Thursday, May 26, 2005

Democrat Hypocrisy
Now, the Democrats pointed to Republican votes against cloture on Democratic judicial nominees as "attempted filibusters" in order to bolster their argument that their actions were not unprecedented. However, Joe Biden just voted against cloture on the Bolton nomination, yet claims he is *not* filibustering the nomination and wants to see an up-or-down vote. Which is it? D.GOOCH

Bainbridge a Bit OverBoard

While I may be moving towards becoming a convert of the Coalition of the Chillin, I find Prof. Bainbridge's conservative defense of the filibuster lacking in many respects.

Is the filibuster conservative? As I have argued elsewhere on this blog, Edmund Burke certainly supported what might be termed 'radical' actions when some exercise of power serves to destabilize the very institutions conservatism wants to conserve. And the filibuster of judicial confirmations is *decidedly* an unconservative innovations that threatens 2 of the three pillars of American government: the executive and legislative branches.

1) Set aside, for a moment, the Constitutional question. We are already facing a judicial crisis with a back-log of cases ever mounting and *fewer* and *fewer* seats filled on the federal benches. The judicial branch can't serve *any* function if it is paralyzed by an absence of working judges on the bench. The employment of filibusters (setting an effective 60 vote requirement for judicial nominees) exacerbates this problem by a factor of 10.

2) Secondly, again ignoring the constitutional question of the appropriate sphere of executive authority in the nomination process, this threatens the executive branch in exactly the same way that it threatens the judicial branch. And there it represents an even more pernicious threat to the workings of that branch. Unlike federal appointments to the bench, executive appointees serve for only a few years. And yet the nomination process has taken increasingly *more* and *more* time. It has inspired several reform proposals in order to streamline the process. Consider that the filibusters of the 10 Bush nominees have lasted for several *years* now. Is it such a large step from filibustering judicial nominees to filibustering executive nominees? Of course not. It is much larger a step to move to filibustering nominees at all, and they've already taken that step. Indeed, Democrats are already contemplating filibustering Bolton, an executive branch nominee. Standing athwart history shouting stop, in this sense, involves protecting the staffing of these vital branches of American governments. The rejection of a nomination filibuster is a shout of support for the continued full staffing of all branches of the federal government and hence retaining the balance of power between those branches. An emaciated federal judiciary and executive cannot faithfully serve their functions. Power would necessarily accrue to other areas of government (like, say, the unelected bureaucracy). Indeed, the nominee filibuster represents a significant threat to both of these democratic institutions.

A republic is *dependent* upon elections being decisive. In essence what a vigorous employment of the filibuster of nominees (or 'holds' or 'committee actions' for that matter) does is nulify the results of the previous election. A President is immediately seated once he wins the presidency (in the sense that he takes over as soon as his predecesor's term ends). This is not true for the rest of the executive branch. It empties of political appointees, with the career bureacurats the only continuity from one administration to the next. As it stands today, the president must immediately begin a 2 year battle to win seats in *his* branch of the government. These nominees, after a period of acclimation, may have a year or two to begin implementing presidential directives before the next election. This puts them at a severe disadvantage in regards to the exeuctive agencies and departments they theoretically head. The filibuster threatens to even further extend this timeperiod. It is not inconceivable that a short distance down the road it may be nigh impossible for a president to fill executive positions during his tenure. Whole segments of the government may become immune to regime change. A president is term-limited. He serves for only 4 years a term. He already faces an uphill battle in taking on the bureacurats that populate the branch he wins control of. How can we hold a president accountable for policy when we've thrown so many roadblocks to him appointing his own people to his own branch of government?

