Friday, December 30, 2005

Darwinism: The Queen Of The Junk Sciences

When I learned about thermodynamics in college, we were shown such things as that the age of the universe was insufficient for a sugar cube to come out of solution in a glass of water (even if the whole universe was glasses of sugar water), due to the improbabilities involved. Because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, dissolving a very simple thing like a sugar cube in a glass of water is an irreversible process (note, I am not saying you can't recover the sugar from the water, I'm saying that you would never see the time reverse of the cube itself dissolving, that is, the "film run backwards"). Yet, I am supposed to believe that Beatles CD's, Shakespeare, Zebras, my girlfriend, this computer, and the Mona Lisa all precipitated out of a superheated cloud of hydrogen, just by chance. Right.

Here's a good column by a mathematics professor, who would love it if his Darwinist colleagues would simply put down the crack pipe and learn from science [those are my words, of course; his article isn't a rant].


When you look at the individual steps in the development of life, Darwin's explanation is difficult to disprove, because some selective advantage can be imagined in almost anything. Like every other scheme designed to violate the second law [of thermodynamics], it is only when you look at the net result that it becomes obvious it won't work.

A National Geographic article from November 2004 proclaims that the evidence is "overwhelming" that Darwin was right about evolution. Since there is no proof that natural selection has ever done anything more spectacular than cause bacteria to develop drug-resistant strains, where is the overwhelming evidence that justifies assigning to it an ability we do not attribute to any other natural force in the universe: the ability to create order out of disorder?


SCIENCE HAS BEEN so successful in explaining natural phenomena that the modern scientist is convinced that it can explain everything. Anything that doesn't fit into this materialistic model is simply ignored. When he discovers that all of the basic constants of physics, such as the speed of light, the charge and mass of the electron, Planck's constant, etc., had to have almost exactly the values that they do have in order for any conceivable form of life to survive in our universe, he proposes the "anthropic principle" and says that there must be many other universes with the same laws, but random values for the basic constants, and one was bound to get the values right. When you ask him how a mechanical process such as natural selection could cause human consciousness to arise out of inanimate matter, he says, "human consciousness -- what's that?" And he talks about human evolution as if he were an outside observer, and never seems to wonder how he got inside one of the animals he is studying. And when you ask how the four fundamental forces of Nature could rearrange the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, and computers, connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards and the Internet, he says, well, order can increase in an open system.

The development of life may have only violated one law of science, but that was the one Sir Arthur Eddington called the "supreme" law of Nature, and it has violated that in a most spectacular way. At least that is my opinion, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn't, that, under the right conditions, the influx of stellar energy into a planet could cause atoms to rearrange themselves into nuclear power plants and spaceships and computers. But one would think that at least this would be considered an open question, and those who argue that it really is extremely improbable, and thus contrary to the basic principle underlying the second law, would be given a measure of respect, and taken seriously by their colleagues, but we aren't.

The answer is simple. The second law of thermodynamics really isn't violated because we have separation of church and state in this country. BTW, comment all you want that I don't understand the Second Law. Someone's doin' the misunderstanding around here, and it ain't me. Be sure to check out the longer and more detailed version of his argument here [pdf].

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas

Hitting the road, will be back in about a week...

Excellent ID/Evolution Article

But then, I would think that, wouldn't I? Being blind to the liberating and self-evident truth of philosophical materialism and all. Folks who aren't orthodox Christian theists are the only ones qualified to assess scientific evidence cooly and objectively, and really, they are the only ones who have anything pertinent to say about the data. If there is a disagreement between them and others about the conclusions which may be validly drawn from all the scientific evidence available, well, we know who has to be right, yes? My worldview by definition blinds me to scientific truth, but not theirs. They see all with crystalline clarity.

Ah, well, that's my own rant and not really the point (or at least the tone) of the well-written American Spectator article.

Neville Spielberg's Munich

Good column by Debbie Schlussel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And So It Goes

Great post by Paul Nelson. I liked the quotes from Cicero.

With The Entrails Of The Last Priest

(Title of this post is from this historical quote). As we all know, Darwinists really have nothing against religion. The salamanders on their cars are just a good-natured tribute to their Christian friends. Some pretty good quotes in this piece illustrate how Darwinists use their minds with a refreshing ideology-free objectivity, completely lacking in those theocratic ID'ists:

Tuesday's ruling by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, disparaging intelligent design as a religion-based and therefore false science, raises an important question: If ID is bogus because many of its theorists have religious beliefs to which the controversial critique of Darwinism lends support, then what should we say about Darwinism itself? After all, many proponents of Darwinian evolution have philosophical beliefs to which Darwin lends support.

"We conclude that the religious nature of Intelligent Design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," wrote Judge John E. Jones III in his decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which rules that disparaging Darwin's theory in biology class is unconstitutional. Is it really true that only Darwinism, in contrast to ID, represents a disinterested search for the truth, unmotivated by ideology?

Judge Jones was especially impressed by the testimony of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Professor Forrest has definite beliefs about religion, evident from the fact that she serves on the board of directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, which is "an affiliate of American Atheists, and [a] member of the Atheist Alliance International," according to the group's website. Of course, she's entitled to believe what she likes, but it's worth noting.

Religion and Smallpox

Other leading Darwinian advocates not only reject religion but profess disgust for it and frankly admit a wish to see it suppressed. Lately I've been collecting published thoughts on religion from pro-Darwin partisans. Professional scholars, they have remarkable things to say especially about Christianity. Let these disinterested seekers of the truth speak for themselves.

My favorite is Tufts University's Daniel C. Dennett. In his highly regarded Darwin's Dangerous Idea, he tells why it might be necessary to confine conservative Christians in zoos. It's because Bible-believing Baptists, in particular, may tolerate "the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world." In other words, they may doubt Darwin. This cannot stand! "Safety demands that religion be put in cages," explains Dennett, "when absolutely necessary....The message is clear: those who will not accommodate, who will not temper, who insist on keeping only the purest and wildest strains of their heritage alive, we will be obliged, reluctantly, to cage or disarm, and we will do our best to disable the memes they fight for."

In an essay, "Is Science a Religion?", Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins is frank enough. Perhaps the leading figure on the Darwin side, he forthrightly states that "faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate." He equates God with an "imaginary friend" and baptism with child abuse. In his book The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, Dawkins observed that Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

There is Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, of the University of Texas, who defended Darwinism before the Texas State Board of Education in 2003. In accepting an award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation,Weinberg didn't hide his own feelings about how science must deliver the fatal blow to religious faith: "I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I'm all for that! One of the things that in fact has driven me in my life, is the feeling that this is one of the great social functions of science — to free people from superstition." When Weinberg's idea of science triumphs, then "this progression of priests and ministers and rabbis and ulamas and imams and bonzes and bodhisattvas will come to an end, [and] we'll see no more of them. I hope that this is something to which science can contribute and if it is, then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make."

There is University of Minnesota biologist P. Z. Myers, a prominent combatant in the Darwin wars being fought in an archipelago of websites. He links his own site (recently plugged in the prestigious journal Nature) to a "humorous" web film depicting Jesus' flagellation and crucifixion, a speeded-up version of Mel Gibson's Passion, to the accompaniment of the Benny Hill theme music "Yakety Sax," complete with cartoonish sound effects. "Never let it be said that I lack a sense of reverence or an appreciation of Christian mythology," commented this teacher at a state university. In another blog posting, Myers daydreamed about having a time machine that would allow him to go back and eliminate the Biblical patriarch Abraham. Some might argue for using the machine to assassinate other notorious figures of history, but not Myers: "I wouldn't do anything as trivial as using it to take out Hitler."


