Never trust the tadpoles

Thomas Sowell on the importance of deeds, not words:

The two visions [of left and right] are different in another way. The vision of the left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood.

I don’t know why the left lionizes students. I mean, the fact that they are supposedly there to learn tends to indicate that they don’t know anything, so unless you’re looking for some useful idiots, they’re basically worthless until they prove otherwise.

Does Richard Dawkins hate Jews?

As is his occasional wont, Orac again shows off his reading disability. In a response to my post about Dawkins wishing to reopen the eugenics discussion, (please note the link is right here at the top, one wouldn’t wish to wound him to the quick again), he strangely claims the following question is “the old “atheists are inherently immoral and nihilistic” canard taken to a truly idiotic “atheism leads to necrophilia” extreme.”

Seriously, on what basis does the atheist prosecute the individual who digs up a few kilos of rotting flesh in order to have sex with it?

So,Orac not only mischaracterizes my question, he fails to even begin to answer it. I did not state that the necrophiliac was an atheist, I merely wanted to know what universal claim the atheist makes for his morality that would suffice to at least criticize the amorous shoveler, to say nothing of prosecuting him criminally. This is ironic, given that Orac’s post claims that I am mischaracterizing Dawkins position on eugenics.

Since I think this could be reasonably argued, why don’t we consider Dawkins’ position in a slightly different light. There were other aspects of the Hitler show besides eugenics, after all. What would a reasonable reader conclude about Richard Dawkins had he written this?

Today, I suspect that anti-semitism is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change. Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular…. I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between executing criminals and killing Jews. Or why it is acceptable for the Israelis to oppress Palestinians, but not for Europeans to oppress Jews. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

So, Orac, is the above paragraph anti-semitic? (And by anti-semitic, I mean the conventional Judenhassen sense of the term.) Do let me know. I’m genuinely curious about what you think here.

Now, one doesn’t have to already have an answer in mind to ask a question, but given what we know of Dawkins through his books, I don’t think one has to be overly suspicious of the man to not at least suspect that the guy would be delighted to be given the chance to head up a department of evolutionary eugenics at Oxford.

Orac goes on to discuss a theoretical justification of voluntary eugenics, which is interesting, but unfortunately skates lightly over the coercive element inherent in the term “breeding”. And given Dawkins’ examples of domesticated animals, it is clear that he isn’t talking about a voluntary program here, but an involuntary one imposed on those being bred. As such, it is grossly reprehensible from both a moral and an ideological point of view.

Now, while I do think it would be interesting to cross several generations of Shannon Dohertys with other bizarrly asymetrical individuals and create human flounders or security guards with eyes on either side of their heads. But barring coercive force, I don’t see how it would be possible. One doesn’t have to be a monster to ask questions about eugenics, but on the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that not every inquiry by an influential public intellectual is an innocent one.

Sam Harris embarrasses himself… again

The White Buffalo draws our attention to this debate:

Wars are still waged, crimes committed, and science undone out of deference to an invisible being who is believed to have created the entire cosmos, fine-tuned the constants of nature, blanketed the earth with 20,000 distinct species of grasshopper, and yet still remains so provincial a creature as to concern himself with what consenting adults do for pleasure in the privacy of their bedrooms. Incompatible beliefs about this God long ago shattered our world into separate moral communities—Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.—and these divisions remain a continuous source of human violence.

What’s hilarious isn’t the way that Sam Harris barely manages to address a single point made by Dennis Prager, (who is a good guy but isn’t exactly the sharpest theist in Creation), nor the way Harris later lies and tries to pretend that Prager hasn’t addressed his points, but the way that some clueless atheists actually think he acquitted himself well and won the debate.

Seriously, Prager could have nailed Harris to the wall on day one after that stupid “continuou source of human violence” bit. And what science is being undone? How, precisely, does one undo science? Seriously, as I wrote in my column today, Harris can’t write a paragraph without making multiple errors of fact and logic.

Mailvox: play nice or Ann will sing

JWB raises an oft-heard objection:

I’ve been enjoying the installments in your “Clowns of Reason” series. Being neither a theist nor atheist, but rather a positivist who eschews all metaphysics (as fruitless, rather than meaningless), I’ve taken some argument “talking points” from your latest writings.

I did have one response to a point you made in your broadside against Dennett. It is to a throw-away laugh line in your piece, so it isn’t substantial to your argument. But calling modern philosophy equivalent to extensive bong usage? Being both a philosopher of science and a neuroscientist, I can’t defend 9/10 of what my professional philosophy colleagues say–but not because they’re drug-addled! Most are sober thinkers who work on narrow, assumption-ladled issues that are of no real consequence to anybody. Your caricature built on a 1960s stereotype detracts from your credibility.

In any case, I’ll look forward to more of your writings.

Given the way in which modern philosophy has failed to produce a Hume or Nietzsche, let alone a Plato, Descartes or Aquinas, I think it rather deserves mocking. And given that the philosophy professor I knew best in college never hesitated to fire up the bong with a philosophy major who was a friend of mine, I think the crack is merited.

I’m curious, though, to know how my occasional rhetorical barbs can somehow detract from my credibility when easily demonstrable errors and even outright howlers never seem to render intellectual figures such as Harris, Dawkins and Dennett any less credible. I mean, Dennett was absolutely shredded by Wieseltier in the New York Times – my column was kind by comparison – and yet many people will continue to take him seriously.

Does accuracy truly count for less than style?

I don’t believe so. This objection, which JWB is far from the only one to make, reminds me a little of when a family member remarked that Ann Coulter would be more popular if only she wasn’t so nasty. I laughed and responded that given her indisputable position as the premier right-wing commentator, who has more books written about her than most commentators write, the only way she could become more popular would be to release a sex tape and record a mediocre pop album.

Come to think of it, what would an Ann Coulter CD look like? I imagine tracks like this:

Joe McCarthy (a remake of Desperado)
Don’t Call Me, Al
The Devil Went Down to Arkansas
Fort Marcy Blues
The Wind Beneath the Right Wing (featuring C tha E from the Fraters Libertas)

Discuss amongst yourselves

The first thing we do is glue the ball to Chester Taylor’s hands!

So, who molested the monkey?

Someone in the Bush family, I think one of the liberal regulars would do well to retort. But the news earlier this week had me laughing to myself, although unfortunately it’s not actually as funny as my faulty memory would have had it:

Nearly six years after the sequence of the human genome was sketched out, one might assume that researchers had worked out what all that DNA means. But a new investigation has left them wondering just how similar one person’s genome is to another’s. Geneticists have generally assumed that your string of DNA ‘letters’ is 99.9% identical to that of your neighbour’s, with differences in the odd individual letter. These differences make each person genetically unique — influencing everything from appearance and personality to susceptibility to disease.

But hold on, say the authors of a new study published in Nature. They have identified surprisingly large chunks of the genome that can differ dramatically from one person to the next…. According to the team’s back-of-the-envelope calculations, one person’s DNA is probably 99.5% similar to their neighbour’s. Or a bit less. “I’ve tried to do the calculation and it’s very complicated,” says Hurles. “It all depends on how you do the accounting.”

The answer is also unclear because researchers think that there are many more variable blocks of sequence that are 10,000 or 1,000 letters long and were excluded from the current study. Because of limits with their methods, the new map mainly identified variable chunks larger than 50,000 letters long.

This struck me as really funny, since last year people were going on and on about how we were something like 99.8 percent similar to chimpanzees. So, this news that humans spanned a range of at least .5 percent variance naturally had me wondering exactly who, besides Patrick Ewing, Gerard Depardieu and George W. Bush, was more closely related to chimpanzees than a perfect specimen of humanity such as Daniela Pestova.

Unfortunately, the 99 percent was always an exaggeration, as the following quote demonstrates.

Aug. 31, 2005 – The first comprehensive comparison of the genetic blueprints of humans and chimpanzees shows our closest living relatives share perfect identity with 96 percent of our DNA sequence, an international research consortium reported today…. The consortium found that the chimp and human genomes are very similar and encode very similar proteins. The DNA sequence that can be directly compared between the two genomes is almost 99 percent identical. When DNA insertions and deletions are taken into account, humans and chimps still share 96 percent of their sequence.

Still, if our intraspecies variation is significantly greater than previously thought, one presumes that this new discovery would also tend to separate us further from the chimps and sea urchins, barring Jenna pestering the primates at the zoo, of course. Renee or someone else versed in current biology textbooks will correct me if my assumption is incorrect, I’m sure.

For once, I’m with Ralph

Powerline compares Steyn’s take on future Europe with that of Ralph Peters:

Have the Europeans become too soft for that sort of thing? Has narcotic socialism destroyed their ability to hate? Is their atheism a prelude to total surrender to faith-intoxicated Muslim jihadis?

The answer to all of the above questions is a booming “No!” The Europeans have enjoyed a comfy ride for the last 60 years – but the very fact that they don’t want it to stop increases their rage and sense of being besieged by Muslim minorities they’ve long refused to assimilate (and which no longer want to assimilate).

Far from enjoying the prospect of taking over Europe by having babies, Europe’s Muslims are living on borrowed time. When a third of French voters have demonstrated their willingness to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front – a party that makes the Ku Klux Klan seem like Human Rights Watch – all predictions of Europe going gently into that good night are surreal.

I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe’s Muslims. After all, we were the only ones to do anything about the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans.

There is a real sense of something nasty looming in London as in the Netherlands and France. The number of non-Europeans there is amazing, one heard less English in some areas around London than one usually does in Zurich. Spacebunny even had a Coke one evening with an English sticker slapped over the Arabic one on the bottle. And it probably won’t make Drudge, but just yesterday a Tunisian immigrant beat to death a sixty year-old Indian man and injured seven others who were parked in traffic, just the latest incident of immigrants behaving murderously in England.

