Saturday, June 2, 2007

Far and Away

Posting will be sparse for now, as I will have limited computer access. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Tah for now!


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yaron Brook on Dennis Miller Radio

Via Rational Jenn, Yaron Brook, President and Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, got to speak on the Dennis Miller Show today for about 10 minutes. You can skip ahead to 1:14:00 in the program where Miller prefaces his talk with Brook with a quote from Rand about environmentalism from The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Then skip forward to 1:22:00 where the actual interview begins.


Review of John Lewis' Solon the Thinker

The Bryn Mawr Classical Review specializes in the review of scholarly works in the field of classical studies. They recently picked up John Lewis' Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens and wrote about what they had to say regarding his work.

Read Zinon Papakonstantinou's review here.

From a non-academic perspective, as I read Papakonstantinou's review, I can sympathize with Ari Armstrong's sentiment as he talked about Lewis' use of the Greek vocabulary.

I also wish the book had included a more complete glossary of Greek terms. The limited glossary is invaluable for readers who don't know Greek, but often I found myself flipping back several pages to remind myself of the meaning of a term excluded from the glossary.
Being that this is a scholarly review with a focus towards specialists in the field one shouldn't be surprised to see such terms as noos, koros, hubris, and dikê used with the assumption that the reader is acquainted with their usage and meaning. I myself haven't yet had the chance to read Lewis' work but it's definitely on my list. After reading the review I have to agree with the reviewer's evaluation that "this is nevertheless a contribution that will find its place in the ongoing scholarly debates on Solon and archaic political thought."


Monday, May 21, 2007

CBC: Doomsday Called Off

Aired in November 2005, this documentary by the CBC entitled, Doomsday Called Off, shows scientists from around the world sharing real data and statistics refuting claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concerning man’s role in warming the planet.

Link to full video. (Google Video)
Video in parts 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5. (YouTube)


Exposed: The Climate of Fear

On May 2nd, Glenn Beck did an exposé aptly entitled, Exposed: The Climate of Fear. It makes many good points on several issues, like how climate scientists are being kept silent for fear of losing their jobs. The main portion of the exposé goes about illustrating why Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is deliberately misleading in its predictions on global warming effects and how it distorts current science to fit Gore's preconceived solution of government power grabs. Truly, Gore's film is a work of propaganda.

Here is Beck's program, running time 42 minutes.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

The One Minute Case for...

Via David over at Truth, Justice, and the American Way comes a new collaborative blog called The One Minute Case.... What's it all about? From the "About" page:

The One Minute Case will present a brief argument about a controversial issue that can be read in under a minute. The goal is to publish one case per day. You can read the cases to learn something new about an issue or use use them as starter for longer arguments.
They've already got some issues already up for you to read. You can even contribute to this blog yourself by registering on the site and a submitting a case (such as one of the proposed topics) as a comment or email. Sounds easy enough, why not give it a try?


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Armed Forces Day

On this third Saturday of May, I'd like to extend my gratitude to all those in our Armed Forces. It is no easy task that our military men and women risk their lives every day to preserve our highest of values as a nation: freedom. Such dedication in the face of great conflict should be praised in all occasions as profoundly selfish. It demands of all those who serve the recognition that a free nation requires individual heroes to protect her, thank you.

"It is fitting and proper that we devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world." President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

Neither Liberals nor Conservatives Support Our Troops:

