrected bodies have to be anything like the ones we have now. They may be, but they don't have to be. (More on this tomorrow)

Second, the original person has to be restored. Locke's view on this matter is that come judgment day, God will recreate our bodies (hopefully at their prime) and place the right consciousness into each body (for Locke, the person is his or her consciousness).

Locke is right about this if we think of consciousness as somehow related to soul. (More on this tomorrow also)

Getting the original person back in the recreated body is the real challenge. Kurzweil does seem to clearly recognize that the method he envisions will not restore the original person. He seems to be right about this. After all, the method he describes relies on "public" information. That is, it depends on what information the person provided before death and what other people remember of him. This obviously leaves out everything that was not recorded or known by others. As such, it will be a partial reconstruction - a new person who is force fed the scraps of another person's life. This, obviously enough, raises some serious moral issues.

On the face of it, Kurzweil's resurrection seems to be morally appalling. That this is so can be illustrated by the following analogy. Imagine that Sally and Ivan have a son, Ted. Ted dies at 18. Sally and Ivan go through all the adoption agencies until they find a baby, Joe, that looks like Ted did. They rename Joe as Ted and then reconstruct Ted's life as closely as possible - punishing the former Joe whenever he deviates from Ted's life and rewarding him for doing what Ted did. Sally and Ivan would be robbing Joe of choice and using him as a means to an end-fulfilling their need to have Ted back. But, they have no right to do this to Joe - he is a person, not a thing to be used to recreate Ted.

The same certainly seems to hold in the situation Kurzweil envisions. To create a human being and force him to be a copy of a dead person is a horrible misuse of a person and a wicked act.

Hmmm. Why is it a wicked act? Why is it wicked to misuse people? Labossiere doesn't tell us. He just assumes we'll agree with him, but why should we? The only way misusing others is wicked is if there is a transcendent, objective moral right and wrong, but there can only be such a transcendent, objective right or wrong if there is a God. Does Labossiere believe in God? He doesn't say, but if he's going to make these kinds of moral claims, he certainly should say.

Anyway, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that although technological immortality is theoretically possible, technological resurrection is not. There's no way technology could, even in theory, recover the original person. It's dangerous to make pronouncements about what's technically possible and what isn't, I know, but a person is the totality of all one's experiences, memories, feelings, intentions, regrets, knowledge, etc. and there's no way that these, once gone, could even in theory be recovered.

Except by God.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crisis in Iran

As is usually the case the best coverage of today's events in Iran can be found at Hot Air. Some of the videos require a Facebook account, others require a strong stomach, but just about everything that can be learned about what happened today, including President Obama's decision to go for an ice cream in the midst of it all, can be learned by clicking on the link.

Republicans are calling for Mr. Obama to speak out more forcefully against the Iranian brutality, but forceful words are meaningless unless we're prepared to back them up with forceful action. Otherwise we just look weak and impotent, and clearly Mr. Obama is not prepared to use force in any way against the Iranian government. Before we encourage Mr. Obama to come back from the ice cream parlor and denounce the Iranian thuggery we should think long and hard about what measures we're willing to take should words escalate to action.

On the other hand, as many are pointing out, President Reagan did not stand before the Berlin Wall and simply say "Mr. Gorbachev, this wall is not our problem," but then, keep in mind that no one will ever mistake Barack Obama for Ronald Reagan.

Anyway, word has it that he ordered a cup of vanilla.


Socialism and Secession

If Obama succeeds in his desire to impose Euro-socialism on the U.S., or if he takes us much further down that road, there will be an enormous backlash that will fundamentally change this nation. At least that's the prognostication of Paul Starobin in the Wall Street Journal. Starobin concludes his startling essay with this thought:

[T]he precedent for any breakup of today's America is not necessarily the one set by the musket-bearing colonists' demanded departure from the British crown in the late 18th century or by the crisis-ridden dissolution of the U.S.S.R. at the end of the 20th century. Every empire, every too-big thing, fragments or shrinks according to its own unique character and to the age of history to which it belongs.

The most hopeful prospect for the USA, should the decentralization impulse prove irresistible, is for Americans to draw on their natural inventiveness and democratic tradition by patenting a formula for getting the job done in a gradual and cooperative way. In so doing, geopolitical history, and perhaps even a path for others, might be made, for the problem of bigness vexes political leviathans everywhere.

