Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Darned Amusing

This is excellent. A talented vocal trio does a hilarious song about "Geek Love". (Via Ace Of Spades).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Outstanding Jesse Jackson Impersonation

A link to video of an outstanding Jesse Jackson impersonation (other Democrats also spoofed) can be found here. The dessert cart rolls on!

Hold Your Fire

Mike Adams:

One hate male writer said she couldn’t take me seriously because I am a hunter. That brings me to my next point about feminists.

11. When faced with uncertainty, feminists have less self-control than hunters.


Once when I was deer-hunting in Ivanhoe, North Carolina, I saw something moving in the brush about 100 yards away. It was foggy outside and I was looking through a 4 X 32 scope mounted on a Marlin 30-30. I never take a shot over 100 yards with that little brush gun. And I never shoot at anything unless I know exactly what is out there.

That day I got to thinking about the feminist approach to abortion. Feminists often justify abortion by saying that the procedure is no different than picking a scab. That’s when I start asking questions.

I often ask feminists about a film I saw of a fetus in the so-called “first trimester” of development. The baby (sorry, that is my opinion) was yawning, rubbing its eyes, and even rolling around and playing in the womb. I like to ask feminists whether they have ever seen a scab yawn.

When I press them on the issue, they seldom admit that the fetus is a person. But they seldom state unequivocally that it is not. They usually say they “don’t know for sure.” And they say that I “don’t know for sure” either.

That really epitomizes our differences. When I know it is a deer in the brush, I pull the trigger. When I know it is a human, I hold my fire. When I don’t know, I also hold my fire.

The feminist who “doesn’t know” whether it is a person, has the abortion anyway. She just pulls the trigger. That really says it all, doesn’t it?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Succinctly Stated

From this comment section:

ID is a lot more than “intelligence of the gaps.” It is an argument from effect to cause:

“Based on our uniform experience, we know of only one type of cause that produces irreducibly complex systems: intelligence. Whenever we encounter complex systems - whether integrated circuits or internal combustion engines - and we know how they arose, invariably a designing intelligence played a role.”

It is, rather, Darwinism that has a “gaps” problem, for it supposes that a cause (random mutation and natural selection) can produce an effect (irreducible complexity) when no such causal relationship has ever been observed.

ID makes the inference that, since the cases of irreducible complexity for which we know the cause are always due to intelligence, it is reasonable to conclude that irreducible complexity for which the cause is unobserved is due to intelligence. Where there is smoke there is fire.

Cheers,
Dave T.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jon Stewart On Democrat Lunacy

This 4 minute video snippet is quite amusing. (H/T The Anchoress)

The Symptom Of A Death Wish

Excerpt from this piece:

Abortion is a symptom of a corrupted liberalism. Liberal visions formerly had some nobility, however wrongheaded the ideology may have been when taken as a whole. But even their limited virtue has been obliterated by the insistence that we must be allowed to murder our progeny to create a better world for them.

This contradiction arises because liberalism is a dying faith. All the various liberal catechisms that were formed in the Western world were attempts to fill the vacancy left by a receding Christianity. They attempted to solve the problem of sin, each promising that if we followed their social program, the wrongs of the world would be removed.

But wickedness has not been so easily vanquished, and thus the West has become ever more hopeless. The abandonment of ideals, even wrong ones, leaves each to define his own existence, which leads to a miserable narcissism that turns to hedonism. Having found that heaven on earth is elusive, modernity seeks consolation in pleasure; if we can’t achieve utopia, we can at least have many toys and orgasms before death.

The callous disregard for others that allows abortion to be accepted, despite its immorality, flows naturally from this. Abortion is allowed because it is expedient. However, there is another factor that is often overlooked: the death-wish that comes from accepting the narcissism of modernity. If we may modify the words of Lady Galadriel, the unspoken mantra of today is, “I shall love me and despair!”

Existence without meaning is a horror, and it is now accepted that man is but an animal, and an animal is but atoms assembled by random chance. Those who believe this may still seek to gratify themselves, but they haven’t the will to procreate. Reproduction is a defiance issued against ennui. To welcome children is to assert that life is meaningful and worth living; voluntary sterility consummates the opposite.

The culture of contraception and abortion bespeaks Western civilization’s belief that it neither deserves nor wishes to exist. Like Ivan in "The Brothers Karamazov", we shall squeeze what we can from this life, and then “dash the cup to the ground.” The difference is that the West does not contemplate suicide with violence, but with the caresses of impotent copulation. The dream of barren sexuality is a dream of death.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rebuttal To The Rebuttal

I keep hearing from the other side that Behe and Dembski have been trounced, annihilated, refuted, destroyed, etc, ad nauseum by the arguments of Ken Miller. From those claiming such a thing, I never hear thing one about what Dembski and Behe have to say in response to these "devastating" criticisms. But I assume such people are not interested. As said by someone named Ryan Larsen in this comment thread to a book review:

Amazing. So Ken Miller has thoroughly refuted the idea of irreducible complexity, which makes the other essays not even worth reading? Isn’t that kind of like saying that the prosecution has so thoroughly proven the guilt of the defendant that the defense isn’t even worth hearing~ that the defense shouldn’t be given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and present evidence?

If a judge were to instruct a jury that they don’t need to listen to the defense because the prosecution has already proven itself to be right, it would be grounds for a mistrial.

Anyway, you can find a well-written Bill Dembski article here which addresses Ken Miller's critique. Lots of theocratic, bible thumping, scientifically illiterate goodness. Not.

BTW, many folks don't seem to understand the difference between the terms rebut and refute. Rebut is when you take a swing, refute is when you hit it out of the park. I can't count the number of times someone has said in an internet discussion, "this was all refuted here". When I follow the link, I find, not a refutation, but merely a rebuttal. And usually a weak one. The mere fact that an argument has been attacked is not indicative of whether the argument has been defeated. At least for reasonable folks.

I don't claim that Dembski has refuted anything in his paper. I only claim that he makes a reasonable argument.

Actually, I Did Notice That Stein Sounded Like A Run-Of-The-Mill Putz

I listened to the MP3 of Hewitt's interview with LA Times columnist ("I Don't Suport The Troops") Joel Stein yesterday. I was a bit surprised that Stein sounded more like a "sensitive, thoughtful" college kid than some kind of pompous blow-hard. Vanderleun has a very pointed column about what Stein's voice and manner of speaking signifies. Vanderleun is probably being a bit too tough on the child, I think.

Also, be sure to check out what this very eloquent soldier had to say about Stein.

The Truth Is Out There

Quite an amusing story as the writer asks the folks in charge some questions about a "history" seminar built around the Da Vinci Code.

The Ash Heap Of History Lies Ahead

Ann Coulter on the political poison abortion is becoming for the Democrats:

It's been a long time coming, but the Democrats are finally throwing the NARAL ladies off the boat.

One by one, the Democratic Party keeps having to abandon all the insane positions that have made it the funny, silly party we've come to know and love.

The gun-control fanatics were thrown overboard after President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress passed the 1994 crime bill that banned so-called "assault weapons" – i.e., otherwise completely legal semiautomatic weapons that looked scary to Dianne Feinstein.

As a result, the Democrats lost Congress for the first time in 40 years and lost the South forever. When is the last time you heard a Democrat use the words "gun control"?

