Bill Nye completely misunderstands life

You might have seen this:

I have always had a certain amount of respect for Bill Nye in the past, even when I disagree with him. I just appreciate his calm, rational approach. This video disturbs that greatly, because it demonstrates a truly shocking level of irrationality and ignorance on the topic he’s arguing about. Let’s look at some of the claims he makes.

The first sentence in the video states that “many, many, many, many more eggs are fertilized than become humans,” but that after conception, the embryo must attach to the uterine wall (presumably, before it becomes human–though he leaves the statement unfinished).

Right off the bat, we run in to trouble. First off, Nye is equivocating on the word “human,” or else the statement is total nonsense. If you’re going to stand on science, then from a biological, scientific point of view, the zygote (newly fertilized egg) is a human at the moment of conception. Every egg that is fertilized is, at that moment, human. It’s not anything else. Conception is the textbook beginning of the human life cycle. Scientifically speaking, that’s the moment a new human comes into being. That’s just biology, baby. Or, baby biology, as the case may be.

So again, if Nye is resting his argument on science, he must not actually mean that a human embryo is not human. Rather, he’s playing a little loose with the technical meaning of the word–presumably when he says “human” here, he means something closer to “person” or implies “human-with-rights” or something along those lines. This is the only meaning I can find in this sentence without it being self-contradictory. But doing that means he’s not talking about science. Defining “personhood” or assigning rights to one or another class of humans isn’t a scientific question, it’s an ethical, philosophical one. So immediately, the idea that this is a scientific argument is missing its foundation. Let’s move on.

“If you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy whose sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?”

So, it gets worse. This is total nonsense no matter how you look at it. When a woman miscarries, the embryo dies of what we would call natural causes. So, while we have laws against killing adult humans (presumably for some kind of bible-thumping reason), we don’t sue or imprison people every time a person dies of natural causes. This statement implies to me that Nye has, possibly, never given even a moment’s serious thought to the issue he’s arguing.

Further, different individuals have different “rights” at times. Affirming that a baby is a human doesn’t mean treating it like an adult any more than affirming my two-year-old’s humanity means we have to let him vote.

In a statement directly to those in the pro-life movement, Nye then says you “literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ironically, it’s followed by this:

“You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance… Your interpretation of a book written five thousand years ago, fifty centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby, that’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.”

This… I don’t even know where to begin with this. Nobody… ever… anywhere… has ever made anything resembling such a claim. For the record, nothing in the Bible implies anything like this. But also, for the record, I’ve been in a lot… a lot… of abortion debates, with a lot of different people, and I pretty much never, ever bring up the Bible. I knew to expect to disagree with Nye’s conclusions, but I never would have expected such a wild, irresponsible, and truly ignorant statement from him. I don’t even know where such a nonsensical claim comes from. If this kind of statement is why Bill Nye is pro-choice, his opinion is truly based in utter ignorance.

“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, for medical researchers looking diligently….”

Jumping from this to “therefore abortion is okay” is the definition of non sequitur….

“I know people are now critical of the expression ‘fact-based,’ but what’s wrong with that?”

Finally, we have some pretentious looking down at anyone who would disagree. I’ve never actually heard anyone criticize facts either, for that matter, but this is the point of the video, of course- not to persuade someone who holds pro-life beliefs, but to tell those who are pro-choice that there’s no reason to ever bother seriously thinking about the question, because science. You can continue to look down on the pro-life movement because they are dumb because science and science-y words and bow ties so don’t think about it. This is what the video boils down to.

This video is four minutes and thirty-six seconds of awful logic and ludicrously nonsensical assertions coated in a pretense of science and delivered by a man whom you can trust because he put the word “Science” in his name. If you watched the video and thought Nye made great points, you are not paying attention.

I knew there must have been a reason I was always a Beakman kid.

UPDATE:

Trent Horn over at Strange Notions has a much more thorough response.

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A Christian, a Muslim, and Ben Carson walk into a bar…

Well, sometimes it all feels like a joke.

Dr. Carson stepped in it last week. From Huffington:

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Commentary has followed two lines so far. One is just sort of flat out wrong. The other, I don’t know how to think about.

1. Everyone saying Ben Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution, doesn’t understand the Constitution.

I am actually surprised, in a disappointed way, that this comes up in every left-wing response. “The Constitution says there will be no religious test for public office!”

To those on the left, this apparently means that voters are legally required to ignore a candidate’s faith when deciding whether they support the candidate. I’ll remember that next time someone attacks a conservative for sounding too Christian.

In actuality, this simply means that the states can’t write a law saying “ONLY EPISCOPALIANS ALLOWED ON OUR BALLOTS”. But if Larry the Lutheran can’t abide voting for Episcopal Earl, that’s his vote and he can do with it what he wants. Individuals are still allowed their religious convictions and their own opinions in the US.

