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by Stephen C. Meyer

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September 2013 Archives

September 3, 2013

Hackers Can Take Over Your Car, House

Frank Gregorsky of Discovery Institute calls to our attention two articles from Forbes (and a YouTube piece) that describe in the first case how hackers can take over your car from a distance, and in the second, how they can make computerized items in your house go crazy.

The point is, if creative young American hackers can do it, criminals and international enemies cannot be far behind.

Continue reading "Hackers Can Take Over Your Car, House" »

September 1, 2013

Demand Climate Debate in Congress

Wouldn't this be a propitious moment for members of Congress to debate the question of global warming? There is so much obfuscation and confusion on this topic that the right solution is clearly public debate. Since that is not allowed in most of the media or universities these days, it should be taken up in the people's forum: Congress.

This just in (for example): Arctic ice overall is not melting.

Yes, we just had the ballyhooed latest leaked draft of a UN report on the certainty of global warming; er, make that climate change. Many editorials and Gore-y warnings followed.

But then came reports that the US had fewer hot days this year than in a century of past summers. Also, there were fewer August hurricanes than in years. Hot weather events or hurricanes neither confirm nor deny global warming, but don't tell that to the Left when we have a heat wave or storm. It's when we don't have hot weather or hurricanes that we suddenly get common sense demurrals from them on such topics.

Same with arctic ice. The dangers were dire.

But now: Ice in the Arctic is surprisingly large this summer. It's not what global warming warners expected. In some sense, they must be disappointed, especially with winter coming on.

Continue reading "Demand Climate Debate in Congress" »

Life Began on Mars, Scientist Says

Of course it did.

Until some other scientist comes up with another news peg.

How about a story: "Scientists Don't Have a Clue About How Life Began on Earth, Scientists Say."

By the way, how did life get to Mars?

September 2, 2013

To Times, Syria is About Split GOP

Count on the New York Times to politicize everything, even a foreign policy crisis fourteen months before the next mid-term elections.

Online today:

"Syria Vote Sets Up Foreign Policy Clash Within the G.O.P.
The Congressional vote will offer the best insight yet on which wing of the Republican Party -- the traditional hawks, or a growing bloc of noninterventionists -- has the advantage."

Somehow the Times thinks the current Administration muddle over Syria is about the internal state of the GOP. Mr. G. W. Bush must still be in office and the GOP in control of both houses of Congress. It's up to the Republicans to unscramble the egg on Mr. Obama's face.

Continue reading "To Times, Syria is About Split GOP" »

September 3, 2013

Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?

For "Things Are Going to Hell in a Hand Basket" file: the crass calculation of a contemporary couple that is unhappy they are having twins. Maybe, it is suggested, they might have a "reduction". Such a choice: which twin doesn't make the cut? Won't it be fun to explain it someday to the surviver?

Slate describes the unhappy plight of the parents who only wanted one more child: The anonymous couple 'considered a reduction for about 30 seconds,' Dad says, but ultimately decided the procedure was too 'Machiavellian' to undertake without reason. Still, they privately hoped that doctors would locate some socially acceptable justification for them to undergo a reduction, like genetic anomalies in the twins. Sadly, 'none came'."

I don't feel sorry for the parents. I feel sorry for their kids.

Continue reading "Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?" »

Questions Before US Attacks Syria

Discovery's Casey Luskin asks if the WMD we are hearing about was Saddam Hussein's stockpile before the US invasion of ten years ago. It's a good question. Many speculated at the time that the reason the UN inspectors failed to find WMD in Iraq before 2003's invasion was that they had been shipped to Saddam's Baathist Party ally: Syria. So what do we really know about Syria's WMD?

Another, even more pertinent question before the US attacks: How do we know that the WMD attack really was carried out by Assad? We will feel used, indeed, if the gas killings turn out to have been perpetrated by al Qaeda for the purpose of provoking us to attack Assad.

Yet another question before we rush ahead: If the leaders of Christian denominations in Syria (Catholic and Orthodox) are asking the U.S. to keep out, why aren't we listening to them? Do we suppose (which is possible) that they are taking this position because they have to, and actually would be glad to see Assad go? It would nice, for a change, if the USG would put the survival interests of Middle Eastern Christians into the top, rather than bottom, of its calculations.

