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April 2012 Archives

April 5, 2012

Liberals Peddling Moonshine in Tennessee

There is a big effort to persuade the governor of Tennessee, a Republican, to veto an academic freedom bill passed overwhelmingly by the state's legislature. The arguments are as fallacious as they are insulting, attempting to conjure "specters" of the Scopes Trial of 1925. Casey Lusken handles it well and thoroughly at Evolution News.

What readers need to realize, especially those not versed in the issue of evolution, is that the Left is using the same argument on a variety of issues, and not just scientific ones. They claim that the "experts" have "settled" issues like evolution, global warming and cloning (the very topics covered in the Tennessee bill), and therefore it is not necessary to cover the arguments on the other side, merely to cover the sociological aspects of the subject--as, for example, that people who challenge Darwin's theory are rubes.

But the same sorts of approach is offered routinely for ObamaCare, too. The "experts" think there is no doubt about the constitutionality of the act. And if the Supreme Court itself declares ObamaCare unconstitutional, that will not be on the basis of judicial judgment, you see, but on "politics".

The arrogance of the profoundly illiberal Left inflates day by day.

April 6, 2012

Catholics and Creation

Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, hosted a conference on Science and Faith a couple of months ago that emphasized the issues now under discussion in the Catholic Church over creation doctrine and scientific authority. It's a thorny topic, since the power of the Darwinian left is felt not only in faculties of major Catholic (or nominally Catholic) universities and the media, but even in precincts not far down the road from St. Peter's in Vatican City (e.g., the so-called Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that seems to operate apart from the papal offices, per se.) The Franciscan conference had a good sized audience, but the quality of the lectures and discussions deserve a much wider reach.

Among the Discovery fellows speaking were Michael Behe, Ben Wiker and Jay Richards. Richards' talk is especially provocative because it directly addresses two points of contemporary confusion that afflict not only many Catholics, but many other Christians as well: 1) Do the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, noted doctor of the Church, support intelligent design and undercut Darwinism, or is it the other way round? 2) Is the theistic evolution position that contends that there are no inherent reasons why one cannot support Darwinian theory and Christian faith, both, valid or not--as either philosophy or as science?

Richards, a Phd. in philosophy and theology specializing in science issues, is, inter alia, co-author (with Guillermo Gonzalez) of The Privileged Planet and editor/contributing author of God and Evolution, on the challenges Darwinism poses to Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Most recently, he is co-author with James Robison of the bestselling Indivisible.

                    

Continue reading "Catholics and Creation" »

Vigilantes on the Left

When the Ku Klux Klan was powerful in the South and parts of the Middle West, one of its rallying cries was the slowness of law enforcement officials to arrest and try blacks suspected of criminal action, especially crimes against whites. In the worst cases, white lynch mobs descended on the homes of blacks to take justice into their own hands. It's hard to think of anything more inimical to real justice.

Therefore, one of the most disturbing things about the Trayvon Martin killing recently is the willingness of some on the left to hint at vigilante action. For example, those who Tweeted the supposed address of George Zimmerman, who claims he shot Martin in self-defense, clearly aimed to provoke some kind of action against Zimmerman and his family, whatever form that action might take. A couple of celebrities later backed off (Spike Lee and Roseanne Barr), but not before they had made fools of themselves.

One might point out that the media got much of the story wrong, using sensationalized treatments that have embarrassed them. The bias thus exhibited may have backfired.

Then there is the way Media Matters organized a pseudo-popular outcry against Rush Limbaugh for his on-air chastisement of a woman at Georgetown University. Limbaugh apologized, but the campaign ramped up anyhow. Advertisers' employees were harassed; innuendoes were made about the safety of company executives and their families. Fortunately, at least one advertiser decided to fight back in public, a rarity in modern corporate America. (Jeff Lord at American Spectator has the full story.)


