Paglia on Democrats, Journalism, Islamist Terror, and LGBT

Liberal progressive. Atheist. Member of LGBT community. Pro-choice, feminist icon.

Given the above attributes, you wouldn’t think there was much for a politically- and religiously-conservative individual like me to agree on with Camille Paglia (silent ‘g’), writer of Sexual Personae and Free Men, Free Women. For the most part, that’s true. But, Ms. Paglia is one of those rarities on the Left — intellectually honest, iconoclastic, and willing to call out her own “side” for its inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and bad behavior. As such, her commentary is often quite critical and unexpected. Think of her as a politically-liberal cross between Tammy Bruce and Christopher Hitchens.

To demonstrate, allow me to share a few quotes from recent interviews Paglia did with Sean Hannity (on air) and with Jonathan V. Last of The Weekly Standard (in print). First from Hannity’s show:

“I’m a Democrat, and I voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and for Jill Stein in the general election…. I’m committed to the reform of my party. [But,] all this rage, this massive tantrum… all the Democrats are doing is demonstrating they should not lead. They’re demonstrating we are the party you should not elect. Are they crazy, this behavior?… Trump wasn’t elected because of racism, homophobia, and so on. Trump was elected because he defeated all those nudniks in the GOP primary, who were not nearly good enough.”

[Note: I find it very odd that Paglia supports far-Leftists like Sanders and Stein, while also proclaiming that capitalism emancipated the modern woman. (It’s in the Hannity interview.)]

Re the violent rhetoric in the media:

“It’s obscene. It’s outrageous. It shows that the Democrats are nothing now but words and fantasy and hallucination and Hollywood. There’s no journalism left. What’s happened to The New York Times? What’s happened to the major networks? It’s an outrage….

I think it’s absolutely grotesque the way my party has destroyed journalism, right now. It’s going to take decades to recover from this atrocity that’s going on, where the newsmedia have turned themselves over to the most childish, fraternity, buffoonish behavior.”

After bemoaning the academic ignorance of the general public, especially younger generations, re history, geography, economics, etc., and the likelihood of anarchy following a potential attack on the U.S. power grid, she said the following (though I didn’t quite follow the connection):

“I’ve been saying for 25 years that people need religion. Now, I’m an atheist, but I predicted 25 years ago that secular humanism was on the skids. And that’s what’s happened, because secular humanism has no spirituality left(?) to it.”

Switching now to the Weekly Standard interview

“[T]o have any hope of retaking the White House, Democrats must get off their high horse, lose the rabid rhetoric, and reorient themselves toward practical reality and the free country they are damned lucky to live in.”

“[T]oday’s liberalism has become grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian: It’s all about reducing individuals to a group identity, defining that group in permanent victim terms, and denying others their democratic right to challenge that group and its ideology. Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates.”

Re religion and Islamist terror:

“The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity….

Everyone should have a general familiarity with the beliefs, texts, rituals, art, and shrines of all the major religions. Only via a direct encounter with the Qu’ran and Hadith, for example, can anyone know what they say about jihad and how those strikingly numerous passages have been interpreted in different ways over time.

Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension — waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage.”

And, perhaps the most surprising (to me, anyway), re transgenderism:

“Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender…. The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. [Emphasis mine.] The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.”

Bam!!

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Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

This blogpost is probably not about what you think it’s about.

Based on the title — a phrase variously attributed to Thomas Paine, George S. Patton, Laurence J. Peter, and “Anonymous” –, one would most likely think it is about leadership in general, or maybe with a business/entrepreneurship or military emphasis. It’s not. The title is from a chapter in the science-fiction novel Transhuman by Ben Bova, and the subject is about the human lifespan and the potential impact of medical/genetic technology that would greatly increase our longevity. In context, then, the title refers to the scientific and political/economic aspects to such a development, but also the societal changes overall. (I guess there is a business aspect, too, come to think of it.)

Many people like to dream about how great it would be if they lived a couple hundred years or more instead of mere decades — preferably in good health, of course. But, we don’t often think through what the effects on modern society might be. It’s an intriguing topic, and I thought that Bova (via his characters) hit on some interesting points. Not every area that would be affected, of course, but some. I considered trying to summarize it all, but it works much better as played out between the characters. So, I decided to cite (with minor edits) some of the conversation from the book. Hope you find it interesting….


SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Rossov snarled…. Shaking his head, Rossov said, “I don’t think you understand what you’ve let loose. Curing cancer. All sorts of people living past a hundred. It’s a disaster.”

“It’s a revolution,” said Luke. “What the hell are you so spooled up about? This is the best news the human race has had since… since Watson and Crick unraveled DNA.”

Rossov moaned. “Death rate going down. Lifetimes doubling. That’s a disaster, Abramson! A f_____ disaster!”

Genuinely puzzled, Luke asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’ve ruined Social Security. We’re already going broke with Medicare. And the whole insurance industry, too. You’ve wrecked the American economy.”

“Bull____.”

Jabbing a finger at Luke, Rossov insisted, “The economy can’t survive having a nation full of centenarians! It’ll break the bank.”

