by Jay Richards

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by George Gilder

Darwin's Doubt

by Stephen C. Meyer

Wealth and Poverty

by George Gilder

Indivisible Review

by Jay W. Richards

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by George Gilder

God and Evolution

Edited by Jay Richards

Signature in The Cell

by Stephen C. Meyer

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Faith & Science Archives

July 21, 2014

Maybe Pedophilia Confers an Evolutionary Advantage?

Richard Dawkins, probably the world's leading Darwin defender, is also a defender of "mild pedophilia", it appears. A recent interview has him rationalizing the dear old teacher who liked to molest little boys from time to time. Nothing too wrong with that, right?

This is the moral universe of Richard Dawkins.

June 17, 2014

More Papal Impersonators--in Gnostic Masks

Pope Francis has plenty of official advisors (including the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith--CDF--in the Vatican), but they don't seem to matter to certain Catholics who insist that Church teaching reflect their own ideas. The latest is a group of nuns at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious--LWCR-- who want a version of "conscious evolution" adopted. I don't know, but conscious evolution could probably mean a number of things (not all bad), but in this context it sounds a lot like theistic evolution--God winds up the Universe and lets it happen as it will. God at first, Darwin thereafter.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker takes on this "speculative Gnostic nonsense in an article at Patheos. You don't needs "conscious evolution" to appreciate nature or want to protect it.

The nuns in the LCWR who heard non-Catholic Barbara Marx Hubbard, who Fr. Longenecker describes as "New Age", apparently ran afoul of Cardinal Muller, the new head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in the Vatican.

Continue reading "More Papal Impersonators--in Gnostic Masks" »

June 16, 2014

Somebody Thinks he Speaks for the Pope

A gentleman named Mills from Notre Dame thinks he has been given pontifical authority to tell us what the Holy Father thinks of evolution. Actually, there is nothing in this article today that quotes Pope Francis (or any other Pope), nor does the writer even explain what he means by "evolution". We all believe in evolution in some form, notably evolution within species.

If, however, Mr. Mills thinks that evolution happened, but by God's design, then that is some form of intelligent design. One of the first things a Catholic scholar is supposed to understand is that "You have to explain your terms."

Comments Jay Richards (co-author, among other things, of The Privileged Planet)), "He's projecting Bacon, Descartes, and nineteenth century materialism back on to Thomas Aquinas. He's attributing 'proof' to Darwin, which is more sanguine than even most Darwinists would claim. And he clearly has no exposure at all to actual ID arguments. Oh, and notice that formal causes disappear entirely in his account."

Back to school for "Phd. candidate M. Anthony Mills".

June 13, 2014

Another Casualty of Science "Consensus"

Even if you are a reliable political progressive, you are not allowed to deviate on key scientific questions, including very definitely issues touching on religion. One expects this with the subject of evolution, where dissenters from Darwinism are commonly punished in academia. But it is becoming increasingly true of climate change.

It came out this week that Caleb Rossiter, an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies--with a 23 year relationship there, staunchly opposing
American military policy, and advocating for aid to Africa, among other things--was terminated after the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, "The Debate is Finally Over on 'Global Warming'--Because Nobody Will Debate." That's it, decided The IPS, you're out.

What Rossiter gets, that former colleagues on the left do not, is that fighting climate change may contribute to global instability and warfare and it certainly will harm the economic hopes of Africans and others in the developing world. What Rossiter does not get is that issues in science now provoke a spirit of quasi-religious intolerance.

Continue reading "Another Casualty of Science "Consensus"" »

May 22, 2014

NY Times Escorts Darwinists on Holy Pilgrimage

In case the editorials posing as front page news stories weren't enough evidence of how the New York Times regards itself--namely, as the Bible for scientism in general and Darwinism in particular--the Times is now conducting a pilgrimage to The Darwin Land. The paper's advert says prices for the Scotland and England journey start at $5,150.

In Edinburgh pilgrims will pass the Upper Room where 16 year old Charles Darwin lived, then witness the more recent Blessed Relics of Dolly the Cloned Sheep in a local museum. Later pilgrims tour the Grotto of Shrewsbury, the Shrine of The Origins' Immaculate Conception at Down House, the Sacred Tomb of Darwin Papers at Cambridge and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Darwin Collection at the Museum of Natural History in London.

Continue reading "NY Times Escorts Darwinists on Holy Pilgrimage" »

March 7, 2014

The Great Lent

Many Christians follow Lent, the season of repentance that begins with Ash Wednesday and leads to Holy Week and Easter. But the 300 million Orthodox believers worldwide observe "The Great Lent" in a somewhat different manner. Our Senior Fellow on Human Exceptionalism, Wesley J. Smith, writes about it movingly at First Things.

February 17, 2014

Christian-Muslim Dialogue Possible?


The mind of mankind in the 21st Century is badly divided, first (and maybe foremost) between the aggrandizing materialist ideology that has captured the left in the West and increasingly lacks respect--or even tolerance for--competing world views. That's why, for example, the more narrow concept of "freedom of worship" has replaced "freedom of religion" in the hierarchy of progressive values.

Meanwhile, serious religious Jews consistently outperform their relatively tiny numbers in many fields--including moral philosophy and public life--and have effected with Christians alliances today that might have amazed our forebears. Hinduism is huge, but geographically constrained, it seems, and is not evangelizing. Likewise, several other large faith communities.

The struggle among the faithful globally is therefore between Christianity, the largest religion--and one growing in the developing world--and Islam, some portions of which are militantly expansionist and eager for conquest, and some of which are quite peaceful.

Can't there be a dialogue between Christianity and Islam? That was the provocative question explored by Pope Benedict XVI. But, as the Pope found, this is perilous territory, in part because, while Christians of Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox expressions, have been moved to increased historically new mutual respect and collaboration in recent decades, Islam is appears torn into a number of factions that, country by country, battle one another, often, of course, in serious warfare.

Continue reading "Christian-Muslim Dialogue Possible?" »

January 5, 2014

Is the Body Nobody's Business?

David Gelertner, Yale professor of computer science, has taken on those in science, technology and journalism who want to undermine the sense of what Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Smith calls "human exceptionalism".

I especially like Gelertner's sense of the importance of the BODY.

It surprises me as a Christian to see how many Christian intellectuals, in particular, try to downplay the importance of the body. A key case is the attempt to dodge the theology of creation of the first man as a BODY--infused from the start with a soul, not just a body that evolved by an unguided process over millions of years and then had a soul dropped into it. The human body, from a theological standpoint, was unique at the very beginning and expressed with a soul.

The sacred physicality of life is supposed to be Christian orthodoxy. Christ ("the second Adam") was flesh and blood, not just spirit. His BODY went straight to heaven. According to Catholic dogma, so did Mary's. So someday will the BODIES of those he saves. For Catholics, at least, Christ's BODY is presented in the "real presence" of the eucharist. The moment of conception is sacred because the BODY and spirit are fused from the beginning. (That is one reason why a miscarriage is so grieved.) When we die, our spirit departs, but the BODY still is treated with great respect. In life we are admonished to show respect for the BODY and not to disfigure it.

Continue reading "Is the Body Nobody's Business?" »

December 23, 2013

Flying Censorship Monster Crashes in Kansas

Kansas is a supposedly conservative state, but it has an exceptionally pugilistic liberal counter-culture at the Universal of Kansas. When the subject is criticism of Darwin's theory--on scientific grounds, mind you--the left is eager for blood. There have to be some limits to toleration, but criticism of a science theory considered crucial exceeds those limits! Just try to get tenure at any university in Kansas--and not just in the Biology department--if you express public doubts about Darwinism. The faculty could hardly wait, moreover, to urge the State a few years ago to prevent high school teachers from raising any questions about Darwin's theory whatever.

But, historically, there is a funny thing about censorship; once it starts it doesn't know where to stop. So now we get University of Kansas faculty and their media backers all in a dither because the Administration has cracked down on a tasteless tweet about the NRA. Surely, it should be open-season, so to speak,on the NRA! Not Darwin, mind you, just the NRA!

Continue reading "Flying Censorship Monster Crashes in Kansas" »

December 4, 2013

Meet Ma and Pa


As the Daily Mail and others are reporting, a geneticist in Georgia contends as a scientific proposition that man descended from pigs as well as chimp-like apes ("Humans evolved after a female chimpanzee mated with a pig': Extraordinary claim made by American geneticist"). Since his is only a variation on Darwinian theory, not a repudiation of it, Dr. Eugene McCarthy's notion is to be treated with professional respect. His work is to be covered seriously.

Now, if his speculation were deeper and dealt with the increasingly daunting problems with Darwinian theory and with the growing evidence of intelligent design, he would have to be ignored or attacked for positions he does not hold.

October 29, 2013

The Catty Dr. Coyne

Blofeldpleasance67.jpgChalk up another one for the hidden hand of Discovery Institute. Through a pernicious web of connections in Indiana, including the Eli Lilly Foundation, we apparently persuaded the trustees of Ball State University in Muncie to show the door to President Jo Ann Gora. At least that is the fear of Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, noted blogologist and rather-less-noted biologist.

The retirement of Dr. Gora has just been announced. Maybe she was pressured by the Trustees, who were pressured in turn by "donors," as Coyne suggests; but that seems unlikely. The 67-year-old administrator who decided recently that Ball State professors may not mention intelligent design (at least not favorably) has completed ten years at the university, accumulated a large salary (approaching a million dollars, all benefits included), and with winter coming, she may just want to join the other wealthy Hoosiers in Florida.

But Coyne, like Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice -- stroking his famous cat -- is suspicious. Didn't Bruce Chapman, founder of Discovery Institute, serve as a fellow of Hudson Institute (then in Indiana) less than 25 years ago? And wasn't the Eli Lilly Foundation a major funder of Hudson? Haven't Discovery fellows appeared at Hudson events and vice versa? Didn't Discovery foreign policy fellow John Wohlstetter serve on Hudson's board at one time? Doesn't Lilly, which gives grants to Ball State, have a program supporting various "religious" studies?

Image source: Wikipedia.

Continue reading "The Catty Dr. Coyne" »

October 22, 2013

The Power of Positive Science Thinking

The Bible, St. Ignatius and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale are among the famous advocates of positive thinking. Wrote St. Paul: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Personally, I suggest you think on these things just before bedtime. It will do wonders for your attitude.

In philosophy William James creditably expatiated on this worthy spiritual insight. But there are men and women in labcoats who believe it also can be turned into a hard "science"--and hard cash. You can invest it with complicated mathematical equations and psychological jargon, then create "models" on computers, whereupon it is able, like a neodymium magnet, to attract nearly infinite grants of tax dollars and still more monies from slack-jawed private foundations. Who could argue with such a powerful theory?

Continue reading "The Power of Positive Science Thinking" »

October 14, 2013

No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times

Feel pity for the letters editor at the Los Angeles Times,Paul Thornton. He says he will not print letters that are skeptical of the human role in climate change because they are objectively wrong. He must rely on "experts" with "advanced degrees" to opine on this subject.

The hapless Mr. Thornton is proud of his self-limiting deference to experts. One wonders if his cap-doffing awe extends to fields such as finance (where he probably also is not an expert), military affairs (is he an expert on that?) or foreign relations. Do you have to have a doctorate to write a letter to the editor on those topics, too?

Or is only the field of science holy?

Leading critics of the current emphasis on a determinative human role in global warming also have advanced science degrees. But they won't get letters printed in the LA Times, either.

Continue reading "No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times" »

October 15, 2013

For Ecumenism: Share the English Cathedrals


A dialogue during the past couple of decades between Roman Catholics and Anglicans ("ARCIC--the Anglican Roman Catholic International Consultation") has borne far more fruit than is widely recognized. In terms of unifying Christians, the theologians of the two communions have found common ground at every turn. Old wounds going back to the Reformation have been healed, at least in theology. The same can be said of a similar dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans.

Now we have the leading Catholic in England involved with ARCIC, Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, speculating on a date in the future when eucharistic union would be possible.

Continue reading "For Ecumenism: Share the English Cathedrals" »

October 5, 2013

India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies

Some women tell our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith that they "would do anything for a baby." One feels sympathetic, at least until one considers what "anything" might entail.

Smith has an article at First Things today that describes some of the options.

Continue reading "India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies" »

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 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" »

September 18, 2013

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" »

September 15, 2013

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 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 1, 2013

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?

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" »

June 24, 2013

Catholic Radio Hosts ID Series

Catholic scientists and philosophers who support intelligent design, such as Dr. Michael Behe, Fr. Michael Chabarek, Dr. Ann Gauger and Dr. Jay Richards, along with a number of non-Catholics who are leaders in the field, such as Dr. Steve Meyer, Dr. Doug Axe and Casey Luskin, are showcased in a new radio series from Radio Maria.

A key benefit of the online series is that it allows intelligent design proponents to speak in their own voices, instead of having their views filtered through a second party. A total of some 20 interviews are underway, hosted by Tim Murname.

Continue reading "Catholic Radio Hosts ID Series" »

June 19, 2013

Gilder's New Paradigm on Kudlow Show

George Gilder and his book Knowledge and Power were given a warm welcome on the Larry Kudlow show last night. Here is a link to a short segment.

June 17, 2013

Eve of Publication Success for Darwin's Doubt

It's being called "a game changer" in the debate over Darwinian evolution. And the pre-publication campaign has been so successful that Steve Meyer's book already is "Number One" at Barnes and Noble. The official pub date is tomorrow.

In the way a healthy economy works, the scientific case against Darwinism and for intelligent design has built slowly, but surely. Darwin's Doubt is the most comprehensive and in many ways the best researched treatment of the subject and one that actually will change minds rather than simply appealing to those already decided. This is a tour de force.

Continue reading "Eve of Publication Success for Darwin's Doubt" »

June 11, 2013

Some Catholics Pray for Pope Benedict

There are variations in the prayers for the Church that are part of the Catholic Mass. In some parishes the priest asks for prayers for the pope (Pope Francis now), the local bishop and all clergy and religious. In others, retired bishops are mentioned by name. But apparently it is rare to hear prayers offered for the "retired Pope, Benedict XVI".

Perhaps it is because there is no liturgical experience for having a "retired pope".

But prayers might now be in order. Pope Benedict XVI, who is living in the Vatican complex, is reportedly in failing health, still fit in mind, but greatly deteriorated in body.

Continue reading "Some Catholics Pray for Pope Benedict" »

June 7, 2013

Ball State Should Get on the Ball

Ron Coody writes today in the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel that the Freedom from Religion Foundation of Madison, WI has provoked an "inquisition" into the teaching of a professor of physics at Ball State University in Indiana. Mr. Coody points out that the challenge to Prof. Eric Hedin in his class on the boundaries of science and religion essentially would deny the Indiana professor the same kinds of academic freedom that his critics--notably Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago--exercise regularly in their own classes.

The question Mr. Coody does not ask is why did Ball State respond to an attack on academic freedom by launching an "investigation" of the matter? Why was it not dismissed it out of hand, the way it would have been if the professor had been accused of athiesm? And, once launched, why has has the investigation taken over three weeks so far to resolve? Failure to stand up to attempts at academic intimidation, especially ones coming from an activist group in another state, cannot add prestige to Ball State University.

Continue reading "Ball State Should Get on the Ball" »

May 28, 2013

Psychiatry as Science Controversy Grows

Slowly it is dawning on people that the borders of "science" are not hard; they bleed into other fields and cannot be construed as fixed, in any event. The increasing debate over neo-Darwinism is an example. So, too, is psychiatry. An article on psychiatry at EvolutionNews is attracting increased attention. And today we have David Brooks in his column explaining the reality that this very valuable field of knowledge is perhaps "semi-science", in contrast, for example, to cosmology. Actually, cosmology itself is a field in the throes of definitional quarrels, since multi-verse theory is largely a parable.

Maybe we should compare psychiatry instead to mathematics, the hardest science there is. Except, of course, the more mathematicians cogitate, the more even they conjecture and conjure.

Continue reading "Psychiatry as Science Controversy Grows" »

June 14, 2012

Berlinski and Metaxas Take Manhattan


David Berlinski and Eric Metaxas shared the stage Tuesday night at the University Club in Manhattan. The occasion was a "Socrates in the City" event with Berlinski speaking on "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions." David was outstanding and thoroughly delighted the crowd of 300-plus.

After a characteristically hilarious introduction by Metaxas, Berlinski stepped to the podium and delivered a sustained and scathing critique of the attitude of condescension that accompanies scientific pronouncements that God is dead. Starting with Copernicus, Berlinski described the roots of modern science as flowing from the idea of two books -- the book of God's words and the book of God's works.

Scientists, of course, devoted themselves to studying the latter of the two, and this inevitably kicked off a struggle for power between two priesthoods, each drawing authority from their respective book.

Without for a moment denying the great achievements of physics and astronomy, Berlinski eloquently made the simple point that these accomplishments do not speak in any direct way to the existence of God. He therefore derided attempts to explain God away -- by, for example, conjuring up a physical explanation for the Big Bang -- as obvious overreaching.

Berlinski drew his conclusion from the book of Daniel, where the message written on the wall by the disembodied hand was, "You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting." The priesthood of scientific atheists has, in effect, sent this message to masses. Berlinski thinks it's time for the masses to send it back to them.

March 6, 2012

New Worry About Fate of Christians in Syria

The media still are ignoring or downplaying the peril faced by Christians in Syria. Now the Maronite (Catholic) patriarch, Bechara Boutros Rai, has warned of the danger, even while backing the need for reform in Syria.

"All regimes in the Arab world have Islam as a state religion, except for Syria," he says. "It stands out for not saying it is an Islamic state."

Why the media silence? Perhaps because this subject doesn't fit the anti- Assad template. Bad as he is, Assad's government has protected Christians, while many in the opposition (as in Egypt) may be totally intolerant Islamists.

Before the U.S. starts aiding the rebels, as Sen. McCain urges, maybe we should be clear who we are dealing with and what is their plan for religious liberty, once they are in power.

It bears recalling that two thirds of Iraqi Christians fled that country in fear. Only now are some returning.

February 6, 2012

Furor Accelerates Over Catholic Restrictions

If you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to decide what health procedures are financed and provided by Catholic hospitals, then you will present the Obama Administration's new strictures under Obamacare as assuring the public access to health care. That is the party line, as offered in an LA Times story today.

But if you see it as an assault on civil liberties--the rights of religious institutions to decide on what they will provide in their own hospital and other health premises--then you will be at one with 153 Catholic bishops (up from 111 a few days ago, as the post below shows) and a parade of evangelical church leaders who agree with them. Indeed, even non-religious people who are constitutionalists are beginning to notice the anti-clericalism of the Obama Administration. It's a posture that is almost unprecedented in the U.S.

The fuse was slow to ignite. The Catholic Church doesn't rise up quickly. For example, it objects to abortion and same sex marriage, but it doesn't exactly rattle the cage in Washington, DC over these matters. This is different. It's not about what public policies are implemented, but whether churches can follow their consciences--and their doctrines--in crucial arenas. It is whether there will even be any non-government hospitals and other institutions.

December 7, 2011

Biblical Culture Can Survive Secular Schools

It probably is a mistake for those who want to expose children to the Christian faith to keep trying to do so in old ways at public schools. The case law against it goes back to the 1940s and today the pressure of public opinion and the bureaucracy militate against overt religious expression. Parents determined to have "Christmas Pageants" at school may be disappointed.

However, while the current liberal zeitgeist does not approve of religion, it does approve of "culture". Therefore, the way to present a pageant around the Christmas story might be to showcase it in a general music and drama program for "winter break". The story of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus is part of Western civilization. The songs around it bespeak the traditions of England, Italy, Germany and, say, African Americans. All of that is safe to bring forward. In other words, what is not acceptable in school when presented as religion is welcome as culture. Even some atheists want their children exposed to the legacy of our civilization and they know very well that that includes Handel's Messiah and the spiritual, "Go Tell it on a Mountain."

In a similar fashion, Christians can promote classes that teach the Bible as history. Many secular groups, and outright atheists, support this aim under the same rubric that the Bible is an important part of our cultural heritage. So let the Bible be taught as literature and history. Christians will find that without any editorial support, the scriptures will speak for themselves. Let those that have ears, listen. Regardless, the students will have a greater appreciation for the Bible.

December 6, 2011

That Dubious Word, "Social"

There was a poll not long ago showing that most people think a "socialist" is someone who likes to get together with friends and party. Therefore, calling someone or something "socialist" may not carry quite the wallop some conservatives imagine. What to do, except educate?

It takes a while, but education works. Early in the campaign season last year in Washington State voters reportedly were supportive of an income tax on "the rich" until they were persuaded (with reason) that any such tax would soon devolve to them. Taxes have a way of doing that, as citizens in states with income taxes can attest. When people realize, similarly, that "social justice" really means higher taxes, more regulations and runaway welfare, they may not think it sounds like so much fun.

Jonathan Witt, now at Acton Institute (and still a Discovery fellow, too), has written a piece for The American Spectator that examines several words of this sort. He also makes a kind reference to another colleague, George Gilder.

October 24, 2011

Protecting "Public Intellectual Life"


"Progressives" in science and other fields increasingly deal with serious opponents by belittling them and ruling their arguments out of order. That wouldn't matter in a free debate, but the left wing in science also disallows debate. That way they are allowed to mischaracterize their opponents' positions and the opponents cannot correct the record in a reply. You will not see a pro-intelligent design article in the New York Times, for example.

The situation is a bit better in England, where, despite the absence of a First Amendment, journalists seem to admire a good joust. The most recent case was an announcement by Richard Dawkins that he would not debate American theist William Lane Craig on the existence of God because Craig supports "genocide". This claim is bizarre, but quite in keeping with Dawkins and the bullying "New Atheists". The true motivation, of course, is that Dawkins is afraid of Craig. There's nothing new there.

What is unusual is that in this case Dawkins was taken to task by Tim Stanley in the London Telegraph last week. And this week a sceptic at the generally left wing Guardian, takes Dawkins apart for anti-intellectualism.

The tactics of Dawkins and other New Atheists, says Came, are "fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life." The only deficiency in that sound characterization is the qualifier "potentially". The dead hand of dogmatism is all over philosophical questions in biology today.

September 24, 2011

Religion Up, Atheism Down in U.K.

Public expression of religion in Britain should be encouraged, say a majority of the British public. In an article by Jonathan Wynee-Jones in the London Telegraph, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams bemoans the reality that "atheism is cool" in the U.K., but his real beef seems to be with media elites, not with the general public.

Indeed, the Telegraph article says that since the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain one year ago, professed Christian belief has risen to 50 percent and atheism has declined from 18 percent to 16 percent. Evidence to the contrary, as described by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the warmth with which books by atheists such as the biologist Richard Dawkins are received versus those taking a different view.

Of course, the same is true in the U.S., with the difference being that some of the newspaper reporters on the religion beat in England tend to be sympathetic to orthodox Christianity. The same is not true of the BBC, however.

A survey of 2,049 adults by the Opinion Research Business (ORB) found "found 59 per cent of Britons agree there should be a place for religion in public life." The survey said half of Britons wanted the Catholic Church to take a lead in defending the family.

