Thursday, December 30, 2004

Good Science and Intelligent Design

The problem with this editorial is that it is not about good science. Good science starts with understanding what we can see and prove. It also starts with understanding a theory. So called "intelligent design" theory is not a counter to the idea of evolution. It assumes that evolution was guided or directed. It is based on the fact just as what John Polkinghorne calls "neo-Darwinism" is. Polkinghorne notes, in "the Faith of a Physicist" that neo-Darwinists, that is, those people who argue that all changes in species and the development of ever more complex organisms are the result of random mutations. Polkinghorne, speaking not as a man of faith but as a physicist, sees two problems with this theory. First, that biologists can offer no explanation as to how the changes which have occurred have managed to occur in what is, based on the scientific observations that have been made, a very short time in which they did in fact occur. That is, the time it takes to go from a light sensitive cell to an eye was very short based on observed changes in speciation in laboratories. Second, and much more of a problem is they why of it. The theory of the neo Darwinists is that these changes which survive make the organism's offspring more able to cope. Yet, as Polkinghorne points out, single cellular organisms seem to cope quite well and still exist, so far as we can tell, in exactly the same form as they did literally billions of years ago.

It would be better if scientists did a little investigation before they sounded off in public.

Midweek Perspecives: Keep the science in science class: "The school board of the Dover Area School District in York County voted in October to have so-called 'intelligent design' included in the science curriculum as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, and although a lawsuit has been filed against this decision, similar mandates are being considered elsewhere. As a scientist and a religious person, I hope that school boards will avoid mixing apples and angels in science classes."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

As Usual, Atheists Find Proof of No God in Every Natural Occurence

A writer for the Guardian, sees the lack of God in a natural disaster.

Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | How can religious people explain something like this?: "Certainly the giant waves generated by the quake made no attempt to differentiate between the religions of those whom it made its victims. Hindus were swept away in India, Muslims were carried off in Indonesia, Buddhists in Thailand. Visiting Christians and Jews received no special treatment either. This poses no problem for the scientific belief system. Here, it says, was a mindless natural event, which destroyed Muslim and Hindu alike.

A non-scientific belief system, especially one that is based on any kind of notion of a divine order, has some explaining to do, however. What God sanctions an earthquake? What God protects against it? Why does the quake strike these places and these peoples and not others? What kind of order is it that decrees that a person who went to sleep by the edge of the ocean on Christmas night should wake up the next morning engulfed by the waves, struggling for life?

From at least the time of Aristotle, intelligent people have struggled to make some sense of earthquakes. Earthquakes do not merely kill and destroy. They challenge human beings to explain the world order in which such apparently indiscriminate acts can occur. Europe in the 18th century had the intellectual curiosity and independence to ask and answer such questions. But can we say the same of 21st-century Europe? Or are we too cowed now to even ask if the God can exist that can do such things?"

Of course, this is all mere blather and not rational thinking, a mode of thinking that atheists like to talk about. The fact of immense natural disasters is neither proof of the existence of God nor of the non-existence of God. After all, in older, vanished religions, man's life and well-being was considered to be of little concern to the Gods. Certainly, one can question what kind of God allows such things to happen. It is fair to ask.

The answer perhaps lies here:
Those of us who have learned enough about nature to live in harmony with it are less prone to suffer from natural disasters, or to put it perhaps more clearly, we are just as subject to natural disasters as less developed nations, we suffer from them less. We have learned to avoid the life ending consequences of many such disasters by building buildings which can withstand the shaking by learning how nature operates and avoiding the consequences of getting in nature's way. One must also comment on the astonishingly anthropocentric assumption which underlies the atheist's question which assumes that God's purpose, if there is a God, was to cause the devastation to humans and their works rather than accomplishing some other purpose.

It should be noted that significant geographical changes have occurred as a result of this earthquake. To what end, we do not know.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Scott Turow Still Writing Faction

Scott Turow's fiction formula is to write dramatic stories that seem to be real. Here he writes a news story that is old hat. He says that the Democratic party will win because it has young people on its side. His reasoning seems to be that all of us old geezers will die off leaving a group of refreshingly liberal and tolerant voters who will, of course, vote Democratic. Sorry Scott, I heard that one before. When I was a young Democrat. Which was a while ago. A long while ago. A Neo Con, Scott, is a person who has been mugged by reality. That is what turns Democrats into Republicans. It is as natural a force as hair turning gray and wrinkles. ( Althoug I must say that my hair is not gray yet-- and still I am a Republican) This invention by Turow is a symptom of a party that doesn't want to face reality. "It will get better when all the conservatives die off." they tell themselves. Unfortunately for that thought, they have been telling themselves that for thirty years. Heck. Thirty years ago I was one of the people saying it. And, lo and behold, here I am a Republican.

