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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wisdom from the rabbi: Humans vs. chimps?

On the subject of whether humans are almost chimps (or versa vice), Rabbi Belovski notes:

A while ago, I heard a radio broadcast in which a Californian academic with quite impressive credentials noted that as monkeys have over 90% of the genes of humans, they should be accorded rights in the same proportion. By this, he meant 90% of the healthcare facilities, social services etc. We may assume that in response, our simian friends will have to bear 90% of the responsibility of humans - i.e. taxation and service in the armed. Presumably, in the future, we can expect to share hospitals wards, army barracks and dole queues with monkeys. Criminal monkeys will serve 90% of the prison sentences of their human counterparts and will be required to attend 90% of their quota of schooling. It may also means that a human who steals a banana from a monkey will be condemned to 90% of the consequences of robbing a fellow human. An old joke comes to mind - a monkey that has escaped from its cage is eventually found in a library holding a Bible in one hand and Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' in the other. When questioned about its behaviour it responds, 'I am wondering if I am my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother.'

A thought occurred to me on this theme - since bananas share some genes with humans, would it not be logical to accord them say 30% of the rights of people? Where is the line? Some people might even prefer sharing a prison cell with a banana than a monkey, although I think we can assume that the monkey would prefer to share with the banana!

There's also an adorable graphic of a girl chimp getting her hair done.

Opinion watch: Columnists on the intelligent design controversy

I haven’t been posting many columnist links recently, so let me redress the balance. Here are some opinion pieces that crossed my radar screen in recent weeks:

Bill Buckley: "The planted axiom being encouraged by the secular community is that an acknowledgment of biological evolution not only acquiesces in scientific certitudes, it cannot coexist with any thought of intelligent design." In the National Review, Buckley also asks, In the United States, the battlefront is in the schools, on the question of evolution and creationism. If a 14-year-old student is introduced to the contingent possibility that life evolved as it did because its creator so willed it, which of the following risks, from the hard-line evolutionists’ point of view, is that student taking? 1) His intellectual disqualification by admitting creationism, for which there is no scientific no warrant, into his thinking? 2) A lifelong intellectual confusion, perhaps disabling in its consequences, which will keep him from prevailing as a responsible thinker and actor? Or perhaps, 3) a lifetime as an agent of teleological confusion, with the result that he will not only mislead himself, but also mislead others? "

Jonah Cohen:

"I am not persuaded by intelligent design arguments, not because the theory of evolution is unassailable – it most certainly has weaknesses – but because I don’t think anyone has successfully answered the criticisms of intelligent design offered by Hume, Kant and Kiergegaard. If those secular fundamentalists who wish to gag intelligent design theories are so worried about future generations, let them demand, then, that we also teach Hume, Kant and Kierkegaard in our public schools – rather than censorship! Our students should be exposed to this great discussion in all its dimensions, so that they can make up their own minds." [I hadn't heard of this guy, writing in The American Thinker, but he's good.]

John Derbyshire
"And what should we teach our kids in biology classes, concerning the development of living things on earth? We should teach them Darwinism, on exactly the same arguments. There is no doubt this is consensus science." Incidentally, Patrick O'Hannigan, the Paragraph Farmer, deconstructs Derbyshire.

Sally Jenkins: First, let's get rid of the idea that ID (intelligent design) is a form of sly creationism. It isn't. ID is unfairly confused with the movement to teach creationism in public schools. The most serious ID proponents are complexity theorists, legitimate scientists among them, who believe that strict Darwinism and especially neo-Darwinism (the notion that all of our qualities are the product of random mutation) is inadequate to explain the high level of organization at work in the world. Creationists are attracted to ID, and one of its founding fathers, University of California law professor Phillip Johnson, is a devout Presbyterian. But you don't have to be a creationist to think there might be something to it, or to agree with Johnson when he says, "The human body is packed with marvels, eyes and lungs and cells, and evolutionary gradualism can't account for that."

Tony Snow: "Evolutionary theory, like ID, isn't verifiable or testable. It's pure hypothesis -- like ID -- although very popular in the scientific community. Its limits help illuminate the fact that hypotheses are only as durable as the evidence that supports them."

Jacob Weisberg:
"That evolution erodes religious belief seems almost too obvious to require argument. It destroyed the faith of Darwin himself, who moved from Christianity to agnosticism as a result of his discoveries and was immediately recognized as a huge threat by his reverent contemporaries.
... So, what should evolutionists and their supporters say to parents who don't want their children to become atheists and who may even hold firm to the virgin birth and the parting of the Red Sea? That it's time for them to finally let go of their quaint superstitions? That Darwinists aren't trying to push people away from religion but recognize that teaching their views does tend to have that effect?"

George Will: "The problem with intelligent-design theory is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable: Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not a scientific but a creedal tenet—a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school's science curriculum."

There, half a morning's reading for you on the ID controversy.
P.S.: Many, many assorted and relatively anonymous loons have announced recently either that 1) armed and dangerous fundies are massing in the North Woods to march against civilization or, alternatively, that 2) God is at risk in this matter, and he's mad about it. Anyone who wants that sort of thing knows where to find it. Or if they don't, well, tuff.

Cartoons on the intelligent design controversy:

I like this cartoon, riffing off the baffling tax code. Of course, the difference between the tax code and a cell in your body is that you work fo the tax code and the cell works for you. Let’s keep the hierarchy straight here. Does anyone really believe that the tax code is as functionally effective as the cell? Sir, your government commends your faith in this matter.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
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