Friday, April 30, 2010

What the Law Actually Says

Those who find themselves in the position of not knowing what to believe about the Arizona immigration law might want to read a New York Times op-ed written by one of the drafters of the measure. It offers an excellent summary of the law's provisions. The author is Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri. Kobach begins with this:

On Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a law - SB 1070 - that prohibits the harboring of illegal aliens and makes it a state crime for an alien to commit certain federal immigration crimes. It also requires police officers who, in the course of a traffic stop or other law-enforcement action, come to a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is an illegal alien verify the person's immigration status with the federal government.

Predictably, groups that favor relaxed enforcement of immigration laws, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, insist the law is unconstitutional. Less predictably, President Obama declared it "misguided" and said the Justice Department would take a look.

Presumably, the government lawyers who do so will actually read the law, something its critics don't seem to have done. The arguments we've heard against it either misrepresent its text or are otherwise inaccurate. As someone who helped draft the statute, I will rebut the major criticisms individually.

Read his response to the critics at the link. I think the dissenters know that the law is not the totalitarian bogeyman they're making it out to be, but they're upset because they don't want any enforcement of immigration laws. They want amnesty and open borders, and the Arizona legislature seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Thus the hue and cry about racial profiling, arbitrary searches and all the rest.

The law makes sense, Arizonans and other Americans overwhelmingly support it, and I imagine other states are looking to adopt similar legislation.


Re: Nerdiness

Lest anyone have thought my comments in the Nerdiness post concerning the low priority given to education by the administrators of our public schools a bit exaggerated, one of my students, writing of her own high school experience, said this:

Sadly, I would agree with your statement that education is usually not the first priority in most high schools. A prime example of this in my high school happened during the musical season of my senior year. Our show that year was "The Secret Garden," and many of the songs (even those for the chorus) were high and complex. As a result, the choral director for the show began scheduling rehearsals for the songs during the school day in addition to our after-school rehearsals. Many of the teachers did not complain about this; however, my AP English teacher did. Our AP English class had about 12 students in it - 8 of us were involved with the musical. When we all asked to be excused for the mandatory rehearsal, he was outraged. Not only were we not allowed to go to the rehearsal, but we were also forced to sit and listen to him rant about how extracurricular activities seemed to take precedence over his class, and other classes for that matter. (The irony is that he wasted his valuable class time ranting).

At the time, his refusal seemed unfair and silly; however, looking back now I realize how right he was. Extracurricular activities often were given higher priority over classes. In addition to the choral director pulling us for rehearsals, we also missed almost an entire day of classes to perform the show for senior citizens. In addition, the band director pulled kids for individual lessons, and the sports teams were excused early for away games. Students involved with SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and STAAT (Students Taking Action Against Tobacco) were allowed to miss class to visit other schools to talk about their causes. Student Council always took a day long trip to New York City (mostly for shopping), and chorus members went to see a show on Broadway. Additionally, pep rallies often caused shortened instructional periods in order to allow ample time for showing off the football or basketball teams.

As an education major, of course, I do not believe that learning should come after extracurriculars on the priority list. However, I think that extracurricular involvement plays a vital role in the college application and acceptance process; perhaps this fact is partially to blame for grades and smarts being knocked down a few notches. I remember that throughout high school we were constantly being told to be well-rounded individuals, to be involved. It was not enough just to get the good grades. When we applied to colleges, they weren't just looking at GPA-they wanted to know our extracurricular activities. Scholarship applications were like this, too. I know it is important to be involved, but high schools cannot let their students lose sight of the fact that extracurriculars aren't the only things that matter. Chances are that the singing stars and the football quarterback aren't going to have opportunities to excel in those activities forever. High schools need to find away to bring the focus back to education and keep extracurriculars as afterschool activities. Perhaps then nerds will have a chance to show how their intelligence and good grades are the popular things to have.

This student didn't go to the high school at which I taught, but judging from her experience she could have. In fact, she could have gone to just about any high school with which I'm familiar. If taxpayers want better educated students they might campaign to have schools keep students in the classroom. It would increase the amount of learning that takes place, and it wouldn't cost a cent.

By the way, I would have been honored to have had her AP English teacher for a colleague. He sounds like a man after my own heart.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Illegal Immigration Is Troubling

Hispanic groups are forecasting huge rallies across the country this Saturday on behalf of amnesty and in protest of laws like that recently passed in Arizona. President Obama has expressed profound concern about the rights of illegal aliens flooding into Arizona. There have been few expressions of concern, however, about the right of Americans to live in safety and security in their own country, and few media commentators seem interested in publicizing the frustrations and fears that have led the people of Arizona and elsewhere to support this law by huge majorities.

Here are some statistics from Pat Buchanan's book State of Emergency that should be kept in mind by anyone who thinks that the Arizona law is too draconian:

� In 2005 there were 687 assaults on border agents, twice the figure for 2004.

� In 2004 160,000 non-Mexicans were caught illegally crossing our border. Only 30,000 were returned.

� Federal agents are required to release illegal immigrants if their home countries refuse to take them back.

� In George Bush's first 4.5 years in office approximately 4 million people entered this country illegally.

� Police in so-called "sanctuary cities" are prohibited from apprehending known illegal or criminal aliens. Gang members in L.A. who are in violation of deportation orders may not be arrested by police.

� In L.A. 95% of all outstanding warrants for homicide, some 1200 to 1500, are for illegal aliens.

� 66% of the 17,000 outstanding fugitive felony warrants in L.A. are for illegal aliens.

� 12,000 of the 20,000 members of the 18th Street Gang in California are illegals.

� Between 300,000 and 350,000 "anchor babies" are born to illegal aliens each year. These children, one in every ten babies born in the U.S., are automatically citizens and qualify for all benefits of citizenship.

� Between 10% and 20% of all Mexican, Central American, and Caribbean peoples have moved to the U.S.

� One in twelve illegals caught by the border patrol has a criminal record. It's estimated that 300,000 felons have crossed into the U.S. in the last five years.

� Mara Salvatrucha, a gang responsible for numerous rapes, murders, mutilations and other crimes, has 8,000 to 10,000 members in 33 states. The illegal aliens in this gang are almost immune to police arrest and deportation because they operate in sanctuary cities. The gang is comprised primarily of El Salvadoran illegals.

� Illegals are bringing diseases that had been virtually eradicated in the U.S. Malaria, polio, hepatitis, tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis and other diseases are all skyrocketing in the southwest. From 1960 to 2000 there were only 900 reported cases of leprosy in the U.S. In the first three years of the 21st century there were 7000.

� Since few illegals have health insurance and since hospitals are obligated to care for them, 84 California hospitals closed their doors between 1994 and 2003 because they could not afford to provide free medical care for the numerous illegals who needed it.

� Immigrants in general, and illegals in particular, are depressing the wages of low-skilled Americans by almost 8% according to Paul Krugman of the NYT.

� It's a myth that immigrants help the economy by paying taxes. The cost of schooling, health care, welfare, social security and prisons, plus the costs of pressure on resources like water, land, and power far exceed the revenue that immigrants, legal and illegal, contribute. The net cost to the taxpayer, imposed by immigrants, has been estimated at around $108 billion for 2006.

Moreover, while our economy lost five million jobs last year there are still eight million jobs currently filled by illegal aliens that could go to unemployed Americans. Why we should not only permit, but actually encourage, this state of affairs to continue is a mystery. We're losing control of our country and the dereliction in Washington has been bipartisan.


How Mexico Treats Aliens

Michelle Malkin, commenting on the outcry from Mexican authorities over the recently passed Arizona law that empowers local police to enforce the nation's immigration laws, writes that:

Mexican president Felipe Calder�n has accused Arizona of opening the door "to intolerance, hate, discrimination, and abuse in law enforcement." But Arizona has nothing on Mexico when it comes to cracking down on illegal aliens. While open-borders activists decry the new enforcement measures signed into law in "Nazi-zona" last week, they remain deaf, dumb, or willfully blind to the unapologetically restrictionist policies of our neighbors to the south.

