Sunday, June 28, 2009

Godlessness and Science

I finally got around to reading Ann Coulter's Godless:The Church of Liberalism. This is a book that I really wanted to like. I usually agree with Ms. Coulter's points of view even though I don't always agree with how she presents them. My biggest beef is she has the bad habit of grouping the entire opposition to her point of view and making broad and grand statements about them. Coulter's works are littered with phrases starting with "Liberals think..." as if she wants us to believe not only that she knows what everybody thinks, but why they think this way. In taking such a stand, she sets herself up for scrutiny.

On the other hand, her sharp wit, while irksome to many, is one reason I like reading her. Some of these topics can get a little dry but Coulter always manages to keep it interesting. It is also very apparent that she researches her material. Just about everything she points out can is referenced in her notes. Evidence of her accuracy can be found in the fact that virtually all criticism of Ms. Coulter seems to be in the form of personal attacks.

Now to the book. Chapter one explains the title of the book and why she calls liberals "Godless". She goes on to call liberalism itself, a religion, complete with its own dogma, priests, accounts of creation and human destiny. Chapters two through six explore common points of argument between the right and left - topics like crime, education, and abortion. Here, Coulter really shines. She does a great job of pointing out why the views of the left on these issues are just ridiculous. For the most part, she didn't really go into linking liberal beliefs to religion. In other words, she didn't really stick to her primary topic, but nevertheless, the arguments were spot on.

All this was just a warm up session, though. The rest of the book is where it seems to me that the real drive behind the book is. One of the common arguments of the left is that the right doesn't believe in science. Coulter is determined to turn that argument around. Today, most of this argument concerns global warming, er climate change. In Godless, Coulter doesn't get into this. Instead, she goes into the long debated argument regarding evolution versus creationism.

This was the part I really looked forward to. Coulter, one by one, defeats just about every argument of Darwin. She does this with facts about research others have done. Personally, I knew about some of the problems with Darwinism but the body of evidence Coulter presents is compelling.

I don't dispute any of her arguments. What I do dispute is her conclusion. Darwinism may not be true but that doesn't mean that science or evolution cannot account for the reason we are here. She doesn't actually say it, but I get the feeling that Coulter feels that since there are so many holes in Darwinism, that must mean that science has failed in explaining creation and therefore, we must just accept that "God did it." Coulter falls into her own trap where it's obvious that she doesn't understand science either.

Just as those who accuse creationists of being anti-science or say things like "evolution is a fact", it is equally incorrect to say that science doesn't work because of a theory being disproved. That's the whole point of science. Science isn't truth. Science isn't fact. Science is a path to discovery that is based more on failure than it is on success. Darwin's assertions may be largely disproved, but in the very least, they put us on a path. Because of this path, we know a hell of a lot more than we used to and more importantly, we understand more about what we do not know. Science will come up with better theories based upon knowledge of the failed ones.

Let's imagine a conversation in the middle ages where a budding scientist meets Anneth of Coulter. Anneth believes in the traditional "God painted the sky blue." dogma.

Scientist: Have you heard the latest scientific theory about why the sky is blue? We now believe that there is a giant sapphire in the sky. Our instrumental readings indicate that the sky color is consistent with that of a sapphire.

A of C: There are many holes in that theory. Haven't you heard that some scientists have discovered gravity and that means it would be impossible for a sapphire of the mass required to fill the sky with a blue color to exist?

Scientist: So you are saying that I need to account for gravity and come up with a better theory?

A of C: No, obviously science can't explain why the sky is blue because God did it.

Again, Godless is a worthwhile read. I just don't agree with its conclusions.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Economic Recovery

I found an interesting tale on the Internet. It had a European flavor so I changed a few details and embellished the story a bit.

There is a small town in Ohio where the recession has hit particularly hard. The local factory had closed. Few are working and everybody is in debt.

An out-of-towner driving through the town sees Harriet's Antique shop and stops. He sees a 1950's era Wurlitzer jukebox and asks Harriet how much it costs. Harriet says it's in perfectly working condition and the price is $20,000. The man winces a bit but really wants it. He sighs and agrees and writes a $20,000 check.

Harriet cashes the check and pays her landlord, Hank $10,000 in back rent she owed. She also pays 5 other people she owed money to a total of $5000. Then Hank pays the local restaurateur, Ellen the entire $10,000 and squares away his debt.

Ellen, with much of the town out of debt, does very good business that week at her restaurant. She does so well that she is able to pay Harriet, the $20,000 she owed in antiques decorations for her restaurant.

At the end of that week, the out-of-towner returns to the antique shop and says his wife won't let him keep the Wurlitzer. Harriet returns the $20,000.

There was no profit or income.

But everyone no longer has any debt and the small townspeople look optimistically towards their future.