Saturday, October 28, 2006

Christmas Loot

In an effort to make it easier for you to further my materialistic educational goals this Holiday Season*, I have created an Amazon Wish List. Now, instead of worrying about whether I'd prefer this or that book, the only question you'll have to ask yourself is, How many books should I get him? As an added convenience , I've included a link to my Wish List on the sidebar; that way--on the off-chance that you don't purchase something for me immediatly after reading this--you'll still be able to access my list when this post gets buried by the many insightful and moving pieces I'll undoubtedly write between now and Christmas.

*Please note: the author of this blog does not restrict his acceptance of gifts, bribes, and random acts of kindness solely to the Christmas Season; they are welcome year-round.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Less of me, more of Tool

Well, I obviously haven't been doing much in the way of blogging in the past couple of weeks. Events in real life (as if I had one!) have kept me busy and distracted, but I'm sure that, one of these days, I'll get back to doing whatever it is that I do with this blog. While I think up something interesting to say, watch this amazing performance of the song "H." by Tool. The sound quality is fantastic, but the cameraman should be summarily executed for moving the shot away from Maynard during the most powerful part of the song. Nevertheless, the video is awesome. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dave gets put on the "naughty" list

Dear Santa Claus,

While out running errands this evening, I couldn't help but notice that you seem to be making preparations for Christmas rather *ahem* early this year. Now, I don't mean to be critical, and I certainly wouldn't want to tell you how to do your job, but, frankly, I'm a bit concerned. It's not that I don't appreciate your eager festive spirit; nothing could be further from the truth! It's just that, well, I think you may be jumping the gun a bit this year. I really love the Christmas season, but I also really enjoy some of the other major fourth-quarter holidays(I won't mention any names--I know how much you hate that) and would hate to miss them. Personally, I think it would be a real big shame if we started going straight from Columbus Day to Christmas each year. That just wouldn't feel right to me, and I hope you don't mind me saying so.

Here's an idea: Maybe you could stick to holding sway over our lives from Black Friday through the end of December and let those other fun--but admittedly inferior--holidays keep their usual time slots? Whatever you decide to do, I want you to know that I think you're doing a "heckuva a job," and I'll respect your expert judgement on the matter. I just wanted to let you know how I felt.

Still love ya, big guy!


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Charles Colson's Misplaced Congratulations

I'm finally ready to admit the truth: I'm addicted to the evolutionary culture wars. Now, there's no need to lecture me; I already know what you're going to say. Sure, the culture wars are bad for you. I'm fully aware that they rot your brain and are more addictive that an eight-ball of meth laced with nicotine; I'm not ignorant to the fact that the evolutionary/creationism argument is well-known as the "gateway" conflict, leading inexorably toward more "hardcore" wars regarding abortion rights and laissez-faire capitalism; and I've often heard it said that those who engage in culture war-related activities do so because of deep-seated personal issues that have not been properly resolved; But you know what? I really don't care! I like my culture wars, okay? Is that so bad? Sure I spend hours each day reading (and sometimes participating in) obscure and often inane arguments on numerous blogs and message boards, but I could quit anytime I wanted to. Really, I could. I just don't want to right now. My habit hasn't been a problem for me so far, and I see no reason why it has to be one in the future.

Right. . .

Having gotten that out of the way, I came across this short article by Charles Colson (of, among other things, Watergate fame) that I wanted to share. It's just so silly that I couldn't not comment on it. In his brief commentary, Colson heaps praises upon Phillip Johnson, the so-called "Father" of the Intelligent Design movement. It's short, so I'm just going to quote the entire thing:

How do you honor a man who started a groundbreaking movement that challenged the scientific establishment and is changing the way the world thinks about the origins of life?

Phillip Johnson’s friends came up with a great way to answer that question. In honor of Phil’s many accomplishments, they have commissioned and published a collection of essays, in a book titled Darwin’s Nemesis. That’s the perfect title, because that’s exactly what Phil has become over the past fifteen years. This feisty Berkeley law professor became the unlikely spearhead of the intelligent design movement with the publication of his book Darwin on Trial, in which, from the perspective of a skilled lawyer, he examined and cross-examined Darwinism and found gaping holes. His legal and rhetorical training had convinced him that the Darwinists were acting like people with “something to hide.” Indeed, they are.

His investigation showed him exactly what they were hiding. As geophysicist Stephen Meyer puts it, the best Darwinists can put forth is “a panoply of euphemism and wishful thinking masquerading as evidence.” So Phil dared to start questioning what many believed to be unquestionable and to enlist many scientists to start questioning it as well. The rest, as they say, is history.