3) Prof. Bainbridge's argument conflates conservative opposition to radical change with opposition to change at all. The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool, which advances each of Kirk's goals. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay -- to stand athwart history shouting stop. Says Prof. Bainbridge. And all well and good so far as that goes. But filibusters aren't employed to 'delay' action...they are employed to kill it. Not to slow change, but rather to prevent change entirely. And it isn't a change in policy related to legislation that we are discussing. At least where change is killed in regards to policy, there is a status quo policy that continues to operate. But with appointments to empty seats, there is no *status quo* to perserve. There is nothing at all. A missing part in the machinery of government. As parts go missing, the other cogs must pick up the slack of the absent parts. Enough parts go missing, and the machine doesn't run. And that is exactly what is threatened by this trend in filibuster employment. It threatens the very institutions of government upon which the stability of our society depend. How are the people to hold a president responsible when he cannot even staff his own branch of government? When he cannot serve his appointment role in the judiciary branch? Conservatives are not uniformly nor myopicly opposed to change. Neither Kirk nor Burke would endorse a policy that destablizes the democratic institutions of society. Which is why I believe both would have no problem with an effort to prevent appointment paralysis...exactly what the filibuster portends. So while I may be 'chillin' on the Compromise, I'm still 'illin' on the Filibuster. Peace out! D.GOOCH

A Doulbe-Take on the Compromise

I started as a strong member of the "Illin"...but I'm nearly converted to the "Chillin" side of the blogosphere.

OK, I'm not seeing red anymore over the Compromise, but I am thinking about a Red analogy that has soothed my partisan zeal. In essence, I'm thinking about the 'Nuclear' option and the Cuban-Missle Crisis. The agressors were the Soviets, shipping nuclear arms to Cuba. In the Judicial Confirmation Crisis, it was the Dems who were the aggressors...applying the filibuster in an unprecendented manner to block well-qualified nominees of the president. The U.S. responded to the Cuban-Missle Crisis with a blockade and a threat of military attack against Cuba (ending that country's Communist regime), that threatened the interests of the Soviets in supporting the Cuban regime as well as other Latin American countries. The Republicans resonded to the Judicial Confirmation Crisis with a political wedge issue (used in campaigns successfully, as against Daschele) and with the threat of the 'nuclear option' attack that would end the judicial filibuster for all time. In the Cuban-Missle Crisis, the Russians blinked and withdrew their nuclear weapons from Cuba (while still continuing to support them economically and militarily). And, it can be argued, in the Judicial Confirmation Crisis it was the Democrats / Moderates who blinked: withdrawing the blocks on the most important of the president's nominees while retaining the right to filibuster in theory.

Now, it isn't a perfect analogy. I think the victory won in the JCC is less definitive than that won in the CMC. But it may be closer than you think. In essence, this is a new starting point. The judicial filibusters are in the past. Though some Democratic senators have made noise about invoking further filibusters, they certainly haven't done so as of yet. They will have to be invoked again in regards to the Saad or Myers nominations should those nominations be brought to the floor. And just as if the Russians had once again sent missles back into Cuba, the Republicans will have the nuclear option in their pocket to once again threaten. It is a murkier situation. Would 2 of the 7 support the nuclear option in that case? How far can the Dems go in employing the judicial filibuster in regards to new nominess? Can they at all? What would be the response? Of course, the situation was very murky following the CMC. Would the Russians hold true to the deal to remove the missles? Would they renig and send them back in? Whither Cuba? Etc. etc. Furthermore, many U.S. observers believed that Kennedy had been outfoxed in the CMC. Some thought the U.S. had failed.

The reason I raise the issue of this analogy is to point to the fact that the outcomes of political compromises are rarely obvious in the immediate aftermath. But the parallel I offer would tend to suggest that the conservative skeptics may be a bit too pessimistic in regards to their evalutation. Alot depends on the days ahead, but we may be looking back, a few years from now, marveling at the Democrat capitulation over judges as represented in the MOU. D.GOOCH

A Great American Hero Cleared

I first heard about the plight of Lt. Pantano, whose enlistment story echoes that of the late Pat Tillman's in terms of self-sacrifice and supreme patriotism for one's country, when Dateline NBC aired a segment a few months ago. Pantano was accused of 'murder' of two Iraqis he shot during combat when the two refused to obey his orders to stop. It seemed obvious to me from the story that there wasn't enough evidence to support crimminal charges, let alone two counts of premeditated murder. Miscarriages of justice have happened before, though, and especially where politics is involved. The primary accuser was a disgruntled demotee with a very shaky story, but you never know with these sorts of things. Anyway, Michell Malkin reports today that the Marine Corps has dropped the charges. I look forward to the day when this great American is once again defending us from our enemies. D.GOOCH

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lampley Won't Throw in the Towel
Argh. This guy just won't quit .