So, what Dr. Carson said was, at least, fully in line with the Constitution. He didn’t say a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be President. He just said he wouldn’t personally support a Muslim candidate. He’s allowed that opinion.

2. Islam and the Constitution.

Here’s where I confess ignorance. Rather than knee-jerking out a response on either side–either cheering the courageous stand, or condemning the blatant bigotry–I want to actually consider the question. Is Islam incompatible with the Constitution? Let’s back up in his statement.

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

This, as a standard, ought to be uncontroversial. Someone’s faith is part of who they are. If a candidate’s religion dictates that he must act in a way that would violate his duties in office, Ima say maybe he shouldn’t hold that office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kim Davis.

So where does Islam fit into this question?

I think it’s important to remember that we vote for individuals, not religions. That would have been a decent answer for Dr. Carson to give, by the way. What does this individual’s Muslim faith mean to him or her? Because, of course, ask ten experts on religion how Islam may or may not be compatible with the Constitution, and you’ll get ten contradictory answers. I imagine you could ask ten Muslim theologians and have the same result. Islam, like any major religion, has broken into denominations and factions, and different leaders seem to have different interpretations of some pretty significant points.

I’m sensitive to the idea that there is unfair mistrust and misunderstanding of Islam. I’m familiar with the phenomenon. Atheists accuse Christians of believing in a magic sky fairy and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping statues and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Is the idea that Islamic sharia law would trump the Constitution for a Muslim President a similar mistake?

I honestly don’t know how to actually answer that. Many experts, including many Muslims, are of the opinion that the separation of Church and State doesn’t really fit within Islam. Many others disagree. In Muslim countries, wide majorities favor making sharia the law of the land. But then the people of Egypt–though 74% polled in favor of sharia at the above link–basically rioted to throw out Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after they started trying to implement sharia law. Given situations like that, I’m unwilling to accept a broad claim that authentic Islam automatically means taking the position that secular governments should be run according to sharia law.

I wouldn’t have said what Dr. Carson said. But whether or not the statement is justifiable depends on a greater understanding of Islam than I can claim, so it seems to remain an open question.

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Is it 2016 already?

Halloween displays are looking stale in the stores and Christmas decorations are already starting to appear. Time to decide who we’re going to vote for in November 2016 before it’s too late!

Having a couple of kids has made writing… and remaining fully informed… and, to be honest, caring about politics as much… more difficult. I’m planning to use this space to keep notes on my thoughts as they occur, and open them up for discussion.

First off, the driver of this clown car. I can’t. I just can’t. Donald Trump, really?

Polls show the top three GOP frontrunners are all three of the non-politicians in the race. Republicans nationwide have said, “Anyone, ANYONE but another politician!” Yesterday’s announcement by Speaker Boehner is encouraging to me. It implies that there is, maybe, finally, an awareness in the Republican party that GOP voters are fed up with the way Republican officials have behaved. Enough of politics as usual, right?

I get that. No more of this nonsense, let’s throw the bums out. Anyone but a politician. I’m sympathetic to that point of view.

But Trump!?

Here’s what I would #askTrump. If I hadn’t missed it. After two debates and a bunch of interviews, he’s made it clear that he isn’t deeply familiar with many of the potential issues facing our next President. His response has consistently been, I’ll be an expert by the time I sit in that chair, just you watch. And I’ll hire the best people.

Mr. Trump: would you, as a businessman, hire a CEO to run one of your companies, if the candidate demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the business and the industry, but insisted only that he’d become familiar after you agreed to give him the job? Would you be impressed by his confidence, or would you laugh at his arrogance as you show him the door?

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Why I’m Catholic

Hey, this is a political blog!

And, a defunct one, at that.

But over at the Anchoress, the formidable Elizabeth Scalia put forth the following, here and here:

Let’s do this! If you’re Catholic and have access to a web-page, a radio program, a Facebook page, whatever, take a few minutes, and tell the world why you are remaining a Catholic in an era where doing so seems not only counter-cultural, but also counter-intuitive and even, perhaps, a bit risky?

It stuck in my head. Because frankly, this is way more important than politics. And I’ve been wanting to write again anyway. So next time, politics. But right now, let’s talk about something bigger. This isn’t going to be my personal faith story, just the conclusions I reached.

Why am I Catholic? It’s simple, really. One reason. It takes many shapes and has infinite facets–that’s the beauty of it–but it’s one thing. It’s true. And I’m convinced of that.

Belief in God is reasonable. Why is there something rather than nothing? Something explains existence, or there is no logic to the universe. There is no philosophical ground on which nonexistence just becomes existence. If, on the other hand, there is something that contains within itself the reason for its existence–a more principled bit of logic–whatever that is, is God. So without yet worrying about the nature of God, the simple existence of a creator is just logic.

