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".

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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."



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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 http://kvrx.org/.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Marriage of Figaro

I thought I might quickly share with you some truly beautiful singing. It comes from Mozart's opera, The Marriage of Figaro and is taken from the aria in the 3rd act entitled, "Duettino - Sull'aria". You might recognize it from the movie The Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins' character, "Andy Dufresne" plays a record of it over the loud speakers of the prison yard. Of course that version was sung by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz.



Dame Kiri Te Kanawa & Ileana Cotrubas

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Eric Daniels to Speak Bostonian

Find out if he will be pahking his cah in Hahvihd Yahd. My guess, probably not since he'll actually be at Tufts University giving his lecture:

The Morality of Capitalism

Who: Dr. Eric Daniels, speaker for the Ayn Rand Institute

What: A talk explaining why capitalism is the only moral social system

When: Monday, April 16, at 7:30 PM

Where: Tufts University, Barnum 104, 163 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA 02155

Admission is FREE.

Description: Despite the enormous success of American capitalism at producing material abundance and political freedom, critics continue their assault on the system, calling it immoral. In this lecture, Dr. Eric Daniels makes the case that capitalism is the only moral social system. He also examines the conventional defense of capitalism, which relies on the practical, economic argument, and illustrates why only a defense of pure laissez-faire capitalism can succeed.

Bio: Dr. Eric Daniels is a visiting scholar at Clemson University's Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He taught for five years at Duke University, in the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, and at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate in American history. He has lectured internationally on the history of American ethics, American business and legal history, and the American Enlightenment. Daniels's publications include a chapter in "The Abolition of Antitrust" and five entries in the "Oxford Companion to United States History."
I recently purchased Eric Daniels' entire lecture series on The History of America. I've only made it through part 1 (1607-1763) so far and from what I can tell Dr. Daniels is a great speaker, able to present the key events in a logical fashion. By presenting these historical events in their respective context he is able to explain the ideas that lead to them. Understood in this manner it is not hard to see how man is an integrated whole, mind and body, where actions follow from the ideas that give rise to them. I'm sure if there were philosophy classes in high school and those classes were teaching a rational basis of man's knowledge there would be more respect and a heightened interest in all other subject matter including history.

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The ARI Wrap Up

Some interesting new finds at the Ayn Rand Institute:

The first site is designed to introduce new readers, specifically students, to the novels and ideas of Ayn Rand. It provides an essentialized, easy to view guide for users to navigate and explore. It features most of the same content that is presented on the Institute's site but there is also some new features as well. A couple such features include a look at why her philosophy is unique, differing from all other philosophies before it and a look at her unique novels . A section discussing her approach to philosophy:
To most modern philosophers philosophy is disconnected from life—nothing more than an analysis of language, or speculation about the unknowable, or an intellectual game—which is why most people think philosophy is “just a lot of theory” (i.e., a waste of time).

To Ayn Rand, by contrast, philosophy is a matter of life and death. On her view, philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man and of man’s relationship to existence. “A philosophy,” such as Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, is a systematic, integrated view of existence—what used to be called “a philosophy of life.” Far from being a useless game, philosophy, to Ayn Rand, is the determining factor in an individual’s character and happiness and in every aspect of a culture, including history, politics, education. Philosophic ideas are important because one’s life is important, and philosophy is a practical necessity for living.[emphasis added]
It is exactly this approach and the certainty with which Ayn Rand conveys it that attracts so many individuals to her philosophy and view of life.

The second site is actually a part of all those mail-in inserts found in all of Ayn Rand's books. It takes you to a single page informational request form as part of the ARI. But the kicker is that you can receive a free audiocassette copy of Ayn Rand's address given to the USMA graduating class at West Point, entitled "Philosophy: Who Needs It".

The last link refers to the panel discussion I mentioned previously. Those at the ARI seem to be making an exception in this instance by providing this streaming lecture available to everyone even if you're not a registered user. Considering the nature of the lecture and its widespread mention in the blogosphere this seems rather apt. But of course I must invite any non-registered visitors to take the time to register. There are many more valuable lectures available on that page.