The only Democrat to be successful as president since was a guy who pretended, via welfare reform, the protection of marriage act, and other quasi conservative actions, to be a conservative. Yes, I am speaking about Bill Clinton. Americans are conservative despite the Scott Turows of the world. Keep on dreaming up those plausible fictions Scott. It's made you a millionaire.A Dominant GOP? How So? ( "Kerry's impressive gains among the young just weren't enough to overcome Bush's even more significant gains among the old. But that's hardly a formula for continued Republican domination. Time will take a heavier toll on the older group. And aging voters have sometimes favored Democrats anyway."

Friday, December 24, 2004

Liberals Still Don't Understand the War on Terror

Ms. Carlson, an almost pathologically Bush hating liberal, here demonstrates her concern for victims of the Sudan front of the war of Islam against Christians. Perhaps she doesn't know that it is part and parcel of what is going on in Iraq? How can they be connected? The Janjaweed is part of the Islamo fascist coalition. Oh, it isn't a formal coalition. It is more a movement. But it is a part of a movement that is successful, in part, because people like Margaret Carlson cannot put one and one together and see two.

Islamofascists are, and have been, killing Christians and oppressing them all over Northern Africa, including Northern Nigeria. But political correctness has been a blindfold which prevents liberals from seeing.

'Hotel Rwanda' Should Open Our Eyes to the Genocide in Sudan : "Will 'Hotel Rwanda' open Americans' eyes to the almost identical genocide in nearby Sudan? After Rwanda, presidents Clinton and Bush said that never again would the West turn its back on such suffering. Yet the slaughter in Darfur by the janjaweed and Arab militias has killed tens of thousands and displaced about 2 million more. In September, Secretary of State Colin Powell called the killings genocide, a word the U.S. pointedly didn't use about Rwanda because to do so would have acknowledged a duty to intervene.

War is God's way of teaching Americans geography. Few of us even know where Rwanda or Mogadishu or Sudan are unless, by chance, some American gets caught in the crossfire there. Who can sort out the Tutsis from the Hutus or make an educated guess as to what beyond blood lust, revenge and despair they are fighting over? The Middle East we care about. Africa, we don't.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

This time of year is fraught with advice on gift giving, much of it negative and most of it commercial. What there is very little of is advice on gift receiving. As a society we have nearly forgotten our good manners when it comes to receiving gifts. In fact, the usual discussions about Christmas include some rueful, somewhat hostile comments about the terrible gifts some people give us. Such comments, and I have made a few of them myself, are contrary to the spirit of Christmas, which is, that of celebrating the great gift given to us in the person of a little baby, of humble origins, born in a stable, laid in a manger.

If we could approach each gift given to us in the way the Shepherds approached the Christ child we would all be better off for it. God gave us, not what the Jews asked for or expected, a warrior king, but a humble baby who grew up to repeatedly declare that His kingdom was not of THIS world.

It is an exercise, sometimes, when you receive a gift from someone who, you suspect, does not really feel any love or respect toward you but, nevertheless, feels obligated, to really feel any gratitude. It is a little less of a stretch to feel grateful for the gift from somenone who does mean it but just has no clue as to what you would really want. Still, there is something to be grateful for in each situation. The feeling of obligation that leads to the duty gift at least signifies just the tiniest amount of love, or at least like, or at least desire for relationship, with, who would suspect it, you.

Every gift is a hand outstretched in at least a modicum of friendship. Accept it, not in the spirit which was it was meant, but in the spirit of Christmas, being thankful for the gift which was sent because it was the gift we needed rather than the one we wanted.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Evidence of Jesus outside the Bible

Because Newsweek has resurrected many debunked theories that Jesus was a mass figment of the imagination, it is necessary to remind people that there is a good deal of historical evidence that such a man did exist. Here is a nice summary of the evidence, outside the gospels, of Jesus' existence. There is not much outside the gospels, but so what. The earliest gospels are dated to within 20 years of Jesus' death.

To dispute that Jesus was the son of God, is reasonable. To dispute that Jesus ever lived, is, historically, unreasonable.

Evidence of Jesus outside the Bible

Monday, December 06, 2004

An example of Justice Thomas' Writing

In POLLARD V. E. I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & CO.Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court, holding that
front pay" , i. e. payments made in lieu of reinstating a victim of discrimination, is not subject to the $300,000.00 cap on damages awards in discrimination cases. Here he explains why he, and the court, reached that conclusion. This decision is a victory for plaintiffs in discrimination cases and should be applauded by liberals. It is also representative of Thomas' careful attempt to understand and carry out congressional intent when writing decisions. It is conservative only in the sense that Thomas, by basing his decision on careful textual analysis and congressional intent, is taking a conservative approach to making decisions.