I could go on at length here about the curious disconnect between the actual data in the report and its guesswork conclusion, how Edison/Mitofsky systematically validate all their sampling choices and their methodology, in effect eliminating any logical underpinnings for their ultimate summation, all the while selectively ignoring the lopsided skewing of pro-Bush discrepancies in the most critical swing states. I could spend some time dissecting what I believe is an obvious whitewash, a delicate sidestep away from the potential public relations disaster of being tied forever to the most notorious election theft in history.

Lampley clearly doesn't understand what he's talking about. The Mitofsky report doesn't undermine the conclusions they draw because the bias they suggest occurred wasn't a result of their methodology, Jim. It was *respondent* induced bias. As for the error occuring more in the swing-states, well, that doesn't contradict the Mitofsky thesis but rather fits in quite nicely. It hardly requires a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Bush voters might have been more relectant to participate in voting sites where there were significant numbers of Kerry voters. But this is giving this suggestion more credence than it deserves. There are a host of possibile problems that could lead to more significant error in the 'swing' states that do not involve fraud.

But none of that is necessary, because the entire Edison/Mitofsky report is irrelevant to the argument, given that it is based on the assumption the final official vote tally is accurate.

I'll leave aside, for the moment, the fact that Lampley is now calling Mitofsky irrelevant when he was citing him in the first place. Just to get this straight: Lampley thinks that Mitofsky got his exit polls right. But rather than claim vindication, Mitofsky has decided to disavow his own exit poll results to 'whitewash' things for the Bush administration. Anyone who knows Mitofsky's political leanings is probably laughing their arse off at the moment. For the rest of us, we can only marvel at Lampley's confidence that someone would trash their own accurate work for the benefit of being ridiculed for having got the results wrong.

Make no mistake: my argument is that the final official vote tally is anything but accurate, that it is the product of massive vote fraud carried out through the programing of Diebold voting machines and various other machinations aimed at suppressing, destroying or losing Kerry votes.

The problem with this is that the allegations have been investigated by both Congress and the media and they have found nothing. For a good round up of the various failed allegations of vote fraud, see here (must sit through 1 ad to view if not Salon subscriber). And, as John Cole notes no Diebold voting machines were used in Ohio as can be seen here. Whoops.

My argument is that what were accurate were the exit polls. As one Ivy League research methodologist has noted, "Apparently the pollsters at Mitofsky and Edison have found it more expedient to provide an explanation unsupported by theory, data or precedent than to impugn the machinery of American democracy."

Lampley cites a couple of partisan's who have made a rather poor effort to refute the Mitofsky thesis on the problems with the exit polling. In their article, they make wildly false claims. They claim that a 5% error is a 'statistical impossibility.' This is false. It is certainly improbable ASSUMING that the sample is free from bias. Error estimates are made regarding *random* variation...not systematic variation as a result of some bias. These same fellows offer the same false dichotomy Lampley does (Lampley probably got it reading them). And it is just as wrong comming from them as it was from Jim. While they chastise Mitsofsky & Edison for unsubstantiated speculation, these authors engage in orders of magnitute worse speculation (i.e. massive election fraud) without any corroborating evidence. Indeed, they just make a circular argument. We know the exit polls were accurate because the election was cleary stolen (wrong in swing states), and we know the election was stolen because the exit polls were accurate (their alleged corrobrating evidence). The problem is that the exit polls (properly scrubbed post-election) PREDICTED A BUSH ELECTORAL COLLEGE VICTORY. While Bush earns larger tallies above that of the margin of error reported for the exit poll, the exit poll results still indicate that Bush would have won.

This statistician waves his hands at the thousands of 'reported irregularies' as if that counts as substantiation. None of these allegations have been supported with any credible hard evidence. In reality, these authors provide no compelling refutation of the Mitofsky thesis. They provide no credible evidence of fraud. And their statistical argument fails utterly.

