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Saturday, May 1

DARWIN'S DNA

A reader writes in:

Regarding the hope expressed in your blog post ("Breeding Out Bad Habits") that "Darwinists have below-replacement level fertility rates and thus will not survive":

My wife is a graduate student at a prestigious institution of higher education, and we often conjecture that liberals (who devalue the family, rarely have any children of their own, and are disappointed when she expresses the desire to be a build-our-home mother--thank you for that phrase) will become extinct for biological reasons. She points out, however, that academia allows such liberals to intellectually father other people's children. Academic Darwinists too may survive beyond the natural fitness of their ideas.

Well, his wife is, unfortunately, correct about this. What is happening in the growing battles over public-school science curricula is that the Darwinists are insisting on having access to the minds of our children to fill them with their own intellectual DNA. Why should a parent want to pay for that? It's junk DNA.


2:18 PM


Friday, April 30

THIRTEEN BABY GIRLS!!

It was all over the news here in Chicago, and not the tabloids: this was for real. It was not a really significant story, but still it made people wonder. On April 27 at a local hospital 13 babies were born in 13 hours —and they were all girls.

CHICAGO -- Officials at Northwest Community Hospital, in Arlington Heights, are sure they have broken some sort of record. Thirteen babies were born in 13 hours at the hospital and, what makes this story even more unusual, all the babies are the same sex.

NBC5’s Jennifer Mitchell reported Thursday that the babies "came one after another, after another."

Little Abigail Blake was one of the first, but she and her mother had no idea what they were starting.

"When (the doctor) came in to see me the first time I was like, 'It's about time,' and he goes, 'Well, I've been really busy.' And I had no idea how busy he really was," said Shelly Blake.

Between 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 babies were born in 13 hours. All the babies are girls.


A doctor from the hospital was interviewed on WGN-TV. He wondered about there being some Higher Power operating behind the scenes in the string of births.

I won’t speak to that, but only note that there is a point at which some things appear to have such high improbabilities that we start to look for explanations other than random chance. Which is one aspect of what the Intelligent Design movement is all about. (Some of the improbabilities connected with Darwinism are more in the neighborhood of 13 thousand or million baby girls being born in a row.) Not everything in nature came about by chance. And not one of these little baby girls is the product of random chance. They are all gifts, and thus there must be a Gift Giver.


12:19 PM


Thursday, April 29

BREEDING OUT BAD TRAITS?

I often find the "Friday Fax" (I know, it's Thursday, I think) quite imformative. This one reminds me of a throwaway line I have often used: "Darwinists have below-replacement level fertility rates and thus will not survive." (Thus one could say that Darwinism itself is a mutation that proved to be detrimental to the species, which rightly rejected it. At last week's conference at Biola University on Intelligent Design, someone (was it Phil Johnson?) quipped that he was looking forward to Darwinism being taught in courses on the History of British Thought.)


April 30, 2004 Volume 7, Number 19

Future "Belongs" to the Religious, Says Demographer

An article in the current issue of the prestigious quarterly
"Foreign Affairs" warns that, since religious people are having so many
more children than nonreligious people, the future actually "belongs" to
the religious.

Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation,
describes the steep demographic decline now taking place in both the
developed and developing worlds, and asks the question, "So where will the
children of the future come from? The answer may be from people who are at
odds with the modern environment" of urbanization and economic and
materialistic advancement, notably those people with strong religious
convictions who "reject the game altogether."

"Does this mean that the future belongs to those who believe they
are (or who are in fact) commanded by a higher power to procreate?"
wonders Longman. "Based on current trends, the answer appears to be yes."

Longman claims that "there is a strong correlation between
religious conviction and high fertility. In the United States, for
example, fully 47 percent of people who attend church weekly say that the
ideal family size is three or more children, as compared to only 27
percent of those who seldom attend church."

Longman even asserts that people with strong religious convictions
are now beginning to enjoy a profound "evolutionary advantage" over
nonreligious people, since the "clean living" of the religious boosts
fertility and overall health. He writes that, "Current demographic trends
work against modernity in another way as well. Not only is the spread of
urbanization and industrialization itself a major cause of falling
fertility, it is also a major cause of so-called diseases of affluence,
such as overeating, lack of exercise, and substance abuse, which leave a
higher and higher percentage of the population stricken by chronic medical
conditions. Those who reject modernity would thus seem to have an
evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons or Muslims."

Longman sees little reason for hope that a worldwide demographic
catastrophe can be avoided. "Once," he writes, "demographers believed that
some law of human nature would prevent fertility rates from remaining
below replacement level within any healthy population for more than brief
periods." Today, however, it has become clear that no law of nature ensures
that human beings, living in free, developed societies, will create enough
children to reproduce themselves. Japanese fertility rates have been below
replacement levels since the mid-1950s, and the last time Europeans
produced enough children to reproduce themselves was the mid-1970s.