I've already reported on NRO about the views expressed by Darwinist staff scientists at the Smithsonian Institution. The nation's museum was roiled last year when the editor of a Smithsonian-affiliated biology journal published a peer-reviewed article favoring intelligent design. His fellow staffers composed emails venting their fury. One e-mailer, figuring the editor must be an ID advocate and therefore (obviously!) a fundamentalist Christian (he is neither), allowed that, "Scientists have been perfectly willing to let these people alone in their churches." Another museum scientist noted how, after "spending 4.5 years in the Bible Belt," he knew all about Christians. He reminisced about the "fun we had" when "my son refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the 'under dog' [meaning 'under God'] part."


Does this delegitimize Darwinism as science? Obviously not — no more than ID is delegitimized by the fact that many Christians, Jews, and Muslims are attracted to its interpretation of nature's evidence. Of course, some avowed agnostics also doubt Darwin (e.g. evolutionary biologist Stanley Salthe, molecular biologist Michael Denton, and mathematician David Berlinski who says his only religious principle is "to have a good time all the time"). But there is irony in the way the media generally follow Barbara Forrest's line in portraying ID as a "Trojan Horse" for theism. It would be equally accurate to call Darwin a trojan horse for atheism.

I have no doubt that Darwinists can separate their ideology from their scientific judgment. But not ID'ists, who are self-evidently blinded by their metaphysical assumptions about reality.

At Some Point The Jig Will Be Up

In response to this Jonah Goldberg post, John Derbyshire had this:

RE: NY TRANSIT STRIKE [John Derbyshire]

Jonah: Right on. And the NY transit strike is just the opening battle in a war that will engage more and more of our attention in the years to come -- the war between the government people with their gold-plated benefits packages and retirement plans, and the rising resentment of us private-sector saps, who have to pay for it all with our taxes. Look at the letters columns of the local press. People know what's going on. Quotes from NY commuters printed in America's Newspaper of Record this morning (but not online):

"I'm going to have to work till I'm 80 so some 20-year-old can retire at 55? I don't think so."

"I would love to have a job that would give me a 3 percent raise every year, benefits for life, both medical and dental, and retirement at 62 [sic] with a full pension. If any openings occur, let me know."

"I heard a transit worker complain to a reporter about how the MTA wants more productivity from its workers without an increase in pay. Welcome to the real world."

Etc., etc. Did you know that "Overall, 90 percent of public employees enjoy a defined-benefit pension, compared with only 20 percent (and falling) of the private work force"? (Quote from Time magazine, 10/31/05 issue, "Where pensions are golden".)

When you are in your seventies, you will still be schlepping to work every day, so your taxes can fund the Caribbean cruise of some cop, subway motorman, or schoolteacher who retired at 55. How will you feel about that? Mad as hell, that's how. Inevitably, your mad-as-hell-ness will translate into politics sooner or later. Government people--enjoy it while you've got it. It won't last much longer.

Public sector labor unions are an abomination. There is even a case--I have made it somewhere, but can't find the reference--for disenfranchising people who make their living from public funds. You'll be hearing much, much more about all this in the years to come.

Posted at 10:02 AM

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pretty Good Forum Post

From one of the Access Research Network discussion forums, posted by someone named 'Joy':

Re: An open letter to ARN evolutionists

[QUOTE] Mesk: I have been saddened, during my years in these fora, to see how low some people can stoop in defence of an idea. But the most disconcerting moments I have experienced have not been due to the behaviour of anti-evolutionists, but rather the behaviour of people “on my side.” I am no longer surprised that people like Stuart Harris believe that MET is an empty shell, given the irrationality and hostility of so many of the self-proclaimed defenders of evolution. [/QUOTE]Thank you for this 'open letter' Mesk. I came to this forum a few years ago following a link from another forum, where the most ridiculous (and patently false) argument I'd ever encountered concerning evolution was cited, and I wanted to see what the heck was going on. That was a science forum, not a Creationism vs. Darwinism slug-fest.

Having no particular problem with evolution, and having no inclinations toward Creationism/literal Genesis, the debate had never interested me. My background is physics, and my interest since the early 1990s has been consciousness studies. But when I got here and browsed the threads for a little while, I too was shocked to see how low some people can stoop in defense of an idea - particularly an idea so (to me) uncontroversial as evolution. I was even more shocked to see that most of the ridiculous assertions were metaphysically based defenses of RM-NS pablum, which hasn't accurately described the actual state of evolutionary biology since before I was born!

There is no reason (and there has never been defensible reason) to cling desperately to the 'R' qualifier in the evolutionary equation. Variation never needed to be "random" in order to account for the biodiversity of life, the direction of evolution, or the adaptability of life forms. And in my educational experiences through a lifetime - quite a bit of it biologically oriented - the "random" assumption has never been emphasized or insisted upon to cover over holes in specific knowledge by any of my teachers. Had it been emphasized, I would certainly have recognized the metaphysical corruption much sooner, and probably would have taken to arguing against it long ago.

The sociological dimensions of this controversy are too often ignored or ridiculed by the DarwinDefenders [TM], who are generally every bit as emotionally and metaphysically invested as the YECs here. I've said innumerable times that I expect science to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and there is ample evidence that this is precisely what's happening in the biological sciences. Where incoming research findings daily appear in the science press containing the usual "challenge to darwinism/orthodoxy" phrase - meaning that at the benches, scientists are not wasting time or talent trying desperately to prop up the RM-NS pablum that is being sociologically forced upon the public.

I'd never read Dawkins or any of the more strident science writers who claim that darwinism validates their materialist and/or strong atheistic beliefs. What people choose to believe in metaphysically has never been a big concern of mine. But after encountering the sociological dimensions of the debates on this forum, it wasn't difficult to see that what is not a big concern to me is obviously an overwhelming obsession to others.

There are the usual religious fundamentalists who have been trying for hundreds of years to force "every knee to bend" in their direction, but who have never succeeded in turning this 'free' nation into their own version of the Kingdom for all their whining and preaching and threats. To my mind, in a 'free' nation, fringe zealotry is to be expected and tolerated so long as it doesn't violate any laws - in the public marketplace of ideas, bad ideas generally don't get too far. But in the modern world science wields far more than its by-god share of authority, so the pompous pronouncements of folks like Dawkins and many DD posters on fora like this are a more serious form of zealotry. The attacks on religion/spirituality are completely out of line, and every day it seems to me that the rust gets thicker on the hull of science. This is both dangerous and totally unnecessary.

What the public chooses to believe about origins is their absolute right, and science has no business even attempting to "eradicate" the traditional faiths of humanity. Science can certainly issue challenges to certain interpretations just through its findings, but the theoretical and/or operational dross of ongoing scientific investigation of the world is not really very important to ~95% of human beings. Neither are the metaphysical beliefs of the 3% of humanity who are avowed atheists of great import to the rest of us. People's faith, traditions and families [children] are a whole lot important. For such things people have always been known to fight, to the death. THAT is the 'nature' of the beast we call human, and science has no reason or right to ignore 'nature' so arrogantly just to defend individual scientist's empty, nihilistic metaphysical beliefs and impose them on the whole rest of society by force of law.

So I am one of the small handful of individuals on this forum who has actually changed my mind since coming here. Perhaps I was always an "IDer," but I'd just never encountered a formalization of the idea. There are of course fringe elements among the hard-core Creationists here, but I am not concerned that they can 'win' something through ID that they could never legally 'win' in the USSC. At the same time, I see no excuse at all to authoritatively assert in public education that biological evolution is non-teleological, random, purposeless, unguided, or any other adjective that directly insults cherished beliefs that are in fact quite important to our society and our civilization. The qualifiers are themselves faith-based, no different from any Creationist's beliefs.

