28 September 2010

Doing the Math.

Ruth McClung is running for Congress in Arizona's 7th congressional district against ORP lapdog, Raul Grijalva. You can learn more about Ruth here. Please support her if you can.
More often than not, TEA party candidates committed to rolling back the disastrous policies of Obama-Reid-Pelosi (ORP) are characterized as moonbat whack jobs devoid of education and intelligence. Ruth McClung, candidate for the House inArizona CD7, is anything but. With a degree in physics and work experience at an engineering firm, McClung brings to the table credentials that are both uncommon and difficult to disparage. Her background sets her apart from members of both the political and chattering classes, most of of whom wouldn't know the divergence of a vector field if it hit them in the face.

First Things First.
  1. McClung's positions are solidly conservative: anti-big giovernment; pro-free enterprise; pro-liberty; pro-national security; pro-"border sanity"; pro-school vouchers; pro-life and pro-family. With regard to health care, she favors health insurance tax deductions for individuals, health savings account tax incentives, out-of-state insurance purchases and tort reform.

  2. Her opponent, Raul Grijalva, is an ORP lapdog who attracted national attention by calling for a boycott of Arizona businesses in response to HB1070. Putting him out to pasture is a worthy objective.

  3. CD7 is 45% Democratic. But, with a significant number of independents in the district, internal polling — both Democrat and Republican — suggests that the race is winnable — go here (starts at 3:00 minutes). Supporting McClung is a chance to make a difference.
Exception to the Rule. Generally speaking, credentialed intellectuals sort into two categories: the hopelessly naive, and the promoters of self-serving agendas. But to every generalization there are exceptions. Ruth is one of these. She complements professional training with good sense and a love of country. If elected, she will bring to Washington, an understanding of issues such as cap and trade that is sorely lacking. Ask supporters (Democrat and Republican) of carbon abatement about the physics of climate change and you'll get talking points, gibberish or both. Ask Ruth, and you'll get an explanation.

Doing the Math. For the obvious reasons, it's important that at least some of people voting on issues related to science know what they're talking about; that they understand what's known, and more important, what's not. That means being able to read the scientific literature for yourself, as opposed to relying on advisors to do it for you. McClung's training in math and physics will allow her to do that. What she doesn't already know, she can learn.

Contribute to Ruth's campaign if you can, and spread the word.


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25 September 2010

And She Doesn't Even Believe in Evolution!

While internet contributions role in, cycical secularists paint Christine O'Donnell as a whack job.
Bill Maher has been going after Christine O'Donnell, most recently replaying a dozen year-old clip in which she characterized evolution as a "myth." Maher's object is to paint O'Donnell as a wack job. Like many liberals, he views evolution as a litmus test. According to this, expressed doubts as to its explanatory power are proof positive of the doubter's having been endowed, as Shakespeare so deliciously put it, with "a paucity of headpiece."

The paucity, of course, is Maher's, his dearth, being one of probity, not of intelligence. Like ├╝ber-evolutionists Dennett and Dawkins, Maher is driven by a hatred for religion. And O'Donnell is a believer. Hate the belief; hate the believer. It's all very simple. And intellectually dishonest.


Facts. The author of The Origin was fond of pointing to his "facts," observations that "the view given by me … connects … by an intelligible thread of reasoning" [Darwin, 1863]. Here follow four facts of my own:
  1. There are two theories of evolution, the pattern, what Darwin called "descent with modification," and the mechanism, often reduced to "variation plus selection," by which change transpires.

  2. Since Darwin's day, evidence for common descent has accumulated steadily. It is in the hard parts and the soft, the physiology and the biochemistry, most fundamentally, in the genes. To deny the derivation of amphibians from lobe fin fish, of stem reptiles from labyrinthodont amphibians, of mammals from cynodonts, of humans from non-human primates, etc., is a prescription for looking foolish. The pattern is clear. Either new species have descended from old, or they have "come into existence coincident both in space and time with a pre-existing closely allied species" [Wallace, 1855].

