Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Great Quote

From Peeve Farm:

If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse.

—Henry Ford

Birds Of A Feather

Some good Thomas Sowell insights:

Cliques form in all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. Chess players, jazz fans and gamblers tend to hang out with others who share their interests.

The fact people sort themselves out in many ways is not usually a big problem -- except to those who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling others what to do. Government programs to unsort people who have sorted themselves out have produced one social disaster after another.

Decades-long attempts to mix black and white school children through school busing produced no real educational benefits but much racial polarization and ill will. The same continues in colleges in the name of "diversity," with the same bad results.

Among the most unconscionable attempts to unsort people who sorted themselves out by behavior are government programs to relocate people into neighborhoods where they could not afford to live without subsidies. Often the people in those neighborhoods have sacrificed for years to live where they could raise their children in decent surroundings and not in fear of hoodlums -- only to have the government import the bad neighbors and hoodlums they tried so hard to escape.

Both kinds of people may be of the same race, but that does not make the consequences any less painful or the resentments less bitter. Blacks as well as whites have objected to having problem people thrust into their midst through housing subsidies or government projects in their neighborhoods.

Almost never do the social experimenters relocate dysfunctional and dangerous people into their own elite neighborhoods. They unsort other people's neighborhoods and embitter other people's lives.

What Ever Happened To That Old-Time Wisdom?

Just saw this quote at FrontPageMag:

"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exhiled, or hanged."

--President Abraham Lincoln

A Day In The Life

Of a friend of mine who just started working as an airline pilot. When you're stuck with delays at the airport, remember, the pilots are in the same boat you are!


Hello all,

I got back kind of late last night after making my first flight flying a commercial aircraft into SJC. I’d been flying since 6:30am and had just been released to go home here in LA at 3:15 when crew scheduling called and asked if I could do them a huge favor and take a flight to SJC. The route from LAX-SJC is normally flown by the 50 pax regional jets but one of them broke down so they put a Saab on the job. When I got to the plane about 30 minutes before departure I receiving another call from scheduling saying that the captain had to be called from home and would probably arrive just on time for departure and that I should get the plane as ready as possible to make this a quick departure. I ran inside the terminal to print out my release just to find a group of 50 or so passengers being told that only 28 of them would be traveling on this flight. Just as the noise level began reaching points requiring my earplugs, I retreated to my more pressing duties. I did my preflight and all of the paperwork (including most of the captains), got my clearance through the onboard computer (ACARS), then approx 5 minutes prior to departure told the gate staff to start boarding the passengers. I personally greeted each one as they entered the aircraft and apologized for any inconvenience but promised them smooth sailing from there on….not more than 1 minute after the last passenger boarded, I could hear a voice calling for eagle flight 125 coming over the speaker in the cockpit. I hopped into my seat and responded just to hear from LA op’s “ your captain is stuck……” I then slammed down the volume on my speaker so that no one would hear the bad news and put on my headset to say,“LA op’s could you please repeat for eagle 125”. I could then safely hear that the captain was stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway about 5 miles from the airport. I hate the traffic here in LA! I was told that due to an earlier problem the captain who was sitting ready reserve had already been called out on a flight and that we had no one else to pick up the slack. Please realize that I’ve only been out of training for about a month and a half so all of this is still pretty new to me. As exciting as all this was at the time I realized that sooner of later (probably sooner) I would have to inform the passengers of our delay. Since I’d greeted the passengers I decided not to make the announcement over the PA system but rather do it aurally. By the time I walked to the back of the plane I found three of the passengers giving my flight attendant an earful regarding their opinions about the airline that I work for. Deciding to take the heat off of him, I told the passengers to please take their seats because I was going to do a meal service myself and that I had an announcement to make to everyone regarding our status. I walked up to the flight attendants station grabbed a big bag of pretzels ad walked down the cabin offering them to the passengers. 99.9% of them got a kick out of it and it really helped lighten the already tense mood in the cabin. Of course there has to be one person who wasn’t so amused and that one guy would need to make sure that everyone on the plane new it. After passing out all the pretzels and making a little light conversation with a few of the passengers, I took a deep breath and announced that the captain was in fact delayed and that he should be arriving in approximately 10-15 minutes. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH how it got quiet. Then that one guy who wasn’t so happy in the first place got really unhappy. After about 2 or 3 minutes chatting with him and a few other passengers and after passing him a cold beer he finally calmed down and decided that he would “sit back relax and enjoy whatever’s going to happen”. The funniest thing about all this was that there were three very senior captains in uniform that were dead heading to SJC and I could tell they were happy that I had come back there to take the heat off of them. When I sat back down in the cockpit to look like I was busy one of them came up to meet me and told me that he’d never seen a pilot do a snack service before, especially when the passengers where that rowdy, but that he’d have to give it a shot since it seemed to work pretty well.

At this point we are about 20 minutes beyond our proposed departure time which was already about 1 hour later than the passenger’s original departure time. The passengers have been sitting on the ground in this little aircraft for just over 25 minutes and I’m starting to get worried because I started working 10 hours ago and I’m only legal to be on-duty for 14 hours per day. If we were delayed much longer I’d be illegal to fly the plane home and then we’d all have problems. I called crew scheduling and they told me that they’d look into it and check on the captains progress. As soon as I hung up the phone, the captain shows up sits down spent a minute reviewing my figures then we were off.

To make a long story short…er we flew into SJC with about 50 KT headwinds just to make the ride a little longer for the passengers. Other than the whole first 30 minuted before departure, it was great flying back home. I flew the ILS 30R and brought her in for a reasonably smooth landing. As the passenger were exiting a few of them thanked me for the smooth safe flight and the pretzels.

Now for round 2….The return home. I’ll make this short and sweet. We had 60 knot tail winds so we were going to make it home pretty quickly. This whole story would have ended nicely when we arrived 30 minutes early in LAX, except for one thing. As I was doing the calculations for Weight and Balance on the ground in SJC I was surprised at how little cargo (read bags) we had given that we had a full flight. When I called SJC OP’s I was informed that not one, not two, not three, but ALL of the passengers checked luggage were accidentally loaded on a jet going to Orange county that ALREADY left. Now I’ll let you guess right now if I decided to tell my jovial passengers then or if I waited until we landed in LAX and let the ground agents pass on the great news.

The End.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Apologetics By TenNapel

I like his style. Here he takes on the atheism of Penn Jillete (I'm not saying it's convincing or a knock-out, I just like the style).

For example, I liked this bit, but do read it all:

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

The huh?! Why would removing the need to be forgiven cause you to be better? It's like saying "There's no penalty for cheating on my taxes so I'd better do them right or I'll really hurt my government." The atheist is always the fish out of water when trying to give some flimsy pathetic reason for why they should do good.


Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic.

Now there's a backhanded insult. What happened to being 'more thoughtful' the first time around?

I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures.

Uh, I believe in God and I read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Here comes the atheist! The only smart guy in the room! He's not the cruel, ruthless brainiac kind, he loves his family! Barf.

Apparently, reading from sources around the world still doesn't mean you have to think they're true. You can still be just as closed minded to other cultures as I am...unless you're telling me that you find the Book from a certain Jewish culture to be true?

Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong.

Because as a Christian, I never learn about where I'm wrong. That's only for the atheists who agree on reality.

We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate.

Yeah, Jesus keeps me from really communicating too.

I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith."

Neither do I. Though I doubt if I could shake Penn's faith that there is no God.

That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less.

F*ck you, Penn.

But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do."

I wasn't brought up a Christian, my father in fact, told me from an early age that it was all false. God didn't come from my imagination because I would have come up with a version that let me watch porn. God isn't my friend either, he is God. Not my bro, or my buddy, or my pal, or what I prefer, so you can cut all of these straw men out of the argument and try some facts. I know these stereotypes may make it easier for you to be an atheist, but I only further demonstrates that you make your decision in redneck-like ignorance, not secular enlightenment.

For the record, I would LOVE to hear one tenable atheistic argument that might justify my rejection of this difficult path I've chosen. You have no idea.

Perhaps Common Sense Has Not Died


House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol -- known in recent years as the "Holiday Tree" -- should be renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree," as it was called until the late 1990s.

The Capitol's senior landscape architect confirmed the name switch yesterday for The Washington Times.

"It was known as the 'Holiday Tree' for several years and just recently was changed back to the 'Capitol Christmas Tree.' This was a directive from the speaker," said Capitol architect Matthew Evans.

"The speaker believes a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and it is as simple as that," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the Illinois Republican.

The Capitol tree, traditionally overshadowed by the White House's "National Christmas Tree," was renamed a "holiday tree" several years ago, according to the Capitol Architect's offices, in an effort to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah -- although no one seemed to know exactly when the name was changed or by whom.

Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree has become a politically charged prospect in jurisdictions across the country -- from Boston to Sacramento and in dozens of communities in between.