Various statisticians have reported that the odds on the occurrence of variances from exit polls to actual results such as were produced in this election range up to 959 000 to 1. Sounds like DNA. As US Count Votes notes in a statistical abstract, "No matter how one calculates it, the discrepancy cannot be attributed to chance."

I don't know who the various statisticans are. Lampley only cites one. And that guy plainly makes misleading statements. Rare events *do* occur. An accurate statement would argue that ceterus paribus, the exit polls results were unlikely to be due to *random* error. But Mitofsky doesn't attribute the problem to random error. Hence this point is entirely beside the point. The vulnerabilities of any survey to systematic error are significant. We don't toss actual vote tabulations in favor of a multi-state massive vote fraud conspiracy because the survey results were off. Nuff said. D.GOOCH

York Downs Lampley in 1st Round

I should note that Byron York has been taking on Lampley directly over at the Huffington Post and has made several of the points I have (in most cases better than I have) and a few others as well. His most definitive take-down can be found here. D.GOOCH

More Nonsense on the Lampley "Hypothesis"

LOL. Someone claiming to be a 'stat geek' attempts to defend Lampley's Moon-landing faked delusions regarding the 2004 election as a 'sensible' take here.

Needless to say, color me unimpressed. But let's go over it one more time!

Jim Lampley’s concern over the gap between the exit polls and the final results in the 2004 election is sensible. Exit polls are, after all, used by independent election observers to monitor elections. When large gaps between the exit polls and the final results emerge, then there is a chance that the election was stolen. While we live in a mature democracy, the lust for power could conceivably lead criminals to try to steal an election.

Sure, there is a chance that the election was stolen. There is a chance that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in a multi-faceted conspiracy involving LBJ, Nixon, the Mob, the Defense Dept, and Kevin Bacon to assasinate Mrs. Kennedy (Oswald was a bad shot, afterall). Saying that there is a 'chance' of something isn't saying anything at all. Rational, reasonable individuals must sort out possibilities that are remotely rational, reasonable, and likely from the host (near infinite) possibilites that don't meet that criteria. We are talking about a multi-state conspiracy involving multiple levels of government in which actual vote tabulations were falsified, any trace of this fraud having been covered up, and not a single leak from anyone on down the chain of involved personel. We aren't talking about 'finding' a couple of 'votes' after the election. We aren't talking about low-level shananigans (like the Dems who saw fit to slice a bunch of tires on Republican vehicles)...we are talking about a highly coordinated and directed conspiracy to steal an election. The odds of success are remote. The odds of getting away with it even more so. Note, this is before we even *get* to a question about the statistics involved. This conspiracy they're droning on about is a remote possibility even before we get to the evidence.

Since the election outcome and the exit poll are two possible views of the “correct” result, one can not prove that one is right and the other is not. One can only construct hypotheses other than fraud that might explain the differences, and confirm or reject these with the data. If no reasonable alternative hypotheses can be supported by the data, then the suspicion of fraud intensifies.

I don't know what credentials this guy has where he feels comfortable claiming the mantle of 'stat geek'...but who ever accredited him should strip him of his pocket protector and masking tape-wrapped bifocals. The election outcome and the exit poll are not two equally valid 'views' where it is impossible to prove one correct and the other not. As I mentioned in my Fisking of Lampley, the exit polls are a survey of voters attempting to *estimate* the results of the elections.

The exit poll is a preview of the movie that is the election. The election isn't a view. It is a census of the population. There is no 'margin of error' associated with it in a statistical sense. The exit poll is a survey of voters as they walk out of the booth. Hence the exit poll involves answers to questions, whereas the election results are *votes* for candidates. These aren't two views. These are two very different things. And the relationship between the two is that exit polls are educated guesses (i.e. estimates) of what that vote will look like. A preview may give you a good feel for what a movie is going to be like. A judgement based ona preview will very often be the correct one. But if you see the preview and think the movie will suck, then go see the movie and note that it is don't then turn around and think, gee, I guess there are two possible 'views' of what the movie is like...and I really can't tell whether the movie was good or not.

As to constructing alternative hypotheses, we've already seen a credible and reasonable one offered by Mitofsky and company. There are others as well. And our stat geek here eventually gets to the right place. But more on that later...

For the 2004 election, there are two main hypotheses consistent with the disagreement between the two numbers. The first is that Bush stole the election. The second is that Republican voters were unusually unwilling to chat with exit pollsters, and the exit polls were wrong. While fraud can take many different forms, making the first hypothesis quite diffuse in its implications, the latter hypothesis suggests a number of possible patterns in the exit poll data that we can look for.

Ummm, no. While the Mitofsky hypothesis is reasonable (that's the one about reluctant Bush voter respondents and eager Kerry voter respondes), it certainly isn't the only one. Dick Morris and Michael Barone argued that the Dems may have been leaked poll locations and attempted to create an artifical surge for their candidate. This small conspiracy is by orders of magnitute more reasonable than the massive vote stealing conspiracy envisioned by Lampley. There are also statistical explanations as well. A problem in the sampling frame. A failure resulting from the new methodology being employed this election (note that a previous exit polling debacle caused VNS to be dissolved and this new system put in place). The juxtaposition of the two possibilities mentioned above is nothing but a false dichotomy. Whatsmore, it provides a misleading parallelism as well. The two possibilities mentioned are not equally likely. There is no parity. One is ridiculously unlikely while the other is a reasonable possibility.

While investigation of fraud is not the main objective of the Edison/Mitofsky study, it does allow one to collect evidence that sheds light on these issues. My read of the study is that it is quite supportive of the second hypothesis.

Exactly. As I mentioned in my Fisking. This 'stat geek' should be pummeling Lampley with rights and lefts on his misleading cite to Mitofsky as supportive of his insane fraud theory. Instead he's trying to give him a pass. Go figure.

While there are many patterns in the data that suggest something other than fraud, for me, the most interesting finding is that exit poll completion rates were strikingly low for polls taken by college and graduate students. When college kids did the interviewing, a higher percentage of interviewees refused to cooperate. Since conservative speakers have a hard time speaking at a college or university these days without getting a pie in the face, it is plausible that conversations with these interviewers were not attractive to many Republican voters. (And note that this observation does not depend on assuming that the actual vote was correct).

I don't put any credence in the notion that conservatives avoided college kids because of the 'pie in the face' incidents. While conservatives had recived pies in the face in the past, the rash of such events didn't occur until *after* the election. Hence it is temporally impossible for the one to have caused the other. However, the general point here (that Bush voters may have shied away from certain demographics of poll takers) is solid and just one of the potential sources of bias (psychologists call this the "Hawthorne Effect").

Since the underlying patterns in the data support the alternative hypothesis, one need not appeal to fraud to understand the difference between the exit polls and the actual outcome. I side with Byron. Jim can keep digging if he wants to, but my guess is that no evidence of election-changing fraud will ever be discovered because there was no fraud.

He went about it in a roundabout way, but eventually he got around to the correct point: Lampley is off his rocker. Even if the guy doesn't have the stones to *say* that Lampley is off his rocker. Heh. D.GOOCH

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Another Note on the Compromise

Ok, one more thing. This is the question I asked John Podhertz regarding the filibuster:

Wither the principled argument against filibusters? In the scenario you envision, there is no *principled* removal of the filibuster. It becomes entirely the product of political payback. This shifts the terms of the debate. Republicans had been arguing that judicial filibusters were unprecedented, violated Senate tradition, were unconstitutional, and interfered with the power of the presidency. If the Dems renig, it seems to me, that entire case is gone...because the Republicans have *conceded* that judicial filibusters can be conducted (if only in 'extraordinary' circumstances). Then the fight for the 'nuclear' option becomes entirely over whether or not the Dems have broken the deal. How do you make that case to the American people? D.GOOCH

The "Compromise"

I have one thing to say: there are reasons that the GOP has been called the "Stupid Party." You can add one more to the tally. D.GOOCH

Monday, May 23, 2005

Fisking Robert McHenry on Intelligent Design

You can read his piece at TechStation here.

