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July 2013 Archives

July 1, 2013

Meyer Book Hits Best Seller Lists

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Over the weekend we learned that both the New York Times and Publishers' Weekly have Steve Meyer's Darwin's Doubt on their respective Best Sellers Lists for the coming week. The book is number seven on the NYT and number ten on Publishers' Weekly.

This success testifies to the growing audience for intelligent design and scientific criticism of Darwinian theory. All our previous books and films, especially Steve's Signature in the Cell, have helped us to circumvent the mainstream media and develop what might be considered a counter-culture appetite. We have always known that there is a public sympathy for our position, but now we see developing a population of scores of thousands who not only identify with ID, but also understand and support it. That audience follows the topic now and, obviously, will welcome the new book.

Continue reading "Meyer Book Hits Best Seller Lists" »

July 2, 2013

"Middletown" Paper Gets it Right

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The Star-Press of Muncie, Indiana, home to Ball State University, is a local newspaper that still reports the news, and, remarkably, tries to report fairly.

When a Ball State professor who teaches a class on "The Boundaries of Science" was assailed gratuitously by the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, WI and biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, the University President did not handle the charges the same way charges were handled against a professor a decade ago. In the earlier instance, a professor charged with "anti-American, pro-terrorist" views was defended immediately on academic freedom grounds. Case closed. But in the current case of Dr. Eric Hedin, who is charged with expressing personal theistic beliefs (imagine that, in a course on science and religion!), the University set up an investigative committee and stacked it with pro-Darwinians critical of intelligent design.

The Muncie paper simply reported the news. How refreshing. Of course, for not following the censorship playbook, the Star-Press and Indiana in general have come under invidious attack by Dr. Coyne. "I was told," he writes in his blog, "that, in religious terms, Indiana is effectively a Southern state, but I didn't believe it until now." (Hell hath no fury like an atheist scorned.)

Continue reading ""Middletown" Paper Gets it Right" »

July 3, 2013

Green Energy's Future in Scrap Salvage

Green innovations have become the tattoos of the energy economy. Tattoos look good at first and people complement you on how "awesome" you've become, even if hardly anyone gets close enough to study the clever etchings on your body parts. Then you wish you hadn't. And one fair day, after another embarrassing swim in the neighborhood pool, you start figuring how to make them go away.

There is still a business etching the torsos of the young and guileless and printing indelible roses on the ankles of just-divorced matrons. But fashion changes, and there already is a big business in removing the magenta signs of disillusionment.

So it goes with windmills for generating electricity. It was only yesterday that they were the dazzling promise on the horizon. All you had to do was burn railroad loads of coal and oil, and mine vast pits of ore, to have them manufactured and erected above the mere human scale environment of the countryside. Then off they went, making their unearthly whooshing sounds, flap-flapping the heads off migrating endangered species birds, and slightly denting the peak energy needs of power companies whose corporate enthusiasm had been greased by crony government subsidies. But nowadays the controversy is less how to build them, more about how to tear them out.

Continue reading "Green Energy's Future in Scrap Salvage" »

Hard Fate of Obama's "New" Policy on Muslims

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President Obama's new foreign policy on Muslim countries--the "New Beginning" declared in Cairo in 2009--is now visibly in ruins.

Under Mr. Obama the US Government seems to have an excellent instinct for choosing sides at just the wrong moment. In Egypt we gave up on Mubarak only as his exit was being assured and now the same with Morsi. Placards in the anti-Morsi crowds last week deplored Obama and the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Ann Patterson, for urging Egyptians not to take part in the demonstrations.

Writes Egyptian Dr. Tawfik Hamid of the Potomac Institute, "Egyptian and Arab liberals alike cannot understand why the Obama administration did not take a clear stand against the several anti-democratic actions Morsi took after he came to power. These included seizing all powers in the country, breaking his promise to select a Coptic vice president, encouraging Islamic thugs to surround the Supreme Constitutional Court and threaten its judges if they issued any ruling against Morsi, and above all, cheating in the referendum on the new constitution of the country for the benefit of the Islamists."

Under George W. Bush we stood for freedom and democracy, even if there was some inevitable hypocrisy involved. Under Obama the fulsome speech in Cairo about new relations with Muslim countries was followed by a foreign policy that essentially is opportunistic, impulsive and--in the end--incoherent.

We couldn't express support for the pro-democracy crowds in tyrannical Iran, seemed eager to abandon democrats in Iraq, are wishy-washy in Afghanistan, unclear in Syria, and so it goes. If some conspiracy-minded people thought that Barack Obama was the Manchurian Candidate--a secret Islamist--that person would have to admit that the conspiracy must have gotten mixed up somehow. Either that or the Candidate turned out to be incompetent,

Continue reading "Hard Fate of Obama's "New" Policy on Muslims" »

July 8, 2013

The Good Job News is Bad

Ben Wattenberg, author of numerous contrarian books from the 60s to the 90s that showed America doing better than critics asserted, had a trope that "the good news is the bad news is wrong."