The Arizona law bans sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce immigration laws, stiffens penalties against illegal-alien day laborers and their employers, makes it a misdemeanor for immigrants to fail to complete and carry an alien-registration document, and allows the police to arrest immigrants unable to show documents proving they are in the U.S. legally. If those rules constitute the racist, fascist, xenophobic, inhumane regime that the National Council of La Raza, Al Sharpton, Catholic bishops, and their grievance-mongering followers claim, then what about these regulations and restrictions imposed on foreigners?

Read the rest of Malkin's column to find out how Mexico treats its illegal aliens. Mexican policy makes Arizona's law by comparison seem like a borough ordinance to purchase parking meters.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death of God, Death of Liberty

Philosopher Daniel Fernand adumbrates the long war against God waged by materialist philosophers from Thales to Nietzsche and argues that the death of God will lead inexorably to the death of liberty.

He concludes his pr�cis with this:

In George Orwell's 1984, Comrade O'Brien describes The Party as "the priests of power," with power itself as their god. Power is simultaneously the method and goal of this new secular religion. As O'Brien tells Winston Smith, "Power is not a means; it is an end. ... If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever".

I've been seeing that picture quite a bit, lately. It is the quintessence of the present-day power-mad, anti-intellectual radical left. In "killing" God, the left was merely taking out the competition, Tony Soprano-style -- and now they've upped the ante.

That metal-on-metal sound you hear every time you are careless enough to waste precious, irredeemable seconds watching CNN, MSNBC, or Robert Gibbs' smarmy mug is the left sharpening its knives for Liberty herself.

Indeed, once God is banished from human ethics there's nothing left but the exercise of power. In the might-makes-right world without God whoever possesses power is free to do whatever he wishes. The secularists don't intend it, perhaps, but the world they would create is the world described by Thomas Hobbes as a war of every man against every man. A world in which life will be inescapably nasty, brutish and short.

That's the trajectory the secular impulse propels us along and the omega point toward which our post-modern world is headed. We should not go gently, or quietly, into that dark night.


Closer to the Truth

I've recently come across a great website run by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an MIT PhD in brain science and author of over 30 books. The site is called Closer to the Truth and consists largely of a library of 4 minute PBS interviews with philosophers and scientists who address questions of God, Consciousness and the Cosmos. Kuhn himself is a theological agnostic seeking answers on these important questions, and his search has led him to interview people all across the theological spectrum from theists to atheists.

It's good stuff, and you'll want to bookmark the page. Those who love thinking about these matters could spend several evenings going through all the videos. Here's one chosen pretty much at random featuring theistic philosopher William Lane Craig talking about the concept of the multiverse.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010


This is beyond parody. Weary of the futility of pleading with Washington to do something to get a handle on the tidal wave of human poverty flooding their state, Arizonans, with vast public support, passed a tough measure on their own to enable them to enforce laws against illegal immigration.

But the president who has irresponsibly failed to enforce the laws that control the flow of immigrants across our borders, the president who has irresponsibly burdened our children and grandchildren with a debt they'll never be able to repay, the president who called Massachusetts police "stupid" for arresting Henry Gates, the president who has let Iran and North Korea develop nuclear weapons which will almost surely be used somewhere in the world, the president who embarrasses our allies and grovels before those who wish us ill, that president is calling the citizens of Arizona "irresponsible" for passing a law that will take back a little bit of the control the feds have forfeited:

Obama said [Friday] the federal government must act responsibly to reform national immigration law - or "open the door to irresponsibility by others."

"That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe," Obama said.

Keeping us safe is one thing Mr. Obama seems disinclined to do. As illegal immigration has boomed, so, too, have crimes like kidnapping, rape, and murder, not to mention automobile accidents caused by unlicensed motorists. Vicious gangs now roam the streets of once sleepy cities and towns striking fear and intimidation into the hearts of their citizens.

The economic burden incurred by those towns as they struggle to deal not only with crime but also the stress that immigrants place on schools, housing, and medical care facilities is crushing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama expresses concern about none of this. All he seems to care about is the putative irresponsibility of Arizonans who have given up hope that the federal government will do its job and have decided instead to try taking control of their lives themselves.

One wonders who it is in this contretemps who has the corner on the market of irresponsibility.


Real Hate

You may have heard that Lance Baxter, the voice of the Geico gecko was fired by Geico for placing a call to the tea-party group FreedomWorks and leaving an insulting message on their voice mail.

What you probably didn't know is that his firing so incensed the gentle folks on the left that, taking their anger out on FreedomWorks, filled their voice mail with the most vile messages imaginable. Tabitha Hale who works at FreedomWorks put together a montage of the messages and emails along with some classic photos of lefty protest images in a video that can be viewed here.

I must caution you, though, that the language and hate speech are pretty bad - though standard stuff for the secular left, I suppose. It's so disgusting, in fact, that I can't in good conscience put the video on Viewpoint.

I direct your attention to it because the media, and even the White House, would have us believe that it's the tea-partiers who are promoting hatred and divisiveness in this country. They want us to think that it's people like Rush Limbaugh who are inciting acts of violence. What is happening, however, is that the vulgarian left, in an act of desperation, is projecting their own worst character flaws onto their ideological opponents in order to smear them in the eyes of the public.

I guarantee that nothing you've ever heard on talk radio or seen at a tea party comes anywhere close to what's on Hale's video. If you watch it you'll want to take a shower afterward. Being in the presence of these people, even across cyberspace, makes you feel like you need one. The next time someone calls some conservative a racist, or a bigot, or a hater, because the conservative is upset about what's happening to his country, you can laugh at their ignorance and link them to this.

Unfortunately, you won't be hearing about the video from the major media. When they're not reporting on alleged slurs hurled by tea-partiers that no one heard, they're all caught up in the Tiger Woods and Ben Rothlisberger sagas.

One other caution: I can't prove that this video isn't fabricated. I'm taking FreedomWorks at their word that they actually received these messages. If anyone has solid evidence to the contrary please let me know about it.


Monday, April 26, 2010


The Big Picture has a series of 35 photos taken of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Some of them, like the one below, are absolutely stunning:

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the link.


Golden State No Longer

City Journal has a fine column by Steven Malanga which explains how California has been brought to the brink of economic collapse.

The Cliff Notes summary is this: A triumvirate of greedy unions (teachers, SEIU, and public safety workers) have managed to buy enormous influence in the California state legislature and have thwarted almost all attempts at reforming the enormous salaries and pensions they have inveigled from the taxpayers of the state. In order to pay these contractual obligations municipalities have raised taxes which has in turn driven businesses out of the state thus depleting the tax base. Meanwhile, the unions still gorge themselves at the public trough.

Here's a taste:

Only too late have Californians recognized the true magnitude of their fiscal problems, including a $21 billion deficit by mid-2009 that forced the state to issue IOUs when it temporarily ran out of cash. In the municipal bond market, fears are rising that the Golden State could actually default on its debt.

Municipalities around the state are also buckling under massive labor costs. One city, Vallejo, has already filed for bankruptcy to get out from under onerous employee salaries and pension obligations. (To stop other cities from going this route, unions are promoting a new law to make it harder for municipalities to declare bankruptcy.) Other local California governments, big and small, are nearing disaster.

The city of Orange, with a budget of just $88 million in 2009, spent $13 million of it on pensions and expects that figure to rise to $23 million in just three years. Contra Costa's pension costs rose from $70 million in 2000 to $200 million by the end of the decade, producing a budget crisis. Los Angeles, where payroll constitutes nearly half the city's $7 billion budget, faces budget shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars next year, projected to grow to $1 billion annually in several years. In October 2007, even as it was clear that the area's housing economy was crashing, city officials had handed out 23 percent raises over a five-year period to workers.

There are lessons to be gleaned from all this, not the least of which is that modern liberalism, the ideology in which public employee unions are marinated, is totally hostile to the economic well-being of the people who pay their salaries. One gets the distinct impression from Malanga's essay that virtually every ill that afflicts California was aided and abetted by liberal Democrats and their union masters.

Read the article and catch a preview of the peril much of the rest of the country will find itself struggling to escape over the next decade.


Obama's Boondoggle

Grace-Marie Turner at National Review Online summarizes a startling report on Obamacare by HHS Chief Actuary Richard Foster and the prognosis looks bleak.

Turner opens with this assessment:

Not one of its major programs has gotten started, and already the wheels are starting to come off of Obamacare. The administration's own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance, that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn't passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them.