[N]either liberals nor conservatives truly support the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend America. For both, "support our troops" is a cheap, undeserved claim to patriotism—one that obscures their unwillingness to do what is truly necessary to protect America and its soldiers.
One does not support our troops by sending them to fight wars of self-sacrifice and then thanking their corpses. The conservatives' call to "stay the course" in Iraq—or to add 20,000 troops to that course—is harmful to America and its troops because the mission has been conceived and conducted in defiance of American interests.
One does not support our troops by keeping them home when their and our freedom requires military action. Our soldiers did not join the military to sit on their hands while Iran prepares for nuclear jihad.
Liberals oppose the Iraq war and other wars, not because they truly value our soldiers, but because they—like the conservatives—oppose our soldiers mounting an uncompromising, self-assertive defense of America. But such a defense is required to defeat the threat of Islamic totalitarianism. We must adopt a foreign policy of self-interest and commit to defend ourselves using our full, unmatched military might. Neither the conservatives nor the liberals support this, and thus they end up sacrificing our troops and our freedom. [emphasis added]
The above article should be required reading, read it all.
Also see Cox & Forkum celebrate Armed Forces Day.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Enemies of Christopher Columbus

Columbus Day is observed on the second Monday in October and although it isn't Columbus Day yet I thought I'd share with you this short sample video (real player) of Thomas Bowden discussing his book The Enemies of Christopher Columbus.

I've been meaning to get this for some time now (anyone care to donate on my behalf?). More and more Columbus is smeared by multiculturalists as a genocidal imperialist. Bowden doesn't see it that way and presents the case in Columbus' defense. From the description of the book:

Was Christopher Columbus a hero or a villain? Was he a brave explorer whose discovery of the New World helped civilize a savage wilderness—or was he a poor lost sailor who stumbled onto occupied territory and helped destroy an Indian paradise?

The Enemies of Christopher Columbus, written in a brisk, question-and-answer format, provides lucid responses to the "politically correct" primitivists who condemn Columbus for having brought civilization to the Western hemisphere.

This new book shows that, contrary to the myths spread by multiculturalism, American Indians did not live in an earthly paradise before Columbus arrived—they were poor, ignorant, scared, superstitious, and cruel. This was not due to any racial or ethnic inferiority but to a lack of civilization. The spread of Western values not only brought enormous new opportunities to the Indians but led eventually to the birth of the United States of America, the greatest nation in world history, where people of every race and ethnicity can live together in peace and prosperity.

This volume also includes excerpts from notable writers such as Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Thomas Jefferson, whose views (unvarnished by "political correctness") on Columbus and on the Indians may startle the modern reader.


Scientists Change Views on Man-Made Warming

An increasing number of scientists studying in the field of global warming are beginning to second guess their initial positions on the commonly held view that global warming is being caused by anthropogenic effects - mainly industrial production of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Listed are thirteen scientists in varying fields which discuss their experience with the "accuracy" of climate science. I recommend you read all their respective backgrounds as they present the information that the media ignore, mainly because it's not sensationalist and can't be covered in a sound bite. To give you a sample:

Environmental geochemist Dr. Jan Veizer, professor emeritus of University of Ottawa, converted from believer to skeptic after conducting scientific studies of climate history. “I simply accepted the (global warming) theory as given,” Veizer wrote on April 30, 2007 about predictions that increasing C02 in the atmosphere was leading to a climate catastrophe. “The final conversion came when I realized that the solar/cosmic ray connection gave far more consistent picture with climate, over many time scales, than did the CO2 scenario,” Veizer wrote. “It was the results of my work on past records, on geological time scales, that led me to realize the discrepancies with empirical observations. Trying to understand the background issues of modeling led to realization of the assumptions and uncertainties involved,” Veizer explained. “The past record strongly favors the solar/cosmic alternative as the principal climate driver,” he added. Veizer acknowledges the Earth has been warming and he believes in the scientific value of climate modeling. “The major point where I diverge from the IPCC scenario is my belief that it underestimates the role of natural variability by proclaiming CO2 to be the only reasonable source of additional energy in the planetary balance. Such additional energy is needed to drive the climate. The point is that most of the temperature, in both nature and models, arises from the greenhouse of water vapor (model language ‘positive water vapor feedback’,) Veizer wrote. “Thus to get more temperature, more water vapor is needed. This is achieved by speeding up the water cycle by inputting more energy into the system,” he continued. “Note that it is not CO2 that is in the models but its presumed energy equivalent (model language ‘prescribed CO2’). Yet, the models (and climate) would generate a more or less similar outcome regardless where this additional energy is coming from. This is why the solar/cosmic connection is so strongly opposed, because it can influence the global energy budget which, in turn, diminishes the need for an energy input from the CO2 greenhouse,” he wrote. [bold added]


