Friday, March 27, 2009

2010: The Start of a Major National Debate


On May 23, 2008, The New York Times ran David Brooks' column Neural Buddhism. This piece - which touches on several themes from The Mustard Seed - rose all the way to Number One on the list of most emailed NYT articles.

Brooks condenses so much brainfood into so few words, I have to re-post the whole piece...

In 1996, Tom Wolfe wrote a brilliant essay called “Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died,” in which he captured the militant materialism of some modern scientists.

To these self-confident researchers, the idea that the spirit might exist apart from the body is just ridiculous. Instead, everything arises from atoms. Genes shape temperament. Brain chemicals shape behavior. Assemblies of neurons create consciousness. Free will is an illusion. Human beings are “hard-wired” to do this or that. Religion is an accident.

In this materialist view, people perceive God’s existence because their brains have evolved to confabulate belief systems. You put a magnetic helmet around their heads and they will begin to think they are having a spiritual epiphany. If they suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy, they will show signs of hyperreligiosity, an overexcitement of the brain tissue that leads sufferers to believe they are conversing with God.

Wolfe understood the central assertion contained in this kind of thinking: Everything is material and “the soul is dead.” He anticipated the way the genetic and neuroscience revolutions would affect public debate. They would kick off another fundamental argument over whether God exists.
Lo and behold, over the past decade, a new group of assertive atheists has done battle with defenders of faith. The two sides have argued about whether it is reasonable to conceive of a soul that survives the death of the body and about whether understanding the brain explains away or merely adds to our appreciation of the entity that created it.

The atheism debate is a textbook example of how a scientific revolution can change public culture. Just as “The Origin of Species reshaped social thinking, just as Einstein’s theory of relativity affected art, so the revolution in neuroscience is having an effect on how people see the world.

And yet my guess is that the atheism debate is going to be a sideshow. The cognitive revolution is not going to end up undermining faith in God, it’s going to end up challenging faith in the Bible.

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.

This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism.

If you survey the literature (and I’d recommend books by Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser if you want to get up to speed), you can see that certain beliefs will spread into the wider discussion.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships.

Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions.

Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love.

Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.

In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I’m not qualified to take sides, believe me. I’m just trying to anticipate which way the debate is headed. We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.

Wow! That's a lot of good stuff to chew on! And if you like all that, you're gonna love this: Brooks is writing an entire book about "the brain, neuroscience, sociology, politics, and the intersection thereof."

This is great news for me personally, because as I mentioned above, Brooks is covering a lot of the same topics that I'm interested in - the validity of organized religion, consciousness studies, bridging the gap between science and faith, etc, etc. Furthermore, there's reason to believe that Brooks and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues.

Finally, based on the popularity of his original column, it's likely that Brooks' book will become a major best-seller, and perhaps even the catalyst for one of those major cultural debates that America's Elite dives into every few years (think back to Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat). In previous books, Brooks has shown himself to be a sharp observer of the American Scene, and the future of the "American Idea." So we should be optimistic about the content of his newest enterprise. I think it will spark a lively, much-needed debate about some of the most important issues facing human beings individually and society at large.

The book comes out in 2010. Mark your calendars.

The battle is just getting started...

-Todd


**UPDATE, JUL. 22, 2009**

In The American Scene, Michael Brendan Dougherty writes…

“If neural Buddhism comes, it will be an invitation for American religion to move away from its emotionalism (and obscurantism) and back to serious theological reflection. I can’t wait.”

Neither can I.



Should We Aspire to Be Happy All the Time?


Since I started this blog in November, I haven’t talked much about myself – at least not on a personal level. There’s a couple of reasons for that. First, this is a deliberately anonymous blog (for professional reasons). And second, I’m a pretty private person (with a few exceptions, of course). But I’m going to open up a little bit today.

Recently, the quality of my full-time job has been going south. There have been some personnel changes that have left me feeling annoyed, frustrated, unmotivated, and sometimes even depressed. Needless to say, I don’t like feeling that way. And I’m actively trying to improve my situation. But in any case, I’ve been reflecting more on the meaning of happiness, and the best way to attain it.

In The Mustard Seed, Brian Raines defines happiness this way:

"The root of happiness is the conviction (supported by experience) that you are competent and morally entitled to succeed on this Earth.”

I like that quote. In fact, it’s one of my favorite quotes in the whole book. And I stand by it. But I think (in light of recent events in my life) that I should provide a more detailed definition.

For starters, let’s review what Heather Manning said about life itself:

“I would say that a self-interested life is a virtuous life, and there are three virtues which are critical: honesty, responsibility, and justice….These three values…provide us with a sense of ownership over our lives, and the confidence to surmount any of life’s challenges…When we choose to practice those values at all times, in all circumstances, we possess the final, all-encompassing virtue, which is loyalty to virtue itself. That is known as integrity."

After adopting this philosophy, Heather continues…

“Overall, I was satisfied with myself and I was optimistic about my future. But deep down, I had to acknowledge a simple fact: I still wasn’t happy. I mean really happy – the kind of happiness that treats every day as a gift, and very experience as a blessing. Instead, I saw life as a constant, lonely struggle with no greater purpose than my own wish to win that struggle. For a long time, that was all the motivation I needed. But not anymore. Now it wasn’t enough that my life mattered to me; I wanted my life to matter. Period. I knew the only way to find some greater meaning was through God.”

At the risk of spoiling the book, eventually Heather finds that meaning.

So…by adopting the right philosophy (and combining it with faith in a Higher Power), Heather achieves “the conviction (supported by experience) that she is competent and morally entitled to succeed on this Earth.” And with it, she finds happiness, as well. “The happiness that treats every day as a gift, and every experience as a blessing.”

But is it realistic to treat “every experience as a blessing?” Should we aspire to be happy all the time?

I am tempted to say “yes.”
That is certainly the goal. And it should be achievable. But when reflecting on my life today (specifically, my job), I have to confess that while I certainly maintain the CONVICTION that I am “competent and morally entitled to succeed on this Earth,” most days, from 9-6 PM, I do not have that EXPERIENCE. I am not using my talents in a way that is consistent with my values. Of course, I realize that I’m not the only person who ever felt that way. I bet most people feel that way today. And of course, I have other outlets for my talent – this blog, my girlfriend, my family, etc. But it is sobering to realize that my full-job is not meeting my expectations. And so the question becomes: How should I respond to that? How should any person respond? Should we be happy?

