Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Dare They Call Themselves Christians?

Jesus would weep, I believe, over the hatred being propogated in his name by the members of a vile death cult calling themselves Columbia Christians For Life. Thousands may be dead in New Orleans, and these scumbags have announced that the reason for this deadly "act of God" is that Louisiana has 10 abortion clinics.
These people are worse than scum. It is an insult to scum to call them that. But I don't know what else to call them ... words are failing me.

The Fatwa Against Science

So now it appears that U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, has declared a fatwa against scientists whose research on global warming produces results unfriendly to the oil companies. The Guardian reports that Barton, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has demanded large volumes of paperwork from three scientists. Says the Guardian:
Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent
his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat
climate change.
He is using the wide powers of his committee to force the scientists to
produce great quantities of material after alleging flaws and lack of
transparency in their research. He is working with Ed Whitfield, the chairman of
the sub-committee on oversight and investigations.
The scientific work they
are investigating was important in establishing that man-made carbon emissions
were at least partly responsible for global warming, and formed part of the 2001
report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which convinced most
world leaders - George Bush was a notable exception - that urgent action was
needed to curb greenhouse gases.

The Republican Party's war on science is not confined to evolution. It is an all-out battle against facts that are inconvenient to the party's favored industries and issues. Truth be damned!
Biology, Chemistry, Physics -- research in all of these areas is at risk because of the Republican stranglehold on government. So far they haven't attacked mathematics, but I suppose when they figure out that mathematical formulas and equations are responsible for all of the other scientific conclusions, there will be attempts to ban Algebra and Calculus.
Algebra, Al-Qaeda, what's the difference?

The City of New Orleans

Our thoughts today are with the people of this great city. We wish them great good fortune in recovering from the damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Intelligent Design

Those who cite the complexity of the human species -- or even the diversity of life on Earth in general -- as proof of intelligent design are sadly off-base, I think. Yes, living things are staggeringly complex, but in many cases that complexity is far from elegant.
Anyone with an understanding of science knows that in almost every case, the simplest explanation is the best. And when you try to explain some of the strangeness evident in living things, invoking God leads to more and more circuitous, convoluted reasoning.
On the other hand, the theory of evolution provides simple and direct explanations for some of these things.
Why an appendix? Why wisdom teeth? Why are some humans born with vesigial tails or gills? If you pin these on God, you either posit that God makes mistakes, is a perverse trickster or is coldly insensitive to the pain endured by some of his creatures, whereas the scientific, evolution and genetics based explanation for all of these makes perfect, logical sense.
So where is the evidence of God?
Here's where I turn: Numbers.
If you want to see a system that is simple, elegant, consistent and yet capable of infinite complexity, turn to your calculator. The beauty of mathematics provides all the evidence of God that I need. Humans didn't invent numbers, except in the sense of giving them names. Numbers were there to be discovered. They always work.
Talk about your intelligent design.
All God had to do to set the universe in motion was to provide this elegant system, and to make it applicable to every aspect of his creation. From simple counting to atomic theory. Everything else is explicable by science.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bush Approval Rating Continues to Circle the Drain

I found these historical ratings to be an interesting point of comparison

Approval Ratings for Second-Term Presidents the Summer After Re-election

Harry Truman: 58%
Dwight Eisenhower: 63
Lyndon B. Johnson: 65
Richard Nixon: 34
Ronald Reagan: 61
Bill Clinton: 61
George W. Bush: 43

Forty-three percent was Bush's average rating over three Gallup polls conducted this month. His approval rating in the most recent of the three polls was a mere 40% -- right down there in Richard Nixon territory.
Nixon, despite his paranoia, egomania, etc., was self-aware enough to resign the presidency when the picture got convincingly bleak.

Be Careful What You Read

This morning we get the word that the ACLU has confirmed the first case of the feds demanding reader records from a public library, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, under the USA Patriot Act.
I don't know about you, but my reaction to this sort of thing tends to be, "Give 'em something to worry about." So I plan to go my local public library today and check out every book I can find on radical Islam, infectious diseases and paramilitary operations.
It probably won't be many, but maybe it'll give 'em something to occupy their tiny minds.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is It Any Wonder That No One Believes The Media?

