Monday, January 29, 2007

</being a doofus>

This is amusing:

</HATE> I spotted a T-shirt at school bearing this inscription, but I don't think it quite means what some people assume it means.

I take it that it's supposed to mean "end hate." But when you use a tag like </i>, you don't mean "end italics" in the sense "abandon italics forever." You mean "I've been using italics for a bit, I'm stopping for a while now, but I'll get back to using it later."

Substitute "hate" for "i," and you'll get my drift. I bet the guy has a T-shirt in his closet that he was wearing three days before; he's hated all the stuff between then and the </hate> shirt; and he'll be wearing the <hate> shirt next time he's got some hating to do. Plus he certainly wouldn't just wear the </hate> shirt without having worn <hate> before, and on the same page -- that would be syntactically non-compliant.

Re: my headline. The doofus is the guy with the </HATE> t-shirt, not Volokh for pointing this out.

Tolerance Uber Alles

Sweetness and light:

The Nation Institute Fellow Calls for Suppression of Speech by "the Radical Christian Right":

From American Fascists by Chris Hedges, Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute, former reporter for the New York Times and NPR, and (paragraph break added):

This is the awful paradox of tolerance. There arise moments when those who would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible should no longer be tolerated. They must be held accountable by institutions that maintain the free exchange of ideas and liberty.

The radical Christian Right must be forced to include other points of view to counter their hate talk in their own broadcasts, watched by tens of millions of Americans. They must be denied the right to demonize whole segments of American society, saying they are manipulated by Satan and worthy only of conversion or eradication. They must be made to treat their opponents with respect and acknowledge the right of a fair hearing even as they exercise their own freedom to disagree with their opponents.

Passivity in the face of the rise of the Christian Right threatens the democratic state. And the movement has targeted the last remaining obstacles to its systems of indoctrination, mounting a fierce campaign to defeat hate-crime legislation, fearing the courts could apply it to them as they spew hate talk over the radio, television and Internet.

And to the extent there's some ambiguity about whether he's calling for legal suppression (which "denied the right" seems to strongly suggest) or just social pressure, he seems to have clarified it in favor of legal suppression (and "hate crimes legislation" in the sense of bans on supposed hate speech) on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Jan. 25, 2007...

The comments to the post contain this pithy quote:

"Free speech makes it easier to spot the idiots." --James Taranto.

Amusing Oxymoron

Spotted in this news article:

NEW YORK (AP) -- AP Video Acrobatics, blaring music and plenty of hype accompanied Microsoft Corp.'s long-delayed debut of its new Windows Vista operating system.

Hours before the software went on sale in New York, dancers clad in Microsoft colors dangled from ropes high above street level Monday and unfurled flags to form the red, green, blue and yellow Windows logo against a building wall.

Later, two explosively loud, percussion-heavy rock bands riled up Microsoft enthusiasts amid flashing lights at the Nokia Theatre _ temporarily renamed the Windows Vista Theatre _ in Times Square. As employees at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters watched live video feeds, company-colored balloons dropped from the ceiling, a few wielding prizes.

"Microsoft enthusiasts"?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Resultant Lack Of Mathematical Ability Is Not An Unfortunate Side Effect, It's The Whole Point

The educational system has decided that ignorant and malleable drones are the intended product. Such drones are, after all, a key to our glorious socialist future.

This fifteen minute video by a parent who has discovered something rotten about the way math is being taught in primary schools is worth watching. The lady is much more pleasant about all of this than I would be.

It can be seen here.

Who Would Know Better About Theology Than An Evolutionary Scientist?

