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.