Monday, September 3, 2012

The Faith of a Darwinian

Once upon a time a boy went for a walk with his uncle along a country road. As they walked along the boy happened to notice that atop a thirty foot high telephone pole a rock, which appeared to weigh at least twenty pounds, was perched.

"How did that get there?" the boy inquired of his uncle.

"Well, lad," the uncle replied, "a strong wind once blew and picked up the rock and dropped it atop that pole."

This seemed very improbable to the boy, but who was he to question his wise uncle?

They walked a little further and the boy began to notice that on the top of each fence post they passed there was a turtle. "How did those get there?" the boy asked his uncle, "Did someone put them there?"

"No, my good boy," the uncle replied. "Apparently there were long boards that leaned against the poles to form ramps which enabled the turtles to wander to the top."

This also seemed unlikely to the child and he took on a puzzled expression. "Are you sure somebody didn't put the turtles there, uncle?"

"Of course," the man replied confidently. People used to think that turtles were placed atop posts deliberately, but we've come to see that that's all superstitious nonsense that simply requires too much faith to believe. We know better today. The turtles used ramps."

"But there aren't any ramps anywhere around. What happened to them?" the child asked disingenuously.

"They obviously must have blown away," replied his sagacious uncle.

The boy was perplexed. He thought that it took an awfully strong dose of credulity to think that turtles climbed ramps to get to the tops of the fence posts.

"What's the matter?" his uncle asked perceiving his consternation.

"Well, I just have one more question," the youngster answered. "How did the ramps get there in the first place?"

The moral of the story is that when one encounters something as improbable as turtles on posts or stones atop a pole, it's safe to assume they didn't get there by accident.

Out of Touch Republicans

There's one criticism that Democrats often make of Republicans that I think is inarguably accurate. Democrats accuse Republican politicians of being out of touch, and they certainly seem to be, but the people they're most out of touch with are their own supporters.

Two recent episodes illustrate the point. The first was Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's claim that raped women don't often conceive and that even if they do they shouldn't abort the baby. Republicans from Romney on down were incensed. Rather than pointing out the obvious that - setting aside Mr. Akin's questionable biological understandings - his views on abortion are those of most of the world's Catholics and Evangelicals and are certainly more defensible and less extreme than the view of Mr. Obama that a live-born infant should be allowed to die if the mother had tried to have it aborted, they instead unanimously called for Mr. Akin to disappear.

Yet, among Missouri voters Mr. Akin is still a popular alternative to incumbent Claire McCaskill, especially among Republicans, and polls show him recovering from the initial burst of bad publicity suffered for his unwise remark about how the female body responds to emotional trauma.

A second example was the reaction of the Republican elites to Clint Eastwood's presentation at the Republican convention last Thursday night. The party mucky-mucks were aghast at what seemed to be a rambling, somewhat off-color skewering of President Obama, but the folks on the floor and watching on television apparently loved it. You can watch it here if you wish.

Mike Huckabee has a particularly hard-hitting piece on the Akin affair here, and Jonah Goldberg at National Review has some interesting reflections on Clint Eastwood's boffo performance at the convention.

I wonder if we'll not soon see a lot of the party's big-wigs start moon-walking away from their earlier disavowals and condemnation of both Akin and Eastwood. The man who should be leading the backtrack pack is, as Huckabee points out, Karl Rove who has managed to become as unpopular among conservatives as he is among liberal Democrats.