Here's another one for the "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" file:

Remember Richard Sternberg, the editor who got in hot water for allowing a paper arguing for intelligent design to be published in a scientific journal, where intelligent design was "out of place"? Fortunately, other editors enjoy looser reigns. In the article "Intelligent design and biological complexity" in the journal Gene, molecular biologist at Stanford University Emile Zuckerkandl writes not only about intelligent design (he thinks it's an "intellectual virus") but even about the attributes of God:

Time implies change. Without change, there probably is no time. Time and change as unavoidable conditions of existence would have had to impose themselves upon that "higher intelligence" that is being peddled to the public. If the higher intelligence had to conform to time, then why not to the other dimensions of nature? It looks as though beyond the ascendancy of nature any other power may be superfluous - and inherently limited. Since life in particular could under no conditions be created instantaneously - biology makes this abundantly clear, because certain required simultaneities can only result from a history - no God can be almighty.

A few questions: How does speculations about intelligent design and theology fit in with the description of Gene as dealing with "structural, functional, and evolutionary aspects of genes, chromatin, chromosomes and genomes"? Will Gene be opening a forthcoming issue to a reply from theologians, defending the almightiness of God?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Scarce For A Reason

Seven-and-a-half weeks to my wedding, a dull blogosphere, and other priorities are keeping me away from the blog.

One of the other interests has been digital photography. I took a bunch of pictures at the West Coast Walk For Life last weekend. You can see them here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Walk For Life

I was at the third annual West Coast Walk For Life on Saturday. This year the prolife crowd was absolutely huge, at about 20,000, while the "pro-choice" side was miniscule at just a couple of hundred. Doing a technorati search, I found this lamentation from the other side.

The post I did after the 2006 walk is here, that for the 2005 walk (where I met my wife-to-be for the first time) is here. You might find them interesting, if you've never seen them before.

Here's a quote from the lamentation I mentioned:

I celebrated this anniversary by joining approximately 400 other reproductive rights activist at the Embarcadero, to have a counter-protest to the 3rd Annual West Coast Walk For Life, a right wing predominantly Christian parade against abortion that converges every January here in the heart of liberalism, San Francisco CA.

Honestly, it was a pretty dismaying afternoon people, over 200 police officers were there to keep the crowds in check as over 20,000 pro-lifers from across the country marched bearing signs with totally falsified pictures of mangled fetuses and slogans like "abortion hurts women" and "abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace." They had their rosaries, and bibles, and walked in prayer for all of the fetuses, and all of the mothers, and all of the heathen activists that are going to burn in hell for their sins. For the most part the events remained cordial, a little yelling at times from both sides, but less out and out fights then last year and no one tried to pour holy water on me and exorcise my demons as has occurred in previous years. (true story!)

For the past three years that this march has come to town I have attended and sometimes helped to organize the counter demonstration. Every year the Walk for Life gets bigger and the activists grow fewer. This year, the sheer ratios of 1 protester to every 50 anti-choicers and 2 protesters to every 1 police officer got me a little blue, and an overall feeling of hopelessness permeated the thoughts of many of my fellow marchers.... They asked themselves "What's the point of coming anymore? Protesting accomplishes nothing."

It's true that protesting as a lone tactic rarely accomplishes much but it's exactly this mentality that keeps the numbers low at protests. We need to remember that protesting in conjunction with political organizing can make a powerful statement. We need to be there with our messages of "Forward Not Back: Reproductive Justice for All." "Our body! Our lives! Our right to decide!" and "Keep your Rosaries Off My Ovaries!" In era where our reproductive rights are being eroded by the Christian right, it's more important than ever to hit the streets and send the message that we're not going to stand for it. If we allow them to permeate our movement with hopelessness and doubt, then they have already won. And I for one refuse to go down that easily. Won't you join me?

A Sign That The Rules Of Engagement Have Changed?

Via Drudge Report, here's a video of the marines attacking an insurgent-infested minaret at a mosque.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Better Than Anything The MSM Is Willing To Give You

Michelle Malkin is starting to publish her excellent video blogs from her recent trip to Iraq. Here's the first one.

Winter Follies

My Dad alerted me to this one. They ain't used to snow in Portland, OR. It's a regular demolition derby, filmed from a guy's balcony above an intersection (presumably on a hill). Note: the video won't load in my Firefox 2.0, but works fine in IE 6.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Great Analogy

I had an eye exam today, during which they dilated my pupils. It's been amusing since then surfing the web using extra large text size, since for a few hours my near vision is completely shot.

Anyway, here's a good post examining the analogy between sports and war.


[W]hat would sports writers and fans make of this strange, strange turn of events? Of opportunities lost on both sides? Of outstanding athletes blowing very hot and very cold over the course of sixty minutes of play? Of the top seeded team, with the NFL’s MVP, losing at home?

It was an eye-opening experience to surf the Web this morning because I don’t read much sports journalism. The game was dissected in a thousand different ways. A few writers were clearly “in the bag” for one team or another but by and large I learned a great deal more about the game through the eyes of people who know it far better than I. It was clear, however, we’d watched the same game. The reference points, and the general sense of what was important, were the same.

It was a column by Pete King on the Sports Illustrated website which brought me up short and gave me reason to think. Here’s first-year NY Jets coach Eric Mangini’s post-season comments to the press corps:

I want to thank all of you guys. I know it’s been a long season for you. I appreciate your patience with me. I know I haven’t been Don Rickles in here. I’m trying. I think I made some progress. I’ll continue to try to make progress. I think the things that you guys do is extremely important. You’re the conduit to the fans. I just appreciate your patience with me and your understanding and your support throughout the course of the season.

“A conduit to the fans.” Jeez. That’s right. The media’s there to inform the fans.

It got me thinking. Most sports writers have an opinion. And certainly the local sports writers have an investment in communicating as much about their teams as humanly possible. Fan appetite for information is insatiable and where newspapers, TV and the Internet can’t satisfy it, fans will simply manufacture it themselves. Their passion is legendary.

Yet something still distinguishes sports media from the “current events” media — the MSM — that I usually read. Most of the sports media actually recognize that there are things that the coaches and players will not tell them. Never have. Never will. That the media do not require, and will not get, a briefing on all the details of a game plan, and certainly don’t need ongoing espionage operations to do a good job for their employers and readers. Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots is legendary for his non-informative press conferences, yet sports reporters still line up to hear his words. One reason. His team wins, mostly.

Part of the “good guys” winning requires that the media play it straight. They can read between the lines all they want. They can dream up whatever schemes, plans, and strategies they think will prevail. They can interprete the slightest facial twitch or player limp in whatever way they want. But they cannot, must not, seek to betray confidences that would benefit the opposing team. A reporter who consistently attempted to sabotage the local team’s game plans would quickly be looking for work in a different discipline. Fans have too much invested in their teams to let that kind of behaviour continue.

Thus my broader view for the day — America will get the MSM it wants when America takes its national security as seriously as its football.

We don’t need “happy hacks” (to quote Mickey Kaus) but we do need media who recognize that they’ve got some skin in this game. That there are things that they do not need to know, immediately, under a system of representative government. That their role in life is not to undermine the effectiveness of the local team. Yes, we want to know the strengths and weaknesses. But winning the game … not exposing how the game is to be won … is what ultimately counts to the fans.

Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots move on to the AFC Championship against Indianapolis next week. And the fans couldn’t care less what they discussed LAST week. Thank goodness the media in Pats’ world are actually required to love football more than themselves. Football fans can still dictate how the game is played.

Maybe America needs a few more fans.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lileks Firing On Many Cylinders

I don't know how many, he has more than most to work with. Good, wide-ranging Bleat column today.


“Rome” is another matter. Too bad the second season will be the last. Not enough people watched the first season, and they spent about forty billion dollars on the sets – which are truly spectacular and immensely detailed; from what I’ve learned from my industry sources (i.e., stopping off at the TV critic’s desk at the paper to chat) they filled every inch of every frame with authentic items. When the camera pans across an alley or a room, every single detail has been researched, verified, reproduced. You can’t tell - but you can tell, somehow. So why didn’t it work?

Maybe people expected big battles, and didn't get them. But I don't think so; oddly enough, when people think of Rome they think of the city itself and its politics and culture, not the distant clang of sword and shield. Maybe people wanted gladitorial storylines, but A) that's been done, and B) the Colosseum hadn't been built yet. Perhaps because it lacked an obvious villain. All great HBO shows are about men whose villainy is obvious but complicated - Tony Soprano, obviously, plus Al Fargin' Swearenfargingen of "Deadwood," Avon Barksdale in "The Wire" (in subsequent seasons the villainy was found in institutional inertia, which made the last season the most impressive and heartbreaking of them all) and Larry David, a skittish judgmental nebbish with enough F-U money to avoid the consequences of his boundless schmucktitude. (Just kidding. Sort of.) Julius Caesar wasn't a typical HBO villain, and I don't think the death-of-the-Republic theme had enough dramatic resonance. . . and in a way, I'm glad, because hack writers could have really played that one up, George Lucas-style. ("Sith" was on the HD channel last night, and I watched some of it, and had the same irritated reaction: boundless talent in the service of a 7th grade imagination.)

Too bad season two will be the end of it. But they brought it back for ten more, and for that I’m grateful.

All Western cultures like to think of themselves as reflections of Rome – heirs who believe they have bested the legacy, but still suspect they lack the iron in the spine that made Rome great. But we’re better than they were. The attributes that held them together are incompatible with an Enlightened society, and what virtues they had they consumed in their rise to power. But we feel a kinship, and that’s only natural; we all grew up associating their architectural vocabulary with ours. Church, business, government – everyone took turns dressing up in Roman glory.

Why? It’s peculiar, the assumptions we make. Think of “Gothic” church architecture - busy facades, filigreed steeples, flying buttresses, everything squeezed together and competing to get to heaven first, giant stone mountains evaporating in an effervescence rapture. It seems very old and spooky. Roman, or “classical” architecture, almost stands outside of time: it’s a timeless ideal, and its effect on the Western imagination is so enduring that when the clumsy exhausted modernists came up with something like this in 1968 (click for a larger picture) they felt compelled to put columns out front to match the neighboring classical buildings. Because columns meant college and learning and civilization. Such a building might have meant something else 2000 years ago – say, “here’s the place where they slit the throat of the bull and dump the blood on the rich lady who wants Jove to make sure her husband gets that new job” – but those meanings have been drained from the structures, replaced with meanings particular to Christianity and concepts associated with Christian cultures.


Anyway. Strange as they may have been – and they were strange, believe me – you like to think you could figure it out if you woke up in Pompeii. Medieval France, ancient Greece, the Mongol Empire – you wouldn’t know where to start. But if you found yourself in a Roman city in a tunic with some coins in your pocket and smattering of Latin? You could figure out a meal and a drink and a place to stay, and if you avoided getting stabbed for absolutely no reason, you might find a job. Of course, the "Smattering of Latin" would be the deal-killer. Unless you were a graphic designer who'd memorized the Lorem Ipsum.

Didn’t mean to get off on that, and now it’s put me behind schedule. I’d hate to think I was unable to watch the first episode of Rome because I wasted time writing about Rome.

I've got the first season of Rome on its way to me.

Lileks also liveblogs the season opener to 24.

Unions. Is There Anything They Can't Accomplish?

Via John Hawkins:

"This is a common viewpoint, I've found, among my Democratic friends--Jon Alter, this means you!--who would never actually buy a Detroit product but who want to believe the UAW can't be blamed. The argument seems to be roughtly this: a) American cars are now reliable enough, having closed the gap with the Japanese brands, so b) the workers are doing their job; therefore c) if Detroit cars like the G6 are still obviously inferior--tacky and cheap, with mediocre handling--it must be because they're designed badly by white collar professionals, not because they're built badly by blue collar union members.