Again, I am tempted to say “yes.” As an old philosopher once said, “This too shall pass.” We should not get hung up on the day-to-day trivialities and disappointments of life. We should stay focused on the big picture. If we are living a moral existence, that alone should be sufficient for our happiness. By preserving our integrity (regardless of where we are or who we’re with), we will stay confident in ourselves and confident in the benevolence of a Higher Power.

As Brian Raines once said: “At the end of the process, we must put our faith in God – because we know, through reason, that God is worthy of that faith.”

There’s one caveat, however. And it’s an important one. There’s no point in hiding from Reality. While we should aspire to be happy in all situations, we shouldn’t fake joy if the situation doesn’t call for it. In my case, there’s no point in treating recent developments at my job as a “blessing” or a “gift.” I should be honest in expressing my disappointment. And I should never feel guilty about it.

This brings me to a final point: There is probably a distinction between happiness and joy. We should aspire to be happy every day for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. But the emotion of joy itself (what some call “extreme happiness”) should be a rarer feeling – and for good reason. The feeling of joy should be reserved for specific events on a day-to-day basis that reinforce the conviction that “you are competent and morally entitled to succeed.” We should aspire to feel joy. But we should recognize that joyful living (as opposed to simply “happy living”) is a rarer, and more profound, occurrence.

So what’s the bottom line? At least for me? Well, I need to do some soul-searching. While I STILL feel happy, I am entitled to feel joy too. Even at work. That should be the right of all human beings. And I am going to work even harder to make it happen.

-Todd

Interesting Website of the Day


I just discovered the website of Bradley Monton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Apparently, in the summer of 2009, he will be releasing a book called Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. According to Morton:

"The doctrine of Intelligent Design has been maligned by atheists, but even though I am an atheist, I'm of the opinion that the arguments for Intelligent Design are stronger than most realize. The goal of the book is to try to get people to take Intelligent Design seriously. I maintain that it is legitimate to view Intelligent Design as science, that there are plausible arguments for the existence of a cosmic creator, and that Intelligent Design should be taught in public school science classes."

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to reading Professor Morton's book.

The good professor also has a blog, which can be found here.


**UPDATE, AUG. 19, 2009**



Professor Monton's book is out. Click here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Materialism is Dead. Now What?

This year, I've been boning up on the latest developments in the "Intelligent Design" controversy. I've been devouring Denyse O'Leary's 3 excellent blogs on the relationship between science and faith; I saw the movie Expelled (and trolled through the IMDB.com message boards to judge the debate between critics and fans); and last but least, I've been deconstructing some of the more basic objections to I.D. as a scientific theory.

So where do things stand in the spring of 2009?

Well, let me start here...I am more convinced than ever that I.D. is "right" and "materialism" is "wrong"...the case against "materialism" is overwhelming...

When it comes to physics...The idea that the universe was created "by chance" is virtually preposterous (hence, the new scientific fad of "multiverses," which - by definition - cannot be proved, disproved, or scientifically studied).

When it comes to biology...The tenets of neo-Darwinism are also in shambles.

I've broken down neo-Darwinism into four main ideas: (1) life can be produced "by chance" in a soup of chemicals, 2) life can come from non-living matter, 3) random genetic mutations and environmental pressures can explain the creation of new species, and 4) there is a logical evolutionary continuum (known as "common descent") between apes and humans.

Literally 150 years after Darwin published
On the Origin of Species, there is still ZERO evidence for the first 3 tenets, and surprisingly little evidence for the final one. We should stop making excuses and admit that Darwinism isn't a science anymore; it's an ideology.

By contrast, I.D. is the only reasonable framework for understanding the complexity of the most "basic" units of life - the cell and DNA.

A
s for psychology..the scientific establishment doesn't have a "workable theory" for consciousness...there is a split between those who think the "mind is an illusion" and those who admit the "mind is real" but insist on keeping it packaged in the materialist paradigm...unfortunately, neither side is keeping up with the evidence...the newest evidence in "consciousness studies" is that 1) the mind is real, and 2) it's more powerful than the brain.

What's the proof? NDE's (Near-Death Experiences) are the most famous (and well-documented) source of proof; but other mental abilities - like remote viewing and precognition - show beyond any reasonable doubt that the mind is MORE than the brain.


To sum up..we've won.... On a purely intellectual level, materialism is dead...it's no longer conceivable for a layman (like myself) to objectively weigh the evidence and call materialism a viable philosophy..in fact, the sheer of volume of evidence against it is embarassing...it cannot inspire and it cannot convince...it's dead...the only remaining step is giving it a proper funeral.

So where do we go from here?

Well, we should NOT sit around and wait for the scientific establishment to shout, "Sorry, y'all. You were were right." If their mission was true science, they might feel obligated to issue an apology and call for a honest partnership; but since their actual mission is spreading an atheist ideology, we shouldn't hold our breath.

Instead, we need to influence the "commanding heights" of our culture (outside of science); and by that I mean: books, magazines, blogs, movies, churches, and even political groups. I am hopeful that my book, The Mustard Seed, may - on some small level - contribute to our movement. But everyone can play a role. By just speaking publicly - refusing to nod and smile when a co-worker or family member bashes religion - can have a positive impact by withering the self-confidence of the other side.

They have fear; we have facts. And if we show no fear, we will win.


But I'm starting to digress (as usual)...

As for me...while I'm going to continue to monitor the latest developments in physics and biology, I don't expect a lot of breakthroughs on those fronts...at this point, we've probably learned what we're going to learn...the battlelines in the debate have been drawn...it's like the Western Front of World War One...each team is just waiting for the other side to crack...until, of course, some third force breaks the logjam...hopefully, popular culture can be that force.

In any case, what interests me NOW is relating what we've learned from physics and biology to psychology. Psychology (specifically, "consciousness studies") is the main game in town. From a scientific perspective, I hope that I.D. leaders will direct more time and resources to this area of study. If we know God exists, and that he plays an active role in life's creation, then we should try to learn how He communicates with us on a mental level.

Heck, maybe He'll finally explain what He wants from us!

