Category Archives: Polemics

Why Democrat talk of taking in Syrian refugees infuriates me

Women for bigger government, higher taxes
Women for bigger government, higher taxes

Obama wants to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, then another 100,000 in 2016 and another 100,000 in 2017.

In previous posts, I have laid out several reasons for why we should not take in Syrian refugees. First and foremost is the cost of taking in Syrian refugees – pegged at $6.5 billion total for just the first 10,000 refugees. Canada is taking in twice that number, and their government costed their plan out at $1.2 billion for only six years. Obama himself doesn’t earn any money, has never worked in the private sector. So he isn’t going to pay for this with his own $6.5 billion with his own hard work. He’s going to pass that bill onto young people to pay, but today he’ll preen for the cameras and show how “generous” he is for spending other people’s money. He already added $10 trillion onto the national debt, doubling it.

Second, we don’t have the national security in place to vet the Syrian refugees. The news lately has been full of cases of people traveling with Syrian documents, and some of them trying to come into the USA through our porous Southern border. In general, we should assume from the many national security failures of the Democrats that they cannot be trusted on anything they say about things being safe. We have the Bradley Manning leak, the Snowden leak, the Hillary Clinton private unsecure e-mail server hack, the Benghazi cover-up, the gun-running to Mexican drug cartels, the leak of the planned Israeli strike on Iran, the leaking of the name of the British spy who foiled the airline bombing attack, and on and on and on. Although none of these are remembered by Democrat supporters of the President, they paint a picture of the administration’s incompetence at protecting Americans. In fact, senior officials in Obama’s own administration confirm that the vetting process is unreliable. They can’t even ask them questions that would help to identify them as terrorist risks.

Third, although many of the refugees are women and children, we have to make two points about that. The first point is that women and children are frequently used in Islamic terrorist attacks. Here’s an article tracing some of the recent Islamic terror attacks involving women and children. We need look no further than the Boston bombers to see how letting in Muslim children can turn into a terrorist risk. They were carefully vetted by the Democrats, and yet they murdered anyway. Second point, there is something to be said about letting in a lot of Muslim immigrants in any case, since a critical mass of Muslim immigrants can create the environment that allows terrorist attacks to be planned. Just read this article on how the Islamic “no go” zones in Paris played a part in the recent terrorist attacks there.

Fourth point is about stewardship. What should we do in order to help the refugees. I’m running short of space, so I’ll just point you to this article that argues that it is a much better use of our money to help the refugees where they are. We can help many more refugees if we leave them over there than we can help if we only bring a few here, for the same cost. Although Democrats who are spending other people’s money don’t care to think of who is paying, it’s always a good idea to spend taxpayer money wisely.

The fifth and final point is something I could not articulate, but that was behind my anger at the well-meaning but naive Christians who were calling for us to take on Syrian refugees on Biblical grounds. I think the real reason I was so angry is as follows:

  • Naive Christians do not understand anything that is happening in the Middle East. They just don’t follow it, they don’t know the players, the previous attacks, the risks and threats, nothing.
  • Naive Christians take their cues from a pacificist culture, the left-wing media, and their own fact-free emotions. So, they think that war is NEVER the answer to aggression from evildoers, e.g. – Assad and his controllers in Iran. They just don’t have the understanding of good wars like World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, etc. that were clearly wars that America undertook in order to help others from terror, torture, murder and rape. They don’t understand that setting up Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Kuwait, etc. with long-term protection and guidance is what allowed them to recover and become peaceful and democratic.
  • Naive Christians had nothing to say about staying the course in Afghanistan and Iraq, invading Syria (which we should have done, instead of attacking Egypt and Libya, which was stupid and pointless) and NOT making a deal with Iran. In short, they have nothing to say about preventing the situations where wars and refugees result in the first place. They just want to ride in sanctimoniously after their benign neglect has failed to work, and then appear to be concerned about peace. But only by spending trillions of taxpayer dollars to clean up around the edges, while leaving the core problem intact.

So with all that said, here is the article that cured my anger once about this. It appears in The Weekly Standard, and it involves the indomitable Bill Kristol, quoting a journalist named Walter Mussell Mead, who voted for Obama in 2008, who now writes about Obama’s lack of seriousness about opposing evil with force, the disaster that resulted, and his attempt to paper over his stupidity with sanctimonious statements about taking in refugees from the mess he himself created.

Here it is:

“To see the full cynicism of the Obama approach to the refugee issue, one has only to ask President Obama’s least favorite question: Why is there a Syrian refugee crisis in the first place?