  3. With regard to evolutionary mechanisms, the situation is different. Over the years, there has been a succession of ideas, and these ideas continue to change. The now not so Modern Synthesis, which is still taught in freshman biology classes, identified small variations as the "stuff" of evolution. But as more is learned about gene regulation and development [Carroll, 2005], this view increasingly is seen as incomplete. Even the "Lamarckian heresy," the inheritance of acquired characters, may be headed for a comeback, though this remains a minority opinion.

  4. Importantly, no one has been able to "predict," retrospectively, of course, the broad outlines of life's history on this planet. Variation plus selection does not predict the pre-eminance of microbes during the first four billion years of earth’s history, i.e., as opposed to the first three, two or one billion. It does not predict the skeletization, if not the origin, of the major taxonomic groups some half a billion years ago. Nor does it necessitate the dominance of early Paleozoic seas by invertebrates, nor the subsequent and essentially simultaneous colonization of the land by insects and the limbed descendants of rhipidistian lungfish. It cannot tell us that dinosaurs and mammals would come into being at about the same time, and, regarding the latter’s 100 million year eclipse by the former, it says nothing. It is unable to tell us what would have transpired had the Chicxulub asteroid missed. And, of course, it cannot predict the emergence of man, much less the fact that humans would one day compose symphonies and argue as to whether or not God really does play dice with the universe.

    Referring to Lamarck's changing views on transmutation, Steve Gould [1999] obsrved that
    "Nature, to cite a modern cliche, always bats last. She will not succumb to the simplicities of our hopes or mental foibles, but she remains eminently comprehensible. Evolution follows the syncopated drumbeats of complex and contingent histories, shaped by the vagaries and uniquenesses of time, place, and environment. Simple laws with predictable outcomes cannot fully describe the pageant and pathways of life. A linear march of progress must raft as a model for evolution, but a luxuriantly branching tree does capture the basic geometry of history.”
    Implicit in Gould's analysis is the presumption that, contingency notwithstanding, the history of life is explicable in purely materialist terms. But that is an article of faith, no less than the belief thatCreation requires a Creator. For those so inclined, there remains plenty of room for divine "tweaking."

Queerer Than One Can Suppose.
J. B. S. Haldane, himself an atheist, observed that
"my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."
Of course, what is "queer" depends on time and place. To the 18th century naturalists who studied Nature in order to better understand Nature's God, the idea that new species are a consequence of secondary laws was unacceptable; likewise, the prospect that Nature's Supreme Author plays a direct role in the unfolding of events, to contemporary materialists. But who can say which belief will be deemed commonsensical a hundred years down the road?

Wiseguys like Maher have every right to go after O'Donnell for her political positions. When they trash her faith, they reveal themselves for what they are: politically correct bigots.


References.

Carroll, S. B. 2005. Endless Forms Most Beautiful. The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom. W. W. Norton. NY.

Darwin, C. 1863. The doctrine of heterogeny and modification of species. Athenaeum. No. 1852, (25 April): 554-55.

Gould, S. J. 1999. Branching Through a Wormhole. Lamarck’s ladder collapses. Natural History. 108: (March): 24-27, 76-81.

Wallace, A. R. 1855. On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species. Ann. Mag. Natural History. 16: 184-196.

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15 September 2010

A Stitch in Time.

Time Magazine's gift to the Jewish people for the year 5771.
If you have access to a Hebrew calendar, you will discover that the world was created on the 25th day of Elul. At sundown the fourth day following, on the eve of Tishrei 1, begins the festival of Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as "Jewish New Year." Unlike the civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a religious holiday. It celebrates the Creation. Children are taught that Rosh Hashanah is the "Birthday of the World."