But it’s important to remember that although there are still far fewer Muslims in Europe than non-American Hispanics in the USA, the conversation about whether to permit multiculturalism to continue has already begun. Muslims aren’t going to react well to the strictures already being put in place such as the veil bans, and should their social benefits be cut, as I expect to see happen in the next five years, the conflict will increase dramatically.

In fact, although it hasn’t been widely covered in the international press, expulsions and refusals to renew residence visas are already taking place in Holland. Once one European country elects a government hostile to non-European immigrants and people see that it is possible to reclaim their nations from the multicultural mire – remember, a nation is a people, not an idea, to Europeans – I expect others will quickly and enthusiastically follow suit.

What it boils down to is this: if Europeans truly intended to accept Islam, Turkey would already be in the EU.

The Wisdom of the Big Tuna

A fascinating article on Bill Parcells. I particularly noted this bit:

In this laboratory he has identified a phenomenon he calls the game quitter. Game quitters, he says, seem “as if they are trying to win, but really they’ve given up. They’ve just chosen a way out that’s not apparent to the naked eye. They are more concerned with public opinion than the end result.”

I think Parcells’ loathing for this phenomenon is an integral part of his success as a football coach. The game quitter is a problem in every organization, an obstacle to every endeavor, and the deceptive nature of the phenomenon makes it hard to identify without looking specifically for it.

I know I have some tendencies that way, although I think I’ve successfully surmounted them for the most part. I certainly have the scar on my knee to prove it. Still, I can remember one game this fall when I was practically praying for the final whistle and barely going through the motions; I was so exhausted that I felt nothing but gratitude towards the midfielder who hit me from behind and allowed me to go down and let the ball go out of bounds while we kept possession.

I wish I knew how to solve the problem of the game quitter, as I see it in a few of the players on the kids’ team, but the only real solution seems to be a private, internal one. If Parcells can’t figure it out, I rather doubt anyone can.

Dread request

Dread, can you supply me with the full “ontological speculation” quote from Tesla? The one from the NY Times. Just post it here if you’ve got it.


Pay attention, brigots!

Et tu, Professor? Daniel Dennett admits that the fundamental atheist assumption is unproven in a Salon interview:

Are you saying a person is better served by relinquishing his faith in search of a more rational truth about the universe?

That’s a very good question and I don’t claim to have the answer yet. That’s why we have to do the research. Then we’ll have a good chance of knowing whether people are better served by reason or faith.

At least in this one instance, he’s more honest than Dawkins, Harris or your average irrational atheist, (henceforth “brigot” in honor of their silly, self-selected appellation), who all make the ironically faith-based claim that people are better served by reason.

You see, Reason cannot claim credit for modern medicine and modern agriculture without also claiming it for modern weaponry. And even that credit for food and medicine appears dubious in light of the sciencific claims that too many people currently infest the planet.

Dennett is totally wrong in his stated belief that all religious people fear either Reason or this debate. (Much less him and his books, three of which I picked up today….) Speaking only for myself, I say absolutely let us examine the question… I contend that Reason will ultimately prove to be less efficacious than Faith, since I already know that Reason serves me, rather more faithfully, in fact, than I manage to serve God.

Dennett, on the other hand, proves himself again and again to be nothing more than one of the apish clowns dancing slavishly at Reason’s court. Consider the following part of the interview:

Tell us the story from your new book about the ant and the blade of grass.

Suppose you go out in the meadow and you see this ant climbing up a blade of grass and if it falls it climbs again. It’s devoting a tremendous amount of energy and persistence to climbing up this blade of grass. What’s in it for the ant? Nothing. It’s not looking for a mate or showing off or looking for food. Its brain has been invaded by a tiny parasitic worm, a lancet fluke, which has to get into the belly of a sheep or a cow in order to continue its life cycle. It has commandeered the brain of this ant and it’s driving it up the blade of grass like an all-terrain vehicle. That’s how this tiny lancet fluke does its evolutionary work.

Is religion, then, like a lancet fluke?

The question is, Does anything like that happen to us? The answer is, Well, yes. Not with actual brain worms but with ideas. An idea takes over our brain and gets that person to devote his life to the furtherance of that idea, even at the cost of their own genetics. People forgo having kids, risk their lives, devote their whole lives to the furtherance of an idea, rather than doing what every other species on the planet does — make more children and grandchildren.

As with Sam Harris, Dennett fails to realize that he is actually making a case against himself. It is an empirical fact that it is not religion that plays the role of the lancet fluke in causing individuals to “forgo having kids, risk their lives, devote their whole lives to the furtherance of an idea, rather than doing what every other species on the planet does”, but secularism in general, his cherished atheism in particular.