Attack people where it matters, and you'll get a reaction. Even scientists can understand this simple fact. It looks to me like the evangelical atheists and juvenile delinquents around here pretending to speak for 'science' do way more harm than good to your 'side' - they help to empower the reaction against escalating attacks on faith and tradition. And at this point, I cheer the reactionaries on - I'd like to see them 'win' the right to speak in science and education, and force science to scrape the rust off its hull. Wouldn't hurt science a bit. As a collective human enterprise funded almost entirely from our pocketbooks, it should be humbled occasionally. Reminded who it works for, and what its purpose is.

ID may end up saving science from its own arrogant excesses. That would be a good thing. The rabid evangelical atheists who are so seldom brought to heel by 'real' scientists may destroy science for a generation or two. That would be a great shame.

Humanity can survive just fine without atom-smashers and ape-tenders and gene-splicers. Science cannot survive without public support. I like science, but it's way past time for it to grow up and stop biting the hand that feeds it.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. Max Planck

There Ain't No Fixed Rule

A lot of folks seem to be of the opinion that it is always better to buy real estate than to rent it (because renters are just "throwing their money away"). Well, bull. If a $10 million mansion were renting for $500/ a month, I think it's pretty obvious which is a better deal. Therefore the line exists somewhere. A housing bubble blog that I follow has a good post highlighting some current economic reality, in which renting seems to be by far the better deal:

When Renting Is Smarter

CNN Money looks at one rent or buy decision. "Andy and Kacey Olson and their four children moved to San Diego four months ago, where Andy had accepted a new position at a small biotech. They had $60,000 saved for a down payment. But when they toured one $750,000 home, they couldn't believe how small and unappealing it was."

"'Everyone told us to just get in and the rising market would take care of us,' Andy says. 'But I thought, who is going to buy this house from me for $850,000?'"

"They crunched a few numbers. This time they decided to rent, and they're saving a bundle. For $2,350 a month, they have a four bedroom, 2,100-square-foot home. If they were to purchase that same home today for $700,000 (the going rate for a similar house in the neighborhood), the monthly payment on a 30-year, $630,000 mortgage at 6.1 percent would run them more than $3,800."

"The rental market, in fact, can be an excellent tool for gauging the health (and risk) in a local market, particularly in cities where home prices have risen much faster than rents. Some experts look at the ratio of home price to rental income as a valuation tool, like the P/E for stocks. The statistics highlight some potential trouble spots."

"In New York, for instance, house prices have climbed to 24 times rental rates, up from 12 in the mid-1990s. In Los Angeles the ratio has grown to 20, up from 10. And in San Diego, where the Olsons live, the ratio now stands at 27, compared with 13 ten years ago."

"The Olsons are already glad they didn't jump in. They've noticed that houses in their neighborhood are staying on the market longer, and they've seen asking prices in real estate circulars come down. 'We'd rather be homeowners,' says Kacey. 'But we'll rent for as long as it makes sense financially.'"

It doesn't seem like that long ago that mortgage, maintenance, insurance, and tax payments really were lower than rents. But that sure as hell isn't now!


From David Horowitz today:

Here's a rant by a friend of mine from a national news organization that won't allow him to put his name on it for another publication. I think he's let himself get carried away by his disgust at the Democratic Party. It's not going to disappear. In fact it's going to be very competitive in 2006 and 2008 provided it doesn't nominate Cindy Sheehan.

I've Had It With The Democrats by Anon

The Democrats' reaction to the NY Times NSA story is just the last straw for me. I am sick and tired of the Democrats' political incompetence. I feel like Casey Stengel in 1962: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Look: Suppose that the NSA, without a warrant, eavesdropped on a call between some terrorist in Afghanistan and a U.S. citizen living in Florida. This is a hypothetical; we don't know that any such thing ever happened -- but suppose. Is this unconstitutional? And how would we know?

Here's the point: Any information obtained from such eavesdropping would be inadmissable in court. But no one has been arrested, indicted or prosecuted on the basis of such eavesdropping. No harm, no foul. It would only be if such information were the basis of prosecution that anyone's rights would be violated. Despite the warrantless wiretap, Citizen Abu in Orlando is still free, his property and freedom untouched.

So all this Democratic yammering about "civil rights" is demagogic nonsense, intended only to fool the foolish.

The Democrats are missing the whole point of treating terrorism as an act of war, rather than as an ordinary law-enforcement issue. We don't want to imprison and "rehabilitate" terrorists, we want to stop them before they kill us. Therefore, the NSA doesn't care whether an emergency wiretap of a

terrorist's cell phone yields constitutionally protected evidence that would be admissable in court. If Citizen Abu is planning to bomb Disneyworld, we are less interested in prosecuting Abu and his colleagues than we are in STOPPING THE ATTACK.

The American people understand this. I bet if you phrased the poll question right, you could get a solid major of Americans to agree that we should round up every Arab who even looks vaguely suspicious and ship their jihad-loving asses to Club Gitmo tomorrow. But the Democrats don't seem to understand this, and they are alienating a HUGE number of swing voters by their public stand for the civil rights of terrorists.

The Democrats' foolishness is frustrating to me not just because I'm an ex-Democrat and hate to see the ruination of my old party. Rather, I understand that when the Democrats are weak, the Republicans get lazy. It is no accident that since 9/11, the GOP has spent in such a manner as to give drunken sailors a bad name. Why? As long as the Democrats look so weak on national security, they can't possibly hope to regain power, and so there is no accountability for spendthrift Republicans.

The Democrats need to get their act together and stop pandering to the crowd, or they're going to go the way of the Whigs -- and maybe a lot sooner than anyone imagines. If the GOP can hold Congress through the 2010 elections and continue to gain in state legislatures, the next reapportionment is going to be a tsunami that will cost the Democrats another dozen seats in the House. California is the only "blue" state that will gain any electoral votes in the foreseeable future. And so if Republicans keep the White House in 2008, the Democrats won't have any political bargaining chips left.

No reason for a lobbyist or corporating to donate money to a party that has no hope of regaining power anytime in the next decade. Even George Soros won't keep pouring money down that rathole forever. If the money dries up, the Democrats are doomed. The Greens or some other left-wing party will take over the vote, and the rump remainder of the Democrats will become a fading shadow. They're cutting their own throats with their ignorant, ill-informed demagoguery and -- however much partisan glee that might bring to Republicans -- the political suicide of the Democrats might not be good for America.

Back in 1992 I actually voted for Clinton. The Democrats seemed like a viable choice to me back then. It is utterly inconceivable that I would ever send a vote their way again, unless the party crashes and burns and is completely remade from the ground up. It would be nice for there to be two competititive parties.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Demented And Quite Amusing

This rap video done by a couple of SNL guys. It concerns their trip to see The Chronicles of Narnia. They got cupcakes on the way.

Digging Their Own Grave

Good piece at RealClearPolitics.


Not recognizing the political ground had shifted beneath their feet, Democrats continued to press forward with their offensive against the President. They’ve now foolishly climbed out on a limb that Rove and Bush have the real potential to chop off. One would think that after the political miscalculations the Democrats made during the 2002 and 2004 campaigns they would not make the same mistake a third time, but it is beginning to look a lot like Charlie Brown and the football again.

First, the Democrats still do not grasp that foreign affairs and national security issues are their vulnerabilities, not their strengths. All of the drumbeat about Iraq, spying, and torture that the left thinks is so damaging to the White House are actually positives for the President and Republicans. Apparently, Democrats still have not fully grasped that the public has profound and long-standing concerns about their ability to defend the nation. As long as national security related issues are front page news, the Democrats are operating at a structural political disadvantage. Perhaps the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly liberal press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic politicians and prevents a more realistic analysis of where the country’s true pulse lies on these issues.