August 12, 2011

Religious Bigotry Grows as 2012 Theme

A peculiar hit piece on Michelle Bachman by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker tries a guilt by association technique: Bachman says she was influenced by certain books, so Lizza carefully examines these books for ideas or phrases that can be used to denigrate Bachman. One particularly offensive misuse of investigative journalism is to accuse Bachman of "Dominionism" because, the writer imagines, this term reflects a Christian committment that is not satisfied to express itself in Sunday church services, but wants to apply a Biblical perspective to all of life.

Get it? Bachman supposedly wants to shove the Bible down people's throats. Such an assault on the separation of church and state!

But, at least in the case of the late Francis Schaeffer, the influential Calvinist philosopher who taught for decades in Switzerland, and one of his students, the author Nancy Pearcey, the "Dominionist" label is just a made up slur. It derives from the Genesis admonition of God to man to seek "dominion" over the Earth.

Nancy Pearcey answers today in Human Events. . But I would stress the fact that the most important insight of the civil rights movement in this country (and earlier in Britain) was to apply Christian principles to the generality of public life. Who was Martin Luther King, after all?
Do atheists not also have a worldview? Do they not test their actions against it? Are they not suspicious of ideas that come from outside it?

Religious bigotry is becoming a theme on the left, and now it is entering the Presidential race. One of the most popular plays on Broadway right now is The Book of Mormon, an out and out smear of Mormons. In another time, it might just be a no-hold-barred expression of cultural satire, but today there are two Mormons running for President, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. Both probably expected opposition from the far right, but now it appears that a campaign of bigotry against them by secular elites can be anticipated.

Meanwhile, the national media also have looked scornfully on Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prospective because of his prominence at a prayer rally in Houston last week. Especially worthy of condemnation, it seems, is Perry's contention that one can pray for the economy, American success in Afghanistan and any number of other public subjects, in addition to personal salvation. A challenge to separation of church and state? Try telling that to Abraham Lincoln or FDR.

Here's a thought experiment: if you want to understand someone's point of view, look at it from the inside, not just the outside. How does the person think about the world? Pope John Paul II made that request of critics of the Catholic Church and it can applied more broadly. When you do that, the paranoia that the political left is trying to engender, and then exploit, starts to dissipate. Ask less about seemingly peculiar rituals or obscure doctrines of a church, for example, and more about what are that church or other body's record of accomplishments--and the same of a candidate who practices that faith.

August 3, 2011

New Museum Already a Success


The Museum of Biblical Art, located in New York, is getting increased attention and respect. It might seem unlikely, but the rich tradition of Bible-inspired art and music make for a fine thematic museum of collections and special events. The latest is "On Eagles' Wings: The King James Bible Turns 400."

Only 400? It seems as though the KJV is as rooted in our very language and mental imagery as anything could be. Regardless of your religion or lack of it, an educated person has to know the KJV.

What MOBIA, the new museum, does is enable people to think of their culture in new ways--based on the old.

July 25, 2011

Darwinists Like Religion When It Opposes Human Exceptionalism?

The National Center for Science Education has no problem with religious argumentation when it supports neo Darwinism and opposes human exceptionalism.

Continue reading "Darwinists Like Religion When It Opposes Human Exceptionalism?" »

July 21, 2011

Two Colleges, a Linked Culture

Paul Kengor, who wrote a revealing book on the faith of Ronald Reagan, is a professor at Grove City College, a staunchly evangelical school in Western Pennsylvania. To protect itself from government meddling Grove City has a policy of not accepting, let alone seeking, federal funds.

Not far away, in Eastern Ohio, is Franciscan University of Steubenville, a devoutly Catholic college that is much appreciated by orthodox Catholic bishops and laymen in America and elsewhere.

What Kengor finds (writing in the National Catholic Register) is that the presidents of the two universities not only were friends for years, but confidants and mutual advisors. This underscores a development one sees across the worldview wars: people of faith seem to have a dialogue that is far more respectful, robust and fruitful than any have with the deracinated cultural left.

In addition to conservative evangelicals and Catholics, many Jews and some philosophical minds in the "Great Tradition" (think Stoics, for example) share a basic conviction 1) that there are absolutes in life, and 2) that the human being cannot be reduced to materialism. On the other side are the philosophical materialists, prone to atheism or its functional equivalent, and (I would add) the poor deluded victims of consumerism and cultural fads, the materialst folks trying to fill the hole in their lives with things and purchased status.

On one path there is compassion and companionship, on the other bitterness and despair.

Of course this is a generalization, but, as the great Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, said, "To think is to generalize."

Borges was in the Great Tradition.

July 1, 2011

Another Brilliant Move by Professional Atheists

Church Lady yearns for atheist banners on the Fourth

It is very good news when professional atheists spend their money on public relations ads that have no influence. Instead of trying persuade people with serious ideas, the airplane banners slated to parade over 4th of July celebrations in 20 cities this year merely will annoy a few, gladden the hearts of the devout faithless (also few) and otherwise have zero results. In this, the costly charade ranks right up there with the bus ads that Richard Dawkins ran at Christmas time two years ago: a picture of Santa and the statement, "Yes, Virginia, there is no God." That sure was a winner.

One banner airplane message slated for Independence Day is "Atheism is Patriotic". Well, as Dana Carvey's Church Lady would say, "isn't that special?" But who said an atheist couldn't be a patriot? Do they think we've never heard of Tom Paine? (Of course, most teenagers probably have not heard of Tom Paine, but it's not because he was an atheist, but because they haven't heard of anybody antedating Lady Gaga.)

Now if the evangelizing atheists really want to make their point, how how about a banner that expresses a more sincerely held opinion, such as "Ban 'God' from the Pledge of Allegiance"? Hmmm?

Too late for Independence Day, but Halloween is right around the corner.

June 30, 2011

John Lennon, Celebrity Darwin Doubter

Classically, parrhesia is the willingness to speak one's mind freely, regardless of group pressures to conform. Since the Enlightenment, we all favor it, but in practice few are prepared to risk ostracism from the tribe by openly doubting the tribal religion. We're all for change, once we can see others changing.

Darwinism is the tribal religion of the modern elites, presided over by The New York Times, NPR/PBS and even The Wall Street Journal.

Hundreds of scientists have dared to criticize Darwin's theory, only to suffer attack. Get back in line or you'll get no more grants from NIH, no promotions, no tenure, no parking spot close to the lab. But what do you do to stigmatize rogue artists, especially if they expressly toe the party line on other issues? It's hard to fire an artist, especially a celebrity artist.

Parrhesia happened to Kurt Vonnegut, the writer (Slaughterhouse-Five, among others), when he was interviewed by Steve Inskeep of NPR in 2006. He was complaining about tribal behavior:

Mr. VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It's the scientists themselves are behaving tribally.

INSKEEP: How are the scientists behaving tribally?

Mr. VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn't possibly have produced such machines.

He goes on, not seeming to fear retribution.

Now we discover in a neglected last interview that John Lennon, who once wrote the apparently atheist anthem, "Imagine", also doubted Darwinism. Lennon told a Playboy interviewer,

Continue reading "John Lennon, Celebrity Darwin Doubter" »

May 27, 2011

Catholic Liberals Jeer, Conservatives Cheer

E. J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist, would like to support those "social justice Catholics" who think cutting the federal budget is immoral. His attitude reflects those in the Catholic Church who conflate God's "preference for the poor" with Caesar's tax policies. Former Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie answers Dionne today and also notes the slanted way The Post covered the commencement address that Speaker John Boehner gave at Catholic University a few days ago. Little was said of the content of Boehner's address, the reasons for his honorary doctorate or the friendly response of the students and parents. Much was made of opposition to Boehner by Catholic liberals.

It's all going to cause more reflection about Christian social thought, and that is all to the good.

The Boehner speech at Catholic U. follows a recent controversy over federal budgetary issues. The chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the U.S., Archbishop Dolan, recently praised Rep. Paul Ryan. This has received far too little coverage, too. He didn't "endorse" Ryan's plan, but the way Ryan has gone about preparing it. He also underscored the church's commitment to the principle of "subsidiarity," that problems should be handled as much as possible by groups close to them, such as families, charities, local communities and associations of various kinds. This has been a favorite theme of such Catholic intellectuals as Michael Novak, Fr. Robert Sirico and George Weigel.

Continue reading "Catholic Liberals Jeer, Conservatives Cheer" »

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! Pope Benedict Hits Evolution, Asserts "Creative Reason"

Pope Benedict XVI, in an Easter vigil message at St. Peter's in the Vatican, made his strongest statement yet in defense of the Christian faith's inalterable insistence on the role of creation in the origin of the world and the development of mankind. The Holy Father's homily is sure to be welcomed by orthodox Catholics and other Christians, and especially by Christian proponents of "intelligent design", stressing as it does the theological imperative on a subject where intelligent design scientists and other scholars emphasize scientific evidence.

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," the pontiff said. "But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason."

Christian accomodationists who want to avoid a conflict with Darwinism will not be so pleased.

The emphatic statement of the Pope expressly does not endorse "creationism", a literal reading of Genesis, nor does it deny any role for evolution--broadly defined--in the development of life on Earth. But it does seem to repudiate the notion that has gained currency in certain circles of the Catholic Church and its universities, as well as in some evangelical centers, that an unguided process of evolution like Darwinian theory is compatible with Christian faith.

Reports the Zenit news service from Rome: "The world is a product of the Word," Benedict XVI stated, "of the Logos, as St. John expresses it. [...] 'Logos' means 'reason,' 'sense,' 'word.' It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense."

Such language resonates with intelligent design arguments based on information theory and new understandings of DNA. It shows also that the scientific case for intelligent design is fully congruent with a theological case for creative reason, whereas the accomodationist, "theistic evolutionist" viewpoint is not.

Indeed, the modernist, materialist project that deforms culture and intellect is grounded largely in a denial of purpose, reason and design in nature. If that denial were valid, there was no possible original Adam, therefore no second Adam incarnated as Jesus Christ, no resurrection, no salvation. However, many heterodox Christians and even some gullible orthodox Christians have been seduced by the fashionability of Darwinism and have turned a cold shoulder to challenges to purposeless, unguided evolution. Like "anti-anti-Communists" of yore, they have become "anti-anti-Darwinists."

Unfortunately, the Pope's views have not filtered down to all Catholic parishes, let alone universities and Catholic publications. There are even some confused souls loosely connected with the Vatican (the Pontifical Council on Culture, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for two examples). But Pope Benedict XVI is not confused at all.

The best book you can read on the subject this spring is God and Evolution, a series of provocative and clear essays edited by Dr. Jay Richards. The theological case against unguided evolution (Darwinism) and for design is explained in terms of contemporary Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholarship. It couldn't be more timely.

Happy Easter!

March 30, 2011

The Perfect Film for Lent, 2011


A show of moral courage in the face of implacable ignorance and bigotry is a noble theme in any art form and is especially needed in these anxious, ambivalent times. The French film Of Gods and Men, written and directed by Xavier Beauvois, ranks with A Man for All Seasons and The Passion of the Christ as a window into the dilemma of humanity in an era of religious fanaticism and violence. Set in a Trappist monastery during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, the movie inevitably invites ruminations on events right now in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and on and on. It is profoundly Christian, but also ecumenical and humanistic.

Mark Salter, former McCain staffer, reviews the film ably for RealClearPolitics and comments on the irony that the French sent this to Hollywood as their nominee for best foreign film of 2010, but that the Academy failed to put it even in the list of nominees. It did win the "Best Foreign Film" award of the National Board of Review.

My wife and I left the theater in Seattle feeling edified and uplifted. Even non-believers will have that experience if they allow themselves the quiet contemplation that the film proposes.

Do you doubt that there are martyrs in our day?

December 24, 2010

2010 Christmas Lights a Bit Brighter

It took Christians a long time to recognize what was going on with the yearly news weekly cover stories explaining why modern "scholars" now have supposedly discovered that orthodox faith on such matters as the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, like the Resurrection, are just cultural reflections of various political and social movements. This kind of debunking in the past few years has recognized as the "war against Christmas," because serious religious faith (as opposed to consumerism and popular songs about winter) is a threat to another orthodoxy, secularism. The Christmas story has to be debunked or its public expression discouraged and/or banned.

Continue reading "2010 Christmas Lights a Bit Brighter" »

December 17, 2010

Church of Science May be Losing Members

by David Klinghoffer

Slate startled us the other day by publishing an insightful essay asking whether political and worldview presuppositions drive the debate over climate change on both sides -- not only for those on the Right, but for combatants on the Left too, including scientists (who are mostly on the Left). It's an elementary observation that should be evident to anyone who follows the evolution debate, but of course a welcome surprise coming from a venue like Slate.

Author Dr. Daniel Sarewitz worries that because the ranks of scientists are so politically skewed, that threatens the trust that scientists currently enjoy among the public:

Continue reading "Church of Science May be Losing Members" »

December 12, 2010

A Scientific Investigation into Science

Slate's provocative essay by Daniel Sarewitz on why Republicans are unrepresented in science continues to ripple through the Internet.

Various answers are given and several have merit, but the strongest real reason is that contemporary science as taught in government supported universities (which is almost all of them) implicitly supports the ideological viewpoint of the left--since that supplies the money and is resistant to normative influences from tradition--and it is pervasively prejudiced against the kind of students found on the right, especially religious believers. A large share of America is cut off from science in universities on that account, and American science is the poorer for it. Now try studying that.

November 26, 2010

Phil Skell, Noted Scientist and Friend

One of the most distinguished members of the National Academies Science, Dr. Philip Skell, died last Sunday. He is remembered with fond respect by his friends at Discovery Institute.

October 27, 2010

The Myth that Social Conservatism is Losing Ground

Jay Richards, a senior fellow of Discovery Institute and editor of the new Discovery book, God and Evolution, today debunks the idea that the salience of economic issues in the 2010 mid-term elections means that prospective Republican gains mean that the GOP will be less friendly to conservative social issues. The opposite seems to be true. Social conservatives happen to see a moral dimension to economics that other voters miss.

Most of the new candidates are conservative on all issues, including abortion, for example. It's just that some campaigns are fought over different sets of priorities, depending on the year. Sometimes it is social issues, sometimes foreign policy, and this time it's the constellation of spending, jobs and taxes.

October 10, 2010

Establishment Science Fails to Perform

High tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel was interviewed over the weekend by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal, among other things asserting that science and technology (except computer technology) are failing to meet expectations.

The same issue describes a new University of Indiana study on sexuality of American adults built, it seems, on questionable data collection. The Kinsey studies of a half century ago came from the same university, you may remember, and have been the subject of a number of professional attacks in recent years.

It is becoming clear that DNA is not all that we were led to believe, says Matt Ridley in "The Failed Promise of Genomics"--see another Journal article in the same issue. (Discovery Institute fellows are well into this subject, by the way.)

And then there is the story of a food scarcity that is likely to follow a poor world record for corn production this year. It is not pointed out in the article, but we are massively subsidizing corn production for ethanol.

Finally, elsewhere reported this this weekend is the news that Dr. Harold Lewis of the U. of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus), has resigned from the American Physical Society, complaining of the organization's propaganda support for bogus claims about global warming.

All of this in one weekend would seem to confirm the thesis that big science, indeed, is burdened with ideology that sometimes keeps it from running as fast and true as expected by the public that pays the bills.

October 5, 2010

A Rabbi's Sermon is Awakening Consciences in America

Our colleague Michael Medved brought to the attention of his national radio audience today a potentially historic sermon by Atlanta Rabbi Shalom Lewis, delivered over the recent Jewish holidays. Then Michael interviewed the Rabbi, who was nothing if not candid and eloquent.

Here is a Jew who is a member of the ACLU and says he routinely votes Democratic. Rabbi Lewis also says in his sermon that he never voted for George W. Bush. But now he is facing openly what so many American Jews (unlike Israeli Jews) have persevered to ignore--the reality, as Bush realized, that Radical Islam cannot be appeased but must be confronted and defeated. He covers all the arguments and does so with patient intensity. Of course, Islam is not the enemy. Of course, Muslims as a whole are not the enemy. But it does no one any good to ignore that it is a virulent variant of Islam is terrifying much of the world into silence and even paralysis. Cowardice and loss of confidence in our own standards is infecting our own society. It's a kind of political correctness that cannot see reality right dead ahead.

It is no kindness to Muslims, especially reformers, to pretend that things are not as they are. We have a lot of building to do with Muslims who reject the radicals. We need them. But they also need us.

George Gilder's The Israel Test is the best treatment yet in book form of the "canary in the mineshaft" that is modern Judaism and Jewry. Yet until recently at least, most politically liberal Jews have been loathe to face the current unpleasantness because it didin't fit their preconceptions. And many Christians and well-intentioned secularists are just as confused and intimidated. They not only decline to be brave, but they also berate those who are.

Read Rabbi Shalom Lewis' sermon. "Ehr Kumt" is Yiddish: "He is coming!" It's a warning.

Meanwhile, we all should remember the line from Isaiah, also quoted by Rabbi Lewis, "Woe to them that call the day night and the night day."

September 30, 2010

Make Up Your Minds, Is Social Darwinism Good or Bad?

The left is having a fit of neurotic indecision. On one hand they have former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich reporting in the Christian Science Monitor that the House Republicans' "Pledge to America" agenda is a scheme to promote "Social Darwinism", "survival of the fittest." He states as a fact that Republicans have always wanted to destroy Social Security, even though the system--another supposed fact--is absolutely solid. Take his word on both scores. Or throw Gramma into the street. It's your choice.

Social Darwinism doesn't sound so good, does it?

But wait. Almost simultaneously, University of New York (Binghamton) biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson is down in Australia delivering a Templeton Foundation lecture on how Social Darwinism can solve poverty, build trusting community, cure ingrown toenails, alleviate the heartbreak of psoriasis and improve your love life. Step right up. Dr. Wilson's Darwinian Elixir is good for what ails ya.

Okay, which Social Darwinism is it? Or is there, like the witches in the Wizard of Oz, a "good Social Darwinism" and a "bad Social Darwinism"?

Mssrs. Reich and Wilson are both political progressives and probably would get along very well. They both have a theory that can support or undermine any agenda they like. Unfortunately, they made opposite claims for it on the same day.

September 27, 2010

Evidence of Mindless Evolution at the U.N.

Mars Attacks!

Please be clear. In contemporary science you supposedly cannot posit the existence of intelligence in the universe. It doesn't matter if your reasoning follows the same pattern of historical science used by Darwin, as, for example, in Meyer's Signature in the Cell. "No intelligence allowed," as the film Expelled made clear.

There is one exception. Just as he explained in the film Expelled, Richard Dawkins is prepared to believe in space aliens, the U.N. now wants to establish a liaison with these unknown creatures, even if there is no evidence for their existence at all--just speculation. A Malaysian astrophysicist is to be the first ambassador of the world to little green men on Mars, or wherever they turn out to be.

It is all put forth in complete seriousness.

September 22, 2010

It's Thanks to Jalapeños That I'm Here

Did you know that a fondness for chile peppers was a reason our ancestors reproduced, while those bland-tasteed Neanderthals died off? Yes, according to that endlessly productive Darwin propaganda machine, The New York Times, a taste for hot sauce is a trait of evolution.

If we could afford it, we'd hire someone just to compile a list of all the fascinating aspects of life that are the result of some reproductive advantage. We can't afford it, however, because the list would go on and on and on.... On the good side, such a list would be really funny.

Of course, other than the plain-as-mud evolutionary explanation, there is reason to think chiles initially became popular especially in the tropics and sub-tropics because they provided a way in hot, humid climates to disguise the taste of meat on the cusp of decay.

September 16, 2010

Physicist Spitzer Chides Hawking

On the Larry King show last week--stuck between the host's overly deferential treatment of Stephen J. Hawking, the windy interjections of Hawking co-author Leonard Mlodinow and the smiling ruminations of Deepak Chopra--Fr. Robert Spitzer barely had a chance to clear his throat. Always introduced as a Jesuit, never as the physicist and former college president (Gonzaga) that he also is, Fr. Spitzer was lucky to get in a few comments about the way the Church thinks about the origins of the universe.

No mention was made by Larry King of Fr. Spitzer's new book, Evidence for God, that addresses cosmology directly. (See also a recent article on the program Fr. Spitzer, with Dr. Bruce Gordon, held at Discovery Institute.)

It is interesting that many media outlets and scientists that claim to have understood intelligent design and support it in cosmology, but not in biology, have not bothered to take Hawking on or to notice Spitzer's work. How serious, therefore, are their professions of support for ID even in cosmology?

Fr. Spitzer has a good YouTube commentary up on Hawking's The Grand Design. The Magis Center he heads is a great place to learn more of his views, and i also would send you to our own for the views of Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards.

September 15, 2010

Economist Finds Atheist Lost in Space

American media have tended to uncritical worship before Stephen Hawking and his new tome, a rebuke of The Grand Design. The Wall Street Journal has had three articles on it, one by Hawking.

On CNN, Larry King was like a flustered peasant bowing before an oracle: he reads a question, the oracle speaks, he reads the next question...

The English themselves are not in such awe. There has been a small parade of dismissive reviews, including some by bored scientists who found nothing new in Hawking's argument that natural laws are sufficient to explain the universe. In The Daily Mail, Oxford mathematician John Lennox writes, "(T)he beauty of the scientific laws only reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine creative force at work. The more I understand science, the more I believe in God because of my wonder at the breadth, sophistication and integrity of his creation.

"The very reason science flourished so vigorously in the 16th and 17th centuries was precisely because of the belief that the laws of nature which were then being discovered and defined reflected the influence of a divine law-giver."

Among the eyes-open reviews is that of The Economist.

"Despite much talk of the universe appearing to be 'fine-tuned' for human existence, the authors do not in fact think that it was in any sense designed. And once more we are told that we are on the brink of understanding everything.

"The authors may be in this enviable state of enlightenment, but most readers will not have a clue what they are on about."

Their claims, says The Economist, are only "another tease".

September 7, 2010

Stars Fall on Alabama: Hitchens Debates Berlinski


A man who reports he is dying of throat cancer, yet persists in arguing his claims for atheism, was perhaps the real fascination of Tuesday night's debate in Birmingham, Alabama between Chris Hitchens and David Berlinski. Both men are recent and frequent authors and were presented at a pre-debate book signing by the debate sponsor, Fixed Point Foundation. An audience of 1,200 attended the subsequent debate.

CBS's Sixty Minutes (doing a program on Hitchens) covered the occasion, as did C-Span. Hitchens' illness, following on publication of his memoirs this summer, provided more than usual interest in what had to be viewed as a very relevant topic. Is it religion that "poisons everything," as Hitchens says, or is it atheism, as Berlinski states?

Here is the Birmingham News story.

September 6, 2010

Media and Big Science Now Agree: You CAN Mix Religion and Science

When intelligent design theory first erupted into widespread attention about 15 years ago we were told by Darwinians and their media Greek Chorus that ID was an inadmissible topic because it was really "religion," not "science," or, alternately, it was "philosophy and not science." (I well recall the long ABC TV interview of Steve Meyer, demanding repeatedly, "Who do you think the designer is?!") To their shame, some theistic evolutionists (like embryonic stem cell research promoter, Francis Collins) have given their backing to that prejudice.