Nor can immigration resolve fertility decline. According to
Longman, "if the United States hopes to maintain the current ratio of
workers to retirees over time, it will have to absorb an average of 10.8
million immigrants annually through 2050."

Copyright ˆ C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission
granted for unlimited use. Credit required. [The Friday Fax is reported and written by C-FAM Vice President Douglas A. Sylva.]

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 427
New York, New York 10017
Phone: (212) 754-5948 Fax: (212) 754-9291
E-mail: c-fam@c-fam.org Website: www.c-fam.org


12:19 PM


ON RADIO

It's embarrassing to say that I didn't post anything on this yesterday (so hectic has life been at the office. But I was on radio last night. I do enjoy reading about science, and there are many exciting things going on in the sometimes contentious dialogue between science and religion. Our July/August issue will talk about some of those items. I recommend, by the way, the video documentary below, "Unlocking the Mystery of Life: The Scientific Case for Intelligent Design." When you see the details of life on that level, it would take an act of faith to believe that such complexity came together by chance acting on matter. No one can explain it without recourse to an intelligent Agent. Darwinists have tried, and it might be fun to watch them continue to try to explain it, all the while we are discovering greater and greater depths of the complexity.

Here is a wrap up on the program. If you would like to listen to it, it's available at http://www.mbn.org/default.asp?SectionID=78B10093A89A478AA0CFF8B71A41D7D8.

April 28, 2004
Intelligent Design
On tonight's OPEN LINE, Bill Dembski and Jim Kushiner joined us to answer tough questions about intelligent design. Many listener questions and comments were addressed during this hour.

Resources Mentioned:
-The Design Revolution - by William A. Dembski, published by InterVarsity Press;
-Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design - William A. Dembski & James M. Kushiner, Editors, published by Brazos Press;
-Darwin's Black Box - by Michael Behe, published by Free Press;
-Books by Philip Johnson;
-"Unlocking the Mystery of Life: The Scientific Case for Intelligent Design" documentary: www.illustramedia.com;
-Discovery Institute: www.discovery.org;
-Touchstone magazine: www.touchstonemag.com;
-International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design: www.iscid.org;
-Access Research Network: www.arn.org;


11:54 AM


Tuesday, April 27

MORE LATER:

The recent lapse in our posting items to the site was caused by a glitch in the program we use to post items, which gave me a text window only one line high and then when I'd gotten around that problem, refused to accept the posting. This is called "The computer's contribution to the process of your spiritual development or decline, depending on how you respond." (Let me just say I don't always manage growth.) It seems to be working now and we will be posting more later.


1:07 PM


Monday, April 26

SCIENCE, SCIENTISM, AND REALITY:

In a recent issue of The New York Review of Books (the issue of March 25, 2004), the physicist and writer Freeman Dyson reviewed a book exposing paranormal quackery. The book, Debunked!, by the Nobel laureate George Charpak and Henri Broch, looks like fun, if you have an interest in illusion and con artistry and to lengths some people will go to believe in anything but God.

At the end of the review, Dyson wrote:

There are two extreme points of view concerning the role of science in human understanding. At one extreme is the reductionist view, holding that all kinds of knowledge, from physics and chemistry to psychology and philosophy and sociology and history and ethics and religion, can be reduced to science. Whatever cannot be reduced to science is not knowledge. . . . At the other extreme is the traditional view, that knowledge comes from many independent sources, and science is only one of them. Knowledge of good and evil, knowledge of grace and beauty, knowledge of ethical and artistic values, knowledge of human nature derived from meditation or form religion, all are sources of knowledge that stand side by side with science, parts of a human heritage that is older than science and perhaps more enduring.

Most people hold views intermediate between the two extremes. Charpak and Broch are close to the reductionist extreme, while I am close to the traditional extreme.
One hates to argue with someone as bright as Dyson, but I don’t think I would use the language of extremes. The language of extremes only helps if the matter allows for a range of views, but this matter does not. It can be put into a simple question: “Is science the only source of knowledge?” to which question one can only answer yes or no. “No” is not an extreme answer if the only alternative is “yes.” There are no “intermediate views,” and if most people hold them most people are not thinking clearly.

That said, I think we can say that “yes” is an extreme answer when “no” is not. To answer “no,” to say that we have other sources of knowledge beside science, is to answer as the great mass of humanity has always answered and answers even today. It is the natural position, the (to most people) self-evident position, it is the centrist position, if you will. The reductionist position, the position that strips away every other source of knowledge but science and denies what the great mass of humanity has always thought it knew, consciously rejects this center and is therefore an extreme.

