Sunday, December 31, 2006

It seems more and more of the contributors at Scienceblogs are aware of what Ed Brayton points out:
PZ is often treated the way Manny Ramirez is treated by Boston Red Sox fans, who often can be heard saying "that's just Manny being Manny." When he goes off on a completely unjustified attack on me like that and even dares to question my commitment to an anti-creationist movement that I have spent the better part of two decades fighting for, as he has several times in the past, I get numerous private emails from our mutual colleagues that say, in essence, "Look, we all know PZ is a jerk, he's always been a jerk, but that's just the way he is. You can't let him provoke you like that." Well, to be honest, I'm just not built that way. I have never initiated a personal attack on him, but if he starts it I have not the slightest inclination to play the passive victim. If you behave like an asshole to me, I have no problem calling you an asshole; if that bothers you, stop being an asshole.
So I guess that's the big question for Scienceblogs in 2007: Will PZ Myers stop being an asshole?

(I'm holding my breath. No, really!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An update (via the Corner) from a Marine in Iraq:
Morale: [M]orale among our guys is very high. They not only believe that they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like "Are we losing in Iraq" on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, is that there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just can't stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally ...

Send more troops.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Reader's Digest has listed, home--ahem--among other books, of my podcast of Doctor Janeway's Plague.

Congratulations to Evo Terra, Tee Morris and the rest of the crew at this great start-up. I'm proud to be part of it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Many people write as if the sectarian warfare in Iraq was caused by coalition intervention. But it is surely obvious that the struggle for mastery has been going on for some time and was only masked by the apparently iron unity imposed under Baathist rule. That rule was itself the dictatorship of a tribal Tikriti minority of the Sunni minority and constituted a veneer over the divisions beneath, as well as an incitement to their perpetuation. The Kurds had already withdrawn themselves from this divide-and-rule system by the time the coalition forces arrived, while Shiite grievances against the state were decades old and had been hugely intensified by Saddam's cruelty. Nothing was going to stop their explosion, and if Saddam Hussein's regime had been permitted to run its course and to devolve (if one can use such a mild expression) into the successorship of Udai and Qusai, the resulting detonation would have been even more vicious.
On target, as usual.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Although Ken Miller is widely regarded as a superb teacher, not many people know he also has a great sense of humor:
Kenneth Miller, professor at Brown University and expert witness for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, replied to William A. ‘Divine Wind’ Dembski this morning with some suggestions for good video. I know I’d like to see it. Fortunately, he used “reply all” in responding to Dembski, so I got it in my inbox. I thought that the PT community would like to see it, too, so I asked Prof. Miller if I could get his permission to post his email, and he kindly agreed. It is appended below the fold.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for the e-mail. It’s great to see what sort of research the Intelligent Design movement is up to these days!

I’d like to help you with the Judge’s e-mail, but since I have never had any contact with him outside the courtroom, I have no idea what his e-mail might be. I’m sure he’d be thrilled by the offer to remove “less flattering” sound effects, of course.

I do believe that I can help you with the video, though. As much as I enjoyed it, I was disappointed that it didn’t include some of the more amusing events from the trial. Since you’ve clearly got a little extra time on your hands, why not punch it up a bit with a few more highlights?

For example, how about Bill Buckingham claiming that he never mentioned the word “creationism,” and then the video clip showing him doing exactly that? (I can send you the clip if you need it). Or Mike Behe peeking out from behind a stack of 58 papers, 9 books, and a couple of textbooks saying that even this isn’t enough to convince him that the immune system evolved? Or, even better, your own DC spokesman for the Discovery Institute (Mark Ryland) claiming that the DI had “never” advocated the teaching of ID in schools, followed by Richard Thompson, in his own voice, waving a copy of Steve Meyer’s book which advocated exactly that? I’ve got that last one on a DVD if you like. You’d love it, Bill - Richard brought down the house at the American Enterprise Institute with that one.

Or, even better, how about the stuff before the trial?

Why not show the pictures of the 8 ID experts who promised the Dover Board that they would be there in court to defend them? … and then you can show 5 of the 8 running away at deposition time. I’ve even got a sound effects file I can send you of galloping horses, and maybe a scream or two in the background as the dreaded experts from the ACLU-friendly plaintiffs arrive?

Now that would be one heckuva animation!

Best Wishes for a Wonderful Christmas,


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dale Davenport at the Patriot News is just one example of mainstream journalists who are wearying of the mendacity coming out of an institute supposedly concerned with the truth.

It's not unusual for the loser in a court battle to criticize the judge who ruled against him.

But attempting to discredit the judge professionally is a more serious matter, especially in a case where the loser hasn't appealed the judge's ruling.

Perhaps it's reflective of the times in which we live, when people who don't have the facts on their side are quick to turn the attack personal. It's a staple of today's politics, where nothing more than a party label becomes, to someone of another label, a presumption of all that is evil.

So we have the Discovery Institute, which backed the losing side in last year's intelligent design trial in U.S. Middle District Court, now claiming that Judge John E. Jones copied some of his ruling from documents submitted by the winning side.

To which some judges I've talked to have said, in essence, "So?"

One would expect that a judge, in siding with one litigant, would sustain that litigant's arguments. And a judge logically would use words that were before him in documents submitted as evidence by the successful litigant.

The Discovery Institute said "90.9 percent" of the section in Jones' ruling on whether intelligent design is science was "copied verbatim or virtually verbatim" from "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" filed by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU was supporting a group of parents who brought suit against the Dover Area School Board to challenge its policy of telling students in science class that some people believe a higher being designed the world.

What's happening here is that Discovery Institute hopes that by questioning Jones' integrity, and thus his credibility, it will lend support to the ongoing effort to teach students in public schools that God created the world and that the various species of life did not evolve from simpler organisms. In a press release Tuesday announcing the findings of its study of Judge Jones' ruling, Discovery Institute referred at least eight times in a confrontational way to "Darwinism" or "Darwinists," a reference to the Theory of Evolution proposed by Charles Darwin. Supported by mountains of scientific evidence, evolution is the generally accepted basis of science today.

Whatever your beliefs about the origins of species, and of life itself, teaching religious belief as science in public schools pretty clearly violates both the letter and spirit of religious freedom spelled out in the Constitution. Why this is so hard for some folks to accept is troubling, because it is precisely the proscription of government endorsement of religion -- telling us, or in this case teaching our children, what to believe -- that allows us to believe as we want and to teach our children accordingly.

Here's a fantastic resource for teaching your children (and yourself) about our place in the universe.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Since we're on the subject...I wonder if the Discovery Institute actually pays William Dembski to spend his working time this way....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

There comes a point where words simply fail. You read the press releases this so-called Institute puts out...and after a while you really begin to wonder just how much utter contempt they must have for the Christians they claim to be serving.

Josh Rosenau sums up the latest kool-aid from the DI.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Well, here I am.

