Thursday, June 30, 2011

Norman Rockwell

I love Rockwell. There's a restaurant in Stony Brook that uses a Rockwell motif. I love this painting- the excitement of the son and the sadness of the father. You can imagine what the father is thinking; remembering all of the love and joy his son has brought him, and wondering what his life will be like when  his child no longer lives with the family.

My wife and I have had a couple of kids go to college, and we have a couple of more to go.  We know how the father feels, and how the son feels as well. Our experience has been that they come home soon and often, and that the feeling that the family is missing someone fades. The wired world really does shrink distances. We talk with our daughter at college daily.

Our family just seems bigger- friends, college roommates and girlfriends and boyfriends. It's not as bad as we feared. It even brings new joys.

Another interpretation of the father's gloom is that maybe he's thinking about the cost of tuition...

That darned spam filter...

Just a note  to crusadeREX and anonymous: several comments on "Why don't atheists..." and "Same sex marriage: the problem is that it's not..." were flagged inappropriately in the spam filter. I've posted them.

Sorry about that. I'll check the filter more often.

Thanks for your comments!


Why can't Jeff Shallit simply quote the Constitution?

Jeff Shallit at Recursivity disagrees with my observation that "separation of church and state' is not Constitutional doctrine.

Of course, "separation of church and state" was a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to The Danbury Baptists in 1802. This is the version of the letter that Jefferson sent:

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802 [emphasis mine]

Jefferson, who wrote in 1776 that "all men were created equal" and that our rights were "Endowed by our Creator", was not a member of the Constitutional convention and played no part in the writing or ratification of the Constitution.

Note though that Jefferson, in his Danbury letter (which is a personal letter and has no force of law, let alone Constitutional law) did use language similar to that of the Constitution itself. He referred to a wall of separation between church and state.  This echos the actual Constitution, which states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. "

What is prohibited by the Constitution is an institutional relationship between church and state.  That's what "establishment" means. The Constitution requires that there be no national  church. It does not in any way proscribe public religious expression by private citizens or by government officials.

Presidents, including Jefferson, routinely refer to God in public statements. Lincoln, perhaps the least formally religious of of the pre-Obama presidents, delivered a Second Inaugural Address that was essentially a sermon. These are the religious statements in Lincoln's speech (thank goodness that Lincoln wasn't giving a high school graduation speech!):

 ...Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."...

Public statements by government officials at all levels have always been replete with assertions of religious belief. Their Constitutionality is unchallenged, because what is prohibited by the First Amendment is the institutional establishment of a national church, not religious speech.

There is no constraint in the Constitution or in the concept of 'wall of separation between church and state' of the use of religious words or themes in public by public officials.

Shallit asserted:

Well, the words "separation of church and state" are not in the US Constitution, but neither are the words "right to a fair trial". Yet I doubt Egnor would make the same claim about the right to a fair trial.

Actually, the right to fair trial is very clearly guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
[emphasis mine]
The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees "equal protection of the law". The right to a fair trial is quite clearly stated in the Constitution.

Contra Shallit, the atheist doctrine of expungement of religious speech from the public square is nowhere to be found in the Constitution or in any coherent Constitutional doctrine.

'Separation of church and state', understood as prohibition of an established institutional church, is a reasonable interpretation of Constitutional doctrine. But the Constitution does not prohibit in any way the use of religious language by public officials. Such religious speech has been used by public officials at all levels of government since our founding (we have a National Day of Prayer, In God We Trust on our currency, and 'under God" is in our Pledge of Allegiance, for goodness sake).

The drive to extinguish all references to God in public/government forums is merely atheist suppression of the rights of all Americans to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Atheists are instinctive totalitarians. When they have state power, they are always totalitarians. When they lack state power, they do all they can to impose their personal irreligious beliefs on others by co-opting legal force.

No one forces atheists to pray or to participate in any religious act. It is atheists who use force to silence those who express different beliefs.

Commentor bachfiend on atheism and moral law

Commentor bachfiend has some thoughts on my post on atheism and the moral law:

As an atheist, I don't have any problem in stating the evolution has caused humans not to kill members of their group, usually a tribe comprising no more than about 150 individuals, for genetic reasons, based on variations in frequencies of unknown but potentially knowable variants of genes.
We know very little about the group dynamics of prehistoric man- that's what "prehistoric" means. The extent to which human behavior is genetic is hotly debated, and it's unclear how much of a role cultural learning vs natural selection played. I'm unaware of genes that cause or prevent in-group killing.

And all scientific speculation involves "unknown but potentially knowable" entities. Not much science and less logic there, and pretty thin gruel on which to base an understanding of moral law. Nice story, though.
Humans without this genetic aversion to intragroup murder would cause the destruction of the group. Everyone outside the group being regarded as 'fair game'.
Actually, throughout human history there have been lots of cultures in which in-group killing is common and even integral to the social structure. Patriarchal polygamous societies intriniscally tend to this: if the alpha male has 10 wives, nine guys do without. Gets pretty violent. One might say that in-group and out-group killing has characterized many human societies.

Of course, you can explain this as evolution- the alpha male spreading his genes. Evolution explains nothing, because it can explain anything.
With civilization, the idea of the size of the group has progressively increased, hopefully to include the entire human population for most individuals.
There are countless millions of people who would like to kill you. And me. Some human societies are less violent than in the past, some are more violent. Take a walk at midnight in bad neighborhoods of Baltimore or Chicago, or go to Mecca, touch the Kabba, and then announce that you're an infidel, and you'll get up to date on recent trends in violence.
I can well imagine that if civilization broke down, perhaps due to a global environmental disaster such as a global nuclear war, the size of the group inside which murder was discouraged would rapidly drop back to 150 or less, and it wouldn't matter whether they were theists or atheists, once it becomes a matter of survival
Maybe. There have been any number of disasters- wars, famines, natural disasters- in which your theory can be tested now. What's the data? Evolutionary stories are charming.

You still didn't address my point in my post on atheism and moral law:

Do you really believe that murder isn't wrong objectively and intrinsically, independent of evolution or of our opinions?

'All hat, no cattle': Orac and I chat again about Darwinian medicine. (#2)

The continuation of my chat with Orac about Darwinian medicine:


In his second response to Coyne, Dr. Egnor next decides to try to use and abuse the concept of proximate versus evolutionary explanations of biology...

I do have concerns.


atherosclerosis appears to arise from a chronic inflammatory response in the endothelium brought about, most likely, by oxidized LDL. Nesse describes the evolutionary tradeoffs thusly:

One way of thinking about atherosclerosisis to view it as the result of an evolved adaptive response that protects against infection but that results in endothelial injury in modern environments.