Unfortunately, when it comes to economic news, right now the bad news is that the good news is wrong. A fine analysis from James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI also is home to Ben Wattenberg) describes last week's jobs report as a disappointment masked in media accounts as "better than expected" employment gains.

It turns out that the increases in part time jobs is large, but is almost offset by the loss of full time jobs. That is, less desirable, low-wage, no-benefit jobs are increasing, not coincidentally, as good jobs with benefits and higher pay disappear. Writes Pethokoukis, " The underemployment rate surged to 14.3% from 13.8%" last month. Why is that happening?

Continue reading "The Good Job News is Bad" »

So, Junior is a Vegetarian


When my younger son at age 13 announced he was a vegetarian he said the no longer should be served chicken or pork or beef. How about steaks? Nope.

How about hamburgers? Long pause.

Maybe, sometimes.

Well, that didn't last long.

Today that young man, all grown up, is an accomplished avocational grill-chef. He prepared an especially well-seasoned pork roast last night. His mother is a vegetarian (some fish, occasional chicken, no red meat). But his father will eat almost anything that tastes good.

The key is not letting a child decide what the family eats. Not when he or she is eating for free.

Yet an article by Casey Seidenberg of the Washington Post suggests a different approach. Find out what vegetarian meals most appeal to the little gourmet. Maybe she (or he) will eat some kinds of meat; say, fish. Negotiate, in other words.

Continue reading "So, Junior is a Vegetarian" »

July 9, 2013

Government is Chilling Private Speech is running a column by me today on the growing number of ways the government can collect--and use private data--on citizens.

July 11, 2013

Freedom in Egypt, then Democracy

Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter carefully disentangles the concept of democracy--which many in the world, including some in the U.S.--confuse with majority rule, regardless of safeguards for freedom--freedom for minorities of politics and religion and ethnicity. The problem at hand is Egypt, but it could be most of the former USSR, Africa and Asia.

Humble Beauty in the Face of Death

An outstanding entry in the Smithsonian's competition for very short films is "The Coffinmaker" by Jesse Solomon Clark. Somehow the essence of Marcus Daly, the wood craftsman on Vashon Island and owner of Marian Caskets, is brought out in the 3.40 minute video. The prevailing spirit is peace.

You can watch it here.

And if you like it (you will) you can vote for it at the Smithsonian site.

I know Marcus Daly and his large family. A longer film about their lives together in the forest by Puget Sound also would be gripping, especially since they are at once humble in their faith and living it fully.

Continue reading "Humble Beauty in the Face of Death" »

New "Never Mind" On Science Consensus

Whether the subject is evolution or climate change, there is an iron-clad, non-violable "scientific consensus". Don't dare question it, even if you are a scientist.

But then, from time to time, the scientific consensus just quietly evaporates. Perhaps that is because in some cases the monied and left-wing lobbies (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health) are not engaged.

So, it turns out that salt is not bad for your health. All that scolding from "scientists"?

"Never mind."

Continue reading "New "Never Mind" On Science Consensus" »

July 15, 2013

Wolves Are Symbol of Cultural Division


Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Picture the kind of person who joins groups that want to see more wolves in the rural West. Maybe a kindly old couple in suburban Boston? Got that in mind? Then think of someone who opposes this cause: say, a rancher in Idaho or Eastern Washington.

More generally think of how those two kinds of people view culture and politics in general.

One can make the case that how people stand on the issue of re-introduction of wolves to the environment is an accurate indication of their overall world-view. This weekend the Spokane Spokesman-Review ran a thorough and fair-minded report on the topic--one that deserves wide circulation. (Hat tip to Lillian Ashworth.) The article is both fascinating and frustrating.

It's fascinating because it really is about finding a proper balance between people and nature. Wolves inspire a kind of awe. But they are not nice people.

Continue reading "Wolves Are Symbol of Cultural Division" »

The Odds of Re-trying Zimmerman

Attorney General Eric Holder suggests that the Department of Justice may try to re-try George Zimmerman, despite his acquittal this past weekend. Lawyer and Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter offers the following analysis of the problems facing the DOJ if it does so.

I did a little research on three possible legal avenues, and it appears difficult for any of them to be successfully used against Zimmerman.

The three are: (1) Florida civil case; (2) federal civil rights case; (3) federal hate crimes case.

State Wrongful Death Civil Case

There appears at most a narrow window under Florida law. A defendant who successfully invokes Florida's "stand your ground" (SYG) self-defense law is immune from civil suits . Zimmerman did NOT invoke SYG in the criminal case, for fear that an unsympathetic judge would deny a request for application of SYG. Such does not operate as a permanent waiver, however. Zimmerman can now plead SYG as a bar to civil suit.

Continue reading "The Odds of Re-trying Zimmerman" »

July 18, 2013

New IRS Scandals; When Comes Justice?

It now turns out that someone leaked tax information of Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, leading to a unjustified (but newsworthy) lien on property of hers. Do you want to paint a candidate in a negative way that will cost her politically? Smear her with false claims of illegality.

