Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who Are The Ones Wallowing In Ignorance?

Pontificating about ID while displaying an abject ignorance of what it actually says is really not the way to win the argument. But do keep it up.

Telic Thoughts quotes a fairly high profile critic as follows:

Another practice that isn't science is embracing ignorance. Yet it's fundamental to the philosophy of intelligent design: I don't know what this is. I don't know how it works. It's too complicated for me to figure out. It's too complicated for any human being to figure out. So it must be the product of a higher intelligence.

There are many good comments to the post in response to this. Here's one:

Seriously, is this even worth wasting the time and bandwidth to respond to? What an utter moron. Its like some fundy preacher "preaching to the choir" when it doesn't really need to make sense and certainly dosn't have to be true.

What if you were to apply each of his statements to the flagellum?

I don't know what this is.


I don't know how it works.


It's too complicated for me to figure out.


It's too complicated for any human being to figure out.


So it must be the product of a higher intelligence.

Um, no. That's not how the argument proceeds you dimwit.

Here's another:

Tyson wrote:

I don't know what this is. I don't know how it works. It's too complicated for me to figure out. It's too complicated for any human being to figure out. So it must be the product of a higher intelligence.

There are a couple of possible flip-sides to this remark.


I don't know what this is.

I don't know how it works.

It's too complicated for me to figure out.

It's too complicated for any human being to figure out.

So it doesn't exist.

This is essentially the tack taken by eliminative materialists with respect to consciousness. But it's also the basic reasoning used by many, such as Dawkins, to arrive at atheism.


I know what this is.

I know how it works.

It's not too complicated for me to figure out.

It's not too complicated for any human being to figure out.

So the Empire State building must not have been intelligently designed.

Oh, wait, um.

Hold on.

Let me think about this…

Yeah, and while you're at it, you might want to ask yourself this: if intentional rational thought itself is to be understood, must it be understood only in terms of non-intentional non-rational non-thought?

I don't see why that need be the case at all. I don't think intentional rational thought is a 'problem'. It's only a problem if you try to give a materialist reduction of it. But I wouldn't try such a reduction.

Why think that rational and moral mindhood needs to be or can be explained, if by 'explained' you mean 'explained in terms of something else which doesn't possess mindhood'? It's the materialist who thinks mind, consciousness, reason, normativity, moral and aesthetic and emotional value, needs to be explained in terms of non-mind, non-reason, non-consciousness, non-normativity, non-value. The anti-materialist ist is saying that doesn't need to be done, nor can it be done; and that it's wrongheaded to think otherwise. Theists hold that it's ultimately mind that explains why matter exists and has the properties it has––it was intelligently designed—-not the other way round.

The mind of the creator is THE basic truth about reality, because it is itself the basic reality. All other realities reflect this basic truth by being themselves rationally ordered in their design. And some of these created realities are endowed with reason and value, and with the capacity for moral agency.

The explanation for that just is that a transcendent creative mind pre-eminently endowed with reason and value, is the fundamental ontological and explanatory fact about reality.

It is senseless to say that this 'doesn't explain anything' in precisely the same way that it would be senseless to say that if materialism is true, positing impersonal material forces as the fundamental fact about reality, 'wouldn't explain anything'.

Mind works this way…..consciousness, reason, intention, purpose, knowledge, etc. Matter works this way…occupying space, rest mass, inertial motion, etc etc. Why hold that mindstuff is more 'mysterious' than matterstuff?

It strikes me that our conscious mental lives are the most obvious, matter-of-fact, taken-for-granted, intuitively indubitably self-evident realities there are, and that it's things like curved spacetime, energy fields, quarks, and suchlike that are the 'mysterious' things.

The central fact which grounds and mediates anyone’s access to any facts about curved spacetime, energy fields, etc, whatsoever is the fact of rational consciousness. And the central observation we can make about the fact of rational consciousness is that it’s unlike any physical fact we know. Indeed, consciousness, through which we encounter whole realms of the nonphysical such as rationality, morality, aesthetics, and meaning, is intrinsically unlike anything else in the physical universe, a fact reflected in physics textbooks which purport to explain everything about the universe but say nothing, far less explain anything, about rational consciousness.

Meantime, it's only fair to point out that materialists have a hard time accounting in their own terms for the central presuppositions of science–—namely, rational observership, rational inference, and rational agency——without appearing to endow matter with magical properties.

Another major difficulty for materialists is to account for why matter appears to obey 'laws' or behave with regularity—-laws and regularities of remarkable mathematical (and hence rationally intelligible) elegance and beauty. How can the matter now present in the universe control its own future, so to speak——especially if we conceive of it as being devoid of teleology? If 'laws' are posited to explain regularities, must not they themselves be immaterial entities that transcend and govern the universe's material entities? And is it not the case that the only plausible candidates for being immaterial entities are only ever encountered as the contents of minds?

Perhaps Tyson knows how to figure all that out without positing an intelligent designing mind as the universe's and life's creator. If so, I'm all ears.

But perhaps instead he will, er, embrace ignorance with all the passion of a promissory materialist:

"We don't know how this occurred. But we, er, know it occurred without an intelligent designer being involved at any stage."

In contrast to the scientist Tyson, it does look like at least one Senator knows what he's talking about. Sam Brownback sounds like someone who's actually bothered to study up on the topic, as evidenced here.

Mad Skillz

A bit old, but still quite entertaining.

The Future Lies Ahead

Surface computing. Intriguingish.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I'll be back blogging on Thursday, May 31.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Say, Do You Think You Could Find It In Your Heart To Lay Off On The Treason?

The Anchoress highlights a letter from a soldier to the media. It is much more polite than my headline above, but the message is similar.

See also, this post, in which the Anchoress eviscerates a pathetic litany of George Bush's "crimes" as recited by Joy Behar on "The View". Being so astoundingly stoopid that you believe such a litany is its own punishment, of course.

More Fun With Black And White

Yesterday was my wife's birthday. We went to Stanford campus to listen to an organ concert in Memorial Church. I snapped a few photos at sunset.

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Big versions here, here, and here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting Take

The American Thinker re: Jerry Falwell.


Falwell was despised and loathed for a very simple reason: he defied the leftist consensus, and he won. He made them back down. He frightened them terribly, by confronting them with clear evidence that the country was not what they insisted it was, and that their utopian dreams would never come to pass. That was his crime, one for which he could never be forgiven.

It was in the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter, having rescued the economy, tamed communism, chastised the Sandinistas, and humiliated the mullahs, looked out over the country in search of more work for his restless farmer's hands. What he found sore displeased him. For it seemed that down South, his very own people, the blood of his blood, worshiping the God of his fathers, had opened private schools for the education of their young ones. And Jimmy was made wroth by what he beheld, because their purpose was racist; those schools had been founded for the sole purpose of keeping blacks out. It could be naught else. You couldn't fool Jimmy. He knew what those crackers were like.

So the future Nobel laureate ordered that the tax breaks customarily allowed religious schools be denied in this case, and that the IRS investigate with an eye to possible further action.

It happened that Falwell was associated with several such schools though his Lynchburg church. While it may have been true that similar schools had been founded to circumvent integration, most - including Falwell's - were established for the same reason as the Catholic parochial schools: to isolate and protect Christian children from the effects of a debased and worthless public school system.

Falwell was instrumental in starting the write-in campaign in which several million Southern Protestants wrote the Carter White House complaining about the harassment directed at their schools. Within weeks, the IRS was called off, the tax privileges restored.

That success would have been enough for many. But Falwell saw it only as a skirmish. The despised secular world may have been chased off, but it would be back. The proud seculars (and let's not linger over Jimmy Carter's "ministry" - the idea of Carter, one of the white-hot haters of this era, as a man of the cloth has always been on the same level as Bill Clinton being a Rhodes Scholar) would never admit defeat. They might have backed off this time, but there would be a next time, and a time after that.

Falwell understood this clearly, and knew that a response was required. He didn't want the responsibility. He was at the time preparing to enter into something called the "deeper spiritual life", a Baptist equivalent of the Catholic "life of contemplation", in which the individual retreats from the world seeking a closer connection to the divine. But the times demanded otherwise. And so when called on to head a new political action group, he acquiesced.

That's how Moral Majority was born. Not as an American Taliban, not as a vigilance committee targeting gays, abortionists, and feminists, not as a reactionary political cult, but as an organization to protect a despised religious minority from an overreaching government. Southern sectarian Protestants had previously avoided political involvement. Politics acted as an occasion of sin, to be avoided the same as sin itself. While this may have been an admirable stance - a limited version of the Amish and Mennonite philosophy - it left the Evangelicals wide open as American society became more politicized.

And eventually, an American president, supposedly a co-religionist, attempted to suppress conservative Christianity in violation of the Bill of Rights and every other document and principle this country is based on. And not a single voice was raised in protest. (In fact, to my knowledge, the IRS campaign wasn't even covered by the papers and broadcast networks of the time. Thank God for the internet we enjoy today.)

It was Jerry Falwell who gave those people a voice, who created the religious right out of whole cloth, and made it into a force that moves the country to this day. That was his achievement, and that is why he's so hated, and why the tolerant, life-affirming left has cheered so loudly at his demise. Because nothing was the same after the Moral Majority appeared.

Before the Moral Majority, liberalism went where it willed and did what it pleased. You took up against liberalism at your peril, and few carried it off successfully or for very long. It was the religious right that revealed the country's bedrock, the fact that its basic nature remained unchanged despite forty-odd years of effort to the contrary. The Evangelicals were the reef against which the left broke itself. It's impossible to imagine the conservative counter reformation that began with Ronald Reagan, one of the crucial events of our time, ever occurring if the religious right had not led the way.

That's how the history will read, after all the missteps and gaucheries are forgotten, all the lies and disinformation cleared away. That's how Jerry Falwell will at last be seen.

One Heck Of A Fisking

Of atheism by Mark Shea.

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

Great Lileks column re:Star Wars. For me, it was a good time to be twelve.

We Tax Those Things We Want To Discourage


Saint Bombing

Anchoress post highlights some interesting goings on at OSU Eugene. Check out both videos (cool music, too).

A Democrat Talks Some Sense

Bob Kerrey in the WSJ.


At this year's graduation celebration at The New School in New York, Iranian lawyer, human-rights activist and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi delivered our commencement address. This brave woman, who has been imprisoned for her criticism of the Iranian government, had many good and wise things to say to our graduates, which earned their applause.

But one applause line troubled me. Ms. Ebadi said: "Democracy cannot be imposed with military force."

What troubled me about this statement--a commonly heard criticism of U.S. involvement in Iraq--is that those who say such things seem to forget the good U.S. arms have done in imposing democracy on countries like Japan and Germany, or Bosnia more recently.


The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.

Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power...

Some Great Reading

Another superb couple of posts from Bill Whittle. The second piece does get quite pie-in-the-sky towards the end, however, essentially contradicting all the stuff that came before. But the analysis before that happens is quite good.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Can Play At That Game

Ann Althouse responds to some garden-variety misandry:

When women take classes in tennis, wine-tasting, sailing, etc., in the hope of meeting men....

They don't find them.

Yet in New York City, in many (if not most) adult courses, the women are numerous and the men are few — for approximately the same reason that men behind the wheel don’t ask for directions. It goes against the male grain to acknowledge ignorance about a subject, said professionals who organize classes....

Thomas Dare-Bryan, the manager and a wine buyer for Morrell & Company in Rockefeller Plaza, said that the makeup of the shop’s wine-tasting classes changes weekly but that they, too, mostly comprise women, some of whom have told him they wish there were more men. “They have actually come out with that statement,” Mr. Dare-Bryan said.

He offered this explanation for the disparity: “It’s argued that women are better tasters of wine than men. A higher percentage of women have more taste-bud receptors.” So maybe they are getting more out of the class. But, echoing others who lead classes, he added: “It may also come down to the fact that men think they know more about wine anyway, so they don’t need to learn more about it.”

You want to explain the behavior of the people who are not doing something, so... why not ask the people who are doing it? Talk to the women and the educators who attract them to find out what's motivating the men who aren't there. Because, after all, you know that if you're going to explain gender difference, you've got to assume that whatever the women are doing is good, and it's the men who have the problem. So: You know those men. They think they're so smart. You can't tell them anything. They won't ask for directions.

But it would be so easy to turn that around and present the male side as positive.

Men prefer to look at something they have decided to do and figure it out on their own. They like to observe, analyze, and discover. They accept the risks and enjoy the excitement of trial and error. They don't like sitting around having someone tell them what to do, and they aren't intrigued by the prospect of meeting women who spend so much time doing something they loathe.

Now, I just made that up, but it was no more made up than the explanation in the article.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fun With Black And White

Some photos I took on my honeymoon that don't work all that well in color but are neat converted to black and white:

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Flickr versions are here, here, and here.

These were all taken on the drive to Hana on Maui.

Mark Shea Is On A Roll


"[T]he very notion that a politician should have to check with the Vatican before making a pronouncement is scary."

Yes, but since the question is actually about whether the Pope has the right to say who should and should not approach the sacraments of the Church he is responsible to lead, not about what people can say, I fail to see your point.

What place does a medieval organization like the Vatican have in a modern multicultural society?

This is the sort of thing journalists seem to have a macro on their computer to spit out automatically. If only they knew history, or even science fiction. Michael Flynn, author of Eifelheim, has a spirited defense of medievals in the July/august 2007 issue of Analog in which he point out that:

The late Berkeley chancellor Clark Kerr once said that about eighty-five medieval institutions "still exist today in recognizable forms, with similar functions and with unbroken histories." These include "the Catholic Church, the Parliaments of the Isle of Man, of Iceland, and of Great Britain, several Swiss cantons, and seventy universities."

He is arguing that the medieval mind was uniquely able, in the history of the world, to give birth to the scientific revolution. In the course of it he notes that the Medieval mind put such a premium on reason (because of its faith in a God who was reasonable) that they subject their own religious beliefs, as well as everything else, to the use of reason. He notes that western medievals are the people who *gave* us the idea of separation of Church and state among other things such as virtually everything necessary for the birth of the sciences. Oh, and they invented the hospital, the oldest democratic institution in the world (the Dominican Order), the rule of law, and sundry other ideas and institutions that have served to make the West such a prosperous and happy place so that numbskulls like Ms. Blizzard can say ignorant things to a large audience via technology. If the medieval institutions Ms. Blizzard so fears were finally eradicated, it would be a dark and ignorant world ruled almost entirely by force, fear, and superstition.


Shea's Iron Law of Media-Reported Benedictine "Growth"

Whenever the press declares that Pope Benedict has "grown" or undergone a "dramatic change of course" or gone "a long way toward accepting positions he once seemed to reject as head of the Holy Office" this invariably means that Benedict has not, in fact, changed, but that the reporter had no clue whatsoever what Benedict (and often, the Catholic faith) previously thought and is only now discovering his views.

So, for example, when a reporter breathlessly announces:

Benedict emphatically sets aside the view that faith amounts to a form of law, and insists that the relationship of the believer to God through Christ defines Christian belief. He does not acknowledge his debt to Martin Luther, but it is palpable. He also says nothing of the priest, Matthew Fox, whom Cardinal Ratzinger silenced for his views on the centrality of the mystical knowledge of God to Catholic teaching. Theology is sometimes a contact sport, and this may be an example of yesterday's heresy becoming today's orthodoxy. A considerable body of non-Catholic biblical scholarship now accepts that Jesus himself taught his disciples mystical union with God, on the basis of the Judaism of his time, so the the position Benedict describes is more widely founded than he indicates. hardly knows where to begin in confronting the sheer Himalayas of ignorance that lie behind such a concatenation of words. One wonders if the man who types such things has ever read the epistle to the Romans. The notion that Luther is the inventor and discoverer of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is stupefying enough. But the invocation of a dim bulb like Fox and the apparent notion that mysticism and the law are mortal enemies, or that all mysticism is Christian, is just gobsmackingly ignorant. Likewise, the news flash that Jesus taught his disciples that mystical union with God was a good thing, combined with the suggestion that this is news to the leader of a tradition that includes Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross leaves one numb and helpless for words. It's like reading a high school sophomore burst into a chat room discussion on relativity among trained physicists to say, "If you're so smart, then tell me how light can be a particle and wave at the same time. Huh? Huh? Why don't you learn some *real* science? When are you going to admit you are just borrowing the best parts of what Gene Roddenberry told us long ago!"

Saints preserves us from religion reporters. I wonder if Get Religion is following this particular piece.

For a sane and informed take on the Pope's book, go here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Darwinism. Is There Anything--Anything Whatsoever--That It Can't Explain?

Good piece at First Things.

Sheer Intellectual Laziness

Good William Dembski post.


John Derbyshire has written some respectable books on the history of mathematics (e.g., his biography of Riemann). He has also been a snooty critic of ID. Given his snootiness, one might think that he could identify and speak intelligently on substantive problems with ID. But in fact, his knowledge of ID is shallow, as is his knowledge of the history of science and Darwin’s writings. This was brought home to me at a recent American Enterprise Institute symposium. On May 2, 2007, Derbyshire and Larry Arnhart faced off with ID proponents John West and George Gilder. The symposium was titled “Darwinism and Conservatism: Friends or Foes.” The audio and video of the conference can be found here:…/event.

Early in Derbyshire’s presentation he made sure to identified ID with creationism (that’s par for the course). But I was taken aback that he would justify this identification not with an argument but simply by citing Judge Jones’s decision in Dover, saying “That’s good enough for me.” To appreciate the fatuity of this remark, imagine standing before feminists who regard abortion for any reason as a fundamental right of women and arguing against partial birth abortions merely by citing some court decision that ruled against it, saying “That’s good enough for me.” Perhaps it is good enough for YOU, but it certainly won’t be good enough for your interlocutors. In particular, the issue remains what about the decision, whether regarding abortion or ID, makes it worthy of acceptance. Derbyshire had no insight to offer here.

What really drove home for me what an intellectual lightweight he is in matters of ID — even though he’s written on the topic a fair amount in the press — is his refutation specifically of my work. He dismissed it as committing the fallacy of an unspecified denominator. The example he gave to illustrate this fallacy was of a golfer hitting a hole in one. Yes, it seems highly unlikely, but only because one hasn’t specified the denominator of the relevant probability. When one factors in all the other golfers playing golf, a hole in one becomes quite probable. So likewise, when one considers all the time and opportunities for life to evolve, a materialistic form of evolution is quite likely to have brought about all the complexity and diversity of life that we see (I’m not making this up — watch the video).

But a major emphasis of my work right from the start has been that to draw a design inference one must factor in all those opportunities that might render probable what would otherwise seem highly improbable. I specifically define these opportunities as probabilistic resources – indeed, I develop a whole formalism for probabilistic resources.


[W]hether one is entitled to eliminate or embrace chance depends on how many opportunities chance has to succeed. It’s a point I’ve made repeatedly. Yet Derbyshire not only ignores this fact, attributing to me his fallacy of the unspecified denominator, but also unthinkingly assumes that the probabilsitic resources must, of course, be there for evolution to succeed. But that needs to be established as the conclusion of a scientific argument. It is not something one may simply presuppose.

There’s a larger issue at stake here. I’ve now seen on several occasions where critics of design give no evidence of having read anything on the topic — and they’re proud of it! I recall Everett Mendelson from Harvard speaking at a Baylor conference I organized in 2000 decrying intelligent design but spending the whole talk going after William Paley. I recall Lee Silver so embarrassing himself for lack of knowing anything about ID in a debate with me at Princeton that Wesley Elsberry chided him to “please leave debating ID advocates to the professionals” (go here for the Silver-Elsberry exchange; for the actual debate, go here). More recently, Randy Olson, of FLOCK OF DODOS fame, claimed in making this documentary on ID that he had read nothing on the topic (as a colleague at Notre Dame recently reported, privately, on a talk Randy gave there: “He then explained how he deliberately didn’t do research for his documentary, and showed some movie clips on the value of spontaneity in film making”). And then there’s Derbyshire.

These critics of ID have become so shameless that they think they can simply intuit the wrongness of ID and then criticize it based simply on those intuitions. The history of science, however, reveals that intuitions can be wrong and must themselves be held up to scrutiny. In any case, the ignorance of many of our critics is a phenomenon to be recognized and exploited. Derbyshire certainly didn’t help himself at the American Enterprise Institute by his lack of homework.

UPDATE--Here's a good comment to the post:

Maybe someone should point out a good refutation of the lottery example since it is a common argument used by Darwinists with the dare that “you cannot refute it.”

Try looking at it this way:

That someone will win a lottery is a near certainty.

Life forming from dust stirred up on your walk to the store is, well, not.

Why is someone winning a lottery a near certainty? Because a lottery is designed that way. In fact, if a particular lottery never has a winner you will be wise to assume — heh heh — it is designed that way.

So to correlate the winning lottery ticket to the inevitability of the existence of life one would have to presume life to be . . . . ?

Now, here’s something else to ponder based on the hole in one probability.

With thousands of golfers playing thousands of holes you can count on an occasional hole in one.

BUT suppose every golfer had some muscle condidtion that prevented him from hitting the ball more than 10 yards? And suppose all were blind? And suppose all were facing the wrong way? Even with a trillion billion trillion golfers playing on a trillion billion trillion Sundays could you ever except a hole in one with those conditions?

The existence of physical impossibility is reality.

It is impossible for life to exist by chance. It is inevitable for life to exist with the right Designer.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Another panorama from last weekend's walk on the Golden Gate Bridge:

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Shape Of Things To Come

Charles Hugh Smith:

It's a given that rising supply (inventory) and slackening demand (fewer buyers) lead to price declines in any market--for instance, housing.

Since interest rates fell for an entire generation (22 years) from their peak in 1981, the relationship between housing prices and interest rates has been largely forgotten or at least neglected. As interest rates rise, the "see-saw" of higher rates and dropping house values will place pricing pressure on even the most desirable housing.

Here is a simple depiction of the relationship:


The current quasi-religious belief in "low interest rates will last forever" runs against both history and the inevitable decline of Chinese support of our low interest rates via their stupendous, unrelenting, trillion-dollar buying of our low-return Treasury bonds:


As this chart reveals, the only reason U.S. interest rates have stayed low is the Chinese have poured virtually all of their dollar surpluses into U.S. Treasuries. Interest and mortgage rates, as I have often noted here, aren't set by the Federal Reserve, but by the market.

If there is huge supply (our government selling hundreds of billions in new bonds and rolling over hundreds of billions more each year) and slackening demand (the Chinese have announced they're diversifying their holdings into other currencies), then rates will have to rise, regardless of what's happening behind closed doors in the Fed or in the U.S. housing market.

History also suggests (see chart) that interest rates move in about 20-year cycles. We have clearly ended the cycle of declining rates and are just beginning a 20+ year cycle of rising rates.

So what's this got to do with the value of U.S. homes? In a word: affordability. The majority of home buyers are not cash-rich foreigners seeking investment property, but working stiffs whose chief concern is "making the monthly mortgage nut."

As shown on our charts, a buyer with an adjustable-rate mortgage at 4.5% was able to "afford" a $500,000 mortgage with a "monthly nut" of $1,875. (For simplicity's sake, the principal payment has not been included.)

Alas, were interest rates to rise to 9%--historically, not even a high rate--then the home buyer can only afford a $250,000 mortgage payment. That means the price of the house being purchased has to drop 50%.

Some 6 million homes trade hands every year. Some small percentage are purchased with cash, meaning the buyers are immune to interest rate considerations. But prices of all commodities are set on the margin. Which means the price of 100 homes in a neighborhood are set by the last house sold.

Even if 99 of the homes were purchased for $500,000, the value will drop to $400,000 the moment a comparable residence in the area sells for $400,000. As interest rates rise, then the next house might sell for $350,000, the next for $300,000 and thre next for $250,000. It would only take a handful of sales to drop prices 25% - 50%, and in a much shorter period of time than the market thinks possible.

In a time of declining interest rates, buyers could "afford" more house because their monthly payment stayed the same even as their mortgage rose. The reverse will work the same way, only in the opposite direction: the same payment will support a smaller mortgage, requiring sellers to lower the price of their homes to what is "affordable" to buyers.

Another factor which has supported higher mortgages and monthly payments over the past 20 years has been rising income and wealth. There hasn't been a decline in consumer spending since 1991. An entire generation has grown up and matured in a "permanent" Bull Market in stocks, bonds and real estate and ever-cheaper borrowing costs.

But the coming recession of 2007-2011 will very likely see incomes and wealth both decline in absolute terms. This reduction in net income will further reduce buyers' ability to finance huge mortgages at higher interest rates. As interest rates rise, bonds fall in value, and as recession cuts corporate profits, the stock market will decline as well. All these forces together will reduce buyers' perception of their wealth (the "wealth effect") and reduce the bonuses, raises and dividends which added to their income during the past 20 years of prosperity.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

There Are Two Americas

Those who get there information from the MSM, and everyone else. Ace of Spades:

The New Editor catches Bill Maher making the claim that the Democratic Party is the one with almost no "nuts" in it. (It should be noted that his definition of "nuts" is largely concerned with whether or not someone believes in a real, tangible God or not.)

TNE contrasts this with the Rasmussen poll the media has entirely embargoed, finding that 61% of self-identifying Democrats either believe George Bush knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance or are not sure if he did or not.

The media is very, very big on highlighting the misconceptions -- or alleged misconceptions -- of conservative-leaning Americans. They never tire of telling us that x percentage of conservatives (or FoxNews viewers, or whatever) mistakenly believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.


Compare the media's relentless "debunking" of the "myth" that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. Not only is the media constantly asserting facts not in evidence (the 0/11 Commissions carefully negotiated statement regarding "no operational ties" between Saddam and Al Qaeada is consistently mistated as "no ties whatsoever"), but the MSM also is fond of implying that conservatives are either crazy or ignornant to even have questions about such links.

On the other hand, when 61% of Democrats state they believe that George Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, or may have known of them -- thus making George Bush a co-conspirator in the attacks -- the media not only does no debunking whatseover, but fails to point out the left is engaging in some fairly serious myth-making itself.

Long story short:

The media considers it crazy to believe that Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, had something to do with 9/11, and fights this insanity with every tool at its disposal, including outright deception.

On the other hand, the media does not apparently consider it particularly hard to believe that George Bush, President of the United States, had something to do with 9/11. If they did consider such a notion beyond the pale, one would imagine they'd publicize (and implicity mock) those crazed liberals believing that our own President aided and abetted Osama bin Ladin.

But of course they don't. Because it's simply not possible for a reasonble person to believe a sworn enemy of the US, known to have at least some ties with Al Qaeda, could have had a hand in the attacks, but a reasonable person could, according to the MSM, believe that a US President with no ties to Al Qaeda helped facillitate and perhaps even carry out the attacks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Crane Your Neck

My wife and I took a nice walk on the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, where it was uncharacteristically warm.

Here's a panorama I stitched together. Many other pictures can be found here.

Perenially Trying, Perenially Failing

Atheists, that is.


I was an atheist for 27 years. I used to play on that team. I used to pick on religious people too. I knew the arguments to press and those to avoid.

Attack with how unscientific theism is, how religious people aren’t very smart because they don’t chair any departments in the hard sciences at the right schools (it’s really called censorship). Raise the problem of evil: How could an omnipo-tent, loving God allow evil? Either God is not all powerful and can’t destroy it, or He doesn’t want to. Either way there can’t be a God because evil exists (don’t bring up the existence of good though, it’s too problematic). And, finally, go for the jugular with the hypocrisy of religious believers (You know, mention “all the wars in the name of religion,” and “all the fallen pastors” and especially, “the founders owned slaves” stuff, it’s really a good distraction.)

Avoid the pesky problem of freewill. If atheism is true, if all that exists is mere matter and energy, then I don’t have a brain, I am my brain. But if the brain is exhaustively physical, then it is just as incapable of acting freely as a computer or any other machine. Which is why the idea of Artificial Intelligence makes for such fun science fiction – the more peo-ple believe that a computer can become a person, the less likely they will have need to believe they were created in God’s image. Thus, more AI, less theism – that’s the game plan. Same with the search for ET. Find life elsewhere so we can dismiss Genesis.

But, above all, avoid being cornered and forced to answer the questions of origins. Throw out lots of words that people can’t understand. Talk over them. Blind them with science. Talk about the details of the leaves on the trees but don’t allow them to bring it back to “Why the forest at all?” Assert the fact/value distinction. Claim that only science deals with knowledge. Drop in some postmodern gobbledygook. Distract them with how science deals with the “what, where, how and when” and not the “who and the why.” Especially avoid people who have had training in the philosophy of science – they’re dangerous because they see through us and know who we are – they don’t see the shimmering lab coats that everyone else sees. They don’t see any clothes at all.

Since the pre-Socratics, atheists have been intellectual parasites living off the host of Western Civilization. Able to con-struct so very little of their own that is either true, good, or beautiful, they live on the borrowed capital of their believing intellectual parents. Atheists have been asserting the same basic mechanistic worldview, and with roughly the same suc-cess, for centuries. They sell books and win converts from time to time, sure, especially among those gullible enough to buy the “just popped” thesis. Don’t be gullible.

But, for me, the real value of atheism lies in bolstering belief in God. When I doubt, I can begin to doubt my doubts by returning to the Four Big Bangs. And, I eventually fall to my knees and worship, “In the beginning, God.”

Yup. I love it when atheists put their best foot forward. The effects are the opposite of what they intend. And for rational philosophical reasons, not out of obstinacy on my part. Which is quite incomprehensible to them.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Classic Guitar

Good article in the American Spectator about the Fender Stratocaster.

The Leftist Mind Is Like A Parachute. That Never Opened.

Good David Limbaugh piece.


The political left, which holds itself as progressive, rational and fact-based, is becoming an enemy of academic inquiry, and a practitioner of thought control on a wide variety of issues. Increasingly, from the left's perspective, there is just one acceptable viewpoint.

Consider the subjects of evolution, global warming, special rights for homosexuals and abstinence education. Consider efforts of the left to silence conservative talk radio. Consider the mainstream media's arrogant denial of its transparent liberal bias, pronouncing itself to be above politics and inherently objective and its critics somehow skewed.

Consider the leftist refrain that red-state conservatives do not merely possess a different worldview, but are not part of the "reality-based community." Consider the near monolithic liberalism and secularism of our university faculties.

The U.S. House is expected to pass a landmark federal law that would expand hate crimes legislation to include attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. Opponents argue that it's conceivable under the bill that if a rabbi, priest or pastor reads to his congregation a passage from the Bible condemning homosexuality, he could be considered an accomplice to any parishioner who later commits a "hate crime" against a homosexual.

Various activists are behind legislation that would prohibit public schools from continuing to teach Abstinence Until Marriage (AUM) in North Carolina and would force them to teach comprehensive sex education.

In my book "Persecution" I described the trials of a university professor who was disciplined for making available, but not mandating, materials in her class that deviated from the dogma of homosexual activists. One school administrator, in defending the school's chilling action said, "We cannot tolerate the intolerable."

Global warming alarmists tell us there is an overwhelming consensus on the issue and further debate is pointless. Yet there are a significant number of genuine dissenters in the relevant disciplines.


[But] by pronouncing an end to debate -- just because they say so -- [leftists] betray the very principles they claim to uphold: an adherence to scientific inquiry and a commitment to facts and reason in favor of ideologically and politically driven conclusions.


We are witnessing a similar phenomenon on the subject of evolution versus intelligent design. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins, explains Bethel, believes that evolution is not a debatable topic. "I'm concerned about implying that there is some sort of scientific argument going on," said Dawkins. "There's not." Meanwhile the Intelligent Design movement is gathering courageous and impressive adherents who would debate the notion that no debate is going on.

But when these recalcitrant upstarts refuse to toe the line, they sometimes pay the price. Bethell tells of the publication by the peer-reviewed "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington" of an article on the Cambrian Explosion by the Discovery Institute's Steven Meyer. Though Meyer relied on the work of respected scientists in the article, its subject matter did not sit well with the "consensus" gods. Richard Stenberg, the editor of the journal, was virtually accused of being a religious fundamentalist and a right-winger for publishing the piece. He was required to "surrender his office and keys to the department floor, denying him access to the specimen collections he needed." And, according to Bethel, "A senior Smithsonian scientist complained that publication of the article 'made us into the laughing stock of the world, even is this kind of rubbish sells well in backwoods USA.' Notice," wrote Bethel, "it was not the substantive claims about the Cambrian Explosion that caused such fury, it was their publication in a peer-reviewed journal."

If this trend continues, it's hard to imagine what we'll see in next decade. How the left can consider itself fair and open-minded in view of such developments is beyond comprehension.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Diversity Through Conformity

Ah, the left, in full plumage.


Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of being forced to read an academic journal or newsletter knows that most of it sounds like something produced by the Postmodern Essay Generator. Although there are still many good academics who take scholarship seriously, far too many of them believe that higher education should be defined through its inaccessibility, not its contribution to the betterment of society.

Every once in awhile, though, you come across a piece of writing that is accessible and well-written, and it scares the living crap out of you...

No words are minced in the totalitarian leftist "diversity" essay that Ace then quotes.

A Parable

Found this on an economics blog:

Back in the good old days of kingly wealth and power, the King was suffering from a severe bout of anhedonia (loss of pleasure, inability to enjoy). "I have everything," he moaned, "but enjoy nothing." Summoning his court Wise Man, he demanded, "I want to eat the finest meal in the land. Make it so." The Wise Man nodded politely (after all, this was his Lord and Master), and asked, "Are you willing to follow my instructions to the letter, My Lord?" The King was so disgusted with his boredom and ennui that he enthusiastically agreed.