Luke felt growing anger simmering inside him. These chowderheads don’t understand, he realized. They don’t understand anything at all.

He rose slowly to his feet. “You just don’t get it, do you? You can’t stop this. You can’t put a cork in scientific knowledge. What I’ve done is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the knowledge, the power, to transform the human race.”

“And ruin the country.”

Change the country. Change the world.” Luke started to pace across the office, but his ankle flared and he sank back onto his chair. Still, he continued. “We’re going to be able to extend human life spans indefinitely, sooner or later. Prevent genetic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Stem cell therapies will repair failing hearts, rebuild nerves and any other tissue that’s been damaged, regrow limbs that have been lost –“

“By killing fetuses,” Rossov growled.

Luke waved the thought away. “We don’t need fetal stem cells. We can take stem cells from your own body. Or regress skin cells to become stem cells.”

“I’ve read reports on that,” said Colonel Dennis.

Turning in his chair to face Rossov squarely, Luke said, “You think we’re going to have a country full of pathetic, creaking old geezers. Well, that’s wrong. Look at me! I’ll be seventy-five in a couple of months, but somatically — physically — I’m like a forty-year-old. And I’m going to stay this way for a long time.”

“That’s the f_____ problem,” Rossov muttered. “Millions of people living to a hundred and more….”

“It’s not a problem,” Luke countered. “We’re entering a new era…. What I’m telling you is that people will be healthy and vigorous all their lives. So they live to be a hundred and fifty, two hundred, so what? They won’t need Social Security or Medicare. They’ll be working, going back to school, starting new careers for

themselves.”

Fisk’s eyes narrowed. “They’ll continue to be consumers.”

“Damned right,” said Luke. “They’ll continue to buy cars, homes, take vacation, overseas trips–“

“Have babies,” said the colonel.

“You just don’t understand,” Rossov repeated. “You think your transhumans are going to give up their Social Security benefits, their Medicare, their pensions just because they’re feeling spry and healthy? In your dreams! This is going to destroy the economy.”

“No,” Luke replied. “It’s going to change the economy. And you politicians are going to have to make some real changes to Social Security and Medicare and the rest.”

“Change them? That’s impossible. Political suicide.”

“Then we’re going to have to find political leaders who can make it possible.”

Rossov glared at him.

“Besides,” Luke went on, “this isn’t going to happen all at once. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. You won’t start to see any major effects for another five, ten years.” …

Luke pointed out, “I’m not the only one working in this area. Sure, I’m ahead of all the others, but sooner or later some bright researcher would hit on the same idea. You can’t control everybody. You can’t stop people from thinking, learning.”

Rossov muttered, “And you can’t drop a bombshell like this without dislocating the economy. We’re having a tough enough time keeping Social Security and Medicare properly funded. Now…” He sank his head into his hands.

“Now,” Luke took up, “you’re going to have to get those egomaniacs in Washington to do the jobs they were elected to do. You’ve got at least five years to do it, maybe ten. Instead of trying to stop this transformation, get to work and prepare for it.”

“You’ve never tried to work with the Congress,” Rossov moaned. “You’ve never tried to move the bureaucracy.”

Luke snapped, “Then get out of the way, buster, because the change is coming, whether you like it or not.” …

Rossov looked dubious, but Fisk went on grandly. “Transhumans. It’s exciting. People staying young, vigorous past a hundred. Active.” [To Luke, he said,] “You’re still under contract to me, you know.” … Fisk’s tentative smile widened into a happy grin.

“So you peddle your fountain of youth to the masses,” Rossov growled.

“That’s right,” said Fisk. “And you start getting the government ready for the changes that are coming.” …

“What choice do I have?” Rossov said bleakly.

“No choice at all,” said Luke. “The change is coming. Either you take credit for it and try to lead the country or you’ll get rolled under by it.”

“It’s impossible,” Rossov muttered. “You have no idea how impossible it is.”

Luke shook his head at him. “Listen, pal, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Rossov isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character in the novel, but I had to chuckle sympathetically at his frustration in this scene. Not only does he need to come around to a new way of thinking, but as the White House’s representative, he needs to get the President on board and then will likely be tasked with getting entrenched politicians, lobbyists, and Washington bureaucrats to wake up to the new reality, too. Poor guy!

This excerpt only briefly touched on matters such as ethics and responsible science. (For example, just because a thing can be done does not mean is should be done.) The book examines some of these questions a bit more but also raises others. There are also the very practical matters of how to implement the life-sustaining treatments going forward, especially since there will be limited supplies, great expense, a variety of reactions by the populace, etc. Quite a complicated mess, both ethically and practically, if you ask me. And figuring out the answers is “way above my pay grade”, though I might return to the topic at some point.

Meantime, give the book a try, whydontcha? It’s a pretty good read — or, listen on audiobook (as I did).