In India, with its 1.2 billion people, there is an active discussion of whether things might work better if the nation-state was chopped up into 10 or so large city-states with broad writs of autonomy from New Delhi. Devolution may likewise be the future for the European continent-think Catalonia-and for the British Isles. Scotland, a leading source of Enlightenment ideas for America's founding fathers, now has its own flourishing independence movement. Even China, held together by an aging autocracy, may not be able to resist the drift towards the smaller.

So why not America as the global leader of a devolution? America's return to its origins-to its type-could turn out to be an act of creative political destruction, with "we the people" the better for it.

This article wasn't published in some fringe pamphlet, mind you, but in the Wall Street Journal. George Joyce at The American Thinker remarks:

A failed presidency for Barack Obama could turn into liberalism's worst nightmare. Barely six months into his term, the 44th president has succeeded in generating the most widespread and serious discussion of secession since the Civil War. Despite what Newsweek's Evan Thomas may claim, Obama is not the "God" who will bring us together but the autocratic sponsor of an overbearing, oppressive leviathan from which a growing number of Americans are seeking refuge.

That refuge, according to author Paul Starobin, will come in the form of several regional republics that reflect the diverse character of Americans no longer bound in any meaningful way by our unrecognizable Federal government.

I recommend reading Joyce's article first. It contains a succinct summary of Starobin's essay and isn't as long.

I don't know if secession or fragmentation is in our future, but I do think that the left's tendency to pit groups against each other, to play identity politics, to take what people have worked and sacrificed to earn and give it to others who have done nothing to earn it, is going to generate increasingly greater social frictions that will at some point become explosive.

Surely this isn't what candidate Obama had in mind when he promised us change, but it's where his leftist agenda is taking us.


The Anti-Reagan

After cataloguing President Obama's proclivity for obsequiousness to foreign despots and others who don't wish us well, Pat Buchanan diagnoses the difference between this president and one of his more illustrious predecessors:

Obama is the anti-Reagan. Where Reagan ever spoke of the greatness and glory of America, her history and heroes, her capacity to make the world all over again, Obama is like a dismal parson, forever reminding us - and everyone within earshot - of our own and our fathers' sins.

Obama is not only demoralizing Middle America, he is driving away the God-and-country patriots who are sick of hearing this rot from professors and journalists, and prefer not to hear it from their president. He is ceding moral high ground to regimes and nations that do not deserve it.

If Obama believes he can build himself up by tearing America down, he is mistaken. Cynical foreigners will view it with snickering contempt, patriotic Americans with disgust. What kind of leader is it who talks down his own country on foreign soil? America's performance in the Cold War was hardly flawless. But does anyone deny that we were on the right side, that the Soviet Empire and Mao's China and communist Vietnam and Castro's Cuba were on the side of tyranny - and that the neutrals were by and large irrelevant or worse in that great cause?

A nation is an extended family. While families fight and quarrel, often bitterly, you do not take the family quarrel outside the family. You don't hang the family's dirty linen on the communal clothesline. Obama, however - like some Hollywood actress seeking sympathy and public approbation with her tell-all biography detailing how she was abused by her father - trolls for popularity with America's adversaries by reciting for the benefit of the world all the sins his country has allegedly committed. When did this become the duty of the president of the United States?

Buchanan is exactly right. President Obama has behaved something like a man who goes to the local Kiwanis club or tavern and spends the evening derogating his wife and children to all within earshot. Such a man is of dubious character and is certainly unpleasant company, and probably deserves neither the family he has nor the position he enjoys as their head.


A Trio of Rarities

Those who've been with us for a while know that I enjoy birding as a pastime and that occasionally I post photos of birds that I've come across in my travels. Here are some beauties seen this spring near my home in Pennsylvania. It's unusual to find any of these in PA, so it was nice to see them all in the same month within a few miles of each other in the south central part of the state.


Black-necked stilt


These long-legged waders are both more common along the Atlantic coast and out west, but were found this spring in the Susquehanna river in Lancaster county, PA.

Another rarity seen this spring not far from where the stilt and avocet were found is the Mississippi kite, a bird of prey found more commonly in the midwest. It likes to soar high and catch insects on the wing which is a rather unusual behavior for a raptor.