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 65% Conservative, 35% Liberal
Social Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

(Should I duck?)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Discontinuing the Environs feature today.
(In the more than four years since I made these audio files available, I think I got one 'thank you' and one donation from the thousands of people who acccessed them. Not that I'm being grouchy or anything...)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just some of the reasons why I admire Tom Stoppard.
Stoppard strikes me as an inveterately bookish man, one more passionately taken up with the life of the mind than with his aversion to being mistaken for a Serious Issues kind of playwright would indicate. Many years ago, in an article in The Sunday Times of London, Stoppard noted: “Some writers write because they burn with a cause which they further by writing about it. I burn with no causes. I cannot say that I write with any social objective. One writes because one loves writing, really.” In the almost 40 years since he made this remark, Stoppard has moved toward exhibiting a greater show of ideological esprit de corps — he took up the cudgels on behalf of Vaclav Havel when he was imprisoned in the late 70s and wrote a play during the same period that explored the psychiatric abuse of political dissidents in the Soviet Union, “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor” — but he continues to remain relatively aloof from the fray. Among other things, he has made no bones about his conservative temperament (when Margaret Thatcher came to power, he was one of the few among Britain’s left-leaning intelligentsia to see light at the end of the tunnel), which has led some observers to dismiss him as elitist. What is clear is that unlike, say, David Hare or the latter-day Harold Pinter, Stoppard is unwilling to hand down moral pronouncements by way of his plays about the absolute rightness or wrongness of one position or cause over another.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My appearance on WRKO's PunditRadio on November 19 is now available for listening online. Kevin and Gregg are excellent hosts and are all over the map literally in who they can get on the show.
Just as I was beginning to lose hope...finally Dawkins' book gets the review it really deserves.
( one here but us moderates.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Is it me...or is Mark Steyn channelling Richard Dawkins? Or is Dawkins channelling Mark Steyn? In this case, they make a perfect mix.
Once again, it is becoming more dangerous to be a friend of the United States than an enemy.
The always sobering Christopher Hitchens.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Much to my surprise, less than a year after the Dover decision, there's a new Inquisition out there.

And guess what? It ain't being launched by the Discovery Institute.

Ed Brayton, as tireless a blogger as there is on the importance of science education, is on the case:

...I reject the notion that belief in God, in and of itself, takes anything away from science education. Ken Miller is a theistic evolutionist. His scientific work is impeccable, as are his efforts in science education. Can Moran point to anything at all in Miller's scientific work that is "sloppy"? I doubt it. Can he point to anything at all in his work on science education, the multiple textbooks that he has authored on evolutionary biology, that is affected in any way whatsoever by his Christian faith? Again, I doubt it.

So what he's really arguing here is that despite Miller's successful work in the laboratory explaining molecular evolution and his astonishingly tireless work on behalf of sound science education all over the country, the mere fact that he believes in God somehow undermines the principles of science. Further, that I should be ashamed for not declaring Miller my enemy as he has. And if your bullshit detector isn't in overdrive right now, it must be broken.

All of this just reinforces my suspicions that we simply are not on the same team and are not working the same goal. My goal is to protect science education. Moran's goal is to protect his atheism against any and all religious impulse, even if held by people who are excellent scientists and defenders of science education. And as his team pursues their goal they seek nothing less than a purge of the most valuable members of my team as we work to achieve ours.

There are people on my team working to protect science education that do not meet his ideological litmus tests. They believe in God, and therefore no matter how tirelessly they work on behalf of science education, they must be declared the enemy. But as I told Larry a few weeks ago, if you think that Ken Miller, Keith Miller, Howard Van Till, Glenn Morton, Wes Elsberry, Rob Pennock and many others are the enemy, then you simply are not on my team. You're playing a whole different game and it's one I have no interest in playing. I'll stick with my team.

[Emphasis mine]
Me too. Need I point out that many of these self-declared Torquemadas of the new Inquisition shall we say...thinner resumes than the religious scientists they condemn?
Two posts with some interesting facts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's too bad that Dan Shaughnessy Watch is closing down. But lest we forget...I'm posting today's final offering to remember just how dreadful a journalist the Boston Globe's "top" sports writer really is:

The CHB outdoes himself today, flip-flopping all over the sports page like a netted cod. He criticizes the Red Sox for overspending for Daisuke Matsuzaka while also arguing that the Sox are finally waking up to the "fact" they need to "win now." The piece epitomizes everything that is wrong with Dan Shaughnessy:

His problem with facts:
*“The Red Sox just spent $51.1 million for the right to negotiate with a player.” Wrong. The Red Sox didn’t spend anything to negotiate with him. They pay only if he signs. Try reading Nick Carfado, Dan-o.

*“One year later, the Contreras contretemps was followed by the Alex Rodriguez Valentine's Day fiasco.” Since that “fiasco,” the Red Sox have been to the playoffs twice and won a World Series – one more than A-Rod’s Yankees.

His incoherent babble:
*He complains about the dollar figures tossed around, but then acknowledges that its the right move. "The figures are absolutely staggering." ... "We will resist the temptation here to trace Contreras's disappointing career with the Yankees and wonder if that fate could find Matsuzaka." ... "[T]he urgency is back on Yawkey Way and this can only be a good thing ... "

His racism:
*“That would send the Dice Man (D-Mat? We badly need a nickname for this guy) …” Why? Because Dan finds it hard to pronounce anything more complicated than Whitey MacPaddy.

His failing memory:
*“The 2006 Red Sox suffered an unspeakable spate of injuries, but their dysfunctional roster was woefully equipped for land mines encountered in the second half of the season.” Let's recall what Shaughnessy wrote on April 3, 2006: “[T]hese 2006 Red Sox are a new-look team, stressing defense, pitching, and boredom … the Idiot culture is gone and has been replaced by an organizational professionalism that would make Boss Steinbrenner proud.

*On that same day, he also predicted the Sox would win the AL East: “[M]any experts … dismiss the Red Sox as a noncontender and perhaps a third-place team in the vaunted American League East. … That opinion is not shared here. … It says here this is the year the Red Sox finally vault over the Yankees and win the AL East outright for the first time since 1995 (ah, the Kevin Kennedy years).” Dan, get thee to a neurogolist.

His hypocrisy:
"Boston's sad, sloppy September was little more than extended spring training (at whopping big league prices)." Right, like the Boston Globe cuts subscription prices every time they have a layoff.

Tuck this away. The CHB writes, “A Red Sox starting rotation of Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, and Tim Wakefield looks pretty good.” Let’s remember this when, in the midst of a three-game losing streak in June, The CHB spends a good 40 inches of column space bitching about how the Sox management should have known better than to bet the season on a rotation made up primarily of guys who had either never started in the majors or are old enough to be dead.

And a quick farewell. It’s nonsense like this that a little more than a year ago spurred me to launch this column. All good things end, however, and this is one. I am officially retiring this site. Thanks to everyone who read and commented, especially Jenny, who carried this place for the past several months.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and Dan will realize it’s time for him to go too.

Hey, we can wish, right?

(btw--CHB is courtesy of Carl Everett who dubbed him "curly haired boyfriend".)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

George Will gets it right:
About $2.6 billion was spent on the 468 House and Senate races. Scandalized? Don't be. Americans spend that much on chocolate every two months. But although Republicans had more money, its effectiveness was blunted because Democrats at last practiced what they incessantly preach to others -- diversity. Diversity of thought, no less: Some of their winners even respect the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Republicans in Congress got what they deserve. And here at home, that's a good thing. Still, I feel bound to quote this in full, should two years from now or later we have cause to return to this assessment, one that I feel more than possible:

Those people who were serious about criticizing Rumsfeld (as opposed to those who were just vindictive or crazy) did so because they wanted our military to be doing more, not less, but does anyone seriously think that a Democratic Congress is going approve expenditures for the extra 50-70,000 troops that his serious critics say would be required to actually win in Iraq?

