Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Islamists Not Ready For Democracy

The military coup that ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi marks another failure in U.S. foreign policy over several administrations, which have erroneously promoted the notion that American-style democracy in Islamic lands will produce a nation more like ours.

The Founders wrote a Constitution. When properly read and obeyed, it guards against pure democracy and makes "we the people" subject to laws that cannot be abolished by popular vote. Benjamin Franklin properly called what the Founders wrought a "Republic." Representative government would guard against the passions of a majority. No such safeguards apply in Egypt, or for that matter throughout most of the Islamic world.

George W. Bush famously said that freedom beats in every human heart. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on the meaning of freedom.

Definitions are important. To a radical Islamist, Sharia law defines freedom. Constitutions guaranteeing equal rights for all, including religious minorities like Coptic Christians in Egypt, multiple parties and free speech are mostly absent from societies where Islamists rule. And so majorities, often followed by the mob, and then the army, rule.

Secretary of State John Kerry spent most of his recent visit to the Middle East focusing on the establishment of a Palestinian state. This failed policy is a sideshow and irrelevant to the turmoil throughout the region. The Obama administration is calling for an "inclusive" political process in Egypt, which would include a role for the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Muslim Brotherhood's radical religious outlook and earthly agenda are the problem, not the solution. Why should the United States expect a different government if a different "brother" is elected, or if Morsi is somehow re-instated?

How can Egypt have a stable government when the Brotherhood claims to be doing the will of God at the same time the military says it carried out God's will by removing Morsi, and secularists say they don't want Islamists governing Egypt?

Writing in the UK Daily Telegraph, Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, says the Arab world needs capitalism, more than democracy. He suggests that Western aid to Egypt be conditioned upon property rights. Throughout the Arab world, he writes, bureaucracy and corruption keep many people from starting businesses without paying costly bribes: "...under Hosni Mubarak, for example, opening a small bakery in Cairo took more than 500 days of bureaucracy. To open a business in Egypt means dealing with 29 government agencies. The same story is true throughout the region: The average Arab needs to present four dozen documents and endure two years of red tape to become the legal owner of land or business. If you don't have the time or money for this, you are condemned to life in the black market: No matter how good you are, you will never trade your way out of poverty."

The right to own property was fundamental to America's founding. In the beginning, only white male property owners were allowed to vote. Discriminatory, yes, but the point about the importance of being invested in the new nation by literally owning a piece of it was thought to be a fundamental component of citizenship.

American policy in the Middle East has failed over many decades because of false assumptions, especially when it comes to Israel. While often treating that tiny land as a weed that ought to be dug up, rather than a flower in the desert to be nourished, U.S. policy has focused on placating Arabs and Muslims, many of whom wish to destroy Israel and America.

Perhaps now that the United States is rapidly headed toward energy independence (enhanced if the opposition to the Keystone pipeline and fracking can be overcome), this and future administrations won't feel the need to bow to Middle East dictators and will push a "re-set" button that has a better chance at succeeding than the one that for too long has been stuck and inoperative.



George W. Bush: History Will Sort Out My Legacy

Former President George W. Bush isn’t just painting in his free time these days. On the contrary, he’s been helping build and refurbish health care clinics in Africa that are now finally beginning to provide cervical cancer screenings to at-risk women free of charge -- a cause he’s evidently championed and embraced since leaving the White House.

During a sit-down interview on ABC’s “This Week” with Jonathan Karl on Sunday, Bush (and his wife Laura), discussed their ongoing efforts to combat this deadly and devastating scourge -- a disease that reportedly killed as many as 50,000 African women in 2008 alone, according to the World Health Organization. But that’s not everything they talked about, of course. The conversation briefly touched on subjects as diverse as Bush’s recent interactions with President Obama, the “comprehensive immigration reform” bill currently making its way through Congress, and the former president’s own father’s political legacy:

As always Bush came across as affable, relaxed and good-humored. I also liked how he mentioned he’s “out of politics” for good now and therefore has no desire whatsoever to weigh in on hot political issues (read: gay marriage) that might bring him less-than-favorable headlines if he somehow answered "incorrectly." I don't blame him. That’s probably a smart thing to do not only for his own sanity, but for his post-presidential approval ratings which seem to be on the rise lately (although I suspect he doesn't really care about that). After all, as he says, posterity will determine what his legacy is -- not public opinion polls conducted four short years after he left office.