Perhaps atherosclerosis is an evolved adaptive response. Perhaps not. The evidence we will need to establish that is the proximate evidence-- the actual scientific understanding of the process of atherosclerosis. The inference as to evolutionary cause will necessarily be only as strong as the proximate scientific evidence on which it is based. The understanding of arteriosclerosis needed to treat and prevent the disease will be derived entirely from the proximate science. The 'evolutionary cause' will always be speculation-- stories of variable credibility as to how the disease came to be in history. The value to medical science will be in the proximate science. If evolutionary biologists wish to build careers on untestable speculations about evolutionary history (as they do now), they are free to do so. But they have no claim on medical school resources, which are devoted to actual proximate science, not historical speculation.

Because the consequences of the injury occur late in life, natural selection preserves those systems promoting atherosclerosisin preferenceto those suppressingthem, a clas- sic case of antagonistic pleiotropy.

'Antagonistic pleiotropy' is the recognition that genes can be a mixed bag, and may both help and hurt reproductive fitness. It's not a particularly profound concept, and of course the inference that arteriosclerosis is an example of antagonistic pleiotrophy is not the least bit verified. When (if) it is verified, it will be verified by a mass of proximate scientific evidence, which will constitute the only part of the science valuable to medicine.

Speculation about historical origin of arteriosclerosis belongs in a department of evolutionary biology, where scientists are experienced with speculation, and not in medical schools, where scientists must of necessity understand the pathophysiology of the disease and develop prevention and treatment. As I suggested earlier, if evolutionary biologists have an insight from their speculations that might be of value in actual medical management, there's always e-mail.

I should point out that to my knowledge there has not been a single evolutionary speculation offered for any disease that has provided medical scientists with information valuable for management of the disease that was not already available from the proximate evidence.

Because the costs were probably minimal until the past century, and because they caused no harm until modern times, the genetic variations that increasevulnerability to atherosclerosis are not really "defects," but are instead excellent examples of "genetic quirks" that give rise to untoward effects only when they interact with factors encountered in modern environments.

Despite Orac's affecting enthusiasm, he has not provided any example of the genuine novel contribution of any evolutionary explanation to medical treatment or prevention.

As they say in Texas, all hat, no cattle.

These speculations about the adaptive roots of atherosclerosisgive rise to a specific prediction that individuals who have a genetic predisposition to atheroscle- rosis may be less vulnerable to infection and more susceptible to other inflammatory diseases.

It has long been known that inflammation is related to infection. Inflammation and infection have a very complex relationship. That insight has nothing to do with evolutionary biology. The relationship between inflammation, arteriosclerosis, and resistance to infection can be explored without any inference to evolution. There is an enormous literature on inflammation and infection that doesn't have a damn thing to do with evolution speculations, and it is from that literature that genuine insights into arteriosclerosis and infection will be drawn.

Evolutionary speculation is a narrative gloss, added to the real science post-hoc.

Dr. Egnor, as you might imagine, has a huge problem with this sort of application of evolutionary theory to medicine.

I reiterate: so far, Orac has provided not one clear example of substantial new insight in medicine offered by evolutionary speculation. In medicine, unlike (apparently) evolutionary biology, speculation without application is of no real value and wastes valuable resources. It also annoys people who respect and practice genuine science.

Darwinian Medicine is all hat, no cattle. Stop with the hat. Show us the cattle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Francesco Francia Federigo Gonzaga 1510

From the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Federigo Gonzaga (1500–1540), 1510
Francesco Francia (Francesco di Marco di Giacomo Raibolini) (Italian, Bolognese, active by 1482, died 1517/18)
Tempera on wood, transferred from wood to canvas and then again to wood

Overall 18 7/8 x 14 in. (47.9 x 35.6 cm), painted surface 17 3/4 x 13 1/2 in. (45.1 x 34.3 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.638)
In July 1510, the ten-year-old Federigo Gonzaga was sent from Mantua to Rome as a hostage. On his way to Rome, he stopped in Bologna, where Francia astounded everyone by painting and delivering this jewel-like portrait in twelve days. The picture was subsequently taken to Rome for the admiration of the papal court and was only reluctantly returned to Isabella d'Este, Federigo's mother.
The format is one commonly used by the artist—the bust-length figure is set behind a parapet, with one hand visible and a sweeping landscape behind. Given the time constraints under which he was working, Francia wisely kept the depiction rather simple: there are bold contrasts between the boy's dark costume, the green of the landscape and foliage, and the blue of the far distance. The artist, originally trained as a goldsmith, has captured the gleam of the boy's gold necklace and the hilt of his sword. Most remarkably, however, he has captured the tender expressiveness of the boy's face.

Supreme Court: California can't ban sale of violent video games to children

from Yahoo:

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court says California cannot ban the rental or sale of violent video games to children.
The high court agreed Monday with a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento said the law violated minors' rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments.

The law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each infraction.

The court on a 7-2 vote said the law was unconstitutional.
Why is it that environmental pollution is regulated to the hilt, but cultural pollution is a Constitutional right?

 I'm a strong advocate of freedom of speech, but selling children Grand Theft Auto isn't speech, it's an assault on the child's psyche. If a parent wants his child to play the game, he can buy the kid the game. The kid shouldn't be allowed to buy it. We have all kinds of appropriate regulations on what can be sold to children-- cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Why can't we ban glorification of murder and rape?

Speech protected by the Constitution is speech that expresses an opinion (politics, religion, commerce, etc). "I wanna shoot the f*ck*ng b*tch" isn't an opinion, and shouldn't be sold to children.

The irony is this: the sale of a video game glorifing rape and murder is protected by the Constitution, but a prayer thanking God at a high school graduation is prohibited by a federal judge as a violation of the Constitution.

Can you think of a better example of 'satanic'?

From the Bishops of New York to Catholics

A Message to Catholic New Yorkers

From the Bishops of New York State

 The Catholic Bishops of New York State
           June 24, 2011    
Feast of the Birthday of St. John the Baptist
While our culture seems to have lost a basic understanding of marriage, we Catholics must not. We must be models of what is good, holy and sacred about authentic sacramental marriage. Let this moment where marriage is being attacked from without become a moment of renewal from within – in our Church, in our communities and in our families – where marriage is indelibly marked by fidelity, sacrifice and the mutual love of husband and wife leading to children.
The Church does not seek to be at odds with the society and culture. The Church welcomes the opportunity to be part of the public dialogue and listens respectfully to all positions. But the Church cannot do otherwise than stand against the claims of any culture and any society that attempts to define a relationship into being what it is not. To that extent we members of the Catholic Church are called to be in opposition to the prevailing culture. And sadly we are called to do so again. We know well that marriage always has been, is now and always will be the life-long, life-giving union of one man and one woman. No act of government can change that reality. With respect for the dignity of every person, we proclaim this truth and we will be faithful to its meaning and to its observance in all that we say and do.