Continue reading "Vigilantes on the Left" »

April 8, 2012

Coercing Doctors' Consciences is Bad Medicine

by Dr. Robert Cihak

I'm a retired physician and am now receiving medical services rather than
providing them. From my current viewpoint as a patient, requiring doctors to
do things unconscionable to them could easily harm me.

Many doctors find that some controversial medical services are inconsistent
with their personal scientific or moral beliefs. These services might
include acupuncture, chiropractic, physician-assisted suicide, alternative
medicine, abstinence-only contraception, homeopathy, abortion, etc. As a
result, these doctors know little, if anything, about the quality of
practitioners providing these services. They don't know which of these
practitioners are competent and which are quacks. For example, would Planned
Parenthood staff know which abstinence-only practitioners were good? (I
would guess that some of these Planned Parenthood practitioners consider
abstinence-only advice immoral.)

Obviously, physicians who abhor killing innocent fetuses or babies will not
know which abortionists are competent in what they do and which are
incompetent. They would not be able to make a "good" referral for someone
seeking an abortion.

As a result, the patient would suffer if their health professionals were
forced to do unconscionable things, which would happen if existing
conscience laws were repealed or weakened. Doctors would be prohibited from
describing their personal moral position with patients if their beliefs were
at all inconsistent with the organization they worked for. As others have
noted, the current federal healthcare laws on the books would result in
almost all medical professionals working for the government. This would
restrict my personal options; for example, I wouldn't be able to easily
avoid doctors and hospitals providing physician-assisted suicide.

A doctor lies if he tells a patient something he doesn't believe. People in
relationships requiring trust are very sensitive to other people lying. A
doctor forced to lie produces mistrust between patient and doctor. Yet trust
is essential in the patient-doctor relationship. When a patient mistrusts
the doctor, the patient sometimes withholds information that might be very
important or even essential to healing.

Yet another consequence of forced belief codes, such as politically
correctness, is deteriorating other services as well. A firefighter friend
of mine has refrained from seeking promotions because he finds himself
unable to repeat the ethical lies required to get ahead in the fire dept.
I've personally benefited from my contact with him; I regret that he finds
himself marginalized and limited in his ability to share his insights with
others.

If a doctor would be forced to make a referral for what he considers quack
treatment, the patient would be the loser.

April 11, 2012

Rick Santelli Tells it True

When the President lectures on the need for the rich to "pay their fair share" (the "Buffet Rule") I assume he must have polls that show this is a winning line. Otherwise, it is total nonsense. Sadly, it takes a minute to explain the facts and the media either won't take that much time or doesn't want to.

The Buffet Rule, if passed (and Congress definitely should vote on it), would provide a few hours of the operation of the US Government and pay off no debt. But at least it would scare investors into greater caution--just the thing you want when the economic is weak!

In an amusing video below Rick Santelli at CNBC in Chicago shows that even if millionaires were taxed an average of a million dollars each, and even if they were a far more numerous group than most experts think, the money obtained from them would pay down only one month of our stupefying debt. And outside of a far left candidate in France, nobody suggests it would be wise to tax someone a million dollars who makes, say, $1,250,000.

If, as Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber in 2008, the issue is not just revenue to pay off the deficit, but "fairness", does raising the effective capital gains rate for millionaires really make the tax system "fair"? What if the point of the tax system is to raise the revenue the government needs and raising taxes further on the rich has little benefit in that regard and actually may make the economy slow? 

Where's the fairness in a $15 trillion debt? Where's the fairness in ducking that subject?

April 13, 2012

Dodos Keep On Hoaxing

Thursday night Villanova University became the latest victim of Randy Olson's hoax of dodos. Either sponsors don't know about the fabrications in Olson's film, or they don't care. Since it's 2006 release, A Flock of Dodos has been consistently peddling something that doesn't even amount to snake oil. So much for improving science communication.

After a screening of the movie there was a panel discussion with Randy Olson, Philly Inquirer columnists Faye Flam, Villanova biologist Aaron Bauer and biologist and CSC senior fellow, Michael Behe. Each of the panelists summed up his thoughts briefly and then the 100 or so people in attendance got to ask questions. Not surprisingly, most of them were focused on Behe, who handled their questions and challenges deftly.

