Archive for May 31st, 2007

Heckuva Job, Brownieback

In case you missed it, today Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback favored us with an NYT op-ed explaining why he raised his hand:

[E]arlier this month… during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. 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.

Okay, not really sure that there is not, in fact, a stark choice between evolution and creationism, but we’ll have more on that shortly. But I’m okay with his basic premise so far: Science informs us about the physical world, religion informs us about the spiritual world. Perfectly reasonable. Brownback really should have just stopped right there.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith – not science – can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

Brownback is losing me fast. Faith “purifies” reason? Faith “supplements” the scientific method? To me this sounds like he’s encouraging scientists to look at and consider factors other than, well, data. Also, as an atheist/agnostic, I resent the implication that only religion can provide us with “values, meaning and purpose.” People of faith do not have a monopoly on those lofty ideals, and many do not possess them at all.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. 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.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory – like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations – go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

And Brownback has just flushed the last of his credibility down the toilet. No, not because he is embracing the Third Way of biology (see, there is a middle ground between creationism and evolution – let us all gather there together!), but because it took him all of two paragraphs to completely contradict his live-and-let-live, science-and-religion-each-have-their-own-spheres happy talk. Extra bonus points for magnanimously agreeing with “microevolution,” and claiming that Intelligent Design is just another flavor of evolutionary theory.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet 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.

Um, actually, the scientists are refusing to venture outside the realm of empiricism. Of course, Brownback and other IDers have no such limitation and can speculate about divine intervention as much as they want. That sounds pretty anti-science, anti-reason to me…

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. 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. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

Again, I thought BB had just said that science was supposed to be in charge of explaining the physical world? How quickly they forget…

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

So, Brownback has gone from saying that science has its role in describing reality, to issuing the rather large caveat that science can only describe reality as long as it agrees with Biblical truths. If it disagrees with the Bible, then it must be mindless atheistic doctrine. Brownback’s support for science is highly conditional, with a very large escape clause. In other words, it is a sham.

I suppose it goes without saying that Senator Brownback is not my first choice for president.

4 comments May 31st, 2007 at 09:06pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Religion,Republicans,Science

Softball Forever

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqfFrCUrEbY

I guess I have another good 40-50 years left…

The year Mickey Werner was born, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their first game at Ebbets Field and the “Curse of the Bambino” referred to Babe Ruth’s fondness for four-letter words – not the Red Sox’s dry spell.

Almost a century later, Werner still loves the game so much he laces up his cleats every week and heads for the pitcher’s mound.

“They don’t care how old the pitcher is, as long as they get the bat on the ball,” said Werner, 93, of Baldwin, L.I. “You’re never too old.”

The sprightly retired New York City physical education teacher is the oldest player in the Long Island Senior Softball League’s 68-and-older division.

And he throws a mean pitch.

Yesterday, Werner’s team, the Mets, bested youngblood pitcher Paul Rotter, 85, of the Dodgers in a 9-6 win at Baldwin Park in Baldwin Harbor.

“He throws the ball as good as me, maybe better,” said Rotter, a retired teacher for the deaf from Woodmere, L.I., who goes by the nickname The Kid.

(…)

[T]he league is bigger than ever, with 106 players this year, the most in its two-decade history, according to league Commissioner Joe Friedman.

Every Monday and Wednesday at 9:45 a.m., four teams tuck their graying – or bald – heads under blue baseball caps featuring the name of their sponsor, the Bristal Assisted Living Communities. They pull out their weathered gloves and line up for a pair of friendly doubleheaders.

All the while, the wisecracks fly faster than a popup to right field.

“All our cheerleaders are in wheelchairs,” said Joe Carillo, 76, a retired Nassau County police officer who plays first base.

“[Werner’s] last team was ‘Shea Funeral Home,'” teased Bassey. “They gave him back. They had to wait too long.”

The genuine camaraderie brings more than a hearty laugh.

“Not only do I have fun, it’s good for me,” Rotter said, his thick fingers twined into the chain-link fence behind home plate. “It’s part of the reason I’m still alive.”

Awesome. I really do hope I’m still playing (or at least breathing) into my 80s or 90s, but I’ll take what I can get.

More senior softball coolness here.

10 comments May 31st, 2007 at 06:54pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Softball,Sports

This! Is! ‘MURKA!!!

I hope this isn’t true…

Georgie Anne Geyer writes today in the Dallas Morning News about President Bush’s strange behavior during a recent meeting with “[f]riends of his from Texas.”

(…)

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated “I am the president!” He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of “our country’s destiny.”

This is the second time in recent weeks that accounts have surfaced of Bush lashing out or “ranting” in private meetings when responding to criticism of his Iraq policy. Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report offered a similar account earlier this month:

[S]ome big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he’s doing things would be OK…etc., etc. This is called a “bunker mentality” and it’s not attractive when a friend does it. When the friend is the President of the United States, it can be downright dangerous. Apparently the Texas friends were suitably appalled, hence the story now in circulation.

It’s only a matter of time before Dubya grows out a big, bushy beard and starts walking around shirtless, pointing his sword at people….

29 comments May 31st, 2007 at 05:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Wankers,Weirdness

The Adventures Of The Smoothest Man In The World

Man, I wish I had this kind of confidence:

Two men robbed a U-Haul truck rental store around 3 p.m. Sunday, taking an unspecified amount of cash, according the store’s owner. But instead of fleeing, one man lingered and tried to strike up a conversation with the woman he had just robbed.

“He stuck around and was trying to get the female employee’s number,” U-Haul store general manager Patrick Sobocinski said. “She said he was just saying, ‘Hey, baby, you’re pretty fine.'”

According to Sobocinski, one robber went behind the counter, put his hands around both employees’ waists and demanded money.

The robber forced one employee to open the register and grabbed cash. Then he forced the workers to the ground and fled, but his accomplice waited for a few moments and then asked one clerk whether she’d go out with him, he said.

“She said he was saying, ‘Can I get your number and go out sometime?'” Sobocinski said.

No surprise ending here – the woman turned him down, and he fled.

So much for women digging the bad boys.

17 comments May 31st, 2007 at 07:04am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weirdness

Belated Wednesday Softball Blogging

Pretty good game last night: 7-for-9, 3 doubles, 5 runs, and 5 RBI, to push my career average up to the .600 mark. And one of the outs was a hard line drive right at the leftfielder. Not a whole lot of action on defense; there was only one fly ball that I had any shot at, and I just barely got a glove on it.

2007 Stats: 4 games, .679 BA (19-28), .964 SLG, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 runs, 10 RBI.

Career Stats: 51 games, .600 BA (210-350), .820 SLG, 35 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 119 runs, 95 RBI.

5 comments May 31st, 2007 at 07:01am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Softball


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