The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The Greedy Old Party (GOP) front-runner is...

..."none of the above." So says the latest AP/Ipsos poll (PDF; via Talking Points Memo):

In a new AP/Ipsos Poll, 25% of Republican respondents say they are either undecided or would prefer someone other than the current field — more than the vote share of any actual candidates listed in the poll. Compare this to the Democratic side, where only 13% of respondents are undecided or prefer none of the above. In the horse-race numbers, Rudy Giuliani leads the GOP side with 21%, followed by Fred Thompson at 19%, John McCain at 15%, and Mitt Romney at 11%. Among Dems: Hillary Clinton 36%, Barack Obama 20%, Al Gore 15%, and John Edwards 11%.

The poll also shows the "right direction/wrong track" numbers at 26% and 69%, respectively. Fortunately, at maximum, only 553 days and two hours remain in the worst presidency ever.

Those were the days

The current occupant and his Vice really are the worst pair ever, but achieving such lofty depths took some cunning, perserverence and a shooting incident. I mention this because on this day in 1804, the second-worst VPOTUS ever shot Alexander Hamilton to death—and the latter manifestly did not apologize to the former. (Had Hamilton done so, Cheney would have had another obstacle to slither under in his quest for the "worst ever" title.)

Excellent piece about the failed British bombings

Via Bruce Schneier, a former British military bomb-disposal operator offers some thoughts about the clowns who completely failed to bomb anything in the UK last week:

If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).

...

Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds—thousands, sometimes—of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.

How far we've come

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia, which established that the 14th Amendment prevents states from prohibiting inter-racial marriages. So I found it mildly amusing when my real-estate agent told me another agent had asked her "who lives in [your] building." That question isn't Kosher for the same reasons Virginia's miscegenation laws weren't.

Obama health-care proposal "smart and serious:" Krugman

Princeton economist Paul Krugman, writing in today's New York Times, says Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) health care proposal has "a lot to commend" but "not as comprehensive as [he] would have liked:"

You can’t be serious about health care without proposing an injection of federal funds to help lower-income families pay for insurance, and that means advocating some kind of tax increase. Well, Mr. Obama is now on record calling for a partial rollback of the Bush tax cuts.

Also, in the Obama plan, insurance companies won’t be allowed to deny people coverage or charge them higher premiums based on their medical history. Again, points for toughness.

Best of all, the Obama plan contains the same feature that makes the Edwards plan superior to, say, the Schwarzenegger proposal in California: it lets people choose between private plans and buying into a Medicare-type plan offered by the government.

Now for the bad news. Although Mr. Obama says he has a plan for universal health care, he actually doesn’t — a point Mr. Edwards made in last night’s debate. The Obama plan doesn’t mandate insurance for adults. So some people would take their chances — and then end up receiving treatment at other people’s expense when they ended up in emergency rooms. In that regard it’s actually weaker than the Schwarzenegger plan.

Sam Brownback eats his cake

Writing in the New York Times today, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) attempts to distance himself from natural selection theory without looking like a complete dullard. He fails, predictably, largely through setting up false or misleading dichtomies:

The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

Either you believe God created Man or you don't; how is that complementary? Either you believe in a separation of body and spirit or you don't. There really is no middle ground, and Brownback has planted himself squarely on the God side.

If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

The problem is, at some point if you go back through your ancestry far enough, you run into something that isn't the same species. Natural selection is natural selection; "microevolution" isn't some alternative view of it, it's a red herring.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.

I don't know whether this is a lie, or merely ignorance, but there really is only one theory of natural selection. "Punctuated equilibrium" isn't really any different from "classical Darwinism" when you dig into it far enough, unless by "punctuated equilibrium" you mean "punctuated by a supernatural being who shall remain nameless but who gave the Jews a bunch of rules on clay tablets a while back."

I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation—and indeed life today—is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

First, let's dispense with the fallacious arguments to authority ("many scientists...") and to the people ("many...people of faith"). I learned to distinguish these arguments from actual logic in high school, and presumably so did many scientists and people of faith.

Second, questioning the presuppositions isn't on its face anti-science or anti-reason, but coming to the conclusion that there's a purpose behind the theory is. The "philosophical presuppositions" of natural selection theory can be stated very simply: selection happens. Maybe that's oversimplification, but not by much. The simple fact is, natural selection theory explains life in all its forms without resorting to a supernatural being interfering with it. It's not that we reject the possibility; it's that we don't find any evidence to support conscious design.

Biologists will have their debates about man's origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table.

Absolutely, and we encourage it. All you have to bring to the table is a testable hypothesis and evidence to back it up.

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Hello...? We're waiting. Testable hypothesis...? Evidence...? Hmmm....

For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed.

Sam, I agree: so quit trying to seek a monopoly on the question.

I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man's essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.

Ah, here we go. If this were 1640, he'd be outraged that the Earth goes around the Sun. Read that sentence over to fully grasp the presuppositions within it. In order to have an "essential dignity" or "a unique and intended place," something would have to confer dignity and place upon us. We can do it ourselves, and many of us do; but that doesn't mean a supernatural entity does.