“Obama’s own policy decisions​—​allowing Assad to convert peaceful demonstrations into an increasingly ugly civil war, refusing to declare safe havens and no fly zones—​were instrumental in creating the Syrian refugee crisis. This crisis is in large part the direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to stand aside and watch Syria burn. For him to try and use a derisory and symbolic program to allow 10,000 refugees into the United States in order to posture as more caring than those evil Jacksonian rednecks out in the benighted sticks is one of the most cynical, cold-blooded, and nastily divisive moves an American President has made in a long time. .  .  .

“To think that conspicuous moral posturing and holy posing over a symbolic refugee quota could turn President Obama from the goat to the hero of the Syrian crisis is absurd. Wringing your hands while Syria turns into a hell on earth, and then taking a token number of refugees, can be called many things, but decent and wise are not among them. You don’t have to be a xenophobe or a racist or even a Republican to reject this President’s leadership on Syria policy. All you need for that is common sense and a moral compass. .  .  .

“For no one, other than the Butcher Assad and the unspeakable al-Baghdadi, is as responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria as is President Obama. No one has committed more sins of omission, no one has so ruthlessly sacrificed the well-being of Syria’s people for his own ends, as the man in the White House. In all the world, only President Obama had the ability to do anything significant to prevent this catastrophe; in all the world no one turned his back so coldly and resolutely on the suffering Syrians as the man who sits in the White House today​—​a man who is now lecturing his fellow citizens on what he insists is their moral inferiority before his own high self-esteem.”

Read the whole thing. Really. And remember than people on the Christian left are basically the same in terms of foolishness as people on the secular left. They are not guided by evidence, but by feelings. And they need to be told early and often how their feelings fail to work in real life. Otherwise, we will continue taking their compassionate naivete seriously, and go bankrupt paying for it, or maybe just get ourselves killed by the evil we allowed to fester. I know a lot of naive leftist Christians are trusting Think Progress and Huffington Post to tell us what the Bible says about refugees, but surprise! Think Progress is not that good at Biblical exegesis.

Another good article about how our retreating from a war that was won caused a humanitarian disaster: “What Happens When America Retreats From The Middle East“.

New study: evolutionary algorithms fail to produce meaningful change

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

Dr. Ann Gauger has a short post at Evolution News about a new paper in the peer-reviewed journal BIO-Complexity.

She writes:

Winston Ewert of Biologic Institute has just published a new article in the peer-reviewed journal BIO-Complexity (“Overabundant mutations help potentiate evolution: The effect of biologically realistic mutation rates on computer models of evolution”).

He and his colleagues have been engaged in a series of critiques of evolutionary algorithms for the last several years.

[…]The advantage of these computer simulations is that they can be run many, many times and thus approximate the long time necessary for biological evolution. The disadvantage is that they do not replicate true biological evolutionary processes, but use “analogous” algorithms. Typically these models, such as Ev and Avida, are purported to solve complex problems.

Yet Ewert and his colleagues have shown that in every case the necessary information for the models to find their targets was smuggled in, whether intentionally or not, by the respective programmers.

[…]Ewert shows that even taking the models as they are, when they are tested using realistic scenarios they fail to accomplish their goals. In fact, they accomplish little beyond their starting positions. He determines the reason for this failure — the models can only go as far as one step will take them. They can’t evolve anything that requires two or more mutations, unless mutation rates are unrealistically high.

Here’s the abstract of the new paper:

Various existing computer models of evolution attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of Darwinian evolution by solving simple problems. These typically use per-nucleotide (or nearest analogue) mutation rates orders of magnitude higher than biological rates. This paper compares models using typical rates for genetic algorithms with the same models using a realistic mutation rate. It finds that the models with the realistic mutation rates lose the ability to solve the simple problems. This is shown to be the result of the difficulty of evolving mutations that only provide a benefit in combination with other mutations.

This reminds me of William Dembski’s “No Free Lunch” theorems, which show that you can never get information for free, through simple mechanisms like genetic algorithms. The only proven source of functional information is an intelligent agent.

Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet? A response to Bart Ehrman

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here is the outline page, and the outline points:

  1. Great swaths of agreement
  2. Disagreement #1: Are the gospels generally historically reliable?
  3. Disagreement #2: Did Jesus claim to be divine?
  4. Disagreement #3: Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet?
  5. Disagreement #4: Is the Bible inerrant?