Coming a week before the "Day of Atonement," Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection and repentance. It is also a time for celebration. Traditionally, Jews wish each other a "sweet and happy year." But it has not always been thus. In 1943, the Gestapo began rounding up of Danish Jews the night of Tishrei 1, the date having been chosen because it was assumed that they would be in their homes celebrating.1

This year's New Year gift to the Jewish people is an article, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," that appeared in Time Magazine on Tishrei 3 (September 11). The author's premise is that Israelis are too secure, too busy making money to bother about peace with their Palestinian neighbors, a latter day twist on the traditional "evil Jewish bankers" canard — go here for discussion.

Neither Karl Vick, the article's author, nor the editors of Time, who approved it, are Nazis, of course. They just wish that Israel would be more accommodating, neglecting for the sake of convenience the fact that continuing accommodation is an almost certain recipe for disaster. More precisely, the folks for whom Vick et al. carry water desire "peace" in the sense that the word applies to the cessation of violence that follows destruction of a hated foe. Hamas, the "more moderate" Palestinian Authority and the Arab world generally long for the destruction of the Jewish state and the expulsion, if not the outright slaughter, of its citizens. Should these dreams be realized, the folks at Time will have been as culpable as any Danish collaborator who provided names and addresses to the Germans in 5704.

No man, of course, is an island, and no magazine is published in a vacuum. The editorial proclivities of Time reflect the Left's view of Israel as a colonial state oppressing indigenous people. This view can be disputed, convincingly I believe, but that is not the subject of today's post. Rather, I wish to consider why a majority of American Jews continue to support those who would recreate the world as it was before 1948.

One answer is that American Jews are too comfortable, too secure to care about co-religionists half a world away; a second, that leftist secularism has replaced religion as their "moral" (I use the word advisedly) compass. Finally, there is habit, reinforced by an all too human reluctance to disavow past belief.

With regard to Jewish comfort and security, the increasingly out in the open alliance between Leftists and Islamists will prove salubrious. For the past decade, this association has been most in evident on college campuses. More recently, it has spilled into the public square as indoctrinated graduates made their way into politics and the media. That the President himself is one of these will further accelerate the process.

Regarding ascendant secularism within the Jewish community (I except the Orthodox), hard times tend to encourage traditional ways of thinking about man and his place in the universe. And it is hard times that have been amassed, bit by self-indulgent bit, these many years.

As to habit, generational turnover, if nothing else, will provide the remedy.

So there is no question that American Jews will get it eventually — "it" being the fact that the secular Left is their foe, and the Christian Right, their natural ally. "Eventually," however, can be a long time. And time is just as much an enemy of the Jewish people as any Jihadist intent on slitting an infidel's throat. "Tempora mutantur et mutamur" — "times change and we change." Indeed. But sooner is better than later. Best to stop, look and listen. Best to resolve this year, before the Book of Life is sealed, that conventional ways of thinking can be self-destructive.

Footnote.

1. The round-up was largely unsuccessful. Tipped off several days in advance, the Danish resistance and Jewish community leaders arranged for the escape and eventual transport to Sweden of nearly all of Denmark's 8000 Jews. A charming account, albeit with some not so subtle proselytizing, from the perspective of two Danish teenagers can be had in Robert Elmer's A Way Through the Sea.
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06 September 2010

Dogs Drool.


"I love dogs. Really. Got one myself. See. Right here. Good doggy! And he don't drool. Just like a cat — nice 'n clean. Yup. Give me a dog any day. Just don't call me one. OK?"
Millions of Americans believe President Obama's a closet Muslim — which opinion raises two questions: Is he? and So what if he is? Regarding the first, here's a straw in the wind.

Speaking in Milwaukee this morning, the President went off teleprompter — never a swift move for the intellectually challenged — and unburdened himself:
"Some powerful interests who had been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time and they're not always happy with me. They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks, but it's true." [Emphasis added]
Hmm. There's been no dearth of insults directed the President's way, true. But I rather doubt that "dog" is one of them. And even if it were, it would pale in comparison with some of the others. So what's with the dog business?

I sought out Muriel, the "bodacious lady shrink" who spurned my friend Phil's advances way back when (see here), for advice. "What the President's saying," she explained, "is that he's been the object of unspeakable invective, poor dear! To prove it, he hauls out an extreme example."