With their publicly defeatist language, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean reinforce these “soft on security” steroretypes, a weakness that more sober-minded Democrats have been trying to mitigate since the late 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately, this mentality dominates the Democrats’ political base and more accurately represents where the heart and soul of the modern Democratic party lies than the very tiny sliver of Joe Lieberman Democrats. The Party of FDR, Truman and John Kennedy -- at least on foreign policy -- is clearly no more.


[T]he bottom line is that average Americans’ sympathies are not with terrorists trying to kill innocents, but rather with our troops and security agents who are trying to combat these jihadists.

The public resents the overkill from Abu Ghraib and the hand-wringing over whether captured terrorists down in Gitmo may have been mistreated. They want Kahlid Mohamed, one of the master minds of 9/11 and a top bin Laden lieutanent, to be water-boarded if our agents on the ground think that is what necessary to get the intel we need. They want the CIA to be aggressively rounding up potential terrorists worldwide and keeping them in “black sites” in Romania or Poland or wherever, because the public would rather have suspected terrorists locked away in secret prisons in Bulgaria than plotting to kill Americans in Florida or California or New York.

The public also has the wisdom to understand that when you are at war mistakes will be made. You can’t expect 100% perfection. So while individuals like Kahled Masri may have been mistakenly imprisoned, that is the cost of choosing to aggressively fight this enemy. Everyone understands that innocents were killed and imprisoned mistakenly in World War II. Had we prosecuted WWII with the same concern for the enemy’s “rights” the outcome very well might have been different.

One of the major problems working against Democrats is many on their side appear to be rooting for failure in Iraq and publicly ridicule the idea that we actually might win. When this impression is put in context of the debate over eavesdropping or the Patriot Act, Democrats run the significant risk of being perceived to be more concerned with the enemy’s rights than protecting ordinary Americans. This is a loser for Democrats.

If Democrats want to make this spying “outrage” a page one story they are fools walking right into a trap.


More grounded Democrats may be thinking twice about the change in the political dialogue these past three weeks. Harry Reid had to reiterate twice on FOX News Sunday that he is “opposed to evil terrorists.” That is about as loud of a warning bell as you can get. The public may not like all or even the majority of what President Bush is doing, but they have no doubt about his stance toward the “evil-doers.”

No One Says It Better Than Steyn

This is superb.

Delusions A-Go-Go

John Hawkins rounds up the ten most heartwarming and informative posts from the Democratic Underground for 2005.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Morality That Takes You Morally Out Of The Picture

From James Taranto:

'God! I Didn't Know What to Say'

New York magazine features a piece on a group called Haven, which organizes volunteers who provide lodging in their homes to women and girls ("including a 10-year-old") who come to New York for late-term abortions:

Most Haven hosts are white, Jewish, well schooled, and political. Some are empty-nesters with beds to spare and memories of the sixties and seventies women's movement; many are young idealists with matchbox apartments and roommates who don't mind an extra body crashing in the living room. Meanwhile, most of the women helped by Haven are black and Latina, with GEDs or less, low literacy skills, and not much civic moxie. . . .

Katha Pollitt, the poet and Nation columnist, buys People magazine when she knows she's about to be called up for Haven duty. "But then I worry: Maybe that's patronizing. Maybe they'd rather read The Nicomachean Ethics." . . .

Late-term abortion is serious, hard-core. At 24 weeks, a fetus is at the same stage of development as those gruesome images shown on pro-lifers' protest placards. "The last woman I hosted showed me her sonogram," says Jennifer, a 26-year-old host who lives in Carroll Gardens. "Then she pointed out that the fetus was a boy. God! I didn't know what to say."

Every once in a while, after hosting a guest, I have bad dreams about sick babies. I have to remind myself that my dreams are just dreams, and that they're less important than my guests' realities.

One Haven hostess tells author Debbie Nathan, "Being pro-choice is a morality that takes you morally out of the picture." This is supposed to be a puff piece rather than an exposé, which makes the Havenites' condescension and depraved moral indifference all the more breathtaking.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

TenNapel Thanks The Left

For its help in making the Iraqi election possible. You've got to see the picture! Johnny Cash minces no words.

Crying Wolf Is Not Without Consequences

It's all been said before re:Katrina, but this is a good summation.


But media exaggeration was not a victimless crime. It delayed the arrival of responders who, relying on press reports, had to plan their missions as military rather than philanthropic endeavors. New Orleans police stopped their search-and-rescue operations and turned their attention to the imagined mobs of rapists. Two patients apparently died while waiting for evacuation helicopters grounded for a day by false reports of sniper fire. Buses were slow to get to the worst place, the Convention Center.

Bush-bashing, of course, came to the fore, with the typical mainstream media view voiced well by former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines: "The churchgoing cultural populism of George Bush" means that "the poor drown in their attics." MSNBC, ABC, NPR and Newsweek journalists were among the multitude using calamity as an opportunity to campaign overtly for higher taxes and bigger government.

And yet, as the truth about the hyping of disaster trickled out during the fall, the momentum desired by the left disappeared and a backlash emerged. "We've had a stunning reversal," complained Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. But whose fault was that?

There's precedent here: Propaganda about German atrocities in Belgium fueled sentiment for the United States to become involved in World War I, but when the truth came out Americans felt bamboozled and moved toward the isolationism that allowed for the rise of Hitler. British and French populaces also distrusted what seemed in the 1930s to be more scare stories about the Germans -- the larger effect of World War I propaganda may have been to bring about World War II.

The long-term effect of Katrina propaganda will probably be more cynicism. Reporters who lie or exaggerate create grinches.

A Touching Faith In Magic

Just posting a link to this, for the record. Uber-atheist Richard Dawkins in Newsweek lays out his case against Intelligent Design. Whole books can (and have) been written to show why Dawkins, while a master of Darwinistic rhetoric, is simply wrong. But he does paint an alluring picture.

Note that he uses theological argumentation:

Intelligent design works as a short-term proximal explanation of cameras and cars, prize roses and poodles. But it is fatally flawed as an ultimate explanation for anything, because it miserably fails to answer the $64,000 question: who designed the designer? That is not a frivolous debating point. It looms menacingly and fatally over the case—such as it is—for intelligent design.

Yes, Dawkins, it is, in fact a frivolous debating point, and it is curious that you bring theology into the argument, rather than sticking to science. By the Principle of Causality, or Sufficient Reason, there is nothing in the effects that is not in the cause. Thus, if we find Design, then there should be a Designer (just assume for the sake of argument that this is true). The buck has to stop somewhere. There cannot be an infinite chain of designed Designers. There must exist an undesigned Designer, an uncaused Cause, an unmoved Mover. This is all basic Philosophy 101 stuff. I don't know why Dawkins thinks that theists must be sitting there slack-jawed and drooling when he brings up his "devastating" "who designed the designer" question.

Moreover, Dawkins already believes in an undesigned Designer. Namely, Natural Selection. If you asked Dawkins "who designed Natural Selection", his answer would be "no one (you idiot)". Therefore he really has no problem with undesigned Designers. Later in the article he says this explicitly:

Disingenuously, intelligent-design advocates try to disguise their religious motives by claiming that the designer's identity is left open. Not necessarily Yahweh, it could be an alien from space. Scientists would not object to that in principle, because the stellar alien, who might indeed be godlike from our humble viewpoint, presumably evolved by a gradual, cumulative process. You can roll the regress back if you wish, to a designer of the designer. But sooner or later you are going to have to forswear what the philosopher Daniel Dennett calls "skyhooks," and employ a solidly founded crane. The only natural crane we know is natural selection, and I have no doubt that if life exists elsewhere in the universe it will turn out to be, in the broad sense, Darwinian.