She goes on to itemize some of the liabilities. Here are just a few:

People losing coverage: About 14 million people will lose their employer coverage by 2019, as smaller employers terminate their plans and workers who currently have employer coverage enroll in Medicaid. Half of all seniors on Medicare Advantage could lose their coverage and the extra benefits the plans offer.

Huge fines for companies: Businesses will pay $87 billion in penalties in the first five years after the fines trigger in 2014, partly because they can't afford to offer expensive, government-mandated coverage and partly because some of their employees will apply for taxpayer-subsidized insurance.

Higher costs for consumers: Tens of billions of dollars in new fees and excise taxes will be "passed through to health consumers in the form of higher drug and devices prices and higher premiums," according to Foster. A separate report shows small businesses will be hit hardest.

Spending increases: Under the new law, national health spending will increase by $311 billion over the coming decade. And instead of bending the federal spending curve down, it will move it upward "by a net total of $251 billion" over the next decade.

There's much more in Foster's report, which, be it remembered, was written by administration actuaries, using actual costs and revenues, not the numbers contained in the bill which the CBO has to use. Moreover, it was on the news today that this report was in the hands of the administration a full week before the vote, but the most transparent administration in history chose not to make it public.

Obamacare is shaping up to be a fiscal disaster. It should be repealed and every congressperson who foisted it upon us deserves to be turned out of office for their incompetence and irresponsibility. They knew the plan was deeply flawed, but they did as their leadership advised and repeated like robots that it would reduce spending. As the Foster report makes clear this was totally false.

They had every reason to know they would be enacting a massive failure, they had plenty of precedents to examine in Europe and elsewhere, and still they voted to saddle us with this millstone because either they lacked the courage to buck Obama, Reid, and Pelosi or they were simply bought off.

With luck they will all be sent back to private life at the earliest possible date which, I don't need to remind you, comes up for many of them on the first Tuesday in November.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Harsh Law?

Is it immoral to enforce our immigration laws? Sojourners' Jim Wallis thinks so. In the sort of essay that gives liberalism a bad name Wallis writes:

The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law [Update: She signed the bill into law on Friday].

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone's immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn't have brown skin will be investigated.

Wallis wastes no time poisoning the well with unsubtle intimations of racism. This is a classic ploy of the left. When you have no argument substitute for the deficiency with allegations of racist motivations lurking in the dark hearts of your opponents. It used to work but somebody should tell Wallis that the tactic has worn threadbare and has become risible in all but the leftmost precincts of the progressive fever swamps.

He continues:

Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don't forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented - even if they are your family. Parents or children of "mixed-status families" (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are "transporting or harboring" undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry - but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

Of course this is as it should be. It should be a crime to harbor and transport illegal aliens (Wallis prefers to call them "undocumented" which is simply a sophism that allows him to refer to them without calling attention to the fact that they are here illegally. He doesn't seem to want to admit that they are breaking the law.).

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that's why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

How does Wallis know that enforcing this law will be a distraction? Here's a more realistic scenario: A policeman investigating a motor vehicle accident finds that the driver is an illegal alien so instead of letting him go, as they do now in many places, he simply hauls him in and turns him over to Immigration and Customs. Doesn't sound like much of a distraction nor does it sound like the police are focussing on "harmless" families.

As an aside, my brother was almost killed in an accident by an illegal alien driving without license or insurance. Nothing happened to the guy because for some reason illegals have in his state become a favored minority.

At any rate, Wallis has thus far failed to give a single reason why the law itself is bad. Everything he's said is an irrelevant appeal to pity, camouflage for the fact that Wallis favors an open border that people can cross freely.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited - it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform.

Everyone will be more fearful and less safe? What world does Wallis live in? Seventy five percent of Arizonans favor the law including a majority of Hispanics. As things now stand many Arizonans living along the border fear for their lives. Indeed, a prominent rancher was murdered by illegals a couple of weeks ago. Wallis' speculation notwithstanding, I think American citizens are going to be quite relieved that their government is finally doing something to protect them.

Moreover, what moral and legal lines does it cross? Wallis hasn't yet told us. How is it mean-spirited to require people who come here to do so legally? Is it mean-spirited to ask of people who call at your house to refrain from just walking in and helping themselves to your refrigerator? Is it mean-spirited to lock the doors to your home and car? Is it mean-spirited if you return to your home and find that a stranger has taken up residence in your kitchen to ask that he please leave?

Wallis will say we are supposed to be hospitable to strangers and so we should, but our hospitality should be on our terms, not the stranger's. Our wish to help someone should be our choice, not his entitlement.

We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable.

We can all agree the system needs reform and we can all agree that cruelty is bad and compassion is good, but how is that relevant? If family members of legal residents are sent back home then those who love them and are here legally are free to go with them if they wish. Wallis makes it sound as though babies will be ripped from their mother's arms and forever separated from her bosom. He has no reason to say this other than he wants to put the Arizona law in the worst possible light.

And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

This is, of course, absurd. Nothing is stopping Arizonans from loving their neighbors. Nothing prevents them from giving of their resources to help meliorate the sometimes desperate conditions of others, but this can all be done without flooding the country with millions of people who place unsustainable burdens on public services, hospitals and schools.

There's much to lament in the rickety logic of Wallis' brief against the Arizona law, but it at least has the merit of confirming the suspicion of those who wish for stronger enforcement of our borders that there's no good argument against that position.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Why Isn't the Media Interested?

David Klinghoffer wonders, with more than a little justification, why the major media is so uninterested in the David Coppedge story we wrote about a couple days ago here. After summarizing the tale of blatant religious discrimination against Coppedge, Klinghoffer writes:

[H]ere we have government and government-contracted agencies, NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), denying constitutional rights to a citizen, punishing and humiliating him for exercising his right to free speech. Yet the story as of yet has merited no significant attention from any prominent local or national news source. Why not? Well, obviously because this isn't a story that fits the larger narrative as favored in prestige circles like those of the media. In that favored narrative, it's always Darwinists, never Darwin doubters, who fall afoul of censors, persecuted by powerful forces in academia arrayed against orthodox evolutionary theory. Yeah, you know those powerful forces. They're over there, in a shoebox under the bed.

Fictionalized to begin with, this story was first told fifty years ago in Inherit the Wind. In the social demographic that champions it, it hasn't been looked at critically since. Thus, as readers of ENV know well, you can have a string of genuine and grievous cases of discrimination and suppression directed at Darwin doubters in research and teaching positions -- Sternberg, Gonzalez, Crocker, Marks, Minnich, Dembski, now Coppedge, along with other suppressed scientists yet to be named and still others too worried about reprisals to let themselves be identified -- and this entirely escapes liberal media attention. It's like a dog whistle. The favored narrative sets an audible frequency range beyond which, blast away as long and as "loud" as you like, a dog's owner simply can't hear anything even as the dog himself comes running.

On the other hand, if a story can be squeezed, molded, and manipulated so that an editor or news gatherer is reminded of the Scopes trial as depicted in Inherit the Wind, then yes -- that does merit attention. Thus when Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke resigned from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, after the BioLogos Foundation trumpeted a video interview with him on "Why the Church Must Accept Evolution," that won Professor Waltke a phone call from Diane Sawyer with ABC News. Waltke had not been forced out for endorsing evolution -- he had not been forced out at all -- and indeed he hit the ground running (at age 79) with a teaching offer from another seminary. But there was an imagined scent of Scopes about the matter and so, despite the fact you can be sure no one on Diane Sawyer's producing staff previously had any clue who Bruce Waltke or the Reformed Theological Seminary is, it merited attention from ABC World News. (To his credit, Waltke declined to be interviewed by Sawyer and sought to clarify his views on Darwinism.)

The media, of course, are just being what they are. To borrow Klinghoffer's metaphor they're simply deaf to the dog whistle of discrimination coming from the Darwinian left. They hold stereotypical views about who intelligent design advocates are and what they believe, and they lack the wit or motivation to question their own stereotypes.

Exit exercise: Raise your hand if you think Coppedge would have been demoted by the JPL had he been a Muslim (See below). Me neither.