Updates: minor grammatical errors

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

GoodSearch: Donate By the Keystroke

As many people before have pointed out, I went to the GoodSearch search page to check things out and see what all the talk was about. Mike's Eyes urges all to make this unique site their primary search engine.

The way they hope to draw people in and utilize their search engine is the prospect of helping out their favorite charity/organization. By performing a single search you can help out your organization. Every search you perform GoodSearch agrees to make a 1 cent donation. Being the biased person I am I chose the Ayn Rand Institute as my favorite organization and the searches appear to be adding up. Under the charity/organization you choose you can follow its yearly and even monthly progress by clicking on the "Amount Raised" button.

I also went ahead and added a GoodSearch logo button to the side bar with the ARI charity ID attached to it. That means anyone who wants to perform a search can simply click on that link and search right away without having to select the ARI beforehand. Just thought I'd simplify things for all my readers out there.

I've been using GoodSearch for the past few days now and I'm pretty satisfied with the results. It's powered by Yahoo! so it's not some unknown search engine with limited reliability. Before I was using Google, or as our Commander-in-Chief likes to say "the Google", so it took me a little effort to get used to the different color scheme but it didn't take much to get used to again. Plus it's pretty much the same layout as Google so it shouldn't be that hard to switch over for other users. I like the fact that you have the option to use a built-in toolbar for your own web browser that they provide. Of course I might have to go over to Google to use some of their features such as narrowing my search to specific media, e.g., news or blogs.

All in all I'm pleased with GoodSearch and its ability to enable its users a way in which to donate to their most valued organizations especially the Ayn Rand Institute. In today's current climate, nothing could be more selfish than donating to the ARI.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Egg Hunt Begins at 14:00

Think you know about the 10 Commandments? Guess again.

Don't forget to check out Glen & Gary and Glen & Ross and Must Love Jaws. Even though they're not easter related they're still pretty funny. Enjoy!

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Thinning the Paint Herd

Johnathan Alder over at The Volokh Conspiracy points to Ohio's latest attempt to out do itself in expanding government powers.

Isn't there a statute of limitations on such litigation? Although it might not be so simple and may have something to do with a similar case in Rhode Island:

The Ohio litigation follows a state court verdict in Rhode Island in 2005 that found three defendants, including Sherwin-Williams, responsible for lead hazards in an estimated 240,000 homes. The verdict, based on the same theory now being tried in Ohio, has been appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
As well as recent legislation in Ohio that would appear to nullify any concern for a time limitation.
Under S.B. 117, individuals who are harmed by lead-based paint can still sue the paint manufacturers
Being a native Ohioan, its not surprising to hear stuff like this and that's what is disheartening. It was some time ago, but you couldn't turn on the news without hearing about our own Governor being convicted of ethics violations and the infamous Coingate scandal. It's a good thing state politics doesn't interest me all that much.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Couch Potatoes Unite!

Television made its way onto the American scene on April 7, 1927 thereby changing the way in which we view the world.

[A] group of newspaper reporters and dignitaries gathered at the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories auditorium in New York City to see the first American demonstration of something new: television. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover provided the “entertainment,” as his live picture and voice were transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C., to New York.

“Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world’s history,” Hoover said. “Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown.”

Here, you can view a simulation of the picture quality as well as film footage demonstrating the broadcast itself. We've certainly come a long way since then.

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Friday, April 6, 2007

Wine Industry Turns Its Nose at Ladybugs

Ever wonder what makes ladybugs so smelly? A team of researchers reports to have set off to find the answer and comes back with some surprising results.

Of the 38 compounds identified, [Lingshuang] Cai determined that 2,5-dimethyl-3-methoxypyrazine (DMMP), 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine (IPMP), 2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine, and 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine play a major role. The overall smell is a mixture of nutlike, green bell pepper, potato, and moldy odors. At the concentrations present in ladybug emissions, the mixture is "really stinky," Cai said.
As a consequence of this research it is hoped that the wine industry can use this information to improve the quality of production. These insects are known to feed off of grapes in vineyards and can contaminate the wine if they are processed along with them. Now that the offending chemicals are known, any such tainted wine could be refined and its effects nullified. Cheers!