O'Donnell was not a sympathetic candidate as far as most people were concerned. So what? This is America. The IRS is not a political action unit of the dominant party. When people in it break the law--and the public trust--they must be found and prosecuted. This sort of thing is not just the standard Washington, DC news leak.

July 19, 2013

Anti-Religion Party Now Targets Star of David

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), the group that has been trying to intimidate Ball State University in Indiana over a course on the interface of science and religion, has a new cause. It is calling for removal of a Star of David in a holocaust memorial at the state capitol in Ohio.

The remarkable thing is not that such a public, tax-exempt foundation exists, but that it attracts such credulous acceptance in the progressive media and in academia. All by itself it has caused the Ball State administration in Muncie, IN to take seriously--and over agonizing months--an attempted assault on the academic freedom of one of its professors. (The professor's crime is including some papers on intelligent design in his reading list.) You would think the the FFRF was some sort of respected legal watchdog group concerned to protect civil liberties. In reality, it is an aggressively atheist lobby bent on extirpating any positive reference to religion in the public square.

Continue reading "Anti-Religion Party Now Targets Star of David" »

July 22, 2013

Egypt's Choices

by John Wohlstetter

What a 12-year-old boy says about democracy....

Take three minutes out of your day to watch this Egyptian democracy video (2:50) featuring a boy, 12, who understands democracy better than our president, anyone in the administration, many in Congress, many in the media & many in the punditocracy.

Alas, as legal experts begin work on revising the Islamist-tinged Constitution, Egypt's liberals are delusional & disorganized. Hence the realistic choice for the foreseeable future is between the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood & the military, with public sentiment favoring the military. We ought to support the latter, but Team Obama, by pushing for early elections, is unwittingly aiding the former.

Bottom Line. Egypt will be one of the Mideast's largest slow-motion country train wrecks, with political liberals in spectacular disarray, a moribund economy immiserating its multitudes and a society fracturing along tectonic religious & ideological fault-lines.

July 24, 2013

Bill Nye and Science Lies


Maybe I am being too harsh, but science writer and sometime TV star Bill Nye has a lot to answer for. When a person sets himself up as a spokesman for something abstract called "science", he should act responsibly. Imagine someone called "The Democracy Guy" or "The Medicine Guy" who rendered judgements on a subject he hadn't fairly studied and does not accurately represent. How could you trust him?

The star of the former PBS show, "Bill Nye, the Science Guy," the one time engineer and comic writer, now believes he has found a role in combating the politicization of science. In a hagiographic profile from Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times that found its way to RealClearScience today, Nye makes the kind of straw man argument that exemplifies the very thing he claims to oppose: politics posing as science.

Continue reading "Bill Nye and Science Lies" »

Lawyers in the Dock

Hats off (my summer Panama, to be exact) to The New Republic for its series on the fate of the legal practice in America. The magazine, under new management, ran a cover story this week on the declining business--and Darwinian environment--of big law firms.

It has followed up with a series of commentaries that take other sides of the topic, much to the benefit of readers and the curious public at large. A symposium offers ideas on how to reform law school. Overall, it's one of the finest reportorial, analytic and opinion surveys on public policy I've seen of late. Attorneys, I'm told, have read of some of these developments in professional journals, but the rest of us have not.

Noam Scheiber, a senior editor, did serious, old fashioned reporting to show that of the current 150 to 250 big law firms in America, "only 20 to 25 firms" are likely to operate in the traditional grand fashion in the next decade. "The other 200 firms will have to reinvent themselves or disappear."

Scheiber focuses on one major example, Mayer Brown, headquartered in Chicago. That firm partners' discomfiture at his attention does not have to be imagined: he describes it in a way that makes even the reader squirm.

Continue reading "Lawyers in the Dock" »

July 26, 2013

Judging the Jury System


The least appreciated participants in jury trials are the jurors. Their treatment may be regarded as a weak link in the judicial system. One almost never hears about it, except in regards to specific cases.

Controversy over the Zimmerman trial has commentators again evaluating the after-thoughts of the jurors in that case. ABC News (quoted by James Taranto is his Wall Street Journal column, "Best of the Web"--subscription only) describes "Juror B-29" , Maddy.

"When the jury of six women--five of them mothers--began deliberations, Maddy said she favored convicting Zimmerman of second degree murder, which could have put him in prison for the rest of his life. The jury was also allowed to consider manslaughter, a lesser charge.

Continue reading "Judging the Jury System" »

July 29, 2013

Gilder on "Surprise and Creativity"

The new Weekly Standard devotes five pages to George Gilder's "notes toward a new economics": "Surprise and Creativity".

Continue reading "Gilder on "Surprise and Creativity"" »

July 30, 2013

Pope's Economics and Issues of the Young


Much has been made of Pope Francis' informal comments on the airplane returning from Brazil about gay priests, which has deflected attention from his earlier comments on the trip about economics and the problems of the young. These also merit attention.

Fortunately, Discovery Sr. Fellow Scott Powell was paying attention and has published an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (and also the Orlando Sentinel) that describes the stakes.

Continue reading "Pope's Economics and Issues of the Young" »

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