As a practical matter, I'm not sure how Iraq is possibly salvageable at this point given our current political situation. Zal is apparently on his way out, not wanting to be scapegoated as the man who lost Iraq and the real travesty is that he will be unlikely to receive half the official honors that Bremer and Tenet got despite his far more capable service to our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the Baker Commission comes out, the administration is going to be under overwhelming pressure to implement the suggestions of the "bipartisan" commission and their failure to do so is just going to give the Democrats one more issue to run on to a pliable media and (near as I can determine) general public. Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better. The truly ironic thing is that Iraq is likely to be held up as an example of why "Arabs/Muslims can't handle democracy," because to believe otherwise would be to admit that we should have done more, fought harder, and worked better to save them. And we can't have that. It goes without saying that if this is going to be the result that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.
The loss of Iraq is almost certain to coincide with a major push in Afghanistan-Pakistan and having defeated the United States, al-Qaeda is likely to regard the momentum as being with them. My own assessment is that Pakistan is likely to fall (probably in a palace coup) before al-Qaeda and the Taliban make any serious headway in Afghanistan. That may preserve the Karzai government, but it will also turn bin Laden into a nuclear power. The only good news that I can take away from this is that if, not when, this occurs the United States is unlikely to lapse into a "Blame America First" or "Iraq Syndrome." We won't lift a finger to save Somalia (now almost certainly lost) or Iraq, but the fall of Pakistan is likely to awaken the general population from their slumber. If not now, then certainly once the nukes start flying, whether at India or at the United States in Europe. It also now goes without saying that the US will not prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran or take anything more than token gestures regarding North Korea. One thing I want to be clear on is that this isn't the apocalypse and al-Qaeda is not going to take over the Middle East in 2 years but that they will make a great deal of headway there if the US is emasculated in the interim as a result of domestic politics, particularly if the legislative branch now treats the executive as though it is part of an enemy state.

A word on Europe. As you are no doubt seeing in the media coverage, much of the European punditocracy is now giddy that the US has rejected the evils of Bushitleretardespotheocrat and all his works. While this is likely to make American tourist trips and cocktail parties more enjoyable, it is also nothing short of meaningless because, as we have seen over the last several years, Europe wants to be treated as a great power but does not wish to exert the necessary effort to actually be one. Our cooperation with them on intelligence and law enforcement matters would continue regardless of the event because they must [cooperate] for their own self-preservation, but they will not support sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism or increased troop commitments to Iraq or Afghanistan. In the case of the latter, they simply do not have the troops to send or the logistics to sustain them. . . .

The next 2 years are likely to suck, but I could always be wrong and the Democrats could always develop an uncharacteristic amount of sanity.

Here's hoping this guy is wrong....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A new short story of mine, "Milk of Malie" has just been published in the Fall issue of Doublethink. Available online here.

The goal is to sell a few more so I can approach a publisher interested in a debut collection.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sonnet 30...

Well, it only took 8 months, but the serialized podcasting of my novel, Doctor Janeway's Plague is completed--and available through iTunes and other mp3 outlets from

(Thanks to all listeners for their patience. I think next one, I'll just take two weeks off from work and record the whole thing in one session....)

Friday, October 27, 2006

This is getting interesting:

Mr. Connors's interest in the Globe dates back several months and was sparked by the purchase of the Philadelphia Inquirer by Brian Tierney, chief executive officer of Tierney Media Holdings LLC, from McClatchy Co. over the summer, according to people familiar with the situation.

Shortly after, Mr. Connors asked Mr. Barnicle if Mr. Welch would be interested in participating. Mr. Barnicle asked Mr. Welch, who was initially skeptical but agreed to have lunch with the two men. As Mr. Connors explained the project over lunch roughly six weeks ago at the Four Seasons, Mr. Welch got more interested and signed on. Messrs. Welch and Connors agreed to put in $25 million and valued the paper at between $550 million and $600 million; the parties said they would be satisfied with a 5% to 8% return. The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion.

Later, Mr. Welch asked James B. "Jimmy" Lee, vice chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to analyze the possibility of making an offer. Mr. Lee assigned a small team of bankers to work on the project, but the bank's work is still "preliminary" according to a person familiar with the discussions, and no formal bid is in the works.

"I've been an avid reader of the Globe my entire life and I appreciate the important role the newspaper plays in the civic life of this community," said Mr. Connors in a statement. "But the current speculation is very premature. I have conversations about possible business deals all the time and 90% of them never move forward."

But in reaction to the article in today's Globe, several people with deep pockets in both Boston and New York have called and asked to be part of the group, according to the person familiar with the discussions. The group feels they could attract more advertising to the Globe because of the goodwill they would generate by being local owners.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"I'm just not interested in free will."

A clearly pissed off Richard Dawkins admits at the end of this debate (see October 9th listing) a crucial issue which science really cannot answer. And with that, you have the reason why 'scientific' atheism will never appeal to most people.

How about Irish journalist Richard Quinn? Did not let Dawkins get away with anything.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

According to my distributor, Sub Rosa Studios, Richard the Second will soon be available in a new batch of indie movies to be distributed in batches of two-sided DVDs , and to be available at Walmart (among other outlets).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Not everyone in the Middle East is over-reacting to the Pope's Regensburg address:

One friend reminded me of the assassination attempt that targeted the former pope two decades ago wondering what the reaction of the pope was…as we all know he eventually visited the assailant and pardoned him.

No mosques were blown up and no speech of a clash of civilizations was made.
So why don't we admit that the "other" is better than us at responding rationally when criticized? Why don't we learn from others?

When we closed our ears to anything that doesn't match our beliefs and refused all criticism wasn’t that enough reason for the deterioration of our civilization?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Another verse video from the Farrellmedia vault. This time, we take Robert Browning up to the White Mountains...

Shot in 1986, on Super 8mm. Narrated by the inimitable John Paul Wauck.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The decline of newspapers continues...

The newspaper industry has for the most part been treating the new technology like an end in itself, thinking that the combination of a well-known brand and a slick Website would do the trick. Well, those Web sites have attracted online readers but they have not improved the medium-term prospects of their sister organizations. Internet advertising revenues account on average for no more than 10 percent of total ad revenues because online readers of newspapers still have small value for advertisers. Newspapers need to expand their Internet readership very substantially and, particularly, persuade their online readers to stay hooked to their digital versions much longer. The way to do that is to embrace the cultural change.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The paperback version of Day Without Yesterday is now available in stores and online.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

One atheist to another. Andrew Brown deconstructs the fundamental(ist) incoherence of Richard Dawkins:
If we believe that human behaviour is a special case of animal behaviour, there is nothing that requires explanation when we find humans acting to the advantage of in-groups over out-groups. This is the kind of behaviour that will have benefited their ancestors. There's no need to suggest that there is something uniquely poisonous about religion so that people behave worse when they are believers than otherwise. The morality of the Old Testament may be reprehensible - though no worse than the morality of the Iliad - but it worked: the descendants of the children of Israel are still here and the descendants of the previous male inhabitants of the Promised Land are not.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For reasons I can't fathom, religion seems to be the one topic about which Christopher Hitchens is virtually always unreliable. Siris is on the case:
I was amused, however, by Christopher Hitchins's utter failure to say anything of signifcance about the matter. For instance:

Most of all, throughout his address to the audience at Regensburg, the man who modestly considers himself the vicar of Christ on Earth maintained a steady attack on the idea that reason and the individual conscience can be preferred to faith. He pretends that the word Logos can mean either “the word” or “reason,” which it can in Greek but never does in the Bible, where it is presented as heavenly truth. He mentions Kant and Descartes in passing, leaves out Spinoza and Hume entirely, and dishonestly tries to make it seem as if religion and the Enlightenment and science are ultimately compatible, when the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of “revealed” truth and its all-too-earthly human potentates.