POLLARD V. E. I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & CO.: "  In the abstract, front pay could be considered compensation for “future pecuniary losses,” in which case it would be subject to the statutory cap. §1981a(b)(3). The term “compensatory damages … for future pecuniary losses” is not defined in the statute, and, out of context, its ordinary meaning could include all payments for monetary losses after the date of judgment. However, we must not analyze one term of §1981a in isolation. See Gade v. National Solid Wastes Management Assn., 505 U.S. 88, 99 (1992) (“ ‘[W]e must not be guided by a single sentence or member of a sentence, but look to the provisions of the whole law’ ”). When §1981a is read as a whole, the better interpretation is that front pay is not within the meaning of compensatory damages in §1981a(b)(3), and thus front pay is excluded from the statutory cap.

    In the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congress determined that victims of employment discrimination were entitled to additional remedies. Congress expressly found that “additional remedies under Federal law are needed to deter unlawful harassment and intentional discrimination in the workplace,” without giving any indication that it wished to curtail previously available remedies. See Civil Rights Act of 1991, 105 Stat. 1071, §2. Congress therefore made clear through the plain language of the statute that the remedies newly authorized under §1981a were in addition to the relief authorized by §706(g). Section 1981a(a)(1) provides that, in intentional discrimination cases brought under Title VII, “the complaining party may recover compensatory and punitive damages as allowed in subjection (b) of [§1981a], in addition to any relief authorized by section 706(g) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, from the respondent.” (Emphasis added.) And §1981a(b)(2) states that “[c]ompensatory damages awarded under [§1981a] shall not include backpay, interest on backpay, or any other type of relief authorized under section 706(g) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (Emphasis added.) According to these statutory provisions, if front pay was a type of relief authorized under §706(g), it is excluded from the meaning of compensatory damages under §1981a.

    As discussed above, the original language of §706(g) authorizing backpay awards was modeled after the same language in the NLRA. This provision in the NLRA had been construed to allow awards of backpay up to the date of reinstatement, even if reinstatement occurred after judgment. Accordingly, backpay awards made for the period between the date of judgment and the date of reinstatement, which today are called front pay awards under Title VII, were authorized under §706(g).

    As to front pay awards that are made in lieu of reinstatement, we construe §706(g) as authorizing these awards as well. We see no logical difference between front pay awards made when there eventually is reinstatement and those made when there is not.3 Moreover, to distinguish between the two cases would lead to the strange result that employees could receive front pay when reinstatement eventually is available but not when reinstatement is not an option–whether because of continuing hostility between the plaintiff and the employer or its workers, or because of psychological injuries that the discrimination has caused the plaintiff. Thus, the most egregious offenders could be subject to the least sanctions. Had Congress drawn such a line in the statute and foreclosed front pay awards in lieu of reinstatement, we certainly would honor that line. But, as written, the text of the statute does not lend itself to such a distinction, and we will not create one. The statute authorizes courts to “order such affirmative action as may be appropriate.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e—5(g)(1). We conclude that front pay awards in lieu of reinstatement fit within this statutory term.

    Because front pay is a remedy authorized under §706(g), Congress did not limit the availability of such awards in §1981a. Instead, Congress sought to expand the available remedies by permitting the recovery of compensatory and punitive damages in addition to previously available remedies, such as front pay."

Judge Thomas for Yourself

The left is already sharpening its knives in contemplation that Justice Clarence Thomas may be nominated to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist. Senate Minority leader, Harry Reid said that Thomas is an "embarrassment" to the court. He accused him of not being able to write. His comment is so painfully typical of the kinds of things condescending racists liberals say about conservative Blacks. In truth, they think everybody who is black is stupid. They are willing to nominate black people to high office only when they are "smart" enough to be thankful to their white liberal friends. It is the new version of Stepnfechit.

So, Senator Reid has issued the challenge. He says Clarence Thomas's opinions are so poorly written that he is an embarassment to the court. Here is a list, with links, of all of his decisions. REad them and judge for yourself if they are poorly written. Or is that they are well written but conservative?Supreme Court Collection: Opinions by Justice

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The World's Most Beautiful Grandson

PICT0032, originally uploaded by sdsali.