-Todd

**UPDATE, MAR. 25, 2009**

I just re-read this blog post, and I wish to clarify a few points.

First, I want to elaborate on my assertion that "materialism is dead." In retrospect, that sounds a little "triumphalist." What I mean is...materialism is intellectually and morally dying (and very close to death)...I'm sure we'll be hearing from the materialists for literally decades to come, but they are a spent force. The future belongs to a union between science and faith.


In making that bold prediction, I am inspired by the words of novelist Ayn Rand, who through her fiction and non-fiction works, spoke eloquently about the failures of "collectivism" (better known as "socialism"). In 1960, "collectivism" seemed like it was on the march; freedom and capitalism was on the retreat, But in a prescient speech that same year, Ms. Rand said the following...
"The intellectuals and the so-called idealists were determined to make socialism work...Well, ladies, and gentlemen, the socialists got their dream...They got it in the twentieth century...They got it in every possible form and variant, so that now there can be no mistake about its nature: Soviet Russia - Nazi Germany - Socialist England.

This was the collapse of a modern intellectuals' most cherished tradition. It was World War II that destroyed collectivism as a political ideal. Oh yes, people still mouth its slogans, by routine, by social conformity and by default - but it is not a moral crusade any longer. It is an ugly horrifying reality."
Rand's assertion that collectivism had already been destroyed in World War Two (!!) probably elicited a lot of scorn in her audience...but she was right...the Cold War just needed to play out...and in 1991, the collectivist empire died with a whimper.

I am wagering that a similar thing is happening with materialism...if Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Socialist England showed the moral and practical failures of collectivism (even if it took literally decades to unwind the damage), the newest discoveries in physics, biology, and psychology are thrusting nails into the coffin of materialism...hence, my assertion that materialism is on its death bed.

Ever since 1973 (when Brandon Carter discovered the "anthropic principle"), materialism has been gradually unraveling. Since then, all facets of science - after centuries of pouring acid on the idea of God's existence and man's special place in the universe - are moving BACK towards that original idea that yes, life is more than just a random firing of electrons and neurons. We DO matter.


One day in the future, people may look back at the 2005 debate over teaching I.D. in public schools, and view it as a cultural turning point. Even though the I.D. advocates lost that case (much like John Scopes in the "Monkey Trial"), they will turn courtroom defeat into cultural victory.

History has an odd habit of repeating itself. But never in the way you expect.

-Todd

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Expelled:" A Review

On Friday night, I finally got around to seeing "Expelled," the Number 1 documentary of 2008...

"Ben Stein stars in this satirical documentary which examines the criticisms and hostilities that exist in today's scientific field (both academic and professional) towards peers and journalists who subscribe to or even entertain the perspective of Intelligent Design in science."

After watching the film, I organized my thoughts into 5 major categories...

1) "Expelled" is a legitimately excellent movie which covers the I.D. controversy from multiple angles - including the most important angle of all - which is the survival of freedom in America.

At its most fundamental level, the I.D. debate isn't about science; it's about freedom. The freedom to "follow the facts wherever they go" and speak your conscience - without fear of punishment. Before "Expelled" was released, we were unquestionably losing that fight for freedom; but if "Expelled" gets a wide enough circulation, there is reason to hopeful that we can go on offense and
turn the tides back in our favor.

2) The I.D. debate is a genuinely important issue which affects all Americans.

I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that for the last 250 years or so, "science" has been the most respected institution in Western society; and the high public regard for "science" (a rational, objective way of seeing the world) was directly related to the West's economic climb (though scientifically-inspired technological breakthroughs) and the rise of political democracy.

But by arrogantly changing their mission from "objective seekers of truth" to playing "thought police," the scientific establishment is crippling their credibility - perhaps beyond repair.

Actually, my mistake: this isn't about science; it was never about science; it's about protecting an atheist ideology. Now the whole thing makes sense!

Is it any wonder that, according to the General Social Survey, the percentage of Americans who express a "great deal of confidence" in the "scientific community' has dropped from 45% to 40% over the last 8 years? Expect that number to keep falling.

3) There was one extremely emotional section of the film: The video of Adolf Hitler's speech in which he praises "Social Darwinism," followed by Ben Stein's present-day tour of a concentration camp in which thousands were killed in the spirit of that "Social Darwinist" ideology. Rarely has the link between Darwinism and the Holocaust been so well-presented.

4) Even today, radical Darwinism is spreading lies in a way that does great damage.

5) Final thought: I really respect Ben Stein for taking the initiative to become a leader in the I.D. movement - knowing full well that it would do irreversible damage to his career and reputation. Before "Expelled," Mr. Stein was highly-regarded by America's elite. The man was a well-known actor and economist (talk about a strange combination!). But there is no issue that riles the American Elite more than evolution (with the possible exception of abortion). And for challenging that issue, Mr. Stein continues to pay a price. And yet Mr. Stein has championed this cause with great courage and enthusiasm. And he is to be applauded for that.

The "Expelled" website can be found here.

And here is the Discovery Institute's "One-Stop Rebuttal to Attacks on Expelled."

-Todd

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Despair of "The Selfish Gene"

For some reason, I felt inspired to look up Richard Dawkins’ book, The Selfish Gene on the Amazon.com website.

In a previous blog post, I had mentioned The Selfish Gene as one of the books I read during my teenage years that reinforced my atheism and my overall pessimistic outlook on life.

As I scrolled down the Amazon.com page, I found this “reader review” by Michael Edwards of Australia, and the 49 comments that followed it.

Fascinating stuff…

“I wish I could rate this book at 5 stars and 0 stars at the same time. It is a fascinating book, very well-written, and it conveys a real sense of how life works on the biological level.”

“On one level, I can share in the sense of wonder Dawkins so evidently sees in the workings-out of such complex processes, often made up of quite simple elemental mechanisms, but interacting so complexly to produce the incredibly complex world we live in.

But at the same time, I largely blame ‘The Selfish Gene’ for a series of bouts of depression I suffered from for more than a decade, and part of me wants to rate the book at zero stars for its effect on my life. Never sure of my spiritual outlook on life, but trying to find something deeper - trying to believe, but not quite being able to - I found that this book just about blew away any vague ideas I had along these lines, and prevented them from coalescing any further. This created quite a strong personal crisis for me some years ago.