"It's a growing problem," said Jared N. Leland, spokesman and legal counsel for the Becket Fund, a District-based legal and educational institute. "Celebrating the season with Christmas trees ... and leaving them named 'Christmas' is simply recognizing the religious nature of people. Christmas should be able to be called Christmas."

The debate boiled over in Boston last week when the city's Web site referred to a giant tree erected on Boston Common as a "holiday tree."

The new name drew the ire of Christians and evangelical leader the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose law group the Liberty Counsel threatened to sue if the tree wasn't rechristened with Christmas.

"The Boston Christmas tree situation is symbolic of what's happening ... around the country," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. "Government officials, either because of misinformation, or private retailers, for politically correct reasons, are trying to secularize Christmas.

"To rename a Christmas tree as a holiday tree is as offensive as renaming a Jewish menorah a candlestick," Mr. Staver said.

The Nova Scotia logger who cut down the 48-foot tree for Boston also was indignant. Donnie Hatt said he would not have donated the tree if he had known of the name change.

"I'd have cut it down and put it through the chipper," Mr. Hatt told a Canadian newspaper. "If they decide it should be a holiday tree, I'll tell them to send it back. If it was a holiday tree, you might as well put it up at Easter."

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he would refer to the 48-foot-tall white spruce as a Christmas tree during lighting ceremonies on Thursday. The city has since referred to the tree as a Christmas tree on its Web site.

In California last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rescinded former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' five-year tradition of calling the state capitol's Christmas tree a "holiday tree." Mr. Schwarzenegger said the tree will be a Christmas tree as long as he's in office, and staff confirmed yesterday that the governor will call the tree a Christmas tree this year.

Cities and counties in the Washington area increasingly are dropping the reference to Christ. Localities such as Alexandria, Greenbelt and Baltimore County will hang their lights on politically correct "holiday" trees.

"The words are used interchangeably," said Janet Barnett, of the city of Alexandria, which held its tree lighting on Friday. "We put up the trees to celebrate the season."

In Annapolis, the city's annual "Hanging of the Greens" -- the decorating of public buildings, shops and streets with live greens and ribbons -- and the lighting of the "holiday tree" this weekend are purposely named so as to not favor one belief over another.

"It's a sensitivity for people of different faiths," said city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty. "We celebrate a lot of different customs -- not necessarily just a religious one."

This year's Capitol tree, an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from New Mexico, arrived Sunday and was unveiled in a ceremony yesterday. The tree will be secured and displayed opposite the Washington Monument, on the building's West Lawn and will be decorated with 10,000 lights and 6,000 ornaments created by students in New Mexico.

President Bush will light the National Christmas Tree, which stands south of the White House on the Ellipse, at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Yesterday, the White House also received its Christmas tree for the Blue Room. A horse-drawn wagon delivered the 18?-foot Fraser fir, marking the official start of the holiday decorating season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"This is a very fun tradition, the delivery of the Christmas tree to the White House," first lady Laura Bush said. "This is the 40th year the National Christmas Tree Growers Association has given the White House the magnificent tree -- the biggest tree there."

Lefties Really Do Support The Troops

Absolutely unbelievable. Traitorous pig.

H/T Ace of Spades.

Innocent Victims The Lefties Never Count

Dennis Prager on the death penalty:

Those of us who believe in the death penalty for some murders are told by opponents of the death penalty that if the state executes an innocent man, we have blood on our hands.

They are right. I, for one, readily acknowledge that as a proponent of the death penalty, my advocacy could result in the killing of an innocent person.

I have never, however, encountered any opponents of the death penalty who acknowledge that they have the blood of innocent men and women on their hands.

Yet they certainly do. Whereas the shedding of innocent blood that proponents of capital punishment are responsible for is thus far, thankfully, only theoretical, the shedding of innocent blood for which opponents of capital punishment are responsible is not theoretical at all. Thanks to their opposition to the death penalty, innocent men and women have been murdered by killers who would otherwise have been put to death.

Opponents of capital punishment give us names of innocents who would have been killed by the state had their convictions stood and they been actually executed, and a few executed convicts whom they believe might have been innocent. But proponents can name men and women who really were -- not might have been -- murdered by convicted murderers while in prison. The murdered include prison guards, fellow inmates, and innocent men and women outside of prison.

[Prager tells the story of Clarence Allen, who orchestrated the killing of witnesses from prison]

Had Clarence Allen been executed for the 1974 murder of Mary Sue Kitts, three innocent people under the age of 30 would not have been killed. But because moral clarity among anti-death penalty activists is as rare as their self-righteousness is ubiquitous, finding an abolitionist who will acknowledge moral responsibility for innocents murdered by convicted murderers is an exercise in futility.

Perhaps the most infamous case of a death penalty opponent directly causing the murder of an innocent is that of novelist Norman Mailer. In 1981, Mailer utilized his influence to obtain parole for a bank robber and murderer named Jack Abbott on the grounds that Abbott was a talented writer. Six weeks after being paroled, Abbott murdered Richard Adan, a 22-year-old newlywed, aspiring actor and playwright who was waiting tables at his father's restaurant.

Mailer's reaction? "Culture is worth a little risk," he told the press. "I'm willing to gamble with a portion of society to save this man's talent."

That in a nutshell is the attitude of the abolitionists. They are "willing to gamble with a portion of society" -- such as the lives of additional innocent victims -- in order to save the life of every murderer.

Abolitionists are certain that they are morally superior to the rest of us. In their view, we who recoil at the thought that every murderer be allowed to keep his life are moral inferiors, barbarians essentially. But just as pacifists' views ensure that far more innocents will be killed, so do abolitionists' views ensure that more innocents will die.

There may be moral reasons to oppose taking the life of any murderer (though I cannot think of one), but saving the lives of innocents cannot be regarded as one of them.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Genuine Rocket Scientist On ID

Here's an absolute tour de force. Some of the best writing on the ID/Evolution debate I've ever come across. Dr. Psiaski is a professor of aerospace engineering, who has written some great prose as he deconstructs Cornell President Hunter S. Rawlings' recent anti-ID address.


The answer is that intelligent design is not valid as science, that is, it has no ability to develop new knowledge through hypothesis testing, modification of the originaltheory based on experimental results, and renewed testing through more refined experiments that yield still more refinements and insights.

(MLP: This paragraph distorts the nature of science. The observed fact that the elements are fixed, chemically-immutable entities is open to the same criticism of being unmodifiable. The elements either are or are not fixed quantities in chemical reactions. Does President Rawlings propose that we not teach this observed fact of chemistry? The ID assertion that certain biochemical processes and biological mechanisms (BioP&M) are irreducibly complex is closely analogous to the observed fact of the chemical immutability of the elements.

Another reasonable analogy presents itself for the Darwinist attempt to explain how these BioP&M came into being by purely natural, gradual processes of mutation and selection. Unfortunately for the Darwinists, the appropriate analogy is with alchemy. Just as at proved impossible to turn lead into gold by chemical reactions, so it may well prove impossible to explain by naturalistic causes how these BioP&M came into being. Remember that even Isaac Newton believed in and worked on alchemy. Many smart people believe that all BioP&M have been created by purely naturalistic causes that work gradually through mutation and natural selection, and they work to prove that this belief is true. Unfortunately, the fact that they believe and the fact that they are smart do not combine to guarantee that their beliefs are true, just as Newton's reputation does not combine with his pursuit of alchemy to confer legitimacy on alchemy. Rather, it is a shame that such an intelligent man wasted so much time on a vain pursuit.

It is entirely within the realm of science for the ID community to assert that certain BioP&M are irreducibly complex and to test this assertion. Prof. Michael Behe of Lehigh has asserted that certain specific mechanisms and processes are irreducibly complex, one of which is the blood clotting mechanism in mice. Researchers who oppose him have sought to disprove this assertion by reference to laboratory work in which genes have been knocked out of mice in order to reduce the complexity of their blood clotting mechanism. In his lecture here last spring, Prof. Behe talked about an article by a leading researcher in the area of blood. The article was written to refute Behe's claim of the irreducible complexity of this biochemical process and referred to the mouse gene experiments. The article claimed that the blood clotting function remained sufficiently intact to yield viable mice even after two pieces of the original blood clotting mechanism had been removed by knocking out genes. Unfortunately for the ID opponent, his paper was based on a mis-reading of one of the main works that his article cited. It seems possible that he failed to read much of the cited article at all. The mice with reduced blood clotting mechanisms all died prematurely. The mode of death changed depending on whether one or two genes were removed, and the ID opponent misinterpreted this change in the mode of death as a change from non-viability to viability.

This episode shows that ID is falsifiable in its assertions about the irreducible complexity of specific mechanisms. Unfortunately for the Darwinists, the attempt to falsify ID failed because the laboratory evidence supported the assertion that the mouse blood clotting mechanism is irreducibly complex.

This paragraph of President Rawlings’ speech overlooks an important aspect of science, which is the search for counter-examples. As in math, just one counter-example to a theorem is enough to prove it wrong. If the ID folks do nothing more than pose challenging possible counter-examples to evolution, then they are serving an important scientific function.