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In Other News…

“Trey Gowdy is the right person for the job. He has a long history of demanding accountability, upholding transparency, and relentlessly pursuing the truth.”  — Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

While we are all alternately fascinated, repulsed, engrossed, and confused by the Comey news and subsequent opinionating of late regarding President Trump and the Russians, a few other developments have occurred that you may have missed. Hard to believe, I know. For example,…

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)

Trey Gowdy (R-SC), conservative bulldog and pain-in-the-butt to many, has been chosen to replace the outgoing Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. He beat out Steve Russell (R-OK), who probably would have been a fine choice, too, though he is more junior and not as conservative as Gowdy.

Gowdy, who has been in Congress since Jan. 2011, is best known for his straight-shooter impartiality and dogged determination as Chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He has served on other committees, too, where he demonstrates conservative positions on defense, economic, and social issues (including pro-life and healthcare), with an emphasis on constitutionality. Some tried to get him to run for Speaker of the House a couple years back, but he declined and instead supported Paul Ryan. He was later considered for Attorney General and recently as replacement for James Comey as FBI Director. (He said he wanted to stay in Congress.)

The purpose of the House Oversight Committee (aka the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) is the primary investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the most influential and powerful committees in the House. It has broad jurisdiction and its chairman is “one of only three committee chairmen in the House with the authority to issue subpoenas without a committee vote or consultation with the ranking member.” Being chair of this committee is one of the most powerful and important positions in Congress, and I can’t think of anyone more trustworthy to wield such power in a responsible manner than Trey Gowdy.

Assuming the House Republican Conference votes him in officially this Tuesday (6/13/2017), Gowdy will assume the chairmanship on July 1.

The other bit of under-the-radar-yet-significant news from this past week that I wanted to bring to your attention involves the Judiciary Branch. Namely, the President has nominated several federal judges, three of whom will serve on influential circuit courts of appeal. As per the Washington Times,

“Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison H. Eid, is being tapped by the president to fill a vacancy on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals created when Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed for the Supreme Court in April…. Mr. Trump also nominated U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson of North Dakota for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and said he intends to nominate University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Stephanos Bibas to serve on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals….”

A White House statement pointed out that “[t]hese nominations follow the successful nomination and confirmation of associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, the successful nomination and confirmation of Judge Amul R. Thapar of Kentucky to serve as a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the nomination of numerous candidates to other judgeships.”

The appointment of such judges/justices to district and appellate court positions was touted by some during the presidential campaigns as at least as important and impactful as naming someone to SCOTUS, if not more so. They are needed to help rein in the leftist judicial activism that has taken over the lower courts in certain areas. Fortunately, it looks as if Trump is following through on his promise, with various legal scholars voicing their approval.

“It’s a fantastic list…. Many of the nominees are well known in the conservative legal movement and have shown commitment to principled and evenhanded application of the law throughout their careers. For the many Americans whose top concern in November was electing a president who would put committed constitutionalists to the courts, this is another major victory.”  — Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network

“President Trump continues to put forward superlative judicial nominees with sterling credentials and impressive intellects. It’s especially notable that President Trump continues to pick current and former academics for the appellate bench — more so than any recent president. This will only magnify the impact his nominees are likely to have on the federal courts.”  — Jonathan Adler, director of the Center for Business Law & Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

This is very good news, indeed. Let’s just hope that the Senate can confirm these candidates without too much hassle from the “progressives”.

(See the WT article for names and brief details on the nominees. Guy Benson’s Townhall article has additional info, particularly in re Justice Eid.)

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Radical Christians, U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and the Paris Climate Accord

It has been a busy weekend, and I wasn’t sure what I’d have time to share with you this week. I knew I wanted a political element to it, though. So, I looked back at several articles from the past few days and came up with a few items of interest to briefly comment on….

First up, it appears that angry atheist Mikey Weinstein is still up to his old tricks, crying out about imagined Christian Dominionists trying to establish a hardline Christian theocracy in America. This time, Newsweek is helping him recycle old tales he’s been telling for years, but now he tries to blame Trump.

“In a story headlined ‘Trump effect inspires radical Christians in military,’ Newsweek political writer Nina Burleigh describes an ominous scene unfolding in the armed forces: crazy Christian ‘fundamentalists’ in uniform harassing non-believers in a fervent attempt to establish a theocracy. Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty noticed that Burleigh’s 1,300-word story relied exclusively on atheist attorney Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, relying on a claim he made years ago to bash the five-month Trump administration.”

Of course, to a militant anti-theist like Weinstein, any Christian who has the gall to somehow express his/her Christian faith or moral values is a “radical Christian” who must be silenced!

Trump made a campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Most Israelis and pro-Israel supporters in the West were thrilled, given such a move’s symbolism, and it looked like it would happen fairly soon. That is, until last week, when Trump signed a waiver to keep from moving that embassy for at least another 6 months. The reasoning?

“[S]ince taking office, Trump has heard repeatedly from foreign leaders and Mideast experts warning him that such a move could terminate his push for a Mideast peace deal even before it gets started. The longstanding U.S. position is that Jerusalem’s fate must be worked out through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Palestinians argue moving the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict, undermining America’s status as an effective mediator.”