To the extent that creationists allow their un-evolved supernatural designer to have sprung into existence ab initio, they should allow natural agents the same dubious privilege. Intelligent design is not only bad science; it is bad logic, bad philosophy and even—as my theologian friends point out—bad theology.

Odd that he (by necessity) claims the same "dubious privilege", but then disparages it as "bad logic, bad philosophy, and bad theology". Quite odd.

Note also, another theological blunder and red-herring that Dawkins has introduced. No Christian theist believes that "their un-evolved supernatural designer [sprang] into existence ab initio". That's the whole point. God is self-existent, eternal, and uncreated. Being eternal and self-existent, He never "sprang into existence" at all. So, nice strawman, there, Dawkins. It is, however, apparently the case that the physical universe did "spring into existence" during the Big Bang. So, let's see: everything that begins to exist has a cause outside of itself for its beginning to exist. The universe began to exist, therefore...

He also says

The central (and virtually only) argument offered in favor of intelligent design is the Argument From Improbability. Some biological feature—an eye or feather, biochemical pathway or bacterial flagellum—is claimed to be too statistically improbable (irreducibly complex, information-rich, etc.) to have evolved by natural selection.

Yes. So what? If someone says that something is the result of a probabilistic process, the onus is on them to show that the probabilities are reasonable. ID'ists show (decisively IMHO) that the accidental evolution of life is so radically improbable as to be impossible. Dawkins denies this, but he has never offered calculation to establish this, rather than mere rhetoric.

So, if I understand Dawkins correctly, "who designed the designer" is supposed to be a theological coup de grace, but "you have failed to calculate the probabilities and show that your position is supported" is a scientifically spurious statement. Okay.

We also have this gem:

It is hard to imagine a more lamentably weak argument. The complex biological feature, in every case that has been examined in detail, always turns out to have a gradual-ascent path leading to it.

Quite disingenuous, given that our science has yet to examine complex biological features on the molecular level (rhybosomes, flagella, etc, as well as the complete metabolic pathways by which they are built up, regulated, and maintained) in sufficient detail to even begin to evaluate whether, in fact, there is a gradual ascent path leading to them. So yes, he has made a true statement on the principle that if the "if" part of an implication is false, then the whole implication is true. The sentence "The complex biological feature, in every case that has been examined in detail, always turns out to have a gradual-ascent path leading to it" is equivalent to the implication "If we've examined it in detail then it has a gradual ascent path". Since there are zero cases examined in sufficient detail, the "if" part is false, yet the implication itself is true. So Dawkins isn't lying. Kind of.

Finally we have that crowning jewel of argumentation, the ad hominem:

The United States is, by any standards, the leading scientific nation in the history of the world. Yet this unprecedented powerhouse of scientific achievement is being dragged down in derision, in the eyes of the entire educated world, by the preposterous antics on display at the Kansas Board of Education and threatening other boondocks of local democracy. A second-rate mathematician, a mediocre biochemist, a born-again retired lawyer and a Moonie have somehow succeeded in elevating themselves, in the eyes of influential but ignorant politicians, rich benefactors and duped laymen, to near parity with the entire National Academy. How has it been allowed to happen? When will this great country come to its senses and rejoin the civilized world?

I suggest that anyone interested in the debate check out what the second-rate mathemetician (Dembski), the mediocre biochemist (Behe), the born-again retired lawyer (Johnson) and the Moonie (Wells) have to say for themselves, perhaps by reading their works, rather than taking an embittered atheist's (Dawkins) word for it.

Walking In Spain's Footsteps

Some excellent economic, financial, and sociological analysis here.

Here's how the piece starts:

In his recent Newsweek article "Sputnik Was Nothing," Louis V. Gerstner Jr. asks, "How much longer will the United States be a superpower? Not much, if we do not wake up to the fact that our economic strength, which has underpinned our political and military might for two centuries, is decaying. In the 21st century, economic power will be derived from skills and innovation. Nations that don't invest in skills will weaken: it is that straightforward."

Gerstner once again raises the alarm on the deterioration of the U.S. educational system and the negative implications this has for the future of America. He states that "calls for a crash program to defend our superpower status are even more urgent now."

Gerstner's message is not new—not for him, nor for other "enlightened" (read: already got theirs) capitalists such as financiers Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker, and Peter Peterson, and respected technology executives like Intel's Andy Grove and Craig Barrett—all of whom have been calling for various reforms for years.

In the 1990s, Gerstner led the big turnaround of IBM from an aging computer maker into the largest global IT services corporation in the world. Now he's chairman of the Carlyle Group, the well-connected private equity firm that included President Bush I, whose friends Brent Scowcroft and James Baker have voiced serious concerns about the foreign policy direction of the current Bush II administration.

Thomas Friedman, a cheerleader for "globalization" in his New York Times columns, his recent book The World is Flat, and his appearances on "The Charlie Rose Show," has wondered aloud why CEOs and political leaders don't speak out even more emphatically about the obvious economic threats facing America.

To us, the reason why these leaders don't take meaningful action—such as mobilizing a serious political movement to set things right—is straightforward.

All these leaders understand, but never admit, that the motivation and incentive for Americans to resolve these critical problems—to improve our education, healthcare, and energy systems; to control our debts, live within our means, and so on—have been gradually reduced by the U.S.-dominated global speculative financial system that they themselves have helped create.

Welch of GE, in his book Winning, describes how pleasantly surprised he was to learn (in the late 1970s and early 1980s) how easy it was to make money in financial services as he sold or shut down GE's industrial businesses. He not only became very wealthy by doing so, but also came to symbolize an entire era.

The reality is: why should Gerstner really care to do anything about education, when his private equity firm can buy a public company, "fix" it via financial leverage and layoffs, and then sell it for a quick profit to individuals and pension funds made both desperate for yield (by years of accommodative Fed rate policy) and oblivious to risk (from decades of Fed bailouts every time a poorly conceived, high-risk investment failure threatens the so-called "real economy")?

For that matter, why should ambitious American students study physics, engineering, and math (except perhaps to become Wall Street "quants"), when it is so much easier to make money speculating in real estate, stocks, and everything else, including untenable IPOs for companies that are unlikely to ever be profitable?

Why should corporate CEOs worry about American education, science, and technology, when they can simply "downsize" and "outsource" to Asia, greatly enhancing the value of their stock options and, at least in the short term, shareholder value?

Why should any corporate leader be surprised that, 25 years after the magic of making masses of money from government-protected leverage and guaranteed liquidity, the process has come full circle?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Tookie Circus

Good Right Wing News post. Be sure to check out the pictures at the post he links to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

On The Move

I just saw The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Pretty darned good. Brian Tiemann has some intelligent reflections on the film here (no spoilers. I mean, hey, the movie follows the book pretty closely, and of course you've read the book, yes?).

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Sheer Madness Of The Left

Great post at American Thinker.

One tidbit:

Atheism/ Materialism

This runs all through the Liberal Movement, and has since the beginning. We see hints of this in the early Philosophes`, such as Scottish philosopher David Hume’s comment

“The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.”

Or these comments by Voltaire;

“You will notice that in all disputes between Christians since the birth of the Church, Rome has always favored the doctrine which most completely subjugated the human mind and annihilated reason.

“Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.”

~ Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 1764

The German philosopher Frederick Nietzche states

“I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct for revenge for which no expedient is sufficiently poisonous, secret, subterranean, petty-I call it the one mortal blemish of mankind.”


The common thread was a denial of God and Religion, a belief in the purely material nature of reality. The pervasive view that “God is dead” and that the material world is all that exists has enormous repercussions in the liberal movement.


