Atheists & secularists, like anyone else, will sometimes speak of what gives their life meaning and purpose. It might be fighting against religious dogma, or helping people think rationally, or spending time with their family, or "making the world a little better place", or... whatever. Note that these are self-imposed "purposes" or "meaning", often involving leaving some sort of intellectual or philosophical legacy. But, is this really consistent with their worldview? Have you ever heard of Lawrence M. Krauss or Glenn D. Starkman? Even if you don't run in scientific circles, you may be familiar with Krauss, who is a well-known ...
"Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning or judging between good and evil are in this manner revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity." -- Pastor E.L. Bynum In our last "episode", we began to address the issue of what it means to "judge" others. Specifically, we took a practical, nonsectarian look at why people cry, "Don't judge me!" and why we should, in fact, make fair judgments about others' behaviors & beliefs, always with the welfare of them and others around them in mind. Now, what about Christians, in particular? Aren't we supposed to be extra loving and kind and ...
If you are at all familiar with Christian apologetics, whether engaging challenges from non-theists or from Christians with different views, you know that the topic of pain, suffering, and death is a major issue. (In fact, Darwin's struggle with this was the impetus for developing his theory.) These things are considered "evil", so the question is "Why would a 'good' God make a world full of pain, suffering, & death for His creatures to endure?", or "How could God include pain, suffering, & death (for millions of years) in His 'very good' creation?" The Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) solution is that none ...
Welcome to the 3rd and penultimate installment of this series, in which I explain how self-deluded I have been about my own hatred and bigotry regarding, well, just about everyone but straight, white, white-collar males between 18 & 65 years of age (or thereabouts). Where was I? Oh... [caption id="attachment_1341" align="alignleft" width="225"] Pro-choice Activists[/caption] 7) I hate women. And it's not just because I'm single. (Or, should that be the other way around?) ;-> In particular, I think most of today's "feminist" positions and causes reveal a certain level of narcissism and another excuse to play the blame game for ones woes, real ...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!" That was my response (posted on Facebook), give or take an "R" or two, to the 2012 Election results. Actually, that was my second FB post. My first was, "Crap on a stick! I'm so depressed." But, that's not quite right. I'm very disappointed, obviously. And a bit morose. But, really, I'm angry. So, here goes the rant... Are you freakin' kidding me?!! Do we really have to listen for 4 more years to this pompous, Marxist ...
Sometimes, I can't help myself. I mean, people make spurious claims and ridiculous accusations against God, Christians, "the Church", etc., all the time. Usually, I let it go. Can't be constantly getting into long, drawn-out internet debates ALL the time, after all. But, sometimes, I just have to say something. And, so it went the other day, when a FB friend of a FB friend, amidst generally mocking comments, claimed that Christians were responsible for "lots of mass murders." Of course, I had my suspicions about what she was referring to. There are some nasty stains on Christianity's record. But, I also ...
"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." -- Mitt Romney, in an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (7/26/2005) In "The Pro-Life Position: Just One Question", I argued that if the unborn is indeed a member of the human family, no matter how small or odd it looks, then "no justification for killing it is adequate." But, then I left a footnote saying that there are rare exceptions to that rule. So, I figured I may as well address those now.... When the ...
Part 1: Firm Foundation "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." -- Popeye, the sailorman Given the subjects that I usually read and write about on this blog, critical thinking really comes in handy. Not that I'm some great logician or anything. Far from it! But, over the last few years, I've been exposed to the discipline of informal logic by some pretty darn good thinkers. (At least, I think they are.) I've noticed that I am now more apt to notice logical errors & fallacies when reading or listening to someone's arguments for his/her position on a ...
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="alignleft" width="300"] Original Star Trek bridge crew[/caption] I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner's ego. Star Trek was one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and the movies and the books), and Shatner was a favorite actor when I was growing up -- right up there with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, and later Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., fame. So, I was understandably disappointed to find out my "heroes" ...
"[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach." -- Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, "Huh! You consider yourself ...
It happened again. I realized early this week that I was not going to be able to finish “To Impeach or Not to Impeach” in time to publish on Sunday as planned. This time, I am travelling out of state to spend several days with my brother and his family. (I think that’s a pretty good excuse.) Of course, that meant coming up with something to fill in that was more than just empty “filler”. Also, it had to be something I could get mostly done before leaving, then complete while in Baltimore this weekend. As it happens, this week I started reading Dinesh D’Souza’s controversial new book, America: Imagine a World without Her. Keeping my eye open for a memorable passage to cite, I came up with the following from the first chapter. It helps lay the foundation for his arguments in the rest of the book.
