Saturday, April 2, 2011

They're Not All Like This

A private American citizen, Pastor Terry Jones of Florida, burns a Koran and across the world in Afghanistan a mob of enraged lunatics retaliate by killing four Nepalese, three Europeans, and five of their fellow Afghans - a dozen people in all, none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the Koran burning:
Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said.

The dead included at least seven United Nations workers — four Nepalese guards and three Europeans from Romania, Sweden and Norway — according to United Nations officials in New York. One was a woman. Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials, said that at least two of the dead had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also killed.

Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters. “Some of our colleagues were just hunted down,” said a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, in confirming the attack.
I can't think of any reaction more likely to vindicate Mr. Jones' rationale for burning the Koran than what this mob provided him. Muslims are their own worst enemy. Every chance they get, it seems, they give the world more reason to want to have nothing to do with them or their religion. They seem determined to prove to the world that their religion encourages such awful, irrational spasms of violence.

One wants to plead that not all Muslims are like this, but the pleas are drowned out by the shouts of vast numbers who are indeed like this. Westerners who yearn for some sort of coexistence, like my friend Byron who passed this video along with the caveat that surely not all Muslims are the sort of people the speaker describes, watch this in the light of the U.N. murders and ask themselves, what does the guy in the video say that doesn't ring true? Is it possible to live peaceably with people whose worldview is so radically at odds with one's own?

It's doubtless the case that there are many Muslims who deplore the senseless, stupid killing of innocent U.N. workers in Afghanistan, but in many places in the world the Muslims who are not like those described in the video are cowed into silence by those who are:
A postscript: Was President Obama's statement in response to these murders as pathetic when heard live as it sounds in print?
In Washington, President Obama issued a statement strongly condemning the violence against United Nations workers. “Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens,” he said. “We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence.”
What is he saying? Is he really implying that U.N. workers should not be murdered because we need them? Are they to be left alone simply because they're useful? Would it be okay to kill them if they were just tourists? And could his last sentence be any more insipid? Who does he mean by "all parties"? Who, exactly, are the other parties in this horrific matter who must refrain from violence? Was he reading this statement off of an old form letter or something? The whole thing sounds as if he's addressing a bumptious town hall meeting rather than responding to the grisly murders of someone's sons and daughters. No wonder people criticize him for so often appearing to be an emotionless automaton.

Krauss vs. Craig at NCS

I really don't understand why atheists agree to debate philosopher William Lane Craig on the existence of God. Every time they do they wind up the way Wile E. Coyote winds up whenever he tries to ambush the Road Runner.

The latest example is physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss who debated Craig at North Carolina State University the other night on the topic whether there is evidence for the existence of God. He shouldn't have bothered. Despite being an accomplished scientist he was clearly out of his league, and appeared totally unprepared for Craig's arguments. He not only seemed unable to comprehend the relevance of confirmation theory to the topic, but looked confused and unsure how to respond to Craig beyond mildly patronizing asides and simple assurances that Craig was wrong. He didn't offer much reason why we should accept these asseverations, and indeed spent an awful lot of time agreeing with Craig while trying to sound like he was refuting him. Much of the rest of his time was spent elaborating upon irrelevancies.

Craig offered five clear lines of evidence for God's existence, to none of which was Krauss able to offer more than a perfunctory and uncomfortably desultory challenge. Perhaps it really is the fault more of the debate topic than of Krauss' ability to champion atheism. It's pretty hard, after all, to argue that there's no evidence for God's existence, and it's especially difficult when one has, as Krauss acknowledges early on, little interest in philosophy. Anyone who hasn't read much philosophy really shouldn't embarrass himself, no matter how much hubris he may bring to the stage, by publicly debating a philosopher on a philosophical topic.
If you're an atheist, or even if you're not, you'll probably be wondering why atheists can't put up someone against Craig who seems to know what he's talking about. Or, you might wonder whether the difficulty is more with atheism than with its defenders.