Contra John here, I think the neo-Darwinian synthesis can predict. It is just that many of its practitioners are too vested in ignoring its implications. Or perhaps just don't know they are talking about. Unfortunately, the latter is depressingly common.
It is also really depressing to reflect that Gaddafi submitted to us back in 2003, and was then foolishly deposed on the advice of Hillary Clinton. I think President Obama deserves some credit for being initially unwilling to pursue that war, if only he had resisted a little harder.
John was an early noticer of The Nones. He even guessed the correct magnitude of the movement. In 2003, no one else was really paying attention to the unchurching of America, or how strongly that movement was tied in with the Democratic party, but John did.
Readers in need of a little bile this holiday season may enjoy this list of 50 Reasons Why the Lord of the Rings Sucks. Some of these reasons have merit, sadly: the editing in the theatrical versions of all the films is a little sloppy. Some of the reasons are a little beside the point, such as the observation that the biology of the inhabitants of Middle Earth is contrary to Darwinian theory. (That's not really true, you know: one of the objections to Darwinism is that it does not predict; it merely explains.) There are a few, however, that are easily disposed of by reading the text. For instance:
17 Invisible Implausibility.
Every time Frodo or Bilbo went invisible with the ring they should have also gone BLIND. Your eyes cannot function unless light is reflected off the cornea. If light passes through it (as must be the case with invisibility) sight is no longer possible. Also, rings do not turn you invisible.
Actually, ringbearers do go blind, to some degree. The physical world becomes shadowy to them. Also, the ringbearers do not become completely transparent. They cast shadows in daylight. It is true that it is hard to see how a ring could make you invisible. However, certain experimental camouflage coverings very nearly can. So, we see once again, Science and Scripture are in perfect accord. Almost.
* * *
Speaking of the word from on high, one of the most interesting aspects of the recent agreement by Libya to dismantle it's WMD program was the immediate campaign by the prestige media to diminish the significance of the development. Within, I think, four hours of the announcements in London and Washington on December 19, the "working reporters" on PBS's Washington Week in Review were explaining that the White House was "already trying to spin" the agreement as an outcome of the Iraq War, with the implication that the two events were merely coincidental. Indeed, there was one poor soul from one of the foreign policy foundations (I will not embarrass him by recalling his name) who was explaining the next morning that the Iraq War had actually made the troublesome states of the region "more comfortable," because now they knew the US was tied up in Iraq.
This casuistry was obvious nonsense. Still, nonsense from the mouths of certified experts can still give one pause, even though the Middle Eastern policy establishment has not been right about anything for 15 years. It was therefore a relief to find that one of the few scholars worth trusting about these things, David Pryce-Jones, is willing to state the obvious. Pryce-Jones is the author of The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, which is almost all you need to know about the dysfunction of modern Arab politics. Here is what he has to say (somewhat edited) about the state of the Terror War in general:
Uncle Sam Has Dictators Reeling (December 24)
The knock-on effects of the US response to September 11 have been quickening. Turkey has an Islamist government, but it nonetheless condemned the attack and has subsequently been the target of al-Qa'ida bombs. Pakistan also condemned it. Most astonishingly, here comes Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan President, offering to voluntarily surrender his weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear bomb still in development. Gaddafi seized power in a coup in 1969, and has treated Libya as his fiefdom ever since. His heir apparent is his son Seif, a chip off the old block. Gaddafi has sponsored terrorism internationally, as a result of which sanctions were imposed on Libya. Internally, he has made sure that any opponents, including a popular Shia cleric, disappear without trace.
When the campaign in Iraq opened in March, Gaddafi tellingly admitted he felt afraid. No doubt he would like sanctions to be lifted, but he also wants to make quite sure his weapons of mass destruction will not lead him to end up in a hole in the ground, like his fellow dictator Hussein.
Hemmed in by US forces across their frontiers with Iraq and Afghanistan, the ayatollahs of Iran similarly seem to be deciding to permit international supervision of their nuclear program, generally suspected to have military purposes that threaten not just the Middle East but also Russia and Europe. Syria, Iran's ally, is also under pressure on account of its chemical and biological weapons. A classic Arab dictatorship, Syria has a President, Bashar Assad, who inherited absolute power without the least legitimacy from his father. He, too, sponsors terrorism on a wide scale and eliminates all critics.