This also explains something which is often puzzling to Conservatives: why the Left is so joyless. Liberals are amazingly glum, and seem totally devoid of humor or mirth. Why is that? Actually, why shouldn’t that be the case? The liberal has to act as his own god, and that is a heavy burden, indeed! Everything depends on his own efforts. How can one be happy when, like Atlas, one must carry the World upon ones shoulders? Liberalism is a recipe for despair.


These three principles have always colored the views of the Left, but, much like the family who hides their crazy aunt in a closet when guests come, they’ve succeeded in hiding this insanity, thanks to their control of the news media, education, and their influence in government. Why haven’t we seen this side of them until now?

Because they are losing their control of the dissemination of information, and of the Holy Church of Government. The new media – talk radio, Fox News, The American Thinker and the rest of the blogopshere - have broken their control of the electronic leviathan. They have seen their hopes in Socialism and Communism dashed; they have seen their belief in the United Nations destroyed. The loss of the Presidency, Congress, and the potential loss of the Supreme Court threaten to put the Left out to pasture permanently. How can they stand that?

The ability to affect their environment is all they have; they have no heaven waiting in reward, no hope for something outlasting them. Their only purpose in life is to change the world they live in here and now. They have lost the ability to do that, and it’s causing them to have a collective nervous breakdown.

Well, Duh

The NYT can't seem to fathom why conservative blogs are more influential than leftist ones. Hawkins has this to say:

There was a lot of undeserved early buzz about a piece at the Old Grey Lady called, "Conservative Blogs are More Effective."

The long and short of this under-400-word article is that conservative blogs have a bigger impact than liberal blogs because we don't tear into Republicans (Only someone who never reads conservative blogs could think that) and because stories broken on the right side of the blogosphere move from the, "pre-existing media infrastructure," conservatives have built up (as if ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc., etc., aren't part of the left's, "pre-existing media infrastructure.")

The article is garbage, but it is correct when it notes that blogs on the right have a bigger impact than our counterparts on the left, despite drawing less traffic on the whole. However, the "why" is all wrong because of ideological blinders.

The reality is that liberal blogs aren't particularly effective because the liberal mainstream media beats them to every big story. The lefty blogs are like hyenas living off the scraps that lions leave over. The only stories they get to cover are ones that the MSM has already blown off because they're unimportant (See Jeff Gannon controversy) or because they're dry wells (See the Downing Street Memos).

On the other hand, conservative bloggers regularly get to cover stories the mainstream media has spun to the left, underplayed, or ignored completely. For example, MSM simply had no interest in giving a fair shake to the Swift Boat Vets for Truth or trying to debunk Dan Rather's fake memos so the field was wide open for conservative bloggers to pursue the stories.

That's why right-of-center blogs are likely to keep on making a bigger splash than the lefty bloggers: we're going after completely different game than the Mainstream Media while the libs have to compete with their more competent, more credible, more persuasive, better funded brethren in the MSM.

Podhoretz On The Defeat And Retreat Crowd

A real tour de force here. The piece begins thusly:

Like, I am sure, many other believers in what this country has been trying to do in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq, I have found my thoughts returning in the past year to something that Tom Paine, writing at an especially dark moment of the American Revolution, said about such times. They are, he memorably wrote, "the times that try men's souls," the times in which "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot" become so disheartened that they "shrink from the service of [their] country."

But Paine did not limit his anguished derision to former supporters of the American War of Independence whose courage was failing because things had not been going as well on the battlefield as they had expected or hoped. In a less famous passage, he also let loose on another group:

'Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. . . . Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses . . . Their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain for ever undiscovered.

Thus, he explained, "Many a disguised Tory has lately shown his head," emboldened by the circumstances of the moment to reveal an opposition to the break with Britain that it had previously seemed prudent to conceal.

The similarities to our situation today are uncanny. We, too, are in the midst of a rapidly spreading panic. We, too, have our sunshine patriots and summer soldiers, in the form of people who initially supported the invasion of Iraq--and the Bush Doctrine from which it followed--but who are now abandoning what they have decided is a sinking ship. And we, too, are seeing formerly disguised opponents of the war coming more and more out into the open, and in ever greater numbers.

Yet in spite of these similarities, there is also a very curious difference between the American panic of 1776-77 and the American panic of 2005-06. To put it in the simplest and starkest terms: In that early stage of the Revolutionary War, there was sound reason to fear that the British would succeed in routing Washington's forces. In Iraq today, however, and in the Middle East as a whole, a successful outcome is staring us in the face. Clearly, then, the panic over Iraq--which expresses itself in increasingly frenzied calls for the withdrawal of our forces--cannot have been caused by the prospect of defeat. On the contrary, my twofold guess is that the real fear behind it is not that we are losing but that we are winning, and that what has catalyzed this fear into a genuine panic is the realization that the chances of pulling off the proverbial feat of snatching an American defeat from the jaws of victory are rapidly running out.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Good Ace Of Spades Post

Complete with pictures, here. Be sure to follow the link to the "Little Democrat Squirrels" book.

Who's Doing The Preferin' Around Here?

Good short piece takes a look at this question:

[I]t's worth wondering: In a nation founded on religious principles, why should spiritual messages be tailored to the sensitivities of nonbelievers, while sexual messages are not similarly constrained for the sensibilities of traditionalists?

If there's a standard for deciding what content is appropriate for the public square, surely it should be uniformly applied. At the very least, we should rethink a status quo that presumes religious messages will elicit the kind of indignation once reserved for the crude sexual messages that pass without comment (or censure) today.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Reflection On John Lennon

Killed 25 years ago, when he was a little younger than I am right now. Pretty good essay.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Term Defined

This is good:

We must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ’son of a bitch’, more exactly ’sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ’sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ’stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ’sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ’stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’.

Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: 2000), pg. 245.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

All Rhyme, No Reason

I was thinking about how weird English is. For example, think of the different pronounciation of these words ending in 'ough': 'bough', 'cough', 'dough', 'rough'.

Here's what Nordlinger had today:


You've been talking about how difficult English must be for foreigners [not to mention us]. Consider the conjugation of four-letter words that end in "ake":

Bake, baked, baked.

Make, made, made.

Take, took, taken.

Wake, woke, waken.

Now ask your random foreigner to speculate on the conjugation of fake, quake, rake, shake.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

All Broken Up

A pretty amusing amateur movie here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

So Much For Division Of Labor And Comparative Advantage

Brian Tiemann on self-checkout at the grocery store.


Granted, using the self-scanner is fine for cans and bottles and bags. But what about produce? This is a use case that Home Depot doesn't have to deal with: you have to put the bag of vegetables on the scale, then press a series of slowly responding buttons, each screen triggering a loud, cheery narration—PLEASE SELECT FROM THE ITEMS ON THE SCREEN, OR KEY IN A NUMBER—until you've determined what exact kind of stuff you've got. Are these onions Maui Sweet, Vidalia Sweet, Vidalia, White, or The Kind You Hang On Your Belt? The button icons are no help—they all have the same identical "onion" bitmap, and my onions look nothing like what are pictured. I can't remember how the ones I picked up were labeled. I know it said "Sweet", but there are six "Sweet" varieties to choose from on the screen, probably all priced very differently—leading one to wonder, while standing uncertainly at the kiosk, what's stopping me from prodding the "Potatoes (Bulk Industrial-grade)" button and getting my onions for three cents a pound. Aside, of course, from the kiosk attendant who has to come hovering over everyone who stops by, peer over their shoulders, and point out that you can (in many cases) find a numeric code on the stickers on the vegetables which you can key in directly—which only applies to a few kinds of produce anyway. And that's not even to bring up the fact that it's terribly easy to get the machine into a state of confusion where the attendant has to come over and unjam it to get it to stop braying PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA at you even after you stuck it there and picked it up and put it firmly down several times. Or the fact that if you're at Home Depot, you're shopping so as to solve one particular home maintenance problem, and you're buying maybe five things, ten tops. But grocery shopping? Who wants to scan fifteen dog-food cans, a slab of shrink-wrapped meat, a French baguette, and forty other bits of provisions for the upcoming week—and then try to cram them all into the little weight-sensitive shelf while ten people stack up in line behind you and the kiosk attendant looks on in harried desperation?

Meanwhile, what if the customer is illiterate—or just not comfortable with using the touch-screen system? It's not easy. It isn't the best designed interface in the world even when everything's running smoothly, and it involves many times the patience and concentration of the average ATM visit. Sure, if one of the regular checkout lanes is open, you can just head over there—but again, sometimes that's just not an option, because the only lane they've got open is the automated one. (And last time I was in there, two of the four stations had OUT OF ORDER signs.)

Further to the Wal-Mart discussion, where the commenters point out that the dynamics of the market will determine what kind of business decisions are good for customers and which ones aren't, I cannot bring myself to give my patronage to Albertson's as long as there is this clear and obvious difference between them and Safeway, who make something of a proud point of not having automated checkout. Sure, they've got to staff more checkers; but these checkers get to use the mechanisms of the checkout counter, developed over many decades, in the manner in which they've been proven to work. And the upshot is that the shopping experience—firm peppers or no firm peppers—is vastly superior. If for no other reason than that a trained employee can process a cart full of groceries in about one tenth the time it takes me to do it myself at the automated checkout kiosk, and I'm not furious and behind schedule when I head out to the car. I feel like I've been served, not like I've been serving the company. And that's worth something to me.

Yup. My time is worth something to me, and I don't mind paying a little more for someone else to save me the hassle and frustration. 2 minutes of their time is far less of a cost than 10 minutes of mine.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Muslim On ID

Article mainly concerns the idea that Islam's beef with the West is its atheism (I doubt it; witness the first 1200 years of Islamic history). Some pretty good prose:

When President Bush declared his support for the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) theory in public schools along with Darwinian evolution, both he and the theory itself drew a lot of criticism. Among the many lines of attack the critics launch, one theme remains strikingly constant: the notion that ID is a Trojan Horse of Christian fundamentalists whose ultimate aim is to turn the U.S. into an theocracy.

In a furious New Republic cover story, "The Case Against Intelligent Design," Jerry Coyne joins in this hype and implies that all non-Christians, including Muslims, should be alarmed by this supposedly Christian theory of beginnings that "might offend those of other faiths." Little does he realize that if there is any view on the origin of life that might seriously offend other faiths — including mine, Islam — it is the materialist dogma: the assumptions that God, by definition, is a superstition, and that rationality is inherently atheistic.

That offense is no minor issue. In fact, in the last two centuries, it has been the major source of the Muslim contempt for the West. And it deserves careful consideration.


[W]hat exactly is materialism? Isn't it more obviously represented by the extravagance of pop stars than by the sophisticated theories of atheist scientists and scholars? Isn't the cultural materialism of, say, Madonna, quite different from the philosophical materialism of Richard Dawkins?

Well, it is self-evident that they look dissimilar, but the worldviews they represent are intertwined. Cultural materialism means living as if there were no God or moral absolutes, and all that matters is matter. Philosophical materialism means to argue that there is no God to establish any moral absolutes, and matter is all there is. The former worldview finds its justification in the latter. Actually, in the modern world, philosophical materialists act as the secular priesthood of a lifestyle based on hedonism and moral relativism. The priesthood convinces the masses that we are all accidental occurrences who are not under any Divine judgment; and the masses live, earn, spend, and have relationships according to this supposition. A popular MTV hit summarizes this presumption bluntly: "You and me baby ain't nuthin' but mammals; so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel."

The biological justification for promiscuity — that we are "nuthin' but mammals" — is no accident: The idea that we are all mere animals is at the heart of cultural materialism. And that idea is, of course, based on Darwinism. That's why Darwinism, in the words of Daniel Dennett, one of its hard-core proponents, acts as a "universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview."

That "revolutionized worldview" — in which God is denied, attacked, and ridiculed — is the grand problem we Muslims have with the West. It is true that some fanatics among us hate the West's liberty and democracy, too. Yet for the sane and pious Muslim majority, those are welcome attributes. This majority's only problem is the materialism that encompasses the West. And they would welcome those who would save the West — and thus the whole world — from it.


Of course, ID — like any other scientific theory — stands or falls not according to its political and diplomatic utility, but according to the evidence. So: Is ID true?

There is a huge and growing body of ID literature produced by some of the world's finest minds, and I won't attempt even to summarize the overwhelming evidence it presents for design in nature. Yet I think an examination of the main premise behind the current opposition to ID might be helpful.

To see that premise, we first have to note how ID theorists criticize Darwin. They do this by applying his own criterion for falsification. "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications," said Darwin, "my theory would break down." ID theorists, such as biochemist Michael J. Behe, apply this criterion to complex biochemical systems such as the bacterial flagellum or blood clotting and explain that they could not have been "formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications" — because they don't function at all unless they are complete.

What is the Darwinian response to this? Here's Jerry Coyne again, in The New Republic: "In view of our progress in understanding biochemical evolution, it is simply irrational to say that because we do not completely understand how biochemical pathways evolved, we should give up trying and invoke the intelligent designer." Note that Coyne is here denying the falsification criterion that Darwin himself acknowledged. According to Darwin, if you demonstrate "that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications," the theory will break down. According to Coyne, you will only be pointing to a system about which "we do not completely understand how [it] evolved."

In other words, Coyne leaves no way that the theory can break down. Whatever problem you find with the theory today will somehow be solved in the future. Actually Coyne, quite generously, does give a criterion to refute Darwinism: Should we "find human fossils co-existing with dinosaurs, or fossils of birds living alongside those of the earliest invertebrates," that would "sink neo-Darwinism for good." But ID proponents aren't questioning the fact that dinosaurs predated humans and invertebrates predated birds; our question, rather, is how they came to be. Coyne sounds like someone who would silence a serious critique of the theory of plate tectonics by saying, "Hey, show me that the Earth is flat and thus sink my theory for good, or shut up forever."

With his solid faith in Darwinism, Coyne also assures us that the gaps in the fossil record — which should have been filled by the 150-year-long desperate search for the fossilized remains of numerous, successive, slight modifications — "are certainly due to the imperfection of the fossil record." But why can't we consider the possibility that the gaps might be real — that forms of complex life might have appeared on Earth in the way they are, as the fossil record suggests? The standard reply to this question is the "god of the gaps" argument: that theists have imagined divine powers behind natural phenomena in the past, and science, in time, unveiled the natural processes behind those phenomena. But if we had seen a cumulative filling of gaps since Darwin, we would have agreed. What we have actually seen is the reverse: Ever since Darwin, and especially in recent decades, the problems with the theory of evolution have been deepening and widening. With the discovery of the unexpected complexity of biology, and the sudden leap forward in the history of life with the Cambrian explosion, the Darwinian theory turns out to be based on an atheism of the gaps, in which lack of knowledge about life led to the wrong assumption that it is simple enough to be explained by a non-design theory.