The book renders a God or supreme power of any sort quite superfluous for the purpose of accounting for the way the world is, and the way life is. It accounts for the nature of life, and for human nature, only too well, whereas most religions or spiritual outlooks raise problems that have to be got around. It presents an appallingly pessimistic view of human nature, and makes life seem utterly pointless; yet I cannot present any arguments to refute its point of view. I still try to have some kind of spiritual outlook, but it is definitely battered, and I have not yet overcome the effects of this book on me.”

“If there is nothing beyond death, no spiritual dimension to anything, and everything is just a blind dance of atoms, I fail to see how this by itself can give one a real sense of purpose, however fascinating the dance that Dawkins describes - and it *is* fascinating; let there be no mistake about that.

Because of this, I have the curious feeling of dichotomy about Dawkins' book that it is certainly fascinating on one level, but that I cannot give even qualified emotional commitment to the outlook on life that seems to lie behind it. I would in the end rather have the hope of something wonderful and purposeful that only some spiritual outlook can offer, even though it may be a deluded fantasy, than the certainty of a scientific vision that eliminates any possibility of long-term hope, that condemns us to an empty, eternal death of nothingness in the end. This scientific view may be completely rational; but rationality is not the only important consideration to shape our outlook on life.”

“In my more depressed moments, I have desperately wished I could unread the book, and continue life from where I left off.

It has been said that each of us has a God-shaped hole inside, and that we spend most of our lives trying to fill it with the wrong things. I firmly believe that God-shaped hole is there, that we have inner longings of a wonderful sort almost impossible to describe in words. Whether a God exists to fill it, I do not yet know. But what I am sure of is that, as wonderful as Dawkins' view of nature and of life may be on its own level, it will not fill that God-shaped hole.”

I can relate to a lot to what Mr. Edwards is saying, although, luckily for me, I’ve “grown” beyond The Selfish Gene. I can only hope that Mr. Edwards does the same.

**UPDATE: APRIL 2, 2009**



While reading through the archives of Denyse O'Leary's Post-Darwinist blog, I found a few nuggets of information that relate to this post: namely, that Darwinist dogma - when allowed to seep into the minds of young people without giving the other side to make a counterargument - can lead to devastating consequences.

First of all, with the 10-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings coming up in a few weeks, it's useful to read David Arrington's blog post, Darwin and Columbine...

As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, I read through every single page of Eric Harris’ jounals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes, including the infamous “basement tapes.” There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshiper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles. For example, he wrote: “YOU KNOW WHAT I LOVE??? Natural SELECTION! It’s the best thing that ever happened to the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms . . . but it’s all natural! YES!”

Elsewhere he wrote: “NATURAL SELECTION. Kill the retards.” I could multiply examples, but you get the picture.

It was no coincidence that on the day of the shootings Harris wore a shirt with two words written on it: “Natural Selection.”

But there's more...

In 2007, a Finnish high school student who killed 8 people was apparently motivated by Social Darwinism...

In the rambling text posted on the site, Auvinen said that he is "a cynical existentialist, anti-human humanist, anti-social social-Darwinist, realistic idealist and god-like atheist.
"I am prepared to fight and die for my cause," he wrote. "I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection."

But the most poignant story is the one about Jesse Kilgore...

Jesse Kilgore, a college student whose loss of faith and subsequent suicide has been linked to his biology class and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. After his professor challenged him to read the anti-theistic book and rule out the possibility of God’s existence in light of the evidence for evolution, Jesse experienced a crisis of faith. Now his father is arguing for academic freedom for intelligent design and critiques of Darwin’s theory.

A podcast with Jesse's father can be found here.


**UPDATE, JUN. 10, 2009**



Barry Arrington, who represents the families of 6 Columbine victims, says...

"The moral implications of Darwin’s theory are there for all to see. Eric Harris was a brilliant young man (Dylan Klebold was a follower, more or less along for the ride). Harris paid attention in class and he learned both Darwin and Nietzsche (and wrote about both in his journal). He put two and two together and got 'kill everyone whom I deem to be inferior.' In our public school system Harris was steeped in the moral darkness and nihilism of Darwin and Nietzsche. Tragically, he was not exposed to any countervailing influences, He took what he learned and, however misguided his actions were, he acted upon his lessons.

This is the lesson of Columbine at least insofar as our schools are concerned: It is very dangerous to spout untempered nihilism in class, because someone just might take you seriously and act on your lesson."

-Todd

The Ever-Evolving Church

A couple of church-related stories from the past week…

‘Great Sex Sermons’ Cause Controversy in Alabama

“Daystar Church, whose congregation has grown dramatically under pastor Jerry Lawson, has run up against the sensibilities of a conservative north Alabama community with a monthlong focus on sex.


Sex just isn't an appropriate topic for church, some say, and others are upset over the church's signs, which advertise the sermon series and accompanying Web site.

‘It's really stirred up the people here,’ said Good Hope town clerk Joann Jones.”

“The controversy is a bit ironic considering the church's overall point is about as straight-laced as they come: That God intends for sex to be enjoyed solely within a heterosexual marriage, and that anything else - adultery, pornography, homosexuality, even "sexual arousal" outside of marriage - is sin.”


God-less 'congregations' planned for humanists

“Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is building a God-free model of community that he hopes helps humanists increase in numbers and influence.

Epstein sees potential in research showing that there are more people with no religion. In the latest American Religious Identification Survey, released this month, 15 percent of respondents in 2008 said they had no religion, compared to 8.2 percent in 1990. Epstein believes that group includes large numbers of people who are humanist, but have never identified themselves that way and can be reached.”

“Epstein wants to plant local humanist centers nationwide that perform many of the community-building functions of a church, only in service of the humanist creed. He will promote his idea as he tours the country to promote his book, "Good Without God," which is scheduled to be published by HarperCollins later this year.”

“While many humanists reject anything that hints at organized religion, Epstein is freely borrowing from it _ from the "small group" format familiar in evangelical churches to calling his group a ‘congregation.’”

“To those who say it can't be done, Epstein points to his community at Harvard, and nonstop requests for more services, as a rebuttal. He believes humanists are responsible to make sure their community grows more.”

