Intelligent Design Yet Again

A cynical curmudgeon named Ben Stein has been making the rounds of talk shows, promoting a soon-to-be-released movie.
(http://expelledthemovie.com/)

Judging from the trailer for the movie, it will be yet another rehash of Intelligent Design. The trailer shows a teacher at a chalkboard, talking to his class about evolution. Stein, at the rear of the class, interrupts to ask how life could arise from inanimate matter.

The teacher acts caught out. He mumbles and stutters. He says they have gone over this time and again. Stein responds that the teacher never answers the question. He brings up the possibility of ID, and the other students all nod approvingly.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that several hypotheses about the origin of life are presently being scientifically explored. (See, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/z2ylv.) Stein’s notion of ID demonstrates once again a fallacy that constantly shows up in ID claims. In fact, this fallacy has been pointed out so frequently that it has acquired a title: God of the Gaps.

Religion loves a mystery, meaning anything currently unexplainable. Theistic people can then “explain” the unknown by positing a god or gods who make it all happen.

An excellent article, “The Last Gasp for the God of the Gaps” by Greg Perkins is still available: (http://tinyurl.com/5ox38o)

When you already “know” — throughRevelaton — that God exists and created everything, you can safely ridicule any scientific teaching that contradicts your “knowledge.”

Stein, and ID proponents generally, already “know” how life got started; how the universe itself got started. God did it, and they “don’ need no steenking” scientific theories.

The focus of the ID movement is to ridicule the theory of evolution, which, they are correct in fearing, gives the lie to the notion of “creation ex nihilo.” The deeper purpose of ID is to more firmly embed religion into politics so that education and legislation will reflect the religionists’ views of the world and morality.

Of course, Stein’s movie is bent on deriding any idea of a universe with no God to make it go, so the focus (in the trailer) is the humiliation of the teacher who can’t answer it.

–Ken

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“Bargaining” With Drug Companies

The news just told me that Rep. Charles Rangel, Chairman-to-be of the House Ways & Means Committee, wants for the government to “negotiate” drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Rangel thinks that drug prices are too high.

A negotiation entails bargaining with the purpose of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement. In order to bargain, each party must have something the other side wants.

What does the government have that the producers of drugs want? Nothing that I can think of. The government’s “bargaining chip” is power, which means, ultimately, the exclusive right to use guns to enforce its will.

When Charlie Rangel says “negotiate,” he means something like, “lower your drug prices, and we (the government) will allow you to do some of what you want to do.” The — perhaps hidden — alternative entails the many ways government can make business difficult or impossible.

The word “negotiate” does not apply when one of the “parties” is the government. When it comes down to it, all the government has is a gun. It can use force to impose the will of government officials.

In other words, the government can force drug producers to lower their prices. Then, the government can blame the producers for the inevitable result of such price controls, shortages of the drugs that are now so cheap.

–Ken

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Getting to Essentials

Harry Binswanger exemplifies a method for thinking about an issue that helps one get at its essentials. The issue he deals with is the current contention over placing a Dubai company in charge of U.S. ocean ports. He asks a question ignored/evaded by pundits and politicians (or anyone else, so far as I know). “Why is it an issue at all whether or not a Middle Eastern company runs our ports?” A marvelous set of answers and further questions follows:

“Because we are afraid of the very real possibility of Islamic terrorists doing something like detonating a nuclear bomb in New York harbor.” And “Why is that a very real possibility?” Well, “…we haven’t crushed the jihadist movement.” Why not, since we certainly have the means? “We lacked the moral certainty of the rightness of that course. …the will uncompromisingly to assert our right to self-defense.”

As to the next question, why we lack the will, “…America lost the knowledge that men have rights and that therefore the nation of rights is right. For a long, long time, our intellectual leadership has regarded America as evil. No nation whose intellectuals are solidly against it can act with moral certainty…”

And at last, ” Why have the American intellectuals been anti-American for all this time? Because of the altruist morality and the anti-reason epistemology.”

So, it comes down to philosophy — the essential — the prevailing ethics and epistemology this country has absorbed. If, instead, America were still the country of egoism and reason the question about who should be in charge of the ports would be moot. Harry Binswanger puts it to words:

” You fear a nuclear bomb going off in New York Harbor? Then crush the enemy. End the mullahs regime in Iran. Crush Syria. Whip the Saudis into line. And tell the world that self-sacrifice is evil and religion is a lie. Which means: tell the world that man is an end in himself, that his life on this earth is the only thing that is sacred, that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, and that reason, not faith or force, is man’s only means of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.”

And thus, through a series of common sense questions and answers, he disposes of the “issue” of what company should be in charge of the seaports and brings the discussion back to the essentials — the ideas behind the “issue.”

–Ken

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Appeasement as Policy

Our State Department, according to Reuters, has decried the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoon depictions of Mohammed (aka Muhammad). The State Department spokesman, one Kurtis Cooper, said the cartoons are “offensive to the belief of Muslims,” (aka Moslems).

Of course, the question that immediately leaps to (a rational) mind is, “Why on earth ought we care about offending the feelings of our sworn enemies?” The answer in the Reuters article is, “By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.” It doesn’t say why we should care about our image among Muslims. That’s simply taken for granted, as though their bad opinion of us actually says anything about us.

Although I saw the cartoons on some newscast (I believe on Fox), I noted yesterday that CNN declined to show them; that is, they showed a couple, but with Mohammed’s face pixeled out. This is right in line with the feelings at State. The European press showed far more backbone in resolutely publishing the cartoons when it became evident that the Moslems were going to make a fuss about it.

–Ken

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