Through all the controversy—and just plain mud-slinging—that followed the publishing of Darwin on Trial, Phil has maintained his stance, continuing his lawyerly probing and careful research, and he has kept his good humor and graciousness. In these ways, he serves as a magnificent example to all of us involved in worldview teaching.

Just the list of authors who have contributed to Darwin’s Nemesis shows the effectiveness of Phil’s approach. It’s full of essays by distinguished scientists and philosophers who support the intelligent design movement. And it even includes a couple of articles by critics of intelligent design, including philosophy professor and evolution advocate Michael Ruse—the kind of balance you’d like to see in classrooms. In the contentious debate that surrounds the intelligent design vs. evolution issue, getting the participation of someone like Ruse is a testimony to Phillip Johnson.

There’s no doubt that Phil’s willingness to encourage the work of scientists and help create a network for them has allowed the movement to flourish. This book really shows just how far the intelligent design (ID) movement has progressed in a relatively short time, despite the best efforts of many Darwinists to shoot it down—because, as is becoming clearer and clearer, ID has the evidence on its side.

But Darwin’s Nemesis is far more than a tribute to one man—it’s an insightful, enjoyable, highly readable explanation of the intelligent design movement as a whole. And as the passages I’ve quoted demonstrate, this is very much in keeping with Philip Johnson’s practice of keeping the focus on the movement and the questions it is asking, not on himself. The paradox is that by doing this, he has shown how one informed and dedicated individual can literally shape the course of history—just one more lesson from Phil Johnson’s work from which we all can benefit, and one more reason why he’s one of my personal heroes.

Let's be blunt: Charles Colson is talking out of his ass. Here are a few things he didn't mention:

* The ideas of Phillip Johnson are neither ground-breaking nor are they particularly challenging to the scientific community.

* Despite quite a lot of popular-level book, efforts to introduce ID into high school classrooms, propaganda press releases and thousands of dollars spent on marketing, ID has made little headway in its quest for acceptance by the scientific community, and as Philosopher and ID-proponent Paul Nelson has admitted, there is currently no actual scientific theory of Intelligent Design.

*Less than a year ago, in the landmark ID-case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge Jones, a Bush-appointed conservative Christian, ruled that ID is not science and has no place in science class (see here for a copy of the ruling. It's actually quite an interesting read.)

The plain fact of the matter is that there is little reason to believe that ID will ever find acceptance by any substantial percentage of the relevant scientific community--ie., Biologists. This is the case, I believe, for at least two reasons:

1. Despite countless Creationists' assertions to the contrary, Evolutionary Biology is scientifically productive field of research, and there really is an enormous amount of evidence favoring the idea that life on earth is a product of descent with modification from earlier organisms via, among other things, the creation of genetic variabilty through mutation spread of this inherited variability through differential reproductive succes (ie., Natural Selection). Does that mean that Biologists know everything that they would like to know about the history and diversity of life? Not at all. Does it mean that all aspects of the currently-accepted Evolutionary theory will turn out to be correct in every case ? Again, no. But this also doesn't mean that God--err. . .the Designer--should be inserted as an answer for questions we haven't figured out yet. That's the great thing about science; there's always something more to learn and discover.

2. The second--and in my opinion, too commonly overlooked--reason is that, unlike mainstream evolutionary theory, ID really does nothing to satisy the insatiable hunger to understand how and why the world around us works that is probably the single biggest driving force behind the research that scientists undertake. Boiled down to its most basic form, ID simply states that certain features of life (there is a seperate field of ID that deals not with life but with attributes of the universe itself that I'm ignoring here) are best explained as the product of an intelligent agency. But when pressed to make statements about who the designer is and when, how, and for what reason these designs were implemented, ID-proponents are characteristically silent (except, of course, in front of "safe" audiences consisting of conserative Christians. Then, they're very open about the Designer being synonymous with the Christian God). To drudge up an old euphemism, ID simply cannot and will not cut the mustard with most scientists because it doesn't even attempt to answer most of the questions that they're asking.

It's obvious that Chuck Colson knows next to nothing about Biology (or if he does, he's doing a stupendous job of hiding it). That's not to say that I'm an expert myself. I'm certainly not. But I know enough to spot bullshit when I see it; and Colson's "commentary" is a nice pile of hot, steaming, poo.