Custom Search

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dinesh D'Souza's comments on animal rights ethicist make Ben Stein's Expelled sound positively ... bland

Dinesh D'Souza, while somewhat critical of Ben Stein's Expelled movie, seems to be taking a leaf from der Stein's book, with his latest column, "Atheism and child murder", giving his own view of his debate with animal rights ethicist Peter Singer in a way calculated to enrage Darwinian atheists.
So while Christianity introduced into Western civilization the concept of dignity of human life, Singer explicitly says we have to get rid of this outdated concept. He contends that God is dead and we should recognize ourselves as Darwinian primates who enjoy no special status compared to the other animals. In the animal kingdom, after all, parents sometimes kill and even devour their offpsring. Singer argues that the West can learn from the other cultures like the Kalahari where children are routinely killed when they are unwanted, even when they are several years old.

Some of Singer's critics call him a Nazi and compare his proposals to Hitler's schemes for eliminating the unwanted, the unfit and the disabled. But as I note in the debate, Singer is no Hitler. He doesn't want state-sponsored killings. Rather, he wants the decision to kill to be made by you and me. Instead of government-conducted genocide, Singer favors free-market homicide.

D'Souza's column just went up today and as of 10:39 pm EST, he has 287 comments.

Next time I will have to remember to bring a feather to knock myself over with.

Labels: ,

The Spiritual Brain shortlisted for three Write! Canada awards

According to today's release from The Word Guild, The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul is shortlisted in Book-Culture, Book-General Readership, and Book-Leadership/ Theoretical, in the Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

I am also individually shortlisted for a piece I wrote for St' Mike's Alumni magazine, "The God they don't believe in is certainly not great."

Awards night is not till June 11, by which time I should have found my summer suit.

The day after the Awards gala, the Write! Canada conference begins in Guelph, and yes, I am teaching again this year - my usual track on why many writers do not deserve to starve and, in any event, how to write for a living without starving.

Note: My other blog, The Mindful Hack, which supports The Spiritual Brain, is a good source of news and views on non-materialist neuroscience.

Labels: ,

Phyllis Schlafly on the Expelled movie and the meaning of "Darwinism"

Phyllis Schlafly, the nemesis of radical feminists who is just SO not invited to Hill Clinton's inagural (which may never happen anyway, the way things are going) puts in her two cents worth on the Expelled movie about the trials of being an intelligence design theorist in an ivy league of Darwin cultists:
Stein, who serves as his own narrator in the movie, is very deadpan about it all. He doesn't try to convince the audience that Darwinism is a fraud, or that God created the world, or even that some unidentified intelligent design might have started life on Earth.

Stein merely shows the intolerance of the universities, the government, the courts, the grant-making foundations and the media, and their determination to suppress any mention of intelligent design.

Schlafly sounds like one smart gal because she picks up on a point that has eluded many columnists:
Liberals are particularly upset because the movie identifies Darwinism, rather than evolution, as the sacred word that must be isolated from criticism. But that semantic choice makes good sense because Darwinism is easily defined by Darwin's own writings, whereas the word evolution is subject to different and even contrary definitions.

Yes, exactly.

It's one thing to think that evolution happens. Most people do. It is quite another thing to believe that survival of the fittest (which Darwin said was a convenient synonym for his natural selection) acts as an immense creative force in nature. If natural selection really acted that way, it would be one stout plank in the edifice of materialism. But there is very little evidence that it ever does, as Mike Behe demonstrates in Edge of Evolution.

Some commentators believe that Phyllis Schlafly single-handedly circumvented the Equal Rights Amendment, the would-be cornerstone of American feminism. As I recall that era, the story was a bit more complicated. She was one canny lady, but the Amendment's partisans played a key role in scuppering it themselves. They made no secret of the fact that they would use it to overrule or overturn masses of legislation that enjoyed considerable support.

Anyway, amending a Constitution isn't easy - we haven't yet managed it in Canada, for example, and lots of our politicians can tell you harrowing tales of defeat.

