Friday, February 29, 2008

RIP William F. Buckley

I was never a huge fan of him personally, because quite simply he was too erudite for me. I've always enjoyed National Review, but my eyes skated right over WFB's columns. The suave sussuration of his voice got between me and whatever he was saying on Firing Line too, much more than his formidable vocabulary. It's entirely my loss, I admit.

His importance to the defense and then triumph of liberty in the world cannot be overstated, however. The most consequential event in my adult lifetime would have to have been the West's victory in the Cold War. WFB's meditation on the fall of Soviet Union was printed in NR's Sept. 23, 1991 issue is worth reading in full, if you have access to an online periodical database. It struck me so much that I remembered enough of it to find with a keyword search just now. Have a sample:

"IN THE first issue of NATIONAL REVIEW, published on November 19, 1955, we announced that we were ``irrevocably'' at war against Communism, and that we would oppose any substitute for victory. Thirty-six years later, Communism was banned within the Soviet Union. [...]

"A new Soviet leader, having recognized that Afghanistan would not be conquered, attempted to revive the morale of a deadened culture with injections of freedom, and its results were magical, the whole Soviet thinking world suddenly heard from, intoxicated by the glasnost license. Structural reforms were, if not permitted, at least debated. The final failure of the long design to overcome Europe, frustrated now by American nuclear missiles, vitiated the importance of continuing military colonization of Eastern Europe; and one after another they peeled off. The debated reforms brought a crisis, the sentiment hardening all over the land that there had to be not talk about reforms, but reforms; and on the eve of the first important one of these, a reconstitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist states, the dissenters raised their mailed fist in a final show of defiance. Within 48 hours, the mandarinate that controlled the principal instruments of force, the KGB and the military, fell. We would learn that the eight leaders who sought to stem the tide were during most of those critical hours drunk on vodka. They had for most of their lives been intoxicated by more noxious matter. Before the end of the week, the Communist Party was legally suspended.

"We won.

"I am uniquely situated to summon the memory of men and women associated with this journal, whose birth was substantially motivated by the historical calling for a moral-analytical journalistic distillery to animate the resistance to Communism. [...T]he spirit was regenerated, and every month, every year, the writers in NATIONAL REVIEW did what they could to press hope, and to maintain the moral perspective. We are stly proud that one of our readers became the leader of the Free World, who exercised the critical voice in the critical deliberations of the Eighties.

"And, on bended knee, we give thanks to Providence for the transfiguration of Russia, thanks from those of us who lived to see it, and thanks to those, departed, who helped us to understand why it was right to struggle to sustain the cause of Western civilization."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Alarming creationist news from Britain, via skeptic Damian Thompson

Extreme Creationists have been given the use of a lecture hall at University College, London, to preach against evolutionary science. Tomorrow's event has been organised by the college's Islamic Society as part of "Islamic Awareness Week". Is that why UCL doesn't have a problem with it?

Saturday's Guardian carried a brief report of the story, but adopted the muted tone it reserves for Muslim assaults on scholarship. If these had been Christian Creationists the paper would have gone bananas. Yet the Istanbul-based organisation giving the lecture holds sinister views, and is increasingly powerful in the developing world.

One of the main themes of my book Counterknowledge is the spread of Islamic Creationism. Guardian and Independent readers are comfortable with the notion that Creationism is the preserve of swivel-eyed American fundamentalist Christians. They are much less comfortable with the reality that Islam is the main engine of Creationism in the world today.

British universities are filling up with science and medical students who reject the single most important discovery in biological science. Sooner or later we're going to have to face the consequences.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

100 years of family photos

I'm rather proud of this, my first attempt at a musical slide show. The music is a cover of The Beatles' "It's All Too Much", by a Washington state band called Just Plain Bill. I blogged them and this tune some time back here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Super Bowl

For once, the game was better than the show. As for the commercials, I thought that one Coke ad was rather nervy. Are we really in a headspace now where we can have New Yorkers staring up into the sky, while giant flying things bump into their skyscrapers? I suppose at some point we'll have to be, but...brrr...