I agree. The Church, among other traditional religious groups, has done yeoman's work in trying to defend marriage. As the Bishops rightfully note, this is not about gays,  who deserve our love and respect, but this is about protecting marriage and the family, which is the fundamental unit of human life.

My only question is this: why are Catholic politicians who vote for gay marriage (or abortion) apparently still in communion with the Church? 

Why don't atheists commit murder, if there's no accountability in the afterlife?

Commentor Ben raised an interesting point about atheism and moral law:
My dad once asked me a thoughtful question about why atheists don't murder if there are no consequences in the afterlife. But it wasn't like he wasn't already aware of all the psychological problems that go along with murder. Soldiers come back from war with PTSD, people report not being able to get the images of their victims out of their heads for extremely long periods of time. Becoming a "stable sociopath" has its own set of unpleasant psychological ramifications. Obviously there is the threat of police and the legal system,etc. There are plenty of reasons to think not killing people is a good idea. And the afterlife doesn't have anything to do with it.

The fact is, of course, that ordinary atheists are decent ethical people, just as ordinary Christians, Jews and Muslims are decent people. I think that the evidence is overwhelming that state atheism is invariably violent, and there may be evidence that Christians are statistically "nicer" people (giving to charity, etc). But on a personal day-to-day basis, atheists are just as nice as anyone.

The atheist/materialist explanation for this homogenous niceness is that we are evolved to be moral. The Christian explanation is that the Moral Law is written in our hearts by God. And I don't believe that fear of eternal retribution is what keeps most people from doing horrible things. Most of us wouldn't kill even if we were sure we would never be punished.

My issue with atheism and  the moral law is a different issue. This is it:

If atheism/mateialism is true, than the moral law is not objectively true. It's subjectively true. It's something we made ourselves, not something pressing in on us from without.

I disagree with the atheist view of the moral law.  I believe that murder is objectively immoral, independent of opinion. I believe that it's objectively wrong, even if everyone in the world believed otherwise.

So are atheists really willing to accept the logical conclusion of their belief: there is no objective moral law, that murder is not wrong in itself, but is merely wrong because we say so, and we could, at some point, say differently?

Are there atheists who do believe in objective Moral Law? If so, whence the objectivity?

My suspicion is that this is something that atheists don't want to think about with much rigor.

What do atheists believe?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sandro Botticelli. Madonna of the Magnifocat. c1485

Planned Parenthood: but we didn't mean that kind of women's health and safety!

From The Kansas City Star:
Kansas launched an inspection today of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, ahead of a health department decision on whether the state's three abortion clinics will be allowed to continue operating after June.

Three inspectors from the Department of Health and Environment arrived in the morning for what officials at Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said was a two-day review of operations at its clinic. The department has told the state's other two clinics, also in the Kansas City area, that they'll be inspected by the end of the month.

The department is inspecting the clinics under a law enacted this year mandating health and safety standards and a special licensing process for abortion providers. The agency drafted the regulations in the weeks after Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, signed the law last month and finished its latest version Friday.

Abortion rights supporters are suspicious of the licensing process because of Brownback's stance and because anti-abortion groups and legislators pushed the law. Officials at the Planned Parenthood chapter fear none of the three clinics will get licensed, forcing them to shut down July 1, when the law takes effect.

"This is a political process," Peter Brownlie, the Planned Parenthood chapter's president and chief executive officer, told The Associated Press. "The law that was enacted, was enacted for political purposes and not for health and safety purposes."

Still, Brownlie said Planned Parenthood is confident its clinic can meet the new standards.

Planned Parenthood did not allow reporters inside its parking lot or on its clinic's grounds, and the inspectors entered the building without stopping to speak to reporters. A spokeswoman for the department in Topeka did not immediately return a telephone message this morning.

Backers of the new law contend it will protect the health and safety of the clinics' patients.

Joseph Kroll, director of the bureau that drafted the rules, said Tuesday that his staff conducted research as lawmakers discussed the legislation and reviewed standards from other states and the American Institute of Architects. The new rules tell clinics how much space they must have for various areas and what equipment and drugs must be on hand.

The new law requires annual inspections of abortion clinics and gives the department the power to issue fines or go to court to shut clinics down for violating the new standards. The plan had bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature earlier this year.

Documents provided to The AP by the state and Planned Parenthood show that on May 26 — 10 days after the legislation was signed by the governor — the department told the clinics that new regulations would be take effect in July. A June 9 letter said the clinics would know whether they were licensed by July 1 and came with a copy of new regulations. A June 13 letter said revised regulations would be issued within days; Brownlie said Planned Parenthood received its copy by mail Monday.

The department can impose temporary regulations for up to four months, then hold a public hearing before imposing permanent rules. A state board must sign off on the temporary rules, and that is expected to happen next week.

Kroll said the new law required the department to impose regulations quickly because the clinics can't operate without a license after July 1.

"It's our intent to comply with the law to prevent an interruption in services at these facilities," he said. "We followed the process we always do, but it was compressed."

Clinic operators said it's unfair for the state to draft regulations so quickly and expect clinics to comply by July. Julie Burkhart, founder of the political action committee Trust Women, called the regulations "a full-on assault" on abortion rights.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said of the clinics, "They were going to whine no matter what."

The other clinics falling under the law are the Center for Women's Health, also in Overland Park, and the Aid for Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan.
Abortion clinics are effectively unregulated in many states. Dr. Kermit Gosnell's abattoir in Philadelphia was ignored by state health authorities for decades, probably for ideological/political reasons.

Abortion proponents are up in arms about the new Kansas regulations, which hold abortion clinics to minimal safety standards.  Patient safety laws, with which all health care providers and institutions are required to comply, interfere with abortionists' workflow. It's like thick grease in a mill-- slows it down and makes it less profitable. .

Abortion clinics do dangerous procedures. A woman's uterus, internal organs, and major blood vessels can be easily punctured by the sharp instruments that abortionists use to kill the baby. The Kansas law sets standards for cleanliness, sterility, emergency equipment, and emergency plans for transfer of women who have been severly injured by abortion to a local hospital.

Kansas health authorties deserve praise for trying to keep the death rate down to no more than one per abortion.

My question for Steven Novella about evolution

My old friend Steven Novella replies to my post about his post on Michelle Bachman's endorsement of intelligent design.  I'll try to reply to the points he raises soon.

I think that this question gets to the core of our disagreement, and I'd like to know what he thinks:

Is the theory of evolution, as accepted by nearly all scientists, compatible with intelligent agency as a cause in biology?