Here's a gem I saw on the Iddybud blog: Mort Kondracke on Faux News comparing Cindy Sheehan's questioning of the war in Iraq to Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of a sovereign leader.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

One of the Many Faces of Shamelessness

Pat Robertson on Monday: "If he [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Pat Robertson today: "I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time."

Does he really think nobody will check up on these things????

Monday, August 22, 2005

Are The Commandments Optional?

God: Thou shalt not kill.

Pat Robertson: You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Missing Links

It's not surprising that some of those who provide the best evidence for evolution -- including, now, the simian missing link George W. Bush-- are those who argue for divine intervention in the creation. As if a divine intelligence were needed to come up with the likes of them. If anything, the existence of George W. Bush and his supporters provides evidence for the fallibility of God. Yes, S/He too can make mistakes.
What is most exasperating about the current techniques of the creation-theory supporters is their insistence that they are arguing in the interests of science and fair play. No serious scientist doubts the theory of Darwinian evolution. The evidence is overwhelming, in the fossil record, in genetics, in observations of nature. To give attention in science classrooms to the tenets of Judeo-Christian theology is to say that scientific observation and discovery should be muffled if they conflict with the mythology of a particular religion.
Equally exasperating is the rhetoric that holds that Darwinian evolution is an "unproven theory." The very statement betrays a profound lack of understanding of science and of scientific method. Anyone who has paid a modicum of attention in a well-taught science class (and yes, I realize that modifier will eliminate many) knows that a theory is simply the best available explanation for the observed conditions, and that everything from gravity to thermodynamics to quantum physics is theory.
Any theory can be superceded if either a better (generally simpler), more consistent theory is posited, or if conditions are observed which cannot be explained by the prevailing theory. Thus, even the notion that steam is a gaseous form of water could be replaced if a better explanation came along. All science is subject to questioning, to testing, to displacement. That is what makes it science.
Theology is not subject to the same rules. It may be probed, questioned, by those on the edges, or the outside, but it is not at all subject to replacement by the culture that holds it as a central precept without great upheaval, as in the Christianisation of Rome or the introduction of Islam in the Middle East.
Thus, to stand a belief system -- Judeo-Christian creationism -- against strong, solid science -- Darwinian evolution -- is an absurdity, an unfair battle that can never be won by either side.
Should the Judeo-Christian creation myth be taught in schools? Yes, alongside other creation myths, in classes devoted to world culture, to history, to literature, to art. It is one of the ironies of modern life that the Bible is often avoided in these classes -- where it is an essential foundation block of the disciplines and, of course, of Western culture (try understanding Milton or Shakespeare or Pound or Michaelangelo or Bernini or the Enlightenment or the settlement of North America by the Europeans without understanding the Bible!) -- and yet is inserted into any perceived chink in the armor of science.
The current argument by Bush and his ilk is that schools should "teach the controversy." That would be a sound and reasonable position if the controversy were taught in a social studies classroom. But to have the argument presented in a science classroom is a clear and simple political strategy to give a veneer of credibility to a hypothesis (not theory) that has no scientific underpinnings. This, of course, has been the overarching strategy of the Bush administration with regard to science, whether it be over evolution, greenhouse gases, or medical research: Ignore the science and regard the political debate as a scientific one. In this way, they strive to create a scientific debate where none exists, and to obfuscate the evidence which in virtually every case is the best argument against their political positions.
Back to evolution.
Many of us consider ourselves both scientists and Christians, and see no discrepancy between the two. How do we do this? We understand the Bible for what it is: A vast patchwork of metaphor, fable, history, romance, poetry, and philosophy that has been compiled, edited, translated, mistranslated, subverted, suppressed and reshaped over five millenia. It is an overwhelmingly great and enduring expression of belief. It is not literal truth, and it is not the literal word of God.
Science is the vehicle we use to better understand the greatness of God's gifts. It allows us to explore every question, to gain wisdom, and, possibly, to move toward grace.
The Bible is not a work of science and On The Origin of Species is not a work of theology.
Both should be understood and appreciated for their greatness, but the one should never be confused for the other.

P.S. I've been away from this blog for nearly a month, my attentions consumed by my job and by the creative writings I have been posting at The Practical Press. I hope to get back into the swing of things now that my company's annual conference has passed successfully. Thanks to those who noticed I was gone.