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, moving the U.S. embassy to the much-politicized and divided Jerusalem would be a strong show of U.S. support for the State of Israel. That would be a good thing and worth doing. (However, I believe all other foreign consulates to Israel are in Tel Aviv, so that might be a little inconvenient for conducting business. Not sure.) On the other hand, it won’t hurt to delay a few months, if it removes a potential stumblingblock from negotiations. On the other other hand, I don’t care how good a negotiator Trump is, I don’t trust the Palestinians to uphold any *fair* deal. They haven’t been trustworthy in the past, and I doubt they are suddenly any more so now. (In fact, the lies have already begun.) But, I suppose the Trump administration needs to be able to say it tried. Certainly, if & when the move is finally made, there will be unrest, probably violent, in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

In another major policy decision, President Trump announced that the U.S. is officially withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord that his predecessor got us into. The Left is wailing about “mass extinction” and destroying the planet, because, well, they’ve drunk their own kool-aid. On the other side of the aisle, as Ben Shapiro observes,

“[T]he entire conservative movement [is] celebrating him for pulling out of the meaningless and counterproductive Paris Accord on climate change. Trump gave a highly effective, politically attuned speech regarding the costs to the economy of substantial environmental regulations – a speech the left will deride, but that won’t lose Trump a single vote in a swing state.”

Contrary to what the Left would have you believe, many of us (including Trump) recognize that mankind can and does have some impact on the planet’s ecology. What we question is how much our impact truly is and the best way to go about managing or correcting that. In our estimation, the data does not justify the alarmism from the (mostly) Left, and it certainly doesn’t justify the radical measures pushed by Al Gore and friends. And the Paris agreement, frankly, placed an undue burden on the U.S., which is why Trump pulled us out. It would cost our economy trillions of dollars and force American taxpayers to pay $3 billion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund.

Sen. Rand Paul remarked,

“We would lose 6 and a half million jobs, while countries like India and Iran… we would have to pay them to reduce their carbon emissions. I think one of the reasons President Trump was elected was that he would defend the American worker and defend American jobs. I can’t imagine a worse agreement for the American worker.”

Furthermore, this move is not a move toward reckless waste and pollution. Sec. Rex Tiller had a few things to say on this. Also, as per President Trump,

“I will work to ensure that America remains the world’s leader on environmental issues. We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work. We’re not going to lose our jobs.”

Plus, he is open to working out a new or amended accord (see image above). So, everyone, just chill out!

P.S.  Kathy Griffin is a washed-up, unfunny has-been of the Looney Left, who is trying desperately to gain public attention. Well, she did so in an incredibly tasteless and disgusting way, much like what goes for “humor” these days among her ilk. Following up her tone-deaf stunt by crying “I’m a victim!” just further proves her mental imbalance and/or warped sense of self-relevance. (Ouch! That was harsh!)

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We Honor Those Who Died…

To those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces:

With a heart of gratitude, we honor and thank you for that service and for your sacrifice.

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Snippets of True Reason, part 1

One of the books I’ve been reading of late is True Reason, edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer. It’s a collection of essays (originally published in electronic format) by various Christian professors and apologists, addressing issues related to the claims by today’s “New Atheists” that non-theists “own” reason & rationality, while theists are characterized by blind faith and obvious irrationality. Not only do the contributors disagree with that assertion, but they propose that, in many cases, the exact reverse is true. Christianity holds the proper claim to rationality and atheism is, upon closer scrutiny, at least as often irrational. Quite a bold claim to make these days,… or is it?

In this and subsequent posts scattered over the next few weeks/months, I plan to share snippets of text from each of the book’s 18 chapters, which I hope will capture the contributors’ positions (or, at least some salient points), writing styles, etc. If you like intellectual stimulation and the subject appeals to you, regardless of which side you are on, you might want to pick up True Reason for yourself. It’s a good read.

One: “The Party of Reason?” (Tom Gilson)

“We believe Christianity is on the whole much more reasonable than atheism. Admittedly, that is a bold statement. For some it will be incredible in the strict sense of the word: not credible. Nevertheless, we intend to make the case that it is true.

Christian thinkers down through the centuries have held reason in the highest regard, and have practiced it according to the highest standards. Obviously that has not been true of all Christians. As with any large group, there are better and worse thinkers within Christianity. Still, the Christian faith as a whole supports sound reason, and Christian thinkers have applied it well. Meanwhile, despite their protestations to the contrary, parallel examples of excellent thinking are often lacking among today’s New Atheist thought leaders.” (pp.15-16)

Two: “The Irony of Atheism” (Carson Weitnauer)

“Here’s how it appears from the outside looking in. It seems that many atheists, out of an overwhelming desire to crush religion and win a cultural battle on behalf of secularism, have convinced themselves that they are an exceptional group of human beings who are uniquely governed by reason. Freed from the perceived handcuffs of faith and dogma, they believe they have been singularly liberated to exercise rational thought and the tools of science on behalf of human progress. Unfortunately, these loud, public, and oft-repeated declarations of their great love for reason have also blinded them to some obvious realities.

