Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Angry Vet

Penn State puts out a series of short videos to illustrate for instructors how they might deal with troublesome students. One of these depicts a veteran who's portrayed as unreasonable and angry. Why PSU chose to portray a veteran as "worrisome" is unclear except that possibly Penn State faculty are finding that young men coming back from the war are less docile, pliable and vulnerable to professorial political proselytizing than are their non-vet classmates.

In the last few years I've had a number of students in class who were combat veterans, and their behavior has been exemplary. They do sometimes seem a little amused by some of the views expressed by classmates who haven't experienced much of the world's ugliness, but they've always been polite and conscientious.

Perhaps this hasn't been the experience of Penn State instructors, however. Perhaps there've been numerous cases on the PSU campus of veterans threatening or intimidating teachers. Or, on the other hand, perhaps the makers of the video are simply displaying their own prejudices by drawing on the stereotypes common among people of the left of what veterans are like.

I think one of these explanations is more probable than the other, but I'll let you decide which one you think it is.

Thanks to Hot Air for the video.


Unilateral Disarmament

President Obama has indicated that we are about to reduce our arsenal of nuclear weapons and suspend our program to develop a system that would enable us to intercept nuclear-armed ICBMs fired at us. Mr. Obama believes, apparently, that the only way to get the rest of the world to give up its nukes is to set an example for them to follow.

But what if, having reduced our preparedness and capability to minimal levels it becomes clear that other countries are not going along, which, of course, they won't. We can't even persuade a fourth-rate power like North Korea to stop its march toward nuclear arms much less cajole a third-rate power like Iran to do so. How are we going to convince China and Russia to give up the weapons that make them both world powers? What incentive could we possibly offer them? Economic aid?

If the President follows through on his proposal to unilaterally disarm he'll place both the U.S. and much of the rest of the world in enormous jeopardy. The bad guys will continue to develop nukes even while pretending to negotiate them away. Gun-rights folks like to say that when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. The same holds true for any weapon. When nukes are outlawed only rogue nations will have them, and they'll be much more inclined to use them if no one else is in a position to retaliate. The people who gave us 9/11 would hardly scruple at the detonation of a nuclear device.

Imagine a world in which no western country has nuclear weapons but Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, China, and say, Venezuela, do. Will that be a safer world? If Israel were to give up its nuclear arsenal how long would it remain in existence? If India were to rid itself of these weapons how long would it be before it succumbed to Pakistani blackmail? What would happen to Taiwan if we could no longer trump the Chinese military with superior power? How long would South Korea remain free of North Korean aggression if the Norks had nukes and the South didn't?

Let's be serious about this. If these countries could get the West to disarm by promising to do likewise, they'll promise until their faces turn blue, but they'll give up neither their weapons nor their ambitions. It would be incredible folly to think they would. Experience has taught us that they'd hem and haw, obfuscate and dilate, and effectively confound any attempt to inspect their facilities until it was too late. The only countries that would be honest and open would be Western nations. The rest of the world would do exactly what Iran and North Korea are doing now.

The President insists that he's not naive, but if he thinks that these states are going to forego the opportunity to possess nuclear weapons and the power they confer just because he wants them to, he's worse than naive. He's delusional.


Another Uninformed Critic

David Harsanyi has a column at the Denver Post that is remarkable for its serendipity. He gets almost everything wrong regarding the recent controversy in Texas about teaching both sides of the debate over evolution and intelligent design and still winds up drawing the correct conclusion.

Harsanyi, like so many commenters before him, confuses ID with creationism, and then blasts creationism, fooling himself into thinking that his criticisms are relevant to ID. He also states, like so many others before him, that IDers are anti-evolution. This is simply false. IDers are anti-Darwinian evolution. They're anti-materialism, not anti-evolution, and indeed many of them are evolutionists of one sort or another themselves.

Despite what critics allege and the popular press thinks, the current controversy is not between ID proponents and evolutionists, it's not between science and religion nor science and faith. It's between advocates of two conflicting metaphysical worldviews. On the one side, deceptively draping itself in the mantle of science, are proponents of materialistic naturalism - the view that only natural, physical causes have operated in the creation of the universe and of life. Those on the other side hold to a version of metaphysical dualism and are convinced that the evidence discovered by science reveals signs of purpose and intelligence behind what we perceive. IDers take no position on how this mind operated, how long ago it designed the world, or whether the mind is that of the God of the Bible or of an inhabitant of some other universe. It simply claims that however the world and life came about in this universe, it wasn't by physical, natural processes and forces alone.

Mr. Harsanyi hasn't yet gotten to the point where he has discovered the significance of this distinction and finds it easier and more polemically effective to just conflate ID and creationism. Nevertheless, he admirably comes out in his essay on the side of teaching students both sides of the controversy, a view Darwinians find abhorrent, and for good reason. They know that once students start learning about the incredibly precise calibration of the cosmic forces and parameters and once they start seeing videos like these, very few of them are going to conclude that this world is just the result of a cosmic belch by blind forces and matter.

Perhaps if Mr. Harsanyi viewed some of this evidence himself he wouldn't make the sorts of uniformed claims that tarnish his column.