Monday, July 9, 2012

Tale of Two Scientists

The cover story in the current issue of Christianity Today is a fascinating description of the journey of two Christian biologists and how they have come to two very different conclusions about life's origin and diversification.

One of the men, Darrel Falk, is a theistic evolutionist who believes that the evolutionary process is the means by which God has created all of the forms of life we see today. The other, Todd Wood, is a special creationist who believes that the entire creation occurred within six days as described in the book of Genesis.

Reading their stories they both come across as sympathetic, sincere lovers of science who are trying to "think God's thoughts after Him." I wonder, though, why the author of the article, Tim Stafford, chose not to include a representative of the intelligent design movement in his piece.

Unlike special creation, ID takes no formal position on questions like who created life, how it was done, and how long it took. Their only claim is that whatever the answers to these questions might be it did not happen, contra the Darwinian naturalists, apart from intelligent agency.

Unlike theistic evolutionists, on the other hand, ID advocates argue that signs of intelligent agency permeate the created world, particularly in the enormous amounts of complex information contained in living cells as well as the exquisite fine-tuning of the cosmic values and parameters which constitute the fabric of the universe.

All three agree, though, that whatever happened and however it happened, the notion that life is solely a result of blind, impersonal forces acting randomly over billions of years is simply and profoundly wrong.

In any case, there's a lot in Stafford's article and I encourage you to check it out.

Roberts' Incoherence

Byron York at the Washington Examiner explains in simple terms why Chief Justice Roberts' Obamacare decision last week is so difficult to parse.

After some helpful background York writes:
[I]t fell to the administration's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, to argue that no, the mandate was not a tax, and therefore the case was not subject to the Anti-Injunction Act [which forbids bringing a tax case to court before people start paying the tax].

At the same time, everyone knew that the next day, when Verrilli planned to argue that the mandate was justified under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, he had as a backup the argument that it was also justified by Congress' power to levy taxes -- in other words, that it was a tax.

Justice Samuel Alito saw the conflict right away.

"General Verrilli, today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax," Alito said. "Tomorrow you are going to be back, and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax. Has the court ever held that something that is a tax for the purposes of the taxing power under the Constitution is not a tax under the Anti-Injunction Act?"

"No," answered Verrilli.

At the time, some observers found the whole thing a little boring; the real action would come the next day, when the court got to the question of whether the Commerce Clause could be stretched to include the individual mandate.

But a lot of those same observers were shocked on Thursday, when Chief Justice John Roberts, rejecting the Commerce Clause argument, agreed with Verrilli that the mandate simultaneously was and was not a tax, and that therefore Obamacare would stand. Roberts joined the court's four liberal justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, who seemed prepared to uphold Obamacare under any circumstances.

Roberts' sleight of hand drove his conservative colleagues nuts. "The government and those who support its position on this point make the remarkable argument that [the mandate] is not a tax for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act, but is a tax for constitutional purposes," wrote dissenters Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. "That carries verbal wizardry too far, deep into the forbidden land of the sophists."

After the ruling, Obamacare opponents pointed out the thousands of times the president and Democratic lawmakers had contended that the mandate penalty was not -- repeat, not -- a tax. But it no longer mattered.
So, in the opinion of Justice Roberts something can be both P and not-P at the same time. This seems to my unlawyerly mind to be a violation of fundamental logic, and it's hard to see how future legislatures and courts, in light of this precedent, will be prevented from calling a tax anything at all Congress imposes. Those who feel unconstrained by either logic or the Constitution are praising the result, but there may be a very high price to pay down the road for Roberts' expediency.