Even Darwin endorsed the importance of possible counter-examples when he wrote in The Origin of Species: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case." One of the main points of ID is that we have achieved enough understanding at the micro scale to enable us to find the cases that Darwin couldn't find.

When I was an assistant professor, I had a friend in OR&IE who worked in computational geometry. He told me about a certain researcher who worked at Bell labs. His one job was to review theory papers and to look for counter examples to the proposed theorems. My friend told me that no one wanted to have this particular person picked to review his or her paper. I was shocked that my friend could say such I thing. In effect, my friend was saying that no one wants the flaws in their theorems to be found out. Such people value career advancement over the pursuit of knowledge. They don't mind if their career advancement comes at the expense of knowledge.

An honest researcher would definitely want the Bell labs person to review his or her work. An honest researcher only wants to publish work that can stand the test of severe critics. If there is a problem with a given work by an honest researcher, then that researcher wants to be the first to know about it.

The Darwinists should welcome the challenge from ID researchers. The resulting duel, conducted in the laboratory rather than through spin in the speeches of university presidents, should serve to strengthen support for macro-evolution if macro-evolution is true. Those who wish to avoid the duel are like my friend, and as a fellow researcher, I am shocked at their attitude. Do they have so little confidence in their theory? Why should they be afraid to have their theory tested in response to the challenges of critics?

President Rawlings’ speech fails to recognize the important contributions in science, engineering, and mathematics of negative assertions. Proofs of "it can't be done" are important technical contributions. For many years mathematicians tried to develop an analytic solution to a general 5th order polynomial. There exist general solutions for linear, quadratic, cubic, and quartic polynomials. Finally, after years of fruitless research, some clever mathematician proved that there cannot be an analytic solution for a general polynomial of degree 5 or higher. This was a purely negative result, but it was nonetheless important because it warned other mathematicians away from wasting time on pointless efforts to develop formulas which cannot exist.

I know of 2 other examples of this type of negative result in my own area of expertise, system dynamics and control. Earnshaw, who also served as an assistant minister of a parish in the UK, proved that a static arrangement of magnets and electric charges could never produce a stable levitating device. This result kept engineers from wasting their time seeking to develop such a device. Bode developed a relationship between the gain and phase of feedback circuits that proved the impossibility of making the "perfect" stabilizing feedback mechanism that had high gain at low frequency, low gain at high frequency, and a very fast gain transition between the two frequency regions without an accompanying large destabilizing lag in the phase of the response. Again, Bode's result kept engineers from wasting their time in the search for something that does not exist. Engineers, scientists, and mathematicians have a nasty habit of dreaming up new "philosopher's stones", and it is an important function of research to expose their non-existence.

The duel between Darwinists and ID proponents over irreducible complexity must be conducted carefully in order for it to produce a sensible conclusion. The ID proponents must not be allowed to endlessly propose new BioP&Ms as being irreducibly complex if the Darwinists are successful in proving that a representative set of reasonable contenders can be reduced in complexity. At some point, if the ID proponents are proved wrong about the irreducibility of a number of significant BioP&Ms, then the debate should conclude in favor of the Darwinists. Similarly, the Darwinists must not be allowed to endlessly explain away failures to demonstrate the reducibility of a particular BioP&M as being the fault of limited time or resources. If they fail time and again to prove the possibility of reducing complexity while retaining sufficient function to maintain viability, then they must eventually admit the truth that some BioP&M are irreducibly complex. In this duel, it will be important that the contestants choose their battles wisely. The ID proponents must be careful to choose good examples of possible irreducible complexity for the Darwinists to try to contradict. The examples will have to be amenable to experimentation, as was done with the mouse blood clotting, and they will have to be highly likely not to be reducible in the event that the ID claims are correct.)

H. Allen Orr, writing in The New Yorker last spring, noted: "Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science. It has produced countless important experiments … and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns…."

(MP: The statement "Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science," is pure rubbish. It has made no significant predictions that havebeen fulfilled. It makes almost no predictions that are testable. One has to wait too long for a new species to arise that has any significant new structures or genetic information [Note, speciation can be said to have been observed if one includes reshufflings or multiplications of genetic information that cause the organism to be reproductively isolated from its parent stock. These changes, however, involve the introduction of no significant new biological information and may, in fact, involve information loss], and the long wait precludes the experimental testing of macro-evolution in the laboratory.

Many dyed-in-the-wool Darwinists will protest that evolution has predicted the mutations of microbes which allow diseases to become resistant to antibiotics. This, however, is a prediction of micro-evolution, not of macro-evolution. It is unreasonable to accept the observed occurrence of micro-evolution as a fulfilled prediction of macro-evolution that proves the latter’s validity. To do so would be the equivalent of saying that the main proof of Newton's laws of motion and gravitation is their ability to predict that apples fall from trees. Wow!

The power of the macro-evolution theory, if it has any power at all, is that it reasons from the obvious truth of micro-evolution to the non-obvious proposition of macro-evolution. This is similar to Newton's reasoning from the fall of the apple (though it is probably a legend that the fall of a particular apple inspired Newton) to the explanation of the orbits of the planets around the Sun. The problem with this clear analogy is that Newton then went on to conduct experiments, develop calculus, solve a very difficult nonlinear differential equation, and show that the solution matched Kepler's laws, which were based on Brahe's observations of the planets. Even then, Newton was not fully believed until Halley used Newton’s laws in order to successfully
predict the time of the return of the comet that bears his name.

Darwinists have done none of this. The state of Darwinism, as best I understand, would be equivalent to Newton if Newton had stopped at the assertion that the apple falling and the planets orbiting were caused by one and the same thing, but had never successfully proved the connection by his great labors. It is as though we hailed Newton as a great physicist, and as proof of his greatness, said "Look, don't you see that apples fall from trees, just as he predicted? You have to trust him that this also explains the orbiting of the planets around the Sun. It is unreasonable to demand more proof than the falling of the apples."

Stated another way, the main complaint against macro-evolution is that it is a huge extrapolation from micro-evolution. Other scientific theories make huge extrapolations, Newton being a prime example, but they go on to prove that the extrapolations are true by making successful predictions. One cannot merely make an extrapolation and assume its truth. We know that extrapolation does not work in going from micro-economics to macro-economics or in going from quantum physics to cosmology. Why should we assume that it works in the field of biology? It is bad science to accept huge extrapolations without the requirement that they offer convincing proof, but this is what has happened to Darwinism's claim of macro-evolution.

Darwin deserves recognition as the proposer of micro-evolution, which is animportant biological theory. As far as I know, he was the first to propose it. Note, however, that once he proposed this idea, it must have seemed self-evident to those who read his works. In fact, it must have been the self-evident nature of micro-evolution that gave credence to the rest of the theory, to macro-evolution. Similarly, the obvious phenomenon of apples falling gave enough credence to Newton's theory to motivate him to put in the hard years of work needed in order to fully develop and finally prove the theory. Unfortunately, the subsequent developments in the theory of macro-evolution have not taken a similar positive course.


Consider an additional contrast between the two theories. Suppose that tomorrow, or 10 years from now, the scientific community decided that ID was true and that macro-evolution was not able to explain how life came to be. Suppose that it could be proved or demonstrated in a lab that there could be no purely naturalistic explanation of how the different species came to be. If this happened, then this seemingly radical change in science would have very little impact on the actual practice of most scientists. It would not affect any of the work that I do with spacecraft or the GPS system. It would not affect physicists or chemists. The surprising thing, though, is that it would not even affect many biologists. They could go about the experiments and studies and analyses that they are doing with little or no change of course. The only significant change would be that biologists would no longer have to dream up explanations for why a particular experiment or set of evidence was consistent with macro-evolution when, "on the surface", it "seemed" to contradict the theory [The following is an example of the type of explaining that currently needs to be done by biologists. Consider so-called "convergent evolution." A better term would be "non-evolution" evolution. One of the basic tenants of macro-evolution is that commonality of appearance/form/function arises from commonality of ancestry. Unfortunately, there are cases where this is obviously not true. There exist pairs of species that have commonalities that are not shared by other species that Darwinists consider to be more closely related to one or the other of the pair. The evolutionists "explain" away this phenomenon as being a process where evolution took two separate paths to arrive at the conclusion that the same "design" for a particular organ/mechanism/process was the best one. The problem with this "explanation" is that we are left with the tautology: commonality of appearance/form/function arises from commonality of ancestry except when it arises for some other reason].

Suppose, on the other hand, that Newton's mechanics were proved false. I don't mean false in the limit of high speeds or large masses. We all know that one needs to use the theory of general relativity in order to work in this regime, but relativity approaches Newtonian mechanics in the low-speed/low-mass limit, and much of modern science and engineering is based on using Newton's laws in this regime. Suppose that we woke up tomorrow and found out that Newton was all wrong even in this regime. Suppose that we discovered that all of our engineering achievements had been merely the result of clever tinkering and that Newton's laws and their application really had nothing to do with any of our many successes in aeronautics, space flight, etc. If that happened, then there would be a huge revolution in industry, academia, and government. A lot of people would be immediately out of work, myself included. My point is this: We are dependent on Newton in a way that we are not dependent on Darwin because Newton's work is far superior to that of Darwin.)