Selective Courage

The bold, brash, intrepid souls at Comedy Central frequently, I'm told, exhibit their fearlessness for all to see by mocking Christianity on shows like South Park. Of course, it takes no courage at all to mock Christianity because there's no price to pay for it. Christians don't issue fatwas. They don't threaten murder. They simply pray for those who go out of their way to offend them.

So to get an accurate gauge on CC's courage we need to look at what they do when faced with genuinely dangerous people, like, say, angry Muslims. Well, it seems the steel spines at Comedy Central suddenly turn to wet pasta when members of the religion of peace give them the evil eye.

It's still okay, apparently, to satirize Jews, Christians, tea-partiers, and anyone else who'll turn the other cheek, but the cringing execs at Comedy Central would not dream of being so insensitive as to offend the religious sensibilities of our Islamic brethren whose religion must by all means be treated with utmost respect.

Hot Air reports:

Comedy Central bleeped out all references to the Prophet Muhammad in Wednesday night's episode of the animated show "South Park."

In addition to bleeping the words "Prophet Muhammad," the show also covered the character with a large block labeled "Censored."

Abu Talhah al Amrikee, the author of the post [on the Muslim website threatening the creators of the show], told he wrote the entry to "raise awareness." He said the grisly photograph of [Theo] van Gogh [a Dutch filmmaker who spoke out against Islam and wound up being murdered by a Muslim] was meant to "explain the severity" of what Parker and Stone [South Park's creators] did by mocking Muhammad.

"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

What a bunch of poltroons those Comedy Central folks are - brave, courageous, and bold against gentle Protestants and Catholics and quivering blobs of jelly in the face of murderous Muslims. If they lack the guts to mock Islam then they should have the decency not to mock any other faith.

By the way, those of a certain age will recall a time when it seemed like every other day liberals in this country were self-righteously proclaiming their willingness to fight to the death for the right of people to say things with which the liberals themselves disagreed. They apparently never thought, however, they might be called upon to actually do that. It's certainly rare to hear a liberal declare such devotion to the principle of free speech today. Perhaps it's because, like good dhimmis, they're too focused on groveling before their Muslim masters.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Real Enemies

Who does the president consider the real enemies of our nation to be? To answer that perhaps we should look at whom he directs his harshest rhetoric and at whom he appears most antagonistic.

Lisa Benson and Ramirez think they've discerned the answer to the question:


Small Minds, Closed Minds

Why is it, if Darwinians are so confident that they have truth on their side, that they feel the need to censor, stifle, demote and fire anyone who disagrees with them? What are they so afraid of?

The movie Expelled documents how the spirit of free enquiry and free speech has been trampled by academic Darwinists, and there are numerous examples of it beyond those discussed in the film. Guillermo Gonzalez, a much published astronomer at the University of Idaho, was denied tenure a year or so ago, largely through the efforts of an atheist colleague, because he co-authored the book The Privileged Planet which argues that the earth is uniquely, and perhaps, deliberately situated for the study of the heavens. Richard Sternberg of the Smithsonian was punished because the journal he edited ran a paper that argued on behalf of intelligent design.

The most recent casualty of the Darwinian thought police is David Coppedge, a project leader at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Coppedge has been demoted for nothing more, apparently, than offering to share some intelligent design DVDs with co-workers.

Philosopher Jay Richards comments:

It's hard even to figure out what David Coppedge is supposed to have done wrong. There were no complaints against him by people to whom he had lent these documentaries. He wasn't proselytizing. He wasn't even, so far as I can tell, actually doing anything naughty that he had been told not to do. It's not like he had been told not to lend out copies of the documentaries and had continued to do so (even though such an order would itself have been outrageous). Can you imagine any other legal subject on which such an action would be treated as anything other than unjust discrimination?

To read more on this travesty go to Evolution News and Views and scroll down.

When people know that their side of an argument is persuasive they rely on their argument in open debate to win the hearts and minds of their audience. On the other hand, when they know that their case is weak and unpersuasive they often resort to just shutting up the other side whenever they can. It's interesting that so many Darwinians feel they have to follow the latter course.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Piety Gene

Michael Shermer surveys the ubiquity of religious belief around the world and concludes that it must all be a result of evolution:

Of course, genes do not determine whether one chooses Judaism, Catholicism, Islam or any other religion. Rather, belief in supernatural agents (God, angels, demons) and commitment to certain religious practices (church attendance, prayer, rituals) appears to reflect genetically based cognitive processes (inferring the existence of invisible agents) and personality traits (respect for authority, traditionalism).

Why did we inherit this tendency? Long, long ago, in a Paleolithic environment far, far away from the modern world, humans evolved to find meaningful causal patterns in nature to make sense of the world, and infuse many of those patterns with intentional agency, some of which became animistic spirits and powerful gods. I call these two processes patternicity (the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data) and agenticity (the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention and agency).

Yes, well, the clunky neologisms aside, one wonders: If religious belief is the norm, and if it is the product of our genes, does that not imply that those who don't have a religious belief are genetic mutants and deviants? Just asking.


The Head of the Snake

Apparently, after years of false reports of the deaths of these two thugs, it seems the good guys finally caught up with them.

Here are some highlights from the report in The Long War Journal:

Iraq's Prime Minister and the US military confirmed that al Qaeda in Iraq's top two leaders have been killed during a raid in a remote region in the western province of Anbar.

"Abu Ayyub al Masri, Abu Omar al Baghdadi and a number of other al Qaeda leaders in Iraq were killed during a security operation in al Thar Thar region in Anbar," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad, according to Voices of Iraq.

"A series of Iraqi led joint operations conducted over the last week resulted in the Iraqi Forces with US support executing a nighttime raid on the AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] leaders' safehouse," the press release stated. "The joint security team identified both AQI members, and the terrorists were killed after engaging the security team. Additionally, Masri's assistant along with the son of al-Baghdadi who were also involved in terrorist activities were killed."

During the operation, one US soldier was killed in a helicopter crash, and 16 al Qaeda associates were detained.

The deaths of al Masri and Baghdadi are a major blow to al Qaeda in Iraq, as the terror group has suffered major losses in its leadership network over the past four months. Since January, the US has picked apart the top leaders of al Qaeda's northern network. Among those killed or captured are the last two emirs, or leaders, of the northern Iraq network, the last two emirs of Mosul, the top facilitator operating in the Iraq-Syria border areas, and other senior members of the network.

The NYT reports that among the documents seized at the scene were communications from Osama bin Laden. That's a bit surprising given that we've been told over and over again by the left that al Qaeda is not really involved in Iraq and that we should get out of Iraq and hunt al Qaeda down elsewhere.


The Euthyphro Dilemma (Pt. II)

Yesterday we took a look at the challenge posed by the Euthyphro dilemma to those who believe that God's existence is a necessary condition for any meaningful, non-subjective, non-arbitrary ethics. We began by considering the second horn of the dilemma which we stated as follows:

Is an act morally good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?

In this post I'd like to reflect on the first of the two horns: Is good simply whatever God commands? Would cruelty be good if God commanded it?

If we stipulate that God is omnibenevolent and that good is that which conduces to human happiness then the latter question seems to me to be an incoherent act description.

The question of God commanding cruelty presupposes a state of affairs in which a being whose essence it is to always do that which ultimately conduces to human well-being and happiness nevertheless commands us to do something which produces gratuitous suffering and pain. There seems to be a logical conflict in that.

In other words, if goodness is as we've defined it, and if God is good, then it's logically impossible for cruelty to be part of his nature or for him to command cruelty or anything else which would conflict with ultimate human well-being and happiness. It would require of God that he issue a command that is in opposition to his own nature. It's like asking whether there is something which a being which knows everything doesn't know.

So, the answer to the question of whether God commands us to love because love is good or whether love is good because God commands it, seems to me to be "neither." God commands us to love because it is his desire to have the world conformed to his own essential nature which is love.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Euthyphro Dilemma (Pt. I)

Many freshman philosophy students find themselves confronted with the Euthyphro dilemma, a question often posed to convince us that God's existence is superfluous for our moral lives. The dilemma gets its name from the fact that it first appears in Plato's dialogue titled The Euthyphro and has popped up frequently in the philosophical literature ever since.

I'd like to share some thoughts on it over the course of two posts with the caveat that much of what I say is not original with me and that whatever might be original I offer with the humble recognition that it could well be nonsense.

With that caution in mind let's look at the dilemma. It's often put in the form of the following question:

Is something morally good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?

The question seeks to offer theists, at least those who hold to a divine command theory of ethics, two unpalatable choices. If the theist chooses the first option then presumably had God commanded us to be cruel, cruelty would be morally good, a state of affairs which seems at the very least counterintuitive.

If the second alternative is chosen then good seems to be independent of God, existing apart from God, and rendering God unnecessary for the existence of good or "right."

I think, though, that the choices with which the dilemma confronts us are unable to carry the weight placed upon their shoulders. To see why let's start with a definition for "moral good."

Let's stipulate that moral good is that which conduces to human happiness and well-being.

It may be argued that we don't need God to know what conduces to human well-being and thus we can know what is good without having to believe in God. This may be true, but it misses the point.

First, our problem is not with recognizing good so much as it is explaining why God is still necessary for good to exist. Just because we can recognize good without believing in God doesn't mean that God is not necessary for there to be good. What is good is contingent upon the kind of beings we are, and the way we are is contingent upon God. We have the nature we do because God created us this way. Thus, what conduces to our well-being is a function of God's design.

We can no more say that God is irrelevant to our well-being than we could say that just because we know that clean oil is conducive to our car's well-being that therefore the engineers who designed the car are irrelevant to our knowing that we should change the oil periodically. Oil is "good" for the car because that's how the engineers made the car.

Secondly, even if belief in God is not necessary for one to know or recognize what conduces to well-being it is nevertheless necessary that there be a God in order for us to think we have a non-arbitrary duty to care about the well-being of others. If there is no God there is no moral obligation to concern ourselves with the good of others or to do anything else, for that matter. We may want to help others flourish, of course, but the belief that we should is completely arbitrary. If we didn't care about others, or even if we worked against the good of others, we wouldn't be committing some grievous moral offense. Just because something is good doesn't mean we ought to do it, at least not unless we are assuming that we ought always to do what conduces to other people's happiness and well-being. But why should we assume such a thing? Where does this premise come from? Why should I not just promote my own well-being and let others fend for themselves? Without God there's no real answer to these questions.

Thus, God's existence is crucial, not so that we can recognize good, perhaps, but rather as a ground for both the existence of good and for our duty to do good to others.

So, let's return to the dilemma. Consider again the second horn. Does God command, say, kindness because kindness is good? Is the good of kindness independent of God? Does it exist apart from God?

I don't think so. Goodness is an essential element of God's being. Goodness is no more separable from God than a triangle is separable from the property of having just three angles. Goodness is ontologically dependent upon God's existence much as sunlight is ontologically dependent upon the sun. If there were no sun, sunlight would not exist. If there were no God then moral goodness as a quality of our actions would not exist. Actions which lead to human well-being would have no moral value any more than a cat nursing her young has moral value even though her act conduces to their well-being. We would not consider the cat evil if it refused to nurse its young, nor, if there is no God, would we be able to judge a man objectively evil if he practiced cruelty.

God commands love because he has made us to be the sort of beings which flourish, generally, when nurtured in love, and he has made us this way because it is his essential nature to be loving. Love is not one thing and God another. God is love.

But what of the first horn of the dilemma? What if instead of loving God were hateful and cruel? Would hate and cruelty then be good? We'll consider those questions next time.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Racist Tea-Partiers

If you read the New York Times or watch MSNBC you're probably quite convinced that the tea-party folks are total racists. Well, this video confirms it, if any further confirmation were needed. It features interviews with a number of tea-partiers holding forth on racial matters, and if you don't see and hear the bigotry dripping from their snarling redneck lips then you need to tune into Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC or read Frank Rich at the New York Times to get a racial sensitivity tune-up:

Oops, wrong video.



Bradford passes along a link to one of the best, most insightful essays on middle and high school social hierarchies I've come across. It's very much worth taking the time to read, especially if you're young or have children who are approaching their middle school years.

Written by a self-described nerd it first appeared in 2003 and is titled Why Nerds Are Unpopular. The author, Paul Graham, is funny and dead-on in his analysis of both the society that young people create in their schools as well as the problems in the schools themselves. Here's his lede:

When we were in junior high school, my friend Rich and I made a map of the school lunch tables according to popularity. This was easy to do, because kids only ate lunch with others of about the same popularity. We graded them from A to E. A tables were full of football players and cheerleaders and so on. E tables contained the kids with mild cases of Down's Syndrome, what in the language of the time we called "retards."

We sat at a D table, as low as you could get without looking physically different. We were not being especially candid to grade ourselves as D. It would have taken a deliberate lie to say otherwise. Everyone in the school knew exactly how popular everyone else was, including us.

My stock gradually rose during high school. Puberty finally arrived; I became a decent soccer player; I started a scandalous underground newspaper. So I've seen a good part of the popularity landscape.

I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular.

Why? To someone in school now, that may seem an odd question to ask. The mere fact is so overwhelming that it may seem strange to imagine that it could be any other way. But it could. Being smart doesn't make you an outcast in elementary school. Nor does it harm you in the real world. Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries. But in a typical American secondary school, being smart is likely to make your life difficult. Why?

Graham goes on to claim, inter many alia, that too many schools exist simply as a place to put kids so that adults can be about their daily work, and that educating those kids is not much of a priority. I think he's right. I taught in a pretty good high school for thirty five years, and even in that institution education was near the bottom of the priority list.

No administrator would ever dream of actually admitting this to anyone, of course, but it was implicitly obvious in the fact that any and every other activity a student was involved in took precedence over what the student did in class. Whenever there was a conflict between some extra-curricular activity and the classroom, the student was dismissed from the classroom to participate in the other activity. Sports, student council, pointless field trips, play rehearsals - the list was almost endless - all trumped education. The tacit message the school sent students was that learning was what they were to do only when there wasn't anything that was more fun available for them.

As I was reading Graham's lament about how nerds just aren't interested in the popularity struggles which consume so many adolescents I was reminded of a girl I overheard a number of years ago who insisted that it was "very important to be popular because if you're not people won't like you." Maybe that's the sort of inanity nerds just want no part of.

But enough. Go to the link and read Graham. Savor the whole essay. If you consider yourself a nerd you'll love it, and if you don't you'll learn something.


No Plan B

This revelation in the New York Times should be a shocker, but it's not:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo's contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

I doubt anyone is surprised that this administration has no plan in the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons. The fact that both Bush and Obama have been unwilling to do anything serious to prevent the Iranians from achieving a nuclear arsenal plainly suggests that the United States is prepared to accept a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli.

Once Iran gets such weapons it will be only a matter of time before Turkey, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia insist on having their own nukes. It will also be only a matter of time until Iran slips a weapon or two into the hands of Islamic terrorists for use in either Israel or the U.S.

If President Obama fails to do anything efficacious to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable Islamic nations, it could be, perhaps, the most catastrophic foreign policy failure in history.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rage Against the Machine

Leftist terrorist groups are evidently experiencing a rebirth of sorts in Europe. Most of the terror organizations of the 1970s had died out, but lately, fueled by poor job prospects in socialist economies, the number of disaffected and radicalized young people has been increasing.

Paradoxically, these malcontents often insist on creating a more thoroughly socialist economic structure - socialism is the problem so the cure must be more of it - and an arrant secularization of society. The latter is also odd since European leftists are often allied with radical Islamists who are intent on bringing the whole world under the banner of Islam, and who, if they ever succeed, would immediately kill atheists like those lefties who champion the Islamists' various causes.

Strategy Page tells us that:

The widespread use of violence by Islamic terrorists has masked the revival of leftist terrorist groups in the West. Some of them are older groups trying to make a comeback. Three years ago, Italian police arrested fifteen members of the 1970s era "Red Brigades," and charged them with plotting the murder of people who did not agree with their revolutionary goals. The Red Brigades were part of an wave of small, violent, leftist revolutionary groups that emerged in the 1960s and 70s, and were largely gone by the 1990s. Actually, the groups never died out completely, but, except in Greece and Latin America, they were much less violent after the Cold War ended.

