Friday, September 29, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
If we believe that human behaviour is a special case of animal behaviour, there is nothing that requires explanation when we find humans acting to the advantage of in-groups over out-groups. This is the kind of behaviour that will have benefited their ancestors. There's no need to suggest that there is something uniquely poisonous about religion so that people behave worse when they are believers than otherwise. The morality of the Old Testament may be reprehensible - though no worse than the morality of the Iliad - but it worked: the descendants of the children of Israel are still here and the descendants of the previous male inhabitants of the Promised Land are not.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I was amused, however, by Christopher Hitchins's utter failure to say anything of signifcance about the matter. For instance:Pretty much.Most of all, throughout his address to the audience at Regensburg, the man who modestly considers himself the vicar of Christ on Earth maintained a steady attack on the idea that reason and the individual conscience can be preferred to faith. He pretends that the word Logos can mean either “the word” or “reason,” which it can in Greek but never does in the Bible, where it is presented as heavenly truth. He mentions Kant and Descartes in passing, leaves out Spinoza and Hume entirely, and dishonestly tries to make it seem as if religion and the Enlightenment and science are ultimately compatible, when the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of “revealed” truth and its all-too-earthly human potentates.
It takes cheek to call someone dishonest for not having a view of history that is obviously simplistic, utterly out of date, and poorly supported by evidence, particularly when it is clearly irrelevant to the point being made -- the Pope brought up Kant as an eminent example of modern self-limitation of reason, and Descartes, or, rather, Cartesianism, is only mentioned as background to Kant. The interpretation of the Gospel of John seems crude, particularly given that it's actually fairly standard in Christian theological tradition to interpret Logos in John as 'Word' or 'Reason'. Where Hitchens is getting 'heavenly truth', I don't know. The Enlightenment is mentioned by the Pope only to say that it should not be ignored. And Hitchens's claim that "the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of 'revealed' truth" so obviously could only be accepted based on a highly selective reading of Enlightenment thought (in all the various, and rather diverse, forms it took) that it can be dismissed outright as mere rhetoric. The whole essay is like this.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I don't know how many more engineers and architects need to blow themselves up, fly planes into buildings or saw the heads off of journalists before this fantasy will dissipate. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world's Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.
Given the mendacity and shocking incompetence of the Bush administration — especially its mishandling of the war in Iraq — liberals can find much to lament in the conservative approach to fighting the war on terror. Unfortunately, liberals hate the current administration with such fury that they regularly fail to acknowledge just how dangerous and depraved our enemies in the Muslim world are.
Recent condemnations of the Bush administration's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism" are a case in point. There is no question that the phrase is imprecise — Islamists are not technically fascists, and the term ignores a variety of schisms that exist even among Islamists — but it is by no means an example of wartime propaganda, as has been repeatedly alleged by liberals.
In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.
Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
In the region, Persian Iran will immediately become the hegemonic power in the Arab Middle East. Today it is deterred from overt aggression against its neighbors by the threat of conventional retaliation. Against a nuclear Iran, such deterrence becomes far less credible. As its weak, non-nuclear Persian Gulf neighbors accommodate to it, jihadist Iran will gain control of the most strategic region on the globe.
Then there is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days. The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist. This from a country that has an official Death to America Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeini's ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Well, we can't have that, can we? Ed Brayton does a superb job of deconstructing this spiteful idiocy.
Update: Then scroll down and check out the stream of abuse he gets from the materialist equivalent of the Buchanan brigades ....
Monday, September 11, 2006
It has long since come out that just about everything Wilson said was false. He was not, as he suggested, sent on his mission to Niger by Dick Cheney. He was recommended for the trip, contrary to his denial, by his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame. He reported to the CIA that an Iraqi official had come to Niger on a trade mission in 1999 -- evidence that tended to confirm rather than refute the British intelligence claim that Iraq was uranium-shopping in Africa -- a claim that Britain's Lord Butler judged "well founded."
Now come Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and the Nation's David Corn with a new book disclosing that it was not Karl Rove who first disclosed Plame's name to reporter Robert Novak. It was Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, and a skeptic about, if not an opponent of, military action in Iraq. Interestingly, Justice Department officials knew this even before Patrick Fitzgerald was named a special prosecutor. And they knew, as Corn has admitted, that Plame had not worked overseas within five years of her name's disclosure, which meant that she was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Yet for more than two years, Fitzgerald investigated Rove and other White House aides and indicted one for providing false testimony. All this, even though it was clear there was no underlying crime.
The Wilson-Plame narrative obscured the fact that Bush did not lie. Given Saddam's history of WMD development and use, given his successful attempts to obstruct inspection, any responsible American president had to assume that he had WMDs. Bill Clinton so assumed in 1998. George W. Bush so assumed in 2003. The record of Saddam's deeds left them no choice.
Friday, September 08, 2006
A few years ago, I lectured at Hillsdale College as part of a week-long lecture series on the intelligent design debate. After Michael Behe's lecture, some of us pressed him to explain exactly how the intelligent designer created the various "irreducibly complex" mechanisms that cannot--according to Behe--be explained as products of evolution by natural selection. He repeatedly refused to answer. But after a long night of drinking, he finally answered: "A puff of smoke!" A physicist in the group asked, Do you mean a suspension of the laws of physics? Yes, Behe answered. Well, that's not going to be very persuasive as a scientific answer. And clearly Behe and other ID proponents prefer not to answer the question.Oh boy. (As they say in Monty Python: 'What a give away!')