Orr notes that in the 10 years since one of the "I.D." movement’s chief theorists, biochemist Michael Behe (pronounced Bee-Hee), offered arguments about the irreducible complexity of cells as evidence for "intelligent design," "I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology." And he adds, "As the years pass, intelligent design looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics….Biologists aren’t alarmed by intelligent design’s arrival in Dover [PA] and elsewhere because they have all sworn allegiance to atheistic materialism; they’re alarmed because intelligent design is junk science."

(MP: First, this statement is spin. It would be more relevant to note that Darwinists have been unable to disprove the irreducible complexity of even one BioP&M example that Prof. Behe proposed 10 years ago, even though they have tried. At the same time, Prof. Behe continues to publish non-trivial research findings that support ID -- e.g., see Behe M.J. and Snoke D.W. "Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues," Protein Science, 13(10), Oct. 2004, pp. 2651-2664.

Second, Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which was published in 1905, inspired no experiments for more than 10 years. It was the theory of general relativity, published in 1915, that inspired an experiment, and it took until 1919 for that experiment to be performed. Thus, there were 14 years from the first relativity publication to the first confirming experiment.

For ID, the problem is further compounded by the great prejudice against ID in the science community. Near the end of this document, I describe the nasty reaction of some Darwinists to Prof. Behe’s lecture here during the spring semester. This type of reaction shows that any researcher who proposed to do experiments to test ID would immediately find himself or herself in the middle of a firestorm of criticism from Darwinists. Funding would be nearly impossible to obtain. Publication of results in refereed journals would be difficult to achieve. Tenure would never be granted, no matter how well the work was done. This very speech by Cornell’s president will serve to further dissuade any biologist from doing any such experiments. Certainly no biologist who wanted to work at Cornell would touch ID with a 10 ft. pole. Speeches like this serve the purpose of closing out debate on ID without giving it a fair hearing.

Then again, what non-trivial experiments have ever been done to confirm the Darwinist theory of macro-evolution? Darwin has had almost a century and a half, and yet no experiment has positively confirmed his theory in the way that the above quote demands of ID.)


Madison argued that government must be extremely cautious in employing religion as an instrument of civil policy. "I.D." is a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea. It is neither clearly identified as a proposition of faith nor supported by other rationally-based arguments. As we have seen all too often in human history, and as we see in many countries today, religion can be a source of persecution and repression. As Pascal, the great French philosopher, said, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

(MLP: One of the major complaints of ID folks is similar, that Darwinism is a religious belief of philosophical materialism masquerading as science and thereby being given preference in public education and other endeavors. The philosophical materialist's creation story, i.e. macro-evolution, is given preference in the public schools even though it is fraught with scientific weakness. The philosophical materialist demands this public establishment of his religion because it would be a very weak religion without it.

It is wonderful that our founding fathers decided to exclude all religious beliefs from direct influence on the government based on religious authority. It would be wonderful if philosophical materialism were treated the same way. Philosophical materialists don't see it this way. They claim the right to special treatment under the banner of science because they present their philosophy as being a pre-requisite for doing science. Their assertion is false. In fact, their philosophy can lead to absurd conclusions, as will be discussed below in the case of free will.

The Darwinists have no evidence that life started from non-life by purely naturalistic processes or that all life descended from a single original cell. All they have is their assumption that for everything in the material world, including the arising of life on what we know was once a lifeless planet, there must exist a purely naturalistic explanation. Thus, it is a matter of faith with them that there exists a valid naturalistic explanation of how life came into existence. They have no proof that this explanation exists, only their faith. Other religious views admit that there may not exist such an explanation, just as there exists no chemical recipe for turning lead into gold.

Philosophical materialism has infected science to the detriment of the latter. The reason to fight against this infection is to improve science, not to improve religion. Science used to be more humble. It was happy that it could successfully explain some of what was observed in the material world based on rational, mechanistic laws. The original scientists, Newton etc., made no claims about being able to explain everything. As science progressed, the philosophical materialists became arrogant and claimed everything for science. They claimed that everything that affects the material world can be fully explained in terms of purely mechanistic principles. This change seems to have occurred during the last half of the 19th century. This is an assumption, a matter of religion. It is not something that has been proven using the scientific method.

The past 150 years of science have seen great advances, but they have also seen limits. We don't know the limits of science, but one instinctively knows that they exist. Freud tried to analyze the mind based on the scientific method and the implied assumption that the human mind and soul are merely a machine, yet today we seem to have more people who suffer from incurable mental= illnesses than ever. Why have other areas of medicine made much greater progress? The reason is that mental illness involves a person’s spirit, which is not some machine, some purely physical device, that can be completely analyzed using the scientific method.

The philosophical materialist’s view of science has led people such as Prof. Will Provine to deny the existence of free will, yet in the midst of his own denial he reaffirms his belief in its existence: He calls society to account for its acts of calling criminals to account for their acts. If criminals do not have free will, if they are just pre-programmed machines who should not be held accountable for their actions, then society, which is just made up of a group of "pre-programmed biological machines" in Prof. Provine’s view, also has no free will. It is just a collection of machines that punish other machines. Why should Prof. Provine be angry at society? He is angry because he actually believes that society has the free will to change its ways. The idea that society has free will is nonsense, however, if his worldview of philosophical materialism is correct. He has no basis for being angry with society or with anyone, for that matter. The problem is not Prof. Provine or society or criminals. The problem is with the over-reach of science that has been inspired by philosophical materialism. Human behavior cannot be reduced to a complex set of mechanistic laws, and Prof. Provine instinctively knows this fact even though he dare not acknowledge it intellectually [Prof. Provine has a strange way of denying his own perceptions of his own free will. He discounts them as being illusions. The one area where he has the most and best data is in the area of his own thoughts, yet he is willing to write off those thoughts as illusions whenever they do not agree with his theories. If one is willing to reject disagreeable data as being illusory, then there is virtually no limit to the zany theories that one can develop and espouse about reality].

A related topic is the meaning of the words “scientific” and “unscientific.” These terms get thrown around by philosophical materialists in a way that wins arguments through a subtle use of intentional confusion. In one sense of the word, “scientific” means something that can be explained mechanistically and tested in a laboratory or field experiment. This is what I would call science with a small “s”. This is a good use of the term “scientific”. In another sense, “scientific” is a synonym for “real”, and “unscientific” is a synonym for “un-real” or for “it has no bearing on anything of importance in the physical world.” This is what I would call Science with a large “S.” "Science" becomes a religion in this use of the terms; it ceases to be the methodology that has given us computers, cell phones, airplanes, and space flight. The philosophical materialist will label an assertion that he doesn’t like as “unscientific.” That label will be true in the first sense of the word, in the sense that the assertion is not about a purely mechanistic phenomenon which can be tested in a laboratory. What the philosophical materialist wants, however, is for the hearer to interpret the meaning in the second sense, i.e., in the sense that the proposition has no significant bearing on reality. If one challenges the philosophical materialist about this implied second meaning, then he immediately retreats to the first definition of the term “unscientific” to prove the validity of his use of the label, but he always wants the hearer to persist in the confusion of the two definitions so that he can win acceptance of his unreasonable point.

The philosophical materialist will make the following protest: but science must be able to account for everything that impacts the material world; otherwise, science can explain nothing. This is a false dichotomy. It is only necessary that science be able to explain some of the important things that impact the material world in order for science to be a sensible pursuit. Science is not the all-or-nothing proposition that the philosophical materialist makes it out to be. It is possible that the electrons in the computer on which I type this paragraph respond according to definite physical laws while my mind and soul do not.

It is even possible that there exist both physical laws that can explain some of the material world and that there also exists a Deity who sometimes intervenes to perform miracles that run counter to those physical laws. The existence of understandable physical laws is a presumption of all religions that claim miraculous wonders as proof of the particular religion's correctness or that describe a Deity who makes pronouncements such as "Thou shalt ..." or "Thou shalt not ..." Miracles are impressive only if there exist a set of physical laws that the miracles obviously violate. Recipients of commandments can be held morally responsible only if they live in a world where they can make rational predictions about the effects of their actions based on understood physical principles. Otherwise, a religious person could point a gun at some enemy, pull the trigger, pray for the bullet to turn sideways after it leaves the barrel, and feel no sense of moral culpability when the Deity fails to answer the prayer and the bullet kills the enemy.

Another protest of the philosophical materialist is: If science cannot explain all that has a significant impact on the material world, then how can one know what is and what is not a reasonable field for scientific inquiry? This is a reasonable question. The answer is the following: one cannot know until one has tried and, through trying, has achieved success in showing that the phenomena are explainable in terms of mechanistic principles. This demonstration often must include the ability to predict new phenomena that have never been observed or even imagined.

