Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Guilty Party

Recently we linked to a list of people that the British paper The Guardian deemed culpable for the current financial crisis which began, you'll remember, with the imminent collapse of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like lending institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Prominent on that list were Alan Greenspan and George Bush and absent, oddly, were any congressional Democrats.

This video of a Fox News report, however shows that Greenspan and the Bush administration in its first term sought greater oversight and more effective regulation of the GSEs but were resisted by congressional Democrats, particularly Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer. It explains the time-line which reveals that, contrary to the claims of Democrats that the failure of the GSEs was due to GOP unwillingness to regulate them, it was, in fact, the result of the failure of congressional Democrats to support Bush administration proposals to strengthen oversight.

The Democrats didn't want to rein in Fannie and Freddie and tighten their lending practices because they thought that doing so would make it more difficult for low income people to get home mortgages. A Senator at the time, Barack Obama and the black congressional caucus pushed the GSEs to keep their lending practices lenient so that people who were bad risks could still buy houses. Obama, after less than two years in the Senate, was rewared for his efforts by becoming the second highest recipient of cash contributions from Fannie and Freddie - which bespeaks their gratitude to him for helping to keep them unregulated:

After this display of wretched misjudgment on the part of people charged with congressional oversight of the GSEs how can they still be serving in Washington today? Why isn't this dereliction publicized more vigorously? You can be assured that had the fault lain with Republicans we'd be hearing about it every night until the villains were all either in jail or hounded from office. The major media has rightly been vocal in their outrage of corporate golden parachutes awarded to CEOs whose judgment was so bad that the companies they ran crashed and burned. Yet politicians are also being rewarded for abject incompetence. They get elected and re-elected to high office, and the liberal media helps them do it by keeping the people in the dark about the role these people played in bringing us to the brink of financial ruin. The MSM helps put into office to solve the crisis the very people who caused it. What a country.


Science Vs. Religion (Pt. I)

The recent issue of The New Republic contains an essay by Darwinian biologist Jerry Coyne on why he believes there can be no rapprochement between science and "religion." I place the word religion in quotes because it's a slippery term and Coyne never really defines what he means by it. At any rate, over the next several days I'd like to offer a few thoughts on Coyne's column.

He starts off talking about Darwinian evolution, the belief that all life arose through blind, purposeless physical processes:

The ideas that made Darwin's theory so revolutionary are precisely the ones that repel much of religious America, for they imply that, far from having a divinely scripted role in the drama of life, our species is the accidental and contingent result of a purely natural process.

This is an important point, one that's often lost on people. The intellectual conflict today is not between "religion" and evolution. There's no necessary incompatibility between the two, not even between young-earth creationism and evolution (as I hope to point out in a future post). The conflict, rather, is between Darwinian evolution and the belief that an intellect is involved in the creation of the world. Darwinism denies any role for purpose, intention, or mind in the generation and diversification of life and it is this view, which is at bottom a non-scientific, philosophical belief, which many religious people reject.

Coyne goes on to lament that:

[W]hile 74 percent of Americans believe that angels exist, only 25 percent accept that we evolved from apelike ancestors.

Little wonder, actually. Perhaps three out of four people find it easier to believe that angels exist than to believe that a process like the Krebs cycle or the human brain could have evolved by pure, mindless serendipity. How many people have ever studied the question of human evolution - at least subsequent to their high school graduation, at which ceremony their minds are purged of all that they learned over the last couple of years anyway? What reason do most people have at hand for believing that we evolved from apelike ancestors? Should they believe it just because the scientific high priests like Coyne tell them they should? If so, how is that different than the warrant people have for believing, on the authority of their pastors and priests, in angels?

In any event, it's hard to draw any conclusions about the significance of statistics like these. Likewise with this factoid that Coyne serves up:

As Karl Giberson notes in [his book] Saving Darwin, "Most people in America have a neighbor who thinks the Earth is ten thousand years old."

I'm not sure what we should make of this bit of snideness, either. Should we assume that there are a lot of uneducated bumpkins in the world, or are we to conclude that a lot of these young-earthers are so anti-intellectual that they refuse to allow evidence to trump their religion? Probably Coyne intends for us to think both, but refusing to allow evidence to trump one's deepest convictions is not just a fault of the average guy in the neighborhood. There are a lot of educated people who are just as impervious to evidence as Coyne believes young-earthers to be. Among our professoriat, for example, there are many who, despite all the empirical evidence to the contrary, still believe that people are better off under Marxist communism than under any other political-economic system. If we're going to poke fun at beliefs that are at odds with the evidence maybe beliefs for which there is direct empirical refutation should be held in even greater derision than those against which the evidence is more indirect. In any case, Coyne's attempt to discredit American religiosity by associating it with young-earth creationism is no more persuasive than trying to discredit philosophical materialism by associating it with communism.

More tomorrow.