‘Salvation is here on earth,’ he said. ‘We have evolved over 14 billion years without purpose. Now we want purpose, we need to build it into our own lives.’"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What is “Immoral?”

Back in January, I exchanged emails with a friend of mine regarding the question: “Is pornography immoral?”

I confidently answered that pornography – or more accurately, the consumption of pornography – was NOT immoral.

In my opening email, I wrote:

"While I've done very little research on the subject, my instinct is to say that pornography is a lot like alcohol. It's almost impossible to make the argument that alcohol is inherently GOOD for you, and when abused, alcohol can definitely be BAD for you (and others). But there's nothing inherently BAD about alcohol or pornography if used responsibly. And since we keep alcohol legal (with some understandable restrictions), we should keep (most) porn legal too."

In a later email, I wrote more definitively:

“I don't think the word ‘immoral’ can be used in any context except behavior that directly, negatively impacts other people.”

Therefore…

“Private behavior [even though we might find it distasteful] which doesn't directly, negatively affect other people should NOT be considered immoral.”

“The consumption of porn consists of one individual (usually a man) and his computer (or TV) screen. No one else is involved. Literally. With no else involved, the concept of ‘morality’ doesn't rear its head.”

However…

“Is watching this porn ‘unhealthy?’ Almost certainly, yes. Hence, my request that it be actively ‘discouraged.’ I choose the word ‘unhealthy’ for negative behavior whose impact is limited to the self.”

To summarize…I find the word “immoral” to be a very harsh, judgmental term. And for that reason, I’ve tried to limit it to a strict definition of behavior – behavior which “directly, negatively impacts other people.” Behavior whose impact is limited to ONESELF, by definition, CAN NOT be immoral, because the person is both perpetrator AND victim.

Of course, there is a class of behavior which is 1) limited to oneself and 2) has direct, negative impact on oneself. For example, taking drugs. Or smoking cigarettes. Or having casual sex. Or sabotaging yourself by staying married to an abusive husband. But I’ve chosen the word “unhealthy” for those cases. I don’t think it makes sense to call such behavior “immoral.” After all, if smoking cigarettes is “immoral,” how do you quantify murder, rape, or theft. By making so many things “immoral,” we reduce the power of the term.

Clearly, I believe that people should work to eliminate “unhealthy behaviors” and maximize healthy behaviors (for more on that, see The Mustard Seed). But as a believer in Reality, reason, and individual rights, I don’t think it’s proper to FORCE people to be “healthy.” They must do that on their own. And according to their best judgment.

-Todd

Strange Thinking by the Conservative Elite

Yesterday, I wrote about John Derbyshire, who is one of my favorite conservative writers, although he’s also a sharp critic of the I.D. movement. This led me to reflect on how other conservative pundits have judged the Intelligent Design debate.

Today, two of the most prominent conservative leaders are
George Will and Charles Krauthammer. I like them both. They are above-average thinkers who usually have insightful opinions about politics and current events. But in 2005, they both wrote pieces about I.D. that reflected – shall we say – “strange thinking,” or maybe (if we’re being harsh) no thinking at all.

Let’s start with George Will. In his
column, he casually wrote that I.D. advocates were trying to “insinuate religion…into high school biology classes” and then warned that such “zealots” were causing the “conservative coalition” to become “unglued.” In a Nightline discussion that same year, Will paraphrased his opposition to I.D. this way…

“Cal says that the essence of science is open-ness. I think it's more than that. It's open-ness to discussion of testable hypotheses, falsifiable hypotheses, hypotheses for which you can conceive of contradicting evidence. And I do not believe that the adherents to the doctrine of Intelligent Design are open to that kind of evidence.”

But as
other people have pointed out…

“In what sense is evolution testable and falsifiable?”

“In what way is the ‘Big Bang’ 'testable' or 'falsifiable'? But no one (not many anyway) laughs off Steven Hawking the way they do Dembski or Behe. Besides, to be 'testable' or 'falsifiable' something must first be observable. Please tell me when a dinosaur was observed evolving into a bird. Don't tell me about the fossil record. No one observed the fossils being formed either. The primary reason Intelligent Design is untestable is the so called 'mainstream' doesn't want to test it. In particular, Dembski's work is largely mathematical, what's 'untestable' about that?”

(By the way, if you have time, scroll through some of the comments to that article: The radical materialists shout “Grow up moron” and call the author a “scientifically-illiterate dishonest Christian hick.” There’s no such venom on the other side)

But I digress…

On to Krauthammer…

Krauthammer, to his discredit, never even bothers to explain why he opposes Intelligent Design. Instead, his piece is riddled with inflammatory rhetoric. He calls I.D. a “tarted-up version of creationism” (which is so fundamentally untrue that it exposes just how little he knows about the subject). He also calls I.D. a “fraud,” a “national embarrassment,” and an “insult to religion and to science.”

Wow! I’ve never seen Krauthammer so mad about anything (with the exception of Islamic terrorism).

While Krauthammer’s hostility is in a class by itself, the conservative elite shares Krauthammer’s dislike of Intelligence Design. In fact, I can’t think of a single conservative pundit who has chosen to go on offense when it comes to I.D., with the notable exception of
Ann Coulter. Read Chapter 8 of her book, Godless.

So what do we make of all this? Well, I don’t want to speculate too much. I just think it’s interesting that 3 of the leading lights of the modern conservative movement – Derbyshire, Krauthammer, and Will – have all written pieces on I.D. and yet all of those pieces are quite lousy (at least by the authors’ usually high standard), which shows that, even now, I.D. is grossly misunderstood – even by so-called “intellectuals.”

If I.D. was actually understood, and still opposed, I would have to do some soul-searching; but since it’s so misunderstood, it’s hard to give much credence to the arguments of other side. And therefore, it’s even harder to feel much angst from the level of opposition it arises.

-Todd

**UPDATE 03/21/09**



I decided to do a little more research on this topic (although what I researched was quite disappointing). First, I found
John Derbyshire's review of Expelled, the popular documentary regarding the I.D. controversy (although "review" might be a misnomer, since Derbsyhire admits that he never saw the movie!).

At the risk of sounding over-the-top, Mr. Derbsyhire's piece is outrageous - one of the most mean-spirited, yet intellectually sloppy, articles I have ever read (and it really pains me to admit that because, as I've mentioned before, I really enjoy Mr. Derbyshire as a political writer).