God & Muslims
There are many other attacks on ID in the media, and they are all useful in that they demonstrate the true intellectual force behind Darwinism: a commitment to materialism. The most common argument against ID, that it invokes God and so cannot be a part of science, is a crystal-clear expression of that commitment. Instead of asking, "What if there really were an intelligent designer active in the origin of life?" the Darwinists take it for granted that such a designer doesn't exist and limit the definition of science according to that unproven premise. Similarly, the evidence for the existence of a pre-Sumerian civilization would not be "a part of history" if you define history as "the discipline that examines the past of human societies starting from the Sumerians and never, ever, accepting the possibility of something else before." A saner approach would be to question the definition of the discipline that is challenged by evidence — not to ignore the evidence in order to save the definition of the discipline. The reason this saner approach is not the mainstream view in biology is the same old dogmatic belief: materialism.

Of course, Darwinians have the right to believe in whatever they wish, but it is crucial to unveil that theirs is a subjective faith, not an objective truth, as they have been claiming for more than a century. This unveiling would mark a turning point in the history of Western civilization, by reconciling science and religion and letting people become intellectually fulfilled theists. Moreover, it would mark a turning point in the history of the world, by changing the meaning of "the West" and "Westernization" in the eyes of Muslims. They have been resisting the influx of godlessness from the West for a long time; they would be much less alarmed in the face of a redeemed West.

Well...I kind of doubt it, but good article!

Nice Mainstream ID Article

Well, I consider National Review to be mainstream (compared to mere websites), anyway. Good stuff.


George Will tells us that evolution is a fact. Is it? It depends on what you mean by evolution. Add an antibiotic to a dish of bacteria, so that some die and some survive, and bacterial resistance may be seen. This is said to illustrate natural selection — Charles Darwin's great discovery and claim to fame — and, therefore, evolution in action. Charles Krauthammer is pleased to tell us that the advocates of intelligent design "admit" that natural selection "explains such things as the development of drug resistance."

Petri Politics
But what actually happens in the Petri dish? Some of the bacteria are naturally equipped with enzymes that give them immunity to the antibiotic. So they survive, while most of the bacteria die. Nutrients remain in the dish, and the resistant strain now has an ample food supply and multiplies. Before, it could hardly compete with the far more abundant strain, now wiped out. So the (pre-existing) resistant strain becomes more numerous. There is a multiplication of something that already existed. But as the famous geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan said about 100 years ago — he spent years studying fruit flies at Columbia University and was rewarded with the Nobel Prize — evolution means making new things, not more of what already exists.

Nonetheless, if you define evolution as a change of gene ratios, well, yes, there has been such a change of ratios in the population of bacteria. So, if your definition of evolution is sufficiently modest, then you can call evolution a fact. Others define evolution as "change over time." That's a fact, too.

But we know perfectly well that, to its devotees, evolution means something much more than that.

We are expected to believe — and I do mean believe — that evolution answers the important question: How did life, in all its abundance, appear on Earth? By the slow, successive modification of pre-existing forms, Darwin said. Go back far enough, to one of those warm little ponds Darwinians assume must have existed, and we would find that life started of its own accord from nothing in particular. Over the eons, atoms and molecules whirled themselves into ever more complicated structures. Eventually the best and brightest acquired consciousness, and started to ask: "How did we get here?" The usual answer was: "We seem to have been intelligently designed." Then others replied: "Oh, no, no, no, we all started in a warm little pond, way back."

Just the Facts
Whom to believe? Or maybe we should approach it more scientifically: What are the facts?

If we discount trivial examples like bacterial resistance or "change over time" or small changes in beak size among the finches of the Galapagos Islands, we don't know very much about evolution at all. We don't see it happening around us, or in the rocks.


So let's look at the evidence adduced for evolution. The fossil record is sparse. Bats, for example — the only mammals capable of powered flight — appear suddenly in the fossil record, with their sonar systems already fully developed. "There are no half bats," as a world expert on bats once said. The experts have no idea what animal gave rise to the first bat.

The creatures that evolution purports to explain are fantastically complex. The cell, thought at the time of Darwin to be a "simple little lump of protoplasm," is as complicated as a high-tech factory. We have no actual evidence that it evolved — and yet we are asked, indeed obliged, to believe that it did.

In the human body, there are 300 trillion cells, and each "knows" what part it must play in the growing organism. To this day, embryologists have no idea how this happens — even though they have been trying to figure it out for 150 years.

Imagine an automobile company that came out with a new model that could do the remarkable things that living creatures do. How amazed we would be! The car would be able to repair itself, if not damaged too badly. Dent it and, in a few days, the dent is gone. It needs to rest for a few hours every day but it can keep going for 80 years on bread and water, with perhaps vegetables thrown in. And it can hook up with another version of the same automobile, and produce in a few months' time new, tiny versions of itself, which will then grow up to full-size autos with the ability to reproduce in turn.

We have been unable to do anything remotely like this in the lab. Yet we are surrounded by lowly creatures that do these things every day — and we express no amazement. We have been trained to be blasé about the marvels of creation. "Oh, evolution did that," we say. "It was just a matter of random mutation; nothing surprising there." "These things arose by accident and were selected for."

That phrase — "it was selected for" — is regarded as a sufficient explanation for . . . everything. The same mundane phrase is given as the explanation for everything under the sun. How did the bats get sonar? "It arose by an accidental mutation of the genes and was selected for. Next question?" How did the eye develop? "Piecemeal. There was a random mutation and it conferred an advantage so it was selected for. Then the same thing happened over and over again. Next question?" How did the camel get its hump? "Random mutations conferred some advantage and so they were selected for. Next question?"

This is the science before which all knees must bend? These explanations are no better than "Just-So stories" (as one or two Harvard professors have rightly said). No actual digging in the dirt is needed: The theorist merely contemplates the trait in question and makes up a plausible story as to how it might have been advantageous.

We fear questioning the evolutionist dogma. Someone might call us fanatical. "Intemperate" was the word George Will used. So we go along with the dogmas of materialism, lest we be considered ignorant or uneducated or driven by a religious agenda.

Charles Krauthammer tells us that Isaac Newton was religious and if he saw no conflict between science and religion, why can't we take our thin gruel of evolutionary science like good children and be satisfied, without dragging a Designer into the picture?

Because it isn't real science, Charles. Newton, in fact, thought that the "most beautiful system" of sun, planets, and comets could "only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." But the laws of physics that govern these motions are simplicity itself compared with the immense complexity of the biological machinery that governs the development, proliferation, growth, and aging of millions of reproductive species. These mechanisms have yet to be discovered or described. To believe that the feeble tautology of natural selection — laissez-faire political economy from the 1830s imported into biology — constitutes a sufficient explanation of the marvels of nature is to display a credulity that makes our fundamentalists seem sagacious by comparison.

George Will has made one accurate criticism of the idea he so dislikes: "The problem with intelligent design is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis." This is true; but he should have added that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not falsifiable either. Darwin's claim to fame was his discovery of a mechanism of evolution; he accepted "survival of the fittest" as a good summary of his natural-selection theory. But which ones are the fittest? The ones that survive. There is no criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. Whatever happens, it is the "fittest" that survive — by definition. This, just like intelligent design, is not a testable hypothesis. As the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper said, after discussing this problem that natural selection cannot escape: "There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this." Popper was the first to propose falsification as the line of demarcation between theories that are scientific and those that are not; both intelligent design and natural selection fall by this standard.

The underlying problem, rarely discussed, is that the conclusions of evolutionism are based not on science, but on a philosophy: the philosophy of materialism, or naturalism. Living creatures, including human beings, are here on Earth, and we got here somehow. If atoms and molecules in motion are all that exist, then their random interactions must account for everything that exists, including us. That is the true underpinning of Darwinism. What needs to be examined in detail is not so much the religion behind intelligent design as the philosophy behind evolution.

But that is a sermon for another day.

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.