Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bush gets the Shoe!

When it's time to go, some get the boot.

Pres. Bush got 2 shoes.

Ironic or appropriate?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Creation and Politics

It was Christmas Eve in 40 years ago. It followed a tumultuous year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. It saw riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In Vietnam, American troops killed civilians in the infamous My Lai massacre.

But on that day in 1968, humans saw, for the first time, an earthrise over the surface of the moon. Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to leave earth’s gravity. William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman were the first humans to orbit the moon. Inspired by this breathtaking view – a photo that is credited with inspiring not only Earth Day but the entire environmental movement – the three astronauts read about creation as written in the Hebrew Book of Genesis.

A moment of awe and reverence?

Maybe to some, but it may have been the first salvo in battle in the national political scene over the biblical creation account.

Accounts of Creation
Anthropologists will tell you that every culture and civilization typically has some account of creation. The details vary, but often there is acknowledgement of a creator god who was responsible for it all.
In the US, creation as described in Genesis is the most known account. But, within the sects of Christianity and Judaism, there are disagreements about how Genesis should be understood. While nearly all of these sects would acknowledge Genesis as the inspired word of God, some take it more literally than others. Some believe God literally took 6 days to create the world, while others say that timeframe might have been a little longer (maybe even 15 billion years).

Here’s where I have to state my position. Yes, I am a Christian, but I don’t think the “days” in Genesis were 24 hours. You see, in Psalm 90, the psalmist, who really understood the eternal nature of God, says that a 1,000 years to us may be like a single day to God. So I say, 6 days, 1,000 years, or 15 billion years, what does it matter to an eternal God?

Creation and Politics: The Origins of Conflicts

Perhaps the first major conflict between the Genesis creation account and national politics was 1925 Scopes Trial. The state of Tennessee enacted the Butler Act, which prohibited teaching any theory that denied the Biblical account of the origins of humans. John Scopes, a high school teacher, was found guilty after intentionally violating the Act.

After the reading of Genesis from Apollo 8, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist, sued the United States government, alleging that government employees were involved in public prayer in space. While the suit was dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of jurisdiction, this action irritated many Christian religious leaders.

Creation and Politics: The Invention of Creationism, Creation Science and the “Intelligent Designer”

The conflict of evolution vs. Genesis is still alive nearly 80 years on. We now have seen some advocates of a literal reading of Genesis come up with Creationism and Creation Science as “scientific theories” that should be taught side by side the “theory” of evolution.

This is quite an interesting development. While in science, many ideas are called “theories” even if there is a substantial body of empirical evidence supporting the theory, we have seen others throw out these “theories” even though there may be no scientific evidence to support them.

What we see here is the translation of the fair coverage principal in the media (covering each side of a new story) to the realm of science. Only here, fair coverage is expected to apply to whatever crazy “theory” anyone throws out.

More recently is the invention of an “Intelligent Designer” who supposedly worked out all the details of creation. Instead of the random mutations and other incremental changes integral to natural selection in evolution, there was intelligent causes that guided the evolutionary steps.

Another editorial interjection: Personally, I don’t believe in this new-fangled Intelligent Designer, but rather the good old-fashioned Almighty God, Creator of All! In fact, I believe the Christian Right has created a false idol. I believe God the Creator did not have to “sweat the details.” Creation is the product of a loving act of the Creator. When parents create a new life through a loving act, they do not “sweat the details” of their baby. Much the same with creation.

Creation and Politics: Why Does the Right Cling to Creationism?

The easy answer would be votes. A significant number of Christian voters do not believe in evolution, and many are easy votes for the Republicans: if they say “I oppose abortion and gay marriage. I believe in a balanced discussion of evolution” they’ve won a lot of the values voters.

But the second point goes a bit deeper. Creationism or evolution – this is irrelevant to national politics. But global warming is. I’ve seen Creation Science expanded to propose other “theories” on environmental issues form global warming to the extinction of species. Interestingly, these “theories” align with business interests, particularly, the reduction of environmental regulation.

So, here’s the benefit. In another post, I explained how the Bush Administration believes science should not be independent of politics, but should serve the party line. So, creationism is the “gateway theory.” If you can put creationism and evolution as competing theories, you can take theories of global warming or other environmental issues and throw out competing theories. Now you can take any theory from the world of science and, if it conflicts with national policy, simply say “it’s just one theory and here’s another theory.” That’s the wedge.