We’ve talked about 1 and 2 before, so let’s look at #3.

Here’s the problem:

In this section, I want to consider a third major point of divergence between Ehrman and evangelicals: the issue of Jesus’ status as an apocalyptic prophet. Christians throughout history have agreed that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet in the sense that he preached about God’s coming judgment and urged people to repent, trusting in God’s love and mercy. Where Christians disagree with Ehrman is over the issue of timing: did Jesus believe and in fact predict that the Final Judgment of the world by the Son of Man would occur within the lifetime of his followers? This difference is important because if Jesus did predict that the end of the world would occur within a generation of his death, this would obviously call into question his claim to be divine.

Ehrman thinks that Jesus was making apocalyptic predictions about events that would occur within a generation of his death. He also thinks that Jesus is talking about the end of the world, rather than using apocalyptic language to refer to some other calamity. So, if Jesus is predicting the end of the world sometime soon after his death and that never happened, then he cannot be God stepping into history. He made a big mistake about something important. So how do we explain Jesus’ apocalyptic prophecies?

Well, most scholars agree that Jesus’ predictions of destruction in Mark 13 (and echoed in Matt 24 and Luke 21) predate the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and Neil thinks that he was referring to that event, and not the end of the world and final judgment.

Shenvi has 3 arguments for his view, let’s look at just one:

First, notice that Jesus’ use in [Mark 13] v. 29-30 of the phrases “these things… all these things” is a deliberate echo of Peter’s question in v. 4 about when “these things” will happen and when “all these things” will be fulfilled (the underlying Greek phrases are also identical). But in v. 4, Peter was asking about the destruction of the temple that Jesus had just predicted in v. 2. While Peter may have had the end of the world also in mind, the text in Mark makes no mention of that fact. Thus, whatever other material Jesus introduced in the Olivet Discourse, his (or Mark’s) repetition of those two particular Greek phrases in his prophecy about ‘this generation’ (v. 30) seems to indicate that his prediction is to be primarily understood as a response to Peter’s question.

As for the ‘cosmic’ predictions in v. 29-30, connecting an imminent, temporal judgment on a single nation with the final judgment on the entire world was a common device in the Old Testament. For example, the book of Zephaniah alternates between oracles of judgment against Judah and its neighbors, which were predicted for the near-future, with prophesies of God’s final judgment and restoration, which would occur at an unspecified future time. Similar motifs can be found in books like Joel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. At this point, it is unimportant whether we see the prophesies in these books as genuine predictions (the evangelical view) or as retrospective explanations of events which had already occurred (a common non-evangelical view). What matters is that, by Jesus’ time, it was understood that temporal judgments could foreshadow a future final judgment. So in transitioning immediately from the impending destruction of Jerusalem to the final judgment, Jesus was repeating a theme which had existed in the Old Testament prophets for centuries.

[…]Third, Jesus does not actually predict in this passage that the Son of Man will return within ‘this generation.’ This observation was astonishing to me, but it’s fairly clear in the text. Look again at the two key verses: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:19-30). What Jesus predicts in v. 30 is that “all these things” will take place within “this generation.” Ehrman’s contention is that “all these things” include the coming of the Son of Man as described in v. 26-27. But look again at v. 29. When the disciples see “these things” taking place it will mean that the Son of Man is “near, at the very gates.” In fact, it is nonsensical to say that “these things” include the Son of Man arriving to judge the world. If that were true, then v. 29 would mean “when you see [the Son of man arriving to judge the world], you know that [the Son of Man] is near.” As I’ve argued, it’s far more plausible to see ‘these things’ as referring solely to destruction of Jerusalem. When the disciples see ‘these things’ [the events preceding the destruction of Jerusalem], then they will know that the Son of Man is near, even at the door.

He responds to several objections to his argument and concludes so:

The three independent arguments I’ve given here support the idea that Jesus did not intend to predict the end of the world within one generation in the Olivet Discourse. In my opinion, a better reading is that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem within the next generation and saw this destruction as a foreshadowing of a final judgment which would occur at an unspecified time “after that tribulation” (v 24).

If this is an objection that you’ve heard before, you can do two things. Read the post, and then bookmark it for later. When the question comes up next time, you’ll be ready, because Dr. Shenvi has done the work for you.

UPDATE: Jason Engwer has a post about this that goes into even more detail at Triablogue.