It takes cheek to call someone dishonest for not having a view of history that is obviously simplistic, utterly out of date, and poorly supported by evidence, particularly when it is clearly irrelevant to the point being made -- the Pope brought up Kant as an eminent example of modern self-limitation of reason, and Descartes, or, rather, Cartesianism, is only mentioned as background to Kant. The interpretation of the Gospel of John seems crude, particularly given that it's actually fairly standard in Christian theological tradition to interpret Logos in John as 'Word' or 'Reason'. Where Hitchens is getting 'heavenly truth', I don't know. The Enlightenment is mentioned by the Pope only to say that it should not be ignored. And Hitchens's claim that "the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of 'revealed' truth" so obviously could only be accepted based on a highly selective reading of Enlightenment thought (in all the various, and rather diverse, forms it took) that it can be dismissed outright as mere rhetoric. The whole essay is like this.
Pretty much.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Favorite Liberals Dept. I'm adding Sam Harris to my list:

I don't know how many more engineers and architects need to blow themselves up, fly planes into buildings or saw the heads off of journalists before this fantasy will dissipate. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world's Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.

Given the mendacity and shocking incompetence of the Bush administration — especially its mishandling of the war in Iraq — liberals can find much to lament in the conservative approach to fighting the war on terror. Unfortunately, liberals hate the current administration with such fury that they regularly fail to acknowledge just how dangerous and depraved our enemies in the Muslim world are.

Recent condemnations of the Bush administration's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism" are a case in point. There is no question that the phrase is imprecise — Islamists are not technically fascists, and the term ignores a variety of schisms that exist even among Islamists — but it is by no means an example of wartime propaganda, as has been repeatedly alleged by liberals.

In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Pope Benedict will have done Islam a service if he has started a debate within Islam and between Islam and the critics."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pope suggests that Muslims have a problem with violence. Muslims take to the streets ... and burn his effigy.

As my friend Zippy says: Real life: better than any parody.
Paul Bauman deconstructs Damon Linker.
The costs of attacking Iran will be terrible, writes Charles Krauthammer. But the costs of doing nothing are even more so:

In the region, Persian Iran will immediately become the hegemonic power in the Arab Middle East. Today it is deterred from overt aggression against its neighbors by the threat of conventional retaliation. Against a nuclear Iran, such deterrence becomes far less credible. As its weak, non-nuclear Persian Gulf neighbors accommodate to it, jihadist Iran will gain control of the most strategic region on the globe.

Then there is the larger danger of permitting nuclear weapons to be acquired by religious fanatics seized with an eschatological belief in the imminent apocalypse and in their own divine duty to hasten the End of Days. The mullahs are infinitely more likely to use these weapons than anyone in the history of the nuclear age. Every city in the civilized world will live under the specter of instant annihilation delivered either by missile or by terrorist. This from a country that has an official Death to America Day and has declared since Ayatollah Khomeini's ascension that Israel must be wiped off the map.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ironic. Just as I wrote last week that some ID sympathizers are now turning on their own movement's founders (see below), apparently there are some zealots in the atheist camp who are chagrined that scientists shall we say, more distinguished achievement than they... can believe in the supernatural.

Well, we can't have that, can we? Ed Brayton does a superb job of deconstructing this spiteful idiocy.

Update: Then scroll down and check out the stream of abuse he gets from the materialist equivalent of the Buchanan brigades ....

Monday, September 11, 2006

When atheists start acting like...fundamentalists. Ed Brayton discusses the recent brouhaha over Ken Miller's talk at University of Kansas.
Michael Barone deconstructs Joe Wilson and his hapless wife:

It has long since come out that just about everything Wilson said was false. He was not, as he suggested, sent on his mission to Niger by Dick Cheney. He was recommended for the trip, contrary to his denial, by his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame. He reported to the CIA that an Iraqi official had come to Niger on a trade mission in 1999 -- evidence that tended to confirm rather than refute the British intelligence claim that Iraq was uranium-shopping in Africa -- a claim that Britain's Lord Butler judged "well founded."

Now come Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and the Nation's David Corn with a new book disclosing that it was not Karl Rove who first disclosed Plame's name to reporter Robert Novak. It was Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, and a skeptic about, if not an opponent of, military action in Iraq. Interestingly, Justice Department officials knew this even before Patrick Fitzgerald was named a special prosecutor. And they knew, as Corn has admitted, that Plame had not worked overseas within five years of her name's disclosure, which meant that she was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

Yet for more than two years, Fitzgerald investigated Rove and other White House aides and indicted one for providing false testimony. All this, even though it was clear there was no underlying crime.

The Wilson-Plame narrative obscured the fact that Bush did not lie. Given Saddam's history of WMD development and use, given his successful attempts to obstruct inspection, any responsible American president had to assume that he had WMDs. Bill Clinton so assumed in 1998. George W. Bush so assumed in 2003. The record of Saddam's deeds left them no choice.

Friday, September 08, 2006

In vino veritas.
A few years ago, I lectured at Hillsdale College as part of a week-long lecture series on the intelligent design debate. After Michael Behe's lecture, some of us pressed him to explain exactly how the intelligent designer created the various "irreducibly complex" mechanisms that cannot--according to Behe--be explained as products of evolution by natural selection. He repeatedly refused to answer. But after a long night of drinking, he finally answered: "A puff of smoke!" A physicist in the group asked, Do you mean a suspension of the laws of physics? Yes, Behe answered. Well, that's not going to be very persuasive as a scientific answer. And clearly Behe and other ID proponents prefer not to answer the question.
Oh boy. (As they say in Monty Python: 'What a give away!')

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Buzz on Apple? Feature length movies coming to your iPod soon...
John Wilkins has a good take on what to make about the Pope's recent (much-hyped) closed door session on evolution.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I suppose this was inevitable. Having been dealt a crippling blow by the Dover decision, prominent ID advocates are now turning on their movement's founder.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Robert T. Miller has some advice for single-issue pro-lifers: chill out.

Now, perhaps someone in the position of the Commissioner of the FDA or the Secretary of Health and Human Services, faced with these circumstances, ought to resign rather than approve Plan B. Perhaps, but I think not. People in the pro-life movement need to keep their heads and realize that there are legal and political realities that limit an officeholder’s freedom. “In a commonwealth and in the councils of princes,” St. Thomas More writes in Utopia, “if ill opinions cannot be quite rooted out, and you cannot cure some received vice according to your wishes, you must not therefore abandon the commonwealth, for the same reasons you should not forsake the ship in a storm because you cannot command the winds. … You ought rather to cast about and to manage things with all the dexterity in your power, so that if you are not able to make them go well they may be as little ill as possible.”
Here's food for thought from Robert Tracinski:

This gives the lie to the central promise of the religious conservatives: that they will provide a solid foundation for morality. Subjectivism, they point out, unleashes men to commit any atrocity, while religion offers men the safety of unquestionable moral rules. But what protection is really offered by moral rules backed by faith--rules on which men cannot ever agree? History offers the answer, recent history most particularly. The headline of a brilliantly conceived satire from The Onion captures it nicely: "War-Torn Middle East Seeks Solace in Religion." The Middle East, and especially the Muslim world, is famous for the intensity of its religious belief--and also infamous for the intensity of its bloodshed and suffering.