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Personal Transmutation

As part of the natural process of getting older, growing up, maturing or however you may describe it, it becomes essential to ask questions. Since man is a being of volitional consciousness and not born with innate ideas, it is proper for him to find answers to the questions we face every day. By doing so, we come to learn more about ourselves and what we value in life. These values give our lives focus and as a result an unfettered pleasure. Not a pleasure that is born out of whim and ephemeral but one for which we can evaluate our lives by as if to say, "This, is what life is meant to offer. This is my life."

I think one of the things that helps us to conceptualize this idea is for people to have a favorite quote. Quotes are usually taken to form the essence of another's theme, argument, or speech. In a way they can be thought of as Matryoshka dolls, relating one idea to a vast number of supporting ideas. I myself have a favorite quote, one that is from Ayn Rand's essay "The 'Inexplicable Personal Alchemy'" in her non-fiction book The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.

There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days—the conviction that ideas matter. In one’s youth that conviction is experienced as a self-evident absolute, and one is unable fully to believe that there are people who do not share it. That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one's mind matters. And the radiance of that certainty, in the process of growing up, is the best aspect of youth.
I like this quote because it says a lot about today's current culture even 38 years after the essay's publication. From an early age, young minds strive to understand this world we live in. Their most direct form of knowledge is first-hand by that which they perceive. Percepts are an absolute, they can't change their identities, i.e. A is A. From this frame of reference the young mind begins to conceptualize and abstract principles that will hopefully, he thinks, allow him to grasp greater truths about reality. Obviously, not everyone thinks in these terms but implicit throughout is the fact that ideas are what drive action and as Rand stated "the conviction that ideas matter".

Unfortunately, this is not a self-actuating process. As said before, since man's consciousness is volitional and he is therefore fallible, he must always check his ideas by an objective standard. He must know that his ideas have validity in reality and are not subjective constructs of his own mind. It is usually later in life that we begin to see individuals who have defaulted on the responsibility to think, to take ideas seriously. They begin to doubt in man's ability to grasp facts about reality because they lose objectivity. When this happens they think that man must cheat reality in order to live.

From today's dominant morality of altruism this is most evident. Altruism states that man must sacrifice for others as the standard of good. So if sacrifice is always the good, then anything that is done for ourselves-be it the wealth we accumulate, the food we eat, or the house we live in-is what we do by way of stealing or cheating reality in order to go on living. All of this, as a consequence instills uncertainty in a person's mind. It is the "original sin" made real as sanctioned by that individual.

This gray is what makes it so contrast with that of the youth's radiance in Rand's quote and what in essence is Rand's method of thought in her writings. This to me this is what many people find appealing in her writings. Of course this is only one aspect of her writings, as there are many others well worth of note. But they are for another time.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Now For Something Completely Different...

Being around chemistry geeks, you come across some interesting stuff along the way. First there was Robert Palmer's 1985 video, "Addicted to Love" then it was Shania Twain's 1999 "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" (granted not a parody), now it's "Resistant to Base"



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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Separation of School and State

As part of the 2007 Lecture Series at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), C. Bradley Thompson's lecture entitled, "The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools" is now available to registered users at the ARI. Those not registered can go here to get registered.

Thompson's lecture is also available for purchase (DVD/CD) at the Ayn Rand Bookstore and is described as:

Why do so many Americans—liberal and conservative—support a compulsory system of government-run education? What role should the State play in educating America’s children? Are government schools compatible with a free society? Is it possible to have a free market in education?

In this lecture Dr. C. Bradley Thompson, Professor of Political Science at Clemson University, examines the destructive effects of "public" education in America. He critiques the principal assumptions behind government schooling (e.g., that children have a "right" to an education and that government schools are for the "public good"). And he calls for the abolition of all government schools. Thompson presents a principled argument for a free market in education that begins with the rights and responsibilities of parents to provide for the education of their own children.