How serious is the Free Syrian Army? How independent is it from al Nusra and the other Islamic extremists? A Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth O'Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War describes a three party war: Assad's, al Qaeda (al Nusra and Hezbollah) and the Free Syrian Army, with the latter two poised to fight it out once Assad is taken down. Is this an accurate picture?

Continue reading "Questions Before US Attacks Syria" »

September 4, 2013

Weeds that Are Choking the Recovery

The housing crisis has not been solved. The same kind of thinking that led to the collapse in 2008 proceeds, inasmuch as public understanding of the Great Recession remains clouded by media misinformation and neglect and public policies remain unreformed.

There was a crony capitalism payoff to the recession that was not covered at the time and mainly is coming to light through Discovery Fellow Jay Richards' new book, Infiltrated. His article in today's Washington Times covers some striking highlights. The most genuine scandal of the Great Recession is the one that the mainstream media have ignored.

Continue reading " Weeds that Are Choking the Recovery" »

Why is it the REPUBLICANS' Problem?

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post now joins the New York Times and others who are trying to make the issue of whether to attack Syria a question of Republican support. Why should it be?

At some point the partisan press has to look reality in the face. The Democrats have a sizable majority in the Senate. It's up to them to find the votes there to support the policy of the President.

In the House the Democrats have a sizable minority, and there are at least 20 percent of the Republican House members willing to support a resolution in favor of a Syria attack. That 20 percent (40 some Congressmen) is plenty enough to assure passage--providing that the Democrats in the House support the President.

Continue reading "Why is it the REPUBLICANS' Problem?" »

September 6, 2013

How Marriage Got Divorced from Law

Intellectual history is worth while if only as a warning that big changes can start from seemingly small ones. In First Things this week Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Jay Smith lays out the story of "palimony" and how a famous case in California 35 years ago--Marvin v. Marvin--changed the legal meaning of marriage and sped the cultural transformation.

September 8, 2013

Earth is Cooling, "Scientists Say"

The ice cap in the Arctic is 60 percent bigger than this time last year, scientists say. A new era of cooling may be underway.

I hereby again establish the term "Scientists Say" as a category of media hype that keeps the credulous public in a state of constant and unnecessary alarm. Why? "Because," as folks used to say, "it sells papers."

Nonetheless, the climate change community (nee, global warming community) is in a dither, according to the London Telegraph. Documents leaked to another British paper, the London Mail, from the UN International Panel on Climate indicate that governments that finance the UN studies are demanding 1,500 changes in the preliminary report.

Only a couple of weeks ago an earlier leak from different sources (presumably) anticipated a UNIPCC report that confirmed human-caused global warming.

Now we have some scientists predicting a decade or more of cooling. Therefore earlier reported IPCC assertions of growing confidence levels in a warming trend (95%, no less) are looking as mushy as a melting snowman.

Continue reading "Earth is Cooling, "Scientists Say"" »

September 10, 2013

Norway Could Reform Nobel Prize

The parliamentary election in Norway of a coalition led by the Conservative Party and its female head, "Iron Erna" Solberg, may change a number of things, including the composition of future Nobel Peace Prize selection committees. Solberg will be the first Conservative to lead Norway since 1990.

People who were annoyed that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming campaign and Barack Obama won it right after becoming elected President probably are unaware of how the award is tainted with politics. (See Jay Nordlinger's history: Peace They Say.)

The selection is by a committee that in turn is selected by the Parliament of Norway (other Nobel Prizes are awarded by a process in Sweden). Parliamentarians tend to chose former members to serve on the Nobel committee.

But who selects the Parliament that selects the committee that selects the Nobel Peace Prize winners?

The people of Norway, of course. And for many years they have elected left wingers who--guess what?--have a leftist perspective on peace. That now seems set to change.