Next. What is this God like? Is God outside the universe? Is everything, this tree, that person, that galaxy, a manifestation of God? Is Nature God? Is God like the Force, impersonal, mindless energy?

The universe isn’t mindless. It stands to reason that if the universe is intelligible, it was created by intelligence. If reality is logical, and it is, then God must be logical.

Which brings us to Jesus. If God exists, and is a Person, then it makes sense that He would want us to know Him. This is a huge topic, and the details are beyond this post. For now, the point: the propositions that Jesus really is God, and lived in history, and rose from the dead, are utterly reasonable–and are far more likely than alternate explanations.

Finally, the Church. If Jesus is God, and came to reveal God to us, what do we do about it? Well, Jesus told us that too. He built a Church, and He gave that Church real authority and a promise of divine guidance. He said that He would remain with the Church forever. He also gave particular men the authority to forgive sins in His name, and told His followers that in order to have life, they need to eat His body and drink His blood. He didn’t write a book, but He did tell specific people to go and teach the whole world about Him, passing on the traditions they were given. Some of those people wrote down some of these traditions, which became the New Testament. But the Church today is the same Church that Christ founded 2,000 years ago upon the Apostles, headed by St. Peter, and nobody else can credibly make that claim. So while only Christianity makes sense of these questions of existence, only the Catholic Church makes sense of Christianity.

That’s it. God exists. Jesus really is God. He started a Church, which still exists today, and still speaks with His authority, which is the Roman Catholic Church.

I could talk about each of these points in detail for days. I could talk about how Catholic truth finally made sense of things in the world and in my life that never made sense. I could talk about the beauty of our Corpus Christi Mass yesterday and seeing the entire church with the servers and our priest kneeling as one before the monstrance, and hearing the choir sing a piece written in the 13th century for this very feast. I could talk about the universality of the Church, knowing that across the world, hundreds of millions of people were at the same celebration, receiving the same Eucharist. Or, I could talk about the universality of Catholic truth, the seamless garment that weaves together without contradiction the goodness of life, and love, and all of creation, as expressed in the Church’s teaching on God’s love, grace, and mercy; the Church’s embrace of science and philosophy; the Church’s embrace of every one of us, sinners all; the deep understanding of human nature and the difficult, but beautiful, teaching on everything from forgiveness to charity to human sexuality.

I could talk about how the Mass and the Sacraments have fundamentally changed my life and given me strength to fight some deeply destructive tendencies in myself. I could tell about how I tried to live a Christian life outside of the Church, without the Sacraments, and it simply did not work. Or that I came to believe that Jesus really was God, but I can honestly say that I did not come to know Him until I returned to Mass, and that I can not, really and truly can not imagine ever going through life without the Sacraments again. All of these things are good, true, and beautiful, but all rest on one very simple Truth.

That’s how truth often looks: simple, but deep. If you drop a bowling ball, it falls. That’s how gravity works. Simple. But start trying to understand and explain gravity, and you can end up talking about time travel and virtual particles, because this simple thing just goes so deep into all of reality. Theology is like that. Simple- God exists. He loves us. But that simple truth is the foundation on which all of reality rests.

That doesn’t make it easy. The Catholic faith is not for weenies, as various thinkers have pointed out. It’s not the path of least resistance, for certain. It is counter-cultural today, it’s heroic, it’s radical. But it’s true.

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This Might Be Why People Dislike Unions

I have been meaning to write on the topic of unions for some time.  I still don’t have all my thoughts lined up, but I just sort of love this story.  It’s a few days old now, but in case you missed it, from twitchy.com comes this union protest at a Subaru dealership in Wichita:

subaru 1

Followed by the dealership’s response:

subaru 2

Check out the original, linked above, for details. But what I want to ponder here (beyond this dealership’s pitch-Hipsters Local 312perfect reaction) is the nature of the union protest. The job went out for a competitive bid. The dealership gave the contract to the lowest qualified bid. Carpenters Local 201 lost. They simply lost the bid, that’s all. Someone else got the job. Let this be perfectly clear. The term “labor dispute” conjures up mental images of management breaking contracts, failing to pay agreed-upon wages, things like that. That is not what happened here. They simply put out a contract for bids, and hired the people they thought best, and those that didn’t get hired are responding by attempting to harm their business in revenge. In what context is this acceptable? Is this grade school? Are unions run by children?

When I graduated college, I applied for a slew of retail and service jobs. I got called by some, not by others. Would it have been reasonable for me to then blow up one of these rats in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble?

I imagine I would get arrested. Or sued. And I would deserve it.

I don’t necessarily have any sort of ideological or philosophical problem with private individuals unionizing. I do have a problem with individuals being coerced into joining a union against their will. And I do see major problems in the nature of a public sector union, as did progressive pro-labor pioneers such as Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia. These are topics I hope to look at in greater depth.