The truth is that atheists, like people in various religious traditions, are prone to believe things on faith (in the pejorative sense of ‘faith’ that atheists often use), assume without argument the coherence of their belief system, blindly follow their leaders, accept what they want to be true, and dismiss contrary evidence. These are practical fallacies; fallacious approaches to deciding one’s beliefs.” (p.34)

Three: “Dawkins’s Delusion” (William Lane Craig)

Craig (left) / Dawkins (right)

“Dawkins’s fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine designer is an entity comparable in complexity to the universe. As an unembodied mind, God is a remarkably simple entity. As a nonphysical entity, a mind is not composed of parts; and its salient properties — like self-consciousness, rationality, and volition — are essential to it. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable physical quantities and constants (mentioned in the fifth step of Dawkins’s argument), a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas (it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus), but the mind itself is a remarkably simple entity.” (p.40)

Four: “Richard Dawkins’s Illusions” (Chuck Edwards)

“What is so breathtaking about Dawkins’s smug dismissal of the cosmological argument is that he does not attempt to respond to any of the specific points that [Christian philosopher William Lane] Craig and others bring up. He doesn’t even acknowledge them; it’s as if he is completely ignorant of them…. Dawkins simply asks, ‘Where did God come from?’ With this, Dawkins shows he is totally unfamiliar with the wealth of literature on the subject and the strongest arguments currently employed. If he had done his homework, he would have realized his question misses the point entirely. The first point of the kalam cosmological argument is that whatever begins to exist must have a cause. God, by definition, never began to exist. Thus, God is the ‘Uncaused Cause’, and the question, where did God come from?, is irrelevant.” (p.48)

Intrigued, yet? Aghast? Amused? More to come later….

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Defending Trump Without Selling Out

I think we can all agree that many of President Trump’s problems, including several of his agenda items getting stalled, are his own fault. In his recent “Open Letter to President Trump”, Ben Shapiro took the president to task for this, saying,

Headache? Psychic?

“Yes, dealing with Congress is like trying to herd cats. But you can’t herd cats if you’re too busy shooting yourself in the foot. Yes, dealing with media is like attempting to feed a pack of hyenas. But you can’t deal with them if you’re too busy providing them red meat to dissect….

This isn’t on Democrats. This isn’t on the media. This is on you, because you decided that the political universe would bow to you, and when it refused, you crapped the bed.”

In another article, Shapiro pointed out that the elusive (or illusive) Comey memo, allegedly documenting Trump’s urging that the Flynn investigation be dropped, could indeed be evidence of obstruction of justice. On the other hand, said Shapiro, it is equally plausible that the whole brouhaha is a manufactured “hit” by the intelligence community for some of the things Trump has said about them. Or, it could be a mix of the two.

“It is quite possible that Trump obstructed justice, and in doing so, fell into the waiting hands of an intelligence community that wants Trump gone, bolstered by hysterical media coverage. But before we leap to our respective trenches, let’s wait to see all the facts come out: what does the memo say? What’s Comey’s excuse for not dumping it earlier? And will Trump appoint a new head of the FBI who will quiet fears? It’s too early for impeachment talk, and it’s too early to dismiss rational suspicions. In the meantime, let’s take a deep breath. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

I have long thought — though I can’t remember if I put it in writing — that, if Trump is forced out of the Oval Office, it will not be due to true corruption or treason but due to his own foolishness, where he commits some ostensibly impeachable offense out of ignorance or carelessness. That, or assassination by some nutjob.

Arrogance, thin-skinnedness, imprudence, given to conspiracy theories, etc. None of these are impeachable offenses, though they may be qualities that could get a leader into trouble and even lead to impeachable actions. (Of course, they also describe Obama; the difference is that Obama wasn’t a Twitter-phile. OK, there might be other differences….) So far, though, the only things of substance(?) that his enemies have against Trump are 1) this purported “obstruction of justice” re Comey/Flynn and 2) the “leaking” of classified info to Russian delegates. The first of these, however, has yet to be substantiated, and the latter is a mischaracterization of the facts. The president, after all, has authority to share classified information about an enemy with those allied against that enemy. The only real issue seems to be one of prudence in this particular case, since it involved another ally’s intelligence asset.

Talk of Trump’s possible resignation or impeachment from the Left (and even by a few conservatives, like Ross Douthat) right now, for the reasons given, is *so* very laughable, not to mention hypocritical. In comparison to multiple counts of Obama’s behavior that demonstrably fell under “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”, for which no one on the Left would consider impeaching him (and the Right insisted there was insufficient public & political will), the accusations against Trump are incredibly weak. At this point, calls for impeachment just make those doing the calling look ridiculous.

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh has a very good article at Townhall, in which he discusses the fact that some people are accusing anyone who tries to defend Trump on this stuff — and I guess that would include me, to some extent — of being “tainted, partisan, idolatrous cheerleaders who have sold their souls and principles…. Some argue that even if former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton engaged in similar activities, two wrongs don’t make a right.”