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Global Warming Is Not a Crisis: A Debate

Adding to the list of debates/discussions I've been mentioning here so far, I came across one involving global warming, via World Climate Report. It was distributed by NPR which provides an edited 50 minute broadcast as well as the unedited 90 minute version. As an interesting note, before and after the debates, the host Intelligence Squared, polls the audience for their vote on the motion. For this specific debate the results were as follows (before, after):

Those for the motion: _____29.88, 46.22%
Those against the motion: _57.32, 42.22%
Those undecided: ________12.80, 11.56%
Apart from the opening statements there wasn't too much in-depth analysis of scientific data. I would say it was more talking at crossed purposes. What is needed in any type of debate like this is an agreed upon frame of reference. The panelists mentioned "consensus" several times. In fact, you can hear it everyday from news reports about climate science. But what is really needed is for consensus to be demystified.

George Musser attempts to do just that in his post over at Scientific America. He points out that consensus should not be understood as arbitrary groupthink but instead that, "[w]hen scientists use this term, they mean it to say that certain scientific questions have been settled to most people's satisfaction and that it's time to move on to other questions."

On the surface, this idea makes sense. Scientists perform experiments that attempt to explain causal phenomena in reality. An experiment's validity rest on the fact that it is reproducible for others to investigate and analyze. But unlike most other fields of science, climatology is the least predictable. It involves a vast array of complex interrelated variables that is hard enough for meteorologists to decipher for one week, let alone climatologists for 100 years. In science, uncertainty is involved with every measurement taken and reports projecting well into the future assume broad uncertainty in their results. So when people read about how climate models are constructed, how their parameters don't even begin to mirror reality, e.g. cloud cover held constant over time, and are only a "best guess" there is bound to be hesitancy on the view of consensus.

It should also be remembered that the consensus science that is touted by the advocates of measurable anthropogenic climate change is not as pure as they make it be. As politically controversial as the subject as become it is only natural for the science itself to be influenced by the structure that makes it possible. In recent weeks there have been complaints put forth against the Bush administration for suppressing specific climate science that it finds objectionable. Whether or not this is true, it should give people pause to consider whether it is a legitimate responsibility of the government to be in the business of science. Projects that are considered for funding by the government will naturally use political pull to get that funding. This also is a double edged sword. By using limited funds for research, approving funding for one project will always deny funding for others.

I found this argument to be well presented in Patrick Michaels' Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Instead what is needed is a radically different way in which we view government and its natural responsibility. Otherwise as Ayn Rand pointed out in her essay "The Nature of Government" in The Virtue of Selfishness, "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."

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Monday, April 2, 2007

Trial Balloon Continues To Sail

Only befitting a man who--wins a rigged election, declares to wipe Israel off the map, claims nuclear energy for peace while shouting "Death to America!", offers Americans the rope to kill themselves with, initiates proxy wars through Hezbollah and Hamas against free individuals, and aims to spread a global caliphate--can we expect such brazen displays off force shown when Iran captured 15 British servicemen and holds them hostage.

This is obviously not a simple border dispute. If it were, Iran would have simply informed the British vessel it was in their territory and advised them to leave. Such action would not have garnered such attention as it has now. Instead this is Iran thumbing its nose at Western governments and on a much larger scale it's an attempt to see what they can get away with.

As Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, pointed out:

The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.
Of course the worst part of the story is the U.K.'s response to its aggressors. Instead of showing the full support for its citizens lives and issuing a direct ultimatum backed by the threat of force, the British government thinks it can better resolve the situation with diplomacy. Since this demonstration of force is more a test of British conviction, is diplomacy really going to better London in the long term? How long before it's too late will Iran be allowed to fester?

In the mean time Cox & Forkum offers a therapeutic alternative.