I should preface this by making the point that I do not consider myself a subscriber to intelligent design in the narrow sense of its inclusion as a scientific paradigm or theory. I have very much been schooled in the mode of methodological naturalism and I remain unconvinced that such a presumption does not serve the progress of science well. However, I do consider myself a critic of Darwinists...though I'm agnostic as to most proposed alternatives. That said, I find much merit and interest in the intelligent design arguments and I have read them vociferously. As such, I am often looking for considered and thoughtful critiques of and responses to their arguments. Sadly, many efforts as of late do not qualify (see Mr. Derbyshire's article in National Review, for one). Mr. McHenry's piece is an illustrative example of these efforts and provides a nice demostration of how *not* to argue against intelligent design.

The ID party holds that certain aspects of the world, especially details of the anatomy and biochemistry of living beings, are simply too complex to have evolved without guidance. The approved phrase is "irreducible complexity," a "concept" to which we will return.

This is a caricature of the ID central argument regarding intelligent design. First, 'irreducible complexity' is *not* the point that some things are 'too' complex to have evolved without guidance. That suggests some gradation and an unspecified tipping point where before we had some complexity that could be explained by evolution but, now that we have more of it, evolution can't explain it. This is not an argument that is made by ID'rs today as far as I know, and it certainly isn't what irreducible complexity is about. Furthermore, I don't know who he thinks does the 'approving' of what 'phrases' are to be used...but irreducibile complexity is a defined concept developed by Michael Behe. Not all proponents of Intelligent Design have signed on to this concept, and there certainly are some variants. Dembski, for example, suggests something called 'specified complexity.' But the important point is that none of these concepts hinge on a tipping point. It isn't amount of complexity but rather kind. The argument directly addresses one of the tenets of Darwinism: Darwinist evolutionary processes operate gradually. So it must be able to create 'complexity' gradually. Critics of Darwinism do not argue that evolution is capable of producing some complexity but not all. Rather, they argue that is is *completely* unable to produce complexity of a particular kind.

ID partisans have trained themselves not to be too specific about the Designer, either, for they have learned the lesson left by the political failure of their predecessors, the Creation Scientists, namely, that too much frankness in the matter of Who the Intelligent Designer is does not pay. So, carefully avoiding anything that sounds like theology, while all the time the butter remains quite firm in their mouths, they simply aver that there is a Design and that it prima facie evidences Intelligence. "God? Oh, heavens, we're not talking about God. It might just be his next-door neighbor Wilson."

I have difficulty crediting this with a substantive response. Boil it down, it isn't much more than sneering ad hominem. How these devious ID'rs are getting together (mind-numbed robots all, don't ya know) and planning how to disguise what they are really on about: injecting religion into science...with a veneer of scientific gloss. I won't go too much into this, but just a few points. Intelligent Design advocates are NOT creationists. Creationists are not predecessors to intelligent design theorists anymore than flat-Earthers are predecessors to modern astronomers. Different theories, different texts, different paradigms. No succession. Creationists believe in the literal interpretation of events laid out in the Bible. As I have argued elsewhere, intelligent design has nothing to do with the Bible. It doesn't rely on Christian teachings. The only thing the two approaches share is a disbelief in Darwinistic explanations and the possibility of the supernatural as an impetus to creation. That's it. Calling those the same thing is like saying Taoism and Juadism are the same thing because they both accept the supernatural.

McHenry can sneer all he wants, but part of making a serious investigation of design means divorcing oneself from assumptions regarding the designer. Indeed, this is classic cake-and-eat-it-too-ism. He wants to slander ID'rs as warmed-over creationists, but then criticize them for NOT being true creationists by asserting that the Designer must be the Christian God of the Bible.

Philosophically this is old ground, of course. William Paley's argument for the existence of a watchmaker, given a watch, is the best known example of the type. Not surprisingly, Paley assumed in his analogy that the watch in question was well made and actually kept time. So the naturalist's response to this form of theism has taken a standard form. He points to the very considerable amount of relevant contrary evidence: black flies, killer asteroids, the vermiform appendix, acne, tsunamis, hiccups, and Jerry Springer, not to mention death and disease and a hundred other varieties of human depravity, all of these suggesting if they do not prove that ours is perhaps not the very best of all possible worlds.