After pointing out that “[j]ust because he’s handled some things disappointingly doesn’t mean he’s committed a crime or an impeachable offense,” Limbaugh brings up not just the hypocrisy of Democrats in general but of the liberal media in particular. For example, they looked the other way when Obama inserted himself into Hillarymail. They’re also on a “ceaseless witch hunt” regarding the allegations that Trump colluded with Russians to undermine and beat Hillary in the election. He continues…

“So no, two wrongs don’t make a right, but there aren’t two equal “wrongs” here, and attempts to attribute moral equivalence to these separate sets of conduct are deceitful and scurrilous.

Of course, Trump supporters should not compromise their principles to defend him against legitimate charges, but we shouldn’t throw him to the leftist wolves when the Democrats make false, excessive and otherwise unwarranted charges against him. There are a number of things I will criticize Trump for, but I am not going to accede to the Democrats’ outrageously over-the-top characterization of these actions as criminal or impeachable just to appear fairer or nonpartisan.

I’m also not about to quit pointing out the monumentally worse behavior of the leftist media and Democratic Party just to avoid the undiscriminating claim that I am a Trump cheerleader.

We have to analyze whether Trump is culpable of those things of which he has been accused, but in no event should such accusations intimidate or deter us from condemning the left for making false charges and trying to wrongfully undermine Trump’s presidency.”

I heartily concur.

P.S.  If you’re interested, here’s another piece by Shapiro: “No, Republicans Aren’t Going To Impeach Trump – And 8 Other Random Thoughts On Comeygate”

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You Gotta Fight… for Your Right… to Study the Rocks

“[W]hen the government starts refusing access to even collect the information because it dislikes one scientist’s views, it undercuts science and violates the law.”  — Gary McCaleb, ADF Senior Counsel

If the name “Andrew Snelling” is familiar to you, you probably have an interest in the creation/evolution/ID debates. Snelling has been a stalwart on the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) side for decades, including the past decade working for Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis (AIG) organization. He has a PhD in geology from the University of Sydney and has done both theoretical and practical geological research on two continents. He has also written for standard geological publications, but his YEC position is clear from his articles for creationist journals. (He currently edits AIG’s research journal.) That position, of course, includes beliefs that all of Creation is no more than 10,000 years old and that major geological features (e.g., mountains and canyons) were formed around the time of Noah’s Flood only a few thousand years ago.

One of Snelling’s particular areas of interest is the Grand Canyon. In addition to his AIG work, he contracts with Flagstaff-based Canyon Ministries to lead Christian bus tours and rafting trips in Grand Canyon National Park. He has conducted three research projects there over the past two decades “without complaint” from park officials. So, Dr. Snelling was a bit surprised to get the runaround when he submitted a routine request in November 2013 for permission to collect up to 60 fist-sized rocks during river trips planned for April and July 2014. Specifically, he wanted “to gather samples at folds inside the canyon where all the layers were bent, but were not shattered because the rocks were still soft as they folded – supposedly remaining soft over a period of 450 million years.” (WND)

“The samples I have been blocked from collecting in the GCNP are to be subjected to routine lab processing and investigations any good scientist would perform. The results are to be openly reported for all scientists to draw their own conclusions, whether or not they agree with my worldview interpretation of the history of the Earth.”

As reported by WND, “Scientists who conduct research in the park must explain their objectives and obtain a permit. However, in Snelling’s case, the lawsuit explains, permit coordinator Ronda Newton insisted on two peer reviews of his plans. He provided three, all recommending his work. But then Newton went to additional lengths….” Newton first sent the proposal for review by Dr. Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico. In a Feb. 10, 2014, letter to park officials, Karlstrom criticized Snelling and AIG’s beliefs and suggested that Snelling use “alternate sites”.

Newton then sent Snelling’s proposal to Ron Blakely of Northern Arizona University and Peter Huntoon of the University of Wyoming. Blakely called it “an outlandish proposal”. Referring to our “secular society”, Huntoon used terms like “dead-end creationist material”, further suggesting that “inappropriate interests” should be “screened out”.

Snelling’s request was denied in March 2014, the National Park Service (NPS) essentially telling him to “take a hike” and find his rocks somewhere else. But, the “unique” nature of the rocks were critical to his research. So he pushed back, methodically answering or rebutting each bureaucratic challenge. This allegedly earned him a warning from one official that collecting rocks without a permit would get him banned from future research in the park. He then tried submitting an amended proposal early last year, asking permission to collect only 40 samples. According to the ADF website,

“Then Park officials changed their story, and issued a permit which required Dr. Snelling to traverse the Canyon in a separate trip and locate every proposed sampling site with GPS coordinates and photographs, without any assurance of ever being authorized to actually collect the samples needed. No other scientist has been subjected to such a demand.”

Dr. Andrew Snelling

By the end of 2016, Snelling still had not been issued a collection permit. Also, “public records requests revealed that Park officials were specifically discriminating against Dr. Snelling’s faith,” which prompted an inquiry by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) as well as requests by attorneys. These were ignored. Dr. Snelling has now retained the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to sue the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, and Grand Canyon National Park on his behalf.

As per the Phoenix New Times,

“ADF wants a court to order NPS to issue Snelling a permit and pay his attorneys’ fees and a nominal damage award. ADF claims that the NPS is violating Snelling’s First Amendment rights to free speech and religious freedom, his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection, and the 2000 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The complaint also makes reference to a May 4, 2017, executive order by President Trump that promises protection of religious freedoms from ‘undue interference by the federal government.'”

Noting Karlstrom’s rock-collecting expedition in the canyon a few years ago, Snelling said,

“I don’t really expect an apology. I just expect to have fair treatment…. They need to be neutral in these world views…. To say ‘no, you can’t collect samples,’ is really hindering [scientific] investigation. By being open, that’s how science works.”

I may not hold to YEC doctrine on geology or a number of other things, but I agree with Snelling and the ADF on this matter. There doesn’t appear to be any fair or rational reason to disallow Snelling or anyone else with an applicable degree to gather a few rocks for scientific testing. Who knows? Maybe some interesting discovery will be made. (Yes, YECs are capable and have contributed to science in the past.) Maybe Snelling will even begin to change his mind about the age of the Earth. Probably not, but it shouldn’t matter.

“The government isn’t allowed to discriminate against someone based on their viewpoint, and National Park officials have absolutely no legal justification in stopping a scientist from conducting research simply because they don’t agree with his views. Using someone’s views to screen them for a government benefit is unconstitutional.”  — Michael Kitchen, ADF-allied attorney serving as lead counsel for Dr. Snelling in the lawsuit, Snelling v. United States Department of Interior

I’m all for lawful “discrimination” for valid reasons, but this isn’t that. I wonder if they would have treated an Old Earth Creationist the same way….

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A Biblical Argument Against Religious Inclusivism

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  — John 20:30-31 (NASB)

I’ve mentioned Greg Koukl et al. from ‘Stand to Reason’ and drawn from their wonderful materials in previous posts. This will be another of those times.

Greg Koukl

I was listening to a podcast from early 2016 in which a caller asked Koukl about a proper definition and understanding of biblical faith (i.e., a step of trust based on evidence). This was in the context of the caller being a student at a Catholic university, so the discussion also touched on the inclusivist teaching now common in Roman Catholic churches and institutions (as of Vatican II), as the caller was discovering. This doctrine might be summarized as, “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe in Him.” Koukl noted that this is a radical departure from what Jesus and the Apostles taught, as we see in New Testament Scripture.

The ‘faith’ discussion included the attesting miracles, as referenced in the above quote. Koukl continued:

“The claims are either true or false, and we know they’re true because there are good reasons to believe they’re true, and that’s the evidence that John is talking about there — the attesting miracles. And, so, now that we have good reason to believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, now it’s up to us to act on that by putting our trust in Him.

And, by the way, if the reason he wrote the Gospel of John is so that we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in believing have life, then if you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then you don’t have the life that believing in Him gets you. Which means their [i.e., the Roman Catholics’] inclusivism is false. There is no such thing as ‘implicit faith in Christ’, that Jews — “well, they’re really believing in Jesus, even though they don’t know about Jesus.” There is no such thing. Hindus don’t have implicit faith in Christ by worshiping idols! They are disobeying God by breaking the First Commandment! And the same with Buddhists and everybody else who is ‘pursuing their faith tradition as best they know how.’ It may be the best that they know how, but it’s false. They are deceived by the Deceiver, and they are going to suffer as a result of being deceived.

This is something that I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church wants to stand up to, or to step up to. And that is the reality of the deception in the world, that other religions are false ways of characterizing God and salvation, and therefore they are false religions. If they are false religions, then they are not going to get people to God.”

A little bit later, they got back to the inclusivism doctrine…

“I think it’s entirely coherent. It makes all the sense in the world, if you say you don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved by Jesus, you can believe in something else and God honors that as faith in Jesus. That makes perfect sense. I just don’t think it’s true. And the only way we know what’s true is going back to the text, and the text teaches this NOwhere.”

Koukl pointed to Acts 4, where Peter and John heal a lame man and are then arrested “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” They are brought before the high priests and other Jewish leaders assembled in Jerusalem, who ask Peter, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Peter answers that it is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, and he ends with, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 (NASB))

“And he doesn’t say, ‘And, by the way, you can just ignore what I’ve said, because you are really good Jews, doing the best you can following Judaism. So, you’re already in. No need for you to whip me again for saying what I said, because I’m acknowledging that you are really in! No worries.’ Now, why did the Jewish leadership scourge Peter? It’s because he was declaring Jesus, the resurrection, and the necessity of faith in Jesus. Look at his opening sermon there in Acts 2. There is no way you can take Peter’s words in Acts 2 or 4 and make them conform to this inclusivistic gospel. There just is no possible way.

But, it’s worse than that, because you can also go further in the Book of Acts to chapter 10. This is where Peter is called in a vision by God to go speak to Cornelius, who is a God-fearer. Now, a ‘God-fearer’ is a kind of guy who’s doing the best he can under the circumstances to follow God by the light he’s been given. So, he’s a Gentile; he’s not in the assembly of the Jews. But, he’s doing the best that he can, right? An angel appears to Cornelius, and then an angel appears to Peter and brokers a meeting.