George W. Bush's recent move to legislate against Syria is causing panic there. Baghdad and Damascus are historic rivals, and the freedom of the former is already humiliatingly exposing the backwardness of the latter.
It's the same in Cairo, where popular opinion is turning against President Husni Mubarak, who has ruled by emergency decree for more than two decades and hopes to put his son in as his successor. In Saudi Arabia, the huge royal family exercises the most complicated and complete of dictatorships, and even there civil rights groups are springing up and the first tentative protests have hit the streets. Municipal elections are to be held in that country for the first time
I quote this upbeat assessment with a lively sense that Uncle Sam himself may be sent reeling in a few days, if some of those security threats we have been hearing about for the last week materialize. Nonetheless, the effect would not be to deflect the Bush Administration from the current strategy. Quite the opposite, I think.
* * *
Howard Dean, whatever else he may represent, certainly represents the new anti-religious minority that has found a home in the Democratic Party. These militant secularists are not a trivial group: I suspect they make up between 15% to 20% of the electorate. Membership in this group is not inconsistent with membership in the old Mainline Protestant denominations. It is also not inconsistent with membership in the Catholic Church, whatever the episcopacy may say.
Altogether, these people are the antithesis of the evangelical conservatives in the Republican camp. After a late start, they are growing faster than their Republican counterparts. However, though both groups are necessary parts of the base for their respective parties, neither is enough to win a national election. That seems to be why Dean has begun to morph into Elmer Gantry for audiences that might be interested. The Boston Globe reports the gruesome details:
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South....
''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind,'' Dean said. ''He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''
[An appearance at an African-American church in Columbia, S.C., is an example of what voters might hear in the future]:
There, before nearly 100 parishioners, Dean said in a rhythmic tone notably different from his usual stampede through policy points, ''In this house of the Lord, we know that the power rests in God's hands and in Jesus's hands for helping us. But the power also is on this, God's earth -- Remember Jesus said, 'Render unto God those things that are God's but unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's,' '' a reference to Jesus's admonition that the secular and religious remain separate.
Speaking in a "rhythmic tone notably different from his usual"? Remember when Al Gore started to honk, like Jesse Jackson with a cold? This bodes ill.
* * *
On the topic of rendering unto Caesar, some people have been wondering when the Vatican was going to get the memo explaining that the US is far more hospitable to the orthodox Catholic view of things than is the nascent EU. Certainly Fr. Richard John Neuhaus expressed thoughts along these lines in the January 2004 issue of First Things:
European anti-Americanism has come in for a great deal of deserved attention this past year. It must be admitted that also some of the statements issuing from the Vatican in the period leading to regime change in Iraq, and since, smack of vulgar anti-Americanism.
Nonetheless, he assures us, we should not believe everything we read:
That does not include the statements of the Pope. I say that not only because I do not wish to criticize the Pope, which is also true, but because his purpose is so manifestly clear: to avoid war, to be sure, but also to avoid any suggestion that the papacy is the leader of those whom Osama bin Laden calls "the Crusaders"...In fact, not since Columbus set sail has a pope had such a hopeful view of America as does John Paul II...
Fr. Neuhaus fleshes out this hopeful view with sentiments he attributes to Fr. Luigi Giussani of Communion and Liberation, the youth movement that is the apple of the Vatican's eye: "America [is] 'providentially chosen for a time such as this. World predominance and Christian vitality combine to make America the heir to Europe as Europe was once heir to Jerusalem and Athens. The vision is not unlike that proposed in historian Christopher Dawson's schema of 'ages of the Church,' And it is not unlike the view of many evangelical Protestants that America is the base for the relaunching of world evangelization.."
Well, that is a future for which I am on record as expressing sympathy. Still, if it were up to me, I would be very reluctant to push the button that would turn it on. The Islamists may yet do that for us. There's Providence for you.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly