The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arlen Specter - the Senator I admire most

I must admit that I have long followed the career of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, though I am not a constituent of his. But I did, briefly, live in Philadelphia, just as Sen. Specter was district attorney there, and I was then impressed by his uprooting of corruption there. And since then, I've seen him as a force for the things I believe in in the Senate seat he's held for many years.

I was recently impressed by his handling (together with the two Maine Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe) of the "stimulus bill" issue. Rather than just saying "no" as the other Senate Republicans did, he was able to have significant modifications to the bill. It didn't make it a bill Republicans could be really happy about, but it made it a better bill. And it agitated the Pelosi far-left Democrats no end -- that three Republicans could have more input into the bill than the Democratic majority in the House could stomach. It shows how a pragmatic approach can make even a minority a force to reckon with. And I applaud Sen. Specter for it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"First Freedom First" - a comment on a book

Recently I began reading a book entitled "First Freedom First," by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy and the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the thesis of which is that it is important to maintain the constitutional separation of church and state. And this is a position which merits agreement from me. But in it, the Religious Right is castigated with the following words on p. xxvi of the Introduction:

The Religious Right claims an interest in recovering morality in America by seeking to outlaw all abortions, stem cell research, gay rights, and same-sex unions while advocating the teaching of religious doctrine as sound science. They also advocate, through a system of school vouchers often lauded as a way to help the poor, providing public tax dollars for the funding of public parochial schools. In recent years, the Religious Right has been loud in its advocacy for advancing the president's faith-based initiatives, displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings, teaching the Bible in public schools, electing "God-chosen" leaders to public offices, and supporting the president of the United States in sopeaking and acting as the chief religious leader of the nation. However, the Religious Right has been strangely silent on the war in Iraq, increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance, the torture of prisoners, ... [I leave out the rest of this sentence, because it is really the part I quote here that I want to address]

When I read the first two of these sentences, I was willing to accept what Gaddy (the author of this introduction) says. But then I hit the third sentence. Obviously, Gaddy (I can't speak for Lynn, as he didn't write these words, but if he is willing to have his name on the book as co-author, I can't imagine he disavows them) seems to think that one of the purposes of his book is to advocate for our having left Saddam Hussein in power to gas the Kurds and threaten Israel with missiles, for our adoption of a socialized-medicine scheme (because most people talking about "increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance" seem to advocate such schemes), etc. And with this sentence he lost me.

What in the name of all that matters in this universe do "the war in Iraq" and "increases in the numbers of people without adequate medical care and health insurance" have to do with religious freedom? And what business do these points have in a book on preserving our First Amendment rights?

Up till that sentence, I might have favorably reviewed this book. But it is clear that Gaddy and Lynn have their own ideology to pursue, not merely advocating a religiously-neutral, even secular, government (with which I concur), but a left-wing, even socialistic political agenda. And with that I take issue.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Intelligent Design and Evolution: Does it have to be one or the other?

Just this morning I was reading a book in which it was clear that the author believes that the only way that evolution can have occurred is by the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection, and derides the concept of intelligent design along with creationism. I believe that it is a grievous mistake to say that you can't have both evolution and intelligent design.

For some reason, the evidence for evolution that we have has been taken to be evidence for the concept that evolution occurred via one specific mechanism: random mutations followed by survival of the fittest (i. e. natural selection). I would like to see any basis for distinguishing this mechanism from an alternative, which I maintain is firmly within the framework of intelligent design:

There is a God who controls this world, but rather than a de novo creation of new species, His mechanism is to see what His creations are like, and make modifications toward a goal. In other words, it is not blind chance, but intelligent tinkering, that drives evolution.

Now, no scientific investigation can prove my hypothesis, but in fact I believe that none can disprove it, either. I would challenge any Dawkinsian atheist to give me one piece of scientific evidence that can be used successfully to refute my hypothesis. I don't think there can be any.

Now the point can be made that science proceeds only by investigating testable hypotheses, and that the hypothesis I have formulated is not testable. I maintain that the real point is that the hypothesis of the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations followed by survival of the fittest is no more testable than mine. So, in fact, science cannot dismiss intelligent design out of hand, and the two hypotheses (intelligent design and Darwin's natural selection mechanism) are of equal status; they both have to be considered speculative philosophy rather than science.

Note that nothing that I have said here denies the factuality of evolution, so do not call me a creationist. My point is that, even given acceptance that evolution has occurred in the past and probably continues to occur, one cannot dismiss the idea of intelligent design out of hand.

So please let us have some sense here. Arguments for evolution (which I accept!) do not prelude intelligent design. And they no more prove the Darwinian mechanism than the fact that 2+2=4 proves that all numbers are even. Let's be honest about this.


A recent comment on my posts regarding Michael Steele referred to him in generational terms, and called for splitting the "baby-boomer" generation, because the generation that Steele (and Obama, Palin, etc.) belongs to is really different in kind from the baby-boomer generation of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. I can't say this surprises me, because I've thought about this classifying of people into generations, though mostly about the earlier era where I belong. And I feel I've also been generationally misplaced.

The classic generation book is a book called "Generations" by William Strauss and Neil Howe. And in Strauss and Howe's book, I'm in the Silent Generation, just before the Boomers (Strauss & Howe just calls then by that name, not "Baby" Boomers) and just after the G. I. Generation, that fought in World War II. But this generation, according to Strauss and Howe, begins with people born in 1925. And I don't think that a person born in the late 1920s (who was a teenager in World War II, just a bit too young to fight, but old enough to be well aware of what was going on) had the same type of experiences as I had (V-J Day, when WWII ended, was just before my 3rd birthday, so I have no memories of WWII, but my teenage years were during the hottest part of the Cold War, with a prosperous economy, but shelter drills in school, and Russian spies suspected of being everywhere. Perhaps the "Cold War Generation" describes my age cohort. But it's certainly not the same as the earlier Silents in Strauss & Howe's classification.

So from right after I read Strauss & Howe's book, I thought that a shorter period, perhaps half of a Strauss & Howe generation, really defined an age cohort. And the comment about Michael Steele and his contemporaries fits my thoughts, so I feel vindicated in my classifications.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Michael Steele, and those who oppose him

Someone posted a comment to my posting about Michael Steele, in which he called Steele a RINO and linked to a site in which Steele was attacked by a certain Steve Deace, a commentator on a station in Iowa, who attacked Steele.

Trying to find out something about this Deace, I found a blog post that said:

Steve Deace, the 1040 WHO commentator, should be donning a "Religious Bigot" t-shirt soon. A few weeks ago, he said that someone should send him a shirt that says, "Religious Bigot" on it because that is what it means today to be a believing Christian.

Back in 2004, as a sports commentator, he argued that Shawn Green (who is Jewish) should convert to Christianity so that he could play baseball on Judaism's holiest day, Yom Kippur.
I don't know if he ever apologized for it. More recently, he has picked most prominently on homosexuals, referring to them crudely as people who "have anal sex."

I don't think Christianity makes anyone a religious bigot, but Deace has certainly shown that a self-described Christian certainly can be one. If Deace wants the moniker, who am I to disagree?

So, I designed and sent him a shirt with the words "Religious Bigot" emblazoned on the front and back in red with red sleeves. He says it "looks awesome." I think it looks embarrassing. If you know a religious bigot who needs one, follow the link below, and you can send them their own Steve Deace "Religious Bigot " T.

If this is Steve Deace, it is clear that he stands for everything I oppose. And if Steve Deace opposes Michael Steele, that's one more reason to support Steele!