In reality, ID theorists always made clear that the theory is part of historical science, exactly like Darwin's theory. There are religious implications from ID, just as there are from Darwin's theory, but we have always agreed that the scientific evidence should be allowed to stand on its own.

But, never mind. What we have seen in the past few years is a complete destruction of any supposed wall between science and religion, and the destruction has not been wrought by supporters of ID, but by hard core Darwinists and other scientific materialists. Whether it is biologist Richard Dawkins and his Internet Sancho Panza, P.Z. Myers, or, in physics, Stephen Hawking, the wraps are off. For them, not only is science about religion, religion is the main purpose of science--attacking religion, that is.

It was instructive that when Dawkins left his chair at Oxford and started a charity, he didn't direct the proceeds to science teaching or research, but to promotion of atheism. "Where your treasure is, there also is your heart."

It's a refreshing contrast to see the distinguished John Lennox of Oxford taking Hawking on directly on topic, not pulling back at all.

By the way, the increasingly open presentation of science-as-applied-atheism completely bankrupts the strategy of groups like the National Committee for Science Education that pretend that their business is about science and not religion. Their real business is about assuring a monopoly of public education for scientific materialism, period. You can be sure that neither the NCSE nor the equally misnamed Americans United for the Separation of Church and State--nor the ACLU--mind at all if Stephen Hawkings' opinions and those of Richard Dawkins attacking God are taught in school rooms. When those groups sue schools for bringing anti-religious messages into schools will, indeed, be the day Hell freezes over.

September 1, 2010

Fanatic Wanted Still More Darwin Programs

It was both scary and pathetic at the Discovery Channel in Maryland today when an environmental terrorist took hostages in an attempt to force the television network to show more programs on Malthus and Darwin and to rail against over-population and global warming.

Oddly missing from initial news accounts was any mention of Darwin. But, in James J. Lee's manifesto, emerges this clear demand: "Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people's brains until they get it!!"

Another odd thing is that the Discovery Channel probably runs more programs about Darwinian evolution than any other network, even PBS. Indeed, if I close my eyes and try to visualize "Discovery Channel" the image that forms is of a cartoon amphibian crawling out of the primordial pond, growing simian legs, making fire and developing into a TV news anchor.

In the news stories of the Columbine massacre several years ago the Darwin angle also was missed, though it had been explicit in the rants of the young killer/suicides. Now it's Mr. Lee's turn to have his message revised.

August 11, 2010

Screwtape the Play, Soon the Film?


The Screwtape Letters, a novel of C. S. Lewis, is both satirical and instructional, maybe at once the funniest of Lewis' works and also the most trenchant. It has converted people, and amused many more. How many works of theological interest can say as much? (Just now I can't think of any). Published during World War II, Screwtape seems to remain fresh and accessible--and every few years its schema is reused for some other purpose, the sincerest form of flattery, as they say.

Screwtape seems like a natural for stage adaptation and has been performed by several writer/producers/actors before Max McLean. But it is McLean who has excelled. He presently has a bravura, small cast performance at the Westside Theater Off-Broadway in New York. The production has been favorably noticed in the World and The Wall Street Journal ("One hell of a good show"), among other places. But I particularly enjoyed a recent sizable back-story treatment by Retta Blaney in the estimable high church Anglican (Episcopal) journal, The Living Church (July 25 issue).

For what is worth, my opinion is that Screwtape would make an outstanding film and gain millions of new fans where it now wins thousands. The letters from the minor devil, Screwtape, to his agent, Toadpipe, are an indirect means to describe for us sympathetically and humorously the devil's "patient", a young man whose soul Screwtape intends to corrupt. It could be entertaining to follow the patient on the big screen.

There are at least two or three friendly film makers who should be looking at the possibility.

McLean, who himself plays Screwtape on stage--in a gaudy gold and red brocade smoking jacket--says his greatest difficulty was getting Lewis' long sentences into script bites that won't gag an actor on stage. He seems to have pulled it off and also to have reduced what would have been several hours of drama into a lively 90 minutes. "We have twice as much content as most shows and we're half as long," he says. "I feel audiences want to delve into the meatiness of the piece."

The play has been extended in New York into October. I am going to try to see it before then, but if I (and you) can't, McLean will have another national road show this winter (he's had at least one before the New York opening). Then maybe a movie?

August 4, 2010

The Newest Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel was a human impertinence that caused God to fasten on humanity many languages, a contribution to the confusion and disagreement that have become characteristic of human nature. Today we have the Internet.

The American Spectator, a fine journal of lively opinion, ran online an article by me today, A Classic Evolution Policy Blunder..

It is instructive to see the numerous comments that follow it. From the same article various respondents decided that I am anti-science, anti-Bible, anti-reason and pro-liberal judges. I am denounced as a creationist by one reader and an anti-creationist by another. (I am none of those things.) Soon enough, as is typical, some of the commenters are denouncing each other, often behind the protection of made-up names.

We now live in a media environment that is like a restaurant where all the patrons are shouting at the same time. The louder your neighbor, the more you raise your own voice. The more competitive the din, the more nuance and extended argument are cast aside in favor of sloganeering and insults.

In such an environment, one probably should lower his voice rather than raise it.

It should be obvious that just because I am aware of the disposition of federal courts on the subject of religion in public school classrooms I do not necessarily favor it. In the instance of Judge Jones in Dover, PA, I think the judicial opinion is poorly reasoned as well as unfair. Regardless, in real life, school leaders must deal with the law as it is, not as they would like it to be. In the case of Dover, some members on the local school board defended their actions on religious grounds and not only had their policy thrown out by Judge Jones, but also got themselves thrown out of office. In addition, they at least temporarily made the work of intelligent design scientists and other Darwin critics more difficult. The issue was not theirs to misrepresent and endanger, properly speaking, but they did it anyhow.

I hope that doesn't happen in Louisiana. The state government has a fine law that will allow controversial scientific subjects to be taught objectively on their scientific merits. It should be obvious (again) that no one denies that there are religious implications to Darwinian evolution and also to its rejection. But there also are religious implications, for example, to such topics as cloning. And there are political implications to global warming. But most people probably, upon reflection, can find common ground on teaching only science in public school science classes and leaving religion and/or politics at the door. Science should not avoid controversy, but it should respect its own limits. Within those limits there is still plenty to discuss.

August 2, 2010

"Science" Blogs Exposed at Last

In the deconstructionist critical age it is hard to assert the truth about anything, especially something that used to be thought tautological: "science". What Discovery Institute has been saying for years is that the guardians of big science, cocooned in walled universities and succored on federal grants, humbly catered to by the major media, and in-bred at small journals with foundation-assured budgets, have become another modern institution suffering from advanced sclerosis--hardening of the very arteries meant to provide society with copious supplies of oxygen.

Real work goes on in the sciences, but with little thanks to the ideological gatekeepers that patrol the corridors these days.

The universities have not yet been inspected by any visiting committees. Nor have the supposed science journals (from the biggest to some of the smallest). Nor, of course, have the grant-making organs of government and philanthropy.

But someone--Virginia Heffernan--finally has taken a look inside the world of "science blogs", the new frontier of alternative media. The doubly amazing thing is that her article just appeared in The New York Times.

What she finds is not science, but self-referencial sophomoric pranks, vitriol and cavil.

That world, also amazingly, seems to be fraying badly.

July 22, 2010

Academic Freedom Cases Increasing

It is not clear why the number of academic freedom cases seem to be increasing. Is it because the iron hand of ideological conformity is squeezing professors more tightly? Or is it because more subjects of attack are fighting back in court?

I tend to think it is for both those reasons. Socially acceptable views in academia tend to run from the left to the far left. More traditional, conservative viewpoints are regarded as simply wrong. It occurs in field after field. We see it on many aspects of the evolution debate and issues pertaining to bioethics. Academic freedom policies are adopted by universities, but then selectively applied. They probably were written to protect left wingers in dissent, so when a right winger tries to appeal to them, administrators regard the appeal as bizarre. Freedom of dissent is for liberals, not conservatives.

But groups like the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have been established in the past decade precisely to answer the cries of professors and students who are discriminated against on ideological grounds. As a consequence, some professors may be more willing now to sue.

In addition to evolution or bioethics, cases are coming to the fore on many fronts now. The ADF just won a settlement in California for a biology teacher who was assailed for providing an honest and scholarly answer to a question in class about the relative influence of nature versus environment in homosexuality. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the ADF have entered another case by an Illinois professor who was denied promotion because someone was offended by his comparison of Catholic and utilitarian philosophies in evaluating sexuality.

Meanwhile, groups like the American Council of Alumni and Trustees is making some progress in forcing academia to live up to its own professed standards by adopting and enforcing serious codes of academic freedom. ACTA's own statement on the issue is preceded by a quote from former Yale president Benno Schmidt: "The most serious problems of freedom of expression in our society today exist on our campuses.... The assumption seems to be that the purpose of education is to induce correct opinion rather than to search for wisdom and to liberate the mind."

July 19, 2010

Douthat Asks, Are White Christian Students Discriminated Against?

If you follow such things, you probably are aware that elite universities are fond of applicants who can pay the exorbitant tuition fees to attend--some $55,000 and up. Full-paying customers and the endowments of grateful alumni together make possible free or subsidized tuition for poorer applicants. However, as they fill the balance of their student bodies with scholarship applicants, admission officers tend to favor minority groups of various kinds. They used to favor women over men, but, since women are now a majority on many campuses, that emphasis has relaxed.

So what categories of students are not favored? Are there some that actually are discriminated against? Well, as you might also suspect, those effectively pushed away at elite universities are the very kinds of cases the schools might have sought out a half century ago, such as Asians, poor white students and middle class white students from rural areas and small towns. If they are demonstrably Christian--which might be revealed by essays submitted by applicants, or from leadership roles the applicants report having held in Christian youth groups--that is often a minus. So is excelling at activities regarded at retrograde, or at least unfashionable by the colleges, such as 4-H or ROTC.

The latter folks, the squares, who are rejected by admissions offices at the Ivies and other elite institutions, may well wind up in military academies and less prestigious state schools. They may become generals, entrepreneurs and small businessmen, rather than college professors and lawyers.

Ross Douthat (a Harvard grad) has a column today daring to expose the matter publicly. He concludes, "If such universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there's more to diversity than skin color -- and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers."

Meanwhile, a friend who counsels students seeking graduate school admission tells me that cautions them to remove from their applications references to religious participation or activities. Thus, a church mission to build an orphanage in Guatemala, for example, should be reported simply as a "humanitarian trip to Guatemala to build an orphanage." Tutoring disadvantaged youth under a church program should become merely "tutoring disadvantaged youth."

Continue reading "Douthat Asks, Are White Christian Students Discriminated Against?" »

June 17, 2010

Voyage of Dawn Treader, Next C. S. Lewis "Narnia" Film, Slated for Christmas Release

Michael Medved treated visitors to his homepage to a preview of the trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that will be released at Christmas time. It is sure to be a blockbuster, the latest in Walden films' Chronicle of Narnia series, based on the works of C. S. Lewis.

June 10, 2010

Brit Science Writer Loses Statist Faith

by George Gilder

The preeminent UK science writer Matt Ridley, formerly an editor of The Economist and author of the best-selling Genome and other books, has long upheld the politically correct canons of his trade. But in his new book, The Rational Optimist, he has finally exhausted his patience with the environmental movement and the rest of the economic left. The cause of his sudden and violent disillusionment is the collapse of global warming science, which he and the Economist have long gullibly accepted but which Ridley has now discovered to be so deeply flawed as to rise to the level of fraud.

This is the most complete and far-reaching and even profound critique of environmentalism and socialism that has come from Britain since Hayek's Road to Serfdom. Ridley shows that the green movement poses a devastating threat to the environment, which throughout history has always benefited most from the very economic growth and progress, fueled by fossil energy, that the Greens are dedicated to ending. The only comparable books are Peter Huber's Hard Green and the Bottomless Well, but Ridley takes the argument further and brings it up to date. This is a major breakthrough for conservatives and a must read.

My only objection is his credulous reliance on materialist economic models based on Darwinian biology. But compared to his huge achievement the flaws are best left to cavil at another time.

June 6, 2010

Another Official Science Prediction Flops

Media should hold scientists, and especially official science boards, responsible for dire predictions that fail to materialize. The good example of this past year's non-appearing flu epidemic is dissected by Michael Fumento of the Independent Journalism Project.

Accountability for false predictions is desirable in order to prevent fear-mongering and its exploitation for notoriety and public and foundation fund-seeking. Modest claims probably don't get the financial backing that sensational claims do. Who knows the costs of bogus science?

There is an unending parade of uncritical headlines that include the phrase "Scientists Say." That's all it takes, and you can assert almost anything after it. Except that contemporary science, for all its achievements, isn't as sound and sure as these hyped stories make out. If you want the public to become cynical, however, then this is just the way to go.

May 31, 2010

Looking for Life in All The Wrong Places


Our colleague Jay Richards, co-author with Guillermo Gonzalez of The Privileged Planet, responds to the perfervid, unremitting efforts to posit, if not find, life in outer space. People like Richard Dawkins and the New York Times-- that condemn theorists who cite evidence for intelligent design--get weak-kneed and giddy when offered totally speculative aspirations to life discoveries by scientism's guardians.

Like the economic theorist describing how to get out of a hole--"First, assume a ladder."--the materialist indicates that all it takes to find life in other galaxies is a near-infinity of stars and a near-infinity of time. Theory conquers all.

May 15, 2010

Der Spiegel Can't Help Seeing Through Science Journals' "Peer Review"

Journalists, even on the left, know a cover up when they see it. That is why the story in Germany's Der Spiegel is so damning on the issue of global warming. Discovery Senior fellow Wesley Smith cites the article and comments on his blog site.

Note the relevance he ascribes to stem cell research and the Darwin issue.

April 27, 2010

The Church Emerges

Efforts to tag Pope Benedict XVI with failings of the Catholic Church to deal with the scandal of sexual violation of young men by priests is sputtering. Try as it will, The New York Times cannot find a record that contradicts the reality that Cardinal Karl Ratzinger, now the pope, has been a force promoting reform.

Maybe he could have moved faster. Easy for an outsider to say. But the charge that he actually was part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is growing less and less credible the more the Times carries on.

In the end, the Catholic Church will be stronger for the present challenge, forced to strengthen its resolve in Europe as it did in the U.S. this past decade. Then, the Church may (one hopes) be bolder in addressing the root causes of its own weakness in the past and the towering limpness of secularism in the West today, dealing more frankly with the true issues of materialism and human life. When people are treated as things, and things as people, no wonder the world is inverted.

April 13, 2010

Mayor Ed Koch on Anti-Catholic Attacks on Pope

William Donahue of the Catholic League brings to our attention a news story out of Jerusalem, where former New York Mayor Ed Koch deplores the biased reporting on the Vatican's handling of the sexual abuse cases. Koch is lucid and direct.

Continue reading "Mayor Ed Koch on Anti-Catholic Attacks on Pope" »

April 6, 2010

George Weigel on the Vatican and its Antagonists

Few Americans know the Vatican better than George Weigel, whose many books include the authoritative biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope. Like many Catholics--and non-Catholics--Weigel is upset about the revelations of cases of sexual depredation of priests.

More than other commentators, however, Weigel was alert to this topic eight or nine years ago when scandals were first revealed in the U.S. Back then he nudged the Vatican hard to get involved and promote stringent reform. The effort seems to have succeeded here, but is now needed in Europe. Pope Benedict XVI is directly engaged on the topic, but the relevant office at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is still overburdened.

Meanwhile, there is a strange drive to blame the pope personally for the failings of a small minority of priests. The pope--formerly Cardinal Karl Ratzinger--actually has been a force for reform all along and deserves credit, not brickbats. Oddly, the liberal forces that advocate license in nearly all fields, and whose predecessors promoted the therapeutic rehabilitation theories that got the Church and other institutions into trouble in the 60s and 70s, are the ones most vehemently pursuing the Vatican now. Oddly, too, they are exaggerating the incidence of Church scandals while ignoring more common cases elsewhere in society.

It's impossible not to conclude that the object for many is not only punishment of sexual predation, but discrediting the Church's powerful worldwide voice for morality. Is it the Church that is hypocritical, then, or certain of its antagonists?

Weigel's recent guest article in the Philadelphia Inquirer is more insightful on all this than what we are seeing elsewhere.

March 31, 2010

Unholy Land: "On Tombs and Rage"

Rachel's Tomb in Jerusalem

Americans tend to assume that all Muslims are anti-Israeli. Americans--or at least the media--also often fail to see through the stratagems of Iran's meddling in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and, for that matter, Iraq.

Two examples of outspoken Iranian expatriates who defeat the stereotype are Nirs T. Bom and Ido Mizrahi. They published "On Tombs and Rage" originally in the Israeli daily, Haaretz, and then in The Caspian Weekly, a journal that covers various events in the Middle East/East Asia.

In this article, the authors examine the ploy of taking umbrage over Israeli efforts to preserve two historic sites that actually are worth protection for the heritage of Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians. The Palestinian Authority could have used these projects to illustrate a willingness to cooperate on matters of common interest; eventually, after all, the restored sites could attract pilgrimages and tourist support. But at the least the Palestinian officials could have ignored the prservation developments. Instead, they chose to make propaganda out of distorting the issue, as the writers explain.

March 29, 2010

Church Suffers for Past Appeasement

This dark Lent for the Vatican is a time of satisfaction for those who wish the Catholic Church ill--and, with it, Christianity. The pedophile cases that rocked the United States eight years ago are now erupting in Europe. The latest charges are from Italy.

Lacking in almost all news stories is the historical context for the sexual depredations that have brought disgrace upon Catholicism in this--ironic--"Year of the Priest." Essentially it is this: In the 60s and 70s many in the Church bowed to the culture of therapy that was prevalent at the time and decided that sexual predators in the clergy should be treated as persons with treatable illnesses--rehabilitated, rather than punished. That seemed to be the enlightened path.

Continue reading "Church Suffers for Past Appeasement" »

March 26, 2010

When the Gullible Want to be Gulled, They Call for Dr. Ayala

Dr. Francisco Ayala is now the winner of the Templeton Prize for science and religion, his distinction seeming to be that he, a scientist, asserts that science and religion are "compatible." Accept Darwin's theory that life arose by an unguided natural process that has nothing to do with design and your creed can be stamped "Approved" by Inspector Ayala, always described in the press as a "former priest."

The only problem is that Dr. Ayala himself doesn't believe in your religion. He left the priesthood years ago. With all the evil in the world, he no longer could believe in God. He left the Catholic Church, too. He won't discuss his current views on religion --he doesn't want to be "tagged"-- but he certainly will not affirm anything of substance in the Christian faith, or any other.

How does such a person fit the Templeton template of recent years? Responding to the Ayala award, an article by Michael Brooks in the New Scientist (definitely a Darwinian journalistic redoubt) makes it plain: "When I attended a journalism fellowship funded by the Templeton Foundation in 2005, I learned from Templeton-endorsed scientists and theologians that the way to establish a peaceful co-existence of science and religion was to make no religious claims at all.

"...There can be no afterlife. Nor does anyone have an eternal soul. There was no virgin birth - that was most probably a story made up after Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. There was no physical resurrection of Jesus. None of the miracles actually happened. And prayers are not answered."

Maybe Jack Templeton agrees, though that is contrary to his reputation.

Ayala, accepting the Templeton prize, has a way of explaining the odd situation: "If they (science and religion) are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters." That is, believe what you want about religion, so long as it does not intrude on reality, for reality is established by (Darwinian) science and that explains it all. You see, it's the old fact/value split. We'll take the facts, you can have the values.

I understand why an Orwellian stylist like Ayala is attractive to Darwinists like the National Center for Science Education, all right. He is part of their show at conferences of atheists. such as the famous "Beyond Belief" meeting covered by the New York Times in 2006. He joins the advisory boards of groups like Campaign to Defend the Constitution, whose agenda included the standard fare of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, etc. He cleverly terms intelligent design a "heresy". He himself may not be a Christian any longer, but he surely doesn't mind parodying the lingo. In a 1999 New York Times interview titled "Ex-Priest Takes the Blasphemy Out of Evolution," Ayala argued that "evolution, in my view, is not only NOT anti-Christian, but the idea of special design ... might be ... blasphemous."

How is it that someone who is not a Christian pronounces on blasphemy?

When asked by Biologos Institute to critique Steven Meyer's book, Signature in the Cell recently, Ayala's resulting online attack showed plainly that he had not read the book and had little idea of the scientific issues it raises. Francisco Ayala is above arguing science, he is available only to declaim on religion, and that in the most vague possible fashion. He is willing to absolve Christian believers, mind you, and grant them respectability, but only if they humbly disavow any consequential religious beliefs.

True believer Darwinists--who at least are honest about their convictions--snicker about Ayala. No wonder.

March 12, 2010

No Religion, Please, We're Harvardians

Harvard was founded in 1636 as a Christian seminary. For generations it trained ministers and leaders for Massachusetts and the young American nation. The Puritan divines were well educated, their writing precise and often eloquent. Over two centuries, the axis of university religion turned from Puritanism to transcendentalism (Unitarianism, essentially) and from there to a pluralism that honored religion in general but nodded toward conventional Protestantism. This latter era is expressed well in the beautiful neo-Georgian Memorial Church, built at the head of The Yard in 1932 to honor Harvard men who died in World War I. But even in the first two thirds of the Twentieth Century, Harvard was also characterized by sophisticated skepticism. Then came the '60s and things got worse.

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for Newsweek

Today Harvard students go to church, some say in record numbers; but the culture of the university is hostile to religion, presented in that supercilious manner often associated with Harvard.

For faculty star Stephen Pinker--evangelist for evolution, atheism and animal rights--religion has no place at such a fine educational institution. ("Pinker to John Harvard," a New York Post headline might read, "Drop Dead.")

Lisa Miller's recent article in Newsweek about this subject continues to draw attention, including from Harvard undergraduates. The article itself unconsciously draws a line between those who, like Pinker, want to banish teaching about religion (unless the course is about the evils of religion) and those who think that an educated person in our day, or any day, must know something of the rich patrimony of religious faith.

Continue reading "No Religion, Please, We're Harvardians" »

February 21, 2010

Will "Religious" Sins Will Sink the Scientist?

The Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Education, Dr. Gavriel Avital, is being called upon to resign because he has defied two religious doctrines. No, not Jewish doctrines, but secular doctrines of the "scientific consensus", evolution and global warming.

They can't say he is ignorant; he's a scientist. So they accuse him of heresy. It's all very well to have a "healthy debate," one critic sniffs, but not in the Education Ministry. "Arguments and counter-arguments" are fine until the counter-arguments start persuading.

So rather than debating with Dr. Gavriel or holding scholarly meetings on the topics he raises, the push is to get the man fired. Of course. That's how science advances, right?

