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Friday, May 08, 2009

My friend, the Sheepcat

Here's a blog, started by my good friend, the Sheepcat. Like me, he swam the Tiber (= became a Roman Catholic).

I love the name Sheepcat, if only because my beloved cat Hamlet died the day The Spiritual Brain came back from the press in August 2007.

Hamlet was a zealous guardian of his space, and certainly no friend of rodents, which he tended to kill rather than herd. After a (last) look around his little kingdom, when he could no longer even drink water [such water as he imbibed was injected under his skin by a vet], he seemed to accept his end - because I was there.

All I said in response to many solicitations for expensive memorials at the vet clinic was:
If I ever have that kind of money again, I will use it to help other cats.

If I can, I will buy cat carriers at garage sales and sanitize them, and go to the Animal Control centre, and ask for an appropriate number of cats who will shortly be euthanized simply because no one wants them. That will be Hamlet's memorial, and I cannot think of a better one, given his history.
Okay, enough about cats.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Tenure if you profess faith in Darwin, ten count to get out if you have questions

Friend Wintery Knight alerts me to this story in the Toledo Blade (May 02, 2009), about Jerry Bergman's book, Slaughter of the Dissidents:

For the last 30 years, Mr. Bergman, 62, has interviewed hundreds of people in academia and documented cases in which he contends that careers were derailed because of doubts about evolution.

The results of his interviews and research are compiled in his latest book, Slaughter of the Dissidents: The Shocking Truth about Killing the Careers of Darwin Doubters, published last fall by Leafcutter Press.

The students, professors, and scientists suffered not because they were advocating the teaching of biblical Creationism or Intelligent Design, he said, but for questioning or debating aspects of Charles Darwin's famous theory.

It's an issue Mr. Bergman takes personally.

"In 1979, I was let go by Bowling Green State University openly due to my increasing disillusion with Darwinism," he said in a lecture Monday night at WLMB-TV, Channel 40, Toledo's Christian television station. The two-hour program was filmed before a studio audience of 60 and will be broadcast at a later date, according to Jamey Schmitz, WLMB's president and CEO.

Well, why don't we begin with the fact that, as Will Provine, himself a pure naturalist, crows, 78% of all US evolutionary biologists are pure naturalists (= no God and no free will). This is a fact, and if anyone thinks that fact that doesn't affect decision-making about such questinos as tenure, well, they are pretty naive.

I have often pointed out: Darwinism is the creation story of atheism. No sensible person would believe it except for that. Yes, yes, there are "theistic evolutionists", but they are yesterday's men. The real battle is between the materialist atheists and the theists/advocates of cosmic moral law.


What stopped Darwin from discovering the laws of inheritance?

At Access Research Network, David Tyler asks, what stopped Darwin from discovering the laws of inheritance?":
In a helpful analysis of the issues, Jonathan Howard of the University of Cologne suggests that it is legitimate to ask why Darwin did not reach a satisfying conclusion: "The solution, at least to the inheritance problem, was apparently easily amenable to an experimental approach with materials that were daily to hand. Furthermore the time was ripe in the middle of the 19th century, with many breeders interested in the problem for commercial as well as scientific reasons. And after all, Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his own backyard in the monastery at Brno with no more technology than Darwin had at his disposal in his garden at Down House. Why couldn't Darwin have done it too?"

Howard looks carefully at Darwin's writings on the subject, and finds he was highly selective in his interests. He sought to document the small variations that he thought could accumulate and lead eventually to speciation. His writings reflect his commitment to this concept: "the selection of infinitesimal varieties", "differences absolutely inappreciable to the naked eye", "the accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications". Howard makes this comment on Darwin's 1876 book The Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom: "His overriding purpose was to establish that progeny produced by self-fertilization are less thrifty than the products of cross-fertilization. He rightly concentrated his analysis not on unit characters, but on the quantitative characters that fitted better with his concept of differential fitness, the attributes that, by their infinitesimal differences, determine life and death in the wild. So Darwin counted seeds, weighed and measured them, planted them and looked for their vitality. He measured growth and general thriftiness in his self-fertilized and cross-fertilized progeny. Everything he measured was a quantitative variable that under these simple experimental conditions could yield no information about inheritance at all. His experiments are overwhelming in scale and scope; they established the point that he wanted to establish beyond all doubt, but they contributed nothing relevant to our understanding of the underlying logic of inheritance."
Read more here.


Intellectual freedom in Canada and elsewhere - 1 of 3

Update: Wintery Knight writes to say that actually there are two "hate crimes" bills. HR 1913 protects, in his words, weird groups and HR 1966 criminalizes harassing public figures via blogging.

Well, I am an old woman, so I tend to simplify matters.

1. Weird groups: Like the Jim Jones cult? Paedophile rings? Guys who go on sex tourism cruises to eastern Asia or buy a little girl as a "bride"? Who, exactly, wants to pay taxes to protect these people from natural* justice? What is the matter with Americans these days?

2. Harassing public figures by blogging is a completely ridiculous offence. Anyone can turn off their computer or their TV. I used to have this row going all the time with people who were denouncing American pundette Ann Coulter. I don't have time to watch much TV and only read a portion of one book by Ann Coulter (which was probably heavily edited by someone who knows something about the intelligent design controversy). But no matter.

All I ever said was, you give Coulter whatever power she has by watching, listening, carrying on, demanding laws against her. If, on the other hand, you just changed the channel ...

*Natural justice: Not Darwin's "nature red in tooth and claw." In the Catholic tradition, natural justice is the justice that a typical human community, in its right mind, would think right. It wouldn't include sex tourism in Eastern Asia, you can be sure of that.