This onus to prove its ability to tread on new ground will be good for science. It will restore to science the humility that it needs. It will make researchers cautious about working in areas that are likely to prove fruitless, which is always a good type of caution to have -- remember the alchemists, and it will force a researcher to make a very strong case for any new scientific theory that he or she proposes.

In case anyone is in doubt of the proposition that science cannot explain all of the material world, consider the big bang. The singularity that started the big bang is the single most important physical event that has impacted the form of our universe. Yet, science cannot say anything about what led up to this event. In fact, science cannot even say anything sensible about what happened during the first few picoseconds or nanoseconds or so after the singularity. Therefore, science is known to have at least one limit. Given the nonsense that can result when other limits are not recognized -- e.g., Prof. Provine's condemnation of condemnation, which is discussed above -- it is self-evident that science has additional limits.

If we adopt this view, then macro-evolution is unsupportable based on current knowledge. The most significant support that macro-evolution has at the moment is the philosophical materialists' presumption. The Darwinists have no provable explanation for how the first cell began from non-life. They have no provable explanation for how all the species supposedly descended from a single cell. All they have is the knowledge that there once was no life and that there now is life. If we presume that science must explain everything, then there must exist some purely naturalistic explanation for the development of life and of the species, even if we don't know what it is. If we return to the classical assumption that science need not explain everything, then we have no reason to believe in the existence of a purely naturalistic explanation for life. It may or may not exist, but we are not forced to assume that it exists even when there is no proof.)

The United States, it is worth noting, where church and state are most rigorously separated, is also the country where churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship flourish, where a healthy pluralism predominates, and where everyone is free to worship as he or she chooses.

I am convinced that the political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools is serious enough to require our collective time and attention. Cornell’s history, its intellectual scope, and its current commitments position us well to contribute to the national debate on religion and science.

(MLP: Cornell has been at the forefront of injecting the religious viewpoint known as philosophical materialism into state policy and our schools through the teaching of macro-evolution as an established fact when it is a shaky theory. It seems plausible that this speech is motivated by a fear that this establishment of Cornell's preferred religion will end.)

As you know, Cornell is in the midst of a major investment in the new life sciences, the physical sciences, and computing and information sciences, and also in issues surrounding sustainability. These priorities have come out of a sustained academic planning process with strong involvement of the faculty and academic deans. Along with a focus on student aid and diversity, faculty recruitment and retention, they will figure prominently in the capital campaign, which in its quiet phase is already moving forward with great momentum. Yet I want to suggest that ultimately our efforts to position Cornell as the leading academic citizen of an interconnected world will fall short of their potential if we neglect the background conditions that have put rational thought under attack.

(MLP: An easy way to stop the attack on the rational thought of the ID folks is to stop making speeches like this one.)


Modern research universities have become segmented. We have scientists over here, humanists and social scientists over there. Knowledge is divided into ever-smaller categories; our specialization becomes ever more narrow.

I believe it is time to put the disparate parts of the modern research university back together. We have at Cornell philosophers expert at making fine distinctions and careful definitions. We have scholars of literature who have made the close reading of texts their life’s work. We have historians and scholars of American Studies who can identify and explicate the antecedents of the current controversy. We have economists, sociologists, political scientists and others adept at exploring linkages among science, religion and public policy and their relationship to broad societal themes like privilege, poverty, and inequality.

(MLP: Here I am, a rocket scientist, trying to comment on the problematic science and philosophy of the Darwinists' macro-evolutionary hypothesis. I can almost hear the cries against me that will say that I am not worthy of getting a hearing in this debate because I am outside of biology. I predict that Cornell will largely ignore the inconsistency between the foregoing paragraph and the University's likely dismissal of my arguments without even considering their merit.)

An Engineer's Look At Biological Design

This is pretty good. Darwinian evolution only seems compelling if you ignore an awful lot of nitty-gritty details. It makes me wonder whether Darwinists are even qualified to pontificate about the designs of biology. They aren't engineers, after all.

Related to the above article are these thoughts from Bill Dembski (extracted from an interesting and much longer article):

On October 11, 2003, the Talk Reason website posted an article by Nicholas Matzke titled "Evolution in (Brownian) Space: A Model for the Origin of the Bacterial Flagellum" ( Talk Reason advertises itself as a website that "presents a collection of articles which aim to defend genuine science from numerous attempts by the new crop of creationists to replace it with theistic pseudo-science under various disguises and names." The most obvious target here is intelligent design. Indeed, Matzke's article attempts to rebut one of the main challenges that intelligent design has raised against Darwinian evolution, namely, how to explain the emergence of irreducibly complex biochemical machines like the bacterial flagellum.


So has Matzke in fact filled in the gaps that intelligent design claims are insurmountable for the Darwinian selection mechanism?


To see that Matzke's proposed evolutionary model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum is deeply flawed, I want to grant Matzke most of the actual biology he cites and focus instead on the logic by which he arrives at his conclusions. Matzke, as is evident from his Internet postings as well as from the article under consideration here, has a tendency to overwhelm with citations to the biological literature. Indeed, one of my colleagues in the ID community refers to him as a "PubMed junkie." Yet when it comes to putting arguments in his own words and rigorously following through a train of thought, Matzke is decidedly less in his element. Let's therefore focus on the logic and structure of his argument.

For starters, let's do some simple bookkeeping. My print-out of Matzke's essay weighs in at 58 pages single-spaced. Of these, 13 pages are devoted to references. Another 14 pages are devoted to figures. That leaves 32 pages for his actual argument. Of these, 3 pages are devoted to concluding remarks reviewing and plugging his model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum. In addition, the first 10 pages of the essay are stage-setting, describing past research that attempts to get a handle on the flagellum and its origin. Thus only 20 pages of the article are in fact devoted to Matzke's actual model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum.

Why are these page numbers significant? They are significant as a reality check. The bacterial flagellum is a marvel of nano-engineering. As Matzke himself admits, thousands of research articles have been written about it, many of them trying simply to discover the role and function of its various components. Howard Berg describes the bacterial flagellum as "the most efficient machine in the universe." If a biotech engineering firm were required to draw up blueprints and design specifications for the construction of the bacterial flagellum, it would require thousands of pages (especially if the individual proteins that go into the construction of the flagellum had to be fully specified in terms of their structures, functions, and properties). And yet, somehow, with the Darwinian mechanism in hand, all that design work can be passed over. A "detailed, testable, step-by-step" engineering approach to the construction of the bacterial flagellum would require thousands of pages, and yet a "detailed, testable, step-by-step" Darwinian approach to the construction of the bacterial flagellum requires only 20 pages. On its face, there's something funny going on here.

[lots more good stuff follows]

Well, obviously, the writings of Dembski and the engineer's post referenced above may be dismissed out of hand. They are obviously the ravings of biblical fundamentalists who are trying to establish a theocracy. And we have separation of church and state in this country.

If Bush Weren't Such A Mediocrity

He would give this speech (BTW, he might be a mediocrity, but at least he's our mediocrity. It sure beats the treason and surrender on offer by his opponents).


President Bush and Vice President Cheney are arguing against critics of the Iraq war who are trying to rewrite history. There is some value in this, but it is a fight about the past and not about the future.

What most Americans care about is not who is lying but whether we are winning. I offer this speech that the president might use to tell Americans that we are winning:

My fellow Americans: We are winning, and winning decisively, in Iraq and the Middle East. We defeated Saddam Hussein's army in just a few weeks. None of the disasters that many feared would follow our invasion occurred. Our troops did not have to fight door to door to take Baghdad. The Iraqi oil fields were not set on fire. There was no civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. There was no grave humanitarian crisis.

Saddam Hussein was captured and is awaiting trial. His two murderous sons are dead. Most of the leading members of Saddam's regime have been captured or killed. After our easy military victory, we found ourselves inadequately prepared to defeat the terrorist insurgents, but now we are prevailing.

Iraq has held free elections in which millions of people voted. A new, democratic constitution has been adopted that contains an extensive bill of rights. Discrimination on the basis of sex, religion or politics is banned. Soon the Iraqis will be electing their first parliament.

An independent judiciary exists, almost all public schools are open, every hospital is functioning, and oil sales have increased sharply. In most parts of the country, people move about freely and safely.

According to surveys, Iraqis are overwhelmingly opposed to the use of violence to achieve political ends, and the great majority believe that their lives will improve in the future. The Iraqi economy is growing very rapidly, much more rapidly than the inflation rate.

In some places, the terrorists who lost the war are now fighting back by killing Iraqi civilians. Some brave American soldiers have also been killed, but most of the attacks are directed at decent, honest Iraqis. This is not a civil war; it is terrorism gone mad.

And the terrorists have failed. They could not stop free elections. They could not prevent Iraqi leaders from taking office. They could not close the schools or hospitals. They could not prevent the emergence of a vigorous free press that now involves over 170 newspapers that represent every shade of opinion.