Like
Krauthammer, Mr. Derbyshire frequently uses the slur "creationist" (with the sort of pleasure usually found among 13-year old boys when they discover the word "fag."). As I've mentioned before, whenever commentators use the word "creationist" to tar I.D. proponents, it reveals either 1) ignorance about a topic they claim to be an expert on, or 2) deliberate and false distortion of their opponents. Either motivation is unacceptable.

The rest of Derbyshire's 2,200-word piece is literred with insults: According to Mr. Derbsyhire, Expelled is "stupid," "creationist porn, propaganda for ignorance." He then concluded his piece: "For shame, Ben Stein, for shame." And yet, in all those 2,200 words, Mr. Derbyshire never addresses the questions raised by Expelled. Not once. In fairness, he provides a link to the
Expelled: Exposed website, but still, for the sake of being "reader-friendly," it would've nice of John to provide 1 or 2 rebuttals in the course of his text. That's not too much to ask.

The greatest irony is that Mr. Derbsyhire writes eloquently about the importance of scientific inquiry to Western civilization..

"Western civilization has many glories. There are the legacies of the ancients, in literature and thought. There are the late-medieval cathedrals, those huge miracles of stone, statuary, and spiritual devotion. There is painting, music, the orderly cityscapes of Renaissance Italy, the peaceful, self-governed townships of old New England and the Frontier, the steel marvels of the early industrial revolution, our parliaments and courts of law, our great universities with their spirit of restless inquiry.

And there is science, perhaps the greatest of all our achievements, because nowhere else on earth did it appear. China, India, the Muslim world, all had fine cities and systems of law, architecture and painting, poetry and prose, religion and philosophy. None of them ever accomplished what began in northwest Europe in the later 17th century, though: a scientific revolution. Thoughtful men and women came together in learned societies to compare notes on their observations of the natural world, to test their ideas in experiments, and in reasoned argument against the ideas of others, and to publish their results in learned journals. A body of common knowledge gradually accumulated.

"Our scientific theories are the crowning adornments of our civilization, towering monuments of intellectual effort, built from untold millions of hours of observation, measurement, classification, discussion, and deliberation."

I share Mr. Derbyshire's love of science, but as I've pointed out before, that's precisely why I feel the need to defend Intelligent Design's right to be heard. By contrast, Mr. Derbyshire calls I.D. "anti-civilization" and "an appeal to barbarism."

Come on, John, tell us how you really feel!

But what's just as interesting is the response to John's piece among his
National Review colleagues...based on my research, I could not find a single rebuttal to his outrageous claims. NR had to bring in 3 outsiders (including 2 from the Discovery Institute) to challenge Mr. Derbyshire's arguments head-on. NR's leading lights were dead silent.

This reinforces my earlier observation that the Conservative Establishment is "out-to-lunch" on the I.D. issue (even though they could provide it some useful "political legitimacy"). Oh well.

-Todd

**UPDATE: MARCH 22, 2009**



I found another Derbyshire piece on I.D., although (to his credit) it's actually worth reading (and not just a childish screed). I won't deconstruct the article line-by-line (perhaps another time), but one sentence stood out to me: "Darwinism is the essential foundation for all of modern biology and genomics."

But is it?

Derbyshire should take a look at this Feb. 2009 piece in Forbes.com:
The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution by Philip S. Skell, who is emeritus Evan Pugh professor of chemistry at Penn State University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In his article, Dr. Skell says...

"I don't think science has anything to fear from a free exchange of ideas between thoughtful proponents of different views. Moreover, there are a number of us in the scientific community who, while we appreciate Darwin's contributions, think that the rhetorical approach of scientists such as Coyne unnecessarily polarizes public discussions and­--even more seriously­--overstates both the evidence for Darwin's theory of historical biology and the benefits of Darwin's theory to the actual practice of experimental science.

Coyne seems to believe the major importance of biological science is its speculations about matters which cannot be observed, tested and verified, such as origin of life, speciation, the essences of our fossilized ancestors, the ultimate causes of their changes, etc.

Experimental biology has dramatically increased our understanding of the intricate workings within living organisms that account for their survival, showing how they continue to function despite the myriad assaults on them from their environments. These advances in knowledge are attributable to the development of new methodologies and instruments, unimaginable in the preceding centuries, applied to the investigation of living organisms. Crucial to all fruitful experiments in biology is their design, for which Darwin's and Wallace's principles apparently provide no guidance.

Contrary to the beliefs of Professor Coyne and some other defenders of Darwin, these advances are not due to studies of an organism's ancestors that are recovered from fossil deposits. Those rare artifacts--which have been preserved as fossils--are impressions in stones which, even when examined with the heroic efforts of paleontologists, cannot reveal the details that made these amazing living organisms function."

"Examining the major advances in biological knowledge, one fails to find any real connection between biological history and the experimental designs that have produced today's cornucopia of knowledge of how the great variety of living organisms perform their functions. It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers and other practitioners of biological science."

"In 1942, Nobel Laureate Ernst Chain wrote that his discovery of penicillin (with Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming) and the development of bacterial resistance to that antibiotic owed nothing to Darwin's and Alfred Russel Wallace's evolutionary theories.

The same can be said about a variety of other 20th-century findings: the discovery of the structure of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; new surgeries; and other developments.

Additionally, I have queried biologists working in areas where one might have thought the Darwinian paradigm could guide research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I learned that evolutionary theory provides no guidance when it comes to choosing the experimental designs. Rather, after the breakthrough discoveries, it is brought in as a narrative gloss.

The essence of the theory of evolution is the hypothesis that historical diversity is the consequence of natural selection acting on variations. Regardless of the verity it holds for explaining biohistory, it offers no help to the experimenter--who is concerned, for example, with the goal of finding or synthesizing a new antibiotic, or how it can disable a disease-producing organism, what dosages are required and which individuals will not tolerate it."

"It is unseemly and scientifically unfruitful that a major focus in biology should have turned into a war."