In any case, Bush strikes me as a deeply humble man who’s proud to have served his country -- and desperately wants to use his fame and influence to serve others. And he seems to be doing just that. By all accounts, his commitment to Africa has been exceptional; indeed, his efforts have saved perhaps tens of millions of lives.

Not bad for a man who supposedly “doesn’t care about black people.”



Darwin’s Doubt

Darwin’s Doubt, the brand new New York Times bestseller by Cambridge-trained Ph.D., Stephen Meyer, is creating a major scientific controversy. Darwinists don’t like it.

Meyer writes about the complex history of new life forms in an easy to understand narrative style. He takes the reader on a journey from Darwin to today while trying to discover the best explanation for how the first groups of animals arose. He shows, quite persuasively, that Darwinian mechanisms don’t have the power to do the job.

Using the same investigative forensic approach Darwin used over 150 years ago, Meyer investigates the central doubt Darwin had about his own theory. Namely, that the fossil record did not contain the rainbow of intermediate forms that his theory of gradual evolutionary change required. However, Darwin predicted that future discoveries would confirm his theory.

Meyer points out that they haven’t. We’ve thoroughly searched the fossil record since Darwin and confirmed what Darwin originally saw himself: the discontinuous, abrupt appearance of the first forms of complex animal life. In fact, paleontologists now think that roughly 20 of the 28 animal phyla (representing distinct animal “body plans”) found in the fossil record appear abruptly without ancestors in a dramatic geological event called the Cambrian Explosion.

And additional discoveries since Darwin have made it even worse for his theory. Darwin didn’t know about DNA or the digital information it contains that makes life possible. He couldn’t have appreciated, therefore, that building new forms of animal life would require millions of new characters of precisely sequenced code—that the Cambrian explosion was a massive explosion of new information.

For modern neo-Darwinism to survive, there must be an unguided natural mechanism that can create the genetic information and then add to it massively, accurately and within the time allowed by the fossil record. Is there such a mechanism?

The answer to that question is the key to Meyer’s theory and entire book. Meyer shows that the standard “neo-Darwinian” mechanism of mutation and natural selection mechanism lacks the creative power to produce the information necessary to produce new forms of animal life. He also reviews the various post-Darwinian speculations that evolutionary biologists themselves are now proposing to replace the crumbling Darwinian edifice. None survive scrutiny. Not only is there no known natural mechanism that can create the new information required for new life forms, there is no known natural mechanism that can create the genetic code for the first life either (which was the subject of Meyer’s previous book Signature in the Cell).

When Meyer suggests that an intelligent designer is the best explanation for the evidence at hand, critics accuse him of being anti-scientific and endangering sexual freedom everywhere (OK, they don’t explicitly state that last part). They also claim that Meyer commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

But he does not. As Meyer points out, he’s not interpreting the evidence based on what we don’t know, but what we do know. The geologically sudden appearance of fully formed animals and millions of lines of genetic information point to intelligence. That is, we don’t just lack a materialistic explanation for the origin of information. We have positive evidence from our uniform and repeated experience that another kind of cause—namely, intelligence or mind—is capable of producing digital information. Thus, he argues that the explosion of information in the Cambrian period provides evidence of this kind of cause acting in the history of animal life. (Much like any sentence written by one of Meyer’s critics is positive evidence for an intelligent being).

This inference from the data is no different than the inference archaeologists made when they discovered the Rosetta Stone. It wasn’t a “gap” in their knowledge about natural forces that led them to that conclusion, but the positive knowledge that inscriptions require intelligent inscribers.