The trouble with this comforting liberal argument is labor costs. When Kuttner says "Japanese total labor costs are comparable, even with Detroit's higher health insurance costs," he is--as is so often the case--talking through his hat. Look at this chart. GM pays $31.35 an hour. Toyota pays $27 an hour. Not such a big difference. But--thanks in part to union work rules that prevent the thousands of little changes that boost productivity--it takes GM, on average, 34.3 hours to build a car, while it takes Toyota only 27.9 hours. ** Multiply those two numbers together and it comes out that GM spends 43% more on labor per car. And that's before health care costs (where GM has a $1,300/vehicle disadvantage).

If you're GM or Ford, how do you make up for a 43% disadvantage? Well, you concentrate on vehicle types where you don't have competition from Toyota--e.g. big SUVs in the 1980s and 1990s. Or you build cars that strike an iconic, patriotic chord--like pickup trucks, or the Mustang and Camaro. Or--and this is the most common technique--you skimp on the quality and expense of materials.

...Is it really an accident that all the UAW-organized auto companies are in deep trouble while all the non-union Japanese "transplants" building cars in America are doing fine? Detroit's designs are inferior for a reason, even when they're well built. And that reason probably as more to do with the impediments to productivity imposed by the UAW--or, rather, by legalistic, Wagner-Act unionism--than with slick and unhip Detroit corporate "culture." -- Mickey Kaus

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Science Fiction From The Wide Ties And Polyester Era

Hot Air has the original trailer from an unprecedented cinematic experience of science fiction that will have you excited to see it in a movie coming this summer.

Very interesting to see scenes from Star Wars before the score was finished and when science fiction still had a "late show" feeling to it. As Allahpundit says, "Whatever they paid you, John Williams, it wasn’t enough."

Why We Fight

Excellent essay by The Anchoress.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Uber-Feminist Rips Childless Career Woman

Leftist consistency is an oxymoron. They use whatever weapon is at hand. The Anchoress has a good post on Barbara Boxer's criticism of Condoleeza Rice.

An Amusin' Staurn Trek Parody Oan Yootube

This is worth a couple of minutes:

H/T Lileks.

I also found (and used) this translator to do the post title.

If You Were Really Serious About Conservatism, You'd Impose Leftism!

James Taranto:

Markos Moulitsas, Material Girl

"The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict," President Bush said last night. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time." Markos "Kos" Moulitsas begs to differ:

I can't take anyone bellowing crap like "decisive ideological struggle of our time" seriously when they refuse to call for the sort of national sacrifice that a real "decisive ideological struggle of our time" would demand.

If Bush and his pals truly believe the fate of Western civilization hangs in the balance, they should show they mean it. Mobilize the country. Call for a draft. . . .

And yeah, of course they won't go anywhere near a draft. They don't believe in their war that much, enough to kill them electorally for a generation. But if the struggle is so dire and dark, why not do something as tame as repeal their precious tax cuts for the wealthy?

It's a common trope on the left: the measure of your devotion to a cause is the extent to which you are willing to expand governmental power in the name of fulfilling it. The question of whether a draft or tax increases would, as a practical matter, benefit the cause is treated as irrelevant; what's important is the symbolism of the grand gesture. It is analogous to evaluating a man's devotion to his wife or girlfriend solely by how much money he spends on her.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Surge

Dean Barnett has a very good 'FAQ' post about Bush's speech.

The Anchoress has a good roundup here.

Heads We Win, Tails You Lose


Driven to Distraction

We were hoping the Angry Left blogs would have an interesting take on the Somalia strike, and we weren't disappointed. Here's a sampling:

* "I don't have any facts or expertise, but it strikes me that the warmongers have pulled a fast one by escalating in Somalia instead of Iran or Syria. By tonight, Bush will be able to make a case that this has come up suddenly, that they have been ready for it, that it merely demonstrates what he has been saying about GWOT [global war on terror]."--"arper,"

* "Well, Well never fails. Bush is about to ask America to allow him to escalate the war in Iraq. But whenever he needs to do something like this, it seems like there's always a 'terror scare,' or some trumped up success, even if it's not our own, some days before."--"sephius1,"

