Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Happened in Honduras?

Mona Charen brings us up to speed on the goings on in Honduras and also why Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is a serious no-goodnik:

The U.S. State Department called the events in Honduras an "attempted coup," and demanded that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power in order to facilitate the "restoration of democratic order."

There was an attempted coup in Honduras, but it was Zelaya who initiated it, not his opponents. As the invaluable Mary Anastasia O'Grady reported in the Wall Street Journal, Zelaya, a Hugo Chavez acolyte, was attempting to ape his mentor by rewriting Honduras' constitution. Under Honduran law, however, the president cannot call a referendum on the constitution on his own authority. O'Grady explains: "While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite ... A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chavez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do." The attorney general of Honduras, as well as the nation's Supreme Court, had declared the referendum illegal.

Zelaya attempted an end run. O'Grady writes: "Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court's order."

He also fired those military people who would not violate the Supreme Court's order and distribute the ballots. Anyway, Charen has more helpful information on the sort of democracy Mr. Zelaya had in mind for Honduras at the link where she also describes the tyranny Hugo Chavez is imposing in Venezuela.

Meanwhile the Obama administration has cut off military aid to the new Honduran government and is demanding that Zelaya be reinstated. One can only shake one's head at where our new loyalties seem to lie.


Coyne's Confusion

Earlier this year we posted a five part response to Jerry Coyne's essay in The New Republic in which he argued that science and religion are incompatible. The core of our case was that Coyne's argument was essentially confused and irrational.

Now Martin Cothran at Evolution News and Views wittily, and perhaps more succinctly, makes the same point.

The Darwinian materialists really are at loose ends trying to make the case for a purely materialist worldview without admitting that their materialism is really a mere philosophical preference that no one should feel intellectually compelled to accept.

Check out either our response or Cothran's essay to get a sense of the confusion and embarrassing self-contradictions employed by those anxious to convince us that religious belief is epistemically illegitimate.


Ecological Benefits

Ecological benefits of global warming keep coming to light even though the articles that mention them rarely draw the conclusion that, biologically speaking, global climate change is not only not new, it's also not necessarily a bad thing to have happen.

Here's another example from New Scientist:

"Teeming with life" may not be the description that springs to mind when thinking of the Arctic Ocean, but that could soon change as global warming removes the region's icy lid. A study of what the Arctic looked like just before dinosaurs were wiped off the planet has provided a glimpse of what could be to come within decades.

Ice-free summers and icy winters are precisely what glaciologists fear could happen in the Arctic within decades. Over the past few years, wind pattern and warm temperatures have been gradually thinning Arctic sea ice, making it less and less likely to survive the summer. Some believe the Arctic could be ice-free during the summer as soon as 2030.

The researchers say that the sheer number of diatoms locked in the mud suggests that when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth the Arctic Ocean was biologically very rich during the summer, on a par with the most productive regions of the Southern Ocean today. Since diatoms are at the very bottom of the food chain, waters rich in diatoms can support a lot of larger life forms as well.

"On the basis of our findings, we can say that it is likely that a future Arctic Ocean free of summer sea ice will also be highly productive," says Kemp. Arctic fauna today is limited by the region's harsh conditions. The ocean is home to very few species of fish - such as the Arctic cod - which in turn support seals, whales and polar bears.

While more diatoms during the summer does not mean that larger animals will spontaneously appear in the Arctic over the coming decades, it could give species that currently live further south an incentive to move into the region by providing them with food. The most likely scenario is one in which larger species migrate to the Arctic in the summer to feed on the enriched summer food chain, then move back south during the dark winters.

Why scientists should "fear" that ice-free summers will be typical of Arctic summers within twenty years is not made clear by the article. It seems to me that the appearance of a nutrient-rich habitat for wildlife is something that biologists would rather welcome, but I suppose there are the politics to consider. Not only is there a risk of incurring their colleagues' censure if scientists wax too enthusiastic about the advantages wrought by climate change, but all the global warming Chicken Littles will be implicitly rebuked, and President Obama will never get his energy bills passed.