Flam started out, and the only memorable thing she said was along the lines that she was glad the film exposed those ID falsehoods concerning Haeckel's embryos.

Behe commented that the film was amusing, but jumbled up distinctions between ID, evolution, and creationism. Most important, he pointed out that the film is misleading --exactly in the area where Flam was impressed-- and produced some photocopies of embryo drawings from recent textbooks (see how closely current textbooks follow Haeckel's drawing). He emphasized that the film badly misinformed in this area, as well as others.

Flam gave no reaction, and never mentioned it again in her comments throughout the evening, which were few. The question is will she show the professional reponsibility to admit that she made a mistake in endorsing a film that is factually and intentionally wrong?

Immediately after Behe discredited the film, Randy Olson got the microphone and asserted that his major problem with the controversy surrounding Haeckel's embryos is that no working embryologist refers to them because they are so old. But of course the purpose of the drawings is not to educate students in embryology, Rather, it is to convey a worldview that students are supposed to imbibe unquestioningly.

Continue reading "Dodos Keep On Hoaxing" »

April 16, 2012

Churchill, Reagan Compared and Contrasted


Steven Hayward Joins Leadership Roundtable for Dinner

By Hans Zeiger

The first class of the Discovery Institute Leadership Roundtable was joined by political historian Steven Hayward for dinner in Seattle last Thursday. The eighteen young professionals in Discovery's first year-long Roundtable class read Hayward's book Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders prior to the gathering. Following dinner, Hayward led Roundtable participants in a discussion of the book, political prudence, current events, and more.

Churchill and Reagan were utterly independent and unconventional thinkers, Hayward said. Both were self-educated. Both paid a great deal of attention to public communication. Churchill spent 20 to 30 hours on a 20-30 minute speech, and Reagan used the skills he learned in show business to prepare and deliver his speeches.

Churchill and Reagan also differed in important ways. For instance, while Churchill was obviously ambitious at every stage of his career, Reagan was careful to conceal his ambition.

Hayward and Roundtable participants discussed whether greatness is possible outside of crises. Hayward said that the goal for hopeful statesmen is to cultivate the capacity for greatness in the event that it is needed.

Reagan's and Churchill's example of political communication should inspire the next generation of political leaders, Hayward said. "The next people we call statesmen will recover the older style of political communication," he said. Statesmen should develop a theme and take their words seriously instead of just stringing out talking points.

Participants in the Discovery Institute Leadership Roundtable include young professionals in the fields of business, education, law, media, and public policy. For more information on the Discovery Institute Leadership Roundtable and the new Center for Civic Leadership, see www.discovery.org/cfcl.

April 17, 2012

NY Times Discovers Scientific Corruption

Ida.jpg

It's a man bites dog moment when the NY Times discovers the increasing reality that vast sums of government money have led to trimming in research reports.

"University laboratories count on a steady stream of grants from the government and other sources," reports The Times. "The National Institutes of Health accepts a much lower percentage of grant applications today than in earlier decades. At the same time, many universities expect scientists to draw an increasing part of their salaries from grants, and these pressures have influenced how scientists are promoted."

May I modestly suggest that the problem is not failures of editors to monitor articles for veracity, but the incentive system that dangles large sums of cash--and the fate of one's livelihood--for scientists who come up with ideologically fashionable research outcomes? Those outcomes desired are often those that advance a politically correct narrative that the media and academia will spread as good news. Not surprisingly, many of the problems arise in biomedical fields. Think embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells.

Another example surely is the parade of "missing link" stories that supposedly corroborate a Darwinian evolution script. If all the missing link stories that turn out later to be false or misleading or misinterpreted were laid end to end, they would wind up biting their own prehensile fossil tails.