Religious conservatives warn that a morality based on reason and observation is not sufficient, because men will not all agree on what reason and the evidence proves. But when have men ever agreed on religion? And without reason and evidence to settle the argument, they usually resort to force.

The real alternative to secular subjectivism is not religious faith, but observation of the natural world--the world that can be seen and understood through reason. Despite a confused dismissal of "natural law," Heather Mac Donald is correct when she suggests that "reason and a commitment to evidence provide ample grounds for leading a moral, responsible life." But she seems to have something of pragmatist view of morality, arguing, for example, that marriage should be encouraged because sociological studies say that children are better off with two parents.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Brit Hume and company talk around Pat Buchanan' with fellow Catholic't the same color as he is.

I wish there was some other way I could put that....

Friday, August 25, 2006

Rod Dreher pores over the fascinating results of the latest Pew Forum Poll on Religion and Public Life. In short, things are not looking so good for the GOP these days...but as usual Democrats are unlikely to take advantage of it (it's that part about having to take religious people seriously thing, you know...).
There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper, attacks Hezbollah as "one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time." He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon's existence in the service of Iran's regional ambitions.

Maybe deep down, beyong all the theatrical hand-ringing, they really do begin to get it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Yes, that's right, we at Farrellmedia are doing our part to retake the culture for God and Country--bit by this case, poem by poem.

It's about 5 mins...and was originally shot in fact--it's probably the last time I shot in film and not video...but I didn't edit it for years, until Final Cut Pro came along.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Does Dan Shaughnessy have a thing for Theo Epstein? In a weird, twisted sense, yes. And The Chief is on the case.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Peter Wehner deconstructs George Will:

It's worth asking Mr. Will: does he believe what is needed in the Middle East is more repression, more violence, more mass graves, more Saddam Husseins, more Hafez al-Assads, and more Yasir Arafats? Would these things lead to more "stability" in the Middle East? Would they advance American interests? Would they advance human rights or human liberty or the common good?

2. Here is some of what Mr. Will wrote about the Middle East during those peaceful, sedate, tranquil "years of stability" he now longs for:

"The existence of Israel, and of 'the Palestinian question,' usually has precious little -- and often, as in this case, nothing -- to do with the largest and most dangerous doings in the Middle East. Today it is especially apparent that Israel is the all-purpose but implausible alibi for the various pathologies that convulse many Arab nations and relations between them." (August 3, 1990)

"There are 21 nations in what is called 'the Arab world,' but no real democracy. In recent years, political pluralism and popular government have been sprouting green shoots in previously stony ground from Latin America to Eastern Europe. But the Middle East has remained a region riven by political primitivism that is fueled by religious fanaticism and tribalism masquerading as nationalism. A sense of falling further and further behind other modernizing nations exacerbates Arab feelings of cultural inferiority. Those feelings are deepened by the sterility of the truculence and militarism that are supposed to assuage such feelings." (January 18, 1991)

"The Palestinian Authority has comprehensively violated the Oslo agreements, including the undertaking to stop antisemitic propaganda. On Friday, Palestinian Authority television aired a Gaza imam's harangue telling the faithful that it is their duty to kill Jews wherever they find them. In President Clinton's final months of office, the Middle East is more aflame than when he began ministering to it." (October 19, 2000)

"The Middle East is one coup (in Egypt or Jordan) away from a convulsion radically inimical to Israel. However, as Netanyahu said Wednesday by telephone from Jerusalem, Islamic radicalism regards Israel as Nazi Germany regarded Belgium -- as a small steppingstone toward a much larger conquest." (September 14, 2001)

Will must have a short memory.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"I have never seen anyone enjoy her own inanity so much." Jerry Coyne dissects Ann Coulter.

Friday, August 11, 2006

He was indeed an old style newsman.

Dan Kennedy, Jay Fitzgerald and others were so kind enough to post about my father (with several local commentators expressing interest in his prospective book) that I thought I would give you a little taste of what's in the archive:

Here's David J. Farrell with Ted Kennedy during Ted's first senatorial campaign.

Next is dad with Marlene Dietrich when she stopped in Boston.

My favorite is this shot, taken from 16mm film of my dad with JFK on his presidential campaign.

Monday, August 07, 2006

My father, David J. Farrell, former Boston Globe political columnist and Boston Herald Traveler managing editor (and occasional contributor to this blog), passed away in his sleep on Friday morning, August 4th.

Funny thing was, just before my sister called me at 5:45 AM with the news, my little daughter had woken up from a bad dream. I put her back to sleep and lay down again: I was dreaming myself: my dad and my brothers all dressed up at dinner in what seemed like a fancy hotel restaurant. My dad turned to me and said, "John, where are the girls? Bring the girls down, too." I started to tell him that my two daughters were still asleep upstairs when I looked down and noticed that both were climbing into my lap.

Then I woke to the phone ringing and my sister who told me he had just passed away.

Twenty years ago, for his 60th birthday, I wrote this for him:

Those early years were marked at once
By knowledge great and journeys mild.
A knowledge that - at father's call -
Gave birth to suns and tides and shooting stars,
And all the worth of heaven's store
To my wide and fearful eyes.
And journeys mild -
For in my fright he took the care
To ease the flow of Nature's gifts,
Which else would sure have overwhelmed
My shocked and awe-struck mind.

Thus on morning walks through sandy dunes
In fits and starts - but more than that
My bare and buckling legs could never take -
The world he introduced to me.
And year by year my place grew strong
Until at last the world could speak
To me alone. And though alone
I often walk the shores these days,
When in the deepest thoughts of life
And all its chores - I must recall
My father, as he was when I was young,
Knee-deep in salty waves as he stood before the sun,
And began, when least I knew, the learning of my life.
He was a great teacher and mentor. And although 80 years is a long life, I wish it could have been longer.

Friday, July 21, 2006

On the other hand, there are those who are less enthusiastic than Warren...(and as tiresomely predictable as ever).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We're shocked, shocked to see more minions from the Discovery Institute trying to force creationism into Kansas public school science classes. All of course in the name of critical analysis.

Never fear, Nick Matzke is on the case.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Good news for Real? Rafat Ali says:
Shares of RealNetworks are up a hefty 33% year-to-date...what gives? The company is benefiting from being in some of the hottest growth areas on the Internet: music, games and video, the story says, and CEO Rob Glaser is confident that his company will keep up the momentum in the face of mounting competition that some analysts find troubling for RealNetworks shares. On gaming side, after several acquisitions, RealNetworks has gone from distributor of games to also being a publisher and developer, and Glaser sees a bright future in ad-supported online games. Glaser said RealNetworks boasts 2.4 million subscribers across all of its products, the majority coming not from gaming but music, despite subscription music services initially being hard sells.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Okay: Full disclosure. The folks at NR were kind enough to add my book to National Review's book service--for which I'm very very grateful--and I really like the cast of characters who run the magazine--Rich Lowry and Kathryn Jean Lopez (despite being Yankees fans), Jonah, Derb and Byron York, most of whom I met when the crew visited Doyle's in Boston a few years back.

But...I have to start wondering who is in charge over there when it comes to coverage on science? Are they trying to discourage pro-science conservatives with more empty swill against evolutionary biology?