* "With Bush's umpteenth Iraqi war plan set for delivery today, was yesterday's cruise missile attack in Somalia supposed to change the subject, or score points elsewhere while the President was on the hot seat?"--Michael Shaw,

So now the war on terror is a distraction from Iraq?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Good Pictures Of iPhone Announcement


As Deadly Dull As The Nineties, Except Without The Hope That Giving Republicans Power Will Change Anything

We're in a new political era. Unfortunately, it makes for dull-as-hell blog reading. 10 years ago, you could look at all the inanities of the Clinton era, but still enthusiastically thirst for a change to Republicans to finally set things right. Now? Not so much. Conservatism is dead, Republicans have shown themselves to be quite useless, and mindless leftism is on the upswing. There is nothing whatsoever to get excited about, and little motivation to harbor false enthusiasms.

I'm afraid that we're in for a lot of meaningless, boring nothingness, punctuated by the occasional unopposed implementation of awful policies. Until something big happens (large scale terrorist attacks, economic collapse), well, here we are.

I'll still be posting items of interest that I find, but the pickings are very slim right now.

On the plus side, it looks like Apple, Inc has done it again, revolutionizing the phone and leaping years ahead of the competition. Details here. The iPhone introduction at Macworld Expo yesterday is worth watching. Steve Jobs is very excited by this new technology and his enthusiasm is contagious. I've never owned a cellphone (I hate the things) but I'd consider one of these.

See here for some interesting commentary about what this does to the competitive situation in the phone business.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'll Fix You, Dastardly Lord Vader!

Nice job at Star Wars redone as a 20's-era silent movie. It really should have had some footage of the Princess in distress, though. H/T Ace Of Spades.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Good Discussion

At Uncommon Descent in response to this post:

The Emerald Cockroach Wasp

The emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa, also known as the jewel wasp) is a parasitoid wasp of the family Ampulicidae. It is known for its reproductive behavior, which involves using a live cockroach (specificially a Periplaneta americana) as a host for its larva. A number of other venomous animals which use live food for their larvae paralyze their prey. Unlike them, Ampulex compressa initially leaves the cockroach mobile, but modifies its behaviour in a unique way.

As early as the 1940s it was published that wasps of this species sting a roach twice, which modifies the behavior of the prey. A recent study using radioactive labeling proved that the wasp stings precisely into specific ganglia. Ampulex compressa delivers an initial sting to a thoracic ganglion of a cockroach to mildly paralyze the front legs of the insect. This facilitates the second sting at a carefully chosen spot in the cockroach’s head ganglia (brain), in the section that controls the escape reflex. As a result of this sting, the cockroach will now fail to produce normal escape responses.

The wasp, which is too small to carry the cockroach, then drives the victim to the wasp’s den, by pulling one of the cockroach’s antennae in a manner similar to a leash. Once they reach the den, the wasp lays an egg on the cockroach’s abdomen and proceeds to fill in the den’s entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out than to keep the cockroach in.

The stung cockroach, its escape reflex disabled, will simply rest in the den as the wasp’s egg hatches. A hatched larva chews its way into the abdomen of the cockroach and proceeds to live as an endoparasitoid. Over a period of eight days, the wasp larva consumes the cockroach’s internal organs in an order which guarantees that the cockroach will stay alive, at least until the larva enters the pupal stage and forms a cocoon inside the cockroach’s body. After about four weeks, the fully-grown wasp will emerge from the cockroach’s body to begin its adult life.

The wasp is common in tropical regions (Africa, India and the Pacific islands), and has been introduced to Hawaii by F. X. Williams in 1941 as a method of biocontrol. This was unsuccessful because of the territorial tendencies of the wasp, and the small scale on which they hunt.

Imagine, if you will, how a wasp evolved the ability to perform brain surgery complete with a drug that turns a cockroach into a docile zombie it can lead around like a dog on a leash. I emphasize the word imagine because any story you come up with is a work of fiction. Such fiction is the basis of the Theory of Evolution.