The Soviet Union had provided some support for these groups, but mostly they were sustained by disaffected middle class kids out to change the world. A new generation of disaffected, politically motivated murderers are now signing up. Many Western leftists still see the United States as the enemy of the people, and capitalism as something that must be destroyed at all costs. In an odd confluence, many of these leftists are marching (literally) shoulder to shoulder with Islamic radicals. This despite the fact that the two groups (one anti-religious, and the other very pro one religion) are natural enemies.

More enthusiastic adoption of socialist, and anti-capitalist policies in Western Europe over the last century has led to a high unemployment rate for people coming out of school, and this has made radical politics a more attractive proposition to some. But compared to the poverty and desperation in the Islamic world, the Western terrorists have a far smaller recruiting pool. But like the Islamic terrorists, the Western groups share the same basic myth. That is, if the world would only unite under a benevolent despotism, everything would be better. Like the Islamic radicals, the Western terrorists find it more comfortable to blame foreigners for their trouble. In this case, the big bad is the United States....

It is a noteworthy fact about our existential situation that there are millions of people around the globe whose lives are so empty that they are reduced to a nihilistic desire to just tear down everything, kill everyone who opposes them, and establish ..... what? An Islamic or Marxist paradise? When in history has such a paradise ever existed? When has a state founded on the blood of its predecessors ever been more just or prosperous than the polity it succeeded?


Reclaiming the Culture

In 1951 H. Richard Niebuhr wrote his classic Christ and Culture in which he argued that the faithful have throughout history adopted five different answers to the question of how Christians should stand in relation to the larger culture. These he discusses under the headings of Christ against culture, Christ in culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture, and Christ transforming culture.

Andrew Klavan,in a brief essay titled Celebrating the Good Stuff at City Journal, raises somewhat similar questions with regard to conservative attitudes to culture. Klavan argues that conservatives need to set aside their objections to so much of the anomic, progressivist, anti-family, anti-American, anti-Christian themes that pollute the popular culture and set about the task of transforming it into a more accurate reflection of what life in America really is.

Here's Klavan:

For years now, some of us conservatives have been struggling to take back American popular culture. Sick of movies, television shows, music, and literature disfigured by a lockstep conformity to leftist ideology, we've sought to wrestle the arts out of the grip of an alienated and small-minded elite and give it back to artists in moral synch with most Americans. The idea, as far as I'm concerned, is not to reshape the pop-culture landscape into one of sentimental patriotism and faith or limit artists to the creation of squeaky-clean family entertainment.

I merely want to see more art that represents the moral universe as it is: that shows a world, for instance, in which freedom is better than slavery and therefore America is better than, say, Saudi Arabia; a world in which military courage in defense of what's right is worthy of honor, and therefore a U.S. soldier fighting an Islamofascist is a hero, not an abuser; a world in which faith can be uplifting and not corrupting; in which women and men are different and therefore might be justly treated differently; in which ideas and behaviors can be judged on their own merits whether the people involved with them are white or brown or black.

For the past 40 years, too much of our culture has been dedicated to propagandizing us, to normalizing and elevating moral relativism, atheism, and brainless multiculturalism. The deep philosophical corruption that now permeates our government and the Obama administration's assault on American traditions and values could never have happened if we hadn't lost the culture first; they will never fully end until we take the culture back.

Here's what I consider the punchline of his piece:

But we can't win back the arts unless we love them. Too many conservatives boast of their philistinism. "I haven't seen a movie in years," they brag, as if that were some sort of achievement. Too many others seek to clip the wings of artistic imagination, demanding that artists turn away from anything disturbing or violent or sexual, which is to say from much of life itself.

Klavan is right. Whether one is a Christian or a conservative (or both), it is simply a self-defeating tactic to shun the popular culture on the grounds that it's too sordid. It is sordid, of course, but that's the milieu in which our fellow citizens live and move and have their being, and unless we are conversant with its major lineaments we make ourselves irrelevant to our fellows. We may as well be invisible ghosts for all that people will heed our concerns if we cannot relate to them in terms they understand. That means standing with them in the midst of the media in which they form their beliefs and opinions.

Of course, not everyone can be so immersed in pop culture that they can discuss knowledgably every musical group, tv show, movie, novel, piece of art, etc. but we can all know more than we do, and to ignore the cultural environment in which we live our daily lives is to cede it to those who would use it for purposes we might find distressing. It is to forfeit to the "other side" perhaps the most powerful tool available to society for shaping the hearts and minds of our successors.

The other side, liberals and/or secularists, have been pretty much dictating the cultural climate and norms for at least three generations. Why should we be content to let that continue?


Friday, April 16, 2010


I'm told this video has been around for a while, but a student just passed it on to me this week. It packs a lot of meaning into five minutes.

The group is called Lifehouse.


Sudden Conversion

Robin is a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California who is a converted leftist. In this piece she describes the suddenness of her awakening:

There are moments when life crashes down on you like a thunderbolt. And ready or not, you change.

There's a before and an after. One moment, you're one way. And then, in the blink of an eye, you're different.

An instant before my parents died, I still felt like a child, though I was knee-deep in middle age. But when they passed, three weeks apart, suddenly I grew up...just like that.

While that experience was seismic, it doesn't compare to my sea change upon Obama's ascension. One minute I was a leftist, despising this country and all it stood for.

And then, abruptly and astonishingly, I became a conservative.

Read the rest at the link.


Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution

Those looking for a concise discussion of the differences between Theistic Evolution (TE) and Intelligent Design (ID) will find a post by Thomas Cudworth at Uncommon Descent helpful. Cudworth expands upon a piece by Karl Giberson at Biologos (a TE website) which calls upon both sides to explore the things they have in common and to use these as a way of turning down the heat of the rhetoric between them.

Cudworth picks up on Giberson's suggestion and pens a helpful exploration of those commonalities. He writes, for instance that:

TE is the belief that God guided or at least planned evolution; ID is the belief that design in nature is detectable. TE as such says nothing either way about the detectability of design, and ID as such says nothing either way about the occurrence or non-occurrence of evolution. Therefore, neither group needs, on definitional grounds, to deny the core belief of the other. It is only those ID people who insist on rejecting evolution on principle, and only those TE people who insist that God's design must not be detectable, that have no common ground. But in between, there is an overlap zone, which I think that neither TEs nor ID people have fully explored, because of reckless past charges on both sides which have generated great mutual distrust. I think we should be exploring this overlap zone, and I therefore welcome Dr. Giberson's non-dogmatic approach.

The whole piece is worth a read by anyone interested in this issue. The same is true of Giberson's post at Biologos.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Double Whammy

Shawn Tulley, a senior editor at Fortune magazine, narrates the following tale:

A week ago, a good friend -- let's call him Anthony -- related a remarkable story about shopping for health insurance in two states, New York and Arizona.

For Anthony and millions of other consumers, New York represents the ultimate nightmare for finding affordable coverage, pairing outrageously high prices with a tiny roster of offerings. By contrast, Anthony found fabulous bargains and a rich variety of policies in Arizona's desert sun.

So it would be wonderful for folks like Anthony if the historic health-care reform law scuttled the rules that created the disaster in New York, and made America's insurance markets a lot more like Arizona's. But amazingly, the bill imposes a New York-style regime on the rest of the nation, then makes a gigantic bet that the results won't mimic those of the Empire State.

What's wrong with New York's system, you ask, that Obamacare will be imposing on the rest of the nation in 2014? Tulley explains:

Two regulations enormously inflate prices in New York (and, incidentally, rates aren't much lower in Albany or Syracuse than in Manhattan), especially for young, healthy folks such as Anthony -- just the kind of people who must buy in for the insurance pools to succeed.

The first regulation is Guaranteed Issue. In New York, and several other states including Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, carriers must accept all customers regardless of their medical condition. It would be illegal in New York to offer the deal Anthony got in Arizona -- a lower rate in exchange for lowering your cholesterol.

The second premium-swelling rule is Community Rating. In New York, all customers pay the same rate regardless of either their age or medical status. As a result, someone Anthony's age or younger pays an identical premium for the same policy as a 64-year-old customer, although they actually cost a fraction as much in medical claims. So older patients effectively get a big subsidy, and the young pay far more then their actual cost.