Photo credit: Wikicommons

April 18, 2012

By Popular Demand: Meyer's London Lecture

If you read the book, you'll love the movie. And if you haven't read the book, maybe you will after watching the movie--or, if you will, the video posted on YouTube of Steve Meyer's outstanding lecture recently in London. Having done so, you may want to share it with friends.

April 20, 2012

Positive News on Voter ID

Vote fraud is encouraged when all that is required to vote is on-the-spot registration and voting without any requirement to prove one's identity. It was long a staple of big city political machines. So it is good news that the Ninth Circuit Court--regarded as the most liberal in the nation--rules voter ID laws are constitutional.

The Obama Administration has fought voter ID laws, considering them too onerous, just as it has resisted prosecuting voter intimidation at the polls by the Black Panthers, considering such prosecution too stringent. All of this raises doubts about the sanctity of the voting booth these days. Fortunately, simple verification of identity is so commonplace for everything from flying on an airplane to cashing a check that the DOJ's position flunks the common sense test. They will have a harder time now pursuing such states as Pennsylvania and Texas that recently enacted voter ID.

April 23, 2012

"Sound as a Dollar" Becoming a Sick Joke

The seemingly boring topic of sound currency is not so boring when it begins to hit home. The United States may be about to experience the pain first hand as nations switch from dollars to other currencies, such as the Chinese Yuan. Nations that are rivals for economic power, such as China and Russia, already have switched in many cases. Japanese trade with China is now in Yuan. Nations that are rivals for political power, such as Iran, are making deals in other currencies, also to thwart the U.S.

In a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Scott Powell, a fellow in Discovery's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, describes the decline and possible fall of the dollar that is accompanying our spendthrift national budgeting. It hasn't happened overnight, says Powell.

"What saved the greenback after Richard Nixon removed the U.S. dollar from the gold standard in 1971 -- ending the postwar Bretton Woods international financial order -- was making the dollar the reserve currency of the world. This began with Saudi Arabia agreeing in 1973 to accept only dollars as payment for oil in exchange for U.S. protection of the Saudi monarchy and its oil fields. By 1975, the reserve currency status of the dollar was firmly established, with all OPEC members agreeing to trade only in dollars."

Those days are over. Decisions to back the greenback can be changed to decisions to challenge the greenback, and that seems to be just what is happening.

Chuck Colson, Social Conservative Statesman

Chuck Colson.jpg

Mainstream media reporting on the death of Charles Colson (1931-2012) has fastened like an angry lobster on his conviction and prison sentence in the Watergate scandal. Not to stretch matters, but that emphasis is a little bit like headlining the death of St. Paul as "Saul (aka 'Paul'), Onetime Persecutor of Christians."

The significance of Charles Colson was what happened as a result of his conviction and imprisonment, not what happened before. At a dinner party in the 1990s, the legendary Meg Greenfield -- editorial page editor of the Washington Post, columnist for Newsweek, and DC trendsetter -- was joking about the latest politician who had been caught breaking the law and now claimed to have found religion and forgiveness.

"Chuck Colson, he was the only sincere one!" she exclaimed.

Well, there may have been others, but there was little doubt that Colson, author of Born Again and founder of Prison Fellowship, was indeed sincere. He was committed to real reform -- the kind that starts in the heart and then extends a helping hand. Among his realizations was the need for committed orthodox Christians of various denominations to work in tandem. His project called Evangelicals & Catholics Together, undertaken with Catholic writer George Weigel, among others, helped forge a new basis for cooperation among believers that seems obvious only in hindsight.

One of his elaborations of that theme was the need for people with compatible programs in the fields of ministry, education and public affairs to help promote one another, not just themselves. This isn't easy, because under a general banner there normally are many competing groups trying to raise funds, each pushing its own organization. Chuck moved beyond all that. Serious, low key, pastoral, whether in a crowd or in private, Chuck Colson was the statesman of grass-roots politics. Discovery Institute, let us acknowledge, was one of his beneficiaries.

Continue reading "Chuck Colson, Social Conservative Statesman" »

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