In the long unfortunate national debate on evolution vs. Biblical creation, we have seen the politicization of science, particularly in the Bush Administration.

What have we lost? We’ve lost the sense of simple reverence and awe on seeing the beauty of our planetary home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Conflict in the Cabinet?

President-elect Barack Obama made an interesting remark about his cabinent choices:

"(I want) strong personalities and strong opinions” to foster robust discussion. “One of the dangers in the White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink and everybody agrees with everything and there’s no discussion and there are no dissenting views,” he said. “So I’m going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House.” But he added: “As Harry Truman said, the buck will stop with me.” [Baker, Peter, “Appointments Begin a New Phase for Obama,” New York Times, Dec. 1, 2008.]

Now some will say that conflict won't work. The President doesn't need advisors who are likely to go off and follow their own policies instead of the President's.

But, I see this as a potential triumph of true democratic thinking -- where policies and decisions arise out of a vigorous discussion of ideas. Where this discussion is not colored or filtered by predetermined political ideology.

This is the strength of democracy: the chance to air a full range of opinions, and then making decisions based on the best ideas and suggestions. This is far superior to a cabinet of loyal “yes-men” and “yes-women” who stay with the party line.

I see this as moving from the “Maoist” approach of the Bush Administration – where the party line came first and everything else followed from that. (Examples: the triumph of political policy over science and the invasion of Iraq: as early as the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, the Administration was looking for an excuse to invade.)

Will it work? Well, we’ll see in 2009.

Monday, December 1, 2008

So, What to Do about Gay Marriage?

In the course of the fall, same-sex marriage (often referred to as "gay marriage") was voted down in California while it became legal in Connecticut and remains legal in Massachusetts. Other states allow a "civil union" or other rights to same-sex couples. (A US map of the current status of such rights can be found at ).

Everyone is familiar with this issue and there is no shortage of strong opinions out there. Before I present my suggestion, I would like to present a brief history of what marriage has been in society. (Note that the state is a relative newcomer.)

A Brief History of Marriage

Forms of committed relationships between a man and woman date back millennia in many cultures. In many of the earlier forms a woman was considered given to a man. In European history, this was often seen as more a business deal, arranged by the families, where the woman may have been given as part of a transaction involving material goods.

Cultural traditions for marriage vary around the world and date back centuries, though the particulars typically evolved over the years. Often religious beliefs or superstitions were entwined in these traditions.

Formal state and/or religious recognition are relatively recent additions. In Europe, the first example of requiring a religious ceremony of marriage was in the Catholic Church, after the 1545 Council of Trent. However, religions ceremonies did occur for centuries before this date, but they were optional. Civil marriages emerged in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s.

The emergence of state recognition of marriage, particularly in Europe, roughly parallels the transition from state religions to tolerance for multiple religious traditions. Before that, the bureaucracy of state and church were so intertwined that the need for separate state involvement was not needed.


In short the controversy over same-sex marriage relates to the state’s involvement in marriage: determining who can marry and under what circumstances. For advocates, it is clear that marriage is yet another right that should not be denied to any group. To the opponents, it is often contrary to deeply held religions beliefs. To some, it just seems strange or they may just feel “it’s not right.”

It is very clear that these positions are irreconcilable.

What to Do?

My proposal is simple: get the states out of the marriage business. A good pragmatic Libertarian has to always ask: “Does it make sense for the state to be involved in this?” I say: “No!”

The states should deal with legal contracts, which is one of the necessities of “being married” -- for example, ownership of common property, joint custody of dependents, rights related to health care, etc. So, I say any couple should be able to draw up a state-recognized legal contract regarding these matters.

And let the marriage ceremony return to the cultural traditions of the couple, be they religious or non-religious. Those traditions that recognize same-sex marriage can perform them; those opposed don’t have to have them.

Freedom and choice for all with no government intervention. That’s my solution.

New Topics for the Lame Duck Season

While we wait for a new administration, the temperatures are dropping, and many Americans are caught up in holiday shopping, I was thinking of filling the time with some hot topics:
  • Gay marriage
  • Science in religion and politics: the real agenda behind "creationism"
  • An honest look at abortion (freed from the dogma and rhetoric of the right and left)

I may start a separate blog for the multi-part series on abortion -- an issue where I've struggled and thought long and hard about it. I will propose the 3rd road (hint: both the right and left are wrong, in my opinion).

Comments are appreciated, even in advance.