Friday, March 20, 2009


There are a couple of interesting submissions on our feedback page you might wish to check out.


Man-Caused Disasterists

Ace of Spades quotes this exchange between a Spiegel reporter and our Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

NAPOLITANO: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.

What an excellent idea. If we no longer call people terrorists then we'll no longer be afraid of them as they put the blade to our throats. Let Viewpoint be the first to adopt the new Orwellian phraseology. Suicide bombers and the 9/11 gang are no longer to be referred to as "terrorists" in our brave new world of Obamaspeak, they will henceforth be designated "man-caused disasterists."

I feel safer already. Don't you?


Academic Tyranny

Reuben Kendall, a mere freshman at the University of Tennessee, has the cheek to challenge the tenured dons of Darwinism to be more tolerant, open-minded, and to actually practice academic freedom. He's asking a lot of people who are among the most intellectually xenophobic dogmatists in our culture, but who knows, maybe some of them will be persuaded by his letter to change their minds about burning him at the stake and decide to just fail him instead.

Here's part of Kendall's letter to the student paper:

As a freshman, I haven't been at UT-Martin for very long. But some problems are so obvious that they don't take very long to notice.

In my studies I quickly realized that when it comes to the theory of evolution, Darwin is the only one who gets to answer questions-or ask them.

I want to question this theory - to test it; check its credentials. And I want honest, thoughtful answers to my questions, not pre-formulated quips and deflections. But I have learned that if I'm not an evolutionist, my questions don't get credited, or even heard.

When I ask why theories such as intelligent design are discredited so off-handedly, I typically hear, "Because intelligent design involves metaphysics, but evolution is based only on facts." Well, I am not so sure.

Obviously, Darwin observed mutation and selection processes within the finch species of the Galapagos. But was he really seeing the extreme mutation and selection that would be required to make a bird out of a dinosaur?

It seems to me Darwin's idea of increasingly specialized life descending from simple, single-celled creatures, was entirely conjectural....

The scientific community assures me that evolution will undoubtedly produce answers to all these problems. But in the meantime, nobody else is allowed to say anything. If you ask me, this isn't academic freedom.

True academic freedom would look like a variety of scientists, with differing opinions, having open and respectful debates about their ideas.

It would look like evolutionists actually being willing to learn what intelligent design advocates think, instead of dismissing them off-hand as religious fanatics or Creationists.

What a quaint idea, that.

What young Mr. Kendall is finding out is that many academics are only in favor of the free exchange of ideas and speech when their ideas are in the minority and out of power. Then they are all about the First Amendment to which they pay homage at every opportunity. Once they prevail in the political struggle, however, and obtain the power to stifle dissent, they'll do it faster than you can say "academic tyranny."

This is a time-honored tactic, especially among leftists. The left uses free elections to get their people ensconced in power and then ban meaningful elections. They use a free press to get their ideas propagated and then, once they're able, they shut down the free press. They employ public demonstrations to weaken the authority of the ruling bureaucracy, and once those rulers are toppled the left prohibits demonstrations. They use the law to erode the social structure they despise and once they're in power they pervert the courts and use them to punish political opponents.

But perhaps there's another, less malign, reason Mr. Kendall meets with silence and deflections when he poses his questions to his professors. Perhaps many instructors don't want a free and open discussion with a knowledgeable student because they simply fear their Darwinism will look lame to the rest of the class and, by extension, so will they.

It's a less malign reason for suppressing students like Mr. Kendall, but it's just as inexcusable.


Imprisoned in Your Body

I came across a report published last October that sent a chill up my spine. Researchers have confirmed something I had long feared. People in "comas" are sometimes minimally conscious and able to experience pain. They have no way, however, to communicate their suffering to those around them. It's thus quite possible that Terri Schiavo - and others in similar straits - suffered terribly when she was deprived of water and nourishment and essentially starved to death in 2005.

Imagine being aware, if only somewhat, of what is going on around you - imagine being in terrible discomfort - but also being unable to signal your discomfort to anyone or to do anything at all to alleviate it. You would be imprisoned in your body, and your body would be a torture chamber.

The report begins with this:

Do patients who survive a severe brain injury but fail to recover speech or non-verbal communication perceive pain? After their remarkable publication where they showed that a patient in a vegetative state in reality was conscious, scientists at the University of Li�ge (ULg) were able to tackle the very difficult issue of pain perception in coma survivors.

The Coma Science Group of the Cyclotron Research Centre and Neurology Department of the ULg used PET scanning to measure minimally conscious and vegetative patients' brain activation in response to noxious stimulation. After comparing results obtained in the different patient groups with those in healthy volunteers who could communicate it felt painful they concluded that minimally conscious patients must feel pain despite being unable to tell their environment. Hence, these patients should receive pain-killers, the authors concluded.

This study has major ethical and therapeutical consequences also with regard to end-of-life decisions in these challenging but vulnerable patient populations.

This last sentence is, of course, an understatement.