One of the commenters is quite forthright in asserting that his faith in Darwinism rests on theological grounds:

I’ve been waiting for an topic like this to show up.

Intelligent Design handsomely relies on intuition, prodding us to capitulate to our sense that nature is in fact designed. It is not an illusion, they tell us. Now, I hear some hedging about this occasionally, that we can be mistaken, but basically our intuition is correct that design is at work in the universe.

Darwinists, on the other hand, deny the reality of design, and therefore admonish those of us who believe our intuitive sense that design is at work in the universe. Intelligent Design is an illusion, they say. And moreover, the march of science proves this. What we once thought was the work of an intelligent agent turns out to be nothing more than natural, mechanistic processes at work. An intelligent agent may have been involved to get the ball rolling, they say, but there doesn’t appear to be any piercing or manipulation of this closed system we call the universe.

So, take the example posted above by DaveScot. My intuition is that an intelligent being would never consciously settle into his lab chair and design such a creature. For me, such a creature has no hallmarks of design. It has adapted and evolved and adapted and evolved over millions of years…Why do I think this? Because I can’t seem to make the connection between creatures like this and God. And it’s not because I have trouble with the morality of using another creature as a doomed vessel for hatching eggs. It’s just plain bizarre. And I have trouble with a bizarre God.

But like Darwinists, intelligent design proponents want me to ignore my intuition that the wasp is a product of evolutionary processes. They say the seeming bizarreness of God has been addressed by tortured theologians for thousands of years or something to that effect and the fact that it is designed is the basic point.

You see, for me, the appeal of intelligent design is that it squares with common sense. I can understand the intelligent design argument that the universe is bathed in a conscious God that was an continues to be involved in the universe. But this kind of example leads me to think otherwise.

Now, I bring this up because it is very, very important. I have talked to a number of scientists, medical researchers, physicians, many of which are brilliant people. You know why they reject intelligent design? Because of intuition. They can’t draw the connection between this wasp (and thousands of other examples) and an intelligent designer. It just doesn’t make sense.

His Darwinism is solidly supported by the argument from personal theological incredulity.

A Remarkably Incurious Elite

Great piece in the WSJ about the militant new atheists.


Thanks in part to the actions of a few jihadists in September 2001, it is believers who stand accused, not freethinkers. Among the prominent atheists who now sermonize to the believers in their midst are Dr. Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett ("Breaking the Spell") and Sam Harris ("The End of Faith" and, more recently, "Letter to a Christian Nation"). There are others, too, like Steven Weinberg, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Brooke Allen (whose "Moral Minority" was a celebration of the skeptical Founders) and a host of commentators appalled by the Intelligent Design movement. The transcript of a recent symposium on the perils of religious thought can be found at a science Web site called

There are many themes to the atheist lament. A common worry is the political and social effect of religious belief. To a lot of atheists, the fate of civilization and of mankind depends on their ability to cool--or better, simply to ban--the fevered fancies of the God-intoxicated among us.

Naturally, the atheists focus their peevishness not on Muslim extremists (who advertise their hatred and violent intentions) but on the old-time Christian religion. ("Wisdom dwells with prudence," the Good Book teaches.) They can always haul out the abortion-clinic bomber if they need a boogeyman; and they can always argue as if all faiths are interchangeable: Persuade American Christians to give up their infantile attachment to God and maybe Muslims will too. In any case, they conclude: God is not necessary, God is impossible and God is not permissible if our society--or even our species--is to survive.

What is new about the new atheists? It's not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won't encounter a single point you didn't hear in your freshman dormitory. It's their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote--both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.

For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today's atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people--which Dr. Dawkins calls "a form of child abuse." He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents' religious beliefs.

For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it. The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins's volume in a recent New York Review of Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting point for any considered debate over religion.