February 14, 2010

Soul Searching in Science

The history of empirical science versus the post-modern trend to abstraction and theory goes back to the Enlightenment. That philosophical movement had consequences for politics and religion, too, of course. Indeed, it touched everything, as inspection of any contemporary university English department would reveal.

A new book by Timothy Ferris, The Science of Liberty (Harper), describes the way the Enlightenment influenced America's founders to pursue experimental science as well as political art. Jefferson scholar Alan Pell Crawford (Twilight at Monticello) points out in his review Friday in the Wall Street Journal, that American science, like American politics, followed the model of the Scottish Enlightenment, rather than the French Enlightenment, and that made a huge difference to all our institutions.

Continue reading "Soul Searching in Science" »

December 30, 2009

The Season is the Reason

Atheist blogger P.Z. Myers, in his post "The reason for the season!", takes the opportunity provided by this marvelous Christmas season to ask you to take a quiet moment, bow your head and contemplate this:

...I'm agreeing with all those crazy Bill O'Reillys and Donald Wildmons and other shrill Christian combatants in the war on Christmas who demand that you acknowledge the "holy" in holiday, but it's true: the midwinter seasonal holiday was created by people with the superstitious belief that supernatural transitions accompanied natural ones, and these few days are traditionally special because of a belief in their magical importance, and every religion attaches some godly event to the solstice season. It's why you'll get a day off on Christmas, which means it was good for something. So just pause, bow your head, and think about Jesus. And reject him...You're free. Feels good, doesn't it? Remember the reason for the season.

The irony of course is that while Myers is compelled to acknowledge the Christian origin of Christmas (although no doubt he tried hard to evade it), he is wrong to assert that rejecting Christianity will make us "free". Christianity is the indispensable foundation of our political freedom, of our ethics, and of modern science.

Continue reading "The Season is the Reason" »

December 9, 2009

Downgrading Christmas Now Riles Reporters

Diane Medved's blog, Bright Light Search, expresses the generous and sensible views of an Orthodox Jew on many subjects, including Christmas. Last year she had a fabulous time at the Bush's Chanukah party in the White House, which employed most of the same decorations as the Christmas parties. This year she has noted the strange development that the Chanukah party has been downgraded by the Obamas, and so, too, have the Christmas celebrations.

Now even the media are a bit miffed, it seems, because lead reporters have cherished the special occasion when they get their picture taken with the President and First Lady. Their gift this year is not exactly coal and switches, but it's down to a last-minute party, a smaller list of invitees and no pictures.

I was invited to one of the G.W. Bush's Christmas parties a couple of years ago and took my oldest son. It was well worth the trip to D.C. In the 80s, when I was on the White House staff, my wife and I recall with fondness the Christmas party where we had a chance to mingle and chat with President Reagan and Nancy. Such moments are precious.

I can understand why the Obamas resent the strain of attending so many holiday events. But they are coming off as grumpy and mean (in the sense of smallness).

December 7, 2009

World Magazine Announces "2009 Daniel of the Year": Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen Meyer has already made year-end lists with Signature in the Cell, an Amazon bestselling science book and one of Times Literary Supplement's books of the year for 2009, but the latest news go far beyond that: Stephen Meyer has been named World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year" for 2009:

daniel%20of%20the%20year%20cover.jpgThis fall Meyer came out with a full account of what science has learned in recent decades: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One, 2009) shows that the cell is incredibly complex and the code that directs its functions wonderfully designed. His argument undercuts macroevolution, the theory that one kind of animal over time evolves into a very different kind. Meyer thus garners media scorn for raining on this year's huge celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin 200 years ago and the publication of On the Origin of Species 150 years ago.

The cover story is what should become the essential profile of Meyer, following what World's Marvin Olasky describes as "the four-stage pattern that is common among intellectual Daniels: Questioning, discernment, courage, and perseverance."

Meyer says, "You ask how someone gets the moxie to take something like this on. Part of the answer is that I didn't know any better when I was young. I was just so seized with this idea and these questions: 'Was it possible to develop a scientific case? Were we looking at evidence that could revive and resuscitate the classical argument from design, which had been understood from the time of Hume and certainly the time of Darwin to be defunct?' If that was the case, that's a major scientific revolution."

Courage becomes a determinant once we count the cost and see that it's great. Meyer's first inkling came when "talking about my ideas to people at Cambridge High Table settings, and getting that sudden social pall." But the cost was and is more than conversational ease: San Francisco State University in 1992 expelled a professor, Dean Kenyon, who espoused ID, and other job losses have come since. Meyer and other ID proponents saw "that this would be very controversial. One of the things that emboldened all of us who were in the early days of this movement was meeting each other. In 1993 we had a little private conference [with] 10 or 12 very sharp, mostly younger scientists going through top-of-the-world programs in their respective fields who were all skeptical. I think the congealing of this group gave everyone the sense that this was going to be an exciting adventure: Let's rumble."

Rumble, indeed -- Meyer just returned from schooling Michael Shermer (listen to the audio here).

The article, as the title indicates, is a profile in courage worth reading, particularly this bit:

Many who enter the courage stage at first think that the war in which they find themselves will end in a few years. There comes a time in many lives, though, when a hard realization sinks in: It will not be over in my lifetime. That's when some give in while others proceed to the perseverance stage. That's where Meyer is: Signature in the Cell ends with a long list of testable predictions concerning the direction of science over the next several decades. Meyer predicts that further study will reveal the importance of "junk DNA" and the reasons for what seem to be "poorly designed" structures: They will reveal either a hidden functional logic or evidence of decay from originally good designs.

Read the whole article here.

November 13, 2009

The Rapture of the Atheists

Text courtesy of CNS, who published the article online this morning.

"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."

--T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

The level of maturity of the New Atheism movement was on florid display at the national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation this past weekend in Seattle. A high point apparently was a "non-prayer breakfast," where six hundred attendees were reminded of the oppressive civic funcions where people often are asked to bow their heads for a moment of silence. Instead, the atheists were encouraged to exhibit a moment of "bedlam", shouting, clinking glasses and who knows what? How liberating!

A top draw attraction at the convention was Ron Reagan, a middle-aged "unabashed atheist" who is best known for....well, for being a son of President Ronald Reagan, who was a favorite target of people like the conventioneers. President Reagan often ended his speeches with the benediction, "May God bless America." Ron derives whatever significance he enjoys from repudiating his father's worldview. It's not much of a gig, is it? And it also is not much of a threat.

The other good news for non-atheists is that the chief philanthropy of the New Atheism--its most heartfelt project, in fact--seems to be....bus signs. Richard Dawkins is using profits from his books for the signs. Lesser-known, latter-day Clarence Darrows and H. L. Menckens likewise are using their savings to invest in bus cards that sally forth in cities from London to Seattle. The seasonal placards now up in Seattle announce that, "Yes, Virginia, there is no God."


Continue reading "The Rapture of the Atheists" »

November 2, 2009

The Abolition of Man (and Woman)

Philosopher and science writer - and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow - Benjamin Wiker has an insightful paper printed in the new National Catholic Register, "The Abolition of Man (and Woman)."

October 27, 2009

A "Brite" Who is Actually a "Know Nothing"

In America we are a century and a half away from the "Know-Nothing Party", a secret political society that fulminated against the Catholic Church and Irish immigrants. (Asked about its composition, members would say, "I know nothing;" hence, the moniker.) Formed in public as The American Party, the party's hateful, nativist politics took a long time to expunge from our shores. But we now have an Englishman, Richard Dawkins--one of society's "Brites" according to his fellow-Darwinist, Daniel Dennett--in a screed against the Catholic Church that proclaims the same frothing bigotry exemplified by the Know-Nothings. This and Dawkins' various other attacks should remind us that the hoary religious hatreds of old (including those of the angry atheist) were a European legacy. Catholics and other Christians need to realize that Dawkins and Company aim to revive them.

Rome is possibly "the greatest force for evil in the world," Dawkins announces, "a disgusting institution" that is "dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp." That kind of language is like a blast of stale air from the 1850s.

You cannot expect his fellow Darwinists to repudiate Dawkins for the simple reason that a number (e.g., P.Z. Myers) share his prejudices and his paranoia. Darwinism never was mainly about science; it is about metaphysics. It is a worldview that has no space for the sacred, no regard for the exceptionality of human life. Darwinists, who operate few if any hospitals or homeless shelters, cannot recognize the humanity of those who do.

Dawkins is not an oddity. He is the world's leading Darwinian spokesman. He is hailed at universities, museums and foundations. Publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times--that simply will not run an article by scientists presenting the evidence against Darwinism--can't showcase him enough.

Other than such Know Nothings, what other modern bigots are regarded as so fashionable?

October 21, 2009

Anglicans and Rome: C.S. Lewis, Take a Bow

The Vatican's expanded opening to Anglicans this week has provoked many published analyses of what the policy might mean to the future of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in the United States. The significance actually is far wider. Notably, on cultural issues it may strengthen the relatively conservative Roman Catholic Church and weaken the relatively liberal Anglican/Episcopal Church. That, really, is the source of so much media interest.

For breakaway Episcopal parishes and dioceses in the U.S., the Vatican offer may not mean much at first. Many are in property disputes with their former Episcopal co-religionists, and are losing in the courts. But they also are well along in forming new Anglican churches. Perhaps 100,000 Episcopalians have decamped so far to the new Anglican branches, while additional defectors already have converted to Catholicism, various evangelical churches, or Orthodoxy, or are just sleeping-in on Sundays now. The headquarters of PECUSA, The Episcopal Church of the United States, is declining to report on the latest membership changes.

Regardless, the tectonic plates of Christianity are moving, and not just because of this latest Vatican announcement. The ecumenical cause is gaining force again after decades of stasis. A long, powerful dialogue on theology that yielded a book and follow-up essays called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" has influenced laypeople for almost a generation. Leading were such Catholics as George Weigel and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, and such evangelicals as Charles Colson and J.I. Packer. The latest development in the dialogue is an essay on perhaps the most difficult issue for Protestants, the place of the Virgin Mary.

A similar dialogue has gone on quietly for four decades among theologians in the two largest Western liturgical churches (those whose sacred services center on the Eucharist)--the 1.130 billion Catholics and the 75 million Anglicans. The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, an enterprise called ARCIC, also has produced one agreement after another, so much so that one has to ask, Couldn't a lot of these misunderstandings have been ironed out 500 years ago and spared Western Civilization a load of pain?

Regardless, while theological problems are dissipating, ecclesiological differences--over the meanings of priesthood and the operations of Church hierarchy-- have become more evident. After years of frustration, the Vatican plainly has given up on most discussions with Canterbury on ecclesiological matters; and, hence, the opening to dissident Anglicans. Representatives of the latter have been descending on Rome for five or six years now, pleading for succor. This week they have it.

Creation of "Anglican Rite" services and even whole Anglican Rite Catholic parishes now anticipate retention of the beautiful Anglican Book of Common Prayer--the only literary product of a committee to rival Shakespeare--as the liturgical basis for an additionally acceptable orthodox Catholic mass. One may well see Anglican Rite services in the calendar of regular masses at certain cathedrals and other large Catholic churches, as well as separate, predominately Anglican Rite chapels and churches and seminaries that--like the Eastern Rite Catholic churches--express a culture, but also recognize the primacy of the See of St. Peter.

In England, one idea that eventually may find resonance is shared use by Catholics (including Anglican Rite Catholics) and official Anglicans of the great, under-used and under-funded medieval cathedrals, such as Salisbury, Lincoln and Wells. They were built in the era of Christian unity, after all.

Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox and other Orthodox branches (330 million) also are in discussion with Rome, while a respected Anglican seminary, Nashotah House in Wisconsin, has been in talks with the Orthodox Church (Antioch) recently. What will come out of all this? For the old liturgical churches of Christendom, divided since the 11th century, full reconciliation on some basis is likely; rather sooner than later, it now seems. One thousand years late, old wrongs will be righted, injuries healed.

The circle widens in ways still unforeseen to the orthodox in "mainline' denominations of Protestantism (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) and to the strong, growing number of nondenominational evangelicals. There is no knowing the particularities of revised association, of course. What matters is that orthodox Christians are finding their commonality. C. S. Lewis already has called his Office.

Rather than damaging relations between Christians and Jews, the serious discussions on matters of faith among Christians likewise may be improving understanding, mutual respect and appreciation between Christianity and what John Paul II called "our older brothers in faith."

Reconciliation, at least for those of orthodox faith, will provide an assist for a culture groping for firmer ground.

October 20, 2009

Atheists are Intolerant Even of Atheists Now

NPR has run a story about an atheist schism. It runs roughly between the nice, old fashioned folk who don't believe in God and demand the right to their position, and the new "edgy" atheists who demand that you give up your belief in God. The former are getting fed up with the latter. The latter are annoyed by the former.


This is refreshingly un-P.C., since it displays the coterminous relationship of Darwinism and atheism. (Mainly, Darwinism is atheism in a lab coat.) The growing tactical fight within the Darwinian camp has gone under-reported for some time, perhaps because it makes the culture war even more complex--and harder to cover. The old idea was that there were "creationists" (anyone who disputes the Darwinian account) and "science". It's was a nice, cozy conception for the Ruling Class. But then came intelligent design, positing a scientific case against Darwinism and making a scientific case for design (viz, Signature in the Cell, by Stephen C. Meyer). ID had to be conflated with "creationism" to keep the story simple. And then there came the structuralists--materialists who nonetheless doubt Darwin--and they, tremulous rebels as they are, were mainly ignored.

But then, like an old South Park episode we seem to remember, the atheist/Darwinists started attacking one another. In Seattle recently, Richard Dawkins couldn't resist a swipe at Chris Hitchens. And Flock of Dodos producer Randy Olson, in The New Scientist, tussled with Dawkins himself. The NPR story by Barbara Bradley Hagerty marks a fresh mainstream awareness of such developments.

I am willing to hold the coats for both sides in this brawl.

October 9, 2009

I Don't Debate People I Don't Agree With

Richard Dawkins, oleaginous Oxford intellect, was in Seattle this week and I decided to beard him when he appeared on the Michael Medved show to promote his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth. The source of my irritation was an assertion by Dawkins early in the interview that his comparison of Darwin doubters to Holocaust deniers only applied to creationists, not to intelligent design proponents. I am not a creationist, but I found that statement bigoted.

It should be annoying to anyone that Dawkins would try to fasten creationists with the Holocaust denier label. Creationists may be wrong on the age of the Earth, but they can't deserve Dawkins' moral opprobrium. Pressed by Medved about the Holocaust reference, Dawkins issued so many qualifiers (the creationists' failing, he warbles, is not moral--no, of course not--only "historical") that the reference loses all meaning-- except as a propaganda tactic. The stink of unjustified anti-Semitism remains even after Dawkins' rationalizations. This is like a McCarthyite calling a liberal a "communist sympathizer." Just an historical reference, mind you. No reason for anyone to take umbrage.

In any event, asked by me as a caller why he would not debate Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell,, on the scientific arguments against Darwinian evolution and for ID, Dawkins referred to ID as "creationist". He had just said that he was not tarring ID with the same brush as creationism, and then he used the same crude brush to do just that.

Dawkins' new book actually is notable in that he makes no mention of ID authors or their arguments. He instead battles a straw man: creationists who think the world is a few thousand years old. He knows that they are not his real problem, but he attacks them anyhow. Watch Richard shred the Book of Genesis as a science document! How daring!

Heaven (or whatever) forbid that he should address ID for real. A few years back he managed to review a book of Michael Behe (The Edge of Evolution) for the New York Times without making any serious reference to its arguments. Instead he wallowed in ad hominem aspersions. Plainly, he doesn't even bother reading the case presented by the likes of Behe, let alone the new book by Meyer. (I hate to disillusion the reader, but not all book reviewers actually read the books they are assigned to review.) In the Behe case, Dawkins offered smears in place of refutation.

Dawkins is accustomed now to uncritical notice because (I contend) his metaphysical position confirms the disposition of his reviewers. As an intellectual he is not curious. I guess he feels he doesn't need to be. He doesn't debate opponents (Meyer, Behe, Berlinski) because he really doesn't have any idea what they think. He can make up a crank position for them and assign them to it, secure from contradiction by a supine press.

But even his own current reviews, once the ritual praise is over, hint that the man has become lazy.

September 16, 2009

Speculation on Possible Catholic-Orthodox Reunion

The Catholic Archbishop of Moscow seems to be engaging in wishful thinking in a statement that reunion of Catholics and Orthodox could be close at hand. But there is no doubt that the magnetism of the two major Christian traditions--split for a thousand years--is greater than it ever has been.

The consequences of such a reunion would extend far and deep into the future of the Christian faith worldwide, of course.

September 11, 2009

The Darwinian Creation Story is a Snoozer


"Charles Darwin!" jokes Mathias Brucker, an Austrian friend (adopting the tone of the secular Left), "Why, he was the most important person since Jesus Christ--except, of course, that Jesus wasn't real."

That pretty much sums up the attempted hagiography of the anti-religious crowd in recent years. So a film about the personal life of Darwin, supposedly the greatest man of all time--the one whose birthday, February 12, is to supplant Abraham Lincoln, the current occupant, in American schools--should be a sure-fire seller. Candles will be lit before the movie posters in homes of skeptics around the world.

But the new flick Creation does not seem likely to add to the campaign for sainthood. Like Darwin's concept of life's origins, it just never seems to get started. Even Roger Ebert is rather discouraged.

What to do? Well, the earnest star, Paul Bettany, wants you to know that, contra Ebert, this really is about deicide, after all. The movie, he says, "happens to be about Darwin, who is in the process of killing God."

If that publicity doesn't pack the theaters, what will?

September 10, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth -- Another Circus Comes to Town


The New Scientist may sound like a scholarly science publication, but in covering news it often revels in uninformed and unprofessional attacks on critics of Darwinian evolution. So it is somewhat of a surprise to see the publication produce a not-so-veiled pan of The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins' new book. If the evident disappointment expressed by science filmmaker Randy Olson is at all valid, Dawkins' resemblance to the creator of the original "Greatest Show on Earth," 19th Century circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, is confirmed.

Dawkins doesn't address his real adversaries. He simply ignores Stephen Meyer, whose Signature in the Cell is now leading the science book parade in several Amazon categories. He just dubs opponents creationist reactionaries and assumes that his haughty air will delight his claque and daunt everyone else. He has plenty of ringmaster bluster left, but nothing much to say.

Reviewer Olson, a relentless Darwinist himself, has to complain of Dawkins, "Implying that your audience is stupid does not qualify as a great new angle."

Dawkins not only refuses to debate the likes of Stephen Meyer, he doesn't even take note of answers to his classic arguments. For example, watch this clip, "Climbing Mt. Improbable," from the soon-to-be-released film, Darwin's Dilemma. It's a fine take-down of Dawkins' case for the nearly unlimited power of natural selection.

P.T. Barnum's famously asserted, "There's a sucker born every minute." C. R. Dawkins must be hoping that the suckers still will buy his books.

September 4, 2009

"Bloggingheads" Faces the Guillotine


How many intellectuals and media conveyers will defend free speech and the importance of an unfettered debate of ideas? Fewer and fewer. We are witnessing in America a kind of academic French Revolution, where leading opinion is fratricidal, enraged, fanatical--and then overthrown to make room for a newer fanaticism.

People are not getting their heads chopped off physically, of course, but careers are being sliced off and reputations ruined. Fear is in the air.

There are manifold efforts to chase down, stigmatize and eradicate intellectual dissent, almost all of them in universities and media outlets. There is no recourse for the honest scholar or commentator except to stand up to the bullies, pay the price and then live in peace with his conscience, whatever his resulting--usually diminished--station might be.

But I am most familiar, of course, with the tawdry campaign of Darwinists to misrepresent and punish those scientists and science writers who dissent from Darwinism, or merely are known to associate with dissenters. Think I am exaggerating? Forget the film Expelled and what it revealed. Forget that the man in the film who simply defended the rights of dissenters, Ben Stein, himself has been punished. Just look at what the Darwinists are doing to one another when someone dares to talk to dissenters. The recent Evolution News articles about the fuss at Bloggingheads has a number of excellent pieces on this affair. David Klinghoffer in his article employs the apt metaphor of "ritual contamination."

I use the French Revolution metaphor above. But one also might mention McCarthyism--not the reality alone, but also the hysteria around it. A Christian, citing Dante, among others, could mention human nature and the temptation to pride and its brothers, envy and spite.

But let us also invoke the metaphor of evolution. Would the Darwinists like to explain how natural selection works to cause otherwise mature people in universities and media to ostracize--excommunicate--colleagues who dare to dissent from someone's concept of orthodoxy? Is there a gene for persecution that causes them to hector not merely dissenters but those who are guilty merely of taking the views of dissenters seriously?

Or maybe we should just invoke a television metaphor about childishness: "I have my fingers in my ears! La, la, la, la! I can't HEAR you!"

August 27, 2009

Pope Says "Matter Structured in Intelligent Manner"

"Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man's responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner." --Pope Benedict XVI

The Catholic Church, like other Christian bodies, has a host of folk who support theistic evolution and oppose intelligent design. But the Pope doesn't seem to be one of them. In another remark that probably will get little attention, the Holy Father--in the midst of comments about the environment--described "matter structured in an intelligent matter by God."

Theistic evolution is the curious theological concept that Darwin's theory is right in all its particulars, but somehow God was behind it. God made the process and the process did the work. That is how an inherently "unguided" process was--well--guided.

The theistic evolutionists oppose the idea that intelligent design can be identified specifically in nature itself. (They exempt cosmology, where they acknowledge design.) So they probably don't like the pope talking of creation as "intelligent".

August 15, 2009

A New York Story of Faith

It is a good day when any major publication can tell a true story of faith, and that brings us to The Wall Street Journal's remarkable back-story of the tragic airplane/helicopter accident in New York this week.

The reason it is remarkable is that major papers, such at the Journal, are edited by de facto materialists who usually cannot see anything beyond the surface facts of a situation, and, in this case, the pitiful loss of a number of lives that seem especially significant once one knows more about them. What we sometimes see from a viewpoint of faith, however, is that God's economy is different, of course, from ours, and that transcending actions may take place beyond those of palpable temporal reality. And the effects of an incident like that in New York may extend in directions not initially imagined.

Who knows who was touched by this? Regardless, The Journal did well to give Fr. Jonathan Morris W3 of the Weekend edition. Most contemporary papers would not have grasped the drama behind the drama.

July 8, 2009

Collins Appointment May Stir Unexpected Controversy

Dr. Collins at the signing of President Obama's Executive Order on stem cells. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

The President's nomination of former Human Genome Project head Francis Collins to lead the National Institutes of Health must have seemed like a felicitous decision at the White House. Collins lately has been a popular speaker on science and religion around the country, assuring Christians that there is no problems linking faith in God and faith in Darwinian evolution.

But when the confirmation hearings take place I would not be surprised to hear some sharp questions about Dr. Collins' less known views on subjects that have not come out on his pulpit tours. He is, for example, a strong supporter of President Obama's program on embryonic stem cell research. The head of NIH doesn't have a lot to say about evolution, but he does have a lot to say about research matters in science on key social issues. Stem cells is only one of them.

