Politics: August 2005 Archives

I noted that the notion of ID does not require interventionism, but I had trouble finding specific assertions either pro or con from ID proponents themselves (although this excellent, and very long, article, about the philosophy of science and the evolution debate, agrees with me).

So, I pulled out a book I read over a decade ago (how time flies), called The Creation Hypothesis, edited by J.P. Moreland, a professor of mine. It's a well-known book in ID circles. The foreword is from Phillip E. Johnson, and it includes a chapter on Intelligent Design by William Dembski. All are prominent ID proponents, and all believe in interventionism.

Moreland notes in the introduction:

Second, [as a response to the idea that evolution proves design is implausible], theists can grant, for the sake of argument, that the general theory of evolution is true, and go on and build a design argument based on broader features of order and purpose, even on the existence of the mechanisms of evolution. It can be claimed that evolution merely explains how God designed the living world; it does not remove the need for a Designer. This response grows stronger the more we discover that living things are even more complicated than was believed to be the case during the time of Darwin. As the intricacy of organisms becomes more apparent, it becomes less plausible to believe that the processes of evolution could mindlessly produce life, and it becomes more plausible to believe they were guided by an Intelligence in such a way as to overcome the improbabilities of life arising in the first place.

The main problems with this response are that it is hard to square with the early chapters of Genesis and with the empirical facts of science itself. So while the response could be adopted merely for the sake of argument, the authors of this book do not utilize it.
(Emphasis added.)

There are two points I wish to highlight here. First, Moreland explicitly acknowledges that such a view constitutes a design by an intelligence. Being that this is only 1994, the phrase "Intelligent Design" is not often used, even by authors in this book (except Dembski), but clearly Moreland is saying that this is a reasonable alternative response to naturalism.

Second, his only objections to it are not on the grounds that it doesn't fit Intelligent Design, but that it doesn't fit his theology, nor science; but the former objection is irrelevant to the idea of whether the idea is properly a part of what is known as Intelligent Design (which is explicitly nontheological, as stated by most of its proponents), and the latter is simply an argument against Darwinism itself.

So in the opinion of the editor of one of the most prominent ID collections in the last 20 years, it seems to me that my definition of ID as being not specific to interventionism is perfectly reasonable.

Also, just because that is my definition of ID, that doesn't mean that I don't believe in interventionism. I don't, but that's only because I am unconvinced. It is why I prefer a notion that doesn't limit me: I believe God designed us, but I have no clue when and how. Maybe God intervened along the way, possibly by just BOOM creating humans, and maybe it happened gradually through a natural process that God designed. I don't know, but either way, I am convinced God designed us.

I find the non-interventionist explanation a bit more compelling though, for two reasons. First, because I believe God created a universe we can understand. Maybe not one we can figure out the origins of, but one that we can figure out since then. Maybe I am wrong, of course, but that's the idea that has driven science for thousands of years, until recently: that God is order, and created order, and we can discover that order.

Second, because I just don't see why God would need to be an interventionist. Not that I need to be able to for it to be true, of course, but God is certainly powerful and knowledgable enough to design it beforehand -- as the preacher Henry Ward Beecher said in the 1800s, in response to Darwin, "design by wholesale is grander than design by detail" -- so why the need to intervene?

My next post: the TV show "The 4400" as an analogy to non-interventionist Intelligent Design! Or not. Just imagine it. slashdot.org
Chris Allbritton is a reporter in Iraq, working right now for Time, and he has an interesting web site, http://www.back-to-iraq.com/.

I read his stuff usually, and he was on PBS NewsHour last night. Here's what he wrote about women and rights:

There seems to be no role for the Shi'ite hawza, women are mentioned in almost every clause that guarantees rights, the court system is independent and liberal. Islam is the official religion and 'a main source of legislation,' but religious minorities are guaranteed freedom of worship. However, no law may contradict the principles of Islam, democracy or the rights and freedoms mentioned in the constitution, which sets up an immediate contradiction when you get to the rights of women. Under some schools of Islamic jurisprudence, women's testimony are worth only half as much as a man, and they get half the share of inheritance that men get. Their custody of children can be easily abridged and marriage and divorce can be a nightmare for them. Under a human-rights focused democracy, all people are equal before the law. So what takes precedence in a dispute? The Qur'an or the Constitution?

Any rational "liberal" court would automatically recognize that the Constitution could not possibly be so obviously self-contradictory, and must rule that in a Constitution that says nothing may contradict Islam, anything in the Constitution that specifically gives rights is saying that these rights are therefore not in contradiction with Islam, according to the people who wrote the Constitution, and the people who voted for it.

What someone needs to point out to those who want Islam in the Constitution is that this is setting up the government to dictate to the people what Islam means, and that in the end it will likely say something other than what the people want it to say. slashdot.org
There is so much misunderstanding about Intelligent Design. On both sides, really, which is why so many proponents of it offend those on the other side, because they do a poor job of explaining it.

ID really only says one thing: that the root cause of how we came to exist was not by mere chance, but that it was designed by someone. It does not disagree with a single scientific notion or precept or principle, of any kind, because science can only say what happened -- i.e., this gene mutated, resulting in such-and-such, and so on -- not why it happened.

ID is philosophy, not science. You can't test it. You can't examine empirical evidence that can prove or disprove it. Oh sure, it draws heavily on science, just like the opposite position does: neither is science. And neither is new, either. They are new applications of the same argument we've been having for thousands of years: whether the universe around us is designed, or whether it happened by chance.

Now, I'd say that as such, ID is perfectly at home in the classroom (especially when your classroom is the home!); but only in the context of philosophy. But so too does "humans came into existence merely by chance" belong only in the context of philosophy, and unfortunately, it is often taught, either implicitly or explicitly, as though it were science; thus, ID has arisen as a reactionary political movement: "fine, if you teach kids we all got here by chance, we will teach them we didn't!"

It should be obvious why science is entirely inequipped to even begin to address these questions. That's why there is so much misunderstanding about this topic: the people most animated against it are scientists who really don't understand philosophy. Of course, on the other side, you have religious people who don't understand science. And neither side really understands the interaction of the two, which is where this discussion is supposed to take place.

For my part, I plan to teach my children in a fully integrated way when it comes to science, pulling from history and philosophy as science is taught. Teach them why the scientific method is used, what it is inadequate for, how our system of learning about the physical world evolved, and so on. And in such a structure, teaching ID won't even be necessary: it will be clearly implied. Which is really the point. slashdot.org


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NewsHour tonight did a story on pollution. It noted, among other things, that Bush pulled out of the Kyoto treaty, and that Seattle has a new "green" City Hall that emits fewer greenhouse gases and, supposedly, saves energy. And that Seattle City Light predicts they will create no net emissions by the end of this year.

The report neglected to mention that the U.S. Senate -- which must ratify all treaties -- turned down Kyoto 95-0 in 1997 (3.5 years before Bush took office), and that there is no reason to think whatsoever that the President could get it passed, even if he wanted to.

The report say the reason Bush pulled out was that he said "the science about global warming was unclear," but the real reason is much more complicated: the United States grew a lot more during the 1990s than most countries, so in order to cut emissions to 1990 levels, they would have to cut a lot more than other countries. This was evident even in 1997.

And even if the levels were modified to make it less respectively painful, it would often have to be done in a way that would significantly harm American jobs, which the Senators -- Democrat and Republican -- simply would not agree to.

The reporter also apparently didn't know that the new Seattle City Hall uses a lot more electricity, while housing far fewer employees, than the old Seattle City Hall, and that Seattle City Light thought it was going to use significantly less electricity, which calls into question the reporter's touted prediction of creating no net emissions by year's end.

And despite all this, Washington state is requiring all new publicly funded buildings to be "green," which will cost millions, still abiding by the myth that it will be cheaper in the long run.

