Monday, June 20, 2005

Anti-Van Halenism

In this 1998 article, Anti-Semitism Without Anti-Semites, David Klinghoffer asserted that Jews should quit slinging around the "A" epithet, because it just didn't exist in America anymore.
For many of us Jews lately, everything and anything is "remindful of the Holocaust." The truth is that anti-Semitism has become an obsession with us. You’ve heard the phrase "anti-Semitism without Jews," to describe the hostility to Jews felt in countries like Poland that don’t have any Jews. In the American Jewish community we’ve got anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. Or almost without anti-Semites. In a country as big as America you are inevitably going to find nuts and cranks, haters and despisers, of every description—if you look hard enough.

Well, the world turns, and nowadays Jews are hated almost as intensely as ever, although this time it is by progressives rather than--or in addition to--the usual rightwingers. The flashpoints were the second Palestinian intifada and 9/11. One commentator hypothesized that progressives' hatred of America was causing them to hate Israel, since Israel is America's closest Middle Eastern ally. And indeed, unlike in Europe, American progressives sometimes insist that they oppose Israel, not Jews per se. This is bunk, and can be shown to be so by this simple analogy:

You know, I disapprove of a lot of things about Van Halen. I think the way that Van Halen have hired and fired singers with no notice is classless in the extreme. I think Eddie is personally to blame for his unique whammied-up guitar style becoming such an Eighties cliche. I think Van Halen are a bloated, strife-ridden corporate entity, whose contract squabbles are at least as interesting as their music. I think Van Halen fans are uniformly and irredeemably obnoxious, in their triumphalist mockery of predecessors like The Who and Led Zeppelin. I think Van Halen in no way deserve to headline any bill, or even to be able to book most venues. I think Van Halen’s continued existence stifles the emergence and growth of newer, fresher bands. Indeed, it could not be construed as much of a loss if Van Halen and its fans were to disappear altogether, in some non-violent way.

But that doesn't make me anti-Van Halenist.

Sound familiar?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Evolving Threat of Creationism

Here in my home county, creationists were beaten back this past year in their attempt to put caution stickers in science textbooks, warning that evolution is "only a theory." But the creationists haven't gone away, and my constant dread is that they will capture the local school board, as creationists did in Kansas, with considerable ensuing mischief and ridicule.

So I'm always a little dismayed when I read things like this exchange, no matter how high-brow, in First Things. Intelligent design is creationism in a cheap tuxedo as one bitter wag put it. To my mind, it is the rankest sort of mind control, poisoning students against one of the top two or three scientific discoveries in history. As Larry Arnhart says in the above-linked FT article,
The biologists who reviewed Behe’s book had to admit that he was right in claiming that evolutionary biologists have not explained the exact evolutionary pathways for the six biomolecular mechanisms he considers. But as the reviewers indicated, this does not show that such evolutionary pathways do not exist; it only shows our ignorance. Developing such an explanation in the future remains a realistic possibility, claim the scientists, and so Behe’s argument from ignorance is weaker than he allows.

In other words, when scientists encounter a mystery, the proper response is not to fall down and rejoice that they've found workings of the hand of the Almighty. It's to knuckle down and try to extend the frontiers of the known, the same as has been done countless times in the past, by the scientific pioneers who helped get us to our present plateau of knowledge. As Longfellow said,
It is curious to note the old sea-margins of human thought.
Each subsiding century reveals some new mystery; we build where
monsters used to hide.

I am a life-long fan of science popularizers like Isaac Asimov, although I certainly don't look to Asimov and Sagan and the rest for spiritual guidance. (And isn't it ridiculous, on reflection, to think that a scientific theory will cause all of God's workings & love in one's life to vanish in a puff of empiricism?) So I resent it, on purely "truth-in-labeling" grounds, when Christians misrepresent the science behind evolution, attribute immorality and social decay to it, and try to float comforting claptrap as science in its stead.


Some days after I posted this, I see that The Commissar has started blogging about paleontology. here's a good typical post in that vein.