27 May 2005

Memorial Day: A High Holy Day

I heard today, again, that tired old assertion that the only reason people join the military is because they are so poor they have no other option. I hate that notion. I grew up poor. I joined the Army at age 18. Now, while it is true that I did get a pretty good deal, financially, it is not true that I joined in order to finance an education.

In one of the great ironies of life, the greatest reasons I had for joining was my Vietnam-War-protesting mother. Don't get the wrong idea: my mother was not anti-military or unqualifiedly anti-war. She really didn't have a problem, in theory, with our presence in Vietnam. So what was her problem? Our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors were not being allowed to do what she had every confidence that they could do: win. It would have been different had our military people been there to do something other than just get killed.

This attitude was rooted in tremendous respect for the military. "Baby killer" never came out of her mouth. And she did not permit her children to talk about the military, especially the people who serve, in any but a respectful manner. Unlike, Bill Clinton, my mother did not loathe the military--quite the opposite in fact.

It is said that young boys tend to have a certain respect for what their mothers respect in other men. I learned by at least age twelve that my mother had a genuine liking for men in the military. And I don't mean that she "had a thing" for men in uniform. So it was that at age twelve I made the decision that I would serve at least one "hitch" in the military--especially if I could be allowed to serve on tanks, which I was.

In another one of those ironies of life, my mother was quite upset when at age eighteen I made good on my resolve--which, apparently, I neglected to share with her. I say it is an irony because the woman who was upset by my enlistment really had no one to blame but herself! To be fair, it wasn't my enlisting, in and of itself, that bothered her. She couldn't understand why it had to be tanks. Couldn't I do something else? I told her that if I was going to be in the Army, and feel that it was worthwhile for me to be, it was going to be one of the combat arms. I wasn't joining the Army to get job training. (Not that I take a dim view of those who join the Army and do not serve in combat arms: I have very little patience for administration type things; if the job is break and or otherwise damage stuff (or people) I can do it. Ask my wife; she'll tell you.)

My mother was afraid that, because the world was, shall we say, a rather "warm" place in 1983, I would see combat. She was wrong. I missed the Gulf War by about two years. I would like to believe that had she been right, and I did see combat and die in it, she would not have shamed me the way some parents are doing right now as the war in Iraq goes on.

This Memorial Day will find me, as it has each year since the war began, and as it did during the Gulf War, feeling something a bit like survivor's guilt. It is said that no man in his right mind wants to be in a war, and I believe it. But there are times when I would rather be in it than watching from the sidelines. After all, for all our past sins--and we can be reminded of them everyday--there is still much good about, and in, this country, and it is worth fighting for. And remember those who have done so is what has always made this weekend a high holy day.

19 May 2005

"Evolutionism" vs. "Creationism" is really atheology vs. theology"

"Evolutionism" vs. "Creationism" is really atheology vs. theology"

I have long suspected that the real issue in debates between evolutionary theorists and intelligent design (or creation) theorists isn't really science as such. This is for two reasons. First: the way "science" is talked about is problematic because it is talked about as if it is an objective reality that has a substantial existence and can be described as having certain properties. (I'll say more about this later.) Second: the things that evolutionists say about creationists and creationism (and intelligent design) are revelatory.

Anyone familiar with the controversy knows at least some of the factual matters. Both sides claim that the facts support them. But evolutionists offer one argument that is scientifically irrelevant. The argument I have in mind is the one that asserts that intelligent design/creation can't be taught in public schools because of the supposed separation [yawn] of church and state. What this means, when we think about it, is simply this: Should the day ever come when a majority of "scientists" give credence to the idea that the universe gives evidence of design, or even of having been created, it still will not be taught in schools. In other words, although (in the scenario I've just outlined) scientists no longer believe in it, evolution will continue to be taught because of the separation of church and state. But RedStateRabble has really helped me out here by admitting that atheology is at least one motive:

A few blocks from our Kansas home, in a field near the elementary school both of Red State Rabble's daughters attended, is a small limestone outcroping. Over the years, we've often walked the dogs there, and sat a moment to rest and wonder at the fossil shells embeded in that sedimentary rock.... RSR has seen the excitement and curiosity in our daughter's eyes at the sight of marine fossils so far from the sea. The worst thing about intelligent design, and its country cousin, creationism, is that it seeks, quite openly, to deny our children a chance to experience for themselves that sense of wonder and to replace it with some stern, all-knowing, Old Testament God. (RedStateRabble,"The Worst Thing About Intelligent Design," 10 May 2005, http://redstaterabble.blogspot.com, emphasis mine.)

Now, just so we're clear on my thinking here: When someone says, as RSR does that "The worst thing about intelligent design, and its country cousin, creationism, is that it seeks, quite openly, to deny our children a chance to experience for themselves that sense of wonder and to replace it with some stern, all-knowing, Old Testament God" this tells me exactly where he is coming from. And RedStateRabble isn't coming from science first. He's coming from atheology first.