I didn't ask whether intelligent agency were true. I didn't ask about esoteric theories of what constitutes 'science'.  I didn't ask about scientific naturalism and philosophical naturalism.

I asked whether the theory of evolution can include the inference to intelligent agency.

It's a yes or no question. I'd like to know his view, and his reasons.

Blago is Guilty?

From the Chicago Tribune:
Saying he was "stunned," Rod Blagojevich was uncharacteristically tight-lipped today after a jury convicted him on 17 of 20 counts of corruption against him.
 Holding his wife’s hand, Blagojevich spoke in a somber tone to a crush of reporters in the federal courthouse. "Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome. I, frankly, am stunned. There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and try to sort things out. And I'm sure we'll be seeing you.”
The two then walked to a waiting car as some in the crowd booed.
The federal jury found that the former governor brazenly abused the powers of his office in a series of attempted shakedowns captured on undercover government recordings.
Blago is an astonishingly corrupt politician. He tried to sell Obama's senate seat even when he had every reason to know he was being wiretapped.  His entire career, it seems, is one bribe/backdoor deal after another.  On my JESS 'John Edwards Slimebag Scale',  he's a 0.9. (only Edwards- silky pony himself- is a perfect 1.0).

The term 'corrupt Chicago politician' may not evoke more than a yawn, but keep in mind how many times the foreheadless Illinois voters elected this guy:

House of Representatives
See also: Illinois' 5th congressional district
  • Rod Blagojevich (inc.), Democrat: 74%
  • Alan Spitz, Republican: 24%

Gubernatorial elections

2002 gubernatorial election, Illinois
  • Rod Blagojevich, Democrat: 1,818,823, 52.0%
  • Jim Ryan, Republican: 1,582,604, 45.2%
  • Cal Skinner, Libertarian: 73,404, 2.1%
  • Marisellis Brown, Independent: 22,803, 0.7%
2006 gubernatorial election, Illinois

One characteristic of Blagojevich that won't make the headlines is that he is the archetype of the big city Democrat politician. In city after city, state after state, slime-bag politicos with a "D" after their name have ripped off the public for generations. Think Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Newark, Boston. Think California, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts...

Republicans can be crooks, but Democrats are the pros. 

I hope he serves the time appropriate for a man who, while in a position of public trust,  literally tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat- the people's seat- to the highest bidder.  

Here's what won't be in the headlines: "D" anywhere near Blagovevich's name. The "D" key will get... sticky at NBC and ABC and CBS and the NYT and...  The MSM will expunge his party affiliation quicker than Blago could solicit a bribe.

Don't believe me about media bias? Here's a count of google hits:

"Trump Republican"       18,500,000
"Blagojevich Democrat"   1,430,000

A ditzy flash-in-the pan Republican candidate for president is identified with his party 12 times as often as the felony-convicted Democratic governor of Illinois is identified with his party.

Here's another, comparing a felonious Chicago pol with a never-convicted nor credibly charged half-term governor of Alaska:

"Blagojevich corrupt"    728,000 

"Palin corrupt"           8,670,000


Monday, June 27, 2011

Masaccio. The Trinity 1425-28.

Same-Sex Marriage: the problem is that it's not "rubbish"

Commenter 'anonymous' took exception to my satire on New York's new Gay Marriage Law.

I had suggested that other kinds of 'unions'-- such as polygamy, made as much sense as same sex-unions, and that if restricting marriage to one-man one-woman was a denial of rights to gays, then restricting marriage to two people was a denial of rights to polygamists.  I mentioned onanists, necrophiliacs, and zoophilists as well.

Anonymous said...
This is absolute rubbish.
Is it?

If the traditional natural-law restriction of marriage to heterosexual couples is a denial of gay rights, then it is a denial of rights to all people whose sexual desires run to nontraditional. One could of course deny the right to marry an underage child-- to protect the child-- but do three wives and seven husbands need protection,  if it's consensual?  What's so special about two?  Sounds like non-two-phobia to me. 

What about spinsters? Why should marriage be restricted to multiples? Why can't a person marry himself? There are tangible benefits to marriage,  and goodness knows that there is abundant self-love out there, crying out for rights.

Why restrict marriage to living human beings?  Necrophilia is inherently consensual (unless it was in the will).  Not likely the betrothed will complain.

What about zoophilia? You aren't speciesist, are you? We could put some humane constraints on the marriage-- no more than a 100 pound difference between spouses,  no farm animals unless the farm-work was shared by the couple, etc. 

Rubbish, you say. So on what basis do you object to marriage without borders?

1)  It's crazy. People say that about gay marriage.

2)  It makes me sick. (see # 1)

3)  It's bad for the kids. (see # 1)

4) It's not natural to mate with lots of other people,  or with dead people, or with animals. (see # 1)

4) Egnor's an a**hole for bringing this up. Yep.

The problem with gay marriage is that it is not rubbish. It will have profound effects. It will not provide the blessings of marriage to gays in any significant number.  Gay marriage will simply end marriage. It will render marriage an accoutrement, like not wearing animal skins or dallying in mysticism. That's what it is becoming in many countries where it has been law (i.e. Sweden).  Ever wonder why proponents didn't promote examples of the effect that gay marriage has already had in other countries that have it?

So here's my challenge, anonymous: give me the reasons that polygamists and necrophiliacs and zoophiles can't marry? Why are they denied the rights to legal recognition of their love? Only as a supporter of gay marriage you can't use natural law arguments or tradition arguments or yuck arguments.  What do you have left?

This is not rubbish: gay marriage is not marriage. It is the beginning of the end of marriage.  It is a long step in the rendering of the foundational bond of our civilization indistinguishable from the bar scene in Star Wars. 

Perhaps that was the intention. 

Orac and I chat about Darwinian Medicine

Orac takes note of my blog:

Dr. Egnor has his own blog now. Hilarity ensues about evolution and medicine.

Orac chats, raising the usual doubts about my competence and sanity, and he insults creationists, ID proponents, the Discovery Institute, etc. Cut and paste stuff, obligatory for a few paragraphs.

He finally gets to Darwinian Medicine:

While I now think that Darwinian medicine is a useful and intriguing discipline,

You know where this is going. 'I think that professional wrestling is for real, but...'

its practitioners must be careful not to fall into the same trap that's snared many evolutionary psychologists: uncritical and untestable storytelling.

The evidence that uncritical and untestable storytelling is peculiar to evolutionary psychology, as opposed to a characterization of Darwinian hypotheses generally, is difficult to find, presuming one is inclined to look for it.

Given that I've always been fairly skeptical of many pronouncements of evolutionary psychologists, some of which struck me as untestable hypotheses, I can't help but wholeheartedly agree with Coyne's caveat in his support of evolutionary medicine.