Mississippi kite


Friday, June 19, 2009

Theism and Theistic Evolution

The Washington Post hosts a column by John West of the Discovery Institute in which he explains the fundamental disagreement between Darwinists (both theistic and atheistic) and Intelligent Design. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Is evolution compatible with faith in God? It's a question that is receiving lots of attention of late. [A new] Discovery Institute website www.faithandevolution.org seeks to clear-up confusion about why Darwin's theory poses such a challenge to faith in the first place. Contrary to what many people suppose, it's not because evolution proposes that living things change over millions of years, or even because it suggests that animals are descended from a common ancestor.

The real sticking point is Darwin's claim that all of life--human beings included--developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. In the words of late Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

Thus Darwinism is incompatible with most versions of theism which see man's creation, and the creative process, as intended by the Creator, but there are some theists, called theistic evolutionists, who seek an accommodation with Darwin:

There are ways to try to reconcile Darwinism's undirected process with theism, but they involve throwing overboard some long-cherished beliefs about God.

The first idea to go is the belief that God directed the development of life toward specific ends. According to biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the most prominent proponents of "theistic" evolution, God did not plan the specific outcomes of evolution--including the development of human beings. Miller describes humans as "an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out."

While God knew that undirected evolution was so wonderful it would create some kind of creature capable of praising Him, that creature could have been "a big-brained dinosaur" or "a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities" rather than us.

But if evolution really is undirected how did God know what would come of it? What makes Miller think that God would have any knowledge at all of how the process would turn out when He set it all in motion? And if He did know how it would turn out is it not reasonable to believe that he knew this because He established the conditions both necessary and sufficient to achieve the expected outcome.

Seeking to lessen the discomfort such arguments pose for most religious believers, Francis Collins suggests that God "could" have known the specific outcomes of evolution beforehand even though He made evolution appear "a random and undirected process." In other words, God is a cosmic trickster who misleads people into thinking that nature is blind and purposeless, even though it isn't.

Isn't it easier to suppose, if one is both an evolutionist and a theist, that God is the actual channel that guides moment by moment the flow of evolutionary history, like the bed of a river guides the flow of the stream? In this view, God doesn't actually intervene in that history rather he is the matrix in which it occurs, leading it ultimately through the twists and turns of a phylogenetic maze to his intended outcome.

The theistic evolutionist is a Darwinian in that he believes that evolution is an undirected process, but he could still be a theist and an evolutionist if he held that the process is directed. The direction could come not from miraculous interjections of biological novelty here and there throughout time by a Creator ontologically detached or separate from the evolutionary river, but one whose mind or being forms the very conduit through which the river flows and by which it is guided.


More U.N. Ineptitude

No sooner did we cite four good reasons for putting the U.N. in our rearview mirror the other day than we come across yet another example of U.N. corruption. Does it make you feel good to know that your tax dollars are being spent to send food to starving children in Somalia? If so, you might not want to read this:

One of the UN's largest international relief efforts is under investigation after it emerged that thousands of sacks of food aid were being diverted from starving refugees and openly sold for profit.

The head of the UN's $955 million aid operation in Somalia has launched an inquiry after being shown footage showing tonnes of food bearing the World Food Programme (WFP) logo widely on sale in Mogadishu, the capital.

Stacks of bags of maize and wheat and tins of cooking oil - marked "not for re-sale" and bearing the UN stamp - are on sale from ten warehouses and 15 shops in the city's main market.

About 45,000 tons of WFP food are shipped to Somalia from Kenya every month. Mogadishu traders told Channel 4 News that they bought their supplies straight from UN staff. "We buy [food] aid from WFP staff directly or from people they employ," one market trader said.

"They take us to the warehouses used by the WFP and let us load our lorries. The goods are freely available and you can buy as much as you like, but we usually buy no more than 500 to 1,000 sacks at a time. Just a tonne or half a tonne a day can be shifted more discreetly."

The food could hardly be more needed. More than a million people have been driven from their homes by fighting in the area, including 117,000 thought to have fled from Mogadishu in the past month.

Children starve while warlords and others line their pockets with the connivance of U.N. employees. The U.N. does not keep the peace anywhere in the world (Watch, for example, movies like No Man's Land, or Beyond the Gates, or Hotel Rwanda) and its humanitarian functions are in serious need of oversight.

Wouldn't it be safer, cheaper, and more efficient to just cut out the middle man, take the money we give to the U.N., and use it to deliver the food ourselves?



Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard urge the defeat of the President's plan for health care. Central to Mr. Obama's plan is the option of allowing people to buy government health insurance, but, since this would be cheaper than private insurance, it would inevitably drive private insurance companies out of business, leaving the government as the sole source of health insurance in the country. Levin and Kristol, along with many other observers, think this would be a disaster:

The government insurance "option" is clearly shaping up to be the first key vulnerability of ObamaCare. It is crucial to the logic of the Democrats' approach, as it would offer convenient cover both for the move toward government financing of coverage and for the rationing of care such a move would require. The president, congressional leaders, and key liberal interest groups have insisted it be part of any reform effort. But as outside opposition grows, it is far from clear that the government option will have the votes to pass. If it were voted down or pulled out of the Democrats' bills, the logic and the inevitability of the remainder of their reform effort would be called into question, and Republicans would face a real opportunity to make the case for their own brand of reform, and to stop the ObamaCare train in its tracks.

It is crucial that they seize the opportunity. The public plan is not the only important question in the health care debate. There are many other strong reasons for stopping a plan that would cost at least $1.5 trillion, create a huge and growing new entitlement without paying for it, impose great financial burdens on employers and individuals, displace millions of families who are happy with their existing health care arrangements, lead to increasing rationing of care, and do very little else to control health care costs.

If they lose the government plan the Democrats will still pursue its ends by other means--including onerous new mandates and the federalization of insurance regulation envisioned in their bills. So conservatives need to defeat the government insurance "option"--and then move on to finish the job by exposing the other massive problems with ObamaCare, so as to bring the whole edifice of bad and dangerous "reform" crashing down.

There's much more to the argument against "ObamaCare" at the link, and everyone should familiarize themselves with it to be informed about what's in store if the president's plan should pass.

I certainly hope that congress comes up with a way to make health care more affordable, but I wonder why, if the administration is really serious about lowering the cost of insurance, they don't simply reform the laws allowing lawyers to extract exorbitant judgments from doctors and drug companies in lawsuits.

One reason why insurance and care are so expensive is that it costs doctors and pharmaceutical companies a fortune to protect themselves against lawyers and their clients who are always on the lookout to sue somebody with deep pockets, and the cost of that protection simply gets passed along to their customers.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Squandering Our National Treasures

Liberals concerned about conserving our scenic and wild lands as well as threats to the health of our wildlife populations and parks should take note. It's their fiscal policies which are today the dominant menace to all of these. Take the plight of California as an illustration of how government profligacy endangers the very resources it wishes to preserve:

Conservation projects in California's state parks face a bleak future, if cuts proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger go through.

To tackle a swelling state deficit that has reached $24.3 billion, the "Governator" wants to slash spending across the board - including funding for 80 per cent of the 270 sites run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Those parks earmarked for closure (pdf) include world-famous attractions such as the giant sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Gated access roads to some parks would be closed, but many parks can be easily entered from public highways. With no rangers on hand to keep a watchful eye on visitors, that could be bad news for threatened species such as the desert tortoise.

In a recent survey, researchers led by Kristin Berry of the US Geological Survey in Moreno Valley found a worryingly high death rate among young animals in the Red Rock Canyon State Park, north of Los Angeles - some of which had gunshot wounds.

The proposed funding cuts would also eliminate conservation management activities such as the removal of invasive plants and efforts to prevent catastrophic fires. In Calaveras, this involves the removal of fir trees allowed to grow by earlier fire suppression efforts - and which now threaten a conflagration that could engulf the sequoias.

Out of control spending and deficits have forced the California state government to cut back on its expenditures on "non-essentials," and what is in line to be cut are not the wasteful projects, not the spending on the millions of aliens who are in the state illegally, but our natural heritage.

If we extrapolate this onto a national scale, we might wonder how long it will be before the White House announces that our national parks, forests and seashores are no longer affordable and that in order to pay the interest on the astronomical national debt President Obama has bequeathed us we should sell these off.

If this state of affairs ever does come to pass what an irony it'll be that the "environmental party," the party so distraught over global warming and other ecological cataclysms, will be the party responsible for the loss of our nation's most beautiful jewels. In squandering our nation's treasure the Democrats may well have squandered our national treasures.