I'm sure most ID'rs are rolling their eyes here. This is like trying to take down a neo-Darwinistic argument regarding the micro-evolution of hemoglobin by attacking On the Origin of Species. While Paley certainly argued for intelligent design, his naturalistic arguments aren't merely rejected by Darwinists...they are rejected by most modern ID'rs as well. Paley actually makes a gradualistic arguement regarding complexity...perhaps that's where McHenry got his notion in the first place. But knocking over 100 years-dead strawmen doesn't suffice as a cogent rebuttal to intelligent design as a thesis in its current form and as advocated by current proponents (none of whome get much consideration from McHenry). Of course, McHenry really doesn't do a good job of knocking it over. For example, I'm unconvinced as to how the presence of killer asteroids in the universe tells me that watches aren't designed by watchmakers. It doesn't, you say? Well, then how do they tell me that the universe isn't designed? That the biological mechanisms we depend on were not? All killer asteroids tell me is that were not living in Paradise. Thanks, Mr. McHenry. I wasn't aware. The illogic of this argument should be apparent. Since intelligent design doesn't require 'perfection' as conceived by humans to be the only form of hardly rebuts intelligent design arguments by noting that not everything is perfect from this imperfect human's point of view. We're happy to admit that Mr. McHenry has adequately illustrated that we aren't living in the 'best of all possible worlds.' When I find an advocate of that position, I'll be sure to let him or her know.

"But -- correct me if I'm wrong -- this is creation as we actually know it. Any objective observer must report that the universe, if it is the product of conscious design, is clear proof that the designer is incompetent, a blunderer, an all-thumbs amateur who should not be allowed back into the workshop. (As a lad I read a science fiction story whose premise was that the universe is the product of a young Being-in-training, a kind of test piece by an apprentice not yet ready for journeyman status. For the life of me I can't recall the title or author of the story.) Unfortunately, however well Not-Quite-Bright Design might fly as an intellectual position, it lacks market appeal."

If the universe was supposed to be paradise from a human perspective, then Mr. McHenry might have a point. Of course, I think he's rather too hard on the designer. I marvel at the beauty and order of the natural universe. But Mr. McHenry seems unimpressed. Great. Fine. As I mentioned earlier, this is all beside the point. If Mr. McHenry really thinks all this is is warmed-over theology, then what's with this point anyway? The Bible hardly suggests that Creation was Perfect. The Garden of Eden was Perfect. We were cast out, remember? I suspect that even Mr. McHenry doesn't buy his slander of the ID'rs. He's accidentally slipped into given them a modicum of respectable seperation from Creationists. Of course, in so doing, he demonstrated the paucity of his position. His assessment of the universe from a design perspective is subjective and unrelated to any particular thesis. He's inserting moral and cultural value judgements into that assessment. Disease obviously argues against the designer, because preventing disease wouldn't be beyond a designer, and hence a designer would have prevented disease. The circularity of this reasoning should be apparent. Note, this is exactly oppossite of what design theorists attempt to do. They are attempting to articulate an objective measure of design and then assess it in terms of empirical evidence. Not, as much as Mr. McHenry thinks it is, to play "What would We have Done if We were God?" Intelligent design has NO preconception regarding the nature, purpose, or perfection of design. It merely suggests that design exists and it is detectable. Disease and killer asteroids may present interesting philosophical dillemas for relgions that posit a good God who cares about humanity and individuals in particular (though not for religions that take a more jaundiced view of the supernatural, such as the ancient Greeks)...but it isn't even in the same ballpark as intelligent design.

Nor is Mr. McHenry only sneering arrogantly at ID'rs here. He's sneering at anyone who believes in a directed whatever means and with whatever involvement in biological life. Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. who accepted Dawrin and evolution fall afoul of Mr. McHenry's rejection of the possibility of an 'imperfect' creation by a perfect God. Mr. McHenry is welcome to his athiesm. But I'm curious to hear about the scientific discovery that proves the non-existance of God. He seems to think this is so much common knowledge.