Here in verse 34 of Acts 10, when Peter finally goes to see Cornelius, he’s a little reluctant, because this guy, after all, is a Gentile. Here’s the way the text describes Cornelius: ‘Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.’ (Acts 10:1-2 (NASB)) And then, in virtue of all this godliness, has a vision from an angel.

Wow! He’s in! Right? He’s the guy! He’s doing everything that the inclusivists say. And then Peter goes and visits him and says, verse 34-35 (NASB), ‘I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.’ Wow! End of issue! Peter gets up and he leaves…. No, he doesn’t. What he just gave was the inclusivist gospel of the Roman Catholic Church. But, Peter knew Cornelius still wasn’t saved. He needed the Gospel, which he then gives him….

It’s interesting that what he says to Cornelius in verse 42 (NASB) is that this is a message that He, Jesus, ‘ordered us to preach to the people.’ Well, how is it, if Jesus orders them to preach to the people, that some church official here in the Roman Catholic Church is ordering their people *not* to preach it?! So, I encourage you to read Acts 10, because I think this passage all by itself proves that the inclusivist message is just, flat-out false. Because, if it were true, then Cornelius would already be saved.”

I think he’s absolutely correct.

Unfortunately, the RCC subordinated Scripture to Catholic tradition and the rulings of the Magisterium long ago….

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100 Days In

Everyone’s talking about Trump’s first 100 days in office, but I’m going to keep my comments fairly short.

Trump himself, as I’m sure you know, is now saying that this “100 Days” marker is arbitrary and doesn’t mean much. And he’s right,… mostly. The media started doing this awhile back, and it makes for a nice benchmark and a countdown for news stories, etc. But, unless those first 100 days are marked by significantly good or significantly poor performance, the time period should have no special, er, significance. Of course, if the President & Congress had gotten a couple more important pieces of legislation passed within the past 100 days, I’m sure Trump would have been TRUMPeting those accomplishments as the most amazingly YUGE first 100 days ever.

Speaking of Congress, their inability or refusal (for various reasons) to put together and pass bills that do what needs to be done — e.g., repeal and replace Obamacare being the biggest and most obvious — are a huge part of the problem. The President can only encourage legislation and then sign or veto it when presented with the final bill. He can’t force the Legislature to do their jobs. I truly pray that the Republican majority (and perhaps even a few centrist Democrats on some issues, at least) can unite behind a solidly conservative agenda, which is exactly what this nation needs.

Another major impediment, of course, has been from activist, progressive federal courts. I’m not saying the EOs to stem illegal immigration and enact “extreme vetting” (a term that I loathe) haven’t needed improvement. But, the intent behind them is clearly to protect American citizens (and legal residents), which is within the President’s constitutional authority. Same goes for withholding of federal funds from sanctuary cities (which never should have been allowed to buck federal law in the first place). These federal judges who have thrown roadblocks at Trump’s orders appear to be doing so purely for ideological reasons, which is shameful.

That said, I do not absolve the Executive branch from blame for some of the missteps, and there have been a few. In an understandably hectic time, the President has been trying to get his Cabinet and other high-level positions filled, including personal advisors, all while developing executive orders and dealing with foreign and domestic affairs. He has had personnel problems and verbal gaffes (e.g., Flynn, Bannon, Spicer, Conway, etc.), which have left smudges on the otherwise pretty successful fledgling administration. (I have concerns over other people and things in the administration, too, but I won’t go into them here.) But, hopefully, they are all learning from those mistakes. And, Trump does seem to be learning, as evidenced by things he has said and tough decisions he has had to make. I think the size, scope, and complexity of the various issues that the President must deal with here and abroad have become much more tangible to the New York real estate developer and “reality TV” celebrity.

I will say that, overall, I have been pleased with most of Trump’s appointments — from A.G. Sessions to Sec. Mattis to, of course, Justice Gorsuch. I had a little more concern about Sec. Tillerson, for example, but he seems to be shaping up to be a good choice, as well. Still, it has only been 100 days, and there will be plenty of time to take the true measure of President Trump and the rest of his administration. The “1 year” mark will perhaps be a more noteworthy milestone.

So, what *has* President Trump achieved in his first 100 days? Quite a bit, actually. Laying aside artificial time restrictions, and despite the stumbles and disappointments, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. In fact, I think I’d grade him a solid ‘B’, maybe ‘B+’. Rather than stepping through it all myself, I point you to the following summary assessments:

“Trump’s Unconventionally Successful First 100 Days” by Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America

“Promises Kept, and Not Yet Kept, in Trump’s First 100 Days” by Fred Lucas, White House correspondent for The Daily Signal

“The 10 Best Things About Trump’s First 100 Days in Office” by John Hawkins, columnist, commentator, owner of Right Wing News

I look forward to what comes next — e.g., healthcare reform, tax reform, increased energy independence, repeal of Obama’s internet regulations, various efforts that strengthen the economy, a wall on our southern border, etc. But, I also expect some disappointments, including implementation of tariffs and partial support of LGBT agenda. So, as always, I remain “cautiously optimistic”….

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