If we think of the matter as a spectrum or continuum, the other extreme is the view, seriously propounded by some, that whatever anyone claims to be knowledge is knowledge, and knowledge of equal value with any other. If I remember rightly, the philosopher Paul Feyerabend argued something like this in his book Against Method, but I read the book twenty years ago and could be wrong. At any rate, some postmodernist thinkers seem to argue this, since they claim that understanding is only a matter of perspective and no form should be “privileged” above another. Except for those said to be the forms of understanding of the poor, women, and non-Western nations – said to be so by affluent, often male, Western postmodernists.

I should note that the centrist position, the one the Christian takes, is the subtler and more difficult to take. It is the intellectually riskiest. While one extreme (the reductionist) says that we have only one source of knowledge and the other extreme (the pluralist) says that we have as many as we like, the centrist (what we might call the judicious pluralist) says that we have several, but that they need to discerned and evaluated, and that we have to reject several positions that claim to provide knowledge but don’t. The difficulty of doing this is one reason the extremes appeal. The errors (e.g., Galileo, sort of) are well known. The extremes provide simple answers. And they do not carry the historical baggage that seems to discredit what Dyson calls the traditionalist answer.

Actually, they do, but the baggage they carry is not the sort most people will ever notice: the reductionist professor who has destroyed his students’ faith in God and with it their confidence in their moral code and their membership in the community that helped them live up to it, is never blamed for the spiritual and emotional damage that follows. No one sees the soul in Hell, encouraged in its journey there by an old prof’s reductionist attack on religion. And though people may see the divorce or depression, they will never trace it back to the old prof’s cheerful undermining of his student’s faith.

At any rate, even the reductionists themselves do not live by the philosophy they promote. In the paragraph before the one I quoted, Dyson quotes the authors as writing:

Isn’t scientific thought the indispensable companion to wisdom, to clear thinking, and to the love of those virtues, which is expressed not only in vain incantations to the sky but also in logical actions?
They seem to mean by science, as that “vain incantations” and the rest of the article suggest, a science defined by philosophical naturalism, and so one would immediately answer their question with “No.” Was not Socrates wise? Did Jeremiah not think clearly? Did St. Paul not love wisdom and clear thinking? (His prose style is a different matter.)

But even more to the point: How does scientific thought justify the authors’ love for wisdom and clear thinking? How does it make the pursuit of wisdom and clear thinking virtuous? How does scientific thought give any moral value to scientific thought? How can it justify the passion they have for exposing paranormal frauds? I can easily think of several psychological and sociological arguments for the value of such an enterprise, arguments that can claim as much scientific justification as the authors’ arguments for rejecting the enterprise. Charpak and Broch invoke scientific thought on the side of truth, but others can invoke it on the side of emotional health or social stability, and who is to judge between them, who has only “scientific thought” as his criterion?

I think this explains why the average man goes on serenely believing in religion as well as science, though very intelligent people tell him he ought not to. He has an instinct for the philosophic center and to the extent he thinks about the matter at all sees the obvious truth of what I called judicious pluralism. He will tend to err in the direction of the pluralist extreme, but he rarely goes too far in that direction, at least he does not go as far in that direction as the reductionist goes in his. And his thought and his action will be far better integrated than the reductionist’s.

In other words, the reductionist may hold the Friedrich Unbermensch Chair of Theoretical Physics at an elite university and write books understood by only seven other physicists in the world, while the traditionalist may play the lottery, read USA Today, and enjoy professional wrestling, but in this matter the traditionalist is the far better philosopher.


5:13 PM


KRISTOF ON SUDAN:

Something you may find of interest, from yesterday’s New York Times Magazine: Nicholas Kristof’s Attacked, Expelled, Ignored: Sudan's war on the people of Darfur.


5:12 PM


HOW TO BE A MAN:

An article from the Washington Times, Whither goeth chivalry?, on a book you may find of interest. In the book, The Compleat Gentleman, Brad Miner defines the gentleman, a type of man increasingly rare today, even as an ideal. According to the article:

The "compleat gentleman," Mr. Miner says, exhibits qualities of a lover, a monk and a warrior:

•As a lover, a gentleman "gives his wife her own way. He respects her as a person, and respects therefore, her decisions as a woman."

•As a warrior, a gentleman fights for what is right and stands up for what he believes in. In the Middle Ages, the "warrior code that was emerging, was also the practice of courtly love," Mr. Miner says.

•As a monk, a gentleman must embrace learning and have a stoic attitude toward death. Monks live "in the presence of death all the time," he says, "and so should a compleat gentleman, because it focuses his mind on why things are worth fighting for."
Our new contributing editor, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, has agreed to review the book for us.


5:10 PM




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