Cheney Escalates War on Lawyers

You can’t make this stuff up. It was disclosed that Cheney bagged a lawyer over the weekend. He is apparently being issued a citation for hunting without the proper game stamp on his license. This is the first I’ve heard that you can get a permit to hunt lawyers, but it is Texas, so not much should leave my jaw agape.

Cheney and his traveling medical E.R. team went to a “hunting ranch” where they participated in the “sport”. The ranch releases pen raised quail from coops so that old men can drive up in cars and shoot them from 30 yards away. If this is sport, then I went to Wegman’s and felled a pork roast last week. It’s amazing they give them actual guns. And maybe after this, they won’t.

It is tempting to suspect foul (fowl?) play here. But I’m pretty sure this was really an accident. I believe if Cheney wanted somebody hurt or killed that he has people that would accomplish that without making the news.

Note, this makes Cheney the first sitting V.P. to shoot another man since Alexander Hamilton. Traitors, quail, what’s the difference?

Football Science

Brian, who gave me a spectacular Flying Spaghetti Monster t-shirt for Christmas, contributed the reference to this interesting piece. It’s written by Gregg Easterbrook, which is a good thing. It was published in the Superbowl edition of Tuesday Morning QB on, which is a questionable thing. Nonetheless, it’s a good read.

No Higher Power Is Guiding “Intelligent Design” Politics : Yours truly thinks the “intelligent design” idea is being given the short shrift by the mainstream media. Yes, some intelligent design advocates want to use I.D. as a Trojan horse to put religious doctrine into public schools — forbidden by the First Amendment, and wisely so in the opinion of this churchgoer. And some intelligent design advocates believe young Earth creationism, a nutty idea for which there isn’t one iota of scientific evidence. But as they mock the notion of intelligent design, the mainstream media are systematically avoiding a substantial question mark in evolutionary theory: it does not explain the origin of life. That organisms evolve in response to changes in their environment is well-established — anyone who doubts this doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. But why are there living things in the first place? Darwin said he had no idea, and to this day science has little beyond wild guesses about the origin of life. Maybe life had a natural origin that one day will be discovered. Until such time, higher powers or the divine cannot be ruled out. Exactly because I think intelligent design is a more important concept than the mainstream media will admit, I really wish right-wing screwballs would stop advocating I.D. — they’re giving the idea a bad name! First, it’s common to hear them say evolution can be disregarded because it’s “just a theory.”

This is ill-informed. In everyday usage, “theory” can mean a conjectural or unlikely claim. (“See, I have this theory why Maria Sharapova would go out with me.”) In science, a theory is an idea that has well-accepted supporting principles, has been tested successfully and that no one has falsified; in science the word theory conveys high standing. For instance, first relativity was an analytical idea, then a hypothesis, then after many years of testing was acknowledged as a theory. When in 1996 Pope John Paul II called Darwinianism “more than a hypothesis,” he was choosing words precisely. Many on today’s anti-science right appear ignorant of such basic precepts as the definition of the word theory.

The screwball fringe keeps proposing I.D.-related legislation that shows it doesn’t even understand the limits of evolutionary theory. Two years ago some science illiterates in Cobb County, Ga., got the local Board of Education to mandate stickers on biology textbooks reading, “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.” Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of living things. The core quandary of Darwinian logic is that we can imagine how living things evolve but cannot imagine how they came into existence in the first place. Now a know-nothing Utah state representative has proposed this bill that “requires the State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements and policies that stress that not all scientists agree on which theory regarding the origins of life … is correct.” Hey, Utah state legislature, there are no theories on the origin of life. A few biologists have made wild guesses involving RNA, clay or hot ocean vents, but no scientist has offered anything nothing remotely near the level of a testable theory. (The details on that point) Given the presence of life is so mysterious, a creator God may be why we are here. But please, science illiterates, stop attempting to enact rules about intelligent design; you are ruining the idea.

There, But for the Grace of Mohammed, Go I

No one is disputing that the small Danish newspaper that published the now infamous “Mohammed Cartoons” exercised poor taste, lack of respect, and poor judgment. People and organizations who were offended have every right to publicly lambaste the editors and cartoonists. They can and should boycott the newspaper, its advertisers, parent companies, etc. With any luck and determination they can drive the publication from business and make the people responsible unemployable in their fields.

Or… they could opt to burn embassies, issue calls for execution of those responsible, call off trade relations with Denmark, and boycott Danish dairy companies with no remote affiliation to the offense.

One of these choices is better than the other.

Many, including me, have called on people to not condemn all of Islam for the terrorist acts of a small minority. We have defended Islam as a noble and peaceful religion which a few people have hijacked for personal and political reasons. With regard to terror attacks, many Muslim clerics have openly condemned the 9/11 attacks, the London bus bombings, and other incidents. This goes a long way towards fostering a sense of tolerance.

But I have heard very little from the Muslim world condemning the violence of the response to the lampooning of their religion. And that is causing me to question my position of tolerance.

This incident could have very easily come about as a result of a U.S. publication. Would we want and expect our government to apologize for that act? Would we put up with people attacking our embassies over it? I think not. We might well join in the boycott of the offending company, and the editorial pages would be filled with ire, but violence is over the line.

Being offended gives no one the right to make sweeping attacks (physical or economic) on general populations. The Muslim world does not want us to think all Muslims are terrorists. Maybe they should start by recognizing that not all Danes are cartoonists.