The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody. It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton and Spinoza--let alone Aquinas, Dr. Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal Newman, Reinhold Niebuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to pass over this deeper faith--the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history--is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.

To read the accounts of the first generation of atheists is profoundly moving. Matthew Arnold wrote of the "eternal note of sadness" sounded when the "Sea of Faith" receded from human life. In one testament after another--George Eliot, Carlyle, Hardy, Darwin himself--the Victorians described the sense of grief they felt when religion goes--and the keen, often pathetic attempts to replace it by love, by art, by good works, by risk-seeking and--fatally--by politics.


There is no such sympathy among the new apostles of atheism--to find it, one has to look to believers. Anyone who has actually taught young people and listened to them knows that it is often the students who come from a trained sectarian background--Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Mormon--who are best at grasping different systems of belief and unbelief. Such students know, at least, what it feels like to have such a system, and can understand those who have very different ones. The new atheists remind me of other students from more "open-minded" homes--rigid, indifferent, puzzled by thought and incapable of sympathy.

The new atheists fail too often simply for want of charm or skill. Twenty-first century atheism hasn't found its H.G. Wells or its George Bernard Shaw, men who flattered their audiences, excited them and persuaded them by making them feel intelligent. Here is Sam Harris, for instance, addressing those who wonder if destroying human embryos in the process of stem cell research might be morally dicey: "Your qualms . . . are obscene."

The atheists say that they are addressing believers. Rationalists all, can they believe that believers would be swayed by such contumely and condescension? They seem instead to be preaching to people exactly like themselves--a remarkably incurious elite.

Welcome To Disneyland

Cartoons here, here, and here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Very little of interest to read lately. But Cartago Delenda Est is still keeping watch!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pooling Our Collective Ignorance

Great Thomas Sowell column.


Perhaps it is one of the fruits of the "self-esteem" emphasis in our schools that so many people feel confident to voice strong convictions about things they know little or nothing about -- or, worse yet, are misinformed about.

One of the hardest things for anyone to be informed about is the value of someone else's productivity. Yet there are cries from all directions that some people are being paid "too much" and others "too little."

Who can possibly be better informed about the value of what someone else produces than those who use the goods or services that the person provides and pay for it with their own money?

Things are worth it or not worth it to particular individuals. What these things might be worth to somebody else is irrelevant.

People who think that they, or the government, ought to be deciding how much income people make are in effect saying that they know the value of people's output better than those who use that output and pay for it with their own money.

How did Bill Gates get his fortune? Not by someone deciding how much Bill Gates was worth to "society," but by innumerable people around the world deciding whether what Microsoft offered them was worth what Microsoft charged.

What all those sales added up to -- Microsoft's income and Gates' fortune -- nobody decided. Nor is there any reason why they should have, even aside from the fact that nobody is qualified to make such a decision.

We can each decide for ourselves whether what Microsoft offers is worth it to us. That is all we are competent to decide -- and only for ourselves individually, when spending our own money.

The idea that we should pool our collective ignorance and then decide how much it is "fair" for Gates or anybody else to earn in total income is as ridiculous as it is dangerous, for it means arming politicians with the arbitrary power to decide everyone's economic fate.


A recent campaign in California to sock the oil companies with bigger taxes hyped the fact that oil company profits were $78 billion.

That sounds like a lot of money. For that matter, $78 million would sound like a lot of money. If the truth be known, there was a time when just $78 would have seemed like a lot of money to me.

But so what? What do we know about the economics of the oil industry? How many billions did they invest to get that $78 billion in profits? And how many billions did they lose in their bad years?

Utter ignorance of all these things has not been enough to discourage people from loudly demanding that the government "do something" about "Big Oil" and its profits.


Are individual decisions made by people deciding what is best for themselves to be over-ruled by ignorant busybodies, obsessed by things they do not understand?

Is the whole economic system of supply and demand, on which the nation's prosperity is based, to be disrupted whenever moral exhibitionists have a need to feel puffed up about themselves?