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Miller Puts the Nail in Design's Coffin

Kenneth Miller is a prominent biology professor at Brown University who has become known for his defense of evolution and opposition towards the religious façade promoted by creationism and more recently intelligent design. He gained recent recognition when the school board of Cobb County, Georgia decided to put an evolutionary disclaimer sticker on their biology textbook, which was authored by Miller, stating:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
This went to court (Selman v. Cobb County School District) and was initially decided in favor of the plaintiffs and against the sticker. It went through appeals but in 2006 was finally settled out of court in favor of the plaintiffs once again. Miller was one of the expert witnesses who presented testimony to the effect of evolution's validity.

Another more recent court case that was settled before Selman was and received national attention was the 2005 decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. This was an attempt by the Dover school board to have teachers incorporate what they called "intelligent design" into the curriculum. Kenneth Miller was the prosecution's lead expert witness in this case. In the end the judge found intelligent design to be nothing more than creationism's offspring and therefore unconstitutional to teach in schools. Taken from the court's decision:
The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (page 43)

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom. (page 137) [emphasis added]
The reason I mention all this is because I recently came across a lecture Miller gave at Case Western Reserve University a little over a year ago on January 3, 2006. In it, Miller details current evidence to support the theory of evolution. Among such evidence was the recent discovery that the number of human chromosomes (23 pairs) is a result of a pair of ape chromosomes (24 pairs) which had merged together. They were even able to decipher that it was the human chromosome 2 that was the result of the ape merger.

What surprised me in the beginning was how he actually explained that anti-evolutionts were not proponents of science because their foundation is based upon religion. I already knew this fact but what surprised me was that he went on to do what most forget to. He explained what science was and the requirements to test its validity. From his explanation one could then only understand science to be that which studies reality and leaves no room for the supernatural.

Miller goes on to recount his experience refuting intelligent design and the incomprehensibility of their argument. Miller, in essence puts the proverbial nail in the coffin of intelligent design. The lecture is definitely worth watching. The video above is close to two hours but Miller's lecture only comprises the first hour. Miller's lecture is purely a scientific examination on the evidence supporting evolution and so does not get into any philosophic discussion. A caveat of mine as you watch the lecture: The lecture leads off with a prayer asking God to lend his assistance as the attendees discuss the topic of evolution and science in general. Miller also presents himself as a religious scientist. I would advise against making the assumption then that faith and reason were compatible. Miller's personal experience merely represents the partition of the two, to the extent of which he assents, in his cognitive faculty.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Nightline Face-Off - Does God Exist?

Via Goosing the Antithesis, ABC's Nightline recently featured the first in a series of debates for their Face-Off specials. This debate was on the subject of religion and more specifically whether or not God can be proven to exist. Who did they get to debate this issue you ask? For the theist side was Ray Comfort and former Growing Pains actor Kirk Cameron. These are the same people claiming bananas to be the atheist's nightmare and they have put together their own program for spreading evangelism called The Way of the Master. For the atheist side was Brian Sapient and his colleague Kelly from the Rational Response Squad. The RRS has made somewhat a name for themselves by encouraging people to take the blasphemy challenge.

To save you all the time, I'll just say that Comfort and Cameron failed at their task. Of course to all those who understand the universe to be a rationally observable reality this comes as no surprise. After centuries of religious domination and influence and even during the period of Religion's culmination (the Dark Ages) no proof of God's existence has been brought forward and none ever will.

