Reader Mail

Fighting for Iraq

Responding to Ben Stein. Plus: Chernobyl Republicans. Designs on design. And much more.

11.21.05

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DON'T THEY KNOW?
Re: Ben Stein's As Thanksgiving Approaches:

This thoughtful essay by Mr. Stein states clearly what has and continues to trouble me about this opposition to President Bush. Don't these people (from those like Fitzgerald who apparently feels he is just doing his job to those in the Kennedy-Kerry camp who will say and do anything to maintain political power) understand they are undermining the most exemplary nation in the history of the world? Are they so deluded or do they just don't care? After their ilk's disgraceful actions in the Vietnam War (which don't forget was initially and largely a Kennedy-Johnson affair) it should be obvious to all thinking people that they are either venal or stupid or as is more likely both. Whatever it is just downright scary.
-- Jack Wheatley

I disagree with Ben about the Libby indictment. I am inclined to believe that Libby did nothing wrong and I consider him innocent until proven guilty. At the same time, I am inclined to give the special prosecutor the benefit of the doubt. I believe he did not act out of political or other base considerations, but out of his desire to see justice done. Let him present his case to a jury. If Libby lied to a grand jury, that is a serious crime. If Libby did not lie, Fitzgerald is not the man he appears to be.

I agree with Ben on everything else he said. Ben's article caused me to reflect on things that I am thankful for. I am thankful to be an American and live in the United States. I am thankful for my family and our good health. I am thankful for the brave men and women who volunteered to put their lives in danger and defend my freedom. I am thankful for President Bush and his iron determination to crush the incipient tide of Islamofascism and all the odious ramifications of that vile theology.

Victory is ours if we will it. Stand firm in your commitment to victory in Iraq and the fight against Islamic terror. Take heart in the bedrock knowledge that free and representative government is better than authoritarian government. Resist the temptation to criticize the administration at every down turn. Let not your estimate of the situation in Iraq roller coaster with each media report. We owe this much to our men and women in harm's way.

To the men and women of the American military I send you my heart felt thanks and my unyielding support. Your fight is my fight. We will be victorious. To the more than 2000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of my freedom I say: Hail heroes. Rest with God. You are not forgotten.
-- Doug Santo
Pasadena, California

Please extend my complete agreement with the insight, concern, and heartfelt compassion to those who suffer in Iraq. As an interrogator, I am able to gauge the feelings of some Iraqis. Yes, it would be a bloodbath, if America left. It has been already, on a local basis, when American units have been relocated and left temporary power vacuums. I know of three communities, where the Iraqi police were all attacked on one day, shortly after the Americans left the area. This would happen on a national basis if the Coalition Forces withdrew completely without a strong, stable government to replace it.

Love your work, Ben.
-- SGT David Shoup
Operation Iraqi Freedom

A big thank you to Ben Stein for his article on Thanksgiving and the Iraq War. He is right 100% and his article is a humbling reminder that we should stop wishing things were different, look reality in the face, be thankful for troops who defend us and face our global problems with a little courage and a lot less short-sighted egoism.
-- Patty Adelmann

Thank you and Mr. Stein for his eloquent article about staying the course in Iraq and the thanks a grateful nation should feel for its brave men and women serving in the military, wherever they may be, many of them sacrificing everything so that we can preserve freedom here and spread its blessings abroad.
-- Larry G. Johnson

A suggestion: Ask the pro-withdrawal Americans whether or not they would be willing to replace the soldiers there, to ensure peace after the withdrawal. Wake me if even one volunteers.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

I am serious about this. Ben Stein should run for President. He has the heart and the mind all good leaders have. But he also has the voice that moves people to be better and do better, and that's something only the great leaders have.
-- Allen Hurt
New Mexico

SIX OF ONE
Re: Jed Babbin's Congressional Chernobyl:

It is becoming more and more evident the Republican Senate can't govern and the House is not much better. Rather than work together each one seems to want the starring role with no one in either chamber leading. What a mess. We'll not see too many of them returning and that will be a sad day for the party. It will take years for the voters to ever again have confidence in a Republican majority. All the grassroots efforts down the drain. So sad, so sad.
-- Richard E. Ledford, Sr.