Okay, okay, EVERY grandmother says that. It's our job. Parents have the responsibility to teach a child what is right and wrong, good manners, how to clean up his room and all that other stuff which requires discipline. Grandma's job is to hug and snuggle and spoil. Well, at least to some extent. So here is the object of my affection, the love of my life, the apple of my eye and the person I most like to hug. He is the person who makes every day merry.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Importance of the Serenity Prayer

If you have ever delved into 12 step groups, Alcoholics Anonymous and similar Anonymous groups, you have heard the serenity prayer, "God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference". It is a good prayer for everyone to say every day.

It is, particularly, a good prayer to say at times of family conflict and family loss. I was describing just such an event in my family to a couple of women, one of whom is a psychologist. I told them how I had had to reach the decision that a certain family member could no longer live in my house. "Tough love" one of them said. The psychologist, who has dealt with problems of addiction many times, and I looked at each other. No, not tough love. The phrase "tough love" implies an attempt to control or manipulate someone else's behavior. No, it is a simple acceptance of the first phrase of the serenity prayer-- the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I cannot make someone else stop using drugs. It is tempting to think that I can, because I certainly can make it more difficult, but, if the person is determined, I can't stop it. I cannot live someone else's life for him or her, 'though I might often think I would really do a much better job than he or she seems to be doing. But I can, by ushering that person to the edge of my life, control how his addiction affect my life.

The same is true for other losses. When a person you love has died, you cannot change it. You can review your own behavior interminably and come up with all sorts of scenarios in which that person would not have died and you can beat yourself up forever, but, before you engage in that exercise in futility and masochism, please re-read the previous paragraph again. You cannot, could not have, lived that person's life for him or her. He or she was making their own decisions. And chances are you know, in your heart of hearts that nothing you could have said or done would have changed the outcome.

It is very hard to accept that someone we love is lost to us. After the funeral is over, after the sympathy cards have stopped arriving, after the friends and well wishers have returned to their every day lives, we who have suffered loss find ourselves sitting alone. All the things we used to do to fill our days before that loss occurred, or most of them anyway, are still there to do. But those things, the shopping for the groceries, preparing for a birthday party, sending out Christmas cards, seem either meaningless, or even downright painful. How can I wish you a Merry Christmas when mine will be filled with feelings of longing and regret? It sometimes seems that it is the very biggest and most important events in our lives which are beyond our control and only the small and insignificant events that we have charge of.

So, we have to go ahead and send out the Christmas cards, because Christmas still comes and the rest of the living world is still here. We carry on with what seems to be our mostly insignificant lives because these are the things we can change. And yes, when you have suffered a great loss, even buying a Christmas tree and sending out cards and getting ready for Christmas takes courage.

For those who have recently suffered a loss, I can say, eventually the meaning comes back to those small acts. Eventually shopping for groceries becomes another small way you make your own or the lives of others close to you a little bit happier. Christmas cards become, again, a way to spread a little cheer. You learn to celebrate the milestone events of those you love who are still here with you and you even learn to savor those moments and to learn from your loss to treasure that which you have not lost, to hug the mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin, niece who are here in your life and who love you and whom you love.

And so I return to the Serenity Prayer. God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, that some of my loved ones haved died early, that some people I love have chosen paths in life that separate them from me, the courage to change the things I can, to make my house a cheerful place, to be a helpful person in other peoples lives, to love those who love and care about me, and the wisdom to know the difference.

God Bless and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Groningen Protocol

The Netherlands seems like some sort of super clean, white coated, white bearded and bespectadled doctor in a science fiction movie, always trying out the liberal recommendations in real life that are just rallying cries elsewhere. It makes sense, having actually adopted gay marriage, more or less legal drug use and assisted suicide for older people that they would also extend the so-called mercy of euthanasia to infants too young to make their own decisions. The link above is a report of this developement. Like so many liberal positions, when the proposal is presented in cool laboratory terms, devoid of feeling, with a sort of pseudo rationality lent by medical degrees and appropriate pomposity, the idea of killing infants seems, well, downright merciful. The trouble is that infants who have managed to survive, object to the practice, which some have tried to institute here. Here is the website for the disabled resistance

Their name, not dead yet, summarizes their point of view. Healthy and active people may think that life in a wheel chair, not being able to sit up or to ski or to do all of the things that those of us who are healthier or more able to, would be miserable. These people assure us that we are wrong about that. Life is full of meaning and enjoyment for even severely disabled people breathing with the help of ventilators.

There is a world of difference between killing someone and allowing someone to die. It is, forgive me, the difference between love and rape. A person, whether an infant or an adult, who really wants to die, will. A person who really wants to die does not need help. The help offered by the likes of a Dr. Kevorkian or the Groningen protocol , is a veiled shove over the precipice of a person who was merely thinking about their own death.