Here's Steve Reuland on this latest NR piece by George Gilder. (The same George Gilder who wrote Macrocosm--a fantastic and inspiring book. Sigh. It goes without saying of course that he is associated with the PR firm called The Discovery Institute. In fact, I believe he co-founded it.)
Early on, Gilder repeats the old canard about natural selection being a tautology: “…at its root, Darwinian theory is tautological. What survives is fit; what is fit survives,” he writes. This is really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, requiring a willful misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Let’s clear this up: Natural selection is about the probability of an organism surviving and reproducing relative to the rest of the population. The theory requires that some features of living things are more conducive to survival and reproduction than are others; hence if these features are heritable, they will increase in frequency over successive generations. Since there is no a priori requirement that this be true of the world, it’s hardly a tautology, now is it? We could live in a world where all organisms, regardless of their traits, were equally likely to survive and reproduce. But a century of experiment and observation shows that this isn’t the case. In their famous work on Darwin’s Finches, Peter and Rosemary Grant found that a difference as small as 0.5 mm in beak size was enough to cause a measurable change in the likelihood of survival. Obviously, given that those features which improve survival can be detected empirically, Gilder’s blather about everything being equally good is nonsense.
It's not like Gilder is saying anything new. What was the point? One can only read this and just wonder what is happening to conservative journalism on science when a major magazine like NR keeps recycling the same junk faxed to them by the DI.

Or does the Discovery Insitute write NR such big checks to keep the magazine going they feel obligated to publish this nonsense? Just asking.

Update: A gynecologist friend of mine writes to me: "I too get peeved when NR messes up big time on evolution, biology and medicine. (I do like Derb's defense of evolution.) KJL messes up OB/GYN all the time. I have tried to correct her sometimes, but I never get a response...."

Yep. Embarrassing. First Things publishes many articles by the DI crew as well, but at least they balance them with reasoned rebuttals. In general, NR fails to do so.

Update 2: In fairness, I mean NR dead-tree and NROnline combined. In terms of the magazine itself, they are more even-steven.
My blog-friend and future drinking buddy, Zippy Catholic, can disappear from the blogosphere for weeks at a time (no doubt while he's hatching new business models and companies to leave the rest of us wage slaves slavering with envy).

He's been on a roll lately, and this is just one of his more interesting posts, on the warring philosophies behind quantum physics.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm in today's Herald on the podcasting of Doctor Janeway's Plague and Podiobooks.

(And the picture of me even looks good!)
My retrospective on the work of Georges Lemaître is up at TCS.
On Bill Demsbki's thin skin:

A Catholic blogger, tired of posting comments to Dembski's anti-evolution site writes to me:
Dembski's anti-intellectualism is pretty well summarized by the fact that he keeps
all anti-ID commentors on a moderation list, so our comments don't appear until he's read them over and decided whether to let them though. Supporters are on the 'approved' list. And these people wonder why we think they're assholes...
That pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

PZ Myers has a great post on how the selective quote-mining of Intelligent 'proponents' continues to destroy their credibility.
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if some folks saw Sullivan's post as unworthy of a response. And it's unclear what it is that needs be said by anyone, other than how terribly sad a day today is, even without the usual suspects determined to see every tragic event as simply more fodder for the political grist mill.

Tomorrow Andrew may be wishing he had let a day pass before deciding to exploit the soldiers' deaths for cheap shots.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How pathetic is it that Ann Coulter has to be tutored by the usual suspects in order to write nothing intelligible something about evolution for her new book?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This seems like good news.

While the coalition was continuing to suffer human losses, "time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance," the document said.

The document said the insurgency was being hurt by, among other things, the U.S. military's program to train Iraqi security forces, by massive arrests and seizures of weapons, by tightening the militants' financial outlets, and by creating divisions within its ranks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Everything seems to be up and running now with the podcasting of my novel Doctor Janeway's Plague. Episode 9 was just posted this week. I also re-mastered the first 5 episodes with music and effects, which makes the whole thing a little more consistent.

Now if I only had Laurence Olivier's voice. Or Christopher Lee's...

Check it out.

Friday, June 09, 2006

And Christopher Hitchens put his own two cents in:

Most fascinating of all is the suggestion that Zarqawi was all along receiving help from the mullahs in Iran. He certainly seems to have been able to transit their territory (Herat is on the Iranian border with Afghanistan) and to replenish his forces by the same route. If this suggestive connection is proved, as Weaver suggests it will be, then we have the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran directly sponsoring the murderer of their co-religionists in Iraq. This in turn would mean that the Iranian mullahs stood convicted of the most brutish and cynical irresponsibility, in front of their own people, even as they try to distract attention from their covert nuclear ambitions. That would be worth knowing. And it would become rather difficult to argue that Bush had made them do it, though no doubt the attempt will be made.

If we had withdrawn from Iraq already, as the "peace" movement has been demanding, then one of the most revolting criminals of all time would have been able to claim that he forced us to do it. That would have catapulted Iraq into Stone Age collapse and instated a psychopathic killer as the greatest Muslim soldier since Saladin. As it is, the man is ignominiously dead and his dirty connections a lot closer to being fully exposed. This seems like a good day's work to me.

Lest we forget:

On four levels, Zarqawi's death has global ramifications.

The first and most basic stems from the command position he enjoyed. While the leaders of al-Qaeda like to dispatch suicide bombers, they themselves are not inclined to suicide. Their larger strategy in launching terrorist attacks on everything from police stations to mosques to wedding parties is to destroy the bonds of trust on which decent societies depend, erode the will to fight back, and clear the way for a takeover of power. Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issue bloodthirsty messages from their hideaways, but they have not offered themselves up for the kind of sacrifices they require of their followers. It is the capture or killing of such terrorist kingpins - and Zarqawi was one - that serves as the real disruption and deterrent.

Second, Zarqawi was found with the help of Iraqis, some of whom have been dancing in the streets to celebrate his death. In Iraq, that is a sign not only of opposition to terrorists, but of the courage to stand up and defy them. It is of a piece with the decisions of millions of Iraqis over the last two years to turn out, despite death threats, to vote. They are telling each other, and the world, that they are willing to take large risks to build a decent, free society.

Third, in raids that accompanied the strike on Zarqawi, U.S. and Iraqi forces have acquired what White House spokesman Tony Snow has described as a "treasure trove" of intelligence. The cars, explosives, guns, ammunition and safe houses required for al-Qaeda's murderous operations turn up courtesy of a network that points to other nodes. That may not immediately stop other operations already in place, but it can have a big effect down the road, leading to other top figures in the command.

Finally, this is an excellent moment to step back and look at just how far in this war we have come. Five years ago, al-Qaeda's commanders, from their safe haven in Afghanistan, were training thousands of terrorists and planning the Sept. 11 strike on a sleeping America. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein ruled by terror, with a record of exporting brutality and war from Baghdad at any opportunity to wherever he could reach - invading his neighbors, rewarding Palestinian suicide bombers, and openly rejoicing over Sept. 11.

Read the rest of Claudia Rosett's excellent piece.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I've never met Derb, but I think I'd like him if I ever did, and I imagine that there are few pundits you'd rather have on your side in a brawl, or on a battlefield. And I'm glad he's out there writing - because he's a great one for cutting through cant and telling inconvenient truths and saying the things that everyone thinks but no one dares to put in print, but also because he's a perpetual reminder that taking the world as it is comes can lead you into some pretty dark places, that moral theories and philosophical abstractions have their uses, and that humanity needs a little idealism, as well as a little brutal realism, to carry us through our years and days.
Ross Douthat with some interesting thoughts on John Derbyshire:

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ed Brayton has a thoughtful post today on the subject of science and religion—and the disagreement among atheists and agnostics about the their compatibility.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why Anthony Lane is priceless:
There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers—nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require. (Buried far below this tic is an author’s fear that his command of basic, unadorned English will not do the job; in the case of Brown, he’s right.) You could dismiss that first stumble as a blip, but consider this, discovered on a random skim through the book: “Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee.” What is more, he does so over “a half-eaten power lunch,” one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard.
Well, here's the boffo box office news on the Da Vinci Code's opening weekend:

Not surprisingly "The book's fervent popularity meant that Sony could sit back while the clamoring of fans and protesters did much of the publicity work—condemnation from the Vatican and other religious groups only played into Code's mystique..." (my emphasis)

No kidding. No. Kidding. You'd have thought that someone in the Vatican would've figured this out by now.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A.N. Wilson on seeing the over-hyped movie:

There are no good Catholics in this film. The monk-murderer is the militant representative of an Catholic organisation that is portrayed as fraudulent and malignant.