What you see happening to the current crop of Democrats is what they were noted for in around 1863-1864. They where known as peace Democrats and the more virulent of them where known as Copperheads. Their goal was nothing more than throwing down the Arms of the nations and letting three million people to continually live in slavery.

What has always made me wonder is why nobody goes back and look at the history of the party, as that will generally indicate where it will be in the future.

Remember for approximately 100 years the Democrat Party was just the political action arm of the KKK.
-- SFC Kenneth E. Miller USA (Ret.)
Tonica, Illinois

Nice rich assortment of articles and letters Monday. I especially like Jed Babbin's piece about the Senate. Seems the buffoons don't only sit in the minority party, the majority party has more than their share. Maybe Dubya will decide it's time to use that veto thing he has or maybe he's never learned about it. As usual, we have the evolution debate and again, some "conservatives" are upset over the challenges to Darwin to the point they have withdrawn to their castles. Others are ready to rally around the banner of I.D. and so forth. Quite frankly, it's a nice subject for debate but seeing what is going on besides that, it pales in context. Evolutionists, atheists, creationists, I.D.ers, so what? We'll all find out the day we die, won't we? The real issues to contend with are blowing the liberals out of the water about their "Bush lied" crap, getting Biden to eat his words on Alito, and protecting our warriors from becoming victims of the defeatists here. Now that is meat on the table and worthy of the efforts of true conservatives. Let's not get side tracked over an issue that will be debated ad nauseam to no one's satisfaction and win a few for the Gipper (Dubya's too busy figuring out the Chinese at present).
-- Pete Chagnon

Both of my Texas Senators, Cornyn and Hutchison turned tail and voted for this resolution and I am not the only voter VERY upset with them. Cornyn is for more workers coming from overseas taking American jobs. Just what kind of RINOs have they turned into. My thought now is just vote for the Democrat and cut out the middleman, at least we know what kind of jerks the Dems are.
-- Elaine Kyle

INTRINSICALLY ATHEISTIC
Re: George Neumayr's The Origin of Speciousness and "Scientific Reconciliation" letters in Reader Mail's The New Wilsonians:

Just a few months ago, I would have disagreed with Mr. Neumayr in his claim that Darwinism was intrinsically atheistic. While it might make God seem less necessary, I would have said, surely it leaves open the door that He intended and brought about humans indirectly. However, after analyzing the issue, I'm afraid I have to agree with him.

Much like Neumayr, I suspect, my revised conclusion was based not so much on the pronouncements of diehard atheists like E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins, who I would expect to try to represent science as supporting their view in any case. Rather it was a combination of my own analysis, and the incoherent theologies that I have seen espoused in the writings and statements of various "theistic" Darwinists like John Haught, Kenneth Miller, John Derbyshire, and George Coyne in their efforts to harmonize their religious sensibilities with their Darwinism.

The difference between a theist and an atheist is not that the theist believes in an ultimate reality and the atheist does not. Everyone believes in an ultimate reality. The difference is that the theist believes that the ultimate reality is a person, a Mind, who brought about the universe, life, and humans through intent, or Will (though not necessarily directly), while the atheist believes that the ultimate reality is mindless, consisting of primordial chaos or blind law. Entailed in the theist position, then, is the idea that will, or intent, is a real cause, at least for God.

Prior to becoming familiar with this debate, I had assumed that a theistic evolutionist meant someone who believed that God had intended humans to exist, and had brought about His design indirectly through an evolutionary process, perhaps by winding the universe up with such extreme precision that humans were inevitable, perhaps by instituting special laws that would guarantee the outcome he wanted, or perhaps even through intervention, among other possibilities. However, it's become clear to me since then that this would actually be a form of ID. I'm not really sure what theistic evolution means anymore.

Most theistic evolutionists espouse methodological naturalism, the idea that science must assume, but only for the sake of argument, that everything in the universe can be correctly explained in terms of undirected material causes. They contrast this with philosophical naturalism, the belief that things really are that way, which they claim to reject. Hence, the implication of this view is that science is only after an approximate, relativized "truth," rather than objective, actual truth.