Conservatives also may want to know Dr. Collins' views on the President's decision to let the Council on Bioethics lapse.

At the same time, Collins is anything but popular on the Darwinian left because, while he affirms Darwin's theory completely, he also works God into the picture, and that especially bothers scientists and pundits in New Atheist circles. It was also known to irritate staff at NIH when he was last there. So you are going to hear some interesting grumbles.

June 24, 2009

Powerful Development in Intelligent Design Case


Steve Meyer is the leader of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute--the organization that puts the most noted critics of Darwinism and proponents of intelligent design onto the field of intellectual competition. He also exemplifies the movement in his own writing, speeches and debates. Publication (by Harper/One) this week of Signature in the Cell assembles the most searching and advanced argument for ID yet. It seems likely to become a classic treatise, a scientific Mt. Probable that Darwinists like Richard Dawkins will not be able to scale by steps small or large. (See

I met Steve almost 15 years ago when he was a popular young professor at Whitworth College in Spokane, not long removed from private sector work in geology in Texas and his doctoral research in the philosophy of science at Cambridge University. He already had emerged as a leader, however. From that time on, Steve's energy and resourceful insights helped re-shape the mission of Discovery Institute and extend the debate over intelligent design world-wide.

During these years he has written many distinguished articles and papers, including the peer-reviewed paper on the Cambrian explosion for The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington that got the journal's editor, Richard Sternberg, into such celebrated trouble at the Smithsonian, as the film Expelled explained. (It's a great story told well in the new book.) All the while, Steve has been a mentor and editor for the other fellows and staff of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute and has given sacrificially of his talent to help others achieve their goals.

Now he has distilled his own research and reflection into one big, pathfinding book. Signature in the Cell could have been a couple of books, actually, since it is packed with so many provocative ideas. But Steve was advised early on by his Discovery friend and colleague George Gilder to "put everything you have into one book," and that's what he has done. Along the way, he also describes his own, often surprising personal journey. There are a number of rollicking inside accounts here not seen anywhere before.

I had the challenge of serving as one of Steve's readers when Signature in the Cell was still in manuscript form this past winter. I relished the learning opportunity. What a relief and thrill for all of us to have it finished and published now. You'll see, it was worth waiting for.

I have to congratulate Steve here, and urge everyone I know who cares about the big ideas that rock our times to read Signature in the Cell. Expect a torrent of contrived Darwinian media alarm, of course, and consider the source. They once accused us of operating mainly as a public relations office, but the opposite is true. Dr. Meyer's scholarship is as sophisticated as his style is accessible. The Darwinists meanwhile are treading very stale water these days and pretending they are swimming in a fresh, sylvan pool.

So, as usual, do your own reading and thinking, and tell your friends. To my own way of thinking, Steve Meyer, with this book, should be recognized as one of the foremost intellectual entrepreneurs of our age.

Jewish Seafarer Discovers a Pair of Christians in a Trap


Theistic evolution is the concept that Darwin's theory of unguided evolution is absolutely true and unquestionable, but that this unguided process was secretly guided by God. (Any evidence of guidance is not for human eyes, however, especially scientists'.) To make this eyebrow raising assertion, theistic evolutionists Ken Miller and Francis Collins want us to believe a version of process theology, where God didn't know how intelligent beings would come out when he set the self-propelling evolutionary process into motion. We could as well have become not human beings, but big brained dinosaurs or intelligent mollusks, as Ken Miller has said. On his religion blog at Beliefnet ("Kingdom of Priests"), David Klinghoffer enjoys a sporting day at sea with the concept.

Theistic evolution makes no sense and simply begs for such satire. As science it defies Darwin's theory, as such Darwinians as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins state. (If theistic evolution is unguided, even behind the scenes, it's not Darwinian evolution.) But theistic evolution also makes a hash of orthodox religious belief.

If the human body is just a fleshy vessel, and not the temple designed for the soul, then the downgraded product is justly relegated to the status of other animals. That's how we get Stephen Pinker and his views on radical animal rights. That is how we get to embryonic stem research, unlimited abortion and euthanasia.

There are reasons why orthodox Christians and Jews have granted dignity to the body; and why, for example, the traditional Judeo-Christian culture opposes self-mutilation. In contrast, the early Christian heresy of gnosticism sought to downgrade the body and set the spirit against it. But Christians especially treat the human body as different from all others and a partner of the soul. For example, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and Anglicans are chief among the Christian denominations, though not the only ones, that attach great significance to the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Christ's body was raised from the dead, as, in Christian cosmology, our human bodies, too, will be raised at the day of Judgement.

It is doubtful that Collins or Miller have much appreciation of the thin theological ice on which they blithely skate. "The theology of the body", Pope John Paul II's phrase, is crucial to the faith, and the "body" that it, the Bible and tradition have in mind is irrefragably human and two legged, not aquatic.

Intelligent design is not involved in this fight since it doesn't identify a designer or get into theological issues. ID does have implications for theology (and philosophy), , of course, as does Darwin's theory. But it doesn't try to make them part of its scientific argument as the theistic evolutionists seemingly cannot resist doing.

May 11, 2009

Smearing the Pope

William Donahue and the Catholic League spend their days counter-attacking those who attack the Catholic Church. It literally is full time work and if you are on their list, you hear from them constantly. What I hope their email readers understand--and, unfortunately, what I doubt that they do understand--is that you cannot trust the media to get a story right. Not just on subjects that reveal anti-Catholic bigotry , but on other forms of bigotry, and much else. It doesn't mean that the media are evil, just unreliable. Here's today's offering:


Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on media reports citing Pope Benedict XVI's membership in the Hitler Youth:

"The English and French news services, Reuters and AFP, flatly say that the pope 'was a member of the Hitler Youth.' The U.K.'s Timesonline writes that he 'was in the Hitler Youth and enlisted with the Wehrmacht,' noting that 'he had the excuse that this was standard practice for young German men at the time.' The Daily Mail from Pakistan reports 'This is a German pope who served in Hitler's youth corps.' Israel Today magazine says many Israelis interpret the pope's visit to the Holocaust Memorial 'as a stunt to cover up his past as a member of the Hitler Youth movement during World War II.' In one article, the Associated Press notes that the pope 'has written that the Nazis forced him' to join the Hitler Youth, and in another it mentions 'Benedict says he was coerced.' Similarly, CBS reports that 'Benedict has said he was coerced.'

"All of this is despicable smear. The New York Times got it right when it said that the pope 'was forced into the Hitler Youth and the German Army in World War II.' also got it right when it noted 'the German pope's obligatory membership as a 14-year-old in Hitler Youth'; it said further that he 'didn't attend meetings and he later deserted when he was drafted into the German army.' Moreover, his failure to attend Hitler Youth meetings brought economic hardship to his family: it meant no discounts for school tuition. None of this was a stunt. Furthermore, no one can deny that the pope was coerced into doing what the Nazis demanded of young men at the time.

"Günter Grass and Jürgen Habermas, two German intellectuals loved by the pope's critics, were also forced to join the Hitler Youth. But because they are left-wing icons, no one implies they are anti-Semitic.

"Even Bill Maher apologized when I blasted him for accusing the pope of being a Nazi. The guilty media should do likewise and correct the record."

Here's a good example from the Catholic League today. To his great credit, the irascible Donahue demands a full confession. When he gets it, by the way, he invariably is charitable. Not that he gets the chance to forgive very often.

March 2, 2009

Exotic Science and Theology in Rome

This week's conference in Rome on Darwin and evolution, nominally sponsored by the Gregorian University and Notre Dame "under the High Patronage of the Pontifical Council on Culture," has a public relations budget to promote some conclusions that would seem to vary from the positions of Pope Benedict. The Council on Culture has little or no funding of its own for such science conferences and has had to accept non-Vatican funding--and the guidance and other strings that go with it.

Intelligent design scientists not only are not present, as a consequence, but their views were misrepresented and trashed ahead of time by the conference organizers. Instead, alongside some rather interesting speakers, you will hear a parade of atheists, agnostics and theistic evolutionists whose common theme is that intelligent design is not science, not theology, nothing at all, really--merely a reactionary sociological phenomenon, a "Protestant" idea, as one source opined recently. This last will be news to the likes of biochemist Michael Behe, biologist Dean Kenyon and neuroscientist Michael Egnor. Such faithful, church-going Catholics "never got the memo," it seems.

But who sent the memo?

Certainly not Pope Benedict XVI. Easily obtained at dozens of kiosks around Vatican City are holy cards with the message from the Holy Father's very first homily as pope: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution," it says. "Each of us is the result of a thought of God."

Later in 2005, Pope Benedict greeted one of his Wednesday audiences with a statement affirming our Earth as "this intelligent project of the Cosmos." (It was also translated as "this intelligent design of the Cosmos.") At the famous Castel Gandolfo meeting with his former theology students in 2006, the pope said that "...(T)he theory of evolution is still not a complete, scientifically verified theory."

Given the outstanding lectures on Creation and the Fall that he gave in Munich--printed in English as "In the Beginning..."not support some version of intelligent design. Of course, to define intelligent design accurately, you really ought to let scientists who support it explain it.

In contrast, brought together to attack ID this week are a number of experts in the erection of straw man arguments--and whose own, seldom inspected theological presuppositions are heterodox, to say the least. It shouldn't matter, of course, what they think about religion. But if it doesn't matter, as the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things asked last fall when he read about the conference plan, why hold the conference down the way from St. Peter's?

In the December First Things Fr. Neuhaus noted the organizers' statement that "proponents of 'creationism and intelligent design' will not be invited."

"The lumping together of creationism and intelligent design is telling," he continued. "They are quite distinct enterprises; the former is typically in defense of a literal reading of Genesis while the latter is a scientifically based theory of purpose or teleology in natural development."

In other words, the conference, Neuhaus went on to observe, will exclude "scientists who, on the basis of scientific evidence, contend, as the Catholic Church contends, for design and purpose in nature. The organizers seem to think they are being even-handed, but it is all quite confusing. One would not like to think that the purpose of the March conference is to secure for the Catholic Church a clean bill of health from (those) who condemn any deviation from scientistic ideology as anti-intellectualism."

Very droll and very correct.

The conference this week takes place in Rome, but it actually is a rally of the organizers, by the organizers and for the organizers. It will reflect their views, not the Vatican's. The issue of evolution and design is still very much alive in the Catholic Church, just as it is--if truth be known--in science.

February 23, 2009

A University Town Arises in the Scrub Brush


Ave Maria, Florida is hard to locate on any conventional map. I discovered that when I tried to drive there from Sarasota in the North rather than from Miami to the Southeast, as I had done once before when I had been given directions. On this occasion I had no luck with Hertz' "NeverLost" tracking system. Never Lost was Lost. Google and Yahoo! declared the town non-existent. I found out later that the U.S. Post Office doesn't think the town exists, either, which is why they have it enrolled as a neighborhood of Immokalee, five miles distant.

Ave Maria's problem is that it is very new. Only a couple of years ago the community was the dream of Thomas S. Monaghan, the Michigan businessman, and otherwise it was thousands of acres of Collier Country scrub brush--palmetto palm bushes and pine trees--in the farming area north of Naples, hugging the Everglades.

But in 2009 Ave Maria already is home to 2,000 souls, most of those souls orthodox Catholic students at Ave Maria University ("the only university that takes its name directly from a line in the Bible," as I once heard Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., theologian in residence, tell a mostly Christian group). In what history would describe as an instant, a Florida version of an Italian piazza has sprung up, graced in its center by an "Oratory", a large, modern church with Gothic sentiments in stone and steel, dominating the landscape for miles in any direction.

Recently the Oratory was the scene of the beginning of a massive new front sculpture of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, putatively the largest Carrara marble sculpture that can be found anywhere. Marton Varo, a Transylvanian (Hungarian) sculptor, is in charge. You can get a picture of what it is to be from this university press release.

Meanwhile, non-students who would like to live in such a town --glorious in winter, hot in summer, beautiful in concept and initial realization of that concept, stimulating whenever the students are around--or even to enjoy a part time residence, have helped through their home purchases to pay for the university's endowment. Sales are slow just now, with only a few new houses going up each month rather than the scores that were typical of the first couple of years. Given the hideous real estate market elsewhere--especially elsewhere in Florida--having any new construction underway is remarkable.

It is not hard to see why the inflow continues. The tourist/pilgrims who visit daily are testimony to the lure of a unique faith-based new town. They can't help but admire the new student halls and dormitories going up before their eyes, but they also must be noticing the new stores, restaurants, schools, fitness center, swimming pool and golf courses. A new, professional quality soccer field has been announced.

Five miles away is the largely immigrant town of Immokalee, population 20,000. As Ave Maria's president Nick Healy told me over lunch, these are the folks who pick your winter tomatoes and make your beds if you are visiting the fine hotels of Naples. He says they are law abiding, quiet and potentially great partners for the neighboring university.

Whether you are religious or a New Urbanist or just a curious connoisseur of the novel, keep an eye on Ave Maria.

January 13, 2009

George Weigel on Richard John Neuhaus


Is it possible that the profoundly knowledgeable Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was a high school drop-out? George Weigel, who not only knew him better than almost anyone and was instrumental in his spiritual journal as well as his professional development, seems to say so in Newsweek. I googled it tonight because I figured that George would have better insights on Fr. Neuhaus than anyone else.

January 9, 2009

Neuhaus on Death

There are going to be many tributes to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, as I wrote some hours ago, but one of the most interesting is suggested by the National Review blog; namely, an article on dying by Fr Neuhaus himself, published nine years ago in First Things and describing his near-death seven years before that. For a Christian it is a compelling report and a solace. It also evokes Fr. Neuhaus in a profoundly intimate way.

January 8, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus: "All the Trumpets Sounded on the Other Side"


One of the few Catholics who would appreciate the quotation above--from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress--was Richard John Neuhaus. He was a small "c" catholic Catholic (as well as a definite "big C", too), a Christian, like C. S. Lewis, who loved all Christians--indeed, all orthodox believers--and tried to draw them closer.

In recent days word got out that he was dying. If you were a friend of "theocons" that news was "all over the Internet." In a way I don't recall witnessing before, a huge family of believers was letting one another know. People were pondering their loss and wondering whether he was irreplaceable. My view is that, yes, Richard John Neuhaus' place is irreplaceable.

Neuhaus was to orthodox Christians what Bill Buckley was to political conservatives, a lodestar of civilization, the repositor of tradition, the judge, the person who selflessly defended the code of intellectual integrity. His columns were like dinner with a virtuous but amusing and well-educated friend. You learned so much. You were so inspired. You had such a good time. It is a source of grief that his work is not going to continue.

Fine tributes will be offered. I personally thank him for his sponsorship of the group Catholics and Evangelicals Together and his broad understanding that the crisis of our culture is more serious than long attenuated denominational strife. It has to do with the question of whether truth can be apprehended at all. Richard John Neuhaus' affirmation resounded, "Yes!"

That is one reason the trumpets have sounded on the Other Side.

My colleague David Klinghoffer, an orthodox Jew, has this assessment:

"There is a lot to be said on the passing of Father Richard John Neuhaus, dean of the theoconservatives, of whom I count myself one. The phrase he is most associated with, which has to do with giving religion a place "in the public square," has become a cliché. Yet clichéd phrases can still refer to profoundly important ideas. The idea that faith has a role to play in public discussions of public issues, notably in politics, did not seem obvious at all when Fr. Neuhaus wrote his controversial 1984 book The Naked Public Square. It's an idea that still has legions of enemies, including among some political conservatives, even as it continues to guide those of us who followed the lead of this brilliant, principled, immensely influential Catholic priest and intellectual.

"His many friends and admirers will remember different things about him. Speaking for myself, he was both an inspiration and an irritant -- one that sometimes inspired by irritating -- a story I told in my first book, The Lord Will Gather Me In. I knew him from New York, when I was an editor at National Review, and he and I had a couple of intense disputatious and personal conversations about Judaism and Christianity that had a definite impact on my spiritual future, if not the one he intended.

"What readers need to know, and what they probably won't read elsewhere, is that Fr. Neuhaus was among the few prominent conservative intellectuals who, when it came to the Darwin debate, really "got it." In his journal First Things he published articles by ID writers like Stephen Meyer and Phillip Johnson on subjects where other conservative journals still fear to tread.

"At the Discovery Institute we'll certainly not forget one of his last written comments, in the December 2008 issue of FT, from his popular blog-style commentary section. It was a typically incisive item on an upcoming "scientific" conference at the Vatican whose organizers have managed to define "science" in such a way that...Well, read it for yourself:

'...[O]ne watches with keen interest the planning for a March conference in Rome sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Gregorian University, and the University of Notre Dame. The conference is to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, and it has been announced that proponents of "creationism and intelligent design" will not be invited. The lumping together of creationism and intelligent design is telling. They are quite distinct enterprises; the former is typically in defense of a literal reading of Genesis while the latter is a scientifically based theory of purpose or teleology in natural development. Fr. Marc Leclerc, a Jesuit philosophy professor at the Gregorian, explained that the organizers "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific" in order to discuss, as Catholic News Service puts it, "rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries." Fr. Leclerc said that arguments "that cannot be critically defined as being science or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level." The report continues: "Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the other extreme of the evolution debate--proponents of an overly scientific conception of evolution and natural selection--also were not invited." So let's see now: The conference is strictly scientific. In that case, there would seem to be no reason for the Church to be sponsoring it, since there are numerous other institutions that attend to the strictly scientific. Then we are told the conference will also include philosophers and theologians, but only those who are rational--meaning, presumably, those who do not raise critical questions about the strictly scientific. We are told it will exclude scientific ideologues who reject what philosophers and theologians have to say about creation, history, teleology, and human nature and will also exclude scientists who, on the basis of scientific evidence, contend, as the Catholic Church contends, for design and purpose in nature. The organizers seem to think they are being even-handed, but it is all quite confusing. One would not like to think that the purpose of the March conference is to secure for the Catholic Church a clean bill of health from [those] who condemn any deviation from scientistic ideology as anti-intellectualism.'"

December 30, 2008

The Idea that Church is for Therapy

Mr. Tierney of the New York Times

John Tierney of The New York Times is an accomplished journalist with a reputation for fairness when he covers religion stories. But his recent column on the value of participation in religious services is unintentionally condescending and unwittingly revealing.

From card-carrying Darwinists to parlor agnostics, elites in the dominant culture seem to regard religion as a social construct. For them the only question about its effects is how to identify the materialistic causes at work. Extensively funded studies are undertaken for this supposedly sober object.

It never seems to occur to such worthies--including Mr. Tierney--that there might be another explanation; namely, that God is real and that worshiping him in a group ("where two or three are gathered together") pleases him. The self-control, inner peace and happiness that Mr. Tierney notes are not the product of some sort of evolutionary process or societal therapy. They are not even the point of religion. They are the byproducts of a genuine relationship with the true God who loves us and wants us to know him. He is present to us in prayer and often especially so when we pray in a group; hence, religious services. Faith is not properly understood as some negotiation or exchange, but the acknowledgement of, and enjoyment of, the Creator by those he created. There is more, but that is enough, and that--it turns out--is plenty.

Open yourself to such an explanation, Mr. Tierney. Recognize it, at least. Because It makes a lot more sense than the explanations you consider in your well-intended but fruitless article.

December 27, 2008

Meddling Bishops

The continuing decline of the Church of England is attested to not only by its manifest confusion over theology, but also in its attempt to distract attention by attacking others.

I certainly am not making a case for the Labor Party ("Labour", to UK readers), but I do think it ridiculous that bishops of a state church should fancy themselves serious participants--at least as the Church--in such plainly political matters as debt management.

December 17, 2008

Chanuka at the White House


The Bush 43 presidency has seen a number of innovations, one of them the institution of Chanuka parties in December at the White House. The place is uniquely and beautifully decorated and it doesn't take too much movement to re-organize from Christmas to Chanuka. Psychologist Diane Medved was there two nights ago, with her son, Danny, joining her, while husband Michael continues his big five week book tour for Ten Big Lies About America (number 18 already, Diane says, on the NY Times list).

Diane describes the Chanuka festivities on her blog and holds out some "surprises" for a later report that I also will link to. (She was at our house last night and filled me in, but I am not so mean as to scoop her here!)

Suffice for now that George W. is the first president to institute a Chanuka party. In a season of many Christmas parties at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it is a welcome addition. The happy reality is that--in our country, in our time--almost all Christians are delighted to recognize their Jewish friends' religion, and the same can be said in return. The Medved family is especially well known for combining resolute Jewish faith and a warm ecumenical embrace. There is no one on radio, for example, who is so persistently amusing as Michael in ridiculing the secularists who campaign to keep Christmas trees out of public places.

Michael completes his book tour with broadcasts from sunny Hawaii over the coming two weeks. Somehow, he was able to persuade his family to accompany him and show their support.

** Update: Ron Radosh, also at the Chanuka party, shares his views on George W. Bush.

Second update: Diane Medved describes (December 18) the unexpected and joyous dancing the culminated the Chanuka party.

December 14, 2008

By Chance or by Design?

Scroll down to the December 10 item of Evolution News (Rob Crowther) and enjoy the lovely whimsy.

The economy not only is terrible, but no one really seems on top of the problem. The terrorists proceed as if the United States hadn't just had an election (didn't anyone tell them to knock it off?). The weather outside is frightful (let it snow, let it snow, etc.), but it all is global warming, anyhow, warm or cold. In short, we should all be in a bad mood.

But in churches all across the world this is the third Sunday in Advent, and Christians are joyful--in the very teeth of adversity.

Can you understand why?

November 21, 2008

Bigotry Finds New Voices--Secularist and Religious

The December First Things, edited by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Joseph Bottum, carries a very satisfying article by Anthony Flew rebuking Richard Dawkins as a "secularist bigot". That is about right, and it is time that this view was expressed by someone who knows the man personally.

Flew is the famous atheist philosopher who announced in 2004 that he had been persuaded by intelligent design arguments to abandon the faith of no-faith and accept a deistic God. It was an honest affirmation by an honest intellectual. For his pains Richard Dawkins, his one-time ally, pilloried Flew in The God Delusion, implying that the old man (85) was senile.

Flew's witty reposte is not yet available online (you should subscribe to First Things anyhow), but I will note especially his takedown of The God Delusion as so lacking in useful content that it shows Dawkins "to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: a secularist bigot."

"Helpfully," he adds, "my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary defines a bigot as an 'obstinate or intolerant adherent of a point of view.'"

On a more academic plane, Flew finds Dawkins guilty of an unforgivable failure in anyone seeking truth in a subject, a "scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine that he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form."

That is, Dawkins, unlike, say, Michael Behe, does not play fair with his opponents. He is a propagandist.

The same may be true, sadly, of some otherwise fine people in an obscure office down a Vatican corridor that is so long it isn't even part of St. Peter's Square. I am talking about the Pontifical Council of Culture that is holding a conference on evolutionary theory next March. Commenting gently but firmly--also in the new First Things--Fr. Neuhaus follows the press comments of a Council spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Marc Leclerc, who explained that an express decision not to invite proponents of "creationism and intelligent design" (which he ties together) is because sponsors "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific."