A synopsis of Coyne's caveat: 'Even I'm not gullible enough to believe Darwinian Medicine, but if I admit that it's batsh*t, someone will ask me why all other evolutionary speculation isn't batsh*t...' "


As a physician, I was particularly puzzled that anyone would propose that type I diabetes might provide an advantage because individuals with high levels of blood glucose (or so the story goes) were better able to avoid freezing to death.

No need to be "puzzled", Orac. They proposed it because they were crazy.

That's highly implausible on so many levels, given that type I diabetes typically strikes in childhood or young adulthood and would have a profound negative effect on reproductive success.

Diabetic ketoacidosis in H. habilis was fatal. Another pillar of Darwinian Medicine crashes to earth.

Dr. Egnor's response to Coyne's quite reasonable and educational summary of the state of knowledge regarding the application of evolution to medicine is...well, classic Egnor.
Let's see how well you all remember Dr. Egnor's repertoire of responses to evolution. What is the first complaint he makes whenever the topic of evolution in medicine comes up? That's right, eugenics:

Orac quotes me at length. Then:


I've lost count how many times I've dealt with this particular canard--and just from Dr. Egnor alone, such as when he tried the same nonsense with P.Z. Myers when he tried exactly the same nonsensical argument he made above, only four years ago, thus demonstrating that truly his cranium is impervious to science; and when he couldn't even get his story straight while coining the term "eugenics denial" to describe those who call his nonsense about eugenics and evolution for the nonsense that it is.

Orac manages to stay awake:

Of course, the whole canard about how "Darwinism" lead inevitably to eugenics and the Holocaust sounds convincing because there's a grain of truth in it. But just a grain. Does it really need to be said again that eugenics is basically selective breeding, which farmers have done for millennia, only applied to humans? True, "social Darwinists" did seize upon on Darwin's theory, as did racial hygienists like Alfred Ploetz, because it was convenient to do so to justify their view of who is "superior" and "inferior" in society, but it is not Darwin's fault that they applied his theory to areas where it was not scientifically appropriate to apply it. In essence, social Darwinists and eugenicists misused Darwin's theory to justify pre-existing racism and bigotry, just as scientific racists before Darwin used other reasoning to justify the "superiority" of their race over another or the "culling of the herd" to "improve the stock" of their people. This is a very different process from evolution, in which the selective pressures brought to bear on organisms by the environment plus random genetic variation, not the intentional selection of traits, determine which traits propagate in subsequent generations.

The exclusion of "the intentional selection of traits" from the category of Darwinian medicine would of course exclude all biological research, which is quite intentional endeavor. Yet Darwinists have breathlessly attributed all manner of experimental biology to Darwin's insights. Orac himself credits much of cancer research to Darwin's insights. Now he says he was just kidding. I'll accept that.

Nothing that is done by a scientist in biological research-- from microbiology to molecular genetics to oncology-- has anything to do with evolution, which applies only to natural processes free of man's intervention. Breeding man is not evolutionary biology. Breeding bacteria in a lab studying antibiotic resistance is not evolutionary biology. Breeding cancer cells in vitro to test chemotherapeutic drugs isn't evolutionary biology. Examining the clinical response of populations of cancer cells to chemotherapy isn't evolutionary biology.

Fair point.


Darwin's genius was to make the leap from how farmers bred animals to realize that forces other than human intellect could produce selective pressure that could result in enormous changes in organisms to the point of speciation.

Orac acknowledges that change by human selection isn't evolution. So much for the indispensability of evolutionary biology to experimental biology and medicine, all of which presuppose human-directed selection.


The "grain of truth" in the observation that eugenics is Darwinian is this:

Even if it were true that eugenicists used evolutionary theory to justify their vile activities in the early 20th century and the whole concept of "racial hygiene," it would be irrelevant to the argument over whether evolution is a good theory. Just because evil people put a scientific theory to evil use does not say anything whatsoever about whether that scientific theory is a valid one or not. One might just as well condemn Einstein, Niels Bohr, and all the physicists whose work formed the basis for the construction of the atomic bomb for the use to which their work was put. If we look at Hitler's Nazi Germany, the justification for "racial hygiene" was couched more in terms of natural law (that the strong should rule over the weak) and the sort of selective breeding that has been practiced by farmers for centuries. Once again, I suggest that Dr. Egnor read Robert Proctor's excellent treatment of the subject, Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis for more information.


Orac is right; the execrable consequences of a scientific theory don't mean the theory isn't true. But it does mean that if the theory isn't true, there's an uncommonly strong reason to tell the truth about it. To discredit it. Because lives depend on discrediting it. An example of a theory that isn't true and has execrable consequences and cries out for discreditation is Darwinism.

But Orac evades the real issue. My argument that Darwinism is indispensable to eugenics, which I stated quite clearly, is this:

Darwinism explains man as a product of natural selection. Man's compassion for his fellow men precludes the natural process of human adaptation by pitiless struggle for survival, which, unimpeded by compassion, would continue to strengthen the species. Eugenicists argued emphatically that man was being degraded as a species because we were not allowing the weak to be culled naturally. They insisted that they had to take 'evolution in hand', and do the culling themselves. Ergo, sterilize the unfit, euthanize the weak, etc.

Eugenics was the correction for errant evolution. It depended on the Darwinian understanding of man.

On the contrary, if you don't accept the evolutionary (materialistic) origin of man, then eugenics is not only unnecessary, but is an atrocity.

Eugenics is Darwinian because the rationale for eugenics is the Darwinian understanding of human origins.

More to follow...

Yeats: The Second Coming (1919)

My favorite poem. Yeats understood the 20th century, which began on August 2, 1914.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

A remarkable insight...

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

... to have understood the Anglican Communion, and the Pharyngula combox, a century ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Raphael. The School of Athens. 1509-10

Our kids should know the figures in this painting. What did they know? What did  they do? What did they bequeath to us?

In our times, we are forgetting mankind's astonishing intellectual heritage. It is a heritage that began in Greece in the Axial Age and flourished in Christian Europe. It is the source of our civilization-- our freedom, our science, and our art. 

Even Nietzche, who hated Christianity and extolled atheist Will-to-Power, understood what the loss of this cultural heritage would mean to man. It drove him mad.

We don't even understand what is happening to us. 