Labels: ,

Expelled astronomer publishes new paper in Royal Astronomy Society journal

Guillermo Gonzalez, the brilliant young astronomer who was refused tenure at Iowa State U becuase of his ID sympathies, has a new paper out, "Parent stars of extrasolar planets – IX. Lithium abundances." A paywall hides the article itself but here's the Abstract:
We compare the Li abundances of a sample of stars with planets discovered with the Doppler method to a sample of stars without detected planets. We prepared the samples by combining the Li abundances reported in several recent studies in a consistent way. Our results confirm recent claims that the Li abundances of stars with planets are smaller than those of stars without planets near the solar temperature. We also find that the vsini and R'HK anomalies correlate with the Li abundance anomalies. These results suggest that planet formation processes have altered the rotation and Li abundances of stars that host Doppler-detected planets. We encourage others to test these findings with additional observations of Li in stars with temperatures between 5600 and 6200 K.

Citation: Guillermo Gonzalez (2008) Parent stars of extrasolar planets - IX. Lithium abundances Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 386 (2) , 928–934 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13067.x
Word on the street is that Guillermo's new campus home, Grove City College, will upgrade its astronomy facilities to give him a decent chance. However, I notice from the new paper that his e-mail address is still at Iowa State for now. He must be counting the days ...


Well-known Turkish creationist sentenced to prison - not ID-related source says

Creationist Adnan Oktar (better known as Harun Yahya was sentenced to three years in prison for "creating an illegal organization for personal gain", according to a Reuters report, which also notes
Oktar's publishing house has published dozens of books that have been distributed in more than 150 countries and been translated into more than 50 languages. He has a wide following in the Muslim world.

But Turkish commentators say the group's books, numbering more than 200, are probably written by a pool of writers, a charge the author denies.
I asked my Turkish journalist friend Mustafa Akyol what role his advocacy of creationism played in his fate (Turkey is governed by an aggressive secular elite), but Mustafa says, no, "not for creationism or for any other idea but because of other legal issues relating to his group."*

*Update May 13, 2008: This sentence is slightly rephrased from the original, as Mr. Akyol has contacted me to say that it better represents the situation.

Mustafa provides many insightful articles on Turkish politics, which can itself seem murky. Here, for example, as in many other columns, he offers the lowdown on the "secular" party in Turkey - atheist bluestockings with concealed weapons, so far as I can see:
In his speech at Oxford University on May 1, Mr. Rehn said that the political tension in Turkey is between “extreme rather than liberal secularists” and “Muslim democrats”. And Mr. Lagendijk, at a speech at İIzmir’s Eylül University, said that headscarves should be free in universities, and, as a “leftist,” that he feels “shame” about the illiberal stance of Turkey’s so-called-social-democrat-but-actually-Kemalist main opposition party, the CHP.

[ ... ]

The fact is that Kemalism is becoming a more and more reactionary and isolationist force, which sees the EU membership as a threat to its existence. If Turkey’s becomes an EU member, Kemalism will inevitably cease to be the official ideology, and become just one of the many competing ideas in the public square. But for its devotees, apparently, this is just too big a risk to take.

I'm no fan of face veils or sackwear but, at the same time, I have never understood the notion of forbidding women to wear scarves on their heads, if that's the custom they are used to.

How would Canadian women like it if we moved to a country where women customarily went about bare breasted and were informed, "Well, in order to fit in, you must do it too. It is modern and progressive. In fact, wearing blouses is a crime here."

Believe me, I know lots of women who are modern and progressive who would respond by catching the next plane back to Toronto International.

Anyway, Mustafa knows the Istanbul scene pretty well, and it seems safe to say that that Yahya's case is more like Kent Hovind's (American creationist jailed on tax fraud charges) than Guillermo Gonzalez's.

Labels: ,

David Warren on how animals differ from machines, and other topics, including bizarre fur seal sex

The bizarre sex part got you reading, didn't it? Yes, well, buried in this pot pourri is a link to a truly bizarre story from the wild. But first, David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen often finds himself in discussions with Darwinists - people who believe that natural selection is an awesome creative force rather than a means of weeding out losers. He sometimes shares with me his correspondence with them.
On your points a. & b., I am trying to communicate a conceptual problem that you share with all Darwinoids, though not with all Darwinian evolutionists. It is a mistake that e.g. Aristotle didn't make, & it appears, no one made until modern times. It is the belief that animals are essentially inanimate.

