Monday, February 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Egyptian Revolution

Throughout the eighteen days of drama in Cairo a number of thoughts about what was going on both there and here kept recurring. Here are a few of them:

1. Why were the thousands of protestors some of whom were seen throwing stones and heard expressing hate for Israel treated by our media as heroes when thousands of tea party demonstrators in the U.S. who threw no rocks and displayed no bigotry were immediately and persistently said to be nothing more than racist, red-necked, rabble?

2. When the young people demonstrated in Iran and were subsequently arrested and some even executed our government said almost nothing. In Egypt, however, our government quickly took the side of the demonstrators. How do they decide which side to take? Is it that the Iranian government is hostile to the U.S. and the Egyptian government was friendly? Is it our policy to appease those who hate us and throw away those who help us?

3. What is the essential difference between what the tea party folk were demanding in Washington and what the Egyptian protestors were demanding in Cairo? The tea party wanted to end the hegemony of the Democrat party which was doing little to create jobs while piece by piece taking away our freedoms. The Egyptian protestors wanted to end the hegemony of a party that was doing little to create jobs and which had deprived the people of many of their freedoms. Yet President Obama ignored the tea party, which was calling for the defeat of Obamacare and of his party in November, but demanded that the Mubarak government heed the will of the people and begin immediately to hand over power.

4. Our Director of National Intelligence told Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular Muslim organization. Isn't the term "secular Muslim" an oxymoron? Any Muslim will tell you that if one is secular one is not a Muslim, and if one is Muslim one is not secular. Could the DNI actually be that ignorant of the nature of one of the most powerful Islamic organizations in the world? Shouldn't his ignorance fill us all with a certain trepidation that a man so uninformed about Islam is heading a major intelligence agency?

5. Why are so many people jubilant that Mubarak resigned? I don't mean the Egyptian protestors who are understandably euphoric, but rather I refer to our own media and government personnel. Does no one among these celebrants remember the Iranian revolution? The Cuban revolution? The Russian revolution? In each of these one tyrant was overthrown to the great joy of the people only to have him replaced by a worse tyrant. Do any of those in the media and elsewhere know how the Egyptian imbroglio is going to play out? Our lack of insight into how all this is going to wind up should be sobering rather than thrilling.

OK Go Meets Thomas Aquinas

Watch this OK Go video and then there'll be a test. Pay special attention to the beginning and the end:
OK Go probably had no idea they were doing it, but their video serves as a fine illustration of two of medieval philosopher/theologian Thomas Aquinas' famous Five Ways of demonstrating the existence of God. Here are two questions that might help clarify the relationship between Aquinas' argument and the video.

First question: What do you think are the chances of an entire system like this one coming into existence apart from the very intelligent engineers standing on the platform at the end of the video? What would have happened, do you suppose, if one of those dominos was missing? Do you think it reasonable to believe that the system could have resulted from the chance arrangement of its parts?

The atheistic materialist has to believe something very like this about our universe which is far more complex than the Rube Goldberg device designed by these engineering students. The materialist, though, doesn't hesitate to tell those who believe that the Rube Goldberg device required the input of intelligent engineers that they're being irrational. Just read Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett or their epigones.

Second question: If the series of causes and effects that comprise our universe had a beginning, like the sequence of events in the video, then it must have had a cause that triggered it. What was that cause?

The skeptic could buck the consensus of modern cosmologists and try positing an infinitely old universe that had no beginning, but that means the sequence of dominos would be infinitely long with no first falling domino. If there is no first falling domino then it's hard to imagine how the series of falling dominos would ever get started.

The skeptic might retreat to the safety of granting the reasonableness of believing that there was an initial cause of the universe, but then ask why anyone should think the cause is the God of theism. Consider, though, what's entailed by the acknowledgement that the universe had a cause: An adequate cause or explanation of the universe must, it's reasonable to assume, be very powerful and very intelligent. It must also be outside the universe and outside time, and it must be a personal being since what it causes or explains contains personality (human beings). This may not be precisely the God of traditional theism, but it's certainly something very much like Him.

The skeptic, in full flight now, might just say, as many have, that the universe is just there, a brute fact. It has no cause and no explanation. It just is. But, of course, not only is this a waving of the white flag of surrender and fleeing the field, it's also a science-stopper. It's also more than a little ironic because it's a favorite retort of the opponents of intelligent design to allege that ID is the science-stopper. The charge is false in the case of ID, but it's certainly not false to identify the view that the universe has no explanation a science-stopper.