Accordingly, I had expected the theistic evolutionist position to be that evolution wasn't literally a matter of random variation and selection without a goal, but that we just had to pretend for the sake of scientific argument that it was. However, I have found that, as Neumayr has documented, they do in fact mean it literally. They consider the randomness to be an objective philosophical fact, and this is evident from the way they strain to work it into their theologies, something they wouldn't need to do if they were only using it as a methodology. Miller says that "randomness is a key feature of the mind of God." Haught and Coyne explicitly argue that humans were not, in fact, an intentional outcome, even via indirect processes, but rather that the universe was set up to run randomly (something they both conflate with "freedom"), and that humans were a lucky accident. Derbyshire is a Universal Darwinist (one who believes that Darwinism applies to every aspect of our nature), a position that only follows if you take the materialistic and undirected account of life as objective and all-encompassing, and in a recent article on evolutionary psychology, he ends with an indication that, despite defining science such that it is relativized to materialism, he sees it as a guide to the objective truth: "We have it on good authority, though, that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. I believe that if we hold fast to faith in that proposition, and trust science to uncover the truth, neither we nor our country will come to any harm." Talk about using the rhetoric of theism to upend theism!

In a way, it's easy to see why they take the undirectedness of Darwinism to be literal, rather than merely methodological. The explanatory content of Darwinism requires that variations be actually random. A theory that only said that lifeforms arose through variations that may or may not have been random, and selection that may or may not have been directed, would be pretty meaningless beyond asserting common descent. One might allow that variations were random, but that selection was directed towards overarching goals, or vice versa, but allowing intentional planning into one and not the other would simply be arbitrary.

As I said above, the difference between a theist and an atheist is that the theist believes that the ultimate reality is a person who intended life, while the atheist believes that the ultimate reality is impersonal. To that end, Miller's claim that randomness is a "key feature" of the mind of God is incoherent. Mind implies an entity that has beliefs and reasons, and makes choices based on them. This is diametrically opposed to randomness, which implies action that happens for no reason. Miller is improperly conflating the two. What his statement really means is that a "key feature" of God's "mind" is not a mind at all, but rather impersonal chaos. Haught and Coyne both speak of God leaving the universe to run randomly out of "love" for it, under the rationale that when you love someone, you allow them freedom of autonomy rather than compelling them by force. However, like Miller's statement, this equivocates between "freedom" in the sense of making your own intentional choices and freedom in the sense of impersonal randomness. Finally, evolutionary psychology, entailed by Universal Darwinism, holds that there is no such thing as a "self" to speak of, the "mind" being a haphazard bottom-up construction of disparate blind material causes rather than a single rational entity, and our perception of ourselves as unified "persons" an illusion. Of course, if there's no such thing as a real "person" in our experience, then it is meaningless when we describe God as one. All of these Darwinian theologies are simply taking the impersonal and calling it "God". However, using inventive terminology doesn't change reality. This is simply atheism being described with theological terminology.

As a closing note, I have noticed that when theistic evolutionists criticize other Christians who advocate design, they typically portray it as requiring direct intervention, and as being opposed to common descent, despite the fact that most of them must surely know better. I used to wonder why this was, but I think I know now. It is convenient for them to portray the distinction as a simple difference between whether God achieved his goals directly or through indirect means, when in fact the real divide between design and their view lies in whether we were intended at all. Were they to promote their actual views on Christianity upfront when badgering guys like Cardinal Schonborn, believing Christians would quickly recognize it as blasphemy. Much better to first get Christians to sign off on their view under false pretenses, then slip in their real position once their guards are down. While aggressive, unabashed atheists like E.O. Wilson may be annoying, they actually provide a service by putting their whole position and what it entails out there for the public to consider. Would that everyone would seek to bring clarity to the debate.
-- unsigned

I have but one question for the evolutionists, anti-evolutionists, creationists, and all of the other "-ists" involved in this long-standing debate: Who or what made the species evolve? If any of you out there have an answer for me, please, by all means, let me hear or read it.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