According to Gallup there are almost twice as many self-identified conservatives in the U.S. as there are liberals. This is very hard to believe given the election results the last two cycles. Nevertheless, according to the famous polling agency:

Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.

So, if this is true why do we have the most liberal House, Senate and White House in the history of this country?

Could it be that regardless what people themselves believe, they have no idea what the people they vote for believe? Put that down as my guess.


The Speech We Wish He'd Given

Dennis Prager gives us the speech we wish President Obama would have given in Cairo. Here's an excerpt:

To my great disappointment, many Muslims have come to believe that my country has declared war on Muslims and Islam. Because of this widespread belief, I said in an interview with al-Arabiya a few months ago, that we need to restore "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."

Let's look a little deeper at that relationship. For the truth is, as noted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the American newspaper the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer, in the last 20-30 years America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for Muslims. We Americans engaged in five military campaigns on behalf of Muslims, each one resulting in the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as the failed 1992-93 Somalia intervention to feed starving African Muslims -- in which] 43 Americans were killed -- were all humanitarian exercises. In none of them was there a significant U.S. strategic interest at stake. So, in fact, in these 20 years, my country, the United States of America has done more for suffering and oppressed Muslims than any other nation, Muslim or non-Muslim.

While I recognize that gratitude is the rarest positive human quality, I need to say -- because candor is the highest form respect -- that America has not only not received little gratitude from the Muslim world, it has been the object of hatred, mass murder, and economic attack from Muslim individuals, groups, and countries.

There's much more at the link. Would that our president was less inclined toward ingratiation and self-abasement and more inclined toward presenting the Muslim world with the hard facts about the history of American/Islamic interactions.


Color Specific Justice

As everyone knows by now, President Obama's candidate for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, is under fire for her comment that she thinks a wise Latina woman would come to better conclusions on many court cases than would some old white guy, or something. Be that as it may, the details of her ruling in the Ricci case - which is now before the Supreme Court - leave a lot of doubt whether wisdom is a trait of which this particular Latina can boast.

Stuart Taylor at National Journal reviews the details of the case and shows beyond a reasonable doubt that "the decision to kill the promotions (in the Ricci case) was driven less by purported legal concerns than by raw racial politics."

Taylor adds that:

But the unmistakable logic of Sotomayor's position would encourage employers to discriminate against high-scoring groups based on race -- no matter how valid and lawful the qualifying test -- in any case in which disproportionate numbers of protected minorities have low scores, as is the norm.

Such logic would convert disparate-impact law into an engine of overt discrimination against high-scoring groups across the country and allow racial politics and racial quotas to masquerade as voluntary compliance with the law.

In other words, this "highly intelligent," "highly accomplished," "empathetic" Latina judge likes to lift the blindfold that represents a judge's indifference to who stands before her in her court in order to take a peek at the skin color of the people involved in the case. She then rules accordingly. Her much vaunted empathy appears to be very color specific.

Read the rest of Taylor's essay at the link to gain a good idea of the sort of person President Obama thinks should be dispensing justice in America.


Iranian Democracy

According to a piece by Amil Imani and Dr. Arash Irandoost at American Thinker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have actually finished third in the recent Iranian election:

[T]he turnout was massive, a near record high 85 percent of Iran's 49.2 million eligible voters. Based on the information from Mousavi's website, a group of Interior Ministry employees have leaked out the following results which seem to be closer to reality than the one released by the establishment:

  • Total eligible voters: 49.2 million
  • Participated in the election: 75% to 85%
  • Mir Hussein Mousavi: 45%
  • Mehdi Karoobi: 33%
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 13%
  • Mohsen Rezai: 9%
  • Cancelled votes: 3%

It is clear that Mr. Mir Hussein Mousavi won the election by a large margin. Ahmadinejad came out third. But on Friday June 12, 2009, in the Islamic election something happened. Something beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. Something huge. A daylight coup d'�tat by the elements of the establishment, particularly, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the U.S. Senate had designated as a terrorist organization (with Senator Obama not voting).

One might be forgiven for wondering whether President Obama's reluctance to vigorously condemn the fraudulent Iranian elections stems from the fact that, having once worked for ACORN, he has a soft spot in his heart for voter fraud.