In a free society, we are entitled to portray Catholics as we please, and to debate their faith. As I have already hinted, anti-Catholic prejudice has an old though not very glorious history in this country.

But the reason I found the film depressing was not just that, in its blundering, ignorant way, it was making cheap gibes at Opus Dei, a devout group within the Roman Church.

It was also openly stating that a free and decent way of life was possible only when we had spat upon our past, and kicked away the tradition that for 2,000 years was at the core of all that was most humane and decent in European history - namely the story that God humbled himself to become a poor human being.

Very many of us must have doubted the divinity of Jesus. Yet the respect for humanity shown by Catholics in situations of starvation in Africa or among the shanty towns of South America derives directly from their belief in Jesus Christ as the God-man, who embraced poverty.

To accuse the Church, which has done so much to stand up for human dignity and peace, of being no more than a group of gangsters and perverts is to do much more than just to insult one religious denomination.

It is yet another symptom of our contempt for our past.

Put this side by side with our craven fear of saying Christianity is true and Islamists are in error, and you have more than enough reason not just to boycott The Da Vinci Code - but also to deplore it.

Worth reading. (scroll down from the link to Wilson's).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

In Rome, the Rev. John Wauck muses on what excellent opportunities a better writer than Dan Brown would've exploited:
In the nave of the Church of St. Mary Magdalen there are six statues – all women, each representing a different feminine attribute: lacrimabilis, simplex, verecunda, humilis, fidelis and … secreta. I thought to myself: how could Dan Brown have missed this one? Just imagine, a statue of a woman named “Secreta” in a church dedicated to Mary Magdalen… and the statue shows a woman standing with a key to her lips!
I can't wait for this movie and book to be so over....

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

With characteristic good humor, Ed Brayton asks: "When did Pat [Buchanan] turn into the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live?"

About 15 years ago, in my opinion....

Friday, May 12, 2006

Still more conservatives are waking up to the fraudulence of 'Intelligent Design'.
If the collapse of ID represents a defeat for the Religious Right, it has been something of a relief for many nonreligious conservatives, who have wanted nothing more than for the issue to go away. Charles Krauthammer, for instance, complained that the Dover episode was "anachronistic," "retrograde" and "a national embarrassment."
This is good news all around. But on a disheartening note, I remain mystified how two people as intelligent as Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb could be so utterly ignorant of even the most basic evidence of evolutionary biology.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ed Brayton illustrates why "honest" is not exactly the first word one thinks of to describe the antics of Discovery Institute founder Bruce Chapman.

Update: especially given the obvious phoniness of stunts like this.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Have the Yankees become the Welfare State of Major League Baseball? I'm watching the (fun!) game last night between the Yanks and the Sox, and I notice that almost every coach working for Joe Torre (Pena at first, Kerrigan in the Bullpen, etc.) is a former team manager who was recently fired. (Hey--why didn't Steinbrenner hire Grady Little?)

And yet K-Lo and some of my pals at NR like to talk up the Yankees like they're a no-brainer for conservatives. Why? Just because they all have short hair and pin-stripes?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brian McGrory at the Globe gets kudos for helping spread the good news about Father Murphy's exoneration. He makes a good point, too, about Mitchell Garabedian, and why he should've quit when he was ahead:
Garabedian has done a world of good for a lot of victims of pedophilic priests, but in Murphy's situation he's embarrassing himself, trying to convict a man in the news media after dropping his suit in court. It wasn't that Garabedian couldn't prove his case; it was that there wasn't a case to prove.
Garabedian disgraced himself and his profession with his whining about technicalities.

Nice to see the Globe give some coverage to this case, although to be honest, I can't help wondering if they would've put McGrory on this story if it hadn't been for another intrepid local journalist, Gail Besse, who wrote a nice piece on Father Murphy for the National Catholic Register just a few days before.

I saw Father Murphy at this past Sunday's special Mass and gathering for all his friends and supporters. He looked rejuvenated after the horrible ordeal he went through, and as I've said before, this entire episode does not reflect well on either our Cardinal or the Archdiocese.

Special thanks to people like Thomas Flatley and Joseph Corcoran for standing by Father Murphy with the determination that the Archdiocese should've been willing to offer—but did not.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Al Qaeda. They're not just evil.

At his weekly media briefing, Lynch showed brief clips from what he said was the unedited video showing Zarqawi, wearing New Balance running shoes, struggling to handle the machine gun he was shown firing in the version posted on the Internet and aired on television. Another clip appears to show his aides grabbing the gun's hot muzzle and fumbling with it after he had finished.

Each clip lasted only a few seconds and Lynch did not say how much more footage there was.

"So what you saw on the Internet was what he wanted the world to see 'look at me. I am a capable leader of a capable organization and we are indeed declaring war against democracy in Iraq'," Lynch said. "What he didn't show you were the clips that I showed you: wearing New Balance sneakers with his uniform, surrounded by supposedly competent subordinates who grab the hot barrel of a just-fired machine gun, ... a warrior leader, Zarqawi, who doesn't understand how to operate his weapons system.

"It makes you wonder."

They're also stupid. Yep. Makes you wonder.
Looking for something other than the Da Vinci Code to read?

PZ Myers has just the thing...
Victor Davis Hanson:
George Bush has been relatively silent during the crisis; Ahmadinejad is the one losing his composure on center stage. Nearly daily he shouts to the cameras about wiping Israel off the map or unleashing his Islamic terrorists throughout the globe.

In the brief present window between Iran's enrichment and its final step to weapons-grade production, we must keep calm and give Ahmadinejad even more rope to hang himself. As his present hysteria grows, exasperated Europeans or jittery neighbors in the region may even prod the U.S. to take action - indeed, to be a little more unilateral and preemptive in letting the Iranians know that their acquisition of a nuclear weapon will never happen.

For now, our best peaceful weapon in the little time that we have left is, oddly, our own quiet and hope that a democratizing Iraq stabilizes, and in turn destabilizes undemocratic Iran. So let the loud Ahmadinejad continue to make our case why such a psychopath cannot be allowed to become nuclear. Meanwhile, give confident multilateral internationalists their long-awaited chance at diplomacy, and prepare for the worst.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

I guess the Vatican has decided to help Dan Brown sell books and promote the movie. Brilliant.
My faith in the publishing industry has been restored:
NEW YORK (AP) — A teen novel at the heart of a plagiarism dispute has been pulled from stores. Author Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University sophomore, had acknowledged that several passages in How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life were borrowed from the works of another writer.

Publisher Little, Brown and Company, which had signed the author to a reported six-figure deal, said in a statement Thursday that it had notified retail and wholesale outlets to stop selling copies of the book, and to return unsold copies to the publisher.

