Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chasing Down Dawkins

About a month ago we posted on the difficulty Christian philosopher William Lane Craig is having getting atheist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, to debate him.

Evolution News and Views has a very interesting promotional video, put out by Craig's organization, which summarizes the attempts to lasso Professor Dawkins into a debate:
A man who writes books and articles on atheism, who gives speeches on the fraudulent pretensions of religious belief, but who refuses to defend those beliefs against an able challenger, even though he has declared publicly that he welcomes such challengers, is tacitly admitting his lack of confidence in the intellectual defensibility of his convictions.

Dawkins surely realizes that the credibility of the entire "New Atheist" movement would rest on his shoulders were he to assent to debate Craig and that defeat would do the movement irrevocable harm. It would be the modern equivalent of the Bishop Wilberforce/ Thomas Huxley debate, or the Scopes Trial, and should he lose he'd be forever remembered as the atheist counterpart to William Jennings Bryant.

Dawkins apparently would prefer not to carry that burden. He'd rather be instead the childhood bully who liked to push around all the smaller kids until, confronted by someone who wasn't afraid of him, he backed down and slunk away.

Weiner's Problem: Christian Conservatives

I hope Chris Matthews is not typical of how most liberals think. According to Matthews Congressman Anthony Weiner's behavior - which I'm sure by now needs no description from me - is immoral, indiscreet, embarrassing, and gross. Yet, Mr. Matthews opines, the only people offended by such behavior are those culturally backward Christian conservatives. If only there weren't so many of them, Matthews seems to be suggesting, Weiner and the Democrats would be home free:
Evidently Matthews believes that immoral, indiscreet, embarrassing and gross behavior is no big deal to liberals. I wonder how many of them watching his show were offended by the implication.

In any event, it now turns out that the police are questioning an underage girl about contacts she had with Congressman Weiner, who being a liberal, is probably wondering why all the fuss. It's only culturally backward Christians who would be offended if it turns out that Weiner was sending lewd messages to this teenager.

Weiner, who's married, sent lewd photos of himself to various women on taxpayer time, lied about it to all and sundry, and refuses to resign his congressional seat. Nevertheless, in the morally bizarre world of Chris Matthews, where every night's Hardball show is like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, it's only the culturally backward Christian conservatives who find this appalling. Alec Baldwin, a real liberal's liberal, all but dismisses the behavior as a consequence of being a "high- functioning" man in the political pressure cooker of Washington.

My question for Messrs. Matthews and Baldwin is, what does a congressman have to do, besides be a Republican, for liberals like them to be disgusted by his behavior?

Shocking Revelations

Anticipating being parodied by John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and The Onion, The Washington Post yesterday launched a pre-emptive self-parody of the media feeding frenzy over the 24,000 Palin emails that they're sifting through hoping to find something with which to pillory Palin. At least I think it's a self-parody, but maybe not. Maybe these people are actually this shallow:
In one e-mail, written weeks before Palin was chosen as a running mate by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Palin praises a speech by the man who would be McCain’s opponent in the 2008 presidential race.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama “gave a great speech this morn in Michigan—mentioned Alaska,” Palin wrote to aides. In a speech in Lansing, Mich., Obama had spoken of the need to complete the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, and open more oil and gas drilling in Alaska. “So.... we need to take advantage of this [and] write a statement saying he’s right on.”

A year before, in February 2007, a staffer recommended to Palin that she meet Pete Rouse, “who’s now chief of staff for some guy named Barack Obama,” when she was in Washington, D.C. on an upcoming trip.

“I’m game to meet him,” Palin wrote back.

Other e-mails make clear that Palin relied on her husband, Todd Palin, for advice on policy issues. In a March 2008 e-mail, for instance, the governor makes clear that he also weighed in on how to deal with AlaskaĆ¢€™s burgeoning wolf population, a topic of debate at the time among officials and environmental experts.

The governor told her fish and game commissioner in blunt terms that she opposed using state helicopters to hunt wolves and preferred paying private hunters.

“We have to act quickly on this as predators are acting quickly and rural families face ridiculous situation of being forced to import more beef instead of feeding their families our healthy staple of alaskan game. Nonsense. Unacceptable - and not on my watch,” she said.

Her source of information? “Todd interviewed buddies who live out there... Some confirmation that state intervention isn’t first choice w/the locals,” Palin said.”We need to incentivize here,” including providing money for trappers.

The e-mails also reveal Palin’s sensitivity to the way she was portrayed in the media, even at a time when the coverage came mainly from local outlets in Alaska. Palin’s contentious relationship with the national news media has become a major theme of her political persona in the years since the end of the 2008 campaign.

In 2008, for instance, one of Palin’s press aides sent her an essay about Jane Swift, the onetime governor of Massachusetts, who raised young children while in office. Palin responded with a barb about a recent column from a writer at the Anchorage Daily News.

“Pls remind Julia Omalley that ‘they’ said the same thing throughout my career- ‘too young,’ ‘pregnant,’ ‘kids’...’She won’t be able to do it,’ ” Palin wrote. “This coming from good ol’ boys who don’t like change...And so far along in my career we’ve proved them wrong at each turn.”

In another e-mail from 2008, an aide asks about a tanning bed at Palin's house. A Web site, he said, was implying that the state had paid for it--which had set off a flood of calls from other media.

“The old used tanning bed that my girls have used a handful of times in Juneau?,” Palin wrote back. “Yes, we paid for it ourselves.”
Wow. This stuff is amazing. It just about dooms any thoughts Palin might have had of ever being President, don't you think? It's great that our media is on the case making sure that corruption and incompetence among our (Republican) politicians is exposed to the light of day.

Next up at the WaPo this headline: "Media Demands Release of Barack Obama Emails From His Days in Illinois and U.S. Senate."

Just kidding.