Update: See below for an example of how Wikipedia editors often intentionally censor and misrepresent the facts. In this case, someone replicated and claims different results from a published study, and that information has been excised from Wikipedia. (Follow the circular logic: they remove it because it is not from the scientific literature, and the scientific literature won't publish it because it is already "widely dispersed on the Internet.") And they even misstate the actual study, saying it was about the term "climate change" in the literature, when in fact it was about the term "global climate change." Word to the wise: don't trust Wikipedia for anything that is controversial. slashdot.org

In Case You Were Wondering

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I am as upset about high deficits as anyone, but I have also been hopeful that some control would be taken on them.

Remember last year when the Democrats kept saying the deficits would continue to increase? The current projection has dropped yet again, down to $314b, $100b lower than last year's deficit (a record, if left unadjusted for inflation) of $412b.

That's a $100b reduction. In a single year.

Bush's much-derided projection from a couple of years ago to get down to a $260b deficit by 2009 doesn't seem so crazy anymore.

Note also that the decreases in the deficit are mostly due to increases in revenue (not cuts in spending), which are primarily due to more people working, the positive trend of which largely coinicides with the Bush tax cut of 2003. Just sayin'.

Of course, you can't always decrease taxes to increase tax receipts. That sometimes works, as it seems to have done this time. However, that doesn't mean it would work again; but it does seem likely that increasing taxes from their current levels (which is what many Democrats want to do) would cause people to lose jobs, and they will have a tough time explaining this to their constituents if they do try to increase taxes.

Not that this is all good news: as I noted, spending is not being cut, and this threatens to gloss over the increasing problem of a large federal government, as it did in the late 90s, when government increased in size and we still saw budget surpluses. slashdot.org

Ban Carpools!

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I don't normally just link to other things here, but: Ban Carpools! slashdot.org
NARAL is running one of the most deceptive ads I've seen in many years. They show an abortion clinic being blown up (sir!), and a woman injured by it, and then show that John Roberts was named on a brief that supported the right of people to protest at abortion clinics.

Never mind that Roberts did so as part of his job under the first President Bush, that he was not even the primary submitter of the brief (Kenneth Starr was; Roberts was his deputy), that it happened eight years before the bombing, and that it in no way aimed to protect anyone who would commit violent acts.

This would be as dishonest as describing lynchings, and then saying the ACLU protected the rights of the KKK to speak freely, so the ACLU must be stopped! Actually, this is a lot more dishonest, because the KKK killed and injured far more innocent people than anti-abortion extremists; because it is not (in the collective U.S. view) inherently wrong to protest against abortion, while racism is inherently wrong; and because one cannot reasonably conclude this brief even reflects Roberts' own views.

I'm not even sure why I am spending time rebutting the ad: maybe because I figure it is possible some people won't see through its implicative lies.

I am not going to get too much into this Roberts thing, I hope, and this is exactly why: he is almost sure to be confirmed, and the far left extremists and their politicians will say and do anything to try to prevent it, including lying about his record, lying about the Constitution's requirements, lying about the history of judicial confirmations, and so on. slashdot.org

Constitutional Chaos

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I am reading a book called Constitutional Chaos, a book by Andrew P. Napolitano, a former federal judge, who writes about various ways in which the federal government breaks the law.

My first complaint is that he professes a belief in the theory of Natural Law -- that our rights come from God, and that courts may uphold our rights even absent specific laws justifying those rights -- without explaining the inherent problem of who determines what is, and is not, a Natural Law.

The most obvious problem is the right to abortion: Natural Law adherents could come down either way, saying there is an absolute right to abortion because you have control over your own body, or saying there is no right to abortion because you have no right to take away someone else's right to life. Giving the power to the courts to determine the right to abortion based on Natural Law is an impossible task, one that should not be undertaken, because of the complete lack of consensus on the issue.

Now, I am still early in the book, so perhaps he will address this flaw in his argument.