Thanks for keeping up the good work! As an engineer, I am offended that high school students in America aren't allowed to even hear about Intelligent Design -- because that would violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. Instead, Darwinism is preached in almost every high school class to my children and consumes a steadily increasing amount of the curriculum. 100 years after Darwinism was established as "proven fact," molecular biology has revealed life to be composed of DNA, RNA, proteins, etc., assembled into a high-tech hardware/software device. Thus, Darwinism either applies to all high-tech, or Intelligent Design does. A consistent Darwinist worldview (which is where we are heading) states that Microsoft Windows is millions of years old and can't be explained by the existence of a programmer! A consistent Intelligent Design world view (which is currently banned in our high schools) says that high-tech requires a technologist, whether it is an automobile or a living organism. If scientists don't get this, then they are dumber than the fundamentalists. Maybe another reason that America doesn't produce enough engineers is that we are teaching our children to despise Intelligent Design.
-- Douglas Stillman

As a political independent, I voted for and supported the Bush administration -- largely because I thought they were the best folks to fight the war against terrorists and more likely to support our wonderful capitalistic system than the "progressives." But in doing so, I have crawled in bed with all the right wing fundamentalists who seem to believe that an "atheist" is just as bad or worse than an Islamic terrorist. So I am caught between these two extremes: the socialist left and the fundamentalist right. As I see it, both are based on faith and devoid of hard evident to support some of their fundamental theories. There is no hard evidence for the existence of a God or Gods and the evidence demonstrates that socialism always leads to deterioration in the quality of human life.

So what is a self-respecting independent to do? Do I vote for Hillary or some other Hillary clone, or do I vote for a Pat Robertson or his clone? When faced with these two clear options, I usually vote for Libertarians. At this point I fear the consequences of voting for either a Republican or a Democrat. Both parties seem to wish to spend our country into oblivion. I will likely vote for the party that can make the most convincing lies about how they will be responsible stewards of our capitalistic system. But, I will hate myself in the morning.

In the case of evolution vs. intelligent design I see no evidence for truth of intelligent design -- only clever rhetoric. However, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. Faith is not required to believe in evolution. Using the argument of the improbability of evolution based on random chance and applying the same logic to the lottery, nobody would ever with the lottery. Well, the human species won the lottery of evolution. We dominate the biological world because of our ability to reason. But if I were forced to guess the ruling force in human decision-making, I would expect that emotion wins over reason most of the time. Of course there are good "Christians" who benefit from using reason all week but then feel free to go nuts on Sunday. Just like the progressives who behave reasonably most of the time but go nuts on election day.

So, it is going to be up to publications like yours that will determine my next vote. If the Pat Robertson/anti-evolutionist wing of the Republican Party appears to be the greatest threat to my ideological bent, then Republicans may well lose my vote.

Other than the anti-evolution rants, I like your publication and wish you the best.
-- Winfield Sterling

Curiously, unless I've missed it none of the Spectator's articles or blog entries on ID/Darwinism address ID's central and seemingly "scientific" premise: the irreducible complexity quandary. Alas, this is the case even with the "pro-ID" entrants, who frustratingly seem to focus on gaps in the fossil record as if that were the strongest evidence, or even -- in a nod to the Darwinists -- "evidence" at all!

In short, there are a fantastic number of biological designs which only work when all the parts are in place exactly as they are. Further, no less-complex configuration of the parts (nor biochemical predecessors to the parts) has any biological purpose, thus would be selected against under Darwinism as resource-wasting, reproduction-reducing, excess baggage. In other words, ancestors without any possible precursors would have triumphed under natural selection, preventing the configuration we see today from ever existing under random mutation and natural selection.

Darwin himself acknowledged that a single such discovery would disprove his theory, whereas there are an ever-growing number of examples well into the hundreds, if not thousands by now. "Darwin's Black Box" was I believe one of the seminal works-for-the-layman in this area, and highly worth a read.

A second line of ID reasoning I haven't seen addressed in your screen-pages has to do with the impossibility (or at least extreme unlikelihood) of something occurring if the odds against exceed the number of quantum particles in the universe (something under 10 to the 100th power) times the age of the universe in time quanta (10 to the -43 of a second times, say, 15 billion years). In other words, in the entire known universe's entire known existence, there are not even enough possible combinations of particles for such an extremely unlikely combination to have occurred even once; leaving aside what is actually likely under physics and/or biology -- both of which tend to further reduce the odds of the phenomena in question.