Continue reading "Norway Could Reform Nobel Prize" »

September 13, 2013

Stephen Meyer in the City: A Report

Written by: Donald McLaughlin


Tonight, Discovery Institute's Dr. Stephen Meyer was the guest speaker at the Socrates in the City gathering held at the venerable Union League Club in New York City. The event, hosted by writer and speaker Eric Metaxas, focused on Dr. Meyer and his current book, Darwin's Doubt. To an enthusiastic, sold-out and standing-room-only crowd (always a good thing in New York), Metaxas used an interview format with Meyer who was able to present the main concepts from the book in an engaging manner punctuated by Metaxas's humor and clear grasp of the material. Throughout the interview, it was clear that the crowd was thoroughly engaged.

Continue reading "Stephen Meyer in the City: A Report" »

September 15, 2013

Richards in Forbes Describes Ec Crisis

Jay Richards' Infiltrated is getting little notice from print reviewers, at least so far. Word of mouth and radio and TV interviews, however, have been helpful in putting Infiltrated on the New York Times Bestseller list (number eight) for the third week. It's number two on the Business Best Seller list.

Continue reading "Richards in Forbes Describes Ec Crisis" »

Save John Harvard

It was on this date (yesterday, actually) that the Englishman John Harvard died 375 years ago, leaving most of his fortune to the new College at Cambridge, MA. To listen to Harvard Prof. Stephen Pinker, it would be inappropriate in the current era to have so much as an undergraduate course requirement on "Reason and Faith"--with various course offerings--at the school named for John Harvard. Pinker's passion on the subject persuaded his fellow faculty to drop the idea a few years ago.

This surely is one of history's classic cases of violating "donor intent".

Continue reading "Save John Harvard" »

September 18, 2013

Mauldin Features Gilder's New Economics

One of the most powerful market analysts, John Mauldin, publishes George Gilder today in "Outside the Box." The online site attracts hundreds of thousands of readers.

This is a superb essay. If you want to understand George's Knowledge and Power, it's an excellent introduction.

Continue reading "Mauldin Features Gilder's New Economics" »

Why Intelligent Design is Sound Science

A thorough review of Darwin's Doubt in The American Spectator by Tom Bethell stares down the prejudices of Darwinists and explains why intelligent design not only is true--but also it's good science. (Believe it or not, there actually have been articles saying that ID might be true, but that that didn't matter because it is "not science".)

Writes Bethell, "In the third part of his book, Meyer outlines his positive case for intelligent design. Ironically, here he uses the same principle of scientific reasoning that Darwin used in the Origin. Darwin subscribed to a principle of scientific reasoning known as the Vera Causa principle. This asserts that scientists should seek to explain events in the remote past by causes 'now in operation.' Meyer applies this to the question of the origin of the information necessary to produce new forms of animal life. He argues that the only known cause of the origin of the kind of digital information that arises in the Cambrian explosion is intelligent activity. He quotes the information theorist Henry Quastler who stated that 'the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.' Thus, he concludes, using Darwin's principle, that intelligent design provides the best explanation for the Cambrian information explosion."

Continue reading "Why Intelligent Design is Sound Science" »

Geeks Should Like Gildernomics

Venture capitalist Tom Alberg reviews George Gilder's Knowledge and Power today for, managing to sound objective while still pushing the Gilder analysis forward. Well he should, as they are old friends of decades' standing.

Next Monday, September 23, Alberg, a founder of the Madrona Group, will interview Gilder before an audience at Town Hall in Seattle. You can register online for the event here.

(Town Hall is at 1119 Eighth Ave., downtown Seattle. Sponsored by Discovery Institute, Madrona Venture Group and Washington Policy Center, admission to the event is $10, which includes reception at 6 p.m. and program at 7:00. Book signing to follow.)

September 19, 2013

DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check

It is hard for an outsider to know the details of a political corruption trial, but the trial and conviction of former House leader Tom DeLay didn't ring true at the time. The promoters were partisan Democrats with a long history of targeting DeLay, a tough political player himself. But the real pressure for indictment and conviction came from the media. I will leave it for others to cite all the editorials and self-righteous columns that attacked him.