Fascism, Balkanization, and the Islamization of Europe

Commentor crusadeREX raises an excellent point about the approaching Islamization of Europe:

I agree on 95% of this issue, but there is an area of possibility you have not explored: Fascism.
There is a distinct possibility of a massive European backlash before the Islamization reaches a critical mass.
I am not suggesting this would be a 'good' thing, merely that it could counter the waves of Islamic thinking and replace it with a different dystopian nightmare.
I have often wondered if that could be the motive/gamble for some of the more Nietzsche inclined minds in the 'secular progressive' camp.
A study of the effect of the Conquest of Iberia, and the subsequent reconquest and Crusades, shows clearly just how single minded the European mind can be when it comes to territory; and just how quick normal people can be militarized over an ideal.
The Nazis would be a far more modern example.
While I agree on the notion of the "speed bump", I think there is still room for a horrible backlash that would make the second world war look like a kid's party.
Either way it does not bode well for Western Civilization

I agree. I think that there are 5 possibilities for the future of Europe:

1) Peaceful co-existence between Islam and the West in Europe. I doubt it. Islam is a profoundly intolerant ideology, and historically the only substantial peace in regions with a significant Islamic presence has been following Islamic conquest and the reduction to dhimmitude of the locals, who pay taxes and obey the Caliph. It worked in Palestine from 700- 1100 A.D. Ironically, once Muslims make up the majority, violence starts again, against other Muslims or with anyone who has the misfortune of sharing a Muslim border. (c.f. Samuel Huntington's observation that Islam always has "bloody borders".)

2) Peaceful reestablishment of Christian culture by the peaceful emigration of Muslims. Not likely. They ain't leavin'.

3) Balkanization: Perhaps the most likely outcome, with islands of Muslim and Christian/secular hegemony. There are already Muslim areas of French and Swedish cities that are almost ungovernable. There is obviously a precedent for just this situation-- Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania,... A recipe for continuous war and cultural devastation (c.f. the history of the Balkans). Thanks, multiculturalists.

4) European Fascism A dreadful possibility, but I think unlikely, at least on any large scale. Fascism in its developed form is a composite of socialism ('National Socialism') and paganism (worship of state, race, soil). The Europeans certainly have adopted the socialist part, but they will likely go bankrupt before they can channel their panic into a new Wehrmacht. Greece ain't invading anybody, at least not after 3:00 p.m. on workdays or on weekends.

The pagan part of Fascism may be beyond the Europeans as well. European spiritual lassitude is so advanced that they would have to rise, not fall, into paganism. Too much effort. They won't even raise children, let alone attend torchlit rallies in stadiums.

That said, a rise of real Fascism in Europe would be a catastrophe for all involved. The Europeans may lack motivation now, but history shows that an aroused Europe can commit homicide on an astonishing scale. European totalitarianism (Nazis, Communists) makes Islam look like the nice guys.

5) Caliphate A possibility, limited by only one thing. Islam is a feeble military force, and has been since Vienna in 1683. Muslims kill Americans working in tall office buildings and Jewish children in busses and pizza parlors. The only factor that links all modern effective Muslim violence is that their victims are unarmed.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson has observed that Islam has lost every direct military conflict with the West since the 17th century. The reasons are plenty-- technical incompetence, arrogance, suppression of free exchange of ideas that are necessary to the correction of military errors, etc. Western military forces slaughter Muslim forces, always, whenever they meet in sustained battle (c.f. Ottomans in WWI, wars against Israel, Gulf War 1 and 2, Afghanistan, ...) In war, Muslims are Western cannon fodder. I doubt that the Muslims can actually conquer Europe to the extent that a pan-European caliphate could be consolidated.

I believe that the Balkans scenario is the most likely, in fact, the only likely scenario. It would be a tragedy-- much bloodshed, erosion of a magnificent Christian culture, and the consignment of millions of people to Islamic tyranny.

There is one reason, and only one reason, for this catastrophe: the loss of Christian culture and civilizational confidence in Europe.

Thanks, atheists.

New York passes Gay Marriage Law: polygamists, necrophiliacs, pet owners hopeful.

[Dissociated press] The New York State legislature passed a bill Friday night legalizing gay marriage in the state. The landmark bill provides full legal recognition to unions between individuals of the same sex, equivalent to marriage of opposite-sex couples.

"Marriage is for all who love, regardless of stereotypes" proclaimed gay rights activists.

A group of Marriage Without Borders (MWB) activists joined the celebration. The president of MWB, funeral director Mort Love, said that the erosion of the traditional definition of marriage offered hope to many victims of stereotypes. "For centuries, necrophilia has been stigmatized. Why must both marriage partners be alive? Our society is awash in vivism and necrophobia. We are hopeful that we can overcome necrophobia and extend marriage rights to those who have always loved in silence."

Attending the rally as well were representatives of Give Onanists a Fair Shake (GOFS), an organization that has advocated same-same marriage since the 1960's. "We're the loneliest victims of 'homo'phobia", asserted one protestor.

Also attending the rally were a large group of activists from Utah, who denounced polyphobia. They had a variety of signs: "In the Mood for a Brood?", "Why Just Two in the Pew?" and "Nine is Fine".

The most famous activist at the Marriage Without Borders rally was internationally renowned philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer from Princeton University. Singer is author of the article Heavy Petting in which the world's leading ethicist defends some kinds of bestiality. Singer has argued that zoosexual relations are not necessarily abusive, and that cross-species relationships could form which were mutually enjoyed. Singer was accompanied by his nervous-appearing Yorkie Terrier named "Doggiestile"

"We need to expand our concept of love and drive away stereotypes", said Singer, smiling at his pet. "'Natural' relations doesn't necessarily mean same-species relations". "Speciesism is the most fundamental prejudice", Singer said, to the cheers of the MWB crowd.

Reporters asked Singer whether his anxious 8-pound pet was a male or a female.

"A female, of course", the famed ethicist insisted.

Asked about whether he supported marriage between pet owners and their same-sex pet, Singer seemed shocked.

"Not really. Marriage has to mean something. Zoophilia is beautiful, but same-sex zoophilia? That creeps me out, to be honest."

Commentor crusadeREX: "This is NOT about governments enforcing prayer - BUT BANNING them from a public place."

Commentor crusadeREX, in reply to commentor John Pieret, succinctly makes the case that it is the kids who wanted to pray, not the atheist, whose rights were violated by the federal judge at the Texas high school:

John Pieret:

Of course I equate the power of government to force prayer at a graduation to the power some people would claim for government to stop others from building a perfectly legal community center [the Ground Zero victory mosque].


A government forcing prayer? What type of De Sitter universe to you inhabit, John? This is NOT about governments enforcing prayer - BUT BANNING them from a public place. This is about religious intolerance on the the part of non-believing materialist/Atheist PARENTS "forcing" their monistic view on the graduating class of a an American HS with the help of the judiciary. What is that view? That Prayers are harmful to children... This is Mike's original objection and one you have completely failed (avoided) in addressing. [my emphasis]

crusadeREX nails it. No one is harmed by prayer. No one is forced to pray. No one is forced to listen to prayer. The only force involved in judicial censorship of prayer at high school graduations is judicial force called down on the kids by atheists forcing their monistic view on the graduating class of a an American HS with the help of the judiciary.