Throughout the video it is evident that Comfort is no intellectual. In the same breath that he promises us not to use the Bible or argue from faith he does just that and continues to do so for the entire debate. From his manner of argumentation you can see that this issue stems from Comfort's ignorance on the very subject of faith and its definition. For an outspoken man of faith to not even know what faith really requires from its observer is astonishing. It's as if his education had stagnated since the fifth grade. For some clarity let's examine what philosopher Ayn Rand said was the essence of faith:

Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason. Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation," or any form of "just knowing." [emphasis original]
The importance of Rand's observation lies in her distinction between the real and non-real. The real is the observable. To see the real all that is required is the use of one's senses. On the other hand, the non-real is the unobservable. To make claim to the unobservable requires man to deny his senses for some other non-rational means of knowledge that is not given by man's nature as a rational animal, i.e., faith. Comfort's abusive equivocation on this matter was evident every time he called into question the atheist validity. For him, learning about history or scientific laws is the same when taken on faith or when it's accounted for as an independent observation of reality.

His counterpart, Cameron, didn't provide any insight either to the discussion. His presence there seemed to be just for parroting Comfort but with more evangelist dressing to it. In his opening remarks, Cameron demonstrated his complete ignorance of the subject matter as he followed his mentor's lead. In those remarks he relates to the audience that he was once an atheist who has since found religion. The problem though is that he equates atheism with evolution. "[A]s a former atheist myself-an evolutionist-..." This should be avoided since atheism in essence has nothing to do with evolution. It doesn't for an individual to assent to evolution or not to be an atheist as there have been atheist prior to Darwin's theory of natural selection. There are many more good arguments taken from a metaphysical and epistemological standpoint to prove that God doesn't exist.

For the atheist side, I wouldn't give them a free pass. They made several arguments I found to be utterly weak and never really correct Comfort on his position of faith. They simply assumed that the audience understood why he was wrong. In a debate setting, correction your opponent's false premise should be key since it would stop them from making similar arguments along those lines. Their statements for a substitute to the morality provided by religious dogma were also egregious since they simply wished to replace God with society.

If you're looking for an intellectual debate on the non-existence of God you won't find it here. This is Nightline we're talking about here. I can't say I watch Nightline too often so its not to smear Nightline's reputation as a responsible media source. It's to merely recognize that such a intricate discussion on the impossibility of God can't be settled by such a setting. It's also reasonable to say that since Comfort and Cameron are by no stretch of the imagination influential intellectuals they can be viewed as merely God's foot soldiers. If we aim to refute their ideas we should cut them off at the root. We need to focus our attention at their intellectual foundation to show them for what they really are. Onward, Christian Soldiers no more; Stand Up for Reason.


Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief

Follow here for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Because the very topic of atheism presupposes the idea of theism, it would be altogether impossible to discuss a history of the origins of atheism purely without the origins of theism and atheism's subsequent outgrowth of it.

Dr. Jonathan Miller put together such a retelling in his documentary, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief. Overall it had some interesting facts on different intellectuals contribution to the subject as he journeyed from country to country. There were also some probing quotes used throughout to highlight these thinkers orientation.

I wouldn't say there was too much to take away from the documentary. It more or less leaves you with the feeling of, "Hmmm, that's nice". The first part was a little "rough" for my taste but the other two parts have a little smoother feel to them as far as merit goes. In case you're wondering, he does concede the issue of Soviet Russia being an atheistic nation. I was disappointed by this error on his part since it only gives credence to more revisionist history. I remember that Dr. Yaron Brook was asked this issue in the Q&A session of the panel discussion Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons held at the University of Southern California.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

John Lewis Lecture Available

Dr. John Lewis' lecture at GMU, "'No Substitute for Victory:' The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism" is now available for listening on the events page at The Objective Standard.

Follow here to listen to Lewis' lecture.


Natural Cycles Affect Climate

Natural weather cycles have been hypothesized and even shown in certain cases to be contributors affecting the Earth's complex climate. These range from the recent theory that variation in the sun's radiation has provided the basis for Earth's very climate to the cycles exhibited by El Niño and Atlantic hurricanes.