The duplicity of the ID party as to theology is all quite transparent. What seems to be less so, at least to some, is the violence the ID party does to the work of the intellect. Consider "irreducible complexity." What does it mean to say that a given degree of complexity is irreducible? And who gets to say it? Has the ID party discovered a scale by which this question can be answered? Up (or down) to a certain point complexity is open to naturalistic explanation, but beyond that point it is not? "We don't know this yet, therefore it is unknowable." And further, "If you do happen to find it out anyway, don't tell me, because if you do I'll stick my fingers in my ears and go La-la-la-la-la really loud." The "debate" whose current installment is playing out in Kansas is a debate in just that sense and no other.

Sun Tzu warned in "The Art of War" that you must "know thine enemy" in order to conquer him. Clearly Mr. McHenry has ignored this advice. What is evident from the above is that *all* Mr. McHenry knows about the ID argument of irreducible complexity is that irreducible complexity is an ID argument. Perhaps he should have considered the sage advice of Lincoln and had "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." Because his questions reveal his ignorance. Irreducible complexity is not about a scale of complexity at all, as I mentioned above. He would *know* this if he had ever bothered to read the intelligent design theorists he is mocking.

The definition of irreducible complexity begins with Darwin himself. It was Darwin who suggested that "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." And hence the author of IC got his inspiration. An example of irreducible complexity would be a biological mechanism that could *not* be produced through numerous and gradual modifications. You'll note the absence of any concept of gradation. As I said before, it isn't amount of complexity but a particular kind. A kind that *must* be explained by evolutionary principles if Darwinists are correct. ID'rs say that it can't and produce cogent arguments as to why this is. If McHenry would like to read them and respond to them and write a new article that actually has some substantive critique...well, I look forward to reading it. He can start his education here. Next time he might want to try doing this *before* he writes his dismissive.

You'll also notice an absence of the "God of the Gaps" argument, to which McHenry alludes. This isn't an argument from ignorance. Dembski, for example, argues that specified complexity can be detected. That it is most decidedly "knowable." And may I suggest that it is Mr. McHenry who is sticking his finger in his ears, by completely failing to read and understand the arguments he is dismissing...and most certainly *not* the ID'rs...who make it a point to respond in detail to their own critics and to Darwinists in particular.

Then there is the simple fact that the "theory" of ID is no theory at all, not in the sense that the word is used in science. It is not based on the best available evidence; it enables no predictions; and it is thus not testable. It is, at best, a paltry substitute myth that incorporates some of what actual science has learned or theorized but spurns not only scientific rigor but any intention to perform science. It is not, as claimed, a legitimate criticism of a scientific theory but a criticism of having such a theory at all. No less than the Creation Scientists, and no less than dear Bishop Wilberforce in 1860, though far less forthrightly, the proponents of ID wish to draw an arbitrary line and use the force of the state to declare that science shall not cross it.

I see no reason to bother with unsupported and blatantly inaccurate assertions. Mr. McHenry declares that it isn't based on the best available evidence, that it has no predictions, and that it isn't testable (he better be careful on the testable front...given certain evolutionary concepts and their resistance to testing). Since he doesn't justify these claims with one iota of argument or reference to ID arguments, I'll leave it at that. For you, dear reader, I suggest this as a brief glimpse of the philosophy of science issues regarding ID and the ID'rs response.

I won't bother with a fisking of the least two paragraphs since one is a silly effort at an analogy and the other is merely more ad hominem attack. For folks who seem to think they have the weight of empirical science and hundreds of years of successfull scientific effort on their sides, they sure do seem to be inclined towards attacking the motives of their critcs rather than the arguments these critics mount. As we have seen, Mr. McHenry fails to address *at all* the modern argument of intelligent design. His piece, instead, illustrates a profound ignorance of that which he is sneering at. Now, while some critics of ID seem to think that their ignorance is a badge of honor , I for one think a prerquiste for scoffing at something is first knowing what you are scoffing at. Hence Mr. McHenry's piece is destined to convince only the already converted. It certainly fails to persuade...even fence-sitters...on the great debate. D.GOOCH


I'm still hammering away here and here.