By the way, it is clear that RedStateRabble, has no idea what being a Christian theist is all about when it comes to wonder. Had he read no more than Psalm 19 and Romans 1 he would know that being a Christian theist involves a great deal of wonder with respect to nature. But then he really doesn't care about truly understanding his opponent's position.
13 May 2005

Evolution, ID, and relevant comparisons

A blog site called RedStateRabble, displays a poster, critical of Intelligent Design. The poster is divided into two columns. In the column labelled INTELLIGENT DESIGN we find nothing. But in the column labelled SCIENCE we find:

*Absolute Zero -- William Thomson Kelvin
*Anesthetic -- Crawford Long
*Anthrax vaccine -- Louis Pasteur
*Atomic theory -- John Dalton
*Australopithecus -- Raymond Dart
*Bacteria -- Anton van Leeuwenhoek
*Benzine wing -- Friedrich Kekule
*Beta Rays -- Ernest Rutherford
*Big bang -- Ralph Alpher; George Gamow
*Blood groups -- Karl Landsteiner
*Continental drift -- Alfred Wegener
*Cosmic Radiation -- Victor Hess
*Dinosaur fossil (first) -- Mary Ann Mantell
*DNA doulbe helix -- Francis Crick; James Watson
*Doppler effect -- Christian Doppler
*Earth magnetic pole -- Gerardus Mercator
*Eclipse Prediction -- Thales of Miletus
*Electromagnetic Induction -- Michael Faraday
*Electron -- J.J. Thomson
Evolution -- Charles Darwin
*Fallopian tubes -- Gabriello Fallopius
*Geometry -- Euclid
*Germ theory -- Louis Pasteur
*Gravity laws -- Isaac Newton
*Homo erectus -- Marie Dubois
*Hormones -- Willian Bayliss; ernest Startling
*Hubble's law -- Edwin Hubble
*Insulin isolation -- Frederick Banting; Charles Best
*Irrational numbers -- Hipparcos
*Jupiter's satellites -- Galileo
*Krypton -- William Ramsay; Morris Travers
*Light polarization -- Christiaan Huygens
*"Lucy" hominid -- Donald Johanson
*Mendel's law -- Gregor Mendel
*Motion laws -- Isaac Newton
Natural selection -- Charles Darwin
*Neptune -- Johann Galle
*Nerve impulses -- Luigi Galvani
*Neutron -- James Chadwick
*Nitrogen -- Daniel Rutherford
*Nuclear atom concept -- Enest Rutherford
*Nuclear fission -- Otto Hahn; Fritz Strassman
*Ohm's law -- Georg Ohm
*Oxygen -- Joseph Priestly
*Ozone layer -- Charles Fabry
*Penicillin -- Alexander Fleming
*Periodic table of elements -- Dmitri Mendeleyev
*Planets orbiting sun -- Copernicus
*Polio vaccine -- Jonas Salk
*Proton -- Ernest Rutherford
*Quantum electrodynamics -- Richard Feynman
*Quark -- Murray Gell Mann?; George Zweig?
*Quasar -- Maaden Schmidt
*Rabies vaccine -- Louis Pasteur
*Radio waves -- Heinrich Hertz
*Relativity -- Albert Einstein
*Saturn's satellites -- Christiaan Huygens
*Smallpox innoculation -- Edward Jenner
*Sunspots -- Galileo; Christoph Scheiner
*Superconductivity -- Heike Kamerlingh Onnes
*Transformer -- Michael Faraday
*Tuberculosis -- Albert Calmette Camille Guérin
*Uranus -- William Herschel
*Virus (first identified) -- Martinus Beijerink?
*Vitamim C -- Charles Glen King?; Albert Szent Gyorg?
*Wave mechanics -- Enwin Schrödinger
*X-rays -- Wilhelm Röentgen

Because the issue, with respect to Intelligent Design, is (arguably!) limited to origins, I have placed an asterisk (*) beside those discoveries which are irrelevant to the question. I mean, really, Lord Kelvin would surely have discovered absolute zero if the universe, and all the life within it, had been created, instead of having evolved. The same goes for atomic theory: God created matter; this cannot in any way invalidate the claim that the things we see are comprised of smaller things that we cannot see. Surely Michael Faraday's development of the transformer would have happened on creationist presuppositions. Relativity certainly does not depend upon evolution for its truth. Neither does superconductivity! (Give me a close, personal break.)

To assert that "intelligent design" has made no discoveries, while "science" has is to obfuscate the issue. If "intelligent design" is a hypothesis, or even a theory, about origins (and it really isn't, in its entirety), then it ought to be compared not with every other theory in the entire domain of scientific endeavor, but rather only with another hypothesis or theory about origins. So the thing to do would be to compare the discoveries of "evolution" with those of "intelligent design".

In my first philosophy class I learned that comparisons must be between relevantly similar points. Lumping every other so-called discovery with evolution, calling that lumping-together "science" and then comparing that lumping-together with a hypothesis or theory competing with evolution--and only with evolution, we should point out--is to engage in persuasive definition. After all, given that creationists and ID adherents have a problem with one and only one scientific theory, it is illegitimate to create the impression that they are anti-science.

One theory. You disagree with one theory. That makes you anti-science. Methinks they protest too much.

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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