There is consensus among NOAA hurricane researchers and forecasters that recent increases in hurricane activity are primarily the result of natural fluctuations in the tropical climate system known as the tropical multi-decadal signal. The tropical climate patterns now favoring very active hurricane seasons are similar to those seen in the late 1920s to the late 1960s. The current active hurricane era began in 1995, meaning the nation is now 11 years into an active era that could easily last several decades (20-30 years or even longer). We can expect ongoing high levels of hurricane activity — and very importantly high levels of hurricane landfalls — as long as the active era continues.
Along the same lines, researchers have found a connection between Northern and Southern Atlantic Ocean circulation and a natural "seesaw" pattern of climate.
After the end of the last Glacial both Hemispheres became warmer as a result of melting ice sheets, but during the last 9000 years we can identify a persistent "seesaw" pattern. When the South Atlantic was warm it was cold in the North Atlantic and vice versa.


Our results from Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha island group, between South Africa and Argentina, for the first time give evidence of warming of the South Atlantic associated with cooling in the north. This is a major breakthrough in palaeoclimate research.
Given the preponderance of these natural cycles being shown to affect localized areas around the globe, isn't it about time for a real look at other theories that ignore this fact. Of course I'm talking about the anthropogenic climate change theory caused by increased in carbon dioxide emissions. Even though carbon dioxide is only a small contributor to whole of greenhouse gases politicians have focused on this molecule. Why is that? Probably because water vapor (the most abundant greenhouse gas) is something that can't be controlled and nobody is going to listen to a politician calling for the explicit destruction of civilization. The solution: damn carbon dioxide since we expel it anyway, we don't need it say the politicians.

The problem is that you're not going to get a fair discussion on climate science while politicians are writing the checks in government, i.e., all means of scientific inquiry are open to free individuals and not subject to political pull or censorship. When science is not directed by the pursuit of independent minds but rather by wetting one's finger and checking the political air for the best wave of support you can be sure that all will suffer the consequences. Just as government shouldn't fund public media it shouldn't be funding science either.


Monday, April 30, 2007

John Lewis and the GMU Fallout

After Dr. John Lewis was rudely uninvited to give his lecture, "'No Substitute for Victory:' The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism" based on his article from The Objective Standard of the same title, he was finally able to get reinvited with the help of the GMU College Republicans who sponsored the event along with the GMU Objectivist Club.

Given this span of time in which to prepare for the lecture, it no doubt allowed other groups, who stated beforehand their opposition to Dr. Lewis' presence on campus, to think of ways to block the free spread of ideas in an institution who's purpose is the dissemination and respect for knowledge. Such contradictions didn't stand in their way. They were going to have their say one way or another. This mentality is what is seriously wrong with college campuses around the country and George Mason University is only a small representation of a wider problem.

The events of the lecture itself have been sufficiently handled by Nicholas Provenzo here and here. Be sure to read the comments in those posts as well since they also elaborate from spectators who were there. Also, you can read about the event from the perspective of GMU BroadsideOnline editor John Grimsley with his article, "No Substitute for Conflict".


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Via LGF comes a video of Abu Izzadeen speaking inside the Regent’s Park Mosque, followed by MPACUK’s reaction to his recent arrest for insighting terrorism. What you'll hear is the honest preaching of a Muslim convert who is not afraid to be consistent in his ideology. He makes no hesitation in clarifying for all those who might believe otherwise that Islam, i.e., religious faith, must be spread by force.

Here's a few highlights said by Izzadeen:

  • "He must support the jihad physically or financially or verbally."
  • "They want Islam to become love and peace. No my dear Muslim brothers. Islam come to dominate the world."
  • "Terrorism is part and parcel of Islam. Terrorism is part of the dean[?] of Islam."