The Wise Man took the King outside, and handed him a pick and shovel. He then directed the king to dig an irrigation ditch from one end of the field to the other. Though the task was far beneath his status as ruling monarch, so degraded was the King's life and spirit that he reluctantly obeyed.

After a long day toiling under the hot sun, the King's hands were blistered and a thirst and hunger he'd never experienced gripped his belly and mouth. As the setting sun touched the valley's rim, the Wise Man allowed the King to cease his ditch-digging. Beckoning the king to a nearby tree, the Wise Man then offered his master a dry crust of bread and a wooden cup of water. The King partook of this simple meal with gusto, and after finishing off the lowly bread, readily agreed with the Wise Man that this was indeed the finest meal in the kingdom.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Few Points

Some good points here:

Memo to the self-proclaimed "mainstream media":

Point 1: You actually aren't in the American mainstream. The American mainstream is miles to the right of you politically, and in a different universe from you culturally.

Point 2: Religious faith is not a strange affliction; it's an essential component of (and an indicator of) a healthy outlook on life.

Point 3: The U.S. Constitution isn't an exposition of what ought to be law, but of what is law. It is not prescriptive, but descriptive. If you believe the Constitution ought to protect a "right," that doesn't mean that the Constitution does protect that "right." It just means that you have the opportunity in a free society to work through the political process to protect that right either by statute or, if and only if you formally amend the Constitution, via language in the Constitution itself.

Point 4: Ordinary Americans may not be sure whether or not the American effort in Iraq is already "lost," but they strongly want to believe that it is still winnable. Unlike you, they think that Americans really are the "good guys" over there, whether or not we "win." And unlike you, they do not think that we somehow earned or deserve the terrorists' ire.

Point 5: Most Americans think that if Western Europe dislikes us, that is a sign not that the United States or its current administration is wrongheaded, but that Western Europe is wrongheaded. In fact, even those ordinary Americans who think that the current administration is wrongheaded still believe that Western Europe is asinine for not liking us.

Point 6: President Bush did not "lie" to get us into war in Iraq. I challenge anybody to prove that he "lied." A lie is not merely a statement that turns out not to be accurate; it is a statement that the speaker himself knows is inaccurate. There is no evidence, none whatsoever, that President Bush believed anything other than exactly what he told the American people in the months leading up to the war. And if you say that Bush "lied" without being able to show evidence that he intentionally misled us all...well, then, you, yourself, are a liar.

Point 7: There was no unanimity or even broad agreement between the American left and right on how to conduct the Cold War. The left furiously opposed all the policies that ended up winning the Cold War. And, contrary to revisionist history, the left never believed that the Soviet Union would collapse of its own weight anyway. Instead, the left consistently said that the Soviets were too strong ever to be defeated or to fall apart, and that therefore the only way to deal with them was to reach an accommodation with them, by convincing them that we could no longer be a threat to them, so as to make them stop being nasty to us. Strength, not accommodation, won the Cold War. And those lessons are applicable in the war against Islamic terrorists.


Point 9: Tax cuts, by definition, do not "give" money to the rich. The government doesn't own the money to "give" it out. The people who earn the money own the money. Government merely decides how much of it to take, to confiscate, for other purposes. Any money that the government does not take in taxes is not money the government has given; it is money the government has not taken.


Point 12: The Supreme Court did not "award" the 2000 election to George W. Bush, and its main decision was not made by a 5-4 split. A consortium of every major news outlet in the country conducted its own recount of the Florida ballots and found that under every legal approach advocated by the Gore campaign, Bush won. Moreover, the decision itself on the overall legal issue in Bush v. Gore was handed down by a 7-2 majority; it was merely the remedy that was decided by a 5-4 split. Absent that remedy, a) the counting under the standards proposed by Gore would have given Bush the win; b) the alternative constitutional means of letting Congress decide would have given Bush the win; c) the other alternative constitutional means would have left it to the Florida governor to determine which Florida slate of electors was the official one, which would have given Bush the win.

Point 13: The majority of the charges leveled by the Swift Boat vets against John Kerry were not disproved. In fact, most of them were never answered. At least a couple of them are incontrovertibly true.


Point 15: Most Google searches trying to find examples of respected conservatives calling liberals or Democrats "unpatriotic" or "un-American" would be fruitless. But examples of leading Democrats calling Republicans or conservatives "un-American" are multitudinous.

Point 16: President Bush and his official spokesmen have used language far less nasty toward their Democratic opponents than President Clinton and his official spokesmen (especially Mike McCurry) used toward their Republican opponents. In fact, it is virtually impossible to find President Bush himself ever using harsh language about the left, even though Harry Reid and company have used the most scathing language toward him. He promised to change the tone in Washington, and he, himself, has lived up to that pledge. (More's the pity. The blame-America-first crowd that runs the Washington Democratic Party deserves to be called on the carpet.)

It all amounts to the follies of the unregenerate. Romans Chapter One, folks.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Socialist Pecking Order

When there is a tie between the sacred grievances of different victim classes, who wins? Dr. Sanity examines the question in a good post.