Terrorist leaders such as Zarqawi have lost. Most Sunni leaders, whom Zarqawi was hoping to mobilize, have rejected his call to defeat any constitution. The Muslims in his hometown in Jordan have denounced him. Despite his murderous efforts, candidates representing every legitimate point of view and every ethnic background are competing for office in the new Iraqi government.

The progress of democracy and reconstruction has occurred faster in Iraq than it did in Germany 60 years ago, even though we have far fewer troops in the Middle East than we had in Germany after Hitler was defeated.

We grieve deeply over every lost American and coalition soldier, but we also recognize what those deaths have accomplished. A nation the size of California, with 25 million inhabitants, has been freed from tyranny, equipped with a new democratic constitution, and provided with a growing new infrastructure that will help every Iraqi and not just the privileged members of a brutal regime. For every American soldier who died, 12,000 Iraqi voters were made into effective citizens.

Virtually every American soldier who writes home or comes back to visit his family tells the same story: We have won, Iraqis have won, and life in most of Iraq goes on without violence and with obvious affection between the Iraqi people and our troops. These soldiers have not just restored order in most places, they have built schools, aided businesses, distributed aid and made friends.

To take their places, Iraq has trained, with American and NATO assistance, tens of thousands of new troops and police officers. In the last election, there were more Iraqi soldiers than American ones guarding the polling places.


[W]e are winning. Soon Iraqi forces will be able to maintain order in the few hot spots that still exist in Iraq. We will stay the course until they are ready. We made no mistake ending Saddam's rule. We have brought not only freedom to Iraq, but progress to most of the Middle East. America should be proud of what it has accomplished. America will not cut and run until the Iraqis can manage their own security, and that will happen soon.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Clean Reasoning

Here. Oh, what will people do with themselves when the abominable Roe v. Wade decision is overturned, the decision is given back to the people's elected representatives, and nothing much changes? What will our national politics be about, then? It's all so unthinkable. What were elections and court appointments for before Roe v. Wade?


At bottom, Roe raises two questions, one substantive, the other jurisdictional, and they should be taken in that order. Note first, however, that the substantive question arising in Roe is very different from the one at issue in Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 decision on which, many believe, Roe rests. Griswold challenged a state statute prohibiting the sale and use of contraceptives. Thus, the statute could not be said credibly to be defending the rights of anyone; on the contrary, it ran afoul of rights. By contrast, the statute at issue in Roe was designed precisely to protect rights, the putative rights of the unborn. And so the basic substantive question was clear: When does the right to life begin?

On that question, the Constitution is indeed silent--mostly. Here's why. We would all agree, I hope, that if a doctor took the life of a baby one day after birth, it would be infanticide--murder. Thus, states that protected older babies but not younger ones would doubtless be subject to equal protection challenges, at least, and would probably lose. But if taking the life of a baby one day after birth is murder, what is the difference if the act is performed one day before birth? It strains credulity to suppose there is any real difference. Well, what of two days before birth--and so on down the line? It's impossible to draw a principled line at which to say, precisely, that this is where the right to life begins. The court's trimester taxonomy in Roe was its own invention, entitled to no more constitutional support than anyone else's opinion on the matter.

And so we come to the jurisdictional question: Who decides? And on that the Constitution is not silent. Whether we believe that the right to life begins at conception or at some point over the next 270 days, we all believe, I hope, that it begins at some point along that line. We all agree, that is, that there is some point at which abortion amounts to murder. We just can't agree about where that point is. And so we're faced with a classic line-drawing problem, not unknown in other areas of the law, but here involving the criminal law and, therefore, the general police power--the power that belongs, under the Constitution, to states.

We come, then, to the heart of the matter. Just as states draw lines differently between murder and manslaughter, so too they should be expected to do so here. In fact, they were doing so when Roe was decided 32 years ago. If ever there were a case in which the court should have let the political process unfold naturally, this was it. Were the court to have done so, we would not have had over three decades of endless political and legal turmoil over this one decision, turmoil that has skewed and even poisoned every confirmation battle since. Indeed, no less than Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a similar point in her 1993 Madison Lecture at the New York University School of Law, two months before she was nominated for the high court. A more "measured" opinion, she said, might have spared the nation this pain.

It would not be the end of the world, therefore, if the court were one day to overturn Roe, for the issue would simply return to the states. A conservative state like Utah might prohibit most abortions, but next door in Nevada we might see a liberal regime. On an issue about which reasonable people can have reasonable differences, that result should not surprise.

Judge Alito, however, does not and should not have to say even this much in his upcoming confirmation hearings. Those who insist on his saying more are largely the same people who insisted on the court's deciding this issue in the first place. They politicized the court then. They should not be allowed to do it again.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On The Deck

Some cool flying-fighter-jets-just-above-the-surf footage here. Soundtrack by Nirvana.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Over The River And Through The Woods

I'm hitting the road for a nice family Thanksgiving. I'll be back blogging on Monday, November 28. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Toil And Trouble

The housing bubble, summarized (also be sure to click through to the underlying article referenced in the post; there's a very good analysis of all the factors feeding the bubble):

Peter Schiff has put together a complete examination of the housing bubble and the players involved, titled 'With Real Estate, This Time it Really is Different.' Highlights; "It is not without coincidence that the speculative fever born in the stock market mania seamlessly found new life in real estate. However, were it not for the irresponsible actions and omissions of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Government, Wall Street, and the mortgage industry itself, such speculation never could have produced the unprecedented national bubble just experienced."

"The speculative mentality that has enveloped homebuyers has so clouded their judgments that they will pay any price for real estate, which is not only seen as a 'can’t lose' investment, but thanks to incredible leverage, the equivalent of a 'ticket to easy street.' With houses now regarded as sources of income rather then expenses, many people see no cost to homeownership."

"The unbridled speculative fever that has turned everyday citizens into river boat gamblers has created an artificial property shortage, as speculators buy properties they have no intention of living in, and for which no viable rental market exists. The concepts of rental income and positive cash flow are now as passé as earnings and dividend yields were during the tech bubble. Negative cash flows, easily offset through cash-out refinancing, are regarded as acceptable trade offs for price appreciation. No one even questions why a property that is already so over-priced that it produces a negative cash flow would appreciate in the first place."

"If owning one house is a good investment, then owning two must be an even better one. Rising real estate prices are self-perpetuating, as increased home equity gives homeowners the ability to afford more property, putting added upward pressure on prices and creating additional equity with which to bid them even higher."

"In the final analysis the temporary factors artificially elevating real estate prices will subside. Once the trend reverses, falling prices will purge speculative demand from the market. Once speculators become sellers, supply will overwhelm demand. As lenders see housing prices fall and inventories rise, increased default risk will result in tighter lending standards, restricting access to mortgage credit. As more mortgages go into default, the secondary market for mortgage backed securities will dry up as well. This will act as a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle."

"The housing mania, like all manias that have preceded it, is finally coming to a long overdue end. Time tested principles of prudent mortgage lending will inevitability return, and houses will once again be regarded merely as places to live. However, the country will be a lot poorer as a result of the unprecedented dissipation of wealth and accumulation of consumer and mortgage debt which occurred during the bubble years. Before real estate prices can return to normal levels, they will first have to get dirt cheap."

Is There Anything Lileks Can't Do?

Here he is being interviewed on-air by Hewitt:

HH: I'm joined now by James Lileks. He is a columnist extraordinaire for the Newhouse News Service, Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the most widely read internet sites in America,, author of many such books. And today, not a funny guy, though he normally is. James, what do you make of this week?

JL: I've had it with a lot of them. And if this wasn't serious, I'd be sitting back laughing. But it's not something to laugh about. What we have here is every single cliche that the left has been hammering into a sheet of tin since the beginning, made true. 1. Quagmire. We actually have a quagmire now, except it's a political quagmire of will. 2. We have the brual Afghan winter, except it's manifesting itself here as a brain freeze in the Senate, which appears to be a collection of the most obsequious, boozebags, clucksers and well-oiled weather vanes that we've ever seen leading this country. You can even throw in a plastic turkey, because that's pretty much what they've shown themselves to be. What is astonishing about this is that the people who are responsible, and who have their hands on the lever of power, have chosen this moment in history to reveal themselves as being incapable of understanding A) what happened, B) what is happening now, and C) what will happen if they continue on their course of action. In other words, they misunderstand the past, the present, and the future. It's astonishing.

HH: Let's talk about each of those. What have they forgotten?

JL: Well first of all, this preposterous argument that we've been going on for the last God knows how long about Iraq and al Qaeda and 9/11, and that whole context, has been completely forgotten. If you read the papers and you listen to Harry Reid bleating about the fact that the president had the audacity to strike back at what the people saying...the entire Democratic Party seems to believe that the nation of Iraq was formed out of whole cloth and imagination in 2003, for the sole purpose of having an invasion, so we could go over there and fail. That seems to be it. They've forgotten entirely what their party and everything in the media who had access to a newspaper knew about Iraq in the 90's. All right? So to completely obliterate that context is not only an act of astonishing stupidity, it is dangerous. It's stands up in the context of saying it completely ignores what we went through in the 90's, and what we were facing after 9/11. There's a piece that Powerline linked to today. It's an interview with an Iraqi arms inspector, and I think in Front Page Mag. And it's just...gruesome detail about what was going on, and the way that they were shifting their stuff around, and what we knew about their capabilities. And to have that argument at this point is just stunning.