**UPDATE, MAY 16, 2009


Given the strange thinkinging by "conservative leaders" George Will and Charles Krauthammer (as shown above), perhaps it's no surprise that the most famous conservator leader of them all - Rush Limbuagh - has also shown some inexcusable ignorance about Intelligent Design. In a December 2005 radio broadcast, Limbuagh called I.D. proponents "disingenuous" and went on to say..


"Let's make no mistake. The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals because it ostensibly does not involve religious overtones, that there is just some intelligent being far greater than anything any of us can even imagine that's responsible for all this, and of course I don't have any doubt of that. But I think that they're sort of pussyfooting around when they call it intelligent design."


Gee, with friends like this, who needs enemies! For no apparent reason, Limbaugh preemptively confirms the most powerful argument used AGAINST Intelligent Design - that it's a "disingenuous" attempt to bring the Bible into the classroom, and therefore a violation of the separation of church and state.

Why does Limbaugh feel the need to cut I.D. supporters at the knees with a blatantly false statement? After all, I.D. is not a "disingenuous" form of creationism. As Jonathan Witt, Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, says in the article...

"Traditional creationism begins with the Bible and moves from there to science. Intelligent design begins and ends with science...The theory of intelligent design is a methodology for detecting design, and scholars from a variety of backgrounds employ it – Christian, Jew, Hindu, even a former atheist like Antony Flew, who still rejects the God of the Bible."

As if the events of the last 8 years weren't proof enough (in terms of economic policy, foreign policy, and just place common sense), the conservative movement has GOT TO GET SOME NEW LEADERS!

**UPDATE, MAY 17, 2009**


I like Ross Douthat, the young conservative writer who recently earned a promotion to the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. I also read his book, Grand New Party. But in this article on I.D. he reveals what could be his fatal weakness: an eagerness to abandon conservative principles to curry favor at coktail parties (in that case, he would be following in the footsteps of his mentor, David Brooks). See this line from his New Republic article, How Intelligent Design Hurts Conservatives (By Making Us Look Like Crackpots)...


"Intelligent design will run out of steam--a victim of its own grand ambitions. What began as a critique of Darwinian theory, pointing out aspects of biological life that modification-through-natural-selection has difficulty explaining, is now foolishly proposed as an alternative to Darwinism. On this front, intelligent design fails conspicuously."


A cynic might say we should expect this kind of sloppy reasoning from a young man who grew up in Manhattan and attended Harvard University...but I'm old-fashioned...I think people can overcome their environment and show independent judgment even if it means being scorned by their "betters." If Douthat wants to be one of the stars of the next generation of conservative leaders, he needs to care less about the opinions of people who live on the Upper East Side, Harvard Yard, and Chevy Chase, and tap into the soul of the "Real America." I still have confidence that he can do that.

Onto a related subject...more George Will news!

We discussed some of his "strange thinking" at the beginning of this post...but maybe there's a method to his madness...at the end of a long piece about penguins and grizzly bears (not the usual fare for a political columnist), Will writes...

"Reality's swirling complexity is sometimes lovely, sometime brutal; its laws propel the comings and goings of life forms in processes as impersonal as Antarctica is to the penguins or the bears were to Treadwell or Alaska was to Drop City North. It is so grand that nothing is gained by dragging an Intelligent Designer into the picture for praise. Or blame."


By using those words, George Will reveals himself to be either an atheist or an agnostic... knowing that, it would be fair to assume that his opposition to Intelligent Design is NOT a product of objective principle, but rather, is an extension of his personal religious beliefs - beliefs, it should be added, that he is quite eager to enforce through coercion.

-Todd


**UPDATE, JUNE 24, 2009**



I might need to start a regular feature called "Gratuitous Bashing of I.D. by Conservative Writers." There never seems to be enough of them! Sigh.

This time the culprit is columnist Tony Blankley.

In this Jun. 17 piece about the economy, he opens…

“To borrow Niall Ferguson's metaphor, if finance is an evolutionary process, then regulation is its intelligent design — which, I would add, is a cognate of faith, not science.”

As Ace Ventura might say, "Allllllllrighty then…"

Denyse O’Leary has the dubious task of trying to understand Blankley's put-down...

"The whole tangled metaphor reads like the guy doesn’t get it. Whether one regulates or doesn’t regulate is intelligent design - because intelligent agents make the choice either way. And regulation has its own evolutionary process - often, alas, it is the law of unintended consequences = the system evolves without guidance to produce unintended outcomes. Some people should read up on ID and Darwinism before they use them as metaphors."
Agreed.

**UPDATE, JUL. 1, 2009**


This week, conservative pundit (and former presidential candidate) Pat Buchanan writes a favorable review of Eugene Windchy's new book, The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold."

As William Demski observes, "It’s nice to see people like Pat Buchanan feeling more at ease about going after Darwin."

Indeed.

Note: The End of Darwinism was released by Xlibris, a print-on-demand publisher.

-Todd

** UPDATE, JULY 20, 2009**

Last week, on July 15th, Washington Post columnist and former Bush Administration speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote a glowing piece on Dr. Francis Collins, President Obama’s nominee to head the National Institutes of Health.

While some I.D. advocates are troubled by Dr. Collins’ comments about evolution, that is precisely why Mr. Gerson is so favorable toward him.

"Collins's appointment says something good about the maturity of modern evangelicalism, which is starting to abandon some of its least productive debates with modernity.

Criticisms of evolution, rooted in 19th-century controversies, have done little more than set up religious young people for entirely unnecessary crises of faith as they encounter scientific knowledge.

In the running conflict of modern biology and evangelicalism, Collins is a peacemaker."
David Klinghoffer, for one, takes issue with Dr. Collins’ “maturity” and “peacemaking.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Radical Materialists Have a Credibility Problem


When I was growing up, I was one of those stereotypical kids who always asked, "Why?" I had an insatiable hunger to learn new things. And furthermore, whenever an adult would say I shouldn't or couldn't ask about something (for example, sex or religion), that only increased my motivation to learn about it. Clearly, there are a lot of kids out there who share the same attitude as me; the problem, of course, is that they lose that attitude once they enter the "Real World."

But I digress...