It gets worse. Because of guaranteed issue, patients know they can enroll in a plan anytime they get cancer or diabetes, so they have little incentive to sign up when they're healthy. Community rating assures that they can re-enroll at premiums far lower than the actual costs of the tests and procedures they require. Hence, the pools of the insured in states like New York and Vermont consist of an extremely high proportion of sick people.

The article goes on to explain why these kinds of regulations are distorting the economic incentives for both the buyer and the seller of insurance. Let us rejoice in the fact that this is the system we'll all be living under now that Obamacare is the law of the land.


Badgering Barney

Via Hot Air, Jason Mattera goes after Massachussetts congressman Barney Frank. Mattera, who has written a book titled Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation, really is irrepressible, but as Hot Air notes, at least Frank kept the conversation going, even if he did distort some of the facts.

A little background before you watch: About twenty years ago Frank's romantic partner was arrested for running a homosexual prostitution ring out of the apartment he shared with Frank. Frank claimed to have no knowledge of his partner's activities and was exonerated. Subsequently he developed a relationship with an employee of Fannie Mae, the agency Frank's committee was tasked with overseeing. Mattera alludes to these relationships in his "interview" with Frank.

The fist bump was a nice touch.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Well, I'm not sure, given the etymology of "tea-bagger" (this is a family blog so don't ask me if you don't know) that I agree with the tactic portrayed in the video, but I guess one way to defuse an insult is to co-opt the term. This is what police back in the sixties did with the pejorative "pig," and what homosexuals have done with "gay" and "queer," so I guess the thinking is that it's one way to blunt some of the derision directed at the tea-party movement:

Personally, I'd rather they not go this route. The more their opponents refer to them as "tea-baggers" the sleazier their opponents appear in the public eye. The epithet does more to diminish and discredit the people who use it than it does the people at whom it's directed.

HT: Hot Air


Antony Flew (1923-2010)

Philosopher Antony Flew was perhaps the most prominent and accomplished atheistic thinker of the latter half of the twentieth century. He subsequently went on to roil the academic world when in 2004 it became public that he had renounced atheism and embraced a sort of non-Christian theism. His 2007 book There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind attributed his journey from atheism to theism to his being convinced that there was no naturalistic explanation for the origin of life. Throughout his career he insisted that one should always go where ever the evidence leads and it had led him to the existence of a Creator. His former colleagues among the atheist community reacted to his conversion with a mixture of astonishment and opprobrium, but Flew was not deterred.

In an interview given in October of 2007 he explained his move this way:

There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself - which is far more complex than the physical Universe - can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion...

Antony Flew died April 8th at the age of 87. The Telegraph UK has an informative obituary, and Denise O'Leary at Uncommon Descent lists a number of links to pieces she's written on Flew over the last couple of years.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Against All Odds

Casey Luskin at Evolution News and Views has a video of Roger Penrose, one of the most accomplished theoretical physicists of our time giving a lecture on the initial conditions of the universe. Luskin notes that Penrose is not, as far as he knows, sympathetic to intelligent design, but when you hear what he says about the initial entropy of the universe you have to wonder why not.

Penrose says that the entropy just after the Big Bang was calibrated to a tolerance of 10000000000 to the 123rd power. Entropy is a measure of how ordered the initial explosion was, and if the value had deviated from the value it actually had by one part in 10000000000^123rd the universe would never have formed. This is, as Penrose notes, incredible precision.

To give you an idea of the size of that number consider that in the entire universe there are approximately 10^80 atoms.

I once read somewhere that scientists usually reject something as having occurred by chance if the odds of it happening randomly are 1 in 10^17. Evidently, though, if the alternative to believing in chance is the existence of an intelligent architect of the universe then it doesn't matter to a lot of people what the odds are against chance explanations, they'll be clung to with all the tenacity of a man gripping a cliff face with his fingertips lest he be plunged into the abyss.


Whatever Happened to Truth?

Some years ago a book about the post-modern subjectivization of truth titled Whatever Happened to Truth? was published. I thought of that title when I read an article at Breitbart recently about how opponents of the tea party hope to smear and discredit it, not by countering their arguments, not by offering a better way forward, but by infiltrating their rallies and shouting bigoted remarks that an otiose media can be depended upon to impute to conservative bigotry.

The Breitbart article notes that the group's website states that:

"whenever possible we will act on behalf of the tea-party in ways that exaggerate their least appealing qualities (Misspelled protest signs, wild claims in tv interviews, etc.) to further distance them from mainstream America and damage the public's opinion of them. We will also use the inside information we have gained in order to disrupt and derail their plans."

The Breitbart piece adds this:

Opponents of the fiscally conservative tea party movement say they plan to infiltrate and dismantle the political group by trying to make its members appear to be racist, homophobic and moronic.

Jason Levin, creator of, said Monday the group has 65 leaders in major cities across the country who are trying to recruit members to infiltrate tea party events for April 15-tax filing day, when tea party groups across the country are planning to gather and protest high taxes.

"Do I think every member of the tea party is a homophobe, racist or a moron? No, absolutely not," Levin said. "Do I think most of them are homophobes, racists or morons? Absolutely."

Levin has quite artfully shot himself and his movement in the foot by inadvertently managing to cast suspicion on every allegation of tea-party misbehavior both past and future. Why, given the tactics that this group is embracing, should we believe that the insults and threats that congresspersons alleged they heard during the health care fracas actually came from opponents of the bill? Why should we think that any such excesses that occur in the future should be imputed to tea-partiers and not to lefty imposters? The left has Levin to thank for disarming them of one of their more potent propaganda weapons.

In any event, Levin's behavior is rather typical of the secular left. Sensing that they have no arguments with which to counter the tea-party's fiscal conservatism they plan to resort, essentially, to lying about it. Let's see who on the left is willing to condemn Levin and his group for their despicable contempt for the truth and their appalling willingness to defame and libel their opponents. Perhaps the condemnations will start rolling in shortly, but if they don't it'll imply that a lot of liberals don't see anything wrong with what Levin is proposing. If that's the case then we'll have learned (or confirmed) something very important about the character of people on the left, i.e. too many of them need more than what they have.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Winners and Losers

In the brave new world of the coming decade things look bright for the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax. Like candidate Obama said, everybody's better off if we spread the wealth around.

Well, maybe not quite everybody, but life is certainly going to get better for the people lounging in the wagon and a lot harder for the people pulling it:

It's only fair.


The Art of Compromise

From time to time the complaint is aired that conservatives have been too unwilling to compromise with the Obama administration on policy, most recently health care reform. Republicans, at least to the extent that they're conservatives, are labeled intransigent and unwilling to bend in order to reach a modus vivendi to help the American people.

What's usually elided or not understood is that compromise between liberal progressives and conservatives is not a compromise at all. A compromise occurs when both sides give up something in order to gain a little, but in any "compromise" between left and right all that happens is that the country moves further to the left than they were before.

Political compromise is an instance of the Hegelian dialectic in which thesis and antithesis fuse to result in a new synthesis which moves the whole system further away from the old status quo, even as a new status quo is established.

The move leftward may be slow, but it's inexorable. This is because progressives, no matter how much change they have achieved, are always promoting more. There's no point at which they can say that we have arrived or that they are satisfied. If there were they would then no longer be progressives, instead they would morph into reactionaries.

Conservatives, on the other hand, are simply trying to hold on to whatever they can. They've bought the notion, at least Republicans have, that we can not roll back any of the "progress" we've made in the last century. Thus the arrow of change flies ineluctably in only one direction. As long as conservatives are persuaded that compromise is politically necessary the country will continue it's long march leftward.

Any compromise between conservative and liberal can only benefit the liberal. The dialectic ensures that compromise is always a victory for the liberal and always a defeat for the conservative. It's as if a man, let's say a Republican, has a hundred dollars in his wallet and wants to keep it. A Democrat approaches him, however, and asks that the Republican donate the hundred dollars to the Democrat. The Republican refuses so the Democrat, not wishing to appear unreasonable, says "Okay, let's compromise. You give me $50, and I'll be satisfied." The Republican refuses that demand as well, but neither does he wish to seem unreasonable, so he agrees to give his colleague $20. The Democrat, in the spirit of bipartisanship, accepts the compromise.