I definitely have a problem with bully tactics meant to intimidate. Can we at least all agree that blowing up a giant inflatable rat to scare off customers and intimidate employers–just because they hired someone else–is unacceptable? I’m always hearing about how bullying is bad. Let’s lead by example, ok?

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Illinois Primary thoughts

Just a couple of thoughts on primary day for those of you here in Illinois. It’s a work day, so I’ll be quick.

I’m hearing a lot about Kirk Dillard and how he’s awful because he has some union support. Much seems to be coming from Rauner staffers calling into radio shows claiming to be regular guys. Whatever, that’s fine, we all know that goes on. Here’s what I keep thinking in response.

All these Rauner paid staffers supporters keep saying that they can’t wait to vote for Rauner because he’s an “outsider.” Give me a break. He might be a great guy, and I like the fact that he knows business. But let’s all admit that he is where he is today, at least in part, because he is well connected in Chicago. The Chicago machine does not consist of only elected officials, and just because Rauner has never held office before does not mean he’s not been a part of the machine for a long time. He’s buddies with the Chicago power brokers, he’s donated to Democrat campaigns and he’s pulled a Democrat ballot before. He’s pro-choice and he’s already racked up a couple of self-contradictory statements that make him seem like more of a politician than the career politicians he’s running against. As a conservative, I can’t expect him to represent my views just because he’s a businessman that’s never held office before. That’s ridiculous.

Now on Dillard. People are complaining that he’s successfully courting some union voters. Listen to yourselves. This is Illinois. We have had one-party rule for ever and ever, amen. Look where it’s gotten us. Now Kirk Dillard is getting some Democrats to come across the line and vote for a Republican. Isn’t that exactly what we need to happen!?

Dillard is a career guy that’s been in politics since before he was born, and that bothers some people. But guess what–none of these options is great. Look hard enough and you’ll find a reason to dislike each of them. Dillard is strong on life and strong on the 2nd amendment, two issues close to my heart, and he has the same basic economic plan as the rest of the primary field. Consider this a late Basic Conservative endorsement. Disagree? Have it out in the comments!

Now go vote!

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The New Abolitionists

Every fifty years or so since the founding of our Republic, there seems to be a major societal revolution.

The founding itself took place in a revolution, and our nation was built on revolutionary ideas (such as a constitutional government which rested on natural law and popular sovereignty) which today are taken for granted. A little more than a half century later, we fought a bloody civil war, and a revolutionary idea, equal protection under the law, began to be put into practice. In the beginning of the 20th century, the country was split over giving women the right to vote; again, justice prevailed. Almost fifty years later, segregation’s time was up, and a revolution in civil rights took place once again.

We look back today at the men and women who fought these battles–the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights activists–as the heroes that they are. Their courage and actions changed the world. In each case, they were defending a vulnerable group against injustice from those in power. In each case, as the arc of history bent towards justice, they were the benders. And their heroism lies in no small part due to the fact that in each case, they faced a culture that was split around the issue; by standing up for what they knew to be right, they faced widespread public derision, possible rejection by their own family and friends, even violence.

If the pattern holds, we’re due for another of these cultural shifts.

We also look back today at 41 years of legal abortion, and at 56 million dead children. Again the country is split. And again, an abolitionist movement is gaining strength.

It amazes me how the pro-choice arguments mirror so closely the old pro-slavery arguments. “They’re not people. You can’t give them the same rights as real people.” “They’re really better off this way. What kind of life would they have if you got your way?” In any event, the slave owners and their supporters were simply trying to protect their freedom to choose to own slaves. That is, if you don’t like slavery, then don’t own slaves. But how dare you take away someone else’s right to choose based on your beliefs! Right?

I don’t want to belabor this too much. It doesn’t need it. This is a simple issue (don’t kill kids) and momentum is already on the side of justice. Just allow me one little harangue. Look to the examples I listed above. We are in our revolution. It is taking place now. We are today’s abolitionists. History will look back at today and see either courage, or cowardice. People will look back at us and admire those who stood up to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, just as we look back with admiration for those who have fought this battle before. They fought on different battlegrounds, but justice is the same today as it was yesterday; and it makes the same demand whether the victim is a slave or an infant.

"Thousands" gather for the 2013 March For Life*

“Thousands” gather for the 2013 March For Life*

So to my harangue. Be the person today that you will look back at with pride, knowing that you stood up when it was hard to do. Don’t be silent. Remember that “don’t kill kids” will one day be as obvious as “don’t make people slaves” is to us today. Don’t be afraid. The tide has already turned. Speak up. Most Americans are with you, even if the news won’t report it.


*Image stolen without asking from http://martinfamilymoments.blogspot.com/2013/01/bits-of-tid-tuesday.html. Yes, I used a 2013 picture despite today being the 2014 March For Life. This is just such a fantastic picture. Today’s pictures are all full of snow.

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