Back in 2004-05, I was an "Intelligent Design virgin" (for lack of a better word). I hadn't heard a single word about it. But when I did start hearing about it - through a smattering of newspaper and magazine articles - I was struck by the nasty, condescending attitude of the "respectable scientists" who refused to participate in a dialogue regarding the merits of I.D. compared to atheist materialism. In their judgment, there was NO controversy (as if just saying "there's no controversy" makes it so). Plus, anyone who challenged the scientific consensus wasn't just wrong, but so egregiously wrong that their intelligence and/or intentions were questioned and repudiated.

As someone who's worked in politics for my entire adult life, I was quite stunned by the nastiness displayed by supposedly "open-minded, rational, level-headed" scientists. In fact, with few exceptions, I had never heard a Democrat say something so nasty about Republicans (or vice versa), but here were scientists attacking the "other side" with unmatched vitriol. And the vitriol was all one-way. It came from the materialists; not from the I.D. advocates.

I couldn't believe this was supposed to be "science;" the temple of "scientific inquiry" was nastier, more adversarial, and more conformist than politics! Imagine my surprise!

But I was also intrigued. Just like that kid I mentioned above, the very idea that "there was NO controversy" and "questioning authority is BAD" made me want to learn more.

And as it turned out, there was a lot to learn.

When I started, I didn't have a dog in the fight. I sincerely tried to examine the I.D. debate with a genuinely open mind. And to this day, I continue to keep an open mind. Like Heather Manning, I will follow the facts wherever they take me.

And, at least for now, they've taken me into the I.D camp.

By not just opposing I.D. - but opposing it so VIOLENTLY - the radical materialists have developed a severe credibility problem. After all, what are they so afraid of? If the radical materialists were genuinely convinced that their system is "strong" and "true," they wouldn't feel the need to lash out at critics like a high school bully.

But the problem doesn't end there...Once the radical materialists damage their credibility, it opens the door to new questions...new concerns...new reasons to doubt their credibility.

For example, the scientific gatekeepers like to see themselves as cautious, conservative, humane, focused on hard, rock-solid evidence (instead of wishful thinking), and immune to silly (and sometimes dangerous) political causes.

Au contraire.

In the 20th century, scientists were leading advocates of eugenics and imperialism.

This made perfect sense: After all, Darwin had proven that "survival of the fittest" was the catalyst for evolutionary growth. And therefore, it was "right and proper" for the "fittest" races (naturally, the white race) should rule the "unfit, inferior races" (everyone else). Furthermore, the white overlords should practice eugenics to cull out "inferior people" from future generations - either through sterilization or extermination.

Don't believe me? Read From Darwin to Hitler. Or The Mismeasure of Man.

But that's all in the past, right?

I wish.

Today, the "scientific community" is once again showing its true colors by rallying around two weird issues: stopping "global warming" and increasing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

This isn't the place to discuss the merits of global warming and embryonic stem cell research, per se, but once again, the brutish attitude of the "scientific community" raises grave questions about their ability to be "society's guardians" and the "gatekeepers of truth."

In the case of global warming, once again (like the I.D. debate), we have a large, powerful, well-funded, vocal, and nasty majority refusing to engage in a rational discussion with scientists who have reached a different conclusion (either that global warming DOESN'T exist, or more likely, does exist, but isn't severe enough to require global governance, crippling Industrial Society, and radically reducing our quality of life).

As for embryonic stem cells...the "scientific community" insists that there should be ABSOLUTELY NO LIMITS on embryonic stem cell research, and the taxpayers MUST pay that research too! They refuse any ethical regulation of this research, because - according to them - this isn't an ethical issue. Oh, but it is! In the words of Dr. James Thomson, the biologist who pioneered the field: "If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough."

Apparently, Dr. Thompson forgot to take his meds that day. Because according to the scientific consensus, embryonic stem cell research is "good" and anyone who doubts that is "bad."

And they say we're the ones who take things on faith!

In conclusion, "mainstream scientists" can't keep Intelligent Design under the rug forever. The debate WILL come, whether they like it or not. And the evidence suggests they are woefully unprepared for that debate. They have a severe credibility problem with the American people (a problem of their own creation). They have become intellectually lazy. And they have become just plain mean.

If you were a betting man, would you bet on that team to win?

-Todd

**UPDATE, JUL. 22, 2009**



Yesterday, I did a Youtube search on the phrase “Intelligent Design,” hoping to learn more about it. I thought there would be an even mix of pro-I.D. videos, anti-I.D. videos, and unbiased news clips. Rather, I was surprised to see that on the first 2 pages of search results, all of the videos were anti-I.D. (with names like “Stupid Design,” “Creationism Repackaged,” and “War on Science”).

Finally, I saw a news clip labeled “Eugenie Scott vs. Stephen Meyer on Intelligent Design.” I clicked on it. The video began, “The Abrams Report with Eugenie Scott and Stephen Meyer. September 29, 2005). I thought, “Bueno, now I can watch some honest, good-faith discussion.”

But as I watched the video, I was appalled by the boorishness of the show’s host, Dan Abrams, who unfairly attacks the I.D. proponent Stephen Meyer in a belligerent, mean-spirited way. See for yourself.

I mean, seriously, what the hell is Dan Abrams so worked up about? Isn’t he a little bit embarrassed? I have to give credit to Stephen for being so restrained, because he would be perfectly justified in screaming back at Mr. Abrams or even walking off the set…

Anyway, I only brought this to your attention because it fits with my earlier conclusion that the nastiness of Darwinian materialists (like Dan Abrams) has given them a severe credibility problem…

I mean, imagine this scenario: If you were a cop who called in Dan Abrams for questioning in a murder, and your first question to Dan was: “Where were you last night?” and Dan immediately stood up, flailed his arms, and shouted, “How dare you ask me that question? This discussion has already been settled: I am innocent! I don’t have time for your circular logic!!!” wouldn’t you walk outside the room and whisper to your partner, “I think this guy has something to hide. Let’s hold him a bit longer for some more questioning.”

I know…for folks like me…who saw this kind of boorish behavior on TV 4 or 5 years ago, when the I.D. debate started penetrating the nation (on shows like the Abrams Report)…we thought – just like that cop - “hmmm, maybe Darwinism needs a little more questioning, after all.” And when we started questioning, everything started to unravel. And I mean everything. Not just Darwinism. But the entire atheist, materialist paradigm.

I’m sure Dan Abrams thought he won this debate. But he lost – and lost badly.

-Todd