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Panel Discussion & Wafa Sultan

Just an early reminder for those in the area not to forget about this panel discussion hosted by UCLA.

Totalitarian Islam's Threat to the West


Who: Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum
Dr. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute
Dr. Wafa Sultan, outspoken critic of Islam and author of the forthcoming
book "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster"

What: A panel discussion on the threat of Islamic totalitarianism and how to deal with it

Where: UCLA Campus: Moore 100, Los Angeles, CA

When: Thursday, April 12, 2007, at 7:00 PM

Admission is FREE.

Description: From the Iranian hostage crisis to September 11 to the London subway attacks to the Iraqi insurgency--it is clear the West faces a grave threat from a committed enemy. Conventional wisdom holds that the enemy is a rogue group of fanatics, who have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their crimes. It tells us there is no way to permanently eliminate these violent groups, that we have entered an "age of terror" and that we must give up the desire for a decisive victory.

But is the conventional wisdom right?

A distinguished panel of Middle East experts will provide new and illuminating answers to the most important questions of our time: Is the West ready to concede victory so easily? Are the terrorists a fringe group of fanatics, or are they part of a much wider ideological movement? What threat do they pose to the West? What can the West do to ensure victory? Is peace possible?

While the experts will answer these complex questions from diverse points of view, they all agree on one thing: Islamic totalitarianism is a real threat, and the right response necessitates engaging in a principled, ideological battle to defend the West from the jihad declared against it.

Speakers' Biographies:

Dr. Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and a recognized Middle-East expert who has written and lectured on a variety of Middle-East issues. Dr. Brook has served in the Israeli Army and has discussed the Israeli-Arab conflict and the war on Islamic totalitarianism on hundreds of radio and TV programs, including FOX News (The O'Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, At Large with Geraldo Rivera), CNN's Talkback Live, CNBC's Closing Bell and On the Money, and a C-SPAN panel of experts on terrorism.

Dr. Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum. He taught history at the University of Chicago and at Harvard University, and lectured on policy and strategy at the Naval War College. He currently teaches at Pepperdine University. Dr. Pipes is the author of twelve books and numerous articles. He is a columnist for the New York Sun and he appears weekly in Israel's Jerusalem Post, Italy's L'Opinione, Spain's La Razón, and monthly in the Australian and Canada's Globe and Mail. His Web site, DanielPipes.org, is among the most accessed Internet sources of specialized information on the Middle East and Islam. Mr. Pipes has appeared on ABC World News, CBS Reports, Crossfire, Good Morning America, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Nightline, O'Reilly Factor, The Today Show, the BBC and Al Jazeera.

Dr. Wafa Sultan is a secular Syrian-American writer and thinker, Dr. Sultan is known for her participation in Middle East political debates, widely circulated Arabic essays and television appearances on Al Jazeera, CNN and Fox News. Dr. Sultan was shocked into secularism by the atrocities committed against innocent Syrian people by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1979, including the machine-gun assassination of her professor in front of her eyes at the University of Aleppo, where she was a medical student. On February 21, 2006, she appeared on Al Jazeera, where she scolded Muslims for treating non-Muslims differently and for not acknowledging the accomplishments of non-Muslim societies, including their greater freedom and capacity for producing wealth and technology. She named the Islamic threat to the West as "a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose." A video of her appearance, widely circulated on Web logs and through e-mail, has been viewed an estimated 12 million times. Her outspokenness has brought her both threats and praise. Dr. Sultan is currently working on a book to be called "The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster."

Copyright © 2007 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.
I think it would be well worth it to hear from Wafa Sultan. The only other time I've heard her speak was when she made shockwaves in her interview on Al Jazeera. The Muslim cleric also being interviewed with her isn't that ready to look himself in the mirror anytime soon. His attempts at discrediting her for her lack of faith are self defeating. If you wish to engage someone in discussion you must recognize that truth comes from the correspondence to reality not divine revelation. At this time, Wafa Sultan has become a naturalized citizen of the US and resides in Los Angeles. Kudos to Wafa Sultan.

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