HH: Now James, you may have noticed, I've interviewed a few Republicans over the years, and I'm kind of in favor of Republicans running the Senate.

JL: Right.

HH: And as a result, when Senator Frist wakes up this morning, and says the number one priority in January is asbestos litigation, it knocks me backwards.

JL: They need it. They need asbestos litigation, so that they can pack it in their jackets to make sure they don't catch on fire, from what I presume will be a base that like me, is throwing up their hands and saying what's the point? You're right. When you talk about Republicans, look at Norm Coleman from our state. Now Norm Coleman has done some good stuff with the George Galloway hearings. Bravo for him. But I don't get this whole approach now...hi, I'm Norm Coleman. I don't want to drill in ANWAR, and I'm in favor of kneecapping the effort in Iraq. That's why I'm a Republican. It doesn't fit.


HH: Let's talk briefly about Representative Murtha, and his comments about Dick Cheney's deferments. To me, it's a low blow like none other, and that the veterans and the parents of military out there, are far more ballistic than I am. Why does that cross a line, James Lileks?

JL: For a variety of reasons. Again, it's the same sneering, petty, minute little gotcha line you get in the comments of the blogs, when somebody drags up a chicken hawk epithet. It's the notion somehow that you have to serve in order to have an opinion about this, and that the entire position of Cheney et al, Bush et al, is intellectually indefensible, because they didn't serve. If that's the case, then fine. We'll revert to some sort of military leadership, where only people who have served and picked up a gun are able to go and serve in the Senate, and have a say over these matters. Is that the America you want? I don't think so. But let's just see the Bush administration propose a bill where suffrage is now extended only to veterans, and see exactly how far that gets them.

HH: Is it a crossroads moment? Or am I overestimating the significance?

JL: You are not overestimating it. And I've been holding my fire about this, this week, and tamping it down, but then every day, and a day like this, where I hear a speech when they're actually talking about what? About setting a timetable, and then saying we're going to have a rapid response strike force to respond exactly to what? We have them there, on the ground, right now, to accomplish the goal, which is establishing in the Middle East, a bastion from which we can continue to project a value that is more consistent with the safety of America and the region. Duh! And if I', a guy living here in Minnesota, born and raised on the planet North Dakota, reading the newspapers and the blogs, and trolling the internet like everybody else can see that as a fairly good thing to have, I don't know why, exactly, that escapes the people we've nominated into office.

Contempt For Traitors

A blogger named WunderKraut has a nice post up. I also like his tagline: "If there's one thing you can't stand, it's people who aren't firm in their convictions. At least you're pretty sure you can't stand that. Whatever."

Anyway here's an excerpt from the post:

Those that demand a timetable or a date for withdrawl are naive beyond belief. We should stay in Iraq as long as it takes. As long as it takes for what? I do not know, but I hope that our military leaders have a thought about when they would feel secure leaving the country to the Iraqi people. If they do, they need to keep that quiet. Our enemy is just waiting, WAITING for us to quit. If we announce that our goal before leaving will be to have half the number of “insurgent” attacks per month then what we are experiencing now, then guess what? The “insurgent” attacks will miraculously fall off the radar. Why? Their goal is to see us fail and to see us leave Iraq so that they can have their way with the country. If they know that if certain goals/benchmarks are met then we will leave, they will do everything in their power to make those goals/benchmarks attainable. They can be patient if they need to be.

We need to stay as long as it takes. If that means only 6 months more, then great. But whatever the time is, we SHOULD NOT broadcast that to our enemies. If we do, it will be amazing to see the level of peace coming from Iraq. It will be only a temporary peace though as the moment we leave, the attacks will escalate and reach a level of violence unknown today.

I am sorry that this war is unpopular, what ever that means. It was and is a necessary war. Wars do not need to be run on a popularity basis. Our press is actively against us in this fight. Do not believe me? Then fine, prove me wrong. You will not be able to do it, but you can try. Our press and an entire political party want us to fail. Oh don’t get me wrong, they will claim that they support the troops, but really, how can you support them while at the same time calling for them to turn tail and run? But that is the point. The Left claims they support the troops BECAUSE they want them home and out of harms way. I doubt that our men and women in uniform feel that way. I wonder if Gallop did a poll of our service personnel in Iraq what the results would be. I am betting the farm that the overwhelming majority of those polled would say that there have been problems with the prosecution of the war but that it has been worth it and that we need to stay until the job is completed. If that is how our troops feel, then how can the Left say they support our troops by calling for their return home?

The Left betrayed an entire generation of fighting men in the 1960’s and 70’s. Their insistence on bringing home the troops from another unpopular war cost hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people their lives and set into motion the modern terrorism that we face every day. The U.S. took one on the chin and the shock waves are still being felt. Make no bones about it, the Left betrayed our men. The 60,000 dead were for NOTHING. NOTHING at all. The only thing their blood purchased was a few more years for South Vietnam. Yet the Left still looks back to those days with great fondness. Aren’t you ashamed that you helped kill hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese? Aren’t you ashamed that people are still enslaved in a backwards communist country? No, you aren’t because you are proud that you took a stand. You took a stand with the enemies of the United States. You pissed away the blood of 60,000 men.

I have nothing but contempt for you. You are traitors to the United States of America. You stabbed in the back the men who were fighting and dieing for freedom of an oppressed people. And yet, you are proud.

Today you say the same things. You look at the camera and tell bald faced lies about the President. You said we should take Saddam out. You had the same intelligence the President had. You voted for the war. But now you claim you are such pussies that you can not be held responsible for your vote. BS. You are nothing but political chameleons. Changing colors when the wind changes. You count on the American people having the attention span of a gnat. But I remember. I remember 1998 when Clinton stood up and talked tough about Saddam. I remember when you stood up and agreed with him and said Saddam was a threat and that he had WMD’s. Was Clinton misleading you? Or if he had actually done something to Iraq and it lasted longer than you thought it should or we lost more men than anticipated, would you have accused him of misleading you?

The Left today is using our men and women in uniform like pawns, much like their predecessors did in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You want a political victory. You smell blood in the water. Bush is floundering and you can taste victory. The nail in the coffin would be to demand that our troops come home now and have them leave before the job was finished. You have now done that. You have placed a political victory above the lives of our men and women and above the lives of the Iraqis. There are so many things wrong with winning that way.

Have you no shame? Do you not see what will happen if we tuck our tail and run? I will tell you what will happen...

(H/T Ace Of Spades)

New Press Secretary, And A Unique Stable Of Fox Reporters

This is pretty amusing, as is this.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Lileks On Paris



If the end result of the riots is more autonomy, the suburbs of Paris will be a foreign country, a shard of irredentist Islam in the heart of Europe. If they have portraits of Napoleon on the wall, it’ll be to show the correct way to hide the hand that triggers the bomb belt.

So the rioters will not be bought off with job training. They know they have a brie-spined enemy, filled with doubt. Chirac, after all, spoke of a national “crisis of meaning, a crisis of identity.” Hardly a call to the barricades, especially when ordinary Frenchmen are thinking about a crisis of flaming cars. He also used the deadly word “malaise” to describe the French mood, and if history is any judge this means that Ronald Reagan will be elected President in a landslide.

Unfortunately, he is unavailable for the task. Too bad for Europe. Their modern vision – a post-national multiethnic welfare state linked by nothing but the language in which people curse one another – is fatally flawed. The rioters can’t be dispelled with Brussels-based regulations specifying the number of cars one can burn per night. But the ruling class will accept no alternatives, brook no heresies. The revolutions of ’68 brought to power the romantic leftists who despised the old order, its sense of tradition, its bourgeois values, its confident (if unexamined) sense of cultural coherence. They built a new order based on dorm-room bong-fest ideas, and now they face the future unmanned. They can’t even revert to the hypernationalist models of the 30s, either - Le Pen only drew 300 people at a recent rally. Fascism is too much work these days. Even for the old pros.

Oh, we’ll always have Paris. But don’t think some angry lads aren’t looking from their ghettos at the Eiffel Tower, and thinking what an excellent minaret it would make.

Simple Common Sense

Good paragraph from this market analysis post:

Only five years ago, Sun Microsystems Scott McNealey told BusinessWeek,

"....two years ago we were selling at 10 times revenues when we were at $64. At 10 times revenues, to give you a 10-year payback, I have to pay you 100% of revenues for 10 straight years in dividends. That assumes I can get that by my shareholders. That assumes I have zero cost of goods sold, which is very hard for a computer company. That assumes zero expenses, which is really hard with 39,000 employees. That assumes I pay no taxes, which is very hard. And that assumes you pay no taxes on your dividends, which is kind of illegal. And that assumes with zero R&D for the next 10 years, I can maintain the current revenue run rate. Now, having done that, would any of you like to buy my stock at $64? Do you realize how ridiculous those basic assumptions are? You don't need any transparency. You don't need any footnotes. What were you thinking?"

SUNW now trades at 1.2 sales, down 91% from McNealy's very pertinent thoughts. Although SUNW is not a semiconductor stock, McNealy's points remain valid for any issue, tech, internet, semi, any issue at all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bravura Commentary On The ID/Evolution Debate

James Bowman in The New Criterion.


“I must say that Mr. McVay flatters us beyond our desserts.” The spelling mistake, which is presumably owing to a transcription error by the Post’s reporter, Michael Powell, makes the irony fall a little flat, but the self-righteousness still shines through. The spokesman, Eugenie Scott, was defending her organization against charges that it had conducted a smear campaign against a Smithsonian scientist, Richard Sternberg, who had been responsible for the publication of an article making the case for “Intelligent Design” in a journal he edited called Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Though a highly regarded evolutionary biologist himself, Dr. Sternberg had effectively been driven from his post by the virulence of the reaction from “the scientific community.” Dr. Scott, denying any wrongdoing, was essentially saying that Dr. Sternberg only got his own just deserts. “If this was a corporation, and an employee did something that really embarrassed the administration, really blew it, how long do you think that person would be employed?”

About Intelligent Design—which basically acknowledges the existence of evolutionary processes in their broad outlines while questioning the Darwinian account of them and purporting to find in them evidence of divine ordering and direction—I confess that I am rather a skeptic myself. I have been an unthinking, blind-faith Darwinist since tenth-grade biology and always inclined, like other expensively educated people, to look down my nose at socially unevolved anti-Darwinists as at best monomaniac autodidacts and at worst what Al Gore once called “the extra-chromosome right.”


[C]ontrarian that I am, I don’t seem to be able to keep myself from sympathy for those who find themselves in the bull’s eye of the media culture, no matter how unsympathetic I might otherwise find them—and from growing more and more sympathetic to them the more they are hated and reviled. The Intelligent Design people are thus beginning to look to me a bit like President George W. Bush, who has been so viciously and so unfairly execrated for so long by the sort of right-thinking media-and-entertainment types who consider Maureen Dowd a wit that I now regularly have to stifle the urge to cry him up as the greatest president since Lincoln. And he, I started out thinking, was at least a decent sort of guy. Lately I have had to clasp to my bosom such relatively unlovely media-butts as Karl Rove and Tom DeLay, men of whom I might in other circumstances be inclined to be rather critical. But I tell myself that I can’t go so very wrong by continuing to love those whom the media hate and hate those whom the media love.


As we noticed in the media’s coverage of Pope John Paul II’s funeral and the election of his successor last spring (see “Marketplace Morality” in The New Criterion of May 2005), what the Church has believed for centuries—sometimes even what has been believed semper, ubique, ab omnibus—is now regularly regarded as “extremist” in the media. Thus, too, I find my rash urge to leap to the defense of the Intelligent Design people unembarrassed by the necessity to read up on evolutionary biology on account of the vitriol of the Darwinian attacks. It is quite enough, it seems, for me to say that I wish to keep an open mind on the matter in order to get myself branded as “anti-science” along with Dr. Sternberg and the author of the offending article, Stephen C. Meyer, who is director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Funny, but almost the only thing besides veneration for Darwin that I remember from tenth-grade biology is that open-mindedness was once thought to be the quintessence of science and precisely what distinguished it from religion. Presumably the ever-onward march of progress and liberalization has rendered that notion obsolete as well. The next thing you know, they will be promulgating a Darwinian version of the Nicene Creed to be recited by young scientists every day as they don their lab coats and fire up their Bunsen burners.

In a sense, of course, they are right. Religion is anti-science insofar as its raison d’ĂȘtre is to answer a quite different set of questions from the scientific ones. Science looks at the world and asks: how does it work? Religion looks at the world and asks: what is it for? Confusion arises because, historically, religion has dabbled in answers to the scientific question as well as its own, just as science has occasionally dabbled in attempts to answer the religious one. Though each seems to me to be outside its own area of competence when it does so, going out of area is to some extent inevitable. On the one side, the idea of a Creator God is central to religion, and it is not always easy to keep questions of what we were created for separate from those concerning the mechanisms by which we came to be. It is almost impossible, in fact, for tool-making animals not to think of Creation without some such mental pictures as Genesis provides of the Creator at work, setting things in motion. On the other side, once religion and religious assumptions have been cast aside, what succeeds them is almost invariably some form of sentimentality—desert gives way to dessert—which finds it equally impossible not to suppose that the purpose of human life is to be nice and helpful to everybody. Or at any rate everybody who is not self-condemned to contumely and derision (or worse) by his stubborn adherence to an obsolete system of belief in a Creator God.

Hence the odium theologicum of the scientific attacks on religious belief even where it doesn’t seek to trespass on scientific territory. When The New York Times did a surprisingly—though obviously not whole-heartedly—sympathetic series of articles on Intelligent Design in August, you couldn’t help noticing this in the comments of some of the scientists quoted. Professor Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from the University of Texas, said, “I think one of the great historical contributions of science is to weaken the hold of religion. That’s a good thing.” Another Nobel laureate and the co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, says that “one of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural.” Why are such scientists enthusiastic cheerleaders for the pointlessness of the natural machine that so fascinates them, and for the non-existence of anything outside it which might give it meaning? Well, it’s hard to believe, but I think it’s because, brainiacs though they obviously are in every other way, theologically they are on the level of the late John Lennon. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” wrote the ex-Beatle,

It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today …

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace …

It’s really the most basic logical mistake, um, imaginable. Because people have quite often cited religion as a reason for killing other people—and the other people for killing them—if you take religion away from them they won’t kill each other anymore. Put so baldly, the proposition could only be believed by a child, but scientists very often are child-like—as, of course, Lennon was. They are also often deficient in historical knowledge and may have missed the last century when the great atheistic faiths of Communism and Nazism killed far more people than religion had ever managed to do in a comparable period of time. It’s not religion which leads to violence but violence which leads to religion—as well as to honor and glory and hopes of a better world among other attempts to explain to ourselves why we do the brutal things we so often do. Violence and brutality are constants of the human condition, and the more violent and brutal they are the more powerfully are we driven to magnificence in the sorts of pretexts we use to justify them. But the fact that religion, or anything else, may be used to excuse violence tells us nothing at all about the validity of the religion concerned. Truly is it written that “by their fruits ye shall know them,” for throughout Christian history, at any rate, those most conspicuous for their beliefs have been not the violent ones but the holy ones.


One of the latest bits of evidence seized upon by the anti-theocratic crusaders has been the claim by a former Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Shaath, in a BBC documentary that he heard President Bush say that God told him to attack Iraq. Though denied by Bush’s spokesmen and by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who was also present on the occasion when the remark was allegedly made, that didn’t prevent it from being catnip to the likes of Mark Lawson of The Guardian, who wrote:

Throughout his five years in office, Bush has sustained a simple old Sunday-school world view in which external evil threatens American interests and is then met by force which believes it has God on its side. The fact that the perceived aggressors (Bin Laden, Saddam) also feel divinely justified is no more of an obstacle to this belief system than it has been for the religious throughout history.

Hurricane Katrina, though, severely challenges this exegesis. What can a president of such simple religious faith have made of the devastation of America by what insurance policies call an act of God? Whereas even an event as terrible as 9/11 could be sustaining and confirmational for someone of Bush’s apparent Manichean convictions, a sudden drowning of the chosen invites only agonized study of the Book of Job. This affront to Bush’s relationship with God may explain his public bewilderment during the weather crisis.

Well, maybe. Maybe. But it is just worth pointing out the historical illiteracy involved in referring to Christian belief of any kind as amounting to “Manichean convictions.” Manicheanism, it will be remembered, was a heresy the discrediting of which in the early Christian centuries was one of the defining moments in the evolution—you should pardon the expression—of Christian belief, though it has never been entirely vanquished. Among its tenets, the principal and long-remembered one (half-remembered even by Mr. Lawson) divided all creation into light and dark, good and evil, a division which, in turn, pre-supposed the existence of not one but two gods, one having created the good while the other created the evil. If that’s Manicheanism, does it sound to you more like Christianity as we know it today, even in some hypothetically “theocratic” version, or the media consensus that all the world’s ills derive from George W. Bush?

Meanwhile, in the land of The Guardian, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding has called for the banning of the English national flag, which is the cross of St. George, on the grounds that its having been carried into battle by Crusaders in the eleventh century makes it offensive to Muslims. As our own Mark Steyn wrote in the Daily Telegraph

Why is George W. Bush’s utterly unremarkable evangelical Christianity so self-evidently risible but complaints from British Muslims hung up over the 11th century are perfectly reasonable and something we should seek to accommodate? Where is the secular Left’s “insensitivity” when you need it? No doubt the bien pensants will still be hooting at born-again Texans on the day the House of Lords gives a second reading to the Sharia Bill.