Now his conviction has been overturned and, effectively, DeLay is exonerated. His hardball politics is no different from what we see daily in Democratic campaigns. Well, there is a difference. DeLay was forced out of office while the current crowd are in office and making the rules.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check" »

September 20, 2013

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

by Jonathan Witt
(Dr. Witt is a Fellow of Discovery Institute and of Acton Institute)

Summary:Derek Abbott's "Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered?" asks why mathematics is so effective in describing our universe, and ultimately reduces the debate to a simplistic binary of mathematics as wholly created (Abbott's position) versus the neo-Platonic idea that mathematical models can perfectly and exhaustively describe nature. Abbott overlooks the view that drove the founders of modern science: the cosmos is the product of an extraordinary mathematician but one not restricted to the mathematical. Moreover, because the founders of modern science had theological reasons for emphasizing not only the cosmic designer's surpassing intellect and freedom but also human fallibility, they emphasized the need to test their ideas empirically. In these and other ways, Judeo-Christian theism matured Platonism and, in the process, sparked the scientific revolution.

Derek Abbott's recent piece in The Huffington Post, "Is Mathematics Invented or Discovered?", offers a thoughtful taxonomy of views on an issue with important metaphysical implications, but a crucial alternative possibility goes unexplored in the essay. Since Ben Wiker and I explore these issues in our book, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, I'd like to summarize what I find useful in Abbott's piece and what I find incomplete.

The Abbott essay boils down to an effort to answer a question that thinkers have wrestled with for centuries and that was nicely expressed by Albert Einstein in this way: "How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?" Abbott says there is no consensus among mathematicians and scientists, but highlights four common answers:

Continue reading "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" »

DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs

The trouble revealed by the reversal to Rep. Tom DeLay's conviction is not just with media bias (see previous post). It also is with the prosecutorial system.

One of the most terrifying aspects of totalitarianism (or authoritarianism) is the power of government officials to find legal excuses to torment and even jail political opponents. We have seen this repeatedly now in Russia. The failed prosecution of Rep. Tom DeLay--whatever you think of his politics, as conservative leader Richard Viguerie says--shows how ambitious and over-zealous prosecutors like Ronnie Earle of Travis County,Texas (Houston) can upend the rule of law even in this country.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs" »

September 22, 2013

Merkel's Big Win May Sow Seeds of Defeat

The Christian Democrats' centrist policies have won what amounts to an historic victory in Germany today, but a failure on the part of the CDU's preferred coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), to reach the five percent vote that would keep it in the Bundestag, leaves Angela Merkel's government in a potentially vulnerable long term position.

According to preliminary returns, Merkel is only one vote shy of an absolute parliamentary majority and it is assumed that she either will find that vote somewhere or have to form a nominal coalition with her main adversaries, the Social Democrats.

The trouble is, without the liberal (free market) FDP padding her majority, Merkel will have a hard time imposing her centrist program in any definable way over a long period. There may be a Hegelian dialectic visible in this election, it seems to me, with a big victory that plants the seeds of inevitable decay within the relatively short time span or a year or two.

Continue reading "Merkel's Big Win May Sow Seeds of Defeat" »

Harvard Report Revived on Gun Trope

Somehow a five year old report on guns and crime from the Harvard Law Journal of Public Policy that got only a little publicity when published is suddenly getting more. Maybe it's because it shows that legal gun ownership correlates positively with low crime rates--and that finding is so contrary to the common trope of the Left.

Austria, with the lowest murder rate in the West, has 17,000 guns per 100,000 people. Luxembourg, with high gun crime rates, has tough anti-gun laws, while nearby Germany, with more lenient rules, has lower rates of gun crime.

Continue reading "Harvard Report Revived on Gun Trope" »

September 23, 2013

Russia Resets the Middle East

by John Wohlstetter (Discovery Sr. Fellow)
(from today's Daily Caller)

"Nation-building in Iraq fell apart upon Obama's exit, when U.S. persistence had finally forged a fragile stability. Syria festered. Iran made steady progress toward joining the nuclear club, despite sabotage by America and Israel. In 2011 the Arab Spring unleashed a series of revolutions about which the U.S. could do little, upending pro-U.S. Egyptian rule in Egypt. Only the military's countercoup tossed the Islamists out of power -- as President Obama backed the Muslim Brotherhood. What little Team Obama did elsewhere also helped the Islamists. Libya, after deposing the tyrannical Muammar Gaddafi, descended into Hobbesian anarchy, which led to the debacle at the American consulate in Benghazi. President Obama's failure to impose Draconian sanctions to help the Iranian Green Movement's 2009 revolution overthrow Tehran's mullahs threw away a rare opportunity to shape tectonic events. And constant Obama administration pressure against top ally Israel weakened alliance relations and encouraged Palestinian intransigence.