Fr. Neuhaus analyzes the reasons and excuses proffered and concludes that the real aim seems to be to "secure for the Catholic Church a clean bill of health from....(those) who condemn any deviatiion from scientistic ideology as anti-intellectualism."

November 20, 2008

It's Not the Truth that is Remarkable

What is remarkable is the straight, high profile coverage.
The Seattle Times ran this as the top feature, page one, above the fold. The Seattle Weekly ran a story that also, overall, was fair. KOMO-TV picked it up.

How do readers (and viewers) handle this? If they are pro-choice they can treat it as merely an interesting human interest story about the individuals involved. Or they can trivialize it. (As one critic says, three quarters of human embryos are not viable. Never mind that of the 400,000 frozen embryos in the country the other quarter represents 100,000 human beings . Or they can grouse to themselves, "There probably is something wrong with this that they are not reporting," and turn the page.

Or they can have an epiphany moment and look reality in the face. This is another demonstration of what it means to be human.

Does one have to be a couple longing to adopt a child--and finds it possible through this service--in order to accept the truth? The mind having seen clearly, what does it take to have a conversion of heart?

November 4, 2008

Pope's Wise, if Limited, Message on Evolution

The Vatican has still not really dealt adequately with the issue of Darwinian evolution, but on evolution broadly Pope Benedict XVI continues to make more sense than anyone else in the hierarchy. His greeting last Friday to the Pontifical Academies of Science conference that is now concluding in Rome is well worth reading.

The conference as a whole appears to have been something of a dud, perhaps because it is a closed affair and--more to the point--it has been used to showcase a viewpoint spectrum that ranges only from ardent materialism (Stephen Hawking) to various forms of theistic evolutionism/Deism. Intelligent design was slated for an attack by one participant (Maxine Singer of the United States), but the abstract of that attack betrayed another straw man argument of the kind that Darwinists typically construct in order to avoid real debate. No scientist who supports ID was invited to attend or speak.

That is not the fault of the Holy Father, however. The Academies of Science is a small, mostly self-perpetuating advisory group that does not require members to be religious, let alone Christian, let alone Catholic. It obviously does not command much attention in the Vatican, or, it seems, even the media.


Nonetheless, the Holy Father's welcoming remarks to the conference deserve attention. I particularly liked the image of evolution as a "scroll"--a book--to be read. That sounds like ID to me.

Here are some added thoughts from a friendly, but anonymous, critic:

1. There is a clear affirmation by the Pope of the doctrine of creation: the universe is contingent and had a beginning, it is not something that is self-sufficient and eternally existent. We cannot understand the universe, he says, exclusively on the "horizontal" level of "mutation and transformation," but rather we must acknowledge the vertical or "transcendent origin of participated being."..."In order to develop or evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being." This is a clear affirmation of the orthodox doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

2. By stating that "the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously," the Pope is clearly foreclosing on any deistic interpretation of science. God is involved in Creation for, if He were not, it would not and could not continue to exist. In speaking of Aquinas' views here of the Creator as "the cause of every being and all becoming," the Pope is clearly saying that God is the First Cause of the universe and that the universe is under His intelligent direction -- God is the primary cause of everything that happens, while causes operating on the level of the "horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history," are only secondary causes. Furthermore, in stating that "the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events," there is the suggestion of an Augustinian and Thomistic conception of eternity in which God transcends time entirely and views the universe as a whole from Creation to Consummation as one creative act.

3. The etymological discussion of "evolve" as meaning "to unroll a scroll" as in reading a book is highly unusual and intriguing. The clear reference is to God as the author of nature in the same way that He is the author of Scripture. The book of nature is then read "according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein." As a consequence, the world, rather than being chaotic, "resembles an ordered book." It is cosmos, not chaos. What is more, this book is legible, since it is written in the language of mathematics.

This is similar to how Galileo framed the question. The "legibility" of matter is found in the mathematics that describes it and reveals "the visible inner logic of the cosmos." Naturalism has no explanation for why nature should be intelligible on the basis of mathematics, indeed, for why it possesses any order at all. That the book of nature is written by its Author in the language of mathematics, which is readable by man, is therefore an instance of God's revealing Himself in nature. It is furthermore the only reason that nature is intelligible, for when we study it in such a way, we are seeking to "think God's thoughts after Him." Here the Holy Father is using another interesting expression, one that is usually credited to the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) ("I was merely thinking God's thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature," wrote Kepler, "it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God")

4. Although a bit unclear in his meaning, the Pope states that "there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities." The correspondences in the natural world are clear enough: In the inorganic realm there is a relationship between microstructure and macrostructure, and in the organic realm there is a correspondence between structure and function. "Undeniable finalities" should probably be understood in the Thomistic-Aristotelian context of final causes, that is, purposes. The reason that microstructure has the mathematical description it does is found in the macrostructures it thereby makes possible; the reason that biological structures have the form that they do resides in the functions that they are intended to perform. In the spiritual realm, there is a correspondence and purpose revealed between knowledge of the truth and freedom. I can only interpret this in light of John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." This is an oblique reference to Christ as the Light of the World who releases us from darkness and bondage into knowledge of who God is.

5. Finally, Pope Benedict reaffirms John Paul II's reflections on the origin of the human soul and the Magisterium of the Church in stating that "every spiritual soul is created immediately by God" and is not "'produced' by the parents." This is an affirmation of (theological) creationism over traducianism as an explanation of the origin of the soul. The Pope furthermore affirms the immortality of the immaterial soul. Both of these affirmations make it clear that there is a distinction to be made between human beings and the rest of the biological world -- there is a spiritual break in continuity between humanity and others of God's creatures. As the Pope says, "[t]his points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought." Humanity has a unique place in the cosmos.

In short, the Pope seems not only open to intelligent design, but he affirms it in the sense that nothing takes place in the universe apart from God's sustaining life and authors it--that order being revealed in our study of nature through the language of mathematics. The Pope is rejecting the neo-Darwinian view that humanity is the end result of blind processes that did not have him in view.

October 29, 2008

David Brooks: A Modern Chesterton?

by Logan Gage

Phillip Johnson once remarked that if one were to take a high school biology textbook and replace every word that read "evolution" with "design" the content of the book would remain the same. That is, Darwinian evolution plays a largely narrative, rather than descriptive, function.

I've often thought the same about New York Times columns from David Brooks. Every once in a while, after a beautiful 700-word description of the frailty of the human condition, or after a Hayekian description of the limits of human knowledge, Brooks will slip in the word "evolution" in meta-narrative fashion. But if one were to insert instead more traditional, even theological words or phrases (say: "original sin" or "depravity," etc.) the content would remain largely the same.

For instance, his latest column, "The Behavioral Revolution." I believe that you will see what I mean in his description of the limits of human knowledge and his critique of modern social science. He writes, "Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest. But during this financial crisis, that way of thinking has failed spectacularly." With a more theological analysis, we would see that modern social science treats men like machines (The Abolition of Man, anyone?) when they are much more than that: they have immaterial souls and rather corrupt hearts which do not fit into the reductionist's analysis.

Brooks thinks that "sophisticated psychology" is showing us that the materialist analysis is not incorrect, that we do not perceive situations as Spock-like creatures. But the common man thinks this common sense. Brooks writes of a scholar who "believes that our brains evolved to suit a world much simpler than the one we now face." The scholar believes, among other things, that evolution explains "our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we've actually benefited from dumb luck."

But the evolutionary answer perpetuates the materialist's problem. If we are only matter in motion, merely the products of our environment, the social science models should work perfectly. If Brooks would only look to the older, common sense view he would find a more satisfying answer.

Brooks seems to have a very keen sense of the human condition, but the evolutionary meta-narrative doesn't really fit as well as the old theology. He reminds me of G.K. Chesterton who remarked that after spending years trying to come up with his own religion, after puting the finishing touches on it, ideas about humanity and God and the state of contemporary society, a curious thing happened: He took a step back only to realize that his syncretistic heresy was actually orthodoxy.

I suspect the same may happen to Mr. Brooks.

It sounds like an improvement at Oxford

Richard Dawkins' replacement plans on steering his predecessor's position away from attacking God and replacing it with a more general approach to science and public understanding. Sounds like an improvement.

August 7, 2008

Gutsy Article on Science Students Still Avoids Problem of Anti-Religious Prejudice

The Chronicle of Higher Education shows courage in publishing a non-P.C. article by Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars that describes the real, as opposed to the putative, obstacles to increasing the number of American-born and educated scientists. Anti-intellectualism is a big part of it.

There is a problem, however, that Peter Woods overlooks, either because it doesn't occur to him or because he doesn't wish to spur the science establishment to even more outrage by mentioning it. That problem is the contemporary hostility that many committed Christian young people, and perhaps other religious youth, encounter in the sciences these days. Even those who have not experienced it become alert to it and, in turn, may be discouraged.

Darwinists can deny that this is the case, but a serious study, I submit, would show that it is so. Asked in private, when their words can't be twisted and asked in a neutral manner, many religious students report a classroom environment that demeans religious belief and demeans religious people. If it is known that they do not accept Darwinian accounts of the rise and development of life, or even the development of universe before life arose on Earth, students know that they could be graded down in some classes (a certain University of Minnesota biology class comes to mind, but it is unusual only in the professor's lack of subtlety). If they decide to seek an advanced degree the opposition will be stronger and they normally dare not express their convictions. If they somehow get a doctorate, they cannot expect a teaching position, or recommendations, once any serious dissent from Darwinism is detected. And if they secure a job they will not get tenure if word leaks out (see Expelled). Even after they have tenure they can still be maligned and harassed and even effectively demoted.

Does anyone at CHE or the National Association of Scholars wish to contest either that many religious students are aware of this situation or that it can be a disincentive for a career in science? Or that in many cases their apprehensions are well-justified? Articles can be written that pooh-pooh what I have just written. But many youth know otherwise. Anecdotal evidence perhaps, but I have talked to a number of them.

How many students might we be talking about? Probably a minority.

But possibly a big minority. It's part of the group that loves science at first, and then is turned off.

Lost in some cases to contemporary dogmatism and bigotry. A country that really cared to raise up a larger community of scientists would address it.

August 5, 2008

Klinghoffer Plays the Religion Card

It is outrageous! David Klinghoffer is interviewed by Kathyrn Lopez for National Review on the political implications of the Bible and how God would vote. The nerve! Even worse, both Lopez and Klinghoffer manage humor while discussing a serious topic. Surely this is not allowed?

July 27, 2008

Hypocrisy at University of Minnesota; Self-Exposed

The University of Minnesota has now made clear that it is within the orbit of academic freedom at that institution to engage in active religious bigotry--in the case of P.Z. Myers, desecrating the Eucharist from a Catholic Church--while it is not within the reach of academic freedom to teach any criticisms of Darwinian evolution or the scientific case of intelligent design. This comes from the Catholic League:


The Chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMN) released a statement today regarding the intentional desecration of the Eucharist by Professor Paul Z. Myers. "I believe that behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible," said Jacqueline Johnson. Importantly, she added that the school's Code of Conduct prohibits such behavior. However, she also stressed that academic freedom allows faculty members "to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint...." Nowhere did she say Myers would be disciplined.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

"This is classic: Johnson admits that Myers has violated the UMN's Code of Conduct and then proceeds to tell us why he is being allowed to do so with impunity--it's a matter of academic freedom.

"Academic freedom is not the issue: academic malpractice is. For example, Section 10.21 (b) of UMN's Tenure Code explicitly says that a tenured faculty member can be terminated or suspended for 'unprofessional conduct which severely impairs a faculty member's fitness in a professional capacity.'

"In 2001, this part of the Tenure Code was invoked against a professor at UMN because he had images of child porn on his computer. It should now be invoked against Myers, and that is why we will appeal to UMN's Board of Regents to do just that. It strains credulity to maintain that Christian students can expect fair treatment by a faculty member who has publicly shown nothing but contempt for their religion.

"It is a sure bet that UMN would not tolerate a white professor who worked a comedy club on weekends trashing blacks. Indeed, it would say that such behavior disqualifies his ability to be objective. In many respects Myers is worse, and that is why sanctions are warranted."

Contact Myers at

Contact President Robert Bruininks at

Susan A. Fani Director of Communications Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights New York, NY 10123 212-371-3191 212-371-3394 (fax)

July 24, 2008

Anti-Catholicism Finds a Home at University of Minnesota

The reason that many if not most of the leading Darwinists are so passionate about suppressing critics is that they really are practicing their own religion, crusading atheism. Richard Dawkins is again on public television in the U.K. denouncing foes of the theory that seems to constitute his liturgy and his eschatology. Meanwhile, Dawkins' favorite side-kick in America--the activist who joined him in attempting to crash an invitation-only preview of the film Expelled last spring in Minneapolis--has made a public show of desecrating the Eucharist, what Catholics accept as the body of Christ. P.Z. Myers, a Darwinist cult figure in his own right, teaches and preaches atheism in the Biology Department of the University of Minnesota. From there he composes Pharyngula, said to be the most popular "science blog" on the Internet. There, too, he has just posted a photo of a consecrated communion wafer. He says he drove "a rusty nail" through it and then threw it in the garbage. He hints that there are more to come.

If you are a Catholic, this is a sacrilege. Even if you are not a Catholic, it exhibits disgusting bad taste.

To answer charges that he would not dare do any such thing to Islam, Myers threw some pages torn from the Quran into the garbage, too. Give him credit; he's an equal opportunity destroyer.

Myers is jubilant. The Eucharist is "just a cracker," he keeps writing, just as the Quran pages are just "paper." He will decide what is offensive and what is not.

What does offend him is that a large number of people have emailed him to protest and denounce him. He also says he has been threatened physically. If so, shame on anyone who did so. Even threats of that sort are against Christian teaching, not to mention stupid and possibly illegal.

However, I have been threatened for far, far less--just expressing dissenting views on evolution.

Words physically weigh less than the consecrated Host. They are "nothing". And yet words that offend Myers and his fellow Darwinist apparatchiki can drive them to deeds of vigorous punishment. Restraint and scholarly good will are for other people. The mere words that Darwin doubters have raised in schoolrooms and lecture halls incite P. Z. Myers to call for punishments of flunking for students, expulsion for graduate students and firings for professors.

So words apparently matter in those cases. What gets thrown in the trash then are normal rules of civilized discourse, followed by people's careers.

William Donohue of the Catholic League is on Myers' case. So is columnist Mark Shea. But the University of Minnesota, which normally is P.C. with a vengeance, apparently doesn't think P.C. applies to P.Z. The New York Times that loved it when Myers crashed the pre-screening of Expelled, can't find any news in this. The National Center for Science Education, whose leaders often have lauded and applauded Myers--all the while professing to assorted school boards and legislative committees that Darwin's theory is "perfectly compatible" with religious faith--now is silent.

Here is Bill Donohue's latest:


University of Minnesota professor Paul Z. Myers made good on his pledge to desecrate the Eucharist today. According to his statement on the subject, "I pierced it [the Host] with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus's tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash."

Saying he did not want to "single out just the cracker," Myers also tore pages from the Koran along with a few pages from Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and nailed them to the Host. He then said, "They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. (His emphasis.) Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet."

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

"A formal complaint against Myers has already been made. What he did--in both word and deed--constitutes a bias incident, as defined by the University of Minnesota. The policy says that 'Expressions of disrespectful bias, hate, harassment or hostility against an individual, group or their property because of the individual or group's actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion...can be forms of discrimination. Expressions vary, and can be in the form of language, words, signs, symbols, threats, or actions that could potentially cause alarm, anger, fear, or resentment in others...even when presented as a joke.'

"The University must now take action and apply the appropriate sanction. We are contacting the president, Board of Regents and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office at the school, as well as Minnesota's governor and both houses of the state legislature; the Catholic community in Minnesota is also being contacted. Moreover, we are also contacting Muslim groups nationwide.

"It is important for Catholics to know that the University of Minnesota will not tolerate the deliberate destruction of the Eucharist by one of its faculty. Just as African Americans would not tolerate the burning of a cross, and Jews would not tolerate the display of swastikas, Catholics will not tolerate the desecration of the Eucharist."

Contact Myers at

Contact President Robert Bruininks at

June 2, 2008

Now for a Film about Yoko Ono, Would-Be Censor

There are several good news stories on today's development in the federal court case in which Yoko Ono seeks to prevent further distribution of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein film. And then there is this one from ars technica:

Notice the way the writer feels obliged to abuse free speech--by misrepresenting intelligent design--even as he defends it.

We still do have free speech protections in America, but we also have the right to tie up opponents in tactical lawsuits, which is just what Yoko Ono did at a crucial point in the screening of Expelled. Nonetheless, Expelled has become one of the most-viewed theater-released documentaries ever.

We are not quite at the point where there should be a film about the way Expelled itself was attacked, but there is a story there.

The spirit of authoritarian censorship is all over the cultural left these days. These were the same people who opposed authority back in the 60s, weren't they--people like John Lennon and Yoko Ono? "Imagine"!

May 7, 2008

The Non-Existent "War on Science"

Michael Gerson cannot bring himself to point out the theme of the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that has been in theaters for three weeks now, but he still hits the mark with his column on the bogus "War on Science" issue that certain liberals have tried to float. He cites a useful paper by Yuval Levin of Ethics and Public Policy Center. Both are former Bush White House officials.

April 28, 2008

Yet Another New Berlinski Book Out--this time in France


David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (reviewed brilliantly by George Gilder in the new National Review) is just arriving in book stores, while in Paris an entirely different, and also invaluable, book, Origines (Origins), has been published this week in French by Saint-Simon.

Those who know Berlinski's exquisite scientific inquiries into the origins of life, mind and matter will recognize the themes. As the dust jacket states (translated here into English):

Here are three great mysteries: the existence of the human mind; the existence of living creatures; and the existence of matter.
Why are they there?
Many scientists claim that while we cannot answer these questions in detail, we can answer them in a general way.
Can we indeed?
In this profoundly provocative book, David Berlinski, the best-selling author of La vie revee des maths and Une breve histoire des mathematiques (A Brief History of Mathematics), examines these questions, and argues that it is far from certain that we have answered them at all.
Origins will appeal to readers who believe that these great questions have been settled, and to readers who believe that they have not.

(And just to test your French:

Voici trois grands mystères: l'existence de l'esprit humain, l'existence de
les créatures vivantes, et l'existence de la matière.
Pourquoi sont-ils?
Nombreux sont les scientifiques qui prétendent que, si nous ne pouvons pas répondre à ces questions en détail, nous
vous pouvez y répondre d'une manière générale.
Peut-on en effet?
Dans ce livre provocateur profondément, David Berlinski, l'auteur de
La vie revee des maths et Une brève histoire des mathematiques, examine ces
questions et fait valoir qu'il est loin d'être certain que nous avons répondu à tous.
Origines fera appel aux lecteurs qui croient que ces grandes questions ont été
réglé, et aux lecteurs qui croient qu'ils n'ont pas.)

David is back in Paris after his U.S. tour and the opening of the Ben Stein film, Expelled, in which his role is prominent. He will return to these shores in a few weeks, speaking, among other places, at the annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm conference, held this year at Lake George, New York from May 27 to 29.

April 24, 2008

Oh, No! Not Ono!

A haiku dedicated to Yoko:

Yoko Ono mad
"Imagines" bad infringement
Stein movie Expelled?

Editorial comment: How can Left-wing Darwinists be so dense as to think that the way to deal with a film about their efforts to shut down dissenting scientists is to try to shut down the film, too? They are just proving the film's point! (See this release from the Expelled producers, received today.)

April 18, 2008

"My ideas didn't 'evolve'; I changed my mind."

This is the footnoted version of the article that ran in Thursday's Seattle Times.

April 14, 2008

"Expelled Exposed"--Exposed

Richard Dawkins and the evolution lobby do not see eye to eye on strategy. But it seems that the National Center for Science Education and "Expelled Exposed", the NCSE's website assailing the film Expelled, don't want you to know that. The situation is evident in the film that opens Friday, for all to see. The interviews with Dawkins are dispositive.

First we meet Eugenie Scott of NCSE, sounding so invincibly cheery that one suspects she must moonlight for the Oakland, CA Chamber of Commerce. She relishes telling about all the nice religious people she has lined up around the country to support Darwinian theory.

But then, here comes Dawkins, backed by a parade of voluble atheist scientists who far outrank Scott. They are the famous experts, she is a lobbyist with a political approach that is too-smart-by-half. They don't want any more confusion raised in people's minds about whether religion is compatible with an accurate understanding of evolution.

It is not a question of who is more of an atheist. The NCSE is stuffed with atheists. The difference is over whether to lead with atheism, or hide it while you charge that the other side--the ID supporters--are the ones with a religious agenda. Indeed, Eugenie Scott makes this religious case against ID "creationism" in one speech after another, including, without irony, speeches to one atheist conclave after another.

But the evangelizing atheism that Dawkins and other top Darwinian scientists present to the Expelled audience--even including personal witness accounts of how they variously came to faithlessness upon hearing the Gospel of Darwin--is a political embarrassment for the NCSE. It probably is not a topic in the film the NCSE would like to discuss. It also is not a subject its close allies in the media and higher education want aired.

In turn, the NCSE's coy reticence about the end-game plainly annoys the world's most famous Darwinist. Dr. Dawkins rejects the pretense that real Darwinism is neutral on religion. Oh, you can believe that if you want, just as you can believe in "fairies at the bottom of the garden." But, believing that Darwin and religion are compatible doesn't make them compatible. Interviewed for Expelled, Dawkins makes clear that neo-Darwinism, properly understood, virtually compels atheism and leaves no room for religion, and, further, that this truth is being fudged by people in the "science lobby, evolution lobby" (the NCSE).

"There's a kind of science defense lobby or an evolution defense lobby, in particular," he tells the camera. "They are mostly atheists, but they are wanting to --desperately wanting -- to be friendly to mainstream, sensible religious people. And the way you do that is to tell them that there's no incompatibility between science and religion."

This plainly rankles.

"If they called me as a witness, and a lawyer said, 'Dr. Dawkins, has your belief in evolution, has your study of evolution turned you toward (atheism)?' I would have to say yes. And that is the worst possible thing I could say for winning you that court case. So people like me are bad news for...the science lobby, the evolution lobby."

He adds, "By the way, I'm being a helluva lot more frank and honest in this interview than many people in this field would be."

Dawkins wants an end put to pussy footing. The NCSE, however, wants to pussy foot as long as possible. That way they can enlist nominally religious people and people who wrongly think they can be both Darwinists (holding that there there is no guidance in nature) and theists (holding that there is guidance in nature, however disguised). If there are ministers and scientists who want to "believe" in Darwinism and also in a God who actually plays some active role in the world, or in the Easter Bunny, for that matter, the NCSE wants them on board. In fact, they must be pushed forward so they can gull the public and, one might add, the media and the courts.

Trouble is, here is Richard Dawkins in Expelled--exposing the NCSE.

Apparently, relations are strained between Oxford and Oakland and have been for some time. Now that story is real, unlike the straw men the NCSE's website is trying to construct.