The atheist kid at the graduation was utterly unforced. He did not have to listen, or pray, or participate in any way if he chose not to.

The kids and school personnel at the atheist-molested high school were threatened with detention, suspension, expulsion, revocation of degree, arrest, fine, and imprisonment for praying or even speaking in a manner not approved beforehand by the federal judge.

Whose Constitutional rights were violated?

Geert Wilders's acquittal a speedbump in the Islamization of Europe

Nina Shea on Putting the Wilders Win in Context:

After being acquitted by a Dutch court of five criminal charges of hate speech against Muslims, parliamentarian Geert Wilders told reporters: “This is not so much a win for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech.” While Wilders was understandably happy and relieved he is not going to be spending the next 16 months behind bars, the significance of his victory seems overstated.

As I wrote in the Corner on October 17, “The Wilders case demonstrates the continued willingness of authorities in Europe’s most liberal countries to regulate the content of speech on Islam in order to placate Muslim blasphemy demands.” Wilders’ acquittal does not change that.

Regulation of speech is ultimately a method of conquest. What is unspoken-- a public Christian prayer or a public critique of Islamic violence-- is, in time, unthought.

Wilders is not the first Dutch parliamentarian to have faced anti-Muslim hate-speech charges, and, based on today’s decision, he may not even be the last. Before Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali was accused of hate speech against Muslims. In 2003, Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist born a Muslim in Somalia, was subject to a criminal investigation for hate speech for her statements linking Islam’s Prophet Mohammed to abuses against women in Muslim communities. While that case was dropped, she was subsequently forced to stand trial in a civil action in the Netherlands for hate speech after announcing plans for a film on the treatment of homosexuals in Islam, a prospect the complainant — Holland’s main Muslim lobbying group — found to both cause “a great deal of pain” and be “blasphemous.” The court did not rule against the defendant but merely reprimanded the MP for having “sought the borders of the acceptable.”

Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, (the late) Pim Fortuyn, and (the late) Theo Van Gogh are several remarkably courageous Europeans who have risked and given their lives to warn us of the encroachment of Islam on the West. The Islamic assault has taken several stages:

1) Unfettered immigration into Europe to provide a cheap workforce for a European civilization that was furiously contracepting away its youth. Young hardworking Muslims gained their foothold servicing childless financially-liberated safety-net coddled Europeans.

2) Inculcation of Koran-mandated self-censorship under the guise of tolerance on aging European narcissists who are unaware of the Christian origin of their freedoms.

3) Intimidation of the censored European quislings by random acts of terror.

4) Use of the European Courts to enforce censorship by law (Muslims can use American atheists' tactics to wipe Christian freedoms from the public square, too)

5) Patience with the passage of several generations until the Muslim population is sufficiently large that mere force, rather than hijacking of the legal system, will be sufficient.

Islam is primarily a political ideology. Its religious insights are rudimentary. Islam is submission-- conquest and rule.


The dogged adjudication of the Wilders case over the past 29 months shows that Dutch courts remain all too willing to regulate speech on behalf of Islam, even when public officials are talking about matters of public interest, publicly.

Wilders and others have warned us. But Europeans, gelded by a century of atheism and paganism and contraception and war, won't listen. Even if they do, it will be too late, because they are losing population so rapidly that there will be too few Europeans to resist.

Whether the Wilders case sets any useful legal precedent for an ordinary Dutch citizen is particularly doubtful... Average Dutch citizens are very much left in the dark about what they can or can’t say about Islam with legal impunity. Then, there’s the matter of violence to consider; Wilders will continue to require bodyguards against those who have threatened him with death for blasphemy against Islam... Even without a conviction in the Wilders case, the chilling effect on free speech on and within Islam continues to widen in Europe.

Pope Benedict XVI, another good man of extraordinary courage, was right in his quote of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

Has Islam brought anything new that is not evil and inhuman? Not that I see. But unlike de-Christianized Europeans, Muslims are not stupid. They submit to their faith. They honor their (bloody) heritage. They have a long memory, and they are very good at conquest.

Despite courageous men like Wilders and Benedict, the lights will go out in Europe.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chesterton on Manicheans and Atheists

G.K. Chesterton-- a very wise man-- on Manicheanism and Thomism*:

"Since there are a good many Manicheans among the Moderns as we may remark in a moment, some may agree [that the creator of the earth was primarily the creator of the evil, whether we call him a devil or a god], some may be puzzled about it, some may only be puzzled about why we should object to it. To understand the medieval controversy, a word must be said of the Catholic doctrine, which is as modern as it is medieval. That "God looked on all things and saw that they were good" contains a subtlety which the popular pessimist cannot follow, or is too hasty to notice. It is the thesis that there are no bad things, but only bad uses of things. If you will, there are no bad things but only bad thoughts; and expecially bad intentions. Only Calvinists can really believe that hell is paved with good intentions. That is exactly the one thing it cannot be paved with. But it is possible to have bad intentions about good things; and good like the world and the flesh have been twisted by a bad intention called the devil. But he cannot make things bad; they remain as on the first day of creation.

The central question in the philosophy and history of science: what (or who) made the world, and was it made good, or bad, or both?

The atheist answer: nothing made the world. How this serves as an impetus to science remains obscure.

That it serves as a basis for nihilism and will to power is not obscure. No atheist (Marxist) country has produced new science in any meaningful way. Example: the Soviet Union, home to brilliant mathematicians and mathematical physicists, had to steal Western nuclear blueprints.

Another example: Trofim Lysenko, a paradigm of the atheist scientist, committed to ideological purity, rather than to an honest investigation of nature. For atheists, science is ideology pursued by different means.

The Manichean answer: good and evil made the world, mostly evil. It suppresses science. Why study matter, which is evil, when the purpose of life is to escape it? The Manichean thread runs through Buddhism and New Ageism, neither of which produces science.

The Thomist answer: Good Himself made the world, entirely good at creation. Evil is a spiritual degradation of good matter. The study of nature is good, because it is the study of that which is naturally good.

The Thomist understanding of creation is the basis for all modern science. It is no coincidence that the scientific Enlightenment followed on the High Middle Ages (13th century), once the scholastic understanding of nature had spread throughout Europe.

Chesterton comments on the current struggle between science and atheist ideology:

The work of heaven alone was material; the making of a material world. The work of hell is entirely spiritual.

Atheism lacks justification for natural science. Atheism is entirely spiritual, under a masque of science.

* Chesterton GK: Saint Thomas Aquinas Image/Doubleday 1933. p83f.

Jeff Shallit takes on the Blessed Mother and me.