Dr. Peikoff on KVRX

Via Dollars & Crosses, Dr. Peikoff will be interviewed on Austin, Texas, radio station KVRX, 91.7 FM, on Monday, April 30, at 8:00 PM central time. KVRX is a student radio station at the University of Texas. Dr. Peikoff will be on "The Kumar Abhinov Show." Live audiostreaming can be accessed at


Andrea Chénier

This opera first performed in Milan 1896 "is a fiery verisimo work very loosely based on the life and writings of a French poet who was guillotined during the French Revolution."

The tale set against this backdrop is a love story between Chénier and Maddalena. Gérard is in love with Maddalena; in order to get her for himself, he has Chénier arrested. The aria in which he makes this fateful decision is one of the most dramatic in the baritone repertoire: He cynically writes the accusations he knows to be false, then remembers how Chénier himself inspired his now-tarnished revolutionary zeal. Upon learning of Chénier's arrest, Maddalena comes to Gérard for help, telling him of the death of her mother, the loss of her home, and how Chénier's love transformed her life. Though Gérard tries to save Chénier, the hero is condemned at the the corrupt trial, and Maddalena joins him in the prison so that they can die together. Link
The aria that I have found to be the most dramatic and expressive is the one in which Maddalena goes to Gérard and tells of her mother's death ("La Mamma Morta"). The part of Maddalena di Coigny is played by Maria Callas.

As I made mention of a previous aria used in the movies, this too was used in a movie, Philadelphia. Tom Hanks' character (Andrew Beckett) is dying of AIDS and is discussing his trial with Denzel Washington (Joe Miller).

View the scene here.

Hanks does a wonderful job of highlighting the sorrow in the voice of Callas. While telling of the stylistic changes throughout the song we begin to understand the highly integrated thematic portrayal of Maddalena's struggle and desire to save the life of the one she loves.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Faith and Force as Proven Corollaries

Brian Schwartz, via FRODO (Front Range Objectivist Discussion Online), points to a recent study aimed at finding out whether or not religious sanction of violent actions leads to aggressive nature in individuals.

The article, entitled "When God Sanctions Killing: Effect of Scriptural Violence on Aggression", describes how they first split the hundreds of participants into two groups. The first group came from Brigham Young University where 99% stated they believe in God and the Bible. The second group, made up of Dutch students from Vrije University, included 40% non-religious affiliation and the rest consisting of 18% Catholic, 11% Protestant, 12% Muslim, 8% Christian, 2% Hindu, 1% Jewish, and 8% other; 50% said they believed in God, and 27% said they believed in the Bible.

Beforehand the students had read a passage from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament. One half was told it came from Judges while the other half was told it came from an ancient archaeological scroll found in 1984. The students where told a story in which a mob had raped and beaten to death a woman. As a result, the town had to decided what was to be done to those who committed this crime. Inserted in the story for the first half was a passage whose basis came from the Judges passage telling the town to kill those responsible. Thus the students read that God had sanctioned violence against the murder of the woman. The other half were not given this part of the story. Their story simply continued with the town decimating the neighboring town and killing all its inhabitants with no mention of religious sanction.

To test the students response to this reading they were told they were to participate in a time task in which they and their partners would have to press a button as fast as possible. The slower of the two would receive a blast of noise through headphones at a specific level prescribed beforehand by their respective partner ranging from 60 to 105 dB.

Overall, the most aggression was shown by those students who read the bible passage that included God sanctioning violence, and furthermore, among that group, it was those who said they believed in God and the Bible who were most aggressive.

"Even among our participants who were not religiously devout, exposure to God-sanctioned violence increased subsequent aggression. That the effect was found in such a sample may attest to the insidious power of exposure to literary scriptural violence."