"But calling someone a dog is hardly an insult extraordinaire, unless, of course, you're a cat."

"Or a Muslim!" My attempt at humor had fallen flat. "Muslims don't like dogs," she continued. "They think they're unclean, especially their saliva. Having them in the house is like displaying animate pictures — keeps the angels away."

Ah the perils of ad libbing when you've got so much to hide.

"You think Obama unintentionally dropped another hint, you know, like his 'Muslim faith,' as to his true proclivities? Is that why Bo flies solus?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Hard to say. But, like I said, Muslims don't like dogs. Mohammad was a cat man."

And, indeed, they don't. Consider, for example, the counsel offered by Mufti Ebrahim Desai to a young Muslim concerned that her mother might purchase a dog:
"You can share this answer with your mother, since it is she who has to make the decision. You must be very polite in talking to her about this issue and let your love and concern persuade her to the right action. If she still insists you may have to live with it. In that case make sure you understand the issue of purity and take necessary precautions." [Emphasis added]
The "issue of purity" refers to the matter of saliva.
"The saliva of a dog is Najis (impure). If it touches the clothes or body, that portion also becomes impure and must be washed."
Also go here.

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05 September 2010

Never Gonna Stand For This.


"Never Gonna Stand For This." Fine. But just what is it we ain't gonna stand for? The Feds running amuck? Intolerable governmental intrusion into everyday life? Corruption? Recently, William Curtis offered an alternative answer.
President Obama's critics divide into two broad categories: those who imagine his intentions for the republic to be benign and those who do not. The former marvel at his ineptitude; the latter decry his radical agenda, his Marxist proclivities, his all too obvious desire to punish these United States for historical sins committed principally against people of color. To the latter view, William Curtis, a retired real estate developer writing at IBD Editorials, offers a novel twist. I say "novel," but truth be told, one imagines that others have had similar thoughts as the specifics of hope and change have become manifest.

Curtis suggests
"that Obama's goal as president is to further what some have stated to be one of the goals of the Muslim world: 'to destroy America from the inside without firing a shot.'

"Why would he want to do that? Perhaps because he really sees himself down the road as becoming the leader of an America that twice a day kneels down facing Mecca — perhaps even the leader of a Muslim-dominated world!"
To support this conjecture, Curtis enumerates familiar facts consistent with Obama as restorer of the Caliphate. Among them:
  1. His Muslim upbringing.

  2. His association with Trinity Church and the Reverend Wright.

  3. His various foreign and domestic policy initiatives.

  4. His comments on the proposed "Victory Mosque."
To these, one might add Obama's disdain for a large segment of the population he governs, which segment, it just so happens, clings "bitterly" to a religion with which Islam has been at war for 1300 years. One might also note that whereas past American presidents have made nice to Islamic nations for the sake of oil, Obama's commitment to reducing America's carbon footprint suggests genuine affection.

None of this is confirmatory, of course. But for those willing to look, a pattern is emerging. And that pattern is deeply disturbing.

To summarize: Curtis expands the list of possible "truths" about this President:
  1. Social democrat in the European mold.

  2. Marxist radical, "a peoples' republic sort of guy," who views Islamists as natural, albeit temporary, allies.

  3. Would-be leader of a restored caliphate who views the social justice crowd as useful idiots to be dealt with in due course.
Of these, the first has become increasingly implausible. Both the people with whom Obama surrounds himself and the methods he employs to advance his agenda suggest a commitment to democracy that will endure only as long it serves his purpose. That leaves Marxist radical and aspiring Caliph, neither of which is particularly attractive. Time, of course, will tell, even as it settled discussions on 7 December, 1941, as to the nature of Imperial Japan's true intentions. Meanwhile, look for extraordinary actions by this president and his lame duck Congressional minions should November bring the widely predicted Democrat debacle.

And enjoy the video linked to above.
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