But one flaw I do not expect resolution to is his insistence that lying to criminal suspects is illegal. It is not, and shouldn't be. There's nothing in Natural Law or written law that demands the police to always tell the truth. For example, a cop can tell you he has your fingerprints on the murder weapon, while questioning you, to get you to confess. So what?

He does not even explain what is wrong with it, except to make an unsubstantiated logical leap, saying that if the cops lie to a suspect, and the suspect confesses, that confession is not "voluntary."

And it is telling that in every single case he complains about in the first chapter where the police lied to a suspect, there were other far more serious breaches of actual law: refusal to allow a suspect access to a lawyer after they requested one; making false promises to not prosecute; not informing a suspect of his rights; and so on. If lying on its own is illegal, why does he not show one case where lying is the only issue involved?

And I've got one more bone to pick: he asserts that when the cops break the law to bring in a suspect (such as kidnapping him across state lines, without a warrant) that the cops must be held accountable for this criminal act. I agree. But he seems to think the only reasonable way to do it is to let the suspect go free. What's the point? Now you have all criminals involved free, instead of keeping the suspect, and charging the cops with kidnapping, and putting all the criminals behind bars. slashdot.org

Bolton Complaints

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Edward Luck, a Columbia U. professor, was complaining about John Bolton on PBS NewsHour tonight. He was clearly anti-Bolton -- questioning even whether Bolton would take orders from Bush and Rice, when that is the one thing everyone who knows him agrees that he will certainly do -- but the best part is when he criticized some of Bolton's views:

... he stood for some things in the past that are not at all helpful. For example, he has said that we have no legal obligation to pay our dues to the UN. I hope that's not administration policy. It doesn't seem to be administration policy. And I hope he refutes that. He has argued, in fact, that there is no such thing as international law, that it's not an obligation; it's simply a moral or political commitment one makes. And the UN is of course where most of international law is created so I think those things he has to reverse course substantively.
But both of those things are facts.

We do not have any legal obligation to pay our UN dues. The UN Charter says that we have dues, and if we don't pay them we may lose our vote in the General Assembly. It's sort of like saying I am required to pay for my driver's license renewal. No, I am not. If I want to continue to drive, I will have to pay it, of course. But there is no legal obligation to renew that license, nor for the U.S. to pay their UN dues.

And Bolton is also absolutely right about international law. As we know law, international law does not actually exist. Take the Geneva Convention: it is only binding because we agreed to it, and at any time, we can pull out of it. Or we could just interpret it differently, or ignore it altogether.

And what would force us to comply? Oh sure, you can use sanctions of various kinds, other political pressures, or even military force. But that's not how the law is enforced in a society of laws. In a society of laws, you would use legal channels to enforce those laws, or arrest those involved. Sanctions and pressures don't enforce, they merely encourage. And military force is not similar to an arrest in this regard: it is war.

That is not how law, as we normally understand it, works.

You may think we should pay our UN dues*, and you may like adherence to what we call "international law"**, but it is still a fact that we have no legal obligation to pay the dues, and that "international law" really doesn't exist.

It's amazing that Bolton is being criticized, and encouraged to change his views, on things that are factually true.

* I basically do, although I think the UN is also squeezing us for more than our fair share.

** I think, as the Supreme Court does, that legally ratified treaties are fully and legally binding. But that's the point: they are only legally binding on us because we choose for them to be. Other nations can choose for them to not be, and often do. slashdot.org

Dishonest Dean

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Howard Dean is quoted as recently saying:

The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is "okay" to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is.
But it was the three right-wing justices (Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist) who opposed that decision, and the four liberals (Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter) who were in favor of it. The two moderates (O'Connor against, Kennedy for) were split. There was nothing remotely "right-wing" about the decision, and in fact, it is just the opposite: it was a "left-wing" decision.

Dean adds, "We think that eminent domain does not belong in the private sector. It is for public use only." Then fine, you should welcome more right-wing justices to the court.

Much of what Dean says is crazy and stupid and deceptive and wrong, but this statement has crossed over into the area of "entirely indefensible." The guy's a first-class nutjob. slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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