Serial sexual relationships, multi-partner fertility, single motherhood and fatherlessness

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward

Here’s an article from the policy journal National Affairs (editor is Yuval Levin) that has some statistics about single motherhood by choice. When you are reading the article, keep in mind that most people who lean left are so influenced by feminism that they seem to think that women trip and fall accidentally, and end up pregnant from random men. I don’t think that we should minimize the fact that most women freely choose the men who treat them badly.


Pew Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys indicate that, on a range of measures, a very large share of fathers who do not live with their children have virtually no meaningful relationship with their non-custodial children. More than one-half report that they had not shared a meal with their non-custodial children in the last four weeks, while nearly two-thirds had not read to their children and a full three-quarters had not done homework with them. Moreover, these are self-reported figures, so the share of fathers with no relationship to their non-custodial children is most likely even higher.

When fathers form new romantic partnerships, their involvement with children from previous relationships declines. Jo Jones and William Mosher report that, while 39% of fathers in new romantic relationships had shared a meal with their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 62% of those not in a new romantic relationship had. While 55% of fathers in a new romantic relationship had spoken with their 5- to 18-year-old non-custodial children, 77% of those not in a new romantic relationship had.

In addition, men with less education are more likely to exhibit absent-father behavior. Whereas 70% of fathers with at least some college had talked to their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 59% of those with no more than a high-school degree had done so. While 74% of fathers with at least some college had played with their non-custodial child under 5 years old at least once in the past month, only 53% of those fathers with no more than a high-school degree had.

Multi-partner fertility is not only associated with father abandonment, it also adversely impacts child-maltreatment rates. Women attempting to balance work, the demands of new relationships, and the challenges of raising children are faced with a set of chronic stressors that often lead to child abuse and neglect. The shift from welfare to work increased these stresses. Partially as a result, between 1993 and 2005, the rate of overall abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and serious abuse, respectively, rose by 22%, 14%, 49%, and 34% for children living with single mothers. By contrast, for children living in two-parent households, child-abuse rates fell on each of the four measures (by 42%, 24%, 62%, and 37%, respectively). By 2005, the child-abuse rate was 2.9 per 1,000 for children living with married biological parents but 10.2 for those living with a single parent and no partner, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This disparity cannot be explained solely by socioeconomic status since the abuse rate for children in families of all kinds in the lowest socioeconomic group was still lower than that for children living in single-parent households.

Multi-partner fertility also increases child-abuse rates in a second way: the presence of non-biological fathers in the house. Child abuse in households with single mothers triples when they live with a man other than the child’s father. Child-maltreatment rates are actually lower in black than white households when the mother lives alone. But unfortunately, many men bring their job and other frustrations into the home, creating abusive situations. As a result, when a partner is present, the black rates on all three measures of child maltreatment — emotional, physical, and endangerment — are almost double the white rates. In addition, rates of intimate violence are over 12 times higher for single mothers than for married mothers.

Edin and Nelson ignore the subject of abusive behavior in men. Instead, despite the fathers’ caring attitudes, we are told, the mothers kick them out because they don’t earn sufficient income. And on the impact of multi-partner fertility on children, Doing the Best I Can offers one benign sentence: “Kids are amazingly resilient, but the rate of family change among children of unwed fathers has become so rapid, and now leads to such complicated family structures, that kids might have a hard time adjusting.”

Academic studies paint a much grimmer picture. After surveying the evidence, Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks concluded earlier this year,

[A] father’s absence increases antisocial behavior [among children], such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment…by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control.

The effects of growing up without both parents when it comes to aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan found in 2011 that the behavior of boys is far more dependent upon good parenting practices — spending time with a child, emotional closeness, and avoiding harsh discipline — than that of girls. Such parenting habits are far more common in two-parent families, which helps to explain why boys with absent fathers are more likely to be suspended and have other behavioral problems than boys who have both parents at home.

The evidence also indicates that the outcomes are most negative when a man other than the biological father is present. Cassandra Dorius and Karen Guzzo found that “adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings.” Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan reported in 2004 that, among fatherless boys, those who lived with stepfathers were at an even greater risk of incarceration than those who lived with a single mother.

I think in today’s society, there seems to be a lot of fear and trembling to speak about moral standards. And it seems to be especially true that men are not allowed to tell women about their moral obligations. I know that at least when I speak to young women, they are often very rebellious. The attitude I encounter most often is that they feel that they should be able to trust their feelings and act in the way that their feelings dictate. Any destructiveness that results – which I warned them about – is dismissed as “unexpected”.