Of course, any critic could refute Meyer’s entire thesis by demonstrating how natural forces or mechanisms can generate the genetic information necessary to build the first life and then massive new amounts of genetic information necessary for new forms of animal life. But they can’t and hardly try without assuming what they are trying to prove (see Chapter 11). Instead, critics attempt to smear Meyer by claiming he’s doing “pseudo science” or not doing science at all.

Well, if Meyer isn’t, doing science, then neither was Darwin (or any Darwinist today). Meyer is using the same forensic or historical scientific method that Darwin himself used. That’s all that can be used. Since these are historical questions, a scientist can’t go into the lab to repeat and observe the origin and history of life. Scientists must evaluate the clues left behind and then make an inference to the best explanation. Does our repeated experience tell us that natural mechanisms have the power to create the effects in question or is intelligence required?

Meyer writes, “Neo-Darwinism and the theory of intelligent design are not two different kinds of inquiry, as some critics have asserted. They are two different answers—formulated using a similar logic and method of reasoning—to the same question: ‘What caused biological forms and the appearance of design in the history of life?’”

The reason Darwinists and Meyer arrive at different answers is not because there’s a difference in their scientific methods, but because Meyer and other Intelligent Design proponents don’t limit themselves to materialistic causes. They are open to intelligent causes as well (just like archaeologists and crime scene investigators are).

So this is not a debate about evidence. Everyone is looking at the same evidence. This is a debate about how to interpret the evidence, and that involves philosophical commitments about what causes will be considered possible before looking at the evidence. If you philosophically rule out intelligent causes beforehand—as the Darwinists do—you will never arrive at the truth if an intelligent being actually is responsible.

Since all evidence needs to be interpreted, science doesn’t actually say anything—scientists do. So if certain self-appointed priests of science say that a particular theory is outside the bounds of their own scientific dogma, that doesn’t mean that the theory is false. The issue is truth—not whether something fits a materialistic definition of science.

I’m sure Darwinists will continue to throw primordial slime at Meyer and his colleagues. But that won’t make a dent in his observation that whenever we see information like that required to produce the Cambrian Explosion, intelligence is always the cause. In fact, I predict that when open-minded people read Darwin’s Doubt, they’ll see that Dr. Meyer makes a very intelligently designed case that intelligent design is actually true. It’s just too bad that many Darwinists aren’t open to that truth—they aren’t even open minded enough to doubt Darwin as much as Darwin himself was.



The Zimmerman trial needs to be more about race! Quick, call the sociologist!

The NYT frontpages this execrable article by Lizette Alvarez, titled "Zimmerman Case Has Race as a Backdrop, but You Won’t Hear It in Court." She begins with the assumption that the case is supposed to be about race. After all, that's the way it looked in the press when it was first reported:

"But in the courtroom where George Zimmerman is on trial for second-degree murder, race lingers awkwardly on the sidelines, scarcely mentioned but impossible to ignore."

What does that look like — race lingering awkwardly and impossible to ignore?

It's a trial! There are rules of evidence, and there's the whole concept of criminal justice, which involves an accusation, based on specific law, about a specific incident and exactly what this particular defendant did.

It's not about larger narratives and how this might fit into a template that we think explains some larger social scheme. To suggest that it should and that something's wrong with the trial if it does not is to get it exactly backwards.

"For African-Americans here and across the country, the killing of Mr. Martin, 17, black and unarmed, was resonant with a back story steeped in layers of American history and the abiding conviction that justice serves only some of the people."

Seeing one event steeping in layers of history and within the context of abiding convictions is the very mechanism of prejudice. But the NYT is, apparently, sorry the trial isn't a festival of prejudicial thinking! How to write that up into an article? Call in the sociologist:

“For members of the African-American community, it’s a here-we-go-again moment,” said JeffriAnne Wilder, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Florida. “We want to get away from these things, but this did not happen in a vacuum. It happened against the backdrop of all the other things that have happened before.”

It's not awkward to shunt the backdrop of all the other things that have happened before to the sidelines during a trial. Rather, it's precisely what the judge and lawyers and jurors are required to do.



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