In 1995, the new Republican Congress sent a welfare reform bill to Clinton, a man who had campaigned on "mend it, don't end it" and then refused to do anything about it.

Not one Democrat resigned from the Clinton administration when Clinton turned out to be molesting the help and committing lots of felonies. But a whole slew of them resigned to protest Clinton's signing the Republicans' welfare reform bill.

You never hear a peep out of Democrats anymore about restoring government welfare programs to their former glory.

Now it's the abortion ladies' turn.

As Saletan informed feminists in his Times column:

"You can tell yourself that the pro-choice majority stayed home in the last election, or that they voted on other issues, or that Democrats botched the debate. But those excuses are getting tired. Sixteen years ago, as the behavior of voters and politicians showed, abortion was clearly a winning issue for you. Now it isn't. You have a problem."

It's finally happened: Abortion stopped a bleeding heart.

...

As Abraham Lincoln said of another moral blight on the nation supported by Democrats: You can "repeal the Declaration of Independence – repeal all past history – you still cannot repeal human nature. It will still be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak."

Or, as Justice Antonin Scalia said, the court's refusal to overrule the lawless Roe decision would not stand because of "the twin facts that the American people love democracy and the American people are not fools."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Flight Training

I'm in the middle of flight training for my Commercial Pilot rating. The airplane I've been flying is the Cessna Cutlass (172RG). The last 3 flights (4.5 flight hours over the course of one week), I've done 42 takeoffs and landings (all kinds: short field, soft field, 180 power off, no flaps)! Here are some cool pictures of this type of plane:

A Cutlass On The Ground

Front View

Takeoff

Gear Coming Up

Gear Up

Gear Up

Cruising

42 Times I've Gotten This View In The Last Week

Absolution

When I first became Catholic in 1996, I was blown away by what happened during my first confession. The sacrament is no joke. The guilt and sin of my previous existence really were washed away. I really was gloriously free of all of it, and free to live life in a new way. It was tangible.

The Anchoress has a good post about confession, which includes a great (and absolutely true) Chesterton quote.

Update: Well, since The Anchoress surprised me with a link back to this little post, I might as well expand on it a bit.

When I went through RCIA back in 1995-1996, I remember thinking to myself about confession: "Well, I suppose it must serve as some kind psychological comfort." But nothing prepared me for the felt actuality of being squeaky clean (from the perspective of moral guilt) after receiving the sacrament. And this is not something that has faded over time. As Chesterton said in his quote, in some sense, I really do walk out of the confessional five minutes old.

Most of the time, I go to confession just to get the dusty weight of venial sin off of me (caused by such things as cussing, being impatient, not keeping my thoughts pure, ranting at jackasses on the road, being surly, etc, etc). I go into the confessional feeling this accumulated grime, and when I come out, well, the entire world (including me) feels like a fresh, pure, joy-filled creation again. It really does.

Also, frequent confession tends to keep me on my best behavior. I use an analogy with washing the car. When the car is dirty, and there is a mud puddle in the road, well, who cares. What difference does it make? *SPLASH!* But when you've just washed the car, and it's all agleam, well you avoid puddles, sprinklers, or even some guy ahead shooting off his window washer. The car is clean, and you want to keep it that way.

Just in case the parable of the carwash needs explaining: the dirty car is sinful you, the mud puddle is the next temptation. The gleaming car is you after confession, and the sprinklers or window washers are the even lesser temptations that you avoid, when before, you'd have just gone through the mud puddle...

West Coast Walk For Life, 2006

See here for my omnibus post on last year's Walk For Life. I was there again this year. The pro-life crowd was much bigger than last year, and the moonbat crowd was much smaller (last year the mayor and part of the city council held their own pro-abortion counter-rally. Not so, this year). Like last year, the SF police were present en masse to keep the peace. They did an even more amazing job this year, preempting all attempts to stop and disrupt the march. Anyway, here is a good column about the march, and here is an excellent photoessay.

Well, Duh.

Single workout can lift mood in depressed patients.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Andropov And Chernenko Could Fix It

Interesting post about the decline and fall of Pacifica Radio (which I used to listen to when I was a commie).

excerpt:

Instead of producing, as it should and could, a satellite or web-fed daily schedule of 12, 18 or even 24 hrs of solid, listenable national programming, the “network” remains, instead, a rag-tag hodgepodge of stations with tiny listenerships and all held hostage to self-serving programmers more interested in hearing themselves talk than in building a real audience. It’s a half-billion dollars rotting away.

The “flagship” New York station, WBAI, which in the 70’s was a hothouse that produced a generation of able journalists who later took their skills and their liberal or lefty politics into the mainstream media, is today an irrelevancy that teeters on bankruptcy. The programming is domianted by a toxic brew of crude race-politics.

The Pacifica outlet in Washington D.C., WPFW, which, in the age of Bush, ought to be a mighty bastion of on-air political pushback, continues to be – as has been the case for two decades—primarily a black jazz station. White guilt, and a veritable PC-cult that permeates the internal Pacifica culture, has constrained the network from turning that station into what it ought to be – a powerful and massively listened-to alternative in the heart of the nation’s capital.

The Houston outlet, KPFT, remains a peanut-whistle station. KPFA in Berkeley, whose core paid staff has been the same for 25 years, is but an echo-chamber of its pony-tailed, core community. Listening to the station for more than five minutes is like tuning into a clandestine ethnic radio narrow-casting in an obscure tongue to some tiny Balkan enclave.

The Los Angeles station, KPFK, whose drive-time is dominated by an combination of screamers and, believe it or not, a couple of followers of the maoist Revolutionary Communist Party, finds itself in a similar sorry state. With a signal area that encompasses 25 million people, its average listenership during any given quarter hour is under 10,000. Over a seven day period, the 110,000 watt station collects a cumulative audience of barely 175,000. That’s less than the number of unique visitors that a big blog – like Daily Kos—gets in one single day.

This is a long, long, long way from the origins of the network. In its heyday – from the late 60’s and into the early 80’s—the bigger Pacifica stations were exciting and refreshing meeting points for artists, poets, musicians and free-thinkers. The air would be filled with live drama performances, poetry happenings, literary readings, world-class public affairs interviews, and quality music that ranged from the avant-garde to classical. While the programming always leaned decidedly left, you’d nevertheless find libertarians and Buddhists mixed in back to back with Communists, radicals, and liberals and even some odd conservatives (Caspar Weinberger was once a Pacifica commentator. Pauline Kael got her start reviewing movies for KPFA).

When Pacifica was once a magical place that taught you how to think it is now a dreary drumbeat telling you what to think. Its air is filled with shrill, clumsy and dogmatic denunciations of “fascism.” Any trace of high culture, meanwhile, has been ruthlessly rooted out and expunged. The program schedule is divvied up among self-appointed “community leaders” and paid staff who – for the most part—could never dream of earning a paycheck from any other media entity in the world. What paid and volunteer programmers have in common is a death-grip on their personal slice of air time. Try to take it away and you became the target of a virulent campaign accusing you of being a sexist, racist, and corporatist nazi.

Cry Me A River, Journalists

Reaping the whirlwind:

Adversaries First, Journalists Second

The Valerie Plame kerfuffle has been bad for American journalism, and the indictment of Scooter Libby in matters tangential to the kerfuffle may make things worse. Libby's lawyers "told a federal judge Friday they want to subpoena journalists and news organizations for documents they may have related to the leak of a CIA operative's name," the Associated Press reports:

In a joint filing with prosecutors, lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, warned U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton that a trial likely will be delayed because of their strategy to seek more subpoenas of reporters' notes and other records. . . .