April 7, 2008

Springtime for Darwin

Schools are in recess this time of year, so busloads of girls using "like" as a verbal crutch and wise cracking, baggy pants boys are wending their way through the cherry blossoms of America's capital. In these security-conscious times, when it is harder than ever to get a tour of the White House or Capitol, parents and chaperones are quick to steer the young to the Mall.

Morganucadon.jpgA traditional favorite is the National Museum of Natural History, where for several years now Darwinian fairytales have been presented in an exhibit on mammals. Young human offspring at the museum are encouraged to have a family reunion with their "relatives", including chimps, dogs, and mice. Here are strange just-so stories proposed as fact, telling the gullible, for example, how the giraffe evolved its neck. Presto-change-o. At the core of the exhibit is a tiny rodent whom the naïve teens are supposed to venerate as their direct ancestor. It cost a lot of money to bamboozle the folks this way. And you taxpayers paid for it.

Yes, this is the same Natural History museum where an affiliated scientist
bragged in one of the emails the House of Representatives found a couple of years ago that her own son uses "under dog" instead of "under God" when saying the
Pledge of Allegiance.

For the more discerning visitors, a trip to Mt. Vernon is recommended. Thank goodness for old-fashioned philanthropy and a non-ironic perspective. George Washington's home boasts a lavish new visitors' center and education program that puts government museums to shame. The heroic history of the Revolution is evoked in a stirring orientation film written by Lionel Chetwynd.

Mt. Vernon is not hesitant to hail our true ancestor-in-patriotism as the hero he was, the flesh-and-blood Father of his Country. It's a lot easier for a kid to look up to George than down to a rodent.

April 4, 2008

Berlinski on C-span Saturday, in person in DC, LA, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, etc. for two weeks

With evident personal satisfaction, David Berlinski sashayed (or did he
"chasse"?) around Washington this week in promotion of The Devil's Delusion, heralded by an article in Harper's ("The Evidence of Things Not Seen") and another in Commentary ("God of the Gaps"). C-Span covered his Discovery Institute talk at our DC offices and will air it Saturday night (11:00 Eastern, 8:00 PDT) and again Sunday.

He's good, this man. If there were "best supporting role" awards for documentary films, Berlinski would win for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

41OgoYf7pEL._SL150_.jpg He will be in Los Angeles this weekend, Seattle for a week, then Dallas,
Minnesota, San Francisco, back to DC, and, I don't know where else. New York, I think. There are some excellent reviews pending, I am told--it is not considered LC (literarily correct) to say what you know on this topic.

The Darwinian Establishment that Berlinski eviserates so surgically surely
will try to slice him back. Maybe they can get the NYT to assign the review to Dawkins, as happened to Mike Behe's latest. There's nothing like a studious, objective reader.

WHO cares? The Devil's Delusion is climbing at Amazon and will surely
eclipse the other attacks on the "Atheists' scientific pretensions" that gained attention in recent months. For anyone who is really objective, The Devil's Delusion will eclipse the atheists themselves.

March 24, 2008

Now "Sycophants" in Seattle Applaud Ben Stein

A crowd of 350 invited guests attended a pre-screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed tonight in Seattle's Pacific Place. I can see now why the eminent Richard Dawkins, who crashed a screening in Minneapolis last week, remains so upset about Ben Stein's movie. He must not have realized until he sat in the theater last week and heard people laughing at him on the screen that he had made himself look foolish. On his website he calls the audience "sycophantic."

Among other things, he writes that before he was interviewed he didn't know who actor/economist/columnist Ben Stein was or that his droll monotone had comedic appeal to those strange Americans. He's so "boring," Dawkins writes. (Ferris Bueller thought the very same, Richard.)

Of Stein's laconic inquiry as to whether he saw any way intelligent design could occur in the universe, Dawkins complains that "I was charitable enough to think he (Stein) was an honestly stupid man seeking enlightenment from a scientist."

How typically "charitable" of Dawkins that he had such a generous thought. And then to have his charity betrayed when the cheeky Yankee actually used Dawkins' extensive reply in the film!

In Seattle, the sycophantic audience chuckled, then guffawed as Stein slowly winkled out of Dawkins the answer that intelligent space aliens might have "seeded" the Earth with its first life molecule. (Actually, does anyone wonder why those "highly evolved" aliens would stop with creating a mere molecule? After coming so far, why not linger and go all the way, create, oh, I don't know, fishes and amphibians and human beings while they were at it?)

So now he deplores the film's "cheap laughs at expense of scientists who are making honest attempts to explain difficult points." He means himself. He's a victim, see. So is his buddy, P. Z. Myers, who started attacking the film weeks ago on his blog, and was not let into the Minneapolis shindig.

Yet in his blog Dawkins complains that Expelled's tale of persecuted scientists seems "whiny" to him.

I suspect that Dawkins may have been upset, furthermore, to see captured on film the hard swipe he takes at Eugenie Scott and the accommodationist strategy of the National Center for Science Education. It is a telling moment, and give credit to Dawkins for his candor about the atheism baked into Darwinism and the deceitful nature of the NCSE's claims of compatibility between Darwinism and religion. He does a commendable job of pulling the veil aside.

Less candor is apparent as Dawkins returns to his charge (made in The New York Times) that the film unfairly shows Darwinism's influence on Nazi race policies. "The alleged association of Darwinism with Nazism is harped on for what seemed like hours, and it is quite simply an outrage," he scolds. Having seen that statement before last night's screening, I tried as best I could in the dark to clock the time in the film devoted to the Nazis. It was roughly 10 minutes. That included Ben Stein's chilling interview with the head of the museum at the former sanatorium at Hadamar, near Dachau, where the director readily acknowledged--even insisted on--the Darwinian provenance of the Nazi treatment of the handicapped "patients" there. And it included clips from Nazi propaganda films that eerily advocate the line of "natural selection" in human beings. How can you argue with that? The film is careful to qualify the case of Darwinism's influence on Nazi policies. But evidence of influence is abundant. (Much more could have been used if the film really had spent "hours" on the subject.)

As I have noted before, the Expelled producers are nervous about what they see as potential efforts by screening interlopers to record the film and expose it in ways that would damage its commercial value. In Seattle, even some of the "sycophants" were chuckling as a boilerplate copyright protection warning was read aloud. But I don't think any in the audience would have characterized the person who read it the way Dawkins characterizes the one who read it in Minneapolis--as a "Gauleiter."

A "Gauleiter"? A Nazi district leader?

Funny word choice for a man who is unhappy that Expelled raises the question of Darwinian theory's influence on the Nazis.

Dawkins on his website is at pains to protest that he himself does not promote a Darwinian society. Good for him. But he might be more persuasive if he were willing to concede that a Darwinian society not only would have the potential to become a fascist state--which he does--but also that once in history Darwinist views contributed to creating just such a state.

After last night's screening, a good part of the crowd in Seattle stayed around as long as the theater management would allow to talk with three of the Darwin critics and ID scientists who were interviewed in the movie. I wish Richard Dawkins had snuck into that event so they could have invited him to join them.

March 22, 2008

Dawkins Raises Another Issue to Debate

The New York Times story on Richard Dawkins' gatecrashing a special screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed in Minneapolis Thursday night contains the usual boilerplate bias of reporter Cornelia Dean. (Expelled is a "creationist" film, you see, and ID is an "ideological cousin of creationism", etc.).

(Read the story here:

Nonetheless, Dean's report contains two nuggets. One is that Dawkins had flown to Minneapolis to accompany P. Z. Myers to a convention of atheists. That underscores the real mission of these gents, as I have said before. When they accuse ID supporters of injecting religion into science they really are just projecting.

Second, and more important, Dawkins says that the film's references to the linkage of Darwinist thought and the Nazi's race policies is a "major outrage." Great. Let him debate that with scholars who, unlike the one-time zoologist, now turned polemicist, actually have studied the matter.

No one in the film, and certainly not Richard Weikart, historian and author of From Darwin to Hitler, sees one-to-one causality. But Darwinist thought did influence the Nazis. Probably more than anywhere, the ideas of racial superiority and eugenics were fervently advocated in Germany for decades, among others, by the noted Darwin enthusiast Ernst Haeckel. As a result, race theory and eugenics were not a hard sell to the German volk, including educated people, when the Nazis took charge.

Lovely stuff. Maybe Dawkins should make a tour of it.

In Expelled, Ben Stein does.

March 21, 2008

Richard Dawkins, World's Most Famous Darwinist, Stoops to Gate-crashing Expelled

Like many films in pre-release, Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is being selectively screened around the country to develop a buzz.

Press will be invited to screen the final version in three weeks, I'm told, while the official opening in theaters is April 18. Surprisingly, even the private screenings are causing excitement. Audiences love it.

In January I saw an early version that was screened in Fort Lauderdale and I will be at a Seattle screening soon. The Darwinists who are portrayed in the film -- giving answers to questions submitted in advance! -- are worried about what the public will think of their views when produced incontrovertibly in their own words. What they say is damning, all right, but it's not much different than what they write in books and say in speeches and other appearances.

There is a growing fear by the producers that Darwinists may be trying get into the showings to make bootleg copies (for the Web?), possibly in hopes of damaging the commercial value. Others may be crashing because they want to trash it before it even gets reviewed by the media. P.Z. Myers, who was not let into a showing last night in Minnesota, probably falls in the latter category.

Amazingly, the best selling Oxford scientist/author Richard Dawkins also crashed a showing of Expelled in Minnesota last night and he not only was let in, but introduced at the end of the showing.

Dawkins apparently acknowledged that he had not been invited and did not have a ticket. A sophomoric side to his ideological campaign is thus revealed.

Dawkins, understandably is nervous about this film, among other reasons because Ben Stein has him on camera acknowledging that life on Earth may, indeed, have been intelligently designed, but that it had to have been accomplished by space aliens! This is hilarious, of course, because Dawkins is death on intelligent design. But it turns out that that view applies only if it includes the possibility that the designer might be God.

Myers, of course, relished being expelled from Expelled, but objective observers know that Myers is the most vociferous advocate of expelling Darwin critics from academia. Not from movie pre-screenings where he wasn't invited, mind you, but from their jobs. Too bad the film doesn't show (and I wish it had), his promotion of advice to attack teachers and professors who dare question Darwin's theory. The whole point of Myers is that he is a take-no-prisoners, crusading atheist scientist who has made it his purpose in life to harass people who disagree with him. Dawkins turns out to be his buddy and mutual admirer.

Frankly, I wish the producers would have a special pre-release screening for the Darwinists who are interviewed in the film -- and invite some of the rest of us who have seen their depredations up close. We'd be glad to debate right there.

Among other things, I'd like to read some of the Darwinists' statements and charges back to them and ask them to defend themselves. One of the most preposterous is that the well-funded' Discovery Institute is funding this film! ( 1-They seem to have far more money available to them than we do, and 2-We are saving our pennies for the upcoming Broadway musical comedy, Darwin's Folly.)

I have to say something else, personally. I have been sandbagged by one TV and documentary crew after another. So have Discovery-affiliated scientists. The interviewers all say they just want to understand the issue. Going in, they are quite clear about definitions, for example, and only start using Darwinist definitions of our positions when they report. They never provide questions in advance and even if they say they will stick to science questions and public policy, almost all sneak in questions about personal religious beliefs. Then, of all the footage, guess what gets on TV or in the documentary?

So it really is pathetic of Dawkins, et al to complain that when they were interviewed for Expelled they didn't know that the film was inherently unfriendly. These are interviewees who received pre-agreed questions, signed release forms after the interviews were conducted, and actually got paid for their time.

I am getting more excited about Expelled myself and can't wait to see the finished version. I suspect I'll wish that the film was twice as long and had twice as much from Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, et al. From what I already have seen, they really expose themselves as the anti-intellectual, bullying poseurs they are -- small men who above all are afraid of a fair contest.

February 21, 2008

A Rennaisance Town in 21st Century Florida

One is impressed immediately with the daring vision of Ave Maria, the strangely named university and new town emerging rapidly from the scrub pines and palmetto palms of rural south-west Florida. As former Chancellor Fr. Joseph Fessio (who is now Theologian -in-Residence) once quipped to some other Christians, "It's the only university whose name is taken directly from a passage in the New Testament." ("Ave Maria," of course, is Latin for "Hail, Mary!", what the angel announced to the lowly virgin betrothed of the carpenter, Joseph.)

The unusual name probably puts off some people; it sounds almost medieval and certainly very Catholic. Yet it also attracts. Here is a new physical community built around an ideal of social community. If you envision a utopian or millenarian setting of the kind that Americans attempted in the 19th century, forget it. Ave Maria is not exclusionist in any sense (an early legal aspiration to ban pornography was abandoned as impractical). Yet it does have an unmistakable Christian and Catholic sense to it. Some religious orders are sending members there and one or more may open houses. Christians may find in it a haven; others will be satisfied that it is stimulating, pretty, clean and safe.

Thomas S. Monahagn, the Domino's Pizza founder, decided a decade or more ago to spend much of his fortune on building a university that was strong on the Western scholastic tradition and clearly orthodox. He started with a law school in Michigan and hoped to develop a full university, but he ran into local zoning problems. Then, as a good entrepreneur as well as a pragmatic visionary, he decided to re-locate the university to somewhere it would be welcomed, and that turned out to be the still-capacious open country west of the Everglades and northeast of Naples.


Monaghan and his associates also saw the benefit of developing a new town around the university. The idea was to sell homesites and homes to adults who would like to pioneer living in a university town. That would provide a profit stream for the university (which will lack much of an alumni base for some time, after all), while providing a wholesome environment for students and a unique living experience for residents.

Traveling from Sarasota to Miami recently, I veered off of Interstate-29 on Florida's West Coast, taking a 15 mile detour to Ave Maria. The freeway rush yielded to standard off-ramp convenience stores, and finally woods and ranchland. Then abruptly, one has the pleasant sensation of arriving at a distinctly defined place that--like a gold rush town, but with good taste and planning--is going up so fast that in a month from now it probably will look different--and different again another month later.

There seem to be cranes and construction sites around each corner. Because the design controls are so sound, moreover, there is no sense of waste or quality erosion. About half the shops in the small downtown are either occupied or in preparation for tenants. One restaurant is open now, with three more about to appear. There are subdivisions under different developers' direction, one big golf course already in use, assorted new park and recreation facilities, a "water park," at least one school I found, and, naturally, many new university buildings.

But the beating heart of downown is the Oratory, a striking, stone and steel church whose design derives from the idea, if not the style, of a Gothic cathedral. It was just being completed when I visited. The diocesan bishop has not yet authorized dedicatory religious services, but about 800 to 1000 visitors are appearing each weekend just to look around. (Masses currently are being given in the university's Student Union Center.) In my imagination I could see that the Ave Maria Oratory is going to produce many happy memories of academic ceremonies for years to come, not to mention the diurnal doings of community masses and prayer vigils. This is a church that will be in use constantly.


A major reason the Oratory works aesthetically is its setting within a town plaza whose design might be called Florida Italian Rennaissance. If somehow an earthquake leveled a lovely northern Italian Hill Town and the people wanted to rebuild, the town plaza might be reconstructed along these lines, with the intimacy of antiquity, abetted by air conditioning and modern plumbing. Ave Maria, the town, is literally centuries away from the unhappy sprawl typical of the shopping areas of cotemporary America and the somewhat anodyne feel of many new towns. Where a community like Celebration near Disney World in Central Florida seems to pretend that religion is not entirely appropriate to its public spaces, Ave Maria puts faith at its hub. Even many of the street names evoke saints and sacred places ("Mother Teresa", "Assissi", for example). What Fr. Richard John Neuhaus bemoans as "The Naked Public Square" isn't naked in Ave Maria.

Nicholas Healy, the President of Ave Maria University, and I talked upon my return to Seattle. He explained that the University, having moved from temporary quarters in Naples, is up to 400 students this year, with 600 expected next fall. The town has about 600 residents and is adding more weekly. The population could double in another year. While developers are experiencing the same downward housing pressure as the rest the country, and especially Florida, there is still an overall forward momentum at Ave Maria because of its unique appeal.

Houses are priced at very reasonable amounts, from $225,000 "carriage homes" to spectacular $650,000 condos overlooking the plaza. I expected that many of the buyers would be snowbirds who anticipate a sun-filled college town environment with outdoor activities and a vital church life for a few months each year. But, in fact, it seems that most purchasers are moving in for year-around residency. There could well be 10,000 people in Ave Maria in another decade or so, and 40,000 eventually. When that happens, the "old" town plaza will groan with people-overload and have to be reproduced in the neighborhoods nearby. That's what happened in the Italian Rennaissance, after all.


February 9, 2008

Archbishop's Fantasy Land

A call from almost anybody to accept Islamic "Sharia" law in Britain is the sort of thing that is sure to annoy ordinary citizens in that country. Sharia law is regarded as too harsh and inhumane to be employed even in much of the Muslim world today and few Muslims living in the West would want it employed in countries to which they or their parents have moved. In the UK sharia law would threaten Western civilization's carefully safeguarded tradition of individual rights and ordered liberty. The British people's contribution to that tradition may be regarded as their island's greatest accomplishment. In truth, it is the product of Judeo-Christian theology, interacting with Greek philosophy, tutored by the hard hard political and religious experience of centuries.

So, when the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams--of all people--suggested acceptance of Sharia law in some instances in Britain, open anger erupted. This was not a call from some nobody. Most shamed were Williams' fellow churchmen.

The incident is a calamity for a state church that is already reeling. The Anglican Communion, Christianity's second largest body, is in especially bad repute in the "global South" because of its latitudinarian attitudes on sexuality. But if there is anything the African Christians care about even more than integrity of family life, it is their nearly constant battle against the infringements of an aggressive and intolerant brand of Islam that wants, above all, to implement Sharia law. Over half the Anglicans in the world now reside in Africa, a place, unlike Britain and North America, where missionary work is growing, not shrinking. If the African Anglicans were to adopt Archbishop Williams' advice in their own countries, they probably would have to give up and convert to Islam.

So it is that a soft-headed religious proposal has become a political issue of front rank. If it is treated as something less, it will only be because the Church of England no longer is taken seriously in its home land. And that is a sad commentary, indeed. The decennial Lambeth Conference of Anglicans worldwide takes place this summer at Lambeth Palace, the London home of the Archbishop. It might be a good idea if a new Archbishop of Canterbury were on hand to preside.

December 23, 2007

Handwriting on the Wall in Britain

Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism has pointed up the fact that there are now more Catholics than Anglicans regularly attending church in Britain, even though The Church of England is the established state religion.

It is not hard to understand why the Anglicans are in trouble. The United Kingdom enjoys the trappings of its religious legacy without taking the content or practice very seriously. Recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury reportedly cast doubt on the Virgin Birth, which is a little like the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing that the pound sterling is not necessarily sound. Churches, like political parties, that have "wet" leaders, to use Margaret Thatcher's term, lose self-confidence and then they lose support. There are more enjoyable diversions on a Sunday morning than going to church services if you don't really subscribe to the traditional doctrines of the church. And why should you if the leadership doesn't?

Meanwhile, a mere 500 years after the Reformation, some religious scholars are starting to regard reunion as an achievable goal. With little or no fanfare, official committees of Catholic and Anglican theologians in the past decade have reached sweeping agreements, including on such dicey doctrines as salvation by faith, the nature of the Eucharist, the teaching authority of the pope and the place of the Virgin Mary. In the 16th century brave men were burned at the stake over these very matters that are now apparently being composed. Unfortunately, the next steps are not altogether clear. The parties to the old dispute may be reconciling their quarrels over substance, but it seems to be harder to change old sectarian behaviors, especially where property, titles and pensions are involved. Theology, meet ecclesiology.

Is Catholicism the immediate future in England? Well, it might be, except that Catholic church attendance among people born in the U.K.--as opposed to fresh immigrants from Poland and other EU countries--has been going down as fast as Anglican attendance. The old "dissenting" churches, such as the Methodists, who split from the Anglicans in the 18th century, also are not faring well. There is something of a Pentecostal surge of activity underway, but it can hardly be called deep or broad.

The problem is that Europe has had a crisis of faith. The region of the world that was once the heart of Christendom is more secularized and relativistic than it ever has been. Pope Benedict has identified the problem. But much of the difficulty has to do with failure of the Church herself to address adequately the root causes that are found in modern/post-modern philosophy and the philosophy of science. Christian authorities have not drawn deeply enough on their own and other, outside intellectual resources to mount an opposition to the agnostic spirit of the times.

As the traditional Christmas season begins for the liturgical churches, Christians may be coming together in merry old England, and in Europe-- but slowly. And the question is not only whether this new development is too late, but whether it also is too light-weight.

December 17, 2007

Religious/Cultural Breakthrough is Closer

Americans and Europeans don't pay enough attention to the fact that the second largest body of Christians in the world, after the Roman Catholics, are the Eastern Orthodox, about 300 million souls, by some counts. If these two bodies ever get together, Christianity will heal a nearly thousand year rift and greatly enhance the authority of traditional understanding of Christain doctrine. Striving for such unity was a high priority for Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI has not slackened the Vatican's pace on this topic. Slowly, but surely, progress is being made.

Among the several Orthodox national groups, the Russian Orthodox have long been the most resistant to unity discussions. Even a high level meeting was unachievable. But now the Russians' past reluctance seems to be dissipating a bit. A story from a week ago illuminates a new milestone.

I was out of the country when this story first appeared, so I missed it. But the mainstream media seem to have missed it, too. Too bad.

Christianity is growing in the Global South, but, beset by secularism and an increasingly truculent and letigious atheism, it it seems to lack confidence in Europe and most of the rest of the Global North. But the fall of Soviet communism has unleashed something of a revival in Russia that could contribute to a general revival of Christianity elsewhere in the "North". Unexpected because of its geographical location, a Orthodox/Catholic demarche would be a true stimulus to broade revival.

The Orthodox have their own problems, including divisions, but on faith and morals they tend to be quite...well, orthodox. Therefore, the unity talks of Rome and Moscow bode well for all traditionalist Chrstians, and for those of other faith communities who wish them well.

December 12, 2007

A Nice Jewish Book for Christmas

Do you want to spark a little spirited controversy around the Christmas dinner table?

Get a copy of David Klinghoffer's Shattered Tablets and pull out some of the provocative points our Senior Fellow makes about the Ten Commandments--applied to today. Another idea: share the provocation with your gift list!

You can read more about David's book, in which he argues the critical role that the Ten Commandments have in maintaining a morally healthy society, in an earlier post on Discovery Blog.

December 11, 2007

A Fine Novel for Christmas

My colleague, David Berlinski, is a profound and adroit writer on matters scientific. But he admits that he has no talent for the close plotting and realistic dialogue of a novel. Fortune, however, has given him two children who do: Claire (a sometime novelist living in Istanbul and working on a new non-fiction book on Margaret Thatcher) and a son, Mischa. A few weeks ago, David let it drop that Mischa had written a "wonderful" first novel called Fieldwork that was published by the grand house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and had just been nominated for the National Book Award.