Visnawanathan has apologized repeatedly for lifting material from Megan McCafferty, whose books include Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, saying she had read McCafferty's books voraciously in high school and unintentionally mimicked them.

McCafferty's publisher, the Crown Publishing Group, labeled Viswanathan's actions "literary identity theft" and had urged Little, Brown, which initially said her novel would remain on sale, to pull the book.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Has anyone lost their faith because of the Da Vinci Code?
(Well, yeah. I have. My faith in the publishing industry. Just Kidding. Sort of. See post below this one.)

Reason I ask is--as is often the case when a controversial 'Catholic' book or movie comes out--it's become a matter of concern to Church leaders and many Catholic writers that this book and by extension the movie will lead Christians astray.

I notice Dan Brown isn't too concerned. In between trips (laughing all the way, no doubt) to the bank, he had time to make an appearance in his home state. Giving entirely way too much credit to the extent to which any scholar worth his or her weight in salt would consider the nonsense in his book as worth comment, he said it's basically up to scholars to judge the "ideas" presented in the book.

But back to those Christians concerned about the book's effect on the Faithful. On the whole, I think there is certainly cause for concern about a book that promotes falsehoods--and if you think Christians are the only ones who think so, read Laura Miller's excellent take-down of Brown in Salon.

But...while it's quite likely that Christians with insufficient background in the history of their own religion will suck for Brown's crap---hook, line and sinker... I can't help what degree might someone truly lose their faith over this swill? Meaning, to the point where they disregard even the basic morality in the Commandments? In other words, will they become full-blown nihilists because of Brown's book? Or something in between, or not even as questionable? I'm wondering whether all this running around on the part of scholars, media hopping and discussing the many problems with the book leading up to the movie is really helping, if not making the matter even worse. Barb Nicolosi certainly seems to have had enough, and I don't blame her.

Having read the novel, my own feeling is, if your faith is such a wisp o' nothing that it gets blown out by an overwrought melodrama (based on sham research), you probably didn't have much faith in the Church to begin with. Maybe the Church should be taking advantage of natural selection here, if I may borrow a metaphor, and be grateful for the opportunity to prune the congregation of its intellectually weaker elements.

In fact, given the recent clergy abuse scandal in the American church, could you not argue that a lot more people lost their faith when they saw how the bishops of the church responded--than when they read Brown's book? Especially because the greatest damage was done precisely by those people in positions of authority whose faith was, shall we say, probably not the sharpest? How else to explain the complacency and complicity? (Interesting follow up question: had the clergy abuse scandal not happened, would so many Christians be as worried about Brown's froth?)

Some Catholic journalists and bloggers have worried whether some Christians will lose their souls because of the influence of the book. But will they really? Led astray for a while, perhaps most of their lives, yes a very real possibility, I concur. But is that the end of the story for such people?

Let's take the most average example of such a case. Most novel readers are women. So let's take a woman from Massachusetts, a pretty Catholic state in terms of population. This woman is reasonably educated, at least nominally Catholic, meaning she goes to Church on Sundays and holidays and confession once a year. She knows one or two priests and nuns as friends; she lives a straight life. Maybe she's married with kids...

Then... she buys into the whole mess of the Da Vinci code's oh-so-controversial "thesis". Jesus married Mary Magdalene, they had a family of super heroes. The church suppressed this and lied, and in outrage the woman stops going to church out of a sudden disgust. And she's not the only one; still other people suddenly fall for the fashionable idea that the institution responsible for these lies lasted ... for 2000 years by fooling millions of people?

The Soviet Union ...the last most obvious institution I can think of that was built on lies lasted long? 70 years? How much longer do we think the lies propping up Chinese Communism can last?

But to believe the Catholic Church has succeeded in surviving for 2000 years based entirely on a pack of lies I do find hard to believe (with all due respect to Christopher Hitchens who, when it comes to religion, relies more on his bile than his wits). Oft evil will shall evil mar, as the old saying goes. I think the Church has lasted because the Gospel is basically true. The man described in the Gospels, as Einstein once pointed out, mirrors the reality of who he was--which is, enthralling to most people who read his words. Too real to be a product of fabrication. Or to be the tool of second-rate hacks. Somehow the Man in the Gospel strikes me as--and I may be going out on a limb here in my interpretation--the last person in the world to get married and raise children.

So... what if some people do buy into the novel's nonsense? Maybe it's not entirely a bad thing. In other words, is it really likely the people to be turned away from the Church by this book weren't already fairly uncritical to begin with--the kind CS Lewis's marvellous Screwtape complains about so eloquently in the Screwtape Letters? And is it certain these stray sheep will persist in believing what a candyass novel says--for the rest of their lives? Or, like many people as they get older, like you and me and the prodigal son, as life forces them to become wise, will they change their minds?

My own feeling, and once again I may be overly optimistic, is that anyone with even a modest education in church history will not be fooled by the swill being peddled as history by Brown's comic strip. Or if so, not for long. The others who do...probably need to be fooled. For a while. And then they can wise up.
Dan Kennedy makes an excellent point about the Viswanathan scandal.
Indeed, if you take a look at the Crimson's side-by-side comparisons, you'll find it hard to rule out the possibility -- the likelihood? -- that Viswanathan propped McCafferty's "Sloppy Firsts" open in her lap and started typing, making just a few changes in an inept attempt to cover her tracks.

It's hard to muster much sympathy for Viswanathan, who got a $500,000 contract to put her imprimatur on a novel that others "conceptualized" for her, and that she then couldn't apparently bother to write entirely on her own.

But I'll give her this much. In a more sane world, she never would have gotten the contract and the publicity that put her in the public spotlight in the first place. She would have plagiarized at Harvard, flunked a class, maybe even been forced to transfer to another college. And she would have learned an important lesson -- quietly. Instead, she's dealt herself a devastating blow from which it will be hard to recover.
I will refrain from comment about the young woman's intelligence. And...again...what does this tell you about the publishing industry? Too depressing for words.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Not letting Dan Shaughnessy get away with anything:
The CHB turned in one column last week, and yet the best he can muster today is a slapped together list of shots at local sports management.

Is this really what the Globe is paying him for?

There's the obligatory Theo cheap shot, raising the Bronson Arroyo angle once again, as if there was any chance the dreadlocked pitcher would be throwing so well here in Boston. Ever heard of small sample size, Dan? Hint: Ask your urologist.

He calls Bill Belichick "His Infallibleness" and Epstein a "real sacred cow" who "forever will be the boy wonder who can do no wrong."
James Woods gives Harold Bloom a real work-over.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Day Without Yesterday is now officially available at NRO's Bookservice.
Book Club Dept. I've been on a science fiction binge since Boskone in February. After meeting Allan Steele there I ran out and bought Coyote, which was very enjoyable. I also finally got to Philip Pullman's Golden Compass, Robert Charles Wilson's Spin and (with a pause to savor Alice Munro's latest collection of short stories, Runaway) am now in the middle of Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls. All of these writers are excellent. Still waiting on the shelf for me: Jeffrey Carver, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe and John Crowley's Little, Big.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Michael Yon:
As I consider this whole manufactured controversy about my intentions in saying, then and now, that Iraq is in a civil war, and whether or not I used the right definition, and even, ridiculous as it seems, whether I have been hijacked by forces that oppose this war, what strikes me as most telling, and truly as most sad, is that, still, more than a year later, almost every soldier I’ve met in Iraq and most recently Afghanistan, still has to ask that same question: Do the people at home know about the progress we have made over here?