“The survival instinct of nations is the collective survival instinct of the people in those nations. Why, then, would a nation attempt to destroy itself or commit suicide? Nations sometimes are conquered by other nations, or they collapse from within, but they never seek self-destruction. Yet Abraham Lincoln observed, a century and a half ago, that if America were ever to fall, it would not be by external means or even by internal collapse. Rather, it would be by the actions of Americans themselves. In his Lyceum Address, Lincoln said:
Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth, our own excepted, in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Surely Lincoln is not suggesting that America — or Americans — might voluntarily seek destruction. Undoubtedly Lincoln believed that such an outcome would be the unfreseen consequence of calamitous misjudgment and folly. Yet I intend to show in this book that the American era is ending in part because a powerful group of Americans wants it to end. The American dream is shrinking because some of our leaders want it to shrink. Decline, in other words, has become a policy objective. And if this decline continues at the current pace, America as we know it will cease to exist. In effect, we will have committed national suicide.
America’s suicide, it turns out, is the result of a plan. The plan is not simply one of destruction but also one of reconstruction — it seeks the rebuilding of a different type of country, what President Obama terms “the work of remaking America.” While Obama acknowledges the existence of the plan, he is not responsible for the plan; it would be more accurate to say that it is responsible for him. The plan preceded Obama, and it will outlast him. Obama is simply part of a fifty-year scheme for the undoing and remaking of America, and when he is gone there are others who are ready to continue the job. What makes the plan especially chilling is that most Americans are simply unaware of what’s going on. Their ignorance, as we shall see, is part of the plan.”
I think it is a “conspiracy” of sorts, in that various individuals no doubt have made secret plans together to push this “progressive”, transformative agenda over the years. But, I am skeptical about there being an overall, master plan being orchestrated by some Illuminati-like cabal. Still, when like-minded people of influence find each other and determine that they can help a common agenda along with key, strategic actions (e.g., infiltrating and, eventually, dominating academia), they can do a lot of damage. And, as he states above, the majority of the populace has no clue they are being manipulated. I am curious to see what else D’Souza has to say along these lines, and I look forward to the rest of the book. You might want to check it out, too!
The title above makes what seems like an obvious statement. Yet, they exist, and they travel using U.S. passports. A recent email from Michele Bachmann reminded me,
“Currently, Americans fighting with terrorists abroad are allowed free access to re-enter the United States, as some already have! They are likely put on a terror watch list and have to go through SOME screening, but that’s it! …
The bill I introduced states that if someone has joined with a radical Islamic terrorist Jihadist state, then they will lose their passport, begin the process of losing their United States citizenship, and will not be allowed to re-enter the United States.
…[W]e have to do this to protect ourselves. This is common sense. We cannot allow these American Islamic terrorist fighters to come back into our country and have the opportunity of creating a terrorist attack right here.”
Absolutely! This should be a bipartisan no-brainer! (Yes, yes, there are a myriad of jokes to be made about Congress there.) In fact, IMHO, if there is reasonable proof that any American (other than an undercover intelligence operative, of course) is training/fighting, or has done so, with Muslim extremists from ISIS or any other group, not only their passport but their U.S. citizenship should be revoked ASAP!
By adopting that twisted worldview — which is antithetical to the principles laid out and implied in America’s founding documents — and adopting its brutal practices, any such person has, I believe, implicitly committed treason. America was founded on a set of ideas and ideals, which they have rejected by becoming Islamic jihadists. They are traitors to America and all it represents, as they themselves often state so clearly. As such, they no longer deserve the protections and other benefits that U.S. citizens enjoy. No further trial or due process is necessary.
It’s really that simple!
Earlier this month, Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill called the “Expatriate Terrorists Act”, which would revoke U.S. citizenship from anyone fighting for or supporting ISIS. Because he tried to fast-track it for a vote, it only needed one objection to stop it. Freshman Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) was that objection, explaining, “legislation that grants the government the ability to strip citizenship from Americans is a serious matter raising significant constitutional issues.” (She also cited letters of objection from the Constitution Project and the ACLU.) Normally, I would agree. And, I’m pretty sure most of my Libertarian and Constitutionalist friends would, too. But, as indicated by my reasoning above, I stand with Cruz when he said,
“ISIS is a study in oppression and brutality. We should take common-sense steps to make fighting for ISIS a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship.”
The fight for this isn’t over. If you agree with me and Sen. Cruz, or at least with what Bachmann’s bill proposes, please sign the petition here: “Lose Your United States Passport”
I had originally intended this post to be a continuation of “To Impeach or Not to Impeach”. But, unfortunately, I did not get as much done on it this week as I had hoped. (I blame Facebook.) As I worked on Part 2 — which may expand into a Part 3 — tonight, I realized that I was not going to make my normally scheduled publication time. So, thinking fast, I came up with a bit of historical American trivia to share with you.
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the (in)famous Gadsden flag, with its image of a coiled rattlesnake and “Dont Tread On Me” warning? It was designed by and named for Gen. Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805) during the American Revolution. But, Gadsden was inspired by Benjamin Franklin. Ever since Franklin referred to the rattlesnake in a satirical 1751 commentary published in his Pennsylvania Gazette, the rattlesnake had been showing up in colonial symbolism. In 1754, Franklin published his famous “Join, or Die” woodcut cartoon, with a chopped up rattlesnake representing the colonies.
But, why the rattlesnake? What was Franklin’s fascination with the reptile? It becomes clearer in an essay Franklin wrote in the final days of 1775 in the Pennsylvania Journal. Under the pseudonym “An American Guesser”, Franklin used an allegory about the rattlesnake to encourage the colonies regarding the necessity of coming together in common purpose against a grave external threat (i.e., tyranny by the British).
“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of stepping on her. Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?
‘Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.
The Rattle-Snake is solitary, and associates with her kind only when it is necessary for their preservation. In winter, the warmth of a number together will preserve their lives, while singly, they would probably perish. The power of fascination attributed to her, by a generous construction, may be understood to mean, that those who consider the liberty and blessings which America affords, and once come over to her, never afterwards leave her, but spend their lives with her.”
What is the Gadsden flag’s significance today? It has become a symbol for the Libertarian party and is more generally used by the American Tea Party movement. Variations of it and other rattlesnake flags have been used by militia groups, anarcho-capitalists, and by the U.S. Navy. It has also been used — sometimes seriously and sometimes humorously — in everything from clothing lines to animated TV series to heavy metal and country music. Freedom. Strength in community. Vigilance. Ready to strike in defense. Clearly, the symbolism sounds a chord within many Americans. And, now, you know why.
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” — U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 4
Should President Barack Obama be impeached?
A lot of people seem to think so. There have been internet memes, tee-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, and highway overpass demonstrations demanding it. Even some hard-Left liberals, like Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, have called for Obama’s impeachment. Yet, opinions on the matter differ even among his most ardent ideological opponents — e.g., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are against it, while former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) are in favor.
As I write this, talk of impeaching the President appears to have died down somewhat — at least, in the press. Between foreign affairs (e.g., the ISIS threat; Hamas vs. Israel; Russia in Ukraine) and domestic crises (e.g., protests and rioting in Ferguson, MO; floods of illegal immigrants; potential Ebola outbreak), the nation and its leaders have had plenty of other concerns to take up our and their time and energy. But, the idea of impeaching President Obama definitely hasn’t gone away, nor should it.
To be honest, up until lately, I hadn’t been keeping up with the arguments for and against impeachment. It was just one of those issues/ideas that intrigued me but never made it to the top of my list to check into and mull over. But, when I decided to investigate it for this article, I found and read over 50 articles of varying length and depth, from average-guy/gal bloggers (like me) to regular political columnists, politicians, and think-tank fellows, reaching back to November 2012. (Of course, talk of impeachment started way before then. In fact, a petition for it on the White House’s “We the People” petition Web page gathered almost 29,000 digital signatures in only 5 days just that month.) So, hopefully, I have a fair handle on the issue and the arguments anti and pro.
It seemed to me that the best approach would be to answer, if possible, the following three questions, in order:
1) Is there a legal, Constitutional case to be made for impeaching Obama?
2) Assuming there is a case, from a pragmatic sense, would it be a good idea (i.e., in the country’s best interest) to proceed with impeachment, in regards to costs, competing issues & responsibilities of the parties that would be involved, and the consequences of potentially removing Obama from office?
3) Assuming there is a case, but consensus opinion beforehand — i.e., among the expert legal minds, political scientists and strategists — is that Obama nevertheless might not be found guilty and removed from office, would the exercise of initiating impeachment proceedings against the President still be worth it on principle, for morale, and for history’s sake?
Before proceeding, we need to review the Constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment and any relevant past examples. Here are the basics, as per the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s (CRF) website:
“The U.S. Constitution provides impeachment as the method for removing the president, vice president, federal judges, and other federal officials from office. The impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives and follows these steps:
1) The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings and, if necessary, prepares articles of impeachment. These are the charges against the official.
2) If a majority of the committee votes to approve the articles, the whole House debates and votes on them.
3) If a majority of the House votes to impeach the official on any article, then the official must then stand trial in the Senate.
4) For the official to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict the official. Upon conviction, the official is automatically removed from office and, if the Senate so decides, may be forbidden from holding governmental office again.
The impeachment process is political in nature, not criminal. Congress has no power to impose criminal penalties on impeached officials. But criminal courts may try and punish officials if they have committed crimes.
The Constitution sets specific grounds for impeachment. They are “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” To be impeached and removed from office, the House and Senate must find that the official committed one of these acts.
The Constitution defines treason in Article 3, Section 3, Clause 1:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Constitution does not define bribery. It is a crime that has long existed in English and American common law. It takes place when a person gives an official money or gifts to influence the official’s behavior in office. For example, if defendant Smith pays federal Judge Jones $10,000 to find Smith not guilty, the crime of bribery has occurred.
Prior to the Clinton investigation, the House had begun impeachment proceedings against only 17 officials. [None were ever convicted.] …
In all the articles of impeachment that the House has drawn, no official has been charged with treason…. Two officials have been charged with bribery. The remaining charges against all the other officials fall under the category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” “
Most people understand what treason and bribery are; it’s this “high crimes and misdemeanors” that gives most of us pause. The Framers were concerned about sufficiently covering all the types of abuse that a president might commit but didn’t want to threaten the separation of powers by giving the Legislative branch too much power (e.g., via vague wording) over the Executive. After rejecting “corruption” and “maladministration”, they settled on “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It was a term well familiar to them as a part of English law since 1386. According to the CRF, it covered a wide range of offenses, including (but not limited to):
“misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery.”
Some were criminal acts and others not, but they all involved an official abusing his power of office and, therefore, his fitness to continue said service put into question.
“In Federalist No. 65, [Alexander] Hamilton explained impeachment. He defined impeachable offenses as “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
For the more than 200 years since the Constitution was adopted, Congress has seriously considered impeachment only 18 times. Thirteen of these cases involved federal judges. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the House charged against these judges included being habitually drunk, showing favoritism on the bench, using judicial power unlawfully, using the office for financial gain, unlawfully punishing people for contempt of court, submitting false expense accounts, getting special deals from parties appearing before the court, bullying people in open court, filing false income tax returns, making false statements while under oath, and disclosing confidential information.
Only three of the 18 impeachment cases have involved a president — Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974, and Bill Clinton in 1998.”
So, what were the circumstances, charges, and outcome(s) of each case involving a U.S. president?
Johnson, a Democrat, constantly clashed with the Radical Republicans over Reconstruction legislation. In particular, the Tenure of Office Act was one of several passed despite Johnson’s veto. It required the President to get congressional permission before firing anyone in the executive branch whom Congress had approved. Johnson, believing the Act was unconstitutional, proceeded to fire Edwin Stanton (Rad. Rep.), the Secretary of War.
“The House passed 11 articles of impeachment. Eight involved Johnson’s violations of the Tenure of Office Act. One charged him with sending orders through improper channels. Another accused him of conspiring against Congress, citing a statement he made about Congress not representing all the states. The last summarized the other 10 charges and charged him with failing to enforce the Reconstruction Acts. At the end of the Senate trial, only three charges were brought to a vote. Johnson was saved from conviction on each by one vote.”
The charges against Johnson, generally seen as politically motivated, are not viewed as “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of removing a president from office.
Nixon, as we all know, was involved in the “Watergate Scandal”. Prior to the 1972 election (in which Nixon would be re-elected by a landslide), an attempted burglary/wire-tapping occurred at the Democratic HQ at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The operatives were caught in the act, and it turned out they had ties to the White House. It was never proven how much the President knew beforehand, but it is suspected that he was afraid of what other unethical practices by his administration might be discovered. Nixon is known to have talked of raising hush money for the Watergate burglars and used the FBI and CIA to impede the investigation.
“In 1974, the House Judiciary committee voted three articles of impeachment. One accused Nixon of obstruction of justice. Another accused him of abuse of power. The third charged him with contempt of Congress for defying the committee’s requests to produce documents. Nixon resigned the presidency before the whole House voted on the articles.”
It had been proposed earlier that the President also be brought up on tax evasion. (VP Spiro Agnew had already been forced to resign in 1973, pleading “no contest” to charges of income tax evasion.) But, based on a previously-ordered staff report, the committee concluded it was not an impeachable offense and declined to vote an article of impeachment for that charge.
Clinton’s impeachment woes are known — at least, in part — to most people over 35. What started out as an investigation into a 20-year-old land investment deal expanded to include “scandals surrounding the firing of White House staff in its travel office, the misuse of FBI files, and an illicit affair that the president had with a White House intern.” That last one was the biggest embarrassment. In his 1998 report, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr identified 11 potentially impeachable offenses, all related to the affair.
“Based on the independent counsel’s investigation, the House Judiciary Committee voted four articles of impeachment. The first article accused the president of committing perjury before a grand jury convened by the independent counsel. The second charged him with providing “perjurious, false and misleading testimony” in a civil case related to the scandal. The third accused him of obstructing justice to “delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence” of evidence related to the scandal. The fourth charged that he misused and abused his office by deceiving the American public, misleading his cabinet and other employees so that they would mislead the public, asserting executive privilege to hinder the investigation, and refusing to respond to the committee and misleading the committee about the scandal.”
During the committee’s hearing, experts called by the Democrats testified that none of the charges constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Experts called by the Republicans countered that there was precedent of impeachment and removal from office for perjury. They also argued that Clinton had violated his oath and duties as “chief law enforcement officer” to uphold all the nation’s laws.
Now that we have a foundational understanding of impeachment, in Part 2 we’ll look at the current circumstances and attempt to answer the three questions I posed above.
The title says it all. These aren’t necessarily the “Top 5″ topics, based on any particular rating scale. But, they are (I thought) notable commentary on some important issues, foreign and domestic. I’ve added a few comments of my own, as usual.
1) UK Prime Minister David Cameron re Islamic State: “We are in the middle of a generational struggle between a poisonous and extremist ideology that I believe that we’ll be fighting for years, and probably decades. We cannot appease this ideology. We have to confront it at home and abroad. To do this we need a tough, intelligent, patient, comprehensive approach to defeat the terrorist threat at its source.”
Whether or not you agree with everything Cameron said or even all of the steps he listed in his solution, you have to admit that he has a much better grasp of who & what the enemy is and the all-inclusive sort of strategy that needs to be taken to defeat them. It’s a whole lot more reassuring than Obama’s “We don’t have a strategy, yet.” And, despite what the President seems to think, containment of the Islamic State within Syria and Iraq is simply not a sufficient, or even realistic, plan.
2) Dr. Ben Carson re the Ferguson situation: “Perhaps it would be useful to examine the tragedy with the facts on the table rather than through the lenses of hypersensitized emotions stimulated by those attempting to exploit the situation.”
I totally agree. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for people (on all sides) to divorce themselves from those emotionally-driven (and sometimes misinformed) judgements we’ve already made in order to make a reasonably objective, just-the-facts assessment. And it certainly doesn’t help when all sorts of other issues — both big-picture and peripheral — are confusing the investigation in people’s minds.
3) Scarlett Johansson re the Hobby Lobby ruling: “When I heard that some politicians were cheering the Supreme Court’s decision to give bosses the right to interfere in our access to birth control, I thought I had woken up in another decade. Like many of my friends, I was appalled by the thought of men taking away women’s ability to make our own personal health care decisions.”
Johansson, working with Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s new advertising campaign, designed a tee-shirt that says, “Hey Politicians! The 1950s called… They want their sexism back!” It proves that the feminist actress, who is enjoyable as the “Black Widow” and in other roles, is just another confused Hollywood liberal when it comes to the facts on this case and this issue. Once more,… no one is interfering with women’s access to birth control or ability to make their own personal healthcare decisions. (Ironically, it’s Obamacare that reduces choices and usurps people’s autonomy.) SCOTUS merely agreed that pro-life companies like Hobby Lobby should not be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing methods of birth control. Sixteen types of preventive contraception are still covered. Anything that isn’t can always be paid for out of one’s own purse/wallet.
4) “Russian forces have entered Ukraine.” — President Petro Poroshenko
Britain’s Ambassador to the U.N., Mark Lyall Grant, concurs: “Now we see irrefutable evidence of regular Russian forces operating inside Ukraine.” NATO intel reports at least 1000 Russian troops amassing in Ukraine and has provided satellite imagery (from last week) of Russian self-propelled artillery units (i.e., tanks). NATO’s Brig. Gen. Nico Tak said that the highly sophisticated nature of the weaponry make it “extremely unlikely that this sort of equipment is used by volunteers.” The implication there is that Russian soldiers trained on the weapons must be present to assist the separatists. The Bear is on the move. Now, if only President Obama would publicly recognize this as the beginning of an invasion and not merely breeches of “territorial integrity”.
5) Commenter “frogmouth” at Twitchy re Michael Sam getting cut from the Rams: “Without the media hoopla over his “groundbreaking” status as the first openly gay player to be signed etc etc, no one outside of the Rams organization and a few Fantasy Football fan boys would have taken any notice of a mediocre 7th round pick being signed and then subsequently cut before the season begins.”
Exactly. But, now the accusations are beginning to fly that Sam’s release is due to the Rams suddenly becoming anti-gay bigots. Remember when retired Coach Tony Dungy indicated that Sam’s less-than-stellar talent was not, in his estimation, worth the headaches and “distractions” that Sam’s manufactured celebrity would likely continue to produce? (Others called it bigotry. I call it practical wisdom in running a sports team.) I’m betting the Rams organization is starting to get the message.
I decided to throw a couple more science-bytes at you from astrophysicist Dr. Jeffrey Zweerink. They’re brief but fun bits of science trivia to pack into your “li’l pea brain” (as my friend likes to say). And, if you realize that, technically, that is not physically possible, then we’re on the same wavelength.
1) “We all know that light takes roughly 8 minutes to reach from the Sun to the Earth. But, did you know that the light actually takes anywhere from 10,000 to 170,000 years to get from the center of the Sun, where it was produced, to the edge of the Sun, where then it can actually extend off to the Earth? That’s because, as it’s going through the Sun, it’s bouncing around kind of like a pinball, and it takes (again) anywhere from 10,000 to 170,000 years to make that journey.”
Here’s a cool little video on the subject:
2) “Did you know that there are liquids that will drain up and over the edges of a container and drip out even with nothing pushing on them? In fact, superfluid liquid helium is one of those fluids. As you cool liquid helium, it could be in a container that is well-containing it, and as it makes the transition to a superfluid, it will leak out through holes that it didn’t ‘see’ before, because now it has zero viscosity. That same zero viscosity will allow it to creep up over the edges of the container and drain itself and empty it in a way that no other liquid would behave.”
Here’s a short clip on this one:
Pretty cool! I feel all science-y, now….
Okay, here’s another “Real Science” moment from the staff at Reasons to Believe (RTB). This time, Dr. Jeff Zweerink explains why saying “The banana was perfectly designed for human hands.” is a bad argument. (Personally, I don’t think I have ever heard that argument for ID.) This one isn’t quite as weird as the one about bellybutton lint, but hopefully you find it interesting.
“You may have heard the argument that bananas are designed to fit in the human hand — that, when you look at the number of ridges and the width of the ridges on the banana and where the joints are on the hand, that the banana is designed to fit well, that it folds and peels, that it curves toward the mouth,… that this is an argument that God has designed the banana to fit in the human hand.
This is a bad argument, because it fails to take into account that we have genetically modified the banana — through crop-growing techniques — to look like it is today. When you look at the original banana, it has none of those characteristics that would allow you to argue that it was well-designed [for the human hand].”
When you consider how many excellent arguments there are for Intelligent Design (whether or not attributed to the God of the Bible), why would you want to use something as lame as this banana-designed-for-the-human-hand, anyway? Here are brief articles of some of those arguments:
“He Who Cannot Control His Water (and Sodium) Will Not Survive: The Kidney”
(This one is rather lengthy, and I admit I only skimmed it.)
Besides, bananas were clearly designed for minions:
“[W]ith all these crises we’ve been discussing, the nation is confronting a dangerous era, facing multiple threats and challenges from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Islamic terrorist groups, you name it. If I wasn’t in there shaking things up, I probably wouldn’t have been doing my job.” — Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
After 33 years of service in the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn is retiring a year earlier than planned as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency. While Flynn downplays the possibility (though neither does he categorically deny it), rumor has it that Flynn was pressured into early retirement by the Obama administration, in particular Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. Flynn was known for being “disruptive”, as much for his management style as for his refusal to go along with the administration’s official positions regarding, for example, whether or not the U.S. is safer now than before 9/11, or the current state of al Qaeda, or the best way to structure and deploy intelligence assets.
“Flynn had challenged the Obama administration narrative that al-Qaeda’s brand of nihilistic extremism had died with Osama bin Laden in 2011. He had bruised egos at the DIA trying to transform the 17,000-person bureaucracy into a more agile and forward-deployed intel operation, one shaped by the lessons he had learned as intelligence chief for Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, working for the ill-fated iconoclast Gen. Stanley McChrystal. As early as 2010, Flynn made waves with a report, Fixing Intel, that said US intelligence could not answer ‘fundamental questions’ in Afghanistan.”
Apparently, his superiors finally decided they had had enough head-butting with their contrarian DIA director and told him it was time to go. [Note: To be clear, I have not read anything implying any unprofessional or insubordinate actions or attitude by Flynn. Quite the contrary.] Whether or not one agrees with Flynn’s vision for improved intelligence-gathering at the DIA or the frankness of his disagreement with the administration, he has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a great understanding of the Middle East situation that needs to be heard and seriously considered by Congress and others.
The above quote is from the intro to an “exit interview” Flynn did recently with James Kitfield at Breaking Defense. Following (and at the top of this post) are a few quotes from Flynn himself that stood out to me….
“[W]hat I see each day is the most uncertain, chaotic, and confused international environment that I’ve witnessed in my entire career.”
“[W]hen we pull combat troops out of Afghanistan at the end of this year, it’s not going to feel like that war is over. To me, it feels like we’ll be facing a familiar threat and heightened uncertainty for a long time yet.”
“What I see is a strategic landscape and boundaries on the global map changing right before our eyes. That change is being accelerated by the explosion of social media. And we in the intelligence community are trying to understand it all.”
“[A]nother threat I’ve warned about is Islamic terrorists in Syria acquiring chemical or biological weapons. We know they are trying to get their hands on chemical weapons and use what they already have to create a chemical weapons capability.”
“These proliferating Islamic terrorist groups have also for years been developing connective tissue to each other and back to al-Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Some of those connections are pretty strong. We’re not talking bits and pieces or nascent connections….
So when asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat out lying.”
Granted, I’m no expert. But, it sounds to me like the general has — and has had — a better handle on what’s going on and what needs to be done intel-wise than his soon-to-be former bosses at the Pentagon and the White House. Contrary to the President’s claim three years ago, the “tide of war” is certainly not “receding”. If al Qaeda is any less of a threat now, it is because of the rise of the even more barbaric “Islamic State”, who in a few short months have effectively taken control of an area roughly the size of Great Britain and who fully intend to aggressively fulfill their “vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate.”
As Newt Gingrich concluded in his own review of Flynn’s interview: “America needs a new strategy for global affairs. But as long as our leaders refuse to understand the emerging world as it is, not as how they want it to be, we will be stuck with a floundering foreign policy of wishful thinking. Congress can help meet this challenge by inviting General Flynn to expand on his candid thoughts in Congressional testimony about the threats we are facing and how we can keep America safe.”
I’m with Newt. I sincerely hope our congressional leaders take Lt. Gen. Flynn’s assessments seriously and act wisely upon them.