By the way, Wintery Knight has been linked by a major Canadian blog.

Back to the main post:

Wintery Knight tells me that Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says that this bill would allow the state to send bloggers who "harass" public figures to jail for up to two years. Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy says that it is unconstitutional.

Quite honestly, I don't think talk of the "First Amendment" will end up amounting to much in the United States. People who want the government to pay their mortgages and put gas in their cars have no business pretending to be a free people. Like, speaking of indebtedness and gas in the same sentence, well ...

Knight also notes his post on the current US hate crimes bill. Americans who want to know how that will turn out should read him, but also Ezra Levant's Shakedown and Mark Steyn's Lights Out. Basically, objective standards of injury disappear and are replaced by standards based on the self-proclaimed victim's "feelings."

Of course, that would be completely unworkable, except for one thing: Certain groups are deemed "victim" groups, and theirs are the feelings that matter. It's an excellent industry for professional busybodies. Not so good for businesses that depend on selling goods or services.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Intellectual freedom in Canada and elsewhere - 2 of 3

My friend, Parliamentary Press Gallery journalist Deborah Gyapong tells me "The stuff coming out of the United States is chilling, and notes "Lights are going out all over the western world."

I think Americans are handicapped by the myth of exceptionalism. They never think it will happen to them. It will. It is. Now.

Anyway, here are some of Deborah's stories:

Meet Mark Steyn's and Ezra Levant's friends and fellow bloggers in Canada. Whenever I think of my fellow free speech bloggers, I remember the haunting third stanza of our famous poem, In Flander's Fields, now seldom heard (because it is routinely left out now), but here it is:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.
Let me put it this way: All those men did not die so that Stalin, as opposed to Hitler, should run Europe, let alone North America.

Many of the Canadian soldiers who died had been born free in the mountains or on the open prairie, and were volunteers, not draftees. But they saw, in principle, how a person like Hitler might destroy people's lives in a way nature would not.

And a person who does not understand that does not know anything at all.

Ezra Levant as the next governor general? I would prefer he be prime minister. He is, in my view, a lion of Judah. He would soon chase the trolls back to their holes.

Strong opinions are not dead in Canada (Actually, no other type of opinion is worth considering. When was the last time you wanted to hear a 45-minute oration from Caspar Milquetoast?)

"I may have to file a hate speech complaint against myself" (From a traditional Christian perspective, I would say that we should all file hate speech complaints against ourselves. Catholics like me call that going to Confession. The real problem starts when the government gets involved, as opposed to the Church. We really must get the government out of this.)

"Human rights" commissions hijacked by extremists. (But why would that surprise anyone? The way the Commissions were set up, they are a honeypot for extremists, compared to traditional "Hizzoner/Herhonor" courts - where you had better have a real, legal case or get lost.)

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Intellectual freedom in Canada: Latest roundup - 3 of 3

All I can say, in response to the following, is this: All you spies and snitches who covet a job with the Canadian government, maybe you should fill in an application with a bistro instead.

Lots of people do NOT think you add to the quality of our lives.

From the excellent Franklin Carter at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee:

At the federal Liberal convention in Vancouver, delegates voted to "strengthen" the powers of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. But the vote was far from unanimous.

Garrett Zehr of The Tyee reports: In Alberta, the Sheldon Chumir Foundation -- a civil libertarian org -- takes apart the provincial government's proposal to reform Alberta's HRC. The analysis appears in Alberta Talks:

The debate continues over Ezra Levant's Shakedown, the human rights commissions and the limits of free expression.

First, the debate has spilled into the United States. In Salon, Glenn Greenwald comments on his blog. It is easy to be a Glenn Greenwald, if you are not facing ruin as a result of the fact that someone disagrees with you. In Reason, Michael Moynihan responds to Greenwald's arguments here.

Back in Canada, Marcus McCann of Xtra -- Canada's largest news source for gays and lesbians -- comments at length on Shakedown.

In Toronto, NOW Magazine's Susan Cole attacks the book -- and takes flak from readers (which she entirely deserves).

Imagine! An "alternative" magazine editor wanting to be a censor of jokes! Must we develop an alternative to the alternative? Wouldn't it be simpler to get rid of Cole and just have a plain ordinary alternative magazine , where you are allowed to say stuff lots of honchos don't like?

Paul Lungen of The Canadian Jewish News reports

Carter also notes: For new readers of BPC FoEC news bulletins, I re-post Rob Breakenridge's commentary on Alberta's Bill 44. The legislation proposes to amend the province's human rights act but does nothing about the threat to free expression. Breakenridge is a radio host on Calgary's CHQR:

In the National Post, Kevin Libin also comments on Bill 44:

Finally, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted another resolution that condemns "defamation of religion" (also known as "blasphemy") as a human rights violation. The Canadian government, among others, opposed the resolution. In the Ottawa Citizen, Laura MacInnis reports.

Not a good sign. The most powerful empire in the world on the day that Jesus was born was ... Rome! The Roman Empire persecuted Christians for four centuries - there were hundreds of thousands of martyrs - and then Christians ended up in charge of the Empire.


No real religion needs laws against defamation. At one of the blogs I serve, which accepts comments, Uncommon Descent, we have a troll monitor who simply removes posts and bans commenters who - if I may be so bold - eff and dam, and act like we are competing for Troll Hole of the Year. We are not. So they are just gone. Why get the government involved?

Passing laws against defamation - at least to me - signals weakness, not strength.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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