"And now, this week, President Obama fumbled again...."

Read the full analysis. Most Americans probably are not paying attention, but the U.S. position in the world is getting weaker.

September 24, 2013

Seattle Crowd Hails "Knowledge and Power"

Thumbnail image for Gilder at Town Hall 1.jpg

George Gilder, who helped found Discovery Institute 23 years ago and is the author of the recently published Knowledge and Power, foresees a new model of economics based on information theory, representing a force that is transforming many fields. He was interviewed last night at Town Hall, Seattle by Tom Alberg, original managing director of Madrona Venture Group and another influence on the development of Discovery. Audience reactions and a long line of book buyers afterwards indicated that the chemistry between the two old friends was effective in exploring what Gilder identifies as the great challenge to our economy: how to connect the entrepreneurial "high entropy surprise" that creates knowledge--and therefore, progress--with the "low entropy" reliability of predictable power in institutions of government and business.

Gilder said that information theory elucidated 80 years ago by Claude Shannon offers insights not only into the fields of physics and technology, but also into economics, biology, education and even political science.

Continue reading "Seattle Crowd Hails "Knowledge and Power"" »

September 25, 2013

Revealing the Activist "Experts"

Activists frustrated by representative democracy seek ways to circumvent the public and impose their will. One way is to try to shape public opinion by agenda-driven journalism--the kind that slants the news. Another is to seek jobs in the bureaucracy--the permanent government. Biased bureaucrats, as we have seen with Lois Lerner at the IRS, raise particularly pernicious problems. Laws that create regulations tend to attract enforcers who come to their job with a sense of ideological mission. You get a lot of that in many affirmative action enforcement programs. The offices tend to be staffed by people with a chip on their shoulder.

You often get these kangaroo courts in environmental enforcement, too, of course. What kinds of people do you think join such staffs, cause-oriented environmentalists or disinterested people who try to apply the regulations with an understanding of all the interests involved? Only a few such bodies try to work out settlements to the benefit of all involved.

Yet another way for an ideologue to employ unelected power is to volunteer for special purpose committees of professional associations--say, legal societies or academic boards. If they are willing to go to a lot of boring meetings and eat lots of hotel food they can get on the committees that announce the professional organization's stands on all kinds of controversial issues. Having seen this up close, I assure you that most of the time such committees don't know what they are signing onto. The activists just roll them.

But one of the best ways an activist can try to lead the public is by presenting himself as an expert on some tedious-seeming panel that, somehow, comes out with sensational findings of what is called "science".

Continue reading "Revealing the Activist "Experts"" »

September 26, 2013

Attacks on Christians Not News?

The disturbing increase of Islamist attacks on Christians from Africa to Central Asia--most recently a horrific bombing of an Anglican Church in Pakistan--is being treated as barely worthy of news coverage in the West, especially in the U.S.

It was a topic over dinner among some friends tonight. Mention was made of the extraordinarily useful site,, for its coverage of the subject.

Terry Mattingly points out that Pope Francis supposedly is big news whenever he speaks, but somehow that doesn't apply to the topic of worsening persecution of Christians. Is it because the pope really is of interest only if he is speaking about issues that obsess Americans, such as sex?

Continue reading "Attacks on Christians Not News?" »

September 28, 2013

Dear Generalist, Read Some Science

Over lunch recently an influential friend in the media mused that there was "nothing new" in the debate over intelligent design. The arguments have been known for years.

So he was asked what he thought about the news from the Encode project, among other places, that the Darwinians' assertion that "Junk DNA" constitutes the vast majority of the human genome--and the contrary prediction of ID scientists that the "junk" would turn out to have functionality--has now been settled. The ID side won.

Continue reading "Dear Generalist, Read Some Science" »

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