Archive for June, 2012

Charges of Hypocrisy Are Almost Always Overrated

You may have seen this Townhall story about the Obama campaign checking photo IDs on your conservative friends’ facebook pages. See, Obama opposes strict photo ID rules at the voting booth but not at his events!

This is a great example of why hypocrisy is the least satisfying critique of a person’s policy preferences. President Obama, and others, favor different photo ID policies at different places because the consequences of those policies differ. What’s next, a Townhall headline that the president approves of checking IDs for purchasing alcohol?

Oh wait.

Anyway, why don’t we go through a couple obvious differences:

  • Voting is a constitutional right. Attending a campaign rally is not.
  • Romney supporters were causing problems at the event. In-person voter fraud is virtually nonexistent and, therefore, not a problem.

Campaign events are for supporters; if a few don’t get in it doesn’t undermine the outcome of the event. In contrast, Voter ID laws may undermine democracy. According to Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Pennsylvania, his party is proud to have passed “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Turzai and the Republican Party might be perfectly consistent in their support for checking IDs, but that shouldn’t absolve them of criticism.

The Maximilian Affair

As the first entry in my regular cocktail feature, I present The Maximilian Affair. Its name is derived from the Franco-Mexican War when Napoleon III enthroned Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico.

The aggressive cocktail mixes Mexican and French spirits to battle it out for supremacy over your taste-buds.

I got this recipe from Drink in Boston:

1 Tequila (Milagro Silver)
1 St. Germain
.5 Punt e Mes
.5 fresh lemon juice


No Garnish

You could also substitute mezcal for tequila to get an even smokier front-line. If you can’t get your hands on any Punt e Mes, you’re welcome to use a sweet vermouth – you’ll lose a bit of the distinctive earthy bitterness that works so well with this cocktail, but it’ll still be delicious.


Categories: Cocktail

Does Belief in Evolution Matter?

When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. -Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

In response to Gallup’s survey and Andrew Sullivan’s commentary, Kevin Drum argues that “belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything.”  Drum still agrees that the biography of life should still be taught in schools “because it’s true,” but he overlooks the importance of the subject.

Gallup alerts us that 46% of Americans believe that God magically caused man by instantaneous creation.  As evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky noticed, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Therefore, we have around 46% of Americans that neither understand nor will directly or indirectly promote biology, the science that The Economist proclaims will be to this century “what physics was to the 20th.” Drum waves some of that concern away by asserting that “nobody wants to remove it from university biology departments.” Besides being totally wrong about that (here’s the “biology” department at the “University” that one of our major presidential candidates, ahem, just gave the Commencement Address at), who does Drum think will populate our research facilities? Kids don’t just go from outright rejection of science to fully analytical college students after a summer off. Even if they did, education could advance more easily if undergraduate college didn’t have to function as a remedial transition school. Knowledge is cumulative.

Besides light’s ability to illuminate, it also has the power to disinfect and transform. The question of mankind’s origin and his place in nature is uniquely both the cause and the consequence of fundamentalist religious faith. The radiance of Darwin’s idea corroded this keystone to anthropomorphic theistic superstition, the argument from design.

If belief in evolution didn’t have such grave consequences to traditional religious teleology and morality, it’d be a real mystery why creationists care so much about Drum’s unimportant topic. Rather than wondering if evolution has any “real-life impact on anything” it makes more sense to ask if there is any fundamental question that evolution doesn’t alter. The meaning of life, our ethical obligations to all creatures, our stewardship of the environment, our sex lives, our religions, our sciences, whether we have free will – these subjects all differ after contact with Darwinian knowledge.

Next time Kevin spends “an entire day arguing politics and economics and culture with a conservative” without mentioning evolution, he should ask himself what a natural account of life on earth does to arguments against stem-cell research, to objections to unnatural homosexuality, and to just deserts economic philosophy.

Categories: Evolution Tags:
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