A deal is struck and everyone basks in the eudemonia that flows from the harmonious resolution of the disagreement. The Republican feels good that his negotiation prevented him from losing his entire $100. He fails to notice that he has gained nothing and is in fact poorer than he was. Months later the Democrat returns and asks that the Republican donate the $80 remaining in his wallet. The Republican, not wishing to appear niggardly and unreasonable, and caught up in the exuberant spirit of bipartisan compromise, refuses to give the $80 but gladly parts with another $20.

And so it goes until one day the Republican realizes that he has nothing left. He's "compromised" it all away. Conservatives realize that compromise is just a strategy liberals employ to incrementally nudge the country leftward. Unfortunately, a lot of Republicans, eager for the public to see them as wise and moderate, don't see that they're being played for suckers at all.


Does God Torment the Innocent?

Philosopher of religion Alexander Pruss constructs an imaginary dialogue at Prosblogion between "Ari" and "Cal" on the question whether, given the truth of Calvinism, God can still be just. Here's the opening exchange:

Ari: Consider this horrific theology: God forces Sally to sin, in a way that takes away her responsibility, and then he intentionally causes eternal torment to her.

Cal: I thought you were smarter than that. That isn't Calvinist theology! Calvinism holds that God intentionally causes people to sin in a way that retains their responsibility, and then punishes some of them.

Ari: I didn't say it was a Calvinist theology. You agree that this is a horrific theology, I take it?

Cal: Yes, of course.

Ari: Why?

Cal: Because God is punishing an innocent.

Ari: I said nothing about punishment. I said God intentionally caused eternal torment. I didn't say that the torment was a punishment.

Cal: How does that make it not be horrific?

Ari: I agree it's horrific. I just want to get clear on why. It's horrific because eternal torment is intentionally imposed on an innocent, right?

Read the rest at the link, but Calvinists are forewarned that they will not like the way it goes. Be sure to check the comments as well.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


In the course of a critique of the Sam Harris TED video about which we posted the other day, atheist philosopher Massimo Pigliucci of the City University of New York makes the following claim:

So, how do we ground moral reasoning? This is the province of a whole area of inquiry known as metaethics, and I suggest that Harris would benefit from reading about it....Just as we don't need a good answer to the question of where mathematics comes from to engage in mathematical reasoning, so it is not very productive to keep asking philosophers for "the ultimate foundations" of what they do (if this sounds like an easy way out to you, remember that neither math nor science itself have self-justifiable foundations).

Well, yes, but this sounds as if Pigliucci seems to realize that as an atheist he has no grounds for making moral judgments, especially those which involve anyone but himself, and doesn't want anyone taking the trouble to point this out.

He's also confusing apples and oranges in comparing the grounds for one's ethical judgments with the grounds for mathematics. We don't keep asking for an explanation for the ultimate foundations of mathematics because the assertions in mathematics are self-evident or derived from self-evident axioms. It is these that form the ultimate foundation of the discipline, and, unlike the ultimate foundation of many ethical theories, they're neither arbitrary nor subjective preferences. They're objective and universally accepted. There's no dispute about them, but it's not so with the grounds for our ethical claims.

It's silly to ask someone who has just pointed out that 1 + 1 = 2 to explain why he believes that, but it's not at all silly to ask someone who insists, for instance, that families should limit themselves to two children to give an account of what he's basing this moral adjuration upon.

No general ethical claim is self-evident. There are some, of course, that have powerful intuitive appeal, like the assertion that it's always wrong to torture children, but intuitive appeal doesn't make the claim self-evident in the sense that 1 + 1 = 2 is. To see this, consider that in any possible world 1 + 1 would still equal 2, but there are possible worlds, as unpleasant as they may be to imagine, in which torturing children would not be wrong. For example, such behavior would not be wrong in a world in which there are no moral duties, which is precisely the sort of world this world would be were there no God.

To request that a person making a moral judgment explain the foundations upon which the judgment rests is to safeguard against having them bind the rest of us to their own arbitrary, personal preferences. It's also a guard against allowing them to persuade us that they're really saying something meaningful about the world - as opposed to merely telling us something about their own subjective tastes - when they declare a particular behavior right or wrong.

Perhaps Pigliucci wants to be able to make moral judgments without having to defend the fact that his judgments are either hanging in mid-air or piggy-backing upon a theistic understanding of morality, but, if so, he really shouldn't be permitted to get away with it.



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Friday, April 9, 2010

How You Can Tell If You're an RBH

Jim Wallis at God's Politics blog grieves the regrettable nastiness of our current political rhetoric and offers readers a chance to sign a "Covenant for Civility" which I encourage our readers to check out.

Wallis writes:

Just a few months ago, a deeply concerned, veteran member of Congress called me to express real despair about the alarming level of disrespect, personal attacks, and even hateful rhetoric that was occurring among her colleagues - reflecting a degeneration of public debate in our national culture. This month, another member of Congress called to express real fear about threats of violence he and other elected officials had experienced against themselves and their family members. Political debate, even vigorous debate, is a healthy thing for a democracy; but to question the integrity, patriotism, and even faith of those with whom we disagree is destructive to democratic discourse, and to threaten or even imply the possibility of violence toward those whose politics or worldview differs from ours is a sign of moral danger, and indeed, a sign of democracy's unraveling.

I join with Wallis in lamenting the deplorable ugliness of much of our politics, but if we're going to change it we have to recognize what has engendered it. In my opinion, much of the ugliness is due to the refusal of many on the left to accurately characterize their conservative opposition. The attempt to distort in the public mind exactly what it is that conservatives believe goes back at least to the Robert Bork confirmation hearings in the 1990s and continues through contemporary depictions of the tea-partiers. Those who disagree with liberal philosophy and policy are often disparaged as "extremists" or, worse, "right-wing" extremists. And it goes without saying, of course, that extremists are ipso facto racists, bigots, and homophobes. After a couple of decades of listening to this sort of slander it begins to grow tedious.

One can only endure being called a lout for so long before one realizes that he is conversing with people who are either dishonest or who think only in stereotypes, and at that point dialogue just breaks down. Anyway, here's a little test to see if you fit the description, widely circulated on the left, of a right-wing, racist, bigot, homophobe (RBH) extremist.

You know you are such a creature if:

You believe that the Constitution matters and that it means what it says, not what creative jurists think it should say.

You think that people who come to this country should do so through proper legal channels, that we should control who comes in, and that we should give preference to those who have skills to contribute.

You believe that we should value life and that laws should err on the side of protecting it.

You think it is reckless and foolish to spend excessively more than we have - even if what we spend it on is a good thing - and to burden our children with a mountain of crushing debt.

You want the 47% of the households in this country which don't pay any income taxes to get out of the wagon every now and then and help push.

You believe that the best way to create jobs is to make it easier for businesses to make money and that the worst way is to shackle businesses with high taxes and onerous regulations.

You believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law. There should be no favoritism shown to anyone on the basis of race and that all people in any field of endeavor should be held to the same standard to which we hold those of the majority race.

You believe that the science regarding climate change has been politicized and is far from conclusive, particularly as it concerns both the causes and effects of global warming.

You believe that after thousands of years of settled opinion about marriage we don't need to tinker with it now.

You believe that much of the major media slants toward the political left and that this bias causes them to give a distorted, often unfair, view of politics and policy.

You hold religious convictions which you take seriously and which inform your views on everything else in your life.

You believe that terrorists are not criminals but deadly enemies who should not be accorded the same rights we give American citizens.

You believe that the problems in education are generally exacerbated rather than ameliorated by government bureaucracy.

You believe that the United States has been a force for good in the world, that we should continue to be, and that a necessary condition for remaining so is maintaining a powerful military.

You believe that big, bloated government is like a millstone around a society's neck, and that that government is best which is loath to extend its power unless a clear consensus exists that it is in the common interest to do so.

You believe that people of sound mind and body who are made dependent upon government for their needs and wants are generally hurt more than they are helped.

You take seriously your rights and obligations as a citizen to be involved in the affairs of your government and to hold your representatives accountable for the quality of service they render.

To the extent that you agree with these seventeen characteristics of "right-wing extremists," I'm afraid you are, in the eyes of many in our media and on the political left, a raging, hateful RBH and should be embarrassed to show your face in public.