Jeff Shallit from Recursivity:

Oh, look: the brilliant brain surgeon Michael Egnor has a blog, which is called (I kid you not), "Egnorance".

This is destined to be an endless fountain of unintended amusement.

Already we have the renowned Dr. Egnor claiming that Mary is "the original Christian disciple, and a model and a mother for all of us".

Let's see: Mary

* had affair with some guy not her husband
* got pregnant by him
* lied about it
* convinces gullible husband that it was actually some god who raped her

Yes, I'd say that she certainly is a good role model for theists.

Jeff's take down of Mary:

* had affair with some guy not her husband

Her affair was to trust and obey and love God. We Christians call it faith. It's an affair to which we are all called. And it's not extramarital. Marriage is, in fact, a manifestation of that love and trust and obedience.

* got pregnant by him

She did. Love Itself became flesh, through her.

* lied about it

She never lied.

* convinces gullible husband that it was actually some god who raped her

Joseph believed her, and loved her and her Child, to his eternal credit.

Rape means:

1) Carnal, which her conception of the Lord was not.

2) Non-consensual. She consented: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Dr. Shallit will no doubt think this all silly superstition.

Dr. Shallit believes that the world arose from nothing, derives its intelligibility from nothing, and is held in existence at every moment by nothing. He believes that life arose with no plan, and evolves with no design. He believes that man is an accident, and his life has no purpose.

Dr. Shallit calls people who challenge his superstition 'superstitious'.

Jerry Coyne and Darwinian medicine: Introduction

Jerry Coyne recently attended a meeting that included presentations on Darwinian medicine, which is the application of evolutionary biology to medical education, treatment and research.

Advocates of Darwinian medicine propose that each disease has a proximate cause and an evolutionary cause. The proximate cause is the scientific cause, traditionally understood. The proximate cause of a genetic disease would include, for example, the nature of the gene mutation, the defect in the protein product caused by the gene defect, the disease manifestations of the defective product, and the therapeutic options for treating the disease.

The evolutionary cause of a disease is the speculative evolutionary story of how the disease arose and persists. For example, the evolutionary cause of a genetic disease is a speculation about how the disease state survived 'natural selection' and speculation about several proposed interactions between the disease and the host.

With that in mind, let's look at Coyne's post:

I was once down on the practical uses of evolution: I thought of the discipline more as a way to understand the world than to improve it. But I’ve changed my mind, largely at the instigation of Dave Hillis at the University of Texas at Austin, who has enlightened me about the real applications of evolution in medicine.

"Applications of evolution in medicine" is perhaps a bit optimistic. Evolutionary explanations of disease states are remarkably speculative, perhaps even more so than evolutionary explanations of biological origins. It remains unclear how such speculation can become 'applications' in medical science, which after all, is the paradigm of applied science.

An analogy would be the attempt to apply the multiverse theories of cosmology to bridge construction.

At the meeting yesterday there was an all-day symposium on “Darwinian medicine” (DM). This is the discipline that studies not only how the evolution of pathogens helps us understand disease (antibiotic resistance in bacteria is, of course, the classic example), but also how human evolution affects not only our susceptibility to disease, but explains some of our symptoms (fever, for example, may be an evolved adaptation to kill pathogens, and so you might want to hold off reducing mild fevers).

Fever is a good example of the pros and cons of "applying" evolutionary speculation to medicine. We know a great deal about the influence of fever on the immune system and on microorganisms. The wisdom or folly of reducing fever is assessed by the actual proximate knowledge of the relevant pathophysiology, not by evolutionary stories about fever. 'Does reduction of fever help or hurt recovery from infection' is the relevant question, and it is entirely a question of proximate causes.

The evolutionary speculation about how fever arose-- 'organisms that survived infections by mounting fever were more reproductively successful than organisms that didn't mount fever and thus didn't survive infections-- is probably true, and just as probably tautological. But the evolutionary speculation is based on the proximate (scientific) understanding of fever and of resistance to disease. The evolutionary speculation adds nothing new to the proximate explanation.

Of what application is evolutionary speculation to medicine, above and beyond the scientific proximate explanation?

Nesse is perhaps the most enthusiastic advocate of Darwinian medicine.

He's a passionate salesman.

Nesse’s talk was called “What evolutionary biology and medicine offer to each other, and reflections on George Williams.”

George Williams was a colleague of mine here at Stony Brook who passed away recently. I didn't know him personally, but he was very well-liked and is highly respected.


[Nesse] began simply by recounting some statistics: how few evolutionary biologists there are on medical school faculty: almost none, but that’s not much of a surprise.

Well it should be a surprise. If "nothing makes sense except in light of evolution" and if an evolutionary understanding of disease is important to medicine, why aren't there any evolutionary biologists in medical schools? It would seem that the utter absence of a scientific discipline for the past half-century might imply that the discipline didn't offer much to practice and research. Seems kind of obvious.


More surprising is how little evolutionary biology actually gets into med-school curricula, despite its importance for medicine.

The reason that little evolutionary biology actually gets into med-school curricula is because of its unimportance for medicine. There's no paradox at all.

Most schools teach things about antibiotic resistance, more or less because they have to...

Medical schools teach quite a bit about antibiotic resistance because such knowledge is essential to medicine. Doctors deal with antibiotic resistance daily, and virtually all research on this vitally important issue is done by medical researchers in medical schools and in pharmaceutical companies. Evolutionary biologists do very little research on antibiotic resistance.

Medical schools teach and do research on antibiotic resistance because they are the experts on it, not (pace Coyne) "more or less because they have to."

Coyne's an arrogant jerk.


but other aspects of DM aren’t often taught in medical school: things like “adaptive” human symptoms of disease, or things that pathogens do to facilitate their own spread (the fact that malaria makes you prostrate, for instance, may actually be an adaptation of the malaria parasite to facilitate its spread; you’re more likely to be bitten by a mosquito, who transmits the parasite, if you’re laid out flat in bed).

Coyne uses the amusing speculation that malaria makes victims prostrate because the immobility of the victim helped the mosquitoes lite and spread the disease. "Natural selection"? No. Narrative gloss.

Set aside the vacuous science-- how (why) exactly would you test the theory that malaria makes victims motionless because it helps spread the disease? Do 'just so' stories advance medicine? In what way would Coyne's "evolutionary cause" advance understanding or treatment of malaria? Make beds that shake so the mosquitoes can't lite? ('go 'round again, Frank, it's too choppy to land!'). Order patients in the midst of a malaria relapse to do aerobics? ('what are all of these Richard Simmons videos doing in the malaria ward?')

What Darwinian medicine tripe.


Nesse gave six evolutionary reasons why humans are still susceptible to disease, despite the adaptive advantages of being resistant to disease:

I'll cover all six, in ensuing posts.