Let me try to explain this again. Animals move. Their "source" of movement is not external to themselves, in the way the source of a mountain's movement is external to itself. They are not "laws of nature" but rather, laws unto themselves. They are, like us insofar as we are animals, under severe constraints from the laws of nature. In that sense alone they "obey" the laws of nature, which includes becoming extinct when they fly in nature's face.

If you want to say that they were, as it were, "created by natural laws," then you are going to have to create a few new natural laws such as "the will to life of all creatures." This talks its way around the problem, but leaves you with a law that cannot be tested.

No forces now known to physics can explain such behaviour as the actual independent "movement" of animals (in the broadest sense of "movement," including the growth & wiring & re-wiring of their bodies & brains).

That is just a big "given" in Darwinism, a fundamental problem that cannot be overcome.

>>Kelley makes the point that an intelligent engineer would have done a better job (if his objective were to prepare humans for the 21st Century). <<

This is the old Marxist & Stalinist argument, that an "intelligent engineer" could "easily" outdo nature. It leads to where Marxism & Stalinism led. (Nature won.)

"Intelligent engineers" design robots that can't even climb stairs reliably.
He adds, "We try to educate them. We really do." He also quotes Etienne Gilson (in, From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again): "We say that primitives take a watch for an animal, but only the genius of Descartes has been able to take animals for watches."

While we are here, Warren notes, in sex news from the Beeb, the odd case of a fur seal trying to mate with an adult king penguin noting (both parties male), adding "This has got everything: sexual selection, randomness, gradualism, gay activism." Perhaps the seal needs waterproof contact lenses. Also, male jumping spiders reflect ultraviolet B rays from their body to apprise females that they are available. Humans cannot see UVB and apparently scientists had assumed that animals couldn't either. It's unclear as yet just how the do see it. But where there is a will ...

Oh, and this too: Under the heading "Trying to explain intelligent design to a New Yorker", he writes,
Another way to explain this. I'm sure you have heard of baseball. This is a game with laws. The laws themselves have evolved somewhat, from cricket or whatever, whereas, so far as we can see, natural laws do not evolve but remain absolutely fixed. So in that sense it is a poor analogy. You will have to pretend that the laws of baseball, unlike the laws of nature, were fixed & immutable from the beginning of baseball in the first nanosecond after the Big Baseball Bang.

What you are saying is that "the laws of baseball" are responsible for creating Wee Willie Keeler, Roger Peckinpaugh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, ... & all the other famous New York Yankees.

Laws do not create things. They only regulate.

Only socialists believe that regulations can create anything.

You would be right in guessing that Warren is not a socialist.

While we are here, his comments on the uproar around the Expelled film linking German Darwinism and the death camps single out John Derbyshire, who - he thinks - is overreacting on the subject:
I am no great fan of Ben Stein, & would begin by clarifying, that science & murder are not natural bedfellows. More precisely, SCIENTISM & murder go together well, & scientism in the service of murderous regimes was a commonplace of the 20th century.

But science, in the sense of free empirical inquiry, is just a big open season. It offers no conclusive view of anything; by definition it cannot; it is just a vast, constantly updated manual on how things work.

I agree that Darwin would have wished nothing to do with Hitler. In his own mind, "survival of the fittest" was an observation, not an ideological prescription.

On the point of fact, the equally excitable Derbyshire probably doesn't realize that what Stein is saying is technically true. Hitler's death camps were run by people who presented themselves as scientists, acting upon racial "theories," & they often had scientific or medical credentials, some of them from quite respectable institutions. And Stein's immediate ancestors were indeed among their victims. So I quite understand Stein's excitability on the issue.


Just up at the Design of Life blog: African Eve

Was one woman who lived 150,000 to 200,000 years ago the ancestress of all of us? Science may not be sure, but pop culture is.

Part One: Our Mitochondria: A piece in the puzzle of our origins?

Part Two: What does our mitochondrial DNA say about human ancestry?

Part Three: African Eve - when pop culture falls in love with science

Who links to me?