Living Within Our Means

My friend Jason weighs in with a "guest post" this morning:

George Will diagnoses here three causes which stifle American economic growth and, consequently, deepen global financial woes further:

  • Ecological protectionist legislation enacted by the United States which heavily taxes foreign "carbon-intensive" goods
  • Refusal by the Obama Administration to allow for the "creative destruction" of failed corporations such as General Motors and Chrysler (Will argues that such executive intervention doesn't allow the corporations to die naturally which would free up greater amounts of capital over time.)
  • Rising long-term interest rates resulting from national governments, most notably Great Britain and the United States, borrowing heavily to pay off their respective national debts.

The financial picture that Will paints in his editorial isn't pretty. The Standard and Poor indices he cited regarding British and U.S. national deficits relative to their total national gross domestic products for this year prove especially disheartening.

But Will shines some much needed light on a solution already in the works courtesy not of the latest Obama Administration czar or Congress, but by an increasing number of individual American consumers. The major credit company, Visa, reported that in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008, and for the first time ever in U.S. financial history, purchases made by debit cards exceeded credit cards.

In other words, individual consumers decided to buy goods and services with only the money immediately available in their checking accounts as opposed to increasing their monthly credit debt.

Spending only what you have. Imagine that.


Where's the Boundary?

In almost any controversy one can find words being employed whose meaning everyone understands until someone asks for a definition. Then it turns out, sometimes, that the meaning isn't so clear after all.

In the controversy over Intelligent Design (ID) disputants often speak piously about science as a discipline which deals only with the realm of nature and which does not concern itself with supernature, which is the province of religion. Since ID allegedly relies on supernatural causes of biological complexity it's ipso facto religious rather than scientific. Perhaps, though, we should ask exactly what is the distinction between what's natural and what's supernatural. Where's the boundary between them?

Cornelius Hunter puts his finger on the problem in a post on anti-ID philosopher Barbara Forrest. Hunter says:

In her recent paper, The Non-epistemology of Intelligent Design: Its Implications for Public Policy, evolutionary philosopher Barbara Forrest states that science must be restricted to natural phenomena. In its investigations, science must restrict itself to a naturalistic methodology, where explanations must be strictly naturalistic, dealing with phenomena that are strictly natural. Aside from rare exceptions this is the consensus position of evolutionists. And in typical fashion, Forrest uses this criteria to exclude origins explanations that allow for the supernatural.

The question for Forrest and the evolutionists then is: What is the boundary between natural phenomena and supernatural phenomena?

Forrest tells us science must never violate this boundary, so it is important that we discern it. We need to distinguish between natural and supernatural phenomena? How can science know when it is investigating a supernatural phenomena rather than a natural one?

We've actually discussed this problem at Viewpoint several times over the years. Here's some thoughts from three years ago on this very question:

One of the fundamental problems in the debate over design is the vagueness of the terms "natural" and "supernatural." What exactly are natural or supernatural entities? Is a natural entity simply something which is part of the space-time universe and a supernatural entity something which transcends this universe?

If so, then those cosmologists wrestling with theories about "other worlds" are really doing theology, not science. If, however, we wish to consider the theorizing of cosmologists to be legitimate science then we have to say that excluding theorizing about an extra-cosmic designer from science is an arbitrary and unwarranted step.

For all we know, the designer of our universe could be a denizen of one of those other universes or it could be the "generator" which manufactures those universes.

In other words, the concept of other worlds effectively erases the natural/supernatural distinction and greatly expands the purview of science.

The question then becomes not whether talk of a designer is scientific or not, but whether there is reason to think that our universe and the living things in it show evidence of intention and intelligent engineering.

The next time someone tells you that Intelligent Design is not science because it invokes the supernatural and science only deals with what is natural ask them what they mean by those terms. Chances are they won't be able to give a coherent, non-arbitrary reply.

Indeed, the only way to meaningfully distinguish between natural and supernatural is to say that the word natural encompasses everything that exists or may exist, including angels and demons, except the creator God of theism. That is, nature is comprised of all ontological contingent entities and supernature is comprised of the ultimately necessary being. This distinction is fine with me, but then there's surely no warrant for saying that ID is religious, or non-science, since the designer of our little corner of reality could theoretically be any intelligent entity which transcends our world but which is not God.

I think that those, like Forrest, who insist on excluding ID from science, should be clear that what they're really doing is not striving for some methodological purity but rather trying, perhaps for their own religious purposes, to incorporate an explicitly anti-theistic epistemological bias into the very definition of science.