I read it. Now I recommend that you read it. In Fieldwork the youngest Berlinski has told a story of surpassing grace and compassion about the modern human person, set out in an unlikely place--northern Thailand, close to the dangerous Burmese border--and introducing characters that are at once familiar and exotic: a family of Christian missionaries, a Berkeley anthropologist and the droll and admirable hill tribes of a region now rife with change and intrigue. Berlinski got to know such people living in Thailand and, having visited there, I was delighted by the verisimilitude of his novel's descriptions of street life and modern bureaucracies as much as that of the legacy of primitive culture found in hamlets one has to walk to find. Shades of the estimable Graham Greene.

The story is memorably inventive. The "Dyalo," the hill tribe Berlinski has created, has its own language, customs, food, clothing and, of course, religion. I can't think of another writer (even Conrad) who shows such engaging artifice. These people not only are believable, but they also are identifiably cousins to the actual tribes of the Golden Triangle, such as the Hmong and the Karen.

Fieldwork is a murder mystery that is so enthralling that you will want to read it through in a few sittings. It is also almost satirical in its comic outlook, yet avoids cynicism. (The Washington Post reviewer called it "disturbing and entertaining.") Ultimately, you fall in love with practically everyone. All by itself that makes it worth your time, and the time of anyone real that you already love and wish to gift this season. They'll thank your for this novel when they get it and thank you again, with still greater sincerity, once they experience it.

I have been thinking lately about how hard it is for people with different world views to communicate with one another. Within our own culture the difficulties are almost equal to those of dealing with other cultures. Maybe one reason I resonated so much to Fieldwork is that David Berlinski seems to have this very subject on his finely tuned and intuitive mind.

December 7, 2007

The Tree of Life and Your Christmas Tree

You undoubtedly know some people who think they understand all about the issue of evolution and don't need to know more to have an informed opinion. That would include all the presidential candidates, 90 percent of the editorial writers (the majors, anyhow) and columnists (start with George Will), vast numbers of teachers in various fields and, strangest of all, a large number of pastors. A few of the latter even hold "Darwin Sunday" services at their churches in February to show fearlessly that they are more in sync with the New Atheists than they are with scientists and philosophers who question the Great Man. No need to find out what the critics actually are saying; just read The New York Times and it'll tell them all about the subject. Besides, they studied this in high school or college, right?

Indeed, you may have people with such attitudes in the bossom of your own family and the closest circle of your wassailing friends this festival season. You may even be such a person yourself, God (or Natural Selection) forbid!

There are a number of scholarly antidotes for such cases of smugness. Some deal with physics or cosmology, some with biology, some with mathematics and philosophy of science, some with the devastating legacy of Darwinism for our times.

In the latter category, I uncategorically recommend John West's authoritative and new work (from ISI Books), Darwin Day in America. The subtitle, "How our politics and culture have been dehumanized in the name of science," and the chapter headings are an indication of the breadth and depth of influence worked on the modern mind by Darwin's seemingly harmless little theory, from criminology to mental illness to economics to education--literally from the cradle (abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning) to the grave (euthanasia, assisted suicide).

Dr. West, a distinguished writer, former Chairman of the Political Science Department at Seattle Pacific University, and a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute, is scrupulous in his handling of history, even sometimes denying his position the benefit of the doubt if he cannot precisely footnote or otherwise account for a fact. As a result, criticism of his book has been reduced to whining, dodging and name calling.

For a fair minded reader, Darwin Day in America is a shocking mirror held up to our own unconscious prejudices and assumptions. All of us tend to use "evolve" in a bland way that lulls our mental discrimination. After reading this riveting and compelling story, you may wish to reconsider some those assumptions, even if you already are in the camp of the Darwin critics. In other words, the reality is even grimmer than you thought.

Well, I always like a bracing read for this time of year, even if it is a bit more suited for Advent than Christmas! In the end, in addition to everything else, Darwin Day in America is inspiring. It will straighten and harden your backbone.

December 6, 2007

A Meaningful Christmas Present

Another book I want to recommend for your Christmas list is A Meaningful World by Drs. Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt. This is an affordable paperback and would gracefully stuff the stockings of your most cherished reading friends and family. As the quotation below from the great Catholic evangelist Scott Hahn suggests, it would make the very best gift for your parish priest or minister. Give it to your rabbi for Hanukkah! This book is sheer exploration and discovery; that is, joy.

If you are feeling especially expansive, buy some copies for your local church leaders and others who like the idea of design in the abstract but just can't see how it applies to the real world of science and sensory experience. They might learn something from you for a change!

Oh, of course, you also should buy it for yourself!

This is from Dr. Hahn:

A Meaningful World is astounding, breathtaking! This is a book about both the beauty of science and the beauty of creation, a book I wish I had as an undergraduate taking science courses. Wiker and Witt draw us beyond design, to the sheer grandeur, elegance, and deep intelligibility of nature, all of which bespeak a creative Genius. It will help overcome the residual fear of science that plagues all too many devout believers, and instill a sense of childlike wonder at the splendor of our world. A Meaningful World admirably answers the call of Pope Benedict XVI to see the glory of God's wisdom, God's Logos, permeating creation. I can't wait to get this into the hands of my own teenagers, and even my college grads.

November 19, 2007

Fur Flies Over Flew

One way you can tell an ideologue is if he ditches an old friend because the old friend no longer agrees with him. It has happened to me occasionally on the issue of Darwinism, and I rather relish it, frankly. I have been a card carrying member of the Centrist Establishment my whole adult life, so I experience a certain excitement in being stigmatized as an extremist by the Leftist Establishment. Me? An extremist? Why thank you so much!

The same thing is happening to Anthony Flew now, in double dossage, and I hope he, too, is enjoying the notoriety.

The New York Times--media headquarters for the Give No Quarter to Darwin Doubters campaign--decided to respond to the recent apostasy of England's hallowed Professor of Atheism by intimating that the old man must be daft. Never let it be said that The NYT lacks for objective anaylsis and journalistic professionalism on science issues. They simply are following the lead of that noted Darwinian ethicist, Richard Dawkins.

But Flew is fighting back. I may be old and slow, he says, but stop your carping insinuations about my intelligence and your eggregious age discrimination (okay, I added that last twist myself). Let my recent book speak for itself, he says.

Lovely. I say that the AARP (or their UK branch) should file a suit against The Times.

Meanwhile, let The New York Times wallow in its patronizing zeal. When the history of our real times is written it will be noted that The Times newspaper was no more accurate about trends in science in the early 21st century than it was about the nature of communism in the middle of the 20th. It is easily addled by its ideology.

I had the honor as a young man to write editorials for the late, great New York Herald Tribune. We distrusted The Times then and I can't find any reason to think better of it as years go by.

November 17, 2007

"New Ideas Often Need Old Buildings"

As Discovery moves into its new Worldwide Headquarters (see previous post), I want to salute an article by Marvin Olasky in the November 17 issue of World magazine on the new exhbition on "Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York."

Jacobs, author most notably of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), actually deserves the gratitude of those in any great city (I include Seattle) who have learned to treasure intense human life on the street. I remember living in New York in 1965 when Jacobs' book was being used to argue against Robert Moses' plan to put a big freeway accross the south end of Manhattan. I later had the satisfaction of helping the civic forces in 1970s Seattle that prevented a "Bay Freeway" from walling off the downtown from Lake Union and an "R.H. Thompson Freeway" from despoiling the Seattle Arboretum and the Central Area.

Jacobs' insights, as Olasky notes, were welcomed "by activists of both left and right." She showed why the ideals of modernism--the sort stylishly presented at the "futurist" exhibits of world's fairs over the first half of the 20th century--turned brutish, cold and hostile to human activity when implemented. They were splendid on paper and in models where the people not only "looked the size of ants" but were that size. When realized in steel and concreted they lacked "human scale."

Urban renewal replaced the brownstones where kids jumped rope on the sidewalk and played stickball on the street--to the dismay of urban planners who wanted them in wide open "greenscapes". But through it we lost the "eyes of the street" that gossiping grandmas and bustling shopkeepers provided, and the safety that assured. The new "greenscapes" and recreation grounds became high crime wastelands possessed by drug dealers and gangs. The old neighborhood shopping districts meantime were made barren objects of bureaucratic commercialism.

A few nights ago my wife and I watched that classic film noir, Naked Streets, the one with the closing line, "There are eight million stories in the city..." It's a nice yarn, but what really charmed us was seeing so much film footage of New York in the late 40s.

Jacobs was influential more broadly in opening people's eyes to the rhythms of urban life, the way people act around public spaces. When it came to the big downtown buildings, for example, she said, the modernists also got it wrong. Too often they made gargantuan edifices that people found imposing but made mere mortals feel small. What we want are buildings that make us feel grand and give us something to do.

Jacobs was a pioneer in what would become a revitalized historic preservation movement . Where earlier leaders had saved distinguished landmarks and the homes of notable statesmen and writers, Jacobs called for saving the old cityscapes themselves, the connected fabric that evokes harmony, memory (even vicariously, in the young) and intimacy.

She noted the affinity people in "the knowledge industry", as it would later be called, had for historic or merely old structures. "New ideas often need old buildings."

Marvin Olasky and the new Kings College is now resident in the Empire State Building, that glorious Art Deco icon of New York, a building that makes the individual feel grand, not small. Discovery Institute has found a happy home in a former bank building in downtown Seatttle. We will be contacting you from there from now on.

November 6, 2007

Bruce Chapman Is Pleased (Sorta)

The intelligent new on-line Seattle regional magazine "Crosscut", edited by David Brewster, carries a column (as Anika Smith pointed out yesterday) called "Bruce Chapman is Right," written by "Mossback" liberal Knute Berger. It generally agrees with recent comments of mine on Dr. James Watson and the battle over eugenics.

I hate to cavil after such welcome praise, but I have to demur from Berger's one demurral. That is, when he says that we should remember that many Christian and Jewish clergy backed the original eugenics program in America, some heavy qualification is needed.

I will leave the details to John West's authoritative new book, Darwin Day in America--being launched today at a Washington, D.C. book event at the Heritage Foundation--but the point I want to make here is that most traditionalist Christian clergy did not back eugenics. Those who did tended to be liberal theologians in liberal denominations that already had made their peace with Darwinism and modernity. In contrast, virtually the whole scientific establishment not only lined up behind the "consensus" position in support of eugenics, but they also sought to silence dissent. (Sound familiar?)

Theologically conservative Protestants and the Catholic Church were largely opponents of eugenics. The Vatican, which is always a little behind the times, thank God, set Catholic public policy on the issue. As for evangelicals, almost forgotten now is the fact that eugenics was one reason former Democratic presidential candidate and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan became so passionately involved in the Scopes Trial of 1925.

The eugenics was preached in Hunter's Biology textbook and its treatment of evolution, and it was this book that was at issue in Dayton, Tennessee and all around the country.

Playbill from Inherit the Wind, National Production, Chicago, 1956

Bryan feared that evolutionary theory was being used to justify mistreatment of the weak in society, as well as to discredit religion. This motivation takes on even more significance when one realizes, as Ed Larson makes clear in his book on the Scopes Trial, Summer for the Gods, that Bryan himself was not a young Earth creationist, even though his fictional surrogate is so characterized in the play and film, Inherit the Wind. It might help to rehabilitate the liberal reputation of Bryan, "The Great Commoner," if his stand on evolution was better understood and not permanently warped by the fictional accounts.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Scopes Trial, what about H. L. Mencken, the famous Baltimore Sun journalist who did more than anyone to denigrate Bryan in the public eye and whose bitterly funny style was employed so effectively against other opponents of Darwinism? Well, Mencken's sarcasm has been a great inspiration to aspiring journalists right up to our own time and especially on the topic of evolution. But as to his content, Mencken was an on-and-off-again eugenicist, a racist and an anti-Semite right up to and past the time when that was no longer an acceptable position in polite society.

Sorry, but that is the history. Those who doubt it should be prepared to debate it in public. John West, the expert, along with Richard Weikart of California State (author of From Darwin to Hitler) have the research mastered.

Meanwhile, regardless of the above, I want to repeat that I'm grateful that Knute Berger has been so clear on the need to examine the real way eugenics developed. Because eugenics is still with us in various forms. It is a human rights issue of historic proportions. It goes right to the question that John Paul II always asked, "What does it mean to be human?"

November 1, 2007

I'll Gladly Flak for this Film

I wrote last week about Bella and urged you to see it. (See below.)

Anyhow, people in large numbers did attend the opening weekend, though the number of screens on which the film appeared was limited (800 nationally). That means it has not opened yet in certain big cities such as Seattle, or smaller cities like Fort Wayne, say, or Boca Raton, not to mention small towns like Galesburg, Illinois. It will now, I guess, so see it. I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say that it says much worthwhile about America today, our heritage and the positive influence of the "new" hispanic culture. (It has nothing to do with illegal immigration, however!)

Here is what the people promoting the film just sent film supporters (note the link to the Ebert review):

Because of your help Bella broke records on opening weekend! Bella achieved:
-#1 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in our category in the world this year!
-#2 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in the world on Friday & Saturday
-#1 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in the world on Sunday

Ebert's incredible thumbs up review.

Last week Tony Bennett spontaneously took the microphone from lead actor Eduardo Verastegui after the premiere at Tribeca and gave an impassioned speech thru his tears saying; "it is a perfect movie, an artistic masterpiece that every American must see". He said a lot more and you can see the video on You Tube. You can also see Eduardo's appearance on Fox and other interviews at

Warm, sweet and funny. -Roger Ebert,

Versategui is a natural on the big screen, a compelling presence. -Ruthe Stein,

SF Chronicle "A sweet, life-affirming picture" - Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

"A bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light" -Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Cynics need not apply, but I found "Bella" a real heart tugger." - Lou Lumenick, New York Post

An unforgettable experience! A celebration of family, food, music and life-affirming values -Michael Medved

Powerful and moving... a true inspiration. -CNN, Ana Maria Montero

"The warmest family drama I've seen in years" -Frank Lovece - Film Journal FOX NEWS

October 27, 2007

Just the Thing for the Kiddies!

There are so many atheist attacks these days on literature with a Christian theme and on Christian holidays that one must ask, what would they have as substitutes? Well, here's the answer. Charming, isn't it?

October 23, 2007

Bella is Beautiful: See this Movie

Take someone you love (or would like to love you) to see the opening of Bella this weekend. It will be on some 800 screens, which is a nice number, but to get it shown in out of the way places (like Seattle!) it needs a big first weekend success. So you'll be doing the rest of us, as well as yourself, a favor by going this Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

You won't be sorry. It is a gorgeous, surprising, life-affirming story that confounds the usual Hollywood tropes. It's hero, Eduardo Verastegui ("Veras-teg-wee") is a Mexican media heart-throb making his Hollywood debut. You're surely going to hear much more from him after this.

I saw the film a couple of months ago at a special screening and was stunned by its fine quality. So, apparently, was the Toronto Film Festival, where it won a surprising award last year. I won't give away the story, but let's just say that it is not the sort of cynical and downbeat fare that many mainstream reviewers like. Well, you can't trust them.

Trust me, instead. This could be an important film. It definitely is an enjoyable one.

Check it out here.

September 11, 2007

Diversity, Community, and True Tolerance

Discovery Institute's own Logan Gage has a great column in today's DC Examiner which takes an insightful look at what ethnic diversity means to American society. To the dismay of many on the left, a recent study by Harvard professor Robert Putnam claims that "ethnic diversity actually harms community."

Not only that, but as Gage puts it, "... doubly disturbing for many secular liberals, it turns out that one of the only places in America defying these results -- where true diversity and community thrive -- is evangelical megachurches."

(Try telling that to anti-religious alarmist Lauren Sandler.)

Churches seem to provide an answer to this riddle of social fractions by encouraging interaction across ethnic and cultural barriers. Why this doesn't happen as often elsewhere is another puzzle which Gage addresses:

As cosmopolitan urbanites, even the conservative among us like to think we are more tolerant, more liberal-minded than backwoods red-state America. And maybe we are. But perhaps this is only because it is easy for us to tolerate neighbors we do not know.

Ironically, perhaps in the heartland where there is less ethnic diversity but more communal interaction, we would be forced to actually converse, at the local fair or PTA, with those different from ourselves.

British historian Paul Johnson once wrote of "The Heartless Lovers of Humankind," by which he referred to intellectuals like Karl Marx, who waxed eloquently of the plight of the common man and claimed to love "humanity," yet was nearly a monster to his servants. Perhaps we who claim to love "the city" or "diversity" but do not know our neighbors' names are a little like that.

Decades before Paul Johnson, C. S. Lewis noted the tragic irony of those who profess a deep and abiding love of humanity yet are cold or even cruel to the individuals with whom they are in contact. His poem "The Genuine Article" puts it thus:

You do not love the Bourgeoisie. Of course: for they
Begot you, bore you, paid for you, and punched your head;
You work with them; they're intimate as board and bed;
How could you love them, meeting them thus every day?

You love the Proletariat, the thin, far-away
Abstraction which resembles any workman fed
On mortal food as closely as the shiny red
Chessknight resembles stallions when they stamp and neigh.

For kicks are dangerous; riding schools are painful, coarse
And ribald places. Every way it costs far less
To learn the harmless manage of the wooden horse

-So calculably taking the small jumps of chess.
Who, that can love nonentities, would choose the labour
Of loving the quotidian face and fact, his neighbour?

September 6, 2007

Youth and Church/Youth and Science

LifeWay Resarch--an organization that The Living Church magazine (Episcopal) says is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention--apparently has produced a report showing that young people 18-30 may be dropping out of regular church attendance in increasing numbers. The cohort of the study was young Protestants of various denominations, but I suspect that similar findings could be produced for Catholics and, for that matter, Jews.

Most common among the reasons for poor church attendance by youth, according to the survey, are (in the words of The Living Church), "life changes, unhappiness with the clergy or other people at church, and ethical or political reasons."

Personally, I suspect that another and possibly connected reason is that the age cohort in question includes a lot of students who have been propagandized against faith in college (or even high school) classrooms, not least of all by Darwinism. Certainly doubts are raised. The host of New Atheist books make it clear that Darwinism, in fact, frequently has that intended purpose. Unfortunately, few churches even recognize this problem, let alone have a clue about how to defend their flock against creeping agnosticism.

Many young people are serious about religious faith, of course, and for that you usually can credit various para-church organizations, not the churches in which the young adults were raised. These same faithful kids are put off by science in college, however, once they realize how hostile many of their professors are to religion. Unfortunately, their discomfort not only is real but also justifiable. Students who might question Darwinian theory on scientific grounds are likely to get down-graded. If, with such views being known, they want to major in science or aspire to an advanced degree in one of the natural sciences, many of them realize that their chances are compromised by the prejudice of their departments. (Please don't contest this; there are plenty of statements by Darwinist professors themselves that make the institutional hostility plain.) If somehow they get an advanced degree while it is known that they harbor scientific doubts about Darwinism, they are unlikely to get hired as teachers or professors, or later to get tenure, or (if already tenured) promoted or given pay increases. The academic career ladder is slippery enough with out greasing it further with ideologically unacceptable views.

So how many are such turned-off students? Is it enough to help explain why the United States is doing so poorly at producing young scientists? Surely it is at least a contributing factor. The Darwinists will hate this argument, but maybe a few of the more honest ones will own up to it.

Dogmatic Darwinism kills rather than excites curiosity. It blights science as well as the culture.

August 23, 2007

Thou Shalt Read the New Klinghoffer Book!

All right, it's not written in stone, but only on Doubleday's finest rag and linen stock (all recyclable, don't you know?), still David Klinghoffer's new book, Shattered Tablets: Why we Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril, is provoking religious and anti-religious fervor among both conservatives and liberals. That means you really have to read it.

The book is officially "out" only as of this week, yet National Review Online already is carrying a funny interview of David on the subject of his new work. The byplay between David, a senior fellow in Discovery Institute's Religion and Public Life program and a one-time book editor at NR, and Kathryn Lopez, Online's editor, is particularly amusing if you know something of the NR staff. (Are they going to allow their self-ordained Evangelizing Agnostic, John Derbyshire, to review Shattered Tablets?)

The book also stimulated a column a couple of days ago by Danny Westneat in The Seattle Times (it singes our man, but doesn't burn him), while a fine tribute by Rod Deher just ran in The Dallas Morning News.

Many months ago I argued with David about his book's jeremiads against Seattle, our mutual home town. I am a bit more accepting of the religiously lazy and latitudinarian locals than is David, but having witnessed lately a huge increase of intimidating street crime outside our downtown office building, I have to admit the aptness of David's depiction of Third and Pike as an example of the breakdown in respect for authority. In fact, Shattered Tablets makes a lot of good, relevant points. You don't have to agree with all of them, or any of them, but David Klinghoffer is nothing if not a prophet deserving of attention.

Here's a final thought. In very recent times traditional Jews like Klinghoffer, Christian evangelicals and conservative Catholics have been coming together on a number of public issues, often joined by thoughtful Stoics who don't embrace any particular faith, but appreciate those who do and, like the rest of us, cherish the religious concepts of ordered liberty that make Western Civilization exceptional. If it weren't for the strident atheists who have been demanding more and more secularization and seeking to punish religious people, this development might not be taking place. Call it coincidence, call it Providence, nothing quite like it has happened before. That is one reason why Shattered Tablets is likely to enjoy a broad and deep audience.

November 29, 2006

Two Valuable Insights into Pope's Historic Trip to Turkey

Mustafa Akyol, in The Turkish Times, writes an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI about the Catholic Church and Islam, as seen by a sympathetic Turkish Muslim. Akyol, whose articles on intelligent design have attracted recent attention, here offers a carefully weighed analysis of the situation that faced the pope in Turkey. Christians should be so fortunate as to have many such Muslims as Akyol with whom they can engage in dialogue.

Meanwhile, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (and an adjunct fellow of Discovery Institute) writes a rather different sort of piece about the significance of the visit for Newsweek. Weigel, official biographer of Pope John Paul II and a long time friend of the current pontiff, sees the main purpose of the trip as the building of closer ties between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, whose Ecumenical Patriarch resides in Istanbul (nee, Constantinople). He also points out what few observers of the visit have noticed; namely, that Christians are discriminated against seriously in Turkey. Perhaps, as Akyol says, the hostility comes more from the ardent secular nationalists (as well as the Islamists) rather than the ordinary Muslims, but it is real nonetheless. If Turkey hopes for a spot in the European Union it might address the issue of religious liberty and show its good will, first of all, by allowing the Orthodox to reopen their one seminary in the country.

But Weigel thinks (and so, he intimates, does the pope) that the main opportunity stemming from the papal journey was to create greater synergy of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox world-wide. The ecumenical seeds were planted in large part by John Paul II, and his successor wants to cultivate the new growth. There are signs that Christians in the traditional liturgical churches that split in 1054 have increasing cause to unite in an age when they are not foes but allies who face the new millenium's threats: expansionist secularists in the West and radical Islamists in the East.

Catholics and Orthodox have relatively few theological differences and these days many practical reasons to collaborate more closely. Taken together, the developments toward reunion that have taken place in the past few years surely are historic, though of an as yet unrecognized level of significance. To me there seems to be a grand strategy in play.

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