Logically proving the impossibility of a theory is, I believe, is a valid scientific critique. Postulating a more likely alternative -- design in this case -- is equally scientific in approach. Supporting the postulate with math and reasoning is at least as valid, scientifically, as the cutting edge of cosmology and quantum physics, which are so far beyond even our foreseeable experimental capacity, that certain foundational aspects are likely to remain mind games for as long as we are a species. (Particle accelerators the size of a galaxy, anyone?)

Of course these fields have their own raging design-vs.-chance debates. At least in these fields the "chance" side acknowledges the extreme unlikelihood of, say, all the laws of physics, and associated "starting values" of constants, having all come together "just so" for the universe to be as it is today (against vastly possible-in-this-universe-exceeding odds) -- including the interesting fact of even having intelligent observers in it on a 4.5 billion-year-old planet orbiting in a 2nd generation long-lived star. So they postulate wildly improvable theories such as the "infinite number of universe bubbles" or "cosmological foam" (we just "happen" to be in the one universe with parameters friendly to our existence), and are quite content having "solved" that little problem -- "scientifically," even! (Sadly, though, scientists for whom this is not a satisfactory "solution" are laughed out of the discussion, the same way Darwinists treat ID-ers.)

Lastly, I don't think any scientific ID supporters question whether genes exist, whether genes pass on inherited traits, and whether species already carry within them traits that can be expressed in different proportions in future generations because of natural selection (e.g. I fully accept the "taller puppies" proposed in one silly blog entry, although I strongly disagree that this is any "proof" of unguided Darwinism overcoming irreducible complexity or the universe-exceeding odds against forming the biochemical structures populating every dog's cells, however tall the dogs be).

I personally don't even question whether species change so much over time that the "son" wouldn't even recognize its "father" (unless sonny is lucky enough to have a human brain). However, even species modification and proliferation do not "prove" unguided Darwinism, so for sake of this discussion let's put them aside for a moment, and have some of the Darwinists please address irreducible complexity and universe-exceeding odds against chance (even operated upon by natural selection) creating, say, the very first "life" on this planet.

Heck I'm a generous person, I'll even spot them "biological molecule" precursors swarming in the "primordial soup," and "only" ask them to make these hydrocarbons plus some dozens of trace elements into DNA (or RNA), dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of complex proteins, transport mechanisms, energy capture and distribution networks, waste disposal systems, for starters, oh and it'd be nice to encapsulate it all within a membrane the permeability of which is under the control of the organism that lives within it...

Good luck!
-- Kevin Amaro
Hayward, California

Regarding the responses to George Neumayr's piece:

I'm not entirely sure where I fall on the evolution/creationism/ID spectrum, but I do note that on other issues when one side almost universally dismisses the other with arrogance, condescension, and ridicule rather than an honest debate and civilized discussion it almost always indicates a weak position and a lack of confidence in that position. I think the Darwinists would serve their cause better by some tactic other than sounding like Al Franken discussing Rush Limbaugh.
-- Brian

BUCK UP, CAPITALISTS
Re: Philip Klein's Wal-Mart, Socialists, and Me:

I am glad you guys stayed undercover while having this encounter with Socialists. My Dad, quoting Shakespeare, used to say: "When ignorance is such bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." What can Capitalists do to be more inclusive? Some Socialists complain when prices are too low and others complain when prices, like oil, are too high. It is like an endless loop of a Goldilocks movie playing to the whine of children who will not grow up. When Capitalism pollutes itself to comply with their remedies, they complain further of shortages and misdistribution.
-- Danny Newton

IMITATION AS FLATTERY
Re: James P. Lucier's The Happy Poet:

Some months ago a friend of mine sent me a poem by Ogden Nash making light of Senator Reed Smoot on the banning of smut. I dashed off this response that even I found amusing. I offer it for your enjoyment -- and I promise you I offer it for no other purpose:

An eloquent man is Mr. Nash
He slingeth words as they were hash
He skewereth Smoot, he waxeth cute
He useth well the joke to boot
He maketh rhymes and maketh fun
In bygone times his work he done
And still his humor seems not trash
This damned facetious Ogden Nash

-- Steve Hayes
Utah

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