The study, however, fails in regards to the information one can take away from this experiment. In its non-judgmental approach it cites The Atlantic Monthly when it states:

Does this ultimately mean that one should avoid reading religious canon for fear that the violent episodes contained therein will cause one to become more aggressive, or that individuals who read the scriptures will become aggressive? Not necessarily. Violent stories that teach moral lessons or that are balanced with descriptions of victims' suffering or the aggressor's remorse can teach important lessons and have legitimate artistic merit (e.g., Stossel, 1997). [citation on study page, added link to May 1997 contents page at The Atlantic Monthly]
The Stossel citation deals with George Gerbner and his work on television and violence. Why is this important? Because, citations like these fail when they forget to make clear the main distinction between the information entailed in the citation and the information detailed in the study itself, thereby blurring one's understanding. The study's main focus was on finding if there was a link between violence and religious sanction of that violence. In other words, does faith necessarily lead to force?

In her article "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World", Ayn Rand described mysticism, i.e., faith, as follows:
Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason. Mysticism is the claim to some non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge, such as "instinct," "intuition," "revelation," or any form of "just knowing." [emphasis original]
She goes on to explain later in the article:
I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication, or understanding are possible. [emphasis original]
As the study shows, out of context references to religious sanction can lead to aggression and violence. However, this should not be used to whitewash religion as benign since you can pick out anything you want from the Bible because it so so contradictory. On the question of religion's fundamental nature this is something that psychology could not attempt to explain. Understanding fundamentals in the field of ideas is the realm of philosophy and can only be explained by reference to a rational standard. Since religion denies such a reference and makes claim to the supernatural it will inevitably lead to violence if practiced consistently as Ayn Rand illustrated.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Relentless Obsession: Documentaries on Islamism

I may be behind the times on this one but the following is still relevant to today's discussion of the threat posed by Islamic Totalitarianism.

I came across a documentary recently entitled, "Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East". It's a 2003 film directed by Wayne Kopping. In it, the documentary discusses the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with much emphasis on the Oslo Accords and a point by point analysis of how the Palestinians failed to adhere to the agreed terms in the Accords even to the point of using "peace" as a weapon against Israel. The Palestinian methods of suicide bombings, child propaganda, and the open celebration of murder in their culture is utterly horrific and is detailed in the films account. One such example is of a walk-through "art" exhibit made by Palestinians of a pizzeria suicide bombing in 2001 (~min. 42 in film). This film makes real the results brought about by a culture's view of life based upon the death premise i.e., to be motivated by the destruction of the values that make life possible. For further insight into the death premise see Onkar Ghate's essay "The Death Premise in We the Living and Atlas Shrugged" in Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living.

Seeing as this was a documentary meant to put forth the events that led to present day Israel and not an editorialization I can understand why the film made no warning of compromising with your enemies. Since the act of compromise on issues of fundamentals between good and evil only lead to the benefit of evil it should be stated in no uncertain terms that such actions will not be taken by any government that respects individual rights. However, it is my opinion that the film loses much of its sting when at the end of the documentary, after a mother who lost her son to a suicide bomber says that the fighting will not end until the world stands up and fights terror, we are given this quote by President John F. Kennedy: "Peace does not lie in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of the people." This was definitely poor judgment on the filmmakers part and should be an affront to all those who realize that the initiation of force should be met with force, as the mother stated, not with diplomatic overtures.

The second film is called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West directed by the same Wayne Kopping in 2005. Apparently the film was on YouTube for a while when it was first heard of on the web but was quickly taken down as it violated copyright. I'm not sure why the previous documentary is viewable for that matter and yet there it is. As such, I have not seen it myself but it is described on the site as

Using images from Arab TV, rarely seen in the West, Obsession reveals an ‘insider's view' of the hatred the Radicals are teaching, their incitement of global jihad, and their goal of world domination. With the help of experts, including first-hand accounts from a former PLO terrorist, a Nazi youth commander, and the daughter of a martyred guerilla leader, the film shows, clearly, that the threat is real.
Related to this are clips from Islam: What the West Needs to Know over at Student of Objectivism.