“The Universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.” — Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
In my last post (part 1), I briefly explained in principle and procedure what comprises the “scientific method”. Today, I want to get a bit into the intersection of “science” and “faith”, as you may have guessed from the question posed in the subtitle of this post. From this, you may think I’m questioning whether or not Christians should even use the scientific method. (That is, is it consistent with scriptural doctrine and principle? I mean, isn’t “science” supposed to be the enemy of “faith”?) I’m not. Rather, I am assuming the answer to that is “Yes” and am going a step further to ask if the scientific method can, in some sense, be found in the Bible. My original title for this post was going to be “Biblical Origins of the Scientific Method”, so that should give you some idea of how I would answer the question….
The suggestion that the “scientific method” can be found in the Bible may sound odd to some of you, as it originally did to me. But, upon closer consideration, it really isn’t. I take my cue from astrophysicist & pastor Dr. Hugh Ross, whom I greatly respect and have quoted many times in the past. Ross is known for saying that the scientific method is really, or could/should be called, the “biblical method”. However, I am reluctant to make such a bold claim. By stating it that way, I think some people assume that Ross is claiming that the multiple steps of the scientific method itself (see previous post) are — to some degree, at least — explicitly found somewhere within the Bible and/or identified as such. When I first heard him say this, I thought it smacked of the tendency among certain Christians — though, not usually Dr. Ross — to overstate the strength of a particular argument when making a case. Still, I understand what he’s getting at. I would simply be more comfortably stating the idea differently, perhaps something like this:
“The underlying principles of the modern scientific method — e.g., searching and testing for truth, the necessity of careful observation, sticking with established facts, maintaining integrity — can be found, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly, within Judeo-Christian scripture. Indeed, it might even be said that the Bible ‘inspired’ modern scientific method, given the preponderance of theists (particularly Christians) among those early founders of modern science.”
This seems to be what Dr. Ross is getting at, anyway. Perhaps it would be best, though, to let Dr. Ross explain his thoughts on the matter himself. The following can be found almost verbatim as an appendix in two of Ross’ books, Creation as Science and More Than a Theory:
“A major source of optimism for resolution of the creation/evolution debates, or at least for significant progress toward resolution, is that all the participants in the debates appear to agree on the best method for testing models. That method is popularly termed the scientific method, though a more accurate label would be the biblical method.
The Bible alone among the ‘scriptures’ or ‘holy books’ of the world’s religions strongly exhorts readers to objectively test before they believe. According to the apostle Paul, no teaching is to escape testing:
Test everything. Hold on to the good. (I Thess. 5:21)
Paul exhorts us that such testing, to be effective, will require objectivity, education, and training:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. (Rom. 12:2)
Testing before believing pervades both the Old and New Testaments and forms the heart of the biblical concept of faith. The Hebrew word for faith, ‘emuna, means a strongly held conviction that something or someone is certainly real, firmly established, constant, and dependable. The Greek word for faith, pistis, means a strong and welcome conviction of the truth of anything or anyone to the degree that one places deserved trust and confidence in that thing or person. In every instance, faith in the Bible connotes the response to established truth. Just as there is no faith, from a biblical perspective, without an active response, neither is there faith apart from established truth(s).
Christian scholars throughout church history, from the early church fathers, to Renaissance naturalists, to Reformation theologians, to present-day evangelical scientists, philosophers, and theologians, have noted a pattern in biblical narratives and descriptions of sequential physical events: the Bible authors typically preface such depictions with a statement of the frame of reference (point of view) and initial conditions and then close with a statement of the final conditions and conclusions about what transpired. The Scottish theologian Thomas Torrance has both written and edited book-length discussions of how Christian theology, and Reformed theology in particular, played a critical role in the development of the scientific method and the amazing advances achieved by Western science.”
In the post “Can You Accept Revealed Wisdom and Still Be ‘Scientific’?”, I answered the title question in the affirmative, investigating the subjectability of the Bible to scientific and historical testing and whether or not religious ideas (and those who hold them) have a place in science. As part of my argument, I listed many well-known scientists of the past and present who were/are theists. Among these august notables of science were Roger and Francis Bacon, whom I discussed in last week’s Part 1. So, obviously, there have been a whole lot of “people of faith” (i.e., the properly understood biblical concept of “faith”, as described above) who have had no problem applying the scientific method in their investigations of God’s Creation. As Dr. Ross (and others) point(s) out, it works pretty well for biblical investigation and interpretation, too. If only we would apply it more often….