I can clearly remember the first time this happened to me, when I was in high school. I was friends with a girl named Tara who would come over and speak to me before morning announcements. She would tell me about her stock car driving boyfriend. One day, she told me that she was moving in with him. I warned her against it, and listed off a bunch of statistics about how this would cause problems. She stopped coming to talk to me, and so did her best female friend. Well, a few years later I ran into her again at one of our local universities where I was an undergraduate. She filled me in on what had happened. He had cheated on her with her best friend in their house. He got her pregnant. She had an abortion. She knew better now, but back in high school I was easily dismissed, and all of her friends sided with her.

Whenever I try to produce evidence to say that something is likely to cause harm, the response is usually “well I know a person who broke the rules and nothing happened”. I produce statistics about some likely consequence of following your heart, and it’s dismissed because some Hollywood celebrity managed to escape the probabilities. “Don’t judge me!” they say. Happiness comes first, and the best way to decide how to be happy in the long-term is apparently to do what makes a person feel happy right now. But statistics are there to tell a story of how the world normally works – dismissing it all with individual cases is bad logic. There are consequences to following your feelings and dismissing moral obligations.

Neil Shenvi lectures on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

The lecture was given to the Intervarsity group at Duke University.

Speaker bio:

As it says on the main page, my name is Neil Shenvi; I am currently a research scientist with Prof. Weitao Yang at Duke University in the Department of Chemistry. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, but grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. I attended Princeton University as an undergraduate where I worked on high-dimensional function approximation with Professor Herschel Rabitz. I became a Christian in Berkeley, CA where I did my PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at UC – Berkeley with Professor Birgitta Whaley. The subject of my PhD dissertation was quantum computation, including topics in quantum random walks, cavity quantum electrodynamics, spin physics, and the N-representability problem. From 2005-2010, I worked as a postdoctoral associate with Prof. John Tully at Yale where I did research into nonadiabatic dynamics, electron transfer, and surface science.

Here’s the lecture:

The MP3 file of the lecture is here for those who prefer audio.

For those who don’t have the bandwidth to watch or listen to the lecture, here’s a paper that has similar information that Neil wrote.


The earliest followers of Jesus were emphatic about the centrality of the Resurrection to the gospel, the core message of Christianity.  To those in the city of Corinth who were questioning the necessity and perhaps even the factuality of the Resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote: ‘if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins’ (1. Cor. 15:17).  The reason for this connection is clear if we understand the gospel itself.  The gospel of Jesus does not say: “Here are the rules; if you obey them, God will bless you.  Otherwise, God will curse you.”  Rather the gospel says: “You have broken God’s rules and deserve God’s curse.  But Jesus was crucified for your sins and raised to life as a declaration that payment was made in full.  You can now be accepted by God not on the basis of what you have done but on the basis of what Jesus has done for you.”  Without the Resurrection, says Paul, Christians would have no assurance that they are accepted by God or that Jesus has truly paid their debt in full.  Consequently, the factuality of the Resurrection is of utmost importance to Christians.

[…]Before we can examine the evidence, we must first assess the reliability of the New Testament documents since these provide us with the most accurate information we have about the life and ministry of Jesus.  One of the easiest ways to discount the historicity of the Resurrection and of Christianity in general is to claim that the records we have of Jesus’ life are legendary rather than historical.  The main problem with such claims is that they run counter to a massive amount of evidence that we have for the general historical reliability of the New Testament.

[…]Modern critical scholars –such as the participants of the widely known Jesus Seminar- assume that only a small fraction of the New Testament is historical and that the majority of the material is either fictional or only loosely based on historical facts.  To determine what material is historical, they use three major criteria 1) the criterion of multiple attestation 2) the criterion of embarrassment 3) the criterion of dissimilarity.  If a saying or action recorded in the New Testament gospels meets one or more of these criteria, it is considered more likely –though by no means certain- that this material is historical.  Obviously, as an evangelical Christian, I believe that there are serious flaws in the assumptions made by these scholars.  But as we will see below, the Resurrection accounts meet all three of these major criteria of historicity.

[…]Lastly, I think it is very important to consider what alternative, naturalistic explanations have been put forward to explain the Resurrection.  As I mentioned before, many skeptics assume that there must be some plausible, naturalistic explanation for the Resurrection without ever considering the evidence.

Previously, I’ve featured Neil’s defense of objective morality, his lecture on science and religion and his introduction to quantum mechanics, all of which were really popular. These are easy to understand, but substantive, too.