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the defense's strategy is no surprise but still alarming.

"Every key witness in this case is going to be a reporter," Dalglish said. "It's an absolutely ugly situation, . . . putting reporters in a very, very bad position, . . . and it should send a chill up the spine of American citizens across the country."

Newsday's Timothy Phelps, in an article for Columbia Journalism Review, notes that whereas the reporters who testified for the prosecution did so "mostly under agreements restricting their testimony to very specific issues," Libby's lawyers "are not bound by such agreements." If called by the defense, the reporters' case for immunity from testifying--which the courts have rejected anyhow--is even weaker than it was when dealing with the prosecution. After all, Libby has a fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial.

Phelps's piece is important because it is the most comprehensive acknowledgment we've seen from a news reporter of what we've been arguing for years, that journalists have done their own profession grave damage by flogging this phony scandal:

We cannot distinguish between sources we like and those we do not. Some [journalists] complained that [Judith] Miller's sources weren't "whistleblowers"; they were wrongdoers who ratted out Valerie Plame. And did it perhaps matter that they were Republicans, the dreaded neocons no less?

I asked Floyd Abrams, who represented Miller, the Times, and, initially, Time magazine, why the atmosphere is so different now than during the Anita Hill investigation, in which he also fought. Abrams has a dog in this fight, of course, but he is still the dean of the First Amendment lawyers. "Some journalists think the wrong people are getting protection," he said. "That's the most dangerous thing of all. Worse than the changes in the law, worse than grand juries going after journalists, is the image of some journalists making such decisions based on a political rather than a journalistic basis. Certainly a lot of the criticism of Judy Miller within the journalistic community is at its core political. There is an extraordinary animus. It's very hard for me to believe that animus would exist if she were protecting different people in a different administration with different views of the war in Iraq."

Abrams's legal strategy has been justly criticized, but he is exactly right in identifying how political motives have perverted the practice of journalism and made it harder for reporters to protect their sources.

It's astonishing to think that a substantial number of journalists cheered on the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate government officials for allegedly giving accurate information to reporters. Since the days of Vietnam and Watergate, newsmen have proclaimed an ideal of "adversarial journalism." In this case, too many of them were adversaries first, journalists second--but for that, real journalists will pay the price.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Orson Scott Card Weighs In

Good article re:Intelligent Design from science fiction writer Orson Scott Card.

It begins thusly:

Creation and Evolution in the Schools

A few years ago it was "Creation Science" they were trying to teach in the schools.

Creation Science was an attempt by fundamentalist Christians to give the Genesis account, as interpreted by them, a scientific veneer.

But it was only that -- a thin surface -- and any student who actually believed that Creation Science had anything to do with science would have been educationally crippled.

Now the controversy is between advocates of the theory of Intelligent Design vs. strict Darwinists. And some people want you to think it's the same argument.

It isn't.

What Is "Intelligent Design"?

My first exposure to Intelligent Design theory was Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. While disavowing any Creationist agenda per se, Behe pointed out serious problems in the strict Darwinian model of evolution.

Basically, Behe's approach was this: Complex systems in advanced organisms depend on many biochemical steps, all of which must be in place for the system to work at all.

So how, Behe asked, could such a complex system have evolved, if the only method available was random variation plus natural selection?

It would be impossible to believe that the entire series of steps in the complex system could randomly appear all at once. But any one step along the way, since it does nothing by itself, could not give the organism that had it any competitive advantage. So why would each of those traits persist and prevail long enough for the complex system to fall into place?

Behe's conclusion is that since complex biochemical systems in advanced organisms could not have evolved through strict Darwinian evolution, the only possible explanation is that the system was designed and put into place deliberately.

In other words, though he shuns the word, complex systems had to have a creator -- they have to be intelligently designed.

The Darwinists Reply

The Darwinist answer was immediate. Unfortunately, it was also illogical, personal, and unscientific. The main points are:

1. Intelligent Design is just Creation Science in a new suit (name-calling).

2. Don't listen to these guys, they're not real scientists (credentialism).

3. If you actually understood science as we do, you'd realize that these guys are wrong and we're right; but you don't, so you have to trust us (expertism).

4. They got some details of those complex systems wrong, so they must be wrong about everything (sniping).

5. The first amendment requires the separation of church and state (politics).

6. We can't possibly find a fossil record of every step along the way in evolution, but evolution has already been so well-demonstrated it is absurd to challenge it in the details (prestidigitation).

7. Even if there are problems with the Darwinian model, there's no justification for postulating an "intelligent designer" (true).

Let's take these points in turn:

1. You have to be ignorant of either Creation Science or Intelligent Design -- or both -- to think that they're the same thing. Creation Science is embarrassing and laughable -- its authors either don't understand science or are deliberately deceiving readers who don't understand it. Frankly, Creation Science is, in my opinion, a pack of pious lies.

But the problems that the Designists raise with the Darwinian model are, in fact, problems. They do understand the real science, and the Darwinian model is, in fact, inadequate to explain how complex systems, which fail without all elements in place, could arise through random mutation and natural selection.

If Darwinists persist in trying to tar the Designists with the Creation-Science brush, then it is bound to appear, to anyone who has actually examined both, that the Darwinists are trying to deceive us. (They're apparently counting on most people to not care enough to discover the difference.)

Feminist Pathology

Good Mike Adams column.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Aging Quote

Here's where I found this one.

SOMEBODY ONCE SAID THAT WHEN YOU'RE 70, you feel just like you did when you were 18 -- "except that something is really wrong."

I Got Your 'Unfalsifiable' Right Here

Another good one from Dave Scot:

Unguided Evolution - Can it be falsified?

Steve Reuland over on Panda’s Thumb is babbling about whether some ID strawman du jour can be falsified. Let’s examine the real issue.

First of all, we’ll use this definition of evolution given to the Kansas Board of Education in a letter from 38 (count ‘em) Nobel laureates better known as the Weisel 38.

“Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

an unguided, unplanned process

As all of us who don’t cling to strawman versions of ID know, the only bone we have to pick with that definition is the unguided, unplanned part. We are of the position that evolution, in part or in whole, was a guided or planned process.

So how does one go about falsifying unguided evolution? By demonstrating that the process was guided, of course.

ID is the means by which this theory of unguided evolution can be falsified. If ID cannot be falsified and is itself just religion disguised as science, where does that leave unguided evolution? Why it leaves unguided evolution as unfalsifiable pseudo-science.

Sorry Steve Reuland, but you don’t get to have your cake and eat it to. Either ID is science [possibly false, but not merely 'religion'] or unguided evolution is pseudo-science. Takes yo pick and let me know when you have a final answer.

The Game Of Life

Here's something completely different. Board games and economic analysis in an entertaining quick read.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The MSM Box Canyon

Good observation by Hugh Hewitt highlighted here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

From the comments to this post (Dave Scot is the commenter):

I’m a retired hardware/software design engineer. At this point you’ll need to take up Dembski’s mathematical theorems with someone else.

The compelling evidence of design for me is irreducible complexity in molecular machinery, particulary the digital genetic code, the information it encodes, and the ribosome which together form a robotic protein assembler able to produce all the 3 dimensional components required to reproduce itself. It’s so complex we haven’t even cracked the algorithm for protein folding yet which is something of a holy grail in bioengineering. Digitally programmed machinery is something I spent a successful and lucrative career designing. I know a design when I see one and until someone can demonstate to me in a plausible, detailed, and laboratory verified manner how a self-replicating protein factory can self-organize then I consider Intelligent Design to be not just a live option but the only reasonable explanation for how it came into existence. This should not be censored from 9th grade biology students by tortured interpretations of the establishment clause. It isn’t quite rocket science and to call it religion is an act of desperation by someone who knows he’s obviously wrong.


Update: Wittingshire has a good roundup of recent ID/Evo posts.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

No One Owns The Data Of Science

A common criticism of ID is "where's the research?" Dave Scot explains why this is something of a red herring in the comments to this post:

The research question is a red herring. The research is already being done. It was not ID researchers that discovered the genetic code, desequenced the human genome, reverse engineered the flagella, picked fossils out of the Burgess Shale, and etc. The data used by ID theorists is the same data used by others. The interpretation differs. In fact the more research into the machinery of life and the fossil record that’s done the more ID is able to explain and the less evolution is able to explain. Does everyone somehow think that if data wasn’t uncovered in pursuit of a specific theory no one else is allowed to use it? I hate to burst their bubble but the data doesn’t belong to particular theories or theorists.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bring. It. On.

A charming Huffington Post piece entitled, "Science Must Destroy Religion":

Most people believe that the Creator of the universe wrote (or dictated) one of their books [like every single other facet of human nature, the beliefs must be there for good evolutionary reasons, I'm sure, according to your all-encompassing theory. Now why would you want to mess with evolutionary success?]. Unfortunately, there are many books that pretend to divine authorship, and each makes incompatible claims about how we all must live [such a drag. Let's all just throw up our hands]. Despite the ecumenical efforts of many well-intentioned people, these irreconcilable religious commitments still inspire an appalling amount of human conflict [unlike atheism. Pure as the driven snow and free of a horrific body count, if you throw out the 20th Century].

In response to this situation, most sensible people advocate something called "religious tolerance." While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves — repeatedly and at the highest levels — about the compatibility between religious faith and scientific rationality [it is refreshing to see someone take off the gloves, and I'd like to see much more of it].

The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science. It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not. When a person has good reasons [our correspondent considers free will to be a fantasy (see below), so I don't really know what he could possibly mean by "good reasons", I mean in his fantasy world, if the iron law of physical causality--via molecular activity in your neurons-- allows you to believe in God, you do, if they don't, you don't. End of story.] his beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world. We need not distinguish between "hard" and "soft" science here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines like history. There happen to be very good reasons to believe that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Consequently, the idea that the Egyptians actually did it lacks credibility. Every sane human being recognizes that to rely merely upon "faith" to decide specific questions of historical fact [I don't rely on faith, I rely on history. What does this guy rely on, 2000 year old videocassettes?] would be both idiotic and grotesque — that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad's conversation with the angel Gabriel, or to any of the other hallowed travesties that still crowd the altar of human ignorance [this doesn't sound like much of a "conversation" from his side].

Science, in the broadest sense, includes all reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world. If there were good reasons to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin [there are; go do your homework and read some apologetics], or that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse [there aren't; Islam is a false religion], these beliefs would necessarily form part of our rational description of the universe. Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail [thanks for defining faith for me, Mr. theologian]. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments [for anyone following the ID debate, this is simply ludicrous on its face], and a passionate unwillingness to do so [right. You give me a lock-tight argument against faith, one that I can really believe, and hello again to selfish hedonism! The flesh is more than willing but your arguments are weak]. The distinction could not be more obvious, or more consequential, and yet it is everywhere elided, even in the ivory tower.

Religion is fast growing incompatible with the emergence of a global, civil society [ooh, transnational socialism, the highest religious ideal for some people!]. Religious faith — faith that there is a God who cares what name he is called, that one of our books is infallible, that Jesus is coming back to earth to judge the living and the dead, that Muslim martyrs go straight to Paradise, etc. — is on the wrong side of an escalating war of ideas [it's on the other side. Not the wrong side]. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a genuine openness to fruits of human inquiry in the 21st century, and a premature closure to such inquiry as a matter of principle [bulls---]. I believe that the antagonism between reason and faith will only grow more pervasive and intractable in the coming years [not because anything faith is doing]. Iron Age beliefs — about God, the soul, sin, free will [I'm not in the habit of taking policy prescriptions from robots. Why should I listen to you?], etc. — continue to impede medical research and distort public policy. The possibility that we could elect a U.S. President who takes biblical prophesy seriously is real and terrifying [no more Washingtons! No more Lincolns! Besides, without free will, I can hardly see how it is coherent to talk about us "electing" anyone. What happens, happens. So why the moral terror? The citizens of the US are no freer than gas molecules under your philosophy. So a Bible-thumping "lunatic" would quite simply be the way the cookie crumbles. What are you gonna do?]; the likelihood that we will one day confront Islamists armed with nuclear or biological weapons is also terrifying, and it is increasing by the day [but let me guess, it's less scary than a religious President]. We are doing very little, at the level of our intellectual discourse, to prevent such possibilities. In the spirit of religious tolerance, most scientists are keeping silent when they should be blasting the hideous fantasies of a prior age with all the facts at their disposal [shout it from the rooftops! Please!].

To win this war of ideas, scientists and other rational people will need to find new ways of talking about ethics and spiritual experience [yes. Do start with telling me I don't have free will. Then tell me about my ethical obligations.]. The distinction between science and religion is not a matter of excluding our ethical intuitions and non-ordinary states of consciousness [bong hits!] from our conversation about the world; it is a matter of our being rigorous about what is reasonable to conclude on their basis. We must find ways of meeting our emotional needs that do not require the abject embrace of the preposterous [I find that my happiness will be greatly enhanced by rejecting this preposterous essay, so the guy does have a point]. We must learn to invoke the power of ritual and to mark those transitions in every human life that demand profundity — birth, marriage, death, etc. — without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality [is there anything more joyful than milestones in a deterministic machine's life?].

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures [good. But it will not be in the way you think]. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos [the New Soviet Man], we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Deeper Meaning Of The Alito Hearings

Great American Thinker piece.

Wow.

Pretty amazing Anchoress post.

A Heck Of A Good Read

Having nothing whatsoever to do with politics, current events, evolution, or religion. The author Neal Stephenson has a very cool essay (1999) about computer interfaces. Lengthy, but refreshing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What He Said

Good Mark Shea post entitled "My Difficulty with Little Systems of Order".

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Now That's A Retort

Via Joe Carter:

Although I haven’t had much interest in following the Alito hearings, I regret missing out on this smackdown on Sen. Chuck Schumer:

Shumer: Does the Constitution protect free speech?

Alito: Yes, Senator, the First Amendment protects free speech.

Shumer: Well, why can you give me a straight answer on that issue but not give me a straight answer on abortion?

Alito: Because the text of the Constitution explicitly includes the term "free speech".

I State For The Record, Without The Slightest Hesitation, That Al-Qaeda Is Worse Than The Democratic Party

Seems like a no-brainer to me. But somehow the basic underlying principle is unclear to many leftists and Democrats. A good John Hawkins post:

Let's see. We just had Harry Belafonte call George Bush, not Osama Bin Laden, "the greatest terrorist in the world." Then, there was the most annoying liberal of 2005, Cindy Sheehan, who said that Bush "is ten times the terrorist that Osama ever was."

Now, we have the loons over at Democrats.com encouraging their readers to spy on the cell phone records of prominent Republicans in retaliation for George Bush authorizing wiretaps on Americans having conversations with members of Al-Qaeda overseas.

So are these lefties hysterically overhyping how bad George Bush is, thoughtlessly underestimating how monstrous Al-Qaeda is, or is it some combination of the two? Say what you like about conservatives, but at least we understand that Al-Qaeda is worse than the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly obvious that a large number of liberals have gotten so out of touch with reality that they wouldn't say the same about George Bush and/or the GOP.

How Liberals View Democracy

Chilled and distilled, by Michael Barone:

Here's James Risen, the New York Times reporter who coauthored the paper's December 16 story on NSA surveillance of foreign terrorists, flogging his new book on the Today show. He presents an interesting theory of governance.

Risen: Well, I–I think that during a period from about 2000–from 9/11 through the beginning of the gulf–the war in Iraq, I think what happened was you–we–the checks and balances that normally keep American foreign policy and national security policy towards the center kind of broke down. And you had more of a radicalization of American foreign policy in which the–the–the career professionals were not really given a chance to kind of forge a consensus within the administration. And so you had the–the–the principles–Rumsfeld, Cheney and Tenet and Rice and many others–who were meeting constantly, setting policy and really never allowed the people who understand–the experts who understand the region to have much of a say.

Couric: You suggest there was a lot of power grabbing going on.

So, "the career professionals were not really given a chance to kind of forge a consensus within the administration." Evidently, such consensus-building is how government is supposed to operate. Instead, you had folks like "the principles [sic, presumably transcriber's mistake]—Rumsfeld, Cheney and Tenet and Rice and many others—who were meeting constantly, settling policy, and really never allowed the people who understand—the experts who understand the region to have much of a say."

What a scandal! Presidential appointees like Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and Condoleezza Rice and an elected official like Dick Cheney were meeting together! How dare they? And they were settling policy! Astonishing! What will such people dare to do next?

Risen makes it quite clear how he thinks the government should be run. Elected officials like the president and vice president and top presidential appointees should sit quietly in their chairs. They should not meet, at least not very often. They should wait for career government employees—"the experts who understand the region"—to "forge a consensus." Policy should always be kept "toward the center," regardless of what the American people or their elected president think.

So that is the New York Times's idea, or at least this New York Times reporter's idea, of how democratic representative government should work. Unelected bureaucrats should rule. If the policies produced by their understanding of the region should produce September 11, they should still rule. Elected officials' jobs are to sit in their chairs, to meet infrequently if at all, and to accept the decisions of the unelected and for the most part unremovable bureaucrats.

At least so long as those bureaucrats' policy ideas are considered suitable by James Risen or the New York Times. One suspects that Risen's theory of government would shift completely if the bureaucrats opposed the policies he liked and the elected officials and their top appointees favored them. Then Risen might favor democratic government. But not now, not while George W. Bush is in office. James Risen: for democracy, but only if elections come out his way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thuggery, Pure And Simple

It seems that Darwinist sophistry simply cannot stand any scrutiny whatsoever. I don't know how many times I've read, "Intelligent Design is not science. Go ahead and teach it in a philosophy class, or something, but not in science class." So, a school in Bakersfield decided to do just that. "Foul!" cry the atheists. "You'll be hearing from our lawyers!" Must be pretty good and convincing science, that Darwinism, if any questioning of it causes the poor Darwinists to spin their heads and puke pea soup.

If you haven't gathered by now, I think Darwinism (the unguided-by-intelligence mechanism of random variation and natural selection) is pure pseudo-science, and an intellectual joke. And, so far, the Darwinists have done nothing to disuade me of this opinion, and everything to confirm it.

Here is the piece that prompted this post:

Darwinists Want To Ban Intelligent Design From Not Just Science Classrooms, But All Classrooms

Darwin's defenders don't want intelligent design just forced out of the science classroom, they want it banned from all classrooms. I predicted some months ago that the claims of Darwinists that intelligent design should be relegated to philosophy, social studies or comparative religion courses (when was the last time you heard of a public high school with a comparative religion course??) would not stand the test of time. I knew that as soon as some school opted to play by the Darwinists' new rules those rules quickly would be changed. And here it is.

Frazier Mountain High School outside of Bakersfield, CA has decided to offer an elective philosophy course about intelligent design. You would think that the dogmatists at the ACLU or American's United for Separation of Church and State would be patting themselves on the back at this point. But no.

Instead, the school district is issued with an ultimatum according to the Bakersfield Calfiornian which reports that the districts superintendent received a nasty letter from Americans United for Separation of Church State saying in part:

“Pull the intelligent design class at Frazier Mountain High School,” was the letter’s ominous message, “or we file an injunction.”

What is it that has these United Americans all upset? Well, the school has the nerve to offer a philosophy, not science, course that encourages students to "discuss and debate existing theories" including "components of the intelligent design theory, introductory philosophy, Darwin’s theory of evolution and the origins of life according to Greek mythology." The nerve.

Darwinists have long argued that intelligent design should only be taught in social studies, history, or philosophy courses. But, now that some schools are doing exactly that they apparently think that the theory is too dangerous to be taught in any classes. This is censorship, pure and simple. If there is one lesson that the Darwinists would be smart to learn, its that the forbidden fruit always taste sweetest.

Babies. Your theory won't stand intellectual scrutiny, so you call in the Big Guns. Somehow this fails to convince me of the truth of your position. It also makes me think you have something to hide. But how irrational of me.

We're From The Left, And We're Here To Help Ourselves

Some excellent Thomas Sowell:

[T]he political left has virtually no interest in the creation of wealth, in China or anywhere else, despite all of their proclaimed concern for "the poor."

Since wealth is the only thing that can cure poverty, you might think that the left would be as obsessed with the creation of wealth as they are with the redistribution of wealth. But you would be wrong.

When it comes to lifting people out of poverty, redistribution of income and wealth has a much poorer and more spotty track record than the creation of wealth. In some places, such as Zimbabwe today, attempts at a redistribution of wealth have turned out to be a redistribution of poverty.

While the creation of wealth may be more effective for enabling millions of people to rise out of poverty, it provides no special role for the political left, no puffed up importance, no moral superiority, no power for them to wield over others. Redistribution is clearly better for the left.

Leftist emphasis on "the poor" proceeds as if the poor were some separate group. But, in most Western countries, at least, millions of people who are "poor" at one period of their lives are "rich" at another period of their lives -- as these terms are conventionally defined.

How can that be? People tend to become more productive -- create more wealth -- over time, with more experience and an accumulation of skills and training.

That is reflected in incomes that are two or three times higher in later years than at the beginning of a career. But that too is of little or no interest to the political left.

Things that work for millions of people offer little to the left, and ultimately the left is about the left, not about the people they claim to want to lift out of poverty.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hey, Europe, How About A Little Something, You Know, For The Effort

Open letter from Vodkapundit to Europe.

(Title of my post is a Caddyshack reference: Bill Murray's character: "So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.").

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Keep Your Paws Off My 6%, You Damn Dirty Realtor!

(Title of the post is a Planet of the Apes reference). I liked this post I found on a housing bubble blog. Real estate is one industry that is in serious need of reform, and I don't doubt that it is coming. Due to technological change, Wall Street didn't manage to hold onto its over-inflated commission structure, and neither will real estate brokering.

excerpt:

"Over the last couple of years, there have been signs that the customers aren't willing to hand over thousands of dollars anymore. Why? One reason is the hot housing market. As prices get higher and higher, agents earn more and more without having to do more."

"In some cases, the consumers are taking matters into their own hands. Last week, Jeff Bailey of the New York Times reported that some good folk in Madison, Wis., have taken it upon themselves to create a thriving for-sale-by-owner website and an alternative listing service. Real estate agents are naturally furious. 'It's a commission-avoidance scheme,' sputtered one who works for Wisconsin's largest real estate broker."

"The phrase itself, 'commission-avoidance scheme,' is revealing. You've heard of mobsters hitting up store owners, but rarely do they have the gall to complain that merchants who go to the police are running a 'protection-money-avoidance scheme.' In the real estate agents' minds, they're not the ones running a scheme. The schemers are the people buying and selling houses to one another.
A free market, in other words."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pay No Attention To The Salamander

Interesting article, chock full of interesting quotes.

The article begins with this quote:

“The confrontation between science and formal religion will come to an end when the role played by science in the lives of all people is the same played by religion today. What if we appropriated the craft, the artistry, the methods of formal religion to get the message across? Imagine 'Einstein's Witnesses' going door to door or TV evangelists passionately espousing the beauty of evolution.” -- planetary scientist Carolyn Porco

Yes. It is what Science demands.

Folks, We Are Being Nice About This!

Excellent American Digest piece, which points out that the US is bending over backwards to avoid giving the jihadis the war to the finish they're really asking for. Perhaps not the war they deserve, but the war they will almost certainly get, should they manage a nuclear-sized terrorist attack.

excerpts:

IT IS CLEAR that what will happen to Islam across the world should terrorist attacks continue and increase will be the arrival at the tipping point where the West decides, in a way that no internal political opposition can curtail, to expel Islam and Muslims from the infected nations and the world itself by any means necessary. A common catch phrase of Marxism is that "The capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him." I dread the coming catch phrase, "The Muslim will supply the West with the excuse to eradicate him," but that is clearly lurking in one of our possible future.

The first 9/11 brought out the Marines, the Army, the heavy armor, the B-52s and the Stealth fighters with their "smart bombs," and the effort at a new precise war in which the greatest care has been taken to minimize the killing of innocent civilians. Not always successful, but compared to the Blitz, the firebombing of Hamburg, and the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this caring and careful warfare that is about as kind as we can make it. The most terrible aspect of the trend of war in the 20th century was to kill as much of the civilian population of the enemy as possible. The methods were skillfully refined over decades until World War II accounted for around 50 million dead. The current approach to war in Afghanistan and Iraq is one which can reasonably be called a patty-cake war; one that has been successful, if in nothing else, in minimizing civilian suffering.

I would submit that this approach to war against Islam is clearly one driven by the current policies of the West that aims to, essentially, talk Islam out of its current obsessions and madness. It is the very small stick wielded alongside our soft and enticing words of "democracy," "freedom," and "prosperity." In a way, the West's manner of war with Islam at present is essentially a kind of tough love: "Please learn to control your acting out. Please learn play well with others, or we're going to have to get serious."

Put somewhat baldly, the argument within the West on what to do with Islam is now between those who believe it should not be spanked at all but have its self-esteem boosted, and those who think that a small spanking now followed by the hot fudge sundae of freedom will result in acceptable behavior. Either could be right, but if both are wrong the next level of discipline is typically expulsion. And by "expulsion" I do not mean that Islam will simply be sent to its room.

A second series of attacks on America at the level of 9/11 or greater will not bring out more B-52s. They are already out. A second series will bring out the one arm of America's war machine that has rarely been asked about, written about, or even mentioned in passing since September, 2001; the ballistic missile submarines.

...


ANYTHING YOU THINK CAN'T HAPPEN can happen. Especially those things you think cannot possibly happen. Under the right circumstances, human beings are capable of anything. We hold within ourselves an eternal capacity for evil that has no bottom. Should Europe feel the threat of Islam within its borders too keenly it is not difficult to envision it returning to the up close and personal techniques of genocide it perfected in the last century. Europe is very, very good at police states, purges, death camps, massacres and Gulags. Although it may look to be weak and appeasing, Europe's final solution skill set is never stored very far away.

Should the United States come to feel threatened in a similar way, its preferred technique (also perfected in the last century) is remote genocide. To employ it would plunge this nation into a decades-long tunnel of political and spiritual agony, and change our destiny and character forever. But I have no doubt that, if we feel for any reason threatened enough, we will indeed come to the day when the unthinkable becomes doable.

This is why I still deeply believe that the current effort in Iraq and the Middle East to counter and expunge Islamic terrorism and turn Islam from the road it is on towards one of reformation and assimilation is the best path that can be taken at this time. Indeed, for all the ineptitude of the current administration, for all the expense in treasure and lives, this shoot-the-moon, Hail Mary of a foreign policy in Iraq is not just a policy to make America safer at home. It is the only thing that stands between Islam and its own destruction.

Sometime shortly after 9/11 in an online forum I frequented then, an exasperated idealist proclaimed that "After all, you can't kill a billion Muslims." Like so many others he spoke from somewhere outside History. History, especially the world's most recent history, shows us all that, "Yes, if you really want to, you can."

And that is the most terrible and terrorizing thought of the 21st century.


Update: Some of the comments to the American Digest piece:

We don't have to toy with genocide. Due to the lack of their education worldwide, many Muslims are extremely superstitious. If the Kaba at Mecca were destroyed, the superiority of their god Allah would be shown to be false. It would bring down two of the five pillars of Islam, as bowing 5 times a day and taking a pilgrimage to a hole in the ground instead of a black rock would be useless and extremely humiliating.

...

Most of us (certainly including Gerard) are well familiar with the three conjectures of our invaluable friend Wretchard at Belmont Club, but for those who are not, I urge a close reading of his seminal essay on this precise subject. Just google 'belmont three conjectures' and you'll find it.

Personally, I think that the Islamofascists are basically "calling Allah out" to reach down in a supernatural way and instantly reverse the present humiliating position of the Islamic world in relation to the the rest of humanity. True absolute faith is a very powerful and dangerous thing. Their only hope is that when our fish let loose with their deadly delivery to Mecca, Allah will simply not allow it to explode, thus demonstrating his pleasure with their commitment of faith in Jihad, and his omnipotence over mankind.

Understand - we REALLY do not think like these people do. See it as brinksmanship with a firm grip on the Koran, facing Mecca. The answer will be delivered with the presence of the mushroom cloud. They know not what they do - truly.

...

This reminds me of a comment a read a while back (can't find the reference, sorry).

Paraphrased it's "The way to solve this is for them to act like us for a generation, or for us to act like them for a day".

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Pure Demagoguery of '43 Million'

Good bit from this middling column:

Koppel: " . . . [W]e have been priding ourselves on having the best medical care in the world -- and you know something? You can get the best medical care in the world, he can get the best medical care in the world, I can. Most Americans can't. And there are 43 million Americans who aren't getting any medical care at all. That is a scandal."

Note Koppel made no distinction between those without medical care and those without medical insurance.

Russert should have said, "I think you mean there are 43 million Americans without medical insurance. And even the term 'American' should be taken with a grain of salt. For, out of the 43 million, this includes approximately 10 million people here illegally. Furthermore, the 43 million includes a large number of young, healthy Americans who decided to keep the money otherwise spent on premiums. And of that 43 million, Ted, approximately 20 million go without health-care insurance for four months or less. So when you get down to it, the hard-core number of Americans without health-care insurance is probably 10 to 15 million Americans, and out of a population of nearly 280 million, do we really want to call this a crisis?"

Russert might have continued, "Furthermore, Ted, by law, any hospital that accepts government funds -- including Medicare and Medicaid -- must treat indigents in its ER. And don't forget about Medicaid, under which poor people get health care through taxpayers. To say nothing of free clinics found in virtually every city, no- or low-cost vaccination programs, and programs under which drug companies give free drugs to those who cannot afford it."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wow, That Would Be A Brilliant Strategy. Do Please Try It.

From one of the self-proclaimed "Brights". Make of it what you will:

I really think we (not me, of course, but the general "we" of all of us ladies and gentlemen fighting creationism) go too far in trying to present science as compatible and even friendly to religion. It's not. The whole philosophy of critical thinking and demanding reproducible evidence arms its proponents with a wicked sharp knife that is all too easily applied to religious beliefs, which rely entirely on credulity. While individuals may be happy to sheathe that knife during the church service, filling the pews with ranks of critical individuals while preaching absurdities is a risky business. Why do you think I can't go to church? It's because I'm sitting there with a demanding and hair-trigger critical faculty, thinking "baloney!" at almost every platitude from the preacher, struggling against the urge to stand up and shout "Show me the evidence!" at the pulpit. Even if I keep that urge in control, it's not a comfortable time. The religious know that a well-educated populace with a good background in science would mean church attendance would fade away, especially for the more stridently evangelical/fundamentalist (AKA "insane") sects.

We are being disingenuous when we claim science is compatible with religion. It's compatible with a kind of thoughtful religion that consciously sets itself aside as dealing solely with a metaphysical domain, not the world; it encourages the apostasy of deism and agnosticism, and can easily lead people into the path of atheism. It's far more compatible with freethought than the kinds of religions our opponents, the creationists, hold. It does not mollify that family of Southern Baptists to explain that a college education is likely to allow their kids to emerge still Christian, but critical of fundamentalism, and more impressed with the testimony of rocks than the list of begats in Genesis.

So what we get is a common strain of chronic avoidance of the issue among the pro-evolution crowd. We put up a fa├žade that ignores two important things: 1) the majority of scientists are deists, agnostics, and atheists, who want to promote greater science literacy and rational thinking (but not, explicitly, freethought—that's only a common aftereffect) and 2) the creationists aren't stupid about social issues, and can see right through it—and they are well aware that compromise erodes religion, not vice versa. It's analogous to the way the Intelligent Design creationists pretend to be scientists with no religious motivations*, which is similarly false and transparent.

I do not think that we should marginalize the opinions of scientists who are also religious—far from it, I think it is a good idea to have them there to show that you can do good science while holding some unscientific ideas. However, I also think we ought to do a better job of similarly promoting atheist scientists, not instead of but as a complement to those more socially acceptable theists. Science should be seen as a muscular endeavor, and hiding our fiercest and most fearless advocates behind the scenes is a waste of potential and gives the impression that we're timid and ashamed of many of our best and brightest.

Case in point: Richard Dawkins. How often have you heard the phrase, "I love Dawkins' books, but…" followed by excuses that he's too arrogant, he's too hard on the religious, he's a militant atheist? Here in the US at least, you'll often see Ken Miller the Catholic biologist trotted out as the man to emulate, the unintimidating figure of a scientist with something in common with the ordinary guy on the street (unfairly, too, I think—he ought to be praised as a biologist, a lucid writer, a great speaker, not because of his one failing: he's religious), but you'll never see Dawkins brought up in the same way. He's "far too fierce", as if that were a shortcoming.

It's a strength. Creationists hate the guy because he doesn't just stand against one ludicrous symptom of their belief system, he goes straight to the root with scathing rhetoric against the whole monumental pile of rickety confabulations.

Oh, yeah, nobody leaves me quaking in my theological boots, trying desperately not to cry or wet my pants as I vainly attempt to hold onto my irrational faith in the face of his devastating arguments than Richard Dawkins. No one. Have mercy! Please don't start to employ more Dawkinesque tactics!

When creationists carp at the uncompromising atheism of people like Dawkins, let's not pander to them and thereby validate their complaints by offering up some more palatable Christian proxy, but instead stand up for them. Yes, he's a forthright atheist…and so was John Maynard Smith and Ernst Mayr and Francis Crick and many, many others. We like them. Have you got a problem with that?

No. I have no problem with that whatsoever. Do please start trumpeting it from the rooftops. Be yourselves.

That's a lovely way to put it, and I agree entirely with it. Unfortunately, people are petty about some things, and when they see someone else throw away their blankie and stride out to face reality, they take it as a personal rebuke, and every suggestion to others that they come out into the light is regarded as an insult to their hidey-hole, their much beloved little binkie. That's too bad, but I don't think the right answer is to reassure everyone that it's OK to huddle away, or that their threadbare blanket is a splendid and precious thing. We shouldn't snatch it away, but sorry, everyone, let's be honest: it's a crutch, a waste of time, a shroud that prevents you from seeing a real and terrible beauty. The real heroes of science are the ones who shed old superstitions and confront a harsh and callous universe without comforting, misleading fables.

Time to stand up.

An amazing piece of projection. But I like his ideas, and his piss-and-vinegar, damn-the-torpedoes, can-do attitude, and I say: go for it. Take a bold public stand that science itself demands that people be done with this God business once and for all! It is time for the final assault on victory!

Update: Other pertinent post here. See also here, where I argue directly against some of Dawkins' "devastating" rhetoric.

Capsule Summary

Here:

How can you hiss a villain named "Scooter"?

...

Dave Barry, who grew rich and famous as a humor columnist by mining the real foibles of actual people, got the Valerie and Joe scandal calibrated in just the correct perspective in his year-end review of the news of '05:

"... the juiciest story by far in Washington is the riveting scandal involving New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who [was] jailed for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury called by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is trying to find out whether the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame was leaked to columnist Robert Novak by an administration source such as presidential confidants Karl Rove or Ari Fleischer, or Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, chief of staff to vice president Dick 'Dick' Cheney, in an effort to discredit [Miss] Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in connection with the use of allegedly unreliable documents concerning ... Hey! Wake up! This is important."

Don't Confuse Me With The Facts

Great Ace of Spades essay:

We're living in two entirely different universes of information now. This partly explains David Letterman's cluelessness about Cindy Sheehan calling Iraqi terrorists -- the same men who killed her son -- "freedom fighters," and guessing that that was "crap." The MSM simply doesn't report such things-- if they mention them at all, they do so obliquely and vaguely, like conceding that Sheehan has "made controversial statements which have angered the right wing." (That's an invented quote, by the way, as an example of the sort of thing they write.) They don't often report precisely what she's said, so that the average news-consumer can decide for himself whether the statement in question is odious. More likely than not, he'll simply assume she expressed some mild criticism of Bush's Iraq policy which the "extreme right wing" has gotten itself in a lather over.

I find it more and more difficult to talk to my non-conservative friends about politics. Not because of anger -- we don't fight over such matters -- but simply because I find myself telling them facts that they've never read before, never seen on Brian Williams before, and simply do not believe to be true. The assumption is that they are simply made up out of whole cloth by disreputable right-wing fabulist propagandists spreading complete fictions to the gullible right wingers.

Any intelligent discussion must at some point move beyond the facts. The facts must be more or less conceded by both parties so that the more interesting part of the discussion -- what those facts may mean, what relevance and disposition to attach to any fact, what values are in play and how each should be weighed -- may procede.

For years the MSM provided a common universe of facts for the country to discuss and debate. True, those facts were highly selective and often strongly biased towards the liberal side of the debate, but most people accepted them as the nucleus of any political discussion.

That's changed. With a proliferating alternative media and a MSM becoming more desperate and dishonest in presenting its one side of the issue, we now are separated not merely by beliefs, assumptions, values, and priorities, but by a very wide gulf over what the factual matrix of the political universe even looks like at all.

This is not helping debate, but simply making it more contentious, as the words "liar" ("I don't believe you") or "idiot" ("How could you not know that?") are tossed out with greater frequency, and people retreat more and more into the particular fact-universe they're more comfortable in, rarely sampling what other less-reported facts might be out there to consider.

It's worse on the liberal side. Conservative news-junkies have to know the basics of the MSM fact-pattern, because we spend all of our time critiquing it, contextualizing it, and sometimes disproving it entirely. We're not as up on some stuff as early as we should be (for example, I'm still catching up on this whole Abramoff business; I have little doubt a liberal news-junkie could school me in it at this point), but by the time issues become ripe, we have a good working knowlege of both the "official" MSM-championed line and the unofficial, Shadow Media critique of that line. Liberals -- actually, all non-conservatives who rely almost exclusively on the MSM for what news they get -- know only the former.

Going back to the old way of doing business -- with the MSM simply selecting which facts are to be known, and which are to be kept secret, for fear of "confusing" the masses -- is intolerable, and will not happen in any event. But we find ourselves now more separated than ever, like Britain and America, two countries divided by a common language.

I guess the only resolution to this problem is for the MSM to begin -- finally! -- doing its actual job and reporting all relevant facts, no matter which way they might cut, in a neutral and dispassionate manner.

Which is to say: there's no near-term resolution at all.

Nice Strategy, Dems, But al-Qaeda Is Just Not A Very Big Voting Bloc In This Country

Good Right Wing News post.

excerpt:

Of course, it will backfire! As Tom Maguire over at JustOneMinute said:

"What is the Dem message here? "Oh my gosh, that evil Bush is spying on Al Qaeda and anyone who talks to them - as Democrats, we will never do that!"

Good luck. Let us know how that works out in '06."

We have Democrats opposing the Patriot Act, which is designed to stop Al-Qaeda. Wanting to immediately pull our troops out of Iraq, where they're fighting Al-Qaeda. Getting up in arms about the President authorizing wiretaps on people who talk to Al-Qaeda. Fretting about captured members of Al-Qaeda at Gitmo and in Iraq...geez, they're practically acting like Al-Qaeda is one of their constituency groups.

On the other hand, Republicans treat Americans who don't want to be in a building when Al-Qaeda flies a plane into it like they're an important constituency group. Which group do you think is bigger? Maybe the Democrats should ask themselves that instead of continuing to live down to their reputation of being, "Blame America first," wimps who can't be trusted to defend the country because of their quasi-suicidal level of naivete about matters of national security.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What Else Do You Need To Know?

Based on recent behavior (talk of impeachment over standard wartime NSA practices?!?), this fact is perfectly evident: The Democrats consider the defense of this country to be a criminal enterprise. Fine. Message received. Loud and clear.

Muslim Community Leaders Warn of Backlash from Tomorrow Morning's Terrorist Attack

The above humorous headline was taken from Steyn's article. I couldn't resist.

Mark Steyn Must-Read

Here.

My Default Font Color For The Blog Is African American

This is good:

Longtime readers know of one of my favorite moments in life. It occurred in 2002, during the Salt Lake City Olympics. (These were Winter Olympics, of course.) An American woman won a gold medal in the bobsled, and she was the first black woman to win a gold medal in the Winter Games. But the TV network — NBC — had no way of expressing that: because they can't say "black," or think they can't say "black." They have to say "African-American." So they had no way of telling people that this dear girl was the first black woman ever to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.

The announcers were reduced to saying, "She's the first African-American woman from any country to win a gold medal"!

Gosh, I loved that. Laughed my hiney off, for ages.

I was reminded of this when I read an article in USA Today about the businesswoman B. Smith and the "African-American angel" that adorned the top of her Christmas tree. (Holiday tree. Whatever.) An African-American angel, huh? Interesting that that angel had a nationality. What are white angels? Are they American, too? Or are they Danish, French, or Russian?

Just asking.

I'd Actually Pay To See That

A reader's response to this self-congratulatory piece in the WSJ by the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America:

What I'd Like to See
David Govett - Davis, Calif.

Every day, in every way, Hollywood is getting better and better at telling us what we want to see. A suggestion, however: Now that Hollywood has exhausted the re-remakes, it's time for cross-pollination. I want the see "The Dukes of Hazzard of Oz" and "Ace Ventura: Godfather."

Smooth Move, Jackasses

A good summary of how the leadership of the donkey party has managed to put themselves on the wrong side of American opinion regarding the War On Terror, "spying" on al-Qaeda, etc.

excerpt:

The leftist appeasement hounds are in full cry thinking they have the president up a tree, cornered and powerless to save himself and his party from being chewed to bits.

They had better take a second look - that’s not a tree he’s climbing, but the polls - where he’s quickly moving up into a position that will all but guarantee a crushing loss for defeatists in the 2006 House and Senate races.

In what may prove to be the most gigantic political miscalculation of all time, the Left's eager allies in the media bet all their marbles on the idea that President Bush’s policies in the War on Terrorism are his Achilles’ heel and would help them to win control of Congress in the 2006 elections.

They also eagerly jumped on the revelations that the U.S. had monitored communications between al-Qaeda terrorists abroad and al-Qaeda agents in the U.S., believing that the public would be angered by the operation which they and their media allies were falsely portraying as an assault on the civil rights of all Americans.

Boy, were they ever wrong. According to the authoritative Rasmussen poll:

A December 23, 2005, poll showed that fully 50 percent of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as president. That's up six points since the president's speech on Sunday night. It's also the first time since July that the president's job approval rating has reached the 50 percent mark. He earns approval from 81 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats, and 42 percent of those not affiliated with either major political party.

Another poll on December 28, 2005, showed that a whopping 64 percent of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. Just 23 percent disagree. That view is shared by 51 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of those not affiliated with either major political party.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely and only 26 percent believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent say he is not while 26 percent are not sure.

Monday, January 02, 2006